By Dakota S.
Plant Breeding Intern and Student Ambassador

Last March, I was fortunate to receive an invitation that would not only give me the best insight into Monsanto’s pipeline, but also to what it truly means to have a work ohana.  I learned that I would be a Plant Breeding Intern in Maui, Hawaii. Of course, any student would be excited to spend a whole summer in Maui; however, I was most excited to know that I would be working at the year-round growing site for Monsanto. I was especially excited to discover what goes on at the site and how much work is required at a year-round growing facility.

Once I arrived in Maui, I was excited to learn and begin working on my projects. Having a farming background, I immediately began comparing techniques used on my family’s farm to those used on Monsanto’s Hawaii site.   I personally enjoyed talking to my mentor about these comparisons because it always sparked a new lesson about the many ways that Monsanto works towards sustainability. The team is always thinking into the future about what can be done next on the farm that will reduce their carbon footprint in Maui. This provided me with a new outlook on what it takes to care for the land.

The objective for one of my projects was to assess the amount of nitrogen return being received from the cover crops that we planted after harvest.  I also needed to determine how much nitrogen would be available in the soil for the corn crop that would be planted after the cover crop had been mowed. This was assessed by taking cover crop samples of a field and sending them to the lab. There, a cover crop calculator would be used to determine the amount of plant-available nitrogen that the field would have after the termination of the cover crop. This calculator is specific to the cover crop as well as soil type.

The calculator not only informed us of the nitrogen return being received from the cover crop, but how much nitrogen could potentially be reduced as well. This led into my second project, which was research based and my personal favorite: evaluating crop performance.  It was critical to ensure that germination, tasseling, and yield would not be negatively affected by the reduction in nitrogen. A third project branched off the first two.  I had to determine how the St. Louis farm sites’ nitrogen schedule might be implemented into the Maui farm schedule—all while ensuring that the crop would not be affected by the different nitrogen schedule.

This summer’s internship has taught me what it means to have a work environment where it feels like everyone is one big family, or “ohana” as they say in Hawaii. From the first to the last day of the internship, I never felt far away from home. It was a reassuring feeling since I was 4,072 miles away, not knowing anyone. In this ohana, we all worked together and strived to help each other be successful.

Interning with Monsanto this summer has been a very valuable experience. Observing what each team contributes to the full growing season has helped me to better understand how integral the Hawaii sites are to the pipeline. This summer experience also reassured my passion for my career field. Going to work each day eager to learn something new, or out into the field to evaluate corn growth in any given week, stole my heart this summer. It didn’t feel like work, but rather a career that I could be excited about. My internship has proven to be a valuable experience—one that was challenging at times, but a blessing altogether. I could not have had a better experience. Mahalo Monsanto. Thank you.