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Crop Management
Remembering the 2nd green revolution

Farmers knew crop rotations improved both crop and animal production long before scientists studied them. Recently, Thomas Sinclair, an agronomist from North Carolina State University, suggested that this 18th-century understanding formed the basis of the second green revolution.

Planting depth makes difference

One out of five plants in areas across an Iowa cornfield had struggled to emerge. The smaller plants had only three collared leaves, V3, at the time I saw them in late May 2008. The bigger neighboring plants had at least five collared leaves, or V5. Plant-to-plant differences like this reduce yield potential. Weaker plants compete like weeds with the larger, more dominant plants, reducing overall productivity. How could such plant size differences happen?

Better wetlands can benefit many

The Wetlands Reserve Program, a voluntary, incentive-based USDA program designed to help farmers and ranchers restore and protect wetlands on land that’s too wet to farm, has grown into what some people are calling one of the most successful of a suite of federal conservation programs.

4 R’s of nutrient stewardship

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is encouraging Iowa farmers to adopt the 4R nutrient stewardship concept to help define the right source, rate, time and place for plant nutrient application.

Real-world planting requires patience

You’ve planned all winter for spring planting. You know which variety and hybrid will go where. Then, at the last minute, someone makes a bobble and throws a monkey wrench into your plans. Maybe they’re out of the variety you expected to get.

Try lower soybean seeding rates

Suppose you pay $45 per unit of soybean seed. Each unit contains 140,000 seeds. So soybean seed cost you 32 cents per 1,000 beans. If you plant 175,000 seeds per acre, seed cost equals $56 per acre.

How to decide on seed choices

What do you do when seed companies flood the market with hundreds of new varieties and traits? You can’t test them all in your own replicated plots. So what do you do?

Mixing it up

When cotton hit a historic record this year of more than $2 per pound, the cotton craze continued to spread like a Texas wildfire.

What’s changed since the 1960s?

The Iowa State University publication “How a Corn Plant Develops” has stood the test of time. First developed in the 1960s, ISU agronomist John Hanway and his colleagues developed a classic known across the country and probably in most corn growing areas around the world. But a lot of things have changed since the 1960s.

Conservation drainage cuts nitrate loss

Some call it conservation drainage. It’s a relatively new practice, especially in the Midwest, that’s designed to help farmers keep crop yields up and at the same time cut the amount of nitrates leaving crop fields through underground drainage tile.

Cherry cracking reduced using commercial biofilm

Rain and humidity are the curse of the cherry crop, bringing cracking to the fruit rendering it too ugly to market fresh. But other culprits may cause the headache as well, says Clive Kaiser, Oregon State University horticulturist.

2 steps to boost soybean yield

Last year at this time I wrote about tracking the moisture level in corn that was still in the field. With the snow depths this year, I’m thankful producers are not out pulling ears every week, worrying about this issue again.

Bees may aid soybean pod set

Self-pollinating crops like soybeans might seem immune to worldwide concerns about the viability and supply of insect pollinators. However, pollinators can have an effect on bean yields, and soybean growers may have good reason to give more thought to bees.

Determining best planting date

We’ve experienced another abnormal planting season in Iowa, but all is not lost with later-than-normal corn planting dates in 2011. This proves again that our conditions are not always better than average — contrary to all the children of Lake Wobegone. After all, averages saunter near the midpoint of an extensive range of possible outcomes.

Watch corn closely

When corn starts emerging from the ground, it pays to scout fields and find out what’s going on as the stand establishes. Timely scouting early in the season could be particularly helpful this year with a cool, wet spring.

Make cotton, wheat work together

Cotton and wheat are a good combination for young Stamford, Texas, farmer Justin Corzine.

Corn silking by calendar date

Does early silking result in higher yield? Good stories always have a critical point where survival of the main character hangs in a precarious balance that may either turn out good or bad.

Grain handling system upgrade

Gary Porter anticipates a swift and smooth harvest of his 2011 corn crop. The modern grain handling system, installed on his farm in north Missouri in 2010, has given him the extra confidence to make that prediction.

Prime time harvest

Gary Porter farms about as far north as you can possibly farm and still be in the state of Missouri. The Mercer County farmer likes to get his corn harvest under way in September on an early schedule that would be more typical for a corn grower in the southern part of the state.

Stalk quality concerns arise

As we move into fall, there is increased interest about issues that will affect crop development and harvest due to abnormally late planting dates for most of the state. Factors that affect stalk quality are reviewed.

