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Articles from 2012 In September

A Design Helps Avoid Problems on Drip Irrigation Installations

A Design Helps Avoid Problems on Drip Irrigation Installations

There are a number of factors -- different on every farm -- that can make or break a sub-surface drip irrigation system.

Soil types, ground slope, cropping decisions, water well location and capacity, fuel available, annual rainfall, and a host of other factors play into a successful SSD system that will provide a grower with the most water/pumping cost efficiency, says Don Masten, Ag Valley, in Edison, Neb.

Masten is in charge of the company's pump installation, SSD design and installation services, and underground pipe and wire installation. He has helped a number of growers introduce SSD into their corn and soybean fields with the help of computerized design software.

Ag Valley's Don Masten uses computerized design software to work through the problems and factors encountered on each farm as growers take on the management of sub-surface drip irrigation near in and around Edison, Neb.

Masten says one can bury drip line and hook a pump to it and water a field, but to do it efficiently --and to get the most for your water and pumping inputs -- you need to consult with SSD equipment suppliers to match your system to your individual farm and management style.

"The efficiency you get from a properly-designed system will pay off over and over as energy becomes more expensive and water becomes more scarce," he explained.

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Farm Bureau Poll: HHD Visitors Favor Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Farm Bureau Poll: HHD Visitors Favor Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Husker Harvest Days attendees who voted in Nebraska Farm Bureau's straw poll during the show gave favorable signs to three of the proposed Constitutional Amendments on the ballot for voters in November. They also gave Republican candidates for Congress and the White House a favorable nod.

Farm Bureau Poll: HHD Visitors Favor Proposed Constitutional Amendments

A total of 284 visitors to the Farm Bureau building at the farm show in Grand Island voted in the non-scientific poll, Sept. 11-13. Pollsters were asked to weigh in on proposed constitutional amendments to make hunting, fishing and wildlife harvesting a protected right; allow members of the Nebraska Legislature to serve three, rather than two, consecutive terms; and boost state senators annual salaries from $12,000 per year to $22,500 per year.

"Eighty-one percent of those voting supported establishing the right to hunt and fish, while only 9% opposed," said Jay Ferris, Nebraska Farm Bureau's director of grassroots programs. "The proposal to extend the terms of Nebraska legislators was supported with 52% of the vote and 37% against. Fifty-one percent supported the increase in state senator salaries while 33% opposed."

The poll also asked voters to weigh in on the presidential election, Nebraska's open seat for U.S. Senate, and all three U.S. House of Representatives races. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the decisive choice of pollsters receiving 86% approval with only 10% favoring President Obama.

Eighty-eight percent of those voting also favored Deb Fischer over Bob Kerrey who received 9% of the vote. All three Republican incumbents from Nebraska in the U.S. House of Representatives were definitive winners in the polls. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Republican in District 1, garnered 85% of the vote in comparison to 6% for Korey Reiman. Rep. Lee Terry , Republican in District 2, received 78% percent of the vote in comparison to 11% for John Ewing. Rep. Adrian Smith, Republican in District 3, received support from 89 percent of the pollsters compared to Mark Sullivan's 9%.

Fall Nitrogen Application

Fall Nitrogen Application


This year the crops have matured early and harvest is moving ahead of normal. With a large amount of the soybeans and corn coming out, thoughts are turning to getting fertilizer applied for next year's crop. For phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), there are very few problems with an early fall application. These nutrients are not mobile in most soils. The only big concern with a broadcast application of P and K is getting the fertilizer incorporated into the soil so it is in a place for the plant roots to utilize them next spring. Incorporation also reduces the chances of P and K being lost through erosion.

Nitrogen (N) is a mobile nutrient and therefore must be managed different to get the most nutrient value and the least amount of loss to the environment. If you are in the southeastern part of Minnesota or farm sandy ground, DO NOT apply N in the fall. The rainfall in southeastern Minnesota along with the Karst geology will result in large losses of N from fall application. If you farm sandy ground, N applied in the fall will not be in the soil when spring arrives. Fall N application on sandy soil, irrigated or not, is a total waste of time and money and presents large risks of groundwater pollution.

In the south-central part of Minnesota, application of fall N is not the most efficient management option. If your operation requires you to apply some N in the fall, there are some things you can do to get the most N out of the fertilizer application. First, DO NOT apply N fertilizer before the soil temperature at the 6-in. depth is consistently below 50° F. Second, use only an ammonium form of nitrogen. Anhydrous ammonia would be the preferred, followed by urea. If you have a field that is consistently wet, you may want to consider the use of a nitrification inhibitor to slow the conversion of ammonium to nitrate. The use of the inhibitor is NOT a way to allow for application before the soil temperatures are below 50°.

