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By Staff | Apr 11, 2014

It’s early April and most of the drivers who plan to participate in the 2014 cropping season are ready to get rolling.

Most of the equipment is ready and the seed is either stored on-site in a dealer’s shed.

Decent warm days have been few and far between and when we do get rain it seems to only amount to .25 to .5 inch, which doesn’t do much except slow everyone down.

The current forecast looked good a few days ago so have to hope that it comes true.

After last year, when the planting season lasted through mid July, which is fine if you are living in the southern hemisphere, everyone hopes to get off to a much better start.

There are still several feet of frost to get rid of before we can feel comfortable with the weather, but a nice week would go a long way toward that goal.

I am still waiting to hear an explanation of why frost is driven deeper when warm weather returns.

There are enough validated stories by plumbers and grave diggers telling what they have seen, but what is the reason behind it?

Frozen septic tanks were very common and hopefully that problem is not going to be repeated much in the future.

Locally, many pipes 4.5- to 5-foot deep are common. Further north documented stores show frost at 7 feet. If nothing else it should have broken deeper compaction if there was moisture at that level.

While it is never good to wish time away, it will finally be a nice change to see green grass and the new crops reach knee high.

Then to taste fresh sweet corn and the first fresh veggies from the garden sounds so appealing.

The fragrances coming from the grill filled with brats, burgers or steaks are just as appealing. We can’t wait.

Local happenings

I had the chance Sunday to listen to Dr. Terry Wahls, a teaching medical doctor and researcher, tell her story at the Des Moines Public Library.

I have mentioned her and her story in a previous article. We heard her story at a crops meeting two years ago. She did not take the advice of the medical community to accept fate and get ready to be bed-bound and meet her maker.

By 2007 she was making her rounds in a reclining wheel chair, because she did not have the strength to walk or sit up. So she took it upon herself to dig out articles on the disease and what had been tried in efforts to minimize its effects on the human body.

Some of the promising results centered on taking lots of vitamins and minerals to help the body mount a better defense against its advance.

She investigated what each plant family contained for minerals and vitamins. Making the dietary shift toward more nutritious greens helped, she said, but found she was lacking in the fats and oils necessary for muscle formation and replacement of myelin sheath material that had been damaged.

So she worked lean beef back into the diet. By 2008, she had improved enough that she put the wheel chair away and was back to bicycling up to 20 miles and making her hospital rounds on foot.

Wahls recognized that many skeptics would only accept what she had done if the proper amount of clinical trials were conducted in blind studies with properly randomized test subjects.

A number of them were done, and these are continuing.

The conclusions she gave were that many of the chronic diseases affecting Americans today are diet and lifestyle caused. Too many things are contained in the food that people are not aware of, to their detriment.

By making changes in diet and moving toward consumption of nutrient dense food, much of the damage done to the body by a host of major diseases can be repaired or even reversed. Expensive medicines geared to treating symptoms or invasive surgeries were not the answer, she said.

There has been hesitancy by major hospitals and medical groups to follow her line of thinking and research.

But it has to happen if we are to avoid some of the predictions that have been made lately about rates of different diseases in the near future.

She is getting resistance from the medical community for several reasons, mostly due to the cures not being high-priced or involving intricate machines. It did not require a plethora of $40,000 per year medicines. It required people to make lifestyle changes, she said, but those that did were ready to feel better and thought it was well worth it. They knew their lives depended on it.

Kudzu bugs

There is a new, hitchhiking insect pest that could soon be invading the corn and soybean growing belt. It moved here in a shipment of something from the Far East, where it is a pest of soybeans as well as feasting on kudzu. Thus it is called the kudzu bug.

It showed up in a number of fields in the southeast and is predicted to move into Ohio and Arkansas and likely Missouri.

In previous cases of new territory invasion, its travel and detection paths seem to tell that it moved via motorized vehicles, often showing up right around rest stops and heavily traveled routes.

It has been a voracious feeder devouring soybean leaves in big numbers, having multiple generations each season. We really have not had a pest like this in soybeans, save for where the Japanese beetles have gotten bad.

Be alert to it and its damage. Don’t be surprised if we see it in the heart of the Corn Belt this season. It will need to be monitored closely at that time.

Microbial awareness

Almost every farm publication these days contains stories about soil microbiology, and the prognostications that higher yields will be partially generated by working with the microbes in the soil and their ability to affect plant growth and nutrient uptake.

In the medical world, there has been a similar sort of awakening about what is called the microbiome.

This refers to the two to five pounds of microbials, beneficial bacteria, in the gut which are instrumental in digesting food, extracting minerals from that food, and releasing all sorts of hormones and compounds that affect physical, mental and hormonal health.

Because of this knowledge and the proven fact that some of these microbes are susceptible to compounds that our bodies are not, we need to be more alert to more environmental affecting compounds than we previously thought.

This is why we are now hearing more about things such as probiotics, fecal transplants and the shikimic pathway and their importance and relationship to human health.

The other part of this is the acknowledgment is that in the old days, as in five years ago, every scientist believed that the presence of one gene controlled the expression of one trait.

With the science of epigenetics they now are finding out the expression of one trait is dependent on the electromagnetic interaction of five gene loci.

Tweaking the location of one of these loci can alter the expression of several traits or plant behaviors.


There is continued interest and research going on in biochar, which is a carbon-based granular compound similar to charcoal, but where its burning has not gone so far.

When biochar, which can be made from any carbon-based waste product, is added to soil in measured and properly timed intervals, it gives soil microbes both food and a place to dwell.

This can boost nutrient availability and water holding capacity as organic matter is rebuilt. These microbial-based and carbon-generated organic acids and gels will then hold nutrients that are more plant available as well as leach-proofed.

Our grandfathers knew about their effect whenever they spread manure on weak or eroded spots to enrich the soil and build OM.

May the sun shine over the Midwest this week and the ones following.

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

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