2020 SEED NOTES
Merry Christmas to all of you and your families. With COVID, a contentious election and all the other weird things going on it is good for us to remember how much we appreciate everything that we have. It is truly a privilege to be part of the Michigan potato industry. We very much appreciate our relationships with our colleagues in this business, not just for the business side but we feel that we have some real friends as well.
Our family has farmed in Michigan for at least 5 generations, in the vegetable or potato business all that time. We made some big changes in our family history in 1978, when Dad moved to Kalkaska and in 1998 when we added storage capacity and switched all our potato production to certified seed.
That 1998 change has worked out well. Every time that we felt that we needed to expand our production; we have been able to secure commitments to purchase those potatoes. From 60,000 cwt in 1998 to 210,000 cwt. in 2020, we keep moving forward.
In 2012, we added Bryan Fischer to the team. Bryan is the oldest son of our sister Karen. Bryan has a wonderful wife, Amber, and three great kids, Kaden, Abbey and Luke. Bryan has more than met the challenge to be the next generation owner, manager, and everything else needed to make this place a successful farm for the next generation and beyond. We are proud and privileged to have him and his family here.
We have a written transition plan in place to ensure a smooth change when Denny someday stops showing up at the farm.
We have a strong team for the future. We have a great group of people who work well together and care about each other, the success of the business and your needs.
We very much understand the responsibility that we have in supplying seed potatoes to your farm. We appreciate the trust that you have for what we do. We will always do our best to make your farm successful with our seed.
We are truly grateful for your business, your friendship and your continuing support. We hope that you and your families stay happy and healthy.
Bryan, Greg, Denny
Fall is finished; winter and the holidays are on the way.
Thanks also to all of our growers for your support and understanding through a somewhat difficult shipping season. We trust that our seed performed as expected after planting.
We are grateful again for our dedicated crew and a safe summer and harvest season. The seed crop for 2018 is in the bin. We had a warmer summer than we would have ordered but the crop looks very nice. Yields are closer to where they should be and quality is good. We made a lot of changes to our program this year, especially regarding fertility. For the first time most of our nitrogen was applied with irrigation water. We fumigated a substantial portion of our acreage last fall. For the time being, economic sustainability will require that we continue on fields that show early die susceptibility. Most of our fumigating includes Strike; a chloropicrin product from Tri-Est. Strike shows some promise for improvements in scab control. It is not a cure but also shows potato early die control that is very similar to Sectagon with a slight increase in cost. Tri-Est claims a lighter footprint in regards to soil health as well.
Quality for the 2018 crop is significantly better than what we saw in 2017. We still have some scab but blue tag seed should be the norm next spring.
We believe that we have the most well balanced fertility program ever in our history. Thanks to Dale and Kevin at Wilbur Ellis and Greg Patterson at A&L Labs Canada for their consultation. We are VERY cautious about lime. Our maximum lime rate is 1,000 pounds per acre with variable rate application.
We are looking hard at new varieties. MSZ219-13, MSZ242-113, MSX540-? and NY152 are getting a lot of interest. The first three are early in storage evaluations and just in tissue culture. If you are interested in any of these or others we want to work with you to get that next successful variety in production and on your farm.
Our first Manistee selections are the source for some of our production this year. We are planning a selection out of these selections for this coming season, hopefully over time we see an improvement in the shape of Manistee.
Our team at the farm is strong. Bryan is on track to fulfill our aspirations in every way and should prove his ability as the future at our farm. Greg is in charge of operations and fabrications and keeps everything going as smoothly as possible. Dan Marcusse is rock solid as ever, does an awesome job in field operations, protecting your crop in the sprayer and also a standout in the shop. We have found a long-term winner in Tom Dixon, who is learning fast and will grow with us. New this year: Bryan’s parents, Karen and Randy, moved to Kalkaska last spring. Randy comes with 40-plus years of experience on a well-run farm in Southern Michigan and is a welcome addition, especially at planting and harvest. Denny has not retired but is willing and encouraged to disappear for several days at a time several times a year. Our succession plan is written and is being implemented. We will be in good hands for another generation.
We are growing for you. Over the next three years we will add substantial acreage to our rotation. We plan on adding storage capacity in 2019 and 2020 or 2020 and 2021. Christmas trees are being harvested on our newest acquisition; we are looking forward to center pivots and some more nice flat fields.
If the volume and price are acceptable on the enclosed seed confirmations please sign and return on copy at your convenience. Volume is based on past history or recent requests that we noted last spring. If you need a different amount of seed, or don’t need as much please let us know as soon as you can so we can make adjustments. If you have additional seed needs for the future that would help us with our growth plans as well.
