Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States

Sitemap


Articles from 2015 In December


Fresh planted corn field

Experts don't expect farmers to back off corn seeding rates

Bob Nielsen, a Purdue University Extension corn specialist, has pointed out in meetings that the response curve to population over time is fairly flat, from 29,000 to 34,000 plants per acre. He points to no more than a two-bushel advantage for higher rates.

Crop Watch 12/28: Why some farmers spread pollination window by planting two hybrids

At the same time, Michael Langemeier with the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue has written about how cutting seeding rates could save costs when budgets are tight.

Despite the discussion, seed industry reps, who didn't wish to be identified, say their customers are telling them they're not cutting back on seeding rates for the most part. In fact, unless they were planting at very high rates, say 36,000 seeds per acre or more, they're not even interested in considering it.

No one has a better handle on what farmers are thinking than the people visiting with them right now to firm up seed orders.

Apparently, most feel they still need good yields to provide enough revenue to survive. And most don't feel comfortable cutting seeding rates. If they planted 19,000 to 32,000 and weather or insect problems occurred, they would find themselves at a stand that might lead to yield loss potential. Or at least that is what farmers are telling seedsmen.

Crop Watch 12/21: Disease lesions can still form on resistant corn hybrids

There could be one exception. Some companies are telling customers that with certain hybrids, due to their type of growth, it might actually pay to back of a couple thousand seeds per acre. At the same time, these same companies have pother hybrids where they believe it pays to plant 34,000 to 36,000 seeds per acre. Those hybrids have the ability to respond to higher seeding rates.

Farmers on sandy or droughty soils without irrigation likely already plant in the mid-20,000 range on seeds per acre. Seed reps don't see them changing their strategy either. And although some sources aren't showing much value for variable rate seeding in corn, reps say farmers who have been doing it will likely do it this year as well.

Related: Calculate seed cost when figuring seeding rates for corn

Ringing in the New Year, dodging a bullet

It was 1999, and back then a lot of us were concerned. You may recall that someone had figured out that our technology apparently hadn't been designed to move into a new millennium, and that at 12:00:01 on Jan. 1, 2000, we could see lights go out, computers shut down, cars stall - basically pandemonium.

Of course we were going to get an early warning because the clocks and computers and cars and all things electronic were going to click over to 2000 first on some primitive island but for real in Sydney, Australia. So we watched the celebration, by the way they've already celebrated 2016 (see the photo on this page).

This shot from the celebration of the start of 2016 from Sydney, Australia, is a good sign for the New Year. And brings back some Y2K memories. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The celebration went off without a hitch in Sydney, as it did in Tokyo, Europe and here. We all breathed a sigh of relief. Our computer programmer friends had figured out the issue and we'd all updated our computers (as did the government with its defense systems). That was a good thing.

But I think of the conversation I had with my farmer-nephew a few days before, when we talked about watching New Year's in Sydney. He asked what we'd do if the Y2K bug had been real. My answer was that we'd pack up the family as efficiently as possible and head to my wife's family farm. We were not too far from there, and I figured if all things came to an end, we could raise our own food, and go back to a manual pump for water. I knew on the farm we could survive.

Of course I didn't have to revert to being a primitive farmer with no technology, it's something for which I'm quite grateful. Yet I know that if given the challenge the U.S. farmer would step up in any way he or she knew how to make sure food was produced. It's a comforting thought that I'm still that close to agriculture.

Now whenever I see fireworks over the Sydney Harbor Bridge, I still breathe a little sigh of relief that the New Year will be okay. It's a small consolation, but I'll take it. Happy New Year!

Tools for turning dirt, a tillage roundup

Managing residues, prepping seedbed and controlling weeds sometimes means using iron, here are some top tools for getting the job done.

The Penton Agriculture Farm Show New Products Team found their fair share of new tillage tools in their quest for ideas during the fall farm shows. And the products offered range from strip-till tools that offer precision tillage for you operation to full ground-engagement technologies designed to bury residues. You'll even find a variable rate tillage tool here.

Check out this gallery of tools and don't miss our other farm show galleries including:

Grain-handling tools and systems

Put these useful farm tools to work

cattle in pasture

Depreciation is 'hidden cost' of beef production

With years of all-time high cattle prices in the recent past, it is logical to assume high profitability in the cow-calf sector, says Patrick Gunn, ISU Extension cow-calf specialist and Denise Schwab, ISU Extension beef program specialist.

