Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop http://www.capitalpress.com Capital Press Thu, 26 Apr 2018 08:03:40 -0400 en http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/staticimage/images/rss-logo.jpg Capital Press | Seed and Row Crop http://www.capitalpress.com Alfalfa seed crop requires unique farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180323/alfalfa-seed-crop-requires-unique-farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180323/alfalfa-seed-crop-requires-unique-farm#Comments Fri, 23 Mar 2018 10:15:39 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180329944 Mark and Sharla Wagoner and their son Tim grow wheat and alfalfa seed at Touchet, near Walla Walla, Wash., on the farm where Mark grew up.

He came back to the farm after graduating from Washington State University in 1975. Tim graduated from WSU in 2005 and has been back on the farm since then. Tim and his wife, Michelle, have two sons — 3-year-old Troy and 2-month-old Connor.

“Troy enjoys riding in our tractors and combines,” Mark said.

“My father was still involved with the farm when I started, but passed away when I was 32. I’ve been on my own for more than 30 years, so it’s nice to have my son and grandson here,” he said. The farm is 2,000 irrigated acres, currently 1,200 acres in alfalfa and 800 acres in wheat.

The Walla Walla Valley is short on water.

“My grandfather and others who started farming here realized they could grow alfalfa because there’s good deep soil, and alfalfa doesn’t require much water. We put a total of 24 to 26 inches of water on our alfalfa crop each year,” Mark said.

It’s watered in the spring to get it started and again in early fall to get a seed crop. Going without water during summer stresses the plants so they start blooming earlier and put all their energy into blooms rather than more stems and leaves.

Native alkali bees are crucial for pollinating alfalfa as it blooms, but there aren’t enough of them. These ground-nesting bees are similar to honeybees, but slightly smaller.

“We can also use leaf-cutter bees, native to Europe. We buy some from Canada each year because they don’t live more than one season. We can’t increase them here because of bee diseases,” Mark said.

It’s a challenge to control harmful insects without killing the bees.

“We rely on Doug Walsh, an entomologist at WSU, who researches new insecticides. We don’t use any insecticides during alfalfa bloom (when the bees are there) that he doesn’t approve. Doug’s work is critical to the alfalfa seed industry,” Mark said.

Washington is second after California in alfalfa seed production. Eastern Washington has perfect climate for growing alfalfa, and the Walla Walla Valley is ideal because there are no other crops nearby that the bees might fly to and be killed by pesticides.

Alfalfa is planted in the spring, when adequate moisture is available.

“We can also plant some in the fall after wheat harvest because we have six shallow wells for irrigation, putting out 170 to 500 gallons per minute,” said Mark.

The Wagoners plant new seeding every three years.

“We can get 10 years out of a stand, but seed companies give a contract for only three years. They own the plants and we grow the seed for them,” he explained.

The seed is harvested during the last half of August.

“We can’t use any of the residue for cattle feed. We always had to burn the residue but now there’s a pulp mill at Dayton, Washington, that will take it.”

Last year a custom haying company baled and hauled the residue, and was paid by the pulp mill to do it, he said.

After harvest with combines, the seed is shipped to the seed company. “Most of ours goes to Nampa, Idaho, shipped in 3,000-pound boxes, labeled as to varieties. When it gets there, it’s cleaned, packaged, and shipped all over the world,” he said. “About 40 percent of the U.S. alfalfa crop is exported.”

The Wagoners grow many varieties, including several Roundup Ready types. “Weeds are the bugaboo for a seed crop, so it’s great to be able to spray new seedings with Roundup. Established seedings are sprayed in October to get rid of perennial weeds,” he said. “This cleans up our fields and makes our lives a lot easier.”

There can be no Canadian thistles in a field for certified seed. “We used to spend hours spraying Canadian thistles by hand in 100-degree weather. Now we just spray in October and don’t have any thistles,” Mark said.

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Armyworms surprise grass seed growers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180313/armyworms-surprise-grass-seed-growers http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180313/armyworms-surprise-grass-seed-growers#Comments Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:35:43 -0400 Brenna Wiegand http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180319967 Grass seed growers had to scramble last year when the true armyworm launched a surprise attack first noticed during harvest. Standing crops and those in windrows did not suffer, but the worms, hiding beneath windrows, showed up by the thousands in combine tanks.

“There was massive feeding to newly harvested fields; it was really an all-hands-on-deck type of situation,” said Nicole Anderson, Oregon State University Extension Field Crops Agronomist in Oregon’s North Willamette Valley. “I don’t know that anybody remembers something like the outbreak of the true armyworm this year.”

The feeding was so intensive and the population so high that growers did a lot of spraying in late August and early September in less-than-favorable conditions.

“They can move over a number of acres in a night,” Anderson said. “That’s why they call them armyworms: They march like an army.”

At night they come out en masse to notch the tops of post-harvest growth, leaving grass looking as though livestock had grazed.

By late October, most of the armyworms pupated, but instead of emerging as spring moths, Oregon growers hope the pupae won’t survive a Pacific Northwest winter, something they won’t know until they start making observations this spring.

“The moths can get caught up in wind and move over very large geographic distances,” Anderson said. “There were significant outbreaks from Northern California all the way to Southern British Columbia and Vancouver Island. … One theory is that they blew up from California.”

Anderson is communicating with entomologists from California, Washington and Canada to discuss a potential region-wide trapping and DNA analysis effort to better understand their origins and biology in the Pacific Northwest.

“I think we did a good job of reacting quickly; now we just need to hope that most of the fields have come back strong … and that we don’t have high numbers going into 2018.”

Since the Oregon Legislature’s 2010 ban on all field burning except 15,000 acres in the Silverton Hills it’s been harder to banish such loathsome pests.

“We’re far enough away from field burning now that we can definitely see an upward trend in pest pressure,” Anderson said. “Field burning is a very old and effective pest management tool that had a lot of pros. Its major con is air quality, but its pros are that we’re able to recycle nutrients back into the soil from the grass seed straw and are better able to manage things like insects, slugs, pathogens and weeds.”

Anderson’s ongoing research at OSU’s Hyslop Field Lab and in farmers’ fields across the Willamette Valley includes testing evidence from other parts of the world suggesting a synergism may be created by mixing different classes of plant growth regulators. This idea is being extensively tested in tall fescue.

Anderson is also evaluating new classes of fungicides for stem rust management, particularly in perennial ryegrass, and finding a few that may outshine current offerings.

