In class we had the opportunity to hear Dave Mayonado talk about biotechnology and his experience with Monsanto, and now Bayer. He started out but briefly talking about agricultural practices before we had all this precision agriculture technology and biotechnology. Explaining how land grant universities had the ability to conduct great amounts of research about agriculture. Afterwards he began to dive into how the knowledge of genetics and proteins in a plants genome has created for so many advances in agriculture. The ability for seed companies to insert targeted traits, silence traits, or add traits into a plants DNA allowed for them to start producing seeds that wouldn’t die from glyphosate, withstand drought better, produce higher levels of oil, and much more. This changed the face of agriculture. However, this technology is something that is heavily targeted but anti-GMO activists despite the fact that it is constantly being proven as a safe technology. In being employed with now Bayer, Mayonado has to be an agvocate for such technology, although that may not be formally in his job description.
I thought it was really interesting how Mayonado explained he spends a lot of the time in his job, working with government officials to educate them on this technology. The food and fiber system is quite the platform for political figures but yet a lot of them really have no idea what they are actually talking about. In saying so, I think a lot of people don’t realize that major seed companies have to take many different roles in educating consumers/political figures in order to continue to have successful company. He also talked about how they are constantly having to research, create, and produce new products in order to keep up with the producer and the demands. A big concern with this technology is the development of resistance in pests, so marketing new products so producers have different modes of action is crucial to a biotech company like Bayer. Creation of such products is lengthy, costly process but if done correctly can be very financially rewarding. Clearly, Monsanto/Bayer have been able to do just that.
Mayonado gave a great lecture pertaining to biotechnology and his experience within the company. Although I may not have understand all the technical science in his presentation, the one point that stuck out to me was that he never has the same work day. Things are always changing, and that is innovation something that excites me as a future producer.
I was able to go see Bill Couser and Bill Northey speak about creating sustainable agriculture. Although I had to leave early due to an evening class, I gained a lot of knowledge about production agriculture in Iowa from Bill Couser.
One of the big points that stuck out to me from Couser was the fact that he said he tries to farm in a renewable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, but yet profitable way. Although this is pretty much commonsense, his reasoning for doing so is what stuck out to me. He wants to not only promote sustainable farming in general, but most importantly he wants to give the generations to follow nutrient rich, well managed, profitable land. Throughout his presentation you could tell that all the different management methods he has put into place since the 1930’s has been made to do just this. Putting in place different systems to control runoff and nutrient leeching from his feedlot, implementing more cover crop coverage on his land, practicing more no till methods, and also producing more commodities from one crop are all practices he has incorporated to better off his operation which ultimately will better off the upcoming generations. It interesting to see how leaving a productive farm goes hand in hand with environmental stewardship/sustainable agriculture. This is something I see in my operation at home, as I am getting older I see these little management decisions my dad makes to continue to create a sustainable and profitable farming operation. I also really enjoyed his comments on trying to control, or lack there of, the weather as a farmer. Weather is a continuous battle that farmers face.
Overall it was great listening to Couser speak about sustainable agriculture and see how even in Iowa, the concepts still hold true for farming in Pennsylvania. I always enjoy seeing how different operations run and the different systems they have in place.
On Saturday November 10th our class toured the Newark Farm on our very own University of Delaware’s campus. Although I was not able to attend I am decently familiar with the campus farm. The UD farm was one of the first things I toured at the University of Delaware. I was immediately impressed by all the different aspects of the farm and the amount of research that they are able to conduct.
One of the main facilities I am pretty familiar with is the milking parlor. It was really cool to see that operation and how they use the milk for UDairy. This is a prime example of how UD is trying to connect the consumers to the product they are buying. This is a big trend for consumers and it is a great marketing technique for UDairy and UD’s dairy. I also am familiar with UD’s dairy because I have had to work a milking shift through one of my classes freshman year. It was good seeing how they take sanitary precautions while milking and also with sick cows. The dairy also has a great basis for research in the dairy industry from feed analysis, exploring the rudiment stomach of the cows, and many other aspects.
