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Articles from 2002 In October

Defeating cotton's pink bollworm

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Eliminating pink bollworm — a pest that eats cotton bolls and has caused billions of dollars of damage to the cotton industry — has meant years of committed research by the Agricultural Research Service. Many of the research findings, particularly from ARS' Western Cotton Research Laboratory (WCRL) in Phoenix, Ariz., have become management strategies in use now by the National Cotton Council (NCC) Pink Bollworm Action Committee in its pink bollworm eradication program.

There have been many attempts to get rid of this pest that costs cotton producers more than $21 million annually for prevention, control and lost yields. Now those involved with the program think they may have finally succeeded. ARS has researched many eradication approaches over the years, but a combination of four of the most successful technologies will be used in the NCC program, according to Thomas J. Henneberry, laboratory director of WCRL.

First is a "host-free period" that shortens the growing season, creating more time between seasons and making it harder for the pest to survive from one year to the next.

Another facet of the program will be to plant transgenic pest-resistant cotton to reduce larval feeding.

A third strategy involves the scent that female pink bollworms release to attract males. ARS and other researchers have developed methods for using a powerful version of this scent that, when released in cotton fields, confuses the males and makes it nearly impossible for them to find the females.

The final part of the program will be the release of sterile pink bollworm moths in cotton fields to interfere with the wild moths' normal matings.

The eradication program, which has already started, is proposed for three phases in different locations in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It will be completed sometime in 2004 or 2005.

More information on this research is available in the November issue of Agricultural Research magazine, on the World Wide Web at:

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

USDA to provide relief to RGV farmers

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, which will administer the funds, USDA has allocated $10 million for drought-stricken farmers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Kinney, Maverick, Starr, Webb, Val Verde, Willacy and Zapata counties.

Applications will be accepted through close of business December 16.

To qualify, applicants must show that acreage was eligible for water allocations for agricultural use in the Rio Grande Watermaster system through irrigation water rights as an independent or through a water irrigation district during the 2001 crop year.

Also, agricultural producers must have had the right to farm on eligible acres on January 1, 2001.

Growers may pick up applications at offices of water irrigation districts, Texas Cooperative Extension Service, USDA-FSA, Rio Grande Watermaster, and the TDA Website.

Applications should be turned in to the water irrigation or to a USDA-FSA office in counties without a water district office. Applications submitted to TDA or other agencies will not be accepted.

TDA will begin distributing funds after all valid applications are processed.

The application form appears relatively simple, consisting of five columns: 1. description of eligible acreage (including water district Id numbers, Watermaster account numbers for independents); 2. Number of eligible flat rate acres used for agricultural production, according to water district (independents state acres eligible for water allocation); 3. Certification that applicant had the right to farm stated property on January 1, 2001; 4. Certification that acreage was eligible for water allocation; 5. County.

A separate section should be filled in by the water district. e-mail:

Florida citrus land values drop again

The value of all types of agricultural land — except citrus — continued its upward trend during the past year, according to a new University of Florida survey.

Land purchases by developers, speculators and government agencies, as well as individuals who want land for second homes, recreational uses and larger home sites away from urban areas, helped drive up the value of most property, said John Reynolds, an agricultural economist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

But citrus land proved to be the exception, continuing to slip for a second straight year.

"The value of orange and grapefruit groves declined in central Florida and south Florida by more than 11 percent during the past year, coupled with similar declines in 2001," Reynolds said. "These declines are in sharp contrast to the increases we recorded in the 1999 and 2000 surveys."

Julie Young, an agricultural appraiser with Armfield and Wagner in Vero Beach, said the drop in value of citrus land during the past two years can be attributed to the decrease in prices growers received for their fruit, along with the threat of disease problems such as canker and tristeza.

Reynolds said the value of orange groves declined by 11.2 percent in south Florida and 11.4 percent in central Florida during the past year. The value of grapefruit groves declined 15.6 percent in the southern region and 14.8 percent in the cental region. The value of land with five to seven-year-old citrus plantings decreased by 8.8 percent in the south and 2.4 percent in the central region.

The average value of orange groves was $5,687 per acre in the south, about $250 per acre higher than in the central region. The estimated value of grapefruit groves at $3,658 per acre in the south, is about $44 per acre higher than in the central region. The average value of land with five to seven-year-old citrus plantings was $5,211 per acre in the south — $543 per acre higher than in the central region.

The annual survey, which Reynolds started in 1985, was compiled from more than 190 respondents around the state. Respondents included property appraisers, farm lenders, real estate brokers, farm managers, land investors, federal farm-assistance and conservation staff, UF Extension agents and others who develop and maintain information about rural land values.

