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Articles from 2004 In April


Coghlan, Taylor named Mississippi Farmers of the Year

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Two farmers who have changed production practices to better target markets for their crops have been named the 2004 Mississippi Farmers of the year. Charles Coghlan of Benoit and Sledge Taylor III of Como were honored at a banquet in Starkville last night.

The award, sponsored by TeleSouth Communications and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, is named the Louis N. Wise Award in honor and memory of Louis N. Wise, former vice president of the Division of Agriculture at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

Coghlan, winner in the row crop category, farms about 5,000 acres of cotton and soybeans near Scott, Miss. He farms land with a thick sand cap left after the Mississippi River levee break in 1927.

He has been forced to find and develop farming practices specific to his unique soils. Land forming, drainage, irrigation, fertility, row spacing and planting date management have helped him maximize efficiency and production. He said he depends on the early-planted strategy with his soybeans to capture August delivery premiums.

“I changed to 30-inch cotton in 1990 to increase yields,” says Coghlan. “In the mid 1990s, we started planting Group 4 soybeans to take advantage of the early spring rains. I have planted as early as March 1. The soybeans will stand a frost. In 2003 we averaged 53 bushels an acre on 1,200 acres of dry land.”

Coghlan is a member of Cotton Incorporated, the National Cotton Council, Delta Council and is on the board of the Lake Bolivar Gin Co. and Scott Farm Supply.

He and his wife, Marida, have two children and six grandchildren.

W. Sledge Taylor III farms about 6,500 acres in Panola County near Como. Although he grows cotton and soybeans and is a ginner, Taylor is noted for his outstanding cattle operation. Since starting in the cattle business in the mid 1970s, he has used the latest livestock management practices and strict preventative health programs to create one of the more outstanding herds in the states.

His herd has a 95 percent pregnancy rate, a 450-pound average weaning weight and he averages production of about 175 pounds of beef per acre. He markets his calves through a private auction held at the local livestock barn. Potential buyers are given the opportunity to view the calves in the pasture and then bid at the auction on the ones they’ve selected.

“The cattle are sold for future delivery at a specified weight and weaned for a minimum of 30 days,” explains Taylor. “On delivery date, cattle are delivered to local livestock barn, sorted, weighed and loaded on each buyer’s trucks.”

He is actively involved in the community and professional organizations where he feels he can bring change and make a difference. He is a past president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, a former president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and a Delta Council Cattleman of the Year Achievement Award winner.

He is active in the Como Methodist Church, the North Panola Chamber of Commerce and the Panola County Livestock Association.

Sledge and his wife, Denise, have three children.

Eva Ann Dorris is a free lance writer who frequently contributes to Delta Farm Press.

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com

Senate fails to pass RFS legislation - again

WASHINGTON – It was a nice try, but no cigar, as farm-state senators tried once again to attach a renewable fuels standard amendment to legislation with a better chance of passage than the troubled national energy policy bill.

By a 51-48 vote, the Senate did not agree to add the renewable fuel standard amendment offered by three Democratic senators to the Internet tax moratorium measure that did pass the Senate Thursday.

Earlier, Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and others, took the renewable fuels standard language from the comprehensive energy bill and introduced it as an amendment to the other legislation.

Following that move, Sen. Pete Dominici, R.N, M., re-introduced his slimmed down version of the comprehensive energy bill that failed to pass a cloture vote in the Senate last November. Republican and Democratic senators then traded charges over who was delaying the energy bill.

Dominici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and other farm-state senators have been attempting to pass the RFS provision and other comprehensive energy legislation for three years. When it has come to a vote in the Senate previously, the RFS passed with 68 votes in 2003 and 69 votes in 2002.

But it failed to muster the 60 votes needed to cut off debate in the Senate after a House-Senate Conference Committee included a product liability waiver for the MTBE fuel additive in the conference report that was submitted to the Senate.

Sen. Harry Reid, the assistant minority leader from Nevada, expressed his opposition to the broader bill proposed by Dominici, saying he favored the narrower renewable fuels standard legislation.

"This is another missed opportunity to enact legislation to help resolve America's energy problems, boost rural development and farm income and improve the environment," said National Farmers Union President Dave Frederickson in a statement released following the RFS amendment vote.

"The games must stop," the Farmers Union leader said. "Congress must move past the controversial provisions within the energy bill that have not and will not pass and fully embrace the prospects of producing more farm-grown fuels."

