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Plant genebank to be more user-friendly

A free, user-friendly online database system for managing the world’s plant genebanks will be launched this year, thanks to a partnership between the USDA and the Consultive Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The international project involves updating a germplasm management system called the Germplasm Resources Infromation Network (GRIN), originally developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The updated system, called GRIN-Global will be initiated at CGIAR centers this month, and in the United States in 2012.

ARS uses GRIN to manage agricultural data on plant genetic resources at various genebank sites. Using GRIN-Global, other nations will have the ability to document their plant germplasm and deliver that information worldwide, according to Peter Cyr, information technology specialist and project leader at the ARS North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa. Each genebank will have its own local version of the GRIN-Global software, which is capable of supporting different languages.

Curators can customize the system to fit their specific needs and keep track of genetic material origins, traits and properties.

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Pesticide applicator alert

By Harold Watters, OSU Extension

Over the next three to four weeks you will be getting information on how to renew your Ohio Pesticide Applicator’s License. The letter from the Ohio Department of Agriculture will include information on how and where to recertify this winter. With increased postage cost, reduced county Extension funding and loss of personnel, we in Extension still want to help you through the education process for your recertification. So read the letter from our Pesticide Safety and Education office, find the date and location to participate in for renewal and reserve your spot with your friendly neighborhood Extension office.

Most of us applicators across Ohio now have categories 1, 2, 6 and CORE. Those cover Field Crops (1), Forage Crops and Livestock (2), Fumigation (6) and CORE. This reduced number of categories due to changes that were set in place last year.

  • Category 1 now includes seed treatment, stored grain and non-crop in addition to weeds, insects and disease control for corn (all corn including sweet), soybeans and wheat.
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Ohio No-Till Conference coming up

Experts from Ohio State University Extension, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio No-Till Council will discuss the critical importance of managing phosphorous and other nutrients through conservation tillage practices at the annual Ohio No-Till Conference, Dec. 6 in Plain City.

“This conference is a meeting of the minds of many people who do no-till,” said Jim Hoorman, assistant professor studying cover crops and water quality issues, and an Extension educator in Mercer County. “There is a great deal of information available about no-till and current agricultural issues covered at this event.”

Hoorman will lead several sessions at the conference, held at the Der Dutchman restaurant from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. His sessions will focus on his two key areas of expertise.

The focus on water quality, given ongoing discussions across Ohio about nutrient management issues around Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys, is perhaps the biggest topic at this year’s gathering.

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Corn yields overcame late start

By Matt Reese
Fortunately, general yields for corn and soybeans have been pleasantly surprising after the late start in 2011, said Peter Thomison, Ohio State University Extension corn specialist.
“The yields are a testimony to the fact that farmers are selecting good genetics. Well over 50% of the yield improvements we’re seeing on a yearly basis are due to genetics and agronomic practices in tandem. Obviously we’re pushing plant populations in corn. Growers did their homework and made good decisions to spread their risks by going with some earlier hybrids that still had high yield potential,” Thomison said. “Even in Western Ohio that had far from ideal rainfall distribution, we still managed to harvest very respectable yields in our corn performance test planted in late May. That was not always true across the landscape with different soil types, but I think even in the driest areas there were quite a few growers expecting lower yields than what they ended up with.

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Herbicide may affect plants thought to be resistant

Purdue University researchers have discovered a fine-tuning mechanism involved in plant root growth that has them questioning whether a popular herbicide may have unintended consequences, causing some plants to need more water or nutrients.

Angus Murphy, a professor of horticulture, and Wendy Peer, an assistant professor of horticulture, study the movement of auxin, a plant hormone essential for plant development. They showed that ABCB4, a protein responsible for moving auxin into cells, also removes the hormone when too much has accumulated.

“We knew that the protein took auxin up, but found that it switched to removing auxin when a threshold is reached,” said Murphy, whose findings appeared in the early online version of The Plant Journal. “It starts transporting the hormones out.”

That fine-tuning mechanism is integral to proper development of plant root hairs, which extend from the main plant root and are where most water and minerals enter.

“The root hairs are doing all the heavy lifting for bringing the water into the plant,” Peer said.

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Ohio’s Crop Progress Report – November 21st

OHIO CROP WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS

The average temperature for the State was 46.3 degrees, 4.8 degrees above normal for the week ending Sunday, November 20, 2011. Precipitation averaged 1.51 inches, 0.86 inches above normal. There were 18 modified growing degree days, 5 days above normal.