In southwest, west-central and northwestern parts of Minnesota, fall application of ammonia-based N sources is ok if the soil temperature is less than 50°.

At the time of writing this, Minnesota agricultural areas were experiencing drought at one degree or another. The ground is hard – maybe harder than last year. With this in mind, a late-fall application of N after we receive some rain maybe the best fall option. It will reduce the chances of loss by getting a better soil cover of the ammonia band and also save on the wear and tear of the tillage and application equipment. If you use urea, it must be incorporated to keep it from volatilizing. Dry soils are good candidates of urea volatilization to occur. Research with fall N applications, has shown that anhydrous ammonia will have a lower loss of nitrogen than urea.

Also with the dry summer, it is strongly suggested that you take a soil nitrate-N test. This is particularly true if the 2012 crop was corn. With the dry summer, the crop may not have used all of the N fertilizer applied for the previous crop and left a large amount of residual nitrate-N that could be used by the 2013 crop. To be useful, a soil sample for nitrate should be taken to a depth of 2 ft. for corn. The sample should be taken after the soil temperature is below 50°. A soil sample taken before the soil temperatures are below 50° is a waste of money and time. The nitrate-N soil test value will be erroneous.

If the weather conditions continue dry into winter, you should strongly consider spring application. Spring applications result in less chance of N loss and you will also have a better idea of the crop potential in 2013. A spring preplant soil nitrate-N test will also be helpful, similar to the fall soil test described in above.

Plug Into Farm Energy Guides, Save Energy And Money

Plug Into Farm Energy Guides, Save Energy And Money

Looking for ways to cut farm energy costs? It's as easy as clicking on one or more of Massachusetts' Farm Energy Best Management Practices Guides now available online at Farm Energy Guides.

And you don't have to be from Massachusetts to gain the valuable information proven on Bay State farms.

The five energy guides are for dairy, greenhouses, orchards and vegetable farms, and maple producers, and renewable energy for all farms, says Jessica Cook, program manager for Massachusetts Farm Energy Program. The series was developed by the Berkshire-Pioneer Resource Conservation & Development

WARM AIR FOR COLD TUNNELS: Cider Hill Farm installed an energy-efficient outdoor wood boiler to heat a series of high tunnels for winter growing.

The detailed guides include equipment specifications, costs and payback periods and renewable energy technologies to identify energy upgrade opportunities, estimate financial savings, and find technical and funding resources. "They provide a straightforward entry point to on-farm energy-saving measures and renewable systems that make use of farmers' technical skills and systems-thinking," adds Cook.

The guides have regional and national significance for federal and state agricultural agencies, private sector players and service providers offering financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers. They provide sufficient detail for industry professionals and can be applied to similarly-scaled farms in other states.

 "These guides are a unique resource. They provide real-life examples from Massachusetts farms so that we can fine-tune our federal programs for the scale of farming found in this part of the country," says Christine Clarke, NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist for USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. At Cider Hill Farm of Amesbury, Mass., for example, a wood boiler was installed to provide winter heat for high tunnels.

MFEP helped develop 137 projects on 86 farms since the project was initiated in 2008. Some $4.5 million was leveraged for farm energy projects implementation, equivalent to about 60% of total project costs.

The projects collectively save those farms approximately $870,000 annually, says Cook, via reduced energy use or replacement with renewable energy. They reduce carbon emissions from the Massachusetts agricultural sector by approximately 10,000 tons annually.

World Dairy Expo Kicks Off Oct. 2 In Madison

World Dairy Expo Kicks Off Oct. 2 In Madison

World Dairy Expo will offer visitors plenty to see and do Oct. 2-6 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, according to Janet Keller, World Dairy Expo communications and public relations manager. The theme of this year's show is "Market Fresh."

More than 65,000 producers and industry enthusiasts from 90 countries are expected to attend the 46th annual event.

"World Dairy Expo has become a gathering place for the whole industry," Keller says. "It's the place to find 'fresh' ideas and information. Whether it's new dairy equipment, like the new carousel parlors and robotic milkers, or new forage varieties, there is a lot to see and do."

SHOWING SUCCESS: Hundreds of youth get the thrill of showing at World Dairy Expo.

World Dairy Expo sets the global standard for industry events, featuring five full days of world-class competition among North America's top dairy breeders.

More than 2,500 head of dairy cattle will parade across the show's famous colored shavings. Seven national and international breed shows will culminate with the crowning of World Dairy Expo's 2012

Supreme Champion on Saturday, Oct. 6. Five breed sales featuring top-shelf genetics will take place on the grounds during the week.

