Representing the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Kimihiko Eura visited Minnesota last week with a full agenda, experiencing nearly every corner of Minnesota agriculture. USDA offices, co-ops, ethanol plants, and of course many farms were all included during his week-long stay.
Organized by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA), Eura’s trip to Minnesota was planned with the objective to gauge crop conditions, supply and demand of Minnesota corn and its storage capabilities. Of course, that included taking a close look at Minnesota corn operations.
The corn portion of Eura’s visit began on MCGA board member Tim Waibel’s farm where he was treated to dinner and a discussion about the current state of corn farming in Minnesota. Last year, Waibel had a similar productive meeting with the Japanese delegation, which was the reason the group decided they wanted to see more of Minnesota’s corn operations.
Later in the week, Eura visited the farms of former MCGA board member Marty Amundson in Zumbrota and current board member Bruce Peterson in Northfield.
Joined by MCGA Commodity Marketing and Biofuels Director Mitch Coulter, Eura started on the Amundson farm with a short walk over to the field for a close look at the towering stalks of field corn. There, Amundson, who primarily grows corn, discussed the basic philosophy around successfully growing corn, including measuring growing degree units and the importance of moisture levels.
Eura was most interested in the high level of statistical analysis behind a high-yield corn crop. Amundson went through a binder prepared by his local agronomist with Eura, pointing out the detailed soil nutrient measurements, how they have changed over history, harvest maps, yield history and more.
Following the deep dive into the science behind farming, Eura moved to Peterson’s farm in Northfield. Although a short distance from Zumbrota, comparing the two farms displayed the great soil variability in southern Minnesota. While Amundson relies on tile to drain water off his fields, Peterson relies on irrigation for portions of his land where there is sandy soil.
Peterson gave Eura a tour of his irrigation system, which was new to Eura. From there, Peterson gave an overview of the diversity in what he grows, including growing peas, sweet corn and field corn all in the same season.
Eura was interested in the different conservation tactics used by Peterson, including cover crops that would be planted by airplane in the fall. Peterson also discussed the importance of tillage practices that utilize residue from corn plant leftovers after harvest to the health of his soil.
In the end, visiting the farms of Minnesota’s grower leaders was an eye-opening experience for Eura. With farms not exceeding 100 acres in Japan, he was able to see Minnesota’s larger-scale operations up close, including the science and conservation-minded farming behind them.