For the love of wild mustangs

This is a small slice of the story of Alan Day’s efforts to manage wild mustangs.  In the 1980s, the Tucson, Arizona cowboy acquired his third ranch in southern South Dakota.  As Alan Day tells the story, on his ranch, he managed wild mustangs that were owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. His book, The Horse Lover, tells the entire story, but Mr. Day told me some it in a phone call. There’s much more in the book, including the forward, written by Alan’s sister Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

AUDIO: Alan Day (3 min. MP3)

AUDIO: Alan Day full interview (30 min. MP3)

Good growing year at Renk

Rick & Alex with one of their dealersThe corn and soybeans on the Renk Seed test plot at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin look very good this year.  Plant geneticist Rick Batty says they are especially excited about the new varieties they have in the plot.  He says when they add a new variety they strive to improve yield, agronomics and stress tolerance.  Batty says the extreme conditions of the past three years have been a good test of which hybrids can survive and thrive.

Batty talks about the process 5:19 mp3

On the soybean side of the plot, Alex Renk says the recent rains are just what the crop needs to really fill things out.  The cooler weather this summer has been ideal and pest problems have been minimal.  He also talks about the growth of the company including the expanded facilities at Sun Prairie.

Alex talks about the soybeans 6:14 mp3

Jeff Renk 2014

Jeff Renk is product manager for the company, he says farmers really need to take a look at the new varieties being introduced each year.  There is a lot of research and development going into each variety and it pays-off.  Given the drop in corn prices over the past year, some may be considering reducing input costs by not using some traits, Renk says that is a decision to be made by each farmer but cautions “if you want to control insect pressure, you have to have it.”  Another tool that farmers may consider is higher populations but again, that is a decision to be made on an individual farm basis.  He also notes that the hybrids that have come through the extremes of the last three years “will stand the test of time.”

Jeff talks about the business 9:19 mp3

Ag Secretary Vilsack on exports, COOL, RFS and more

vilsack-tom-photo 8-14U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called Brownfield Friday morning to announce that agricultural exports will set another new record when the 2014 fiscal year ends on September 30th.

Overall, the forecast for U.S. ag exports was raised to a record 152.5 billion dollars, up three billion dollars from last quarter’s forecast.

Secretary Vilsack was also asked about two important trade issues—efforts to convince China that it should synchronize its biotech approval process with that of the U.S.; and how USDA will respond if the WTO ruling on country-of-origin-labeling goes against the U.S., as is expected.

We also discussed the USDA’s progress on farm program implementation and whether the “safety net” will be strong enough to support row crop farmers through a period of low commodity prices.  Finally, we asked the Secretary if he was able to provide input on the final Renewable Fuels Standard rule and how the volume requirements in that rule might impact future expansion of the biofuels industry.

AUDIO: Tom Vilsack (9:21 MP3)

New switchgrass developed specifically for bioenergy use

At a recent field day in southeastern Nebraska, researchers unveiled what they label as “the first switchgrass variety developed specifically for bioenergy use in the Great Plains and the Midwest.”

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the new high-yielding switchgrass variety could potentially be used to produce 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol per acre than previously possible.  Combined with advances in conversion technology at ethanol plants, researchers believe the new variety, called Liberty, will make switchgrass a much more feasible option for bioenergy use.

We visited with USDA-ARS research agronomist Rob Mitchell, who is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about Liberty and how he sees it fitting into a farming operation.

AUDIO: Rob Mitchell (3:00 MP3)

Link to USDA-ARS news release

New switchgrass developed specifically for bioenergy use

At a recent field day in southeastern Nebraska, researchers unveiled what they label as “the first switchgrass variety developed specifically for bioenergy use in the Great Plains and the Midwest.”

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the new high-yielding switchgrass variety could potentially be used to produce 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol per acre than previously possible.  Combined with advances in conversion technology at ethanol plants, researchers believe the new variety, called Liberty, will make switchgrass a much more feasible option for bioenergy use.

We visited with USDA-ARS research agronomist Rob Mitchell, who is based at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, about Liberty and how he sees it fitting into a farming operation.

AUDIO: Rob Mitchell (3:00 MP3)

Link to USDA-ARS news release

Use sunscreen

Commentary.

Isn’t it just like Mother Nature to turn up the heat just in time for the first weeks of school? In my neck of the woods, heat indices kissed 100 degrees or more almost every day last week.

I’m not particularly fond of 90-plus degree days with 90-plus percentage humidity, especially when outdoor chores include a lot of physical activity with no shade and no breeze. Not only are those conditions uncomfortable, they can be quite dangerous. Heat stroke, dehydration, and sunburn are often associated with the “dog days” of summer. But folks, exposure to the sun, whether the temperature is 95 degrees or 75 degrees or even 35 degrees can still cause sunburn and set the stage for more serious health problems.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America defines Melanoma as a form of cancer that begins in melanocytes, specialized cells in the skin that produce the brown pigment known as melanin. These are the cells that darken when exposed to the sun, a protective response to protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

Those at high-risk for developing skin cancer include farmers and others who work outdoors. I cannot count the number of times I have visited with farmers whose wrists and hands appear gnarled with the scars from surgery to remove skin cancer. We all know someone who has had cancer or pre-cancerous growths removed from their face, ears, neck or arms.

As a teen-ager and in my early twenties, I wasn’t exactly a sun-worshipper, but if I was going to be mowing or raking hay or any other outdoor chore that would allow me the opportunity to improve my suntan, chances are, I was going to be wearing a bathing suit top, and slathered in a low-SPF suntan oil. I was never much for just lying in the sun, but the thought of protecting myself from the ultraviolet light that gave me such a “healthy glow” never crossed my mind.

Although I enjoy being outdoors and there is always plenty of outside work to do on the farm, I now apply sunscreen if I’m going to be in the sun.

Melanoma is highly curable if caught early, but is much more likely than other forms of skin cancer to spread if left untreated.

My friend and co-worker Charlie Peters was diagnosed with Melanoma 2 years ago. After a year of treatment, his tests came back clear. Three months later, the report was much different. Nearly all of his major organs were under attack. He fought hard for more than 7 months, but lost the battle. I said goodbye last week to one of the best people I have ever known. I don’t know that 50 SPF sunscreen would have saved him, but if there is even a slight chance that one of you reading this might avoid the pain my friend endured, it seems silly not to try.

A growing interest in cover crops

On the program at Beck’s Hybrids, Becknology Days, Cameron Mills who farms in North Central Indiana, near Walton and cover crop consultant, talked with Brownfield’s Dave Russell about the growing interest in cover crops. To begin, Mills says for those thinking about cover crops, they first need to look at their entire program.

Audio: Cameron Mills, cover crop consultant (3:50 mp3)

Can you afford to cut traits?

As corn prices plunge, corn growers need to take a very close look at input costs when planning for next year.  One choice to make is what types of traits you really need and which can you maybe risk not using.  Jeff Renk is product manager with Renk Seed, he talks about the options.

Listen to Renk’s comments 3:00 mp3

Farmer ingenuity

Shuter Soil Health Solutions_Cover Crop Seeder (2)_webMike Shuter, who not only farms near Frankton, Indiana, he’s also designing and custom building cover crop seeders.

At Becknology Days near Atlanta, Indiana, Shuter Soil Health Solutions had on display one of the seeders with a 120 ft. boom that Mike designed and built using a Miller sprayer. They also have designed a self-contained 90 ft. unit that can be switched from the sprayer, to a seeder.

Audio: Mike Shuter, Shuter Soil Health Solutions (4:55 mp3)

Putting cover crops to work

On the program at the 2014 Becknology Days, Cameron Mills of Walton, Indiana talked about cover crops. Mills says when it comes to getting started with cover crops, you need to look at your entire program.

Audio: Cameron Mills, Walton, Indiana (2:55 mp3)s