From Breeders to Custom Cutters: Trying to Lower the Risks in a Risky BusinessThu, 17 Apr 2014 15:27:22 CDT
Farming is a risky business, but crop insurance and government disaster programs help mitigate that risk for producers. Custom cutters who play a critical role in harvesting most of that grain face the same risks--and more-without the protection of a safety net.
Speaking at Wednesday's preview of "The Great American Wheat Harvest, a documentary about life and business of custom harvesters, Dr. Brett Carver, a wheat breeder at Oklahoma State University, told radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays he gained a new respect for custom cutters and, in a way, wheat breeders are trying to lower the risk inherent in the agriculture industry.
"From the research standpoint, it's kind of the foundation of our industry, but tonight it was more about getting that crop out of the field and into a safe place. Boy, it just reminded me, and I knew this, and I'm sure a lot of people know this in our own circle, but outside of agriculture it's hard to realize just how vulnerable our crop can be. And I try to make that point in research to try and reduce that vulnerability to reduce that risk in agriculture. We do what we can from a research standpoint to do that.
"There's so many other risks involved and watching that show made me appreciate that in a positive way."
There are a lot of stresses that are compounding on producers across Oklahoma this year; everything from drought to late cold snaps are taking their toll on the winter crops. While it is tough on farmers to watch their crops assaulted time and time again by Mother Nature, Carver said it's not all bad news.
"It's a bad year for the farmers, but it's never really a bad year for breeding because we look for stresses because we're breeding for the ability of that plant to tolerate stress-whatever that stress is. Of course, we've had enough drought stress to go around for a hundred years, but any experience we can have working with a droughted environment, we're going to try and capitalize on that. And we do. But The progress is slow in the face of a farmer who is having to deal with a problem this year. We're looking at progress over 10 to 20 years."
Carver said that there is a lot of misperception about what is happening with wheat breeding these days. In many cases the public is voicing a bias against genetically-modified-organisms. Wheat breeding does not use this technology, but Carver said many misperceptions such as that still abound. He said that's why documentaries like "The Great American Harvest" are so important in helping to educate the public.
Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear Ron Hays's interview with Brett Carver
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