Dave Mayonado, a representative of the Bayer company and their products and use, discussed with the University of Delaware’s students about the agricultural industry and how it has evolved over time in both efficiency with the advancing use of technology and as an industry as a whole. During the earlier centuries, Dr. Mayonado explained that the agricultural industry was very labor intensive and hands on. However, as the time moved forward, the advancement of technology grew which has allowed agricultural to become less labor intensive and farmers to produce steadily larger crops while at the same time improving soil quality and fostering an environment that supports a thriving wildlife population.
With the growth of technology, agricultural companies, like Bayer, who bought out Monsanto, were able to develop chemicals like glyphosate or round up that kill weeds and insects without killing the crop essentially allowing farmers to protect their crops from encroaching weeds and insects that effect the crops growth and development and produce a greater yield at harvest; as well as reduce the need of tillage and improve the soil quality of the field. With the development of chemicals, Bayer did further research in crop efficiency and increasing yield and found that modifying certain genes and adding beneficial genes to a plant (GMO and CRISPR), all regulated under the EPA, USDA, and FDA, allows for the plant to protect itself against specific pests which allows for the use of less chemicals as well as, the modification allows for the plant to produce a sufficiently greater yield at harvest which allows for the world to produce more food and reduce hunger across various states. As the presentation came to a close, Dr. Mayonado informed and cleared up the litigations about the product, round up, that was created by the former company, Monsanto, they bought out, which allows the students and myself to know the truth about the product and the litigations behind it. Ultimately, from this presentation, many things about the agricultural industry and the company Bayer can be learned, which can help the students and myself to develop a better understanding of the industry as well as develop a broader perspective of the company Bayer and the industry as a whole.
Dave came and spoke to us today about improving the industry in agriculture. He first off started by talking about how there are multiple fields in agriculture and not every part might be for you.
Everything in life changes over a period of time. The changing in tools was a big part of agriculture. We went from hand labor, to the mechanical evolution, to the use of chemicals in agriculture which would help prevent weeds and pests, to all the new twenty first century electronic equipment. We are always developing new ways to be successful. Another big development in agriculture is Round Up. Round Up kills the weeds are pesticides near the crops to help them stay safe from bugs, weeds, ect. Decades ago, people declared that there was nothing wrong with the chemical weed killer know as Round Up. Now they are saying it could somehow develop cancer but people did research on it saying otherwise. Like life everything can change at any point in time.
Dave was originally a crop company and now they are the number one seed company. He was a chemist but then that changed too. He claims that we are the future and many things in life can change. Things that are being developed can change everything. These are beneficial changes that are helping the agricultural world.
On October 16, 2019 Ms. Valann BUDISCHAK & Tracy WOOTTEN spoke to us on the Horticulture/Greens Industry. This was the first guest lecture where the guest speakers were actually at the Georgetown campus, instead of the Newark campus. Each speaker took turns, giving information on their professional journey as well as current information on the industry around the state.
First to speak was Ms. WOOTEN. She informed the class that she had an extensive background in agriculture, with her grandparents having farmed ad she herself growing up on a farm. She majored in Plant Science and Vegetable Education to become a horticulture agent for home horticulture. She earned a BS in Plant Science where she observed 1/3 of the samples that were brought in suffered from ‘environmental problems’, i.e., problems due to how the plant grew on the weather , rather than disease or bacteria.
Next, Ms. BUDISCHAK spoke on her background. She took a very different path that Ms. WOOTEN, working at Black and Decker for 14years and commuting between Baltimore and New York before deciding to make a change. She decided to work for the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Organization before managing grants for the Delaware Dept. of Transportation (DelDOT) and then becoming an extension agent for the University of Delaware. She then volunteered for the Botanic Garden of which she eventually became director.
After those brief biographies, the two speakers told us about nurseries. First, that nurseries are usually selling products for the home garden- over 60% of sales a container plants. Most nurseries are located in Maryland, though there are a few noteworthy establishments in the first state. Many nurseries are plug and container nurseries. Many nurseries sell floriculture crops of bedding and garden plants- the biggest purportedly in Lanesboro, PA. Cut flowers may even be sold at CSA’s.
A nursey might sell broadleaf evergreens, trees, and shrubs- ‘ball and burlap’ evergreens that begin as cuttings. A garden nursery might sell field or container plants, plants for garden store and centers, and zero-scaping for low-water, native plants. Sod and turf nurseries may sell bent grass- used on golf courses- or tall fescue and Kentucky Blue- used for home lawns. Sod generates $13.8 billion in revenue.
Other retailers might earn revenue by selling videos and how-tos for independent garden centers. Others my reach consumers through radio shows, displays, and unique offers.
