Farm­ers go high tech at Com­mod­ity Clas­sic

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­pub.com

CEN­TRE­VILLE — About 250 grain farm­ers, re­searchers and agribusi­ness providers from the Mid-Shore coun­ties and across Mary­land and Delaware gath­ered Thurs­day, July 27, for the 19th an­nual Mary­land Com­mod­ity Clas­sic at Queen Anne’s 4-H Park near Cen­tre­ville.

Re­searchers demon­strated how “pre­ci­sion ag” — from drone tech­nol­ogy to en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly fer­til­iza­tion and pest con­trol to smart­phones for track­ing ir­ri­ga­tion ef­fec­tive­ness — can aug­ment old-fash­ioned field scout­ing to in­crease crop yields.

Mary­land farm­ers also got a col­lec­tive pat on the back from agri­cul­tural lead­ers who ap­plauded ef­forts to help save the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay through ef­fec­tive and cost-sav­ing prac­tices.

“The new gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers is very tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced,” said James Ad­kins, a re­searcher with the Univer­sity of Delaware. “The old guy on the trac­tor is gone.”

And yet the older gen­er­a­tion is adopt­ing high-tech ag.

“You wouldn’t think old farm­ers would be do­ing this kind of stuff,” John Brun­ing said.

He’s a young corn and soy­bean farmer from Snow Hill who said up­dates in chang­ing tech­nol­ogy were his take­aways dur­ing the morn­ing ses­sion.

The all-day event gave grain grow­ers a chance to hear the lat­est re­search they paid for with their “check­off dol­lars,” a per­cent­age they al­lo­cate to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture from the sale of their com­modi­ties. The USDA then re­dis­tributes the pooled funds back to lo­cal grain boards to cre­ate a stronger im­pact than could be achieved by in­di­vid­ual farm­ers.

About 17 agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties have check­off pro­grams, Su­sanne Zil­ber­farb said. She is the in­com­ing ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Mary­land Soy­bean Board.

“There’s a manda­tory check­off with soy­beans with .5 of one per­cent com­ing out of sales. That’s 50 cents out of ev­ery $100 that goes into a spe­cial USDA fund to spon­sor re­search, mar­ket­ing and ed­u­ca­tion,” Zil­ber­farb said.

The Mary­land Grain Check­off Pro­gram is de­signed “to ex­pand the de­mand for grain through mar­ket­ing, re­search, ed­u­ca­tion, and pro­mo­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Grain Pro­duc­ers Utiliza­tion Board based in Cen­tre­ville.

The MGPUB hosted the event with the Mary­land Grain Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, Mary­land Soy­bean Board and Mid-At­lantic Soy­bean As­so­ci­a­tion.

Nearly 40 spon­sors sup­ported the event and ex­hib­ited their re­search, ser­vices and prod­ucts, and in­cluded crop in­sur­ance agen­cies, lo­cal banks, seed com­pa­nies and other agri-ser­vices or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The day be­gan at 9:30 a.m. with presentations by re­searchers from Univer­sity of Mary­land and Univer­sity of Delaware Ex­ten­sion Of­fices, whose projects were funded by check­off dol­lars. About 30 at­tended the hour-long ses­sion.

Seed test­ing, mainly with wheat va­ri­eties, was the topic of re­search pre­sented by Dr. Ja­son Wight of the UMD plant sci­ence depart­ment. About nine va­ri­eties were lead­ing per­form­ers at the Wye Re­search Cen­ter, he said.

While a Dyna-Gro va­ri­ety led the pack at at yield of 80.2, Wight said, “There’s a lot of yield po­ten­tial around the 74.2 range,” one of the low­ertier Pi­o­neer va­ri­eties. “The good news is there is there are quite a few va­ri­eties for dual use” for both grain and straw, Wight said.

In a project funded by both boards, Dr. Kelly Hamby of UMD’s en­to­mol­ogy depart­ment pre­sented re­search on the im­pact of re­peated use of neon­i­coti­noid treated seed in grain crop ro­ta­tions on non­tar­get in­ver­te­brates and soil mi­crobes.

The three-year study from 2015 to 2017 used un­treated seeds, fungi­cide-only treat­ments, Gau­cho in­sec­ti­cide with its fungi­cides and Cruiser in­sec­ti­cide with its fungi­cides.

Re­searchers found Cruiser was bet­ter at con­trol­ling thrips, in­clud­ing preda­tory thrips, leaphop­pers, grubs and wire­worms. For win­ter wheat grown at the Wye Re­search Cen­ter, “a fungi­cideonly con­trol was as ef­fec­tive,” Hamby said.

James Ad­kins of UDE’s plant sci­ence depart­ment, said re­search on irrigating for high in­ten­sity corn pro­duc­tion was de­vel­oped us­ing sen­sors, grids and se­lected noz­zles. Data was col­lected and an­a­lyzed ev­ery morn­ing from 200 lo­ca­tions.

