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Articles from 2016 In July

Northland Community College offers summer drone classes

Northland Community College offers summer drone classes

Staff members at Northland Community and Technical College’s Aerospace Campus are offering DroneTECH summer camp and summer workshop in early August for ag educators and high school students interested in getting hands-on experience with unmanned aerial systems technology.

The two sessions are:

Hands-on learning. Jon Beck, UAS instructor and program manager at Northland Aerospace in Thief River Falls, demonstrates drone operation.

- DroneTECH Educators Workshop, # UAST 8002: This workshop will provide secondary and post-secondary educators with an introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems and geospatial technology and the tools to incorporate into existing STEM education. Participants will have access to continued resources, curriculum and faculty expertise following the workshop. Basic computer skills required. RC flying, programming and electronics experience is helpful but not required. The $400 registration fee includes a multi-rotor UAS lab kit ($895 value), meals, lodging for three nights and a t-shirt.

Participants are responsible for transportation to workshops and must bring their own laptop computers.

The workshop is Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 8-10, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. each day.

Scholarships are available based on merit.

- DroneTECH Summer Camp - # UAST 8003: UASs are doing it all—from pizza and package delivery to monitoring wildlife and the farm field. Come learn about this technology and get hands-on experience in the maintenance and operation of UAS. Then transform the data collected by UAS into usable industry products. Recommended ages for this camp are students in Grades 9-12 and recent graduates.

The camp will be held Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Aug. 11-12. Cost is $75.

Location for both sessions is the Northland Aerospace Campus, 13892 Airport Drive, Thief River Falls.

To register for the sessions, visit

For additional information, contact instructor Jonathan Beck at 218-683-8831 or

Northland Aerospace became the first campus in the country to offer a UAS maintenance training program and an Imagery Analysis program. To learn more about both, visit

ISU research farm field days scheduled for southern Iowa

ISU research farm field days scheduled for southern Iowa

The 2016 fall field day of the Iowa State University McNay Memorial Research Farm southwest of Chariton will focus on grazing opportunities and issues, including sericea infestation, fescue pasture renovation and on-farm cereal rye research. Iowa State Extension and Outreach beef program specialist Joe Sellers organizes this event, and said the Aug. 2 event provides access for people to see crops and grazing research in full growing mode.

COVER CROPS: Cover crops and grazing research along with water quality improvement practices some of the topics to be presented at upcoming Iowa State University field days this August.

“Presentations are scheduled from Iowa State faculty and staff and others who will offer information and results from a variety of beef-related research,” Sellers said. “There’s no cost to attend and no preregistration is necessary. The program starts with registration at 3:30 at the farm, and includes an evening meal prepared and served by the Lucas County Cattlemen’s Association.”

Stockpiled grazing, cover crops, fescue management, cereal rye

After registration, the group will move to the Richard Bishop farm for a weed and brush demonstration tour led by Scot Flynn with Dow AgriSciences. The group will return to McNay for four presentations from Iowa State speakers beginning at 5 p.m.

Animal science graduate student Ben Stokes will talk about the stockpiled grazing project and animal science professor Dr. Jim Russell and Kevin Maher with the McNay farm will describe the use of portable shades there. Jamie Benning Iowa State Extension water quality program manager will talk about on-farm cereal rye research, including yield, soil and economic impacts. And extension field agronomist Rebecca Vittetoe and Iowa Beef Center program specialist Erika Lundy will continue in that topic area with information on the first year of a cereal rye cover crop grazing project.

Following a 7 p.m. dinner served by the Lucas County Cattlemen’s Association, discussion will continue with more presentations, including fescue management and pasture renovation by Sellers and Logan Wallace from McNay Farm, and beef cow reproduction and synchronization from IBC’s Dr. Patrick Gunn.

The event flier has all program details.

The McNay farm is located at 45249 170th Ave., Chariton. For directions to the facility, see the farm webpage or call the farm directly at 641-766-6465. For more information on the field day program, contact Sellers by phone at 641-203-1270 or email, or call the McNay Farm at 641-766-6465.

