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Articles from 2011 In October

Essay on elder family member hits home

Any fourth-grade essay that starts out: “My grandfather, Ron Smith, is awesome,” deserves a closer reading. I couldn’t help but delve further into the story after that captivating topic sentence.

I learned what makes grandfathers awesome. They throw balls with their grandchildren, read to them, play with them on the beach, take them fishing and just spend time with them. I also learned that it’s a bit sad to “rarely get to see,” them. I can relate to that. It’s a bit sad for grandfathers (and grandmothers) too.

Even learning that the assignment was to write about an “elder” family member diminished my appreciation for the article not a whit. I got a little misty-eyed. I also felt a bit of grandfatherly pride for my grandson. The piece was well written and quite legible—a feat I never accomplished.

I’m proud of both my grandsons and was especially happy to spend one of those “rare” weekends with them at their home in northeast Tennessee the last week in October. Aaron, the oldest, the fourth grader, and Hunter, 18 months younger and in third grade, are both excellent writers. They possess exceptional vocabularies and each has a knack for language arts. They do well in math and science and social studies, too.

Hunter displayed his writing talent last spring with a blue-ribbon essay on citizenship that displayed both a gift for language and a genuine understanding of what being a good citizen is all about. I was impressed last week with his reading skills. He tackles books several steps above his grade level and displays both enjoyment and understanding of what he reads.

Pat (that’s Nana to the boys; I’m Bubba) and I also spent a cold Saturday afternoon watching little league football games in which Hunter and Aaron played about 6 downs each. We sat in the chill mountain air for about three hours to watch these brief appearances. It’s what grandparents do. We did not regret the effort, although I do wish I’d worn a hat.

After their games, they were eager to relate the key plays and neither seemed too disappointed that their playing time was a bit brief. They looked good in their uniforms.

We had lunch with them at school on Friday. We sat and talked and listened—foregoing school cuisine in lieu of something different later on. We enjoyed watching them interact with their friends and getting glowing reports from their teachers. They didn’t seem to mind having us around. We also were impressed with their school, which they seem to enjoy.

I am an admitted doting grandfather and sometimes suspect that being such is what I was put on this earth for. And on Sunday morning, with one boy snuggled on each side, taking turns—sort of—attracting my attention to the games they were playing or to the comments they needed to make about whatever was on their minds, I was well aware of what a fortunate person I am.

Late harvest and Australian-made harrow top the news in Pandora, Ohio


We had 1.5 in. of rain last week. The week before we had 3.5 in. of rain so harvesting in Ohio is way behind schedule. In northwest Ohio I think 62% of the beans are harvested and only 15% of the corn. In other blogs that I have read I learned that very little has been harvested in northeast Ohio, and our relatives in Pennsylvania had 6 in. of snow on Saturday. This week has rain forecast for several days, so I doubt if much will get done in the fields this week. I can't hardly believe that farmers in the heart of the Midwest are already done with their harvest. 

At Farm Science Review in September I saw an unusual tool on display. It was called the Kelly harrow. There were small-diameter (maybe 12-in. high) dull disc blades rotating on a shaft of heavy chain. The Kelly Company is in Australia. My first impression of the tool was there has to be something to this thing or it wouldn't be way over here on display. When I found out the price of the tool was $62,500 for a 30-ft. model and $77,500 for a 45-ft. model I seriously doubted that they were going to sell many of these tools. Since then I have found out that they are being made in America only 15 miles from where I live at the Remlinger Factory in Kalida, Ohio, and that they are being painted at a factory only 7 miles from where I live. I was told these tools are selling like hot cakes. People who have rocky ground are finding they can drive at high speeds and still not break anything. For more information on the tool, visit  

Texas rice industry well represented in Cuba this week

Texas rice industry well represented in Cuba this week

In spite of continued Congressional support of a 50-year old policy of trade restrictions against Cuba, U.S. rice industry representatives are gathering in Havana this week for the annual International Trade Fair of Havana (FIHAV) in hopes of developing new trade strategies and gathering support for overturning the U.S. embargo, which would re-open the Cuba market to U.S. rice producers.

Dwight Roberts, CEO of the Texas Rice Council, says a large contingent of agricultural representatives from Texas is among those attending the week-long Cuban fair, including members of Alliance Texas-Cuba for Trade. The fair gets underway Monday, Oct. 31, and runs through Saturday, Nov. 5, at the EXPOCUBA exhibition hall in Cuba’s capital city.