Related: Real cow depreciation isn't the same as Uncle Sam's

But remember, profit per cow is "return per cow over cash costs."

Because many operations have reinvested in infrastructure and herd expansion in the past couple of years, fixed costs and in particular depreciation should not be overlooked. These costs include depreciation on machinery, equipment, housing and fences for the cattle operation, as well as interest, insurance and depreciation on the cattle themselves.

ISU Ag Decision Maker estimates that total fixed costs in 2014 were likely upwards of $180 per cow. Standardized performance analysis in Iowa suggests depreciation alone was upwards of $65 per cow.

As always, these figures are estimated averages, and likely not a good representation of enterprises that have invested in new machinery and added cattle to the herd. These data suggest that many expanding operations may have been significantly closer to breakeven than experiencing a windfall over the past couple of years.

As the feeder calf market came back to reality toward the end of 2015, fixed costs and depreciation are likely to play a much larger role in profitability working forward.

Unfortunately, fixed costs are just that – fixed – and they will not come off a budget until the cattle/machinery is fully depreciated. Therefore, as we work forward in a period of lesser profitability, Gunn and Schwab say it will become increasingly prudent for producers to evaluate other management practices and determine ways to become more efficient without sacrificing production.

Related: Consider tracking key performance indicators to boost cattle profits

As always, for more information on enterprise records and enterprise management options, consult with your beef extension specialist, nutritionist and herd health veterinarian, they suggest.

Source: Patrick Gunn, ISU Extension cow-calf specialist and Denise Schwab, ISU Extension beef program specialist, ISU Growing Beef Newsletter

Peptide study suggests crop yields can be increased without more fertilizer

Peptide study suggests crop yields can be increased without more fertilizer

Molecular biologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who study nitrogen-fixing bacteria in plants have discovered a "double agent" peptide in an alfalfa that may hold promise for improving crop yields without increasing fertilizer use.

Related: FAO projects 1.8% annual increase in fertilizer use

'Double agent' peptide in an alfalfa may hold promise for improving crop yields without increasing fertilizer use (Thinkstock/Basya555)

Lead study author Minsoo Kim, former undergraduate student Chris Waters, and professor Dong Wang of UMass Amherst's biochemistry and molecular biology department, with colleagues at the Noble Foundation in Oklahoma, report that alfalfa appears to use an advanced process for putting nitrogen-fixing bacteria, rhizobia, to work more effectively after they are recruited from soil to fix nitrogen in special nodules on plant roots.

As Wang and Kim explain, legumes attract nitrogen-fixing bacteria to their roots from the surrounding soil.

Once inside the host plant, rhizobia form nodules on its roots and the plant starts to transform the bacteria into their nitrogen-fixing state. In return for borrowing the rhizobia's essential enzymes that turn nitrogen into useful ammonia, the plant gives the bacteria fixed carbon, the product of photosynthesis.

In alfalfa, this transformation of bacteria is called differentiation, which Wang likens to domestication, because it makes the bacteria reliant on their plant host.

"They are no longer wild and able to live outside the plant," he says. "I think of it as analogous to domestication of animals by humans.

"Bacteria that can no longer proliferate as free-living individuals are a bit like slaves at that point, living to serve the plant."

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

At the molecular level, plant peptides found exclusively in the nodule, known as NCR peptides, act on the bacteria in the differentiation process. By studying this differentiation processes in an alfalfa-clover, the researchers discovered that one of these peptides, DNF4 (also known as NCR211) can act as a sort of double agent, Wang says.

DNF4 supports nitrogen-fixing bacteria when inside the plant, but its actions can kill free-living bacteria outside.

"At first sight, it may appear perplexing that DNF4/NCR211 supports the survival of differentiating bacteria in plants while also blocking free-living bacteria from forming colonies in culture," Wang and Kim write.

However, the two activities may actually reflect similar action by NCR211 on bacteria in different physiological states. The dual effect of DNF4/NCR211 may reflect a mechanism to ensure that the rhizobia stay in a properly differentiated state, say the authors.

Host control of bacteria differentiation has evolved in multiple lineages of legumes, indicating a possible fitness benefit to the host plant. Furthermore, nodules with differentiated bacteroids returned more benefit to the host. Curiously, the legume with the most economic value, soybean, doesn't seem to have evolved this strategy, opening possible avenues to improve their yield.

