Saturday, 6 July 2013

Day 19 - Limagrain and Farm Visit

It was an early start for Robert and me today for the 2.5 hour drive West to Waitsburg, in the neighbouring state of Washington.  We headed there to meet wheat breeder Jean-Bruno Beaufume' who works for Limagrain.  We had a great meeting with Jean-Bruno hearing about the breeding plans and targets for the Limagrain company.  Limagrain is a farmer owned and farmer run cooperative and as such is dedicated to producing affordable quality seed.  Limagrain is very active in the region working very closely with the University of Idaho breeding program.  This is a fairly new venture and has benefited both establishments.  It was seen as a necessary move by the local farmers with reduced funding for the UOI.  Limagrain also benefited by getting access to elite local germ plasm which it can use to breed with at its extensive network of trial sites. (This is just a random wheat field!)
We talked about the future of wheat breeding and what is holding our yields back and what are the challenges for the future.  There are three main challenges that we talked about; climate, politics and economics, and grower targeting.  We talked about the necessity for growers to pay for seed royalties, so that investment can be made back into wheat breeding.  It currently takes between 10 and 12 years to bring a variety from being identified to seeing it in the field.  That is a long term commitment to our industry and one that must be supported.  We talked about long droughts and short droughts, about genetically modified breeding, mutogenisis, hybridisation and traditional breeding.  We talked about where yield is generated and how plants can compensate given good conditions, as I say I had a fascinating time.
After leaving Jean-Bruno we headed back East and stopped at Dayton, home of the original Jolly Green Giant.  The business here was an asparagus canning plant that later went on to can peas.  It has closed now but the green man, (306 feet high) can still be made out etched into the hillside over looking the town, he even still has his green boots on.
We had a chat with Glenn Warren and Lee about some of the machinery they are running on the 5,000 acre farm.  I was particularly impressed with the fuel bowser knowing that we had a 2,000L one at home this one comes in at 4,000 gallons, or 15,000 Litres.  The lorry was made in 1991 and has just over 1 million miles on the clock.  The pump very quickly spews out the fuel at a mighty 60 gals or 227 Litres/minute.  So in about 4 minutes we would have filled the combine.  The combine was parked in a great workshop.  It was light, airy, well insulated, lots of doors, about 72' x80' in size and with under floor (gycerol and water) heating. 
The Challenger tracked machine also caught my eye with the ingenuity of the saddle tanks on the front.  The track width was huge and would have been at least 4m wide.  The tanks carry liquid fertiliser when drilling with starter fertiliser and act as very helpful ballast whilst going across the slopes.  Glen told me of one slope that rises up 900 feet in 40 acres!  The tractor is packing a 525hp engine and a hydraulic draw bar to help steer the following implement around corners when turning on the hills.  This tractor is also used during harvest as the grain cart pulling a chaser bin between the combines and the semi trucks hauling the grain away to be stored.

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