Another major project is revising OSU’s nitrogen fertilizer recommendations for some of the smaller acreage grass seed crops like orchardgrass, written decades ago before the introduction of plant growth regulators. They are also working to better nail down the understanding of plant growth regulator timing and rate in this seed crop.

A new study further evaluating the interaction between grazing or mowing and plant growth regulators in annual ryegrass seed crops seeks to identify potential across common varieties produced in both Oregon and New Zealand.

Despite the armyworm outbreak, the coming year’s crop looks promising.

“The planting conditions in the fall of 2017 were ideal so we’re going into 2018 in a pretty good situation and so far, the slug pressure has been manageable,” Anderson said. “We’ve had a lot of good opportunities to apply herbicides this fall and early winter which should help with weed pressure throughout the season. I am hopeful that we’re off to a good start.”

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Seed grower targets organic segment, nematode resistance http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/seed-grower-targets-organic-segment-nematode-resistance http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/seed-grower-targets-organic-segment-nematode-resistance#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:50:25 -0400 Brad Carlson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309902 Greg Payne didn’t leave farming for long.

He was away at college in Twin Falls, studying and training to become an Idaho State Police officer.

“Dad called and needed help with spraying in the springtime,” Payne said. “So I came back to the farm, and 30 years later I’m still here. And very happy, too.”

The family started farming in the Caldwell-Middleton area around 1935. Family members operate separate entities but share equipment and some tasks.

Payne runs the 650-acre GSP Farms. All crops are grown for seed production: hybrid sweet corn; different varieties of peas and beans; turnips; collards; orchard grass; and nematode-resistant radish, mustard and Pratex oats. The farm also propagates Black Mitcham peppermint rootstock that originates in a greenhouse off-site.

“In 2018, we are transitioning some of our farm to organic production so we can supply this nematode-resistant cover crop to organic farms,” said Payne, a fourth-generation farmer who is optimistic about the future. “With soil health and the cover crop movement on the rise in agriculture, I believe there is good opportunity for seed production.”

For much of his farming career, he raised crops such as wheat, corn, potatoes, beets and pinto beans, at times fetching commodity-like prices. He started raising hybrid sweet corn seed around 1990 and subsequently transitioned to growing more seed crops as opportunities arose. GSP has been almost entirely a seed producer for the past half-dozen years or so.

“In seed production, you need to be detail-oriented,” Payne said. “If you take shortcuts, it will come back to haunt you.”

For example, successfully growing hybrid sweet corn seed largely hinges on when the male and female varieties are planted and when the latter is de-tasseled by hand, all of which affect pollination timing. “Hybrid sweet corn is definitely our most challenging crop to produce,” Payne said.

Other challenges in producing seed crops of all types include isolation: fields should be at least a mile apart so different seeds and varieties don’t cross-pollinate, he said. What is grown at nearby farms and gardens must be considered when placing certain seed crops.

Transitioning to organic production brings challenges such as controlling insects and pests without spraying synthetics, and completing the required documentation to be certified organic, Payne said.

Nematode resistance can benefit organic farms where treatment options are limited because synthetic chemicals are not used, said Sherman Takatori, Idaho State Department of Agriculture pesticide training specialist.

There are several nematode species, some specific to plants and others specific to plant types.

“Depending on the target crop you ultimately grow, these (seed) varieties can lower the number of nematodes that will attack the crop,” Takatori said.

He said it’s good agricultural practice to use cover crops in some circumstances. They have the potential to out-compete weeds and add fertility to soil, and using certain cover crops in rotation can reduce nematode risk — some radish varieties, for example, have natural nematicide properties, he said.

GSP Farms, which employs seven people and adds a couple during peak season, works side-by-side with seed companies throughout growth and harvest processes. Acreage tends to be stable year to year. Payne said revenue has been down on recently lower crop prices, and he does not expect a big turnaround in the overall market this year.

Payne, 48, enjoys being outdoors and working with nature, as well as “the challenge of new and different seed varieties,” he said.

“On the farm, every day brings something different,” he said.

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Alfalfa seed crop requires unique farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/alfalfa-seed-crop-requires-unique-farm http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/alfalfa-seed-crop-requires-unique-farm#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:58:59 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309897 Mark and Sharla Wagoner and their son Tim grow wheat and alfalfa seed at Touchet, near Walla Walla, Wash., on the farm where Mark grew up.

He came back to the farm after graduating from Washington State University in 1975. Tim graduated from WSU in 2005 and has been back on the farm since then. Tim and his wife, Michelle, have two sons — 3-year-old Troy and 2-month-old Connor.

“Troy enjoys riding in our tractors and combines,” Mark said.

“My father was still involved with the farm when I started, but passed away when I was 32. I’ve been on my own for more than 30 years, so it’s nice to have my son and grandson here,” he said. The farm is 2,000 irrigated acres, currently 1,200 acres in alfalfa and 800 acres in wheat.

The Walla Walla Valley is short on water.

“My grandfather and others who started farming here realized they could grow alfalfa because there’s good deep soil, and alfalfa doesn’t require much water. We put a total of 24 to 26 inches of water on our alfalfa crop each year,” Mark said.

It’s watered in the spring to get it started and again in early fall to get a seed crop. Going without water during summer stresses the plants so they start blooming earlier and put all their energy into blooms rather than more stems and leaves.

Native alkali bees are crucial for pollinating alfalfa as it blooms, but there aren’t enough of them. These ground-nesting bees are similar to honeybees, but slightly smaller.

“We can also use leaf-cutter bees, native to Europe. We buy some from Canada each year because they don’t live more than one season. We can’t increase them here because of bee diseases,” Mark said.

It’s a challenge to control harmful insects without killing the bees.

“We rely on Doug Walsh, an entomologist at WSU, who researches new insecticides. We don’t use any insecticides during alfalfa bloom (when the bees are there) that he doesn’t approve. Doug’s work is critical to the alfalfa seed industry,” Mark said.

Washington is second after California in alfalfa seed production. Eastern Washington has perfect climate for growing alfalfa, and the Walla Walla Valley is ideal because there are no other crops nearby that the bees might fly to and be killed by pesticides.

Alfalfa is planted in the spring, when adequate moisture is available.

“We can also plant some in the fall after wheat harvest because we have six shallow wells for irrigation, putting out 170 to 500 gallons per minute,” said Mark.

The Wagoners plant new seeding every three years.

“We can get 10 years out of a stand, but seed companies give a contract for only three years. They own the plants and we grow the seed for them,” he explained.

The seed is harvested during the last half of August.

“We can’t use any of the residue for cattle feed. We always had to burn the residue but now there’s a pulp mill at Dayton, Washington, that will take it.”