“Per­haps the main con­clu­sion that can be drawn is that (2013 to 2015) were ideal corn pro­duc­tion years with lit­tle nat­u­ral mois­ture stress,” Ad­kins wrote in his find­ings. “In or­der to draw a rel­e­vant con­clu­sion from this project con­tin­ued re­search in a year with in­ad­e­quate rain­fall for corn pro­duc­tion is nec­es­sary.”

“If you’re in doubt, go ahead and ir­ri­gate,” Ad­kins told the au­di­ence. “You can put a full inch (of wa­ter) on at the cost of a bushel of corn.”

While Dr. Bob Kra­tochvil of UMD and Dr. Nathan Kleczewski of UDE said they were “still crunch­ing the data,” their re­search ni­tro­gen and fungi­cide use on wheat yielded some pre­lim­i­nary con­clu­sions.

In­creas­ing ni­tro­gen can in­crease vom­i­toxin, as it did in one test lo­ca­tion, but it also can in­crease pro­tein by 1 per­cent. “Scout­ing your crop is im­por­tant,” Kra­tochvil said. “Pay at­ten­tion to the par­tic­u­lars and va­ri­ety of wheat.”

“All re­search is good,” said third-gen­er­a­tion farmer William Lay­ton of Lazy Day Farms in Vi­enna. “It’s re­search that’s im­por­tant to us. We put so much less fer­til­izer on fields than we did 50 years ago — even 20 years ago. We’re con­tin­u­ally us­ing less and less, and grow­ing more and more.”

“It’s a win-win all around,” Lay­ton said. “I want the same things as en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.”

Through­out the day, farm­ers milled about ex­hibits and caught up with each other.

“This is a so­cial event, too,” Zil­ber­farb said. “Crops are in the ground and wheat is cut, so farm­ers get a chance to take a day off, see their neigh­bors, learn and net­work.”

In­side the ex­hibit hall, Ad­kins demon­strated the use of drone tech­nol­ogy in scout­ing fields and an­a­lyz­ing a va­ri­ety of data such as deer dam­age, planter is­sues and flood­ing. “Pre­ci­sion ag ... can re­duce in­put loss and yield en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits,” he said.

Queen Anne’s County Ex­ten­sion Agent Jenny Rhodes ex­plained how county sev­enth-graders learned about agri­cul­ture and aqua­cul­ture at Ag Aware­ness Day ac­tiv­i­ties on April 24 and 25. “Our job was to dis­pel myths,” Rhodes said.

Among other facts, mid­dle school stu­dents learned crayons are made of soy­beans and one bushel of corn makes 40 snack bags of corn chips like Dori­tos.

The af­ter­noon pro­gram that be­gan at 1 p.m. in the cov­ered Main Show Ring out­doors fea­tured awards, a panel dis­cus­sion from lo­cal grains lead­ers and a key­note pre­sen­ta­tion by An­napo­lis sci­ence teacher Stephan Nei­den­bach.

Sudlersville farmer and MGPUB Pres­i­dent Jen­nie Sch­midt pre­sented four re­cip­i­ents with Mary­land Grain Pro­duc­ers Utiliza­tion Board 2017 col­lege schol­ar­ships. Two are Mid-Shore res­i­dents: Jenell Eck of In­gle­side and Jamie Het­rick of Pre­ston. Cody Mor­ris of Par­sons­burg and An­drew Bauer of Day­ton, Howard County, also won schol­ar­ships.

Dale Mor­ris re­ceived the 30th Dr. James R. Miller Award. Es­tab­lished in 1988, this award an­nu­ally rec­og­nizes a pro­fes­sional for his or her long-term con­tri­bu­tions to the grain in­dus­try.

Mor­ris is pro­gram man­ager of the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Turf and Seed Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pre­sen­ter Kevin An­der­son said Mor­ris had three pas­sions: his wife and three chil­dren, his church and his 39-year ca­reer in agron­omy.

“He’s touched ev­ery­body in this room that pro­duces crops in Mary­land,” An­der­son said.

“(Along with oth­ers) Dale has made Mary­land the tough­est state for seed reg­u­la­tion is­sues in the coun­try,” An­der­son said. “One of his mot­toes is ... if his name or the state of Mary­land’s name is as­so­ci­ated with some­thing, it’s go­ing to be done to the let­ter of the law.”

“I’ve had a few run-ins with Dale, and I’ve come to see his side,” An­der­son said. “When he says, ‘I’m from the gov­ern­ment, and I’m here to help,’ he means that.”

Last year’s award-win­ner was Cor­dova farmer Chip Coun­cell, chair­man of the U.S. Grains Coun­cil.

Sch­midt high­lighted the work of the 26-year-old check­off pro­gram, telling the au­di­ence of over 100 that 95 per­cent of the $20 mil­lion dol­lars col­lected was used from the re­search, mar­ket­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.

Cor­dova farmer Travis Hutchi­son, chair­man of the Mary­land Soy­bean Board and Mary­land Com­mod­ity Clas­sic co-chair­man, cat­a­logued the re­search, best prac­tices and ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives of the MSB.

Hutchi­son an­nounced Sandy Davis, who has been ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for 37 years, will step down and Su­sanne Zil­ber­farb will take over.

