Recently, there have been many controversies concerning Genetically Modified Organisms – whether they are safe, whether organic is healthier, and/or whether products containing GMOs should be labeled. Although it has been proven that GMOs are safe for consumption and just as healthy as organics, we have not come to a conclusion of whether or not GMOs should be required to be labeled on packaging. However, I believe that the introduction of GMO labeling will cause all sorts of chaos. The average consumer does not know much about GMOs, what they are and how they benefit them. With the GMO label, this will put consumers in a state of panic because they will associate the label with a negative connotation that is often portrayed on social media platforms and through word of mouth. The implementation of GMO labels will also cause a rise in prices due to the need for new and improved labels – which will come at the consumers expense. Although consumers have a right to know how their food is processed, produced and get to them, I don’t believe that it is important for this label. GMOs have been proven by over 200 research studies to be safe for consumption, so why is there a need for this label? Theres not. Overall, this new label mandate would be a disaster that could easily be prevented.
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Delaware’s Livestock Industry
Dan Severson guest lecture provided an insight into Delaware agriculture and the livestock industry. Throughout this presentation I learned a lot about Delaware’s agriculture that surprised me. Delaware ranks first in the U.S. in value of agricultural production per acre and second in value per farm. Being that Delaware is such a small state, this ranking really shocked me. I also learned that 40% of Delaware’s total land is farm land and an astonishing 29% of Delaware’s total land consists of corn and soybean crops – which makes sense being that poultry production is such a huge commodity in the Delmarva area. Severson also helped to portray the typical farm in Delaware. More than half of the farms operate less than 50 acre and bring in less than $50,000 per year. After providing a broad overview of the local agriculture, he went into depth about the dairy, beef, sheep, goat and swine operations within Delaware and a few staples from each – such as their average contribution to the economy or the common uses of each animal (ie: meat, wool, dairy products, genetics/show, etc.). I found this lecture to be one of my favorites – he was very knowledgable about each industry and provided great insight into each.
Technology in Agriculture
Dr. David Mayonado from Monsanto provided great insight on what exactly GMOs are and why they are so important. He explained how intensive research and the adoption of new technologies constantly help to improve and increase production. With the implementation of always improving mechanical, chemical and biological tools, US crop productions have increased greatly. He explained to us exactly what a GMO is – the making of a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and then using it in another plant. These products have found to increase yields while directly decreasing the need for pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. The best part about GMOs that is often misunderstood or mislead, is that they are completely safe for human consumption – with over 2000 research studies to back this up. Dr. Mayonado also covered RNAi Technology and how gene silencing presents the possibility of turning off specific genes – which could potentially have many practical agricultural applications. It was fascinating to get a scientific lesson and perception behind GMO’s and this lecture helped me to further understand them and their importance.
I found this guest lecture by James Adkins especially interesting and educational. I learned a lot from this lecture. James presented to us that irrigation has been around for thousands of years, relating back to the Egyptians using the Nile River to irrigate their crops. He then went on to give an overview of the different types of irrigation practices: surface irrigation, localized irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, and sub irrigation. It was really interesting to see how much thought and science went behind irrigation practices and how monitored and controlled it is. He explained available water holding capacities based on soil types and that the soil types local to our area are mostly sandy loam which can hold 0.11-0.15 inches of water per inch of soil, which, you can test for this level of moisture with various technologies like the Field Scout. Advancements and research in irrigation practices are so important with the threat of water scarcity and James Adkins reassured us that a lot of thought goes into how much and how often crops get irrigated. He explained the growth cycle of corn and how it requires different levels of moisture throughout its life cycle and how farmers have a rhyme and reason behind how much they irrigate. Irrigation is so important to agricultural production and I look forward to seeing what new technology they come out with next!
