Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meanwhile Back at the NCRS....

So while some were out in the ocean surf, the cold weather back in Michigan made conditions perfect fishing!  Now the crew is busy on a variety of projects in the shop, so they couldn't take any time off to go out to a lake.  Well the parking lot was covered in solid ice...why not give it a try?  So on the morning break we see Ron, Phil, Tim B and Jeff out dipping their lines.  The tip up says that chances are good here.  Thanks to Tim D for the pics.
And patience, and the right bait of some minnows dipped in Pro-Germinator, pays off for Tim B.  That's a keeper.   
Lunch was tasty that day.  Who knew the parking lot would make such a great fishing spot?  Only at the NCRS.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Beautiful Kauai

So in the last blog post I described some of the official goings on at the AgroLiquid Research Trip to Kauai. We had some educational field tours of island agriculture, some hopefully inspirational and motivational addresses to many of the top sellers of AgroLiquid, and most importantly, a chance to soak up some of the beauty of this island paradise.  So in this episode, I wanted to share some of the cool pictures that I took.  Below is a resting Monk Seal.  Monk Seals are found only in Hawaii, and they are very much a protected species.  They come ashore from time to time to rest.  And when they do, a protective zone is established with poles and yellow tape.  It is against the law to harass them.  Sleep well.  In fact, a short time later I had climbed up on top of that cliff in the background and we saw it swimming away...well rested no doubt.
Now I am fortunate to have been to Kauai several times over the years.  They say the best way to see the island is from a helicopter.  But alas, I had never done that.  Well this time I did, and it was great.  There are a number of helicopter companies, but I picked one that only had a pilot and four passengers....and no doors.  That would be a couple and the pilot in the front, and two in the back, each by an opening where there should be a door. That's where I was.  So this would be great.  I will say that I was a little nervous lifting off, but soon got used to it.  
 There have been numerous movies and TV shows filmed on Kauai over the years.  Below is the beach that was part of the land owned by George Clooney's family in The Descendants.  It is called Kipu Kai beach and is not accessible by land, as it really is privately owned.  But one thing about Hawaii is, that you can own the land, but not the beach.  So if you can get there by boat, then come on down!
We flew by Manawaiopuna Falls in the Hanapepe Canyon.  But it is better known as the falls in Jurassic Park.  It too is not accessible by land.  Well I guess you could walk...if you want to maybe get eaten by a dinosaur.
Most visitors to Kauai visit Waimea Canyon.  It is called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  Well you can drive to various lookouts along the main canyon.  But there are arms of the canyon that you can only see from a helicopter, like here.  I guess I didn't know that.  It was cloudy that day in parts of the island, but still impressive to see.
And here is that sea cave that Captain Jack Sparrow walked out of in Pirates of the Caribbean.  Well actually this is the backside.  The sun prevented a good shot on the other side that was in the movie.  So you'll have to settle for Johnny Depp's backside...well if you were there during filming.
But here is what it looks like from the ocean.  It's that opening on the lower right.
Here is the famous Kalalau Valley from the overlook, not the helicopter.  It is along the Napali Coast.  It is a series of beautiful cliffs along the ocean.  In fact I am 4000 feet above the ocean here.  It was alternating sunny and cloudy.  A few minutes before and a few minutes after this pic, it was solid clouds and you couldn't see the ocean or anything.  But everyone knows how patient I am, so I waited for the good shot.
Here is the end of the canyon from the helicopter.  It is said that there used to be more than a thousand Hawaiians living in and around the valley. You would really have to like fish if you lived there I guess.  
Here is the beach at the end of the Kalalau Trail.  It is a little over 11 miles from the start of the trail, and pretty treacherous.  Or so I've read.  I'm not doing it, although I have read that it's spectacular.  But it's walk in, camp here, and walk out.  No taxi service.  You can see a tent down there.
And here is the famous Mt. Waialeale volcano crater.  It is over 5000 feet above sea level, and has the distinction of being the wettest place on earth.  Since 1912, it has averaged 452 inches of rain a year.  And in 1982 it rained 683 inches!  Wish it would send a few clouds over to California.
