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Articles from 2010 In December

Buffalo ranchers struggle to satisfy meat demand

Buffalo ranchers struggle to satisfy meat demand

From the L.A. Times:

The deep snow blanketing the Midwest prairie didn't bother the bison on Ed Eichten's ranch one bit. The hardy animals evolved to survive — even thrive — year-round on the open range, and with their big heads, they can plow right through drifts 5-feet tall or more.

The majestic beasts are a hot commodity these days, as consumer demand for healthy meat has sent prices soaring. But although bison are what one rancher calls "a self-care animal," most farmers are struggling to increase their herds and keep up with demand.

The tight supply comes after bison farmers spent much of the past decade aggressively courting consumers by touting the health benefits of the low-fat, low-cholesterol meat. Bison caught on, and even in the economic slump, prices haven't discouraged consumers.

Consumers' desire for healthy meat has bison prices soaring; ranchers struggle to meet demand

Non-selective applicators and resistant pigweed

Herbicide-resistant pigweeds are a rapidly-expanding threat to row-crop agriculture. Researchers are hard at work trying to find the best way to regain control of burgeoning resistant populations.

At the recent PigPosium — a forum on resistant pigweeds held in Forrest City, Ark., and co-sponsored by The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture and Farm Press — attendees heard that wick applicators are one of the control methods being studied.

“We’re here for a very serious reason,” said Eric Prostko, University of Georgia professor and Extension weed specialist, to a packed house. Pointing to a picture of a row-crop field overtaken by pigweeds, Prostko said, “This summarizes things.”

According to Prostko, among Palmer amaranth control tactics: starting clean, tillage, extreme cover crops, residual herbicides, irrigation, post-harvest (corn), hand-weeding, and non-selective applicators (NSAs).

The list above summarizes much of the ongoing resistant weed research in the Southeast and Mid-South. “There may be some variations based on some things we’re doing in Georgia a bit differently. We’re one or two years ahead of you in our fight against this problem.

“At the very end, I list hand-weeding and non-selective applicators. I’ll refer to the applicators as non-selective because there are more than just wick applicators available. Regardless, we want growers to do everything possible before they get down to those last two options. Those are certainly something we’re not used to doing.”

NSA technology isn’t new, said Prostko, as an alarming picture of a trailer full of huge, freshly-cut pigweeds appeared on the screen. “It’s been around 30 years, although we’ve never really used it that much. This illustrates why (NSAs are now in the mix). This is where we are in Georgia, now. … But this isn’t sustainable in the long run. In some cases, our growers are spending a lot of money hand-weeding. So, they’re interested in any option other than this — including NSAs.”


Over the last two years, Prostko and colleagues have been “actively researching in the area of non-selective use. I thought there were a lot of things going on, and we didn’t have good science behind some of the recommendations being made. That’s how I got into it.

“So, we’ve looked at different applicators and I’ll share what we’ve found.”

• A traditional rope wick and gravity flow.

“This is one of the earliest designs and can be effective under certain situations. But things have come a long way since.”

• WickMaster Ropewick

“Another applicator we’ve looked at is the WickMaster Ropewick. This was made in Georgia and it’s a pressurized rope wick. Behind the apparatus there’s a small electrical pump that percolates the solution from the bottom to the top to keep the wicks more uniformly moist.”

• GrassWorks WeedWiper

“We probably have the most data on this particular implement. It’s a ‘carpet roller.’ Basically (it employs) a carpet-type material that turns in the opposite direction the tractor is traveling.”

• TopCrop Super Sponge Weed Wiper

This NSA is made by a company in Oregon and utilizes a sponge-like material to hold the herbicide solution.

“It was shipped in a box — the company wanted to make an implement that is easily shippable.

“We pulled it out of the box and kind of chuckled. It just didn’t look as stout as we might need.”

After testing the applicator, researchers found that “surprisingly, it turned out to be a very effective applicator. So, don’t always” go with your first impression.

• LMC-Cross Wick Bar

The LMC-Cross Wick Bar, made in Albany, Ga., “makes use of a pressurized system. The frame that holds the wick is sealed and it’s filled with air, which can be regulated. That keeps the wicks saturated to the point they need to be.”


How effective are the NSAs?

A 2010 trial compared the WeedWiper to the TopCrop Sponge. “The pigweed was 66 inches tall, on average. We were using a 50 percent solution of Gramoxone Inteon — that’s what we’re focusing on in Georgia, right now.”

Another study looked at the WeedWiper and LMC-Cross Wick — again using a 50 percent solution of Gromoxone Inteon.

“This fall, we were able to get a later trial in. The pigweeds were a bit smaller at a 34-inch average — although 34 inches is still pretty tall. Both implements were pretty effective in managing those larger populations.

“It’s interesting because we know that Gramoxone isn’t a translocated material, generally. But we’re seeing movement down in the lower portions of the plant. And we’ve gotten almost complete control in some cases.”

Summary of Palmer Amaranth control (percentage) with non-selective applicators using Gramoxone Inteon


Rating Date (DAT)

Gravity Flow Wick

Weed Wiper

Wick Master

Top Crop Wiper

LMC-Cross Wick

LSD (0.10)

















































Summarizing the data, so far, “I believe we have eight to 10 field trials. We’re certainly on a learning curve trying to conduct research with these type of implements. They’re all pretty much custom-made.”

Prostko and colleagues have collected the most data on the WeedWiper, which provides over 90 percent control.

“The GravityFLow wasn’t effective in one trial. The WickMaster was also less effective. The Top CropWiper was up there with 99 percent control. The LMC-Cross wickbar gave us about 85 percent control up to 30 days after treatment. Again, (those results) are from using a 50-50 solution of Gramoxone Inteon and water with the exception of trial four. You can see from these numbers there’s certainly potential for these implements to be utilized.”

Herbicides other than Gramoxone have been used with the NSAs.

“We have tried Ignite and Cobra in some of these systems. Neither one, in my opinion, is effective in NSAs. At least that’s true at this point — we may change our minds after more study. But I don’t feel comfortable telling anyone that Ignite or Cobra is effective in an NSA.”


How much do the rigs cost?

Prostko said the numbers may vary a bit, but says the following prices are close:

• 20-foot Weed Wiper + gauge wheels + 40 gallon tank = $6,800

• 20-foot Wickmaster = $5,500

• 6-Row (18-foot) LMC-Cross Wick Bar = $6,225

• 15-foot front-mount, pump-fed, TopCrop Super Sponge Weed Wiper = $1,995

“The TopCrop Super Sponge Weed Wiper has the lowest price tag. But I have some concerns about its ability to withstand some of the larger pigweeds we see. I have to wonder how that implement will stand up when dealing with large plants.”


So what are the benefits of using an NSA?

First, particularly in soybeans, is improved harvest efficiency.

Second, NSAs allow improved fungicide application. “I spend most of my time working on peanuts. Not having those pigweeds when applying a fungicide is certainly beneficial.

“But probably the most important thing we’d do with these applicators is managing the weed seed. We tell Georgia growers that they must think about the weed seed bank. This is where I think the greatest effect of the NSAs comes in.”

Is an NSA cheaper than hand-weeding? “We have growers in Georgia spending upwards of $100 per acre to hand-weed. That isn’t sustainable.

“From what I’ve been told by some of the growers who are using these rigs, they use, roughly, a quart of solution per acre. If half of that is Gramoxone Inteon, that’s only $4 in product cost.”


NSAs work best in peanuts, said Prostko, because the crop only gets 12 to 18 inches tall. That allows a good height differential between the crop and weed.

Recently Gramoxone Inteon received a 24-C label for peanuts in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina for the management of Palmer amaranth and beggarweed.

For the Mid-South, the big question is “how will the NSAs work in soybeans and cotton? My biggest concern is that soybeans and cotton are much taller than peanuts. You need a height differential (between the crop and weed) to get a maximum application to the weed and minimal application to the crop.”

And that brings up crop response. When using an NSA, “you must worry about drippage.”

Also: what products are legal to use in soybeans or cotton with an NSA? “Right now, I don’t know anything that’s legal other than glyphosate.”


All the NSAs aren’t equal, said Prostko.

“Some are more effective. Some are more expensive, as well.”

Farmers need to ensure at least a 50 percent wipe on a plant for an NSA to be effective. “That means that if you have a 50-inch-tall pigweed, that applicator needs to be set at 25 inches, or less.”

Remember, “you’re driving a tractor, not a star ship. As much as we’d like to be Captain Kirk, the faster you go the less effective the applicator will be. In most of our research we’re driving 3 or 4 miles per hour — maybe 5 miles per hour. Slower is better.”

If you use a wiper, it needs to be on the plant before seed is formed. Based on newer data, viable seed can be produced as early as two weeks after pollination — target applications for that time period.

“If you already have seed on a plant, you’re wasting your time with NSAs because it is likely the Gramoxone won’t affect seed germination.”

Read the operator manual, advised Prostko.” There are some good things in there, problems you can avoid.”

