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Lettuce Work helping young people with autism serve others through agriculture

Doug and Julie Sharp of New Albany have devoted countless hours to working with youth and young adults that fall on the autism spectrum. Besides being the parents of an autistic child, Julie is a teacher at a school that specializes in working with students that have autism and Doug served on the school board.

Although there are many programs for youth that fall on the autism spectrum while they are in school, the Sharps noticed a distinct problem: after graduating from high school it is hard for youth with autism to receive support from external programs.

Seeing the need, the Sharps worked diligently to create the Lettuce Work Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 organization that serves young adults with autism and trains them for the future. The idea for Lettuce Work began in 2007. After construction of a 15,000 square foot greenhouse, partnering with a local high school, and plentiful paperwork, the first batch of lettuce was harvested in 2014.

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Hydroponic crop production workshop

Growing plants in a liquid nutrient solution without soil in controlled environments, i.e. hydroponics, has been successfully used for greenhouse production of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and other crops. Hydroponic production is an agricultural production practice that optimizes energy consumption and water use; effectively employs chemical-free integrated pest management controls (IPM); permits agricultural production independent of season; and can generate higher crop yields with improved quality, consistency, and predictability, while exploiting less land. Hydroponics provides year round continuous production and crop yields that exceed field production by as much as 10-fold, all while optimizing resources including water, energy, space, capital, and labor. Hydroponics is an important agriculture practice commonly represented in greenhouse food crop production. However, hydroponic systems have a higher initial investment than soil-based crop production and require technical skills and careful management.

 

Learn more from the experts

On Feb. 8 and 9, 2018 greenhouse growers will have the opportunity to learn about best practices for growing crops in hydroponic systems.

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Study suggests new targets for improving soybean oil content

Scientists working to increase soybean oil content tend to focus their efforts on genes known to impact the plant’s seeds, but a Purdue University study shows that genes affecting other plant parts deserve more attention.

Wild-type soybeans contain bloom, a powdery substance originating in the pod that can coat seeds. This trait makes the seeds less visible and is believed to be advantageous for their long-term survival in natural environments. But the bloom is enriched with allergens and can be harmful for animals and people if ingested. People domesticating soybeans selected a naturally occurring mutation that makes soybean seeds shiny through eliminating bloom.

“This mutation was selected by ancient farmers approximately 5,000 years ago,” said Jianxin Ma, professor in Purdue’s Department of Agronomy. “That could have been a key step for domesticating soybean for agricultural production and human consumption.”

Ma and his colleagues wanted to know more about the genetic control of bloom in wild soybeans.

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It’s cold here, but what is the weather in South America?

The first major story line for 2018 has to be the ongoing frigid temperatures across Ohio and the Midwest so far this winter. Those cold temperatures seem to affect human temperament as well as that of farm equipment, which makes for challenges in getting grain moved to final destinations. Not only do the trucks need to be operating at peak performance in these frigid temperatures, the driver has to be constantly aware of road conditions. Road conditions and temperatures could easily see some facilities needing grain moved today, not tomorrow in order to meet train shipping deadlines. Prolonged weeks of these conditions could cause ongoing headaches for those needing enough grain to keep facilities operating at optimum efficiency. The worst case scenario would see soybean crushing or corn ethanol facilities shutting down due to insufficient inventories on hand.

Weather, prices, and demand will be major factors for grain prices in the next three to six months.

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Conservation Tillage Breakfast Series

The 2018 Conservation Tillage Club breakfast program series will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the Plaza Inn Restaurant in Mt. Victory.  Each session will start at 7:30 am with complimentary buffet breakfast followed by the program at 8:00 am.  Other sessions will be held on Jan. 23, Feb. 6 and 20.

On Jan. 9, the program will feature Mike Bacon and Andrea Weaver, CAUV Property Tax Changes.  Bacon is the Hardin County Auditor and Weaver serves as the Union County Auditor.  They will be joined by a panel of other property tax and conservation experts.  As county auditors, they have sent out notices of changes and held meetings with landowners, local schools, and farm groups to help explain how changes brought about by the Ohio Department of Taxation will affect them. The presentation at the Conservation Tillage Club breakfast will focus on the most recent changes in the CAUV formula in regards to conservation lands and what landowners must do in order to see possible reductions in their property taxes for coming years.

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Winterize your ag technology

After this season, you may be tempted to park your equipment in the shed and take a much needed winter break. You probably remembered to winterize your machinery, but you may have overlooked the need to winterize your precision ag technology. Here are some tips to ensure your monitors and sensors continue to function next season.

