The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 11, 1986 · Page 3
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 3

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Saturday, January 11, 1986
Page 3
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Local/Kansas The Salina Journal Saturday, January 11,1986 Page 3 Land Institute receiving national attention (Continued from Page 1) who gave up a tenured California professorship to found the institute with his wife, Dana, in 1976. He is a man at war with much that chemical companies — and fanners — hold dear. Once, speaking to the Saline County Farmers Union, Mr. Jackson compared fanners to medieval serfs and advised them to . stop wearing caps advertising their "corporate lords." He thinks Future Fanners of America should study Faust, so they will appreciate the Faustian bargain with the banks and fertilizer companies they are about to make. Mr. Jackson sometimes fears that his irrepressible exuberance obscures the serious work of the Land Institute. The institute's researchers believe that the first agricultural revolution — the one that began roughly 10,000 years ago, when man started domesticating plants and animals — was based on a faulty premise. They want to correct it, a job that Mr. Jackson thinks could take a century. The premise was that man could overpower nature. Primitive man did it by grubbing out weeds with a stick. Modern farmers use $50,000 tractors burning imported oil. Even minimum tillage, the soil- conservation practice that has caught on in recent years, is based on the same old premise, in the eyes of researchers here. Minimum tillage reduces cultivation to reduce erosion. But farmers usually compensate by pouring on more herbicide. The institute seeks instead to develop an agriculture that works with nature. The first step is to find alternatives to corn and wheat, which are costly, erosion-prone crops that must be replanted annually and then coddled with cultivation and chemicals. Researchers here believe the answer may be perennials that grow like weeds — because they are weeds, or not far from it. A Prairie Perennial Illinois bundleflower, for example, is a native prairie perennial whose seed is a huge 34 percent protein. It doesn't need fertilizer; a legume, it actually manufactures fertilizer. Preliminary extrapolations here suggest that one superior strain might yield as much as 3,040 pounds of seed per acre. By comparison, 30-bushel-per-acre wheat, a fairly typical yield hereabouts, produces only 1,800 pounds of grain per acre. Illinois bun- dleflower would seemingly make a good poultry feed — although staffers here have also tried it in a birthday cake. "A bitter aftertaste," but edible, recalls intern Mary Bruns. No one is suggesting the Illinois bundleflower can ever completely replace wheat and corn. Even Mr. Jackson concedes there is a contin uing role for such conventional crops on the nation's prime farm land, the fraction that is flat, fertile and well-watered. But researchers hope that some of the novel alternatives under study here will eventually shoulder aside conventional crops on great tracts of more marginal farm land — erosion-prone sloping land, for example, and semiarid land where the costs of irrigation are becoming prohibitive. The obstacles are formidable, and that bitter aftertaste may be the least of them. Lack of a Market Unlike wheat and corn, which can be sold at practically any prairie hamlet, Illinois bundleflower enjoys no commercial market. That is one reason that other exotic crops like rapeseed and amaranth have failed to catch on, Iowa State University scientist Wayne Hansen recently told the Iowa Seed Association. "You may be disappointed if you're looking for a new crop," he said, adding that the best alternatives to corn may be such prosaic standbys Scott Wllllomi Wes Jackson of The Land Institute seeks new ways to revolutionize agriculture. as barley and oats. Skeptics also note that in attempting to develop high-yielding perennial grains, the Land Institute is challenging what appears to be a law of nature. "There has never yet been a perennial grain crop in all the 10,000 years that man has been domesticating grains," says Donald Duvick, vice president for research at Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. "But intellectually, I'm fascinated by the idea of trying." The problem, he notes, is that a plant has only so much energy to allocate. Annuals like wheat and corn use a disproportionate share to produce seed, in effect shortchanging the rest of the plant. Perennials, in contrast, shortchange seed production to serve their root systems. Skeptics doubt that the institute can have it both ways. If it selects perennials with high seed production, such as that promising strain of Illinois bundleflower, what it is likely to get in the bargain are perennials with weak root systems — in short, perennials with the drawbacks of annuals. Only the First Step And having it both ways is only the first step in Wes Jackson's master strategy. The second is to combine superior hybrids and strains of alternative crops in "polycultures"— fields where several crops intermingle — to replace today's vast monocultures of corn and wheat. Polycultures are far less vulnerable to pests and disease, and their components often function in a complementary way. One experimental polyculture here combines Illinois bundleflower with Maximilian sunflower, whose roots exude a natural herbicide, and giant wild rye, a Siberian perennial that seems capable of heavy seed production. Mr. Jackson's inspiration is the natural prairie, a complex mixture of species that perpetuates itself without replanting, cultivation or fertilization. "That prairie," he says, "is running on sunlight instead of fossil fuel. And it's actually accumulating soil instead of losing it through erosion." Critics doubt that the polyculture idea will work. "There's a 99 percent probability they'll never approach economic viability," predicts Clenton Owensby, a Kansas State University rangeland specialist. Mr. Jackson himself is careful not to over-promise. Within five to 15 years, he says, the institute should be able to introduce one or two superior plant strains to the market. But combining individual plant superstars in a functioning polyculture, then persuading farmers to abandon familiar wheat and corn, is far more difficult — akin to building a symphony orchestra from scratch and persuading Lincoln Center to schedule it. "That's going to take 50 or 100 years," he says. "We've got a tremendous job ahead.'' Author Wendell Berry concedes that finding converts will be especially hard on the large, highly mechanized farms in the heart of the Corn Belt. Farmers there often have poured so much money into specialized existing operations that sweeping change is impossible. "Farmers have no options," he says. "They've got to go on doing what they're doing — plant fence row to fence row, gamble on the grain markets." Many Kinds of Farms But there are many kinds of farms, and many kinds of farmers. I. Garth Youngberg, the executive director of the Institute for Alternative Agriculture, thinks the best prospects are the roughly 353,000 farm operators who reported annual sales between $40,000 and $100,000 in a 1984 Agriculture Department survey. These tend to be true family farms, neither hobby operations nor giant spreads, whose owners, Mr. Youngberg says, are "desperately looking for ways to cut costs." "I don't see why, within the next 10 or 15 years, we can't begin replacing some of our cereal crops with perennials," says Richard Harwood, a deputy director of Winrock International, an international development institute. Mr. Youngberg talks in terms of "a decade or less." The key, he says, is "institutionalizing" alternative agriculture — rooting its concepts in the nationwide network of government and professional experts. That is already happening, as Jackson pleased with story's thrust By CAROL LICHTI Staff Writer When Salinan Wes Jackson opened a copy of The Wall Street Journal Friday morning he was pleased to find himself referred to as "Mr. Jackson." "No one ever calls me Mr. Jackson," he said. Jackson, co-director of Salina's Land Institute, was featured in a story in the national business newspaper about his revolutionary ideas on agriculture. "I thought it was pretty good treatment that seemed to be sympathetic and intelligent," Jackson said. He was not offended by being described as a "rumpled plant geneticist" who appears "to have been dropped into his clothes from a great height," perhaps because of his excitement at seeing his ideas presented to a national audience. "It will help us somewhat to get some funding," Jackson said Friday afternoon. "We've been getting a lot of calls today. The main thing is to get the idea out." Jackson said he was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal's staff reporter Dennis Farney about two months ago and learned Thursday that the article would appear Friday. The institute, seven miles southeast of Salina, was started in 1976 by Jackson and his co-director-wife, Dana. The project is financed through a private foundation and individual donations, he said. The institute's staff has grown to include four who have doctorate degrees and two with master's degrees. A position recently opened for someone with a doctorate degree in plant breeding, he said. The institute also will have five agricultural interns with bachelor's degrees who will work for 43 weeks starting in February. The Wall Street Journal article is not the first national exposure for the institute. It was featured in a Public Broadcasting System program called "Uncertain Harvest" that aired in October. The institute also was included in a public radio program called "New Dimensions." illustrated by Nebraska's Prof. Francis. And soon, many post- Korean War agriculture professionals will retire, presenting an opportunity to further revolutionize thinking from within. The Land Institute is training its own revolutionaries, in the form of 10 resident agricultural interns, all with impressive academic credentials, each year. One Problem at a Time Meanwhile, research here pushes ahead, a problem at a time. To facilitate harvesting, for example, the individual species within the experimental polycultures ought to mature at the same time. Today, they don't. Still, strolling through his experimental plots, talking of "paradigm shifts" and "The Merchant of Venice," Wes Jackson remains an optimist. "That's just a breeding problem," he says. He grins. "When nuclear-powered people talk that way, I call it hubris. When I talk that way, it's'mature judgment.' " "Values run ahead of technology," Mr. Jackson likes to say, meaning that good ideas will eventually generate the mechanism to carry them out. He walks on, past thickets of sunflowers, wild rye and bundleflower. "In a sense," he says, "there is no such thing as failure in research. There are only adjustments to be made.'' Reprinted with permission of the Wall Street Journal. Copyrighted 1986, Dow Jones and Co. Inc. All rights reserved. Kansas offers free vacation trips to our own backyard By GORDON D. FIEDLER Jr. Staff Writer Getting away from it all this year for some lucky Kansans might mean a trip to their own backyard. In effort to showcase the state's tourist hotspots and lesser known attrrctions, the Kansas Department and Economic Development has created a program offering free weekend vacations throughout the Sunflower State. "We hope people in Kansas will find out that Kansas has a lot to offer them," said Sonya Woertz, with the travel, tourism and film services arm of the Kansas Department of Economic Development. "People will spend a compliment- ary weekend somewhere and may want to spend more time here (in Kansas)," Woertz said. The program, called Celebration Getaway, was developed by the KDED and the Travel Industry Association of Kansas. Participating communities will submit at least three weekend vacation packages to KDED, which will redistribute them among the communities, Woertz explained. Salina, which