Maintaining stewardship “is extremely important. Again, we’re dealing with a (product) concentration that’s much higher than normal. If you’re using Gramoxone in a burndown prior to planting, that’s 2 pints per acre in 10, or 15, gallons of water. That’s roughly a 2- to 3-percent solution of Gramoxone. With the NSAs, you’re looking at a 50 percent solution. So, you must be more cautious on how you mix, where you mix, how the mix is transported, etc.”

Learning experience

Prostko related a recent NSA learning experience and the importance of minimizing drips.

“Because we didn’t have anything labeled, I hadn’t done anything on a large scale in growers’ fields. Once we got the label for peanuts, though, I decided to take a rig into a local grower’s field to see how it would work.

“The good news is most of the problems have been addressed by the manufacturers and are fixable. But if you’re using one of these, they’re likely to drip. You need to work with the machine — it’s part art and part science — because it takes a little experience to figure out how best to set up the machine and see how it works.”

ACP quarantine widens in Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside counties

All of Ventura County has been placed under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) following the detection of two psyllids in the eastern and western portions of the county.

The first ACP was detected in a trap in a citrus grove in the La Conchita area, along the coastline. The second was detected in a trap in commercial citrus near the community of Santa Paula, approximately 20 miles east of La Conchita.

The quarantine measures for Ventura County also include 312 square miles of Santa Barbara County, from the county line in the south almost to Goleta, and eastward into mountains in the county.

Additionally, virtually all of western Riverside County west of the Coachella Valley is now under quarantine following detections of the pest in the Redlands-area. 

The quarantine prohibits the movement of host nursery stock out of quarantine areas and requires that all citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems prior to moving out of quarantine areas.

Residents with backyard citrus trees in quarantine areas are asked to not remove fruit from those areas.   

CDFA is working with the Citrus Research Board to increase trapping levels in nearby citrus groves in susceptible areas.  Agricultural Commissioners' offices in Ventura, Santa Barbara and Riverside counties are also contributing to the cooperative effort to detect any additional ACP.

ACP quarantines are now in place in Ventura, San Diego, Imperial, Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

The pest is of grave concern because it can carry the disease huanglongbing (HLB). All citrus and closely related species are susceptible hosts for both the insect and the disease. There is no cure once a tree becomes infected. The diseased tree will decline in health until it dies.  HLB has not been detected in trapped Asian citrus psyllids or trees in California.

The state of Florida first detected the pest in 1998 and the disease in 2005, and the two have now been detected in all 30 citrus producing counties in that state. The pest and the disease are also present in Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina. The states of Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have detected the pest but not the disease.

Residents in the area who think they may have seen the pest are urged to call the Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899. For more information on the Asian citrus psyllid and huanglongbing disease visit:

Water conservation bill for Chinese will be $30 billion

Water conservation bill for Chinese will be $30 billion

From Scientific American:

The Chinese government is expected to spend about 200 billion yuan ($30.10 billion) on water conservation projects in 2011, a tenth more than in 2010, the state-run China Daily reported on Saturday.

Priority will be given to improving irrigation to ensure grain security and projects to combat drought and floods, the newspaper said.

"Over the next 10 years, Chen said he hopes the country can double its current average annual investment in water conservation construction," it said.

The government has invested about 700 billion yuan on water conservation over the past five years, the newspaper said.

China to spend $30 billion on water conservation in 2011

Soy biodiesel benefits extend to national, rural economies

Soy biodiesel benefits extend to national, rural economies

As expected, 2010 proved to be a pivotal year for the U.S. biodiesel industry. With a new federal requirement for use of a targeted level of biodiesel as well as the reinstatement of the federal biodiesel blenders' tax credit through 2011 now in place, most of the industry should be able to turn its focus back to producing more of this economically beneficial fuel.

The soybean checkoff has been a driving force behind the biodiesel industry from its inception, culminating in 2008, when the industry produced nearly 700 million gallons. In that time, the biodiesel industry became a powerful economic engine. According to a report by consulting firm LECG, LLC, the biodiesel industry supported nearly 52,000 jobs in 2008.

In 2009, however, production declined to 545 million gallons and all but stopped toward the end of the year as the industry awaited announcements of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) and extension of the federal blenders' tax credit. This drastic drop in production led to the loss of nearly 29,000 of those jobs, according to the LECG report. Still, the industry added $4.1 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product and generated $828 million in local, state and federal tax revenue in 2009, according to the report.

