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Articles from 2002 In December


EPA clears Bollgard II for 2003 planting

Bollgard II cotton is expected to provide the grower with additional benefits including a broader spectrum of insect-control, and increased defense against the potential development of insect-resistance, said David Rhylander, director of cotton marketing for Monsanto.

"The technology will also provide similar agronomic advantages as its predecessor, Bollgard cotton, including an increased yield and lint potential, improved insect control, reduction in input costs, savings in time, and reduced pesticide spraying," he said.

Bollgard II cotton is the second-generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. This technology contains two different insect-control genes, compared to the single insect-control gene in its predecessor and will provide producers with 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week control of target pests.

"Bollgard II cotton will provide cotton producers with excellent control of a broad spectrum of pests that typically impact end-of-the season profits," noted Walt Mullins, cotton technical manager for Monsanto. "These pests include cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, pink bollworm, European corn borer, cabbage and soybean loopers, fall and beet armyworms, saltmarsh caterpillar and cotton leaf perforators."

"Bollgard II cotton is as much an improvement over the original Bollgard cotton as Bollgard was over conventional cotton," said Blake Layton, Mississippi State University Extension entomologist.

Durable technology

Monsanto’s 2002 field research on Bollgard II cotton demonstrated the durability of the technology under extreme insect pressure. In some areas, cotton pests wreaked havoc on conventional cotton plots in unsprayed trials – leaving the crop with 100 percent fruit damage – where unsprayed Bollgard II sustained only 1 or 2 percent boll damage, Mullins noted.

"The technology’s higher level of insect control – especially of such economically significant cotton pests – highlights the substantial improvement of this technology over Bollgard cotton and reinforces the value of this technology for cotton producers," Mullins said.

As part of the registration conditions, EPA will require the same insect resistance management programs that growers have been following the past several years.

Insect resistance management plans for Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton are designed to maintain the effectiveness of these products against the target pest insects. These plans require planting a non-Bollgard cotton refuge within a specific distance from each Bollgard II cotton field to serve as habitat for susceptible insects.

USDA and FDA also confirmed the food, feed and environmental safety of this technology earlier this year.

"Seed companies’ supply of Bollgard II cotton seed will be limited in 2003; however, we expect that seed production in 2003 by licensed seed companies will ensure a significant increase in Bollgard II cotton seed availability in 2004," noted Rhylander.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

Taiwanese ethanol plants encourage NCGA

Jon Doggett, vice president of public policy for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), recently met with U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Assistant Director, Taipei Office, Clover Chang, and representatives of the Taiwanese government on a fact-finding mission to learn more about the U.S. ethanol industry and the benefits of using the renewable fuel to replace methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as an oxygenate in gasoline.

Taiwan consumes about 2.5 billion gallons of gasoline blended with 5 to 7 percent MTBE each year. And, like the United States, the country has experienced major pollution problems from MTBE in groundwater. Figures from USGC estimate replacing MTBE with ethanol in Taiwan would create an annual ethanol market of 106 million gallons, equivalent to about one million metric tons (nearly 40 million bushels) of corn.

"It was an interesting meeting," said Doggett. "They met with us to determine a substitute for MTBE, so they were interested in the benefits of ethanol. For them right now, the biggest question is whether they should import the grain needed for ethanol production or import the ethanol itself.

"The Taiwanese currently have two wet mills in operation," he continued, "but they are used mainly in the production of fructose and corn gluten. I didn't get the feeling from them that they were interested in converting either of those (into ethanol production facilities), so if they are going to use ethanol, they will need to build a new plant."

Doggett also discussed with the Taiwanese representatives the development of high-starch corn. "We looked at that possibility as something that would have a high export potential for us and it would also be very valuable for them should they decide to build the plant," he said. "It's also valuable to us, in that high-starch corn isn't something they could probably purchase from China, from whom Taiwan has been buying corn from recently."

The group also stopped in Decatur, Ill., for meetings with Archer Daniels Midland; Washington, D.C., for meetings with the Renewable Fuels Association, the U.S. Department of Energy, USDA's Office of Energy and North East States for Coordinated Air Use Management; and California, for meetings with the state Energy Commission, Water Resources Board and Air Resources Board.

"The Mission of the NCGA staff is to execute programs under the direction of the NCGA Corn Board and to provide professional quality service to our state checkoff and association members"

Cliff Snyder recognized at ASA Fellow

The Society has been electing members to the honor of Fellow since 1924. Only 0.3 percent of the active and emeritus members may be elected to Fellowship.

