Rewarding NZ study tour for Elders agronomists
Seven Elders agronomists have returned from a Dow AgroSciences study tour in New Zealand with a deeper understanding of the extensive research and development work required to produce quality new crop protection products.
The week long study tour included visits to Dow’s Waireka field research station, head office and laboratories as well as farm visits on the highly productive Canterbury Plains.
Attending on behalf of Elders were Bill Moore, WA zone technical manager and fellow West Australian James Bee from Albany, with Queenslanders Jordan McDonald from Dalby and Greg Teske from Gatton, Chris Toohey from Albury, Pat Feeney from Maffra and Craig Bell, Murray Bridge.
Graham Page, national agronomy and technical services manager at Elders, said this was the second year that Dow had arranged a New Zealand study tour for selected Elders agronomists.
“It is great to be working alongside a company like Dow and to be able to offer this unique learning experience to members of the team,” he said.
“It’s an initiative that Elders appreciates from our strategic business partner.”
The group started their tour with an overview of Dow’s research and production facilities in New Plymouth.
This was the highlight for Bill Moore, WA zone technical manager for Elders.
“We saw first-hand Dow’s commitment to R&D and we could speak directly with their chemists – the true developers behind the products that we recommend every day,” he said.
“I’ve been to some production facilities before, but I’ve never been invited in to see behind the scenes at this foundation stage of chemistry.”
They heard details about the development of Uptake spraying oil, as well as some of Dow’s more recent work, such as the intricacies involved in the upgrade of Lontrel to Lontrel Advanced.
“It’s not just about the active ingredient, there’s a lot of work that goes into every other component of the chemical in the drum to make sure the product works effectively and is easy to use,” Mr Moore said.
“That’s why Elders has such strong support for R&D based companies, because we know they are doing so much to ensure quality, innovative products for our customers.”
Mr Moore said their visit to the Canterbury Plains revealed farming systems that were completely different from Western Australia’s, with different challenges.
Greg Teske from Elders Gatton enjoyed seeing the broad cross section of industries on the Canterbury Plains, including sheep, beef, dairy and cropping and visiting a grower involved in seed production.
“I have never seen so many pivots and lateral move irrigators,” he said.
“There’s water running all the time, but they have a very interesting soil profile, with some places having just 15 cm of topsoil.
“On these farms, if it doesn’t rain for a fortnight they’re in a drought.”
In contrast, the Lockyer Valley farmers Mr Teske works with have more than 10 metres of clay loam soil under their vegetables.
He said it was great to see the laboratory work Dow was doing to improve and enhance their products.
“I was very impressed with seeing the Dow lab where they formulate their products, to get an understanding and really appreciate the effort that goes into getting a product to market,” he said.
“They might screen thousands of compounds and maybe only two or three of these become products.
“It was also very interesting to follow through what they do to ensure world class quality in the products they manufacture.
“As agronomists and crop advisers, it gives us the confidence that when we recommend their products they are going to do the job.”
Mr Teske also enjoyed the interactions with Elders agronomists from across the country.
“We all come from diverse backgrounds, but there are a lot of similarities and differences we can share when we get an opportunity like this,” he said.
Pat Feeney from Elders Maffra was taken back by the scale of the operation at New Plymouth.
“The factory and office facilities were very impressive and the trials were all set out with precision, but best of all was the way we were welcomed by Dow,” he said.
“They gave us complete transparency, we could go anywhere, ask anything and we’ve made some excellent contacts.”
Mr Feeney said seeing the exceptional yields produced by growers on the Canterbury Plains were a highlight of the tour.
“We receive very similar rainfall in Gippsland, but their season stays cooler, so to see the agronomic package they’re using there and compare it to home was great,” he said.
“The farmers we spoke to were quite open and discussed all areas of their operations from soil constraints to machinery, chemical and fertilisers. It was well worth the trip.”
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