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03/20/2014 :: Nuseed Announces New Independant Sales Associates

NuSeed is proud to announce new team members to our Independent Sales Associate (Dealer) network.  They are as follows:        

Cavalier, ND              Border Land Seeds             Chris Helgoe

Maddock, ND area     Dakota Country Seed Co.   Tim Johnson

Rugby, ND                 Brossart Seed Inc.              Jason Brossart

Ada, MN                     Ada Feed & Seed               Grant Wagner

Red Lake Falls, MN    Payment Seed                    Danny Payment

Kennebec, SD            Halverson Hybrids              Kim Halverson

02/10/2014 :: Nuseed Announces New Team Member to Territory Managers

Nuseed Breckenridge has added a new Territory Manager to the team!

Welcome Laura Nieuwsma from Strasburg, ND

Laura grew up on a grain and cattle farm with two brothers; they were always taught to work hard and good things will come of it. After starting her college career in Bismarck, she recently graduated from South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, with a General Ag Degree.  Laura even studied a semester over in Dalian, China taking business classes. She did three Ag Sales internships - one with a local Co-op, and two with Croplan Genetics (Winfield Solutions). Laura is in her third week at work here in Breckenridge, MN, and said she is enjoying the work and the people very much already.

12/11/2013 :: Nuseed Announces New Team Member to Territory Managers

Nuseed® is proud to announce a new team member to our Territory Manager lineup - Dan Propst, CCA. 

Dan Propst has lived and worked in central South Dakota for more than 25 years.  Dan started with Ciba-Geigy and spent 17 years working with growers and ag retailers promoting crop protection products.  He then worked for Becker Underwood for 3 years marketing seed inoculants and seed treatment products.  Dan recently worked for Van Diest Supply Company marketing fertilizer and crop protection products. He has done extensive plot work studying crop rotations and no-till practices in Central and Western South Dakota.  Dan is a Certified Crop Advisor – CCA.

Dan has been married for 25 years to his wife, Ann. They have 3 children - Aaron, Tyler and Rachel.

11/15/2013 :: Nuseed Announces New Team Members to Dealer Network

Nuseed® is proud to announce new team members to our Independent Sales Associate (Dealer) network. For more ISA information please go to our ' Find a Dealer' tab.

Linton ND                      Thomas & Bailee Vetter

Kulm, ND                       Double “AA” Seeds Inc.          Harlan & Laurie Anderson

Wishek, ND                   Rudolf Farms                            Gene & Michael Rudolf 

Edmore, ND                  Johnson Seed Sales                Winston, Devon, & Dylon Johnson

Devils Lake, ND            Ness Farms                              Josie Ness

Fessenden, ND             Matt Mason

Dickinson, ND               Ridl Farms                                Art, Joe, Keith, & Kurt Ridl

Crosby, ND                   Justin Rindel

06/24/2013 :: When it rains, it pours! What is happening to my nitrogen? v 2.0

By Daniel Kaiser and John Lamb
Extension Soil Fertility Specialists

Many of our earlier planted fields in Minnesota have been exhibiting some significant variation in plant growth and yellowing this spring.  Our conditions in May and early June have been less than favorable for corn growth and for the release of nutrients from organic matter.  Due to the heavy rains nitrogen loss is being increasingly questioned and the decision of whether to side-dress or not will need to be made sooner or later.  There are a few considerations to make when deciding if more nitrogen should be applied.

First, because we have had areas of heave rainfall does not necessarily mean that a large portion of your nitrogen is lost. Our soils have been cool enough where denitrification due to water ponding on the soil surface should not be a major issue. Over the last week temperatures have warmed so ponding of water from now on is of greater concern. There are a few are some circumstances where some vigilance is needed.  Jeff Vetsch at the Southern Research and Outreach center recently reported that they have seen some movement of nitrate based on soil samples collected from research trials this spring following application of swine manure in October 2012.  Any N applied early last Fall would have the greatest chance for potential loss, and especially N applied without a nitrification inhibitor. At this point the fields with early fall application post the highest potential for needed some supplemental N applied.  However, the data from Waseca only showed movement of Nitrate-nitrogen in the soil profile.  If water is not flowing out of the tiles then any converted nitrate should still be within the soil profile.  The question is whether the corn roots will be able to reach it?

Second, some of the issues currently seen with corn could be due to a lack of oxygen to the roots.  Oxygen is needed for normal root development and for efficient uptake of nutrients by the roots.  Oxygen levels will be depleted in flooded soils and foliar symptoms can be exhibited that may look similar to some nutrient deficiencies.  If problems within fields are due to lack of oxygen there is not much that can be done other than wait until conditions improve.  As temperatures increase hopefully the appearance of the crop may improve.

Third, do not discount other sources of nutrient deficiencies.  Specifically sulfur deficiencies may also show up on plants.  While we have no direct evidence of widespread sulfur deficiencies, conditions are somewhat similar to what was seen in early 2009 where soils were wet and temperatures were cool.  Some of our largest responses to sulfur came in 2009.  If sulfur was applied and the crop still looks deficient the problem may be associated with lack of uptake and no fertilizer is likely needed.  An exception would elemental sulfur applications which require higher soil temperatures for oxidization.  It is likely that very little of the elemental sulfur applied last fall would have oxidized at this time.  Sulfur can still be applied as an early side-dress if a deficiency is expected around the V5 growth stage.  Dry fertilizer sources of sulfate sulfur can be broadcast applied at low rates.  In most instances 10 lbs of S per acre should be adequate for an in-season application.  Some leaf burning may occur but generally has not been found to reduce yields.  Liquid sources containing thiosulfate should not be sprayed over the top of growing corn or severe crop injury may results.  Coulter injection or dribbling ammonium thiosulfate is the best method for application.

How do I assess the amount of N that is available to the corn plant?

There are really only two tools left at this time of the growing season to determine whether to apply more N to a growing corn crop under non-irrigated conditions. The first is the pre-side dress nitrate-N test. This soil test was developed at Iowa State University in the 1990's. The soil test was for a sample taken to a depth of one foot. In Iowa, the researchers were able to calibrate it to an amount of N to apply. Similar research was conducted in Minnesota on many sites. A good calibration could not be developed in Minnesota. The only interpretation in Minnesota from the pre-sidedress N test is if the nitrate-N concentration is greater than 25 ppm then you do not need to apply extra N to the crop. This tool can not be used to determine the amount of N fertilizer to apply!

The second tool is the supplemental N decision tool. It can be found at: .

This simple worksheet was developed in 1992 and has been modified and tested over the years as a means of helping people decide if supplemental, or extra, N is needed. This decision aid is for situations when all of the N fertilizer was applied pre-plant, either in the fall or spring. It was not developed for determining N rates in a split N program. Keep in mind that good judgment is still important when using this decision aid. The worksheet should be used in June while you have side dress application options available. The worksheet outcome is based on the answers to three questions. Each answer is weighted on how it affected nitrogen in the soil.

--Question 1. When was the N applied? The more points the greater the chances of N fertilizer loss. Nitrogen fertilizer applied in the fall when soil temperatures were higher than 50 degrees has a greater chance for loss than a spring application of N.

--Question 2. What was the predominant spring (May) soil condition? The wetter the soil conditions are the greater the score. It takes into account if the soil is dry, moist, or if water has been standing. The more water in the soil the greater the score.

--Question 3. How does the crop look? The more stress the crop is showing the greater the score. The stress is evaluated by the color of the corn and height.


With a score of 7 points or less, your current nitrogen program is doing fine. With a score of 10 or more, supplemental fertilizer is recommended at a rate of 40 to 70 lbs of N per acre, depending on the situation. In most cases 40 to 50 lbs N per acre is plenty. A score of 8 or 9 falls into a gray area and it is recommended that you recalculate the worksheet in a week - the corn height/color will most likely change. The "re-evaluation" option is only viable as long as you have side-dressing options.

The use of the U of MN Supplemental Nitrogen Worksheet for Corn is a useful tool to determine if there is a need for addition N application to corn. If addition N is needed, 40 to 50 lb N per acre will do the job.

06/11/2013 :: Volunteer Corn: It's More Than a Weed Control Issue

By Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator - Crops

Volunteer corn has become one of the more prevalent weeds in fields across the Midwest. Conditions experienced in 2012, however, have combined to create almost a perfect storm in some fields for potentially high volunteer corn populations in 2013.

In areas most affected by the drought of 2012, stalk quality issues may have led to increased stalk breakage and dropped ears. Grain moisture was also very low in areas, reaching 13% or less across southern MN, for example, by the end of the harvest season. Harvesting grain at an extremely low grain moisture content can lead to increased mechanical harvest losses due to increased kernel shattering and ear droppage. These factors can lead to higher than normal volunteer corn populations the following year.

Volunteer corn not only can rob yield, but it also can impact the management of pests like corn rootworm. U of MN Extension has just published a fact sheet, "Control Volunteer Corn for Yield Protection and Corn Rootworm Management" that addresses these concerns and more. Yield impacts, the relationship between volunteer corn and corn rootworm population development, and potential impacts on resistance to Bt-CRW traits are discussed. Control options and why it is recommended to control volunteer corn by the V4 to V5 stage are also discussed.

You can view this fact sheet at:

04/15/2013 :: How Much Starter Can I Use on My Corn?

Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
University of Minnesota

Seemingly unpredictable weather conditions each spring inevitably bring up questions on placement of fertilizer with the seed.  Starter fertilizer has played an important role in nutrient management in corn in Minnesota.  However, tools for deciding on how much that can safely be applied have not been widely available.  While these tools can be used common sense is still needed in making a decision on what should be done.

Dr. Ron Gelderman at South Dakota State University developed a decision guide for multiple fertilizer sources and crops that can be helpful in deciding on rates to apply.  The guide is based on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that allows the used to vary soil moisture conditions, soil texture, and accepted level of risk for stand loss.  All three factors are important in making a decision on rate.  The guide also includes a variety of crops.  Pop up fertilizer use on soybeans is always a question on some of the soils in western MN that have a higher potential of tie-up of phosphorus.  However, the use of pop-up fertilizer on soybeans IS NOT recommended due to the greater risk for seedling damage on soybean relative to other crops.  Knowing the tolerance of a specific crop to seed placed fertilizer is important due to the varying potentials for stand damage.

FERTILIZER SEED DECISION AID (link can be found in this page)

We recently finished up a greenhouse study using several liquid and dry fertilizer sources for seed placement on corn.  Through funding provided by the MN Agricultural Fertilizer Research and Education Council we were not only able to look at the effects on emergence, but also the effects on nutrient uptake to obtain a better picture of optimum rates for uptake and maximum rates that could be applied before stand damage occurred.  Three soils were used in this study, a Le Sueur clay loam, Zimmerman fine sand, and a Floyd loam.  It is important to note that soil moisture was kept at 80% of field capacity to keep soil moisture as NOT LIMITING.  Therefore, any data presented would be of a situation of the best case scenario and would not be representative of a dry spring.

Our attempt was to develop a single model that could be used over a number of fertilizer sources to predict rates.  We used two approaches: 1) based on fertilizer rate; and 2) based on the amount of nutrients applied.  Our approach was to use and index value based on plants emerged after 14 days and total above ground growth based on the total number of seeds planted.  Both factors together should give a better picture of what was happening in the soil.  One thing we did notice on some fertilizer materials that even if stand was not reduced, plant growth may be reduced.  This was apparent with low rates of ammonium thiosulfate (ATS).  The effect of ATS could be readily seen in the plant mass but not in the emergence.  Both measurements were used to develop indexes that were based on the control where no fertilizer was applied (set at 100% relative value).

With approach 1, the fertilizer rate alone was not at all predictive of damage potential due to the relative injury potential of the various sources.  The fertilizer salt index was developed as a way to gauge the effects of fertilizer against each other but not predict the overall rate.  In order to weight the sources the salt index of the fertilizer source was multiplied times the rate of fertilizer applied.  There still was some variability in the data, but the overall relationship between the salt index weighted rates appeared to work well across fertilizer sources.  However, I do have some concerns which will be discussed when I present the data on predicted rates.

One factor that we wanted to study was the old rule of thumb of no more than 10 lbs N+K2O to be applied with the seed in medium and fine textured soils.  When we factored in the amount of N+K2O in a prediction model the rate that returned 100% that of the control was right on 10 lbs N+K2O which validates the old rule of thumb.  The value for the sandy soil was 4-5 lbs N+K2O, roughly half of the other two soils.  Two exceptions were found to this rule.  First, ATS rates predicted by this model are extremely high and SHOULD NOT be used.  When the total amount of N and S were factored for ATS, both models returned similar rates but the rate model would be better since it is slightly more conservative in it's prediction.  The thiosulfate ion in ATS does pose serious risk for damage, but when potassium thiosulfate (KTS) was tested it did not appear to have the same effect as ATS.  Therefore, ATS should be considered differently than other sources and approached with extreme caution.  I would always prefer to see ATS applied in a band on the soil surface to the side of the row to lessen the risk for stand loss.  The other issue occurred when predicting the rate of a low salt source, 9-18-9.  For 9-18-9, the K in the source does not appear to have the same effect and the N+K2O rule appears to be highly conservative when predicting rate.  The two models predicted similar rates of 9-18-9 when only the N portion was considered without the K2O.  I still would err with some caution on some of the NPK mixes especially if urea is added to increase the nitrogen concentration.  Urea can be extremely damaging especially in situations where high amount of ammonia (NH3) are liberated in the soil.

The table below shows the calculated rates for several sources used in the study based on 30" row spacing.  As was mentioned before, some caution should be used when viewing this data since it was developed under highly controlled circumstances.  Since the model used was developed across all sources it predicts a non-zero application rate for all sources.  For ATS and urea, when models were generated for each product individually, no rate could be safely applied.  However, the rates predicted are relatively low and could be used if some risk is acceptable.  The SDSU fertilizer decision guide is useful in visualizing the risk associated by modifying the tolerated stand loss in the worksheet.  As with any management decision, sound judgment should always be used.  The Low and High rates in the table were developed based around the confidence interval of the mean and are meant represent the relative risk for damage to the seed (low end of the range, risk is lower but not zero; high end, risk is higher).  It does not mean that damage will occur, but damage will be more likely when rates are applied above the high end of the range in the table.  When using models such as these for products like ATS, AMS, urea, and KTS, values near the low end of the range would be a better choice since the potential for damage is high.  The table below is meant as a general guideline for the damage potential for a fertilizer source and not present a direct recommendation on how much to apply since the exact rate that can be safely applied depends on many conditions at planting.

starter table.jpgTable Abbreviations (AMS, ammonium sulfate; ATS, ammonium thiosulfate; APP, 10-34-0; DAP, 18-46-0; KCl, potash (0-0-60); KTS, potassium thiosulfate; MAP, 11-52-0).

Always err with some caution when applying fertilizer with the seed.  There is no 100% safe fertilizer source for seed placement.  While some may believe a product is 100% safe, statements on safety are always predicated with the rate applied.  At low rates, some fertilizer sources may pose a lower risk for stand damage but there always is some risk associated with this practice depending on soil moisture conditions and soil texture.  In the end, too much of a good thing can be very bad.  However, if some caution is maintained the use of starter fertilizer can be a beneficial practice for corn.

By Daniel Kaiser on April 2, 2013 1:52 PM

04/08/2013 :: Farm Rescue founder launches separate foundation

BISMARCK — The founder of Farm Rescue has launched a separate foundation to further his cause of helping farmers stricken by major illnesses, ailments or disasters.

 Farm Rescue helps farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and eastern Montana with planting and harvesting. Founder and CEO Bill Gross says the new Farm Rescue Foundation will help farmers in the recovery process with specialized equipment, or with some farm tasks they're unable to do.

 Langdon farmer Brett Kakela is recovering from a stroke. The foundation helped him get equipment that will enable him to unload grain without having to climb out of his truck. He says he appreciates the help.

 The foundation aims to help about 20 farmers in North Dakota this spring and expand to the other four states this fall.

 Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

04/02/2013 :: Soil Tesing For K

With spring finally approaching it is a good time to address some questions on soil testing that came up of the winter concerning testing soils in a field moist state versus the standard dried samples that are run through soil testing labs.  First I would like to make it clear that the issue of drying of a soil sample mainly pertains to potassium.  Most other tests routinely run through the lab are not affected by drying of the sample.  The reason why potassium is different is due to its chemistry in the soil.  We currently have finished the second year of potassium studies looking at both testing methods but will be continuing this work for the foreseeable future to gain a better understanding of what is going on within the soil.

Over the past two years we have been running samples both ways, field moist and air dried, to look at differences.  In Iowa, field research has noted some instances where the field moist test returns a lower value than the air dried sample.  For some soils this causes a serious issue as the air dried test would have the tendency to overestimate the amount of K available.  In our work beginning in 2011 we have not seen this effect to occur.  A figure isredwing1.jpg included from soil samples collected at a plot near Red Wing in the fall of 2012.  This typifies some of our locations in the past two years where the field moist test has actually returned higher values than the air dry tests.  With the dry soil conditions complicating matters, we really do not know whether one is actually correct in assessing the potential for a deficiency of K in out soils.  The fact is that we are too early in our work to tell the difference between the two tests.  If fact, our current calibration data shows that there is no difference in the assessment of crop response between a sample run field moist and air dry, even with the handful of locations testing higher with the field moist analysis.  We currently are trying to expand research into poorly drained fields as these should represent conditions where the field moist potassium test has a better chance of coming back lower than the air dry test.  The fact of the matter is that we know there are likely issues out there but have no concrete evidence to show where they are occurring.

Even with some of the issues noted I would like to make it clear that I have full confidence in the current analysis methods being used for testing K by soil testing labs in the state of Minnesota.  Again, we are looking at these issues closely but the development of the field moist test and if we do find some evidence that it better predicts K response in some soils it will become publically available.  The moist test is a different test than the air dried samples, and the value of the field moist cannot be directly converted to an air dry test.  Because of this all new field calibrations will have to be established prior to any recommended use of the field moist test for potassium.  This is very important for anyone thinking of having sample run at a lab using field moist testing for potassium.  A few labs are currently running samples on a field moist basis, but until it is clearly demonstrated that the field moist test better predicts potassium response it will not be recommended for use in the state of Minnesota.

We currently are in the process of establishing a soil test sentinel program to study changes in soil test over time across the state of Minnesota.  More information will be available in another e-news release on this program.  One of the factors we intend to study is the difference between field most and air dried samples for testing for potassium and how they change at a fixed point in space, over time.  What this program entails is taking soil samples from a fixed area of any field every 4 to 6 weeks and sending the sample to Daniel Kaiser at the Saint Paul campus.  What we are attempting to research is how soils from around the state vary in the difference between the two tests to get a better understanding if and where problem soils may be found.  With the diversity of soils this it is important to know how soils may differ.  Support for this program is coming through check-off dollars supported by AFREC.  Additional information will be available and can be obtained by contacting Daniel Kaiser at

By Daniel Kaiser on April 1, 2013

03/04/2013 :: Six Secrets of Soybean Success

Fred Below, Ph.D., Professor of Crop Physiology, University of Illinois, and AJ Woodyard, technical crop production specialist, BASF, shared their latest data about how farmers can nearly double their yields with a comprehensive pest management plan, during an educational session titled “Six Secrets of Soybeans Revealed,” at Commodity Classic.

While both Below and BASF conducted research independent of each other, their results were very similar: growers can maximize yields by using a comprehensive agronomic management program featuring a combination of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.

“Comprehensive pest-management solutions are delivering exponential yield improvements and dramatically changing the odds in favor of farmers,” said Woodyard, who summarized recent BASF research.

Woodyard highlighted studies that consisted of a combination treatment of BASF herbicides and fungicides in corn, and BASF herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in soybeans, and compared their effectiveness to a glyphosate-based control program. Results revealed soybean yields increased by an average of 6.0 bu/A over the glyphosate-only program.1

According to Below, the current average soybean yield in the U.S. is roughly 42 bu/A, and has been hovering around that figure for the past few years.

“While it may seem daunting, the quest for 85.0 bu/A isn’t a stretch. Yields of this nature are produced each year in state contests, so we know it can be done,” Below said. “The trick is figuring out how to consistently produce these yield levels, and our research has identified six strategies to help accomplish this task.”

In 2012, Below and his team at the University of Illinois set up multi-location trials in their home state to analyze the value of management factors that contribute to soybean yield.2 What they discovered were six “secrets” that are critical for achieving high yield goals:

1. Weather: While weather is out of anyone’s control, Below’s team found that it influences the success of all other management factors. Management practices that promote strong root development, such as fertility, enhanced seed emergence and disease control, may help mitigate its negative effects.

2. Improve soil fertility: Below believes that soil fertility is one of the most important, yet often overlooked components of high yield soybean production. Improved soil fertility can be managed through balanced crop nutrition and fertilizer placement technologies. Below’s 2012 research revealed an additional 4.3bu/A with this secret.

3. Maximize genetic yield potential: Similar to corn hybrids, Below believes that proper selection of soybean varieties is crucial for success in a management intensive, high yield production system. Below’s 2012 research revealed an additional 3.2 bu/A with this secret.

4. Protect yield potential and maximize seed size: “Disease and insect control is imperative for producing any crop,” Below said. “By using a combination of a fungicide and insecticide, critical soybean leaf area is maintained for intercepting sunlight and maximizing seed fill.” Below’s 2012 research revealed an additional 3.6 bu/A with this secret.

5. Enhance seed emergence and vigor: Through the use of fungicidal, insecticidal and plant growth regulator seed treatments, early season growth and vigor will be protected from yield robbing stresses such as disease and insects. Below’s 2012 research revealed an additional 2.6 bu/A with this secret.

6. Utilize narrow row spacing: Below believes there are distinct advantages to planting narrow rows, specifically 20 inch rows. This would allow precision fertilizer placement in a corn-soybean rotation. “Planting soybean on these same rows might take advantage of the previous year’s corn fertility practices. Furthermore, 20 inch rows improve light interception and ultimately provide a good foundation for maximizing yields,” he said. Below’s 2012 research revealed an additional 2.1 bu/A with this secret.

Woodyard suggests that growers interested in high-yield soybean production should put together a season-long road map for their acres. “Early in the season, growers should set aside time to develop a full-season plan on how they’re going to get the most out of every acre,” said Woodyard.

For more information on Below and his research, visit

02/25/2013 :: Soil and Management Factors Influence Seeding Depth

By Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Department of Agronomy

Dry conditions and lack of soil moisture availability, especially during planting time this spring, can create water stress resulting in delayed germination, a reduction in plant stands or may prevent seed germination. When a corn seed absorbs 30 percent of its weight in water the germination process commences. For comparison, soybeans absorb half of their weight in water before they germinate. Therefore, the level of soil moisture in the soil seedbed at planting dictates this critical process. For successful seed germination, ideally soil moisture should be at or close to field capacity. At field capacity the soil retains the maximum amount of moisture. Field capacity is influenced by soil texture; for example, fine-textured soils, such as clay or loam soils, have larger moisture holding field capacity than coarse-textured soils such as sandy-textured soils.

 Soil texture and tillage influence available soil moisture

Dry conditions influence soil moisture availability differently depending on soil texture. Fine-textured soils have less available water than medium or coarse-textured soils. For example, loam soils that contain 20 to 37 percent clay have greater water available to the plant than clay soils that contain greater than 40 percent clay. 

The other factor that affects water availability in dry conditions is the tillage intensity, especially at seeding depth. To understand how moisture moves within the seedbed under different moisture conditions, we need to understand the process by which water moves in the soil profile and the factors affecting this process. Under dry conditions, water moves upward in the soil profile toward the soil surface where soil water evaporation takes place. Suction or tension is the force that moves water upward in the soil profile. This suction or tension is highly influenced by soil texture and moisture condition, where greater tension is associated with fine soil texture and dry soil.  Water moves from wet areas (areas of low tension) to drier areas (areas of high tension). The drier the soil surface, the greater the soil suction that moves water from the subsoil to the soil surface.

 Soil texture and tillage affect seeding depth

Many factors affect the water movement process and dictate how deep seeds must be placed in the soil. First, we need to consider soil texture. As I indicated above, the finer the soil texture, the greater the soil suction is to move water toward the soil surface than in coarse-textured soils.  Therefore, seeding depth can be shallower in fine-textured soils than in sandy soils depending on how dry the soil actually is. Generally, when the soil moisture condition at the seeding depth is much below field capacity, planting deeper than usual is advisable. Seed should be placed in soil that is at field capacity for optimum germination.  

To determine if soil moisture is at field capacity, take a handful of soil from the proposed seeding depth. If the soil is at field capacity, it will leave a trace of moisture on the palm of your hand when you squeeze it. Or you should be able to form the soil into a ball, which, when thrown in the air, will not disintegrate.

The second factor that dictates seeding depth is the type of tillage system. Generally, conventional tillage alters the soil surface condition, resulting in faster soil evaporation throughout the tillage zone. This leads to significant soil moisture losses. In a dry year, these conditions are detrimental to moisture availability in many ways. First, tillage increases water evaporation from the tillage zone.  Second, tillage destroys soil structure and reduces water movement through capillary action. It does this by destroying the continuity of the capillary system responsible for moisture supply to the seedbed, and reduces water recharge to where the seeds are placed. 

These conditions are completely opposite from what is  found in a no-till system; in this system, the soil structure remains intact and moisture moves evenly to the soil surface. One reason for this is that in no-till the soil structure and the capillary system is intact and continuously supplies moisture to the seedbed. The other reason is that the residue on no-till soil surfaces insulates the soil surface and reduces soil evaporation and also reduces or moderates soil temperature. 

In dry conditions, seeding depth can and should differ depending on the soil texture, tillage system and residue cover.  Knowing the texture of the soil in your field and its management requirements especially in dry conditions will dictate how deep seeds should be placed to have adequate available moisture for successful germination.

02/20/2013 :: Benefits of Bt Corn

Targeted News Service -- ALEXANDRIA, VA -- Februatry 6, 2013  -- Engineered to produce the bacterial toxin, Bt, "Bt corn" resists attack by corn rootworm, a pest that feeds on roots and can cause annual losses of up to $1 billion. But besides merely protecting against these losses, the Bt trait has also boosted corn yields, in some cases beyond normal expectations. So what makes it so successful?

Fred Below and Jason Haegele of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to answer that question by determining how Bt corn uses nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for corn, and with better root systems, it's possible that Bt corn uses nitrogen differently than non-resistant strains, the scientists hypothesized, in turn affecting corn production. The study, published today in Crop Science, showed just that - Bt corn had higher yields and used nitrogen more efficiently than non-resistant corn.
With its resistance to corn rootworm, Below explains, Bt corn has healthier and more active roots than corn without the resistance trait. And a better root system can lead to improved function for the plant as a whole.
"If you can protect the investment the plants made in the root system," explains Below, "you can realize everything that roots do like take up nutrients and water and provide anchorage."
The researchers conducted experiments over two years, growing resistant and non-resistant crops and applying five different amounts of nitrogen. The resistant corn had higher yields than the non-resistant crops (nearly 21 bushels per acre) and more easily tolerated low nitrogen levels.
More efficient use of nitrogen in the soil would be especially beneficial in areas where nitrogen is lost through heavy precipitation or erosion. Additionally, Bt corn would fare better at current levels of nitrogen use in the United States.
"In 2010, the average nitrogen application rate for corn production was around 140 lb/acre," say Haegele and Below. "Our study shows that the resistant strains we evaluated would have higher yields at that rate of nitrogen application."
The healthy roots and efficient nutrient use of Bt corn could lead to changes in management practices that would further increase production. Banded or placed fertility, a method by which a farmer can place fertilizer where the roots are likely to be, would be more effective when used on the robust root system. Additionally, increasing plant populations could further increase yield.
"When you have a higher population of plants, each individual plant has a smaller root system, so that made it difficult to increase plant population when you had insects chewing on the roots," explains Below. "With the Bt corn, though, you can protect the root system and grow more plants."
In addition to its utility in crop production, Below is hopeful that Bt corn will open up new avenues of research as scientists begin to better understand root systems. "Plant roots are below ground and are hard to study. It's a big, unexplored horizon, both in agronomics and crop biology. I think that's why the trait is of such value."

Crop Science Society of America

02/14/2013 :: Crop Science Society of America

Targeted News Service -- ALEXANDRIA, VA -- February 6, 2013 -- Engineered to produce the bacterial toxin, Bt, "Bt corn" resists attack by corn rootworm, a pest that feeds on roots and can cause annual losses of up to $1 billion. But besides merely protecting against these losses, the Bt trait has also boosted corn yields, in some cases beyond normal expectations. So what makes it so successful?

Fred Below and Jason Haegele of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set out to answer that question by determining how Bt corn uses nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for corn, and with better root systems, it's possible that Bt corn uses nitrogen differently than non-resistant strains, the scientists hypothesized, in turn affecting corn production. The study, published today in Crop Science, showed just that - Bt corn had higher yields and used nitrogen more efficiently than non-resistant corn.

With its resistance to corn rootworm, Below explains, Bt corn has healthier and more active roots than corn without the resistance trait. And a better root system can lead to improved function for the plant as a whole.

"If you can protect the investment the plants made in the root system," explains Below, "you can realize everything that roots do like take up nutrients and water and provide anchorage."

The researchers conducted experiments over two years, growing resistant and non-resistant crops and applying five different amounts of nitrogen. The resistant corn had higher yields than the non-resistant crops (nearly 21 bushels per acre) and more easily tolerated low nitrogen levels.

More efficient use of nitrogen in the soil would be especially beneficial in areas where nitrogen is lost through heavy precipitation or erosion. Additionally, Bt corn would fare better at current levels of nitrogen use in the United States.

"In 2010, the average nitrogen application rate for corn production was around 140 lb/acre," say Haegele and Below. "Our study shows that the resistant strains we evaluated would have higher yields at that rate of nitrogen application."

The healthy roots and efficient nutrient use of Bt corn could lead to changes in management practices that would further increase production. Banded or placed fertility, a method by which a farmer can place fertilizer where the roots are likely to be, would be more effective when used on the robust root system. Additionally, increasing plant populations could further increase yield.

"When you have a higher population of plants, each individual plant has a smaller root system, so that made it difficult to increase plant population when you had insects chewing on the roots," explains Below. "With the Bt corn, though, you can protect the root system and grow more plants."

In addition to its utility in crop production, Below is hopeful that Bt corn will open up new avenues of research as scientists begin to better understand root systems. "Plant roots are below ground and are hard to study. It's a big, unexplored horizon, both in agronomics and crop biology. I think that's why the trait is of such value."

