Good agronomic advice crosses many international borders
Prairie based CCA shares agronomic expertise in many countries.
April 8, 2008 By Certified Crop Advisers
It may be surprising to learn that one of the top Certified Crop Advisers located in western Canada was not trained within this region. Oscar Perez received nine years of agricultural
science training in Central America. Perez who grew up in farm community in Guatemala undertook this academic journey in order to achieve his childhood ambition of becoming a very well qualified and respected agronomist.
|Mosaic crop consultant Oscar Perez has developed an agronomic expertise with a wide range of crops including rubber production in Thailand. Recently, Perez moved from Manitoba to Washington State where he will be working with specialty crops grown within the western US and British Columbia.
Climatic variations associated elevation changes within the mountainous terrain of Guatemala enabled Perez to become acquainted with a wide variety of tropical as well as temperate crops. Early in his professional career, he had opportunity to spend some time in Italy and the Netherlands to upgrade his skills in the production of horticultural crops. As a result, Perez developed an agronomic expertise with a very wide range of crops including small cereals, oilseeds, textiles, tropical crops, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.
Forced to flee to Canada
While things were proceeding quite well with respect to his agronomic career, the political climate within Guatemala was quite unsettled. Violence was increasing dramatically and Perez lost a very close member of his family due to his countries political activity. This political unrest also placed Perez and his family in grave danger and as a result, he was encouraged to leave Guatemala.
Perez, his wife and his three children quietly left on a journey that led them to southern Manitoba. In their haste, they basically left almost everything behind, except for a few personal belongings and the airline tickets that would transport them far from the turmoil and risk that was characteristic of Guatemala at that time.
Early language barriers overcome
None of the family spoke English, so the first task when they arrived in Manitoba in the fall of 1994 was getting enrolled into ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in Winnipeg. In the spring of 1995, Perez became involved in crop scouting with Cargill and in 1996 he became the agronomist at the Cargill AgHorizons location at Elm Creek. In 1998 he became a Regional Solutions/Agronomy Manager. From 2003 until the present, he has been a Worldwide Agronomy Traits Specialist with Cargill/Mosaic.
|Oscar Perez’s broad based expertise is partially reflected in this group of photos: clockwise from upper left. Crop scouting with Cargill in southern Manitoba. Travelling in the Voronezh region of central Russia to advise on canola production. Assessing flax growth in France. Meeting with vegetable crop researchers in China.
Grower respect for character and knowledge
Because of his broad based crop expertise, during his time of work in southern Manitoba, he quickly gained the respect of fellow agronomists and growers. Jake Thiessen whose Thiessen Acres Farm is located near Morden indicates that he became one of Oscar’s first clients in 1996. Jake speaks in glowing terms about his agronomic working relationship with Perez and the professionalism, knowledge, expertise and commitment that he displayed. Jake indicates that Perez is a man of faith and this reflects in the quality of his work. While he greatly misses Oscar, Jake indicates that his replacement, Tara King is also a very capable agronomist.
After his first fall of soil sampling, he found the covering of fields with snow to be quite shocking since it completely obliterated the distinct features of the fields that he had become intimately acquainted with during his crop scouting visits. All of the subtle field features had now disappeared under a blanket of snow. Fortunately, thanks to Cargill’s early adoption of GPS technology, he found that he was able to easily relocate the same field spots once the snow had disappeared in the spring.
Perez claims that learning to deal with prairie crops was really not that difficult, although he had never worked with canola, flax, sunflowers and tame buckwheat. Once he took on agronomic advisory services for Saskatchewan and Alberta the concept that presented a steep learning curve for him was that of ‘minimum tillage’, direct seeding and no-till.
|Oscar Perez is well equipped to deal with the agronomic questions that arose during his international travels. He has dealt with crop production issues related to – clockwise from upper left – Cassava production in Thailand, coffee production in Brazil, sugarcane in Mexico, and sugarcane in India.
Involved in developing activities abroad
A situation that contributed to the advancement of his career in western Canada was his early involvement with the development of ‘precision farming’ which was just getting started. He became involved in a number of projects that involved the evaluation of this concept, which allowed him to gain considerable expertise on this topic. Subsequently, he became the ‘glue’ amongst the US and Canadian teams that were developing ag-precision tools for Cargill.
In undertaking his worldwide agronomic responsibilities with Cargill/Mosaic, Perez dealt with training staff in many Asian, Western and Eastern European countries as well as countries located in Central and South America. His task was to train them to use more advanced agronomic technology tools to increase yields and quality of crops. Within North America, the emphasis of staff training was on food traceability, GIS and on increasing yield and crop quality.
Recent transfer to Washington State
Recently he has been transferred to Mosaic Crop Nutrition at Kennewick, Washington. From that location, he will be providing agronomic expertise and support for the eleven western states as well as for British Columbia. He is looking forward to the challenge of providing agronomic support to a very unique suite of 200 crops, many of which are new to him and the very sophisticated agricultural practices that are employed in the production of some of these crops.
Flying the Canadian flag
During the past dozen years, Perez and his family have grown very attached to Canada and are proud Canadians. He states that, “We got engaged by the friendship and kindness of the people. One of the things that we love about this country is the honesty and sincerity of the people.” Now that he has relocated to the US, he indicates that, “There is a Canadian flag waving at the front of the house, because our kids are more attached to Canada than I expected.” -end-
Top Crop Manager regularly carries a story featuring certified crop advisers from various regions of western Canada. There are more than 700 individuals who have achieved the certification and maintain this designation through continuing education.