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Specialty Crops
Grower wants to be best, not big

Many folks may not give pecans a whole lot of thought, except around the holiday season, when Tarheel bakers make pecan pies, cakes and all sorts of desserts and dips with the brown-hulled nuts.

Food safety regulations get tighter

You can still buy watermelon and cantaloupe at roadside stands throughout southern Indiana. But if you’re the grower and you want to market your produce wholesale, it’s no longer business as usual. Staying in business today means investing in a packaging facility that meets strict food safety codes.

Could non-GMO beans boost income?

Should there be non-GMO soybeans in your future? That may depend upon three factors: premium opportunities, availability of competitive genetics and your willingness to step up your management.

Specialty crops bring income opportunities

In 1972, Levi and Norma Huffman operated a 1,800-acre family farm near Lafayette. Nearly 40 years later the farm has grown to 3,000 acres, and the couple raises specialty and row crops. Today, the farm is run by Levi, son Aaron, son-in-law Jim Hawbaker, and their families.

Canola perks interest in Texas, Oklahoma

While it’s not going to rival the millions of acres grown in Canada, winter canola is getting a try in Texas and Oklahoma.

Cover crops add grazing option

Cover crops can keep the soil covered between growing cash crops in a field. Cover crops increase soil organic matter, improve water quality and reduce erosion during some of the most vulnerable times of the year. But cover crops can also be grown to extend the grazing season and reduce the need for stored forages, or free up pastures to increase rest periods or make more hay. There are many different strategies of how farmers are doing this.

Switchgrass cuts nitrate loss

By planting switchgrass and using certain agronomic practices, farmers can significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen and nitrates that leach from the soil, according to results of new Iowa State University research.

Organic grower gets fresh start

Twenty-three-year-old Glen Elsbernd is using USDA’s Organic Initiative and higher payment rates on conservation practices as a beginning farmer to help transition his 88-acre Winneshiek County farm to organic vegetables much sooner than he expected, and in doing so is protecting valuable natural resources on the farm.

Less-productive ground could be home to future bioenergy crops

Those who romanticize agriculture often picture tractors making their way through peaceful, out-of-the-way fields with nary a house in site. But, if current MSU Extension research proves fruitful, farmers may one day harvest crops with low-flying planes overhead or cars whizzing past.

Trees withstand summer drought

Even with the drought last summer, the trees at Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards were still in good shape for the fall Christmas tree harvest season. Younger ones were hurt from the lack of rain, but the more established ones were not affected, according to A.J. Huber, who manages the Christmas tree production farm near Starlight.

Breeding fruit fast

What if you could wave a magic wand and instantly create fruit that fits the needs and wants of growers and processors, as well as consumers?

Program focuses on super fruit

In 1991, the fresh market apple industry hit a home run with consumers by introducing Honeycrisp. It was decades in the making. But while the texture and the flavor pleased palates, it wasn’t exactly producer- or handler-friendly.

Work rocks on black-eyed pea variety for dry growing areas

Texas AgriLife Research scientists hope a drought-resistant trait from a crossbred cowpea soon will be available to producers. So far results look promising.

Giant cane has huge potential as Oregon’s next biofuel source

Producing the newest energy crop in the West won’t be hard. It grows like a weed.

Cheer for cherries

Dried cherries are starting to show up on restaurant menus in salads, pork dishes and other entrees. And cherry juice concentrate is no longer just an industrial ingredient, as consumers seek out the juice for its health benefits.

The future looks bright

The tart cherry industry has seen its share of trying times. The 2002 growing season and its extremely short crop will be remembered by cherry growers for decades. Few growers in northern Michigan had anything worth harvesting that year. In fact, the five-year average of 145 million pounds was slashed to just 1 million pounds.

Salt still harming berries along key roads

In the past, blueberry growers suffered major financial losses due to damaged blueberry bushes near roadways. In 2003, crop losses and plant mortality were estimated at $682,000.

Vegetable plastic firm to test low-ricin castor bean in Texas

Castagra, a Canadian bioproducts company, has made an agreement with Texas AgriLife Research, part of the Texas A&M University System, to test production of a new castor bean with less ricin.

Oregon State studies meadowfoam uses, new crop varieties

In the continuing thrust to bring meadowfoam into greater use for Oregon growers, Oregon State University researchers have launched a comprehensive study program focused on comprehensive uses for the crop.

Cook farm rates canola as tops

If you have to plant at least two canola crops to get some good oil, there might be some options to salvage a few dollars from the first crop.