is expected to contribute as many as nine vacation packages, will receive in return nine packages from other towns, Woertz said. Participating communities then will give away the vacations in local drawings or other contests. Salina's Conventions and Tourism Director John Ryberg was out of town Friday and unavailable for comment. He is responsible for assembling the packages for the program. Woertz said the communities were asked to include in each package at least one night's lodging, meals for two, gift certificates and passes and discounts to local attractions and events. For the most part, she said, the communities were asked to be creative. "It's up to what the community wants to put into it for the people," she said. Some of the packages will be for selected weekends that surround a particular event in the community. For instance, she said Salina likely will offer some packages to coincide with the Smoky Hill River Festival in June. Woertz expects 30 communities to contribute to the statewide promotion. For their participation, communities will pay $10. The businesses in the communities will be asked to donate their services. Woertz said the communities will be providing most of the financing through their $10 fee, but the KDED and the Travel Industry Association of Kansas will be fund advertising, promotional and administrative costs. The program officially begins Saturday at the Tour and Travel ShowinTopeka. Besides Salina, communities that have signed up so far are Abilene, Arkansas City, Ashland, Cimmaron, Columbus, Council Grove, Dodge City, El Dorado, Ellsworth- Kanopolis area, Emporia, Eureka, Franklin County, Garden City, Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson, Kansas City, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Lindsborg, Mankato, Newton, Overland Park, Shawnee, Topeka and Wichita. Blood supply hurt little from AIDS By DAVID CLOUSTON Staff Writer Fear of catching AIDS from donating blood hasn't reduced the supply of blood in Kansas as drastically as it has nationwide, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Regional Blood Center in Wichita, said. Kalen Larson, assistant director of public relations at the blood center, said a 4 percent drop in donations at the Wichita center during the months of July, August and September was caused chiefly "by misinformation" about the threat of catching acquired immune deficiency syndrome. "We have noticed it more in the urban collection centers than in the rural areas where there are bloodmobiles," she said Friday. The Wichita collection center supplies blood to 133 hospitals in 84 Kansas counties and 17 counties in Oklahoma, including Asbury and St. John's hospitals in Salina. Blood collected from the Wichita service area is sent there for testing and typing before being shipped out to hospitals. The center must receive 335 to 350 units of blood each day to meet its hospitals' needs. "We have had some tight situations but nothing to cause us to make an emergency appeal," Larson said. In a poll released Thursday by the American Association of Blood Banks, more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe they can contract the usually fatal disease from donating blood. The survey also said more than half of Americans believe they would get the disease if they received a blood transfusion, and 81 percent would prefer blood from family or friends if they needed it for an operation. Scattered reports of blood shortages have arisen since the publicity surrounding actor Rock Hudson's death from AIDS and the controversy over school attendance by young victims, said Gilbert Clark, executive director of the American Association of Blood Banks. Larson said the Kansas blood supply is safe, particularly since the Red Cross screens blood donors and tests donated blood for the AIDS virus. Nationally, only 46 percent of those polled were aware that blood banks screen all donations and reject AIDS-exposed blood. Blood bank directors at both Salina hospitals say they have suffered no blood shortages. The Executive Director of Salina's Red Cross said, however, that the last two bloodmobiles were a total of 60 units below their goal. "There are very few times that we would go much under 50 units," Director Wilma Ray said. "Normally we exceed the goal." Larson said a publicity effort aimed at Wichita citizens is helping to increase donations. The message is that donors should not worry about AIDS since the process of giving blood is completely sterile, she said. "If there was a reason for being afraid I would be afraid but I'm not and I still give blood," Larson said. Inmate allegedly bites deputy A charge of aggravated battery is expected to be filed Monday against a rape suspect after the man allegedly bit a sheriff's deputy while being transported to Saline County District Court. The sheriff's department has requested the felony charge of aggravated battery against a law enforcement officer be filed against Nathan L. Haggard, 25, 1227 N. Ninth. Haggard was being taken to court for the rescheduling of a preliminary hearing originally set for Friday when he reportedly bit through the coat and uniform of Deputy Jim Dubois, Sheriff Darrell Wilson said. Dubois was given a tetanus shot. Haggard was taken to court in the City-County Building, but was excused from appearing in court. He and Loren K. Pierce, 26,915 N. Ninth, were scheduled for a hearing on charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated sodomy, rape and aggravated battery. They are accused of breaking into a woman's west Salina home and raping and beating her severely. The hearing was postponed until Jan. 31 at the request of attorneys for both defendants and the prosecution. Haggard is scheduled for a jury trial Wednesday on charges of aggravated burglary, rape, aggravated sodomy and robbery in connection with a Sept. 6 incident involving a 22- year-old woman. He remains in the Saline County Jail in lieu of $60,000 bond. Pierce is free on a $60,000 property bond.

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