Snyder, who lives in Conway, Ark., joined the PPI staff as Mid-South director in 1995. In 2002, he became southeast director and now has responsibility for the Institute’s agronomic research and education programs in the states of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

A native of Denver, Snyder earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas and his Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. In 1984, he became a state soils specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service in Arkansas, with responsibility for leading and developing statewide programs in ag lime and micronutrient education.

Later, his responsibilities were expanded to include support of the state soil testing program and leadership in the delivery of soil test results and recommendation to clients in the state. He had a similar role with the cotton-monitoring program and has conducted numerous soil fertility test programs and demonstrations with university researchers, involving a wide array of crops, plus forestry and fruit and vegetable production.

Snyder serves as co-chair of the Southern Soil Fertility Conference, was the 2000 Division S-8 Chair of the Soil Science Society of America and has been active in several other profession organizations and in his community.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

One more time: NE Arkansas eradication vote slated

The call for a new referendum – tentatively scheduled for the end of January – comes just days after votes for the last were tallied. The two counties – the only Arkansas counties not in a boll weevil eradication program – narrowly rejected the last attempt to bring them into the eradication fold. In the last referendum, 65 percent of the farmers and landlords voted for the program – just 1.7 percent less than the total needed to pass.

Breaking the numbers down, there were 884 total votes cast (compared to 1,042 cast in the previous referendum) with 575 for and 309 against. In Mississippi County, the votes were 68 percent for and 32 percent against. In eastern Craighead County, the votes showed 59 percent for eradication and 41 percent against.

Eradication has failed in the two counties for a number of reasons. Chief among them, according to opponents: boll weevil control in the area often costs producers less than $1 per acre annually.

However, the northeast Arkansas counties are surrounded by fellow cotton-growers involved in eradication efforts. Those eradication areas must maintain buffer zones around the holdouts that cost millions of dollars every year – a key reason for the pressure on the two counties to approve a program.

“We need this county-and-a-half in the program and the Foundation board knows it. There was a motion early in the meeting to split the counties up. That didn’t pass. But when we voted to let the entire region face another referendum, the board acted as one,” says Daryl Little, Arkansas Plant Board director.

What were some of the objections to splitting the two counties?

“You’d still have the problem but it would just be shifted. The buffer zone troubles and expense would still be there,” says Little.

Little says he has no indication that the fifth referendum will do any better or worse. However, a lower voter turnout the last time around is cited as another reason to give eradication another shot.

“I’m hoping that we’ll get more participation this time around. Hopefully, there will be a few more positive votes.”

The new referendum is tentatively set for the last week of January and the first week of February.

The same package presented to farmers last time ($8 per acre annually for 7 years) is being recycled. “Everything is the same. The Southeast Foundation (which has offered a financial package and desire to run eradication in the counties) is still comfortable with the scenario being offered. But this is it. The federal money won’t be there much longer nor will money from the Southeast Foundation.”

Little isn’t sure another round of meetings in the two counties would be productive.

“During this last referendum, meetings were held and the people that came to those already had their minds made up for or against. By now, folks know the issues and I’m just hoping – however they vote – that people just come out and cast a ballot this time.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

EPA clears Bollgard II for 2003 planting season

Bollgard II cotton is expected to provide the grower with additional benefits including a broader spectrum of insect-control, and increased defense against the potential development of insect-resistance, said David Rhylander, director of cotton marketing for Monsanto.

“The technology will also provide similar agronomic advantages as its predecessor, Bollgard cotton, including an increased yield and lint potential, improved insect control, reduction in input costs, savings in time, and reduced pesticide spraying,” he said.

Bollgard II cotton is the second-generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. This technology contains two different insect-control genes, compared to the single insect-control gene in its predecessor and will provide producers with 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week control of target pests.

“Bollgard II cotton will provide cotton producers with excellent control of a broad spectrum of pests that typically impact end-of-the season profits,” noted Walt Mullins, cotton technical manager for Monsanto. “These pests include cotton bollworm, tobacco budworm, pink bollworm, European corn borer, cabbage and soybean loopers, fall and beet armyworms, saltmarsh caterpillar and cotton leaf perforators.”

“Bollgard II cotton is as much an improvement over the original Bollgard cotton as Bollgard was over conventional cotton,” said Blake Layton, Mississippi State University Extension entomologist.

