June 19, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

From energy and water conservation to new markets and more efficient ways of doing business, the 25th annual Union County Crops and Conservation Tour Tuesday was both a nod to accomplishment and an optimistic look ahead for those in agriculture.

Between 300 and 400 people growers, cattle producers, agency representatives, researchers, business people, politicians and others joined the three school buses and line of personal vehicles that shaped the tour as it moved from field to field in the central part of the Grande Ronde Valley.

Irrigation was the topic at the Weishaar farm as Reed Stewart of Pendleton Grain Growers and Guy Weishaar discussed the farms variable frequency drive unit that helps manage electrical usage and water pressure for six wells and 12 pivot irrigation systems.

Weishaar estimated the system, costing more than $20,000, saves about $800 to $1,000 a month in operating expenses for the irrigation system.

Earlier those on the tour learned that direct-seeding equipment will still take some experimentation and learning time.

Before you really learn how to direct-seed, youre going to fall down a lot, warned Dale Case of Cove as he talked about the seeding drill his brother purchased two years ago.

Case presented a list of both positives and negatives, with the positives outnumbering the negatives nearly two-to-one.

With a lot of direct talk, growers and researchers presented a wealth of information to those on the tour.

Oregon State University and federal researchers and scientists warned of the growing economic threat presented by cereal leaf beetles and a newly identified cereal oat nematode that attacks wheat roots.

And Dale Wagner talked about how his family has brought their farm back from the brink of bankruptcy with conservation techniques and diversification.

Excitement was added to the day with a demonstration of how weather balloons and a theodolite device are used to determine if field burning will be allowed.

The tour ended with lunch at Blue Mountain Seeds new warehouse south of Imbler.

For more on the tour, watch for Saturdays

Farm and Ranch Life page