What your test plot can tell you

If you were able to plant plots despite the tough spring, it’s important to get the most value out of it. I suggest taking notes, beginning soon after planting. Actually, you can take notes on any field, whether you planted a test plot or not.

They keep crop consultants on speed dial

Del Unger makes no apologies. “We’re corn farmers — that’s what we like to grow and market,” he says. That’s why corn after corn is a big part of their grain operation. The farm has a wide range of soil types, with part of the land irrigated.

Computer signals corn planter just how much seed to drop

On cold days last winter when his son hauled grain, Dennis Carnahan was content to sit at the desk and work on the computer. What he accomplished was just as productive as putting in manual labor.

Optimum N rate varies by where you live

After five years of testing on Purdue University farms and private farms, two Purdue Extension agronomists believe they can help you nail down a profitable nitrogen rate. Bob Nielsen and Jim Camberato undertook this project because they felt data on response of modern corn hybrids to N rates on Indiana soils was lacking.

Desiccant danger!

In 2010, several sugarbeet fields had significant stand loss where Valor was applied to dry beans as a desiccant herbicide in 2009. In the fall of 2010, a desiccant herbicide trial was established at two locations.

Winter wheat planting tips

The word on farm is there is going to be a lot of winter wheat planted this fall in the Dakotas because of all the prevented planting acres, now estimated at 6.3 million acres in North Dakota alone.

Logues diversify with hay business

Since Joe Logue began farming in 1962, the Wakonda, S.D., family has used alfalfa to diversify their farm. And they stayed ahead of the rapidly changing hay business by adapting to their customers’ needs and trying the latest equipment early.

No-till delivers with ‘right stuff’

It takes the right crops, rotation and equipment to make no-till work in the wet, cool conditions in eastern North Dakota, says Tim Haakenson, Aneta, N.D.

No-till shines

It’s not too wet or too cool in eastern North Dakota to no-till, says Tim Haakenson.

Late planting is a game changer for corn

Anyone with gray hair remembers “To Tell the Truth.” Three people claiming to be the same person attempted to stump a celebrity panel. Only one of the three was the real person. This summer features “To Tell a Hybrid,” with the same hybrid looking different depending upon when it was planted.

Peanuts take lead in rotation

Diversified Oklahoma producer Joe D. White is a strong proponent of crop rotation on farming operations at Frederick and Davidson. The rotation is peanuts, corn and cotton — leading off with peanuts.

Devoted to peanuts

Oklahoma peanut grower Joe D. White raises other crops, but he’s passionate about peanuts.

State prime to expand grape production

During the fall in southwest Michigan, the air in the vineyards is fragrant with the aroma of ripening grapes. The southwest part of the state is home to most of the juice grape acreage in the state — 12,000-plus acres. Native varieties of grapes used primarily for juice and jelly, such as Concord and Niagara, have been grown commercially in Michigan for more than a 100 years.

Are yields better than expected?

Corn harvest is well under way in Iowa as I write this, and perhaps completed by the time you read it. Many farmers already report corn and soybean yields are “better than expected.” Does that mean the crop is turning out better than they expected at planting, in early July, in early August?

Advice to consider when lodged corn is problem at harvest

Ron Meyer, Colorado State University Extension agent for Kit Carson County, believes tips on harvesting lodged corn offered by Mark Hanna, Iowa State University agricultural engineer, are applicable for growers farther west.

Compare fertilizer options

Farming! There are always so many questions and few black-and-white answers! That is why farmers know so much about so many subjects.

When does it pay to spray at last minute?

Is there still time to dribble some extra N on corn or apply fungicides or insecticides on soybeans? Indiana certified crop advisers tackle the topic.

Welcome to Halterville!

You won’t find Halterville on any state maps. And no, it’s not a fictitious name, like Hickory, out of a movie. But there is a large sign just outside of Vincennes declaring that you’ve entered Halterville, population 20.

A tough fall for dropped ears

While crop scouting before harvest, I noticed several ears on the ground in a cornfield in southeast Indiana. Also, I received reports from other farmers about ears dropped in several fields.

Switch to milo benefited this producer

Sometimes you make farming decisions with your gut. Kerry Graves and his father, Gary, Greene County, made such a call this spring, and it appears to have been the right one.

Who gets payment for corn stover?

