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Hoffman, G.D., D. Duerst, and G.D. Jolliff. 2002. Farmeruniversity collaboration with meadowfoam research. p. 201207. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.
George D. Hoffman, Doug Duerst, and Gary D. Jolliff
Globalization of agriculture, and its impact on commodity farming, is forcing growers to learn new skill sets to maximize their competitive position (Williams 1996; Flora et al. 2001). New mindsets are also needed, particularly to enhance leadership capabilities within the farm community. These changes to the way farmers view their professional skills are particularly needed for success in the arena of new crops and new markets. Growers of new crops must navigate a swamp of over-ambitious claims and expectation in both the agronomic and economic areas (Fletcher 2002). Meadowfoam, (Limnanthes alba Hartweg ex. Bentham, Limnanthaceae) a new oil seed crop developed at Oregon State University, is an example of this necessity (Jolliff and Hoffman 2002). The oil seed crop meadowfoam is grown under contract by OMG, the open-enrollment Meadowfoam Oil Seed Growers Cooperative. A subsidiary of the grower cooperative buys the seed and extracts, refines, and markets the oil worldwide. A grower-member board of directors, advised by specific grower committees, plays a key role in governing the activities of OMG.
While working with this grower-led cooperative we realized that trying to enhance the grower skill set is a valuable contribution to the industry. Facilitating universitygrower collaborative experiments gives growers the skills to conduct replicated experiments of personal value to their farm system. This serves three functions. Many innovative growers have developed the habit of running non-replicated trials of new cultivars, management practices, or technologies that have direct impact on their farms profitability. Being able to execute true replicated trial increases exponentially the information content of their trials. Second, knowledge of experimental procedures should give them a better knowledge base to interpret the results of university agronomic research. Third, we hope that the skills the growers accumulated will give them the confidence and ability to act in a leadership position within the industry on agronomic issues, and perhaps other positions of importance. The development of farmer skills to enhance leadership is an objective of the Fund for Rural Development grant that supports this research.
This paper primarily reports the results of a collaboration with the personnel at Ioka Farms in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Ioka Farms is a multi-family farm, which allows some specialization within their organization. Our primary collaborator was Doug Duerst. Our collaborations with other growers also helped structure the ideas we present.
The results of these collaborations came in two spheres: (1) university personnel and growers learned how to structure successful collaborations; and (2) information was gained on specific meadowfoam growing practices of interest to growers. We identified a number of elements that we believe are critical for successful collaboration.
The personnel at Ioka Farms executed four on-farm experiments over a three-year period, either as collaborators with university personnel or on their own.
Harvest Method. Two experiments examined an alternative harvest method to the traditional swathing and combining of meadowfoam with equipment designed for grass seed harvest. Ioka personnel wished to test the direct combine harvest of meadowfoam, using a chemical desiccant to enhance the crop dry down prior to harvest. This method has several potential benefits: (1) reduces combine-threshing time; (2) eliminates vulnerability of swaths to being blown by high winds; (3) reduces seed head loss in windrows; and (4) less clogging of the combine sieve screens by meadowfoam residue, leading to less seed loss with the chaff. In 2000 we collaborated with Ioka Farms on a desiccate-direct cut combine harvest versus the traditional swathed-combined harvest. There were three replicates per harvest method. Ioka personnel laid out the plots, which were 20.1 m wide to accommodate their sprayer, and averaged 254 m long. Two combine passes were taken in each plot. Yield data per plot were taken using a yield monitor. These data were adjusted so the total of the 3 replicates per treatment equaled the combined weight of the 3 replicates weighed on a farm scale. In 2001 Ioka Farms repeated this experiment without our assistance.
The data of these two trials showed there was no seed yield increase with the direct harvest method. Desiccant cost and differences in thresher and combine operation time were not factored into the comparison (Fig. 1). However, in terms of our objective for our universitygrower collaborations these experiments were a success in that Ioka personnel learned enough during the course of the 2000 experiments to feel comfortable running a similar trial on their own in 2001.
Fig. 1. Ioka Farms direct harvest trials. In 2000 the higher yield of swath-combine harvest method (8%) was not significant. In 2001 yield differences could not be analyzed statistically because miscommunication between our primary collaborator and a farm employee resulted in loss of the replicated structure.
Planting Date. A fortuitous experience broadcast planting meadowfoam in December, rather than the traditional drilled planting in mid-October, lead us to examine variation from the traditional planting practices. Delayed planting of meadowfoam has the potential to increase grower options for weed and insect control, and changing market conditions. Ioka Farms cooperated in a study examining the effect of late planting on meadowfoam yield. Meadowfoam was no-till drill planted on three dates during the fall of 2000, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, and Dec. 5. Plots were 20.1 m wide by 185 m long. We used a complete randomized block design, with three replicates of each planting date. Other than the timing of the first post-plant herbicide application, all other management practices were the same. After each plot was harvested the combine was emptied into a series of bins on a flat bed truck. The bins were individually weighed on the farm scale.
The lack of yield differences among the dates (P=0.1117) that varied by up to 39 days suggest that delayed planting will not result in excessive yield loss, making this practice an option to strengthen the larger farm system (Fig. 2). The greatest yield difference was between the traditional planting date, and the November planting date. There was some damaged to the flower buds as a results of a late application of Select 2EC (Clethodim) herbicide used to control grass weeds. The earlier planted treatments appeared to have been affected more than the later planted plots, which may account for the lowest yields in the earliest planted treatment.
Fig. 2. The 2001 Ioka Farms planting date study. The lack of yield differences (P=0.1117) suggests that delayed planting will not result in excessive yield loss.
In this experiment, which had only 9 total samples, blocking the replicates reduced the power of the test. The blocking resulted in four rather than six degrees of freedom for the error term in the ANOVA. If we had not blocked, and the same data results were achieved, the planting date variable would have been significant at P=0.0518.
Meadowfoam Fly Damage. Ioka farm personnels experience with the planting date experiment encouraged them to participate in a much larger study in 20012002 (24 plots). Many of the studies examining the damage potential of the insect pest, the meadowfoam fly (Scaptomyza apicalis Hardy), suffer from the high variability that often occurs when studying a mobile insect pest using small plots. This study uses 20.1 m by 195 m plots to eliminate this problem. The study incorporates 4 control treatments, with 6 replicates per treatment. A block design was used to account for differences in field slope and aspect.
A primary purpose of this type of universitygrower collaboration is to give growers the confidence and skills to conduct their own replicated on-farm research. We have seen evidence of this occurring in our collaborations with Ioka Farms. We hope that this translates to an increased ability to interpret university research, and improve leadership within the grower-cooperative and larger farm community.
The question remains whether similar successes can happen with growers who are not working within a larger farming operation. The time commitment to the collaboration, and to leadership positions, may require an investment of time that growers who do not have the support of a larger operation may find difficult to muster.