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Team inspects crops in Wasit

By Sgt. Daniel T. West , 41st Fires Brigade

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An agricultural inspector takes a water sample during a farm inspection in Wasit Sept. 25.
An agricultural inspector takes a water sample during a farm inspection in Wasit Sept. 25.

Sept. 28, 2008 — FOB DELTA, Iraq (Sept. 28, 2008) – Members of "Team Borlaug" conducted their last scheduled farm assessment is Wasit province, just outside al Kut Sept. 25.

The team, from Texas A&M, also accompanied Gov. Abd al-Latif Hamad Tarfah, governor of Wasit province, on a tour of a nine to 10 family cooperative farm, managed by two brothers.

The 400-dunam (248 acre) farm was planted with 100 dunam of barley and wheat, 100 of alfalfa, 25 of cotton, 10 of corn, 25 of watermelon, 100 fallow and five devoted to greenhouses, said John Hargreaves, member of Team Borlaug.

There were also 6,000 fish being raised in drainage canals, as well as 10,000 to 11,000 broilers [chickens] being raised at the site, he added.

“This was one of the more diverse farms we visited,” said Hargreaves. “Many farms concentrate on just one or two agricultural sectors.”

The farm was very progressive, with an eye toward growth, he said, citing usage of greenhouses to raise tomatoes and the unusual method of using drainage canals to farm fish.

“Most fish farms use ponds to farm fish, but they use 1,500 meters of canals to raise 6,000 fish,” he said.

That was not the only unusual aspect of the farm.

“We were surprised to see they had just planted their tomato seeds,” said Blaze Currie, another member of the team. “Most other greenhouses have their plants in the ground already, but they are taking a gamble with them.”

“They’re banking that all the other growers will take their products to market at the same time, driving the price down and their crop will hit the market at the end of that rush, when prices are beginning to rise again,” he added. “That was an intentional risk and is an indication that they are innovative risk-takers, and feel fairly secure, financially.”

Another significant aspect of the operation was their license to grow certified wheat seed, cooperating with a seed certification lab and seed cleaning facility in al Kut.

The certified wheat seed is more profitable, but only qualified growers are licensed by the director general of agriculture to grow it, said Hargreaves.

“It’s a robust combination, taking advantage of a synergy of resources in the province,” said Currie.

The team wrapped up their scheduled inspections of farms in the province with the visit, and is scheduled to present their findings to Latif on Sept. 29.