Cover crops as a livestock feed

For Kent Stuckey of Crawford County Ohio, located a little over an hour north of Columbus, cover crops are being used not only in ways we typically think, Kent is also using cover crops as a feed source for the dairy cows.

Audio: Kent Stuckey, dairy farmer, Crawford Co. Ohio (2:55 mp3)


Richards inducted in to ODNR Hall of Fame

ODNR Director Zehringer_Bill Richards_ODNR Hall of Fame Inductee (5)_webOhio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Jim Zehringer on Monday, March 3, honored Ohio no-till pioneer Bill Richards of Circleville with the ODNR Hall of Fame Award.

“He’s a no-till pioneer, he’s very active in his community, he promotes agriculture and keeping nutrients in the soil,” Zehringer said. “He’s just an advocate for agriculture and he’s spent his whole life doing that, we’re just proud to induct him into the Hall of Fame.”

Audio: Director Jim Zehringer, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (1:20 mp3)

Established in 1966 the ODNR Hall of Fame includes 158 individuals, including such notables as Pulitzer-winning author Louis Bromfield and Bob Evans. As the newest inductee,Bill Richards will now have his picture hanging next to those inducted before him.

“I’ll be very, very honored and humbled to have my picture up there with some of the great people in conservation,” said Richards. “I’m very proud.”

Audio: Bill Richards, ODNR Hall of Fame (2:05 mp3)

DriftWatch makes good neighbors

Ten states including Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin are part of DriftWatch. Developed by Purdue University, DriftWatch is a registry designed to help pesticide applicators and specialty crop growers communicate more effectively to promote awareness and stewardship activities to help prevent and manage drift effects. The data set is overseen by state-appointed stewards who verify each area submitted to the registry. Ann Marie Ames coordinates the program in Wisconsin.

AUDIO:Ames talks about the program 3:00 mp3

Partnership to improve productivity, soil health

The recently announced Soil Health Partnership between Monsanto and the National Corn Growers Association aims to sustain higher yields by improving soil health.

During Commodity Classic, Iowa farmer Bill Couser told Brownfield he learns from his son Tim about using technology to their farm’s advantage.

Tim (left) and Bill Couser at Monsanto's Soil Health news conference during Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Feb. 28, 2014.

“It’s time for our generation to move over there and learn from this next generation about soil health, and how do we make sure that it’s ready for that next crop and keep it alive longer,” Couser told Brownfield Ag News.

The younger Tim Couser relies on his computer, but also cites technology that will allow 10-mile-per-hour planting, spraying soybeans with Dicamba and 2-4D chemistry. This, he says, does not overshadow the importance of cover crops and proper nutrient management.

“This is not new stuff, this is not risky stuff, this is stuff we need to figure out how we can become better at, and one of the huge benefits from it is if we can keep that soil healthy and alive longer throughout the summer, if we do get adverse weather conditions, a drought, there are going to be huge benefits to it,” said Tim Couser.

The Cousers were introduced at Commodity Classic as the first farm family that will participate in the initiative’s demonstration farms. More are to be announced this spring.

Michael Doane, who leads Monsanto's sustainable business solutions, conducted a soil health news conference at Commodity Classic, San Antonio, Feb. 28, 2014.

“Monsanto is proud to be a founding supporter and member of this important initiative,” said Michael Doane, Monsanto Sustainability Business Solutions Lead. “While we continue to see great progress in improved genetics, we’re keenly aware that it is essential to unlock the potential that’s right under our feet to sustain higher yields. Improving soil health is what this partnership is all about.”

The purpose of the Soil Health Partnership is to measure and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies and provide a set of regionally specific, data-driven recommendations that farmers can use to improve the productivity and sustainability of their farms.

“Over the next five years, this partnership will work to aggregate regional data to catalyze a platform for knowledge-sharing from farmer to farmer to create a set of best practices to improve soil health,” said Doane.

According to Monsanto, the Soil Health Partnership will measure and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of soil management to improve farm productivity and sustainability.

The partnership also includes the Nature Conservancy with support from the Walton Family Foundation.

AUDIO: Bill and Tim Couser (3 min. MP3)

AUDIO: Michael Doane (2 min. MP3)

AUDIO: Soil Health news conference (20 min. MP3)


Tim (left) and Bill Couser at Monsanto’s Soil Health news conference during Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Feb. 28, 2014.

Michael Doane, who leads Monsanto’s sustainable business solutions, conducted a soil health news conference at Commodity Classic, San Antonio, Feb. 28, 2014.


Iowa farmer receives conservation award

Jefferson, Iowa soybean farmer David Ausberger is the national winner of the American Soybean Association’s Conservation Legacy Award.  Ausberger received that award last week during ASA’s annual awards banquet in San Antonio.

The award recognizes Ausberger’s use of no-till and cover crops.  It also cites his extensive composting program that makes use of poultry litter from a nearby operation, and waste wood chips from the City of Jefferson.

Even now cover crops are working

Even during a winter like most of the country has been experiencing, Jim Hoorman, Extension educator in Putnam County Ohio says cover crops are providing benefits we might not think about.

Audio: Jim Hoorman, Extension educator, Putnam Co. Ohio (2:55 mp3)


Maintaining soil health through sustainability

During Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Monsanto announced a Soil Health Partnership with the National Corn Growers Association. Iowa farmers Bill and Tim Couser talked to Brownfield Ag News about what they have learned from each other about the importance of soil health.

AUDIO: Bill and Tim Couser (3 min. MP3)

Seeing the benefits of cover crops in southwest Iowa

At the recent National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, we visited with Ray Gaesser of Corning, Iowa about his experience with cover crops on his farm in southwest Iowa.

“For the last four years now we’ve been testing cover crops, and every year growing just a few more because we do see the value in cover crops—particularly on our farm—for erosion control,” says Gaesser, who currently serves as president of the American Soybean Association. “But we are also starting to see the soil health benefits that people are talking about.”

AUDIO: Ray Gaesser (3:00 MP3)

ERS looks at 15 years of GMO crops

A recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service says that after 15 years of use, U.S. farmers are seeing an array of benefits and concerns from genetically modified crops. Ag Department economist and co-author of the report, Michael Livingston says, “We are not characterizing them (GMO crops) as bad or good. We are just providing information,”

The ERS researchers said over the first 15 years of commercial use of herbicide-tolerant seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and “in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties. Several researchers have found “no significant differences” between the net returns to farmers who use GMO herbicide tolerant seeds and those who use non-GMO seeds, the report states. Varieties with more than one (stacked) genetically engineered traits tend to have higher yields than those with one trait or non-GE corn.

GMO crops with insect resistance are more helpful to farmers financially, allowing crops more yield potential and higher monetary returns, the report states. As well, insecticide use on corn farms was down to 0.02 pound per acre in 2010, down from 0.21 pound per acre in 1995, the report states. The report notes new Bt traits have resulted in a bigger yield advantage over conventional seed.

But while insecticide use has gone down, herbicide use on GMO corn is rising, the report states. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Growing glyphosate-resistance is a big factor in the increased use of herbicides on corn.

Farmers planted a total of 169 million acres to genetically engineered crops in 2013, about half of the total land used to grow crops last year. 93 percent of all soybeans planted were herbicide-tolerant, 71 percent of corn acres were planted to stacked-trait varieties, another 14 percent of was herbicide tolerant and an additional 5 percent was Bt.

Adjusted for inflation, the price of GE corn and soybean seed increased 50 percent between 2001 and 2010.

As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases have been approved for genetically engineered corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes.

Of those releases, 6,772 were for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance, 4,809 for insect resistance, and 4,896 for product quality such as flavor or nutrition, and 5,190 for drought resistance.

Monsanto has the most authorized field releases with 6,782, followed by DuPont Pioneer, with 1,405, Syngenta with 565 and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service with 370.

From the consumer’s prospective, the ERS research found acceptance varies with product characteristics, geography and information. Consumers in industrialized nations, especially Europe are willing to pay a premium for foods that do not contain GE ingredients. The report says non-GE foods represent a small share of retail food sale in the United States. Developing nations have mixed results with some willing to pay a premium for non-GE foods while others are willing to pay a premium for foods with positive enhancements from genetic engineering.

Read the full ERS report here:

Fewer people feeding more people

Worldwatch Institute says the global agricultural population, individuals dependent upon agriculture, hunting, fishing and forestry for their livelihood accounted for 37 percent of the world’s population in 2011. (The most recent year for which data are available). That is a 12 percent decrease since 1980.

However, while the percentage of agricultural population has decreased, the actual number of people in agriculture actually increased from 2.2 billion in 1980 to 2.6 billion in 2011. At the same time, the non-agricultural population doubled from 2.2 billion to 4.4 billion.

Also of note, agricultural population grew in Africa, Asia and Oceania and declined in the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean during the period. Africa and Asia accounted for 95 percent of the world’s agricultural population in 2011 while the Americas accounted for less than 4 percent.

But, while the world’s agricultural population grew only slightly from 1980 to 2011, global agricultural output increased 112 percent according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Per capita production of agricultural goods increased 35 percent during the period.

Looking ahead, the FAO projects global agricultural population will decline another 0.7 percent from 2011 to 2020 while the non-agricultural population will increase 16 percent.

Read more from Worldwatch Institute here: