We've finished seeding at Farming Smarter! Altogether, our three programs put more than 200 trials in the ground.
Thankfully, we finished just in time for the rain to come ≥ allowing our teams to enjoy well-earned respite during the rain days.
We were able to beat the weather, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our crews. Through bad weather and equipment failures, they persevered. With seeds in the ground, now the teams move onto monitoring their trials.
In the upcoming weeks, we'll be monitoring for pests and weeds in the field. Additionally, we'll be making our fields look nice for our summer events ≥ like the Field School and Plot Hop, June 23 & July 21!
It was a big year for each of the programs at Farming Smarter. With many new trials being undertaken, it was a challenge for everyone. Each team had a unique seeding experience, and they were happy to share it!
Words from the Field
For the Field Tested team, the seeding season isn't quite as involved as the others. Their trials don't focus on seeding, however their seeding relied heavily on coordinating a lot of people and moving pieces.
As the name suggests, Field Tested trials are done on a full-field scale. They primarily rely on the farmers who work with us to seed their fields, as having the appropriate equipment helps! It takes their field scale equipment hours to seed what our plot seeders would take days to do.
As their work is less involved, the Field Tested students were loaned out to the other teams to assist with their busy days.
Kyrsten French is a returning summer student, who works with the Field Tested crew.
"Seeding was a lot of fun, I got to spend most of the season helping the Agronomy crew," said French.
"They have a lot of interesting projects, and it was great to be a little part of them. Most of the team is new students, so I'm sure they appreciated the help."
"Now that seeding is done, the Field Tested team will begin doing site-visits for observation. It will require communication with the farming partners, and we will keep them updated with what we see when we monitor," said Lewis Baarda, Field Tested Manager.
"Moving forward, the objective is to maintain planning and communication successes."
Planting the seeds of agronomy
Aside from Research Coordinator Mike Gretzinger, and Research Technician Carlo Van Herk, the Agronomy team is all new faces this year.
While slow mornings and long field prep proved challenging, the team was able to work together and overcome it all.
"I'm very happy that we managed to get roughly 98% of trials seeded without mishap with a totally new team," said Gretzinger.
"The team made the most of their time, and everyone was not only happy to learn new things but in sharing those opportunities with their peers."
Gretzinger wasn't the only one impressed with the new students.
"The students were fantastic," said Van Herk. "Once they picked something up, they could confidently and independently get the job done next time."
While it was a big year for the program, that also led to big challenges.
It was a dry year, which caused weeds to be abundant and difficult to fight. It wasn't until the first rainfall of the season that spawned most weeds. Unfortunately, it was after the first burndown.
Additionally, some of the new trials forced the team to move away from conventional trial patterns - which led to interesting seeding maps.
Fortunately for the Agronomy team, that change wasn't an extra challenge for the students. Largely in part because it was all new to the summer students.
Liam McKay is one of the new students joining Farming Smarter for the summer.
"I'm completely new to this industry and knew next to nothing about agriculture before coming here. Seeding was a battle, but we conquered it and I learned a lot along the way," said McKay.
The Custom Research Seeding Strategy
Unfortunately, not every team finished seeding without mishaps.
This year, our Custom Research team was plagued with equipment malfunctions and breakdowns. Everything from hoses plugging in the field to hydraulics failing ≥ as if everything that could break found a way to break.
However, Custom Research Manager, Trevor Deering, and his crew persevered and managed to get most of their trials seeded on time. All that's left for them to seed are the late-date trials.
"Some days were perfect, other days we had to stop halfway through," said Morgan Hetesy, Custom Research student.
The adversity provided students with a beneficial experience and taught them one of life's greatest lessons ≥ patience.
"Things broke, weather changed. The biggest takeaway was to be patient & go with the flow when things break," added Hetesy.
Constant breakdowns and fluctuating weather forced the students to be quick thinkers. Creativity and intuition are important tools when a seeder breaks down in the middle of a field hours away from Farming Smarter.
"It was as fun as it was crappy," Hetesy joked.
But in the end, returning to a site where things went wrong only left the memory of how the team solved the problem. And that was enough to turn the bad days around.
With mostly everything in the ground, the Custom Research team is onto monitoring and rating. Many of their trials focus on the results of plant counts and pest checks.