Certain garden centers specialize in particular services. The Gateway Garden Center for example, specializes in ponds, as landscape, providing consumers with the service of install and maintenance. Another garden center might only market major brands like Proven Winner brand, sell only annuals, or sell directly from growers. Sposato Landscape is one of the top three landscaping business in the US, located right here in Delaware. Sposato Landscape has implemented a container rental program where last seasons’ planters may be replaced according to consumer. Other noteworthy garden centers include Coast Garden Center, RSC Landscaping, Ronney’s Garden Center, Lakeside Greenhouse, & Bess’ Buds. These garden centers will aid consumers with the name recognition of plants and provide care instructions and ‘How-to’ tutorials. Though landscaping is a big industry there are a small number of garden centers.
There is a growing market within the industry for indoor plants. Landscapers will go into large corporate buildings and office parks to maintain or change out potted plants. Landscaping is a very science-oriented field. However, in addition to helping to design and build, a landscaper may also be expected to maintain by handling mowing, pest, and invasive control, fertilization, lighting, and water features. A landscaper may also use soil conservation techniques such as stormwater management, irrigation, and hardscaping, or by assessing plant health. One such technique, accessing the health of plants, namely trees, is handled by Delaware Arbor Care.
Those jobs are not without risks however. While working on some landscape maintenance, a Mr. Steve JOHNSON, a nationally-known plant pathologist from New Jersey dies via tree limb. The limb fell from a pine with shallow roots due to the sandy soil of the area. The pine was part of a stretch of trees in a homeowner’s property that posed a risk to the people living and working there. Because of this, insurance had the rest of the trees taken down.
Landscaping is a large component of ‘Land Management’, particularly of parks, schools. The largest landholder in Delaware is DelDOT. DelDOT’s responsibilities include enhancing highways with warm season grasses & meadows. DelDOT does this by conducting minimal invasive management in the roadside, planting pollination strips flanked by mowed edges to cut down on labor. These mowed edges show the public that maintenance is indeed ongoing, while giving a less intensely manicured look that a simple mowed strip would provide. These plantings help curb the spread of invasive weeds like Japanese Knotweed, though the speakers note the mowed turf itself is not so healthy as water runs over it as opposed to seeping into the water table. Creating rain gardens & bioswales is an effective solution, as these improve water quality by filtering run-off.
In addition to highways, DelDOT also has a part in maintaining railroad tracks. By maintaining the vegetation around the tracks they prevent obstruction and mitigate fire risks by cutting back encroaching plants to prevent ‘railspark fires’, which pose a risk to farmers and can burn crops. The risk of fire also allows them to impose burning bans. They will also scan for and remove invasive weeds.
Lastly, DelDOT contributes to the management of parks and recreation areas, like sportsfields. Replacing turf is often cheaper than replacing mature trees and shrubs, as such, sod is a big component of volume purchases. When designing and maintaining these fields there is a choice to be made between cool and warm season turf grasses or simply synthetic groundcover. Warm season grasses grow with rhizomes & stolons that knit together & create a smoother playing surface than cool season grasses, which grow clumped in bunches and spread via seed. To keep the fields in optimum condition, they must be aerated, especially in high-traffic areas such as those found in front of goals, where compaction of the soil causes sand to crust on clay pockets. To amend the soil, compost may been used.
To conclude, the lecture ended with the speakers informing the class on the various in-state opportunities for anyone who might be interested in pursuing landscaping. To begin, it is helpful to know certain definitions such as annual, perennial, and bi-annual. An annual plant grows in one season, i.e., Impatiens plants, while a bi-annual plant has a two-year lifespan, and lastly, a perennial dies and comes back, for example, the invasive Japanese Knotweed where pieces of the plant may break off and it’s underground runners can generate a new plant. In Delaware, a license is required to sell plants, but for the average homeowners, there are tools to inform them of the best ways to manage their properties. For example, a rain garden cannot be created from, ‘wet spots on the lawn’, but rather, must be able to drain. This information and more is available from Delaware Livable Lawns, a program that helps homeowners and lawncare professionals mitigate run-off from nutrient applications from drifting into waterways. In addition, they also have 2.5 month internship gardens. For professionals, there’s the Delaware Nursery & Landscape Association (DNLA) at https://www.dnlaonline.org/.
On September 28, 2019 the class took a field trip to Fifer Orchards at the very beginning of the farms Fall Fest‘commemorating it’s 100th year. This trip would commence very differently than the last one, with the majority of the tour spent on the bus. We would ride around to various fields before visiting the sorting and packing area, taking our obligatory class picture, and finally checking out the farm’s country store.
Our host, Mr. ‘Bobby’ FIFER met us in the parking lot before climbing aboard the bus. He began the tour by giving the class a cit of backstory on himself and the farm. Mr. FIFER was a Virginia Tech graduate who continued to work at the farm after college with his two other brothers and cousin for the past 15 years. Together they encompass the fourth generation of the families now 3000acre farm. Mr. FIFER stated the family once owned more land after they moved from Rehoboth to Dover in 1904 after the drowning of a child, but those Milford and Magnolia parcels were either sold or lost to time. The third generation, made up of Mr. FIFER’s father, now in his 80’s, and Mr. FIFER’s Aunt remain active with the help of two or three female staff members working in public relations. Every family member has their own role to fill n the farm and no one is vying for the other’s job.
Mr. FIFER notes that each family member does what he or she is best-suited for and comfortable with. Mr. FIFER really enjoys working amongst the people and being at the front of the farms public brand. His brother, Mr. Kirk FIFER, worked for Sargenta right out of college in the 1990s, so he handles a lot of the sales- ‘whether a consumer wants 10 or 10, 000 case of product’, as well as wholesale to Walmart. Mr. Michael FIFER, the cousin, handles the public relations angle of the business, handling retail in Dewey Beach and Dover, booking entertainment, and coordinating ‘Fall Fest’. Another, older brother, prefers to work behind-the-scenes, out int he fields, in a harvester, or just doing maintenance.
No matter the role, there is always plenty for any one member to do because Fifer’s is a very diversified farm. At the start of the growing season, they are packing fruit, off-season asparagus (a fern and early spring crop that stores energy in it’s roots), and one of their most profitable crops per acre, tomatoes. Strawberries often complete for the most profitable crop per acre, but overall, corn and pumpkins generate the most money. Surprisingly, the tree fruit for which the orchard is known, has the lowest profit per acre, because Delaware’s warmer temperatures and humidity is not really conducive to growing the best peaches or apples. Peaches are prone to get stink bugs, scab, brown bacteria, leaf rot, and scale, with apples fairing a little better, subject to fire bight, wart, black rot, as well as scab, scale, and nutrition deficiency. Both crops are subject to daily pest struggles and require different pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides to stay viable. The harvest season runs from April to December, and also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, beans(in rotation with corn), and sweet potatoes. Most of the crops are sold locally, though the corn may be shipped as far a s New Mexico, Walston (PA?), Miami, Mississippi, and Colorado.
The high temperatures and humidity create the constant threat of disease, making it very difficult to grow anything organically in this state, so Fifer’s is not an organic farm. Mr. FIFER says it’s not worth the ‘headache’ to try and it’s too time-consuming.
Despite the high level of Inputs required for conventional production, Fifer’s has a reliable way to manage their equally high levels of output. They farm utilizes mechanical harvesting for it’s sweet potatoes and corn, along with other harvesters and mowers. Other crops that require hand labor is often supplied by immigrants through the H2A Program, which supplies guest workers on Federal visas to harvest and pack produce. The Fifer’s must pay for the workers living expenses, providing housing, laundry, rides to Walmart and work, as well as $1, 400 per month for the employees to go to an from Mexico from September 1 to November 1. It’s is a great expense, but Mr. FIFER asserts that working through the government program means they only need about 70 people versus the 100 domestic workers they once hired, even as the farm has grown and expanded.
To facilitate this growth, Fifer’s has employed a variety of different growing methods, such as double cropping, or growing 2 crops in one year, cover cropping, and reduced tillage. They have also employed the use of ‘protected agriculture’, implementing hi-tunnels with measurable success. Mr. FIFER stated that the practice is easier in New York and Vermont, but in New Jersey, E. PA, and further southward it’s ‘impossible’. Hi-tunnels were utilized to extend the growing season and sell on the ”shoulder season’. Cultivars like strawberries and raspberries were grow first, but tomatoes were the ones that proved most lucrative. The Fifer’s could produce 2-3× the yield in tomatoes when no other local farm has them well into the month of December- but from November into December consumers are often thinking of squash and kale and other ‘fall foods.’ Hi- tunnels are most cost effective than a greenhouse for the Fifer’s as their expense is based on length- they only cost $10, 000-$40/50, 000 per acre. They are a big deal in other states like PA, Maryland, & Virginia. The only caveat is the tunnel cultivar must be rotated and the physical structure moved, or the land it sits on must be fumigated, i.e., the soil must be injected with chemicals to kill and sterilize it of everything- which is an added cost.
Additional growing methods like raised beds and bed covers are used for weed and pest management, as well as on-farm experiments. Raised beds can prevent the wetting of leaves, which promotes bacterial growth. Mr. FIFER spoke of his efforts using plastic bedcovers, namely with strawberries, to keep the soil warm and prohibit weed growth as well. Mr. FIFER said he intended to try alternating between black and white plastic on different rows to stagger the crops soil heat absorption by a few degrees and extend the harvest season with equally ripe berries. The bedcovers, used in tandem with 0.9-1.2oz. re-used row-covers, can be used to retain heat and trick the plants into, ‘thinking they’re in NC’- Delaware strawberries are planted the 1st-3rd week of September, but NC strawberries are planted well into October, with a harvest by the end of April or early May.
