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Articles from 2010 In March

Now Seeking Nominations for the 2010 No-Till Innovator Awards

Now Seeking Nominations for the 2010 No-Till Innovator Awards

  • Syngenta Crop Protection and No-Till Farmer now accepting nominations for the 2010 No-Till Innovator Awards
  • Awards recognize excellence in Business and Service, Crop Production, Organization, Research and Education
  • Winners announced at National No-Tillage Conference, January 2011

Greensboro, N.C., USA, March 31, 2010--Syngenta Crop Protection and No-Till Farmer are seeking nominations to honor outstanding leaders of the conservation-tillage industry. The No-Till Innovator Awards, now in its 15th year, are open to individuals and groups in the United States and Canada who practice, promote and/or demonstrate commitment to soil conservation, regardless of the crop grown, or brand of equipment, seed or crop protection products used.

“At Syngenta, we feel it’s important to honor the exceptional growers, educators, organizations and others who are devoted to making no-till programs more effective, economical and beneficial for the environment,” said David Piñon, communications manager for Syngenta. “Recognizing the efforts of exceptional innovators by nominating them for an award reinforces the value of this practice. It also provides more examples to motivate others to institute conservation tillage and other practices beneficial to the environment.”

Nominations are open to individuals or groups, and self-nominations are also accepted. The No-Till Innovator Awards recognize excellence in each of the following four categories. The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 16, 2010.

  • Business and Service: A business or service representative who promotes the environmental and economic advantages of no-till or who encourages the adoption of no-till practices. Potential nominees include certified crop consultants, agronomists, professional farm managers and retailers; fertilizer, agrichemical, seed and equipment dealers; or individuals who have designed an innovative modification to existing equipment, created new no-till equipment or developed a new method to improve no-till farming.
  • Crop Production: A grower who has increased the economic viability of no-till on his or her own farm. Criteria include innovation, creativity, willingness to share findings with others and creating a positive image for no-till farming.
  • Organization: A group that has actively promoted no-till farming through activities, programs, clubs or educational seminars.

  • Research and Education: A university researcher, educator, center of influence or extension specialist who tests and evaluates no-till concepts, products or equipment, and who promotes the benefits of no-till farming.

The 2010 winners will be announced at the National No-Tillage Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jan. 12-15, 2011. The National No-Tillage Conference, now entering its 19th year, has provided industry-leading agronomic information, as well as unique discussion and education opportunities. Throughout its lifespan, the conference has featured several of the best no-till pioneers and trendsetters from North America, making it an ideal place to honor the No-Till Innovators each year.

No-Till Innovator Award winners will receive complimentary conference registration and lodging for the duration of the 2011 National No-Tillage Conference, as well as a special token of appreciation to commemorate their achievements.

For additional information or to obtain a nomination fo­rm, please log on to, call 847/519-9150, e-mail, or mail your request to: No-Till Innovator Awards, Gibbs & Soell, 2800 W. Higgins Rd., Suite 730, Hoffman Estates, IL 60169.

Syngenta is one of the world's leading companies with more than 25,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us please go to

Warm, Dry Winter Leads to Oregon Ag Water Concerns

Warm, Dry Winter Leads to Oregon Ag Water Concerns

In typical El Nino fashion, winter in the Pacific Northwest has been generally warm and dry.  Spring arrived without the precipitation needed in the Oregon snowpack, and it could be a challenging year for irrigators this summer.

"After the early season cold air  outbreak in December, the months of January and February were incredibly mild," says Pete Parsons, Oregon Department of Agriculture meteorologist.

"Of course, that led to some poor mountain showpacks around the state.  It will probably be a tough year for irrigators. At this time, it appears nearly all areas of the state are going to be short on water."

El Nino is the name given to the periodic warming of tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures. Any cold spells associated with an El Nino event typically occur from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. That's what happened in late 2009 with a fairly good start to the snow season in higher elevations.

