New Monsanto facility to open soon near Gothenburg
Monsanto Water Utilization Learning Center manager Chandler Mazour hopes for a late spring or early summer learning center opening.
Sited on 155 acres along Highway 47, about two miles south of Gothenburg, the center will provide visitors with both inside and outside experiences, Mazour said at an Extension water conference in Holdrege.
The indoor experience will be very much interactive learning based, with rooms for lectures and presentations. The facility will be capable of video conferencing with organizations anywhere in the world, Mazour said. It will also be hardwired to conduct virtual tours of robotics and seed analytics facilities in Ankeny, Iowa, or Monsanto's research facility in Chesterfield, Mo.
"If we want to go down and see what our winter nursery's like in Hawaii, we can hit a webcam and see the work that's going on down there," Mazour said.
The second part of the experience will be an outdoor experience. Drip and overhead irrigation plots will grow demonstration crops. Monsanto will look at different kinds of tillage, genetics, current traits, future traits, and irrigation technologies.
The main focus of the facility will be on demonstrations, Mazour said. Although the plots will generate some data, it won't be complete enough for decision-making. Mazour imagined visitors seeing growing crops, though, and wanting to know something about yield.
"Though this won't be decision-making data, people will want to know how some of these things look in the field," he said.
In selecting a site, Monsanto looked for a place in the transition zone on the western High Plains. The Gothenburg site gets about 21 to 22 inches of annual precipitation. For every 25 miles east, average annual precipitation increases about an inch; for every 25 miles west, it decreases one inch. In the Gothenburg area there is a great diversity of cropping, Mazour said, including a lot of irrigation and a lot of dryland. Mazour said Monsanto needs that diversity to determine how to use future technologies in adding value to crops.
Mazour wants to look holistically at crop growing in order not only to educate visitors, but also to turn that education into actionable knowledge.
"We're very interested in the technologies, but we're also interested in showing people how we make our genetic and biotechnology gains and in helping people understand the process of reaching the goals that we want to achieve and, more importantly, the goals that they want to achieve on their farms," Mazour said.
In approaching water utilization on the High Plains, Mazour believes Monsanto has great genetics and a great pipeline coming. But the challenge of water utilization is much greater than what Monsanto offers in its own toolbox, so collaboration is key to the facility's success.
Mazour said he's looking for ways to work with machinery manufacturers on tillage and with irrigation equipment manufacturers on irrigation management. Other collaborators include the universities--Kansas State University and Colorado State University.
"The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources has invested significant resources and has developed wonderful knowledge about irrigation management and about how to grow crops under limited moisture," Mazour said. "We're trying to build on and utilize knowledge that's already been generated and try to pull that all together into one package to educate our visitors," Mazour said.
The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources is part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.