Once again, be assured how grateful we are for your friendship and trust. We appreciate that you trust us with a very important part of your farm’s crop. We are very aware that each plant on your farm has a piece of one of our potatoes as its parent and early sustenance. We don’t take this responsibility lightly. We want to be supportive of your success and will do our best to keep that trust and friendship.
2017 SEED NOTES
Harvest is finished, all the trucks are parked and the crew is safe. That’s always a good feeling. We are grateful to our dedicated crew who keep coming back for more in the fall.
Hot weather was an issue for 10 days during harvest. We have good temperatures now and the bins all seem fine. Even with the delays we finished in good time. We have developed enough capacity to add acres as new land becomes available. We all probably need to give some serious consideration to mechanical cooling.
Our yields are below our average this year; we had a big rain in June and may have lost more N than we thought. Try as we might, we probably cannot afford to stop fumigating until we know more about the alternatives. We are trying to address soil health issues with more meaningful rotations and less tillage. The one good thing about a small crop is that the seed will be small; it should cut nicely and plant well. Your Manistee allocation is less than what you got last year. So sorry, we will be vigilant about crop conditions next season and try not to disappoint again.
Scab continues to be an issue with us. Our 2016 crop was nice but this season was tough. The scab is maybe not as severe as some years, but there are a lot of tubers with a little bit of scab. With a small crop and scab again, this has been a discouraging harvest for us. We all need to talk during the winter about what you are going to see from us in the spring.
We still believe that well balanced fertility has a role in scab control. We will be meeting with Greg Patterson from A and L Canada in December for a detailed look at our fertility program with an emphasis on scab, soil health and yield. We still believe that careful liming could help. In the fall of 2014, when the 2017 fields were limed, we had a more aggressive plan and used some lime that we would not use today. Since then we have lowered our maximum rate to 1000# per acre and we will only use beet lime. Until we understand better what is going on, we will not lime these fields this fall.
We have been working with Jim Cullman from TriEst on a product call Strike, a chloropicrin material that is supposed to help control nematodes and scab as well. We have planted trials in 2016 and 2017. We would not sign any testimonials yet, but we had some interesting results this year. We planted a strip of Manistee in a field which has the worst scab history anywhere on our farm. We would never plant a susceptible variety in this field. (The field was planted to Lamoka, which look very nice.) There were six rows of Manistee treated and six rows not treated. Visually, the difference was remarkable. We will be evaluating these potatoes and will have more data soon. With these results we have made some decisions regarding next year’s fields. Any fields meeting the following criteria will be treated with Strike.
- Test results that show a need for fumigation.
- Any scab history at all.
- Plans for planting to a susceptible variety, Snowden, Manistee or FL1867.
This turns out to be quite a few fields for 2018. This is a big switch for us; we think that there is some hope for the future. In the long run, there is only really one sustainable answer: scab-resistant varieties. For the near future we must make a couple of assumptions. Except for scab, Manistee is a big winner as a storage shipping variety. If not for yield penalties and storage spoilage risk, Lamoka would likely be a bigger winner than Manistee. For now, we will do our best with what we have. If you have ANY inclination towards a scab resistant variety, please let us know and we will do everything we can to get that variety going.
Please hang in there with us; we feel that we may be trying your patience with apologies and less than stellar seed quality. We are in this for the long haul and intend to keep striving for better.
Our Manistee selections are at the y2 level and will serve as the early generation source for future production. The goal is to get a rounder, less “bagel”-shaped Manistee. Shape improvements through selection will be incremental at best. We will make some selections again this year for another round. In 2016, with the help of Phil Gusmano from Better Made, we made eigh selections of Lamoka with the goal of fewer pear-shaped tubers. After evaluating them this year, we have picked three that we will get into tissue culture for further increase and testing.
The team at the farm is small but robust. Denny is spending a little more time away from the farm but is still very involved. Bryan is coming on strong and is already a very capable manager. Greg is in charge of operations and still Denny’s favorite second youngest brother. Dan Marcusse is rock solid both in the field and the shop after 21 years. Tom Dixon is a fast learner and a great asset to our farm today and in the future.
We still have plans for storage expansion and are looking forward to the demise of a few hundred acres of Christmas trees. We have a beautiful farm that will look terrific with pivots and potatoes as soon as those trees are harvested.
We are grateful for your friendship, trust and the work that we do together. We understand that good seed is of utmost importance to your success. We intend to do our best to keep that trust and friendship.