01/02/2013 :: 18 Resolutions to Improve Farming Practices in 2013

Dec. 27, 2012 Source: Purdue University

New Year's resolutions aren't just for those who are overweight, sedentary or struggling to break a bad habit. Farmers can resolve to avoid poor management practices or implement better production techniques in 2013. Here, Purdue University crop, livestock and agricultural economics specialists share their top three farmer resolutions for the year ahead.

Corn and Soybean Resolutions

Bob Nielsen, Extension corn specialist

1. Resolve to improve hybrid decision-making. "Look for hybrids that not only have high yield potential but also a demonstrated ability to consistently achieve that potential across a wide range of growing conditions, because you cannot predict what 2013 will bring in terms of weather."

2. Resolve to spend more time in the fields with the crops."This will help you better identify the yield-influencing factors most important to your farming operation. Then work with your advisor(s) to develop strategies to begin managing those factors."

3. Resolve to work toward improving the overall efficiency of your nitrogen management program. "Take steps to reduce the risks of N loss, such as leaching, denitrification and volatilization."

Shaun Casteel, Extension soybean specialist

4. Resolve to read the variety tag."Seed size varies from year to year. The drought conditions – timing and duration – have impacted seed size (small and large), germination and vigor. Your planter settings and seeding rates need to be adjusted accordingly."

5. Resolve to take stand counts."Plant populations of 100,000-120,000 plants/acre optimize return in investment. Early season stand counts provide the opportunity to verify your seeding rates and emergence potential. You will also be scouting the field for pressures of weeds and pests."

6. Resolve to harvest grain above 13% moisture."We are losing out on a portion of our yield when we harvest below 13%. Note that this might mean having to set the combine multiple times based on the toughness of the stem and ease of pod threshing. You will gain yield in water weight and reduce the losses due to dry grain and header loss."

Forage and Economic Resolutions

Chris Hurt, Extension agricultural economist

7. Resolve to never say, "It can't happen to me.""The 2012 drought was a stark reminder that bad outcomes can come to our farms and businesses. Evaluate and use the tools to help reduce the terrible financial consequences that can come from bad outcomes. Start with a re-evaluation of crop insurance alternatives."

8. Resolve to make 2013 a learning year."New technology is coming at us quickly. There will be a new farm bill to learn about. Tax laws will likely change. New farm products are emerging. Brand new opportunities will be presenting themselves. Be sure to commit time to increasing your knowledge and to the improvement of your decision-making skills."

9. Resolve to review your family's succession plan and update your estate plan."Even if you have a great plan, remember the laws are changing. At the very least, learn about those changes and how they affect your plan. If you don't have a plan, the new laws will give you a great reason to get started."

Keith Johnson, Extension forage specialist

10. Resolve to sample soils for nutrient levels."Follow through with the addition of limestone and fertilizer recommended by the test. The application of a blended fertilizer like 12-12-12 and calling this your fertilizer program is not a wise decision."

11. Resolve to scout fields."Do this weekly to determine the well being of the growing forages. Evaluate grazing pressure, presence of pests – weeds, insects and disease – and possible nutrient deficiency symptoms."

12. Resolve to evaluate the possibility of grazing corn residues in the early fall."This can reduce feed cost substantially for beef and sheep producers."

Livestock resolutions

Ron Lemenager, Extension beef specialist

13. Resolve to take feed samplesand have them analyzed for nutrient content. "Work with a nutritionist to formulate rations that will minimize cost and optimize performance."

14. Resolve to adjust rations for cold stress, to minimize losses in weight and body condition. "For each 10° drop in wind chill factor below 30° F, the maintenance energy requirements increase by 13% for cows in moderate body conditioned with a dry, winter hair coat and 30% for thin cows or cows with a wet or summer hair coat."

15. Resolve to create a business planof where you want to go and how you plan to get there. "It can help not only when you go to the bank for a loan, but also when the IRS does an audit."

Brian Richert, Extension swine specialist

16. Resolve to closely monitor your feeding program, since feed is 70% of your swine costs. "This includes sticking to your feed budgets, being vigilant in your feeder adjustments, monitoring your feed particle size and analyzing your feed ingredients. Analyzing your feed ingredients is critical when you feed more byproducts with their increased variability, and with a bad growing season this year even our corn and soybean meal needs to be analyzed."

17. Resolve to collect and use records."You should be culling the lowest-producing females, monitoring drug use, conducting timely euthanasia and evaluating all your costs across all phases of production."

18. Resolve to re-evaluate vaccination and medication plans."Meet with your herd veterinarian to ensure they are meeting your herd's health needs."

 Other crop and livestock management tips are available at Purdue's Agricultural Producers information page.

11/12/2012 :: Corn belt moving northward with climate change

 WASHINGTON -- Joe Waldman is saying goodbye to corn after yet another hot and dry summer convinced him that rainfall won't be there when he needs it anymore.

"I finally just said uncle," said Mr. Waldman, 52, surveying his stunted crop about 100 miles north of Dodge City, Kansas. Instead, he will expand sorghum, which requires less rain; let some fields remain fallow; and restrict corn to irrigated fields.

While farmers nationwide planted the most corn this year since 1937, growers in Kansas sowed the fewest acres in three years, instead turning to less-thirsty crops such as wheat, sorghum and even triticale, a wheat-rye mix popular in Poland. Meanwhile, corn acreage in Manitoba, a Canadian province about 700 miles north of Kansas, has nearly doubled over the past decade due to weather changes and higher prices.

Shifts such as these reflect a view among food producers that this summer's drought in the United States -- the worst in half a century -- isn't a random disaster. It's a glimpse of a future altered by climate change that will affect worldwide production.

"These changes are happening faster than plants can adapt, so we will see substantial impacts on global growing patterns," said Axel Schmidt, a former senior scientist for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture now with Catholic Relief Services.

While there is still debate about how human activity is altering the climate, agriculture is already adapting to shifting weather patterns.

Agribusiness giant Cargill is investing in northern U.S. facilities, anticipating increased grain production in that part of the country, said Greg Page, the chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-based company.

"The number of rail cars, the number of silos, the amount of loading capacity" all change, Mr. Page said in an interview in New York. "You can see capital go to where there is ability to produce more tons per acre."

Losses in some areas will mean gains in others, Mr. Page said. A native of Bottineau, a small town on North Dakota's border with Canada, Mr. Page said that when he was in high school in the 1960s, "you could grow wheat, or wheat. That was it," he said.

"You go to that very same place today -- they can grow soybeans, they can grow canola, they can grow corn, they can grow field peas and export them to India," he said. "A lot of that has been to do with the fact that they have six, eight days more of frost-free weather."

This year's U.S. drought was the most severe since 1954, according to the Palmer Drought Index, which has measured such weather phenomena since 1895. The hot, dry conditions pushed estimates for the country's corn harvest to the lowest level in six years and the projected average cash price to an all-time high.

September was the 331th consecutive month in which temperatures worldwide topped the 20th-century average, the U.S. National Climatic Data Center said Monday. Corn futures in Chicago, which reached a record $8.49 a bushel in August, have since declined 13 percent, closing Monday at $7.325.

The Department of Agriculture this year updated its plant hardiness map for the first time since 1990, shifting many regions into zones that are 5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than in the late 20th century.

The data show a climate in transition, with agriculture needing to adapt, said Wolfram Schlenker, an environmental economist at Columbia University in New York. Even small changes in average temperature may shift climate patterns, affecting rainfall, evaporation rates and the ability of plants to thrive in certain environments, he said.

"We'll see a real mix of crop signals and climate signals," he said in an interview. For farmers in poorer countries, adaptation to new weather patterns "can be a matter of life and death," he said.

Crop insurance paid out to farmers experiencing lost yields may top $25 billion this year, with the biggest losses concentrated in Midwest states, according to Kansas State University. Corn yields may average 122 bushels an acre this year, the lowest since 1995, the USDA said last week.

Western Kansas is in its second year of severe drought. Last year was the third-driest in Dodge City since record- keeping began in 1900; this year, the town's temperatures were above-average every month through July.

Weather has always been harsh in the region where Dust Bowl storms first blew, requiring farmers to rely on low-water crops like wheat to survive. The harnessing of the Ogalalla Aquifer, a massive underground lake that runs from South Dakota to west Texas provides about 30 percent of U.S. irrigation groundwater, has allowed corn to flower where rainfall can't support it. New varieties of hybrid plants and genetically modified seed have also helped.

That expansion may be ebbing with the drought, and the Ogalalla.

Ty Rumford, who manages High Choice Feeders south of Scott City, Kansas, is planting less corn and more triticale to feed the 37,000 animals in his company's two feed yards. A hardier crop is necessary as water availability falls, he said.

"When the wells were put down here in the '40s, they went 30 foot down into a 180-foot-deep aquifer," he said. "Those wells were pumping 1,500, 2,000 gallons a minute in the '50s. Now, we're at 135 feet deep, and they're pumping 200, 250 a minute. We've got to make sure we have enough water."

Triticale works for feedlots because it's used on-site in cattle rations, lowering costs, Mr. Rumford said. Its appeal is less for farmers who grow crops for the marketplace, he said.

"We're consuming everything we grow, so it's not important to have an outside market" for triticale, he said.

Seth Perlman/Associated Press

By Alan Bjerga / Bloomberg News


10/24/2012 :: Farm Rescue continues to expand into other states

The footprint of Farm Rescue continues to grow. Recently the non-profit organization that provides free planting and harvesting assistance to farmers and ranchers who have experienced a major injury, illness or natural disaster, began providing assistance to farmers in Iowa, according to Bill Gross, Farm Rescue founder.

This expansion means there will now be a satellite station in Sioux Falls, S.D., that will coordinate activities in southern South Dakota, Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Faron Wahl has been selected to man the Sioux Falls location and will be responsible for coordinating planting and harvesting assistance operations in that region, as well as finding additional volunteers and sponsors.

"With the addition of activities in Iowa, that stretches Farm Rescue's geography far enough to the south and east that a coordinator was needed for that region," Wahl said. "Farm Rescue will remain one operation with one mission. It just adds another person to help keep the ball rolling and be able to be in enough places at one time."

Wahl is no stranger to agriculture; he grew up on a farm and ranch operation in South Dakota and has always had aspirations to return to the farm. But the tough farm economy and high interest rates of the 1980s made the prospects of a career in farming very bleak at the time. Wahl instead decided to pursue a paramedic career which has now spanned 21 years, with the last 10 spent co-managing the 911 paramedic system in the Sioux Falls area.

But he has always had the desire to get into a career where he could be involved with farm families and the Farm Rescue position seemed to be a perfect fit.

"You can't beat working with this organization," he explained. "Not only with the farm families we are assisting, but the army of volunteers who we are working with."

The expansion into Iowa meant adding more equipment to the Farm Rescue line-up, which RDO Equipment Co. was glad to do. This means there are a total of three combines helping with the harvest assistance this fall and next spring three planting units will be rolling across the fields of those farmers needing assistance.

During an interview that took place in the field of the 200th farm family Farm Rescue has provided assistance to, Gross said there are no immediate plans to increase the geographical coverage area or add to the number of field units they are now running.

"We are toying with the idea of opening up an office in Iowa, but we don't have enough presence there yet or sponsors," Gross said. "But I'm thinking that within 12 months we will have a little office in Iowa."

Farm Rescue relies on two major components for its success - volunteers and sponsorships. As in the past, people are anxious to lend their help with the expansion into Iowa.

"We are now helping our third family in Iowa with harvesting assistance," Gross said, "and we have had 15 emails from people offering to help. In fact, the activity going on down there today is being run by local people."

At times the sponsorships are a little harder to come by and require a bit more work, Gross noted.

"People think that the money just comes into a non-profit organization, but the money doesn't simply come in," he said. "Every business has to be approached and there are many grants that have to be written. At times it can be nerve-racking.

"But fund raising has gotten a little easier now that we have a proven track record and have families we have provided assistance to that are willing to endorse us," he continued.

"But, people never throw money at you - you still have to ask."

Farm Rescue also faces another challenge that most organizations don't have to deal with - the logistics of getting farm equipment from one location to another.

"It's sometimes a challenge to get the volunteers and the equipment to the right place at the right time and to schedule all of these farms for harvesting or planting assistance."

Challenges aside, Farm Rescue continues to grow, not only in the area where assistance is provided, but also in the number of farm and ranch families aided. The 300th farm family given assistance can't be too far down the road.

By DALE HILDEBRANT, Farm & Ranch Guide Farm & Ranch Guide

09/26/2012 :: Reduce the Risk of a Combine Fire

Farmers are reporting an increase in combine fires this harvesting season.

"No doubt, the extended dry weather has increased the fire danger on combines, but there are several other factors that can cause fires," says John Nowatzki, North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural machine systems specialist. "Combine operators can reduce the risk by recognizing the problem areas and acting to reduce the potential for fires."

Crop residue buildup around combine engines and exhaust pipes are obvious places where fires can start. The surface temperature of exhaust pipes can be high enough to ignite straw and chaff. Operators should check these areas regularly throughout the day and remove any buildup of chaff, straw and dust. The shields and covers on older-model combines generally are less effective than the covers on newer machines at preventing residue buildup around engines.

"Loose belts and worn bearings can create enough heat to ignite crop residue," Nowatzki says. "Operators need to monitor these conditions regularly. Shut down the combine and stop the engine to check the belts and bearings for potential fire hazards. Remove any buildup of dust and crop residue in contact with shafts, pulleys and bearings. Newer combines may be equipped with sensors to alert operators to potential hot spots. Operators still need to find those locations and make sure the area is free of debris."

Exposed wires and worn insulation can cause electrical sparks that can lead to fires. If electrical fuses blow, operators should suspect the cause may be exposed wires. Inspect wiring harnesses to make sure there are no exposed wires.

Leaking hydraulic cylinders, hoses and fuel, and hydraulic tanks are obvious conditions that cause combine fires. Repair leaks immediately and wipe off any spilled oil and fuel. Be particularly careful while refueling. Turn off the engine and let it cool before refueling.

"Always have an approved, regularly maintained fire extinguisher in every combine, tractor, truck and pickup used in the harvesting operations," Nowatzki says. "Check the condition of each fire extinguisher daily. Finally, have the local fire department's telephone number recorded in the cab of all the machines and vehicles and listed in your cell phone."

North Dakota Ag Connection - 09/26/2012

09/17/2012 :: Negative Cross-Resistance Outmaneuvers Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

Kochia, a weed that is rapidly becoming more abundant across southern Canadian prairies and the Great Plains of the United States, can reduce crop yields by up to 60 percent. Fighting this weed has become difficult because more than 90 percent of kochia populations are now resistant to acetolactate synthase (ALS)-inhibiting herbicides. The phenomenon of negative cross-resistance, however, may offer another path to defeating the spread of this weed.

The current issue of the journal Weed Technology reports on a greenhouse test of kochia plants. Six alternative herbicides were tested on kochia plants with the resistant mutation. Researchers were looking for differences in the reactions of the resistant kochia compared with the wild plant, which is still susceptible to herbicides.

When a plant becomes resistant to one herbicide, other physiological changes may occur that result in increased sensitivity to other herbicide families. The mutated, resistant plant that is more susceptible to the second herbicide is displaying the characteristic of negative cross-resistance.

By using negative cross-resistance to their advantage, weed scientists can outmaneuver the resistant plants. A plan of resistance management can be formulated to attack the weeds with different herbicides, controlling the resistant populations.

In the current study, researchers treated plants from six ALS resistant kochia accessions that have the Pro197 or Trp574 mutation with six alternative herbicides that attack different sites and growth processes of the plant. No difference was noted between the resistant and the susceptible kochia plants when they were exposed to the herbicides bromoxynil, fluroxypyr, or glyphosate. However, one accession with the Trp574 mutation did show negative cross-resistance.

When exposed to pyrasulfotole, mesotrione, and carfentrazone herbicides, ALS-resistant kochia were, 80, 60, and 50 percent more sensitive than the ALS-susceptible plants. Rather than being ALS-inhibiting, these herbicides target different functions of the plant.

Full text of the article is available in Weed Technology at

North Dakota Ag Connection - 09/17/2012


Sunflower harvest has begun in NW Minnesota. It’s time to take advantage of the favor Mother Nature has handed us and desiccate now. The short term forecast is calling for dry conditions with above-average temperatures. Late-season crop damage is well recognized when strong winds can lodge plants or rub seeds from heads. Blackbird damage can be reduced by getting the crop off earlier, ahead of migratory flocks. The investment in desiccation more than pays for itself in saved crop. Timing is the most critical factor for spraying. The optimal time is when bracts are turning brown and seed moisture is about 35% or less. For more information on desiccation, go to the NSA website at

08/28/2012 :: Evaluate potential yields from drought-stressed corn

The drought and heat stress have taken their toll on kernel numbers in this year’s corn crop in many Minnesota counties through unsuccessful fertilization, aborted kernels, and decreased kernel size and weight.

Unsuccessful fertilization results in varying degrees of incomplete kernel set. Drought and heat cause unsuccessful fertilization by delaying silk emergence until pollen shed is finished or by drying out exposed silks, making them non-receptive to germination.

Even if pollination occurs successfully, severe drought stress that continues into the early stages of kernel development (blister and milk stages) can easily abort kernels. Aborted kernels are distinguished from unfertilized ovules in that aborted kernels have actually begun development. Aborted kernels will be shrunken, mostly white, often with the yellow embryo visible.

Severe weather stress also causes decreased kernel size and weight, leading to decreased grain yield.

Corn growers in Minnesota may want to predict grain yields prior to harvest in order to help develop grain marketing and harvest plans.

One option to evaluate potential yield is to use the following yield component method developed by the University of Illinois. The principle advantage of this method is that it can be used as early as the milk stage of kernel development.

To get kernel counts multiply ears per section by average kernels per ear:

– Count the number of harvestable ears in 1/1000 of an acre (17 feet, 5 inches in 30-inch rows).

– Select three representative ears. If ear size is highly variable, select five or six ears. Count kernels per ear. Average these counts.

– Multiply the number from step 1 (number of harvestable ears in section) by the number from step 2 (average kernels per ear) to get number of kernels per 1/1000 of an acre.

– To estimate yield, divide the number of kernels in 1/1000 of an acre by the number (in thousands) of kernels expected to be in a bushel at maturity. This number can range from less than 60 to more than 120, but 90,000 kernels in a bushel is a good starting point, so divide by 90 to get estimated bushels per acre.

This year we are expecting variation in corn growth and kernel set across a typical field, so it is desirable to sample multiple areas in the field for a better average.

Since weight per kernel will vary depending on hybrid and environment, the yield component method should be used only to estimate “ballpark” grain yields. In years like this when below normal rainfall occurs during grain fill (resulting in low kernel weights), the yield component method will likely overestimate yields.

To see the normal field corn development stages in August in Minnesota, visit

By DAVID NICOLAI, University of Minnesota Extension Farm & Ranch Guide

08/10/2012 :: Japanese Beetle Found in North Dakota

North Dakota Ag Connection - 08/09/2012

A serious plant pest widely found in the eastern U.S. has been detected in North Dakota for the second time in 11 years.

"A North Dakota Department of Agriculture plant protection specialist positively identified a Japanese beetle submitted to the NDSU-Extension's Plant Pest Diagnostic Lab from Grand Forks," said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. "The specialist subsequently found more specimens in traps in West Fargo."

Native to Japan and first discovered in the U.S. in 1916, the Japanese beetle is now found in nearly every state east of the Mississippi River, as well as Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana.

"This beetle is mainly a pest of trees, ornamental plants and turf grass, but is also harmful to soybeans and corn," Goehring said.

The half-inch-long, adult beetles are metallic green with bronze wing covers. Females lay up to 60 eggs during their two-month lifespan. The eggs hatch in two weeks and the larva overwinter below the frostline, feeding on plant roots in the soil. Adults begin to emerge in mid-June through September.

The insects defoliate a broad range of plants, including corn, soybeans, ornamentals, trees, and shrubs, especially roses and lindens.

Japanese beetle trapping has been ongoing in North Dakota since 1960. The first beetle detected in the state was found in Burleigh County in 2001.

Goehring said the trapping will continue through September and continue next season to monitor whether any beetles have overwintered in the state. Currently, the North Dakota Department of Agriculture monitors about 80 traps, most of them in plant nurseries.

Goehring urged homeowners to contact their county extension agent if they suspect Japanese beetles.

For additional information on Japanese beetles, visit

:: How western corn rootworm resists crop rotation

University of Illinois  |   July 20, 2012 A new study answers a question that has baffled researchers for more than 15 years: How does the western corn rootworm – an insect that thrives on corn but dies on soybeans – persist in fields that alternate between corn and soybeans? The answer, researchers say, has to do with enzyme production in the rootworm gut.

Their findings are described in a paper in Ecology and Evolution.

Crop rotation declined in the middle of the 20th century as the use of insecticides and fertilizers expanded in the U.S. Then in the 1950s and ’60s, when some insecticides began to fail, growers again turned to crop rotation to kill off the rootworms that fed on corn. The method was effective for decades, but by 1995 some growers started seeing rootworm damage even in rotated fields. Today rotation-resistant rootworms are widespread in the Midwest cornbelt, where corn and soybeans dominate the landscape.

Crop rotation in East Central Illinois imposed intense selection pressure on rootworms, a key to the emergence of insect resistance to crop rotation, said University of Illinois crop sciences professor Manfredo Seufferheld, who led the new study.

“In Champaign County, Illinois, where you see a lot of rotation-resistant rootworms, 84 percent of the total land area is corn or soybeans,” he said. “But as you go to Missouri, which has only wild-type (non-resistant) rootworms, almost 50 percent of the land area is not corn or soy.”

Rootworm larvae live on the roots of corn plants, so it makes no sense for a rootworm beetle to deposit its eggs in a soybean field, Seufferheld said. “But with crop rotation, we’re making special conditions that allow those crazy insects to survive.”

Previous studies focused primarily on the behavioral changes that led rootworm beetles into soybean fields, but Seufferheld and his colleagues focused instead on the rootworm gut.

Their focus was prompted by observations made by Jorge Zavala, a former postdoctoral researcher at Illinois and a co-author on this work. Zavala, now a visiting scholar at Illinois from the University of Buenos Aires, knew from previous research that levels of protein-degrading enzymes in the insect gut, called proteinases, rise and fall in response to chemical defenses in soybean leaves. He saw that rotation-resistant rootworms survived longer on soybeans and inflicted more damage on soybean leaves than their non-resistant peers. He also detected differences in levels of proteinases in rotation-resistant and non-resistant (wild-type) rootworms.

The new study tested these results in a broad sample of western corn rootworms from Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri.

“We indeed found that the rotation-resistant rootworms could eat more foliage than the wild type,” Seufferheld said. “They are also able to survive a little longer on the soybean than the wild-type rootworms.”

When insects feed on their leaves, soybeans ramp up production of proteinase inhibitors to combat the insects’ ability to digest proteins in their leaves. The researchers hypothesized that the rotation-resistant rootworms had evolved the ability to compete a little longer in this chemical warfare with the soybeans.

Tests confirmed that rotation-resistant rootworms had higher levels of a special class of proteinases than wild-type rootworms to begin with, and that they increased production of one of these proteinases, Cathepsin-L, in response to soybean defenses. The wild-type rootworms increased levels of another proteinase, Cathepsin-B, when feeding on soybeans, the researchers found. But this enzyme appears to be ineffective against the plant’s defenses.

This difference allows the rotation-resistant beetles to survive on soybeans for two or three days – just long enough, the researchers said, for some of them to lay their eggs in bean fields. In spring, when the same fields are planted in corn, the rootworm larvae emerge to feed on corn roots.

Illinois insect behaviorist and co-author Joseph Spencer of the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the U. of I. Prairie Research Institute, said that before this study, researchers studying rotation resistance were looking at the insects and insect behavior in isolation, thus missing their interaction with plants as a potential clue to the problem.

“You have to include the soybean in the equation,” Spencer said. “It is not a passive player. The beetle has changed its behavior but what facilitates this change in behavior is this change in expression of these digestive proteinases. That allows them to stay in the soybeans longer. We had ignored this aspect of the biology.”

The study team also included Matias Curzi, of the U. of I., who earned his master’s of science in Seufferheld’s laboratory and now is working at Pioneer Argentina. Funding for this work was provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

07/16/2012 :: Drought intensifies in central Red River Valley; year is hottest on record so far in Fargo area

FARGO – Severe drought conditions now exist in several counties in east-central North Dakota, depriving crops of moisture at their peak time for water consumption, the National Weather Service says.

And there’s more bad news: The climate outlook for the rest of July is for above-normal temperatures and below-median precipitation, according to a drought statement Friday from the weather service office in Grand Forks.

“Most areas will likely not see enough rainfall to mitigate the current long-term drought,” the weather service said.

As of Wednesday, this has been the warmest calendar year on record so far for the Fargo area, the weather service said. The previous warmest year for Fargo was 1987.

Severe drought conditions now exist in portions of Barnes, Cass, Grand Forks, Griggs, Nelson, Steele and Traill counties.

Despite recent rains across parts of the Red River Valley, generally dry weather continues in portions of the region, with precipitation most lacking in the central valley on the North Dakota side of the river, the weather service said.

On average, precipitation is 40 percent of normal for east-central North Dakota, with some areas approaching 25 percent of normal. Isolated areas have been deluged by thunderstorms, but in general, less than 1.5 inches of rain has fallen in the past month.

Since July 1, many areas across eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota have received less than 50 percent of normal rainfall, with some areas seeing l0 percent or less. Thunderstorms over the July 4th period alleviated drought conditions a bit closer to the international border.

Rainfall hasn’t been meeting the demand of agricultural crops, as soil moisture in the top 3 feet is 50 percent to 75 percent below normal in severe drought areas, the weather service said, citing information from state and federal agencies. Subsurface water levels are down 2 to 4 feet since May 1.

Some crops are showing significant stress. Sugar beets, soybeans, potatoes and dry edible beans have all seen an increase in the poor to very poor crop condition categories.

Stream flows on smaller creeks and tributaries are generally in the lower 25 percent of the long-term mean, with some below 10 percent for this time of year, the weather service said.

Larger rivers, including the Red and Sheyenne, are showing a drop in flows but aren’t near critical levels yet, it said.

By: Forum staff reports, INFORUM

07/13/2012 :: Weed specialist sees jump in weed resistance

FARGO, N.D. — Jeff Stachler, North Dakota State University/University of Minnesota sugar beet weed specialist, based in Fargo, N.D., says he is seeing an alarming increase in incidence and frequency of herbicide-resistant weeds in the region this year.

Stachler says he’s receiving calls and e-mails about the issue. “After two herbicide applications in corn and soybean, it is quite evident that weeds are surviving various herbicides,” he says. If unchecked, the weed resistance issue could significantly affect a farmer’s ability to control weeds or a landowner’s ability to rent out or sell land at a full price, Stachler says.

•Kochia – Glyphate-resistant and flurfoxypyr-resistance is present at some frequency in “30 to 50 percent of all fields in the James River, Sheyenne River, and Devils Lake watersheds in North Dakota,” Stachler says. Last year, only three fields in this area were confirmed with glyphate- and fluroxypyr-resistant kochia. “It is possible that fluroxypyr-resistant kochia is present in 5 to 10 percent of wheat fields in the Red River Valley,” he says. He says there may be field of glyphosate-resistant kochia in Richland County, North Dakota.

•Common ragweed – There has been an increase in the presence of ALS-inhibiting herbicide resistance in North Dakota. These include FirstRate, Pursuit, Raptor. There has been a report of “suspected resistance” to PPO (Flexstar and Cobra) in Mahnomen County, Minnesota.

•Waterhemp – Glyphosate resistance continues to increase in Minnesota and North Dakota and is likely as far west as Highway 1 in southern North Dakota – Valley City to Oakes.

“This frequency of herbicide-resistant weeds is quite alarming,” Stachler says. “With the likelihood of no new herbicide mechanisms (site/mode of action) to be released within the next ten years, we must preserve the herbicide tools we currently have available.” He says the weeds must be removed by hand or with row cultivation and is critical to the future of a farming operation or the opportunity to rent or sell the land in the future for a good price. He adds that it could damage the land’s value to a landowner’s children and grandchildren.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

07/06/2012 :: Drought Season Highlights Damage Caused by Nematodes

Targeted News Service -- WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- July 3, 2012 -- The drought throughout Indiana is intensifying nematode damage in farm fields, says a Purdue Extension nematologist.

The needle nematode, soybean cyst nematode and lance nematode all are causing more problems for grain farmers in a year when crops already are stressed by extreme heat and lack of rain.

Jamal Faghihi explained that nematodes, microscopic roundworms, can be found in fields every year, but the damage is worse during a drought season. "The severity of symptoms shows because of the stress in plants," he said.

Faghihi stressed that nematodes and their damage will be found in patches in the fields.

"They're not going to be uniformly distributed all over the field," he said.

Farmers should know if they are having nematode problems at this point in the summer. "They've always been there if you looked hard enough," Faghihi said. "Now, you can't miss it."

The needle nematode exclusively feeds on corn and grasses and is found in sandy soils. The needle nematode often poses a problem in the spring when the weather is cool and wet. Although the needle nematode is sensitive to heat, Faghihi speculates that this year the early warm weather created an opportunity for the worm to do its damage early. He advised farmers to inspect the plant roots early in the season for abnormalities, which include poor development, club-shaped roots and damage resembling herbicide injury.

The lance nematode is found in corn and soybean fields. Similar to the needle nematode, the lance nematode causes damage to plants that results in yellow, stunted growth with abnormal roots. The lance nematode is not deterred by hot weather.

The soybean cyst nematode attacks soybean plants and causes the plant to become yellow and stunted. This nematode starts as a microscopic worm and ends its one-month life cycle as a cyst containing 200-300 eggs. Earlier in the season the cysts are brown, but this time of year they are white or yellow, the size of a sugar granule and can be seen by the eye.

Faghihi said farmers should inspect for the presence of the cysts by digging out the root, placing it in water and checking for cysts. The cysts are durable and can survive extreme conditions.

Faghihi said most soybean cyst nematode-resistant cultivars contain the same source of resistance, PI 88788. Nematodes, however, are overcoming that resistance. He said farmers need to understand which resistor is being used in their crops and consider switching to soybeans with another source of resistance.

Soybeans with resistance derived from Peking are something that Faghihi said farmers should consider as they determine the best course of action for managing the soybean cyst nematodes. Crop rotation is another important step farmers can take to weaken the stability of the nematodes because the worms feed exclusively on specific plants.

06/29/2012 :: Iron Deficiency Chlorosis in Soybeans

This season the relative incidence and severity of iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) surprises even me. During the last 10 years, the presence of IDC and its severity seemed to be related to particularly wet areas of the field.

This year, there are few areas in the state that are particularly wet. However, there is sufficient soil moisture in eastern areas of North Dakota for the symptoms to be expressed.

The primary reason that areas within the state experience IDC is the presence of carbonates, like calcium or magnesium carbonate, in the surface soil and subsoil. If a soil has a pH higher than 7.0, it is likely that some carbonates are present. Soybeans will not be affected by IDC in acid (pH less than 7) soils. At pH above 7, the amount of carbonate in the soil is not necessarily related to the pH of the soil. A pH of 7.8 for example may have as little as 2% by weight carbonates or greater than 20%. Some soil labs in the state, including the NDSU soil testing laboratory, can analyze for Calcium Carbonate Equivalence (CCE) in the soil; not to be confused with CEC (cation exchange capacity). This test will provide a rating of future susceptibility of soybeans and other crops to IDC.

The secondary reason for appearance of IDC is soil moisture. Carbonates have to be dissolved to release the solubility product ‘bicarbonate’ (HCO3), which interferes with the soybean ability to extract iron from the soil.

Broadleaf plants extract iron from the soil by first acidifying their root system environment. The plants then release a reducing protein (enzyme) into the soil that has the ability to transform Fe+++ (ferrous iron- the oxidized form naturally found in soils) to Fe++ (Ferric iron- the reduced form naturally found in 0-oxygen environments like groundwater). Fe+++ is a trillion times less soluble than Fe++, so the transformation of Ferric to Ferrous is crucial to iron nutrition of broadleaf plants and particularly soybeans, which seem to be particularly poor at mobilizing iron.

With bicarbonate present in the soil, the soil acidity surrounding the soybean root is neutralized, rendering the reducing protein impotent and IDC is expressed. Some soybean varieties are more able to counteract bicarbonate, perhaps with an ability to pump out more acid from their roots. The exact mechanism of their tolerance is not known.

Other soybean varieties are particularly susceptible to IDC. Ratings of soybean varieties in their chlorosis tolerance scores from past NDSU research by Dr. Goos can be found at

Tertiary reasons for IDC are soluble salts, application of herbicide, and environmental stress. This year, the direction of water movement in soils is different than the past few years. This year, water is moving towards the surface and it has been doing so since August 2011. The water comes from the groundwater, which in North Dakota is loaded with soluble salts. An old saying ‘ It will get worse before it gets better’ is certainly true with soluble salts. Although one cure for salty soils is dry weather, initially the salts will become worse. This year, salt-affected soil acreage has increased. Salts are a major stress on plants, so soybeans already trying to overcome IDC also have to expend energy to overcome the effects of salts. The combination is resulting in the spectacular IDC symptoms in many fields. Last week I taught at the Carrington REC field school. Before my presentations I toured an area north of the Center within 5 miles of the Station. I found IDC in spring wheat, corn and dry bean. It was common everywhere around potholes, drainage-ways and wetter areas of fields. Soybeans, however, were again most affected and most commonly seen.

There is no foliar product that will help this problem. At planting time, an application of ortho-ortho-FeEDDHA (the active ingredient in Soygreen®) at a rate of 3 lb/acre with water in furrow will help alleviate IDC if a tolerant variety is used. But even this chelate will do little as a foliar application.


There are also cultural methods that decrease IDC and these should be considered in future plantings-

  • Plant soybeans in wider rows rather than solid-seeded. 20 inch to 30 inch rows place soybean plants closer together. If you are skeptical, go out into your solid-seeded field and look where you stopped seeding to check something. The seeder will have over-seeded a narrow strip. That strip will probably not show IDC even though the normal seeding rate beans on either side may be very yellow. Safety in numbers?
  • Seed a cover crop with the soybeans at or close to planting. A three-state study with NDSU, Univ. of MN and SDSU a few years ago showed that seeding 1 bu/acre oats broadcast before seeding soybeans, or the day of soybean seeding reduced IDC. The oats reduced soil nitrate (higher soil nitrate induces higher IDC through a within-plant physiology change in leaf cells) and reduced moisture. The combination of these benefits reduced IDC. This method is especially helpful in glyphosate resistant varieties, because the oats or barley or whatever the cover-crop grass is needs to be killed out at the 5-leaf stage or before so competition will not reduce soybean yield.
  • Plant a more tolerant variety.

Finally, map the IDC in the field this year. Some crop consultants can do this for you and there are satellite images available that could provide mapping for future consideration. These will be helpful in the future. A study by Dr. Helms at NDSU and others a few years ago showed that using variable-variety seeding, with a tolerant IDC bean in IDC areas and an aggressive, non-tolerant IDC bean in non-IDC areas would yield best in most fields. Mapping IDC would make this method of seeding possible in future years.

Dave Franzen

NDSU Extension Soil Specialist

06/26/2012 :: Bee deaths – why let science spoil a good story?

Opinion piece by John Atkin, COO Syngenta, on the need for a scientific approach to preventing bee deaths

Arrested, convicted and at risk of being imprisoned without trial – despite a trail of evidence pointing to the real culprit.
Such is the case of Cruiser seed treatment in France.

In recent years bee populations have declined. Nobody knows exactly why, but there are several possible causes. A small parasitic mite called Varroa is principle amongst them. Beekeepers deploy many techniques to try and prevent the Varroa mite from causing damage, but none of them are particularly successful. In recent days, more evidence from a number of leading universities has come to light.   Scientists studied the impact of Varroa in Hawaii and found that its arrival increased the prevalence of a single type of virus in honey bees from around 10 percent to 100 percent. The findings suggest that the virus and mite combination is the main cause of the global decline in bee populations.

The French Minister of Agriculture, meanwhile, has proposed to suspend Cruiser for use on oilseed rape.  This decision on Cruiser is based on a single experimental study carried out by a team of French researchers affiliated with INRA (National Institute of Agronomic Research) which showed that, at doses far higher than bees would ever encounter in the field, they became disoriented and had difficulties returning to their hives.

Let's apply this methodology to our everyday lives. A person consuming 5 bottles of wine per day instead of the recommended safe intake of half a bottle would struggle to find his way home, if he could move at all. 20 aspirins instead of 2 could cause extreme stomach pain, nausea or worse. A car traveling in an urban area at 500 km per hour instead of 50 would be quite a danger to other road users.

Cruiser is applied to the seed at extremely low doses and the amount that gets into pollen and nectar is barely measurable.  Rigorous testing has shown that in real life Cruiser is harmless to bees.

Before coming to market Cruiser underwent the most demanding tests that could be designed, as well as the most practical. As a result, the regulators have supported its use in commercial agriculture and Cruiser has been used on millions of hectares of maize, oilseed rape, and sugar beet over the past 10 years with no damage to bee populations.  Cruiser is one of the best and most technologically advanced tools for protecting a crop against all manner of pests that would otherwise result in up to 30% loss of yield and threaten the production of the safe, healthy, affordable food from which we all benefit.

Whilst politically popular, the proposed suspension of Cruiser is costly as well as unsafe. In the first instance, Cruiser used on oilseed rape alone is worth an additional €100m to French agriculture and as much as €1billion across Europe – this is not money that any sector of the economy can easily forego today.   Not surprisingly, farmers and other stakeholders are deeply concerned by this turn of events.  They see a threat to France’s status as one of the world’s most productive agricultural economies.

Modern agriculture is itself an easy scapegoat and has been blamed for causing bee deaths by growing unappetizing crops which don’t provide enough food for bees.  But islands in the Pacific Ocean where there is no commercial agriculture – but an abundance of Varroa mites – have lost 95 percent of their bee colonies.

Syngenta, the manufacturer of Cruiser, spends over $1 billion a year on Research & Development.  Much of this is devoted to continuous improvements in product quality and to the development of solutions allowing a reduction in the quantity of chemicals used – such as seed treatment.  The crop protection industry has existed for over 50 years and the products used today have evolved just as much as, for example, cars or telephones over the same period.

France has a proud tradition of social justice. We urge the French authorities to maintain a corresponding standard of scientific justice.

On June 1st the French Minister of Agriculture Le Foll proposed a suspension of Cruiser OSR. The French Safety Agency ANSES stated in their report that the decision was based on one, non-validated experimental study and that dose used in this study is much higher than would be encountered in practice. They stand by their earlier evaluations of the safety of Cruiser.

In mid-June, the University of Sheffield (UK) published a study in the journal Science which suggests that a parasitic mite, known as Varroa, may have destroyed bee colonies across the world by incubating and spreading a potent virus. Similarly, a joint study by universities in Italy and the UK also concluded that the role of parasites, such as Varroa, may have been under-evaluated by the scientific community.

Syngenta is engaged in research to develop a solution to protect bees against Varroa as well as investing more than €5million over the past 10 years in Operation Pollinator – a project backed by leading scientific institutions to cultivate habitat and nutrition for bees alongside crops.

The author is Chief Operating Officer of Syngenta

06/20/2012 :: Update on Goss's Wilt in Minnesota


By Dean Malvick, Department of Plant Pathology

 The fact that Goss's wilt is was a widespread corn disease in Minnesota in 2011 is broadly known.  The question of how much Goss's wilt will develop in 2012 is dependent in part on field and weather conditions.  As of June 13, 2012, Goss's wilt had been confirmed over the previous week in several counties in Iowa and Nebraska. Thus it could also start to appear soon in Minnesota.  This article summarizes key points about this disease, including where it has been confirmed in Minnesota, factors that favor its development, and how to recognize it.

Goss's wilt was first confirmed in Minnesota in 2009, and by the end of 2011 was found in many fields in over 30 counties across southern Minnesota and into the lower Red River Valley (as shown below). This disease caused only minor damage and minimal yield loss in most fields, however, yield loss was significant in some fields. The map below shows counties with confirmed Goss's wilt infections based on University of Minnesota testing, but this disease likely also occurred in other areas. Thus, there appears to be a risk for this disease across much of the Minnesota corn production area.  Risk for individual fields, however, will likely vary from very low to higher based on environmental conditions and field history.



There is no complete understanding of all the factors that lead to development of Goss's wilt in a field. The pathogen survives between crops in infected corn residue near the soil surface. Goss's wilt may be more likely to develop where: fields are planted with hybrids susceptible to Goss's wilt, in fields or areas where this disease has occurred in the past two years, where much infected corn crop residue remains near the surface, in fields that have been in continuous corn and have not been rotated, perhaps where corn plant populations are high, and where leaves are injured by hail or strong winds accompanied by blowing rain and sand/soil.


 Goss's wilt can appear throughout the season, and was seen primarily in August in the past two years in Minnesota.  It kills leaf tissue and also can infect stalks and kill entire plants.  The leaf symptoms begin first as dark green water soaked areas with dark spots often called 'freckles'.  These areas usually develop into large elongated tan lesions with irregular margins.  Dark green spots ("freckles') and shiny patches of dried bacterial ooze that looks like dry egg-white develop in the lesions. Samples can be sent for diagnosis to the University of Minnesota Plant Disease Clinic (, 612-625-1275)




 Some things to consider doing this season related to Goss's wilt are to learn how to recognize this disease, scout fields and have appropriate diagnosis done to document which fields have Goss's wilt, and check hybrids to determine how well they are resisting development of Goss's wilt.   At this point there is minimal information available to suggest how effective any foliar product is for managing Goss's wilt.  But if tempted to try a product, please leave untreated check strips in fields so you can compare disease and yield levels to assess product efficacy

06/18/2012 :: Farm Safety Includes a First-Aid Kit

As the pace of farm activities picks up in the summer, the likelihood of accidents also increases.

That means having a first-aid kit on the farm is essential, according to J.W. Schroeder, the North Dakota State University Extension Service's dairy specialist.

"But because workplaces vary widely in their location and size, the degree of hazards that can occur, the amount of staff training and availability of professional medical services, Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards do not require farms to have specific contents in first-aid kits," he says.

He recommends starting with a basic range of first-aid items to deal with most types of injuries encountered on the farm.

"Then evaluate your own farm workplace to determine whether you need additional supplies," he advises.

Here are some basic supplies farms should have in their first-aid kit:

-- Absorbent compresses, 4- by 8-inch size

-- Adhesive bandages, 1- by 3-inch size

-- A roll of adhesive tape, 3/8 inch by 2.5 yards

-- Antibiotic treatment

-- Antiseptic treatment (spray, liquid, swabs, wipes or towelettes)

-- Burn treatment for use on minor burns only (spray treatments also can be used)

-- First-aid guide

-- Medical exam gloves

-- Sterile pads, 3- by 3-inch size

-- Triangular bandage, 40 by 40 by 56 inches

Some additional items producers may want to include in their first-aid kit, based on the specific hazards in their operation, are:

-- Analgesic (should not contain ingredients known to cause drowsiness)

-- One or more bandage compresses in 2- by 2-inch, 3- by 3-inch or 4- by 4-inch sizes

-- One or more burn dressings at least 12 square inches

-- One or more cold packs at least 4 by 5 inches

-- Eye coverings

-- Eye/skin wash

-- Hand sanitizer with a minimum of 61 percent ethyl alcohol

-- Roller bandages at least 2 inches wide and 4 yards long, unstretched and individually packaged

"Keep safe and prepared this summer," Schroeder says

North Dakota Ag Connection - 06/15/2012

06/11/2012 :: Economics of Bt Corn

Approximately two out of every three acres is planted with a Bt corn variety in the United States. That is part of the overwhelming adoption of genetically enhanced seed, which also includes herbicide and drought tolerance. While all of them are designed to reduce various risks, farmers have an ulterior motive for their substantial endorsement of Bt corn.

Corn with a Bt gene to control certain insects was introduced in 1996, so USDA’s Economics Research Service (ERS) has analyzed a 15-year history of Bt corn adoption and performance. ERS researchers say by the year 2000, 19% of acres were planted with Bt corn, and that jumped to 65% for the 2011 planting season. Quite a few agricultural economists attempted to quantify the economics of Bt corn in the first five years of adoption and found:

  1. Yields were approximately 7.1 bu./acre higher for Bt adopters in Iowa.
  2. Yields were 18.2 bu./acre higher for Bt adopters in Minnesota.
  3. Bt corn yields were approximately 13 bu./acre higher than conventional yields.
  4. Adoption increased yields by 2.8-6.6 %.
  5. Adoption increased yields by 5.5 % in Pennsylvania and Maryland.
  6. Adopters had corn yields in 2001 that were 12.5 bu./acre higher than yields of non-adopters.
  7. Average yields of Bt adopters in 2005 were 16.6 bu./acre higher than average yields of non-adopters.

So, right out of the box, or bag, Bt corn became popular because it had some magic yield component to it. The ERS ag economists used USDA’s national economic study in 2010 to evaluate Bt use on 1,208 farms in the 19 major corn-growing states. In that study, 77% of the adopters said they did so to benefit from increased yields. Another 10% reported it was done to save management time and 6% looked to Bt corn to save on insecticide costs.

Within the data turned up in the study actual corn yields were 26 bu. – or almost 20% higher – than conventional seed. Seed use was 0.03 bu./acre higher, and variable profits were $118/acre higher for adopters than non-Bt corn adopters. But since the seed is designed to produce a plant that controls harmful insects, it is unclear whether it continues to have an impact on the use of insecticides. The final two years of the data observed by the researchers were low in insect pressure and low in insecticide use, for both adopters and non-adopters of Bt corn. In the first 10 years of adoption insecticide use declined, and total pounds dropped by 4.5 million/year from 2001 to 2005; with another 3-million-pound/year decline in the final five years of the study. In 2010 only 1.6 million pounds were used.

The researchers found, “this study’s findings suggest that Bt seed use increases profits, yields, and seed demand. More specifically, the elasticity results show that a 10% increase in the probability of adoption is associated with a 2.3% increase in profits, a 2.3% (3.44 bu./acre) increase in yields, and a 2.1% increase in seed demand.” They report little statistically significant impact on insecticide demand, connected to the fact that 90% of farmers did not use insecticides, and when they do, their experience is expected to be profitable. And the researchers add, “The economic impacts of adopting GE crops vary with pest infestations, seed premiums and prices of alternative pest control programs.”


Survey results indicate that, on average, variable profits were $118/acre higher for adopters than for non-adopters, corn yields were 17 bu./ acre higher for adopters than for non-adopters, seed demand was 0.03 bu./acre higher for adopters than for non-adopters, and insecticide demand was at a very low level for both adopters and non-adopters. Analysis confirms that Bt adoption is positively associated with increased profits, yields and seeding rates. However, Bt adoption is not significantly related to insecticide use.

Source: Farmgate blog

06/08/2012 :: Postemergence Corn Herbicide Considerations

The eastern Corn Belt's early corn crop has started to – and so have the weeds. So now is the time for growers to consider postemergence herbicide applications, says Travis Legleiter, a Purdue Extension weed specialist. In the northern part of the Corn Belt, some of the crop is as far along as the V3, or third leaf, growth stage. Development is even further along in some fields in the southern part of the region. That means corn farmers need to prepare to apply the right postemergence herbicide at the right time, likely within the next few weeks.

"Unlike postemergence soybean herbicides, there are a large number of herbicides available beyond glyphosate products for weed control in corn," says Legleiter. "The large number of products is a positive when considering glyphosate-resistance management and prevention, but also can make timing and product-application decisions more complicated."

Most herbicides are effective on some weed species and only to certain weed heights. According to Legleiter, controlling all of them likely will require a combination of products or a pre-package of active ingredients.

Also making the decision complex is corn ear development, which can be affected if postemergence herbicides are applied too late in the growing season. Therefore, growers need to consider not only the sizes and types of weeds present but also crop growth stage.

"The type and amount of injury from an application beyond the labeled window is dependent upon the herbicide, other environmental stresses and exact timing of application," Legleiter says.

He says injury symptoms could include ear pinching, ear bottlenecking, internode stacking, onion leafing, rat tailing, brace root malformation and green snap.

When growers are tank-mixing products, Legleiter says it's important to follow the most restrictive label to determine the right crop growth stage restriction. Other ways to avoid crop injury include:

  • Avoid using contact herbicides just prior to rain, or when there is a heavy dew, to avoid washing the herbicide down into the whorl.
  • Avoid applying growth regulator herbicides after several nights of temperatures 45 Farenheit or cooler.
  • Do not use UAN solutions as the carrier when applying atrazine pre-mixes to spike stage corn.
  • Do not mix growth regulator herbicides with chloroacetamide herbicides and apply postemergence. (These mixtures are fine if applied pre-emergence.)
  • Do not apply ALS inhibitors past the V6 growth stage.

More information about choosing the right herbicides is available in the 2012 Weed Control Guide for Ohio and Indiana, produced by Purdue Extension and Ohio State University Extension. The guide is available for free download from Purdue Extension: The Education Store. It also can be purchased in hard copy from Ohio State University Extension'seStore. The guide includes information about herbicide and weed management in multiple crops, including corn, soybeans, popcorn, grain sorghum, small grains and forages.

Corn growers also can find more information about herbicides and crop growth stages in the May 11 issue of Purdue Extension's Pest and Crop Newsletter.

Source: Purdue Extension

05/31/2012 :: Stunted, Yellowing or Wilting Corn: Could Nematodes Be the Cause?

By Greg Tylka, Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology

There continues to be lots of questions about whether plant-parasitic nematodes are causing damage to Iowa’s corn crop. This varied group of microscopic worms has some species that cause damage to corn at very low population densities (numbers) and other species that are not harmful until population densities reach many hundred or more per 100 cm3 (a little less than a half cup) of soil.

It is common for several different species of plant-parasitic nematodes to occur in Iowa cornfields at low numbers.  But if numbers increase to damaging population densities, symptoms of injury will appear. 

What are symptoms of nematode damage to corn?

Nematode damage symptoms on corn include stunting of plants, yellowing of leaves, and mid-day wilting or leaf curling.  Roots may be stunted, fine roots may be lacking, and there may be discrete areas of black, dead tissue, called lesions, on the roots. Also, some nematodes cause roots to swell.

When do symptoms of nematode damage appear during the season?

It would be very unusual for symptoms of nematode damage on corn to occur in the first month of the growing season - except in fields with very sandy soil. For fields with medium and fine textured soils, the aboveground symptoms caused by nematode feeding likely will appear more in the middle of the growing season.

When should fields be sampled?

Samples should be collected when symptoms of damage are seen.  Collect soil and root samples from near plants that are showing obvious symptoms of damage, but avoid sampling near plants that are dead or nearly dead.  There is no reason to collect samples from corn that is not showing some symptoms of possible nematode damage.

What type of sample should be collected?

Up until V6 growth stage of corn: collect soil and root samples.

  • Use a soil probe and collect cores that are at least 12 inches long.
  • Collect 10 or more soil cores to represent an area.
  • Collect soil cores from within the root zone of plants showing symptoms of damage. Combine, but do not mix, the soil cores and place them in a sealed plastic bag labeled with permanent marker.
  • Also collect, with a shovel, the root mass from four to six plants with symptoms of damage.  Take care not to strip off the smaller seminal roots.  The tops of the plants can be cut off and discarded.  Place the root samples in a sealed plastic bag labeled with permanent marker.
  • Protect the samples from physical jarring and from high temperatures (above room temperature).

 From V6 through R3 (milk) corn growth stage: collect soil samples.

  • Use a soil probe and collect cores that are at least 12 inches long.
  • Collect 10 or more soil cores to represent an area.
  • Collect soil cores from within the root zone of plants showing symptoms of damage. Combine, but do not mix, the soil cores and place them in a sealed plastic bag labeled with permanent marker.
  • Protect the samples from physical jarring and from high temperatures (above room temperature).

From R4 (dough) corn growth stage to harvest: sampling is not recommended.

There is not a good relationship between crop damage/yield loss and the number of nematodes in soil and roots once the corn crop reaches the R4 growth stage.  Therefore, sampling is not recommended after this point in the growing season.

Where to send samples

Several private laboratories and most land-grant university plant diagnostic laboratories process samples and determine the identities and numbers of plant-parasitic nematodes present. Here is a list of the university laboratories and their contact information.  At Iowa State University, the facility is:

Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic
Room 327 Bessey Hall
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011

The test for nematodes that feed on corn from the ISU Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic is called the complete nematode count. Samples sent to the ISU Clinic should be accompanied by a completed Plant Nematode Sample Submission Form (referred to on the ISU Extension Online Store as PD 0032) and a check for the $35 per sample processing fee.

Management options, if nematode damage is confirmed

If damaging population densities of nematodes are found, there is nothing that can be done to manage the nematodes and lessen the yield loss that will occur in the current growing season. Primary management strategies for future years are use of soil-applied Counter® 20G nematicide and/or seed treatments such as Avicta® and Votivo.

05/30/2012 :: Biotech crops continue to yield tremendous benefits

PG Economics, an agricultural consulting firm in Dorchester, UK, released its seventh annual report on the impacts of crop biotechnology, showing another year of significant economic and environmental benefits particularly in developing countries.

In its press release, Graham Brookes, director of PG Economics and the report’s co-author, said that over the 15-year period covered in the report, crop biotechnology consistently has provided important economic and production gains, improved incomes and reduced risk for farmers around the world that have grown genetically modified (GM) crops. He noted that, “the environment in user countries is benefiting from farmers using more benign herbicides or replacing insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops. The reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no till cropping systems is also resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these benefits are found in developing countries.”

The report’s key findings include:

  • The net economic benefit at the farm level in ’10 was $14 billion, equal to an average increase in income of $40/acre. From ’96-10, the global farm income gain has been $78.4 billion;
  • The insect resistant (IR) technology used in cotton and corn has consistently delivered the highest increase in farm income, especially in developing countries (notably cotton in India and China ); the average farm income gains from using IR cotton and corn in ’10 were $115/acre and $36/acre, respectively;
  • Of the total farm income benefit, 60% ($46.8 billion) has been due to yield gains resulting from lower pest and weed pressure and improved genetics, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. Three-quarters of the yield gain came from adoption of IR crops and the balance from herbicide tolerant crops;
  • The cost farmers paid for accessing crop biotechnology in ’10 was equal to 28% of the total technology gains;
  • Between ’96 and ’10, crop biotechnology was responsible for an additional 88.6 million tons of soybeans, 144.9 million tons of corn, 11.4 million tons of cotton lint, and 5.5 million tons of canola;
  • If crop biotechnology had not been available to the 15.4 million farmers using the technology in ’10, maintaining global production levels at the ’10 levels would have required additional plantings of 2 million acres of soybeans, 2.3 million acres of corn, 1.2 million acres of cotton, and 0.14 million acres of canola. This total area is equivalent to 8.6% of the arable land in the United States, 23% of the arable land in Brazil or 25% of the cereal area in the European Union (EU-27);
  • Crop biotechnology has reduced pesticide spraying (’96-10) by 199 million lbs (-8.6%). This is equal to the total amount of pesticide active ingredient applied to arable crops in the EU-27 for one and a half crop years; and
  • The adoption of GM crops is making an important contribution to the development of crop production systems that require fewer pesticide applications, reduces the risk of crop losses due to insects and weeds, and increases the yields for all types of farmers in developed and developing economies.
National Cotton Council

05/21/2012 :: Agritourism continues to grow in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. - Farmers and ranchers in the state are starting to think outside the box in relation to ag tourism projects and it's starting to show. According to the North Dakota Department of Commerce - Tourism Division, out of state visitors spend over $4 billion each year in the state, and ag tourism continues to claim a larger piece of that pie each year, according to Dean Ihla, tourism development manager.

"We have 15 registered operators, to date," Ihla said. "As far as existing and potential operators, we have identified up to 75 right now. These can range all the way from vineyards and wineries to 'you pick' gardens and guest ranches. Currently we have 10 to 15 new operators that we are working with right now."  

Several who have been interested in starting an agritourism business were held back by concerns over the liability issue for those visiting their operation. But the last legislative session passed a law that lessened the liability risk in certain situations, which has resulted in increased interest in ag tourism.

"The combination of having that law in place and discussion on how the liability issue can be handled has gotten more people interested in agritourism," he said.

Over a half-dozen new agritourism businesses took part recently in the annual Agritourism Conference that was held in Bismarck on April 23, according to Ihla. One of the main features of that conference was a panel discussion by four entities that are now engaged in agritourism on their farm or ranch. The venues represented at the panel discussion ranged from a vineyard and 'you pick' herb garden to a guest ranch and a family attraction built around pumpkins.

gardendwellers FARM Holly and Barry Mawby are old hands in the agritourism industry, since they have been operating their gardendwellers FARM for 10 years. It originally started as 'you pick' garden but has grown to include events, tours, special attractions, education, vacations and drop-in guests. The operation, which is located near Esmond, is the state's largest and only herb farm. Holly Mawby outlined a special cooperative advertising effort that pooled the resources of nine different tourism entities in the area. These local funds, coupled with a tourism marketing grant, allowed the local businesses to produce an attractive advertising piece that highlights each of those businesses. She also stressed how important it is to have the right attitude if you want to be successful in the agritourism industry.

"If you aren't the type of person that can put on a smile and be happy to your guests, whether they show up on your son's graduation or 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning, or 10 o'clock at night after you have been out in the garden all day - if you can't paste on a smile and be happy and greet them as a host or hostess, maybe this isn't the right business for you," she said.

Rolling Plains Adventures This relative new-comer to the agritourism industry is located on the Black Leg Ranch just southeast of Bismarck and involves Jay, Jeremy and Jerry Doan. The ranch has been owned and operated by the Doan family since 1882 and is now in its fifth generation. Their guest ranch invites visitors to learn about local history while exploring one of the oldest working ranches in the state. In addition to a full line of guest ranch activities, the operation offers guiding for hunting and fishing trips in the area. Their decision to expand into the guest ranch and guiding business allowed Jay to become a part of the operation. This wouldn't have been possible with just the typical ranching business that Jeremy and his father, Jerry, were involved in initially.

Rolling Plain Adventures was first developed as a hunting guide business back in 2000, according to Jeremy. That first year there was no lodging included in any of the packages, but during the following winter they cleaned up a house that was on the ranch that wasn't being used and offered lodging to some of those using the guide service. The next year they actually renovated one of the houses, which provided additional lodging space. That followed in another couple years with fixing up one more house on the property.

"Over the past 10 years we have pretty much devoted our time to fixing up old houses," Jeremy said. "The last lodge we fixed up was my grandparent's old house that was around 100 years old, and that has brought some of the ranch's history back into the business and will allow us to host many different types of events at the ranch."

With the ranch side of the agritourism enterprise they are trying to tell the story of North Dakota, according to Jay. They have gone international with the guest ranch, which takes a little planning. You first have to get your name out there and then the international tour companies send representatives to your facility. They have to like what they see and approve your establishment and then go back to their home countries and sell your facility to the foreign tourists. They are in their third year of hosting international tourists and have had visitors from Germany, Australia, Sweden and Norway.

Papa's Pumpkin Patch Since 1983, thousands of people have made it a tradition to come to Papa's Pumpkin Patch and celebrate fall. Owner David Pearce is a Walt Disney University graduate and plays host to nearly 5,000 students and 50,000 visitors each fall, as they mingle between more than 30,000 pumpkins, gourds, squash, hay bales and corn. He focuses on giving each visitor to his agritourism operation a 'premier guest experience.'


'You need to find out what it is for your operation that provides that experience and then not lose track of that," he said. "Let your customers teach you how they see the business that you are in. Be sure to take time to see from their perspective."

Red Trail Vineyard This agritourism operation is owned and operated by Rodney and Susan Hogen near Buffalo. The vineyard started on a small scale in 2003 with just a few grape vines. The operation has expanded and they even host their own Grape Stomp Festival each fall, which is growing in size every year. Readers were able to learn details on this agritourism business, since the Hogens were one of our Producer Progress Report families last summer.

Those interested in adding an agritourism sideline to their business can learn more by contacting Ihla at the North Dakota Department of Commerce-Tourism Division by calling 701.328.2525 or emailing him at

By DALE HILDEBRANT Farm & Ranch Guide Farm & Ranch Guide

05/08/2012 :: Apply Postemergence Herbicide to Small Weeds in Corn

"The smaller the weed, the better," says University of Illinois Associate Professor of Weed Science Aaron Hager. Proper timing of the application of postemergence herbicides provides the corn crop with the best opportunity to express its full genetic yield potential. Allowing weeds to compete with the crop for too long reduces its seed yield. Yield losses can accumulate very rapidly, and the associated costs can far exceed the cost of an integrated weed management program that includes a properly timed application of a postemergence herbicide.

