Field Services Report Report by Matt Raymond, RGT – Field Services Director
The Field Services department serves two different aspects of the seed industry, field inspections and trait testing. During the traditional crop growing season field inspections compose the majority of the services. Traditional inspections provide an assessment of the purity of the field that is used to help determine the quality of the crop, while phytosanitary inspections are performed to assess fields for diseases and are utilized for moving seed internationally. After harvest, the inspection season comes to an end and trait testing begins in the lab and greenhouse. The testing covers a wide range of methods that are used to assess the trait purity of seed lots or GMO contamination levels in grain and seed.
Covering the field inspections in the State of Illinois is no small task, with Illinois farms covering an estimated 27 million acres. IL Crop employed over 40 part time inspectors to cover the 67,000 plus acres of fields in Illinois that needed some type of inspection in 2018. Corn, soybean and phytosanitary inspections made up the bulk of the inspection work in 2018, with sweet corn, popcorn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice and a few other crops accounting for the rest.
In addition to the traditional certification and phytosanitary inspections duties inspectors also perform additional tasks as needed, such as taking official seed samples, conducting Insect Resistance Management (IRM) assessments, and performing weed free forage/mulch/gravel inspections. Many of our inspectors return year after year bringing decades of experience to the inspection programs. Currently 11 inspectors have over 10 years' field experience and of those, six have 20 years or more experience. Our senior inspector has been with IL Crop 47 years and when added up our inspectors have 331 years of combined experience.
The testing lab was extremely busy during 2018 and the greenhouse has been filled to capacity throughout the entire testing season. Typically, testing in the greenhouse in the past has been herbicide traits such as glyphosate, glufosinate, sulfonylurea and imidazolinone, but the release of new soybean herbicide traits has expanded testing options and demand. Now included in herbicide trait testing in the greenhouse are the synthetic auxins Dicamba and 2,4-D and the HPPD inhibitor Isoxaflutole. In addition to the new herbicide tests, 2018 also saw a limited resurgence of sulfentrazone tolerance screenings on soybeans which is an older method for determining soybean response to residual preplant herbicides.
In addition to the herbicide trait testing in the greenhouse the trait lab also performed; insect resistance gene trait testing on corn using Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA), a soybean crossing project to maturity in the greenhouse, and non-GMO testing using lateral flow strip protein detection methods. The non-GMO testing done in 2018 encompassed mostly the major agronomic crops of corn and soybeans and a small amount of alfalfa, canola and hay. The non-GMO testing on hay was a new addition in 2018 per the request of a customer and is capable of detecting genetically modified alfalfa in dried hay samples. Total numbers of samples tested in Field Services for the greenhouse and lab for each crop in 2018 was: soybeans - 6,526 samples; corn - 1,031 samples; alfalfa - 18 samples; canola - 10 samples; and hay - 10 samples, for a combined total of 7,595 samples.
Between the greenhouse, lab and fields it takes a coordinated effort among all the staff working in a timely and successful manner. I am looking forward to another year of working with our excellent office, lab and field staff and eagerly anticipate seeing what the upcoming season will bring.