"We haven't solved it all yet," Wang says, but discovering NCR211 peptides that maintain bacterial survival inside host cells may turn out to be a key factor in future efforts to improve legume crops without using more fertilizer, which would be an important advance for farming in developing countries and organic farming in the developed world.

"Next we want to find out why this peptide helps the bacteria inside the plant, but it can kill free-living bacteria outside the plant. Why does one molecule function as a double agent?"

The study is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

8-video series helps beef producers adapt to climate, weather changes

8-video series helps beef producers adapt to climate, weather changes

Cow-calf and beef stocker producers in the Great Plains now have a new set of tools to help them adapt quickly to a wide range of changing weather conditions and climate scenarios.

Related: Mob grazing isn't a fad, but a management tool

A new series of eight videos from researchers at institutions in Kansas and Oklahoma has been produced and posted online, said Lana Barkman, extension program coordinator for the Great Plains Grazing project.

The project is a cooperative effort involving researchers and educators from Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, the Noble Foundation, University of Oklahoma, and Tarleton State University.

Cow-calf and beef stocker producers in the Great Plains now have a new set of tools to help them adapt quickly to a wide range of changing weather conditions and climate scenarios. (Thinkstock/Jacqueline Nix)

The videos are available on the Great Plains Grazing program's website. They include:

• Stocking rate decisions and pasture management considerations, Hugh Aljoe, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (2 videos)

• Evaluating options and response to drought, Walter Fick, Kansas State University

• Genetic trends and climate consideration, Dave Lalman, Oklahoma State University (2 videos)

• Culling strategies for drought management, Megan Rolf, Oklahoma State University

• Historical climate patterns in the Southern Great Plains, Albert Sutherland, Oklahoma State University

• Nutrition and management of early weaned calves, Justin Waggoner, Kansas State University

The approach was to compile the most successful practices used by cow-calf and beef stocker producers in the Great Plains into this series of videos, said Waggoner, who is the K-State Southwest Area extension beef systems specialist.

Universities, Noble Foundation partner on grazing video series

"For example, what were some of the most successful practices used by producers to adapt to the recent multi-year drought in this region?" Waggoner asked.

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

One practice, or strategy, was to have a diverse operation, with both stockers and a cow herd, rather than depending on just one type of operation. This allows producers to be able to sell parts of the operation under stress in a severe drought, or other climate extreme, and still retain enough resources to survive, he said.

Another successful practice is early weaning of calves at something like 120 days instead of the normal 180 to 200 days.

Related: Website shares range and pasture management resources

"Many of these strategies, such as diversification or early weaning, are certainly not new. But they have been some of the more successful ways producers have been flexible enough to survive the drought. Our goal is to make a series of videos on ways cattle producers can successfully adapt to different climate extremes and archive them all in one location," Waggoner said.

The series also addresses ways of adapting to unusually wet conditions, extreme heat or cold, and other extremes, Barkman said.

"Our goal is to encourage livestock producers to plan ahead for ways to ensure their livestock grazing operations survive a wide range of possible climate swings. We believe the best way to ensure survivability in a changing future is for beef grazing enterprises to become more flexible and plan for ways to survive under as many contingencies as possible. That's what we hope to achieve with this video series," Barkman said.

The Great Plains Grazing USDA-AFRI-CAP project is supported by a Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant.

'Fresh' website gathers best farm safety, health information

'Fresh' website gathers best farm safety, health information

A plethora of agricultural safety and health information is available online, but finding the best and most current information can be difficult.

The Farm & Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health Community of Practice website, however, has gathered this information, obtaining content from the Cooperative Extension system based at land-grant universities, and from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health agricultural centers.

Related: Youtube channel focuses on ag safety

FReSH also works with smaller organizations such as Farm Safety for Just Kids and AgriSafe Network to disseminate their resources.

Farm

The CoP is a collaborative effort between universities, industry, and government, with more than 100 individual members from multiple regions of the country who review and produce agriculture safety and health information.

These members work to provide usable resources such as videos, publications, online safety courses, and webinars to the general rural population, agricultural producers, and agricultural safety and health professionals.

Financial support for the project is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; eXtension; and CHS Inc.

"The aim of eXtension is to summarize the health and safety information that is out there.  We don't want to duplicate anything.  The goal is to get the information all in one place where people can find it and be brought to the original sources," said Aaron Yoder, the CoP Leader of FReSH.

