By MELISSA HART
BATH, Mich. — The first annual Winter Grower Meeting of the Michigan Wheat Program (MWP) took place March 6 in Bath, with an overflowing room full of growers.
Dr. David Hooker, field crop agronomist with the University of Guelph, Ontario, began the education-packed day with his expertise on Ontario’s SMART (Strategic Management Adding Revenue Today) program. He has performed several research projects and enjoys investigating the interactions of crop inputs in soybeans, wheat and spring cereals.
MWP Executive Director Jody Pollok-Newsom gave an update on the progress of the new association. She stated its mission is to promote a viable, thriving and growing Michigan wheat industry that includes input, suppliers, seed, producers, growers, millers, end users and consumers.
Pollok-Newsom said she was encouraged by the number of attendees for the first annual meeting and is looking forward to the year to come serving the wheat growers in Michigan as the group’s executive director. She also listed the board of directors: Dean Kantola of Ravenna, Carl Sparks of Cassopolis, Gerald Heck of Monroe, Bill Hunt of Davison, Scott Heussner of Marlette, Frank Vyskocil of New Lothrop, David Milligan of Cass City and Chris Schmidt of Auburn.
The focuses of the MWP are research, production issues, education and communication, promotion and market development. Education at the meeting continued as Terry Stiles of The Cisco Companies talked about the advantage of cover crops.
She said for centuries, farmers used cover crops to enhance the soil and control erosion in their fields. In the mid 1900s this practice was largely abandoned, with the emergence of inexpensive, easy-to-use commercially manufactured fertilizers and herbicides. She expounded on the benefits and challenges of, and when and how to apply, cover crops.
The group welcomed Washington state wheat grower Brett Blankenship, second vice president of the National Assoc. of Wheat Growers (NAWG), as he spoke on NAWG and its role and issues. He explained the value of NAWG as the political lobbying arm for wheat growers in the United States.
“National Wheat Growers can offer something no other commodity group can,” he said. “Our geographic diversity and six different classes of wheat can bring political power.
“The other thing we get with wheat, is that wheat is what people connect agriculture to the consumer; people eat wheat, people break bread, it’s part of our culture and that gives us good position on Capitol Hill.”
Blankenship noted the National Wheat Growers (NWG) is the policy arm in Washington, D.C., and that growers need a farm bill to offer more certainty with respect to policies concerning wheat. He concluded by saying NAWG is excited to have Michigan on board.
The Michigan State University Dean of the College of Ag and Natural Resources Dr. Fred Poston said it was great to have the Michigan Wheat Program, and looked forward to serving the growers with research and extension.
The afternoon program included the history of Star of the West Mills from MWP Vice Chair Art Loeffler, and then Hooker gave a presentation on boosting crop yields with wheat in the rotation.
He said the benefits of wheat in crop rotation are sometimes overlooked, and gave compelling evidence that it should be included in every crop rotation plan.
The day concluded with a grower panel discussion and MSU extension educator Martin Nagelkirk offering information resources for growers.
Everyone left with a box of Kellogg’s cereal and a box of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix donated by Michigan-based Kellogg’s of Battle Creek and Jiffy Mix of Chelsea.