 All attendees should follow ISU livestock farm visitor policies:

• There is a five-day waiting period prior to visiting Iowa State University livestock farms if you have traveled outside the United States.

• If you have visited another livestock farm, you are asked to change clothing and footwear.

• Visitors are not allowed to bring food to the research farms.

If you have any questions, please call the Research and Demonstration Farms office at 515-294-5045 or read the Foot and Mouth Advisory.

Wallace Foundation and ISU to host Neely-Kinyon Field Day August 23
Cover crops are among the topics set for the August 23, 2016, field day at the Iowa State University Neely-Kinyon Research and Demonstration farm near Greenfield, Iowa. The field day will start at 4 p.m. at the farm located at 2557 Norfolk Avenue, Greenfield, Iowa. Directions are two miles south of Greenfield on Highway 25, one mile east, and a half mile north.

Iowa State researchers and extension specialists will be discussing the challenges of the growing season, including weather, nitrogen and weed management; the opportunity of cover crops for farmers in southwestern Iowa; organic cropping systems; and monarch/pollinator habitat. 

The farm tour will include a demonstration site for the project called Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairie Strips, or STRIPS. It has found that incorporating strips of perennial prairie plants in crop fields reduces soil and nutrient movement for a relatively low cost.

The Neely-Kinyon farm consists of 160 acres owned by the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development, which leases it to Iowa State. The farm is managed as a satellite of the Armstrong Research and Demonstration Farm near Lewis. A light meal will be served at 6 p.m. The field day is open to the public at no cost.

Mizzou announces farm field day schedule

Mizzou announces farm field day schedule

Mark your calendars as the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Agricultural Research Centers share the results of research from corn to shrimp during its annual field days.

The Graves-Chapple Research Center set an attendance record during last year’s Field Day. More than 200 guests attended the event.

To showcase the endless research taking place at each Research Center, there will be numerous Field Days during the next several months.

RESEARCH RESULTS: Farmers will hear results of University of Missouri research during upcoming field days.

“Field days allow our faculty, staff and graduate students to connect with local stakeholders in the true spirit of our land-grant mission by delivering region-specific information on current challenges and advancements in agriculture,” says Marc Linit, senior associate director, MU Agricultural Experiment Station.

There will be a few changes to the Field Day schedule this year. Graves-Chapple, in Rock Port, and Hundley-Whaley, in Albany, will both host Field Days on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Graves-Chapple will begin at 8 a.m. with Hundley-Whaley starting at 5 p.m. In the past, these northwestern Centers have held their Field Days on back-to-back days.

The Southwest Research Center, in Mt. Vernon, will move their Field Day from a Friday to a Saturday. The Field Day will be on Saturday, Sept. 10, this year. Southwest will highlight their variety of research offerings, including their vineyard.

Southwest will also have Field Days focused on blackberries and alternative fruits and nuts after their main Field Day.

The South Farm Research Center will celebrate their 10th Showcase in September. The South Farm Showcase has grown each year, and had more than 16,000 in attendance last year. Jefferson Farm and Garden will also be part of the South Farm Showcase again this year.

The Bradford Research Center in Columbia offers individuals several specific Field Days, with focuses on elderberries, bobwhite quail and monarchs, and organic research.

The Forage Systems Research Center is focused on developing and evaluating forage systems for all classes of beef cattle.

Beef cattle production and issues will be looked at in-depth during theThompson Research Center Field Day in Spickard. The Greenley Research Center, near Kirksville, will showcase their numerous variety trials, each of which helps farmers pick up the best seed.

At HARC, the annual Chestnut Roast will be back. The Chestnut Roast ran from 2003 to 2010. After a few years away, the event was revived last year. This year’s roast will be Oct. 8. The Forage Systems Research Center has years of research in forage production in northern Missouri. The Wurdack Research Center, in the Ozark hills, combines numerous production aspects, including programs to improve forage, beef, agroforestry and timber.