The problem, Hager says, is "We know that the longer weeds are allowed to remain with the crop, the greater the likelihood of crop yield loss, but we don't know the specific day after planting or emergence when weed interference begins to reduce corn yield."

This critical time is influenced by many factors, including the weed spectrum, density of species, and available soil moisture. Weed scientists generally suggest an interval, based upon either weed size (in inches) or days after crop/weed emergence, during which postemergence herbicides should be applied to prevent weed interference from causing crop yield loss. They often recommend removing weeds in corn before they are more than 2 in. tall.

Another reason to apply postemergence herbicides to small weeds is that they are generally easier to control than larger weeds. Application rates of postemergence herbicides are often based on weed size, with higher rates often recommended to control larger weeds.

To be effective, the postemergence herbicide has to be taken into the plant (usually by absorption through the leaves) and then moved to its target site. Younger plant leaves often absorb herbicides more rapidly and completely than older leaves. High relative humidity, adequate soil moisture and moderate to warm air temperatures also favor enhanced herbicide absorption.

Waterhemp plants with resistance to one or more herbicide sites-of-action challenge the effectiveness of many postemergence herbicides. The occurrence of herbicide-resistant weed biotypes and populations is likely to escalate across areas of central Illinois during the 2012 growing season. Depending on the resistance mechanism, these plants may not demonstrate much injury or a reduced rate of growth following a herbicide application.

"We anticipate that many of these herbicide-resistant populations will not be discovered until several days after the initial postemergence herbicide application," Hager says. A follow-up or "rescue" herbicide application to control resistant plants is more likely to be successful if the initial application is made when plants are 3 in. tall or smaller than it would be if they are 6 in. tall or larger.

The choice of foliar-applied corn herbicides could be affected by prior application of soil insecticides. Specifically, using an organophosphate (OP) insecticide at planting or after corn emergence could restrict the use of herbicides that inhibit either the ALS or HPPD enzymes. Be sure to consult the most current product labels.

Labels of most postemergence corn herbicides allow applications at various crop growth stages, but almost all product labels indicate a maximum growth stage after which broadcast applications should not be made. A few specify a minimum growth stage before which applications should not be made. These growth stages are usually indicated as a particular plant height or leaf stage; sometimes both are listed.

"For product labels that indicate a specific corn height and growth state, be sure to follow the more restrictive of the two," says Hager. Application restrictions exist for several reasons, but of particular importance is the increased likelihood of crop injury if applications are made outside a specified growth stage or range.

Source: University of Illinois

05/01/2012 :: Farm managers and rural appraisers: Farmland prices expected to keep rising

 A survey indicating that farmland values are expected to continue increasing is more good news for landowners but could also signal caution for buyers, an agricultural economist said.

The survey was conducted Feb. 15 at the winter meeting of the Indiana Chapter of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. The results come on the heels of a February 2012 issue of AgLetter in which the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago indicated farmland values in Iowa, and parts of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois have increased by 22 percent since early 2011. That is the largest annual increase since 1976.

"These numbers tell us that the farmland market is very competitive. There are far more buyers than sellers," said Craig Dobbins, Purdue Extension agricultural economist. "People in the market to buy farmland have a very optimistic outlook about the future, and they are willing to pay unthinkable prices."

According to the survey of 32 farm managers and rural appraisers from 25 Indiana counties, the average estimated price of farmland was $7,533 per acre, and all of the respondents indicated their estimated price was higher than the value in February 2011.

While the increases are good news for landowners, Dobbins said there are dangers associated with paying exceptionally high prices to own farmland.

"One of the dangers is that buyers' expectations about the future of the market could be wrong," he said. "If land values or commodity prices decrease, that can really change profit margins. And it doesn't have to be a drastic decrease."

More severe problems can occur if buyers borrow a substantial amount of money to finance land purchases.

"Buyers need to be careful because farm debt levels will affect how hard the fall could be if commodity or farmland values decrease," Dobbins said.

With the strong market, rental prices for farmland also have been on the rise. Survey respondents indicated the average 2012 cash rent was $253 per acre. A majority reported that rate was higher than it was in 2011, and only two reported their rental rates to have stayed the same. None had decreased.

According to Dobbins, the increasing cash rents have led some landlords and tenants to get creative in lease agreements. While 42 percent of respondents said lease agreements were traditional fixed cash, others were using flexible lease agreements and crop share leases.

In a flexible lease agreement, or variable cash, the landlord and tenant agree on a minimum amount of rent and share a portion of the profits. In a crop-sharing agreement, the tenant and landlord both invest in the production costs and share the crop yields after harvest. Both types of agreements help tenants and landlords share the risk associated with crop farming.

While all of the survey participants agreed that farmland values were on the rise, they did not agree about the change in land values over the next five years. Forty-eight percent of the respondents indicated farmland values would be higher, 31 percent thought there would be no change, and 21 percent expected them to decrease.

"These results indicate that, in the short term, Indiana's farmland market is expected to remain strong," Dobbins said. "No one expects farmland values to decline for the year. But relative to the past few years, respondents expect the rate of increase to be much less.

"Longer term, there is less certainty in how farmland values will change. Most respondents expect farmland values to be steady or higher, but sound risk management suggests that buyers need to explore the effect of a 15-20 percent decline in farmland values on the business."

By Jennifer Stewart, Purdue University Farm & Ranch Guide

04/27/2012 :: Assessing fields for "pop up" starter fertilizer damage

Dry fall and early spring soils have led to questions about starter fertilizer application this spring.  While that planting with starter in a dry seedbed can significantly increase the risks, the overall effect will not be known until after planting.  Assessing the situation after emergence will be the best way to determine if damage has occurred due to "pop-up" fertilizer application.  With some corn already planted and fertilizer decisions made there are a few key points to remember when dealing with starter fertilizers.

All fertilizers contain salts.  Salts contain ions which are charged molecules that attract water wince water is a polar molecule.  The higher the concentration of salt in one area the stronger water can be held.  If this is in the root zone it can make it difficult for roots to take up water and ultimately damage the living root tissue by drawing water out of the roots.  In severe cases of starter damage the radical, or the first emerging root, will be killed off when it reaches the starter band.  For "pop-up" application direction on the seed this would be soon after it first emerges.  Fields exhibiting damage will have very uneven emergence and the plants that do emerge may be spindly in appearance.  If you dig the plant the radical will typically be short and the tip will be brown or black.  Plants may recover by growing new roots but typically they have been set back significantly enough that yield reductions are highly likely.  At this time fields will have to be assessed for possible replant if the damage is severe enough.

While salts are of major concern work within the last 10 years in Minnesota has demonstrated that the amount of nitrogen in the starter may have a larger impact than salts.  In particular, fertilizer sources that liberate high amounts of ammonia-N are of major concern.  Urea poses the highest potential risk since ammonia is liberated as the urea molecule is being converted to a plant available form.  While most liquid N-P-K blends do not contain 100% urea, it is added to some in order to bring up the amount of nitrogen.  It can be important to check to see what the percentage of urea N is in starter mixes since this can significantly affect when damage occurs when you compare sources.  In the case of 10-34-0, nitrogen is in the ammonium form.  Ammonium differs from ammonia in that is has one more hydrogen atom and is charged and can be held by clays vial cation exchange.  While there are differences, high rates of 10-34-0 can still present a significant risk even in dry years.

Another source to be aware of are fertilizers containing the thiosulfate ion.  The thiosulfate ion can severely damage plants.  While some growers have been using small amounts of ammonium thiosulfate in starter to supply sulfur to corn, there is significant risk associated with this practice especially if the seedbed is dry.  Current research has found that while low rates of ATS may not seriously reduce stand in loamy soils, plant growth is reduced when soil moisture is near field capacity.  When a sandy soil with half the available water holding capacity is compared, the potential for damage was two times or more greater.  If soils remain dry into planting then a different application method should be considered to get the fertilizer away from the seed.  If soils are warm then the benefit from P applications will likely be less.  Surface banding ATS to the side of the row can be effective and greatly reduce the risk for stand damage.

Keeping an eye on fields will be important to monitor if a problem is occurring.  However, if a problem is found there is not much that can be done to correct the problem.  In dry soils an assessment needs to be made whether starter should be applied.  If soils are warm the potential for a large growth increase will likely be reduced.  In addition cutting rates back may be a viable option but eliminating the application may be a better alternative to alleviate potential problems.  The picture right shows normal and damaged plants.  All were seeded at the same time and the plants on the right are much smaller due to restricted root growth.  If you notice the roots on those plants the root coming out of the seed is brown and discolored which is a tell-tale sign of starter fertilizer damage.  These samples were collected from plots reciving boron in the starter fertilizer mix.  Boron was not mentioned in the discussion above but can significantly damage stand more than nitrogen and sulfur fertilizers.  In 2011 there have been some reports of plant tissue tests for corn coming back low for boron.  At this time we have no direct evidence that boron is needed for corn and have no certainty that the tissue test is a predictive measure of boron sufficiency for corn.  The three small plants in the picture were all that remained in a 4 row wide by 20' long area with a high rate of boron applied with 10-34-0.

The recent rains may alleviate some of the risks but monitor fields especially when high rates were applied on the seed with early plantings.  In our experience damage from starter will occur at the initial onset of emergence therefore by the time you can see the damage there is no way to correct it.  We currently are researching different starter options for corn.  While starter can be beneficial there are risks associated with the practice and there may be better options than others in specific situations.  For instance in corn on corn situations, surface banded ammonium thiosulfate seems to be a safe option if the band is placed to the side of the row and may have a greater impact on yield.

Remember, adequate moisture will alleviate many of the problems so the more rainfall we get during the early growing season the lower the risk and more flexibility to what can be  applied.  In addition, any placement where the band is placed away from the seed will lessen the risk.  For growers still using 2x2 or any other placement with at least 1" of soil between the seed and the fertilizer band there is far less of a risk because the first roots that emerge do not need to growth through the band.  That does not mean that there necessarily will not be any risk for damage but the risks is far less.  There is not a 100% safe source of fertilizer for "pop-up" placement so knowing the risks is important to ensure the best possible outcome and even emergence after planting.
Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

04/23/2012 :: Technology advancing agriculture to feed world

Technological advances will continue to drive crop advances as global agriculture prepares to feed and clothe another 2-3 billion people by 2050 but on less land worldwide linked to water scarcity.

“Technology will help us feed the world – jumping from 7 billion to 10 billion people on 80 percent of the land farmed today,” said Mike McCarty, president and chief executive officer of Helena Chemical Company (HCC), Collierville, Tenn.

McCarty believes this will be the biggest challenge and opportunity which agriculture worldwide has ever faced.

McCarty shared his vision as the keynote speaker during the 2012 Southwest Agricultural Summit held in Yuma, Ariz. About 1,100 people attended the sixth annual event.

The HCC chief executive joined the company in 1980 as a salesman. The nearly $4 billion company distributes crop production inputs plus protection products and services for agriculture and other industries.

Looking first at the major crops grown in the U.S. including grains, McCarty said, “Agriculture will have to be more efficient than ever. Technology will drive the future of our business.”

McCarty’s crystal ball envisions that two primary businesses — agriculture and energy — will excel globally more than others. He predicts many opportunities for production agriculture and agri-business.

“I see a very, very promising future,” McCarty said.

McCarty’s optimism is partly based on mushrooming world population projections. The fastest growing areas include China, India, and Africa. Today, China has a 1.3 billion population; a fourfold increase over the U.S.

More people will mean more vehicles which will further fuel the demand for ethanol. About 35 percent of the U.S. grain crop today is converted to ethanol fuel.

“Ethanol continues as a sizable market of the grain crop.”

Another reason for McCarty’s positive agricultural forecast is the desire worldwide for a healthier diet including more fruits and vegetables.

In China, more residents are climbing the economic ladder into the middle class. This means more available income and the ability to consume more protein from meat, tree nuts, and other sources.

A healthier food supply, McCarthy points out, can reduce physical ailments including Type 2 diabetes which is tied to obesity.

“We need a change in nutrition,” McCarty said. “Agriculture can help lead this. This will be a tremendous opportunity for vegetable growers in the U.S.”

This message hit home for the large number of vegetable industry members attending the summit. Yuma County area and neighboring Imperial County, Calif., produce about 95 percent of the nation’s winter vegetable supply for salads.

In an example of technology breakthroughs underway in agriculture, McCarty discussed a recent tour he took of a Syngenta operation where the company’s future lines of vegetable seeds were highlighted. The new products signaled how Syngenta is improving the taste and smell of vegetables.

“I took a bite of a traditional pepper; it looked and tasted like a normal pepper,” McCarty said. “The other pepper tasted almost like a snack. It was like eating candy; almost addictive. This technology will be available in the future. That’s a plus,” McCarty said.

The Helena leader also addressed crop yields which have more than doubled over the last 30-40 years. McCarty warned that crop yield advances will slow slightly in the near future in developed countries, but will increase faster in less-developed countries.

“This is where new technology and innovation will really come into play.”

A 20 percent reduction in farmed acreage worldwide is tied to water scarcity across the globe.

“Water will be a limiting factor (globally),” McCarty said. “Over the last century in the world, global water use has increased at twice of the rate of the population.”

In the U.S., Texas’ record drought last year parched soil, left crops to sizzle and die in fields, and forced ranchers to cull cow herds at an all-time high.

California’s lack of rain and snowfall this past winter has producers again on edge. Arizona’s prolonged drought, stretching more than a dozen consecutive years, is forcing producers to fallow fertile land in the state’s central section; land traditionally planted in cotton and other crop staples.

About 200 high school and college students and teachers attended the summit. McCarty painted a positive forecast for jobs in the agricultural field including food production, equipment, seed, fertilizer, agrichemical, and other sectors.

McCarty says U.S. agriculture is fiscally strong with U.S. gross farm income topping $400 billion last year; an all-time record high. Production expenses were in the $320 billion range with net farm income nearing $100 million. Farm input expenses penciled out near $56 billion.

McCarty says the global economy impacts U.S. agriculture more than the U.S. economy alone.

“I’m concerned about the global economy and what is going on in Europe right now,” McCarty said. “If there is a recession-proof industry then agriculture comes pretty close when compared to other industries.”

Agriculture’s future hinges on those willing to take risks and initiate change, McCarty says. Risk takers have made U.S. agriculture stronger.

“Our competition (in agriculture) is now global. We need to be aware of what our competition is doing so we can take the steps to move forward.”

Continued change was also echoed during the summit by Shane Burgess, dean of the University of Arizona’s (UA) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Burgess took the reins as the CALS dean last August.

He says never has the world faced feeding 7 billion to 10 billion people and been so concerned about food safety, the food chain, and the food system security.

Change is inherent for Arizona and the UA as they move forward from the recession with reduced budgets and revised plans.

Burgess said, “One of the things that it means to be a land grant university and a college of agriculture is we need to listen to those who are making the world turn. What do we need to do now, tomorrow, and over the next 10 years?”

“We need to be consistent, pragmatic, and continually improving and being on the cutting edge of innovation.” 

Cary Blake

04/17/2012 :: Research Aims to Protect Bt Technology

Pesticides derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis – widely known as Bt – have been important to farmers since the 1920s. Sixteen years ago, transgenic seed that produces insecticidal Bt proteins became available. Use of these transgenic Bt crops in the U.S. has reached 75% of cotton and 65% of corn acreage, while Bt pesticides are the most important insect control method available to organic farmers.

The Bt crop technology has saved producers millions of dollars by increasing yields and greatly reducing applications of broad-spectrum chemical pesticides. These factors make Bt important to both agriculture and human health.

Yet entomologists know that constant exposure creates evolutionary pressure for insect pests to become resistant to a pesticide. That’s why Bt plants are required to produce a high dose of insecticidal toxin and producers adopting Bt crops have been mandated to plant non-Bt refuges to bolster populations of susceptible insects in their fields. Susceptible insects emerging from these refuges mate with and dilute any resistant populations.

However, resistance to Bt crops has already emerged in India, China and Puerto Rico, where damage by resistant fall armyworms to a Bt corn variety resulted, for the first time in the U.S., in withdrawal of this variety from the market.

Although cold temperatures prevent their northward movement, Bt-resistant fall armyworms from Puerto Rico are believed to have migrated into Florida, representing a risk to southern growers and organic farmers.

“Mathematical models and estimates support that the use of non-Bt refuges would render Bt crops effective for more than 20 years,” says institute entomology researcher Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes.

“However, we’re starting to see the first cases of field-evolved resistance, suggesting that some of the high-dose and refuge requirements have not been fulfilled. Companies are now developing new Bt crops containing different combinations of Bt toxins to reduce dependency on refuges and further delay resistance while providing better control of the insects.”

Through collaborators at the USDA, Jurat-Fuentes acquired Bt-resistant fall armyworm caterpillars from Puerto Rico to study. In the lab, he and students Siva Jakka and Liang Gong are working to pin-point the exact mechanism responsible for resistance to Bt corn.

That knowledge would enable agrochemical companies to develop improved Bt crops and sensitive assays to quickly determine if resistant insects are present in production fields.

While the EPA currently mandates such monitoring, the methods used require capturing insects and analyzing subsequent generations in the lab, which is lengthy, costly and laborious.

“It takes months to do this and a lot of work,” Jurat-Fuentes says. “So if we come up with a DNA-based assay that can be done in a day with a caterpillar or moth from the field and tell whether the resistance gene is present, then we can have a great economic impact on monitoring for resistance.

We do have collaborations with some companies that support part of our research, so what we find is of great scientific and applied interest.”

Jurat-Fuentes’ research is also funded by a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, highlighting its importance. For the promise of his research, Jurat-Fuentes was one of 18 researchers worldwide last year who was honored as a DuPont Young Professor.

“To develop resistance, an insect must change something,” Jurat-Fuentes explains. “Although we have some ideas from lab research, our project represents the first effort to understand what field insects change to become resistant to Bt crops. We are also interested in learning about how resistance is transmitted and the fitness of the resistant compared to susceptible armyworms to evaluate and improve current resistance management mandates.

“If we can delay emergence of resistance through better detection and control of the resistant insects, we can perhaps preserve the effectiveness of Bt for years to come.”

UT AgResearch operates 10 unique research facilities across the state of Tennessee. In addition to its agricultural research programs, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.

Source: University of Tennessee

04/09/2012 :: Best yet to come for US agriculture

Mike Dwyer, director of global policy for USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, never gets tired of giving speeches these days.

The message is the same: Worldwide agriculture is a $3 trillion business and in the U.S., the agriculture sector is leading the recovery from our most recent economic recession.

When speaking to a recent meeting of commodity associations, Dwyer gave the speech for the 17th time, including four continents and 10 countries.

“If you are a farmer anywhere in the world, and you get world prices for your crops, the story is a very optimistic one for you,” Dwyer said.

“When I talk about the prosperity of farming, I’m talking about two primary things: balance sheet and income sheet. Both are doing extremely well,” he added.

Net farm income in the U.S. alone topped $103 billion — a big-time record for American agriculture. Dwyer said this income record is net income, after all the input costs have been figured into the equation.

The other all time high for agriculture is a $2 trillion net equity in farms in the U.S. This is largely due to the rise in price of agriculture’s No. 1 asset — land.

While the value of real estate in the U.S. has taken a dramatic hit during the recession, the price of farmland has risen, because the value of farm land is based on how much income it can produce.

“In my 30-year career in agriculture, I could rarely say agriculture is a top performing industry, and now it is. And, the beauty of prosperity in U.S. agriculture is that isn’t coming at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Payments from the federal government to farmers are at a 20-year low, down by $15 billion from 2005,” Dwyer said.

The USDA economist said the best is yet to come for farmers in the U.S. and around the world. The 10-year outlook is for continued growth and prosperity, which will be driven by a handful of economic factors globally.

“In the U.S. we are a nation of middle class buyers. If you get a raise in pay in January, your total cost for food will not go up. You may eat out more or you may change your diet, but your overall cost for food will not change much,” Dwyer said

In emerging economic countries around the world that is not the case. The Middle Class in China, India and a number of other Asian and Latin American countries around the world is growing at an alarming rate. These emerging markets will be primary buyers of U.S. farm goods for the next ten years, he added.

“In the history of the world there has never been a greater increase of wealth in such a short period of time as we are seeing in China. This plays right into our hands as an agriculture exporter,” Dwyer said.

The recession was a major speed bump for the U.S., Japan and western European countries, China and other emerging economies barely slowed down. That’s important to the U.S. agriculture industry, because their growth has a huge impact on food demand, but regardless of the state of our economy, food demand stays about the same.

“It doesn’t take a degree in economics to figure out that an upturn in demand for good and a level line in food production is going to be good for farmers,” Dwyer said.

In China, there are currently about 125 million households that are considered middle class. By 2020 that number is expected to jump by another 223 million that go from basically subsistence level to middle class. They are going to want to buy more high protein, processed food.

As the dollar goes down, commodity prices tend to go up. The value of the U.S. dollar has trended downward over the past 10 years, pushing the buying power of emerging nations up.

In the first quarter of 2012, the dollar rallied in value, but that’s primarily due to financial problems in Europe, and not a long-lasting trend, Dwyer said.

USDA projections are for a 14 percent decline versus major export competitors over the next 10 years. If these projections are accurate, it will bode well for any American farmer who sells his crop for export and will tend to keep crop value high in both domestic and export markets.

Fuel from cellulosic processes may be the wave of the future, but for the next few years first generation biofuels stocks will continue to come from corn, sugar-producing crops and soybeans.

Around the world, more than 30 countries in the Western Hemisphere have biofuel mandates, trying to replicate what the U.S. is doing with ethanol and biodiesel in the U.S. 

To produce first generation biofuels, these countries are going to have grow or import corn, soybeans or sugar-producing crops — like sugarbeets and sugarcane.

The U.S. is the world’s leader in ethanol exports, and the biggest customer is Brazil.

Strange as that sounds, the price of corn versus sugarcane makes the U.S. the lowest cost ethanol producer in the world. Europe wants to be in a similar situation as the U.S. in biofuel production, but they are more interested in biodiesel.

This whole biofuel trend again bodes well for stabilizing prices for oil-bearing or sugar-bearing crops for the next decade.

“The U.S. chalked up $137 billion in export sales last year — never thought I’d see that level in my career,” Dwyer said.

“In the U.S. we entered into three major trade agreements last year and there is more to come. We can either play or we can watch these developing countries play, and it appears our government has made a commitment to play in the world trade market,” he added.

By 2020, the USDA estimates the agriculture export market will top one trillion dollars. Currently, agriculture exports stand at something close to $700 billion, up 150 percent since 2000.

The path of least resistance in liberalizing trade comes from bilateral agreements between two countries. The most difficult path is unilateral agreements that involve numerous countries.

As long as profit is high in the export business, Dwyer contends the growth in bilateral agreements will continue.

Never underestimate the ability of governments to think they are doing the right thing and end up making huge mistakes. For example, in 2008, governments started banning exports of food to be sure they had an adequate supply of food for their country.

“All that did was scare all the major importers of food around the world,” the USDA economist said.

Russia did this again in 2011 with wheat. It caused a price spike in wheat, but depressed prices Russian wheat farmers received for their crop.

What this policy decision did was to lower the profitability in the ag sector, which slows down the supply response.

“It would be nice to say that won’t happen again, but with stocks at such low levels, the conditions are right for export bans and subsequent price spikes,” Dwyer said.

Agriculture is one of the most energy intensive sectors of the U.S. economy. If the price of petroleum goes up, the price of production goes up for farmers.

Many of the same factors that drive agriculture profitability drive energy prices. China, for example, will buy more food, but they will also buy more cars, which need fuel.

“Yields and cost of production is directly tied to the type seed used. There is no better technology in the world than biotechnology.

“We are just scratching the surface on such technology as drought tolerant crops. The payoff will be huge, but the question is: Where is it headed.

“There is no question the demand for food is going to increase over the next decade, and well beyond.

The only two ways to meet growing demand is to increase yield or bring new land into production. Failing to keep supply and demand in harmony could really create high food prices and be a negative factor in world agriculture growth,” Dwyer said.

Roy Roberson, Southeast Farm Press

04/05/2012 :: 'Early' early-spring weed management

The unusually warm weather may create additional weed challenges this spring. Winter annuals in no-till fields will likely accumulate much more biomass prior to planting than normal and therefore use more soil moisture, tie up more nutrients and potentially interfere with planting and crop establishment. In addition, weeds such as horseweed (marestail) will grow more rapidly and reach growth stages that are difficult to control much sooner than in a “normal” spring.

Due to these potential problems, applications of burndown herbicides in early April may be beneficial and improve the control of winter annual and early spring annual weeds. An additional benefit of earlier application dates for the burndown is minimizing the risk of including 2,4-D at the higher rates (i.e. 2 pts/A of LV-4) in the program. Of course, there is the important assumption that planting dates are not moved proportionally earlier.

Many farmers will want to include preemergence herbicides with these early spring burndown treatments. While this may provide a clean seedbed at planting and crop emergence, the longevity of weed control is likely to be shortened significantly. The magnitude of this reduction will depend on the time period and weather encountered between application and planting, and the herbicide rate. The rates of many preemergence products have been reduced due to the reliance on postemergence products, primarily glyphosate. If applications are going to be made a few weeks earlier than normal, carefully evaluate the product rates in order to maximize the contribution of the preemergence herbicide(s) to residual weed control after crop emergence.

Preemergence herbicides are a key component of herbicide resistance management. But to be effective, they need to be used in a manner that results in significant control of the target species. Very early applications of preemergence herbicides or reduced rates will greatly reduce their effectiveness on late-emerging weeds such as waterhemp, or large-seeded species such as giant ragweed. Many products specify split applications where a portion of the product is applied early and a remainder is applied at, or shortly after planting. This approach could be beneficial this year where an extended period of weed control may be needed due to early applications resulting from prevailing weather conditions.

Bob Hartzler and Mike Owen, Iowa State University

04/02/2012 :: Influence of Soil Temperature on Corn Germination and Growth

By Roger Elmore, Department of Agronomy

We experienced June-like temperatures in March. Trees budded, spring flowers bloomed and fertilizer rigs crisscrossed fields. Soil temperatures matched what we normally experience in late April and early May, jumping well ahead of previous records.

Because of the unparalleled warm March weather, many wonder about planting corn. Perhaps some did plant. This year’s warm spring temperatures encouraged early development of flowering trees and shrubs, as well as lawns, pastures and early weed-flushes in many fields - But wait until at least the crop insurance date to plant corn! Data from other scientists and Iowa planting date studies – suggests to plant corn after mid-April when soil temperatures are near 50 degrees Fahrenheit to maximize yield.

Germination process and soil temperature
Seed absorbs about 30 percent of its weight in water; temperature does not affect that process. But temperature does affect growth of both the radicle (first root) and coleoptile (shoot). With soil temperatures below 50 F, seeds readily absorb water but do not initiate root or shoot growth. This opens up opportunities for insects and pathogens to attack seeds resulting in poor emergence especially if poor seedbed conditions are prolonged. Even though soil temperatures are above 50 F at the time I write this, they can quickly plummet with a cold spell. The odds for more cold weather and or snow are still high before mid-April. With that in mind, to minimize risk, begin planting when soils are 50 F or greater or are near 50 F and rising quickly after mid-April.

Problems associated with corn in cold soils
Cool soil temperatures early in the season increase variability in final stands. We want to give every precious seed the chance of survival unless we intend to overplant to compensate for seed viability lost before emergence.

Cool soil conditions early in the season also lead to more unevenness in growth and development from one plant to another. In addition, once the seed begins to germinate, a significant change in soil temperature can cause problems for mesocotyl growth. To maximize yield, manage corn to reduce plant-to-plant variability.

In addition to the effects of early planting on seed development and growth, early planting also exposes seeds and seedlings to increased potential for frost. We know that since a corn seedling’s growing point is below ground until V6 – the sixth leaf stage – it can withstand freezing temperatures when plants have emerged until the V6 stage. Indeed that fact has saved a lot of replanting and the associated costs over the years. 

What we don’t always say – or for that matter understand – is that frost often affects individual plants differently resulting in more variability from one plant to another. That variability can result in unequal interplant competition and lower yield potential. Depending on the potential date of replant though, keeping the surviving stand – albeit of variable plant heights and development – may still be the best option. (See: Replanting Information) 

In addition to the impact on seedlings, extreme cold snaps can refreeze soils down to seeding depths. This can and does kill seeds and growing points, reducing stands and forcing a complete replant.


Roger Elmore is a professor of agronomy with research and extension responsibilities in corn production. He can be contacted by email at or (515) 294-6655.

03/30/2012 :: The Impacts of Our Challenging Climate Conditions

Weather conditions, such as record flooding, extended periods without significant precipitation, warmer than average winter months and the possibility of drought loom for the growing season of 2012. What will the short- and long-term effects be on our horticultural practices?

“What we do know is that the climate has changed in the past, is changing today and will continue to change in the future,” says Ron Smith, North Dakota State University Extension Service horticulturist. “While the scientists argue why the climate is changing, gardeners and growers are being affected by the adverse impact of year-to-year variations in weather.”

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) had increased by 1.5 parts per million (ppm) since the Mauna Loa Observatory started doing CO2 measurements in 1960.

While the models contain a great deal of uncertainty on future CO2 concentration amounts, conservative models say the rise will continue and may reach 700 ppm by 2100. The models also assume that humankind will be attempting to slow the rise of CO2 during that time.

“As this is taking place, the greenhouse gases, such as CO2 and water vapor, are absorbing Earth-emitted infrared radiation,” says Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist and assistant professor of climatology in the NDSU Soil Science Department. “This causes the Earth’s temperatures to rise and is the main mechanism of the greenhouse gas effect. However, it is important to note that because of its connection with global warming, the general public has a negative perception about the greenhouse effect. However, without the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s average temperature would have been 0 F, or 59 degrees colder than its current temperature.”

Global temperature increases mean different things for various locations. With the trends not being the same everywhere, some will experience a higher than average increase in temperatures, while others will be less affected.

While some locations will enjoy the positive impact of climate change, others will have to worry about mitigating the adverse impacts. For example, increases in annual temperature in North Dakota allowed producers to utilize 12 longer growing seasons during the last century.

