(Posted Wed. Feb 12th, 2014)
The National Corn Growers Association’s Research and Business Development Action Team met in California last week to discuss research program topics that deal with genomics, genotyping, phenotyping and sustainability. In addition to program updates, the team toured local produce operations.
“It is important for corn producers to learn how other crops are addressing sustainability and what practices and programs work for them,” said Tom Mueller, Research and Development Action Team Chairman. “It is vitally important that different sectors of agriculture communicate and work together to improve our production in a sustainable manner.”
The team visited the USDA research station in Salinas and saw a presentation by vegetable breeders about how they identify and address production problems. During the discussion period, team members inquired about what role vegetable checkoff programs play in identifying breeding targets and funding research, and the environmental, safety and water regulations that produce farmers face.
The team also visited Driscoll’s, the largest berry producer in the country. They toured their breeding facilities in Watsonville and a strawberry field in nearby Prunedale. The discussions with breeders involved the genetic and production improvements that have made blackberries a year-round crop and how production shifts in different growing areas has allowed them meet the demand for fresh fruit. Particularly interesting to the team was how Driscoll’s contracts with farmers who license their seed and seedlings, who then sell their berries only to Driscoll’s.
The final tour included a presentation by a viticulturist to learn what the wine industry is doing to become more sustainable. He spoke about the “Sustainability In Practice” (SIP Program) that started 15 years ago to implement standards for farm and human resource sustainability.
Participants included Tom Mueller, chairman, of Illinois; Larry Hoffmann, vice chairman, of North Dakota; Bob Bowman, Corn Board liaison, of Iowa; Paul Herringshaw of Ohio; Phillip Gordon of Michigan; Wayne Humphreys of Iowa; Dennis Maple of Indiana; Scott Sperry of South Dakota; Bob Timmons of Kansas, Dean Eppley of Indiana; Kyle Phillips of Iowa; Bruce Rohwer of Iowa; Chad Willis of Minnesota, Gregory LaPlante, state staff representative of North Dakota; and Melanie Batalis, Indiana Corn Growers Association program manager of new uses. NCGA staff serving the team and present for the meeting were Rick Vierling, director of research and new uses; Ethan Mathews, director of public policy; Susan Powers, communications manager and Sandra Wright, administrative assistant, production and utilization.