David Wright Interview 4-23-2014 (Transcript)


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David Wright Interview 4-23-2014 (Transcript)
Physical Description:
Oral history interview
Wright, David (Interviewee)
Minson, Valrie (Interviewer)
Comerford, Nicholas (Coordinator)
George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, FL
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Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history
Cooperative Extension
Florida history
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Florida -- Gadsden


Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Valrie Minson.

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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1 Interview with Dr. David Wright, Agronomy Extension Specialist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center Quincy, FL April 21, 2014 Interviewed by Valrie Minson, UF Library (in bold) Part 1 Personal and Family History/ How farming was in N. Florida So we are here with David Wright, and if you could just begin by telling me what your Education Center? Sure, well during this time I have seen a lot of changes and this is what we will be talking about today some of the changes we have seen over the years in agriculture and how this posi tion has been involved in those changes. So we are looking forward to talking about it. So how did you get involved in agriculture and can you tell me a little bit about year early years? farm. My mother And so I went on into college in agriculture in agronomy. And actually when I worked for the Soil Conservation Service in the summers while I was going to college. I enjoyed what I was doing and when I got out of undergrad school my advisor told me I shoul d go to grad school. And I thought about it and I said OK. I wanted to farm at that time. But I ended up going to graduate school doing both a Masters and a Doctorate at Virginia Tech Physiology type work for my Doctorate degree. And after that I ended up with the University of Florida and have been here since then. And how did you pay your way through college? Well, at that time college was a lot cheaper than it is now. Actually working in the summers I could make enough money to pay for my college and then I also applied for some s cholarship and I was able to give them in undergrad school and then for my master s and doctor degree I had assistantships. So it was a very easy way for someone who did not have very much money to be able to go to college. k that you did with landscaping? W hile I was in gradua te school I did have a landscaping business A nd as all graduate students before the month does S o I generally always h ired graduate students to help me in the landscaping business while I wa s in


2 graduate school. A nd they were always happy to do that because like me they were always out of money and needed to eat at the end of that last week after their paycheck had run out S o it was a really good business to have on the side as a graduate student and we did have some other students that do s imilar things over the years. I t was interesting and actually on my way down here to this job I got a call from someone that had a job in South Carolina that said well you got to come t hrough here will you stop and do this job and I said no I am on my A nyway once I got out of that it involved a lot of reclamation type things that that we had done research on as a student and so it is very easy to apply those tech niques. T hen so that I guess was a lot of my extension training things that you do research in you try to make it practical and that you can pass it on to others or some farmers or You mentioned that your father farmed and your mother worked for the farm service. I you r family did and I know you also are a farmer now and you have children and can you talk little bit about your family? S ure well I grew up on a .. .. it was actually a livestock farm although we did grow some row crops .. a few.. and in Kentucky and Tennessee in that area almost everybody had an allotment of tobacco A nd we did and from that experience working in tobacco there very hard work just the family and you work all day in tobacco and you come out of the tobacco field s and you got the gum from the tobacco leaves all over you know your arms in your hair and everything else so my comment to my bosses here with the University of Florida if they want me to work on tobacco give me six months and try to find another job. B ut it was you know something that everybody pretty much who live s on a farm in that part of the country grew up with A lmo st everybody in the country worked with tobacco. W e had registered Angus cattle at that time W e actually bought bulls from Sen. Albert Gore father but they were a very important part of our farming operation W e cut a lot of hay not only for ourselves but for other people in our c ounty on halves And then when I came down here you had mentioned that I got married at Virginia Tech M y wife is a city gir l from Washington DC, and while we were dating she said she wanted a bunch of kids and I did n t know what a bunch was. W e now have 10 kids. S o after a while of living in town and kids all over everyplace we decided that we should probably move out into the country to have some place for them to live and work and stay out of trouble S o we have been involved in farming now for 25 or 30 years or longer maybe R ow crop farming but we have done things like a half acre of broccoli or strawberries or different things like that A lot of it has have been the traditional pea nut cotton corn and soybean wheat production S o they are very much and have been involved in that. A nd I guess only one of them to this point although an other daughter going to work for Monsanto this summer but most of them I guess due to that experience have gotten degrees in other things in college which is probably not a bad thing B ut one or two of them would very much like to be involved in farming. Can you talk about what are the challenges that you face now that probably are different from the challenges that your parents faced?


