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Articles from 2003 In January

Rising cotton biotechnology trend may reverse in 2003

Wright told the recent California Weed Science Society annual meeting that about a third of the cotton and corn acreages in the state were planted to herbicide-resident varieties, primarily Roundup Ready varieties in 2002.

That was about 175,000 acres of cotton and 150,000 acres of corn. In 1997 there were only 100 acres of Roundup Ready cotton planted in the state.

For the remainder of the U.S. Cotton Belt, the adoption rate is 70 percent.

It will likely reach that level in California when the new, wider application window technology is introduced in cotton. This will give growers more time to apply the Roundup over the top of the plant without damaging the crop. Right now the cutoff is the four-leaf stage. The new "flex" technology will extend that window to 12 to 14-node cotton.

Adoption of the technology also has been limited by the short lists of cotton and corn varieties available with the herbicide-resistant biotechnology.

Higher yielding

Wright said that may work to reverse the increasing-use trend of biotechnology in cotton in the short term. He predicted that the use of Roundup Ready technology will decline next season with growers switching to significantly higher yielding varieties.

Non-herbicide resistant Phytogen 72 has consistently outyielded (15 to 18 percent) the most dominant Roundup Ready Acala cotton in the valley, Riata RR, according to Wright and he predicts Phytogen 72 acreage will grow at the expense of Riata.

"You are talking about a 200-pound yield increase in our area and that means producers have significant additional income to deal with weeds without paying for the Roundup Ready technology," said Wright.

Wright said there is a well-stocked pantry of herbicides available other than glyphosate to deal with weed problems, not the least of which is Staple, the very effective over-the-top herbicide for control of one of cotton producers’ toughest weeds, nightshade.

Plus, he said with a smaller overall cotton acreage producers are planting on "cleaner" fields.

Roundup Ready technology will continue to find a niche in weedy fields which would require hand weeding and added cultivation without the over-the-top broad spectrum weed control glyphosate provides. It is also finding favor with producers growing ultra-narrow-row and twin-line cotton which are not conducive to cultivation.

"Right now the biggest thing that is limiting the use of herbicide-resistant technology in corn and cotton is that the technology is not available in Pioneer corn varieties, in Pima cotton and in Acala varieties like Phytogen 72," said Wright.

When those varieties are sold with the RR technology, adoption of herbicide-resistant technology will quickly reach the 70 percent level in California.


Conservation group criticizes Bush budget proposal

The proverbial "Robbing Peter to pay Paul,” is how the National Association of Conservation Districts characterizes budget proposals from the Bush administration, which the NACD claims will significantly decrease funds for technical assistance in conservation programs.

The National Association of Conservation Districts is "vigorously opposed" to the Administration's proposals, says Rich Duesterhaus, director of governmental affairs for the group. "Producers aren't being given as much technical assistance as was expected out of the farm bill. Consequently, they will not get as many services as they have come to expect," he says.

In a letter sent to President Bush Jan 17, the National Association of Conservation takes Bush to task for proposing a decrease in technical assistance to the thousands of America’s farmers and ranchers who want to practice good stewardship on their land.

“Less conservation applied to the land will, in turn, jeopardize the cleaner water and air, improved soil quality and enhanced wildlife habitat benefits that all American’s receive from sound land stewardship,” they say.

The Bush proposal forwarded to Congress from the Office of Budget and Management, the group says, would establish a new $322 million discretionary account to fund technical assistance services for federal financial conservation programs, but at the expense of conservation, nutrition, and other USDA programs. That proposed figure has since changed to $432 million, but the effect, says Duesterhaus, is the same.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced Jan. 30 that the president’s budget insures that all of the cost-share and technical assistance conservation work authorized by the 2002 farm bill for fiscal year 2004 will be delivered. USDA will use an additional $432 million, though a new Farm Bill Technical Assistance account, to insure farmers and ranchers can access the technical work necessary to fully utilize the conservation programs’ financial assistance.

Duesterhaus says, “The administration has continued the idea that was proposed earlier in January to go down the back of this technical assistance account, and in fact increase the amount taken out of there. According to the Jan. 30 announcement, funding for technical assistance will come out of other programs and the conservation programs account, with only half of it coming out of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) as authorized by the 2002 farm bill.”