Related: Farmers: Take farm safety to your community

FReSH is currently working to integrate ag safety and health information related to food systems and climate change, including information on wearable technology throughout the food system. Wearable technology such as smart watches and fitness technology have the potential to provide safety to field workers, including the ability to detect heat illness.

Members of the CoP are examining the entire system of food production to determine where useful messaging for safety and health can be distributed.

NCBA commentary: Path cleared for trade in 2016

NCBA commentary: Path cleared for trade in 2016

By: Philip Ellis, NCBA President

Cattlemen and women can rest a little easier as they move into the New Year knowing several policy victories were contained in the Omnibus Appropriations bill.

For NCBA, top among these was Country of Origin Labeling. Cattle producers have long known that consumers were unaware COOL labeling existed, and it had no discernable impact on the price or demand for U.S. beef.

NCBA President Philip Ellis recaps end-of-year legislation changes that clear the way for renewed focus on trade in 2016

However, the largest issue remained the threat of retaliatory tariffs and the long term damage that violating our trade agreements would have had on future trade negotiations. While NCBA continued to urge action to avoid these outcomes, unfortunately it took within hours of implementation of tariffs for Congress to act.

While COOL certainly captured the headlines, the Omnibus contained many more priorities for cattle producers including language to continue congressional oversight of the dietary guidelines process.

With passage, Congress made it clear that the current and future Dietary Guidelines will be based on scientific agreement and limited to nutrition and dietary information. The bill also increases scrutiny on beef imports from regions with known animal disease issues, funds wildfire reserves, continues prohibitions on environmental permitting and reporting and blocks the Department of Interior from designating de facto wilderness areas. 

Just as timely, Congress also passed tax extenders legislation, which always seem to fall to the last minute, forcing producers to either make decisions during the year speculating on the tax ramifications or push major decisions to the last days of the year in order to take advantage of these provisions.

While that is again the case this tax year, the good news is Section 179 was made permanent at $500,000, 50% bonus depreciation was extended through 2019 and the Conservation Easement Tax Credit was permanently extended. This was remarkable news for NCBA, as we've been working on certainty in the tax code for a number of years, and without the appetite by Congress to take up full tax reform, it subjected many of these critical provisions to short term extensions.

Now with permanent and multi-year extensions, producers will be able to plan with their financial advisor to grow and expand their operations.

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

This end to 2015 puts the cattle industry in a great place to set our sights on expanded trade and access to Asia and the Pacific Rim in 2016. While the priorities for the industry will be set by our producer leadership in San Diego, Calif., we know that passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be a major focus for the year ahead.

The cattle industry has already lost over $100 million in trade into Japan, thanks to a preferential trade agreement between Japan and Australia. That gap will continue to grow as the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement continues to ratchet down Japan's tariff on imported beef.

The good news is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiated by the U.S. Trade Representative, would reduce Japan's tariffs on imported beef below Australia's preferential agreement upon passage. That would instantly level the playing field, and allow U.S. producers to seize and build on our lost market share. The cattle industry cannot afford to push passage of TPP back, every day without an agreement costs us market share in the Pacific. With over $7 billion in U.S. beef exports in 2014, exports help stabilize our markets, allow our producers to fetch a premium for muscle cuts internationally, and add value to variety meats that otherwise would sell for little to nothing domestically.

Trade represented $350 in value per head in 2014, and it represents the future of the profitability of the beef industry. I hope you'll visit our website at www.TPPNow.com to see more benefits to the cattle industry from trade and learn how this agreement will impact your bottom line.

We were pleased to see so many priority issues the Omnibus. While this wasn't an ag bill, it addressed the industry's top concerns and will allow the NCBA to focus on passage of the TPP in 2016. I look forward to seeing many of you at the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Diego, Calif., Jan 27-29.

Rural America on 'road to recovery'

Rural America on 'road to recovery'

After several years of stagnation, the pace of employment growth in rural areas increased in 2014. Employment gains were significantly higher over the past year compared to previous years in the recovery period, although rural employment remains below pre-recession levels, according to the 2015 edition of USDA's Rural America at a Glance report. 

However, rural areas continue to experience population loss, higher poverty rates, and lower educational attainment than urban areas.

Despite some good news in employment, rural America still experiences higher poverty and population loss

Secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack says the report "reflects a rural American on the road to recovery," noting that rural population did not increase over the past year and some rural counties have actually seen population growth. In addition, the rural child poverty rate has declined by one percentage point.

