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Articles from 2016 In January

Herbicide resistant weed control ideas from 'crazy agronomist'

Herbicide resistant weed control ideas from 'crazy agronomist'

Lee Briese has about 20 different ideas on ways to control herbicide resistant weeds.

Using more herbicide isn’t one of them.

“When a herbicide is broken,” Briese says, “you can’t fix it with more herbicides.”

Instead, the solution is a more “everything in the toolbox” approach.

Briese – a Centrol crop consultant based out of Jamestown, N.D. – was one of the breakout session presenters at Sow What Now?, a recent one-day conference in Fargo, N.D.,  on resistant weed management. It was organized by Greg LaPlante, a Wahpeton, N.D., agronomist, and sponsored by the North Dakota Soybean Council and Bayer CropScience.

“I only use a herbicide when I have to,” Briese says.

Lee Briese holds up pictures of cover crops that he says are helping control weeds.

Briese – who describes himself as the “crazy agronomist" -- is excited about the ability of cover crops to control weeds, improve soil health and increase yields all at the same time.

“Name anything else that can do that for about $7/a per acre?” he asks, referring to the cost of rye seed.

Briese and some of the farmers he works with have been using rye and other cover crops for several years.

Their goals are to keep the soil covered all year around and to have something living growing on fields as long as possible

“Black soil is an invitation to Mother Nature to fill the space. She does it with weeds,” Briese says.

Briese encourages farmers to think of different, even seemingly crazy, ways to control weeds without using a herbicide.

Rye has a natural allopathic effect on weeds. Rye puts out its own herbicide to reduce competition.

A thick crop canopy will shade out weeds.

You could kill weeds with steam, he says, but he isn't sure how -- yet.

You could wilt them with ultra violet light. He imagines something like a tanning bed on wheels.

You can cut them off with a weed whacker mounted shafts between crop rows. “You could make this is your own shop,” he says.

You could collect weed seeds with the combine and haul them off the fields. They do it in Australia.

You could run weed seed through a hammer mill right on the combine.

You could zap weeds with electricity or burn them with a flame thrower. Commercial models of both are available.

You could sandblast them.

You could freeze them. A shot of anhydrous ammonia might do the trick, Briese says.

You could surround your fields with living snow fences. Several thick rows of corn or sunflowers would catch catch and prevent tumbleweeds from rolling across your fields in the fall and spreading resistant kochia seed.

You can manage resistant weeds, he says.

 “You just have to start thinking about it creatively.”

Success may require a change in the way you think about farming and weeds.

“I want to manage an ecosystem,” Briese says. “I don’t want to manage herbicides.”

Overwintering bee hives in Central California

Agricultural losses add up as crooks profit

It’s that time of year again. The other day while interviewing a beekeeper in his almond orchard the signs were there; barren almond trees with nary a leaf had buds on them that would soon explode into delicate, white blossoms that by Labor Day will be a tasty, nutritious nut.

It’s California’s annual sign that spring is near. A million acres of almond trees blossom over the period of a few weeks, making it a photographer’s paradise, especially when you get one of those classic warm days that chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus love.

Included in this issue is a story on the more nefarious sides of almond bloom that is as understandable in today’s society as it is bothersome.

Bees are being stolen by the truckload right now. Unbeknownst to me as I was interviewing people for this story, over 200 hives were stolen by criminals in northern California. Credit the advent of social media and the widespread adoption of it by legitimate groups including law enforcement and the California State Beekeepers Association for getting the word out and hopefully recover the hives.

Without a quick recovery of the hives it becomes increasingly likely they’ll never be returned to the owner, even though it sounds like the owner did what he could to protect his bees.

Law enforcement tells me the criminals in these cases are likely those with some inside knowledge of the bee industry. They apparently know enough of how to handle bees to make their escape with thousands of dollars’ worth of bee hives.