Last year a custom haying company baled and hauled the residue, and was paid by the pulp mill to do it, he said.

After harvest with combines, the seed is shipped to the seed company. “Most of ours goes to Nampa, Idaho, shipped in 3,000-pound boxes, labeled as to varieties. When it gets there, it’s cleaned, packaged, and shipped all over the world,” he said. “About 40 percent of the U.S. alfalfa crop is exported.”

The Wagoners grow many varieties, including several Roundup Ready types. “Weeds are the bugaboo for a seed crop, so it’s great to be able to spray new seedings with Roundup. Established seedings are sprayed in October to get rid of perennial weeds,” he said. “This cleans up our fields and makes our lives a lot easier.”

There can be no Canadian thistles in a field for certified seed. “We used to spend hours spraying Canadian thistles by hand in 100-degree weather. Now we just spray in October and don’t have any thistles,” Mark said.

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Diversification keeps historic farm ‘interesting’ http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/diversification-keeps-historic-farm-interesting http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/diversification-keeps-historic-farm-interesting#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:57:20 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309898 SUVER, Ore. — John Kennel lifts a picture of his father and grandfather from the wall of his Majestic Oak Farms office. The subject of the circa-1950s photo is a point of pride within the fourth generation of the Kennel family.

Grandpa John S. Kennel was the first farmer in the mid-Willamette Valley to buy a self-propelled combine harvester in 1947. In the photo, John’s father, Earl, is driving the harvester while his father loads the bags with grass seed.

The harvester is long gone, but the family is still growing grass seed. John Kennel and his crew grow more than 1,300 acres of grass seed, vegetable, clover and other crops on his land south of Monmouth. John is the fourth generation of a growing farm family that includes John’s brother, Bob, and his family, who have a separate farm next to John’s.

John’s great-grandfather, Christian Kennel, immigrated to the U.S. from the Alsace-Lorraine region between Germany and France, eventually settling on a farm in Albany. Evidence of their longtime connection with the Albany area remains: Kennel Road on the east side of their farm and donated land for the Grand Prairie School.

The family might be there today had not construction of Interstate 5 in the early 1960s split their farm in two. For a few years, the Kennels attempted to drag heavy equipment back and forth across the nearest overpass at Grand Prairie Road.

But by 1963, they sold the Albany farm and bought 450 acres near Suver on Airlie Road, which since then has served as a base for the two Kennel farms.

John said he hadn’t intended to follow in his father’s farming footsteps. He left home and attended Eastern Mennonite University, graduating with a major in business. He went to work in computer sales, but soon missed working outdoors.

“Farm boys don’t do so great in an office building,” John said. He returned to join a farming partnership with his father and brothers. Marriage to Mary Jane and three children followed. Eventually, he bought his father’s portion, and split the rest with his brother.

John, his father, his brother Bob and his late brother Dwight and their families have continued to expand holdings and experiment with crops, but seed and cover crops are still the family’s mainstay. At Majestic Oak this year, 500 acres are in grass seed, 200 in red clover for forage, 80 in meadowfoam for oil, 110 in daikon turnip seed for a cover crop, 30 acres in hazelnut trees, and a few acres in pea seeds for the Japanese sprout market.

In 2007, the Kennels joined with two other families to plant 20 acres of wine grapes on a south-facing hillside that hadn’t been great for growing fescue. In 2010, the partners released their first bottles of Treos wine made with their Pinot noir, Muscat and Albariño varieties. Last year, Treos’ Albariño earned 92 points from Wine Enthusiast, and the Editor’s Pick award.

“There’s a lot of diversity on this farm,” Kennel said.

Diversification is a way to hedge farms against market changes, but Kennel admitted that he likes to try new crops, just to stay engaged.

Experimentation is in the blood: His relatives are trying several new crops, from truffles to hydroponic strawberries, and are currently investing in new equipment that will clean pea seed to Japanese standards.

“I like to keep things interesting,” he said.

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Strawberries unique in more ways than one http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/strawberries-unique-in-more-ways-than-one http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/strawberries-unique-in-more-ways-than-one#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:56:15 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309899 Consider this: You are a contestant on a national television show and it’s your turn to get the question. The lights dim and the audience is quiet.

“What is the only fruit with seeds on the outside?”

If you answered “Strawberries!” You would be right. Step up and claim your prize.

But there are more unique qualities to the bright red fruit than its seeds.

“Most strawberries grown in California are grown along the Pacific Coast, with mild days and cool nights making the best growing climate for strawberries,” said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the California Strawberry Commission. “Although strawberries are planted throughout California, acreage is concentrated on the Pacific Coast between Santa Cruz and Ventura counties.”

For the 2018 season, about 33,791 acres are planted to strawberries in California. This is an estimate, as a portion of the acreage is a projection of what will be planted this fall. Some new varieties planted recently include Monterey and San Andreas.

There is a variety of pests that infest and cause damage to the strawberry plants, O’Donnell said.

“Strawberry farmers use a number of tools, including IPM (integrated pest management) to control disease and insects,” she said. “They even use a bug vacuum to control lygus bugs.”

The bug, also called tarnished plant bug, causes serious damage in fruit. It carries fire blight disease, which they spread throughout the area as they feed.

“Fire blight is a devastating disease that is difficult to control,” she said.

Strawberries continuously bloom and produce fruit during the entire season, unlike tree fruit, and require more attention. Some growers say that growing strawberries is more like gardening, rather than farming.

The tiny strawberry, called the “queen of fruit” in Asia, is packed with Vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants and are cholesterol free, low in calories and help reduce inflammation and even whiten teeth.

Studies show that eating one serving (eight medium) strawberries a day can help support cardiovascular health and brain health.

There are also many challenges facing strawberry growers throughout the state.

“Strawberries are hand planted, hand weeded and hand harvested, which requires a large number of workers,” O’Donnell said. “A viable guestworker program would help with consistent care and harvest of the strawberry crop.”

The H-2A guestworker program allows farmers to bring in crews from Mexico and elsewhere, but the program is expensive and difficult to work with, according to growers.

Automating the harvest with machinery is complex, as the berries have to be harvested when ripe, without bruising the berry, damaging the plant, and leaving the unripe berries undisturbed.”

“On the positive side, strawberry farmers have invested millions of dollars in ways to develop and improve sustainable farming practices,” she said. “California strawberry farmers were among the first to adopt IPM practices, drip irrigation and a commodity-specific food safety program.”