“After sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba were authorized in 2000, U.S. rice sales to the island rose to $64 million annually in 2004. Since that time, U.S. rice sales to Cuba have fallen to zero. For several years in a row, there have been no sales of U.S. rice to Cuba due to the current restriction forcing the use of third country banks to process payments,” Roberts said. “Easing the embargo and opening the market again would be a major benefit for Texas producers.”

Cynthia Thomas of Alliance Texas-Cuba for Trade agrees. She says her research on the Cuba embargo reveals that none of the stated outcomes or goals of the embargo have come to pass and says engagement with Cuba is a much more effective tool than an economic embargo.

“Lifting the embargo would open the door for Texas farmers to a potential $57 million in food and agricultural exports that could result in 1,500 new jobs,” she says.

Thomas, along with Ray Stoesser, Chairman of the US Rice Producers Association (USRPA) board of directors, are in Cuba this week along with a “very large contingent” of industry representatives from Texas in hopes of identifying new markets not only in Cuba but also from among hundreds of trade representatives of the international community.

The annual International Trade Fair of Havana is one of Cuba’s strategies to expand its market of productions and services and to mitigate the effects of the economic blockade imposed by the United States on the Caribbean nation.

New markets possible

Speaking to reporters in Havana, the deputy minister of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, Orlando Hernandez Guillen, said that FIHAV is an excellent opportunity to find new markets and clients for the development of the Cuban economy. Hernandez Guillen said business representatives, commercial partners, presidents and executives of Chambers of Commerce, and official delegations from more than 55 countries were present in the meeting last year and “expectations are higher this year.”

Stoesser said last week that USRPA attended a conference hosted by the Cuban Interests Section on the effects of the U.S. Embargo for Cuba. Included in that conference were various officials from the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Cuba, Foreign Trade and Investments, Tourism, Public Health, Alimport and Havanatur.  Jorge Bolaños, Chief of Mission at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C., introduced the U.S. panel, which included Stoesser and U.S. representatives from the travel, trade, agricultural, and educational sectors.

USRPA has consistently highlighted the need to lift U.S. restrictions on trade with Cuba.

Betsy Ward of the USA Rice Federation says Cuba is a vital trade partner.

“U.S. rice sales mean high quality, low cost rice for Cubans, and lifting sanctions from our farmers and exporters will create jobs in the United States. In fact, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that lifting these unnecessary payment restrictions through third-party nations could increase U.S. rice exports to the island by $43 million per year,” she says.

The 39th Havana International Trade Fair, FIHAV 2011, is expected to entertain 3,000 exhibitors from 1,500 companies from 60-plus countries around the world.
Roberts says despite the island´s economic and financial problems, this year’s fair is considered the most important one of the last 10 years, due to the large number of exhibitors and the 14,000-square-meter exhibition area, 1,500 square meters more than the 2010 edition.
According to Abraham Maciquez, president of the organizing committee, the most represented countries this year are Spain, which almost doubled its participation compared with FIHAV 2010, and China, Italy and Panama.



Failed cotton due to drought presents management concerns for follow-up crops

Failed cotton due to drought presents management concerns for follow-up crops

Drought made it hard to grow cotton this year, but it is also making it hard to kill the cotton in preparation for wheat or other follow-up crops, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist.

Dr. Gaylon Morgan, AgriLife Extension state cotton specialist, said many producers in the Blacklands and Rolling Plains are looking at planting or have planted wheat into harvested or destroyed cotton fields, which could present some problems.

“As the cotton stalk-destruction deadline quickly approaches in East and Central Texas, numerous farmers have indicated cotton stalks are more difficult to control with both tillage and chemicals this season,” Morgan said.

“Cotton is a perennial plant that we grow as an annual crop,” he said. “This is never more obvious than when we are trying to kill the cotton plants and prevent host plants for the boll weevil.”

Morgan said factors contributing to increased difficulty with control of cotton stalks this year include:

  • Early harvested fields have more time to regrow following tillage or herbicide applications and prior to the first killing freeze.
  • Under moisture-stressed conditions, herbicide efficacy is reduced.
  • Residual nutrients that were not used by the cotton plant early in the season can encourage regrowth.