NMSU researchers looking at chile plants for salt tolerance

A good chile crop is a big deal in New Mexico.

NMSU study aims for flower power

"We’re growing oil,” says Patrice Harrison-Inglis while standing in a half-acre field of shoulder-high sunflowers at Pena Blanca, N.M.

Post use of Halomax 75 cleared for dry beans

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has issued a special local needs (SLN) registration to Aceto Agricultural Chemicals Corp., giving North Dakota dry edible bean producers more flexibility in using Halomax 75 herbicide to control common ragweed.

Tips for gauging sunflower drydown

Sunflowers can be a tricky crop to harvest. They’ve got to be dry (9% to 10% moisture is ideal for storage), but if they get too dry, heads can start shelling out, and there’s the risk of fire when you combine.

Texas eyes alternative crops

Alternative crops could add potential income to an existing portfolio of commodities produced by Texas farmers, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Action course

A mix-up of definitions is often behind the divide in agriculture. Lundberg Family Farms is organic and considered a small farm, when it is a large farm of more than 5,000 acres.

Food compass now online

USDA recently introduced a compass, an online resource, to help guide people seeking information about the department’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.

Specialty crop programs at stake

The number of small farms producing value-added crops such as vegetables, fruit or naturally raised livestock has grown tremendously the past decade in Iowa. Back then, most people didn’t think of these as legitimate farms. They were hobby farms. Today, these operations earn income from specialized crops and other enterprises by selling to farmers markets, restaurants, schools, hospitals, or community-supported agriculture, groups, as well as directly to consumers.

Canola can be profitable, field-friendly

Canola’s striking yellow head brightens up a field. And its price is also pretty to growers like Ed Regier.

Black sorghum hybrid aimed at health food

A Texas AgriLife Research scientist says there’s potential for a black grain sorghum hybrid targeting the health food market.

TCI looks to interest growers in rapeseed

Many growers are on the lookout for new ways to diversify their crops — and diversify their risk. However, it is the rare case when they can find a new crop that brings its market with it to the table. That is the case for brothers and farming partners Jimmy and Angus Powers in St. Pauls, N.C., who teamed up with Technology Crops International in 2011 and are growing rapeseed under contract with the company for the first time this year.

Which way to turn for more tobacco?

For decades farmers have raised traditional tobacco, but for the last few years profit margins have been tight. So, many conventional tobacco growers are fast turning to some other crops for the higher profit margins. Two of those crops are organic tobacco and traditional soybeans.

Forget the middleman in beef sales

Besides raising cattle, Mike Clark of Burkeville, Va., spreads chicken litter for other farmers. Over 10 years ago while making a litter-spreading trip to a farmer in a county over, he saw something he had never seen before.

Good bugs, ‘wild’ home

Farmers love to see ladybird beetles in their fields, and they know that parasitic wasps help control aphids. Livestock farmers let dung beetles do some of the really hard work of improving their pastures; these beetles break down livestock dung, roll it up into balls and tunnel underground to store it, in the process breaking up the soil and making it more friable.

Farmer moves to grass as cash crop

Despite having grown up on a farm where his dad raised tobacco for more than 50 years, Jason Barbour did not see a bright future for himself in bright leaf.

Demand for locally grown food thrives

A lot of people grow produce, and sell it at roadside stands and farmers markets. What Green B.E.A.N. does for producers is give them an opportunity to have vast distribution. B.E.A.N. stands for Biodynamic, Education, Agriculture and Nutrition.

Can you pick out the dairy imposters?

If you’re old enough to remember the commercial for recording tape, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” you probably remember that the singer’s voice on tape supposedly shattered glass. Experts say even a person singing live can’t shatter glass.

Connecting producer, consumer

Agritourism is quickly becoming a new business option for farmers to interact with local customers.

Consider planting peanuts in ... April?

An amazing thing is happening at Georgia’s peanut production meetings in 2013. During every presentation, University of Georgia Extension agronomist John Beasley is urging growers to plant a portion of their crop in the latter part of April to achieve top yields.

Silver lining in summer 2012

Last summer wasn’t a good time to start growing organic fruits and vegetables or graze livestock for Woodward farmer Christopher Garcia. Produce required immeasurable amounts of water and attention, and livestock needed hay to supplement drought-affected pasture.

Safflower offered as option to chemical summer fallow

The good, the bad and the ugly of safflower took center stage for one presentation during the annual Kansas Ag Research and Technology Association conference in Salina in January.