Bees aren’t the only lucrative agricultural crime happening now. The nuts they pollinate, along with pistachios and walnuts, are being stolen by an organized crime ring that steals trucking company information from the Internet to create fake, but legitimate-looking shipping documents. These fake documents are then presented to nut processing companies who, not knowing the documents are fake, load upwards of 44,000 pounds of packaged, processed tree nuts into large trailers to be hauled off and sold by a crime syndicate.

These are just two of many examples of crime against agriculture and why the industry must partner with local law enforcement to protect their assets and make life more difficult for criminals.

Osborne Industries presenting pig production products in Russia

Osborne Industries presenting pig production products in Russia

Employee-owned Osborne Industries is one of a select few companies that have been invited to make a presentation in Moscow on Thursday to show how the pig production best practices and technologies they have developed at the north-central Kansas company can improve productivity and reduce operation costs in Russia.

The roundtable, which is being put on by the U.S.Commercial Service of the U.S. Embassy, is titled "Increasing Efficiency in Agriculture."

Industry experts across many sectors of the agricultural industry will be on hand to present case studies of the leading U.S. technologies and approaches available in Russia.

PRESENTER: Osborne Industries is one of only a few companies chosen to exhibit products at Russian event.

Osborne’s presentation will focus on six areas of livestock production efficiencies, including genetics, nutrition, environment, feeding equipment, marketing equipment and management systems. Osborne Industries’ President and CEO, George Eakin, will represent Osborne at the event.

“We are excited about the opportunity to share how western technology can assist in improving pig production efficiencies throughout the industry in Russia,” stated Eakin. “There are many products, procedures and designs available today, and it is our objective to show how Osborne can be part of their improvements.”

The invitation-only event is reserved to only a limited number of guests. For more information on the event, contact Yekaterina Lushpina at the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy, by e-mailing

Osborne Industries was the 2010 recipient of the Governor's Exporter of the Year award, recognizing the company's growth in the export marketplace, especially for pig production products.

Osborne Industries, Inc., is a well-known U.S.-based developer and manufacturer of advanced swine management systems, with an emphasis on RFID feeding and weighing systems. Founded in 1973 in Osborne, Kan., Osborne Industries, Inc., pig production equipment can be found in over 40 countries. For more information about Osborne Industries, Inc., call 800-255-0316 or 785-346-2192) or visit

Focus on feed bunk management for cattle

Focus on feed bunk management for cattle

In a time of cheap corn prices and volatile cattle markets, focusing on effective management techniques – like feed bunk management – can improve efficiency and help producers make the most of already tight margins. Iowa State University Extension beef program specialist Erika Lundy says that’s why the Iowa Beef Center at ISU has revised and updated the existing fact sheet, Feed Bunk Management.

FEEDING EFFICIENCY: In this time of cheap corn prices and volatile cattle markets, focusing on effective management techniques like improving feed bunk management can help producers improve feed efficiency and the bottom line.

“As a supplement to this fact sheet, we also created a Feed Bunk Management Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP, as a reference to help feedlot employees create operation-driven guidelines and standards to ensure consistency in making feed delivery decisions to cattle,” Lundy says. “Users are able to download this SOP and type information into the document to make it specific to their operations regardless of size or structure.”

Tools to help producers make better cattle feeding decisions
Iowa Beef Center director Dan Loy says bunk scoring is not a new tool but Extension and the cattle industry are learning best practices to apply its use, to help make more effective management decisions.

“This factsheet outlines various techniques and tips to successfully implement feed bunk management into any cattle feeding operation regardless of size,” Lundy explains. “These include using feed delivery calls, different philosophies of feed bunk management, and charting dry matter intake to optimize cattle dry matter intake while minimizing feed spoilage.”

Both publications available as free downloadable documents
Both resources are available through the ISU Extension and Outreach online store as free downloadable documents. Feed Bunk Management (IBCR 201A) is six pages long and the one-page SOP (IBCR 201B) has fillable spaces in formulas for users to enter individual operation guidelines for personnel who work on the farm. Click here for more information  feed bunk management can help producers improve efficiency.

The Iowa Beef Center at ISU was established in 1996 with the goal of supporting the growth and vitality of the state’s beef cattle industry. It has faculty and staff from ISU Extension, the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine. IBC works to develop and deliver the latest research-based information regarding the beef cattle industry. For more information about the Iowa Beef Center visit

There is no 'field of dreams' for Iowa without ethanol

There is no 'field of dreams' for Iowa without ethanol

A few days before the fast-approaching Iowa Caucus, the Iowa Corn Growers Association held a press conference January 29 to emphasize the importance of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard to the state of Iowa and all Americans. The evening of February 1, Iowa voters attending their local caucus sites across the state will begin the selection process that will eventually determine the next president of the United States. ICGA encourages all Iowans to attend their local caucus and support candidates who support the RFS.

YOUR VOTE COUNTS: Bob Hemesath, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, says “It’s important that Iowans caucus and stand up for the Renewable Fuel Standard, because if we don’t, who will? The RFS is a success story for Iowa and the nation.”

In recent weeks with 11 Republican and three Democrat candidates crisscrossing Iowa, giving speeches and asking for voter support, several issues have become strikingly clear for farmers. The general misunderstanding of the RFS by some candidates and by a large share of the voting public is a key issue close to the hearts of corn growers. “The RFS is needed for market access for renewable fuels to provide choices at the pump for consumers. The RFS is also extremely important to the economic foundation of rural America, and many of the candidates and the media don’t fully understand or appreciate these two realities,” says Bob Hemesath, president of the ICGA.

Iowa needs to hold on to the field of dreams and to the RFS
Some presidential candidates have supported proposed legislation to kill the RFS. The ripple effects of dismantling the RFS could have devastating effects on the environment, our nation’s employment rate and the stability of our nation’s farmers, says Hemesath. At the press conference on Friday, he gave personal statements on the importance of corn ethanol and why supporting a candidate who supports the RFS is imperative for the future of Iowa and the nation as a whole.

 “The RFS matters because agriculture became an industry that was thriving again, thanks to the RFS,” says Hemesath. “The RFS has provided a market for corn through value-added corn processing. As a result, young people began coming back to Iowa and the farm. If we hadn’t had the opportunities to revitalize our farms and invest in our business, my nephew would not have been able to come back and farm with us.”

Ethanol has provided new jobs, has stabilized the economy
One point Hemesath drove home was the fact that there will be no field of dreams for Iowa without ethanol. Ethanol has a history of providing new jobs, stabilizing the economy and offering a homegrown, renewable fuel for American consumers. “There are 12 candidates who support the RFS to choose from in the caucus on February 1,” he noted. In his closing remarks, Hemesath urged Iowans to support a candidate that supports America. “Agriculture and ethanol do not matter for only Iowa in this presidential election. Please go out and caucus for a candidate that supports the RFS.”


For more information on the RFS, visit Following are other comments Hemesath made to the media at the ICGA’s January 29 press conference.

HISTORY OF IOWA’S ETHANOL INDUSTRY: Ethanol has been used in vehicles back when Henry Ford introduced it in the Model T. Since 2003, ethanol has grown rapidly as the clean burning oxygenate in fuel. The Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, is about market access. While gasoline companies need oxygenate, they don’t want to lose too much market share, but the RFS provides an avenue for market access for cleaner burning fuels and renewable energy choices for consumers.

The ethanol industry has been extremely vital to our state and has brought: New jobs, a stabilized economy, and a homegrown, renewable fuel for American consumers.

RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD: I’m here today to talk to you about the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS is the only law on the books combating Climate Change. In 2007, the RFS spurred the growth of the industry, going from 25 ethanol plants to 172 plants in 25 states by end of 2008. The majority of that growth happened in the Corn-Belt. In Iowa, we went from three wet mill plants to more than 40 plants. The dry-mill plants provided opportunities for farmer investment and rural Iowa investment. In local communities, we experienced growth on Main Street bringing new schools and more than 73,000 Iowa jobs, created today thanks to Iowa’s renewable energy industry. And yes, more corn was grown.