“Unfortunately, there is no ‘one recommendation fits all’ for killing cotton stalks, especially in a dry year with prolonged growing conditions following harvest,” he said. “However, there are some general management strategies that should be considered and have proven effective in the past.”

On the tillage front, pulling stalks has typically been quite effective, followed by other tillage methods, Morgan said. However, it is common to have a sufficient number of stalks still standing that require another tillage operation or herbicide application to meet the Texas Department of Agriculture stalk-destruction requirements.

Herbicide options

On the herbicide front, more than 10 years of applied research and demonstration trials have been initiated to evaluate the efficacy of chemical-stalk destruction, he said.

Previous research in Texas has indicated the most effective and consistent herbicide is 2, 4-D at 1 to 1.5 pounds of active ingredient per acre on standing, freshly shredded (one to four hours after shredding) or delayed applications (two to three weeks after shredding).

The herbicide Clarity, at 0.5 pound of active ingredient per acre, has been the best alternative to 2, 4-D, but has typically provided slightly less kill than 2, 4-D, he said.

Although 2, 4-D and Clarity typically provide more than 90 percent kill, where growing conditions remain favorable for approximately 60 days or more after herbicide application, a follow-up treatment may be required to kill any remaining host plants, Morgan said. If a second herbicide application is required, 2, 4-D at 0.5 to 1 pound of active ingredient per acre or Clarity at 0.5 pound of active ingredient per acre is recommended.

In years with early harvest and a warm fall, growers may see some advantage to the delayed herbicide applications, two to three weeks after shredding, he said.

“The herbicide efficacy is comparable, but this delayed application may decrease the chance of a second application being necessary and can also help control emerging seedling cotton,” Morgan said. “However, herbicide efficacy can be hindered as temperatures cool in the fall.”

Problems also may occur in cotton fields that are planted into wheat, he said.  This cropping sequence has numerous benefits, but one challenge in South, Central and East Texas is destroying the cotton crop prior to planting wheat or after wheat establishment.

When destroying cotton stalks prior to planting wheat, remember 2, 4-D has a minimum of a 30-day planting restriction for wheat, Morgan said. Even observing this 30-day planting restriction, some wheat injury can occur, if inadequate rainfall occurs. At the recommended rate of Clarity for cotton stalk destruction, the plant-back restriction is 44 days.

When destroying cotton stalks in established wheat fields, 2, 4-D is labeled for application to fully tillered wheat through the boot stage, he said.

Applications of 2, 4-D prior to the full-tiller stage can significantly decrease yields.  Clarity is labeled for application from wheat emergence through jointing; however, the labeled rate is a maximum of 4 ounces per acre.

Morgan said several other products are labeled for post-emergence broadleaf weed control in wheat, include Affinity Broadspec, Aim, Buctril, CleanWave, ET, Huskie, Peak and Starane, and this should provide sufficient suppression of cotton stalks until the first killing freeze occurs on cotton.

He referenced several publications to provide more information, including “Managing Volunteer Cotton in Grain Crops,” “Weed Control Recommendations in Wheat” and “Cotton Stalk Destruction with Herbicides.”

DDGS valued at 1.22:1 when compared to traditional corn, soy feed rations

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that the animal feed produced by U.S. ethanol plants (known as distillers grains or DDGS) is replacing even more corn and soybean meal in livestock and poultry feed rations than previously thought. The report’s findings have important implications for discussions regarding ethanol’s impact on feed grains availability, feed prices, land use effects, and the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of producing corn ethanol.

According to the report by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), “Findings demonstrate that, in aggregate (including major types of livestock/poultry), a metric ton of DDGS can replace, on average, 1.22 metric tons of feed consisting of corn and soybean meal in the United States.”

Every 56-pound bushel of corn processed by a dry mill ethanol plant generates 2.8 gallons of ethanol and approximately 17.5 pounds of animal feed. In essence, the new ERS report dispels the conventional assumption that every bushel of corn processed by an ethanol plant generates an amount of feed equivalent to just one-third of the original corn bushel.

ERS underscored this point by stating, “Feed market impacts of increased corn use for ethanol are smaller than that indicated by the total amount of corn used for ethanol production because of DDGS.” In fact, ERS found the amount of feed (corn and soybean meal) replaced by the DDGS represents nearly 40 percent (on a weight basis) of the corn used in the associated ethanol production process for a given crop year.

“The value of the animal feed produced by the ethanol industry has long been misunderstood, understated and misrepresented,” said Geoff Cooper, RFA Vice President of Research & Analysis. “Distillers grains continue to be the industry’s best kept secret, despite the fact that we are producing tremendous volumes of this high value feed product today. DDGS and other ethanol feed products significantly reduce the need for corn and soybean meal in animal feed rations. Over the past several years, distillers grains have been one of the most economically competitive sources of energy and protein available on the world feed market. While some critics of the ethanol industry attempt to downplay the role of DDGS, the facts simply can’t be ignored.”

One of the reasons that one ton of DDGS can replace more than one ton of conventional feed is that its energy and protein content are concentrated. Only the starch portion of the corn kernel is converted to ethanol, while the protein, fat, fiber and other components are concentrated and passed through the process to the distillers grains. Grain ethanol feed product volumes approached 39 million metric tons in the 2010/11 marketing year, an amount of feed that would produce nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties. Nearly 25 percent of U.S. ethanol feed output is exported to countries around the world to feed livestock and poultry.

More complicated, but no less important, is the impact of DDGS on land use change and the GHG emissions associated with corn ethanol production. Most existing biofuel regulations, including California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), significantly undervalue the contribution of DDGS when assessing the net GHG impacts of corn ethanol. For instance, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) assumed for its LCFS analysis that one metric ton of DDGS replaces only one metric ton of corn, with no substitution of soybean meal. Using information from the new ERS report would significantly increase corn ethanol’s GHG emission benefits. The importance of distillers grains assumptions in carbon accounting and land use change calculations is described in more detail here.

“The RFA has long pointed out that the importance of DDGS is being undervalued by the regulatory agencies responsible for federal and state regulations that require a GHG assessment of ethanol,” said Cooper, highlighting two 2009 reports sponsored by RFA that reached similar conclusions as the new ERS report. “USDA’s new analysis clearly shows the importance of accurate DDGS accounting.  The Environmental Protection Agency and CARB should immediately adopt these new findings into their GHG modeling for the RFS2 and LCFS.  The resulting decrease in ethanol’s lifecycle GHG emissions could be significant.”

New AgriLife Extension publication helps ‘spell out’ economic variables of irrigation systems

The irrigation world has become an alphabet soup –LESA, MESA, LEPA, SDI – but a new Texas AgriLife Extension Service publication can help producers “spell out” feasibility, efficiency and water savings by selecting the right system for their operation.

The new “Economics of Irrigation Systems” publication is a collaborative work by AgriLife Extension, West Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Research economic and irrigation specialists and agricultural engineers. The research was supported in part by the Ogallala Aquifer Program.

“Irrigation can improve crop production, reduce yield variability and increase profits,” said Dr. Steve Amosson, AgriLife Extension economist. “But choosing and buying the appropriate irrigation system is both expensive and complex.”

The producer must determine water availability, financing, crop mix, energy prices, energy sources, commodity prices, labor availability and costs, tax rate, soil type, savings in field operations, application efficiency, operating pressure of the design and pumping lift—all before selecting an irrigation system, Amosson said.

“The less efficient the irrigation system, the more effect that fuel price, pumping lift and wage rate have on the cost of producing an irrigated crop,” he said. “Therefore, when there is inflation or volatility of these cost factors, it is more feasible to adopt more efficient irrigation systems and technology.”

To assist producers in these decisions, the researchers identified the costs and benefits of five types of irrigation systems commonly used in Texas: furrow irrigation; mid-elevation spray application or MESA center pivot; low-elevation spray application or LESA center pivot; low-energy precision application or LEPA center pivot; and subsurface drip irrigation or SDI.

Some of the findings include:

  • Furrow irrigation systems require less capital investment, but have lower water-application efficiency and are more labor intensive.
  • Center-pivot systems offer more than enough benefits in application efficiency and reduction in field operations to offset the difference in cost of furrow irrigation.
  • Half-mile center pivot systems offer substantial savings compared to quarter-mile length systems where it is feasible to use them.
  • The low-energy precision application system generates the highest benefits at low, intermediate and high water-requirement scenarios.
  • Advanced irrigation technologies are best suited to high-water-use crops and producers with these systems will not only lower pumping costs, but also see potential savings from the need for fewer field operations.
  • Subsurface drip irrigation is not economically feasible compared to LEPA for typical crops grown because of the high investment and small gain in application efficiency. It is best adopted where pivots cannot physically be installed. However, producers should closely evaluate using subsurface drip for high-value crops such as fruits, vegetables and cotton. Research suggests this system may improve yields enough to offset costs through improved application efficiency and the timing of frequent applications.