Trade show
The trade show at World Dairy Expo is second to none. Attendees can investigate a global adventure in the newest technologies, products and services up and down every aisle. More than 850 companies from 28 countries will present the world's largest dairy-focused trade show, showcasing everything needed to manage a herd of dairy cows.

Learn more about participating companies under the "Attendee Information" tab at The site features a searchable keyword database and interactive maps to help locate company booths at the show.

Youth judging contests
World Dairy Expo also hosts numerous competitions, including national and international judging and skills contests at the 4-H, FFA, intercollegiate and postsecondary levels.

In addition, winners of the 2012 World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Products Contest will be honored on opening day, and winning forage samples from the 2012World Forage Analysis Superbowl will be on display throughout the week.

Expo Seminars
World Dairy Expo offers free daily seminars on dairy management and other industry issues. These programs offer visitors technical expertise to stay knowledgeable and competitive in the global marketplace.

Continuing education credits can be earned by members of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and the American Association of State Veterinary Board's Registry of Approved Continuing Education Program.

Forage experts also share valuable information at free daily seminars held on the dairy forage seminar stage.

Virtual Farm Tours
Virtual Farm Tours allow attendees to explore a variety of successful dairy operations from across North America without leaving the expo. The free half-hour visual presentations, led by dairy producers, are followed by a question-and-answer session. Attendees can tour these farms and learn face to face, producer to producer.

Hours for World Dairy Expo are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Daily admission is $10 per person, and season passes are $30 per person. Parking is free. For more information, call 608-224-6455, email or visit

Former U.S. Ag Secretaries Discuss Ag's New Challenges

Former U.S. Ag Secretaries Discuss Ag's New Challenges

Four former U.S. secretaries of agriculture and the leader of a leading philanthropic organization explained the agricultural importance of land-grant universities Friday at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

The discussion capped off UNL's weeklong celebration of the Morril Act. The act, passed at the height of the Civil War, offered higher education to the masses through a system of land-grant universities.

Sen. Mike Johanns was one of four former U.S. agriculture secretaries to take part in a UNL lecture about agriculture's new challenges. (USDA photo)

The four former agriculture secretaries featured in the discussion -- Clayton Yeutter, Mike Johanns, Dan Glickman and John Block -- pronounced the act an unqualified success in its creation of a system of agricultural research, extension and teaching that has helped transform agriculture in the United States into the most technologically advanced, profitable, efficient and productive system in the world.

The discussion's title, "The Land-Grant Mission of 2012: Transforming Agriculture for the 2050 World," is a nod to the land-grant system's challenges today: Helping to feed a world whose population is expected to increase from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

Nebraska native Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-moderator of Friday's lecture, said some estimates are that agricultural outputs actually will need to increase by 70% to 100% to meet new needs because as people in the developing world become wealthier, they will seek out more protein-rich diets.

"If you're going to feed the world … you're going to need science and you're going to need technology and you're going to need the best of land-grant universities," said Johanns, now a U.S. senator from Nebraska.

"We've got to do everything better than we do it today," Yeutter said.


Yeutter called on land-grant universities to be "bold" in their research, extension and teaching. The panelists cited several goals for land-grant universities in the next few decades:

-- Increase public-private partnerships, especially given federal budget limits that mean fewer government dollars for research. 

-- Help farmers continue to adjust to climate change and its impact on production.

-- Continue to pursue biofuels options, notable cellulosic ethanol, that do not pit fuel vs. food as crop uses.

-- Help farmers in the developing world increase their productivity and efficiency.

Johanns stressed that last point. While American farmers are justifiably proud of their role in feeding the world, he said, meeting the needs of 2050 and beyond will require producers in Africa and elsewhere to get more efficient. American scientists, many of them in land-grant universities, can play a key role in training them to do so.

"Nothing will buy more good will for the United States of America," Johanns added.

"They want our help. They want to feed themselves," Glickman agreed.


Although farmers now comprise fewer than 2% of Americans -- compared to 60% when the Morrill Act was passed -- the ag sector actually is positioned to have greater political, social and economic influence than ever because of concerns about the expanding population's food needs, panelists agreed.

Glickman said if the movie "The Graduate" were made today, the one-word career advice to Benjamin Braddock would be "agriculture."

"Over the long term agriculture and food is poised to be a very dominant industry in America," Glickman said.

This year's punishing drought has increased the interest of people who normally don't think about agriculture, Block said.

"They don't know about farming, they don't care about farming, but they do care about having enough food," he said.