This policy has allowed us to replace 10% of our nation’s fuel supply with a clean, American-made source of energy. By replacing fossil fuels with homegrown biofuels, the RFS has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil since its inception. The overall intent of the RFS was to increase national security by decreasing reliance on a single energy source – oil. The RFS has numerous benefits including boosting America’s rural economy and providing a positive impact on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared to pure gasoline. And yes, more corn was grown.

WHY IT MATTERS: The field of dreams became a reality where ag became an industry that was thriving again. Iowa State University and other land-grant colleges saw a growth in students wanting to be involved in agriculture. Jobs were created. Young people were coming back to Iowa and the farm. If we hadn’t had the opportunities to revitalize our farm and invest in our business, my nephew would not have been able to come back and farm with us. I’m not alone. Farmers and neighbors in my community tell the same story. Our country can’t afford to turn back the progress. It is vital for Americans to support a strong RFS and a pro-RFS candidate.

NO SUBSIDIES: There is a lot of misunderstanding about the corn ethanol subsidies. The RFS is not a corn subsidy. The blenders’ tax credit expired more than five years ago in 2011, but even that went to gasoline blenders, not ethanol plants, and not corn farmers. The RFS does not mandate consumers to use ethanol. It requires that oil companies blend a certain amount of renewable fuel with gasoline and diesel to guarantee the customer access to cleaner burning, low-carbon renewable fuel.  It’s about market access for renewable fuel that is grown on my farm delivered to an ethanol plant 20 miles away. The blend wall is fictitious. EPA does not enforce a blend wall. Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is made up of 10% ethanol. EPA has approved E15 to be sold by gas stations for 2001 or newer vehicles. EPA helps retailers pay for new pump infrastructure that would enable them to sell higher ethanol blends.


Feed and Fuel: Another thing I want to make sure you understand is that when I deliver the corn from my field, its field corn. Not the delicious sweet corn you might enjoy on the cob or in a can. It’s field corn. That corn goes to the ethanol plant, and they use the starch to make the ethanol, at 2.8 gallons per bushel. And then I go back and pick up distillers grains or high quality protein feed for my pigs. Nothing is wasted and my pigs are fed and ethanol is produced.

The RFS matters for Iowa and for all Americans in this presidential race, because the president who is elected will likely be in office for the next eight years. I want consumers to get the advantage of choice at the pump with cleaner burning fuel, I want personally to be able to grow the corn and provide fuel to meet that renewable fuels standard so that we truly can gain the advantages of renewable fuel. I know that we can grow the corn here in Iowa and the Corn Belt to meet the demands.

ICGA’S POSITION: We can’t afford to let the ethanol industry that has built and supported Iowa’s economy be taken away from us by a president who doesn’t support the RFS. I don’t care which side of the political aisle you stand on, which 12 of the presidential contenders do, but I implore you to support a candidate who supports the RFS. It is truly important whether you are a farmer or not to support the RFS and continue to invest in the state of Iowa.

CLOSING: I believe consumers want fuel choices at the pump and want a choice that is cleaner burning and reduces emissions. I’m working every day to make sure you have a meal on your table and fuel in your car to get you to work and feed your family. Americans must support a candidate who supports America. Agriculture and ethanol do matter not only for Iowa in this presidential election. Please go out and caucus for a candidate that supports the RFS. Thank you!

Free skin cancer screening Feb. 2 in Stevens Point

Free skin cancer screening Feb. 2 in Stevens Point

The National Farm Medicine Center will offer free skin cancer screenings at the 2016 UW Extension and Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Grower Education Conference and 67th Industry Show, Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center, 1001 Amber Avenue, Stevens Point.

Don’t miss this opportunity. The earlier skin cancer is detected, the more successfully it can be treated. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 people developing it. Those who work in the sun are more at risk.

Free skin cancer screening Feb. 2 in Stevens Point

Just stop by the National Farm Medicine Center screening area, Wisconsin Room, between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Screening will be conducted by physicians from the Marshfield Clinic Dermatology Department. This is a good time to ask about any spots you are worried about; the dermatologist will educate you about what to look for, such as any changes in the size, color, borders, or shape of a mole. If the doctor sees anything suspicious you will be encouraged to follow up with your personal physician or dermatologist.