"The soy biodiesel industry remains vitally important to any community and state where a soy biodiesel plant exists," said USB Domestic Marketing Chair Jim Schriver, a soybean farmer from Montpelier, Ind. "There are large groups of people whose livelihoods either directly or indirectly depend on a profitable soy biodiesel industry. Biodiesel plants represent good, high-paying jobs for thousands of people as well as millions of dollars in tax revenue to our local, state and national economies."

The federal blenders' tax credit allows a biodiesel producer or fuel supplier to acquire one cent for every percentage of biodiesel blended with petroleum diesel, making soy biodiesel even more cost-competitive. Schriver said the reinstatement of the federal biodiesel tax credit should enable more U.S. biodiesel manufacturers to resume production of large quantities of this homegrown, renewable fuel and to recharge efforts to make biodiesel more available to diesel users on a greater basis.

"Smaller plants can get started back up right away, but larger plants will need more time to get everything back in place," Schriver said. "I think, in time, more of the the biodiesel industry will return to profitability and be able to provide the economic benefits of job creation and tax revenue to our communities."

Biodiesel became the first domestically produced fuel to qualify as an advanced biofuel under the RFS2 because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent over petroleum diesel. The RFS2 called for 1.15 billion gallons of biodiesel to be used in the United States by the end of 2010 and ensures the domestic use of at least 1 billion gallons of biodiesel annually beginning in 2012. By 2022, when the RFS2 will be fully implemented, the Environmental Protection Agency expects biofuels production to increase U.S. net farm income by $13 billion, or more than 36 percent.

Soybean oil remains the dominant feedstock for U.S. biodiesel production, and the soybean checkoff funds a large portion of the biodiesel research and promotion conducted by the National Biodiesel Board.

USB is made up of 69 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

Ranch goats devouring Christmas trees

Ranch goats devouring Christmas trees

From the Chico Enterprise-Record:

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree is the hallmark of a joyous holiday celebration, but it's not a permanent fixture in most homes and many people simply don't know what to do with their tree after the season is over.

Al and Marilyn Campbell scoured tree lots for the past several days, collecting leftover pine trees and branches for their herd of more than 20 Nigerian Dwarf and Mini Nubian goats on their large ranch north of Chico.

"Goats will eat a variety of things, but they like the Christmas trees," Marilyn Campbell said. She said the goats will completely denude a tree of its needles in about a day, and will eat the bark and the rest of the tree if they have enough time.

Goats at Chico ranch turn Christmas trees into memories

PigPosium demonstrated role of resistant pigweed

The PigPosium organized by the University of Arkansas and co-hosted by Delta Farm Press was a great experience for me and I must admit to a lot of different emotions. Who would have ever thought you would see 800 or so folks (a high percentage were growers) get to a meeting an hour before starting time to spend the day listening to speakers talk about one weed — Palmer pigweed.

I spent nearly 30 years as an Extension specialist and attended a lot of big meetings. However, this one far exceeded anything I was ever involved in. Everyone that had anything to do with the meeting did a fantastic job, and the speakers were excellent.

A week before the meeting some of the university guys were calling asking me if I thought people would show up. My comment was, “I don’t thing your facility will be big enough.” It was fun watching the cooks who prepared lunch for 200 or so scramble that morning to get ready for 800! They did it, too.

I had a great sense of satisfaction seeing the huge crowd. That comment should not be interpreted as me feeling responsible for getting one single person to the meeting. There was a great publicity effort for the meeting that had nothing to do with me. However, I have been writing about the on-coming glyphosate-resistant pigweed train since 2005.

For the past couple of years, sometimes it is all I have written about for weeks on end. I cannot tell you how many times I have second guessed myself, thinking, “Folks have to be bored stiff with me writing about the same thing over and over.” Heck, there have been plenty of times that I bored myself stiff writing about the same topic. I have asked my editor on numerous occasions, “Am I doing the right thing?”

The thing I have always gone back to is if we cannot derail the train of herbicide resistance, none of the other things I could be writing about instead will be very important five years down the road. While not attempting to take credit for anything, the huge attendance at that meeting tells me that a lot of my efforts as well as those of others have not totally fallen on deaf ears. I did have several come up and say, “See, Doc, people are listening more than you think!”

The first step in turning around any problem is to create awareness. The attendance at this meeting is a testament that folks have gotten the message that we have a problem. Every single farmer must realize he is not immune from herbicide resistance.

Herbicide resistance is the biggest threat to crop production that we may have faced yet. It is not going to be easy to solve, but we will. Now that folks (at least a lot of folks) realize the seriousness of the problem, we can get about the business of solving it.