“We may have cooler than normal temperatures during the next couple of summers or a much higher average minimum temperature than previously experienced.” Smith says. “With our crops, we can mitigate some of the daytime increase with sprinkler irrigation, misters or shade cloth. However, due to the blocking of infrared radiation into the atmosphere at night, we have no effective way of lowering the night temperatures. These higher minimums will impact fruit maturation, which means crops, such as tomatoes and grapes, can be harvested earlier in the season. While good for annual crops, it may have an impact on meeting the total chilling requirements of some of the perennial fruit crops such as apples.”

There are some positives. Higher CO2 levels will allow stomatal pores on plants to close somewhat, which will increase water efficiency by cutting down on evapotranspiration. Because CO2 is a necessary component of photosynthesis, plants should grow better. CO2 “fertilization” is a somewhat common practice in greenhouses at higher elevations, such as the mountain regions of Colorado.

Warmer temperatures also may mean more disease and insect activity in horticultural crops. Up to a point, common maladies, such as powdery mildew, can be expected to show an increase. With milder winter temperatures, wood-boring and root-eating insect larvae that were somewhat kept in check with more severe weather, will now flourish and feast on crops.

“Adjustments in landscape management, pest control and the timing of planting and harvesting will have to be implemented during the next decade to maximize our horticultural objectives,” Smith says. “What was standard operating procedure in 1990 will not be the same in 2020 if we want to continue growing our favorite horticultural plantings successfully.”

NDSU Agriculture Communication

03/20/2012 :: Pesticides get undue blame in honey bee decline

Despite a growing worldwide clamor to ban pesticides linked to honey bee deaths, multiple factors contribute to the declining honey bee population, not just one class of insecticides, says Extension Apiculturist and noted honey bee expert Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.

Speaking on honey bee health at the 51st annual meeting of the international Society of Toxicology and ToxExpo, held in San Francisco, Mussen said “no specific culprit” causes colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious malady characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen, her brood, and honey and pollen stores.

Multiple factors affecting colony health include “pathogens, parasites, pesticides and malnutrition,” he told the society, which is comprised of 7,500 scientists from academia, government, and industry from various countries around the globe.

“Pesticide residues have been found in beeswax, stored pollens and adult bees,” Mussen said in his abstract.  Bee scientists are “also looking at the synergistic interactions among pesticides, including adjuvants mixed into the pesticides and investigating  everything from bacteria, fungi, viruses, malnutrition, transportation of migratory bees, impact of pollen from genetically modified plants, and effects of exposure to irradiation.”

“None of these factors explains why 25 percent of beekeepers continue to lose 40 to 100 percent of their colonies annually,” Mussen declared.

Banned in some European countries is the class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, which act on the central nervous system of insects, Mussen said, but scientific studies show that despite the ban, the bee population continues to suffer significant annual losses.
Neonicotinoids, or systematic pesticides, are applied as seed or soil treatments, and also directly to the foliage of vegetable, orchard, field, turf and ornamental crops.

According to Mussen, colony losses are not new. Prior to the arrival of tracheal (Acarapis woodi) in 1984 and varroa (Varroa destructor) mites in 1987,  annual colony losses averaged around 5 to 10 percent, he said. “To control mites, most beekeepers place acaricides in their hives. Since then, queen longevity, colony health and vigor have declined in many operations and colony losses increased to about 15 to 20 percent.”

CCD, so-named in 2006, first surfaced in 2004 when approximately 25 percent of the nation’s beekeepers noted that apparently healthy colonies very quickly lost all adult bees, except the queen and a few newly emerged workers that soon perished, Mussen said.

“All stages of brood were present, and stores of honey and pollens were abundant,” he said. “In the few remaining adult bee specimens, titers of the fungus (Nosema ceranae) and one or more RNA viruses were very high. While appearing similar to losses induced by extremely heavy varroa mite infestations, neither bees with shriveled wings nor copious varroa fecal spots were observed.”

The resulting media attention prompted governmental agencies to provide extra funding for honey bee research. “That research provided a greater insight into the parameters of honey bee health,” he said.
The honey bee’s immune system is “meager” compared to that of a fruit fly or mosquito, he said.

Mussen, in a recent talk at a UC Cooperative Extension seminar in Woodland, advocated that the bee toxicity tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) “be of a longer time frame.”  Current regulations “specify that they be completed in 96 hours, which is too short of a time period to see what happens to the bees.”

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“Sublethal effects are not required, chronic exposure to sublethal effects is not required and synergism is not studied,” he said.

“Synergies easily could be the biggest problem,” Mussen said. “Coumaphos (an acaricide used for mite control) knocks the daylight out of queens when it’s in the pollen.  “Fluvalinate (synthetic pyrethoid commonly used to control varroa mites) synergizes Coumaphos, and vice versa.”

Mussen cautioned that adjuvants can be toxic. “Adjuvants seem to make non-toxic fungicides toxic to honey bee brood, especially the organosilicone ‘superspreaders,’” he said. “The superspreader  can penetrate the waxy cuticle of leaves, such as Eucalyptus leaves. And the waxy cuticle is the No. 1 bee protection.”

Also at the Cooperative Extension seminar, Mussen called for greater genetic diversity in the honey bee and a loosening of the “genetic bottleneck” in the United States. “Unlike dogs and horses, there are no pedigree bees and no papers, he said.  “There are few true breeding lines, but they include the New World Carniolans (developed by bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of  UC Davis), Russians, Minnesota Hygienic, and the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene.”

“Most breeders simply select from last season’s best performing stock,” he said. They breed for certain company traits, such as color, gentleness and brood pattern.”

Mussen pointed out that in 1922 the United States closed the door to live bees entering our country” due to fears of an incoming pest, the tracheal mite.

The tracheal mite eventually found its way to the United States in 1984, he said. “We couldn’t prevent it from coming in forever. It killed half of our nation’s bees in five years as it expanded across the country. Then the varroa mite arrived in 1987, and killed half of the remaining colonies in five years as it expanded across the country. This one practically killed all of our feral colonies in 1995-1996. It made a really big dent in our gene pool.”

Mussen described the varroa mite as “Beekeeping Enemy No. 1.” Mite feeding lowers the pupal blood protein, resulting in underweight bees and a shortened life span, he said. It suppresses the honey bee immune system. And third, the mite is a vector for RNA virus diseases.

Of the viral diseases affecting the honey bee, RNA viruses are the most prevalent. “We have 20 known and named viruses, and more are coming,” Mussen said. Some of the viral diseases are shared with bumble bees, wasps, ants, other native bees and other unrelated species of insects.

Asked what the average person can do to help the bees, Mussen said that a wide mix of pollen is essential for honey bee nutrition, and “they’re not getting that any more. Plant bee attractive plants. Each colony needs the equivalent of one acre of bloom every day to survive.”

What about the role of genetically modified plants in bee health, he was asked. “They don’t appear to be a problem. One modified corn variety seemed to affect honey bees in lab studies,  but it’s not being grown anymore. The honey bees don’t care if it’s genetically modified or not.”

As for viruses, “The harder we look, the more we find,” Mussen said

Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis

03/19/2012 :: ARS lab celebrates 100 years of research this year

MANDAN, N.D. – In August 1912, Congress passed a bill that established the ARS research lab in Mandan, N.D.

Now, 100 years later, the ARS Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) celebrates a century of support from Northern Plains family farmers and ranchers.

The celebration will take place during the NGPRL’s annual Friends and Neighbors Day on July 19, 2012, a day dedicated to showing the community and area producers the latest research and thanking them for their support.

“It’s a special year for us celebrating 100 years,” said Matt Sanderson, director of NGPRL at the Area 4 Soil Conservation District Research Farm and NGPRL Research Results day in Mandan.

Don Tanaka, recently-retired NGPRL scientist, said without the support of the community and area producers, the NGPRL  would have had to  close during the Great Depression when there was no money allocated by Congress to fund the lab.

“The Depression started in 1930,” Tanaka said. “There were no funds for dryland research throughout the Great Plains, and this location (at Mandan) was one of many not funded.”

Farmers and ranchers in the region, who depended on the research and the varieties developed at the lab, were upset. They teamed up with the Mandan Chamber of Commerce and farmers who had received improved tree varieties from NGPRL (some 4,000 producers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming) for windbreaks on their farms.

Everyone was urged to contact Congress, and because of the huge response, funding was restored after a year with no funds, Tanaka said.

Back in 1912, Mandan business owners and producers who were supporting the lab had the option of two locations outside Mandan to establish the NGPRL. There was the current location, which has sandy loam soils, and another location closer to town that had clay loam soils.

“They chose the right location with the right soils,” Tanaka said, adding that drainage is often poor from clay-type soils as opposed to sandier soils. The other location is the current Tesoro Refinery in Mandan.

The group purchased the land for $31.23 an acre, and the state later reimbursed them and leased it to the federal government.

The first buildings at the NGPRL were completed by 1913, and some of those buildings are still in use today, including the horse barn and administration building. The lab held its first field day in 1914, and “there were no parking problems back then,” he noted.

The location of the buildings was on such a high hill and so steep, they had to build a road that snaked uphill, and called it “Snake Road,” Tanaka added.  Local auto dealers used the road to compete and show that their cars could “make the grade.”

A photo Tanaka showed of the NGPRL location in 1913 is hazy from the significant wind erosion on the farms in the area. A windbreak, a quarter of a mile long, was planted, and in 1915 the agronomy farm windbreak program was established. That was the program that 4,000 farmers in a four-state area received funding from to help put in tree windbreaks on their farms, Tanaka explained.

“A lot of these windbreaks are still in existence today,” he added. “The homestead may be long gone, but the shelterbelts still remain.”

More than 5,500 farmers eventually took part in the USDA-ARS windbreak program that was eventually terminated in the mid-1990s, he said. Today, NRCS and Soil Conservation Districts continue to focus on trees and provide cost-share dollars for farm windbreaks.

The lab’s agronomy breeding program was one of the first to focus on flax, barley, sunflower, and wheat. The program also was later transferred to NDSU.

Early research also included vegetable and fruit tree varieties, and even ornamentals that pioneer farmers valued to sustain life and build civilization in the middle of the northern prairie.

In 1916, NGPRL scientists initiated a major vegetable development program, breeding short-season, cold-hardy varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, corn, popcorn, rapeseed (canola), chickpeas, vetch, cabbage, kale and cucumbers for the Northern Plains.

The agricultural researchers at Mandan developed fruits that were disease-resistant and hardy enough to be grown in the Northern Plains, including apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, currants, gooseberries, grapes, raspberries and strawberries.

“The Hazen apple that is still being sold in the nurseries was bred here and released,” Tanaka said.

NDSU has been involved with the USDA research at Mandan from the very beginning.  

Breeding, evaluation, and selection of the Hazen apple were made in the fruit breeding program at NGPRL by William Baird and William Oitto. Their friend, Arlon Hazen, was dean of the NDSU College of Agriculture and director of the North Dakota Experiment Station while this cultivar was under development.

The Hazen apple was named for him and the town of Hazen, which is located northwest of Mandan. Later the fruit breeding program was also transferred to NDSU.

The lab’s grazing research program was established in 1916. Two of the initial research treatments continue even to this day, Tanaka said. The over-grazed native pastures and moderately-grazed native pastures are still being evaluated to understand how grazing management impacts soils and plant species over time, he added.

The research facility’s initial grass breeding program focused on wheatgrass and Russian wild rye, and was instrumental at breeding and introducing improved crested wheatgrass varieties that continue to be used throughout most of the nation.

“They were instrumental in developing several improved species,” Tanaka said.

In 1926, NGPRL had a dairy research unit to support the large number of dairies in the area.

The lab had its own dairy herd, and lent out the sons of their imported genetically improved sires used as seedstock at the lab to local dairies so they could establish their own top genetic herds. By 1955, dairy research gave way to beef cattle research, Tanaka said.

Other projects started in the 1950s included the salinity and drainage program; groundwater studies; and the effect of salinity on tree growth.

“We found you can irrigate these glacial-tilled soils without ill effects,” Tanaka said. Deep plowing research proved surprising. If scientists found gypsum deep down in the soil profile, which could be brought up, it moderated some of the surface salinity.  It was very uneconomical, though. The forage program started in 1955 and continues today.

Al Black and Armand Bauer, two famous NGPRL soil scientists, were the first to really understand the wheat plant and that yields could be determined before the plant reached the six-leaf stage.

“That originated at this lab. They discovered that an increase in temperatures above 85 degrees at critical plant stages can cause a significant decrease in yields,” Tanaka said. “There is a need to plant wheat early in this region. Farmers all use this research today.”

Thanks to the Area 4 SCD Research Farm, ARS scientists at Mandan are able to do the types of field crop studies to answer modern production questions, Tanaka said.

In 1984, 12 Soil Conservation Districts leased 384 acres from the Nelson Estate for research.

“The farm allowed us to take small crop-sized research and put it into practice in the field,” he said.

Today’s mission at the lab, said Tanaka, is to develop environmentally sound practices and add value to agricultural systems in the Great Plains in terms of food, feed, and biomass by conducting team-focused, systems-oriented re-search. That includes range management, carbon management, integration of cover crops, biofuel crop development, and other research aimed at helping preserve the family farm.

Tanaka retired from USDA-ARS at the end of 2011.

Sanderson said Tanaka’s contributions to research included reducing farmer’s reliance on fallow and increasing no-till sustainable cropping using a wide variety of crops.

Prior to retirement, Tanaka was a leader of a multi-faceted research team focused on many significant areas of agronomy research on the Area 4 farm, Sanderson noted.

“He has been one of the primary scientists in developing the lab’s crop rotation research and the crop sequence calculator,” Sanderson said. “The calculator helps farmers decide the best crops to plant following other crops, focusing on sustainable soil health, water use, yield increase, decreases in diseases, and increasing profitability.”

By SUE ROESLER, Farm & Ranch Guide Farm & Ranch Guide

03/13/2012 :: Top 7 ingredients for 300-bushel corn

The ability to produce 300-bu. corn rests on seven factors, according to Fred Below, professor of plant physiology at the University of Illinois. Below saw his first field of 300-bu. corn 25 years ago and has since studied the factors that contribute most to high-yielding corn. Here is Below’s list, which he calls the “Seven wonders of high-yield corn production,” starting with the ones that affect corn yield the most.

1. Weather

Weather is the biggest factor affecting crop yield. Below says that on its own, weather will add or subtract 70 bu./acre or more.

 2. Nitrogen

Nitrogen applied correctly has the potential to affect corn yield almost as much as the weather, Below maintains. Combined, nitrogen and weather account for more than half of a corn crop’s yield. Also important in producing high-yield corn is a complete fertility package, including potassium and phosphorus, which are often left out of standard corn production. Below puts a 70-bu./acre impact on this factor.

3. Hybrid selection

The most important decision a grower can make is what hybrid to select, especially now that seed contains more new biotech traits, which create major yield differences among hybrids. Below theorizes that by removing the damage caused by insects, plants are more able to reach their full growth potential. He suggests a 50-bu./acre difference in yield due to hybrid selection.

4. Previous crop

If corn is grown after corn, there is a yield penalty of about 25 bu./acre, unless the weather cooperates, Below says. If the weather is not ideal, then the high levels of corn residue will tie up nitrogen and create smaller plants and smaller ears. Rotating corn with soybean crops will alleviate this problem. Below says his research found that yield penalty gets worse each year of continuous corn.

5. Plant population

Below says most farmers give up some yield because they do not plant populations that are high enough for their 30-in. rows. Other ways to increase plant populations is to switch from 30-in. to 20- or 15-in. rows. Because this requires a major equipment investment, Below is researching twin rows on 7½-in. centers with plants staggered. Under this system, plants are 7 ½ in. away from other plants, which reduces competition for nutrients. This system requires a planter change. Below gives plant population a 20-bu./acre yield factor.

6. Tillage

Tillage does not affect yield as much as farmers think. But it is a big factor in saving soil. Tillage has a 15-bu./acre impact.

7. Growth regulators

Below calls this his catch-all category because it includes packaging five independent factors that affect corn yield into one: fungicide to protect a high-performing corn crop; a triple-stack hybrid; 45,000 plant population/acre; extra phosphate, sulfur and zinc to support high-performing hybrids; and a stabilized nitrogen product. He gives this category a 10-bu./acre advantage

Karen McMahon   Farm Industry News



03/07/2011 :: 5 Tips For Corn Weed Management | Start With a Clean Field – Then Control Weeds Early as They Reach 4 Inches


The early weeds in corn are too small to hurt anything, right?

Wrong. Very wrong, according to Corn Belt weed scientists.

“Early season weed control is vital to both future yields and profitability, because early weed flushes compete intensely with corn for both nitrogen (N) and water,” says Jeff Gunsolus, University of Minnesota Extension weed scientist. “Dense weeds can also shade soils and make them cooler so that corn grows more slowly.”

Okay, but exactly when does early season weed control need to be done before it’s too late to stop yield loss?

“Assuming you have started with a clean field, the most competitive weeds in corn will be about 3-4 in. high when corn reaches the V3-V4 growth stage,” says Gunsolus. “If you don’t remove those 3-4-in. weeds promptly, you’ll be losing about 3 bu./acre for every day you delay. Our studies over three years show corn lost between 12-13 bu./acre within the first week and 27-29 bu./acre within the second week if weeds were allowed to remain in the field after they reached 4 in. in height.”

Such a big yield loss early in the season could mean the difference between making or losing money, says Lowell Sandell, University of Nebraska Extension weed scientist. “Depending on soil moisture and fertility levels, waiting to control weeds until corn reaches the V3-V4 growth stage can push you over the economic threshold for profitability,” Sandell says. “At about 4-6-in.-tall corn and weeds, that’s when you typically pass the breakeven mark and start losing money to lost yields from weed pressure after factoring in the cost of the herbicide application.”

Especially in corn, profitable weed control is all about timing, agrees Aaron Hager, University of Illinois Extension weed scientist, but that’s not everything a farmer needs to keep in mind to ensure successful weed control, he adds. Hager, Sandell and Gunsolus, provide the following five tips to help guide farmers towards more profitable corn weed management:

Start clean. A clean field at planting is essential for starting the corn crop off right, says Hager. “This can be achieved by using tillage, herbicides or some combination of the two,” he says.

Sandell recommends using a burndown with residual chemistry that is targeted to the specific weed spectrum for each field. “Use of a soil-residual herbicide will help to both start the crop off clean and to manage the field for any potential glyphosate-resistant weeds, such as waterhemp and giant ragweed, or to reduce the potential development of these and other herbicide-resistant weed biotypes,” he says.

Reduce your risk

Reduce your risk. “A total postemergence program is the most risky weed-control system, because the timing of a postemergence herbicide application is almost completely up to Mother Nature, and no one can control the weather,” points out Hager. “Instead, try using an integrated program with some soil-residual products. Also, farmers could consider a split application of an early preplant treatment followed either by a pre-emergence or a postemergence treatment to provide more consistent weed control than a single, early preplant application.”

A pre-emergence herbicide application will help keep late-emerging weeds small and uniform enough in height to boost odds for success when following up with a postemergence treatment, points out Gunsolus. “Using a pre-emergence herbicide buys you more time to apply your postemergence herbicide for optimal weed control,” he says.

In addition, a pre-emergence herbicide can be an especially good investment with irrigation, which ensures moisture is available at the right time to activate the chemistry, says Sandell. “With dryland corn in Nebraska, using a residual pre-emergence program will still be beneficial in reducing potential problems with glyphosate-resistant weeds, even if a lack of rainfall delays activation past the ideal time for starting corn out in clean fields,” he says.

Pay attention to timing. “Your main management focus should be on controlling those early weeds,” says Gunsolus. “Our research in Minnesota, and more comprehensive research in Wisconsin, shows that at about the V3-V4 stage, if weeds aren’t removed, fields will suffer an average 3 bu./acre/day yield loss up until the end of June. In fact, farmers should plan to have all their weed control completed by the fourth of July.”

Timing is important for both post- and pre-emergent applications, adds Hager. “For pre-emergent herbicide applications, try to time them closer to when you plant, especially if you have a weed spectrum in the field that can emerge later in the season, such as waterhemp.”

Weeds that re-infest after an initial herbicide application can also be very competitive, and Hager recommends being vigilant to control these later weed flushes, if necessary, while they are also still small.

Be careful with reduced rates. Many farmers run reduced herbicide rates of soil-residual herbicides to save costs, says Hager. “However, with reduced rates, you may be setting the product up to fail earlier, depending on weather conditions and weed pressure. Using a full, or a nearly full rate based on soil type often provides an extended period of weed control that you don’t always have with reduced rates.”

Gunsolus agrees. “Especially in the postemergence arena, good early season weed control has a lot to do with proper timing and not skimping on rates,” he says. “Also, when you do postemergence weed control, make sure you don’t go too fast and check to make sure you’re getting good spray coverage on weeds.”

Scout and reassess. After each weed-control practice, farmers should scout fields and evaluate how well their treatment worked and whether or not a remedial treatment might be needed, advises Gunsolus.

Late Weed Control Leads To Wasted N

Want to make sure your corn crop makes the best use of all the nitrogen (N) it can? Then you’d better control weeds early, say experts from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“Early season yield loss is due largely to weeds that sequester about 30-45 lbs. of N/acre out of the field from planting time up until about the end of June,” says Jeff Gunsolus, University of Minnesota Extension weed scientist. “You don’t get that N back during the season after your weeds are controlled. So, it’s much better to kill the weeds early than to be in the situation where you need to add more N to a field where weeds have sequestered it.”

Early weeds consume a costly amount of N out of the soil, and farmers may be unable to compensate for that nutrient loss by adding additional N later, agrees Carrie Laboski, University of Wisconsin Extension soil scientist. “The bottom line on our two-year study is that N fertilizer is more efficiently used when weeds are controlled pre-emergence or at a 4-in. weed height compared to waiting until weeds are 12 in. tall,” she says. “The economic return on your investment in N fertilizer and herbicide is maximized when weeds are controlled early.” 

02/28/2012 :: Drainage design

WAHPETON, N.D. — All right, so you’re installing tile drainage to improve yields on your farm.

Now you might want to think about adding tools for drainage water management, said Gary Sands, an associate professor and engineer from the University of Minnesota-St. Paul, who spoke Feb. 22 in Wahpeton at one of the drainage design workshops organized by the extension services at North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

“This is kind of an add-on practice to a traditional way of doing subsurface drainage, or tile drainage,” Sands said.

It is essentially a box, separating intake and out-flow tiles. The box has a set of panels or boards in the middle, which can be inserted or removed to essentially raise the water table level — often to conserve moisture, or even to keep more nitrogen in the soil profile. Inserting the boards causes the water table to rise on the inflow side.

The technique is about 40 years old. It was pioneered in North Carolina and used in coastal plains soils. It came to the Midwest about 15 years ago, but interest has grown in the past five years.

“We’re on the bubble right now,” Sands said. “We’re at the point where many of the systems are being designed with this practice in mind. We don’t have a great deal of implementation of the practice.” He knows a handful of Minnesota farmers who are using the practice, but more adoption is taking place in Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and other states.

The practice is a natural for the Red River Valley, Sands said. “When your fields are relatively flat, you don’t need very many of these structures,” he said. “Sometimes only one if a field is quite flat.” The box structures range in price from $500 to $2,000 each, depending on the size. “The larger the tile, the larger the structure is going to be,” he says.

A farmer might wish to scale back from full drainage during the times of the year when he doesn’t need it. For example, the farmers need complete drainage in the spring and fall when they are in the fields and need good, trafficable soil. “But in the middle of the growing season, where we’re not out there with machinery, and we could use a little extra water, we could use these structures to reduce the amount of drainage,” Sands said. “Similarly, in the off-season, once we’re finished in the fall, before we go into the fields in the spring, we don’t need to have a water table down at the depth of the tile. We can even have a shallower water table at those times of the year.”

Sands said he doesn’t think the practice will have a positive or negative impact on flooding, but notes there is an opportunity to capture water in the soil profile in the spring, should there be available pore space in the soil, and not let it leave the field.

Hot drainage topic

Tom Scherer, an NDSU extension agricultural engineer who specializes in irrigation and drainage issues, is one of a team of experts who first organized tile drainage design workshops — a cooperative project between NDSU and the University of Minnesota. The workshops started in 1998 in Crookston, Minn., but more consistent interest has grown in the past decade, and spread into South Dakota in the past few years.

The workshops are two, two-day repeated events, each with a 50-person capacity. The leaders walk through five design processes with special topics on new technology and safety placed between. “We could have probably had 70 in each of these,” Scherer said, noting that some that couldn’t get into sessions in the Dakotas will be attending a Mankato, Minn., session.

About half of the attendees are looking at how to do tiling on their own, but contractors and vendors also attend.

In Wahpeton, they talked about sources for soil information. In the Red River Valley there is LIDAR (light imaging detecting and ranging) topographical data available on computers.

No one knows exactly how much tiling activity is going on in the Red River Valley. In 1998, there was one tile plow at Brooks, Minn., Scherer said. Ellingson Drainage came in 2000 for the first time. Today, Ellingson has seven or eight plows, two other companies have three or four plows each. Other contractors are working in the area and numerous farmers have bought plows. “About the only way you could do it accurately is poll the guys who make the tile to see how many thousand feet they’ve sold,” he said.

Scherer said he’s heard of some cases where farmers who started installing their own tile did it improperly, possibly getting their information word-of-mouth. One of those basics, for example, is to start tiling at the outlet.

A bigger mistake, is failing to be safe.

Dying for drainage?

Jim Walker, from New Prague, Minn., is business and safety manager for Barnett Bros. Inc. in Kilkenny, Minn., midway between Fairibault and Mankato. He spoke about safety issues on behalf of the Minnesota Land Improvement Contractors Association.

What is the biggest mistake farmers make?

“They feel they’re invincible,” Walker said. “They haven’t taken any safety training. They’re starting to do this tiling on their own, so they feel they can purchase this tiling machine on their own.” He said farmers are basically safe people but also entrepreneurial “risk-takers,” temperamentally.

Walker said a typical mistake is a lack of care at the start of a project. A tiling project starts with a main line installation, which is done with an excavator, not a tile plow. “They generally aren’t familiar enough with soil types to bench (slope) the soil back sufficiently,” to ensure that it doesn’t cave in on whoever is going to be down in the trench,” Walker said.

Another mistake is that they think a shallow trench — say five feet deep — doesn’t create any danger, so there isn’t any need to bench it back, or slope it. “But the gentleman bends over to make a connection and now he is below the top of the soil, creating that vulnerability,” Walker said. Four years ago a man was killed in Le Sueur County.

Farmers tend not to make people wear brightly-colored safety vests, which help prevent machine operators from hitting them. Most don’t realize the damage cell-crushing soil can have on people who are even partially buried but rescued, and they need to be prepared to warn emergency workers who may not be familiar with that type of accident.

Another common danger is failing to put the spoil bank, or excavated material, far enough away from the edge of the trench, so that chunks can’t tumble in.

Just this past January, a 20-year-old South Dakota State University student home for a weekend on a farm near Lakefield, Minn., was in a trench repairing a main line on a field drain next to a county highway. The victim and an uncle were at the bottom of the trench, the father was on top with a backhoe. The young man bent over to pick up a “T” to make a connection, and the trench caved in and killed him through suffocation and crushing, even though it was only five feet deep. In Walker’s demonstration, he notes that a cubic foot of soil weighs 3,000 pounds and has as much mass as some pickup trucks.

One perennial issue discussed in the hallways at the event was about whether tile drainage affects flooding in the Red River Valley.

More research might help, Scherer said. There has been lots of research from April to November, but there is less information about how flows in this area are affected by weather factors — a killing frost, precipitation, spring thaw timing. “We don’t have a very good idea of when they flow, what do they respond to, the timing, because it’s all dependent on when do we get snow, when does it thaw, when does the tile start flowing,” Scherer says.

With this year’s mild temperatures, some farmers in the Brookings, S.D., area were installing tile in early February, Scherer said, chuckling. “There’s no frost. How strange is that?”

02/20/2012 :: Soybean cyst nematode continue to march further into ND

JAMESTOWN, N.D. - Soybean cyst nematodes continue to advance in North Dakota, according to Sam Markell, NDSU Extension plant pathologist.

Markell delivered a 'good news/bad news message' to producers who had gathered for the 'Getting it Right' soybean production meeting held in Jamestown on Jan. 27.

The good news part of the message was that producers can live with SCN and still produce good soybean crops even though their fields are infected. The bad news was eventually all of the soybean production area in the state will be infected with SCN.

"In the short term and in the long term, this is going to be our biggest management problem for soybeans," Markell said. "The one thing I will tell you over and over again is management of SCN is based on keeping their egg levels low. That is the most important thing."

SCN is the most costly soybean disease in the United States and it's caused by a parasitic worm. He said there are two important factors growers need to know about SCN.

You can take a fairly significant yield hit, in the range of 15 to 30 percent, before you see above ground symptoms.

"This is something they call the 'sleeper' in a lot of areas because the growers don't notice it right away. When you start to see it, you already have problems," he said.

"Once you have a SCN problem you own it, you can't get rid of it. You can use crop rotation to get the levels down, but you can't work yourself out of it," he continued. "It is something you have to manage for the rest of the time you grow soybeans."

SCN was introduced into North Carolina around 1955 and in about 50 years it has spread to everywhere they raise soybeans in the U.S., according to Markell. It first showed up in North Dakota in Richland County in 2005. This past year, soil surveys funded by the N.D. Soybean Council has shown the SCN has spread to several counties in the state.

"Anything that moves soil can move a cyst," he said. "The biggest way it spreads throughout the U.S. is on equipment that has soil on it, whether it's a pickup, tillage equipment, combine or tractor."

There are two other ways SCN can move - by wind and water. Markell said when soil blows around there could be cysts in that soil, since they are that light. Water, including flood waters, can also move cysts. He attributes the fact that SCN has been detected in Pembina County to the fact that they were moved north along the Red River by flood waters.

"I would say that SCN is North Dakota's problem right now," he said. "It's not widespread and at high levels in a lot of these areas right now. In fact, I would say a majority in this room probably doesn't have it now, but the majority in this room will get it. If we are on the front end of this problem we can manage it."

Soil testing is the place to start.

Markell suggests growers should start soil testing to see if they have SCN eggs present, and they should check the 'hot spots' in the field. These would include field entrances where equipment comes in; low spots, since cysts move with water; fence rows and tree rows where wind borne cysts may have been deposited; or areas of the field where the soybeans appear to be stunted or yellow compared to the rest of the field.

Right before or after harvest is the best time to sample, and many samples should be taken, since a higher number of samples gives a more accurate picture. Those soil samples can be sent to one of several labs in the region that perform SCN tests.

