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Puerto Rico Nursery

posted on January 20, 2017 /

Today marks eight months since starting full-time with Masters Choice as Plant Breeder. Sitting here in the San Juan Airport, recapping what seems to be a quick instance in paradise before my flight back to the cold, I realize how much I have been blessed with Masters Choice. Over these last eight months, I’ve traveled the Midwest, met with dealers and customers, attended World Dairy Expo, and conducted pollinations on four separate occasions. This trip to Puerto Rico tops the list off nicely.

Accompanying me on this trip was Kyle Vosburgh, our Research Assistant. Over our time here on the island, we read inbred and hybrid grow outs, took first looks on potential experimental hybrids for this coming summer, and made pollinations on developmental inbred populations in the nursery. Our trip lasted for ten days, every morning heading to the field to first make pollinations on S0 populations in our inbred development nursery and inbred increases. The goal of the nursery is to decrease the time to develop novel inbreds and get the inbreds into our hybrid testing in about half the time. After pollinations were completed for the day, Kyle and I would take notes on novel experimental hybrids, many of which I am excited to see entering our experimental lineup. We also recorded notes on our current inbred and hybrid, ensuring purity of our genetic seed stock.

Don’t get me wrong, Puerto Rico isn’t all work. After our work in the fields was done, we did get to travel around the island a bit, eat the local food, and see the sights. Ponce is a beautiful port city located on the Caribbean coast. Because of this, Ponce is home to some of the best seafood on the island. La Monserrate, De Jesus, and Chef’s Creations are some of the best restaurants we’ve found. One afternoon, Kyle and I traveled to La Playuela near Cabo Rojo. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the island on a peninsula about an hour and a half from Ponce, this white sand beach is a local secret. During the day, locals travel a one lane pothole-ridden road to a secluded beach shadowed by a coastal lighthouse. What makes this beach unique is the high salt content of the water causing an afternoon swimmer to float. Another unique opportunity we had was to visit the Arecibo Observatory. Nestled in the karst mountains on the northern side of the island, this gigantic telescope utilizes radio waves to measure the velocity and dimensions of objects traveling through space. It was also a set for the movies “Contact” and “007: GoldenEye.” One of my favorite spots on the island is Old San Juan. This historic city is the oldest settlement on the island and is abundant with historic landmarks, native cuisine, and local culture. One of the best known landmarks of Old San Juan is El Morro, a Spanish fort built in the 1500s as the first stop from Spain to the Americas. This little town is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen (pictures below).

Overall, this trip was a complete success. Although leaving is bittersweet, I am extremely thankful for my time here on the island and the opportunities afforded me through my job. I look forward to the future to meeting more of our dealers and customers, answering their questions, and developing the best inbreds to fulfill their hybrid needs. Stay tuned!

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    By Cullen Johnson