Farmer Focus: Action-packed study tour in Oregon

I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to attend the International Herbage Seed Group conference in Corvallis, Oregon.

I had heard so much about seed production in Oregon over the years that the chance to participate in a study tour of its ryegrass seed industry seemed too important to pass over, even though an international trip had not been on our radar (or budget) this year at all.

Jayne and I decided we would jam as much into 16 days as physically possible.

See also: What potato growers need to consider ahead of diquat ban

We started out in Portland, Oregon, joining 115 attendees – including some English chaps – for the pre-conference tour visiting seed growers in the Willamette Valley, before spending three days at Oregon State University.

Researchers, agronomists and academics from all over the world gave presentations each morning, followed by an afternoon field trip to various research farms, breeding units and grower properties.

Hybrid carrots

The post-conference tour took us across the Cascade Mountains to Madras in central Oregon, a high plain at 2,200ft that receives only 254mm of rain annually.

Here we saw Kentucky bluegrass, fescue, wheat and the most magnificent fields of hybrid carrots I have ever seen.

The whole area was irrigated, with water a scarce and precious resource.

Day two saw us travel to north-eastern Oregon in the Le Grande and Pendleton areas. Farmed area elevations were up to 3,200ft, with 406mm of rainfall.

Here we saw a range of grass and fescue production, along with wheat, potatoes, peppermint and sunflower, with irrigation more bountiful from the Columbia River catchment.

On our return to Portland, Jayne and I set off by rental car, criss-crossing the Pacific coast ranges as we made our way down the Oregon coast.

We toured the vegetable- and almond-producing areas in the Sacramento Valley, before crossing back over to San Francisco and cycling the Golden Gate Bridge, then flopping into our plane seats, grinning and exhausted.

The key lessons from our trip was that we as farmers face the same issues the world over.