Markell stressed growers don't want to see high SCN egg counts develop in their fields once it's determined SCN eggs are present. There are two ways to keep egg counts under control: planting SCN resistant soybean varieties and crop rotation.

Management practices to control SCN numbers.

Resistant varieties cause the female SCN, which cause all the damage, to be uncomfortable and thus causing them to not attach themselves to the soybean plant roots, Markell explained.

Resistant varieties may also induce a lot of hatching on the cysts in the ground, which will also aid in lowering the numbers. This resistance comes from sources of resistance and not resistant genes as is the case in many other crops. As a result, SCN-resistant varieties can vary considerably in how well they control nematode population densities.

"With a good resistant variety hopefully you can keep your egg levels the same, or maybe they will even be reduced a little bit," he said.

Crop rotation is also important, not only for control of SCN, but other soybean diseases as well. Markell said a crop rotation plan should be a part of the soybean management program, whether you have SCN or not. For those with SCN their rotation plan should include non-host crops and resistant soybean varieties.

Non-host crops grown in this region include: alfalfa, barley, canola, corn, forage grasses, oats, field peas, sugarbeets and wheat. He noted that dry edible beans are a good host for the SCN and will do nothing to help lower SCN numbers, but rather increase them.

"Getting a different crop in there every other year is very important,"he said.

Will seed treatments help?

Trials have been conducted over the past two years in evaluating two new nematicide seed treatments - Votivo by Bayer CropScience, and Avicta by Syngenta. Avicta is a chemical that kills nematodes, Markell noted, while Votivo is actually a bacteria that is supposed to establish bacterial colonies on the soybean roots that will make the SCN uncomfortable enough to avoid attaching themselves to the soybean root.

"The jury is still out on the effectiveness of these products," he said. "We're going to do this again next year. We don't have enough data, either positive or negative, to make recommendations."

The take home message from Markell's presentation was, "We can manage this. This is not something that's going to eat our lunch, unless we don't pay attention. But, we can manage this."

By DALE HILDEBRANT Farm & Ranch Guide

02/15/2012 :: Putting 300-Bushel Corn Within Reach

In 1985, Herman Warsaw produced 300 bushels of corn per acre on his farm near Saybrook, Ill. Although production technologies have advanced, corn growers still are chasing the elusive yield of 300-bushels.

Fred Below, Ph.D., was part of that high-yield program as a student more than a quarter-century ago. As a professor of crop physiology at the University of Illinois, he is convinced that regularly producing 300-bushel corn is not only possible but necessary. "I have tried ever since and haven’t seen 300 bushels since then, but I’ve learned about factors that affect crop yield," he said. "We need to feed and fuel a growing population with less land area."

Below has spent his career not only identifying but also quantifying and ranking the key factors that determine corn yield (see box, below). His work is invaluable to growers as they evaluate which new products and practices contribute to yield. Below has studied these factors in multiple seasons and environmental conditions across the state of Illinois, using both grower standards and a high-tech package of crop inputs (see sidebar, below).

He calls the results of his research, "The Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World." Following is a summary of these seven factors, along with their contribution to yield in bushels.

1.  Weather

Unfortunately, one of the two most important factors in determining yield also is the one that growers have the least control over."Weather can be a blessing or a curse, making life easy or decimating all your hard work," Below said. "On its own, weather contributes 70 bushels or more per acre, or 27 percent value of total yield. Weather is the main factor in making you look like a good farmer or spoiling all of your management."

2.  Nitrogen

By contrast, nitrogen is the No. 1 factor that growers can control. "If used correctly, it has almost the same value as weather," Below said. "Weather and nitrogen combined account for more than half of the crop yield."The interaction of nitrogen and weather also plays a vital role."As a rule, the higher you are on the wonder list, the more control you exert over those wonders below you," he said. "Every single thing about the use of nitrogen is influenced by the weather—not only the ability to apply it, but whether the N is lost or available, and how well the crop can use it."

Nitrogen loss can occur immediately after application through volatilization, and denitrification and leaching can happen after the nitrogen is incorporated. To control nitrogen loss, Below protects his N with Agrotain nitrogen stabilizer products, including SuperU fertilizer, in the high-tech package. The grower-standard package uses untreated urea.

"By preventing the loss of nitrogen from too much rainfall, we can actually realize the benefit of that application in a higher yield," Below said. "Most farmers, if the price is right, put a little extra nitrogen on, just so that if the weather cooperates, they have that help available."But to say it’s under their control is a bit misleading, because weather has such a big impact on nitrogen use."

3.  Hybrid selection

Matching the right hybrid to the agronomic conditions is more challenging than ever in the age of biotechnology. "I’m really surprised at the impact that the biotech has had on yield potential, apparently by removing the damage by insects," Below said. "This allows the plant to achieve some of its full growth potential. By protecting the investment that the plant already has made into the root system, this allows the plant to take up more water, more mineral nutrients and allows you to have more plants per area."

4.  Previous crop

Residue from continuous corn crops will reduce yields each year that corn is grown. However, rotating with soybeans produces corn crops with better vigor and higher yields."If we grow corn after corn, there is a yield penalty, which sometimes can be mitigated by more N and more favorable weather," Below said. "You have plants of smaller size and ears of smaller size than you would normally see in first-year corn."

Contrary to popular belief, that penalty increases over the years. "The conventional wisdom, what I call rural legend, was that the yield penalty was worse in the first year, and each year that you were in continuous corn, the penalty became less," he said. "Actually, the data shows that it’s exactly the opposite. The penalty actually gets worse each year you’re in continuous corn, and the reason is that the penalty is due to the residue of previous corn."

5.  Plant population

Below has experimented with twin-row planting that allows growers to boost plant populations without having to invest in new combines and other pieces of equipment. In previous years, a 7½-inch twin-row system seemed to be ideal for nutrient placement and water management.  "A lot of farmers give up a little yield, I believe, because they are not quite at the populations they need to be," he said. "Plant population is an important component of high-yield systems, but it must be managed."

One way to increase populations is by reducing row spacing from 30 inches to 20 or 15 inches, but this would require all new equipment. Planting in 7½-inch twin rows removes plant-to-plant competition, and the band in the center is an excellent location for nutrients and water. But added heat buildup within the rows in 2011may have made this approach less effective.

6.  Tillage

Reduced tillage is good for the environment and helps cut expenses, but it has a limited role in increasing yields. "It’s not as big of a factor in yield as farmers think," Below said. "But it does play an important role in saving soil and retaining valuable moisture and nutrients."

7.  Growth regulators

The use of fungicides to enhance plant health is a relatively new practice.  "Growth regulators, as the name implies, are compounds that regulate growth in a positive manner," Below said. "The example I use is the greening of leaves and health performance you will see from a strobilurin fungicide and a yield increase, often in the absence of disease. Where I see the fungicide work almost every time is in the high-tech system, where the high-yield potential warrants protection from disease. I have no doubt that fungicide is part of a high-yield package."

8.  Unknown factors

If growers optimize The Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World, their yield would be about 260 bushels per acre, still short of the objective.  "Now, 260 is a far cry from 300, so how are we going to use the seven-wonder concept to grow 300 bushels?" Below asked. "I believe the answer is better soil fertility, combined with a package of factors that we know will individually affect yield."  Many farmers can do a better job with the prerequisites such as improved drainage and better managed pest and weed control, which are important but don’t necessarily directly add yield, he said. Below also believes a combination of good practices can be greater than the sum of the parts.

"Our hope is that within that package we would get a greater yield increase from the synergistic value than we would from any factor alone," he said. "I think it’s a pretty exciting time for corn yield. By being able to combine known factors together, we can make a giant leap in yield."

For more information about maximizing corn yield, please visit

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This article was provided by Agrotain.

02/14/2012 :: Developing nations leap ahead in GMO race

Farmers in developing nations will sow more biotech crops than those in the industrialized world for the first time this year, with Brazil leading the charge, according to a report issued on Tuesday that showed steady growth in the use of genetically modified seeds.

Use in developing nations continued to grow faster than in the United States, still the biggest market by a wide margin. GMO area in developing countries rose by 11 percent or 8.2 million hectares. Growth in the United States, which grows about 43 percent of the world's GMO crops, slowed to 3 percent.

(A full copy of the report can be found here:

Biotech crops were planted by 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries, up from 15.4 million farmers in the same number of countries in 2010, according to the ISAAA.

The global value of biotech seed alone was $13.2 billion in 2011, with the end product of commercial grain from biotech maize, soybean grain and cotton valued at $160 billion or more per year, according to the ISAAA.

From Reuters

02/10/2012 :: Two New Herbicides

Manitoba sunflower producers, Nufarm has two new herbicides which can help you clean up your DIRTIEST fields to maximize sunflower yields - CleanStart® and Authority®.  We would like you to learn more about how these products can fit into your management practices.  Please drop by your retailer to learn more about Authority® and Spray & Go® technology. By doing so, qualified growers will receive a $50.00 / case Authority® training incentive*! 

To learn more, contact Myles Robinson at 204 724-5885 or

*Some restrictions and conditions apply. 

Authority® is a trademark of FMC Corporation.  CleanStart® and Spray & Go® are registered trademarks of Nufarm Agriculture Inc.

02/09/2012 :: Record U.S. crop losses

WASHINGTON — In a demonstration of the up-and-down nature of the crop insurance industry, payments to farmers for crop losses in 2011 have totaled $9.1 billion so far, the highest in American history, according to charts released recently by the U.S Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency.

About 81 percent of claims have come in, according to RMA, with the total surpassing a record $8.67 billion paid in 2008.

Crop insurance companies have paid out a total of $27 billion in indemnities since 2008, according to National Crop Insurance Services, an industry research group. The relatively low payouts in 2009 and 2010 have given the industry an image of high profitability, but the payouts in 2008 and 2011 reflect the industry’s obligations in a period of high losses.

“Without crop insurance in place, those billions in damages would have fallen onto the laps of lenders, input suppliers, marketers, landowners and farm families, just as the economy was spiraling downward and unemployment was soaring,” said Keith Collins, a former USDA chief economist and chairman of the federal crop insurance board who is now a consultant to National Crop Insurance Services.

Premiums paid by farmers and the government have skyrocketed in recent years. And, as crop insurance prices rose, the cost of insuring a more valuable crop has risen along with it.

The government pays about 65 percent of the total cost of the crop insurance program. Congress, through the 2008 farm bill, and the Obama administration, through the renegotiation of the standard insurance agreement, cut back on government expenditures by a total of $12 billion, according to the industry.

As Congress prepares to write a new farm bill, industry officials have said they are worried about further cuts.

“Two out of the last four years have seen the largest indemnity payments in history, all while the crop insurance industry was asked to do more with less,” NCIS president Tom Zacharias said in a news release. “Faced with decreasing federal funding, record payouts and high crop values, it is imperative that Congress not weaken the crop insurance infrastructure further as it writes the 2012 farm bill.”

The high level of indemnity payments for 2011 resulted from droughts in the Plains, flooding along the Mississippi River and freezes in the South.

One out of every $4 of the 2011 payments has gone to farmers and ranchers in Texas, who have received $2.4 billion in indemnities to date, NCIS said in its analysis of USDA data. For every dollar Texas farmers paid into insurance for their 2011 crops, approximately $2.23 was paid out, NCIS added.

The next hardest hit state was North Dakota, with $1.5 billion in damages, followed by Kansas, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Together, these five states account for 63 percent of the damages paid nationally. Corn, cotton and wheat accounted for 70 percent of the losses, followed by soybeans and grain sorghum.

02/02/2012 :: Proven practices increase corn yields, profits

AgAnswers, Purdue University  |   January 30, 2012    

Farmers on the quest for record corn yields this spring may try to push the limits with higher seeding rates, narrower rows, more fertilizer and preventive applications of pesticides, but an Ohio State University Extension agronomist said the best way to optimize yields is to follow proven practices.

"A more practical and economical way to achieve high yields is to follow those practices that we know enhance corn performance," said Peter Thomison. His recommendations are included in the following "Eleven Proven Practices for Increasing Corn Yields and Profits."

1.       Know the yield potential of your fields, their yield history, and the soil type and its productivity.

2.      Choose high-yielding, adapted hybrids. Pick hybrids that have produced consistently high yields across a number of   locations or years. Select hybrids with high ratings for foliar and stalk rot diseases when planting no-till or with reduced tillage, especially after corn. Select high-yielding Bt rootworm resistant hybrids where there is potential for corn rootworm  damage.

3.      Follow pest management practices that will provide effective, timely pest control - especially weed control.

4.      Aim to complete planting by May 10. If soil conditions are dry, begin planting before the optimum date but avoid early planting on poorly drained soils. If planting late (after May 25 in central Ohio) plant corn borer resistant Bt hybrids.

5.      Follow practices that will enhance stand establishment. Adjust seeding depth according to soil conditions and monitor planting depth periodically during the planting operation and adjust for varying soil conditions. Make sure the planter is in good working order. Inspect and adjust the planter to improve stand establishment. Operate planters at speeds that will optimize seed placement. Uneven emergence affects crop performance because late emerging plants cannot compete with larger, early emerging plants.

6.      Adjust seeding rates on a field-by-field basis. On productive soils, which average 175 bushels per acre or more, final stands of 32,000 to 33,000 plants per acre or more may be required to maximize yields. Check with your seed company representative for optimum planting rates for your hybrids.

7.      Supply the most economical rate of nitrogen. Use an application method that will minimize the potential loss of N (incorporation or injection, consider stabilizers under high risk applications, etc.).

8.      Utilize soil testing to adjust pH and guide phosphorus and potassium fertilization. Avoid unnecessary phosphorus and potassium application. High soil tests do not require additional inputs.

9.      Perform tillage operations only when necessary and under proper soil conditions. Deep tillage should only be performed when a compacted zone is detected and soil conditions are dry (usually late summer).

10.     Take advantage of crop rotation - corn grown after soybeans will typically yield 10 to 15 percent more than corn grown after corn.

11.     Monitor fields and troubleshoot yield-limiting factors throughout the season.

"These are by no means the only management practices with which growers need to be concerned, but they are keys to achieving high corn yields." Thomison said.

01/31/2012 :: Planting in 60 inch rows proves productive in arid regions

In south central South Dakota, growers often search for ways to deal with dry soils and find the best crops to cope with the conditions. Todd County producer Bill Huber says that with the lack of moisture in his area, he was looking for a miracle.

He turned to planting his sunflower and corn in 60-inch rows. While some might consider this on the “crazy” side, when Huber explains the benefits, it becomes apparent the ultra-wide rows may just be the miracle he was looking for.

The idea’s genesis

A few years ago, Huber had a chance to meet with some agronomists from South Africa about planting in wide rows.

“At first it didn’t make sense to me; but for them it’s a matter of survival there in the arid regions,” Huber explains.

The primary benefit of the wide rows is water management.

“First of all, we’re farming here in the desert,” quips Huber who farms near the town of Parmalee, S.D. “Our first concern is to conserve moisture. And what better way [to do that] than to have fewer plants competing for that precious moisture?”

This same concept of optimizing available moisture has been researched in skip-row planting, primarily for corn but also in sunflower.

“Moisture utilization lies at the heart of how skip rows can benefit sunflower and other crops under dry conditions,” points out Joel Schneekloth, Akron-based regional water resource specialist with Colorado State University. “As the plant roots down, it will also root out away. If we have a larger space for the plant to root away from the row, we can utilize moisture at a later date when it’s critical – like during the reproductive stage.

“Whereas if you have planted in standard 30-inch rows, once those rows meet, that’s the end of the moisture between the rows,” Schneekloth continues. “So all the plant can do then is go down; and if there’s no moisture left going down, it’s ‘out of gas.’”

All of Huber’s 12,000 acres are in a no-till system – and have been for many years. This year he had 2,000 sunflower acres (all confection). He usually plants into corn stubble or occasionally after wheat, typically applying 60 to 80 lbs of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to start. He also adds 50 lbs of ammonium sulfate, which he says seems to help with what some might call the “sunflower hangover” to replenish the soil health.

Rebuilding the planter

Huber’s planter, set for 30-inch rows, required a little ingenuity to adapt to the 60-inch row width. At first they tried to simply shut off alternating row units; but that wasn’t ideal, so they ended up disassembling the planter.

“Our corn planter was getting worn out; and we’re the frugal type, so we rebuilt it,” Huber explains. “We reconfigured it and took half the units off and centered the planter on the 60-inch spacing – 12 rows, 60 feet.”

The wide row setup also has advantages from a mechanical standpoint, Huber says. “It’s a very simple planter, really, with 12 rows. Now we have half the row units and half the parts to mess with fixing and maintaining.”

Most of last year’s crop was planted in mid-June. Another half section was planted on July 11.

“They actually made it,” he says happily. “I knew I was pushing it, but the planter was sitting there full of seed, so I gave it a shot.”

In his first year in the 60-inch rows, Huber was shooting for about 14,000 seeds per acre and ended up with a population of 12,500-13,000. This year he dropped it to 10,000 per acre with a projected in-row plant spacing of eight inches. Being in the wide rows, the plants have plenty of room to grow; and it’s evident by the robust plants that sunflower uses every inch it’s given to flourish.

Weed management and

plant health benefits

This year’s crop was eight feet tall with a big, leafy canopy and huge, healthy stalks. The plants were as healthy as Huber has ever seen.

“Plant health was excellent,” he says. “The seed fill and seed size looked good.”

Since beginning to plant sunflower in 60-inch rows, his yields have averaged between 1,200 to 1,500 lbs/ac.

A healthy canopy also helps with weed control.

“It’s kind of amazing – with the plants denser in the row, they get more leaves,” Huber explains. “We had complete row canopy this year.”

To help with weed management before that canopy develops, Huber applies Spartan preplant or pre-emergence and then comes back with a postemergent grass herbicide usually tank mixed with an insecticide. They haven’t had an issue with insects in recent years, but in defense of the seed weevil, they are very adamant about regular treatment.

Crowded plants make for little air movement. And lack of air movement fosters disease. Huber credits the 60-inch row spacing with allowing more air movement between the rows. This, he says, has resulted in fewer fungicide applications. Huber reports few issues with rust or other diseases in his sunflower.

Planting on 60-inch rows and at a plant population of about 10,000 would accomplish two things that would help minimize disease, according to Tom Gulya, USDA-ARS sunflower plant pathologist.

“One, the air flow through the canopy would lead to less dew formation, and thus fungal spores would be less likely to germinate and infect,” Gulya explains. “Two, the stalk diameter would be significantly greater, and the stalks would be slower to succumb to stalk-rotting pathogens.”

Some might question whether it takes longer for such large, robust plants to dry down for harvest and pass through the combine. Huber says it’s not a problem with his all-crop header. As an added benefit, the healthy plant is stronger and better able to sustain fall wind and rain storms.

“We had a terrible wind come through here [this fall],” he notes. “I plant my ’flowers in a north-south direction so the heads hang off to the east. This helps to cut down on the heads rubbing against neighboring plants, so there’s less shatter loss. Those huge stalks [allow them] to survive in the strong winds we get in the fall.”

This is the fourth year Huber has also planted his corn in 60" rows, and he’s “absolutely, hands-down convinced it’s the way to go.” It’s difficult to argue with someone who has such conviction – especially when he is able to back it up with numbers.

“We’ve cut as good as 150-bushel or better corn,” Huber says. “Sure, we’ve had some around 80 bushels some years in some areas. But I’m convinced it’s the best for corn in my dry environment.”

Farming in a no-till system in a very dry area brings many challenges and often requires unconventional approaches – like this one. Bill Huber emphasizes they are doing whatever they can to be sustainable.

“Sunflower may be more difficult to grow, but in the end they are worthwhile,” he remarks. “They pay you well.”

By SONIA MULLALLY, National Sunflower Association Farm & Ranch Guide

01/27/2012 :: Agriculture isn’t dead, despite misleading Yahoo report

It’s happened again.

Tests by a company of its brand-name orange juice turned up low levels of fungicide. But even as the report went on to indicate the amount was below federal safety concerns and didn’t pose a health risk—alarm bells sounded around the world.

Issues related to the safety and security of our food supply top the news on a regular basis. However, a recent article about the future of the business as posted on Yahoo-Education is the type of report doing more harm to agriculture than good.

Separate statistical data from the United States Department of Labor and United States Department of Agriculture indicates an expected growth in most agriculture-related fields including inspectors, scientists and veterinarians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects over the next five years, there will be a 5 percent increase in the need for graduates in these disciplines, but a 10 percent decline in the number of students choosing these important programs as their career path. This means a shortfall of qualified workers in the areas where we need them most — plants, food, animals and climate change or environmental analysts. But, there are also growing opportunities in industries linked to the business of agriculture; from trucking to coffee and beer brewing, dietetic concerns to animal welfare and pet foods.

As Yahoo’s article stated, students majoring in agriculture-related disciplines are wasting their time and money. Yet, contrary to this, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also suggests an 8 percent increase in the need for qualified, well-educated Ag Managers; citing quickly advancing technological methods of farming across the U.S. and abroad, along with changes in regulations at all Government levels.

The bottom line — agriculture isn’t dead, In fact, no other industry feeds the world’s population which, according to research, will hit 9 billion by 2050. Instead, the need for graduates in agriculture, horticulture and animal science programs will be critical to finding ways of safely doubling food production in order to meet the demand of a growing population. The many facets offer a chance to make a difference. By helping agriculture thrive — we keep the rest of humanity alive.


Jeffrey Volenec

President, Crop Science Society of America

Kenneth Barbarick

President, American Society of Agronomy

Gary Pierzynski

President, Soil Science Society of America

Ellen Bergfeld, C.E.O.

Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies

01/20/2012 :: SEEDS 2000 Acquired by Australian Company, Expands International Prospects

SEEDS 2000 Inc., one of the leading seed research and productions companies in the region, announced Nov. 30, 2011, that it has been acquired by Nuseed, a global seed and traits company based out of Melbourne, Australia.  For SEEDS 2000, headquartered in Breckenridge, MN, the merger will mean a myriad of changes for employees; from an exporting prospective, the acquisition of a regional company by an international player may be a step towards increasing global sales.

“Nuseed is a multinational company, so they bring people and expertise from markets that we haven’t entered yet or are trying to expand in,” said Matt Breker, International Sales Manager at SEEDS 2000.  “It really helps bring a lot more horsepower to our international business.”

SEEDS 2000 is not a newcomer to the international exporting game.  Jay Schuler and Gerhardt “Gary” Fick started SEEDS 2000 in 1992, following years of a variety of other seed-related projects, with a focus primarily on the development of elite oil and confection sunflower hybrids that benefit both the farmer and end-use customer.  Over the past five years, the company’s global footprint has exploded, according to Schuler and Fick.  SEEDS 2000 now has approximately 45 employees, five of which are involved in international marketing.

Exporting from SEEDS 2000 began in 1999 in Austria.  Today, China is the largest market for the company’s seeds, with product also being shipped to Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Japan, Ghana and a number of European Union countries, just to name a few.

The hope of the SEEDS 2000 and Nuseed merger is to meet the growing demand of sunflowers for the world, and the company has expertise to fit the bill.  SEEDS 2000 has three doctorate-level plant breeders in Breckenridge and one in Argentina.  Their sunflower genetics are currently being sold in a number of foreign markets, and the addition of Nuseeds’ varieties will only expand international options.

“Our company will be able to offer a wider range of genetics internationally and domestically because now we have access to additional genetics from Nuseed.  Internationally and domestically we’ll see improved products,” Breker said.

Nuseed is focused on the enhancement of food and feed value through seed technology.  The company currently develops proprietary canola, sunflower, and sorghum products that are marketed in over 25 countries.  Nuseed has existing sunflower breeding and marketing operations based in California, Argentina, Serbia and Australia.

Although Schuler admits the acquisition was difficult after twenty years of working with SEEDS 2000, he ensures customers that the SEEDS 2000 brand isn’t likely to disappear and the goal is to help make the company grow.  For international sales staff such as Breker, the acquisition points towards a future of opportunity.

“It’s a really an exciting time to be a part of SEEDS200 and to be a part of the Nuseed organization, especially as we move forward in some of these international markets because we’ll  be much more aggressively entering some of these markets,” Breker said.

01/19/2012 :: Patent Set to Expire on Roundup Ready Trait

With the patent set to expire on a Roundup Ready trait (RR1), attorney Joel Cape is set to make a return to the Arkansas Seed Growers Association meeting on Jan. 25.  In 2006, Cape spoke to the association on seed law history and where biotechnology fits in the legal picture. At the coming meeting he will update those comments and expand on what the trait’s expiration means for farmers looking to save seed and how it will impact breeding programs.

Cape recently spoke with Farm Press. Among his comments:

On RR1…

“The original Roundup Ready gene consists of different pieces of DNA and each was put together to make a functional gene. There was more than one patent on that gene because several of those individual parts were also patented by themselves.

“The last of those patents on the original Roundup Ready gene is set to expire. That does mean that seed containing the RR1 will, essentially, be unrestricted. This means that growers can generally plant and use seed with the RR1 gene without an obligation to pay royalties or a prohibition on saving seed.”

On breeding programs and developing varieties with the RR1 gene…

“Using the RR1 gene to develop generic versions of seed with the trait is more complicated process. Breeding the trait into your own lines is only part of the path to getting a product that can be commercialized.

“There are also various regulatory hurdles that need to be analyzed before just taking that gene and putting it into your own lines. You have to jump those before commercializing such a product – there is more than one regulatory agency to go through to keep RR in the marketplace. EPA is one along with the FDA and USDA. There is a fairly complex regulatory regime.”

On farmers being able to save RR1 seed…

“They will be able to save the seed, but with a caveat. The gene may be in seed that is subject to other protection.

“The Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act has been (in force) at least since the 1970s. That gene may be in germplasm that has a PVP on it.

“The gene may also be in germplasm that has a utility patent.

“The short answer is: Yes, you can save seed. The longer answer is: You might want to pay close attention to the seed you’re buying before deciding to save it. There may be other protections that cover the rest of the genetics in the seed. Don’t just throw caution to the wind – you still need to pay attention to what you’re planting.

“People have traditionally believed that PVP-protected material can be saved. I don’t think it’s quite that simple. There is a ‘farmer-saved seed’ exception but I also think you can agree not to save it.

“This will be the thrust of the talk I’m giving at the Seed Growers meeting since I’ll be talkingwith farmers that need to make planting decisions.”

Since you first addressed seed patent laws at the Arkansas Seed Growers meeting, have you noticed the questions you’ve been getting regarding the patent laws and seed have shifted?

“Truthfully, no. There is a basic level of awareness of patents which has been established in the farm community over the last 15 years.

“That being said, the level of awareness depends on the crop to some degree. In soybean production, the message has been pretty thoroughly communicated that saving seed is something that is not available for many varieties. That’s simply because the RR trait in soybeans has been very popular and it’s been widely licensed. The bottom line is people like Roundup Ready and the educational message has gotten out.

“The same is largely true for other major crops such as cotton and wheat.

“Nowadays, there are patents on other beneficial traits in a variety of crops. The different ways in which other patented crop traits are licensed and marketed makes a difference in the knowledge that growers may not have a specific awareness of how the law impacts the use of property laws in agriculture. But the extent of that knowledge will vary.”

Where do you range?

“For the most part, anywhere I’m asked. I’ve been fortunate in that my law practice has been national in scope and my cases have taken me all across the country. In my agricultural practice, I’ve had the benefit of working with several different crops and producers in all types of production settings.”

Do you still focus on these issues in your practice?

“I do. My law practice has broadened since moving back to northwest Arkansas from New Orleans last summer. I try to help folks solve problems, either by heading off a potential issue before it comes up, or by jumping in after a difficulty arises. I also went to law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.”

On Cape’s Jan. 25 Arkansas Seed Growers presentation…

“In my experience, farmers want to know ‘what can I do now? What is allowed?’

“The message is: seed with the RR1 trait will no longer be under patent and you may be able to save it. But pay close attention what else may cover the seed.”

Looking forward…

“There’s a whole lot of interest in the RR1 trait coming off patent.

“Another aspect of this is seed companies have been curious as to what they can do and when.

“But there is probably even more interest in the next generation of traits that are being developed to address various environmental stresses, such as drought tolerance, cold tolerance, salt water tolerance, and others. There is a great deal of effort being directed towards developing plant material that can perform in challenging growing conditions. The potential benefits of these kinds of traits are a big deal because they may make the difference between having a decent crop to harvest, or no crop at all.”

01/10/2012 :: Judge Rules in Favor of GE Alfalfa Growers in California

A federal judge has upheld the government's decision to let the nation's alfalfa growers plant the genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant strain manufactured by Monsanto Co., saying the alleged risk of contaminating other crops does not require regulators to impose buffer zones.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the use of Roundup Ready alfalfa - so named because it is designed to withstand Monsanto's Roundup herbicide - in January 2011, ending a nationwide ban that another judge had imposed in March 2007.

The action was challenged by a group of alfalfa farmers who said they feared that the Monsanto product, spread by winds and bees, would pollinate their crops and take over their fields. Thursday, however, U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti of San Francisco said the USDA had acted within its authority.

01/04/2012 :: Environmental Lawsuits Could Hit US Agriculture in 2012

The National Corn Growers Association is currently involved in two major pieces of environmental litigation that will likely be decided in federal court in 2012. This could have major implications for future environmental regulations.

Earlier this year, NCGA joined with the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural organizations to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency's Total Maximum Daily Load for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay. The farm groups stated the Chesapeake Bay TMDL goes beyond the scope of Clean Water Act authority, that the science used by the Agency is flawed and that the regulatory process lacked transparency. The case has been filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania.

The outcome of this lawsuit could establish significant precedent for future water quality regulations throughout the country. Many corn growers are concerned that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL could be used as a blueprint for addressing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff in the Mississippi River Basin and other watersheds. In recent months, EPA has begun to publicly question its own confidence in the agency's water quality modeling, particularly for establishing localized nutrient allocations.

The second lawsuit involves pesticide registrations and their potential impact on endangered species. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a suit against EPA in 2011 alleging that the agency failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on hundreds of pesticide registrations potentially affecting hundreds of species.

EPA has lost similar cases in recent years and federal judges have often established buffer zones and product restrictions until interagency consultations between EPA, FWS and NMFS could be conducted. NCGA and other agricultural organizations are interveners in the CBD case to ensure that growers have a seat at the table in any potential settlement negotiations.


01/03/2012 :: Back to the Farm for Young Professionals

How you gonna keep ‘em off of the farm after they’ve been savaged by corporate America?