With a market developing for cornstalks and cobs to be used for cellulosic ethanol production in Iowa, you are going to be hearing more questions like this one: On a farm with a cash rent lease, if the corn stover is harvested and sold, who gets the payment — the tenant or the landowner? Could those rights be sold to someone else?

Interest rises in flexible leases

Iowa State University Extension farm management specialists are fielding a lot of questions about flexible cash rent leases for cropland these days. Flex leases share some of the risk, as well as the rewards, and are an alternative to a traditional cash rent lease, which has a fixed amount of rent per acre.

20 years of SCN bean variety trials

The Iowa State University trials that rate the performance of commercially available soybean varieties for resistance to soybean cyst nematode in Iowa reached a milestone in 2011. “We’ve been doing this testing each year for 20 years now,” says Greg Tylka, an ISU Extension nematologist who oversees the program. “And I didn’t realize it was 20 years until we were finished with the publication reporting the 2011 results.”

Experts at Lake Region Round Up provide advice

New corn strategies, new provisions in specialty crop contracts and the best flexible crop leases were some of the topics discussed at the 2012 North Dakota State University Extension Lake Region Round Up in Devils Lake, N.D.

Tips on increasing corn seeding rates

There are a few factors to consider if you are thinking about increasing your corn population this year.

Get the most bang for your seed buck

Germination tests can help you get the biggest bang for the buck from soybean seed. But which tests are best?

Discover secrets of bean flowering

In a few months, you’ll be out walking fields and watching for soybeans to begin flowering.

SCN might be big surprise of 2012

You might have lost bushels of soybeans to soybean cyst nematode in the last couple of years and not even have known it, says Sam Markell, North Dakota State University Extension plant pathologist.

Higher bean yields

Shannon and Ben Klumb, and their father, Larry, of Ethan, S.D., are gunning for high soybean yields. They have had one of the highest soybean yields recorded in the South Dakota Soybean Yield and Quality Contest — 86 bushels per acre in 2010.

First 40 days critical for cotton production

Experts agree on the importance of a good, vigorous start with a cotton crop.

Important crop insurance dates

Corn and Soybean crop insurance deadlines are charted.

Effects of taking away residue

Crop residue removal — what effect does it have on corn yield and soil quality? That’s a question Mahdi Al-Kaisi gets asked quite often these days.

Plant cotton, harvest wheat

As a certified public accountant, Paul Minzenmayer appreciates balance. In farming, he needs timing to click.

Scratch head over speed of planting results

The slowest planting speed of 4 miles per hour produced the best stand placement in the Indiana Prairie Farmer/Precision Planting trial at Purdue’s Throckmorton Research Center. The distance between plants in one-one-thousandth of an acre was measured in each plot. From those numbers, Jeff Phillips, Tippecanoe County Extension ag educator, calculated the standard deviation. It’s a measure used to determine how much a stand varies from an ideal stand.

University plot trials provide key results

Phil DeVillez doesn’t pretend to think anyone would make planting decisions based solely off university trials. But he is dedicated to making sure results are a good tool in a farmer’s toolbox.

Think outside the box to pick varieties

Even if you’ve already selected varieties for 2012, you still can double-check yourself. Are the right varieties paired up in the right field?

How to do your own on-farm research

On-farm research isn’t a practice that can only be accomplished by professional researchers. Up until recently, research data on alternative crops, organic production systems and sustainable treatments for crops and livestock has not been widely available. Often the most useful research for you and your operation can be conducted on your own farm, as long as you remember a few basic steps.

SD releases 3 new wheats

South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Stations recently released three new wheat varieties: Advance, Forefront and Ideal.

Stripper head pros and cons

Dwayne Beck, South Dakota State University plant science professor and manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, Pierre, S.D., probably has more research experience with combine stripper headers than almost anyone in the country. Beck recently responded to questions about his experience.

Tool turns heads

Ireland Brothers, Martin, S.D., is making the most of no-till by using stripper heads on its combines.

Yes, they grow corn in Canada

I’ve been pretty lucky with exposure to national and international agriculture for a small-town farm kid. When I worked in ag retail, we had the opportunity to go to Hawaii a few times to learn about corn and soybean research and development, and seed production (learned a little about coffee and pineapple production, too). A trip to Mexico offered another eye-opening experience in crop production.