Reporters rated 3.1 days suitable for fieldwork during the seven-day period ending Friday, November 18, 2011. Topsoil moisture was rated 0 percent very short, 0 percent short, 48 percent adequate, and 52 percent surplus.

FIELD ACTIVITIES AND CROP PROGRESS WEEK ENDING SUNDAY NOVEMBER 21st 2011

Farmers were harvesting corn and soybeans and planting winter wheat, although wet and muddy fields slowed the process. They were also doing fall tillage.

As of Sunday November 21st, corn harvested for grain was 69 percent complete, compared to 100 percent last year and 88 percent for the five-year average. Soybeans harvested were rated at 93 percent, 7 percentage points behind last year and 6 points behind the five-year average.

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Ohio's Crop Progress Report – November 21st

OHIO CROP WEATHER HIGHLIGHTS

The average temperature for the State was 46.3 degrees, 4.8 degrees above normal for the week ending Sunday, November 20, 2011. Precipitation averaged 1.51 inches, 0.86 inches above normal. There were 18 modified growing degree days, 5 days above normal.

Reporters rated 3.1 days suitable for fieldwork during the seven-day period ending Friday, November 18, 2011. Topsoil moisture was rated 0 percent very short, 0 percent short, 48 percent adequate, and 52 percent surplus.

FIELD ACTIVITIES AND CROP PROGRESS WEEK ENDING SUNDAY NOVEMBER 21st 2011

Farmers were harvesting corn and soybeans and planting winter wheat, although wet and muddy fields slowed the process. They were also doing fall tillage.

As of Sunday November 21st, corn harvested for grain was 69 percent complete, compared to 100 percent last year and 88 percent for the five-year average. Soybeans harvested were rated at 93 percent, 7 percentage points behind last year and 6 points behind the five-year average.

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Corn plants respond to the environment

By Dave Nanda, 
Director of Genetics and Technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.

Corn plants react to different environmental conditions in different ways. Sunlight is the most important element needed by the plants for growth besides water, nutrients and heat. The plants know early on how much elbow room they have to spread their “wings” or leaves. At the seedling stage, the roots are too small and the leaves are not long enough to touch the leaves of other plants yet. So how do they know? When sunlight hits the green tissue or the chlorophyll of the leaves, it reflects back certain wavelengths.

The reflectance of the infrared component of the sunlight from the chlorophyll indicates how close other plants are. It does not matter whether they are other corn plants or weeds in the neighborhood. It just tells them that have competition for sunlight and they must grow faster or taller than their neighbors in order to survive and flourish.

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Kudzu spreading north into Ohio

An invasive species synonymous with the South has taken root in the Eastern Corn Belt, but according to Ohio State University field crop pathologist Anne Dorrance, it doesn’t yet present quite the headaches for farmers above the Mason-Dixon Line as it has below.

“I first became aware of this plant back in 2005 when we started getting an assessment of how much kudzu was around and how close it was because it is an additional host of the soybean rust pathogen,” said Dorrance, who is also a soybean disease researcher at OARDC. Dorrance said in her studies of soybean rust, she traveled extensively in southern Ohio searching for patches of kudzu, learning how the plant overwintered in the relatively colder climate of the Buckeye State.

What she learned over the past six years, coupled with the work of other soybean disease researchers across the country, is that not all kudzu is hospitable to soybean rust.

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There is plenty more to do after harvest is complete

As farmers wrap up harvesting corn and soybeans across the Eastern Corn Belt, the work is just getting started on many farms, with fertilizer, herbicide and tillage applications planned in the waning weeks of productivity for 2011.

“As we finish harvesting soybeans, farmers have started putting on phosphorus and potassium, mostly during the past two weeks,” said Harold Watters, with Extension’s Agronomic Crops Team. “Custom applicators were ready to go into the field for a long time, and we are glad to finally see them moving.”

Watters, a Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) and coordinator of Extension’s CCA-targeted education efforts, said despite the lateness of harvest and seemingly frequent precipitation, farmers have been remarkably productive this fall.

He noted that in addition to fertilizer applications to improve the fertility of the soil, timely herbicide application is also an important fall activity.

“As quickly as farmers finish harvesting corn, they’re going to have sprayers in the field spraying purple nettle, marestail and chickweed to get those out of the way for next year’s soybeans,” Watters explained.