Seems like a small exodus has begun away from mega companies that treat employees like numbers and back to rural America, where folks can at least have a say in what they do and how they do it.

A recent AP article by Dinesh Ramde indicates that more young people, those in their 20s and 30s, are abandoning careers with large companies where they feel stifled and heading back to the farm. Some are going back; others are taking up the plow for the first time and are taking advantage of programs in ag colleges that train people how to farm.

The advantages would be obvious to anyone who ever lived and worked on a farm. Farmers, to a certain degree, can be their own bosses—set their own time schedules, decide what crops or livestock to produce, determine acreages to allot for vegetables, fruit trees or livestock.

They set up their own marketing programs. They can sell to local markets, set up their own sales facility, develop a pick-your-own enterprise or sell at local farmers’ markets. They also might opt to sell to larger companies that ship across country or export. A lot depends on location, enterprise size and capital.

They also know that living in the country can be a lot less hectic than making a stressful commute every morning and every evening through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

A lot of these agri-entrepreneurs are returning home, going back to farms and ranches they left after earning college degrees and trying out careers away from the farm. In some cases, those professions simply didn’t offer them the kind of lifestyles they had hoped for. For others, the failing economy may have made agriculture look a lot brighter.

Projections indicate that U.S. farmers had a good year, for the most part, in 2011. Too much rain in some places, way too little in others created hardships for many. And new farmers must be aware of those hardships.

Anyone who goes back to the farm or takes up farming for the first time, regardless of the size of the operation, must be aware that agriculture is not stress-free. Farmers face challenges other industries don’t consider. A hail storm late in the season can destroy a year’s work. A late spring freeze can kill newly emerged plants, fruit tree blossoms or newborn livestock.

Prices go down; production costs rise; consumer preferences change. The work is hard and the outcome is often uncertain. Start-up costs can be extremely high, especially in areas close to cities, where the demand for local produce will be the greatest.

I have a friend in South Carolina, my next-door neighbor when I was growing up—if 200 yards can be considered next door. Several years ago he switched out a landscaping business to greenhouse vegetable production. He raises hydroponic tomatoes in the winter. They are quite good. He also grows greens, squash, beans, cucumbers and other vegetables and sells from a store on his property and also at local farmers markets and nearby grocery stores. He seems to be doing well, and he’s definitely doing what he wants to do.

I try to go by and see what new products he has when I go visit my mother. He usually forces me to take home a handful of whatever is in season.

Small farms, local grown produce and similar enterprises might not be the key to feeding the growing world population, but they make a significant contribution. And folks who understand the vagaries of agriculture and consumer tastes may earn good livings from these enterprises.

It’s also refreshing to consider that the exodus back to agriculture has the potential to bring some young blood back to the farm—no small consideration when most U.S. farmers are more than 55 years old.

Welcome to the country.

by Ron Smith in Farm Press Blog

12/30/2011 :: Corn Farmers Continue on 300-Bushel Quest

If U.S. corn growers continue to increase yields at the rate they’ve been doing for the last 55 years, they should be able to reach the fabled national average yield goal of 300 bushels per acre by around, oh, 2086.

With food experts predicting the 300-bushel-per-acre average will be needed long before then and possibly as early as 2030, the average rate of increase of 1.9 bushels per acre over the last half century may not be good enough, a Purdue University agronomist says.

Individual growers – some of them in the South – have reached that goal of 300 bushels per acre and more in the National Corn Growers’ yield contests, says Bob Nielson, Extension corn specialist at Purdue, who spoke at this year’s Integrated Crop Management Conference at Iowa State University.

“Furthermore, the physiological yield components necessary to produce a 300-plus-bushel crop are not terribly out of reach today,” he noted. “Potential ear size is easily 1,000 kernels with today’s hybrids, which would be equal to an ear with 18 kernel rows and 56 kernels per row.”

356-bushel potential

If that ear size could be maintained at a harvest population of 30,000 plants per acre and if kernel weight could be maintained at about 85,000 kernels per 56-pound bushel, those yield components would multiply to equal a yield of 356 bushels per acre.

Speaking at the ICM Conference in Ames, Iowa, which is attended by about 900 crop advisors annually, Nielsen said steadily rising yields are a relatively recent phenomenon for U.S. corn producers.

“For 70 years, beginning in 1886, national corn grain yields in the U.S. were essentially flat and averaged only 26 bushels per acre during that entire time,” he said. “The absence of noticeable yield improvement throughout all those years is remarkable given the farmers of the day were essentially also plant breeders, selecting the best ears from one crop for planting in the next.”

After the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years in the 1930s, growers began to plant hybrid seed corn that launched a slow but steady rise in production. With the advent of mechanization, herbicides, inorganic fertilizers, farmers began to see even greater increases that averaged about 2 bushels per acre from 1955 to the present.

“To reach that lofty goal of 300 bushels per acre by 2030, another quantum leap shift in the rate of annual yield gain would have to occur beginning next year that would take us to an annual increase of about 7.5 bushels per acre per year for the next 19 years,” says Nielsen.

Unprecedented leap

“Such a quantum leap shift in yield improvement would be unprecedented in the history of corn production. Contrary to the hype and hoopla over transgenic corn traits by the farm press and seed corn industry, there is little evidence such a leap has begun.”

If some farmers are already producing 300 bushels per acre and more today, what can other growers do to push their yields into that range?

“The answer to that question is simple,” says Nielsen. “Once that seed is planted, that crop is subjected to a season-long array of yield-influencing factors, most of which are stresses that reduce yield potential.

“So the secret to improving yields on your farm is simply to sharpen your focus on identifying the yield-influencing factors specific to the fields you farm. Once you have successfully done that, then you are better equipped to identify the appropriate agronomic management strategies to alleviate those factors holding back your yield and, perhaps, enhance those factors that promote high yields.”

Nielsen says the trouble with the way many farmers go about trying to improve yields is that they look for “silver bullets” or the “one-size-fits-all” answer to their problems. Instead, farmers need to pay attention to a range of what he calls “yield-influencing factors:”

  • Field drainage. “In my area of the eastern Corn Belt, naturally poorly-drained soils constitute a perennial challenge to establishing vigorous stands of corn. The adequacy of field drainage (tile or surface) greatly influences whether corn will produce 200-bushel-plus yields or nothing or somewhere in between.”
  • Supplemental water. Some soils in the eastern Corn Belt suffer from the opposite influence in that they dry out too easily when rainfall is inadequate. Obviously, fields with those soils will usually respond to supplemental water provided by above-ground irrigation or below-ground supplementation.

Wide range of yields

  • Hybrid selection. “Most of us spend too little time evaluating the documented performance of potential hybrids. Look at any hybrid trial that includes “good” hybrids from a range of seed companies, and you will easily see a 50-bushel to 100-bushel range in yield between the top and bottom of the trial.”

“The key challenge is to identify hybrids that not only have good yield potential, but that also tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. The best way to accomplish this is to evaluate hybrid performance across a lot of locations.”

  • Manage trash in no-till. “If you no-till corn on soils that are poorly drained, then you simply must strive to manage surface “trash” to enable drying/warming of surface soils, facilitate effective planter operation and improve crop emergence/stand establishment. Aim to burn down winter annuals or cover crops before their growth becomes unmanageable.”
  • Avoid soil compaction. “If you improve soil drainage, you will also minimize the risk of working or planting fields ‘on the wet side’ and, therefore, the risk of creating soil compaction with tillage or other field operations that can limit root development.
  • Continuous corn or not. “Frankly, continuous corn does not yield as well as rotation corn. Numerous long-term rotation trials have documented this across a number of states.”
  • Starter fertilizer or not. Starter fertilizer, especially nitrogen, is important for maximizing yields in the eastern Corn Belt.
  • Nitrogen management. “Best management practices that target the efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers in corn are well documented and include avoiding fall nitrogen applications, avoiding surface application of urea-based fertilizers without incorporation and adopting sidedress N application programs where practical.”
  • Disease management. “Warm, humid conditions typical of the eastern Corn Belt during the summer months are conducive for the development of several important foliar fungal diseases, including gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight. Goss’s Wilt, a potentially severe bacterial disease, has migrated into Indiana and represents a new challenge for growers in the eastern Corn Belt.”

“It should be obvious at this point that achieving higher, more consistent yields does not require ‘rocket science,’” says Nielsen. “Rather, we’re talking about a lot of common sense, agronomic principles that work together to minimize the usual crop stresses that occur every year and allow the crop to better tolerate uncontrollable weather stresses.”

12/22/2011 :: Broadaxe — A Promising New Sunflower Herbicide

The introduction of Spartan® herbicide (Sulfentrazone) in the 1990s revolutionized sunflower production in the U.S. Spartan gave sunflower producers the needed tool to grow this crop in a no-till system successfully for the first time. A few years later Dual Magnum® (S-metolachlor) was labeled on sunflower as well, but without a lot of fanfare. That was largely due to the product being weak on kochia, the “Darth Vader” of troublesome sunflower weeds.

For the 2012 season, a new herbicide will be available for sunflower producers that merges these two active ingredients into one product. The product, called Broadaxe®, is expected to be labeled in late 2011 or early 2012. The product owner, FMC, is planning a full launch for the 2012 season.

FMC has been looking at this combination for the last five years in all the sunflower production states. The company noticed that Broadaxe really stuck out as demonstrating superior weed control, according to Sam Lockhart, technical support specialist for FMC. The idea is not entirely new. In the October/November 2010 issue of The Sunflower, a producer near Dodge City, Kan., reported his use of a mixture of the two labeled herbicides to control palmer amaranth.

The advantage of Broadaxe over conventional Spartan formulations is longer residual, better control of early season grasses such as green, yellow and giant foxtail and barnyardgrass. It also provides a broader control spectrum of several key broadleaf weeds, including pigweed species (e.g., palmer amaranth), lambsquarter species and Russian thistle.

University researchers like Drs. Brian Jenks (NDSU), Richard Zollinger (NDSU) and Phil Stahlman (KSU) like what they have been seeing in their Broadaxe research plots.

For Jenks, who is located at the NDSU North Central Research Extension Center at Minot, N.D., the product has done a good job of controlling foxtail that may be resistant to Group 1 and Group 3 herbicides. In addition, he has observed good control of lambsquarters, pigweed and wild buckwheat when applied preplant or pre-emergence.

Stahlman, located at the KSU-Hays Research and Extension Center, has seen good control of foxtail as well as stinkgrass, fall panicum and witchgrass, along with partial control of longspine sandbur, wooly and prairie cupgrass, shattercane and Johnsongrass seedlings (but not rhizome Johnsongrass).

Another advantage that Stahlman has observed with Broadaxe is improved control of kochia. He notes that glyphosate-resistant kochia is well documented in Kansas and other regions. Kochia resistance to ALS and triazine herbicides has been around for some time. The combination of Broadaxe with two active ingredients is an important tool in resistance management.

All three scientists note enhanced synergy with the two ingredients combined. NDSU’s Zollinger worked with the product for the first time in the 2011 season and saw nearly complete control of foxtail, barnyardgrass, wild mustard, redroot pigweed, lambsquarters, eastern black nightshade, biennial wormwood and marshelder as well as partial control of dandelion. Some of the weed control was better with the mixture compared to Spartan or Dual alone. “There must be some synergy with the mixture,” Zollinger states.

Rates, Incorporation & Soil Types

All of the university researchers found that the higher rates did the best job. Brian Jenks says “weed control was typically better with the 35-oz rate compared to the 25-oz rate.” Rich Zollinger agrees with the higher rate recommendation. Phil Stahlman likes the higher rates to get the longest season control of difficult weeds like palmer amaranth, which can germinate throughout the growing season.

Broadaxe can be applied 14 days prior to planting and up to three days after planting. Like Spartan and Dual, Broadaxe needs rainfall for activation. Generally, a half inch is needed for good activation in no-till or conventional till. Both Zollinger and Jenks like a pre-emergence application to get the longest residual. Planting time rainfall has not been a problem in the last several years in the Dakotas/Minnesota.

Zollinger thinks abundant moisture is the key reason why the results were so good in his 2011 trials. He is interested in seeing the level of weed control in a dry spring.

Stahlman suggests a seven- to 10-day preplant application in Kansas dryland production with a mixture of glyphosate. “Our spring rainfall is so unpredictable. It is important to have the product on the ground for a longer period of time to ensure a rainfall event,” he says

FMC’s Sam Lockhart cautions growers to not cover Broadaxe with much soil when planting. “Broadaxe will have trouble controlling weeds if it is buried under a lot of soil,” he says. “It is this top layer where the small-seeded weed species will be located when they germinate.” KSU’s Stahlman also warns about displacing treated soil within the row in a preplant situation when no moisture has been received.

The labeled rates will range from 17 to 38 oz/acre. Lockhart says that lower rates will be necessary on very light soils with low organic matter and high pH. “It will be important for growers to consider soil sampling or grid sampling their ground to dial in a proper rate based on the rate chart on the label,” he notes. “If a grower knows his soil type, soil organic matter and soil pH, it will be easier to pick a rate to use.”

Lockhart and the university researchers all agree that the product has great potential for added weed control in sunflower. There are weaknesses in volunteer grains, wild oat and some large-seeded broadleaf weeds. But up to this point, researchers have been impressed with the results.

— Larry Kleingartner

12/20/2011 :: Ushering in the Golden Age of Global Agriculture?

A tsunami of new demand, particularly from China and India, should keep commodity prices and producer profitability strong over the next decade, according to Michael Dwyer, director of global policy analysis for the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, speaking at the USA Rice Outlook Conference, in Austin, Texas.

While Dwyer stopped short of saying that agriculture had entered a sort of “golden age” of profitability, he noted agriculture continues as one of the bright spots in the struggling global economy these days.

Dwyer says that one factor that could impact his fairly bullish outlook is a 25 percent chance that a financial catastrophe in Europe could trigger another global recession in the next couple of years. “If that happens, the value of the euro will fall, the dollar will rise and commodity prices will fall. What we’re worried about for China is a hard landing. China’s economy is starting to slow down. One third of all new construction in Shanghai is empty. This is the first sign of a real estate bubble.”

Other factors to keep an eye on the coming years, according to Dwyer.

Demand driven by global economic growth and the rise of the middle class in developing countries– “The demand theme will affect every commodity, not just rice, and not just American rice. Studies show that when there is a dollar increase in income, consumers in China, India, Latin America and Southeast Asia will spend 20 cents to 40 cents of that increase on food. This has a tremendous impact on global food demand. Prices have to rise as a rationing device.”

The value of the dollar– “When the dollar goes up, commodity prices go down. When the dollar goes down, commodity prices go up. Over the next 10 years, we expect the dollar to fall by another 14 percent. If that’s true, it’s going to continue to put upward pressure on commodity prices.”

Global biofuels production– Dwyer noted that if more land goes into feedstock for biofuels, “it means it’s coming out of land for other crops. All commodities are getting a price spike from what is happening in biofuel production. In other words, there is a substitution factor. But what if there is a breakthrough on a technology where suddenly the cost of producing biofuel drops to 50 cent to 75 cents. It would definitely impair demand for corn feedstock.”

Trade and trade liberalization– “Many countries are signing free trade agreements. These agreements have effectively lowered the levels of protection, so that production happens in the countries that have a comparative advantage. As a low cost producer in many crops, we will be the big winner in trade liberalization. World trade is up over 150 percent since 2000. Imports have gone up in almost every country, as have exports.”

Policy errors by government– Never underestimate the ability of government to make mistakes, Dwyer says. “Look what happened to rice prices back in 2008-09. There wasn’t really a rice shortage. That price spike should not have happened. But it did because a number of rice countries started banning rice exports to keep the price of rice low to their domestic constituency. All it did was shift those price pressures into the global market.”

The result was a crisis of confidence, according to Dwyer. “We have spent the last 30 or 40 years trying to convince the rest of the world that you can rely on a world trading system for the most basic human needs. When we had a crisis in 2008-09, countries basically adopted the law of the jungle, every man for himself. It sent a powerful negative signal to importers around the world that maybe we can’t trust the global trading system. I’d love to tell you that it’s never going to happen again, but we saw it last year with Russian wheat.”

Energy prices– “At the end of the day, if you really want to know where food prices are going to go, look at oil prices, because they’re going in the same direction. Those two sectors are linked at the hip.”

Dwyer noted that the Chinese middle class will also put pressure on energy prices. “As its middle class grows, they’ll purchase more cars, which will require more energy. The same factors that are affecting agriculture are affecting energy prices.”

Biotechnology development– “With demand building around the world, we have to do one of two things, put a lot more land into production or increase yields. One way to get yields up is through biotechnology. The problem is that acceptance of biotechnology is not universal.”

Land expansion– To satisfy demand for food and fiber, increased production will come from both yield advances and more land coming into production, Dwyer says. The latter won’t happen unless producers believe that high prices are in for the long run. “In our view that is exactly what is going to happen. Much of the new growth will come from South America and the former Soviet Union.”

12/19/2011 :: The Robots Are Coming

You don't have to be a science fiction fan to believe that robots are coming to a field near you. In fact, eventually some of the robots could be your robots. The technology is here with GPS and advanced tractor management systems. Simply look at John Deere's Machine Sync and the GuideConnect system introduced recently by AGCO's Fendt brand. Throw in John Deere's logistics and networking technology FarmSight and various other companies’ fleet management/telematics solutions and operator-less field operations can only be a matter of time.

"The technology for autonomous machines exists," agreed Bob Dyar, product manager, Agricultural Management Solutions, John Deere. "We just have to have the technology to operate safely, to protect people and other things that exist in and around the machine's operating zone. Robotics is happening in other industries. It will happen in agriculture too."

John Deere's Machine Sync temporarily turns the grain cart tractor into a robotic arm of the combine. For the purpose of unloading on the go, the combine's on-board computer takes control of the tractor, ensuring that it will adjust speed and position to match the combine during the unloading process.

This is just a step away from the combine being able to alert the grain cart to leave the side of the field and come into position for unloading...without an operator on board, which Kinze Manufacturing field demonstrated earlier this year with a driverless tractor. Kinze also demonstrated a driverless or autonomous planting operation by way of a GPS field map loaded into a tractor and planter combination. As the company noted, a farmer will only need to perform “cursory monitoring.”

Peter Josef Paffen, senior vice president, Fendt, referred to the introduction of autonomous vehicles as a process that, for Fendt and AGCO, has started with their leader/follower concept in Fendt tractors. Martin Richenhagen, CEO, AGCO Corporation, said the technology is fully adaptable to other AGCO brand equipment, including combines, forage harvesters and application equipment.

The John Deere and Fendt technologies recently won awards at Agritechnica, the world's largest ag machinery show. Machine Sync won silver, while GuideConnect won gold. With Fendt's GuideConnect, two tractors with matching implements are brought to the field. One operator remains with the leader tractor and programs the follower tractor to match all actions of the leader tractor, but at a preset distance behind the leader and in a neighboring swath. No operator is needed in the follower. The sole operator in the field is responsible for directing both tractors around any obstacles in the field and watching for problems.


Given the level of current technology, including infrared and other types of sensors, not to mention cameras for live feed to a supervising operator, why have an operator in the field at all? "Right now the biggest impediment to autonomous equipment is the questions of who assumes liability and will anyone write insurance policies to cover production, people and companies," suggested Scott Shearer, chair, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Ohio State University.

It is a problem that AGCO will need to solve before many farmers are likely to adopt GuideConnect, especially in the highly litigious U.S. market. It's one that Richenhagen is adamant will be answered.

"It is an issue we are working on," he said at an Agritechnica news conference. "A nation which can develop unmanned missiles that can be fired remotely should be able to resolve a liability issue like this."

Shearer agreed that it will be resolved, but perhaps not with the 300 to 400 horsepower tractors Fendt is suggesting for initial use with GuideConnect. He pointed out the difficulty of stopping a large piece of equipment. He further suggested that the paradigm of larger equipment allowing one man to do more might be at its peak, with autonomous technology shifting manufacturers’ focus away from larger size equipment.

"If you go to small, autonomous equipment, it could be two row or four row and under 50 horsepower," said Shearer. "A 40 horsepower tractor could be stopped with a high tensile fence. Liability is simply a lot less than with its 300 to 600 horsepower counterparts."

Not only would there be economies in manufacturing costs (smaller equipment doesn't have to be as heavily built), but more importantly there would also be reduced soil compaction. That translates directly into increased yield.

"Potential yield gains as a result of reduced soil compaction may be significant," said Shearer. "Efficiency will be of secondary importance initially."

How does all this relate to application equipment, full-service ag retailers and custom applicators? Dyar and Richenhagen both suggest potential for their respective technologies for applicator customers as well as farmers.


Jacob Bolson, application engineer, Hagie Manufacturing, noted that liability concerns might be even greater for fully autonomous application equipment, given the highly regulated nature of products being applied. However, having a single operator in a field with multiple, smaller, lighter and more soil friendly application units makes sense to Bolson. He refers to them as micro applicators.

"I agree 200 percent that bigger is no longer the answer," said Bolson. "I think we will be backtracking through the use of automation to smaller equipment. However, I do believe we will have someone in the field managing the machines."

Like Shearer, Bolson is convinced the impact of soil compaction from ever-bigger tractors, planters and harvesting equipment is a problem. He feels ag is at the tip of the iceberg in quantifying the problem. He said farmers are already turning away from the biggest sprayers, regardless of manufacturer.

"I think a lot more focus is going to be on figuring out ways to have micro applicators that are more efficient," said Bolson. "Micro applicators are something the industry hasn't tapped into."

Although Bolson couldn't say if Hagie is tapping into it now, he did say the company continues pushing for "more seamless integration with automation partners to make sure we are giving customers the best experience with today's technology while working with our partners on planning for the future."


Shearer doesn't expect one size to fit all or one level of control to fit all. Instead, he sees coordination of vehicles ranging from very little in some situations to modest or total in others. He does feel the availability of RTK is essential.

"We are seeing the densification of RTK networks," said Shearer. "We need to see broadband internet access in all rural regions. Within fields, we can do wireless communication from machine to machine, like John Deere's Machine Sync, but we need connectivity to the farm office or from wherever the machine is being monitored. Most of all, what we need to go from the research environment to full deployment is for the system to generate returns to producers, manufacturers and service providers."

Dyar said speed of adoption will depend on customer need. He compared the rapid adoption of guided steering systems by farmers as similar to the reaction John Deere is now getting to Machine Sync with its Machine Communication Radio (MCR). It is the MCR that allows up to 10 machines to communicate, not only for unloading, but also for sharing data such as hopper fill status, location and machine status.

Although it may take time for farmers, applicators and others to realize the value of the new, semi-autonomous technologies now on the table, Machine Sync appears to be an easy sell, suggested Dyar. "Farmers who have read about it understand the value of unloading on the go," he said. "If you can harvest 100 acres more per day with unloading on the go, that's significant."

12/16/2011 :: French Court Overturns GMO Ban

France’s ban on growing a strain of genetically modified maize developed by Monsanto Company was overturned by France’s highest court last week. The move is significant since France’s government and citizens have been some of the most outspoken critics of GM technology in food crops.

The recent decision follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in early September that said France had based its decision to establish a moratorium on growing Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize on the wrong EU legislation.

The ECJ had stated that member states could only ban or suspend measures when the state could demonstrate potentially serious risks to human or animal health or the environment.

France’s highest court could not find that MON810 posed a serious threat.

Monsanto told Reuters that it “welcomed support for a science and evidence-based approach to GM crop policy in the EU.”

This move could represent a shift in EU policy in the future. However, Greenpeace has said it would urge action to stop this strain’s cultivation before the next planting season.

Only two GMO varieties are approved to be grown in the EU.

12/14/2011 :: Crop Farming a Risky Business

Crop farming is a risky business, and according to a Purdue Extension agricultural economist, farmers need to successfully manage that risk now more than ever.

There are two distinct types of risk farmers need to be concerned with — operating risk and financial risk. Operating risk is what's associated with grain prices, input costs and yields. Financial risk refers to the way producers finance their business — whether through debt or their own equity.

Both types of risk have intensified in the last few years as the volatility in commodity markets and input prices has caused grain producers' profit margins to become unstable.

"The volatility we've seen in the margins has increased dramatically since the mid-2000s," Mike Boehlje said. "We had a fairly stable set of prices and, more importantly, costs, for most of the 1990s and the first half of the following decade. But since about 2005, we've had significant volatility not only in prices but also in costs, resulting in a dramatic increase in margin volatility."

During the last three to four years, farmers generally have seen much higher grain prices. But Boehlje is quick to point out how quickly that changes.

"Just look at what's happened since August of this year to prices," he said. "We've now taken over a dollar off of corn prices and closer to $2 in some markets."

Even with all of the uncertainty, Boehlje said there are strategies to help farmers manage their risk. The first is by locking in margins when both commodity and input prices are favorable.

"Margins can be protected by using futures markets or contracting to lock in grain-selling prices and by contracting input prices for fertilizer, seed and chemicals," he said.

Second, farmers need to buy crop insurance. Determining the level at which to insure the crop can be a challenge, but Boehlje said he recommends higher levels of coverage right now because of the volatility.

Third, producers need to pay special attention to managing financial risk, especially when it comes to debt.

"Be careful with borrowing money," Boehlje said. "Now may be the time to pay down a little debt and position yourself to be able to handle this increased volatility by not having as much debt."

For those producers who already have long-term debt, Boehlje suggests taking advantage of historically low interest rates by fixing their loan rates.

And, finally, farmers need to use sound operating procedures, take advantage of the best possible seed and technology, and make sure operating costs are under control.

"Don't get lax in cost-control in good times because that can certainly hurt you when times aren't so good," he said.

For more information on risk management, check out the November 2011 edition of "Purdue Agricultural Economics Report" at Boehlje and Purdue Extension agricultural economist Brent Gloy discuss the topic at-length in their article, "Managing the Risk - Capturing the Opportunity in Crop Farming."

11/30/2011 :: Nuseed expands seed platform with US acquisition

Nuseed, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nufarm Limited, today announced the acquisition of
Seeds 2000 Inc, based in Breckenridge, Minnesota, USA.

Seeds 2000 is a seed research, production, sales and marketing company focused primarily on the development of elite oil and confection sunflower hybrids that benefit both the farmer and end-use food customer. The company has significantly expanded its international activities in recent years and today conducts development and sales activities in the USA, Canada, China, Argentina and a number of European markets.

Nuseed is a global seed and traits company focused on the enhancement of food and feed value through seed technology. The company develops proprietary canola, sunflower, and sorghum products that are marketed in over 25 countries.  Nuseed has existing sunflower breeding and marketing operations based in California, Argentina, Serbia and Australia.

Sunflower is an important oilseed and snack food crop, occupying approximately 24 million hectares of land globally and producing approximately 32 million metric tonnes of grain annually. 

Seeds 2000 President, Steve Kent, said he expected the transition to be seamless and to facilitate additional opportunities to expand the business in both the US domestic market and globally.

In 2009, Seeds 2000 received a growth investment from the Rural American Fund, a Chicago based private equity firm focused on making partnership investments in growing agricultural companies. 

“Seeds 2000 is a fantastic company and we are very pleased with this transaction for the teams at Seeds 2000 and Nuseed”, said Tom Karlson, Founding Principal of Rural American Fund.

Nuseed Americas VP, Andy Thomas said, “Sunflower is a key crop for us. This investment provides a broader sunflower footprint in global markets and a pipeline of genetics complementary to our existing business.

“We look forward to a great future with Seeds 2000 employees and customers.”

Andy Thomas, Nuseed Americas VP

10/31/2011 :: Envisioning Tomorrow’s Weed Control and How to Get There

How will you control weeds in 10-20 years?

Look for sensor-driven, integrated weed management systems that identify weed species and immediately target the correct control measure for the plant growth stage and weed species. These systems could limit chemical applications to the micro dose needed, reducing herbicide amounts and practically eliminating drift and groundwater issues.

At UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center, work is underway on targeted control systems for use with sensors and guidance systems that can identify and control weeds in real-time as a device moves through the field.

The combination of plant recognition and various application technologies into a single platform will require integrating research in the fields of biology, engineering, and computer science. This single platform will incorporate sensors and decision support software so multiple application technologies can be accessed to provide directed weed management. Ideally, it would be a self-guided machine that could systematically comb the field to identify weeds and then apply the necessary control tool (e.g., spray, mow, cultivate) at the individual plant or patch scale.

From a biological approach, successfully integrating weed management requires an understanding of three key components:

  • the effect of treatments on weed populations
  • weed growth and development stages, and
  • the critical period for applying control tools.

Control tools (e.g., mowing, spraying, cultivating) have different effects on weeds and without a complete understanding of the life history of the target weed(s) and crop, the development of effective and efficient robotic systems will be challenging, if not impossible. In most crops, there is a period when weed control is critical to avoid yield loss. An autonomous robotic system that doesn’t consider timing of weed removal will perform poorly in current cropping systems. For a robotic system to respond to critical periods of crop growth, it must be either manually sent into the field or programmed to perform weed control operations that are in sync with crop growth stage.

In a true integrated weed management system that uses the latest machine-based guidance systems with sensors and decision control systems, weed identification and control applications could occur simultaneously moving across a field.

Research Needs

An immediate research need in this area is to refine targeted application methods for quantifying micro-dose herbicide rates suitable for effective weed control. The research team at the West Central REC is conducting a series of related greenhouse studies and has proposed additional studies.

In the future, a single platform will need to have more than one tool for use in the field for controlling weeds. Greater collaboration among scientists in the fields of weed science and biological and computer science can help achieve two major goals:

  1. combination of weed management tools into one operation to allow for a truly integrated system, and
  2. advancement of more sustainable integrated weed management programs that result in reduced environmental contamination and human exposure to chemicals, as well as inputs needed to economically control weeds.

Steve Young, Extension Weeds Specialist
West Central REC, North Platte

10/24/2011 :: Population Trends are Bullish for Agriculture

By Tim Hoskins For Farm & Ranch Guide

Chad Hart is a self-described bull.

"I am bullish on the long-term future for agriculture," says Hart.

The Iowa State University economics assistant professor says the assumption for his optimistic outlook for Iowa agriculture (and the upper Midwest) is based on forecasts showing the world's population to grow to about 9 billion by 2050.

In 20 years, there will be more mouths to feed. In addition, Hart says more people throughout the world are moving up the income scale and increasing the amount of protein they eat.

He says those two factors, combined with the favorable soils and climate in the Midwest, make it one of the key areas to increase ag production.

