Kansas Corn Farmer Shares Biotechnology Experience with Chinese Growers
Terry Vinduska, a corn farmer from Marion, KS, recently returned from an agricultural mission to northern China to discuss how US farmers use biotechnology and to learn about the needs of Chinese farmers. The mission was coordinated by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to bring two US farmers to China to build a dialogue about biotechnology. China has been slow to approve GMO corn, partially due to opposition by their farmers. While Chinese farmers are becoming more open to GMO corn as they learn the benefits, many misconceptions remain. Vinduska serves on the Kansas Corn Commission and is past-chairman of the US Grains Council. Grains Council staff also participated in the mission. In addition to farming, Vinduska’s experience as a seed dealer made him uniquely qualified for the mission.
The team visited Chinese farms and shared their experiences of growing GMO crops on their farms.
“We had a lot of discussions about biotechnology. They had a list of things they had been told about biotech crops that just aren’t true– that they are poisonous, that there are no insects in our fields,” Vinduska said. “I told them the corn is not poisonous and we have insects. They were just misinformed about GMOs. I told them we eat the corn from our field. We are grandparents and our children and grandchildren eat the corn. I wouldn’t allow that if it wasn’t safe.
Agriculture in China is changing, and farms are getting bigger, Vinduska said.
“About half of the farms are traditional Chinese farms, between one and three acres, where they do everything by hand,” Vinduska said. “And about half are government-owned or a by a cooperative where people in a village rent their land to the cooperative, and the co-op buys the machinery and raises the crop, and pays rent back to the landowner.”
Vinduska learned that Chinese farmers could benefit from biotechnology. They have significant problems with corn pests, weeds and herbicide resistance.
“They have a huge corn borer issue and they try to alleviate it with spraying. There is a real need for corn borer protection. They also have problems with herbicide resistance. They have to till the soil so much because they can’t get reliable weed control.”
Vinduska said the large Chinese farms were modern, but also different than US farms.
“The government farms are fairly modern, even by US standards, but their farming practices were unique. They use a furrowing technique where machines make deep furrows about 40 inches apart and they plant two rows of corn on the ridges between the furrows. They run the furrowers two or three times a season. It requires a lot of labor and also machinery cost, but they are convinced minimum or no-till would not work in their area.”
There is good farmland and good corn production in China, he said.
“The soils are phenomenal in that area. They are raising good crops, in spite of their farming operations, in my opinion. For as far north as they are, they plant a very full maturity corn. They have comparable yields to us, but still lag behind areas like Iowa. The soybean grower who was with me is from northern South Dakota and is on the same latitude as the growers in northern China. He plants a 100-day corn and the Chinese farms plant a 115-day corn. The corn we saw on the Chinese farms was still very green, and they were supposed to get a frost the day after we left.”
Farms in that region harvest their corn very wet and then dry it with coal-powered dryers, he said.
The Kansas Corn Commission is a grower-funded, grower-governed organization that works to build the value of corn by investing a one cent per bushel checkoff in the areas of research, market development, promotion and education.