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Best Management Practices
CNMP is more than an acronym

Thad Konzen’s CNMP is brand-new –– so new, he’s still figuring out what it might mean to the two dairy operations he manages near Oakdale.

$40 no-till weed control is doable

Keeping tight crop budgets in mind, this fourth Q&A series article tackles herbicide costs, Russell McLucas, a Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance board member, and Del Voight, Penn State Extension grain-crop specialist, address concerns and what works. McLucas, past chairman of the Pennsylvania Corn Growers Association and a 30-year veteran no-tiller, farms near McConnellsburg, Pa.

Water source never dries up on this farm

Stand at the edge of Ralph and Marvin Biehle’s grain setup, and you look down over a small valley and up toward the next hill. Pasture extends down the hill, with barns and silos on the other side. Far off in the distance is a cornfield. And behind it is one of the most important resources on the farm — a pond.

Interest in ag auditing increasing

Ever think about having a review of your operation by an unbiased, expert third party, to see how you stack up in protecting the environment and care of livestock and workers under your control? Earl Dotson believes you should.

Land management key, farmer says

The way Linda Fisher sees it, raising cattle these days is as much about land/crop management as actual care of the animals.

What makes a good farmer?

The customary description of a “good farmer” is a major barrier to getting conservation on the ground. How do you define what makes a good farmer? Language plays an important role in how this question is answered.

Benefits of sustainable label studied

Hazelnut producers, caught up in the quest for sustainability, are looking hard at the possibility of contracting with a firm like California’s SureHarvest as a third-party certification entity.

What affects profit?

After analyzing three years of Farm Business Farm Management data, Gary Schnitkey saw something he had never seen before. The University of Illinois economist noticed that high-profit farmers are better marketers.

Vegetative system is simple, effective

Richard Baumert doesn’t have thousands of pigs or calves on feed, but his feedlots drained the wrong way. Handling manure from his hog feeding platforms and cattle yards in a cost-effective way wouldn’t normally be considered an easy task. But thanks to a system developed by Christopher Henry, University of Nebraska Extension engineer, and engineer technician Jason Gross, Baumert’s situation was remedied without breaking the bank.

Nebraska hog farm nears independence through bioenergy

When you talk with Danny Kluthe about the future of agriculture, his eyes light up and a big smile creeps across his face. “The future of agriculture is bright,” says Kluthe. And he knows what he is talking about.

USDA urged to hold CSP sign-up

Farm and conservation groups are urging U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to make critical improvements to the USDA Conservation Stewardship Program and initiate the 2010 sign-up as soon as possible.  

Refuges evaluate efficacy of traits

Since corn hybrids containing biotechnology traits for European corn borer were introduced in 1996, a refuge of non-Bt corn consisting of 20% of the acreage has been required within a half-mile of the Bt corn. In 2003, with Bt corn rootworm hybrids, the 20% refuge remained, with the non-Bt refuge required within or adjacent to the field.

Water wish list

A 145-page water management report, commissioned by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature to provide direction for Legacy amendment funds, lays out a 25-year road map that, its authors say, will protect and preserve the state’s lakes, rivers and groundwater for the 21st century and beyond.

Water report disappoints ag leaders

A comprehensive water report generated by the University of Minnesota’s Water Resources Center offers suggestions on how to protect and preserve Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and groundwater for the next 25 years.

Soil-saving efforts add up

Southern Iowa farmers Rick and Joy Jackson of Weldon are a good example of how a small farm can make a positive impact on the environment through the use of soil and water conservation practices. They farm in Decatur County and were recognized as 2010 Rathbun Lake Protectors by the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance for reducing soil loss and protecting Rathbun Lake.

Nebraska: more corn with less nitrogen

Nebraska farmers are using nitrogen fertilizer much more efficiently than they were 30 to 40 years ago.

Footprint farming

Corn farmers like Steve Ebke of Daykin usually don’t define themselves in business terms such as raw-material suppliers or members of a supply chain.

Soil ’n’ survival: matter of inches

It is eye-opening when you work with the best soil formation in the world here in Iowa, and then elsewhere see soil with only a few inches of depth and scratch through it with your hand to find bedrock! That’s how I, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist, sum up my recent visit to Guam, a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean.

‘Out to the Lakes’ video available

Is there a water quality problem in Iowa? This question is posed to Iowans in the latest video produced by Iowa Learning Farms. “Out to the Lakes” is a provocative and engaging documentary that encourages viewers to think about water quality and their personal relationship with their local lake or waterbody.