In the past year, the Farm Center has worked with Marshfield Clinic Dermatology to screen 669 people for skin cancers resulting in the presumptive diagnosis of 3 potentially deadly skin cancer melanomas, and 45 other cancers. The screenings are made possible by philanthropic support from the Auction of Champions Fund a Need program.

Physicians scheduled to work at the screenings include Meredith Hancock, M.D.; and Melissa Williams, M.D. For more information on the screening call the National Farm Medicine Center at 1-800-662-6900.

Source: National Farm Medicine Center

Grow corn? Got ideas? Get a grant

Grow corn? Got ideas? Get a grant

If you’re a Minnesota corn farmer with an idea on how to better manage nitrogen and protect water quality, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association would like to help you put that idea into practice.

MCGA, working in partnership with the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, is offering conservation innovation grants of up to $7,000 to any Minnesota corn farmer seeking to test or develop an innovative or best practice in the following areas:

• Nitrate loss reduction
• Improved nitrogen management practices for Minnesota soils
• Maintaining or improving water quality    
• Innovative soil conservation practices

Grow corn? Got ideas? Get a grant

“We know there are ideas out there and we want to hear them,” said Paul Meints, MCGA’s research director. “If you’ve been thinking about trying something different on your farm, but are hesitant because of limited resources, this grant program is for you.”

Every year Minnesota corn farmers support about $4 million in research efforts through institutions such as the University of Minnesota to address water quality and nutrient management issues. The new Conservation Innovation grant program would enhance those efforts by providing an opportunity for individual farmers to showcase their own ideas and examine how they could be replicated on other area farms.

“We’re focused on farm-level implementation with these grants,” Meints said. “If something is effective on your farm, can we replicate it on other farms? What would be the costs to implement? These are a few of the question we’re hoping to answer through this program.”

MCGA are also offering grants up to $5,000 for farmers to host a field day that showcases their ongoing N management or soil conservation practice. Field days would include other area farmers, local elected officials and local business leaders. Field days must be held between April 1 and Nov. 15, 2016.

The deadline to apply for grants is 3 p.m. Feb. 15.

Successful and non-successful applicants will be notified by March 15.

For additional details about the program, including a complete application packet, go to and click on “Research RFPs” under the research menu. Or, contact Meints at (952) 460-3601 or

Corn+Soybean Digest
A FarmLogs crop health alert highlighted in yellow to orange is generated by comparing current multispectral satellite imagery with imagery from the same field over the previous five growing seasons
<p>A FarmLogs crop health alert highlighted in yellow to orange is generated by comparing current multi-spectral satellite imagery with imagery from the same field over the previous five growing seasons. </p>

Crop scouting with satellites and smartphones

In late July, Zachary Yoder trudged into tasseling 8-foot tall corn to ground-truth his first-ever smartphone message alerting him that satellite imagery had detected an unusual area in the irrigated field.

Following GPS guidance on his phone, Yoder muscled his way to the orange spot highlighted on the phone map.

“Sure enough, there were a bunch of grasshoppers sitting on the corn leaves,” says Yoder, who grows corn, wheat, soybeans and wine grapes with his father, Steven, near Dalhart, TX.

Commemorating his foray into the new world of automated satellite-based scouting alerts, Yoder snapped a photo of a bright orange grasshopper for a post on Twitter: “Farming w/tech. Satellite imagery alerts me to check a field. Discovered grasshopper infestation.”

Surprise location

The Yoders had been expecting grasshoppers based on activity to the south. With prevailing winds from the southwest, that’s the corner of fields they typically check for infestations.

“The alert was on the southeast side of the field,” says Yoder. “We might have missed how bad the grasshoppers were because we were checking the wrong spot.”

Since the first alert, another message has sent Yoder to a field where yellowed corn has him suspicious of a sulfur deficiency. “I am going to be curious at the end of the season if it shows up on the yield map,” he says. “It may warrant a soil test to see if extra sulfur is justified.”