3 I think now the challenge is probably always the financing aspect of it. M y father act ually bought the family farm He was one of 12 kids, an d I am sure had you asked his father if any of his grandkids would be involved in farming involved in farming and that he would have been very surprised because at that time you know many people in our country were involved in farming. T he challenges I think that at least when my father was starting to farm now and in a position like mine you know I have another job so I have an income that can support my farming habit He did not although my mother did work for the Farm Service A gency and helped there but it really does take a long time to I guess getting it if you start from scratch and you have to borrow money which my father did to buy the farm from h is brothers and sisters you know It difficult to do that to just start from nothing N owadays you know only 1% of the US population i s involved in farming B ack when he started after he got back from World War II you know we still had about 40% of the people in the US involved in farming A nd now there are investors I guess that also with would be would help you get started in farming if you ha ve a good plan W hereas back then just a lot of people that was just what they did when you grew up You kn ow a lot of the technology has changed B ack in those days you had to cultivate everything for weed control E ssentially the only thing that was available in the late 40s and early 50s was you know 2, 4 D type materials and so herbicides to control weeds we re not available N ot very many fungicides for diseases. S o farms were a lot more diversified T he farm that I grew up on we had hogs and cattle and crops and a big garden T hat tends not to be the case now W e have a lot more just row c rop farmers They grow cotton and peanuts or corn and peanuts or corn and soybeans like most of the Midwest H owever some of our research now you know we have gone back to using some of the techniques that were used back in those days of you know integrating livestock into the farming operations A nd we have found that yes we can reduce fertilizer usage because of manure recycling nutrients through the row crop land S o there B ack when I was growing up a big tractor was 50 hp N ow the big tractors are 300 hp and farming you know thousands of acres B ack then you were farming 10s or a hundred or a few hundred A lot of people worked on the farm then like a lot of the countries that we work with now T he Third Wo rld countries you can ride through to the countryside for 50 miles in our country you can drive for 500 miles and you we have mechanized a lot in our country that you know when I w as growing up you would see a lot more people out in the field A nd so things have changed So as an extension specialist and having grown up on a farm what is your perspective of how extension has changed. Did your father utilize the extension service? He did and actually when I was growing up in even in grade school we had 4 H clubs I remember I was probably in the fourth grade when I became a member of the 4 H club and I showed cattle at the c ounty fair and other livestock shows. Extension probably at that time was a lot more hands on I know they had canning classes and you know things that I think that Extension has e volved like everything else from then until now You know they were involved in vaccination programs for livestock to control some of t he diseases that were rapid at that time and many other things that that they were involved in A nd E with the times and .. Y ou know we got a lot more consultants now nowadays W e got a