University of Delaware’s Research Farm
On November 4th, my class had the privilege of meeting the University of Delaware’s Newark farms superintendent, Scott Hopkins, who led the tour for us. We started the tour with an introduction to the dairy herd that supplies us our beloved UDairy ice cream. Scott Hopkins explained that the dairy herd was the most difficult and time consuming livestock on the farm due to the amount labor, time and research that goes into the herd. I found it really interesting to see how feed studies were conducted on a herd within by the use of ID collars that would sync with a specific feed bin that granted that specific cow access to its feed. This practice helps to conclude that technology plays a major role in livestock production. We then moved onto the poultry section of the farm where he explained to us why there were so many small shed-like houses. These are used for testing immunology and virolity amongst small flocks of birds. I think that this field of research is so fascinating and important, especially since the poultry industry is huge to the Delmarva area. Next, we ventured to Webb Farm where we learned about the beef management practices, equine practices, as well as the sheep practices. Currently, the farm is tracking estrous in the ewes and are monitoring breedings and whether or not the ewes take. They track this by recording which ewes have the color coded chalk on their backs – marking a mounting by the ram – and crossing the presence of chalk with their estrous cycles. Scott was very informational and provided a lot of insight into how much work really goes into running a successful farming operation. He was well versed and had a tremendously wide amount of knowledge. I learned a lot on this trip and I hope to continue learning more about management practices throughout my time here at the University of Delaware
Hoober’s Precision Ag Tour
On October 7th, 2017, my classmates and I had the opportunity to tour Hoober Inc. and witness the advances in technology that has helped progress agriculture as a whole. While there, we learned that a huge event that allowed for such a jump in technology for farming was the publics authorization to use satellites for GPS. This allowed for automatic steering, drones, and a lot of other precision ag advancements to come along, making farming much more economical, timely, environmentally friendly and efficient. It was really interesting to see how production agriculture has changed throughout the years as technology advanced. Hoober sells new and used equipment so we were able to witness how tractors and combines progressed. Another service Hoober provides is upgrading old equipment to practically brand new, up-to-date machinery. They basically take the “bones” of a piece of equipment and modify, update and upgrade the systems and mechanics of it – this is often more economical than outright buying a brand new piece of machinery. I could really tell that Hoober’s was in business for the right reasons and to really help their customers. It was great to see such an honorable business model.
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour and see all of the behind scenes of a local orchard and farming operation in Camden, Delaware. While here, Bobby Fifer gave us the run down of their operations, how technology has a played a huge role in production and how produce gets from field to store. It was really interesting to learn about how apples were packaged and shipped off. Bobby said that apples are hand harvested from the field and then brought to the packing warehouse where they are fed through piece of equipment that can sort around 10 apples per second, all based off of a picture that it takes. The apples are then fed to the assembly line where they are packaged into boxes that will be sent all up and down the East Coast. Curt Fifer then chimed in and shared with us some food for thought. With recent storm events, getting their products to the consumers has not only become extremely difficult due to the lack of refrigerated trucks available, but also very expensive – costs more than doubled just to ship a truck load to Florida. It was really interesting learning about about the processing and shipping side of their operations. Many things that Curt and Bobby discussed and shared were eye opening – a lot of crucial factors to their business are behind scenes that go unnoticed or thought about by the consumer. Fifer Orchards was truly an amazing operation.
Touring Georgie’s Organic Poultry Operation
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to tour an organic poultry operation and to learn all about the ins and outs of it. Georgie Cartanza, the owner and operator of this organic poultry farm, was full of not only knowledge about the industry, but as well as wisdom that I will hold onto as I go throughout my life. I found this field trip especially valuable since I was able to apply what I have learned about the poultry industry, its management and the ever-changing market demands to a real life operation. Georgie explained to us that being an organic farm is a lot more work to keep up to standards as well as costs. The average cost of organic feed is 3x the amount of conventional chicken feed – she attributed this to the fact that organic feed has to be shipped to the United States from other countries due to the lack of profitability for farmers to grow organic feed in the states. Georgie also mentioned that with the ever-changing consumer and market, in a few years, she will have to implement more windows, more shade cloths and more enrichments to each house to satisfy the “organic” standards put in place. The poultry industry is always changing and advancing as technology increases and I’m excited to see where it shifts next. This field trip was a great learning experience and I throughly got a lot out of it. Ms. Cartanza is a very knowledgable woman and I hope I get to encounter with her again.