Son follows in dad’s conservation steps

Like father, like son. In the Donahoo family, the conservation ethic of responsibility for taking care of soil and water resources is passed down from generation to generation.

Water quality a looming challenge

Perhaps one of the greatest environmental challenges Iowans face in the coming decades is that of maintaining clean sources of water for our livelihood and recreation. Water quality is an issue that cuts across the rural-urban divide in Iowa and the Midwest.

‘Grow-your-own’ N boosts yield

The latest research on farmers growing their own nitrogen shows the management practice hedges against a volatile off-farm inputs market, and results in increased yields and income.

Coldwater Creek revival

Earlier this year, sampling in Coldwater Creek revealed about 2,500 brown trout per mile — a vast improvement from years past when no brown trout could be found in the creek.

Endorse voluntary conservation

Certification — whether voluntary or regulated — is playing an ever-larger role in agriculture.

Helping smaller feedlots, dairies adhere to rules

In 2001, a partnership between the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and Iowa State University initiated the Iowa Plan for Open Feedlots.

Tapestry of strips is farmer’s path to organic transition

Dennis Wacker of Plainview has been viewing organic farming from the sidelines. This past season, the 50-year farming veteran began his three-year transition toward organic certification, utilizing a strip-cropping system that conserves soil, gains yield and looks like a tapestry from the air.

Graze for 365 days

One of the greatest advantages of Management-intensive Grazing, or MiG, is summer grazing in order to give producers the opportunity to grow more forages for winter grazing, says Jim Gerrish, a nationally recognized grazing specialist. Winter grazing can save money and time, allowing farmers and ranchers to graze standing forages and stalks instead of feeding hay.

Beating cedars with teamwork

Cedar trees are encroaching on grazing land in Boyd County and around the state at a rate that Jim Mathine, Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist, calls “alarming.” This is especially true in areas choked with small cedars.

A family affair

Five young boys growing up on a southern Iowa farm aren’t lacking for conservation-minded role models if they have aspirations to carry on the family’s farming tradition. Both their parents and grandparents are recipients of the Rathbun Lake Protector award, given annually by the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance. The grandparents, Dwaine and Twyla Evans, received the award in 2008, and the parents, Pat and Amy Evans, were honored in 2011.

Make conservation system work

What went right? What went wrong? Those are two questions to think about as you evaluate your corn and soybean crops growing in the field after this planting season. How the crop plants are performing, especially if something is going wrong, is often blamed on the type of tillage system being used.

What’s happening to honeybees?

Iowa State University is taking a team approach in studying what is behind the disappearance of honeybees, known as colony collapse disorder, or CCD.

Online videos show viewer how to nab nitrates

You may have heard of bioreactors or conservation drainage, but chances are, you haven’t seen how these two new practices take nitrates out of underground tile waters. That’s not surprising; like the tile water they cleanse, they do their work unseen, underground, with little fanfare or maintenance.

ILF film wins picture awards

The film “Out to the Lakes” recently earned accolades from the Iowa Motion Picture Association. The film received Awards of Achievement in the documentary and educational production categories, and an Award of Excellence in music. The Iowa Learning Farms film encourages viewers to think about water quality and their personal relationship with their local lake or waterbody.

Ponds suffer in drought

Due to this summer’s extreme heat and dry weather, many pond owners are having issues with submerged plants, floating plants and filamentous algae, which are leading them to using aquatic herbicides that may harm fish.

Cutting-edge tech surfing

‘‘Ray Boswell is always trying new things,” says Johnston County Extension agent Tim Britton. “He doesn’t try any and everything, but he is constantly on the lookout for the best new things to try. He keeps what works.”

Va. farmer likes new tech

Bob Marks has a lot of irons in the fire. Marks and his brother, Mike, grow about 250 acres of peanuts, 500 acres of cotton, 450 acres of wheat and soybeans, 150 acres of watermelons, 50 acres of cucumbers and 100 acres of corn. They also raise beef cattle, mainly Black Angus and Simmental. Counting cows and calves, they total about 160 head.

Farm couple seeks new way to save soil

Farmers still seek new ways to protect their land from conservation threats. One farm family from Kansas, Ohio, is talking the search seriously. Dwight and Lisa Clary have developed a completely new way to improve drainage for agriculture.

Soil conservation leader seeks efficiency

Dave White was practical, yet excited about the future, when he sat down for an exclusive interview with Farm Progress. He knows budgets will be tighter in the days ahead, but he’s still confident that conservation partners will move forward nationwide.