Heading around the North side of the island we see the Kilauea lighthouse there at the end of that peninsula. Well it's that little white speck.  But it is 52 feet tall.  It opened in 1913 and was active for 62 years when it was decommissioned.  But it still has a beacon, a visitor's center and a National Wildlife Refuge for birds on the cliffs around it.  Always a pretty visit.
And here is Wailua Falls.  It is a 113 foot drop and a popular sight.  You can drive to this.  It is said that ancient Hawaiian's would dive off it to prove their manhood.  Hopefully they kept their manhood after the splash.  
Here is the Kauai Beach Resort where we called home for a week.  Those black things in the front are solar panels on top of parking lot.  Those are new since my last visit.  There are solar panels all over, which apparently is a good idea.  Well shortly after that we landed after a 65 minute ride.
If there is another opportunity like that in the future...I'm in!  So it was a very nice week.  The large group in the AgroLiquid delegation surely also had a great time.  Anyone can's not easy, but well worth it. Many are there every year.  But as for me...thanks for the opportunity Liquid!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Starting 2014 Right

So the blog has been in hibernation for the past month.  But hopefully this will make up for the lengthy absence.  (This is pretty long, so hope you are sitting down.)  The news across much of  the country seems to be the terrible cold weather.  I'm sure everyone is tired of the Polar Vortex by now.  Well it is certainly polar around here today with the triple threat of cold, snow and wind.  This is how it looked at noon today out the office back door. 
And this is how it looked on my computer with the weather report.  Wind chill: - 16.  And I would confirm that as accurate as I put a blanket on my brass monkey.  At least the wind was out of the balmy South.  Imagine if it was a North wind.  Oh to be on a Pacific island...somewhere nice and warm.  Wouldn't that be nice?
Well it was, at least while it lasted.  The previous week myself and a bunch of happy AgroLiquid Area Managers, some growers, some company personnel and spouses (and some other family members in some cases) all congregated at the Kauai Beach Resort on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.  This was the view I had for the week.  That was so nice of them to include the rainbow at no extra charge.
Every morning the sun came up at around 7:18.  That's a.m.  And most mornings there would be a group of people out to watch and take pictures.  So of course I was there just about every day.  There are plenty of Liquid folks in the group of sun greeters below.
Kauai has a strong agricultural history.  It was once a leading producer of sugarcane.  In fact there used to be 11 sugar mills on the island.  But the last sugarcane crop was harvested in 2009 at the Olokele Mill below.  It had been in operation since 1889.  Well maybe not that exact building, but on that site.  I can remember when at least two of the mills were running.  In fact Mr. Cook and I visited the Olokele mill several times in the past and he had some fertilizer plots in the cane fields that we would visit.  (That was also pre-digital, so I will have to look for those pictures some day.)
You used to see sugarcane growing all over mostly on the West side of the island all along the slopes.  That lighter color is still some volunteer cane and other grasses.  Now there is a large presence of seed companies.  But it is mostly down lower on the flatter ground.  More on that shortly.
One of the times when the group gets together is for the banquet.  Our emcee for the event was none other than Senior Sales Manager Galynn Beer.  Galynn, as he often does, had his own dress code of coat and tie.  And a bow tie, no less.  You can't even tell that it's a clip on.
There was a great Hawaiian band.  They were really good and fun to listen to.  They sang mostly in Hawaiian.  The language only has 11 letters, and lots of vowels.  And each vowel is pronounced separately, even if they are next to each other.  Interesting because all of the streets and places on the island are Hawaiian words.  So you can't remember anything.
As I said, there are several seed companies on the island doing seed research and developing parent lines with enhnaced yield and genetic traits.  There lies the problem.  A lot of people are afraid of the term "GMO" or Genetically Modified Organism.  So there are a lot of people who don't know about or don't want to know about what is going on, and are trying scare tactics to rid the island of seed research.  They are telling that GMO's are like pesticides that are sprayed on the crops, and other such nonsense, just to scare people.  There are "No GMO" signs all around, but mostly on the other side of the island.  They don't understand that it is part of the plant itself which enables substantial reductions in pesticide use.  And the improved genetics enables defenses against bugs and chemical products only. People don't have the systems that the plants affect.  So there is no danger to us humans.  There is legislation in the works to stop GMO work on the island.  Hopefully that won't take effect.  It would have a huge economic effect on the island as well as in the seed industry itself.