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Corn utilization conference scheduled June 7-9

INDIANAPOLIS - A distinguished list of guest speakers will cover topics ranging from corn-based sweeteners to international biotechnology regulations at the fourth Corn Utilization and Technology Conference in Indianapolis, June 7-9.

Gary Davis, chair of NCGA’s Research and Business Development Action Team, said the conference brings together a diverse group of farmers, corn processors, researchers, industry leaders, regulatory agencies and others. The National Corn Growers Association and the Corn Refiners Association sponsor the biennial event.

“There are numerous perspectives represented at this conference, and it’s a great networking opportunity for anyone involved in the industry,” Davis said. “We’re covering a wide array of topics this year, so there’s definitely something for everyone.”

The conference agenda includes sessions on corn-based sweeteners, operations technology trends, food chain integrity, new products and technologies, the impact of the regulatory environment, economics of energy, sustainability, and new processing technology. The event also features a six-session presentation on government-funded research.

Because of the remarkable response to this year’s event, Davis also urged prospective attendees to register no later than May 7, the cut-off date for the preferred CUTC hotel room rate. “We’re expecting record attendance, so it’s important to register now,” Davis said.

For a complete agenda or to register for CUTC, call 1-636-733-9004 or register online at http://www.corntechconf.org. Attendees must make their own hotel reservations. To reserve a hotel room, call 1-317-822-3500 or log on to http://www.indymarriott.com.

e-mail: grutz@primediabusiness.com

WHEAT SEED TREATMENTS

From a distance, the Arkansas wheat crop looks great, lush. Get up close, though, and there are a handful of worrying diseases nibbling away.

“In some areas of the state, barley yellow dwarf is really bad — stunted plants all over fields,” says William Johnson, field sales agronomist with Pioneer. Johnson, speaking on a cell phone, is on his way to a Helena wheat field to check for diseases — a task he's far too familiar with lately.

“With barley yellow dwarf, there's some fall infection in our fields, but much of it looks like early-winter to spring infection. We just didn't have much of a winter. Since we didn't have a cold, nasty season, a lot of these aphids weren't killed off and they hung around all winter.

“This is disappointing and, unfortunately, it isn't just barley yellow dwarf. We're also seeing fields with rust and bad powdery mildew. That's seen in conjunction with wet, cool conditions like we've had the last couple of weeks.

“Wheat was going so well without problems. We were hoping to just skate through to harvest. Now, we're just hoping to hold on to the good yields we've got out there.”

Prophecy

In the fall, aphids usually vector the barley yellow dwarf virus to a wheat plant where it will multiply. Other aphids that feed on the infected plant can pick up the virus and transmit it to other plants.

The stunted patches now in evidence shouldn't be a surprise. Late last fall, the warning signs were everywhere.

“Unfortunately, what would be normally considered late-planted wheat runs the risk of barley yellow dwarf, too,” said Gene Milus last November. “The warm weather is really setting the virus up nicely.”

Milus, a University of Arkansas associate professor of plant pathology, continued: “Basically, if aphids come in at this time of year and they're carrying the virus, there's little question the virus will be established in a field. With such warm weather, the aphids will multiply and spread the virus. If you're seeing a lot of aphids, chances are the virus is being spread.

“You usually see patches of barley yellow dwarf in the field the following spring — the initial infection occurs in one spot and spreads from there. The plants in the center of those hot spots are more severely stunted than the ones at the outer edges.”

In the field

With Milus having foretold it, Brad Koen stands in a field outside DeWitt, Ark., looking at the predicted, stunted pockets of wheat. “Looks like a divot's been carved out of the field, doesn't it? Or maybe like a lightening strike.”

A consultant with Southern Agronomic Resources, Koen says the situation is worrisome. “I'll be honest: it isn't getting better,” he says. “And in addition to this, we're seeing septoria, leaf rust and some stripe rust. We could still have a great yield, but we've got to pay attention and not let these diseases get ahead of us.”

Farmers in the Grand Prairie, where 70-bushel wheat yields are the norm, tend to plant wheat very early and very thick, says Koen. Unfortunately, the earlier wheat is planted, the more likely is fall aphid infestation.

“And the thicker you plant, it seems the easier it is for the aphids to get down into wheat straw and bide their time during the winter. A lot of our wheat went in behind rice and was planted throughout September. We don't recommend planting wheat until October but some guys planted in early September. Those fields have been absolutely hammered.”