Besides the dairy, there is Webb Farm which has sheep, horses, and steers. I have been there before for other classes and it was cool to see how they are putting in place different management methods, like pasture rotation. Also, I know many classes have labs that give the ability for students to get hands on experience with these animals, something that is so crucial in the learning process. In addition, the apiary is a pretty cool aspect of the farm. Bees have had quite the presence on social media due to their importance to our food supply so seeing how UD is doing their part in research and production of bees is awesome. Overall, I think the UD farm is something that makes this university so unique because of all the different research aspects and experience students can gain through it.
For one of our classes, we had the privilege to listen o Mark Davis guest lecture on the horse industry in Delaware. He started out by giving some history on the sport of horse racing and how it has been around, in different forms, for hundreds of years. It was interesting to learn how to standards, rules, and regulations have changed over the years. Now, horse racing is very heavily regulated to ensure not only the safety of the horse, but the rider as well. I was very surprised when Mark pointed out that the horse industry’s a $39 billion effect on the US economy annually. That is a lot of money. Afterwards, he dove more directly into the history of horse racing in DE which started in the 1760’s. Since than, he explained how many different commissions have formed as well as how to industry grew in DE.
Mark also talked a bit about the value of the Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds that are mainly used in the different types of racing. I can’t say that I was surprised to learn they are valued on average at $15,000-$20,000. I know the genetics of a good race horse can be highly valued, it is crazy to think that there are horses valued at even higher numbers. However, Mark showed us that if you own a good race horse you can win a decent amount of money on that investment. All that’s said and done, the horse industry as a whole provides many job opportunities but also a way for higher income people to invest their money. The horse racing industry can range from being utilized as an investment tool, a job for some, or just a recreational event for others to watch.
Genetically modified crops is a very highly opinionated topic for almost all consumers and producers. Some people are strongly pulled in either direction, with very few who fall in the middle as far as anti-GM or in support of GM crops. While some of these consumers are educated on what a GMO actually is and what crops are actually genetically modified, others are not educated and can easily fall victim to false information and advertising tricks.
There are in fact only 10 genetically modified crops grown and they are: cotton, soybeans, corn, squash, papaya, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, potatoes, and apples. An uneducated consumer would probably disagree with the previous statement, but there are actually only 10 genetically modified crops. So when a customer goes into a grocery store and buys GMO free bananas, GMO free bread, and GMO free rice, although it is free of genetic modification, there was never a chance for it to be genetically modified because GM bananas, wheat, and rice are not a thing. This concept is heavily used for marketing tactics for many products. The misconception and lack of education on what is actually genetically modified and what is not, will continue to be the basis of many problems in the food & fiber industry.
Dan Severson came and guest lectured in class on Monday about the livestock industry in Delaware. He started out by giving a brief overview of general trends in farming, and then meat consumption trends over the years. I was not very surprised when he said the consumption of beef and veal have been decreasing while pork and chicken have been increasing. This is probably due to many recent trends that red meat is harmful to your health, so consumers are choosing cuts of pork and chicken to eat versus beef. After that he discussed a lot about the differing operation methods for many species of livestock including cattle, hogs, sheeps, goats, dairy cows and a couple other specialty species. I was surprised to learn how much of a market their is for goat products. Dan said a lot of international folks seeks out goat meat for religious purposes and holidays, but also products like goat milk cheesecake and ice cream are made. He also talked about the dairy industry and how farmers are struggling to make ends meet due to the milk market. People don’t drink cow’s milk like they used to and it is affecting dairy farmers.
At the end of his lecture Dan spoke about the future of the livestock industry. He touched on how genetics and technology has already and will continue to impact how we raise our animals. But he also spoke about how farmers are running into the problem of the next generation not wanting to continue to farm, and how all these different factors is going to affect the ability to feed the ever growing population. Overall, Dan gave a great overview of the livestock industry touching on past, current, and future trends.
This past Saturday the class took a field trip to Hoobers to see how much precision agriculture has truly impacted the industry. On the field trip my fellow classmates were able to see and experience how the use of GPS is used to work a field, auto steer technology, and drone technology. Although I was not able to actually attend, precision agriculture is something I a lot of experience with. Much of what was shown and talked about on the tour, I have actually been doing on my family’s farm for many years. Precision agriculture is something that still continues to amaze me every day.
One aspect of precision agriculture that I was able to work a lot with this summer, and that my classmates got to see, was the use of drone technology. This summer my family’s farm has really dove into the use of drones for crop health and scouting purposes. I got to see and actually fly drones over our fields and pretty accurately do stand counts, crop health indexes, and in general show problem areas in our fields that we would have never seen on foot. Seeing the information a drone can gather really gives farmers the opportunity to make the slightest change land management decisions to increase yield. For example, soil sampling specific sections of a field due to poor crop health during growth. Drones and many other aspects of precision agriculture shown on the Hoobers tour will continue to change the way we farm. Precision agriculture is something that still continues to amaze me every day and also is opening up so many new jobs for my generation.
We had the opportunity to learn about Delaware’s Green Industry during a guest lecture by Tracy Wootten and Valann Budischak during one of our classes. Both of these ladies were incredibly knowledgeable about this industry. They first spoke about what exactly encompasses the “Green Industry” of Delaware. Then through out the lecture they shared many pictures and information about the many aspects of the industry from producers, retailers, wholesalers, suppliers, and many others in the industry. I learned that these sales are very dependent on consumers wants and need, which isn’t uncommon for any industry, but the catch it that some of the plants grown for sale take several years to grow. This aspect of the horticulture industry makes producers really have to stay onto of current and future trends of their buyers. These buyers include everyone from regular people to landscapers.
They also talked about how there are many nurseries and garden stores that really hone in on trying to give the customers a connection to what they are buying. These businesses often will provide pictures of what the mature plant will look like, and then help the customer pick what plants they want based on the area they are trying to grow them. This connects back to making the consumer feel connected to agriculture, a common trend of consumers these days. Overall, I learned a lot about the Green Industry as whole. This industry is something I’m not all too familiar with so it is cool to see how other agricultural industries operate in their similarities and differences.
Listening to Mark Lynas not only discuss how his opinions on genetically modified crops have completely changed but also to hear him apologize for bashing on on GM crops was quite interesting to hear. I think it is rare to hear such a strong shift from anti-GMO to pro-GMO. The basis of his switch was, in summary, due to the lack of science that supports GM crops are harmful. It was also aided by his recognition of what is actually causing the problems that people think GM crops are causing. The one point that really stuck out to me was when he said the threat of starvation and world hunger is much greater than the threat of consuming a GM product. Mark Lynas was a prime example of how someone can make an incorrect assumption based on social movements/lack of education on the subject. In his case though, he sought out the correct information and realized his prior opinions were completely invalid to what science was actually saying about GM crops.
My view on genetically modified crops is that they are a safe and sustainable way for farmers to produce the food that needs to be produced to feed the ever growing population. That being said, I don’t think organic farming is a bad thing either. I think organic farming is great, but not sustainable for the population. I also agree with the logic behind Mark Lynas’s opinion. I wouldn’t be in support of something that I thought had a chance of hurting people. Also from a farmer/producer standpoint, we would not grow a crop that would harm our consumers. In the end the consumer is who is determining our profit, so why would we produce something that would be harmful to them? That is why I support GM crops.
I was sad to not be able to attend the field trip to Fifer’s Orchard because I do not have much knowledge on how businesses like this runs. I do not have much knowledge on how Orchards run. Fifer’s Orchard seemed to be very well diverse with growing a wide variety of of fruits and vegetables, but then also selling CSA shares and farmers market stands. I was surprised to see that for Fifer’s CSA shares actually do better than farmers market stands. However, it was good to see that Fifer’s is trying to connect to the consumer which ultimately is better for business and good for the general outlook of todays agriculture.
I was not very surprised to see that they spray their vegetable crops once a week. Beside insect pests, in this humid climate disease is quite an issue for producers because disease loves humid moist weather. Also with the technology of high tunnels it allows Fifer’s to control disease that way as well. Overall between the diversity of crops grown but also the different marketing techniques, Fifer’s Orchard seems to be the perfect example of a diverse agricultural business who advocates to the community.
Gene editing as defined by Merriam Webster is, the use of biotechnological techniques to make changes to specific DNA sequences in the genome of a living organism. This basically means that scientists can go into DNA strands and edit them to display, or not display a certain trait. This can allow for greater accuracy and efficiency of an organism at interest. It is also noted that the process of gene editing usually would naturally occur in nature after repeated breeding. Gene editing just speeds up the process of improving genetics.