2016 SEED NOTES
Our crop is in the bins and fall projects are getting closer to being wrapped up. We had a dry warm summer in Kalkaska; we missed a lot of the rains that came through south of us. Harvest was similar, not bad overall, some short days because it was warm but we finished with plenty of time to spare. We still have not had a hard freeze. Because of the warmth we do not have any record-setting yields but we do have a very nice seed crop. Our scab incidence is lower overall than it has been in several years. I really believe that we could ship everything blue tag for scab with the grade that came off of the field. If we have good storage conditions it should be fairly painless to ship this crop to you. It feels real good to be able to say that!
We have fewer Snowdens than we have had since we started growing them. They are small and didn’t set any yield records, so your original volume may be cut unless someone doesn’t want as many to start with. Our Lamoka are a little larger. They really are not big yielders and if pushed will get big. The Manistee are quite nice. As mentioned above, scab is lower than average.
We have really concentrated on doing what we can for scab. Our maximum lime rate has been cut again to 1,000 pounds per acre spread with variable rate spreader based on 2.5 acre grids. In the past our maximum rate was up to 1.5 tons per acre. We feel that we have the most balanced fertility program possible and our petiole results held very well this year especially given the extra heat. We are still working with Greg Patterson from A and L Canada and believe that we are on the right track with his recommendations. Jim Cullman from TriEst had some Strike plots at our place this year. Strike is a chloropicrin product that is supposed to have some efficacy on scab and yield. It is an expensive product, the yield results look like a break-even and the scab control was not a clear advantage. This was the first year, and we will be repeating the plots in two fields again this coming year with 15 acres being treated in two fields with untreated checks in both and a vapam treated comparison in one of the fields. Long-term scab will continue to be an issue where we may be able to make some incremental progress.
Our four Manistee selections were started in tissue culture and are in the pipeline as the source for future seed. We will make selections out of these plants again this coming summer and will hopefully start seeing some nicer shape on this variety in the future. With the help of Phil Gusmano from Better Made we made a selection of Lamoka in August with the goal of improving their shape as well. These selections will get put in tissue culture and be planted out individually next spring and we will see where that goes.
We finished another storage project this summer, adding 30,000 cwt in two bins. Similar to our last project these bins use all Techmark equipment with in floor air cups. Except for one early generation seed lot all of our seed is now stored at our M-66 location. This should make shipping simpler and more efficient.
Future growth is important to us. Bryan’s continued dedication and growth as a manager will make our farm stronger than ever looking towards the future. We have a small but strong cast and crew with some real talent on our team.
We are working on clearing stumps on our 2015 land acquisition which when completed will give us another 230 acres to add to our rotation. Just recently we purchased another 425 acres with around 250 tillable for the next phase. This piece is in Christmas trees and will take a few years before the trees are harvested and we can get the farm ready for potatoes. It is fun to make productive ground out of a tree-y mess!
There were some questions about royalties this spring. Manistee and Lamoka are proprietary varieties and we are legally required to pay a $0.50 royalty to MSU for Manistee and Cornell for Lamoka. We believe that royalties should be billed as a separate line item on an invoice so that everyone understands that we are not keeping the difference between a “normal price” on seed and the price with the royalty added in. Last year this was not explained clearly by us. Apologies to all of you.
We do offer seed cutting if timing and temperature can be managed when we are cutting. As of 2015, we are charging $1.50/cwt for cutting.
There has been a lot of discussion about blackleg this year especially the dickeya strain that is showing up all over the country. We are all going to have to learn how to manage blackleg. There are more questions than answers at this time. Where does it originate? Are the lab tests accurate? What testing protocol will be the most meaningful? What are the background levels? Does a positive lab test mean that you will see infection in your fields? Most of the dickeya reports that caused serious problems that I have seen included at least two of the following. Extreme rain events, high temperatures, seed spoilage issues that started before or at planting. Any of these stressors will support bacterial problems. Variety susceptibility is a big part of the problem as well.
With all of that said, what are we going to do? Rest assured that our farm and the seed certification association is studying this very carefully and we will keep up as best we can.
It is a privilege to be associated with the potato industry and your farm. We understand that we have a lot of responsibility for your success. We are proud to be seed suppliers to some of the most forward thinking and successful farms in the world. Thanks so much for your trust and friendship.
2015 SEED NOTES
Like much of the Great Lakes area we had a summer of nearly perfect potato growing conditions. Our yields are above average and overall we have bins full of quality seed in very good condition. Harvest was intermittent because of warm weather, but we had a long window of mild, dry conditions that allowed us to finish with time to spare.