The National Association of Conservation Districts says it’s okay with setting up a special account for technical assistance, for accountability purposes. However, the group says the proposed account instead appears to be a way to divert funds, and reduce outlays.

“The fact that the administration is giving the conservation program this kind of attention is commendable,” says Duesterhaus. “We are encouraged by this early sign that dollar levels will be increased in 2004 over 2003 levels, however they don’t go to the levels that were authorized by the farm bill.

“The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) was authorized at 250,000 acres each year, and only 178,000 WRP acres were covered in the Administration’s Jan. 30 announcement.”

He said that what matters is that over 164,000 producers will not get services in 2003 because of that Technical Assistance account. “You can’t reduce a program that is serving producers on one side, and put the money on another side, and not accept the fact that you are reducing the services you provide to those producers.”

The National Association of Conservation Districts’ Jan. 17 letter to Bush states, “Currently, USDA delivers conservation technical assistance through the Natural Resource Conservation Service to land managers that participate in federal financial assistance programs, as well as to producers who bear the full costs of installing conservation measures.

“This proposal would significantly reduce federal funding used to assist producers who apply conservation practices at their own expense, and redirect these resources to producers who also receive federal funding to offset the cost of installing conservation measures.”

The proposal, the group’s letter states, would also impair the ability of USDA to collaborate with state and local governments in addressing private lands conservation challenges because federal funding to offset shared costs would be drastically reduced.

NACD president J. Read Smith calls the move “ill-conceived and shortsighted,” noting the irony that the proposal penalizes the producers who are voluntarily spending their own money to conservation measures that provide important public benefits.

“While we clearly support much of the President’s private lands conservation agenda, it appears that he was not fully apprised of the negative impacts that this proposal would have on producers and longstanding intergovernmental agreements that were struck to help land managers apply conservation measures,” says Smith.

One bright note, Duesterhaus says, is that the Senate has passed an appropriations bill that includes language dealing with technical assistance, and it appears they are trying to protect the account the Office of Budget and Management has proposed to raid.

“We fully support the Farm Bill conservation programs, and it said each of the programs would fund their technical assistance,” he says. “The Budget Office was going to fund them through a discretionary fund which would decrease funding provided for by the farm bill.”


Scientists stalk tomato spotted wilt virus

As its name implies, TSWV was originally observed in tomatoes. But in recent years, there have been reports of a sharp increase in TSWV attacking not only tomatoes, but also peppers and peanuts, particularly in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Last year Virginia saw a tremendous increase in TSWV problems in potatoes.

In May 2002, Agricultural Research Service Plant Pathologist Scott T. Adkins, in conjunction with the University of Florida (UF), began to study crop damage caused by this virus in the tomato production areas of northwest Florida, just west of Tallahassee. He and his team observed, in adjacent tomato and pepper fields, a high percentage of infected tomato plants, but a low percentage of infected pepper plants.

Adkins took TSWV samplings from tomato and pepper plants back for analysis by scientists in ARS' Subtropical Plant Pathology Research Unit at Ft. Pierce, Fla. He is trying to see if one host (tomato) is affecting the ability of TSWV to infect the other host (pepper) and vice versa.

The virus can turn leaves brown, purple or bronze and frequently kills the plants' stem tips. It can also cause brown or yellow spots and rings on tomatoes and other produce, making them unappealing to consumers and therefore unmarketable.

TSWV is transmitted from plant to plant almost exclusively by several species of thrips. The western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis) and the tobacco thrips (F. fusca)are major vector species in Florida, although F. bispinosa may also be a locally important vector.

Adkins is working closely with UF plant pathologist Tim Momol, who is located at

the North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Southeastern produce growers are showing great interest in their work.

Adkins hopes to characterize the diversity of the virus across the wide range of host plants TSWV infects, not only in the region, but also throughout the United States. Once this is determined, he can use the information to develop improved virus management strategies and crop cultivars that will resist infection.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's principal scientific research agency.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Brock Online Notes

USDA: Brazil Ag Potential Understated

Brazil's capacity for agricultural expansion has been vastly underrated in the past and that country could surpass the U.S. in the amount of land it cultivates for farming, according to a special USDA report.