The four former agriculture secretaries, all but one of whom -- Glickman -- served Republican presidents, generally agreed on the issues and challenges, but for a good-natured exchange between Block and Glickman over organic agriculture, which the former dismissed as largely insignificant, while Glickman noted that consumers nowadays do want food that's been treated with fewer chemicals.

"That doesn't mean they want to be vegetarian hippies from the 1960s," he joked.

Johanns and Glickman agreed that today’s consumers do want more information about the food they eat, and they expect choices in the marketplace they didn’t expect in years past.

Source: UNL

GreenStone Invests In Young People

GreenStone Invests In Young People

Eight students at Michigan State University and one student at the University of Wisconsin  have been awarded a scholarship from GreenStone Farm Credit Services. Three College of Veterinary Medicine awards were presented in the 2012 spring semester, while the remainder of the awards have been presented for the fall 2012 semester.

GreenStone Invests In Young People

Scholarship award winners were evaluated on a wide range of qualifications, and are required to pursue a degree program related to agriculture. The award winners attending MSU are: Benjamin Blasher, Samantha Colombo, Brandon Frahm, Christine Hadley, Jacob Hall, James Luoma, Kim Sabo and Jamie Strickland. Matthias Olson was awarded the Wisconsin scholarship and is attending UW-Madison.

"We are proud to be able to help these young people further their education and prepare for a career in the agricultural industry," says Melissa Rogers, GreenStone's vice president of marketing and public relations. "From the field to the boardroom, career prospects in agriculture are nearly endless, and offer individuals the opportunity to be involved with a booming industry that affects each and every person around the world."

GreenStone Farm Credit Services, based in East Lansing, is Michigan and northeast Wisconsin's largest agricultural lender and the country's sixth largest association in the Farm Credit System. A member-owned cooperative, GreenStone owns and manages approximately $6.1 billion in assets and serves more than 22,000 members with 37 branch locations in Michigan and northeast Wisconsin. More information on GreenStone can be found at

FSA Preparing To Issue CRP & DCP Payments

FSA Preparing To Issue CRP & DCP Payments

John Whitaker, executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency in Iowa announced last week that preparations are being made to issue Conservation Reserve Program and also Direct and Counter Cyclical Program payments for farmers participating in these two USDA programs. The annual rental payments for CRP and the direct payments for DCP are generally made in October and will begin after FSA receives the authorization to issue payments. 

CRP HAY: Conservation Reserve Program Land in Iowa was open for grazing until the end of September and haying through the end of August, due to this summer's drought.

"These payments are considered timely when they are issued within 30 days of the authorized date," says Whitaker. "Many people are not aware of the amount of work that goes into ensuring the payment process goes smoothly. Our county offices know in years such as this, these funds support the agricultural economy and also support the responsible stewardship of America's production acreage."

Several different factors can affect these payments for 2012

Many variables will go into this year's payment process.  "Producers who were part of the Adjusted Gross Income or AGI review may need to file these and others forms before payments can be issued," says Whitaker. While the AGI review is one example of how payments are affected, producers who signed up for emergency haying and grazing of CRP acres will see their annual payment reduced by the acreage that was hayed or grazed, if this was not prepaid.

Conservation Reserve Program land was open for grazing through the end of September and haying through the end of the month of August. Farmers had to first get FSA's permission before they could harvest the hay or graze the CRP acres. USDA allowed this emergency use of CRP land because of the forage shortage caused by this year's summer drought.

Farmers affected by FSA office mergers should receive payments on time

Whitaker also points out that those producers who are affected by FSA county office consolidations should not see payments delayed due to this reason alone. "Our agency has taken steps to ensure that these payments will be generated at the same time that the rest of the state's payments are issued," he says.

Iowa producers hold over 106,000 CRP contracts and approximately 154,000 DCP contacts in the state. For more information on CRP, DCP, or other programs administered by FSA, contact your local FSA office or visit FSA's Website.

This Harvest Beware Of Two Problems With Grain

This Harvest Beware Of Two Problems With Grain

In previous articles he's written in Iowa State University's Integrated Crop Management  Newsletter this fall, Charlie Hurburgh has discussed the aflatoxin issue from several angles; scouting, testing, use of the corn and handling the corn. The newsletter is available to the public online at ISU Extension's website. Hurburgh is a well-known grain quality expert at ISU and a professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering.

MOISTURE MATTERS: Pay attention to what your combine's yield monitor says regarding corn grain moisture. Use that reading to estimate which fields are likely to be a storage problem from moisture variations.

One key point is that once grain is dry and cold, or even just cold, the Aspergillus flavus fungus is rarely able to grow and produce more toxin, says Hurburgh. However, at least two problematic situations are arising -- bin dryers operated at medium temperatures (below 120 degrees F) and high variability of moisture within fields.

The optimum temperature for aflatoxin production is 75 to 95 degrees F with grain moisture content greater than 18%, he explains. A bin dryer operating with input air below 120 degrees F will "store" the grain during drying at these temperatures. If the bin is full, drying times of four to six days are not uncommon. In this case, grain already containing the Aspergillus fungus can experience increased aflatoxin levels.

To avoid problems, boost the grain dryer temperature beyond 120 degrees

The correction you need to make is to increase the grain drying air temperature beyond 120 degrees F. Hurburgh says some bin drying systems with rapid stirring systems can go as high as 160 degrees F; others with less grain circulation may be limited to around 140 degrees F. Half batches of grain will also help; shallower grain depth will increase airflow and cause less grain be held at higher moistures. "It would be better in this case to dry two half batches instead of one full batch," he advises. "The outside air temperatures have fallen enough that the corn in the field is now less likely to increase in toxin. Holding that corn in the field may be preferable to having it warm in a dryer."

High temperature batch dryers and continuous flow dryers are not susceptible to this problem, but wet corn should be held in a high airflow wet holding bin (to maintain cold temperatures) or else hold the corn in the field.


As an example, Hurburgh says today's conditions of about 80 degrees F and 30% relative humidity will hold aerated wet grain at about 45 to 50 degrees F because of evaporative cooling of dry air. This is below the growth conditions for Aspergillus flavus mold, although in time other more temperature resistant fungi will grow at those temperatures. Low temperature-natural air drying will also work under these conditions because the wet grain will not be warm enough to sustain the fungus.

Dryers won't get the job done in one pass, more than one cooling cycle is needed

In some cases, very high ranges of grain moisture content for corn are being experienced within the same cornfield. For example 15% to 30% moisture corn is coming out of the same field. What should you do? Dryers will not equalize this moisture in one pass; there will be some wet corn remaining even after the average for the corn reaches 15% moisture. "Low temperature drying is the only control method for this situation," says Hurburgh. "You need to use extra cooling cycles to bring the grain temperature immediately below 50 degrees F."

Corn will segregate somewhat by moisture content if the grain is drop-filled into a bin, he adds. This means that both the high moisture corn and the fines will collect in the center of the bin as it is being filled. "It will be very important to remove the center core right away," he emphasizes. "In large bins (those over 50 feet diameter) two removals of grain from the core of the grain mass would be advisable."

Hurburgh says you should pay attention to the yield monitor's moisture reading when you are driving along in the combine cab. Watch the estimate it gives for moisture and use that information to make your to estimate regarding which fields are likely to be a storage problem from grain moisture variations. "Manage your harvest and drying and aeration of corn properly," he emphasizes. "Remember,  crop insurance will not cover quality issues after harvest.

"Also, take the time to cool your stored corn in the bin down to proper grain temperature," adds Hurburgh. "And remember, once grain is dry and cold, aflatoxin is rarely able to grow."

Progress is needed in Nigerian fish farming

Fish make up about 41 percent of the meat in the average Nigeriandiet, but domestic supply falls short of that, forcing the country to spend $500 million a year on imported fish.

Efforts are under way to improve and grow the country’s aquaculture industry so it can meet a greater portion of that demand. Charity Oche, executive secretary of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria, or FISON, said fish farming is an important strategy in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in developing nations such as Nigeria.

“Aquaculture is considered the provider of direly needed, high-quality animal protein and other essential micronutrients because of its affordability to the poorer segments of the community,” Oche said. “In addition, it provides employment opportunities and cash income.”

Nigeria could meet its entire demand for fish in a short time if the country’s land and water were properly used. Nigerians have farmed fish since the 1950s with tilapia.

“For decades, fish farming was promoted as a subsistence-level agricultural activity, with thousands of small farm ponds built across much of sub-Saharan Africa, most of which contributed little to the supply of fish,” Oche said. “These ponds did not achieve significant production. However, in some areas, they helped farmers reduce risk, and many continue to contribute modestly to rural food security.”

The Nigerian government is now emphasizing aquaculture as an important business. In collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer Project, FISON arranged for two, one-week training sessions for those in the industry to monitor the health of farmed fish and develop a reporting system.

Skip Jack, a Mississippi State University professor of pathobiology and population medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, was in Nigeria in June teaching catfish farmers, veterinarians and students about health issues related to their fish.

“I taught how to manage animal health,” Jack said. “The catfish they raise are a whole different genus from those produced in the United States, but a living body’s response to disease is very similar across species.”

Oche said aquaculture is growing steadily in Nigeria, and capacity is building. “Dr. Jack showed us the importance of fishhealth to national development.”