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Mint grower’s drip-irrigation success at six years http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/mint-growers-drip-irrigation-success-at-six-years http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/mint-growers-drip-irrigation-success-at-six-years#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:54:54 -0400 Brad Carlson http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309900 Six years’ worth of higher yields and lower water usage make Nampa, Idaho, peppermint grower Robert McKellip a big believer in drip irrigation.

“Drip irrigation really has its merits, and I would like to put more and more peppermint in drip because I see a big benefit,” he said.

Water savings of 40 to 50 percent, higher yields, lower fertilizer usage and much-reduced runoff are among results McKellip sees compared to the peppermint he waters via furrow and some sprinkler irrigation. Drip-irrigated roots grow down into water, which is applied precisely via a pump-and-filter station and subsurface tubing with emitters placed at intervals.

“Farmers and ranchers are currently using agricultural practices to do ‘more with less’ more than ever before in the history of agricultural production,” said Roger Batt, executive director of the Treasure Valley Water Users Association. “Some farmers have switched from furrow or sprinkler irrigation to drip irrigation on certain crops – mostly because this irrigation practice yields a better crop, but it also reduces the use of irrigation water on these crops.” Weed reduction is another potential benefit.

Drip is not economically feasible for all crops, which is good in a way, Batt said. “Our valley also benefits from recharge to our aquifer due to the 1,500 miles of canals and laterals and thousands of acres of irrigated crops using furrow irrigation,” he said.

“As time moves forward and water becomes more and more of an issue, you will see almost all high-value crops converting to drip irrigation,” said McKellip, who serves on the Canyon Soil Conservation District board. Increasing concerns about runoff also could encourage more farmers to consider it.

Drip is popular for hops and various fruits. McKellip said more growers of onions – like perennial peppermint, a high-value, high-water-use crop – now use it.

Jim Klauzer, agronomist with Clearwater Supply in Ontario, Ore., said more than 75 percent of the Treasure Valley onion crop used drip irrigation in 2017 compared to less than 3 percent in 2000. Drip-irrigated onions often are bigger, higher in quality and disease resistance, and store better, he said.

The vast majority of these onions are watered with “annual drip” systems requiring thin, tape-like tubing to be replaced and recycled after harvest, he said. But “permanent drip” systems, with more deeply set lines designed to last five to 15 years, are increasingly viable and have been used in some regions for years, he said. A recent onion-related advancement is flow-control tape suited to rolling terrain.

“We have gained confidence in a wide variety of crops, so we are promoting it for wider number of growers,” Klauzer said. Beets are viable for drip, though alfalfa hasn’t worked well because of rodent damage, he said.

McKellip installed his first drip system in 2012 with help from a Clean Water Act Section 319 grant and later expanded, shortening the original three- to four-year payoff cycle as he and the local irrigation industry gained more experience. He plans to plant some peppermint, with drip tape underneath, this year. Drip-irrigated peppermint will stay at around a quarter to a third of the total crop because he also removed some.

Challenges to investing in drip irrigation include crop prices — peppermint has been down recently — and real estate development that can reduce a farm’s future viability, he said.

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New seed certification program tackles weedy rice http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/new-seed-certification-program-tackles-weedy-rice http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/new-seed-certification-program-tackles-weedy-rice#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:53:31 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309901 WILLIAMS, Calif. — A new program helps protect California’s specialty rice fields from an undesirable strain known as weedy rice.

A University of California-affiliated nonprofit organization’s new Rice Seed Quality Assurance Program launched last year to examine and judge specialty varieties that couldn’t be certified under the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies’ existing program.

For example, California has thousands of acres of Koshihikari, a specialty Japanese sushi variety that’s sold at a premium back to Japanese markets. Because it’s a specialty variety brought to California, it was never in the domestic seed certification program, said Timothy Blank, who handles field inspections for the UC-Davis-based California Crop Improvement Association.

The new quality program verifies producers of rice seed and seeks to assure buyers that a product has met purity standards. The program has buy-in from many of the state’s seed producers, Blank said.

“So far I’ve been really surprised with the support we’ve gotten from all the people who should be in the program,” he said. “Everyone’s been cooperative. ... I think they are because they understand that this has the potential of solving the weedy rice issue.”

Weedy rice, also known as red rice, belongs in the same genus and species as cultivated rice but is one of the most damaging weeds of rice worldwide. The plant shatters prior to harvest, spreading hundreds of thousands of seeds on the ground, Blank said.

Reports from the southern U.S. have shown that a presence of weedy rice in fields reduced yields by up to 60 percent, the UC Cooperative Extension notes. And because it is a very close relative of cultivated rice, the herbicides used in rice don’t kill it, the UCCE explains.

California was practically free of weedy rice for the past 50 years, but it has recently resurfaced and was confirmed in more than 10,000 acres as of the end of 2016, according to the university.

“Weedy rice is becoming more common,” said Luis Espino, a UCCE rice farm adviser in Williams. “We’re starting to find it in different places. The suspicion was that it’s been moved around in seed that’s not been certified.”

It’s relatively easy to obtain rice seed, Blank said. One of the ways that companies bring in new varieties is by requesting seed through the USDA’s germplasm seed bank — which anyone can do — and experimenting with different lines, he said.

“They’re not doing any breeding,” he said. “They’re just taking something that somebody else had gifted to the seed bank.”

However, little is sometimes known about the seed that was donated to the bank.

Established in 1919 as the International Crop Improvement Association, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies includes officials from the U.S. and seven other countries. It began certifying crop seeds in the 1920s, and the first rice seeds were certified in the 1930s, Blank said.

“It’s basically a pedigree program,” tracking rice seed from the time it leaves breeders’ hands to the time it gets to conventional growers, Blank said.

For specialty seeds that can’t be verified under the existing program, California’s Rice Seed Quality Assurance Program was formed for producers who agree to abide by nearly a dozen growing guidelines, including assuring that planting equipment be thoroughly cleaned and inspected before use.

When a seed grower changes varieties, the field must be inspected before planting to make it eligible for the following year. Inspections verify a field’s freedom from weedy rice.

Weedy rice can take years to remove from a field, he said.

Though it will likely take time, Blank believes the effort will eventually resolve California’s weedy rice problem.

“There’s some that believe it can’t be done, but it has been done before so I’m optimistic,” he said. “We had a bad weedy rice problem back in the 1920s and ’30s, and it was for all intents and purposes eradicated for decades. I believe it can be eradicated again through a good seed program and persistence.”

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Garlic, processing onions thrive despite challenges http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/garlic-processing-onions-thrive-despite-challenges http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/garlic-processing-onions-thrive-despite-challenges#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:48:40 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309903 Robert Ehn says there is more to onions and garlic than their distinctive aromas.