"The existing scope for agricultural expansion in Brazil is equal to (if not greater than) the total cropland resource in the U.S.," the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service said in the report.

"It is conservatively estimated that Brazil could increase its total cultivated land area by 170 million hectares (420 million acres) or more if key legal, technical and financial developments occur," the FAS said, adding that such expansion is possible without any further deforestation of the Amazon River Basin.

Such expansion is dependent on the eventual legalization of genetically modified crops in Brazil, widespread adoption of new high-yield crop varieties, and increased investment in transportation infrastructure.

The U.S. and Brazil are roughly the same size. The U.S. now has about 174 million hectares (477 million acres) – or an estimated 19% of its total land – planted with crops. By comparison, Brazil has has 41.8 million hectares (103.3 million acres) or about 5% of its total land under cultivation.

Previous Brazilian assessments of the country's capacity for expanding crop production have been low because the nation’s vast pastures, which account for 177 million hectares (437.4 million acres) or 83% of its total agricultural land, were not considered a source for future grain and oilseed crop expansion, "despite their ease of conversion to mechanized farming and their location adjoining crop lands throughout the country," the FAS said.

In actuality, there has been a sizeable and widespread conversion of Brazilian pastureland to soybean production in the past few years.

Many Brazilian producers and agribusiness leaders feel that in the long run, pasture would ultimately provide a greater resource for the expansion of grain and oilseed production than native Savannah (called Cerrado), FAS said.

FAS agrees with this evaluation, and estimates that 70-90 million hectares or 40-50% of Brazil’s existing pasture acreage could be converted to cropping in the future.

Although Brazil has huge potential, a variety of factors could act to slow the rate of agricultural expansion or limit its future extent, the FAS said. However, none of these factors are on the immediate horizon, the agency added.

Such factors include a faltering domestic economy, levying of new agricultural export taxes; serious reduction of new transport infrastructure development; a significant slump in international agricultural commodity prices; outbreaks of crop diseases or pests, or climate change that substantially alters growing conditions.

The FAS report was the product of a recent trip through Brazil, during which USDA/FAS personnel met with numerous official agricultural research agencies and private sector agribusiness companies.

Editors note: Richard Brock, Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.

To see more market perspectives, visit Brock's Web site at

Corn+Soybean Digest

Soybean Lab Helps Test Soy-Fortified Foods in Tajikistan

The National Soybean Research Laboratory (NSRL) at the University of Illinois has recently conducted field trials in the central Asian country of Tajikistan which show that soy can serve as an excellent source to fortify the protein content of bread and other wheat-based foods in that strategically important part of the world.

"The trials showed that soy provides much-needed protein in the foods that are staples in the diets of millions of people who have little opportunity to obtain protein from other sources," says Pradeep Khanna, associate director of the NSRL. "From its inception, we have been working with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) to provide greater nutrition through food assistance programs throughout the world."

Primary funding for the WISHH program is provided by the United Soybean Board and the American Soybean Association. Additional funding has come from the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board and state soybean organizations from across the country. The NSRL provides technical support for a wide range of projects sponsored by the program.

Tajikistan gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 and has since experienced a difficult period of adjustment. Two-thirds of the population is below poverty levels and nearly half of the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

"Many of the people there depend on international food assistance from the World Food Programme and private voluntary organizations, such as Save the Children, CARE, and Catholic Relief Services," Khanna says. "These groups use tons of wheat flour in school lunch programs, yet protein and other nutritional deficiencies remain common. We hope to have a major impact on that problem by incorporating soy into the flour used in those feeding programs."

As part of the project, the NSRL has collaborated with the North American Miller's Association to send two staff members to Tajikistan for the purpose of conducting tests on the potential for us of soy in the food aid programs already underway. Research Specialist Megan Puzey from the NSRL was one of those who traveled there last fall to assist in the effort.

