Monday, 29 October 2012

Oregon, Idaho, Washington

The journey continues...
The time in the US slips by, there is such a vast agricultural base, it would take a lifetime to see it all. My path took me back to south eastern Oregon, to another small irrigation district, producing corn, sugar beet, onions, ( yielding 110t/ha and some graded over 100mm size under drip irrigation), and Lucerne hay. Many farms have feedlots as well. Rex and Patty Maag, with whom I stayed, can hold 7500 head, but are currently finishing less than half that number. It is a very clean, professional operation, run with minimal labour input and utilising fodder grown on their surrounding farm.
Traditionally, the irrigation was all flood, however as is the case world wide, the push for efficiency is good for centre pivot manufacturers and increasingly, drip technologies.
The drive north, through Idaho to Kendrick, the home of Eisenhower fellow, Robert Blair was again punctuated by greatly contrasting country. From the fertile irrigated plains of the south, through forest and high plains, prairies, and steep, rugged canyons.
The farming around Kendrick is on the ridge tops. Relatively steep and narrow roads wind their way to the higher ground, where wheat, both winter and spring sown, lentils and chick peas are grown. Some of the land is very steep, all harvesters have automatic levelling systems, and tractors are about twice the size of what we require to do a similar job. Minimum till as opposed to no till is the technique of choice in the area, and disc seeders are the norm, in most cases Great Plains or John Deere double disc combines.
Dry land wheat yields over 6 tonnes per hectare and as high as 8 are common, on ground worth $5000 per hectare and receiving up to 580mm rainfall.
Robert is a leader in the field of remote sensing and precision Ag techniques, in particular, unmanned aerial vehicles and the potential to utilise the technology for real time crop scouting. This could be a real breakthrough for agricultural management in the not too distant future, reducing cost and increasing the accuracy of agronomy.

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