“Our processors and handlers contract with growers to care for their onions and garlic,” Ehn, CEO of the California Garlic and Onion Research Board, said.

The garlic grown is a soft neck white garlic, and “the onions are bred specifically for high density-low water content, as the sole purpose is for dehydration,” he said. “We are not involved in growing dry bulb onions for storage.”

Ehn grew up on an irrigated farm in northern Colorado growing sugar beets, corn, pinto beans, alfalfa and grains. He graduated from Colorado State University in agronomy and earned a master’s degree in crop science.

Some 23,000 acres of processing onions and 24,000 acres of garlic are planted each year in California. Forty-five percent of the garlic is for processing with the rest for fresh market.

Ten types of garlic and many varieties within those types are grown.

Garlic can also be separated into hard neck and soft neck varieties; the kind you typically see in the grocery store are soft neck varieties.

“The most serious pest we face is a soil-borne disease called white rot (Sclerotium septivorum),” Ehn said. It affects both onions and garlic.

“This disease can live in the soil for over 20 years and once a field becomes infected, we can never go back,” he said. “This would result in crop failure.”

Growers also have problems with garlic rust and numerous other bacterial and fungal diseases.

Ehn said any good farmer can grow onions and garlic if they have the right soil type and weather. The California San Joaquin Valley has an ideal climate. Rainfall in winter and dry, hot conditions during the summer allow full bulb development and bright-white bulbs for market.

“There are major challenges facing California growers,” he said, “including our overly burdensome regulations, labor shortages — we’re still heavy hand-labor users — water availability and white rot.”

California growers are also constantly challenged by cheap Chinese fresh and dehydrated garlic showing up in the marketplace.

“The quality of Chinese garlic is much lower, they do contain heavy metal contaminants and they are priced well below our California product,” Ehn said.

Ehn has some advice for those considering farming as a career.

“Unless you were born on a farm and are part of a succession plan to keep farming, you probably can’t be a large scale farmer unless it’s small plot boutique, organic type of production,” he said. “However, there are tremendous opportunities in agriculture as we move head-first into technology with self-driven tractors, drones, irrigation monitoring devises, field mapping and creative marketing opportunities.

“In spite of the challenges, there’s still no place better in the world to grow high quality garlic than the San Joaquin Valley of California.”

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Rodney Cheyne: Farming is in his blood http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/rodney-cheyne-farming-is-in-his-blood http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/rodney-cheyne-farming-is-in-his-blood#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:47:10 -0400 Lee Juillerat http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309904 KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Rodney Cheyne remembers driving the family tractor as a 5-year-old. He was in the eighth grade when he leased 11 acres to grow hay and began doing custom haying. A year later, his ag teacher at Henley High School quipped, “Not too many kids who are freshmen in high school have to file tax returns.”

Farming is something Cheyne, now 29 and owner of Rodney Cheyne Farms outside Klamath Falls, always wanted and expected to do.

“I knew what I was going to do,” he tells. “Ever since I was a boy I was riding with my dad in combines, tractors.”

Cheyne is a fifth generation family member who’s made his living in the Klamath Basin. His great-grandfather homesteaded on the “home place” in 1909.

He shares work on his 1,200-acre alfalfa grass and grain farm with his father, Brent, who has his own nearby farm, and his uncle Steve. “Just me and my dad and my uncle,” he says of the all-consuming task of managing his farm, which includes part of the original Cheyne homestead. “It’s kind of cool to have part of the original farm.”

The farm focuses on growing alfalfa grass and grain, both organic and conventional, that’s mostly trucked to dairy farmers on the Oregon Coast and California. “Very little of it stays local.”

He’s experienced market fluctuations, noting the past two years have seen declines in prices for organic hay. “Of course, it’s supply and demand.”

He’s lived in the Henley area south of Klamath Falls all his life. After graduating from Henley High School, where he was active in FFA, he earned an associate of science degree in general agriculture from Linn-Benton Community College. Oddly, during his college years his relationship with a Henley classmate, Nichelle, who was attending the University of Nevada-Reno, changed from a friendship to something more. “We weren’t high school sweethearts,” he laughs. “Second year of college sweethearts.” They have four bouncy children — Paisley, 6, Hadley, 4, Finley 3 and Huxley, 1.

“Sometimes they don’t see me for days,” Cheyne says of the frequent long hours, especially during harvest season when he’s up and out of the house before anyone else and finishes his day’s work after the family’s in bed. Still, he regards fall his favorite time of the year — “You’re still trying to put up hay and cut grain and, you’re still having to irrigate ... but you can see the end in sight.”

The long days result because Cheyne, as he admits, is particular on seeing the work done correctly, whether it’s running the swather at specific speeds or ensuring irrigation systems are operating every 12 hours. He says it’s also difficult to hire help because of the complexities and frustrations of dealing with payroll issues. As a result, “I buy more equipment to get by.”

Cheyne also laments the seeming lack of younger people in farming, noting he’s usually the youngest member of various committees. Among his involvements are as a member of the Farm Service Agency county committee and serving as chairman of the Klamath Soil and Water Conservation District and as Klamath County president of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, where many of the other members are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

“We all know the average age of the American farmer is 59, 60 years old,” he says. “Yes, that concerns me.”

During the 1970s, he says there were 13 Cheyne family members involved in full-time farming. Now there are three.

An omnipresent concern is water. He was barely a teenager during the 2001 Klamath Basin Water Crisis, when water was cut off from Basin irrigators. Different concerns resurfaced this past year when the Klamath Tribes put a call on water, which reduced water allocations. During some years, below average snowfall or early rains that reduce the spring snowpack also adversely impact water supplies.

“The woes of water always in the back of your mind,” Cheyne admits. “Everything you’re doing is a shot in the dark. It’s a constant worry.”

Despite the worries, challenges and unknown variables, farming is his delight and chosen career, one he hopes a sixth generation Cheyne will continue. Despite occasional misgivings — “Sometimes I wonder,” he says of his future — Nichelle has no doubts, insisting, “You know darn well you wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

It doesn’t take much nudging to get him to agree — “I think honestly it’s in my blood,” Cheyne says. “I think it’s more a lifestyle than a job.”

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No-till grower designs, modifies implements http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/no-till-grower-designs-modifies-implements http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/no-till-grower-designs-modifies-implements#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:44:39 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309905 SUVER, Ore. — If necessity is the mother of invention, then Garth Mulkey is its great-great grandson. Mulkey is a fourth-generation seed grower who farms nearly 1,000 acres south of Monmouth.

