Puerto Rico Winter Farm
Hurricane Maria Recovery Update
October 8, 2018
One year after Hurricane Maria, the images that come to mind show the trail of destruction that it left. But if you look at our farm today there are just some vestiges that tell you that a catastrophic Hurricane went over the island a year ago.
The irrigation pump is finally getting power from the grid. So far power has been steady but about 20% of the repairs that were done around the island need to be redone because they were not done correctly. About 25,000 homes are still using blue tarps on their roofs. Repair jobs on roads, bridges and houses are still in progress but traffic flow is mostly normal. We are close to the end of the hurricane peak season and they are forecasting a less active end of the season.
Crops planted during the summer were corn growouts, soybeans crossing blocks, soybean generation advance and sunflower growouts. Results were good for all projects. We also had a corn project for internal research that was planted by late summer.
The farm is ready for the upcoming winter season. Fields are clean, fences are repaired, sections of the farm roads were widened to make it easier to turn the spraying equipment, farm buildings are repaired, air conditioners cleaned or replaced and some areas painted.
For this coming winter season we are going to implement a change on some of the corn growout plantings. Row length is going to be 3 feet longer with a shorter alleyway. The goal is to get less double plants per row when using the cone planter.
So far our reservations show an increase on corn growout entries and sunflower growout entries. Corn nurseries and isolations estimates are close to the same amount of rows in the previous season. The first two corn isolations were planted in late September. Sorghum nursery rows are going to be significantly lower but we should be planting sorghum growouts entries that are a project that we have not seen during the last 4 years. Soybean, drybean and peanut estimates are still pending but I am expecting the same acreage. Another crop that we should be planting this season that we did not plant last season is barley. We have had a couple requests for Cotton as well so we may plant rows of it.
The tractor with a broken engine has been repaired and is back in service. All tractors, spraying equipment and tillage equipment are working properly. Worn parts on planters were replaced and tested to make sure everything was working properly. The irrigation system was checked and repairs were made. The backup generator for the irrigation pump is in good condition. Lastly, cages for sunflower blocks are set up and ready.
Regarding pest control, the PRABIA and IRAC project to create an area wide insecticide resistance management strategy has been implemented by some of the companies. This strategy was for the control of fall armyworm and corn earworm on corn and cabbage looper and soybean looper on soybeans. All companies agreed to get involved, but due to the hurricane complications some companies were not able to. Results are going to be discussed in October with PRABIA members and at that time they are going to try to incorporate all members in the strategy for the 2018-19 season. At the farm we are partially following this strategy but our plan is to get fully involved.
One Year After Hurrican Maria
It has now been a year since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. Prior to Maria, Hurricane Irma affected the north coast but provided just a couple of inches of rain for our farm on the south coast. Hurricane Maria then hit the south coast making landfall east of our farm. We experienced flooding, wind damage and power loss with Maria. Through the tremendous effort and dedication of the Puerto Rico staff we persevered and planted our first project by late October 2017. However, we then went through a rainy period that delayed most of our remaining plantings. But in spite of all the complications from extraordinary to ordinary weather, we were able to plant all of our projects except one. This single project was not planted because we lost the planting window for it and seed had to be sent back to the client. Phone and internet service was restored to the farm in November. Power to the Plaza was restored by February and power to the well pump was restored this past summer. We made repairs to our buildings and with the power restored we are back to full operation and looking forward to another successful season in Puerto Rico!
Thank you to all of the donors that helped with the hurricane relief account that was set up. The generosity of customers, friends and co-workers was inspiring and we greatly appreciate their generous contributions. We will continue to do what we do best and let the professionals in disaster relief do what they do best. Thank you to those who have donated.
In closing, we would like to give you an update on the Puerto Rico government’s financial situation. For the upcoming school year around 200 public schools will be closed. Incentives for every sector are being revised and it looks like agriculture is going to be heavily affected. Merging of government agencies is on the table and Labor laws are also being modified. This is a long term and slow process that we will have to go through in order to have a better Puerto Rico in the next decade. We appreciate your business and support of Puerto Rican agriculture.
Lizandro Perez –Station Manager
Doug Miller –CEO
May 1, 2018
In February, power was restored to the plaza where our farm offices, equipment storage, and shop spaces are located. We are still waiting for power to be restored to the pump house. Our back-up generator, operational since 2014, is proving to be a very worthwhile investment. As many of you experienced early in the season insect pressure was at historical lows. However, the same cannot be said for fungi. The end of the season was not what we would consider acceptable when talking about corn nurseries and increases. We have learned from the experience and have implemented better management plans for full-season corn work. All of the other crops we work with had an excellent year despite the challenges of the storm and its aftermath. We are very fortunate to have a hard working and dedicated staff in Puerto Rico and Illinois. To our Northern Hemisphere customers we will see you again after harvest. To our Southern Hemisphere customers we are here to meet your winter growout, nursery and increase needs.
January 22, 2018
I returned from Puerto Rico on Jan 19th and found many things that were unchanged, many things that may never be the same and the hope that things will be better than ever. It is abundantly clear that our Puerto Rico staff has worked very hard this year. The farm is better than ever. The crops are all in excellent condition. We have added cages for hybrid sunflower production with bees. Crops that were typically planted by customers coming down from the states were handled by our staff. There have been repairs and efforts that are exceptional. I can’t say enough good things about the farm.
Locally all of my favorite places are taking credit cards and power has returned to most businesses. Regarding power at our farm, which is set back from the road, we are still operating on generators and have been chasing power crews and asking for favors as best we can. Our heart is still with those in the center parts of the island. Many are still without basics, like power and water. However, it is my opinion that the South Coast of Puerto Rico is open for business. But enough words, take a look at our farm and the community at the following link.
We appreciate your business and support. If you have been to Puerto Rico before I encourage you to visit Puerto Rico and the farm again in the near future.
October 6, 2017
We have been communicating with customers directly but wanted to share the following with everyone. It is our honest and fact based opinion that we will have a normal season and can begin planting. The corn growout submission deadline will remain unchanged at Oct 27th and we believe we can achieve two generations per year for our soybean and drybean customers. This decision is based on the following facts.
September 29, 2017
First, all of our employees on the farm are safe and there were no injuries related to the storm. Now Puerto Rico needs our help as it begins the long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria. For over 30 years Champaign-Urbana, the mid-west and the seed industry as a whole have been linked to the island of Puerto Rico. In 1986 seed corn growouts were planted as purity tests by Illinois Crop Improvement for seed producers. Plant breeders soon followed bringing with them other crops such as soybean, drybean, sunflower, peanut, sorghum and more. The essence of Puerto Rico is more generations per year, performing quality control for seed producers and doubling or even tripling genetic gain for plant breeders. Regardless of where you are in the row crop agriculture industry, the seed you sell or the seed you plant has probably made its way to and from Puerto Rico as part of its development and improvement.
The Red Cross has been selected as the preferred method of donating to the people of Puerto Rico. Please consider donating by visiting https://www.crowdrise.com/puerto-rico-seed-professionals. The people of Puerto Rico need our help. They have a long road to recovery and in my honest opinion the seed industry and agriculture in general can call Puerto Rico home. Help our home recover.
Puerto Rico Winter Farm Team