Unless there is a massive disease outbreak or war, Hart says the population predictions, which have been steady over the past several years, should hold.

He concedes it is hard to predict a massive disease outbreak or war that would alter those numbers.

As the global demand for protein increases and also the amount of feed needed, the question becomes are countries going to import the feed or the meat, he says.

Hart says for the crop farmer, either answer would mean increased demand for their product.

However, if the grain was feed near where the crops were produced, it would mean more opportunities for livestock producers here.

Hart says that could mean more livestock raised near where the feed is produced.

He explains that does not mean individual farms will be as diverse as they once were.

However, the overall diversity of agriculture for a region would increase with more livestock.

Hart says there have been signs of that happening with higher pork production numbers moving back to Iowa and the Midwest with the higher grain prices.

He says that could translate into more direct marketing for farmers, if they decide to produce feed for a neighbor raising livestock.

The U.S. farmer will not be the only one to respond to this increased ag demand.

"We need everyone to produce," Hart says.

Higher prices will get producers from Russia to Africa to China trying to increase yields, he says.

While there is opportunity to increase yields in China, Hart notes that country is limited because it has 20 percent of the world's population and only 5 percent of the arable land.

Hart says the United States has a lower percentage of the world's population and higher percent of arable land for production.

In the past few years, China has gone from not importing soybeans to being one of the largest global markets for the oilseed.

The birth rate in China is leveling out, Hart says, meaning the increased demand could come from other areas, such as Central America and Africa.

"Africa is the wild card," he says.

If the continent can get some of its human disease issues under control, Hart says it likely will increase its population and demand for ag products.

He sees signs with low-cost ways to prevent human diseases, such as a drinking straw that has a filter that reduces tapeworm infections and the net project that helps prevent the spread of malaria.

There are various efforts ranging from private investment to non-profit work by groups, such as the Gates Foundation, to increase ag production in Africa, he says.

On the other side, he says areas such as Japan, which is the largest corn importer, Europe and Russia have lower birth rates than death rates.

That could mean, especially for Japan, it could not be the top corn importer, but it will still be a strong corn customer, Hart says.

Overall, he says that could mean a shift of what markets purchase U.S. ag products.

Hart says that translates into an increased need for infrastructure to support the markets.

There has been private investment by the railroads to haul ag commodities to the West Coast, he adds.

Also, there has been increased investment in the ports along the West Coast to ship ag commodities.

He compares future ag growth to some of the infrastructure investments made in the 1950s through the '70s

09/21/2011 :: Frost and Freezing Temperature Affect on Soybeans

(University of Minnesota Extension - 9/16/2011)

A hard frost occurred early Thursday morning (Sept 15th) across much of central and southern Minnesota. The complete effects of this frost or freeze event may not be known for some time. However, most soybean and corn fields have not reached physiological maturity. Yield and quality in these fields were likely affected.

Beyond the minimum temperature and the duration of the freezing temperatures, many cultural and environmental factors will affect the level of damage. Late planting, long season varieties, poor fertility or drainage, and cool temperatures may exacerbate the effects of this early frost/freeze event.

In most crop species, a hard killing frost after physiological maturity has little effect on yields. Physiological maturity is defined as the point at which maximum dry matter accumulation has occurred in the seed. But crops are not ready for harvest at physiological maturity, since dry- down usually takes a longer period of time. Soybeans are usually harvested at moisture contents of 14 percent or less.

Maximum dry matter accumulation of soybeans has been reached when: 1) all leaves are yellow and about 60 percent of the leaves have dropped from the plant; 2) pods are all yellow and more than 50 percent of the lower pods have turned brown; and 3) beans within the pods have about 60 percent moisture, show little evidence of green color, and may be shrinking.

Soybeans are easily damaged by frost in the 28 to 32° F range. Temperatures of 28° F for any extended period of time can completely kill soybean plants. The frost which occurred on Sept 15th resulted in varying degrees of leaf and plant damage. This damage ranged from only the top 20% of the soybean canopy affected in some fields to the more severe 50 to 70% leaf damage of the total soybean canopy in other fields located within south central Minnesota.

The yield loss will be directly proportional to the plants' physiological growth stage. Soybean plants that are very near the point of physiological maturity can be expected to weather the freeze with little impact on yield. However, soybean fields that are only at the R6 (full seed) stage with all green leaves will experience significant yield losses. Very late planted or very long-season soybeans could experience yield reductions of up to 50% due to a longer freezing duration.

How can you recognize frost-damaged soybeans? Watch for these characteristics:

• Green or elongated yellow soybeans that shrink to smaller than normal size after drying

• Reduced oil content and quality

• Higher moisture level (by 1 to 2 percent) than indicated by a moisture meter

• Slower field dry-down

Soybeans left standing in the field may lose green color within two weeks of maturity, so allow for field dry-down if possible, even if the plants were only partially frosted.

Does the color of green soybeans change during storage? In a preliminary study done at the University of Minnesota by Extension agricultural engineer Bill Wilcke and others, green soybeans and normal yellow beans were stored and monthly color readings were taken for six months. The colors did not change significantly for either group; however, visual appearance of the pure green soybeans appeared to be slightly mottled at the end of the six-month period. Some growers believe that beans that are only slightly green will tend to lighten up with time.

A study conducted at the University of Minnesota indicated that if green beans were properly dried to low, safe storage moistures, they should keep in storage.

It may be desirable to try to screen out small green soybeans as a means to reduce potentially large discounts due to damage. If you are storing soybeans which require drying, be sure to dry them (at temperatures of less than 130° F) to a low moisture level in order to ensure safe storage. In the Midwest, the Midwest Plan Service generally recommends storage moistures of 12 percent or lower for clean, high-quality soybeans in aerated storage for up to one year. For damaged soybeans, the storage moisture content should be 11 percent or lowe

06/20/2011 :: Yellow Corn Plants

by John Sawyer, Department of Agronomy

The early 2011 growing season has had considerable cool and wet conditions. Many fields have corn plants showing various shades of yellowing and interveinal leaf stripping. What may be the cause?

1. Cold temperatures. Not uncommon with early planting. Entire small plants can show lack of green color.

2. Wet soils. Corn roots need aerated soil for metabolic processes and nutrient uptake. Entire plants can show yellowing and many different symptoms, including phosphorus deficiency.

3. Slow soil organic matter mineralization. With cold temperatures, microbial conversion of organic nitrogen (N) compounds to inorganic N (ammonium and nitrate) is slow. If the corn plants are dependent on that source of plant available N, then plants could show N stress. Entire plants can show yellowing.

4. Sulfur (S) deficiency. This is related to item 3, that is, slow organic matter mineralization and lower supply of plant available sulfate-S (the form of S taken up by plants). Soil organic matter is the largest reserve of S in most soils, so slow mineralization can limit available S, especially in the upper soil profile. There have been several examples of early season S response (greener plants) in on-farm S strip trials and research plots at experiment stations this spring (Kanawha, Muscatine, central Iowa). In some cases, these early S deficiency symptoms may disappear with time and there would be no yield consequence. Our research the past few years indicates this does not always occur, and about 60 percent of the research trials have had yield increase with S application, especially when the deficiency symptoms are severe. For more information on Iowa sulfur research in corn, see the ICM conference report, Dealing with Sulfur Deficiency in Iowa Corn Production. Classic S deficiency is the older leaves are green and the new leaves show yellowing and interveinal stripping. With severe deficiency, the entire plant will be yellow.

5. Continuous corn. In many springs, and again this year, corn following corn tends to show more yellowing than corn following soybean, especially in reduced till and no-till. This is related to many factors, such as same crop allelopathy and less mineralization (for N and S).

6. Potassium deficiency. It typically begins to show on larger plants, about calf to knee high. Symptoms appear first on older leaves, with yellow to brown coloration on the leaf margins.

7. Corn hybrid. Some hybrids tend to show interveinal stripping more than other hybrids, and hybrids have different levels of greenness.

Nutrient deficiency symptom pictures and descriptions can be found in ISU Extension publication, Nutrient Deficiencies and Application Injuries in Field Crops, IPM 42.


John Sawyer is a professor of agronomy with research and extension responsibilities in soil fertility and nutrient management.

06/13/2011 :: Nitrogen and Sulfur Sources for Side-Dress Application

By Daniel Kaiser
Extension Soil Fertility Specialist

As the growing season moves forward more questions have occurred about what products to use in side-dress situations. While nitrogen is on the minds of many, sulfur deficiencies are starting to be seen in fields as well. Applying the right product in the right situation at the correct time can be crucial in order to maintain yields and minimize damage to growing plants.

Liquid UAN (28 or 32%) solutions banded between the rows either on the surface or coulter injected provide the least potential for foliar injury to the crop. Can UAN solutions be sprayed directly on the corn safely? Post applications of these products will likely produce some foliar injury to the crop. Research conducted by Dr. Gyles Randall looked at 30, 60, 90, and 120 lbs of N foliar applied to corn at V3-V4 and found that grain yields were decreased with application rates of more than the 60 lb N/acre. If at all possible broadcast foliar applications should be avoided if drop nozzles are available to stream UAN on the soil surface. If sulfur application is needed do not broadcast apply ammonium thiosulfate on plant tissues. Ammonium thiosulfate will injure the plant. Ammonium thiosulfate can be applied as a surface application between the rows or coulter injected.

At early plant growth stages, granular urea or ammonium sulfate may be applied as a broadcast with some risk. Any material that is broadcast applied and falls into the whorl can cause burning or leaf streaking as new leaves begin to unroll. In severe cases large application rates at later growth stages can cause significant damage and grain yield loss. Application during cooler temperatures also may lessen the foliar damage on the plant. Early or small application rates can help lessen the risk of damage to plants. Post application with ammonium sulfate in 2009 and 2010 showed little effect on grain yields at 10 or 20 lb. sulfur/acre or42 or 84 lbs of AMS per acre. In addition, Gypsum could be broadcast applied if sulfur is needed.

Surface applications of urea containing fertilizers are at risk for N volatilization. These risks are worse at higher soil pH levels. Rainfall amounts of 0.25" or more are generally adequate to sufficiently incorporate urea into the soil. Agrotain can be used on urea to prevent some loss and give a larger time window before rainfall occurs, and is the only product that has been consistently found to have some effect on reducing volatile N loss from urea. Since UAN solutions contain about 50% of their N as urea some losses can be expected from surface application without incorporation and there has not been a product that has been demonstrated to reduce N volatilization from liquid solutions.

A supplemental N worksheet was developed to determine if nitrogen should be applied. This tool is helpful when corn is at the V5 growth stage or beyond. Decisions for sulfur application can be more challenging. If sulfur was applied pre-plant, it may not be necessary to apply itsulfur deff2011.jpg side-dress. The only exception may be on fields receiving elemental sulfur, for the first time this year. Some striping may occur even though sulfur was applied as elemental S. This was observed in 2008 when sulfur was applied. The sulfur symptoms could be caused by rapid plant growth and possible limited uptake of sulfur. The corn will grow out of this and grain yields should not be affected. If sulfur was not applied this spring, current research results indicate that early season applications (V3-V4) of sulfur responded the same as those made at planting.

There is still time to correct any potential deficiencies. Paying attention to sources and rates can pay big dividends at the end of the season.

05/31/2011 :: How Corn Plants Respond to Flooding

Heavy rains and overflowing creeks have caused some fields, particularly those in low-lying areas, to flood.  In other fields, water may pond for a period after the rains, and then soak in, leaving producers to ask:  How long can plants be underwater before they die?  In a May 2010 newsletter article, R.L. (Bob) Nielson of Purdue University described how early season flooding affects the crop:

  • The longer an area remains ponded, the higher the risk of plant death.
  • Corn that is completely submerged is at higher risk than corn that is partially submerged.
  • Plants that are only partially submerged may continue to photosynthesize, albeit at limited rates.
  • While most agronomists believe that young corn can survive up to about four days of outright ponding, in a related article Paul Hay relates his experience with corn dying after one day. Corn will survive longer when temperatures are relatively cool  (mid-60s or cooler), than when it's warm (mid-70s or warmer).
  • Soil oxygen is depleted within about 48 hours of soil saturation. Without oxygen, the plants cannot perform critical life sustaining functions; e.g. nutrient and water uptake is impaired and root growth is inhibited.
  • Even if surface water subsides quickly, the likelihood of dense surface crusts forming as the soil dries increases the risk of emergence failure for recently planted crops.
  • The greater the deposition of mud on plants as the water subsides, the greater the stress on the plants due to reduced photosynthesis. Ironically, such situations would benefit from another rainfall to wash off the mud.
  • Corn younger than about V6 (six fully exposed leaf collars) is more susceptible to ponding damage than corn older than V6.  This is partly because young plants are more easily submerged than older, taller plants and partly because the corn plant's growing point remains belowground until about V6. The health of the growing point can be assessed initially by splitting stalks and visually examining the lower portion of the stem (Nielsen, 2008). Within three to five days after water drains from the ponded area, look for fresh leaves appearing from the whorls of the plants.
  • Extended periods of saturated soils AFTER the surface water subsides will take their toll on the overall vigor of the crop.
  • Some root death will occur and new root growth will be stunted until the soil dries to acceptable moisture contents. As a result, plants may be subject to greater injury during a subsequently dry summer due to their restricted root systems.
  • Associated with the direct stress of saturated soils on a corn crop, flooding and ponding can cause significant losses of soil nitrogen due to denitrification and leaching of nitrate N.
  • Significant loss of soil N will cause nitrogen deficiencies and possibly additional yield loss.

Brandy VanDeWalle
UNL Extension Educator in Fillmore County

05/16/2011 :: Planting Corn or Soybeans Into Wet Soils Can Cause Sidewall Compaction

Source: Kansas State University

Conducting fieldwork after wet weather can cause soil compaction, and in particular sidewall compaction in the seed furrow, says DeAnn Presley, Kansas State University Research and Extension soil management specialist. This is especially true if the weather then turns dry after planting, she adds.

“The worst cases of sidewall compaction are seen after a field has been planted when the soil was too wet, followed by a period of dry weather,” Presley says.

“If the soil stays moist, the roots are usually able to grow through the walls of the seed furrow. But if the soil gets dry, the roots can have a harder time growing through that seed furrow wall, and instead grow along the furrow, resulting in what is referred to as sidewall compaction,” she explains. 

With corn, the plants might look fine for a while, but the symptoms of this problem will probably show up after the plants get to be several inches tall, the K-State agronomist says. Symptoms will look like drought stress, nutrient deficiency or both, she adds. 

Since there aren’t any good ways to fix sidewall compaction once it exists, the best practice would be to avoid creating the problem in the first place, Presley notes. This means waiting until soils are dry enough to plant.

“The way to test for this is to dig down to the desired planting depth, and try to make a ball with the soil. Next, see if the ball will crumble or crack apart, or if it deforms like molding putty. If it crumbles, it’s ready to plant. If it deforms, it would be best to wait before resuming field operations. Even waiting as little as half a day could make a big difference,” Presley says.

05/02/2011 :: Maximizing Yield Potential by Optimizing Soil Management Practices

By Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Department of Agronomy; and Mark Hanna, Department Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Current weather conditions and wet soils cause certain anxiety and concerns for late planting, especially for corn. Spring weather this year definitely creates challenges in preparing fields and getting certain field operations done on time, such as tillage, anhydrous injection, manure application, etc. Decisions to conduct these operations need to be made carefully regarding the soil moisture conditions. The current soil moisture status makes the soil conditions susceptible to soil compaction, low soil temperature and soil erosion just to name a few. These problems can be yield robbers. Let’s discuss them individually and why we need to be more patient in entering fields and why waiting a few days may pay off significantly.

Soil Compaction and yield

Soil compaction can occur when soil moisture is at field capacity, where the soil retains the maximum amount of water as dictated by soil texture and natural drainage of that particular soil.  The best way to determine if your soil is at field capacity is to check your tile drain. If it is still running your soil is saturated and you need to consider waiting before entering the field. 

However, once the tile stops running then the soil is at field capacity. As a rule of thumb when soil is at field capacity, it is advisable to wait one to two days before entering the field, because at such conditions soil compaction and side wall compaction (when soil smeared by anhydrous knife or seed bed-openers) can be very significant and much deeper than at dry soil conditions. The reason for a high level of soil compaction at such moisture conditions is that soil aggregates will easily break down under a heavy load. The compression of soil particles will reduce soil porosity and reduce aeration that is essential for root growth and development and ultimately reduce yield. 

One study documented 18 to 27 bu/acre losses when corn was planted into wheel tracks of a susceptible wet soil during spring field work. Although yields over time may be reduced 4 to 6 bu/acre for corn and 2 to 3 bu/acre for soybean, yield due to severe soil compaction from disturbed soil operation can range from 10 to 30 percent or more depending on the level of soil compaction. These conditions can encourage shallow root formation.

Another problem that may be associated with wet soil condition planting is the proper seed depth, which should be on average a 2-inch planting depth to ensure best root formation. Therefore, check planter settings often and proper closing of soil is essential to ensure a uniform plant stand.

Low soil Temperature

Excess soil moisture can significantly affect soil temperature, especially in poorly drained soils.  The current moisture condition and the saturated soil profile caused significant drop in soil temperature from two weeks ago. Ideally, for optimum soil conditions for seed germination, soil temperature should be approximately 50 F or above at the top 2 inches. Some of the risks of planting in cold soils include a delay in germination and exposure of seeds to soil borne diseases that can have considerable impact on yield potential.

Soil erosion

Soil erosion is always a concern during this time of the year when soil, especially conventionally tilled fields, is most vulnerable without growing plant cover or residue cover, and exposed to rain intensity. Working soils during wet conditions can accelerate soil erosion due to soil compaction that reduces water infiltration and increases surface runoff. These freshly tilled soils are most susceptible to top soil loss during heavy rain events. It was documented that reduction of top soil depth (A-horizon) by 2 inches caused corn yield loss by as much as 2 and 5 bu/acre for loess- and till-derived soils, respectively.

Operating field equipment at suitable moisture soil condition is essential for maximizing yield potential and avoiding unnecessary soil compaction that can cause nutrient loss and deficiencies of nutrients such as potassium, and ultimately resulting in yield loss. Even delaying an operation part of a day to allow surface drying can make a big difference. Modern agricultural technology and equipment can make a difference in compensating for loss of time.



Mahdi Al-Kaisi is an associate professor in agronomy with research and extension responsibilities in soil management and environmental soil science. He can be reached at or (515) 294-8304. Mark Hanna is an extension agricultural engineer in agricultural and biosystems engineering with responsibilities in field machinery. Hanna can be reached at or (515) 294-0468.

04/26/2011 :: A Guide For Seed-Placed Fertilizer

George Rehm, University of Minnesota Extension

In Minnesota, application of fertilizer in contact with the seed at planting (also called pop-up) has become a very popular practice. From my unofficial and non-scientific surveys at meetings this winter, approximately 75 percent of those in attendance (Minnesota audiences) used this popular management practice. The percentage was not nearly as high in other states and I don't have a good explanation for the difference. Even though placement of fertilizer with the seed is a very popular practice, there are many questions. So, a guide for the use of seed-placed fertilizer is probably appropriate at this time.

CONSIDER THE CROP: Of course, fertilizer can be applied in contact with the seed for a variety of crops. All crops, however, do not have the same tolerance to this mangement practice. Corn and small grains are tolerant of reasonable rates. Suggested rates will be discussed later. However, the soybean crop is not tolerant and there can be serious reductions in emergence if this practice is used. Although the soybean plant can make some adjustment for stand reduction, use of seed-placed fertilizer at any rate for the soybean crop is risky. The same caution also pertains to the edible bean crop.

SOIL TEXTURE: This fixed soil property has a major impact on the use of seed-placed fertilizer. There is a very low level of risk if the soil texture is loam, silt loam, silty clay loam or clay loam. Soils with these textures are buffered against damage. The sandy loam and loamy fine sand textures can be very risky when fertilizer is placed in contact with the seed. For the sandy soil textures just listed, there should be at least 1 inch of soil between seed and fertilizer. Then reasonable rates of fertilizer can be used. This separation is not necessary for the loam, silt loam, silty clay loam and clay loam textures. Farming soils with these textures, numerous growers have reported no problems when about 8 gallons of 10-34-0 are placed with the seed at planting. One producer reported that there was damage: but, the seed zone was excessively dry at the time of planting.

SOIL TEST SHOULD DICTATE RATE: There's not a single rate of fertilizer that fits all situations. The results of a soil test should be used as a guideline. Since nitrogen and phosphorus are the two most important nutrients in a banded fertilizer used at planting, rates should be based on the results of a soil test for phosphorus. Phosphate fertilizer guidelines from the University of Minnesota provide rates for either a band or broadcast application. The suggested banded rate is appropriate for the seed-placed fertilizer. Following this suggestion should be adequate unless soil test P values are very low. For fields with these very low P tests, a combination of banded and broadcast phosphate should be used.

WHAT ABOUT SULFUR?: With the recent interest in sulfur, there have been numerous questions about use of this nutrient in contact with the seed. Field research has shown that the fluid sources of sulfur should not be applied in contact with the seed when soils are sandy (sandy loam, loamy fine sand). There is also some risk associated with seed placed sulfur for other soil textures. Planter attachments that place fertilizer a short distance from the seed should be used if there are plans to use sulfur in a band somewhere close to the seed. For fine textured soils, 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch between seed and fertilizer is adequate. The distance between seed and fertilizer should be at least 1 inch for sandy soils.

NITROGEN IS RESPONSIBLE: Previously, guidelines for use of seed-placed fertilizer suggested that rate should be dictated by the sum of nitrogen and potash applied. However, recent research results have shown that the rate of nitrogen is the most important consideration. To be safe, the rate of nitrogen should be no more than 10 lb. per acre if fertilizer is placed in contact with the seed. This rate can be more than doubled if there is some soil between seed and fertilizer.

FERTILIZER/SEED CONTACT IS NOT NECESSARY: It is not necessary to place fertilizer in direct contact with the seed to get the positive effects on the early growth of the crop. Fertilizer placed in a band close to the seed can produce the same effect. In general, the benefits of the banded placement placement diminish as distance between seed and fertilizer increases beyond 3 inches.

HIGH RESIDUE: High corn yields combined with more conservation tillage and corn following corn as a crop sequence puts special emphasis on management practices to improve early growth. PLacement of fertilizer in a band near the seed is a management practice that is essential for early growth and development in these situations.

For Minnesota planting conditions, there's no doubt that seed placed fertilizer is a good management practice. Unless soils are sandy, there have been no complaints when reasonable rates are used.

03/25/2011 :: Fungicide Profitability Calculator Available

The Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network has released a fungicide management calculator tool it has developed to help Iowa growers determine the probability of seeing a profitable return from using fungicides on soybeans.

The calculator allows growers to put in their own soybean prices (either projected or a price they’ve already booked for their crop) and actual product and application costs to see whether fungicide use is likely to pay off. The data used to create the calculator came from five years of comparisons made through 282 replicated strip trials across the state using BASF's Headline fungicide.

After inputting market price and cost, the calculator returns a graph showing soybean yield response to the fungicide, the break even yield increase the grower would need to justify fungicide use, the probability of actually seeing a profit, projected profit/loss from using the fungicide, and, finally, the number of years out of five that fungicide use could be expected to be profitable.

The calculator is available for anyone to use at

03/21/2011 :: White Mold Continues to be a Problem for Soybean Producers

By DALE HILDEBRANT Farm & Ranch Guide Farm & Ranch Guide

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – White mold has long been a problem for soybean growers, but in 2009 and 2010 this disease seemed to be more prevalent in the region, according to Sam Markell, NDSU Extension plant pathologist.

Markell told producers attending a soybean production meeting in Valley City that the high incidence of white mold the past two years makes this coming crop year even more critical.

“If you had white mold in 2009 you are still going to have that disease structure there in 2011,” he said, “so that’s something you want to think about.

“White mold is a tough pathogen. When you have it in the field it takes down plants when you have a lot of it,” he continued. “However, the white mold spores are pretty weak. They can’t infect the plant directly, but need a nutrition source first.”

Surprisingly, the soybean plant itself usually supplies that nutrition source in the form of its flower petals as it is blossoming. Then, if that flower petal lands on a soybean plant leaf or stays close to a plant when it falls to the ground, the infection will spread from that point, he noted. Once white mold is in a field the disease produces sclerotia that eventually will drop to the soil.

The sclerotia that the mold spores hatch from can remain in the soil for as long as a decade and they all don’t germinate at the same time.

“It’s important to understand that if you had white mold in your field in 2009, you are going to have a lot of these in the soil,” he said. “And what determines if you are going to have a white mold outbreak basically comes down to two things: what’s going to happen before bloom and what happens during bloom.”

Before the bloom period moist soil is needed in order for the sclerotia to germinate. They don’t readily germinate in dry soil. Instead they will continue to lie dormant in the soil and wait for better conditions the next year. But, if the soil is moist just before blooming there is the potential for these to germinate and release spores.

“Generally we are talking about one to two inches of rain one to two weeks before the bloom,” he said. “That’s usually the minimum. And soybeans usually start blooming around a week after the Fourth of July so the weather around the Fourth of July is at least partially going to determine when we get white mold.”

Conditions during bloom are also critical to the survival of the white mold spores. The just-released spores need a wet canopy and temperatures from 60 to 75 degrees if they are going to survive. If temperatures exceed 85 degrees the white mold will be shut down, according to Markell.

The weather can’t be controlled at this time, but he did note that there are some things growers can do to help control this tough pathogen.

“Resistance is a good tool,” he said. “The problem with resistance is it’s hard to say whether a variety is resistant, since you have to get an epidemic in a variety trial and that doesn’t often happen. But the companies have some internal data that suggests that some varieties have resistance. And if you can get something that’s resistant, that’s going to help you out a lot.”

Rotation can also help, but he noted that it’s a limited benefit since the sclerotia have such a long life span in the soil.

“You need to rotate, but that’s not going to solve the issue,” he said.

The last tool available to producers is fungicides. If the conditions for white mold are favorable and white mold looks eminent, sometimes fungicides can help, though sometimes they may not.

“Fungicides are not as reliable on soybeans as they are on dry beans,” Markell said. “The key is early bloom because of the pathogen cycle. If you protect the crop as it starts to bloom, you are going to have protection for a couple of weeks. But you have flowers starting to bloom on the plant three weeks after it first started blooming (and) those flowers are going to be on the lateral branches and the spores landing there aren’t going to have as much time to develop.”

Markell shared data from fungicide trials from the Carrington (N.D.) Research Extension Center which showed that the key to success from fungicide applications comes from the timing of the operation – getting the fungicide on at the R1 or early R2 stage will increase the chance of success.

 Surprisingly, the chemical application that showed the most promise was a herbicide, not a fungicide. Treatments of Cobra on white mold inoculated soybeans showed a significant yield increase over plots either treated with other fungicides or left untreated as a check.

“It seems like Cobra causes the soybean plant to become pretty resistant to white mold. There is something about that chemical that forces the plant to release chemicals that make it immune to white mold,” Markell said. “But Cobra makes me pretty nervous, because it burns the leaves.”

He noted that trials in Illinois have also indicated Cobra does decrease the impact of white mold infestations and because of work done there, many soybean growers in that state routinely applied six ounces of Cobra to their fields last year as a preventive step.

More information on fungicide use for white mold on soybeans is available at your local County Extension Agent’s office or be contacting Markell at 701.231.8362 or email at samuel.markell@ndsu

03/14/2011 :: Tips on Prepping your Planter in No-Till Systems

Jen Bennett

Spring is upon us. Is your planter prepped? From seed meters to disk alignment, there’s a lot to be checked, adjusted or fixed so your planter reaches peak performance. Experts offer the following tips for prepping your no-till planter.

Metering units:

If using a finger pickup meter, make sure the belt isn’t cracked. It should flex and be clean, Duiker adds.

He also recommends taking your finger pick-up meter to the dealer for calibration. "Have it calibrated every year or every 300–400 acres," Sjoerd says. "Take a bag of your own seed with you, and give him the correct speed at which you’ll be driving."

Vacuum air meters should be checked for leaks and appropriate air pressure.

Planter units:

He adds that bolts should be tightened and additional bushings added. "Also check for cracked or broken seed hoppers. They must be replaced," he says.

Seed-opener disks need to have a minimum diameter (check operator manual) to place seed at the appropriate depth. "Seed-opener disks need to come together in the front," Duiker says. "Stick two business cards between the openers and move them as close together as possible. If opener disks are worn too much, you’ll get a W-shaped seed slot instead of the desired V shape."

Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer, adds that furrow points should be replaced when seed-opener disks are replaced. "The furrow point gradually wears as seed opener discs are moved inward to maintain a sharp soil entry point," he says. "Furrow points also need to be replaced when the point is too worn to create the furrow bottom."

Depth wheels:

To maintain the depth wheels, Duiker recommends changing washers from inside to out, or outside-in. "If this doesn’t resolve the problem, the depth wheel arm needs to be replaced," he adds.

Closing wheels:

When adjusting, be sure the spring is intact and not damaged or worn. Also, "bearings cannot be wobbly or too tight," says Duiker. "The bottoms of rubber or cast-iron closing wheels need to be 1.5-2 in. apart."


For more on adjusting your planter for no-till systems, check out the videos from Iowa Learning Farm at

Coulters, opener disks and closing wheels should be aligned. Duiker recommends using a rope. "Take a rope and pull it straight from the front coulter to the closing wheels," he says. "The firming wheels, seed openers and coulters should all be in line." He adds that the closing wheels should not run on top of the seed furrow.
In most closing systems, down pressure can be adjusted. "There’s an adjustment for the closing wheels; be sure to use it," says Hanna. "No-till situations can require stronger down-pressure."
Depth wheels should run tight against disks and be firm to the ground. "Make sure depth-gauging wheels are firmly on the ground. To check for proper depth, try to spin or slip the wheel when it’s on the ground. If you can spin it at all while on the ground, you’ll need more weight or down pressure when planting," says Hanna.
Accurate depth placement is dependent on steady, firm planter units. "You should not be able to easily lift up your unit or move it sideways," say Duiker. "Look across your planter units from the side. Are they all at the same height? If one unit is either up or down compared to the others, it needs work."
To avoid skips or multiples, it’s essential that the metering units function properly. "To guarantee optimal performance, take metering units apart every winter," says Sjoerd Duiker, soil management specialist at Penn State University. "Remove dirt and clean the hood with soapy water. Replace cracked plastic covers. Replace broken fingers in a finger-pickup meter."