MCIA recognizes seed growers, supporters

Paula Mohr hand sorting seeds on a table
ENSURING QUALITY: The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, founded in 1903 to promote the breeding, growing and distribution of field crop seed varieties developed at the University of Minnesota, continues to provide programs and services that officially certify seed in the state.
Wayne Capistran received the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association’s highest honor, the Achievement in Crop Improvement Award.

Eight seed producers and supporters were recognized during the 119th annual meeting of the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association Jan. 12.

MCIA’s Achievement in Crop Improvement was awarded to Wayne Capistran, Capistran Seed Co., Crookston, Minn. The award, presented annually since 1972 and supported by The Farmer magazine, recognizes exemplary service to the seed industry as well as outstanding leadership in agriculture.

Capistran began his certified seed production career in 1979 with growing hybrid sunflower seed for Dahlgren Seed in Crookston. That was followed by growing wheat seed for Bruce Hamnes at the Stephen Seed House and eventually becoming a seed salesman for AgriPro.

Early on, he recognized that not all varieties fit on every farm. He would be straightforward with his customers and tell them so. To learn more about the varieties he sold, Capistran started growing test plots. Today, wheat and soybean test plots — and the resulting plot tours — are a staple on the family farm.

His success at sales led to an offer for a franchise with AgriPro wheat, which led to construction of a seed conditioning plant completed in 1992. The seed plant and storage capacity has been expanded over the years. Currently, the plant’s primary seed crops are wheat and soybeans.

MCIA award winners
MCIA HONOREES: The Minnesota Crop Improvement Association honored eight individuals for their work in crop improvement and seed growth.

Capistran and his longtime seed plant manager, Jeff Nicholson, process wheat, barley, oats, soybeans, sunflowers, buckwheat, rye and peas.

An active MCIA member, Capistran Seed Co. uses MCIA’s seed certification, approved facility and organic certification programs. It also produces foundation seed for MCIA.

Capistran’s farm has been in the family since 1879. He and his wife, Nancy, have three children — Karen Stacken, Kevin Capistran and Katie Manalang — and four grandchildren. Nancy keeps the books, while Kevin manages the crop production and handles the plot work. Kevin’s wife, Lorri, manages communications and pitches in when needed.

Seven people received MCIA’s annual Premier and Honorary Premier Seed Grower awards. They were:

Premier Seed Growers

• Duane and John Pazdernik, Pazdernik Farms, Waubun. The brothers have been growing and conditioning certified seed for more than 30 years. When they began producing certified seed, there were no other seed plants in Mahnomen County. With a used sieve mill and a gravity table sourced from local elevators, they built their own seed plant and began cleaning wheat and barley seed. Over the years, they made upgrades and are now an MCIA-approved facility.

John’s grandson Gabe, with a degree in agriculture from North Dakota State University, has joined the Pazdernik Farms seed business, in addition to working for Petermann Seeds Inc. in Hawley.

• Larry Rivard, Rivard’s Quality Seeds, Argyle. Rivard has been a part of the seed industry for more than 50 years. The Rivards owned and operated Rivard’s Quality Seeds in Argyle for many years. Following graduation from the Northwest School of Agriculture in Crookston, Rivard, who lives in Grand Forks, N.D., joined the family business and worked on seed conditioning — cleaning and bagging certified seed of wheat, oats, barley and soybeans, along with a little flax, durum and annual canarygrass.

The family business also mixed and packaged turf grass seed, which grew to the point that in 2006, Rivard spun it off on its own, creating Rivard’s Turf and Forage in Grand Forks. Today, the business includes mixing and packaging turf and forage seed, natives and cover crops, and specialty products. From 3-pound bags of lawn seed for homeowners, 50-pound bags of grass seed for golf courses and cover crop mixes for 1,000 acres, Rivard’s Turf and Forage serves a wide range of customers in Minnesota and the Dakotas. As an MCIA member, they are part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation seed vendor program, creating mixes specifically for various road projects.

• Dick Stangler, Kilkenny. Stangler has spent his entire life working with seed. His first job was to clip the metal MCIA seal on seed bags with pliers. His grandfather, Elmer, started the family in the certified seed business and his father, Jim, followed.

Stangler continues the tradition of growing, conditioning and selling seed, and now his son Nick and daughter Becky are part of the operation. The Stanglers produce 1,400 acres of soybeans, oats and wheat seed in addition to 800 acres of contract seed production. Much of the farming is done in partnership with Stangler’s brother, Steve. As part of MCIA, Stangler participates in the seed certification, approved conditioning facility and noxious weed seed-free forage and mulch programs.

In the 1990s, in an effort to increase crop diversity, Stangler helped organize the Southern Minnesota Wheat Growers group. The group demonstrates practices that improved wheat quality and increased yields in the area.

• Harmen Tande, Moorhead. Tande started growing certified seed more than 40 years ago to add value to his crop production operation. Spring wheat is his primary crop. Over the years, he added acreage to the farm and raises small grains, edible beans, corn, soybeans and alfalfa.

Tande got his start in seed production with encouragement from Ernie Krabbenhoft of Sabin, and he has worked with a host of seed conditioners. He has cooperated with Lee Bean and Seed, Ada Feed and Seed, Heartland Seed and Tobolt Seed. In the beginning, he grew Era and Marshall wheat. Through the years, he has produced many other varieties.

Honorary Premier Seed Growers

• Andrea Johnson, Appleton. Johnson has been writing about agriculture for more than 30 years. She grew up on a crop and livestock farm near Canby. With encouragement from her brother, Johnson launched her farm reporting career in 1989 when she began writing for The Land magazine. In the mid-1990s, she also contracted to write for Ag Innovations, the publication of the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. She joined the Farm & Ranch Guide team, based in Bismarck, N.D., in 1998. The Farm & Ranch Guide produces the Minnesota Farm Guide, where Johnson is a reporter.

One of Minnesota Farm Guide’s projects is the Minnesota Certified Seed Guide. The yearly magazine is a collaborative production among MCIA, the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Ag Experiment Station. Johnson provides content for the guide each year.

• Kevin Smith, University of Minnesota. Smith joined the university in 1998, taking over the barley program from longtime breeder Donald Rasmussen. His breeding work has expanded over the years to include winter, two-rowed, and hull-less barley, as well as oats and silflower.

For most of its 100-plus-year history, the emphasis of Minnesota’s barley breeding has been on six-rowed spring malting barley. Smith’s research has investigated the genetics of disease resistance and malting quality.

The Smith research team also works closely with MCIA. Every spring, the team plants MCIA seed grow-outs of small-grain varieties as part of MCIA quality control activities. The varieties Lacey, Quest and Rasmusson were released and grown by MCIA members. A new variety, MN-Equinox, is a recent release. It was developed through the Forever Green Initiative and is the first winter barley from Minnesota. MN-Equinox is a facultative variety that does not require cold to vernalize and flower, meaning it can be planted in either the fall or spring. The two-rowed barley program is the result of the expansion of craft brewers and the industry’s preference for two-row types. New two-rowed malting barley varieties are nearing the end of the breeding pipeline.

About six years ago, Smith rebooted the university oat breeding program, and those efforts resulted in the MN-Pearl variety, released through MCIA. Current breeding efforts are directed toward improving milling quality and resistance to crown rust.

Smith’s most recent efforts include breeding a newly domesticated crop, silflower (Silphium integrifolium), as a perennial oilseed. The endeavor is part of the university’s Forever Green Initiative.

The meeting, led by MCIA staff in the home office in St. Paul, was held virtually due to the pandemic.

 

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