It stopped snowing soon after and much of the precipitation in the last two months was in the form of rain due to the higher temperatures.  A winter of below-normal snowpack in the mountains is always a concern for agriculture, since snow melt affects stream flows and reservoir levels, important factors for summer irrigation.

"There is no substitute for having a good winter snowpack in the mountains," says Parsons. "If does help if you can get a wet spring, obviously. It would alleviate some of the problems. But it's not going to completely make up for the lack of the winter snowpack.

"We have snowpack levels anywhere from 50-85% of normal around the state. You will not make that up with spring storms."

In an average year, Oregon will have about 95% of its annual peak snow accumulation in the mountains by now, according to the U.S. Department of Natural Resources Conservation Service, which conducts surveys at various locations around the state.

At the beginning of March, basin snowpack in Oregon ranged from a low of 38% of average in the Willamette Basin, to a high of 109% of average in the Owyhee and Malheur basins.  Statewide, the snowpack by March 1 was 60% of average. Since then, the snowpack levels in the Owyhee and Malheur basins – still doing better than the rest of the state – fell to 82 and 79% of normal.

In the troubled Klamath Basin, already a site of a drought declaration, current snowpack is at 68% of normal.

This Spring, Patience Will Pay Off at Planting Time

This Spring, Patience Will Pay Off at Planting Time

With soil moisture at or above field capacity, it won't take much spring rain to make fields too wet for good planting. The challenge is to avoid creating soil compaction this spring. Granted, it's tough to stay out of fields and not work soil until its ready, especially when you weren't able to get tillage done last fall and time is tight this spring.

Spring isn't the time to try to alleviate compaction with tillage, says Iowa State University Extension agronomist Mahdi Al-Kaisi. You'll likely just create more compaction. "It's important to assess your fields and avoid doing more tillage than necessary," he says. "Even light tillage with a disk or field cultivator can make a not-so-good situation worse."

Al-Kaisi has three key points for farmers to keep in mind this spring:

1) Wet fields are a challenge, increasing the potential to create soil compaction.

2) This is a year for farmers to try doing less tillage than would normally be done.

3) Even in no-till and strip-till systems, be sure the soil is dry enough before getting into the field.

Better off waiting until soil conditions are favorable before planting

No-till and strip-till systems can also have problems with sidewall smearing and compaction in the seed zone restricting root growth and hurting yield. "No matter what system you use, pay attention to your soils. If they're not ready, stay out of the field," advises Dave Nelson, owner of Brokaw Supply at Fort Dodge.

Brokaw Supply and its employees spend many hours helping customers set up and adjust the equipment they sell. The last two springs have been wet, and Nelson has seen compaction related problems due to farmers working soils too wet and planting before soils are dry enough. "Waiting a few days can make a tremendous difference in soil condition," he notes. "We've seen most times, that by waiting a couple days it actually gives us more yield due to the more favorable planting conditions."

READY TO GO: Even strip-till and no-till systems can run into compaction problems if used when soil is too wet. Though

researchers have documented the benefits of early planting, agronomists emphasize it is more important that the soil is ready.

If possible, it's easier to strip till in the fall, not spring. But if you couldn't get the job done last fall, you have to do it this spring. "Spring strip till is similar to field cultivator tillage in spring," says Nelson. "You make a seedbed with the strip-till machine prior to planting. If you strip till when a field is too wet you smear the sidewalls of the planting zone and bring up clumps. Extra care must be taken. Be sure soil conditions are ready before you get into a field: you have to be patient."

Give roots a chance to grow into mellow soil, that's not compacted

Sometimes farmers use a field cultivator to dry out soil so they can plant a few days earlier. Problem is, that usually creates compaction and smears the soil about 4 inches deep where the sweep ran. "A field cultivator can be your worst enemy, setting yourself up for problems right from the start," he adds.

If the sweep runs 4 inches deep in wet soil it's working the top 4 inches but is smearing at the bottom of the sweep, compacting a layer of soil. You're disconnecting the top 4 inches of soil from the layer below the sweep and when seedling roots of the young crop grow down, they run into the smeared layer and can't penetrate.

Usually with strip till in spring, you'll need to use a different type of knife to inject fertilizer. "In the fall we use a mole knife," says Nelson. "It has a bigger foot on the bottom of it. In the spring we use a slim knife, similar to an anhydrous knife."

What changes should you make if you're doing strip till in spring?

For spring strip till, use a rolling basket behind each row unit on the strip-till machine, he advises. That attachment helps pulverize soil on top of the berm you create. When you come back to plant into the strip, the planter row unit doesn't jump and it delivers consistent seed placement. When the row unit is jumping you don't get very good seed placement.

Be careful if you put anhydrous on with your strip-till rig in spring; maybe not apply the full rate of N as there is potential for root burn of the corn seedling. "You can split the rate," says Nelson. "Apply part of it at planting and sidedress the balance later. Consult your agronomist to make sure you won't be burning corn roots by putting too much N on at planting."

This is the year to try no-till or strip till or at least check into it. Not only can these systems save time and expense, no-till and strip till are eligible for cost share from USDA's EQIP and Conservation Security Programs.

National Organic Program Gains Local Approval

National Organic Program Gains Local Approval

On March 18, the Office of the Inspector General released its much-anticipated review of the United States Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, which was created to administer federal organic standards and to require mandatory certification of organic products. The report presents data from several years of audit and review of the NOP and outlines seven key findings and fourteen recommendations needed to ensure the integrity of the organic program.

The Agricultural Marketing Service, which is charged with establishing national standards for the production and handling of organic products, has accepted the OIG's critique and has already begun the process of addressing the problems identified in the report.

"Organic certification agencies are the frontline in ensuring that consumers can trust that organic foods are produced sustainably and humanely. We support the OIG's findings and are pleased that the NOP and AMS are embracing the changes called for in this report, which will increase the effectiveness of the program," says Lexie Stoia Pierce, organic certification program manager for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

In general, the report outlines specific ideas for improving administration and management of the NOP, strengthening enforcement of organic requirements, and increasing oversight of accredited certifying agents and organic operations.

Specifically, the report documented the need for NOP officials to improve enforcement, tracking, review, and monitoring of businesses when serious violations have been found, such as products labeled as "organic" when farm practices are under investigation or found in violation.

"The USDA has are already taken steps to bolster public confidence in the organic label through issuance of a long overdue pasture rule for organic ruminants and increased staffing and funding for the NOP," says Stoia Pierce.  President Obama has requested $10.1 million for the NOP, a $3.1 million increase over Fiscal Year 2010 and the AMS plans to expand NOP staffing to 31 positions by the end of the year.

"Consumers and farmers can continue to be assured that the organic label ensures the highest level of integrity and will continue to live up to its standards," concluded Stoia Pierce.

To read the OIG's report, go to

Tips for Making Pasture Fertilizing Pay

Tips for Making Pasture Fertilizing Pay

With nitrogen fertilizer costing about 40 cents per pound this spring, you may be asking whether it pays to fertilize pasture?

Nebraska research shows that you get about 1 pound of additional calf or yearling gain for every pound of nitrogen fertilizer applied, says Bruce Anderson, UNL forage specialist. "However, this fertilization rule-of-thumb assumes that the amount applied is within our general recommendations, which are based on the potential amount of extra grass growth expected. This is affected mostly by moisture," he says.

These recommendations can be found in NebGuide1977, Fertilizing Grass Pastures and Hayland, available at county Extension offices. It also assumes that your grazing management will efficiently harvest this extra growth.

If you fertilize pasture in spring and then let animals graze continuously on one pasture throughout the season, much of the extra growth is wasted. "They trample, manure and foul, bed down on, and simply refuse to eat much of the grass. Eventually, less than one-third of the extra grass ends up inside your livestock," according to Anderson.