To maintain soil health, the Fifer’s plant oats, whose roots grow up to 1ft. long and absorb and excess nutrients and prevent soil erosion. They may also plant, ‘Tillage Radishes’ that aerate the soil by breaking up the hardpan and create mulch to increase the soil’s organic matter. The Agricultural Stabilization & Conservation Service(ASCS) will pay farmers for planting cover crops, which is particularly important for sandy soil.
One off the most important aspects of farming that Mr. FIFER covers, was the orchards extensive use of different irrigation techniques. Citing Mr. James ADKINS and his expertise on irrigation, Mr. FIFER stated the farm uses 600-12–gal per min wells to power their system of Drip Irrigation, Underground Drip Irrigation, Linear and Center Pivot Irrigation, and Hard-Hose Irrigation. Drip irrigation was displayed on the surface of the peach orchard and used because the farmers experience less of a problem from rodents, groundhogs, and foxes gnawing the lines than they would with an underground system. To run the drip irrigation, the water source must be free of iron and scale, or the hoes nozzles will become plugged, so clarification and filtering are used. With the linear and center pivot irrigation, seen in a field of Kohlrabi, cauliflower, and collards, the system works with automatic pressure release valves and is positioned on plastic wheels that, while more costly, don’t go flat and bolt onto the hub. The hard-hose irrigation system must be hooked to a well, unspooled with a tractor for 200ft and then dragged and relocated, unhooked, and re-hooked to different hydrants along tramlines.
Another aspect, pest management, was covered throughout the tour. One method discussed was airblast and airplane spraying, which requires highly trained trick flyers who can maneuver at low altitudes and often train more than commercial pilots. Aerial spraying can be used to manage weeds, but vigilance by those who work in the fields is needed as well. Prof. ISAACS showed us a ‘Velvet Leaf’ or ‘Elephant Ear’, an example of a weed that when not handled properly and treated quickly, can result in a long-lasting problem- the plant contains large seed pods with up to 50 seeds that can go dormant for up to 50 years. Another method was a deer management strategy in which the Fifer’s allow a set group of hunters to come in and kill deer for free at no liability to them under the State Quality Deer Management Program. Mr. FIFER stated the greatest pest statewide would undoubtedly be the four-legged, white-tail deer- a herd can eat 30 acres of soybeans and 20acres of strawberries.
Additional challenges would be the paperwork and documentation that goes into processing. Every product must be labelled with a GN and LOT# for distribution. The Fifer’s must pay $10, 000 for an audit, flying an inspector in from Idaho. There are also additional expenses that must be covered for any new or changing government regulations- Mr. FIFIER stated that the family would often look for loopholes to avoid the intense scrutiny increasing regulations can bring. Also, without a properly established market for their cultivars, like the Kohlrabi, the plants are just wasted space and must be tilled under to make way for a different crop next season.
One topic that has seemingly become the subject of every class discussion at some point is the sighting and eventual spread of the Spotted Lantern Fly. Mr. FIFER said that although the invasive insect had found it’s way to Sussex County from Pennsylvania, they had yet to see the pest on their property, but as Prof. ISAACS reminded us, according to the rules of the Department of Agriculture it is up to the farmer to treat any known threats.
Overall, I enjoyed the trip. I would definitely like to come back to Fifer’s for the events as well as the interesting foods in the store that I didn’t get to try or purchase. I was told there was boar, bear, and alligator jerky, and I saw a large selection of jams and jellies with inventive flavors I’d love to sample, but would have no clue how to use.
Throughout this course, we have heard names of the big agricultural companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and more. I understood that they played key roles in the industry, but I actually had no idea what exactly they entailed. Mr. David Mayonado’s guest lecture helped me have a better understanding of not only what Monsanto is, but delved deep into the nitty gritty of GMOs and today’s pesticide industry. He began his lecture by walking us through agriculture’s past and its evolution of pest management, from hand and animal labor, to the beginnings of mechanics, to the introduction of chemicals, all the way up to the present day’s ability to utilize biotechnology. He helped further break down what exactly GMOs are and how they worked, and talked about various crops that are genetically built to naturally fight pests, rather than requiring a heavy application of chemicals. He then switched gears a little bit and focused on explaining to us exactly what Monsanto is, and how it was recently bought out by Bayer. All in all, I now have a much clearer understanding of pest management and the companies and minds behind it
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.