Monsanto’s 2002 field research on Bollgard II cotton demonstrated the durability of the technology under extreme insect pressure. In some areas, cotton pests wreaked havoc on conventional cotton plots in unsprayed trials – leaving the crop with 100 percent fruit damage – where unsprayed Bollgard II sustained only 1 or 2 percent boll damage, Mullins noted.

“The technology’s higher level of insect control – especially of such economically significant cotton pests – highlights the substantial improvement of this technology over Bollgard cotton and reinforces the value of this technology for cotton producers,” Mullins said.

As part of the registration conditions, EPA will require the same insect resistance management programs that growers have been following the past several years.

Insect resistance management plans for Bollgard and Bollgard II cotton are designed to maintain the effectiveness of these products against the target pest insects. These plans require planting a non-Bollgard cotton refuge within a specific distance from each Bollgard II cotton field to serve as habitat for susceptible insects.

USDA and FDA also confirmed the food, feed and environmental safety of this technology earlier this year.

“Seed companies’ supply of Bollgard II cotton seed will be limited in 2003; however, we expect that seed production in 2003 by licensed seed companies will ensure a significant increase in Bollgard II cotton seed availability in 2004,” noted Rhylander.

e-mail: erobinson@primediabusiness.com

Making the best of a mess

From the time hurricane Isidore arrived, producers have been struggling through mud and water in efforts to salvage the crop and avoid financial ruin. There have been several “victims” of all this. Among them are worry and stress that have taken a toll on farmers and their families. Expensive machinery has been subjected to use and abuse equivalent to several “normal” crops. And not least of these has been the damage done to fields.

Fortunately for a few farmers, harvesting was completed in time to avoid most of the damage, but for the bulk of them the next challenge will be how to repair damaged fields, drainage systems, roads, and turnrows in time to plant next year’s crop. This is especially difficult since the normal flow or cash during and after the crop does not allow for the kind of expenditures that will be required. Equal to the work itself will be the problem of how to pay for it during a time when profits are low, and most farmers have spent their budget for the current year. Funds for the next crop are not normally available until the spring of the following year, but this year some way must be found to pay for extra work, fuel, and machinery. In many ways, this rather than poor yield, low quality, and low price will be the hidden disaster of the 2002 crop.

Damage to fields has been so extensive that for many the normal job of shredding stalks, a requirement of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program, will be difficult or impossible because of deep ruts and continued rains. It seemed that about every time fields began to dry and firm in the fall of 2002 another front arrived to deliver another one-half to one inch of rain to re-saturate the land. In reality however, most fields will require extensive disking and renovation, so stalks will be destroyed, but they may not be destroyed in the timely fashion that is needed.

We know what the problem is, and we have some idea of how to repair the damage to fields, but another question is when the work can and will be done. Ideally, this situation could offer farmers a chance to correct old drainage problems, change row directions or patterns, and fix some of the things that have been needing attention for years. With adequate funding, this would be an opportunity to have soils tested and have fertilizers and lime applied during the tillage operations in order to mix these materials into the soil, one of the perceived “problems” of reduced and no-tillage agriculture. However, funds will likely not be available to take advantage of this opportunity. Very likely, the fields will be reworked, re-bedded, and another crop planted without the addition of needed fertilizers and lime, making the prospects for good yields next year questionable.

Another disappointment this year has been a setback in the establishment of reduced and no-tillage systems throughout the South. These systems have proven their worth in reducing costs and producing yields equal to or higher that those from more intensive tillage systems, but as I told one farmer last week, “The rule book is out the window”, at least until we can get the damage repaired.

The best-case scenario would be that winter rains will decrease soon so that farmers can get started with field repairs in January. The first order of business will be to fill the ruts in fields. Then, the job of re-establishing the surface drainage must be considered. We certainly do not want to leave fields in such a situation that water stands in some areas during planting and causes problems for growing the crop next year. Next will come the construction of new rows. Prior to and during this step, lime and fertilizers should be applied according to soil test results. Then the “ideal” thing would be to plant some type of cover crop such as wheat or oats to begin the process or rebuilding organic matter and to hold the freshly tilled soil in place.

Some time in mid March, the fields will need to be treated with herbicides to dry down the cover crop and any volunteer winter vegetation so that they will be clean and ready for planting by the time we normally begin planting cotton. For corn, this will be a little late, so the application of burndown herbicides for corn may need to be a little earlier. In actuality, few farmers will plant cover crops, and will simply re-hip the rows prior to planting; when this is the case some soil loss will be expected on sloping fields if spring rains come as they usually do. In this scenario, the re-establishment of reduced or no-tillage systems will have to wait until next fall.