For more information about each of the CAFNR Research Centers, visit

Schedule of Field Days at CAFNR Agricultural Research Centers




Greenley Research Center Field Day



Bradford Organic Field Day



Graves-Chapple Research Center Field Day

Rock Port


Hundley-Whaley Research Center Field Day






Bradford Tomato Festival



Fisher Delta Research Center Field Day



Southwest Research Center Field Day

Mt. Vernon


Forage Systems Research Center Field Day



Thompson Research Center Field Day






South Farm Showcase



Wurdack Research Center Field Day

Cook Station


HARC Missouri Chestnut Roast

New Franklin

Source: University of Missouri Columbia

Consider planting a milkweed refuge on your farm

Consider planting a milkweed refuge on your farm

The monarch butterfly population has been declining in the United States since the late 1990s.

"One of the many factors contributing to this decline is the shrinking number of milkweed plants," says Luke Bozeman who is group leader of field biology for BASF in Durham, N.C. "Milkweed is a critical component in the monarchs’ reproduction cycle."

MORE MONARCHS: Monarchs lay eggs only on milkweeds. When the eggs hatch the larvae feed on milkweed leaves.

Monarchs fly north from central Mexico in spring, landing in central and eastern parts of the United States. During this migration, adult female monarchs lay eggs only on milkweed. When the eggs hatch the larvae feed on milkweed leaves. Major stretches of farmland lie within the monarchs’ migration path. By allowing milkweed species to grow on land not reserved for crops, farmers can play a key role in helping restore the monarch population.

Bozeman says to increase the amount of milkweed available for monarchs, farmers should consider growing milkweed on their farms.

"In its simplest terms we are talking about growing milkweed in non-crop areas including fence rows, rights of way, CRP lands, grassed waterways and field margins," he says. "In many of these places there are probably already native species of milkweed that they are probably growing and mowing. These areas don't need to be managed like a lawn -- they can have flowers and milkweed growing on them. You can mow these areas but delay mowing until later in summer, around the end of August, after the monarchs migrate south."

Biologists at BASF are monitoring milkweed planted on farms in non-crop areas.

"So far we haven't seen milkweed spread into fields," Bozeman says.

He admits it may seem a bit strange to plant what has long been considered a weed on your farm.

"Keep in mind, when milkweed is growing in your soybeans we can control it because it is a weed. When it is growing outside a field, milkweed is considered a plant not a weed," Bozeman explains.

Besides a reduction in milkweed, Bozeman believes there are other factors contributing to the decline in the monarch population.

"The availability of milkweed is certainly contributing to the decline in the monarch population," he says.  "But I don't think it is the only factor. Another factor is a lack of forage diversity. The adults need to eat nectar from a wide variety of plants and flowers, not just milkweed. And there has been a lot less flowers available to them."

Bozeman says the prolonged drought in Texas that began about a decade ago and persisted until 2013, may have also contributed to a decline in the monarch population since the butterflies pass through Texas in late summer on their migration to Mexico and again during spring when they fly north.

"Texas was in a long-term drought until two or three years ago," he notes. "I think that was also a factor in the decline in monarch populations over the past decade."

As more farmers start growing milkweed and flowers on their farms, Bozeman says he is optimistic about the monarch population making a comeback in the near future.

"They measure the land area where monarchs overwinter in central Mexico," he says. "In the past couple of years, there has been an uptick in the number of monarchs overwintering there so that is a good sign the population is not crashing."

With a little help from farmers, Bozeman believes the monarch populations will continue to improve.

"I think growers understand this is an opportunity for them to be proactive and do something for the betterment of the environment and a species."

For more information about growing milkweed, contact your county land conservation office.

Providing pollinator habitat

Providing pollinator habitat

Pollinators, including bees and butterflies, are essential to agriculture. One in three bites of food in the U.S. is dependent on pollinators. According to the USDA, $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables, are pollinated every year.

Honey bee numbers have been on the decline during the past 50 years. Since 2006, 30% of honey bee hives in the U.S. have been lost each winter to diseases, parasites, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure.

To address the concerns, NRCS in Wisconsin has dedicated more than $2 million through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, for practices to increase and improve honey bee food sources.

FLOWER POWER: Farmers like Al Messner who farms near Oakfield in Fond du Lac County, have been planting flower and grass seed on their farms which is helping improve habitat for pollinators.