Koen hopes the barley yellow dwarf problems prove to be spring infection. “Spring infection normally doesn't cause near the stunting nor yield loss. We suspect the bigger yield losses happen with fall infection.”

In the fall, when the plant height is 4 to 6 inches, treatment levels are 50 aphids per linear foot of row. Last fall, Koen was seeing around 20 to 25 per foot.

“Those were moderate levels. Problem is, they were there all winter. Now, we're seeing a lot of damage because of that.”

Regarding leaf rust, Johnson says this is the “worst I've seen in over a decade. For the last 10 days, you can find leaf rust without looking hard. There had to be some leaf rust that overwintered. We've got leaf rust all the way up into northeast Arkansas on plants just starting to boot up.”

Earlier than normal

This year, Koen and his agronomist colleague, Curtis Fox, began seeing leaf rust and septoria earlier than normal.

“We were seeing a bit of everything around mid-March,” says Fox. “The pressure wasn't really bad, but it worried us, and we paid close attention. A couple of weeks ago, leaf rust began blowing up. We found stripe rust in a few fields, but it hasn't moved outside small areas of fields.”

Regardless, when boot split arrives, Koen says, wheat fields are treated with fungicides so plants get enough residual to carry the crop through.

Why treat? “Because producers are looking at good wheat prices,” says Koen. “Even most of our non-seed wheat acres are being treated. Rust is still low in the plants, but the crop looks so good with such good prices, farmers are more willing to spend on some insurance.”

When a wheat head starts emerging with leaf rust in evidence, the implications are bad, says Johnson. The plant throws all of its energy into reproduction and “from what I've seen, that's when rust diseases really get after a wheat plant. Perhaps that's because so much energy is placed in filling that head that the plant gives up some resistance. The diseases then get a toe-hold and take off.

“One of the bad signs is I'm finding leaf rust on varieties that, in the past, haven't had much trouble with the disease. That may point to another race shift.”

Treatments?

With lower prices, it wouldn't matter as much. But with barley yellow dwarf moving through $4-plus wheat, it's a question worth asking: is treating wheat seed with an insecticide worth the expense?

“This spring, producers who planted Gaucho-treated seed — and I've heard Cruiser worked as well — don't have nearly as many problems in their fields as do those to those who planted bare seed,” says Johnson. “The problem with seed treatments, of course, is expense. It isn't always cost-effective to treat wheat seed. But if we continue having these mild winters, I think if we're going to have good wheat, seed treatments are going to be considered more.”

Johnson isn't the only one who thinks so. Last fall, Troy Hornbeck — who manages the seed plant side of the Hornbeck Seed Company — decided to treat some AgriPro Savage wheat seed with Syngenta's Cruiser. Troy's brother, Jeff, who runs the farm side of their operation, then planted that seed.

“On our wheat fields with treated seed, the plant health is phenomenal,” says Troy. “It's so good, you won't believe it.”

Koen, who scouts Hornbeck's fields, agrees. “That's true. In the spring, when the wheat plants come up, the bottom leaves automatically begin dying off. With this wheat, though, the leaves have been alive from ground to plant top. These are the healthiest plants we've seen all over the county. We had some of the same varieties in nearby fields that didn't look nearly that good. The only thing that's different is the seed treatment.”

This is not definitive, however, since no checks were left in the field.

“We're going to repeat the experiment next year with checks,” says Troy. “This year, we used a standard rate of Cruiser on the seed. I don't know if Syngenta will go for this, but we'd like to try going with a low rate of Cruiser and see if we can control aphids for the short term. If using a lower rate will work, it'll save money and we can treat substantially more acreage.

“This isn't something to promote, we're not advocating it. But we are interested in seeing if it will work. If we can just put the aphids off a little while, it'll really help our wheat crop.”

The recent mild winters lead to another question: will recommendations for fall wheat planting have to be refigured?

“That's very possible,” says Koen. “But there's a problem with wheat planting. Farms continue to get bigger — producers have to get bigger to stay in business. These farms have gotten so big, though, that oftentimes producers can't wait for an optimum window to plant. Whenever the opportunity arrives, they plant the field.