  1. Bring technology indoors.

Although precision ag technology is ruggedized to protect against harsh field conditions, the temperatures that we often experience during a Midwest winter are low enough to potentially damage the electronic components of in-cab displays and sensors such as the GPS receiver. Remove them and store indoors to protect them from the winter weather. Even if your equipment is parked in a protected area, it may be wise to remove sensors and store them to protect against rodent damage.

  1. Export and backup data from cards

Winter is a great time to pull this season’s data off data cards and/or in-cab displays.

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The difficulty in legally applying dicamba: Weather factors

Labels for the dicamba products approved for use on Xtend soybeans, Engenia, FeXapan, and XtendiMax, were recently revised, and are now generally more restrictive in an effort to prevent some of the problems with off target injury that occurred in 2017.  Whether these additional restrictions do much to prevent volatility is doubtful, but this aside, one of the problems with labels this restrictive is the difficulty in even finding enough time to make legal applications.  It can be an interesting exercise to review past weather conditions with the goal of determining legal windows of application, taking these restrictions into account.  Weed scientists at Purdue University conducted this type of analysis for west central Indiana for June 2017, and came up with a total of 48 hours when it would have been legal to apply (hours of dawn to dusk, wind speeds between 3 and 10 mph).

We conducted a similar analysis, used weather information for June of 2017 at the Dayton International Airport.  

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Ohio Soybean Council receives R&D 100 Gold Special Recognition Award

The Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) has received an R&D 100 Special Recognition Award for developing EnzoMeal, an effective and sustainable food source for farm-raised fish. The 2017 Gold Special Recognition Award — the highest level of this prestigious award for invention and innovation — was presented in the Corporate Social Responsibility category. OSC was among the 100 winners announced November 17 during a black-tie awards ceremony in Orlando, Fla.

An advanced soybean-based fish feed, EnzoMeal addresses a key impediment to widespread expansion of aquaculture (“fish farming”), the fastest-growing sector of food production. Standard fish meal’s primary ingredients — wild fish and shrimp — are rapidly dwindling resources. However, conventional soybean meal, when used at high levels in producing fish feed, contains carbohydrates that fish cannot easily digest. OSC and its research partner, Battelle, developed a technology that removes nondigestible carbohydrates and increases crude proteins in the soybean meal, resolving the challenges that to date have limited a high level of soybean use as a substitute fish feed protein.

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Extension of the biodiesel tax credit

The bill included many issues of interest and impact to soybean farmers. However, it didn’t include an extension of the biodiesel tax credit that expired last year.

The biodiesel tax credit and other expired temporary credits were not addressed in the comprehensive tax reform bill, but there is an effort to have a separate tax extender package included on another legislative vehicle that could pass before the end of 2017 or early in 2018. The Ohio Soybean Association and the American Soybean Association, as well as the National Biodiesel Board, are working to get the biodiesel tax credit attached to a revenue bill that might be moving through Congress.

Soybean farmers have played a leading role in establishing and developing the biodiesel industry. From the first investments made by the soybean industry, biodiesel has grown into a domestic market approaching 3 billion gallons.

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2018 Ohio State University Outlook Meeting schedule

Ohio State University Extension is pleased to announce the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Meetings! In 2018 there will be seven locations in Ohio. Each location will have speaker addressing the topics of Free Trade Agreements: Why They Matter to US Agriculture, Grain Market Outlook, and Examining the 2018 Ohio Farm Economy. Additional topics vary by location and include 2018 Farm Bill Policy Update, Dairy Production Economics Update, and Farm Tax Update.

Join the faculty from Ohio State University Extension, Ohio State Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Developmental Economics, and Industry Leaders as they discuss the issues and trends affecting agriculture in Ohio.  Each meeting is being hosted by a county OSU Extension Educator to provide a local personal contact for this meeting. A meal is provided with each meeting and included in the registration price. Questions can be directed to the local host contact.

The Ag Outlook presentations will be recorded this year and be made available to farmers not living close to the meeting locations or those unable to attend.

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Changes to crop insurance continue in 2018

Changes to the Federal crop insurance program initiated in 2017 will continue into 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) continues to improve the program, increasing its availability and effectiveness as a risk management tool while safeguarding the integrity of the program.