This technology of being able to change genetic material in a beneficial way is extremely important for the future of agriculture. It is extremely important in the food and fiber production system and the forever increasing demand of these products. Gene editing can benefit farmers in allowing them to keep up with the demand to produce food. This adds a great value to gene editing because it is one way producers can meet the demand for food and fiber, that will continue to grow.
Last Wednesday James Adkins guest lectured in class on agriculture irrigation. From the start I was very surprised by the quote he included that said, “While 20% of the world’s farmland is irrigated, it produces 40% of our foods supply.” This is actually pretty crazy to think that 20% of the farmland produces almost half of the food supply, and that 20% has to pay for the costs of irrigation. Through the lecture, James talked a lot about different types of irrigation systems, and different methods of irrigation around the US and world. It was really cool to see how things differed from location to location, especially when irrigation is not used on my farm at all. Irrigation is something in agriculture I am not exposed to much, so it was interesting to learn about the use/impacts of irrigation. He also talked about irrigation in California, which we briefly discussed during one of Ed Kee’s lecture.
James was really intriguing to listen to lecture because of his vast knowledge/experience with these systems. He talked about the process as well as what can go wrong with the systems. James also discussed the precision part of irrigation, and how technology has greatly impacted the accuracy and efficiency of irrigation. Ultimately, I learned a lot about agricultural irrigation from this lecture!
Ed Kee guest lectured in class on agriculture in Iowa and California. It was really cool to learn about how different states can be so productive in agriculture, but have many different variables to deal with then what we have here. It was particularly surprising to see how much of a problem water is in California. You can tell that their agriculture system is centered around these aqueducts, because if they aren’t then producing in California is very hard. I had no idea that California is responsible for growing nearly all the tomatoes used for processing. California has a very diverse agriculture environment. It was also was interesting to learn how fertile Iowa’s soil is, and how it gives them a natural advantage in producing. I learned the Iowa only gets 24-36 inches of rain a year, but due to the water holding capacity of the soil this amount of rain is not really an issue for farmers. With these, and many other natural advantages, I learned how productive Iowa is in agriculture. Ed mentioned that Iowa is responsible for 13% of the US corn acreage as well as 12% of the US soybean acreage. Overall, I learned a lot about California and Iowa’s agriculture industry. It was really interesting to see how much it differs from what we deal with on the West Coast.
I was very sad to not be able to attend the field trip to see Georgie Cartanza’s poultry operation. I think it would have been very interesting to see how her operation ran and looked, compared to my poultry operation back at home. After hearing about the field trip I thought it was really cool how Georgie kind of fell into the poultry industry, after working for Perdue. Today, it seems like a lot of producers/farmers usually go into the industry because of family ties. So it was cool to hear that. Also, it was really interesting hear that her one piece of advice for someone who wanted to enter the poultry industry was to take business classes. This particularly stuck out to me because in trying to decide my post high school plans, it was the fact that many farmers in my area strongly encouraged a business education before returning to the farm. So it was really cool to hear that Georgie also recommends this and that it is an important thing to have. Those two pieces of the field trip were what stuck out to me the most. Despite not actually being there, it sounded like Georgie runs a top notch operation!
It was very interesting to listen to Ed See guest lecture in class. He spoke a lot about the evolution of Delaware Agriculture as well as the history behind it. Right from the gecko, it was really cool to hear that Delaware has an Ag Land Preservation Program that works towards preserving farm land. In Pa, we have a program that does the same thing and it is cool to see other states working hard to protect agriculture too. However, it was really surprising to see the numbers relating to how much acreage has been lost over the years. I couldn’t believe that between 1950 and 2007 the total acreage in Delaware has decreased 24%. Besides his slides, it was also interesting to just hear him talk about his personal experiences in agriculture locally and globally! It is very cool to hear this and then see how it shaped what he wanted to accomplish. What really stuck out was Delaware’s Young Farmer Program that gives young people a financial gateway to start farming. I really liked this program because I think the only way agriculture will progress is if we give young people the opportunity to get started. Overall, I very much enjoyed listening to Ed Kee guest lecture and am looking forward to his next lecture.