To make fertilizing pasture pay, manage grazing so more of what you grow actually gets eaten. Follow these tips:

Subdivide pastures with cross-fences and control when and where your animals graze.

Give animals access to no more than one-fourth, and preferably less, of your pasture at a time.

Graze off about one-half of the growth before moving to another subdivision.

If your pastures aren't already subdivided into at least four paddocks, your fertilizer dollar might be better spent on developing more cross-fences and watering sites.

Farm Bureau Seeks Restoration of Vote-approved Funds

Farm Bureau Seeks Restoration of Vote-approved Funds

In a letter sent to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon earlier this month, Missouri Farm Bureau President Charles Kruse expressed disappointment to learn $2.269 million was rescinded from the Soil and Water Conservation Program's fiscal year 2010 budget.

"While a weak economy is forcing difficult budgetary decisions, there could be very serious unintended consequences as a result of one or more rescissions from the SWCP," Kruse said. "It is our hope you will restore the one rescission to date and refrain from further actions which jeopardize this extremely successful program."

Kruse added that Missourians have tremendous support for the Parks and Soils Sales Tax. Established in 1984, Missouri citizens renewed the 1/10th cent sales tax by wide margins on three different occasions – the tax has a sunset clause and must be renewed every 10 years.

"The SWCP is a success," Kruse said. "Since 1982 Missouri reduced its rate of soil erosion more than any other state in the nation. Members of the Soil and Water Commission and Department of Natural Resources staff do an excellent job administering the program in an efficient and fiscally responsible manner.

"Additionally, commissioners and staff worked to balance the ongoing need for soil conservation practices with the reality of declining sales tax revenue.  Unfortunately, the wisdom of their prudent management is now uncertain as it appears the SWCP is being penalized for maintaining a reserve fund."

Kruse said a reserve fund is necessary because the extent to which landowners apply soil and water conservation practices to the land is highly dependent on the weather. "Many times since the beginning of the SWCP it was too wet to accomplish planned and approved practices within the specified time period," he said. "A reserve must be maintained to carry out those projects in a different fiscal year than approved." 


Source: Missouri Farm Bureau

Presque Isle-Cheboygan USDA Service Center Closed Due to Fire

Presque Isle-Cheboygan USDA Service Center Closed Due to Fire

Christine White State Executive Director for Michigan's Farm Service Agency announced that due to a fire on Friday, March 26, the Presque Isle-Cheboygan FSA County Office will be closed.

White explains "The Presque Isle-Cheboygan FSA County Office has resumed operations at the Emmet-Charleviox FSA County Office located at 2235 E. Mitchell Rd, Petoskey, Mi. 49770. It is unknown at this point in time when services for Presque Isle-Cheboygan USDA service center will resume in Onaway."

Participants in FSA programs in Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties who have questions should call 231-347-2133 or email Please leave your name, time you called, phone number, and email address.

Early Spring Is Time to Plant Oats

Early Spring Is Time to Plant Oats

Oats are an early spring planted crop, and every year there are questions about planting them.

There are several reasons why people may plant oats. One is that oats make excellent hay and that is probably the number one use for them in central Kansas.

Some people like to plant oats as a cover crop for alfalfa or to mix in with an alfalfa planting or to plow down as an organic green manure crop.

In the corn belt, it is common to plant oats for feed grain or for even milling quality to go into human food. Our hot, windy days in early summer usually make low test weights and that´s not what the millers want.

Although the standard is considered 32 pounds per bushel, grain buyers

want at least pounds and will pay premiums sometimes for 40 pounds per bushel test weight oats.

For forage, some of the better yields have come from Gem, Jerry, Don, Jay, Reeves and INO9201. In areas such as south central Kansas, where not a lot of oats are grown, you are probably at the mercy of whatever you can get your hands on.