In 2017, RMA had a number of accomplishments in the areas of program integrity, program efficiency, expanded options, and customer service. These accomplishments include the way RMA develops new pilot programs, and makes policy changes based on stakeholder feedback.

“RMA has a responsibility to producers to provide flexible and available crop insurance,” said Robert Johansson, USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. “We also have a responsibility to the American taxpayer to ensure the Federal crop insurance program is actuarially sound and uses their tax dollars in an efficient and effective manner.”

Some highlights from 2017 are:

  • Customer service — RMA worked with Approved Insurance Providers, agents, and stakeholder groups to respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as a number of severe wildfires and other disasters throughout the year.
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Cover crop experiments are a Wilson family tradition

Remembering his experiences as a boy back in the 1950s with his father’s corn-wheat-hay crop rotation, Nathan Wilson did some experimenting with cover crops in the 1980s on his Pickaway County farm. Wheat was a part of the crop rotation for the farm and Wilson also tried some cereal rye.

“I tried planting cover crops in the 80s with cereal rye because I remember what that hay had done in the soil. Back then we didn’t have the Roundup beans and if we didn’t get that stuff killed before the beans came up it was a disaster,” Nathan said. “The beans were planted and the rye was head high. It was spitting rain when he sprayed and that night it rained four inches. If we hadn’t got that sprayed it would have been a disaster. The rye died and the beans grew. I felt we were lucky to get a crop that year after a very tough planting situation and I quit cover crops cold turkey.”

Nathan’s sons Ryan and Wyatt Wilson joined the farm in subsequent years and made another push for including cover crops with the long-term no-till on the farm.

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Yields ok, prices are a different story in 2017

 

Despite the gush of rain in the early part of the season, corn made a comeback and led to surprisingly high yields in Ohio this year. The state’s soybean farmers were not so fortunate: yields were down an average of four bushels compared to a year ago.

Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture had estimated Ohio’s average corn yield would be 173 bushels per acre, many farmers harvested 200 plus bushels per acre, said Allen Geyer, a research associate with Ohio State University Extension.

“Everyone has been pleasantly surprised about yields. Price-wise, that’s a whole different story,” Geyer said.

On average, Ohio farmers got $3.50 per bushel for their corn and $9.39 for soybeans, both down from the 2016 averages of $3.61 per bushel for corn, $9.66 for soybeans.

Favorable weather through much of the season contributed to high yields of corn this year, Geyer said. No days were too hot, which can slow corn’s growth.

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Conference offers advice on nutrient management

With so much focus on fertilizer these days, where and when it’s applied, a conference will be held in January to inform people about the many approaches and technological advances that can make it easier.

The 2nd annual Precision University Jan. 11 in London, Ohio, will feature presentations about technology that can help farmers apply fertilizer in a way that prevents it from running off the land and ending up in Lake Erie or other waterways.

The conference is being hosted by Ohio State University Extension and the Digital Agriculture program team in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of CFAES.

Starting in September 2017, those who apply fertilizer on more than 50 acres of land in Ohio have had to become certified every three years by passing a test or taking a course in how to safely apply nutrients to their land.

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Wilson family building on a heritage of conservation

Nathan Wilson has been working on the farm since he was first able to drive a Ford 8N back in the 1940s.

“I grew up with the opportunity to farm because my dad was busy and we had 130 acres and a Ford 8N. He hired some help but there was always something for me to do. I think I drove that tractor before I started school. Back then there were always jobs to do for a little kid on a Ford 8N. I was disking when I was 7 or 8. I had an early start and always loved it,” Nathan said. “My dad was always interested in the soil. When dad got out of the service he started a large animal vet clinic in Circleville and bought a farm. The first thing he did was divide the farm into four fields with a four-year rotation of corn, wheat and two years of hay.

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Updated Bt table to help with hybrid selection

Corn producers have many hybrids to choose from including those with transgenic traits for insect management. However, the array of trait packages and what they are best suited for can be hard to keep track of. The “Handy Bt Trait Table” for U.S. corn production provides a helpful list of trade names and details of their trait packages, including which Bt proteins and herbicide traits they contain, what insects they are marketed to control, refuge requirements, and which insects have developed resistance to them in at least some regions. This table is produced by Dr. Chris DiFonzo, extension entomologist at Michigan State, with contributions from Drs. Pat Porter (Texas A&M) and Kelley Tilmon (Ohio State). It has been updated for 2018 and can be a useful guide for farmers and crop consultants in their hybrid selection. It is temporarily housed on this page at Texas A&M while the Michigan State entomology website undergoes renovation.