Reynolds divides the state into four regions: south, central, northeast and northwest. He also collects data for southeast Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — because of the impact of urbanization on agricultural land values in the region.

Transition land — acreage that has been converted from agricultural use to development‚ has seen its value climb steadily, especially near big cities, Reynolds said. "Florida’s rapid urban growth is converting large tracts of agricultural land into home sites and commercial development," Reynolds said. "For the third year, the value of transition land was three times higher in southeast Florida than in other regions of the state.

The values for transition land in metropolitan counties in other regions of the state were about twice the value of transition land in non-metropolitan counties.

Within five miles of a major city in metropolitan counties, the value of transition land increased 6 percent in northern areas of the state and 8 percent to 13 percent in the southern regions. The value of transition land within five miles of a major city ranged from $11,646 to $14,134 per acre, except in southeast Florida, where values were $45,000 per acre.

Transition land more than five miles from a major city in metropolitan counties ranged from $6,280 to $8,923 per acre. In southeast Florida the average value was $28,333 per acre.

In non-metropolitan counties, the value of transition land within five miles of a major town ranged from $4,107 to $5,931 per acre, while the value of transition land more than five miles from a major town ranged from $3,234 to $3,950 per acre.

The 200 Florida Land Value Survey also shows:

o The value of irrigated cropland increased 8 percent to 9 percent in the central and south regions, and posted 11 percent and 12 percent gains in the northeast and northwest regions. The value of non-irrigated cropland increased 7.6 percent in the northwest and 13.1 percent in the south regions. The value of non-irrigated cropland increased 8.7 percent in the central region and 10.8 percent in the northeast.

o The value of pastureland increased in all regions of the state. Improved pasture values increased by 11 percent to 12 percent in the southern region and 9 percent to 10 percent in the northern region. The value of unimproved pasture increased 15 percent in the south, 11 percent to 12 percent in the central and northeast regions and 7 percent in the northwest.

o The value of farm woods increased 10.1 percent in the northeast and 9.3 percent in the northwest regions.

o The average value of citrus land was higher in the southern region than in the central region. The value of irrigated land and unimproved pasture was higher in the northeast than in other regions. However, the value of other types of agricultural land was higher in the central region than it was in other regions.

o The lowest agricultural values reported were in the northwest region.

o More than three-fifths of survey respondents expect agricultural land values to increase during the next year. Only 2 percent of respondents in the northern region and 10 percent in the southern region expected lower land values. Average land values are expected to increase from 3 percent to 6.1 percent across the state, except in the southeast, where values are expected to increase by 14.4 percent.

Unique rice makes minerals more available

STUTTGART, Ark. -- A new rice developed by ARS scientists in Arkansas and Idaho boasts a nutritional plus. It contains a significantly lower amount of a compound called phytic acid. An indigestible form of phosphorus, phytic acid binds to such minerals as iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. The result: These minerals become less available for our bodies to take up and use.

In cooperation with the University of Arkansas, ARS researchers have now made the breeding line, called KBNT lpa1-1, available to breeders and researchers. The rice is known as a breeding line because it's intended for plant breeders to develop further.

A first of its kind, the rice was developed using an approach that an ARS scientist in Idaho invented and patented. The innovative technology has already been used successfully to breed low-phytic-acid corn, soybeans, and barley.

KBNT lpa1-1 might be especially beneficial to people in countries where rice is a staple and mineral deficiencies are a concern.

For more information, contact J. Neil Rutger, 870–672–9300, USDA-ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, Stuttgart, Ark.

2002 rice crop one for the books


Louisiana rice producers could harvest one of their highest-yielding crops ever this year, but low prices are throwing a wet blanket over the achievement.

“This is the first time that I can feel some real, serious anxiety out there,” said Extension rice specialist Johnny Saichuk, Rice Research Station in Crowley. “It’s not just some farmers complaining. There is some real fear.”

According to the LSU AgCenter specialist, Louisiana will harvest an average of 5,800 pounds per acre this year, about 400 pounds over USDA’s latest estimate.

Yields will be this high despite the fact that Louisiana’s ratoon rice crop could be reduced by 30 to 70 percent due to torrential rains and wind which fell in late September and early October.

A majority of the damage to the second crop is directly due to lodging and rice sprouting in the field. “I heard of one farmer who was cutting 12 barrels (one barrel is 162 pounds) before the storm and went back in the same field after the storm and was harvesting about six barrels.”

Louisiana rice producers are not only suffering from low prices, but also typically have higher production costs and lower yields than other U.S. growing regions. The low prices could result in much of the second crop being abandoned.