4 lot more farm supply stores that pro vide information B ut E xtension is still I think offers a very good product for those who are trying to get involved in agriculture you talk about what was your changes N. Florida agriculture si nce you first came to this area? There have been a lot of changes when I first came here A griculture had gone through a period very much like what we are in right now C orn and soybean prices in the early t o mid 70s spiked A nd you know we had $12 soybeans at that poi nt S o what happened when I first came here you know we had quite a bit of livestock in the late 70s and then soybean prices got so high a lot o f people took down their fences, planted soybeans into the old pastureland and rotated with corn. The year I ca me here in 1977 we had three quarters o r 1,000,000 acres of corn in Florida M ost of it not irrigated and we had a major drought that year. W hen I came in March we had no rain from the middle of March when I came unti growing peri od And then so ybeans are normally planted in M ay and June T hey were planted and we got the normal summer rains and it did okay but we had a major drought that year that impacted the three quarters of 1,000,000 acres of corn A nd it put a lot of growers either out of business or they were very badly hurt that year A nd sometime during the next year or so we had the soybean embargo and soybean prices just dropped you know down to five dollars a bushel down from $12 per bushel S o corn price s had fallen back as well and one reason we had the high number of acres is that corn prices were high just like they had been the last two or three years A nd at that time most of what we were growing in North Flo rida, especially in the row crop region w ere corn and soybeans W e had 1,000,000 acres you know A lot of people would not think of Florida as being a corn soybean state W e had a lot of acres W e had just a small acre acreage of cotton pretty standard acreage of peanuts and so for the next mi d 70s to the mid 80s we had a lot of a lot of irrigation that went in because people wanted to grow c orn because it is traditionally a southern crop A nd you just eat we always have drought here in May and M ay is a dry month our lowest rainfall month bes ides October A nd right when corn is si lking and t assling and pollinating A nd if you have 10 days of drought during the 10 days of pollination you got no corn. S o we had a lot of acres of irrigation to go in in Florida and South Georgia during this period of time and peanuts were mostly rotated with corn. A cres of corn drop ped back dramatically after that drop year It has never gone back up to that acreage again B ut at that time most of our growers were conven tionally planting crops I n other words they would plow fields and every time I would go to Gainesville or go out in the DeFuniak Springss that area and Walton County a lot of the se s ands in April you see 200 feet down the road because of th e dust storms A nd when I first got here one of my even in Tennessee, my father used no tillage or conservation tillage planting crops A nd we go t started doing research and extension work at that time and the late 70s demonstrating conservation tillage a nd it was a slow go A lot of the equipment had not been perfected and we were working with the equipment companies making changes A nd by the early 80s the equipment was pretty well in good shape that you could no till or strip till into a any cover crops any plant residue A we would kill out the cover crops with Roundup or another material like that and plant directly into those cover crops A nd one of our actually he was the head of our cotton commission in Florida their family farmed out in West Florida around a


5 school. A nd every April they had to shut down the school because of the dust and the health issues with the kids and that family in the I guess 90s I don t remember what year started strip tillage and strip t ill ed all of that land around the school A nd first time ever that they did not have to close down the school A nd the y won the conservation farm family of the year to do to that T hose are the type things that that we have tried to do in our program A nd extension not only doing the research but developing things that will not only you know a id farmers or help them make more money but also do good things for the environment and conserve natural resources Can you tell me the type of questions you get in your Extension work and maybe what kinds of questions you find to be the most difficult ? ten all sorts of questions. W e andy soils very droughty soils and like this year in the last two weeks we 14 i nches of rain S ome body planted corn saying do I need more nitrogen. W here is my nitrogen and those type questions are hard answer. Y ou know nitrates go with the water generally S o we do have a lot of research that we have done with crops and with the soil testing program that we have with the University T hat all of the things that that we do are based on our research But those are things like what varieties do I use ? A very important consideration on all crops L ike if you took corn for instance in our variety testing program the top variety and the bottom variety. If a farmer ends up getting you know using one of the lower yielding ones no matter how good of a year it is his yield potential is still dramatically lower than what it could be. So the University has been involve d in things like variety testing. A lot of management conside rations and we get these questions all the time T hat you what varieties should I be using, when should I plant what herbicides should be used y ou know got a disease A nd in our extension publications we generally outline .. you know .. if you ge t t his disease or if you plant early you have to look out for these problems A nd you know if you plant in a cold wet soil you can have you know seedling disease problems A nd so you may want to put in furrow fungicide to help that out or in any of those type things L if I can thi nk of a question from this week. A nd one of them I nitrogen on my corn got the rain W hat to do and normally you know we have a recommendation I f you have about a certain amount rainfall after you put out nitrogen li ke on c orn you need to consider coming back with another 30 pounds per acre because we know you lost some. W much depending on the soil type. J ust many many different questions on you know past related soil fertility related W e get a lot of plant tissue in or got the diagnostic tools we get every week some one sends pictures of something I got o ne yesterday actually from the Plant S cience unit c o rn was about that tall, had white bands on the leaves A nd we call it cold banding A nd you can have temperatures almost down to freezing and it will if the corn is still in the whorl you know when its small before the leaves start unfolding you will see band s of white on it. But those are the type things you know that people are saying you know I just put out fertilizer W hat is this ?... you know m 20 or 30 times you a lot of times you can diagnose those on the spot B ut then year that are different from got diagnostic lab. W e