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NCGA announces 2017 Yield Contest Winners

Improved seed varieties, advanced production techniques and innovative growing practices helped corn growers achieve ever-higher yields in the National Corn Growers Association 2017 National Corn Yield Contest. Again, this year, five national entries surpassed the 400-plus bushel per acre mark.

The National Corn Yield Contest is now in its 53rd year and remains NCGA’s most popular program for members.

“The contest provides farmers more than just an opportunity for friendly competition; it generates data that impacts future production practices across the industry,” said Roger Zylstra, chair of NCGA’s Stewardship Action Team. “The techniques first developed by contest winners grow into far-reaching advances, helping farmers across the country excel in a variety of situations.  Our contest emphasizes innovation both from growers and technology providers, thus enabling us to meet the growing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber.”

Ohio’s state winners included: Ed Mershon, Plain City, with DEKALB DKC57-77RIB and a yield of 227.1275 in the A Non-Irrigated Class; Don Jackson, Camden, with DEKALB DKC64-34RIB and a yield of 298.5093 in the AA Non-Irrigated Class; Chris Waymire, Yellow Springs, with DEKALB DKC63-60RIB and a yield of 295.1273 in the No-Till/Strip-Till Non-Irrigated Class;  Jim Motycka, Napoleon, with Pioneer P0825AM  and a yield of 314.9437 in the No-Till/Strip-Till Irrigated Class; and Dan Watchman, Napoleon, with Seed Consultants SCS 1125AMX and a yield of 289.4762 HXX in the Irrigated Category.

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Nitrogen concerns for Ohio?

Over the past month or so, I participated in three conferences on nutrient loss. While many speakers addressed phosphorus concerns, several mentioned nitrogen as the next target. I focused on the nitrogen talks.

So lets talk about nitrogen management. It leaks, like everywhere. Up and down — up as a gas when the soils are saturated and moves down and out with water movement. By my estimate we mineralized 100 pounds of N per acre in 2017, and probably lost 100 pounds or more in many spots to leaching and to denitrification. Even though 80% of the atmosphere is N, we still have to supply it for our grass crops. And we add more than we need, because we don’t want to be short. That’s an economic concern.

 

So what can we do about managing nitrogen?

The current tool to make nitrogen recommendations for corn in Ohio is the CNR, which stands for Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator.

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Soil health workshops focused on reducing nutrient runoff to Lake Erie

Farmers who want to improve their soil’s health and cut input costs all while benefiting Ohio’s water quality, may want to consider adding cover crops to their fields to improve soil health.

Farmers who want to learn more about growing and managing cover crops on their farms, can attend several soil health workshops being held in Northwest Ohio and Southern Michigan in the Lake Erie Watershed.

Soil health workshops

Jan. 4 and 5, 2018: Putnam OSU Extension Office, Ottawa, OH from 8AM to 4PM 1st day and 8AM to noon 2nd day. Cost is $10 per person.  RSVP (419) 523-6294.

 

Jan. 24, 2018: Gottfried Nature Center, Upper Sandusky, OH 8AM to 4PM.

No cost.  RSVP 419-731-2566

 

Feb. 6, 2018: Luckey Farmers General Office, Woodville, OH 8AM to 4PM.

No cost.  RSVP (419) 898-1595.

 

March 21, 2018: Jonesville Fire Station, Jonesville, MI 8AM to 4PM.  Cost is $10.00 per person. 

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Commodity organizations support science-based trade at WTO Ministerial

Members of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), USA Rice, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the National Sorghum Producers (NSP) and the National Barley Growers Association (NBGA) welcomed a joint statement issued this week from 17 countries participating in the 11th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The statement emphasized the importance of supporting farmer access to the full range of tools and technologies available and opposing regulatory barriers lacking sufficient scientific justification.
“Having in mind the importance of transparency and predictability to international trade, we call on all Members to strengthen the implementation of the WTO [Sanitary and Phytosanitary] Agreement by reinforcing the work of relevant international standards organizations and ensuring the scientific basis of SPS measures is sound,” the statement reads. “The development and application of sound SPS measures is needed to support farmers’ choice in tools that can expand agricultural production and facilitate access to food and agricultural products, and also to safeguard human, animal and plant health.”
Government officials from Kenya, Uganda, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, and the United States delivered remarks in favor of the joint statement of understanding on Dec.
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