In addition, “Next year, some farmers are not going to be able to farm because they won’t be able to cash flow,” Saichuk said. “The banks aren’t going to lend them the money. Some of them will be looking to get out because they’re tired of taking the beating.”

Saichuk is expecting a 25 percent to 35 percent reduction in rice acreage for Louisiana in 2003. That would push acreage close to 440,000 acres, the lowest since 1987. “That’s pretty scary. It’s going to affect the landowners too. They’re going to have to give some concessions to these farmers to keep them in business, or we’ll see landowners just take the payments and let it go at that. But that’s not something that we want to see happen.”

Cocodrie was the most popular variety in Louisiana in 2002, at 53.5 percent of the acreage followed by Cypress, at 32 percent, Wells, around 8 percent and Clearfield CL 121, 2 percent.


Mississippi expected to harvest a record for rice yield this year, but late rains probably reduced the potential to some degree, according to Mississippi Extension rice specialist Joe Street.

The effect of the rains has been to drag out harvest and expose rice to more bad weather. A lot of the unharvested crop “went down or lodged,” according to Street. “That will make it harder to harvest. Some of this rice that went down went under water, and it rotted. It’s also stayed wet so long that it’s sprouted in the field which will reduce the quality.”

As of the end of October, 8 percent to 10 percent of the state’s rice crop had not been harvested.


Arkansas is expected to harvest a record crop for yield at 6,450 pounds per acre, but as in Mississippi, getting those last few acres out of the field has proved exasperating.

Rain and wind during the first week of October put a lot of rice on the ground, according to Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist. “At that time, there was still 10 percent to 15 percent in the field. Since then, it’s been slow and now we’re down to 3 percent to 4 percent unharvested.”

On the other hand “yields from late harvested rice won’t drop enough to make a difference in the overall state production,” Wilson said.

One factor that contributed to good yield was mild weather during the growing season, according to Wilson. “It didn’t get extremely hot during critical growth stages. We also had a relatively disease-free year. Sheath blight is always a chronic problem, but blast was not as bad a problem as we anticipated.”

Good varieties also helped, according to Wilson. “We have 42 percent of our acres in Wells and 28 percent in Cocodrie. These are varieties that do better than varieties of five to 10 years ago. We also caught some rains periodically during the growing season and this helped those who might have been behind to catch up.”

Southeast Missouri

The Missouri Bootheel rice crop is almost harvested and rice producers are expected to harvest a record yield, according to Bruce Beck, Extension agronomy specialist, University of Missouri, Poplar Bluff. “The milling yields seem to be as good as ever.”

Beck says good moisture through July through most of the area contributed to the good yields. “Farmers were able to do things more timely. Then it got real dry. So with water at the feet of the plant and dry above, that was good for both yield and quality.”

Loose smut was a problem, “but it hasn’t really hurt us much,” Beck said.

The region missed most of the rainfall associated with Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili, but recent rains have dragged out harvest. “We’re easily 95 percent harvested,” Beck said. “With just a little good weather, they’ll get that harvested quickly.”


Space-based research promises farm benefits

MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Spatial technologies have provided producers and agribusinesses new methods to manage their crops, animals and land, but the same technologies have also presented a number of challenges, including how to manage the information generated.

Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station scientists are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help growers face these problems.

Working under the auspices of the USDA-funded Advanced Spatial Technologies in Agriculture project, a group of 20 MAFES scientists is exploring how best to use spatial information in the areas of soil fertility, pest management, and animal and aquaculture production. Members of this group are also developing engineering technologies that will improve accuracy and facilitate automation in these systems.

Spatial technology refers to the capability to manage smaller areas of ground than traditional technology has allowed.

"Traditionally, we've managed field sizes in acres or hundreds of acres, but spatial technology has allowed the management of portions of acres," said David Laughlin, MAFES agricultural economist and ASTA project coordinator.

Laughlin said the scientists have evaluated their progress and the progress of their peers, and they have identified future research priorities and directions.

The ASTA project has grown from an initial set of eight subprojects in 1997, which was the first year of funding, to more than 20 projects in 2001. Over its five-year history, the project has brought more than $3.5 million in federal grants to Mississippi State University and provided leveraging for other funds.

"Spatial technologies have changed the face of agriculture," Laughlin said.

At MSU, scientists are using remote sensing, yield monitors and global positioning systems, and geographic information systems technologies to address agribusiness needs and to assist with decision making in precision farming and natural resource management.

"The ASTA project addresses the breadth of issues facing our producers in this state, but the results of this research will also apply to other areas of the country," he said.