6 get you know laboratories to look at nutrient content of plants and soils A nd in general we just in the last two weeks with carinata an oilseed crop that we re working on it looked terrible and we pulled tissue samples and soil samples sent them to the lab and they were deficient in magnesium and sulfur A y that can give you a diagnosis quickly Y ou can respond to it and probably correct a lot of your yield If you wait too long as you know you run out of time lot of new farmers who are starting from scratch. What would you say are some of the mistakes tha t you see that new farmers make? lot of different mistakes I t really helps for a young farmer for his family to have been in farming. A nd h is father knows H had 40 years of mistakes that you learn A nd we often have farmers say well you been farming for 40 years but you know every year is different and it is S ome y ears we started out in a wet spring like this spring and your delayed in planting S ome fight weeds for a long time T his year you know we got nutrients that have leached S o it does he lp if young people can can I farm with you two nd so that they could understand the concept of timeliness T there would be a fence dividing his property from this property H e would make 50 bushels more corn than this guy T hey would use the same management but this guy would be two or three weeks late on everything that he did And he said I make the same yields th e he does using the same hybrids using the same amount of fertilizer but just not timeliness critical in growing every crop. S o with new farmers I think that it is critical to have a mentor or that they farm wit h somebody B ecause you do learn a lot Y ou learn a tremendous amount from them, a nd what you should use A nd the older farmer will say yes you can use that I t A nd he knows or make s to o, and most people who are involved in farming have a lot of bought experience that made the mistakes A where we in E xtension try to as we write production guides to cover all of the bases so that someone could sit down who is getting into farming and can read everything about it And then if they have questions, they can still call or write or whatever they want to and find out about you know can I really do this ? probably the biggest thing between you know those who were part of the family farm A nd we re seeing more and more people I think got several friends that their kids are not coming back to the farm A nd with crop prices being a little better the last few years there making pretty go od income and this it can be a good living Well as one you were talking about kids growing up on farms and that is one last and you know having grown up yourself as one ? Well I enjoyed growing up on farm and I would have liked to have started out farming A nd my dad just said well you know the you know then to go on to college A nd I did B efore I came back and was able to get involved in farming you know I


7 I have a couple of kids that would love to farm right now O ne of the that just graduated with know that he has worked on the farm for 15 years or l onger A nd he knows involved A nd I think in general he may have had better training than I did N ..you know my a lot of things but we a lot of the equipment that that we do now in farming A nd you know my kids have gotten to see how to operate it and to you know we do a lot of our own repairs with welders and everything and when I was growing have w elders A nd you would take it t o a welding shop We always had livestock and everything else W e were busy with different things and that was just something that you we never had B I was surprised with my wife who grew up in the Washington DC area I think it would be ve ry hard to get her to go back to living in town now A nd good life because I like it and I have enjoyed living on a farm Thank you T hank you Part 2 Research and Extension Accomplishments We are here again with David Wright. David tell us about your successes as a researcher ? O kay well thank you one of the things that you do as an extension specialist is that that you get a lot of calls from the county people with problems. A nd when I first came here we were doing a lot of corn research because there was a big corn acreage A nd one of the things that one of the initial things that we got started in was the use of starter fertilizers E ssentially nobody was using starter fertili zers T hat at that point you know you just broadcast spread your fertilizer out and hope d that your crop did well A nd one of the first things that we started working on was did our corn hybr ids respond to starter fertilizer A nd we started looking at variety trials with and without. A starter fertilizers is actually some some fertilizer put near the row so that the small root system could get to it. A nd essentially what we found was that there were some hybrids that would get 30 bushels per acre yield increase by putting a little bit of fertilizer right by the row S o we and then that we had other hybrids that would not respond at all A nd so we recom mended in general most of the hybrids did give us a pretty good response you know P robably an average of 15 bushels per acre E ven at three dollars a bushel you know if you have a five dollars or 6 dollar s an acre treatment it is still a very economica l treatment to put down A nd looking at that we also found that we took the hybrids that responded the most and took the top 1 and the 1 that did not respond at all to try to figure out why one responded and why one did not A nd the one that did not was grown mostly in the deep sand areas was a very vigorous old hybrid corn A nd what we found after about two weeks of growing them in the greenhouse the root system of this old hybrid was double w hat a lot of these ne w super perform ing hybrids were. A nd so not only does this help some of the corn companies to say you know.. we need


8 to be looking at the genetics behind a lot of this corn especially for the Southeast I t did make a big difference to us W e knew then that we should be recommending hybrids like this old corn hybrid in the sandi if you did use some of these other higher yielding hybrids you had better be using starter fertilizers A about 200,000 acres of corn o r 1 50,000 acres of corn in Flor ida if you can increase yields 15 bushels per acre buy using starter fertilizers you know it makes a major impact. S ome of the other things that were successes that we had I think that you would have to say that our work with conservati on tillage has been one of them. W hen I first came here there was probably less than 1% conservation till planted crops A nd in general, everybody plowed T here were gullies everyplace in the get a 5 inch rain right after plowing and gullies all over the field and growers then would spend the next three weeks trying to fill up the gullies in their fields instead of planting timely. S o we did we had probably three or four or five or six people in the Southeast that were working with universities working with conservation tillage trying to develop it A nd this occurred mostly in late mid to late 70s and extended on into the mid 90s W e re working with every crop that we grow corn soybeans cotton peanuts P eanuts were one of the last crops that you know all of the pathologist especially have always said if you got got to turn down the old plant residue so more fungicides on peanuts t han any of the other row crops B ut our research over the years has shown that we can use conservation tillage A ll of these dust storms that that we would have in Florida -even in the H igh Springs area -you can go through th ere every spring and their would just be mile after mile that you could not see down the highway due to the dust blowing off of the turned, plowed fields And in general now it took us a long time you know even showing growers at the meetings that s the data you know you can produce at least as good a yields and better yields than you could with your conventional planting B ut it took a long time for adoption T he equipment companies developed equipment that was very good over the years and then t he in the mid 90s about 1995 Roundup ready crops came out. Crops that were resistant to Roundup and then all at once we had Monsanto on our side. T hey were sponsoring a lot of our meetings and before we had nothing to sell we were just talking about you can save fuel and labor and the environment with conservation tillage B ut all once we had Monsanto that came in and as they develop ed Roundup ready corn cotton and soybeans a lot of gr owers saw an easier way to farm. A nd you know we had probably go tten from the late 70s to the mid 90s maybe 20 to 30% adoption of conservation tillage A nd then all at once the adoption rate went up to for those crops probably 90%. W a lot of counties that are 90 95% conservati on tillage and a lot of that had to do with you know we had more support A where I guess in E as making money on the product. S o trying to help growers make money do better you know have a better living preserved ; mak e their farms better B ut all at once we had all of this help A nd in the last 15 years now several other companies have their own materials like Roundup that are you know have spread the adoption of conservation tillage a long ways A total value of what that has been to the environment as far as soil erosion and sand not blowing a nd you know fertility loss that got to be a half billion dollars in the Southeast I think every year S o conservation tillage has been a big help.


9 A the old song --when those cotton bolls get rotten not much cotton picking to do W ell that is the case A nd when you have hard l T hrough the season the cotton plant grows you got these beautiful looking boll s and then when it opens or tries to open it looks like wedges that look like an orange slices in wedges A fluff out and the way our cotton pickers were is th at it a spindle that s got a bar b on it A nd it wraps the fibers a round it and as it goes into the machine it unwraps it blow s into a basket and now to the new pickers into a bailer ut we have had many years in Florida that a lot of the southern states you know with average 900 pounds of lint for years; almost 2 bales of cotton. W e have had years where we would average 350 p ounds of lint A nd a lot of this was due to cotton hard lock A back from the early 1900s and 90+ percent of the cotton was picked by hand up until World War II and then almost immediately after World War II we had all of these had equipment become available W e had a lot of these factories that were turning out the machinery for the war that wer e now working on farm equipment. you know we went to mechanical picking and when they picked by hand you could actually pick out these little orange slic es and when it goes through at gin it can actually the quality of the cotton was not that bad even though you know it was still in an orange slice S o we went through year s in 1998 and in 2002 that our average state average yield was 350 pounds per acre It takes 800 pounds of lint to break even S o our farmers had lost you know t was 100,000 acres or a 1 20,000 acres of cotton, a lot of money. S o we decided we would work on this problem and try t o figure out what was happenin g. A nd in 2002 we just happened to have some fungicide treatments that we had put out here in bloom. A nd we had talked to an older Prof. --a lady from Berkeley at the cotton meetings A nd she had worked on another crop And she was standing in the f ood line then we got to talking about what we did and she just made a comment off hand. S he said probably Fusarium is coming getting into the bloom during pollination. A nd we said okay and then we had made those fungicide applications during the bloom period And so from then on we started focusing on that A nd we did find that the cotton during pollination was getting the Fusarium the fungi is going down the pollen tube with the pollen actually infecting the seed. We actually got some GFP the gre en fluorescence protein from Israel to work on it a nd so that it would glow W e would know where it was and then we found out that there were other parts of the flower that glowed. W e use that as easily as we thought we could. T his is all part of research that we do We did find that within a week s time after we inoculated the flowers with Fusarium that we could take the seed from the boll and find disease in the seed. W ell if you did not know it the plant just goes on and develops the boll b ut then when it star ts to open open because it is in fected because the fungi fibers just wrap up the fluff out A nd so the picker can get it S o we found that there are some insects that do transmit the F usarium W e actually covered some blooms so that they get in there and we did find that we had a big difference S o anyway we have found that not only some fungicide applications but also insecticide maybe 2 applications during the first four we eks of b loom can solve a lot of this problem O ne of our graduate students found that what the main cause of th is was if you had night s when the temperatures were in summer down to 69 during b loom that after the boll were pollinated the boll actually seal ed close d and if you got you know a lot of our nights are in the 70s and they would close almost immediately after being pollinated early in the morning 72 in the


10 morning and you might have 20% hard locked boll s A nd how we f igured this out was that we tagged flowers every day put the data on it so that we would know the date that the b loom opened up. And then at harvest we look ed to see if it was opened or not. W e found that if the nights were 69 instead of 72 the boll did not seal ove r as fast Y ou had a lot more insects in the bloom bringing fung i and everything else into the b loom A nd we would have as much as 80% hard lock A nd so from this we were able to develo p a protocol for grower s to use. You know if they had a lot of cool wet rainy weather during July and August when cotton is blooming that they would need to treat. T you know about A lot of our growers we had a growers that would average 650 pounds per year and that since they had been following this average d 1250 pounds per year and this has made $20 $30 million a year difference just in Florida cotton and the increase in yields Asian soybean rust is another success story I think that hurricane Iv an c ame through in the fall of 2004. Asian soybean rust was one of the I guess diseases that was on the violent terrorism list that our government had said you know if it get s started if they bring spores in here flyover cropland in the Midwest and growers would have to make four or five fungicide applications like they have to do in South America and other places --that it would cost our growers $4 5 billion a year just for that Well in the fall of 2004 they found Asian soybean rust on an experim ent station at LSU right after hurricane Ivan A nd the plant biologists that we work together on this well if they got it we probably got it. W e went out to look at our soybeans we collected leaves and sure enough we had it as well. A n d then we looked at kudzu here, which is a host a natural host -an d we found it on that too So we said okay we got it, so during that winter then we decided that you know if it looked like that we were going to be a place that was going to be a h otspot for Asia n soybean rust. A nd we talked with our administrators our deans and vice president about becoming a center for Asian soybean rust research and extension -and they agreed to it. O ur director here give us of another lab that was just dedica ted to Asian soybean rust research and from 2005 until 2011 we we re funded by the North Central Soybean R esearch Board as well as several private industries that had fungicides A nd we had over 50 man years of research being done here conducted during that time A nd we had 18 different fungicides that became label ed do to work being done here. W e had plant breeders soybean breeder s from the Midwest that identified germplasm that was resistant to Asian soybean rust that they could use for breeding good lines A ny management on Asian soybean rust we was pretty well developed here at the center by different faculty from all over the country W e had actually faculty from Penn State and University of Illinois that rented a house for two or three years for their graduate students that that were here working with us on that W e actually ended up hiring one very well. The student from Penn State is our extension biologists now due to this In the first year that we ran sentinel plots and which we planted plots from here to the Midwest before growers planted their soybeans A nd we could check the spread of the Asian soybean rust and it was calculated by GAO that we save d growers $2 99 million about $300 million the first year just by knowing wher e the soybean rust was If it s not in your spraying. A nd a website was developed for this that is still being used today and we are still planting sentinel plots in Florida so that you know we can check the spread of it T here were a lot of chemical companies that you know it at that time were recommending you just need to go ahead and make applications. B ut fortunately we had the information saying you know


11 yes you do or no you has saved growers a lot o f money over the years the next success story unless you got No no, please go is on the Sod base d rotation T hat is a project we started about 14 years ago W e wanted to develop a farming system that a young farmer could get into with relatively not very much money A s we talked about young farmers you know like a cotton picker nowadays cost $650,000 W a young farmer could buy you know 1000 acres of land you know all of the equipment that he needed H e would be in debt so much that he survive .. W you know that if you plant crops after perennial grass like all of our Midwest came out of native perennial grasses A nd that is one r eason that the organic matter content of those soils is so high A nd our growers you know like to plant watermelons peanuts and soybeans high cash value crops after bahia grass our perennial grass A nd so we said okay we need to develop a system that a young farmer could come in and have 200 acres that he did make a living off of An d so we said okay two years of bahia grass followed by peanuts Peanuts traditionally have been one of the higher cash value crops for Flo rida and is followed by cotton up here S o we started in that that rotation and compared it to conventional rotation of two years of cotton followed by peanuts A nd during this period of time we have had several graduate students and postdocs that worked o n the system A nd we have found increased organic matter in our soils in this rotation by about it 0.1% per year, increase d rooting depth of the crops that follow bahia grass or the perennial grasses W e have found you know decreased pathogens or disease s and nematodes W data on that and most of our research over the years you know but you are not looking at how this crop impacts that crop which impact s the next crop Well the system is A nd then we took it to the farm scale to 1 60 acre farm scale in Marianna at the beef unit J ust with the system we got divided up into quadrants The 160 acres is 40 acres one year old bahia grass 40 acres of two year old bahia grass 40 acres of peanuts 40 acres of cotton and then we have we plant winter grazing A and then we have a cow/calf operation on top of it. F rom our small plot research here we found that our yields a re much higher in the Sod base d system that we call and that our profits are 2 to 7 times higher when we went to Marianna and we included cattle T hey we re recycling a lot of nutrients. W e were able to red uce the nitrogen applications on cotton by 50%, po tash by at least 50% if not more When we had cattle and cattle prices right now they are a bit high, so it has been a very good system We had exclusion cages over there so that cattle are never allowed to be in these areas ever S o we can look at cattle impacts on the following crops with and without cattle A nd what we found was that anyplace where we graze cattle our cotton and peanut root systems are twice as large as when we graze T he cover crops the cover crops just grow up and we have found that we were able to reduce our irrigation needs because of the enhanced root system by 60 50 to 70% or more and what we have found here on our small plots that a lot of years that our non irrigated crop yields behind the bahia grass behind the perennial grass are higher than our yields irrigated in the conventional systems S o this is something that a lot


12 of the conservation groups are interested in T he NRCS is now fu nding through EQUIP to help growers establish the per ennial grasses on their own farms S o we do feel like you know we had partnerships with Coca Cola T he N ature Conservancy and many other conservation groups that are very very interested in this W e had a conference call last week with the Dean of the ex periment stations at North Carolina State University that wants to established this on one of their experiment stations S o it has been what we have shown on our economic modeling and we do have an econo mic model that if you type in So d base d rotation pops up go down to the bottom of that website an d it s got a business model. Y growing crops conventionally you got from $20 $30,000 profit for per year on a 200 acre farm. I t we re using -the cattle -$100,000 to $ 1 10,000 per year profit sure that if you talk to most young people and you told them well I got a job for you You can be making $20 $30,000 a year they would say looking If you told them I got something here that you can start out with $100,000 or so per year they might think this is something I mind doing A nd with 200 acres half of it being in grass, to have big equipment to row crop your 40 acres of peanuts 40 acres of cotton A utilizing the land here around and we have a lot of people and a lot of interest. A nd we think that this is one of those things that we just rec ently started working with Dow / Alanco L illy T very interested in spreading the system into South America and we will see how that goes B ut like with conservation tillage we have nothing to sell like Roundup or anything like that A nd a lot of these new ways of farming unless somebody ha s a piece of equipment to sell or you know some chemicals or something success promoting it it takes a longer A nd we do have some adoption to this point but we do expect that it will get to that tipping point like it did with conservation tillage T hat it will take off all at once. Do you want one more success okay W ell the oilseed crops we re success yet are not but we think that is going to be W e did work with canola for about 15 years here in the Southeast University of Georgia had a canola breed er who actually developed a variety of plant I guess for the Flint River B ut we were able to produce yields of canola that were higher than Canada whatever 12,000,000 acres or so of it is being grown right now for oil and the meal. W e have been working with a company from Canada with the non edible oil biofuels oil from carinata Ethiopian Mustard W e started working with it three years ago I g uess and one of our goals there is to have a crop that we can get out by this time of the year --no later than early May so that we can plan t our typical summer crop of peanuts or cotton or soybeans or something like that T he first couple of years we did not have anything of their enough.T his year we had over 7000 lines of material that we have been looking at and evaluating O ne of the goals with the oilseed crop was that it ha s to produce 200 gallons of oil per acre and that would make it compatible with petroleum oil A nd this past year we were able with one of the varieties to get very close to that 42% oil and then the meal ca n still be used for cattle feed. A nd we we just recently through the Department of Agriculture got a little over $1 million grant to pursue this A nd we got a lot of


13 it growing out of the field A nd we will have feeding trials with the meal W some of the earlier maturing varieties that they we ing out there right now A nd we hope within the next 5 to 8 years that we will have a production package for growers to use --that o use the land in the winter that often times lays fallow or you know just weeds grow up. A nd this would give them another source of income and pot entially you know it has the possibility of bringing in 4 5 6 $700 per acre during the winter at a time when normally will be fallow. How ever a lot of our farmers like to hunt if this will fit in with it or not --but it is something els e that looking forward to develop ing. Well thank you so much for talking with us today Thank you