Because Mulkey uses “no-till” practices on most of his land he’s had to design special machinery to address his needs.

His most recent “invention” is a no-till attachment designed to ease the planting of vegetable seedlings into un-worked soil.

Mulkey, with help in the shop from August Hoffmann, designed and built an additional toolbar that bolts onto the front of his C&M-brand transplanter. The toolbar carries row cleaners, a no-till coulter, and a shank — all of which clear last year’s straw and cut a shallow trench in the soil for the seedlings. Workers riding on the unmodified portion of the transplanter place the plugs into a carousel that drops the seedlings into a boot and sends them down to the prepared soil. A pair of closing wheels then firm the soil around the seedling’s roots.

This winter, Mulkey and Hoffmann put the final touches on the modified transplanter, with plans to use it planting about 50 acres of vegetable seed crops in March or April.

There is an advantage to planting seedlings with this transplanter: Mulkey said he can plant sooner and he doesn’t have to wait for multiple dry days during a time of year when there are few. He’s been transplanting some of his land for years, but most machinery is not adapted to no-till agriculture, which means he’s had to work the ground in preparation for transplanting. He’s hoping to change that with this new attachment.

Currently, about 20 percent of the land he works is in vegetable seed crops; about 100 acres is in meadowfoam, for oil. The rest is in grass seed, wheat, and legumes, not counting a 25-acre plot of young hazelnuts.

The transplanter attachment is one of his biggest design projects yet, Mulkey said.

Mulkey has some reason to be confident that this design will work. Since they began no-till agriculture 23 years ago, he and his late father, Gylan, had modified a handful of other machines to work on no-till soils, from a self-propelled air seeder, to balloon-tired sprayers that don’t compact the soil. Mulkey has some formal training in design, graduating with an associate’s degree in manufacturing technology from Linn-Benton Community College. He worked as a machinist for about 10 years before he came back to the farm, married Susan, and they raised three children.

Nearly 30 years later, a grandfather with one teen left at home, he continues to design and redesign machines that make his farm more profitable and efficient, with longevity as one indicator of success.

Some of Mulkey’s seed is marketed through his family’s company, GS3 Quality Seed Inc. GS3 specializes in cover crops that add benefits to the soil including clover, radish, peas and ryegrass. A new crop offered this year, SuperBee Phacelia, has an added bonus. In addition to building soil, the beautiful purple-blue flowers host beneficial insects including bees and other insects that reduce harmful pests, including nematodes.

For more information about Mulkey’s no-till practices and his seed company, visit http://www.tilthpro.com, or call the company, 855-723-4741.

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Thistledown Farm grows bigger each year http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/thistledown-farm-grows-bigger-each-year http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/thistledown-farm-grows-bigger-each-year#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:43:19 -0400 Aliya Hall http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309906 JUNCTION CITY, Ore. — Randy Henderson started farming as a hobby while he was teaching biology at Willamette High School in nearby Eugene. He said it was a means of earning an additional income, but over time it grew into something bigger.

“I opted out of teaching into farming, and haven’t regretted the choice since,” Henderson said.

At the time, the Hendersons were living on a smaller farm down the road. In 1981, however, they bought Thistledown Farm from the Bond family and have been “adding to it ever since.”

Thistledown Farm now encompasses 640 acres. Over the years the family has added greenhouses, barns and a small children’s section to the farm. While they primarily sell fruits and vegetables, they also added a flower operation.

“It’s demand-driven,” Henderson said. “Our bread and butter is peaches, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and apples. But then people come in and want lettuce and onions, so we grow that. And berries, everyone wants berries.”

The farm has a diverse selection of crops, and sells from April through November. Hazelnuts are their only commercial crop; everything else is sold directly to the public. In fall, Thistledown offers wagon rides to the pumpkin patch, and has a life-size model train in the field for customers’ children. Although Henderson wants to stay out of the “agro-entertainment” industry, he said he wanted to have “a little bit for everyone.”

Henderson said the “whole family is involved” in farming. He and his wife have three sons, two of whom work at Thistledown, and one who owns a farm near Corvallis.

“He’s basically doing the same thing we are,” Henderson said. “We do quite a bit of business back and forth.”

He has already began work on a succession plan of the farm to his sons, who are going to continue the farm’s legacy.

“Our business grows every year,” he said. “Whether we can keep up with it is another thing. It’s a lot of work for a lot of people — hard work. But I have no reason to believe it won’t continue. There’s always a demand for local veggies.”

Thistledown Farm dedicates itself to providing what customers want in what it grows and how it grows it. Henderson doesn’t plant genetically modified crops, because, he said, “The public doesn’t care to hear that.”

“We try to be good caretakers of the soil and the farm,” he said. “We want to be here for awhile, so we don’t want to jeopardize that.”

Although Henderson tries to use as few chemicals as he can, he said he hasn’t found a way around using pesticides. The farm practiced organic farming briefly, but Henderson said that it “didn’t work well for us,” because of the increased labor and the lack of interest among customers for paying organic prices.

“We turn out a really good product now,” Henderson said. “Like I tell my customers, ‘If your kid gets sick you take them to the doctor to get medicine. If my plants get sick, I doctor them.’ It’s the same deal.”

For Henderson, the most rewarding aspect of his family farm is the customer satisfaction and the positive feedback.

“It’s rewarding to hear the positive comments about the quality of the products,” he said. “It’s by far the most encouraging thing we hear and it’s an every day deal. We have customers that come in three times a week. We have a loyal base and try to live up to the expectations.”

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Seeds open door to diversification http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/seeds-open-door-to-diversification http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/seeds-open-door-to-diversification#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:41:18 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309907 Bim and Linda Lewman started farming at Notus, Idaho, near Parma, 38 years ago on land that was originally part of Linda’s family farm.

“We purchased and rented ground, raising wheat and sugar beets. Since then, we’ve been growing many crops including sweet corn seed, bean seed, turnip seed, clover seed and onions,” he said.

A farmer today must be diversified since markets are unpredictable. The Lewmans currently farm 550 acres and do a 4-year rotation on some of their crops.

“We’ve always raised some seed crops but are trying to grow more of those because they are worth more, but they are also more work. They must be isolated from other crops and weed-free,” he explained.

There’s a good market for corn seed if it is properly pollinated to create the desired hybrid but costs about $1,000 per acre to have it detasseled, removing the immature pollen-producing tassels from the tops of some of the plants. Detasseling usually involves both specialized machines and hand labor.

“Mechanical toppers aren’t 100 percent effective, so we hire crews to come in and do that,” Lewman said.

