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By Staff | Feb 1, 2013

The last week of the first month of 2013 has been here. This is typically the longest month of the year with the shortest days and coldest temperatures.

If we can survive this we can make it through anything nature can throw at us.

Being the big Iowa Power Farming Show and the Nebraska Ag Expo are scheduled for this week history indicates that a blizzard could make it into the Midwest. Will that happen or will we finish the month with mostly bare topsoil?

Those in charge of charting the crop prices and marketing their grain have been closely watching all government reports and indicators of price direction from other countries.

The big USDA release of two weeks ago could be called a wakeup to end users and several importing nations, but was basically an affirmation to producers who watched their own yields and tapped into the crop reporting network among farmers over the wintertime.

What that network is saying is that the questionable figures given for production and usage over the last two to three years could be getting ready to culminate with grain pipeline supplies reaching their lowest and scariest numbers we have seen.

Having that happen does no one any good and will end up damaging both livestock producers and other end users.


This show is scheduled for this week at the old Vet’s Auditorium and Wells Fargo arena. It comes at a time when growers are often looking for something to do and wish to see and hear about the latest thing they may want to add to their operation. That may be a new piece of machinery, a new seed treatment, or a new piece of electronics to add to the navigational arsenal that is growing for many operators.

I had mentioned in a past column about a new fertilizer called Perfect Blend that has been tested the past few years by several groups, several farmers and at the Federal Laboratory for Ag and the Environment at ISU.

So far it has received ringing endorsements by those doing the testing. What they are finding is that it both supplies all the needed fertilizer for the growing crops plus creates a microbial bloom that builds the soil moisture holding capacity and microbial population. In other words it can build sandy soil that blanked out during the dry weather of last summer into black soil that could have remained productive.

It is produced in an actual plant out of poultry manure or slaughter plant waste. There is also the possibility of using other organic waste for the raw material.

The company wants to build a plant in the No. 1 egg and turkey producing state – Iowa – but to make that happen and to look better to investors, would like to have several thousand acres of the material spread this spring in preparation for the 2013 crop.

The product helps restore eroded or sandy fields back to better productivity. It had a cost when applied to light or sandy areas, but when a person calculates how much money was spent on inputs and rent for those areas with no grain being produced, it would be money well spent. Most farmers have areas where building a bigger sponge would benefit their bottom line.

Nutrition, education

A few of usaAg types from within the state attended an annual think tank that involved people from vocations ranging from medical doctors and researchers to physicists, nano-chemists, nutritionists, veterinarians and agronomists. It was a broad collection of people who have made the connection between healthy soil, nutritious food and good human health.

With the country’s problems with obesity, cancer, chronic diseases, autism, and a host of other health related problems, we thing that improving a few things within the arena of producing a healthy food supply need attention. I will likely take some crap for saying such a thing, but outspending the No. 2 worst country by a 2:1 margin on health care seems to indicate a problem that needs to be corrected.

We do see the fields of growing healthy crops connected very closely with maintaining good human health. It’s that way with livestock.

A few weeks ago I mentioned listening to Dr. Terry Wahls tell how she researched what may have been at the root of the problem when she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. She changed her diet, proved all of her consulting medical specialists wrong and crawled out of her would-be grave.

At the think tank meeting several of the attendees told of what they knew of another case that proved what could happen when dedicated people try to treat the cause rather than the symptoms of the problem.

At a Rochester, Minn., seminar last winter a young couple from Missouri attended accompanied by their autistic 8-year-old son. He proved to be tough to manage and made being his parent an ordeal. Those two asked for help from a number of the presenters who made major changes in his diet. They followed the advice. Now that a year has passed what has happened is truly remarkable. The boy is back with his regular classmates and got straight A’s on his report card. Pretty neat.

The Invite program

A few weeks ago I mentioned a product and program that was used six to eight years ago to control the adult rootworm populations during the summer when they would typically lay their eggs. It was a prophylactic-type program that seemed to do the job. Why it worked was that the beetles inherently gobbled up the spray droplets containing the 10 percent of normal of insecticide so they tasted bad to marauding birds.

Be alert to the program as it has yet to be resurrected by growing the bitter melons down in Florida, then extracting the juice into the liquid product. The processing company needs a commitment for a set volume to justify cleaning its processing system. What it would allow is for growers to control the adults and egg numbers, thus lowering larval counts greatly.

This would give any trait or hard pesticide a chance against high feeding numbers.

ISU rotational study

Dr. Matt Liebman generated a lot of publicity when he published his study showing that a three- or four-year rotation has a number of benefits over a one- or two-crop system. Most of us grew up when we had three or four crops that could either be sold for grain or fed to our livestock.

With today’s higher inputs and resistant insects or weeds staring at us from several different directions there may be relevance again in such a study. The tricky part is the high price of ground or high cash rents that place great emphasis on short terms profits and in places short term leases.

Let’s see what happens when trait resistance becomes a greater problem and the threat of abandoning fields becomes a reality as it has in southern locations.

Veggie work axiom

In recent weeks a few of us have had the chance to interact with agronomists and crop consultants who work with high-priced commodities on high-priced ground.

The mentality of those fellows and the land owners and operators is that every bushel gets more value, both in the marketplace and in the need for more bushels.

In Florida is means that veggie and fruit growers are adjusting their fertility program sometimes on a daily basis with their drip or buried line irritation.

In the Netherlands they rely on foliar nutrition to maximize fruiting or flowering based on plant growth stage and on varietal requirements.

This places a lot more requirements on oversight by the farmers, and on their input suppliers, on all application equipment and on product to perform.

Are we following into that same path?

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.

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