Pickle production packs highs, lows each season

When growing pickles, it’s not uncommon to have a grand slam in terms of yield in a field or two, and also an occasional strikeout.But as sweltering heat and no rain repeated itself day after day, it began to look pretty bleak for a large percentage of Michigan’s cucumber pickling crop.

Cotton on heels of tight peanuts

U.S. peanuts clearly have dug their way out of a surplus. An ever-growing demand and tighter supply could spell better days ahead for peanut prices during the year.

Mushroom grower discovers profit in specialty fungi

A conversation with Linda Spain might sound more like some fictional story than farming — topics such as spawn, working in the shade and using cut timber rather than soil for production don’t resonate with your typical grower.

Cup plant holds double benefits

South Dakota State University scientists are exploring a native perennial called the cup plant as a potential new biomass crop that could also store carbon in its extensive root system and add biodiversity to biomass plantings.

‘Energy beets’ to power plant

The Green Vision Group recently announced that it hopes to build a $5 million sugarbeet-to-ethanol demonstration plant in North Dakota next year.

Firing up willows!

Today, close to 1,000 acres of fast-growing willow are in commercial production in New York, mostly for biomass energy. But the potential is there for many more — a renewable energy industry.

RR alfalfa back in federal court — twice

In January, after nearly four years of federal court delays, Monsanto Co. and co-developer Forage Genetics International got the green light to market Roundup Ready alfalfa. “I think there’s a general sigh of relief in U.S. agriculture that this is the right decision,” remarked Mark McCaslin, Forage Genetics president.

New doors opening for growers

Many of us caught in today’s on-the-go lifestyle find it easier to stop for fast food and 32-ounce sodas rather than pack a homemade meal.

New tomato to the rescue

The whitefly in Texas finally may be sending up a surrender flag to tomato processors in the state, thanks to a Texas AgriLife Research scientist developing a new variety that resists the virus spread by this pesky insect.

Cotton growers pay tribute to a pioneer

Carl Seeliger is what a lot of folks call a “crusty character.”At 82, Carl doesn’t hesitate to say what he thinks, and he does things his way. Generally speaking, that tends to turn out pretty well. That just might be why he’s fearless when it comes to trying new things, or taking on monumental projects.

Pilot crop insurance program expanded for sweet cherries

One specialty crop insurance program key to Michigan recently took a notable step forward. Limited to just two counties for the past decade as an experimental pilot program, crop insurance for sweet cherry farmers will now be available to growers in five more counties beginning in the 2013 crop year.

Stop rhizoctonia in sugarbeet crops

For sugarbeet growers, rhizoctonia is a common foe of their sugarbeet crops. rhizoctonia is a fungus that favors hot temperatures and often overwinters in the soil and on plant tissue before beginning a new season of infection in the spring. Different types of rhizoctonia called anastomosis groups cause a number of diseases like crown and root rot, damping off, and foliar blight. Rhizoctonia penetrates the beet through leaf petioles, the crown or the root, and can

Tillage radishes extend forage grazing

Livestock producers searching for ways to increase fall forage and suppress weeds may want to try planting tillage radishes.

Champion for change

Jerry Taylor’s vision for the future of MFA Oil Co. is much like that of any farmer: to leave behind a business that can not only survive, but also thrive. And the company CEO is willing to venture into the state’s farm fields to make it happen.

New potato varieties coming

Americans love potatoes, consuming about 130 pounds per person annually. But it’s a wonder the spuds even make it to the dinner table, given the many fungal diseases that attack the tuber crop — powdery scab and black dot among them. 

Heirloom seeds yield sweet collards

If you ask George Wooten, he’ll tell you there are collards, and then there are cabbage collards. In his mind’s eye, there is a world of difference. But don’t feel bad if you don’t know the difference right off the bat — neither did he.

Geagley Lab provides dairy oversight, ensures industry makes the grade

The Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Geagley Laboratory in East Lansing is a busy place.

Pasture-fed pigs have the right stuff

Demand for pasture-fed pigs prompted farmer Craig Hagaman to try his hand in the business. Hagaman now raises purebred Berkshires, as well as poultry, in the countryside near Berryville, Va. He doesn’t farrow the hogs out, but purchases them from a couple in Berkley County, W.Va. He may farrow them in the future, however, once he builds the infrastructure.

Organic farming attracts women

It was a brief visit to a small farm near downtown St. Louis at the age of 15 that stirred Molly Rockamann’s inner desire to be involved in agriculture.