Vince Phillips, who worked on Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s tran­si­tion team, is the Mid-At­lantic Soy­bean As­so­ci­a­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor and chief lob­by­ist. Phillips stressed the dis­tinc­tion be­tween the Mary­land Soy­bean Board and the as­so­ci­a­tion he di­rects.

“The board doesn’t lobby or in­flu­ence pub­lic pol­icy,” Phillips said. “The as­so­ci­a­tion lob­bies like crazy.”

“Soy­beans are not only an im­por­tant eco­nomic re­source, they also rep­re­sent the vi­tal­ity of the Mary­land farm­ing com­mu­nity,” Phillips said.

Phillips and other af­ter­noon speak­ers stressed the im­por­tance of keep­ing pres­sure on leg­is­la­tors in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Congress needs to hear from farm­ers on is­sues like the farm bill, fund­ing the USDA, open­ing Cuba as a mar­ket for agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties and strength­en­ing crop in­sur­ance and risk man­age­ment needs, they said.

Jon Doggett, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for pub­lic pol­icy for the Na­tional Corn Grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, urged the au­di­ence to get in­volved and call leg­is­la­tors.

He said hot po­lit­i­cal rhetoric, as well as pres­sures from well-funded small gov­ern­ment lob­by­ing groups on the right and en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tions on the left, have cre­ated the need for ad­vo­cacy from agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties pro­duc­ers who need more, not fewer mar­kets.

When Doggett asked the au­di­ence to pull out their cell phones and add a phone num­ber, many did. He gave out the phone num­ber of U.S. Se­nate Agri­cul­tural Com­mit­tee mem­ber and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “He’s go­ing to rep­re­sent­ing your in­ter­ests,” Doggett said.

Wash­ing­ton County farmer and Mary­land Grain Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Steve Ernst com­mended ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Lind­say Thomp­son of Cen­tre­ville for the ad­vo­cacy work she and her staff are do­ing.

“We’re uniquely blessed in this state to have all dif­fer­ent kinds of agri­cul­tural or­ga­ni­za­tions and an ag depart­ment that works well with us,” Ernst said.

“Ag is in­creas­ingly less im­por­tant to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, but in Mary­land land use and soil use and the ef­fect they have on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and the things we do are most im­por­tant,” Ernst said.

“Some­one from Penn­syl­va­nia asked me, ‘How come you’re not un­der the same pres­sure as we are to clean up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay?’ I said, ‘Be­cause you’re the prob­lem and I’m not,” Ernst said as the au­di­ence laughed and ap­plauded.

“We’re do­ing an aw­fully good job in Mary­land,” Ernst said. “We’ve been be­hind ef­fort to prac­tice stew­ard­ship with prac­ti­cal­ity.”

“Mid-At­lantic grow­ers are in an uniquely ad­van­ta­geous sit­u­a­tion,” said Kra­tochvil, Mary­land Com­mod­ity Clas­sic chair­man. “Mak­ing up the Lead­ers Panel on the af­ter­noon pro­gram are four na­tional farm or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers who make Mary­land or Delaware their home.”

Com­pris­ing the panel were Thomp­son; Coun­cell; Ja­son Scott of Eas­ton, who is chair­man of U.S. Wheat As­so­ci­ates; and Greenwood, Del., farmer Richard Wilkins, chair­man of the Amer­i­can Soy­bean As­so­ci­a­tion.

The 3 p.m. pre­sen­ta­tion by Nei­den­bach, who in the past taught sci­ence at Cen­tre­ville Mid­dle School, was ti­tled “We Love GMOs and Vac­cines: Biotech for a Brighter To­mor­row.” He pro­motes sci­ence-based in­for­ma­tion on agri­cul­tural biotech­nol­ogy and en­gages in con­ver­sa­tions with en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists to “counter mis-in­for­ma­tion” about ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms and vac­cines.

The day ended with the pop­u­lar crab feast, and pork and chicken bar­be­cue catered by Paul Gun­ther.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ con­nie_s­tar­dem.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

Grain farm­ers of all ages spent a day learn­ing about new agri­cul­tural re­search and best prac­tices at the 19th Com­mod­ity Clas­sic on Thurs­day, July 27, at the Queen Anne’s 4-H Park near Cen­tre­ville.

Re­cip­i­ents of the 2017 Mary­land Grain Pro­duc­ers Utiliza­tion Board col­lege schol­ar­ships are, from left, Jenell Eck of In­gle­side, An­drew Bauer of Day­ton, Jamie Het­rick of Pre­ston and Cody Mor­ris of Par­sons­burg (not pic­tured).

PHO­TOS BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

Kevin An­der­son, left, pre­sented Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture agronomist Dale Mor­ris the 2017 Dr. James R. Miller Award at the Mary­land Com­mod­ity Clas­sic on July 27 in Cen­tre­ville. Es­tab­lished in 1988, this award an­nu­ally rec­og­nizes a pro­fes­sional for his or her long-term con­tri­bu­tions to the grain in­dus­try.

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