We have increased our Manistee acreage and reduced our Snowdens. We have a limited supply of Lamoka. There is some scab on the Manistee and Snowden, but the levels are lower compared to last year. Manistee has similar susceptibility to scab as Snowden.
We are doing everything that we can do to address scab. We share everyone’s concern with this problem. We are working very closely with Dr. Greg Patterson of A&L Labs-Canada based in London, Ontario. Greg started this lab in 1984 at the request of his potato growing stockholding partners. Greg had many years as a consultant on potato fertility. His belief is that a field with established scab is difficult to reverse, but with optimal fertility — especially P K and Mg when properly balanced and carefully limed — can suppress scab development, especially on clean fields. We have some P and Mg issues that will be addressed.
During the summer of 2014, we made 12 selections to improve the shape of Manistee tubers. These 12 hills were planted individually in 2015. At harvest time this fall, we evaluated the individual “families” and again selected the best of the original 12. Four selections were made and are in tissue culture. These will serve as the baselines of our Manistee with minitubers going in to the field in 2017. We believe that we will make a noticeable difference in the tuber type going forward.
We plan to increase our Manistee and Lamoka acreage in 2016. We are looking at W5955-1 and MSR127-2.
Our last original potato storage should be retired after this storage season. We are working on plans to add two new bins to our M-66 warehouse in 2016. This will add a small increase in capacity in addition to consolidating our loading to one convenient location and having all seed in the most modern facilities.
We have been carefully watching the Simplot material but have not been involved at this time. If you see that this material has a fit in your potato production, we would like to help. Please give us a heads up if you need Simplot traits in your seed.
We have had time this fall to finish our latest land and irrigation project. We have purchased some additional land and are working right now on clearing trees and drawing circles for the next three or four pivots. Growth is on our calendar for the foreseeable future.
Bryan Fischer continues to grow in his role as the future manager of Iott Seed Farms. Amber gave birth to their third child, Lucas, in March joining Kaden, 6, and Abbey, 4. (You may recognize them as the children on the cover of the Michigan Seed Directory.) Bryan will be attending the Potato Industry Leadership Institute in February.
Dan Marcusse is celebrating his 20th year with us this year. THANKS DAN!
Tom Dixon has been with us 2 years this February. Glad to have you with us, Tom.
We don’t have a large crew, but everyone is very flexible and capable and enjoys working very hard together. We are grateful for each other and the opportunity to be a part of the Michigan Potato industry.
Hopefully by now you have all met Bryan Fischer. Bryan has been with us since August 2012. He is proving to be very capable and is learning fast. He is going to play a very important role in future management transitions. Bryan and his wife Amber are expecting a third child in February. Brother Kaden, 5, who is already very much a farmer, and sister Abbey, 3, are very excited.
Dan Marcusse finished his 18th harvest season last fall and continues to be a critical part of our team. Dan is very meticulous about his spraying duties and works in the field, shop, irrigation and field records. He is very important to our success.
Tom Dixon was hired in February 2014. His official title is “Field and Shop Support,” which means that he gets to do whatever we need him to do. Tom is smart, energetic, able and willing to learn. We look forward to an increasing role for Tom in the coming months and years.
Office assistant Tina Lentz has been with us for 10 years. Tina is in the office for a limited time each week, so you may not have spoken with her, but she keeps the books straight and organized. Thanks, Tina!
We have a small but strong team; hopefully all your interactions with anyone at Iott Seed Farms are fruitful and enjoyable.
SEED SELECTION PROJECT
With the help of Don Sklarczyk, Jeff Axford, Jeff Howard and Chris Long, as well as Dave Douches and his breeding team, we had a seed selection project in late August at our farm.
A large crew dispersed in our Manistee field. Everyone had several bags and instructions to very carefully dig up individual hills of potatoes. Hills were evaluated in the field and everyone bagged up several of their favorites that seemed to have better shape than the run-of-the-mill potatoes. Those favorites were brought to the shop, dumped on the floor and evaluated by the whole group.
The process was very interesting as everyone had opinions about what they were looking at. Approximately 80 individual hills were narrowed down to eight with the main criteria being improved shape. Dave took one tuber from each of the eight for tissue culture. The hills will be planted individually and evaluated again next summer, promising families will be saved and selected again. The hills that were saved were significantly better. Over several years, we hope to make this variety much easier to peel in the chip plant.
Hill selection is a very important part of the breeding program but has been a lost art at the farm. We are going to try to implement this practice at our place over the next several years.