Monarch butterfly populations have been declining in the U.S. for the past two decades. One of the many factors contributing to this decline is the shrinking number of milkweed plants. Milkweed is a critical component in the monarchs’ reproduction cycle.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most well-known butterflies in the United States and North America. The iconic orange and black butterfly is known for its annual migration from Mexico through the United States to as far north as Canada.

During their journey north, monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed. In the past two decades, populations have decreased significantly in part because of the decrease in native plants including milkweed on which their caterpillars feed. Agriculture and development have removed much of the native milkweed that once spanned the country.

Because monarchs are always on the move, they need to have the right plants at the right time along their migration route. Caterpillars need to feed on milkweed to complete their lifecycle and adult butterflies need nectar producing flowers in bloom for energy.

In 2015, NRCS began working with farmers to combat the decline of monarchs by planting milkweed and other flowers on farms. To accelerate conservation to benefit monarch butterflies, NRCS is targeting conservation efforts at the heart of the butterfly's migration route. Assistance is available to producers in 10 states in the Southern Plains and Midwest including Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

Developing habitat

Al Messner a farmer and retired Oakfield High School science and math teacher, owns 340 acres near Oakfield. He is a longtime conservation advocate and has participated in the Conservation Reserve Program since it began in 1986.

In 2007, Messner put in grass filter strips and had a nutrient management plan done for his farm.

Once the filter strips were in, Messner seeded a mixture of prairie grasses and wildflowers on them.

“We enjoy the purple prairie clover and black-eyed Susans and the wildlife and butterflies all spring, summer and fall,” says his wife, Judi.

Messner, 75, has a total of 110 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, 47 acres in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and 15 acres in the State Area for Wildlife Enhancement Program.

Of those acres, a total of 48 acres have been planted to prairie grasses and wild flowers. The mixture includes big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, side oats grama, switchgrass, purple prairie clover, wild bergamot and yellow coneflower. Other flowers and plants that are also growing in those fields are milkweed, butterflyweed, bee balm, sweet clover, purple coneflower and Queen Anne's lace.

“Establishing the filter strips took longer than I thought it would,” Messner adds. “It has been nine years since we put them in. I had to mow the buffers the first four years to control thistles. In 2012, I only mowed 50% where there were thistles, and by the end of summer, I had no thistles.

Messner now mows once every five years in September after the nesting season is completed and monarch butterflies have migrated to Mexico. In June, he spot mows to prevent invasive species like wild parsnip from spreading in his fields.

Since putting in the grassed buffers, he has noticed several improvements.

“Before the grassed buffers were put in, I used to see fertilizer going in the ditch when I spread it near the ditches,” he says. “Now that’s not happening. Everyone benefits from this, but the environment is the big winner.

“Because we have saved the soil, we are benefiting from a lot more wildlife, turkeys, deer, fox, songbirds, ducks, geese, herons, egrets and different kinds of birds we never saw before,” he explains. "Because of all the flowers, we're also seeing a lot more bees, monarch butterflies and other butterflies too."

Messner gets a kick out of giving visitors Gator tours of his farm and especially his fields full of flowers.

"They have a lot of fun seeing all of the beautiful flowers, but I really enjoy showing people the fields."

In addition to all of his conservation efforts, Messner is still actively farming 125 acres.

Conservation pays

Farmers and landowners participating in CRP, CREP are paid similar to what they would get if that land was in corn or soybeans, according to Erv Lescyznski, Fond du Lac County Land Conservation watershed planner.

"In the last three years, CRP payments in east central Wisconsin have increased three times," Lesczynski says. "The amount paid per acre varies by soil type but ranges between $85 and $276 per acre for 10 to 15 years depending on the program."

According to Lesczynski, "We have some individuals with high soil types getting as much as $300 per acre for 15 years."

Farmers can also enroll in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Those in EQIP can receive cost sharing on conservation practices including cover crops, wildlife prairie plantings, waterways, filter strips, wetland restorations and prescribed grazing systems (including fencing and waterlines).

EQIP cost sharing typically covers 40% and 50% of the cost of a conservation practice.

"The rest is out of pocket, however, if you are a beginning farmer, or if you an organic producer, or if you are a veteran who is beginning to farm, the cost share for those participants if they get accepted, is closer to 80% to 90%, explains Cory Drummond, conservationist with the Fond du  Lac County Land Conservation Department.

To find out more information about growing habitat for pollinators or the EQIP, SAFE, CRP and CREP, contact your local county land conservation office.

Louder and slower a lesson in listening

Louder and slower  a lesson in listening

Editor’s note: From John and Kendra Smiley’s monthly column, Home Front.


We’d planted corn on all but one of our fields this spring and after John opened up the last one, he called to let me know it was time for me to go to work with the cultivator. I’d been waiting to hear from him and was ready to do my part to move forward with the 2016 planting season. When I arrived, John was waiting to give me instructions about the catch basins I needed to be aware of and concluded by telling me, or attempting to tell me, what to do when I got to the berm.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn.

Midway through that last instruction I stopped him and innocently asked what a berm was. He looked at me with disbelief and began his final instruction once again, saying exactly the same thing he’d said before, a little louder this time. When he got to the word berm for the second time I still had no idea what he was talking about so I raised my hand like a school girl. “What’s a berm?”

The question seemed simple enough, but rather than give me a definition he repeated his words for a third time; now the message were not only louder, but also slower. Funny, that didn’t help at all.


In my defense, I found it hard to believe that Kendra didn’t know what a berm was or at least couldn’t use her imagination and make a good guess. After all, I was in a hurry to get on the tractor and plant corn, and repeating the instruction about the berm over and over was getting old.

Finally I just pointed toward the north end of the field and hoped for the best. If it had been one of our boys I would have told him once and then if my instruction was unclear, I would have ridden with him on the first round. Because Kendra doesn’t like me to ride with her (she says it makes her nervous), I decided all I could do was hope that, as an adult, she would recognize the area that she was to avoid with the cultivator.

You’ll be relieved to know that Kendra not only managed to dodge every catch basin, but also discovered the berm and steered clear. When I asked her about it at the end of the day she replied that she found the “patch of grass and weeds by the wet spot” without any trouble. She’d found the berm and she’d learned a new vocabulary word although I have a feeling I’m not going to hear it in a sentence anytime soon.


Yes, I learned what a berm is and he’s right, I can’t imagine using that word in conversation. It’s tough when you didn’t grow up around machinery or animals or berms, for that matter. I grew up hanging out in my dad’s dental office and I have a feeling I know a few things about bicuspids that could baffle John. I also know that communication may not be easy, but is vital as we work around machinery that can be damaged or cause a great deal of damage.

When the boys were young and John gave them an important instruction he would typically preface it with the words, “Are you listening?” Hmmm…maybe I need to do a little better job of listening. That might eliminate hearing his words repeated louder and slower. And I suppose it’s possible he called that “patch of grass and weeds by the wet spot” a berm last year too.

Over a Cup - July 30, 2016

Over a Cup

Samuelson Sez - July 30, 2016

Samuelson Sez

Max's Tractor Shed | July 30, 2016

Leader in Texas A&M AgriLife plant breeding process dies

Steve Brown was a frequent speaker at field days as the Texas Foundation Seed Service program director in Vernon Texas AampM AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter
<p>Steve Brown was a frequent speaker at field days as the Texas Foundation Seed Service program director in Vernon. (Texas A&amp;M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)</p>

Steve Brown, Texas A&M AgriLife Texas Foundation Seed Service program director in Vernon, was killed in a car accident July 27.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Sullivan Funeral Home, 1801 Houston St. in Vernon. Visitation will be from 6-7 p.m. July 29 in the chapel of the funeral home. The funeral service will be at 10 a.m. July 30 in First Baptist Church at 2003 Fannin St.  Burial will be in Eastview Cemetery.

