Saturday, 29 June 2013

Day 11 at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation

Lloyd Noble was an oilman in Oklahoma at the start of the oil business and was a pioneer back in the days of the very wild west, before Oklahoma became a state.  Today the Foundation is at the cutting edge of research, technology and extension for the farmers and ranchers in about a 100 mile radius of the research station in Ardmore, Oklahoma.    Lloyd is quoted as saying "the land must continue to provide food, clothing and shelter long after the oil is gone" and that's still the philosophy of the foundation today.  There are so many similarities between Lord Nuffield and Lloyd Noble, both pioneers, both at the cutting edge of technology and both visionaries. 

I was joined last minute at my visit here by fellow scholar Andrew Brewer and after we had both done a short presentation we headed off for a look around the very impressive site.  All the building's are linked by underground corridor's that act as Tornado shelters, and carry the main services safely out of harms way.  Robyn showed us around the under ground warren.
We met David McSweeney from New Zealand who is the greenhouse manager and heard about the novel ways to keep the green houses cool rather than hot.  One day when the power went out the greenhouse rose 44 degrees in 14 minutes!  Lots of Oklahoma wheat is grazed with cattle and not harvested, but Mark Newell is taking hose varieties near the top of the recommended list and seeing how they respond to grazing and then recovering to be harvested for the grain.  A practise using sheep, used in the UK when crops are too thick.  It might be something to try at home, thinning the over growth down, reducing disease pressure and applying some fertiliser.
After lunch I met up with Jim Johnson and Eddie Funderburg to talk about wheat growth, soil sampling, or rather the lack of it in the general state region.  We talked about the year of records in the state in 2011 when there was record cold, snow, heat, drought, tornadoes and hail!  Next it was out into the fields to visit Coffee Ranch with Will Mosely who is a wildlife and fisheries Consultant.  We looked at areas of the farm that were being used to explore more use of 'fire' as a method of pasture regeneration.  Parts of the fields were burned two weeks ago and with some rain the grasses were starting to shoot again.  This method will help control the shrub and stop it encroaching on the prairie grasses.  The main four prairie grassed are Little Blue Stem, Large Blue Stem, Indian Grass (OK state grass) and Side Oat Grama (TX state grass).

Russel, Josh and Hope accompanied Will and me around the burn trials looking at the grasses, flowers and the, what seemed like millions, of grasshoppers.  It was great to see the cattle, many Angus crosses up close.
We headed onwards to look at Joshes mark 2 'Hog Buster'  A very clever design aimed at catching the epidemic populations of wild hogs.  The baited trap is raised and then when activated by motion Josh gets a photograph sent to his phone.  If it's deer then all can be ignored but if its hogs the trap can be remotely released.  This is resulting in much higher catch rates and a saleable product at the end of the day.  Wildlife management is taken very seriously by these guys and it was a pleasure to spend a few hours learning about their roles.  
The 'Hog Buster' was set up in a Pecan orchard, under grazed by cattle.  The trees were beautiful and still had some fruit (inedible) hanging on from last year.  It takes 15 years for a tree to reach maturity to produce a marketable Pecan nut.  
We had a great day and wrapped it off with an excellent dinner at the Conference Centre with some home made ice cream powered by a little John Deere engine.

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