This week has been interesting to say the least. Monday night I had to get emergency surgery so I haven’t been to work since Monday. Fortunately, someone was able to cover me on such short notice. I scouted most of the day on Monday, then I spent the night and Tuesday in the hospital. I should be good to work starting next week.
This week has been rather slow and I’ve mainly scouted fields the whole week. Blueberries in West Olive are in mid season and the fields are very hectic with all the workers and trucks. Duke and Blue Crop are the two main varieties that are being picked in the fields I’m scouting. Duke’s are already on there second picking while Blue Crop are just beginning their first. Since blueberries do not all ripen at the same time, the fields have to be picked 2 to 3 times. Most farmers handpick their fields because it preserves the quality of the berries. They can sell these to the fresh market and receive the fresh market premium price. Although there are varieties that produce poor quality berries and farmers end up machine picking them for processing. I’ve talked to several farmers and asked them if labor is becoming harder to find. They said that as more of their acres begin to ripen, they may not have enough workers to get the berries off before they become too ripe. Then they have to rely on the machines. The price is determined by supply and demand, right now we are in peak season so the supply is high and prices aren’t as good. Once we begin to move into the late season, the fresh market berry supply will begin to decrease and farmers will see an increase in price.
This week I was able to take a week off to go on a fishing trip up to Ontario Canada. The prior week I had to get a lot of things done before I took the week off. First, I had to set new insect traps for the upcoming week and then call another location to make sure someone would be checking my fields for the week. Second, I had to finish signing the list of farmers up for the National Corn Yield Contest. Lastly, I went to talk to the main blueberry farm manager to let him know a different person would be scouting his fields this week. If you ever get the chance to go up to Northern Ontario, I highly recommend checking out Lake Nipigon. It’s known for being one of the best Walleye fishing in the world.
The early season varieties of blueberries are beginning to ripen which means SWD and blueberry maggot traps should be set out. Blueberry maggots have have a 1 year life cycle. They overwinter in the soil as pupa then emerge as flies in late June. Females will lay eggs in the ripe fruit as they begin to ripen and within five days the eggs will hatch. Larvae feed on a single berry then drop to the ground to complete the cycle over again. To combat these pests, farmers should begin spraying late June or depending on what type of variety they have. Spraying Guthion, Malathion, and Imidan work best. SWD ( Spotted Winged Drosophila) can have as many as 10 generations per year, which is why it is very easy for an infestation to occur if not controlled. To control these insects farmers should begin spraying once they see their fruit beginning to turn purple. Then apply another application every 7-10 days until the crop is done being harvested which is usually a 3 week time span for a single variety. The organophosphate insecticides are a good choice to control SWD.
This week for blueberry scouting we removed all the fruit moth traps from the fields, so next week we can set the SWD fly traps. Field findings this week include; fruit worms feeding inside some of the berries and aphids feeding on the new plant growth. When you’re looking for fruit worm signs, you want to identify fruit that’s turning blue and looks shriveled. And a lot of the times if you cut open the berry you will find the small pinkish worm, they’re about a couple mm long. Aphids are usually found feeding on the new growth beneath the leaves. If the leaves look wrinkled there may be aphids underneath
The remainder of the week was spent trying to get farmers entered into the National Corn Yield Contest. I was given a list of farmers who might be interested and then I called to possibly set up a time I could meet with them. Most of the farmers signed up, I think only two turned it down. That about wraps up the week, I made a few deliveries and scouted several corn fields as well.
So far this week hasn’t been to exciting. I scouted blueberries the first three days of the week. The fields were looking very good, we’re getting to that point when we will start pulling the moth straps. The only issue is the weeds are beginning to grow back in some places. The remainder of the week I took lots and lots of soil samples. We use this app which creates a grid of the field and you walk to every spot and pull some samples and bag them up. I think either today or tomorrow I might be able to head to the other location in Caledonia to help test the samples. We received quite a bit of rain today and yesterday so the remainder of the week looks like I will be spending some time helping in the office.
An interesting thing this week involved planting test plots. This was all new to me, since I’ve never helped plant a plot or any row crops before. Our planned planting day was Friday, so to prepare I needed to label stakes and flags with the 17 different conventional corn hybrids and 6 different soybean hybrids. Then I had to gather the plot seed and number them in the order the farmer wanted to plant and stack them on pallets. It was a large test plot being more than 18 acres and it took around 5 hours to plant. Also while we were planting, Adam Kantrovich stopped by. Adam works for Michigan State University Extension as a Regional and Statewide Farm Management Educator. He specializes in Farm Business Analysis, Agricultural Tax Management, Farm Succession, and the Affordable Care Act. I was pretty surprised to meet someone who worked for the MSU Extension while planting a plot. I was glad I got to introduce myself and he talked about how he works with some of the professors in agriculture economics for MSU. So he works with people such as professor Hilker and Professor Schweikhardt. Which goes to show you never know who you might run into.
Since starting a month ago, the only days that are structured the same are Monday and Tuesday because I take those days to scout blueberry fields and complete reports. An interesting finding this week was in one of the fields I ended up catching well over 100 cranberry fruit moths. Which is well above my average of 3-5 in most fields. I also found a few Leafroller larvae. So the farmers will begin to spray for those shortly once the GDD reach a certain point. Last week, I marked a few blueberry bushes that had botrytis blight to see how far it would advance in 7 days. Before, the blight was only affecting the tips of the stems, but now it has migrated halfway down some of the stems.
The remainder of the week I scouted several corn fields for weed pressure to determine when the fields need to be sprayed. I also rode around with the sales rep to meet with farmers and I made a few deliveries. Next week I get to help with test plots so I’m excited about that since I’ve never done that before. All in all things have been going smoothly over here at GVA.
I finished my third week interning at Green Valley and this week was rather slow due to the scattered rain showers. Green Valley is an agriculture input supplier that sells fertilizer, chemicals, seed, and custom apps. My main focus these past couple of weeks included; scouting fields, customer service, riding along with the sales rep, and making deliveries if needed. Although my week usually changes, I try to scout fields Monday and Tuesday, then help with customer service and ride with the sales reps for the remainder of the week. I was given a company truck which I use mostly on Monday and Tuesday for scouting then I create scouting reports and email them out to the farmers. I’ve been mainly scouting blueberries since we are located in West Michigan where the majority of them are grown, but I’m also beginning to scout row crops. Most of the blueberry fields are in the petal fall growth stage and beginning to transition into green berries. In regards to insects and disease, cherry and cranberry fruit moths are beginning to fly and I am seeing a few symptoms of phomopsis blight and canker, a blueberry fungal disease that kills new growth. Since we are catching a number of fruit moths, we have been informing the farmers and reminding them to wait until the bees are removed and the growing degree days reach a certain level to spray their fields.
After I’ve finished scouting my fields and creating reports, I help in the office with customer service. I help create the paper work for the procurement and fulfillment process, answer phone calls, and print out maps for the delivery drivers. I also tag along with the sales reps as they drive around checking in on farmers and to try to sell them more product. I am now seeing first hand how building and maintaining good relationships with your customers is important in keeping them loyal to your company. When I am riding with the sales reps I always ask them about the customers we are about to visit. Most of the time the sales guys know a lot about their customers’ hobbies and personal life which I think is important.
Next week I get to help with corn test plots, we are testing a new pre-emergent herbicide that is not on the market yet and my assignment is to keep track of how well it controls weeds versus another type of herbicide. So far I am enjoying interning there and I am excited on what has to come.