"Prior to their departure, our staff conducted extensive tests of these soy-fortified products under a variety of conditions, ranging from fire-fed clay ovens to commercial bakeries," Khanna says. "Archer Daniel Midlands Company has provided the flour, which is about 12% soy, 87% wheat, and 1% vitamin-mineral premix. This soy-fortified product can increase the protein content of food by as much as 40%."

The results of the field testing in Tajikistan proved positive both in terms of taste and ease of use in the types of foods that local residents would normally eat.

"The product proved especially well adapted for use in both breads and in noodles for soup," Puzey says. "In school trials, most children preferred the buns made with soy flour. Many of the children even saved the bread so that they could take it home to younger siblings who do not have access to a school meal program."

Additional tests of this soy-fortified flour were conducted by the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, where more then 9 million people are receiving U.S. food assistance. Further trials are also scheduled for Pakistan in the near future.

"Research trials like this verify the potential that soy has to do good in the world," Khanna said. "Through these efforts we are also gaining much wider international recognition for new uses of soy, especially in value-added products such as flour. This project represents a 'win-win' situation for both U.S. soybean producers and food aid recipients."

Corn+Soybean Digest

Low Protein Puts Soybeans At Market

Soybeans grown in Minnesota are below average in protein content, putting them at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. Planting varieties that are higher in protein can help, according to University of Minnesota agronomist Daryl Hexum.

"According to the 2002 soybean quality survey by Iowa State University, Minnesota ranks last out of the seven western Corn Belt states in soybean protein level," says Hexum. "And Minnesota soybeans are 1% lower in protein than the national average."

Hexum says variety selection is the most powerful tool available to lift the protein level of the state's soybeans. "Varieties vary greatly in both protein level and yield," he points out. "Additionally, varieties exist that are not only high- yielding but above average in protein level. By selecting varieties that have both high yield and high protein, Minnesota producers can increase the overall protein level of their crop. This will increase the profitability of Minnesota soybeans by making them more desirable in the marketplace."

To assist producers in choosing varieties, the University of Minnesota Extension Service has compiled lists of "winners" (varieties with both high yield and above-average protein) and "losers" (varieties with low protein). The lists come from two sources-Minnesota Soybean Grower Strip Trials and University of Minnesota Variety Trials. These lists are on the Internet and can be reached by going to, clicking on the icon for "2002 Protein Results" and then clicking on the icons for the lists. Those without Internet access can have the lists printed at county offices of the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Long-Term Forecast Gives A 'Slight Probability' For Above-Normal

Don't get your umbrellas out just yet, but Nebraska could see above normal precipitation over the next three months, according to long-term forecasts released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday.

The long-term forecast for February through April shows a slight chance of wetter than normal conditions, said Mark Svoboda, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center in the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

It is slightly more likely that the state will have above normal precipitation than below or normal precipitation for the three month period, he says.

However, these models have consistently predicted above normal precipitation in the three-month forecast dating back to October 2002, says Al Dutcher, state climatologist.

"All people have to do is look outside and see that has not happened," Dutcher says.

January and February typically see 1-1.5” of total Precipitation, only about 5-7% of the state's annual total. The key months in this forecast will be March and April, Svoboda says.

"If we can get good rainfalls in the spring we can be OK," he says. "It's the waiting and seeing what will happen with those spring rains. At least, they're not showing dry trends. If there is a slight probability (of above normal precipitation), we'll take it."

Dutcher says another critical factor in the drought's severity will be April's final snow pack in the Rocky Mountains.

Currently, snow pack is about 75% of normal and statistically it reaches its cumulative peak in mid-April. For every day snow fails to fall in the Rockies, the snow pack percentage decreases by .5-1%.

"The river basins that impact Nebraska in Wyoming and Colorado have been so dry that a portion of the snow pack will go into recharging soil profiles," he says. "Therefore, we would expect approximately 20% of that snow pack will not make its way through the rivers' systems. The Rockies would have to get 100-200% of normal snowfall by April to make up the deficits in the accumulated snow pack that have already occurred."

Beyond the precipitation trends, the long-term forecast shows equal chances of temperatures being above normal, below normal or normal February through April. The forecast for February continues to show the eastern half of Nebraska with a greater probability of being warmer than normal and precipitation slightly above normal for the southern one-third of the state, Svoboda says.