High-resolution alert

Yoder’s alert was sent by FarmLogs, the digitally based field monitoring service, which introduced automated in-season crop health monitoring in 2015. Alerts are generated by comparing the latest multi-spectral satellite imagery with five years of imagery for the same field, says Jesse Vollmar, FarmLogs CEO.

“We show the exact spot that has problems, not another rainbow-colored map that the farmer has to figure out,” he says. “We are able to do that by processing five years of historical data for nearly every field in the country, then comparing it to current high-resolution imagery.”

This year’s unusual cloud cover hampered the alert system. Many fields were limited to five images instead of the expected 10 to 20. As new satellites are launched, flyovers will become more frequent than the current five-day frequency from FarmLogs’ imagery provider, BlackBridge, says Vollmar.

The alerts were free in 2015, but will incur a fee in 2016.

Corn+Soybean Digest

5 Ag stories: SCN resistance, online climate tool, risk management, Palmer amaranth

In the 5 ag stories to read this week, read about the benefits of SCN-resistant varieties and access a new online crop/climate tool to help preplanting decisions. Learn some strategies for risk management and Palmer amaranth management. Finally, follow us on Twitter.

FarmLinksrsquo benchmarking tool called TrueHarvest identifies the crop yield potential of individual fields across the Midwest information which farmers can use to finetune management practices
<p>FarmLinks&rsquo; benchmarking tool called TrueHarvest identifies the crop yield potential of individual fields across the Midwest, information which farmers can use to fine-tune management practices. </p>

Big-name players join FarmLink advisory board

Just two weeks after releasing its benchmark report on missed crop revenue opportunities, data analytics company FarmLink announced the creation of its advisory board. Joining the board are some big name players.

Those seated at the table:   

•        Julie Borlaug, associate director, Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, Texas A&M University

•        Howard W. Buffett, lecturer, Columbia University, co-author of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World, and Nebraska farmer

•        Rikin Gandhi, founder and CEO, Digital Green

•        Dan Glickman, vice president, Aspen Institute, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

This high-profile casts sees technology as a way to make farming more productive, profitable and sustainable around the world. FarmLink’s data services will no doubt be a piece of the puzzle.

FarmLink has a yield benchmarking service called “TrueHarvest” that calculates the yield potential of fields across the Midwest. The calculation factors in 50 different environmental variables such as soil type, slope, elevation and growing conditions including precipitation and growing degree days, and comes up with a number that reflects the crop revenue potential of that field down to an area of 150 sq. ft.

Farmers can use that number to identify yield improvement opportunities and objectively validate their input and management decisions in such a way that optimizes production, profitability and sustainability. (Read our report of how FarmLink's benchmark is calculated here.)

“FarmLink is at the very forefront of innovation in agriculture, with a real commitment to sustainability in ways that are critical to our future,” said Buffett in a news release FarmLink issued this week. “It is an honor to join this distinguished group of advisors in support of such a mission.”

FarmLink says that the knowledge, experience and passion of its advisors will help them to create new innovative tools to improve farming.

While the company’s initial offerings benefit U.S. farmers, the technology has applicability to farm operations worldwide. "FarmLink connects the dots to build technology that magnifies human intent and capability. These ag tech platforms can inspire the next generation of agricultural innovators to make meaningful changes in global agriculture at the farm level," said Gandhi.

Borlaug had this to say about the new partnership:

“My grandfather strongly believed that science and technological breakthroughs in agriculture played the key role in improving the quantity, quality and availability of the food for the world’s people during the past 50 years,” Borlaug said. “But it will take the unconventional ideas and innovation of small start-ups, like FarmLink, to ensure our food security in the next 50 years.”

Farm Industry News recently interviewed Bob McClure, chief data scientist for FarmLink, for the story, “2015 crop benchmark analysis shows missed revenue.”  

You can find out more about the broader topic of benchmarking in our story “Benchmarking your farm gets easier,” by Farm Industry News editor Willie Vogt.