Spearheading Curiosity and Creating Solutions Through In-Field Research
At Grow West®, we never want to stop learning. That truth was the motivation behind the Technical Services team, implemented in 2009. Today, the team consists of Layne Wade and Matt Ehlhardt who spearhead research on new products, varieties and management decisions in partnership with the PCAs at Grow West. Curiosity is a requirement on this team.
California agriculture is facing more challenges than ever before with continued product regulations, weed and pest resistance, severe weather events and slim margins. The Technical Services team is committed to finding the best solutions for our growers by conducting real-time, in-field research. This research, which is communicated across the Grow West PCA network, not only is utilized to find new solutions to growers’ challenges, but also can serve as third-party data for PCAs to utilize when making recommendations as well.
Finding New Solutions for Managing Nematodes
Recently, the team has been working on research related to plant parasitic nematodes which can cause severe damage to plants and limit crop production of practically all of our commonly grown crops. One way to manage this pest is through plant breeding efforts to select varieties and rootstocks that have resistance to nematode damage. However, often this is not enough as it’s difficult to develop varieties of plants that have resistance to all of the possible nematode species while also having favorable crop production characteristics. There is a need to mitigate damage beyond resistant plants.
Nematicides are one possible method for mitigation. The Grow West Technical Services team has been working on various nematode control materials for many years, and this year is no exception. They are currently working closely with PCA Charlie Hamilton in the Lodi area in a grape vineyard to design and implement an extensive field trial. The trial is designed to minimize nematode populations using two newly developed nematicides while incorporating various bio-solution materials to enhance root health and growth and overcome the deleterious impacts from past nematode damage. This trial will entail sequential applications of materials, extensive replication of treatments and a multi-year approach to evaluating the effects. The overall purpose of this effort is to find the best approach for our customers to deal with a debilitating crop production problem.
Bringing Deep Expertise to Grow West
The team leading these efforts has extensive experience with agriculture in California across the board. Layne Wade joined the Grow West team almost two years ago as the Technical Service Manager. With a master’s degree in plant protection and pest management from University of California, Davis, Layne has a special interest in biology and its crucial role in ag production, which suits him well in his position. Bringing his past experiences in crop production and pesticide manufacturing, Layne has been a strong asset to our Technical Services team. Matt Ehlhardt joined the Grow West team over 11 years ago as the Director of Technical Services. With a master’s degree from the University of Idaho, Matt has spent the majority of his career working in research. He has recently retired and will be continuing to work with Grow West part-time seasonally.
The Technical Services team is an extremely important part of Grow West. The team works closely with our PCA, industry groups and the customers we serve to find the best solutions and recommendations in an ever-challenging growing environment. If you’re interested in learning more about current research initiatives, you can contact your local retail store or PCA.