“I still recommend not planting prior to Oct. 1. Early September wheat is a train wreck waiting to happen. It isn't just barley yellow dwarf — we had a couple of fields in Arkansas County that Hessian flies devastated. Those fields were planted in September and were so bad the producers didn't even fertilize the fields, they just disked them up.”


e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

Agrotain: boosting urea efficiency

ANYONE TRYING to salvage fertilizer potency may be interested in a newer product. Developed by IMC-Agrico, Agrotain inhibits the break-down of urea into ammonia gas. By slowing the rate of break-down, urea is kept fresh and, thus, more beneficial to plants.

“Using this product, you just get more efficiency out of fertilizer,” says Chuck Wilson, Arkansas Extension rice specialist.

A liquid, Agrotain is used as a coating on urea. Despite this, the weight of urea isn't impacted — growers still put out the same amount of Agrotain-treated urea as untreated.

Wilson says the product fits well in situations where nitrogen is put out pre-flood and it takes a week or so to get flooded up.

“Normally, urea begins breaking down after application,” he says. “Laying on the soil surface, it will convert to ammonia gas and much of its value is lost to the atmosphere. By stabilizing the urea with Agrotain, a producer is given more time to get a flood established. When that flood is established, the Agrotain-treated urea is incorporated into the soil and when it breaks down, the urea's benefits are at a higher level.”

Another application for this material is with preflood fertilizer and wet soils. “Our recommendation is to try and delay the fertilizer and flood until the soil dries out. But you can't always do that because the weather is going to do what it wants. Eventually, you'll have to fertilize and flood.

“If I'm in a situation where I'm going to put fertilizer on wet soils, Agrotain definitely has some benefit. Volatilization is the same loss mechanism, but it's normally magnified when untreated urea is put on wet soil compared to dry. In that situation, if it's my field, I'm going to use Agrotain to help stabilize my fertilizer.”

Wilson and fellow researchers now have two years of data from studying Agrotain. He says it looks to be very effective for about 10 days.

“We've done many tests with Agrotain. We've seen some rather dramatic differences in small plots. We've also done strip trials in large fields and have seen similar, although not quite as dramatic, results. In large fields, though, there will be areas that will flood up within 24 hours and other areas that aren't flooded for 10 days. So in large fields, the bottom end of the field will see Agrotain's benefits more than areas closer to the well.”

In tests where half a field is treated with Agrotain and half without, differences in yield can swing 8 to 10 bushels in the product's favor. In plots, Wilson has seen as much as a 30 bushel yield difference consistently.

The cost for Agrotain is about 2.25 cents per pound of urea. If you're treating 200 pounds of urea, it'll cost about $4 to $5 per acre over the cost of straight urea.

“We've had no problems coating urea with Agrotain. Instinct says that if you put a liquid on urea, it will gum up. But that isn't the case with this product — it doesn't cake or anything. Agrotain has some spreader-type material that helps with the coating. It also has a green dye to help show treated urea. Field application isn't a problem either.”

However, there is sometimes an issue with fertilizer dealers having to handle the product. “Treating urea requires an extra step,” says Wilson.

Normally, urea goes from barge to dealer storage to air strip.

“With Agrotain, though, urea's got to be put through a blender or treater of some type. That's time prohibitive — and time is money. That said, there are dealers across the state that have used it and are pleased with the results. Most of the farmers who have used it and I've spoken to have been very pleased as well.”

Bayer CropScience buys Crompton share of seed treatment business

BAYER CROPSCIENCE LP in the United States and Bayer CropScience Inc. in Canada have completed the purchase of Crompton Corporation's 50 percent share of the Gustafson seed treatment business in the United States, Canada and Mexico for $124 million in cash.

Bayer CropScience, which already held a 50 percent share of the U.S. and Canadian Gustafson joint ventures, now gains full ownership of Gustafson's NAFTA business as a result of the transaction.

DuPont: $1 million to global crop trust

DUPONT HAS pledged $1 million to the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an international fund charged with securing long-term funding for the support of gene banks — storage facilities for plant germplasm — and crop diversity collections around the world.

Formed in 2002 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the 16 Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research, the Trust has is raising a $260 million endowment to maintain the world's most critical germplasm for agricultural and industrial crops as well as support struggling collections — especially those in developing countries.

DuPont's gift will be allocated in equal installments, beginning in 2004 through 2007, to improve plant genetic storage facilities, increase staffing, build capacity, and support the basic costs of conservation.