Rent or buy more land? Tough choice

Whether the decision is about buying new equipment, adding technology to existing equipment or expanding the farming operation by renting or buying more land, the basic question is the same: Will this investment generate more revenue?

Biodigester offers strong payback for dairy farmer

Pennsylvania dairy farmer Steve Reinford hoped putting in a biodigester to control manure odor and nutrient runoff from his 440-cow dairy would eliminate complaints from the urban neighbors increasingly closing in on his operation.

What cover crops mean for hypoxia

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when someone says “cover crops”? Stopping soil erosion, right? It took Barry Fisher nearly an hour during a tour of cover crop plots at Roger Wenning’s farm to mention soil savings.

How to reduce your sediment losses

The Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District just announced its “Stop That Dirt —Erosion Watch Campaign.” While the majority of Marion County is now urban, that doesn’t mean it’s immune to soil erosion issues.

Dream come true

Capturing the saga of Greene County’s Goose Pond would require a huge book. It’s a story of tremendous potential, bitter disappointment, drama, intrigue, politics and destiny. At least now the conclusion of this story is clear. Restoration of more than 7,000 acres of constructed wetlands is finally complete.

Sandhill cranes have a new home

Indiana has 1% more net wetlands than it did before Goose Pond and Beehunter Marsh were restored. That makes Jane Hardisty smile. She’s the state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Keeping lid on farm, livestock odors

Farm goals should include economic viability, environmental soundness and social responsibility. These three factors impact the future of an individual farm, and in general, farming in a community. Acknowledging these three goals helps a farm succeed and have a positive impact within its community.

E. coli rare in ‘salad bowl’ wildlife

The disease-causing bacterium E. coli O157:H7 is present but rare in some wildlife species of California’s agriculturally rich Central Coast region, an area often referred to as the nation’s “salad bowl,” says a long-awaited report from a team or researchers led by a University of California, Davis, scientist.

10 steps to increase yields

Want to increase the bushels you sell on your farm each year? I have two solutions for you. The first is to acquire more land. The second is to better utilize the ground you already have. While I’d love to help you with the first option, it’s more realistic for me to help you with the second.

How to handle manure on wet fields

With a wet summer creating high soil moisture conditions in many fields and autumn’s unpredictable weather, now is a good time to review your manure management plan.

V-till debate rages

In the ag world, vertical tillage is hot. If it were Hollywood, this up-and-coming hunk of iron would be akin to gossip on the latest power couple’s forbidden romance. And Pennsylvania’s Carl Shaffer points out, not everyone greets it with open arms.

Use high-tech tools to make manure applications easier

Gary Doerr and his wife, Liz, of Creighton have been raising hogs for years. They recently found a way to combine high-tech tools they were already using in crop production to improve how they spread hog manure over their crop fields.

New finishing barn offers cattle comfort

Lawrence area farmer and rancher Zach Herz has built a cattle finishing barn that could be the first in a beef feeding revolution. The bedded manure-pack barn is one of the first in the state, but if more farmers and ranchers build similar structures, beef feeding could move from the feedlot to the farm.

A terrace design for gentle slopes

A new type of terrace is lining the southern Iowa landscape. Grass-front farmable back-slope terraces are a growing trend on gently sloping cropland (1% to 6% slopes). These types of terraces are getting more popular because they are less expensive to construct than broad-base terraces and easier to farm around than narrow-base or grass back-slope terraces.

Strips of prairie added to crops control erosion

Strategically placed strips and patches of prairie grass are showing promise as a new tool to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss on sloping crop fields, with a bonus benefit of big gains in biodiversity.

NRCS sets 8 priorities for funds

To better distribute federal dollars, Nebraska conservation folks have identified eight “primary resource concerns” in the state.

Smaller farms also need help in conservation

Most full-time farmers in Iowa who make a living from their land have a relationship with their local soil and water conservation district and USDA agencies. Even those with smaller farms know where to get conservation help and have used technical and cost-share assistance programs for the most part, a Wallace’s Farmer survey confirmed last year.

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.

Steady growth for Hocutts

For the Hocutt family of Sims, N.C., farming has been all about looking for opportunities, adding acreage and making their own luck for at least five generations.

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.

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.

Farm builds cropping strategy around workforce of immigrants

Finding labor for a big, diverse North Carolina farm is always problematic, says Kendall Hill of Hugo, N.C. “In my life, we have done it many different ways, and there were good points and bad points to each.”

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.