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New Christmas tree checkoff stirs up controversy from misinformation

Conservative bloggers recently bashed President Obama for implementing a new Christmas tree “tax” and created quite a stir on the Internet. This “tax” is actually a checkoff that the Christmas tree industry has been working on getting implemented for quite some time.

The final rule regarding the Promotion and Research Program checkoff program was published in the Federal Register on Nov. 8. Two days later, the National Christmas Tree Assciation received word from the USDA that the program would be delayed, and on Nov. 17, this delay was published in the Federal Register. The reason for the delay

was cited as “to provide all interested persons, including the Christmas tree industry and the general public, an opportunity to become more familiar with the program.”

Tree farmers have spent more than three years studying checkoffs and preparing their petition. There has been a great deal of media attention on the program after it was mistakenly labeled as a “tax on Christmas Trees” on a blog.

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Corn insect management

By Harold Watters, Champaign County Extension

In the past, Corn Rootworm (CRW) was the costliest insect in corn production. With the advent of first soil insecticides, then widespread use of crop rotation and then the use of CRW genes in our hybrids all of that has changed.

But nature (at least insects) has a way of fighting back. Ron Hammond and Andy Michel our Extension Entomologists have written a couple of articles this fall on that topic. This one on Picking Your Transgenic Hybrids for 2012 is a must read and outlines the developing resistance problem in the western Corn Belt.

An issue facing corn growers this fall and winter when purchasing corn for next spring centers around the recent announcement of western corn rootworms developing resistance to Cry3Bb1. The trait is one of the rootworm-control Bt genes that has been incorporated into various corn hybrids including YieldGard VTRW and YieldGard VT Triple, and in the pyramided hybrid SmartStax. 

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EPA regulations threaten farms

In just the last three years, the Environmental Protection Agency has set in motion a significant number of new regulations that will significantly change the face of agriculture. The coming changes threaten the continued operation of family farms and ranches, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Testifying on behalf of AFBF before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade, Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, said EPA proposals to exert greater regulatory control over agriculture will drive up the cost of producing food, fiber and fuel.

“EPA proposals are overwhelming to farmers and ranchers and are creating a cascade of costly requirements that are likely to drive individual farmers to the tipping point,” Shaffer said. “The overwhelming number of proposed regulations on the nation’s food system is unprecedented and promises profound effects on both the structure and competitiveness of all of agriculture.

“In contrast to EPA’s heavy-handed approach of issuing crushing regulatory burdens, agriculture and the Agriculture Department have worked together over the last few decades to make enormous strides in agriculture’s environmental performance by adopting a range of conservation practices and environmental measures,” Shaffer said.

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Biodiesel Board elects leaders

National Biodiesel Board members selected their trade association leadership this week as part of the organization’s membership meeting in Washington D.C. Members elected seven returning governing board members and one new member to serve on the leadership committee.

“Led by a robust and diverse trade association the biodiesel industry is well prepared to meet the opportunities of the future,” said National Biodiesel Board Chairman Gary Haer. “I am optimistic about what is in store for our industry as we join forces to fulfill federal alternative energy requirements and work together to continue to advance the industry.”

Officers elected to lead the board are: Gary Haer, chairman, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (Producer);  Ed Ulch, vice chair, Iowa Soybean Board (Farmer); Ron Marr, secretary, Minnesota Soybean Processors, (Producer); Jim Conway, treasurer, Griffin Industries (Producer).

Biodiesel board members also voted to fill eight board member spots. Board members elected to the Governing Board include the officer team and: Ed Hegland, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (Farmer); Kris Kappenman, Archer Daniels Midland (Producer); Bob Metz, South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion council (Farmer); Robert Stobaugh, Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board (Farmer).

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Demand strong for U.S. soybeans

Federal government figures show U.S. soy continues to be in strong demand among international customers.

Buyers outside of the United States purchased 1.5 billion bushels of whole U.S. soybeans in the latest marketing year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  That makes U.S. soy one of the largest agricultural exports.  And U.S. agriculture continues to lead all economic sectors with a positive balance of trade.

“Increasing demand for U.S. soy abroad has been the cornerstone of the soybean-checkoff-funded marketing efforts for the past 20 years,” said Jim Call, a soybean farmer from Madison, Minn. Call also chairs the United Soybean Board (USB) International Marketing program. “We focus not just on China, but on increasing sales in other international markets, as well.”