Employment grew more than 1% in rural areas during the year that ended in the second quarter of 2015. This is a marked improvement from previous years of very slow growth or decline, the reported noted.

"Nonetheless, rural employment in mid-2015 was still 3.2% below its pre-recession peak in 2007," the report said. "In contrast, urban employment rose nearly 2% in the past year, continuing a trend of consistent growth since 2011, and is now well above its pre-recession peak."

Among all rural residents, unemployment rates are much lower for those with more educa­tional attainment, partly as a result of increasing demand for more highly skilled labor. In 2010, the unemployment rate for rural adults age 25 and older without a high school diploma peaked at 15%, compared with 4% for those with bachelor's degrees and 3% for those with graduate degrees. Since then, rural unemployment rates have declined across all educational attainment categories, but remain much lower for those with more educational attainment.

Population data >>

~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

Population growth
The number of people living in rural counties stood at just over 46 million in 2014—nearly 15% of U.S. residents. However, the population of rural America has declined by 116,000 over the last 4 years, with losses of about 30,000 people in each of the last 2 years.

"While these declines are small, 2010-2014 is the first period of overall population decline on record for rural America as a whole, and stands in stark contrast with the urban population, which continues to grow by more than 2 million per year," the report said.

Not all rural areas have experienced population loss in recent years. Some rural counties have seen population growth, with nearly 700 growing rural counties together adding over 400,000 residents between 2010 and 2014. These counties are concentrated in scenic areas such as the Rocky Mountains or southern Appalachia, or in energy boom regions such as in the northern Great Plains. The 1,300 rural counties losing population since 2010 are widespread in regions dependent on farming, manufacturing or resource extraction.

Since 2010, the increase in rural population from natural change (230,000 more births than deaths) has not matched the loss from net migration (346,000 more people moved out of rural counties than moved in).

Nearly 300 rural counties lost population due to natural change during 2010-14. Retiree attraction dominates in Florida, Arizona, and other Sunbelt locations, while outmigration of young adults is more typical of farm-dependent counties in the Great Plains and Corn Belt.

Seed industry experts don't expect farmers to back off corn seeding rates

Seed industry experts don't expect farmers to back off corn seeding rates

Bob Nielsen, a Purdue University Extension corn specialist, has pointed out in meetings that the response curve to population over time is fairly flat, from 29,000 to 34,000 plants per acre. He points to no more than a two-bushel advantage for higher rates.

Crop Watch 12/28: Why some farmers spread pollination window by planting two hybrids

At the same time, Michael Langemeier with the Center for Commercial Agriculture at Purdue has written about how cutting seeding rates could save costs when budgets are tight.

Crop Watch 2015: Despite suggestions to cut costs, most farmers tell seed reps they're standing firm.

Despite the discussion, seed industry reps, who didn't wish to be identified, say their customers are telling them they're not cutting back on seeding rates for the most part. In fact, unless they were planting at very high rates, say 36,000 seeds per acre or more, they're not even interested in considering it.

No one has a better handle on what farmers are thinking than the people visiting with them right now to firm up seed orders.

Apparently, most feel they still need good yields to provide enough revenue to survive. And most don't feel comfortable cutting seeding rates. If they planted 19,000 to 32,000 and weather or insect problems occurred, they would find themselves at a stand that might lead to yield loss potential. Or at least that is what farmers are telling seedsmen.

Crop Watch 12/21: Disease lesions can still form on resistant corn hybrids

Stand pat on stands: Seed industry insiders say if farmers intend to cut back seeding rates to save on seed costs in corn, they haven't told them yet. Instead, their customers are telling them they aren't cutting seeding rates.

There could be one exception. Some companies are telling customers that with certain hybrids, due to their type of growth, it might actually pay to back of a couple thousand seeds per acre. At the same time, these same companies have pother hybrids where they believe it pays to plant 34,000 to 36,000 seeds per acre. Those hybrids have the ability to respond to higher seeding rates.

Farmers on sandy or droughty soils without irrigation likely already plant in the mid-20,000 range on seeds per acre. Seed reps don't see them changing their strategy either. And although some sources aren't showing much value for variable rate seeding in corn, reps say farmers who have been doing it will likely do it this year as well.

Related: Calculate seed cost when figuring seeding rates for corn