“There are no words to express the sorrow I feel in the sudden tragic death of my friend and colleague Steve Brown,” said Dr. Bill McCutchen, executive associate director of AgriLife Research in College Station. “Steve was the consummate professional and a leader of innovative strategies that helped lead to the rejuvenation of the small grains and cropping systems programs across the agency.

“He had a way of working with people to develop personal relationships. His impacts on Texas A&M are reverberating across the nation and now the world. He worked tirelessly with faculty, unit heads, stakeholders and industry leaders to advance improved plant varieties, and he was loved and respected by everyone he met and touched.”

Brown became program director of Texas Foundation Seed Service in the fall of 2001 after spending 27 years in private sector agribusiness. During his time in the private sector, he managed a diversified company involved with seed production and distribution, commercial grain operations and livestock feed manufacturing.

At Texas Foundation Seed Service, he worked closely with the various plant breeding programs within Texas A&M AgriLife Research and private sector companies interested in licensing AgriLife Research plant material improvements.

He also worked with the Texas A&M University System’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Texas A&M AgriLife’s Corporate Relations Office to help develop distribution plans to make AgriLife’s plant developments available to producers in Texas and beyond.

“Under Steve’s service as director of the Texas Foundation Seed Service, the royalties from commercial sales of small grains varieties increased 15-fold from when he took over,” said Dr. John Sweeten, AgriLife Research resident director at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Centers in Amarillo and Vernon.


Additionally, Brown was instrumental in the collection of royalties from other plant varieties, including various grasses, sorghums, peanuts, forages and corn. These were not collected prior to his involvement, and by 2015 they amounted to more than $1.5 million.

Brown oversaw the foundation seed increase of various Texas A&M AgriLife-developed crops, including wheat, oats, triticale, canola, cool-season grasses, peanuts and hibiscus flowers.

Those throughout the Texas A&M University System and industry who worked closely with Brown said his absence will be felt for many years.

“I have no words to express my sorrow,” said. Dr. Jackie Rudd, AgriLife Research wheat breeder in Amarillo who worked closely with Brown on many TAM wheat releases. “He was a friend and an irreplaceable member of our wheat team.”

Rodney Mosier, executive vice president of Texas Wheat Producers Board in Amarillo, said, “Steve was an innovative leader in the Texas seed industry. His input and support of the board’s statewide research program was highly valued and he will be greatly missed. Texas wheat producers will continue to benefit from his efforts for many years.”

“Steve was dedicated, animated and a great contributor to Texas agriculture,” said Dr. Sandy Pierson, Texas A&M University plant pathology and microbiology department head in College Station. “His absence will be deeply felt by all of us.”


“Not only as a giant in his field and an integral member of Texas A&M, but also as a great person and friend of many of us, Steve will be greatly missed,” said Dr. Amir Ibrahim, AgriLife Research small grains breeder/geneticist in College Station.

Brown was active on both internal and external committees involving the seed industry and intellectual property. His internal committee service included seats on AgriLife’s Intellectual Property Management and Commercialization Team and the Plant Release Committee, the Small Grains Advisory Committee and the Texas Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.

Externally, he served as chair of the Small Grains and Grass Committee for Texas Seed Trade Association and on the association’s board of directors. Also, he was a past chairman of the Cotton, Peanut and Sunflower Committee for the Association of Official Seed Certification Agencies and worked closely with seed certification agencies in many states across the U.S.

“Steve was a great person and an important member of the Texas A&M University System,” said Dr. Lloyd “Ted” Wilson, Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center director at Beaumont. “I will miss him dearly as a colleague and friend.”

Sweeten, who also serves as the Small Grains Advisory Committee chair, said Brown mentored many faculty members working with plant genetics and breeding, and was a valuable member of the statewide committee.

“Steve possessed a ‘street credibility’ from his years in the private seed industry that brought realism to the scientific processes of creating and developing new plant varieties and bringing them into the marketplace,” Sweeten said.

“Sometimes his best advice was, ‘No.’ But also words of encouragement from Steve Brown sparked vision and motivation in many a scientist. He was unafraid to wear the black hat when the situation called for it, such as vigorously pursuing and protecting plant varieties that met his threshold criteria for a significant advancement in the marketplace.”