The crop collections to be supported by the Trust are available to public and private plant breeders and farmers under the terms of an International Treaty on Plant Genetic resources, adopted in 2001. A key objective is to encourage crop research and development and assure an abundant and affordable food supply in the future.

DuPont hopes its contribution to the Trust will help spark dialogue about the importance of preserving genetic resources in addition to facilitating the development of new crop genetics that will bring greater value to farmers and improved products to consumers said Erik Fyrwald, group vice president, DuPont Agriculture & Nutrition.

“The world's crop genetic diversity is endangered. Efforts to conserve it must be increased before the backbone of our food supply is significantly diminished,” said Fyrwald. “Partnerships that foster public preservation of genetic resources are absolutely critical to assuring greater opportunities for sustainable agriculture to keep pace with the world's growing population.”

Geoff Hawtin, interim executive secretary, Global Crop Diversity Trust, contends plant genetic diversity is the raw material needed to help farmers successfully address challenges such as evolving pests and diseases, changing climates, limited arable land, natural disasters and civil conflict.

A study conducted by the Department of Agricultural Sciences at Imperial College, London, shows that a large portion of the world's collections of crop diversity is in danger of being lost. The study found that many gene banks cannot afford storage equipment, electricity or the staff to properly maintain seeds within their collections.

This comes at a time when crop diversity is steadily diminishing in the wild. More than 37 million acres of tropical forest are lost each year, and some experts estimate that as much as 8 percent of plant species could disappear in the next 25 years. What's more, over the past 50 years, new uniform crop varieties have replaced thousands of native varieties.

Gene banks distribute hundreds of thousands of samples from their collections each year to scientists, breeders and farmers all over the world as part of research and crop improvement efforts.

Further information on the Global Crop Diversity Trust can be found at: http://startwithaseed.org.

Casting the weather dice: Will 2004 be a winner?

Will the weather gods smile on Mid-South farmers again this year? Many specialists gave a large part of the credit for last year's record yields to the rather benign weather conditions — timely rains and moderate temperatures — that prevailed over most of the summer, keeping crops from being subjected to a lot of stress and allowing them to overcome a horrid start and achieve their potential.

For a year that began abysmally, with post-planting deluges and abnormal cold that left farmers shaking their heads and hoping to just eke out enough yield from raggedy crops to cover their bills, the mid- to late-season turnaround was dramatic and surprising, followed by perhaps as near-to-ideal fall harvest weather as one could wish for.

Record crops and high prices were a combination growers hadn't experienced in a long while, and there were a lot of happy smiles on a lot of faces.

Will 2004 be a repeat?

Thus far, we've had unusually cold, wet weather at Easter-time; snow/sleet in west Tennessee and northeast Mississippi April 13; and temperatures in the mid- to low 30s the following morning over much of the Mid-South. April 21-22, which had been preceded by a couple days of cotton planters rolling in a number of areas, saw heavy rains and cool temps return over much of the region, and nighttime temps this week were predicted in the 50s in many areas.

April is nothing if not unpredictable, and it's not that unusual for some quite cool temps and/or a lot of rain in May. But what's shaping up for summer fall is speculative, at best.

Although recent storms brought a bit of relief to Minnesota and other upper-Midwest areas that saw crop yields decimated last year by drought, much of the Midwest proper and a large portion of the Plains and Western states are still in drought status. A large chunk of the Southeast, at mid-April, was in moderate drought conditions — this on the heels of a five-year drought that resulted in Georgia paying farmers who would contract not to irrigate crops (2003 finally saw a breaking of the drought). Since the 1990s, two major western water-supplying lakes, Powell and Mead, have dropped by half, with no end in sight for the declines. Even in Canada, some areas are coping with the second worst drought in a century.

The latest U.S. Drought Assessment, prepared by the National Weather Service's Climate Predication Center for the period through July, is showing “increased risk” for drought in lower Alabama/Georgia and the Alabama/Florida panhandle, some easing of the drought in a band from Minnesota down through eastern Oklahoma, and a persistent drought over much of the Plains and Western states.

For the rest of the country, the outlook is for pretty much “normal” rainfall/temperatures through the period. Water levels in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas are reported at 10-year highs, increasing optimism for crops in that region. Beyond July, things are even more speculative weather-wise. August through October could be a scorcher, with scant rains. Or not. And even a “normal” situation can be knocked into a cocked hat for areas of the Southwest and Southeast if tropical storms come along.