Forest landowners learn how to protect environment

Gary Stockton, an LSU AgCenter watershed agent, said best management practices, known as BMPs, were important in running a clean forest operation.

"Planning should be first on your list," Stockton said. "Planning is required to incorporate BMPs into a forest operation. This plan should maximize efficiency, minimize traffic, preserve soil integrity, and protect water quality."

Using diversion ditches is one way to implement a best management practice, Stockton said.

"Diversion ditches are extremely effective," he said. "They should be used as often as possible to get water off the road and to protect streams."

Landowners should make sure the diversions carry water away from the road and any nearby stream, Stockton said.

Culvert maintenance also is important to prevent washouts from occurring and creating significant sediment loads in streams, he said.

In addition to those points, Stockton talked about the importance of road construction and drainage, soil stabilization, erosion control and sediment control structures.

Another LSU AgCenter faculty member participating in the meeting told participants how the state's largest animal industry may be able to help them in their work in the state's largest overall agricultural industry.

While forestry is the state's largest industry based on agriculture and natural resources, the poultry industry is Louisiana's No. 1 animal industry. Forestry was a $3.2 billion industry in Louisiana last year, and poultry production contributed nearly $968 million to the state's economy.

Although they may seem to have little in common, LSU AgCenter county agent Matt Stephens of Union Parish said the 100 tons of poultry litter generated each year in the state's 2,000 poultry houses may have benefits for the forest industry.

That litter can be used to increase water-holding capacity, increase water infiltration rates, increase microbial activity, reduce erosion from wind and water and neutralize the soil, he said.

Preliminary research on using poultry litter to fertilize pine trees showed the survival rate increased 6 percent for those fertilized with poultry litter at planting and provided with weed control measures. The height of the trees also was greater for the fertilized stands when weed control was implemented, he said.

There is some public concern about using poultry litter for fertilizer, Stephens said, adding these concerns include phosphorous loading in soils, phosphorous runoff into area streams, nutrient leaching into groundwater sources, odor, pathogens and ammonia being released into the environment.

Field day participants also were treated to a tour of five stands of pine trees planted at the Calhoun Research Station in 1990. This tour consisted of an explanation of stand response to initial spacing by Steve Hotard, LSU AgCenter forester, and a discussion on spacing and natural pruning by Mark Hebert, International Paper Forest Resources researcher.

Early pine plantings respond to initial stocking rates in many ways, Hotard said. Trees planted at different spacing show unique characteristics, which reflect the stand's ability to withstand natural climatic conditions, wind, ice and drought, as well as the ability to produce quality wood, he said.

For more information on this and other issues related to agriculture, natural resources, family life, youth development and many more, visit the LSU AgCenter's Web site at

Prices low as pecan harvest begins

MISSISSIPPI STATE — Mississippi pecan growers are harvesting a mixed bag this year as weather, diseases, insects and poor market prices leave little incentive for the harvest effort.

James Chiles of Clarksdale, Miss., is president of the Mississippi Pecan Growers Association. He said growers in some parts of the state are reporting crop failures due in part to dry conditions near the end of July that caused trees to shed nuts. Insects and diseases also have been a problem in some orchards.

"The state has widely varying conditions. Until you get your pecans in a sack, you don't know what you've got. For the last five years, we've had less rainfall than normal, and the majority of our recent years have been a challenge for producing a good crop," Chiles said.

"Many of the pecans we did have on trees were knocked off green by Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili," Chiles said. "Those storms also took limbs and leaves that will impact future crops because with pecans, the weather one year will affect the next years' crops."

Chiles said his association has been working with Sen. Thad Cochran's office for relief assistance.

"Even in a decent year like 2001, recent prices have been so bad it's hard for growers to decide if it's worth the cost of harvesting," Chiles said. "That is why we want to establish pecans as a program crop (like crops such as cotton, corn, wheat and rice). Then we will be able to put pecans in a government loan program and have a safety net for our prices."

Chiles said another frustration is that the new farm bill authorized federal crop insurance for pecans only in Georgia. Cochran recently worked to make that benefit available nationwide and still is working to establish uniform premiums nationwide.

David Ingram, Mississippi State University's associate plant pathologist at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, Miss., said there were isolated cases of disease and insect problems.

"For the most part, the 2002 crop has had very little disease pressure or else growers controlled it. Diseases are not a concern once the nuts reach maturity," Ingram said. "Meat quality appears to be average to above average because of the lack of disease damage."