“We identify in the publication the economic feasibility of replacing inefficient natural gas engines with more efficient models,” Amosson said. “In another section, we analyze the decision of when to switch from natural gas-powered irrigation to electric-powered irrigation.”

Amosson said the publication will allow producers to plug in the factors on their particular operation and, after looking at all the inputs, determine whether they need to be making changes or updates to their irrigation system.

The 14-page brochure can be found online at or A printed copy can be purchased for $5 per copy through the AgriLife Extension Bookstore at

For more information, contact Amosson at 806-677-5600 or .

JILL SCHROEDER professor and interim department head in NMSU39s Department of Entomology Plant Pathology and Weed Science examines a yellow nutsedge in a micro plot at NMSU39s Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center south of Las Cruces She and colleagues are investigating the collaborative relationship among three major pests yellow and purple nutsedge and the southern rootknot nematode The pest complex significantly impairs productivity in chiles and cotton among other crops
<p> JILL SCHROEDER, professor and interim department head in NMSU&#39;s Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science, examines a yellow nutsedge in a micro plot at NMSU&#39;s Leyendecker Plant Science Research Center south of Las Cruces. She and colleagues are investigating the collaborative relationship among three major pests: yellow and purple nutsedge and the southern root-knot nematode. The pest complex significantly impairs productivity in chiles and cotton, among other crops.</p>

NMSU researchers dig into weed and worm conspiracy

What can farmers do when two of the world's worst weeds are in cahoots with one of the world's worst roundworm crop pests, reducing yields up to 40 percent in chile peppers and 25 percent in cotton?

The weeds in this case are purple nutsedge and yellow nutsedge and the worm is the southern root-knot nematode. All three share a vast range on five continents, from southern South America, Africa and Australia northward into Asia and the southern portion of the U.S. - including southern New Mexico.

Farmers and researchers have long recognized all three as significant pests, but the symbiotic relationship between the nematode and the two nutsedges did not become apparent until recently. Much of this understanding has come from work done at New Mexico State University by researchers in weed science and nematology.

The key NMSU investigators have been Jill Schroeder, professor and interim department head in NMSU's Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology, and Weed Science; Steve Thomas, also a professor in EPPWS; and research associates Cheryl Fiore and Jacqueline Beacham.

Statistical design has played a significant part in the analysis of the data. Leigh Murray, formerly an NMSU faculty member and now a professor at Kansas State University, is the main collaborator on this facet of the research. Other NMSU collaborators have included Ian Ray, a professor of alfalfa genetics in the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, and Jim Libbin, professor of agricultural economics and an associate dean in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

In southern New Mexico, southern root-knot nematodes infect the roots of chile and cotton plants, just to name two very commercially important plants. The nematodes cause bulges known as galls that interfere with water uptake to the leaves and fruit. According to Thomas, who directs NMSU's nematology lab, the worms also send a chemical signal to their host plants that essentially says, "I'm a fruit," tricking the plants into rerouting photosynthates from the leaves to the roots, thus depriving the chile pods and cotton bolls of nutrients.

Symbiotic relationship

The purple and yellow nutsedges are pests in their own right. Like typical weeds, they compete with crops for space, water and soil nutrients. In addition, they provide a willing host for these nematodes, as the NMSU researchers have found. But these sedges are not merely unaffected by the presence in their roots of southern root-knot nematodes - these weeds actually thrive in a symbiotic relationship with the worm.

"The nematode actually makes the yellow nutsedge produce more of these tubers and that's how it winds up to be a win-win system for both the nematode and the nutsedge," Schroeder said.

Understanding in detail how this "pest complex" relationship works and how we can use that knowledge to the producer's advantage has been a priority for Schroeder, Thomas and colleagues for a number of years.

Among the important insights that the group's research has produced are the following:

The nature of the symbiotic relationship between the nematode and the nutsedges is such that there is a positive correlation between the density of nutsedge plants in an area of a field and the level of concentration of the nematode. More nutsedges mean more nematodes. Murray's statistical modeling has proven effective in predicting nematode populations based on nutsedge population.

