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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 27, 2015

The month continues to scream by and is now nearly over. It always seems so short of a time period between the Iowa Power Farming Show and when the beginning of the busy season starts.

In most years a majority of the input decisions have been made and management steps have been finalized. This year is different.

During the fall and early winter seasons most people that work with ag companies noted that the mentality and timings of the planning process seemed to be delayed by about six weeks.

Will that time delay continue or will there be a quick catch-up that occurs this next month? This all comes when most operators hope there is a market uptick in prices and profitability.

Tasks at hand

Over the next two weeks operators should be finalizing what treatments should be applied to their seed this season. The question for most growers is which ones are absolutely necessary and which ones are situationally beneficial.

How does one weigh all the diseases and insects the planted seed and small seedlings will be exposed to?

All a grower can do is evaluate each for drainage properties, SCN numbers, past disease history and moisture situation, then weigh the number of insects that can be problematic after the type of winter and growing season 2015 will follow.

The No. 1 issue for soybeans in most of the Midwest states is seedling diseases. The use of a good inoculate is another good bet.

The same applies for a good plant health promoting biological.

Aquaculture

The middle of February has been the normal time for the Aquaculture U.S. Conference. It is the annual gathering for the many different participants in the U.S. and the world fish-producing industries.

I had gotten an invite from a person connected to Tufts University in Boston, a shrimp genomist to present at two of her sessions.

At first it felt too far outside my realm, but after speaking at a medical conference or two I felt more comfortable with it and figured if I could help the fledging industry in the Midwest flourish and avoid a few problems, it would be worth attending.

The conference was held in New Orleans, she of the low-lying geography, always at risk of falling victim to the Mighty Mississippi.

The timing was nearly perfect as the traditional ceremony of Mardi Gras was over on Ash Wednesday. Neither of us like the big crowds and the problems negotiating the heavy traffic.

The layout of the conference at the big downtown Marriot on Canal Street was similar to that of Vets Auditorium and Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines.

The managing crew consisted of Dr. John Cooksey, his wife and son. There was a big hall for commercial displays, another one for posters, and two big wings with nine meeting rooms for concurrent educational and business sessions.

The crowd was large and numbered more than 1,900 from Norway, Japan, Uganda, Ecuador and France; and from five continents and most states within the U.S.

Included were a number of Africans, Asians, Europeans, Central and South Americans, the Far East Nations and Canadians.

Basically every country where wild fisheries are being either supplemented or replaced by farmed fishing operations.

It was a great schooling event where all facets of the industry were presented in depth.

The level of enthusiasm was high as the market is wide open for all types of good-tasting fish, shrimp and a host of other critters. It would be comparable to a good pork show except more in depth since water quality and oxygen supply are even more important.

I will try to cover the different categories over the next few weeks.

First of all why are farmers producing fish? The obvious answer is that there is a good chance of making decent money if the operation is well managed.

The degree of vigilance compared to row crop farming is wide as in many indoor facilities there is constant monitoring of water and air qualities.

It would be comparable to a well-run hog nursery, with more attention to air pumps and air exchange.

There were many booths with exhibitors showing off different filters, air and water pumps, skimmers and tank designs. The ability to get different-sized tanks will be important in any Iowa ventures as there will be both retrofitted and new buildings.

I spent some time visiting with different tank suppliers. Most had considered the need to have different tank configurations as well as stackability to make transporting them easier and cheaper.

An important issue for them is always electricity cost, as it adds to the bottom line and cost of production. It’s always cheaper to pump air than pump the heavier water.

I was asked which aquatic species appear to be the most promising.

Off course we have all heard of tilapia and hybrid bass. The former is considered a bottom-feeder where the competition is from the Far East countries.

On tap and in production now are more favored species such as Australian sea bass, several species of grouper, redfish, salmon, sturgeon, snappers, perch and trout.

Each has its own personality and requirements.

Others developing market niches and value are eels and sea urchins.

One feed company expert knew of a grower that was producing the urchins. When asked why, he said it was a delicacy in Japan and the market value was $60,000 per ton.

That would make a person fill every tank and bucket around the place with the spiny pests.

The production capacity differ tremendously among species.

Certain kinds, such as redfish, only spawn once a year, but will produce 100 million eggs each spawn.

In the wild only two of those will survive to maturity, while in tanks it is possible to have 70 get fertilized, and 70 to 80 percent of those might reach maturity.

Thus one female and a few males could produce enough small fish to fill many facilities.

In comparison talapia and sea bass can spawn every 30 days, but their egg numbers are much lower than redfish.

Depending on the species, the spawning frequency can be managed and limited if they have a superior female and want to maximize her longevity.

More on this topic in following weeks.

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

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