Selling your crop insurance bushels

In 2011 more than 80% of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres were covered by Revenue Protection, or RP, crop insurance. With the uncertainty of weather and potentially volatile crop prices, it is expected Iowa farmers made similar plans for managing revenue risk in 2012.

A solution for tile drainage

A new conservation practice called Drainage Water Management, or DWM for short, is gaining a lot of attention among farmers, tiling contractors and others. The practice helps reduce the amount of nutrients, such as nitrates and phosphorus, from negatively impacting the environment, and it is now available for USDA cost-share funding in Iowa.

Timing is critical when watering High Plains’ cotton

In semiarid farming regions where every drop of water counts, Texas AgriLife Research scientists say timing the application of available water is becoming more critical when it comes to irrigating cotton.

Bubblers boost water efficiency

High Plains producers are regularly and harshly reminded that efficiency of an irrigation system dictates crop watering capacity.

Beware of Swampbuster rules

When a drainage district makes improvements, such as increasing the size of a main line, landowners connected to the system need to be sure to follow wetland compliance or Swampbuster provisions. This reminder comes from Marty Adkins, state resource conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa.

What’s behind 2012’s uneven corn stands?

The spring of 2012 brought agronomists across the state thousands of questions about cornfields that initially emerged relatively evenly but soon began looking worse. Fields looked decent from VE to around V2 to V3 growth stage, but then uneven spots started to show up. When the corn reached about V5 to V7, the better plants really took off, and the bad areas looked like they were “stalling out.”

Forum: Boost conservation in bill

Some 30 participants in the recent Eastern Iowa Farm Tour and Farm Bill Forum had an opportunity to view firsthand a number of conservation practices that help protect Iowa’s water, soil and wildlife habitats. Theresa Weiss, district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, led the June 6 tour.

Itching to plant corn?

Hindsight is usually good, but often embarrassing. We’re all good at hindsight; it is 20:20. On the other hand, experience guides the best foresight — unless one has prophetic tendencies. One gifted in foresight chooses a wise and sensible course of action.

Tobacco’s future still stands tall

The simple, straightforward name says it all — Tobacco Day. This annual event was held at the Johnston County Extension Center near Smithfield, N.C., on Dec. 1, and a hall full of tobacco growers and industry associates had the opportunity to “collect their collective thoughts,” so to speak, on the state of the industry.

Cotton crop a mighty mixed bag of tricks

Crop progress at this time of year across the Cotton Belt is, well, “all over the map.” As June got under way, there were some areas where cotton was nearing lay-by, and other areas where growers were still replanting failed stands.

On-farm trials: garbage in, garbage out

In a perfect world, whether or not to do on-farm trials shouldn’t even be a debate. What you learn on your own farm can be invaluable if the trials are designed correctly. The rubber meets the road when you talk about sacrificing planting time to put out the trials.

Respect rootworm — stay alert!

The question posed to the panel from the Indiana Certified Crop Advisers Association says it all. There’s talk about breakthroughs in control of corn rootworm to one specific genetic trait: the Cry3Bb1 event. The reports are from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota. What does it mean for Indiana?

Satisfy the refuge requirements this year

With rootworm control problems in western states, entomologists and agronomists are pointing to what’s happening there as a reminder that it’s important to meet refuge requirements. Type and amount of refuge vary by product.

Get more from on-farm trials

Remember the old saying “garbage in, garbage out?” It applies to on-farm testing. That’s the conclusion reached by Shaun Casteel and Bob Nielsen, Purdue University Extension agronomists. Casteel specializes in soybean production. Nielsen works with issues related to corn production.

Why you’ve had a marketing headache!

Maybe you’ve seen the commercial where the husband tells the wife he’s going to wash off the back porch. She smiles happily. Then he says, “No, I’m going to power wash it!” as he pulls down his goggles.

Determine windows for planting dates

Maybe you planted corn in June in 2011. Perhaps you also planted corn in June in 2010. Is the cause strictly weather? Do you need to pick earlier starting dates and be ready to go when the weather allows?

Consider planting 2 crops at same time

One farmer in central Indiana plants soybeans in late March and has for approximately the past 10 years. He claims that almost every year, they are his best-yielding soybeans. Yet few have followed his lead.

Know the facts about Goss’s wilt

Any farmer perusing the Internet likely sees headlines about Goss’s wilt. What does it mean in Indiana?