Because these nutsedge varieties have a grass-like root system and propagate underground, merely getting rid of the individual stalks in a field will not keep the weed at bay. The tubers - similar to potato tubers - will remain, continuing to produce new plants and offering safe haven to the nematodes, which reproduce and spread to the susceptible crops.

Except for the short period that newly hatched nematodes spend finding a new home, they normally hide in the nutsedge tubers, where they are shielded from the effects of fumigant pesticides normally used to control soil pests prior to planting. There are currently no environmentally safe, readily available pesticides that are effective against this nematode once inside a plant, according to Thomas.

As mentioned above, chile peppers and cotton, both widely grown in southern New Mexico, are seriously affected by the southern root-knot nematode. Some farmers rotate chile and cotton, which actually exacerbates the problem.

Certain plants are both resistant to the southern root-knot nematode and competitive against the nutsedges. These plants can actually suppress the nematode population by crowding out the nutsedges.

Rotating a resistant variety of non-dormant alfalfa with chile can result in more productive chile plants. Unfortunately, the researchers have found that it takes three years of alfalfa production in a field to effectively reduce the nematode and nutsedge threat, and the result is only one year of nematode-free chile cultivation. This might seem like a high price to pay for someone who is predominantly a chile producer.

Where nutsedge is not a problem, NMSU chile breeder Paul Bosland has found it effective to rotate certain varieties of marigolds with the chiles as a defense against the nematodes. He has been employing that strategy effectively at the Chile Pepper Institute's demonstration garden in Las Cruces. Tilling under one year's marigolds keeps the nematode population down for the following year. The down side of this approach for commercial producers, however, is that marigolds aren't a cash crop, so they would only have income from a field every other year.

Future research

Thomas has suggested several possible directions for future research:

Identifying other crop varieties that resist the nematodes, can compete against the nutsedges, and give growers more flexibility than three years of alfalfa. Pearl millet may have potential as a summer forage crop for local dairies, according to Thomas.

Incorporating CT scanning technology, which would allow researchers to see into the nutsedge tubers and learn how the two pests affect each other's development in hopes of finding weak points.

Exploring how to use winter accumulation of soil heat units and irrigation timing as tools to determine when to disrupt the early season impact of nutsedges and root-knot nematodes on young crops.

The value of the latter two research directions would be in better understanding of the relationship of nutsedge germination and nematode emergence. More precise prediction of these stages would allow producers to be more precise with their treatment efforts.

Beyond the knowledge gained about how this specific pest complex functions, the project has led to the development of strategies for identifying and investigating other pest complexes.

"We have started a collaboration with Soum Sanogo, an associate professor in EPPWS, to understand the interactions of three annual weeds—spurred anoda, Wright groundcherry and tall morning glory—with the nematodes and the Verticillium fungus," Schroeder said. "The research is based on observations made by Sanogo in the Deming area in fields infested with all these pests.

"The root-knot nematode and Verticillium pathogens infect all three weeds but the weeds are not damaged. As a matter of fact, the tall morning glory grew better when infected with these pests that are devastating to chile. We are beginning to think that these predominant annual weeds in Southwestern chile pepper production systems may actually enhance populations of both pathogens, reinforcing the importance of effective weed management for effective management of the disease. We plan to continue research on the biology of this interaction."

For more information about NMSU research in weed science and nematology, visit and

Top 40 most fuel-efficient tractors: Ratings for tractors #29 through #20

Join the countdown to the most fuel-efficient tractors of the decade as Farm Industry News releases the names of the top 40 Most Fuel-efficient Tractors built in the past 10 years. Here are tractors 29 to 20. Find tractors 40 to 30 here, tractors 19 to 10 here, and tractors 9 to 1 here.

Farm Industry News compiled the list of most fuel-efficient tractors with help from the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab. The test results from the last 10 years were used and include several new Tier 4 interim engines. The fuel efficiency ratings are based on the PTO test at rated engine speed. Find the related story here.

Special note: Rankings include all high-hp row-crop tractors (150+ hp) tested by the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab in the last 10 years.  Nearly 200 models have been tested during this timeframe, but only the top 40 made the cut for being the best models on fuel. Three of all models tested are equipped with new Tier 4i emissions-compliant engines: Case IH Magnum 340, which ranked 3rd; John Deere 8335R, which ranked 4th, and; the John Deere 8360R IVT, ranking 22nd on the list. More Tier 4i tractors will be tested in 2012, and we will rank them all again at that time.

