LOWVILLE — A special species of “field day” was held in a cornfield along Route 12 on Wednesday when a seed company’s distributors hosted area farmers to present their new products, hear about plant disease and weed problems in the area, and do a walking tour of their own test crop, all while enjoying a barbecue.
For Andy Mower, sales representative for Performance Premixes Inc, Holland Patent, and Dean Wheeler, co-owner of D & D Spray Services, Ellisburg, Pioneer seed is their best selling product line, making them happy to sponsor the field day, they said.
The annual gathering, while informational, is also a “customer appreciation” day that rotates to different area farms that usually attracts between 70 and 85 people, Mr. Mower said.
This year’s host, the Irish Settlement Farm owned by the O’Brien family including Steve and his sons Lee and Clayton, also hosts Pioneer’s test plot.
“Pioneer helps to harvest certain plots in the area, from plowing to silage, to look at issues that may arise with our seeds and the resulting crop, the weeds, the yield,” said Pioneer’s regional representative Brian Gillette. “We’ll have a very good feel for how our products perform.”
In addition to growing and harvesting the corn on their plot, Pioneer’s team weighs every truck and takes samples of the corn for testing at the company’s forage laboratory and, when it makes sense, at an independent lab as well.
A report, containing yield data and testing results, is created two or three weeks after harvest and shared with the farmer whose land is used for the test crop. Mr. Gillette said the report’s information is also posted on the company’s website.
While most seed companies do testing of some sort and have test crops, Mr. Gillette said no one else does it to the same extent as Pioneer.
For farmer Lee O’Brien, his family’s cows will tell him what he needs to know even more than the Pioneer team.
“We want to see how much milk our cows make with these,” he said.
Pioneer sells hybrid seeds, which is where the company got its start, and what they refer to as “traited” seeds, which translates to mean seeds that have been genetically modified to have certain “traits,” like resistance to pests, pesticides and disease.
“Traits protect crop yields, they don’t make crop yields,” Mr. Gillette said.
When asked about concerns over the long-term impact of genetically modified products, both Mr. Gillette and Mr. O’Brien said they haven’t seen an impact and the seeds have been around since the 1980s.
“Our cows are very healthy, that’s all I know,” Mr. O’Brien said.
In the north country, all Pioneer products are used for silage to feed cows.
Pioneer, a company that was started in 1926 by Henry A. Wallace in Iowa, is the last American-owned seed company as a DuPont subsidiary and services farmers with seeds for grain and feed for both the beef and dairy industries.