WSPF Recognizes Mercer

The Washington State Potato Foundation named Milton “Bud” Mercer Jr. as the winner of the 2009 Industry Leadership Award. With this honor, a one-year $1,500 scholarship will be dedicated in his name and awarded to one college-bound youth during the 2009-2010 school year. Mercer grew up in Washington, farming with his father, Milt, in a range and feedlot cattle operation. Since 1983, he has owned and operated Mercer Ranches, a diversified row crop farm that currently operates about 9,000 acres of irrigated cropland, growing potatoes, carrots, sweet corn and onions. Over his 47-year farming career, Mercer has served on various civic, community and agriculture boards at local, state and national levels. 

Deere Redesigns Used Equipment Web Site

John Deere has overhauled and redesigned its MachineFinder Web site, The used equipment Web site now features an enhanced search and browsing system, built-in shipping integration and the ability to save searches. The changes make it easier to find and review pre-owned agricultural, construction, forestry, commercial and residential equipment from the company’s network of authorized dealers. Additional features include Google Maps to view equipment location and obtain driving directions, detailed gallery views for equipment photos and comprehensive equipment information.

Ed Schneider

Potato Council Elects Schneider as 2009 President

Ed Schneider, a potato grower from Pasco, Wash., has been elected to lead the National Potato Council. Schneider served on the Washington State Potato Commission from 1996 to 2005, serving on all its committees and as chairman from 2001 to 2002. In 2006, he was elected to serve on the NPC Executive Committee as vice president of legislative and government affairs, a position he held until the recent election. During his one-year term as president, Schneider will be working to get a chemical use and data collection project underway.  The finalization of the NPC Sustainability Document is also a top priority for the coming year. 

Cornell and Sun World Sign Grape Research, Licensing Venture

Cornell University has entered into a long-term table grape research collaboration with Sun World International LLC. Bruce Reisch, a grape geneticist at Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., will work with Sun World grape breeder Michael Striem to combine desirable fruit traits and characteristics from the New York and California programs. Cornell’s expertise, cultivated over more than a century, is in breeding flavorful, disease-resistant and cold-hardy grapes for the cool climate of upstate New York and similar regions. Sun World’s genetic stock has been developed over a 25-year period to produce large, seedless, sweet, crunchy, attractive grapes in the Mediterranean climate of southern California that ship and store well. Scientists at both institutions will exchange pollen and cuttings and regularly visit each other’s research sites. Their genetic resources will be pooled as a common source of such desirable traits as berry size, early or late ripening, flavor, color, and disease and environmental stress resistance. Sun World will manage the U.S. and international introduction of all new varieties produced from the combined research effort.

Rufty Selected as First Chair of Sustainable Development

North Carolina State University’s Dr. Tom Rufty has been named the university’s first Bayer Environmental Science professor of sustainable development. Rufty is currently director of the center for turfgrass environmental research and education and professor of environmental plant physiology of the department of crop science at the NCSU. His areas of research include resource acquisition by plants and plant communities and plant responses to environmental stress. 

The new chair of sustainable development, established through a $1 million endowment by Bayer CropScience´s business operations unit Environmental Science, will help to further the long-standing collaboration between NCSU and Bayer CropScience on environmental projects. Current collaborative efforts between the two include studies relating to managing carbon sequestration in trees and turfgrass, biodiversity surveys, and research into improving plant health to better manage environmental and insect-related stress.

Cibus Establishes New Leadership

Cibus LLC, a plant trait development technology company, has named LaDon Johnson as its chief financial officer as well as president of the newly launched Cibus International, headquartered in the Netherlands. Prior to Cibus, Johnson established Johnson Consulting in the U.S. and Belgium, with recent projects including biofuels transactions, customer development work for a genetic specialty business and seeds business mergers. He previously served as managing director and chief financial officer at Advanta and served as chief financial officer for SeedWorks, Inc. He has also held a variety of executive level positions at Garst Seed Company.

Cibus’ proprietary gene conversion technology, RTDS, enables seed producers to develop plants that are quicker to market with less regulatory expense. RTDS technology is a non-transgenic approach for providing plant improvements as compared to classical genetic transformation, a process leading to GM products. Cibus partners include BASF, Valent U.S.A. Corporation and The National Sorghum Producers.