During the past year the Puerto Rico farm business continued its recovery and added additional crops and services. Sunflower growouts returned in a big way, after taking a year off due to Hurricane Maria, helping the bottom line significantly. Spring grains, such as wheat and rye, also returned. Mung beans and dry beans were added as new crops. While the majority of our customers continue to be from North America and South America we have also added clients from Europe.
In Champaign the Seed Lab also continued to add to its list of crops tested. From Alfalfa to Zucchini the seed lab now tests over eight-hundred (800) kinds and operates throughout the year. The greenhouse temporarily broke its seasonal pattern by conducting a soybean crossing project during the summer of 2018. November 2018 to March 2019 was also one of the busiest on record for the greenhouse. Much of the greenhouse’s increase in business is attributed to new soybean traits and a spike in adventitious presence testing where molecular techniques were not yet available.
The Identity Preserved Grain Lab experienced a compressed season due to harvest delays in 2018. The lab again served as a provider for the US Grains Council’s Corn Harvest Quality Report and the Corn Export Cargo Quality Report. Chemical composition, physical characteristics, mycotoxin and related services for breeders, merchandisers and processors were provided in a timely fashion despite the delayed harvest. Other activities this past year included providing check samples for evaluating a digital grain analysis app. While only marginally successful we do see the need for repeatable, storable and shareable assessments for physical characteristics in the grain trade.
The number of acres for inspection declined again and corn acres for inspection were the lowest in recent memory. Soybean acres represented the majority of income for the field inspection program in 2018. The field inspection program continues to be accredited under the National Seed Health System for phytosanitary field inspection of several crops in Illinois and Puerto Rico. Specialty crops and programs include certification of rice and warm season turf, as well as maintaining an MOU with the North American Invasive Species Management Association for Weed Free Forage and Gravel in Illinois. Industrial hemp became the hot topic over the past year and Illinois Crop promoted the use of AOSCA standards and related programs. Certification and QA standards for industrial hemp seed-production were made available to regulators and interested parties. Identity Preserved programs were also promoted as a means of maintaining the identity and purity of CBD production.
In conclusion this annual report serves as a “heads-up.” Our definition of “heads-up” is best described as showing alertness and perceptiveness towards change. During my youth “heads-up” meant a baseball, football, or similar object was heading my direction. My instincts and alertness determined whether I would catch it with my hands or with my face. Of course, no “heads-up” was given by my brother or my friends when dirt-clods, rotten apples and worse were thrown my direction. As the seed and grain industries continue to evolve, and the technology accelerates, the term “heads-up” applies to dodging “heads-up” and quickly recognizing opportunities to catch. Staying relevant and solvent in today’s seed and grain industries requires everyone to help recognize and act on opportunities along with the wisdom to avoid unnecessary and inordinate risk. To effectively grow and serve the seed and grain industries we need you to be heads-up members of the Illinois Crop Improvement Association.