Vegetables Make Progress

By E. Freeman 9/8/2009

When you visited Monsanto’s “Yields of Tomorrow” plot tour at Farm Progress this year, you might have noticed something a little different about the site.

In between the corn and soy displays sat three covered carts bursting with color and variety—hot and sweet peppers, red ripe tomatoes, freshly picked sweet corn. Neat rows of lush green tomato, green bean and sweet corn plants stretch their healthy leaves toward the sky.

This was Monsanto’s first vegetable display at Farm Progress.

With the integration of Seminis and DeRuiter Seeds into the Monsanto vegetable division, plot planners were excited about the opportunity to showcase some of the division’s finest produce. But the vegetable plants’ journey to superstardom didn’t begin in Decatur, Illinois.

“We grew the tomato and pepper seed at Monmouth Learning Center in the greenhouse and then we transplanted it once it was ready to be grown on site. We grew the sweet corn and green beans from seed right there in the plot,” Brian Hogendorp, Monsanto TDR associate and part of the team that made the vegetable plot possible at Farm Progress, said. “We have a collection of tomatoes, sweet corn, green bean types and then we brought a number of different varieties that were grown at Monmouth to showcase.”

The Monmouth Learning Center is a good 3-hour drive northwest of the Farm Progress site in Decatur, but Hogendorp said he made the trip south at least once every two weeks to monitor the progress of the vegetables and help with the plot.

“It was definitely a team effort,” Hogendorp said. “We have an on-site agronomist who I collaborated with from Monsanto, Larry Weller, and he was critical in reporting back about the progress. We also had a webcam up and running around the plot so you could visit the site via the Internet at any time and see not only the vegetable plot but the whole display.”

There were also special considerations to take for the vegetable display because of the plot’s historical focus on corn and soy.

“It was a new experience because this whole show is geared more toward row crops,” Hogendorp said. “I had to be on site quite a bit and help direct and advise how some of the plots were put in, especially how we wanted to showcase the tomatoes. Instead of going with a home garden feel with different cages, we did it as a commercial setting using stakes and tying the tomatoes in rows.”

Hogendorp said the agronomists had no problems with planting the green beans and sweet corn—a staple of Midwestern summer dinners.

Obsession, Passion and Devotion sweet corn are huge in the Midwest and we felt that those would be some of the crops that farmers in the area would be very interested in, considering that they’re industry-leading in taste and some of our most popular varieties,” he said.

The vegetables looked strong and healthy, and Hogendorp said he was pleased with the end result and has received positive feedback from visitors.

“I was delighted in how well the tomatoes produced fruit,” Hogendorp said. “We had a very large fruit set—so tremendously large that they were breaking over some of our stakes so we had to reinforce some of the tomato plants. The sweet corn looks great and the green beans are doing terrific. I really couldn’t be more pleased.”

“One of our visitors was taking pictures of the carts and he walked up to a Monsanto employee and said that this was the best display of vegetables he’s ever seen. That’s very flattering to hear, especially because he is a green bean grower. He thought it was very novel, very colorful and he really appreciated it.”

Monsanto is also showcasing some of its vegetables at Husker Harvest Days, and Hogendorp said since the vegetable plot seemed to have made such a positive impact this year at Farm Progress, he is looking forward to Husker Harvest—and beyond.

“From here on out it’s on to Husker Harvest where we also have another design and another part of the plot,” he said. “I’m hoping that at Husker Harvest we’re as fortunate and the show looks as good [as the plot at Farm Progress] when we get there.”

“We’ll have to wait and see as far as next year for Farm Progress. We first have to tear down this site and then we start planning for the next site. I’m very hopeful that we do it next year and I’d love to be a part of it.”