I was in a restaurant/bar in my Ag PhD "All Weeds Must Die" t-shirt just to see if anyone would notice.  Well one guy did, but he congratulated me for wearing it.  He was a retired ag retailer from California who was in the know on such things. 
There were several tours available to the group during the week.  I went on the visit to Dow AgroSciencs where they do seed research.  It was around on the West side of Kauai. It had rained that morning, and this is the view from the farm.  Wouldn't that be a nice view from work?  One new side industry on the island is a rum distillery.  Well they use sugarcane sugar, and now there isn't any.  Except right here at Dow.  In fact that's the dark green plant at the base of the rainbow.  They are the sole producers of cane sugar now for the rum business so they can say it's totally produced on the island.
But mostly they are in research for seed development.  This farm has around 3500 acres and grows corn, soybeans and sunflowers.  They mostly do research and develop parent seed lines for breeding.  Oh, and they also use Pro-Germinator.  So that is why they are able to grow such good crops.  But they are the only company on the island that produces a marketable hybrid seed corn for farmers to plant.  But that is sold in Canada.  Not sure how that came about, as shipping to Canada can't be in a truck or train. We are looking at a plot of test corn in the pic below.  The electric fence is to keep out varmints like feral hogs which can do tremendous damage.
Here is some of the GMO corn that we were looking at.  They are working on the Enlist corn and soybeans, that are tolerant to 2,4-D applications.  Hopefully it will be registered someday.  Also there is development of improvements of the Herculex package.  In the pic below, that is the backside of the Olokele sugar mill shown earlier.  But they have their seed processing facility down there too.
Later that same day a group of us visited the Pacific Missle Range Facility.  Or PMRF for those in the know.  It is pretty much at the end of the road on the NW side of the island.  It is run by the US Navy and has quite a few jobs to do.  Formost is the protection from foreign missle attack.  It will shoot down whatever is a threat as the Westernmost anti-intrusion facility.  We didn't get to see any actual missles, but they are there somewhere I guess.  We did get to see this thing in the picture below.  Not sure what it is which is probably just as well.  That way I won't betray any secrets should I be captured and tortured.  They also do R&D work for missle defense systems of our allies.  They make quite a bit of money this way which helps to keep this place open.
Another thing they do is tow out targets for practice  Well they use these remote controlled boats to tow out the targets.  We got to play with the remote control joystick.  It was fun.  Some of us got on the boats like real Navy people.  Here we see Big Steve at the controls while Troy and Kerry are the crew.  The Navy person was really nice and tolerable of this Liquid invasion.  She said they all like being stationed in Hawaii.  Who wouldn't?
Later we all ate at the base restaurant which was really nice.  Then it was time for sundown and everyone came out to watch.  Since we were staying on the East side of the island, this was the first sundown that I had seen this week.
Here is a crew all ready for the big sunset event.  We see Stephanie and her farmer husband Ryan, Galynn (strangely not wearing a coat and tie) and my wife Cathy.
And here it is.  Goodnight sun.  That island to the right is Ni'ihau. It is 17 miles across the channel from Kauai.  It is privately owned by the Robinson Family who are decendents of the Sinclair familiy who purchased the island from the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1864.  It is not open to the public, and is inhabited by around 150 people who are native Hawaiians.   And Hawaiian is the first language.  You have to be born there in order to live there.  And once you leave, you can't go back.  Now that's strict!  They make the famous and expensive Ni'ihau shell necklaces that sell for thousands of dollars.  I have been across there several years ago on a tour boat, but we couldn't go ashore.  But we snorkeled off shore.  It was interesting.  It is really dry there and doesn't have much tropical vegetation.
Well after a few more days it was back to Michigan.  But after being in the Aloha spirit, it took awhile to re-adjust to winter.
But quickly, reality set in.  Sad.