In 2002, western and southwest Nebraska had the driest year on record, while the state experienced its third driest year on record. The soil moisture profile for the western two-thirds of the state is gone, while parts of northeast Nebraska stand at 2-3” of available moisture.

As for any effects from El Nino, already it has peaked and is on its downward swing, Dutcher says."The drought took us a couple of years to get into and will take a couple of years to get out of.”

Corn+Soybean Digest

New Soyfoods Cookbook

A new cookbook that presents the many ways that textured soy protein can be used as a healthy and delicious ingredient in the average American kitchen has been published by the Illinois Center for Soy Foods at the University of Illinois. This illustrated, full-color publication entitled Textured Vegetable Protein in the American Kitchen is the second in an ongoing series of soy foods cookbooks.

"Textured soy protein can best be looked at as a typically American soy food," says Barbara Klein, editor of the book and co-director of the Center. "It is a quick-cooking food with the texture and nutritional value of meat. It can serve as a valuable addition to the kitchens of people who are looking for a quick and inexpensive source of protein and a way to cut back on fat in their diets."

Textured soy protein is generally made from whole or defatted soybeans that have been texturized and then ground into granules or chunks of varying sizes. Consumers can buy this product under a variety of names--textured soy protein, textured vegetable protein, textured soy flour, TSP (a registered trademark of PMS Foods LP), and TVP (a registered trademark of Archer Daniels Midland Company). For simplicity, the term "TVP" was used in the cookbook.

"TVP provides a complete protein that includes all the essential amino acids," Klein said. "It is virtually fat free and has no cholesterol. It is also very low in sodium and high in dietary fiber. TVP also retains soy's isoflavones, which are special components in soy that contribute to its ability to prevent disease."

The cookbook was designed in an easy-to-use format, with a spiral binding that allows it to lie flat for efficient use in the kitchen. Nutritional information, including calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and protein counts, is provided for each recipe. It also contains helpful general information on buying, storing, and efficiently using TSP.

The book can be ordered at a price of $15 per copy by calling toll free at 800-345-6087. Additional information, sample recipes, and an on-line order form for the cookbook and the other title in the series, Tofu in the American Kitchen, are also available on the Internet at

Corn+Soybean Digest

Will Farmers Profit From 'Functional' Foods?

Some 85% of American consumers want to learn more about "functional" foods, according to a survey by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

The ADA survey concluded consumers are concerned about nutrition, know they could and should eat healthier, but don't want to sacrifice taste and convenience. "Functional foods provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition," says Zachary Fore, a regional cropping systems specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

The ADA defines functional foods as "any potentially healthful food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond the traditional nutrients it contains." Fore says examples of functional foods include products with oat fiber or soy protein (heart healthy) and butter-type spreads that contain benecol (cholesterol reducing).

"What does this have to do with agriculture? Potentially, a great deal," Fore says. "Functional foods may require production of customized raw materials. The functional foods market in the U.S. alone is currently at $8 billion per year, and growing at eight percent annually."

Don't confuse functional foods with "farmaceuticals." "Farmaceuticals are likely to be produced on a very small number of acres by a very small number of farms," Fore says. "But functional foods will be produced on many acres and provide opportunity for many farmers."

Whoever is first to identify and provide what consumers want will profit from functional foods. "But if the past is any indication, it won't be farmers," Fore says "Consumer expenditures for food products have grown dramatically in the last 30 years, but what farmers are getting has grown very little."

Consumers are paying more, but farmers are not sharing in that increased value. "Who is getting it? The food companies who are adding value to the raw materials," Fore says.

Farmers can profit from the functional foods market, but they won't profit by waiting for someone to come and offer a premium price for products they produce, Fore says. To share in the profits, Fore says farmers need to work with commodity groups, universities and other support organizations to develop and own nutritionally enhanced plant and animal traits. Farmers must also own the processing and/or marketing of functional food products.

"A lot of money will be made in the functional foods business," Fore says. "If farmers are wise and aggressive in their thinking, develop partnerships and invest in well- researched value-added opportunities, it can be them."

Fore may be reached at (218) 253-4401,