Field Services Annual Report by Matt Raymond – Director
The Field Services department covers a broad range of seed and grain services. Under our various accreditations, we conduct field inspections for certification, phytosanitary, and weed-free forage programs during the growing season. After inspections end in autumn we move to the greenhouse and lab and spend our time conducting trait purity and adventitious presence testing.
In addition to the daily inspection and testing routines, we also take part in voluntary and required training sessions, conduct proficiency testing to maintain our lab status, and keep an eye on emerging trends in the industry.
During the past year, IL Crop inspectors walked over 1,300 fields totaling over 65,000 acres. Crops inspected included corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, popcorn, and sweetcorn. Much of our work is done in collaboration with other organizations. For our phytosanitary field inspections performed under the National Seed Health System, the University of Illinois Plant Clinic conducts the disease analysis on tissue samples submitted by field inspectors. Suzanne Bissonnette retired at the end of April 2019 and Diane Plewa took over as the new Director of the Plant Clinic. The transition has been excellent and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with the University of Illinois Plant Clinic. We wish Suzanne all the best in retirement and thank her for her excellent service and leadership.
Hemp has rapidly become one of the most inquired about topics in the past year, and it is a fast-evolving and changing industry. To keep abreast of this trend I attended an Industrial Hemp Tour in Colorado sponsored by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) in July 2019 and the Illinois Hemp Summit hosted by the IL Department of Agriculture in December. The Colorado tour focused on hemp production related to certification and I visited fields grown for seed, fiber, CBD and research. The Illinois Hemp Summit was set up as a large conference and discussed the State’s first-year hemp crop data, current policy requirements and possible upcoming regulatory changes. Discussion panels were set up for growers, processors and researchers. Each panel discussed the high and low points from the previous growing seasons and answered audience questions. Both of these events were beneficial, but since this industry is still so young there were many details that were still in flux and will require follow-up down the line.
The greenhouse and trait lab continue to offer accurate and timely results. Herbicide bioassays, enzyme linked immunosorbent assays, and lateral flow strip tests make up the majority of the seed tests and we are looking into expanding into new technologies. Sample volumes were similar to past seasons and have kept the staff busy. Aaron Reed, Field Services Technician, attended the Society of Commercial Seed Technologist Genetic Workshop this winter to broaden his testing knowledge and his goal of gaining his genetic technologist accreditation. We continually strive to improve our knowledge, practices and policies and are looking forward to another inspection and testing season in the year ahead.