Hoosier Farm Boy Helps Start Foundation

Hoosier Farm Boy Helps Start Foundation

Not every high school junior is comfortable sending an email to an editor, asking for a chance to tell his story. But then not every junior farm boy has a story to tell as captivating as Joel Waterman's story. The Noblesville youngster is a student at Hamilton Southeastern High school, and a member of the Hamilton Southeastern FFA. Tom Younts, veteran ag teacher, is his advisor.

"My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a couple years ago," Waterman explains. "He's a farmer, and is still farming today. As a family, we searched for information about causes and cures.

"We found some indication that one possible cause could be exposure to pesticides. I'm not on a crusade against pesticides. However, I do want to make farmers aware that they need to limit their exposure to pesticides and take steps to avoid contact whenever possible."

Some things Waterman suggests are spraying with a tractor with a ca instead of an open-seated tractor that allows more herbicide to drift onto the operator. He also likes pulling a tandem sprayer instead of a mounted sprayer, so that the herbicide application is farther behind the person driving the tractor.

Fred Whitford, director of Purdue University pesticide4 programs, says that if you're only going to do one thing to protect yourself when handling and mixing chemicals and herbicide solution, then wear gloves. He recommends wearing a pair of nitrile gloves whenever working with chemicals.

While he's not aware of any proof that ties pesticide exposure to Parkinsons', he does say that there have been studies proving that pesticide levels show up in urine and blood of sloppy operators, compared to those who handle pesticides more carefully. The same studies also show that if the father is sloppy with chemicals and shows levels of pesticides in the blood, there is a greater chance that his son will also be sloppy with these products and carry traces in his blood as well.

Waterman and his family want to support adult stem cell research in the quest for a cure for Parkinsons. They started a foundation, the Indiana Parkinson Foundation, to accept support from people who believe in the same cause that they do. Due to moral beliefs, they can't support research that uses embryonic stem cells.

If you're interested, the Website to check out is:  

Specialty Food Growers Need This Workshop

Specialty Food Growers Need This Workshop

Maybe your niche is selling processed pork, lamb or beef to local neighbors. Or maybe you live at the edge of traditional farm country, and have developed a vital roadside market for fruits and vegetables, many of which you grow on your own farm. How do you know what to charge for corn on the cob, tomatoes and green beans? Is it what the market will bear, or are you more interested in making as much up front as possible vs. learning now and growing slowly?

If you don't think you have all the answers yet, Purdue Extension thinks they can help you sort out the important questions to ask. One of those is to be fair to cusotmers, and another is to ask yourself if you're actually making a profit.

You'll have a chance to do all this and more on April 15 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Building in Indianapolis. It's the 2010 Purdue University Specialty Food Business Workshop. A Purdue Extension ag economist, Maria Marshall, has conducted these meetings around the state for some time. She is also involved with the Market Maker program which originated out of state, but which Purdue had put to good use here. Basically, it's become a way for people with locally produced products to sell to learn about potential customers, and vice-versa.

This particular one-day program begins at 8 am. EDT and runs until 4:30 p.m. The whole emphasis will be on how to get the knowledge, contacts and resources needed to state a specialty operation. Anyone from someone just thinking about a business to someone who already does it should benefit from the session.

Marketing is one of the most important parts of the business, Marshall says. No matter how many signs or brochures you have, if the phone doesn't ring with new customers on a constant business, you won't stay in business long. "I will be speaking about marketing techniques and the importance of marketing," She says. "One of the most important pieces of advice is making sure specialty food business owners know their target market is."

Food safety is another big part of the workshop. We expect to learn how to determine what ingredients are in a product, and how it needs to be handled. Perhaps it needs to be refrigerated, perhaps if doesn't. It's up to you to determine what it takes to care for the product before you enter into the business.

Registration is due by April 9, and is $100 per person. Visit: for more details. Or you can call Marshall at 765-494-4268 or email her at 765-494-4268.