Beekeepers diversify to grow

From selling honey at local health food stores to providing beekeepers with packages of live bees, Apple Blossom Honey Farm thrives on a diverse business model. “We have the best honey in Star City,” says Doug Hoffman, co-owner of the farm with his wife, Carrie. “We used to do farmers markets and every local festival, but as we’ve expanded we’re selling to local grocery stores and health food locations.”

How to help the pollinators

Pollinator experts say to cut an apple in half horizontally to see why you should care about pollinator conservation. If you see two seeds inside each of the five points of the apple’s star, it was completely pollinated. If there are fewer than 10 seeds, not enough pollen reached the flower’s stigma to develop all the seeds, and that apple could be small and lopsided. And, of course, you wouldn’t be holding an apple at all if the flower weren’t pollinated.

Seed insecticides hurt honeybees

Honeybee populations have been in serious decline for years, and Purdue University scientists may have identified one of the factors that cause bee death around agricultural fields.

New beekeepers helping to pollinate crops

With plans to expand to over 3,000 hives this spring, Doug and Carrie Hoffman have become part of only a handful of commercial beekeepers in Indiana.

Use center pivots to spoon-feed N to your cornfields

After above-normal spring rain in 2011, Doug Ziemke of Waco noticed yellowing in several cornfields. Tissue samples verified his suspicion that some of his preplant nitrogen had leached below crop roots.

Research continues in quest for higher soybean yields

High soybean prices and increased genetic potential have driven producers to search for common practices that can boost soybean yields and increase profits. Starter nitrogen application, foliar nutrient application and new, slow-release N products have gained attention in the past few years as methods to boost yields.

Be on bean pest alert

Last season, several new and unusual insects showed up in Nebraska soybeans, with others expected in the near future moving in mostly from the South and East. Damage from these new insects is sporadic. While some of these bugs may rise again in 2012, nothing is certain. Here is a primer on new pests to watch for.

More on-farm research work urged for corn

Farmers and UNL Extension educators have run productive, organized on-farm research projects for several years in two regions of Nebraska — the Quad County Project of York, Fillmore, Hamilton and Clay counties, and the Nebraska Soybean and Feed Grain Profitability Project in east-central Nebraska.

Watch for 6 soybean diseases in 2012

While it’s difficult to say exactly what diseases will be prevalent in Nebraska soybean fields in the upcoming growing season, University of Nebraska Extension plant pathologist, Loren Giesler, has the inside track on potential diseases to look for.

Quick hybrid selection checklist

A 2012, selecting the right hybrids isn’t as automatic as you thought. Use this simple checklist to make sure you cover all the bases.

Life in ethanol era

Remember those once-upon-a-time days when corn sold for 20 cents either side of $2 per bushel year after year? If you want to go way back, before the Earl Butz “fencerow-to-fencerow” farming days, all the way back to the 1960s, corn sold for 20 cents either side of about $1.10 per bushel, year after year.

Indiana’s ethanol boom not a bust

Prior to 2007, Indiana was lagging behind some other Corn Belt states in joining the ethanol party, with only one plant, South Bend’s New Energy, which was built in 1984. Although plans for as many as 41 plants were announced, when the talking was done, 12 new plants were actually built.

9 tips for marketing in drought year

Darrell Mark, South Dakota State University adjunct professor of economics, offers these nine tips for marketing more effectively in a drought year:

Pick best seed for 2013

This year’s early harvest will likely mean an earlier-than-normal start to the seed selection and buying season.

Twin-row planting captures more sunlight for corn

Twin-row corn planting is hardly a new concept, but there’s new interest in the practice. Research has indicated that twin rows may take yields to the next level.

Dicamba shortage threatens Tennessee

Dicamba is a great burndown herbicide and usually gets Tennessee fields off to a clean start. The availability of the tried-and-true herbicide will be limited, but farmers have options.

Soybean secrets

Last summer, I visited several winners of the 2011 South Dakota soybean yield contest to learn their secrets to high soybean yields.

It’s a good year to have Total Weather Insurance

Farmers who decided to invest this year in added protection against weather losses by taking out a Total Weather Insurance policy with The Climate Corp. will soon be getting some big checks.

Wild cherry key to disease cure

Although Mother Nature has taken a severe toll on the Michigan tart cherry crop, a bright spot for the industry is growing in a greenhouse on the Michigan State University campus: seedlings, which in three generations so far, have resisted the most costly disease of Michigan tart cherries — cherry leaf spot.

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

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.