Ingram said excessive rains from the tropical storm and hurricane were the worst aspect of the 2002 growing season. The wet conditions were causing increased moisture content in the nuts and complicating harvest.

"The biggest concern for growers, however, is the price, which is expected to be down because of last year's bumper crop," Ingram said. "There has been a resurgence in pecans, both from private homeowners and commercial orchards. It takes six to eight years for a tree to reach maturity, depending on tree size at planting and growing conditions. A lot of people still have pecans in the freezer from last year."

Randolph Smith, one of Mississippi's largest commercial pecan producers, said his Hinds County orchard had some disease challenges that required eight treatments to prevent losses in nuts or nut quality. However, his biggest challenge has been the added time and expense of cleaning up after the two major storms and harvesting the crop.

"The main problem this year has been the harvest weather. Plus, it took at least a week to clean up after each storm," he said.

Smith said early prices have been decent, but he anticipates a drop-off to occur soon. The retail price is running between $2 and $3 per pound on quality cracked pecans. Wholesale gift packs are about $1.30 per pound.

Linda Breazeale writes for MSU Ag Communications.

Brazilian leader presents new challenges

For most of the past two decades Brazil has moved in the direction of free trade, but the global economic slowdown has the average Brazilian asking for less competition and a more socially friendly government.

For the president-elect of Brazil social reform will be the order of the day. The type of social change desired by the average Brazilian can only be sustained by a viable economy; today Brazil’s economy is anything but healthy. In short, the Brazilian economy is one step away from financial disaster.

The Asian Financial Crisis, which started in 1997, was followed in 1999 by Brazil’s currency devaluation, and, now in 2002, Brazil’s currency has again fallen and interest rates and unemployment are up.

These events are extremely problematic for the American farmer. Brazil simply has not managed their financial resources, and now their economy is paying the price. Because of the financial mismanagement within the country, Brazilian farmers will further gain an export advantage over their American competition.

What is going right? Where is the opportunity?

The Economist, a global magazine, made the following points before the election: a Lula victory would do much to demolish the idea that Latin America democracy is still just a game rigged for the benefit of the better-off and a Lula presidency will stand or fall on its management of the economy.

Peter Heap Chairman, Brazil Chamber of Commerce listed a few points in the Financial Times in response to the global financial communities concerns:

First: his victory is a healthy sign of democracy at work. As recently as the 1980’s, Brazil was a military dictatorship. It is to Brazil’s and the world’s benefit that democracy, in a country of nearly 200 million people, should grow deep roots.

Second: in democracies, the poor tend to vote for left-of-center parties. Brazil is no different. That their views are reflected in the choice of government is healthy.

Third: Mr. Da Silva has changed, both in style and policy. He has pledged support for fiscally responsible policies, in some respects going further than those of his predecessor.

Fourth: his party, PT, does not have enough seats to pass legislation in Congress. For this, he will need support from parties of the center and right. He cannot go on a spree of left-wing extremist legislation.

Fifth: although this is PT’s first presidential election victory, it has had governors and mayors in big states and cities for some time. Nothing disastrous has happened in them. Of course, they have pursued policies more to the taste of some than of others but that too is democracy.

Sixth: Brazil’s economy has a huge industrial, agricultural and mineral base. The engine of every BMW Mini is made in Brazil. Brazil exports aircraft to Europe and North America. More Fiat cars are made in Brazil than in Italy. Half the world’s iron ore comes from Brazil. All of this will not be blown away.

Who is the most important person in Latin America? The answer is President-Elect Lula.

He must do the impossible. Brazilians do not want Socialism they want social reform, so Lula must embrace globalization to generate the monies required to achieve mandated social reforms. Lula must neutralize his country’s financial crisis. This will have the desired result of reducing interest rates and unemployment with the additional benefit of being a catalyst for positive change in Latin America.

For the American farmer the competition Brazil brings to the international marketplace can be viewed in a number of ways. These are difficult times for American agriculture so we tend to point out the inequities and hunker down in a protectionist mode. American farmers must be focused on gains in productivity, maintaining optimal firm size, specializing or diversifying depending on the farm’s objective and/or resource base to list a few.

I hope Lula is one in a billion, because a viable Brazilian economy is mandatory to a healthy Latin America economy and a healthy Latin American is essential to a healthy Western Hemisphere.

If Lula achieves economic and financial success we all win; if he fails, we all pay a short run price. But we, America, will move on with or without Lula.

For the intermediate time period U.S. policymakers must guard against sacrificing sectors of American agriculture while others rebuild their economies.

Dr. Bobby Coats is an Extension agricultural economist and farm policy specialist with the University of Arkansas. E-mail: