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Do higher corn populations need more N?

By Robert Mullen and Greg LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension

We wrote an article discussing this issue last May, but we thought we would provide an update based upon information from the previous cropping season. As producers consider (or continue) pushing higher seeding rates for corn, the question often asked is, “Do I need to push higher N rates to exploit the higher seeding rates for more yield?”  Intuitively, it may seem logical that a higher population would require more N, but the scientific data being collected does not necessarily support the concept. Ohio State University has been conducting field research the last five years at the Northwest Research Station near Custar to determine if higher seeding rates require a higher N rate to achieve maximum yield.  Two different cropping rotations were evaluated – corn after corn and corn after soybeans. The two seeding rates used were 30,000 and 40,000 seeds/acre (in 2006 the highest seeding rate was 36,000).

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Wheat resistance genes failing, new approach needed to stop flies

Many of the genes that allow wheat to ward off Hessian flies are no longer effective in the southeastern United States, and care should be taken to ensure that resistance genes that so far haven’t been utilized in commercial wheat lines are used prudently, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University scientists.

An analysis of wheat lines carrying resistance genes from dozens of locations throughout the Southeast showed that some give little or no resistance to the Hessian fly, a major pest of wheat that can cause millions of dollars in damage to wheat crops each year. Others, even those considered the most effective, are allowing wheat to become susceptible to the fly larvae, which feed on and kill the plants.

Wheat resistance genes recognize avirulent Hessian flies and activate a defense response that kills the fly larvae attacking the plant. However, this leads to strains of the fly that can overcome resistant wheat, much like insects becoming resistant to pesticides.

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USDA announces decision to fully deregulate Roundup Ready Alfalfa

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced its decision to grant non-regulated status for alfalfa that has been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide commercially known as Roundup.

“After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary. “All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they’ve done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful.”

After releasing a final EIS in December 2010, USDA took another step to ensure that this issue received the broadest examination before making its final decision. USDA brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss feasible strategies for coexistence between genetically engineered (GE), organic, and other non-GE stakeholders.

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Waterhemp found to be resistant to another type of herbicide

Waterhemp has done it again. University of Illinois researchers just published an article in Pest Management Science confirming that waterhemp is the first weed to evolve resistance to HPPD-inhibiting herbicides.

“A fifth example of resistance in one weed species is overwhelming evidence that resistance to virtually any herbicide used extensively on this species is possible,” said Aaron Hager, U of I Extension weed specialist.

Waterhemp is not a weed species that can be adequately managed with one or two different herbicides, Hager said. This troublesome weed requires a much more integrated approach.

“Large-scale agronomic crop production systems currently depend on herbicides for weed management,” Hager said. “A weakness in this approach lies in its strength; because herbicides are so effective, they exert tremendous selection pressures that, over time, result in resistant weed populations as natural outcomes of the evolutionary process.”

In an article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Hager and Pat Tranel, a U of I professor of molecular weed science in the Department of Crop Sciences, shared the results of a survey of multiple-herbicide resistance in waterhemp.

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Record U.S. soybean sale to China

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued the following statement on the reported one-day sale of 2.74 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans to China.

“Today’s sale of 2.74 million tons of U.S. soybeans to China is the single largest daily soybean sale since USDA began issuing daily sales reports in 1977. This is another strong sign that China continues to look to the United States as a reliable supplier of high-quality products. This is great news not just for American soybean farmers but for the U.S. economy overall.”

The U.S.-China trade relationship continues to flourish, thanks in large part to agriculture. U.S. farm exports to China have grown nearly tenfold over the past decade, from $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $15 billion in 2010. Each $1 billion in exports supports 8,000 jobs throughout the supply chain, including rural growers, processors, shippers and others.

“China will continue to be a key trading partner as agriculture contributes to President Obama’s goal of doubling total U.S.

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Pioneer Hi-Bred establishes corn research facility in Ohio

Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, has expanded its research program with a new research team and center located in Plain City, Ohio. This local presence will enable Pioneer researchers to focus their efforts on testing and product development in Ohio and the east-central corn belt.

“This new facility allows us to be closer to our customers and reaffirms our commitment to expanding Pioneer research efforts in this region,” said Randy Minton, Pioneer business director for the Northeast Business Unit (NEBU), which includes Ohio. “It also gives our researchers the opportunity to develop and test products that are specific to this area and allows us to place the right product on the right acre to maximize farmer productivity.”

The facility will initially bring together seven researchers working in three project areas. A team managing the current and expanding early-stage research locations in Ohio and two teams responsible for managing over 60 corn and over 40 soybean IMPACT™ plots (Intensively Managed Product Advancement, Characterization and Training), will ensure local testing and product development for Ohio and the eastern corn belt.

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U.S. edamame production takes a step forward

Edamame production just took a step forward, said Marty Williams, a weed scientist with USDA-ARS and the University of Illinois. Dual Magnum, an important herbicide, has recently been registered for use on edamame, or vegetable soybean.

“As I understand, this is one of the first herbicides receiving a federal label for use on edamame,” Williams said. “Edamame producers now have an additional, important tool to help suppress weeds that would otherwise severely limit crop yield.”

Edamame production in the United States has been in an infant stage for decades, Williams said. Federal registration of a key herbicide such as S-metolachlor (Dual Magnum) reduces one of several constraints to growth of this industry.

“Although soybean dominates the Midwest agricultural landscape, nearly all of the edamame we consume is imported from Asia,” Williams said. “One of the reasons why this occurs is because there have been few pesticides registered for use on edamame, limiting domestic, commercial production.”

While labeling a single herbicide doesn’t solve all the problems associated with producing this crop in the United States, Williams believes it begins to remove some of the primary obstacles, namely weed interference, which is a problem in every field every year.

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Attendance up at recent OPGMA Congress

More than 40 educational sessions, a 100-booth trade show, and thousands of inspirations for an improved competitive advantage were showcased under one roof when the Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association (OPGMA) hosted its annual OPGMA Congress in January at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

Vendors from across the country showcased the latest innovations in produce, equipment, products, and services in the sold-out trade show. When not on the exhibit floor, more than 700 attendees got answers to today’s most challenging business issues during three days of sessions, idea exchanges, and networking functions. Tracks of education included food safety, vegetables, tree fruit, small fruit, marketing, business management, soils, nutrition, pesticides, research updates, and more.

The 2012 OPGMA Congress will be January 16-18 at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Sandusky, Ohio.

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Litigation, science and Roundup Ready alfalfa

The regulatory questions surrounding the fate of glyphosate resistant alfalfa have escalated into a debate surrounding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s use of sound science to make decisions.

Last Dec. 16, the USDA released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the potential environmental effects of granting genetically engineered glyphosate resistant alfalfa. The statement lays out two options, including a partial deregulation option known as Option 3 that could bog down the decision for years as lawyers and courtrooms argue. The other option is full deregulation.

“It is worth noting that the recently completed EIS on alfalfa is one step in a drawn out process that has taken decisions about alfalfa production largely out of the hands of the agriculture community and moved them into the courtroom, litigated by lawyers and decided by judges who have no connection to agriculture,” said Collin C. Peterson, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member. “I understand the concerns of those who think the restrictions listed under Option 3 could have negative long-term consequences for biotech product development and approval.

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The battle for acres heats up in the cold of winter

Over the next three months, the prices of corn and soybeans have two major objectives. First, prices must allocate remaining old crop supplies to maintain at least pipeline stocks by the end of the current marketing year. Second, prices must direct spring planting decisions, said Darrel Good, a University of Illinois agricultural economist.

“For soybeans, the USDA now projects that the combined total of domestic crush and exports during the current marketing year will reach 3.245 billion bushels. That is only 8 million bushels, or 0.25%, less than the total of last year,” he said.

At the projected level of use, year-ending stocks would total only 140 million bushels, or 4.2% of total use that includes seed, feed, and residual uses. Year-ending stocks cannot be reduced much below 140 million bushels and still maintain pipeline supplies so total use cannot exceed current projections by a substantial amount, he said.

During the first quarter of the current marketing year, soybean crush and exports totaled 1.063 billion bushels, 82 million (8.4%) more than during the first quarter last year.

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NCGA says deregulation for GMO alfalfa the right option

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering options for handling glyphosate tolerant alfalfa. One option is to fully deregulate glyphosate tolerant alfalfa events J101 and J163, as published in the Final Environmental Impact Statement this past December.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) is pressing USDA to fully deregulate Roundup Ready alfalfa in a committee forum.  Roundup Ready alfalfa was found to pose no risk to health or safety.

The U.S. regulatory system for biotechnology derived agricultural products has been the world leader for 25 years based upon a science-based decision-making process.

“Biotechnology benefits the environment and helps to provide food, feed, fiber and fuel to the world’s growing population,” said Bart Schott, president of the National Corn Growers Association that supports the option of deregulation. “A full deregulation of this important crop would allow farmers to move forward with alfalfa production this spring.”

An order issued in 2007 by the U.S.

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USDA launches new label to boost bioproduct demand

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program announced that a final rule to initiate a voluntary product certification and labeling program for qualifying biobased products was published in the January 20 Federal Register. This new label will clearly identify biobased products made from renewable resources, and will promote the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers.

“The Ohio Soybean Association is very excited that the final rule for USDA’s BioPreferred Program is being published this week,” said Jeff Wuebker, OSA president and Darke County soybean farmer. “This program will benefit a growing biobased product industry both statewide and nationally. A significant number of biobased products are made in Ohio from soybeans, so expanding this market is a benefit to all Ohio soybean farmers and can also help create economic development and jobs for all Ohioans.”

In 2010, thanks in part to the legislative work of OSA, Ohio became the first state to launch a similar statewide biopreferred purchasing program that requires all state government entities, including universities, to purchase biobased products when they are readily available and comparable in price and performance to traditional products made from petroleum or other chemicals.

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National No-Till Conference comes to Ohio

By Matt Reese

Every four years or so, soil scientists, agronomists, no-till gurus and farmers from around the nation descend upon Cincinnati for the National No-Till Conference.

This year the event (held last weekend) set a record for attendance and was, as always, packed-full of every caveat of no-till farming one can conjure up with expert speakers and roundtable discussions over four days. Attendees learned from the speakers, the speakers learned from attendees and there were often more new questions than answers after a session with this innovative group of agriculturalists dedicated to not tilling their soil.

“This is the 19th year and it rotates around four cities, including Cincinnati. It is wonderful for folks from Ohio, Kentucky and farther east to attend,” said Randall Reeder, an Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer who helps with the event. “You can come here and hear from soil scientists, agronomists, engineers, and industry folks from around the country.

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Expert examines increased demand, pricing implications in corn industry

Corn farmers who came to St. Louis for the National Corn Growers Association’s Priority and Policy Conference enjoyed a presentation by Bruce Scherr, CEO of Informa Economics and one of the nation’s leading agricultural economics research firms. In his presentations, Scherr reviewed the historical trends in corn prices and looked at how changing global demographics are shifting the agricultural commodity market paradigm.

“What we see in increased corn prices today is the ripple effect of economic expansion,” Scherr said. “The expansion of commodity values is not over. It’s just beginning.”

Noting that commodity prices remained, on average, stagnant for three decades despite significant inflation in the market as a whole, Scherr explained that it is essential to keep current price increases in perspective because prior values were unsustainably low. He also pointed out that, while demand initially surged, increases have leveled off and are now trending to more gradual growth.

In light of increased demand, Scherr pointed out the importance of remembering that the United States has never actually run out of corn despite major demand increases.

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Can sweet corn be grown using less atrazine?

Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in North American corn production, but heated controversy remains over the 50-plus-year-old product. Several other herbicides are used in corn production, and a host of non-chemical tactics are sometimes used, too.

If the use of atrazine is restricted or banned altogether, how will sweet corn growers cope? A recent University of Illinois study shows sweet corn can be grown successfully without atrazine, but given today’s approach, perhaps not very often.

“We wanted to know the implications of using less atrazine in current weed management systems of sweet corn,” said Marty Williams, USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist at the University of Illinois. “We conducted field studies at locations throughout North America and found that weed control falls apart pretty quickly as atrazine is removed.”

Williams said that further restrictions or a complete ban of atrazine would increase occurrences of weed control failure and subsequent yield losses in sweet corn, so finding an alternative is important.

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Wheat acres up, but many are in poor condition

In Ohio, 930,000 acres were planted with wheat compared to last year’s total of 780,000 acres, according to the USDA. Seeding of winter wheat acres are up 10 percent to total 41 million acres nationwide, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported.

Helping fuel last fall’s renewed interest in wheat were better economics and favorable planting conditions, said Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt.

“The price of wheat escalated in the fall of 2010 with the poor wheat production in Russia and Canada,” he said. “Secondly, conditions for planting wheat improved dramatically with the early harvest of corn and soybeans, and by fall helped producers get the crop planted in a timely manner.”

Cash prices for wheat are hovering at $7 per bushel. Corn is trading at a cash price of about $6 a bushel, with soybeans about $13.50 a bushel.

While $7 would seem an attractive price, wheat might not be able to compete with $6 corn, Hurt said.

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Reduce costs of feeding hogs with finer grinding

It is well known that corn needs to be ground to be effectively utilized by pigs. New research shows that particle size reductions beyond current common practice may help lower feed costs.

“For many years producers have been grinding to an average particle size between 650 and 700 microns,” said Hans H. Stein, University of Illinois Extension swine specialist and professor in the Department of Animal Sciences. “This particle size was based on research showing that if grain is ground to a smaller particle size, then problems with ulcers in pigs may increase.”

However, Stein said research also shows that energy and nutrient digestibility will increase if particle size is reduced to smaller than 650 microns. Because of this increase in nutrient and energy digestibility, less feed is needed to produce one pound of gain if grain particle size is reduced.

Newer research indicates that feed conversion may be improved by 3 to 5% if corn particle size is reduced from 650 to 450 microns.

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Yield or disease resistance package, which should come first?

By Anne Dorrance, Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist

There are many of things to choose from as we prepare for the 2011 planting season. Lots of different packages, choices, and we all remember the challenges of the past few field seasons. In parts of the eastern soybean belt, we have more challenges than most other areas of the Midwest soybean production region. This is a review of the key pathogens in the state that are very well managed with resistance –- if the soybean variety has it.


Phytophthora sojae is our number one soil borne pathogen for major portions of the state. We see it every time the wrong variety is planted and we have heavy rains. We get stem rot. When stem rot occurs we lose substantial amounts of yield. For a variety with low levels of partial resistance, we can still lose 50% in yield, and if there is no partial resistance, the whole field can be lost.

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USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service extends sign-up period for Conservation Stewardship Program

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced the ranking period cut-off date for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to January 21, 2011. Producers interested in CSP should submit applications to their local NRCS Office by the deadline so that their applications can be considered during the first ranking period of 2011.

“CSP benefits rural communities across the nation by protecting and preserving critical natural resources,” said NRCS Chief Dave White.  “We encourage those producers who have already made conservation a priority to apply and work with us to expand the scale of conservation on their land.”

CSP is offered in all 50 states, and the Pacific and Caribbean areas through continuous sign-ups. The program provides many conservation benefits including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habit enhancements and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change.

Producers are encouraged to apply for CSP throughout the year to be considered for current and future application ranking periods.

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“No on Snow” a good rule to live by

By Karen Chapman, Great Lakes Regional Director at Environmental Defense Fund

Farmers have to watch every penny in order to remain profitable – now more than ever. Even with rosy crop prices, producers cannot afford to waste fertilizer or fuel. The January 3rd on-line bulletin “Crop Input and Land Outlook 2011” from OSU Extension, points out that, “Fertilizer continues to be the most volatile of the crop input costs and cost management of this important input may be the difference in being a low cost or high cost producer in 2011.”

With nitrogen and phosphorus prices both up at least 50% from a year ago, it’s hard to imagine why any farmer would apply fertilizer only to see it flow off the field. However, many farmers — some probably unknowingly — do just that.

It’s time to stop this practice, to protect both the pocketbook and soil and water health.

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