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:

New NRCS standards for Iowa

Beginning in February, Iowa farmers who signed up for new Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts with USDA, which include nutrient management and other key practices, will need to follow an updated 590 standard. The new standard also applies to any new conservation plans.

Livestock’s carbon footprint under study

Consumers increasingly want to know the carbon footprint of the way they travel, the laptops they buy and the food they eat. Businesses, manufacturers and farmers want to reduce their environmental impact, as well as offer products designed to appeal to consumer preferences.

EQIP boosts grazing

Some Nebraska Panhandle ranchers now raise more grass, cattle and wildlife by taking part in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. EQIP is a voluntary conservation program available from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to private landowners and operators.

Vine from a vintage farm

Alex McLennan III hopes folks are willing to drive to the far reaches of the earth to find a good glass of wine.

Foliar application best with aphids

Will an insecticide seed treatment control soybean aphid, and is it economically justifiable when a foliar insecticide application may also be needed? Extension entomologists have been conducting research to answer these questions.

Stem canker rises in South Dakota

Something didn’t look right in the soybean field on the north side of the road. It was the wilted look of those leaves turned bottom up to the early September sun that made South Dakota State University plant pathologist Thomas Chase pull over and stop.

Plug holes in your soybean regime

Wait to increase soybean yields? Then imagine putting the crop’s maximum yield potential — around 100 bushels per acre today — in a bucket, a bucket with six or seven holes in it, advises Karen Corrigan, of McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics.

Irrigated grass pays

David Fischer was tired of hauling nutrients off of his land. The farmer from Fordyce in Cedar County wanted to put something back, so he converted irrigated alfalfa to certified organic pasture. On 800 acres of land that he now manages, he allows the cattle to spread the nutrients for him and do much of his

Scouting for soybean aphids

Light green to pale yellow soybean aphids have been a yield-robbing summer visitor to Nebraska soybean fields since their discovery in the state in 2003. Measuring less than one-sixteenth of an inch long, with two black cornicles or “tailpipes” on the rear of their abdomen, they have piercing and sucking mouthparts. They begin to feed on new tissue at the top of soybean plants beginning in late June and early to mid-July.

Irrigated wheat needs intensive management to turn a profit

Wheat planted under irrigation isn’t necessarily the easiest crop to grow. Over the past six years, Gene Chohon of O’Neill has pushed wheat yields under center pivot to nearly 120 bushels per acre, but last season he was disappointed when his wheat averaged in the mid-80-bushel-per-acre range.

BMPs are vital with re-registration of herbicide atrazine

As part of the re-registration of the popular herbicide atrazine, farmers should adopt best management practices, or BMPs, to prevent runoff and ensure that atrazine remains a viable product, says a University of Missouri Extension water quality specialist.

Get the most value from manure resource

There was a time when livestock producers considered manure as a waste problem. With skyrocketing commercial fertilizer costs in recent years, both livestock and crop producers now think of manure as a valuable resource.

Trees sprout up as pests in no-till fields

No-till farming has numerous benefits, but one issue that comes with the practice is trees sprouting up in fields next to corn and soybeans.

Know Nebraska’s ‘noxious 11’

Warm weather and summer storms aren’t just favorable for growing corn. Weeds flourish as well in this state. Although Nebraska has 11 designated noxious weeds, landowners have a variety of resources that they can use to distinguish friend from foe.

The water monitor

When Roric Paulman came back to the farm south of Sutherland more than 30 years ago, he assembled a team to help him resurrect an operation that had just gone through bankruptcy and the sudden death of his father. “I was 27. I didn’t know enough about farming at the time, so I pulled together a team that included an attorney, accountant and bankers to see where I stood. I also sat down with our original landlords.”

Finding a balance for Nebraska water

The big picture of Nebraska’s water supply is missing as the state attempts to manage water conflicts and set regulatory policies. Instead, Nebraska needs to inventory its total water supply and identify where that water goes before determining the highest-priority consumptive uses.

Forages win out in this operation

A farm family who raises Angus seedstock and puts most of their farm acres into commercial hay production was named winner of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association’s Environmental Stewardship Award Program for 2012. Greg and Lola Wood and son Chris operate BitterSweet Acres, near Greenville in Clay County in northwest Iowa.

Make the most of corn silage; figure all the angles

Raising corn silage was a struggle in early spring for the Phillips brothers. The weather just wouldn’t cooperate on Northpointe Farm, their operation in Augusta County, Va. It was hot and dry in March, and cold, damp and wet in April, just when they needed to plant corn.