My whole career I have been a researcher. It became more structures when I was asked to be the forage researcher for Wisconsin’s first discovery farm program. It changed my way of thinking as to how to do research. Many people want to prove something when they do research and at times have a preconceived outcome in mind. Research should always be as unbiased as possible and with a mind for letting things play out.
I always test new forages 1-3 years before I release them to the general public. Where I am different is I want to learn what is wrong about a forage even more so than what is great about it. This is why I think this way. Mother nature always comes into play. We never know if it’s going to be a dry year or a wet year. Could it be a cold season or warm season. Many times the weather can go from one extreme to another in one growing season. Forages also respond different to various soil types. Some forages don’t like sand and others are not as tolerant to wet or heavy soils.
When I do research, I plant forages on as many different properties as possible. I have a sand ground research property. I have a clay and low ground property out on the G.R.O. farm. My main research blocks rest on the banks of a river. I have a heavy clay property where the soils are also on a limestone ridge. Lastly, I have a variable soils and low ground property. Besides all those controlled situations that I manage, I have over 500 clients who after the first year of testing a new forage, that I allow them access to test out these forages across the US.
Many years ago when I was testing out balansa fixation clover, I decided to mow it with a lawn mower and put the deck down low to the ground. I wanted to mimic extreme grazing pressure from deer. I loved its snapback abilities. That and its ability to handle variable weather conditions, lead me to deem it a winner. A few years later, I put aberlasting clover to the test, It saw 5 flooding episodes over a 2 year stretch and it always snapped out it each flood better than most other perennial clover blocks that I had out there at the educational blocks.
Most people reading this probably make decisions on what to plant by a name on a bag or what their buddy recommended. As a researcher, my decisions on what to offer to a client base are the following:
1) What is the yield?
2) What is the nutritional value and nutrient composition?
3) What is the brix/sugar/attraction
4) How does it handle heat, cold, drought and wet.
5) What is its year 1 yield if it’s a perennial.
There are many other factors and price point is never part of the equation. With new genetics the thing we see if overall better yields because of environmental factors. We tend to breed forages to handle insects, plant diseases and mother nature better. Older genetics is what the wildlife industry hangs their hats on. My passion is the new. There is not nearly the amount of new coming down the pipeline as early in my career but it’s still there.