A final question will be how to get through the harvest next year without re-damaging fields so that the rows can settle during the winter of 2003-2004. Another wet fall next year could really “put the icing on the cake” for most people. It’s tough just thinking about how to come out of this “mess”, but somehow it will get done.

Dr. Ernie Flint is an area specialized agent – agronomy for Carroll, Montgomery, Holmes, Attala, Leake, Madison, Scott and Rankin Counties with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

e-mail: attala@ext.msstate.edu

USDA defers reinsurance agreement cancellation

The Department of Agriculture announced that the two agreements used by its Risk Management Agency to define the terms of reinsurance between the RMA and companies participating in the crop reinsurance program would remain in effect for the 2004 reinsurance year.

The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 permits the reinsurance agreements to be negotiated at the discretion of USDA once during the 2001 through 2005 reinsurance years. The renegotiated SRA and ACRA then would be in effect indefinitely or until new legislation comes into force.

In its New Year’s Eve announcement, the department said the decision to defer cancellation of the SRA until later was made after careful consideration of many factors.

“The current unsettled nature of the industry was a major concern,” it said in a press release. “This is reflected in lingering drought conditions in some parts of the country coupled with the demise of the largest company participating in the crop insurance program.

“Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the need to increase operational efficiencies within the companies and to reduce program costs.”

“The Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000 provided important risk management tools for farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “Deferring the negotiations will give all parties more time to evaluate ways to improve program effectiveness and to reinforce the strong foundation required for even more effective risk management in the future.”

USDA is expected to announce next year that it will seek renegotiation of the SRA and the ACRA that would become effective with the 2005 reinsurance year.

“We believe this approach makes the most sense,” said Ross J. Davidson, administrator of the Risk Management Agency. “We reached this decision after consultation with participating insurance companies and are optimistic that the additional time will enable us to cooperatively achieve meaningful changes for the program, including substantial cost savings and enhanced regulatory oversight of the delivery systems.”

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Boron deficiency keeping Arkansas soybean yields low?

“A farmer in Green County told me he’d seen this problem before. He thought it was nematodes or even a virus,” says Leo Espinoza, Arkansas Extension soil scientist. “But after looking at the boron deficiency symptoms, he realized that he had the same troubles in his fields.

“We don’t know if this is a growing problem, how long it’s been around, or if it just appeared a few years ago.”

Espinoza, who spoke at the annual Arkansas Soybean Research Conference in Brinkley, said after the meeting, “another farmer came to me and said he’d seen this problem in his fields since the 1970s. He farms a short distance north of Brinkley, and his neighbor also has the problem.”

Anecdotally, most of the affected locations have been north of I-40 and west of Crowley’s Ridge. Typical symptoms include leaves being greener and thicker with a tendency to “cup” downwards. The nodes are often short and the terminal will sometimes die. Some plants recover through growth of lateral branching, but by then yield potential has been impaired. Yield losses in such cases can be more than 50 percent of expected yields.

“As we walked through fields we saw healthy plants immediately beside very sick ones. It’s strange because we see this problem across an entire field sometimes. Other times, we see it in patches or long strips within a field that’s otherwise seemingly healthy.

“Are we dealing with a problem related to the chemistry of boron or is the problem one of soil management? When it comes to boron, most research has been done on toxicity levels and not deficiencies.”

What’s curious is that cereal crops – rice and wheat – have a higher requirement for boron than soybeans. Those crops’ sufficiency levels are supposedly lower than those of soybeans. With all the rice and wheat Arkansans grow, however, “we don’t have reports of boron deficiency. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, but it certainly isn’t showing up in a way that’s obvious.”

To illustrate the problems researchers (Espinoza is working on the boron project with both Nathan Slaton, director of soil testing, and Morteza Mozaffari, Cotton Branch soil lab director) have in studying boron, Espinoza points to a large, infrared, birds-eye-view photo.

“This is a soybean field that had a severe deficiency several years ago. We set up a large test there. Fortunately for the grower – but unfortunately for the test – the field’s deficiency cleared up. This seems to happen regularly. We want to know why the deficiency was evident two years ago and not now.”

It’s easy to see deficiencies through other infrared shots. One photo shows a field that typically cuts soybeans in the low 50-bushel range. Once deficiencies hit, however, it cut in the upper 20’s.

“We’re talking about large amounts of money lost. This isn’t just taking a few pennies away,” says Espinoza.