“The corn must be properly pollinated and it depends on Mother Nature. If summer is extremely hot, the corn doesn’t pollinate. You need cool nights and a breeze. The male parts of the plant are taller, so gravity and a breeze bring the pollen down to the female parts,” he explained.

Beans are also self-pollinating, but some of the other crops depend on bees.

“We rent hives of honeybees for the clover seed. The bees do fine if there are no pesticides and it’s not too hot. You can’t have adjoining fields treated with pesticides or it might drift over and kill them,” Lewman said.

He enjoys raising onions and sugar beets but the market is so volatile that it’s a challenge.

“We went to drip irrigation on the onions, and it’s very labor-intensive. It does a better job watering, but we depend on the market for price and every year there are more government regulations that make it difficult,” he said.

Corn seed is harvested by a professional picker.

“It has to be certified clean. Every time they move from field to field the picking machine and the semis have to be cleaned,” said Lewman.

Beans are combined, and the trucks and combine have to be cleaned between each variety. There can be no residue left from a different variety.

Sugar beets are dug and hauled to a piling station. Amalgamated Sugar Co. at Nampa buys the beets. Lewman has several trucks and hires additional 10-wheelers to haul the sugar beets.

Timing is crucial. The crops must be harvested at the right time.

“Corn seed is different than onions because the different varieties of corn mature at different times and not harvested all at the same time. Some is sweet seed corn, and we’ve even raised some popcorn. It’s not as big a rush as the onion harvest.”

He is unsure what the future will bring. It’s a tough time for farming because land values are extremely high and commodity crop prices low.

“It’s hard for anyone to get started in farming. Older farmers see the price of land, at $9,000 to $10,000 an acre and may choose to just sell out, take the money and live off the interest. This makes it hard for smaller farmers to buy or rent any more land,” he says.

“It takes several generations to make a farm work. One generation will never make enough money to pay it off. We are the first and last generation on this particular farm. We had two girls and encouraged them to get away from agriculture and do something different because farming is such a hard life,” he said. “They are accountants and bookkeepers and their spouses work in town, too.”

The farm is run by the Lewmans and some hired help and they just hope to keep going as long as they can.

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Meadowfoam’s star on the rise http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/meadowfoams-star-on-the-rise http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/meadowfoams-star-on-the-rise#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:39:45 -0400 Gail Oberst http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309908 SALEM, Ore. — The West’s native meadowfoam oil, once obscure, has become an international beauty queen, finding its way into dozens of cosmetic products. The dramatic carpet of white flowers that covers some of Oregon’s fields in the spring is creating a sensation worldwide.

The popularity of the oil is growing in the U.S., according to Mike Martinez, CEO of the Salem-based Oregon Meadowfoam Growers cooperative and Natural Plant Products, the cooperative’s marketing company. About half of his sales are overseas, to customers in Japan, South Korea, Europe and Latin America, Martinez said. As trade with those countries and China increases, international markets may expand avenues for the tiny Oregon crop, and its seeds.

“Some of our relationships overseas have been long. Trade there feels more like family and friends,” Martinez said.

The field crop has found a productive base in the Willamette Valley. Today, about 50 farmers in the Oregon Meadowfoam Growers cooperative are growing from 10 to 300 acres each as part of their rotations with other crops, mostly grass seed. The cooperative’s members tend to cluster in groups near Suver, Silverton, Harrisburg, Shedd and Brownsville, with one farm in the Umpqua Valley.

Marketing this beautiful but durable flower has not always been glamorous, or easy. Oregon State University began research on the plant in the 1960s. By the 1980s, seven farmers formed an association to put the research to work. Sensing success, the cooperative in the 1990s expanded to 99 growers, but that number didn’t work well for the growers, the market or the business, Martinez said.

“We idled production from 2000 to 2005. Once we resumed regular production, it became apparent our membership numbers weren’t a good match to our acreage demand nor was meadowfoam a great fit for a number of our member farms,” Martinez said.

A Willamette University chemistry graduate, Martinez joined the staff in 2000, after the association had become the OMG cooperative with its affiliated company. Today, the cooperative has capped its membership at 50, turning its focus to improving germplasms for better production, helping farmers with more efficient methods, and developing new products and expanding markets for the oil.

The cooperative also has a full-time field manager, Charles Ortiz, who can help those who are interested in meadowfoam. Some of the growers and its nine-member board of directors, listed on the website, can also answer questions.

Limnanthes alba, or meadowfoam, is native to the West and produces a white flower that yields a tiny nutlet that’s about 30 percent oil.

Consumers prize the oil for its lightness, easy absorption, lack of odor and long shelf life. It is versatile and can be found in dozens of applications including lipstick, hair products, soaps, bath oils, facials, serums and massage oils and other skin products sold on the internet and in stores. Claims for its benefits range from anti-aging properties to hair growth stimulation,

“I like to focus on the remarkable skin feel and the distinct texture it can bring to cosmetics,” Martinez said.

Manufacturers applaud it for its stability, versatility and long shelf life.

Growers prize it for its value as a rotational crop that grows well in the Willamette Valley’s endemic wet, clay soils. Meadowfoam is typically planted in October, after the grass seed harvest.

Its beautiful pollinator-pleasing white flowers cover the fields in the spring, it is swathed in late June and combined around the Fourth of July.

The plant works well with farmers who are using either till or no-till practices, and it is relatively inexpensive to grow.

For information about the company and cooperative, visit the website at http://meadowfoam.com, or call the Salem office, (503) 363-6402. For a look at the products made from meadowfoam, visit www.pinterest.com/meadowfoam/.

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Hentze family takes farm another step http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/hentze-family-takes-farm-another-step http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/hentze-family-takes-farm-another-step#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:37:35 -0400 Aliya Hall http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309909 JUNCTION CITY, Ore. — Hentze Family Farm has been in the Junction City area for 116 years and four generations. Brother and sister Gordon Hentze and Karen McEldowney-Hay grew up on the farm and now work together to manage it.

Neither of them anticipated keeping the farm going, and their parents initially discouraged them from taking it over because it is a smaller farm and harder to make a living from it.

“I lived here all my life,” Hentze said. “Mom and Dad didn’t push us to participate in a way that was saying, ‘This is what you’re going to be doing.’ I never believed I’d end up on the farm, but here I am almost 64. I had to get into a mindset of it’s a lot of work. I put a lot of work into this farm; everybody in the family has.”

McEldowney-Hay said she believed her father was surprised that Hentze wanted to come back to the farm. She added that “until you actually do it, you don’t know how much work it is.”