One major theme at the meeting involved the soil seed bank and preventing pigweeds from going to seed. They gave away a shotgun to the person who had the closest guess on how many seed a Palmer pigweed plant (Elvira) on display had made. The winning number was 1.8 million! I would like to know who counted them.

I am constantly asked, “After I see the first resistant weed, how long is it until I have a full-blown problem?” The way it works in a nutshell is you have an escaped weed that you do not think anything about. The next year you have a spot of escaped weeds 10 to 100 feet across. All those came from the single plant from the year before. You run the combine through those and you are in the resistant pigweed business full-time.

One thing I heard several times at the meeting is you need to start changing your program when you first suspect you may be having a problem. If you still have the opportunity, you need to be changing your program BEFORE you ever have reason to believe you may be having a problem.

Nutrition labels, calorie counts for 40 cuts of meat by 2012

Nutrition labels, calorie counts for 40 cuts of meat by 2012

From the L.A. Times:

Coming soon to a grocery store near you: nutrition labels, like the ones seen on soda pop and potato chips, slapped on packages of raw ground meat and chicken breasts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that a new federal rule will require 40 of the most commonly purchased cuts of poultry, pork, beef and lamb to carry labels that disclose a variety of information to consumers.

Slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2012, the rule will require meat producers to disclose the total number of calories, the number of calories that come from fat, and the total grams of fat and saturated fat. The labels also must include details about protein, cholesterol, sodium and vitamins in the product, according to federal officials.

USDA requires nutrition labels for 40 cuts of meat

New Year’s prosperity begins with black-eyed peas

From the New York Times:

At year’s end, people around the world indulge in food rituals to ensure good luck in the days ahead. In Spain, grapes eaten as the clock turns midnight — one for each chime — foretell whether the year will be sweet or sour. In Austria, the New Year’s table is decorated with marzipan pigs to celebrate wealth, progress and prosperity. Germans savor carp and place a few fish scales in their wallets for luck. And for African-Americans and in the Southern United States, it’s all about black-eyed peas.

Not surprisingly, this American tradition originated elsewhere, in this case in the forests and savannahs of West Africa. After being domesticated there 5,000 years ago, black-eyed peas made their way into the diets of people in virtually all parts of that continent.

Prosperity Starts With a Pea

Cottonseed now insurable

In 2009, a paper titled "Impacts of Including Cottonseed Production in the Revenue Stream for Calculating Crop Insurance Coverage for Producers in the Lower Coastal Bend of Texas" was developed by Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economists, including Dr. Larry Falconer of Corpus Christi. In this paper, it was shown that the relative price of cottonseed to cotton lint increased from 15 percent to 31 percent over the 2004 to 2008 time period. This increase implies that cotton producers are not able to insure an increasingly important part of their revenue stream. Because of increasing cost of production for cotton in the Coastal Bend of Texas, producers are finding it necessary to acquire increasing amounts of credit for their operations. It would be helpful in acquiring credit if producers could insure the larger percentage of the total revenue stream from their cotton production by including cottonseed values in yield guarantee calculations.

In this paper, Texas AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economists reported that by adjusting APH yields for cottonseed values, the increase in expected indemnities would exceed increased outlays for premiums by ratios ranging from a low of 10.7:1 to a high of 50.8:1 for different selected yield guarantees. On November 18, 2010, the board of directors of the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation released the Cottonseed (Pilot) Endorsement for sale for the 2011 crop year. The first 2011 crop year sales closing date for purchase of the Cottonseed Endorsement is January 30, 2011.

No new records

The Cottonseed (Pilot) Endorsement does not require the producer to maintain records on cottonseed yield to establish coverage levels, according to Falconer.  Instead, a conversion factor provided in the special provisions of insurance is applied to lint yield records. For the 2011 crop year in Nueces County, the conversion factor is established at 1.447 pounds of cottonseed per cotton lint. Premiums for the Cottonseed (Pilot) Endorsement will be calculated using a national cottonseed price (set at $0.09 per pound, or $180 per ton, for the 2011 growing season) and the premium rate applicable to the grower’s APH of cotton lint.

In the event of a loss, growers incurring losses to their cotton lint sufficient to trigger an indemnity would be paid for the corresponding level of loss on cottonseed. Cottonseed losses will be determined by subtracting the cottonseed production (actual lint yield times conversion factor) from the cottonseed production guarantee (APH lint yield times conversion factor).

Given the current high prices for cotton lint and cottonseed and increasing production costs, producers are encouraged to contact their crop insurance agent for further details as to how this new insurance product might fit into their risk management program.