In preparing a study, Espinoza and his colleagues were introduced to a boron deficient field. The team took tissue samples around the V-6 stage and also at the R-2 stage.

A tissue sample of less than 20 parts per million raises a red flag of deficiency. When the levels are higher than 60 parts per million, boron may be at a toxic level. The field in question had plants testing 14 parts per million.

So, the researchers put foliar material out at 1 to 6 pounds per acre in six plots. Through later tissue samples what they found was that 4 to 6 pounds of material may have raised levels into the toxicity range. Plots receiving between 1 pound and 4 pounds raised the boron tissue levels to the sufficiency range. The 1 pound test raised the tissue samples to 41 parts per million.

Espinoza cautions that this is just one year of data and no one should act on this alone.

Paraphrasing Descartes and pointing out the frustrations of working with boron, Espinoza says, “The more you study this problem, the more you realize how little you know. By studying this problem, we keep raising questions. Why does the deficiency show up in some years and not others? Is this a physical or chemical problem? Is this deficiency going to move south of I-40? Is there a relationship between the problem and cultivars or maturity groups?”

The reason I-40 might play the role of a “boron border” is that south of the interstate, more cotton has traditionally been grown. That means more concern with boron, Espinoza says.

“According to a survey coordinated by Dr. Mozaffari, the water samples showed higher levels of boron south of I-40. We don’t know if those levels are significant or not – 14 grams in 325,000 gallons. With such low numbers, it could even be lab error. However, tissue samples south of I-40 also show higher levels of boron.

“It’s very strange. You may see both sufficiency and deficiency at the same soil test levels. Hopefully, in the end, we will be able to have a predictive tool allowing us to know where, when and under which conditions we can expect deficiencies. The only way to get to that point is to better understand how to deal with this nutrient. We need to build a database and raise awareness. Dr. Mozaffari will continue conducting a survey on boron for the next several years in hopes of providing recommendations in the end.”

Farmers in areas where this problem has been identified should consider applying 1 pound of boron per acre with their normal fertilizer applications, says Espinoza.

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

Pipeline, protests hampering wild peanut search

The pipeline extends through a remote area in the Gran Chaco region of southeastern Bolivia where research has shown many wild peanut species live. Indigenous groups living in and near the region have delayed scientists’ collection efforts because of opposition.

Construction of the pipeline and accompanying roads, coupled with newly established farms and ranches, has mobilized the indigenous groups, which oppose further encroachment, including collection of native plants.

Charles Simpson, a peanut breeder with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station at Stephenville and considered a leading international peanut expert and researcher, has been on 22 collecting expeditions in South America during his career.

Simpson and other fellow scientists made a trip to part of the Gran Chaco region in 1994. He said it's important the region is re-visited "because we want to preserve something that may be lost forever."

The Gran Chaco region is extremely inhospitable, Simpson said, which presented problems during their three-week expedition.

"It was a tough trip," he said. "We had to fend off Africanized bees, and we had to cut, hack and dig our way through the whole trip."

Despite the difficulties, the group came away collecting three new species, "but we still didn't find that one major species we were looking for," Simpson said.

They hope to find the wild peanut known as the B-genome donor to the cultivated peanut, believed to be one of the original parents of today's domesticated peanut. If the B-genome donor can be found, scientists could reconstruct the types of peanuts that humans ate more than 5,000 years ago.

Research from the 1994 expedition indicates the B-genome peanut is most likely to be found in a small, unexplored area in southeastern Bolivia or north/northwest Paraguay.

"If we could find that original B-donor, we very likely could find traits such as drought tolerance, early maturity, high-yield and all kinds of potential in edible quality – all of which would benefit the consumer," Simpson said.

The peanut most consumers eat today was formed when bees crossed two wild species. Researchers say over the centuries farmers and breeders turned off or eliminated many useful genes that were present in the first crosses between wild species.

Meanwhile, David Williams, a plant explorer and ethno-botanist based in Cali, Colombia at the Americas Office of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, has been involved in the permitting process for scientists to re-enter the region.

Another factor contributing to the preservation effort is Bolivia doesn't have a reliable gene bank system.

"If we can preserve the material in the U.S., we can provide it to them when needed," Simpson said.

Duplicate samples would be provided to Bolivian research organizations, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and to the world peanut collection at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics based in Hyderabad, India. It houses nearly 15,000 different types of cultivated and wild groundnuts.

Rising temperatures and other climatic changes pose as another potential threat to the wild peanut population, intensifying scientists' need to conduct additional expeditions.