As one of the four siblings, McEldowney-Hay lived in nearby Springfield working as a dental hygienist — she has worked in the same office for 48 years. In 2008, she came back to the farm to help her ailing parents and realized how much her brother was taking on.

“I watched Gordon work like a fool,” she said. “He has a full-time job and is working on the farm. I thought, ‘This isn’t fair. He needs help.’ I can’t claim to be much of a farmer, but I try to be helpful.”

One landmark is the barn, which was already on the property when their great grandparents moved onto the farm in 1902. It went through a 25-year phase as a dairy barn, and for the last 35 years it’s been the produce barn. A section has been renovated into a small work area for snipping beans, pitting cherries and cracking walnuts.

The farm sells berries and other fruits, vegetables and nuts throughout the year, and Hentze’s wife sells chicken eggs in Eugene, Ore. Hentze and McEldowney-Hay have also resurrected a tradition from their grandparents: hosting gatherings.

McEldowney-Hay and her husband added a cookhouse to make events easier. They will have live music, and in the fall an Oktoberfest festival and pumpkin patch rides.

“It’s our passion now,” Hentze said. “We all have worked off the farm to make ends meet, but we put just as much in the farm as our actual jobs.”

Hentze Farm is a century farm and for McEldowney-Hay there’s personal satisfaction in that honor.

“It’s mostly a sense of pride, significance and accomplishment,” she said. “I think people look at it and think that it’s cool, but it’s more a sense of, ‘We’re the fourth generation and still going.’”

And there’s hope for a fifth generation.

“They haven’t stepped up yet, but I think they will,” McEldowney-Hay said. “It’s important that it stays in the family and continues on. They’re all working and not here, but I think they’ll step up when it needs to be done.”

At the moment, Hentze employs five workers. In the past, Hentze remembers his father hiring local children to work the fields in the summer. He said that he’d like to bring that back, but with the extracurricular opportunities children have over the summer, it’s been harder to find willing workers.

Despite that, McEldowney-Hay is proud that her brother and her have been able to take the farm another step further. It reminds Hentze of an old TV show slogan: “Thrill of victory, agony of defeat.”

“I’ve thought of that often,” he said. “When things are good they make you feel good, and heartache when they don’t go well. But we’ve survived when many people told us we’d never survive.”

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Precise gene technology impacts GMO debate http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/precise-gene-technology-impacts-gmo-debate http://www.capitalpress.com/SpecialSections/Seed/20180308/precise-gene-technology-impacts-gmo-debate#Comments Thu, 8 Mar 2018 10:31:57 -0400 Tim Hearden http://www.capitalpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2018180309910 DAVIS, Calif. — Precise gene-editing technology is bringing the debate over genetically modified crops into a new era, researchers and experts say.

Called CRISPR technology, it allows researchers to edit genomes for precise traits and has created a buzz in the science world as a faster, cheaper and more accurate tool than previous techniques.

While the use of GMOs has ignited a high-pitched public debate for years, the ethical and socioeconomic debate over the newer techniques “seems to be keeping pace with the science,” observes Neil McRoberts, a University of California-Davis associate professor and plant pathologist.

McRoberts points to the latest issue of the Journal of Responsible Innovation, which asserts the potential to spread a genetic trait through an entire population of organisms — even to the point of extinction — calls for developing methods of “responsible governance.”

McRoberts said he has no “detailed blueprint” of how the regulation of GMO and related technologies should be implemented, but some general principles have emerged among scientists from the many years of debate.

“Public opinion will, and should, play a major role in whatever happens,” McRoberts said in an email. “The most widespread acceptance of this broad class of technologies is likely to occur under conditions of tight, effective, and transparent regulation and where the technology has been developed in a transparent way.”

Asked how he thinks products using the CRISPR technology will be regulated and labeled in the future, McRoberts said it depends on whether the new technology is considered by policymakers to be akin to GMO technology.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants in which scientists has inserted genetic materials from another plant or bacteria with a particular trait. CRISPR technology doesn’t do that. Instead, it allows scientists to “edit” the DNA of a plant to delete or change a trait. For example, a plant could be made more drought-resistant using the technique.

In the U.S., GMO products will continue to be regulated by agencies including the USDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with oversight, depending on a range of factors, he said.

If CRISPR is ultimately ruled not to be a GMO technology, arguments over regulation and labeling are irrelevant “at least according to the letter of the law,” he said. But there is debate among scientists over whether its users should treat it as a GMO technology and disclose its use whether policymakers require it or not, since some people “will consider it to be a GM technology,” he said.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which are the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for genome-editing technology, explains the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. There are numerous CRISPR systems.

One system, CRISPR-Cas9, enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by adding key molecules that introduce a change to the DNA.

A similar technology, CRISPR-Cpf1, is simpler in that it uses a smaller enzyme that cuts DNA in a different manner than Cas9, providing more flexibility in choosing target sites, the Broad Institute explained.

The CRISPR technology’s potential has profound implications for agriculture. The seed company Monsanto recently entered into an agreement with the Broad Institute to use CRISPR-Cpf1 technology to edit traits in corn, soybeans and other crops and ultimately develop new varieties years faster than by using traditional breeding techniques.

The advances in technologies that can make more precise, targeted genetic changes come as one noted former anti-GMO activist is now calling for a “peace treaty” between proponents and opponents of genetic modification.

At the Oxford Farming Conference in January, British author and environmental activist Mark Lynas outlined a seven-point plan by which the two sides could coexist. He urged anti-GMO activists to concede that the technology has been scientifically proven to be safe, to stop calling for bans and prohibitions, to “drop the Monsanto mania” and support public-sector, non-corporate uses of genetic engineering where appropriate.

At the same time, Lynas urged GMO proponents to “drop the snide attacks on organic and agro-ecological approaches” and support farming that aims for more sustainability. He said they should respect those who object to “moving genes between species” on ethical grounds rather than over safety concerns, and urged both sides to “be more respectful in terms of what we call each other.”

“So the deal is, I won’t call you anti-science if you don’t call me a Monsanto shill,” Lynas told his audience. “Let’s respect where each person is coming from and understand that views are sincerely held and mostly for the best reasons.”

McRoberts said he thinks Lynas “offered a rational starting point for moving the debate out of its entrenched positions,” but putting aside the rancor could prove difficult.

“I think coexistence of opposing views on this subject is possible, but it would be an unhappy coexistence for some people,” McRoberts said. “A successful outcome would be one which minimizes the number of unhappy people, while employing the technology for the greatest amount of good.”

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