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The North Bend Eagle


 

Sharing experience

Farmers from Argentina visit Ames farm looking to pick American's brains

by Nathan Arneal
Published 9/1/10

Two dusty rooster tails cut a path through the cloudless August sky last Wednesday as a pair of large charter busses approached the Bill Taylor farm.

The coaches rolled to a stop near Taylor’s cleanly swept shop just northwest of Ames, opened their doors and unloaded their cargo. Out strolled 73 Argentinians, stretching their legs and snapping pictures.

ListeningThe Argentinian visitors listen to introductions at Bill Taylor's shop.

From the viewpoint of the visitors, the scene that met them at Taylor’s farm was... well, it was a lot like home.

“This farm,” said Eduardo Martellotto as he waved his arm across the landscape in front of him, “is very similar to what you would see in Argentina. The only difference is the language.”

This is the 20th time Martellotto has led a group from his country on a tour of the United States’ breadbasket. He works for Argentina’s Institute of National Agricultural Technology, describing his position as a cross between a university extension educator and a USDA agent. This time, he’s leading his countrymen (and women) on a 15-day trip from western Kansas, through Nebraska, Iowa and eventually to Chicago.

On this day, the group toured Valmont Industries in Valley and viewed the test fields there to see some of the Valley pivots in action. They took the trip to the Taylor farm after lunch.

As Martellotto said, the technology used in Argentina and the United States is very similar. Many of the visitors use GPS technology and variable-rate planting and fertilization in their operations back home. What most are hoping to do on the tour is learn from the experience of their American counterparts, especially when it comes to irrigation.

Looking at combine.Taylor's 9870 STS John Deere combine was popular with the South American farmers.

“Irrigation is growing very fast in Argentina,” Martellotto said. “Pivot irrigation in Nebraska has been going on for more than 50 years. We only started 10, 12 years ago. That experience that we can share is very important because you have 40 years of experience that we don’t have.”

After the Argentinian contingent disembarked and had a moment to stretch its legs, the group gathered in the shop where they were welcomed to Taylor’s farm. An impromptu question and answer session followed with Taylor and fellow farmer Larry Ruzicka, as well as representatives of several area ag businesses, including Husker Coop, Grosch Irrigation, Valley and John Deere.

Many of the questions, asked through translators, centered around irrigation. What is the average amount of rainfall in the area? How do you know when to water? How much water do you apply through the pivots? How deep do you dig your wells?

Gustavo Benzi is a 30-year-old farmer and agronomist from Ramayon, Argentina. Back home, where planting season is just around the corner, he works on a 16,000 acre farm, growing corn, soybeans and sorghum. His operation employs many aspects of precision farming, such as variable-rate planting and yield mapping, but he was intrigued by possibilities of variable-rate irrigation he had seen on the trip.

“The area where I farm, the main limiting factor is water,” he said, “so irrigation would be a very (useful) practice. It’s a rainy place, but it’s hot and the rain is very spread out throughout the year, so there are some times of the year when you need extra water.”

Like Nebraska, most of Argentina has plentiful ground water. The technology is in place for both pivot and flood irrigation, but the practice is just catching on in South America. Benzi hopes that one day his farm in Argentina will produce grain as well as the fields he was seeing in Nebraska.

“I’ve seen the best corn I’ve ever seen in my life (on this trip),” Benzi said. “In the area where I farm, a good yield of corn is like a bad yield up here.”

Bill Taylor said meeting with the Argentinians was well worth the two days he spent cleaning up his farm place, or rather, the two days his sons spent cleaning up, he corrected.

“I really enjoyed it,” Taylor said. “It’s just too bad I don’t know Spanish. It would have really interesting getting more one-on-one and talking to them. They were fun to be with.”

In addition to having a pivot running across the road, he had much of his farm machinery on display. The 9870 STS John Deere combine was a crowd favorite.
Taylor was impressed with the sophistication of his guests.

“They are where we were at four or five years ago, probably on a small scale,” Taylor said. “Now they’re starting to develop (precision farming techniques) and get bigger in it. It’s just amazing the technology they do have. I didn’t know they had the GPS technology in as big of percentage that they have.”

After spending more than two hours on the Taylor farm, the group headed back to the busses. The next stop would be a cattle feed lot near Arlington before spending the night in Omaha.

Martellotto, the Argentinian government ag agent, said sharing across cultures is invaluable, and it goes both ways. While the Argentinians were interested in learning irrigation techniques, he said his countrymen are a little more advanced when it comes to no-till farming. Back home, he has hosted American groups as they try to learn from the Argentinians.

“I think in this global world the best thing is to share all the experience and try to do everything better,” Martellotto said. “We use the same resources. The water is the same here as in Argentina or anywhere. We are all concerned about the environment. I think this interaction among farmers and producers and the people at universities is wonderful.”

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