“The soybean checkoff helps fund market-building activities like hosting international buying teams and conducting poultry and livestock feeding demonstrations abroad that prove the advantages of using U.S. soy,” Call said.

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Harvest progress still slow going

By Matt Reese

It seems as if Mother Nature wanted to make up for the general earliness and good weather for planting and harvest in 2010 by soaking the state in the spring and fall of 2011. It seemed that for every bit of cooperation the weather held for making 2010 one of the earliest planting seasons and harvest seasons in history in 2010, less than timely rains averaged things out in 2011.

The soggy spring, summer blessed with steady rains for much of the state, and waterlogged fall made this year one of the wettest years on record in Ohio. Jim Noel, with the National Weather Service, said that depending on rainfall for the remainder of the year, some sections of northern and southern Ohio will have the all-time wettest year on record, while the central section of the state will likely be the top five wettest years. The Cincinnati area has already set the all time record with 60.71 inches of rain, beating the previous record of 57.58 set in 1990.

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Panama Canal improvements important to U.S. ag

National Corn Growers Association representatives last week traveled to the Panama Canal to explore improvements currently underway with a group of agricultural leaders organized by Informa Economics.

During this investigative tour, the group looked at efficiencies in the Panama Canal improvements, particularly those to the locks system, in an attempt to find successful approaches that could be emulated in the United States. Focusing on the critical need for improvements to the locks and dams on northern sections of the Mississippi River, the group looked at how the Panamanian Canal Authority is managing to accomplish such a large project for a reasonable price tag while remaining both on time and on budget. Analyzing the similarities and differences between the current situation in Panama and projections for the needed improvements on the Mississippi, the group noticed practices which could improve upon the current structure and system for waterway infrastructure upgrading in the United States.

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Organic forage option

With the help of a small business grant from the USDA, Wisconsin farmer-breeder Peter Pitts teamed up with Pure-Seed Testing, Inc., of Hubbard, Ore., to create a now widely popular variety of conventional grass forage that is also probably the first certified organic festulolium in North America.

Pitts worked with Michael Casler, who was at that time a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Today Casler is a grass breeder in Madison, at the Agricultural Research Service U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center.

Intrigued by Pitts’ success with festulolium (pronounced “fes-tu-lo-lium”), a ryegrass (Lolium genus) with a small number of meadow fescue (Festuca) genes, Casler bred the grass with festulolium growing in old university nursery plots throughout Wisconsin. These plants had survived many years of “get tough or die” conditions like those on Pitts’ old pasture on his 350-acre, mostly organic beef cattle farm.

Pure-Seed Testing’s breeder, Crystal Fricker, screened the plants in Oregon for stem rust resistance, yield, and other desired characteristics.

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USDA Crop Report offers little excitement during harvest

Amid a long harvest of endless hours sitting in a combine seat staring at rows of corn and soybeans, farmers got little from the November USDA Crop Report to generate much excitement.

Ohio State University Extension economist Matt Roberts described the report as “pretty boring.” The grain markets, for the most part, are watching other markets, awaiting thoughts of buying acres for 2012 production.

“The grain market overall did not look at the report as particularly bullish or bearish,” Roberts said. “The market, over the past few weeks, has been much more influenced by the outside markets, primarily equities and the European debt situation. Those have been much bigger factors than grain market fundamentals.”

Roberts said USDA’s latest crop production figures and estimates of supply and demand yielded few significant changes.

The report, released Nov. 9, showed a decrease in corn production of 1.4 bushels per acre, down to an average yield of 146.7 bushels.

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Corn prices sideways and sliding

Corn prices have traded in a sideways pattern since mid-October, but are currently in the lower end of the recent range, said a University of Illinois agricultural economist.

“Soybean prices have trended lower over the past month with January futures now back near the early October lows,” said Darrel Good.

Corn prices received little support from last week’s USDA Crop Production report containing a lower forecast for the size of the U.S. crop. The U.S. average corn yield is projected at an eight-year low of 146.7 bushels, 1.4 bushels below the October forecast, he said.

“The potentially positive price impact of that reduction was muted by USDA’s judgment that feed and residual use of corn will only reach 4.6 billion bushels during the current marketing year, 100 million bushels below the October forecast,” he said.

The forecast is 192 million bushels below the surprisingly small estimate for the previous marketing year, he added.

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