Also note that rankings are based on the PTO test at rated engine speed, which lab director Roger Hoy says is a good indicator because it is one that is calculated for all tractors and it is always run at the maximum level. (However, he advises tractor buyers to consider the other test measures, too, because power and fuel use will vary depending on the intended application. See

Russian combines coming to North America

Russian combines coming to North America

Buhler Industries recently gave a sneak peak of the combines sold in Russia that will be marketed in North America as early as this spring. The combines called Torum Series in Russia will be rebranded under the Versatile name and sold to farmers in this continent. They are manufactured by Buhler Versatile’s parent company Combine Factory Rostselmash, headquartered in Russia.

Grant Adolph, COO of Buhler Industries, said these combines are “large Class VIII” models rated at about 485 hp. The combines have undergone testing the past two years in western Canada and have performed well, he added. They were tested on several crops, including corn, beans, rice, flax and canola.

The Torum model is a “rotary combine where the concave rotates slowly in the opposite direction and throughput is phenomenal,” Adolph said.

These combines will carry the same hallmarks of the Versatile tractors, which are reliable, simple to operate and easy to maintain.


Public Colorado Wheat Breeding Program Provides Varieties Growers Need

Public Colorado Wheat Breeding Program Provides Varieties Growers Need

More than $850,000 generated through the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee and the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation is helping Colorado State University continue its wheat research programs.

That represents a grower investment as well as royalty earnings on seed sales for varieties developed by CSU's Wheat Breeding and Genetics Program, an effort strongly backed by the state's producers in support of public variety work.

With congressional earmark funding which supplements the wheat breeding program destined to end, "it is more important than ever that growers continue to support our work," says Scott Haley, a CSU wheat breeder who heads up the program.

Royalties from two 2011 releases – Byrd and Brawl CL Plus – are expected to generate new income for the program, which already has two more varieties in the wings for 2012 release.

"Both of the releases targeted for next fall are hard whites," says Haley. "We need more hard whites in view of the increased interest among milling companies."

Haley says his public breeding program is highly effective in bringing growers what they want in terms of yields and quality -- including work to develop solid stems to avoid attacks by the soft stem saw fly which recently surfaced in northeast Colorado.

Making about 2,000 crosses a year in the effort to bring the industry new varieties, Haley says the system has a wide array of hard red and hard white germ plasm on hand.

Five research associates – four which hold masters degrees – a post-doctoral scientist working on drought stress tolerance and new genomics-based breeding technology, and three PhD grad students, along with many undergrad assistants complete the program he heads.

The economic impact of their work ripples many-once a new release is adopted commercially. While it may take a decade and $10 million to bring a new selection to the growers' fields, a widely planted release like CSU's Hatcher "easily provides an annual benefit of $20 million to $30 million," he estimates.

That's based in the improved yields and market prices, he explains, noting that this benefit is for just one of the CSU varieties. Add in others growers use, and the benefit ratio leaps even higher.

The business of variety development is a highly cyclical, with changes in pests and diseases constantly bringing new challenges for improvements in resistance and tolerance. "Stripe rust (strains) are changing, Russian wheat aphid (types) are changing – just a couple of examples of  why we have to continue to breed new varieties for growers," says Haley.

"Pest resistance is constantly in flux."

But perhaps the biggest plus from Haley's lab is in wheat quality. "Colorado had a miserable reputation for wheat quality," he says.  Not long ago, varieties like TAM 107, a Texas A&M product not well suited for Colorado, covered more than half the state's wheat land with what he labels "very substandard quality."

Things got so bad that the milling industry avoided buying Colorado wheat, he recalls. "Since then, we have significantly changed the quality profile of our wheat," Haley notes. "They're no longer penalizing Colorado wheat on quality."

As a result, Colorado wheat growers voice a strong support for the breeding program. "They tell me they want to maintain a competitive, viable productive public wheat breeding effort in Colorado.

Many producers who also grow crops like corn find their variety selections are limited to private seed companies. In wheat, growers want the public choice, Haley says. "They see value in having the option we provide."

For more on CSU wheat breeding, see the November and December issues of Western Farmer-Stockman.