Change is something that generally occurs at such a gradual pace.
It is fortunate when those changes result in positive improvements. In the world of agriculture technology, we often get wind of new advancements years before they become available. Most of these advancements have been due to biotechnology.
If it is a new innovation or piece of technology that stands to make us more efficient, profitable, or make a difficult task easier, we can't wait until it become commercially available.
We keep our figures crossed that we will be able to afford it once it is on the market. Then we try it out and adopt it if it performs as advertised.
During my career as a county extension agent, I had the opportunity to conduct field trials and demonstrations with a great many new products and varieties of seeds developed to perform better than the norm. Most were designed to improve productivity.
My job was to design an unbiased test to evaluate how the new product or practice would perform under local conditions and how typical management practice might need to be altered to insure proper performance for the new innovation.
Ultimately, that farmer or rancher using the new product or trying new production practices could sleep a lot easier knowing that it had been tried locally and the results were favorable enough to give it a try. Many times these producers had to keep their fingers crossed and hope the results would be profitable on their farm or ranch. Unfortunately, enhanced productivity may not ensure greater profitability.
Quite often new products provided for these tests did not have a suggested retail price tag assigned during testing. Without consistently enhancing the agricultural producers profit margin, some of the new advancements might provide yield advantages but could fall short of providing a positive return on investing in that new technology.
Monsanto is an agricultural technology company that has been investing heavily during the past two decades in research aimed at improving crop productivity. Much of this has been accomplishes through the development of genetically modified traits designed to allow plants to develop protection against certain types of insect pest and resistance to broad-spectrum herbicides. This has resulted in major reductions in pesticide use on crops like corn, cotton and soybeans.
It was exciting in 1995 to be a part of evaluating some of the first new cotton lines that would not have to be sprayed repeatedly to control cotton bollworms or tobacco budworms during the growing season.
Then, a few years later, "Round-Up Ready" cotton was released that allowed an early season application of this herbicide over the top of the cotton plants to control a multitude of weed species during the early growing season. This reduction in weed competition allowed cotton plants to use all available moisture and nutrients for cotton production and not growing noxious weeds.
Three years ago, we had the chance to evaluate the first "Round-Up Flex" cotton in South Texas. This trait allowed the cotton plants to resist season long applications of Roundup herbicide to aid in controlling weeds through out the growing season with "over-the-top of cotton" applications.
This past week county agents, ag consultants and a group of farmers previewed the latest scientific advancements that will be available to American farmers in the next few years.
More drought resistance and water efficient plants, greater tolerance and potency in reducing insect damage, and a wider degree of tolerance to different classes of herbicides are on the horizon. Next week we will share more details of what we learned at Monsanto's Mobile Technology Unit while it was in El Campo for a brief exhibition.
Until next time, do what you can to improve the moisture situation in South Texas.
Harvey Buehring is the former Agricultural Extension Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at (361) 767-5223.