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Spider Mites in Corn

Spider Mite Postcard

July 14, 2018

Many corn growers will soon be treating for spider mites. Last year, we noted that a new product--Portal XLO--was available, but priced substantially higher than either Comite 2 or Oberon.

The good news is that Portal XLO (fenpyroximate) is now priced competitively, and offers the best of all options.

Portal XLO controls all stages of mites, including eggs, and has a much shorter REI: 12 hours. (Comite 2 has a 13 day REI).

Portal XLO is advertised as being "soft on beneficial insects", and has a 14 day PHI (pre-harvest interval).

Timing is best when mite populations begin to build, and are 2 leaves below the ear leaf.

When applying a miticide, many farmers like to tank-mix in a fungicide--such as tebuconazole--since the application is already paid for. CoRoN can also be added for a foliar feed.

Talk with your consultant or contact us for more information.

Thunderstorms Wreak Havoc

Cottonwood Tree Uprooted

Radar Image Of Storm

June 20, 2018

On the evening of June 19th, 2018, a major thunderstorm complex moved through eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

The storm path was roughly parallel to Highway 36, so a drive from the port of entry north of Idalia, through Saint Francis, and toward Bird City revealed an alarming amount of crop damage.

The storm provided the full gamut of adverse effects, including damaged roofs and windows on houses, as well as extensive crop damage--not only to corn and wheat, but also some pasture ground. In addition, there was localized flooding, many damaged vehicles, and trees with stripped leaves and downed branches.

At least one mature cottonwood tree was completely uprooted (see photo).

The radar image as the storm approached was especially ominous, including a hook echo, which portends tornadic activity. Several tornadoes were reported, but not confirmed as this is written.

The plains are infamous for severe thunderstorms, but this one was worse than most.

Pre-Harvest Weed Control in Wheat

June 18, 2018

Wheat harvest in the tri-state area is rapidly approaching, and there are some area fields which will need pre-harvest weed control.

Timing and weed spectrum dictate the herbicide selection process. Timing is controlled by label limitations, and these include the wheat stage required prior to application and the pre-harvest interval (PHI).

Weed spectrum is mostly dictated by the amount of kochia, and whether you have susceptible or resistant kochia. Since most grasses and broadleaves are still controlled with a glyphosate and dicamba tank-mix, that is the most common choice. With this tank-mix, you must wait for the hard dough stage to apply, and you have a 7 day PHI. Application should be made as soon as the wheat is in the hard dough stage, both for efficacy and harvest timing.

Pre-Harvest Weed Control

However, if you have kochia that is resistant to both chemistries, you will have kochia failures with glyphosate/dicamba option. Then, you will need to aggressively control the resistant kochia after harvest, either with mechanical tillage or with a Starane-type (fluroxypyr) herbicide. Otherwise, the resulting seed will be predominantly resistant, and the kochia problem will likely be much worse in the future.

For the best control of resistant kochia, you can use a fluroxypyr product now. Colt-Salvo is a popular broadleaf control choice. Its label, interestingly, has no wheat stage limitations for pre-harvest application, but the PHI is forty days. This extremely long PHI is a significant barrier to usage: if you applied Colt-Salvo as this is written, the legal harvest date would be July 28th.

Given these choices, we think that most farmers will choose a dicamba/glyphosate tank-mix and simply accept some kochia failures. We wish there were better options, and we hope for better products and choices in the future. Here is an article from K-State Extension.

If you have wheat that needs pre-harvest treatment, contact us early so that we can apply as soon as the proper wheat stage and weather conditions permit. Delaying application will reduce control efficacy and needlessly delay your harvest dates.

Wheat Variety Test Plots

June 14, 2018

2018 Wheat Variety Test Plots

We attended the K-State Wheat Variety Demonstration Plots yesterday, June 13, 2018. The plots are five miles south of Wheeler, Kansas, and sponsored by Sunny Crest Farms and K-State University.

We counted about 45 people in attendance on the warm, windy evening.

There were 15-20 different wheat plots, and detailed comments about each wheat variety by two K-State specialists in plant pathology and agronomics, with comments by the local KSU contact, Jeanne Falk-Jones. The variety analysis included details on disease resistance, relative maturity speed, standability, leaf drop, yields, and drought resistance.

In addition, a pamphlet of previous results was distributed. The amount of information available was impressive. The 2017 results are published here.

It's a great event, and we appreciate the efforts of Sunny Crest Farms, Jeanne, and KSU. Nice work!

Honor Students: 14 Years

May 18, 2018

In 2005--so this is the 14th year--we launched our Honor Student Recognition Program. Our Honor Student Program is one that we love: it allows us to support scholastic excellence in the local high schools, a concept which we think is vitally important.

A Thank You From An Honor Student

The Honor Student program is simple: the top five students in each High School class get special recognition via a letter and a momento. In 2018, the award was a wireless bluetooth headset displaying a "Honor Student" logo. The schools provide with the students' name, and we list them on our website, as well as provide the gifts to the school in time for the awards assembly at year's end.

As an extra bonus, we often get "thank you" notes from recipients of the award.

We are happy to announce that we have added Cheylin to the other two schools in the area: Idalia and Saint Francis. We wanted to include Cheylin for years, and it finally became possible this year.

Here is more about the Honor Student program and some of our other community programs.

To see a list of all the Honor Students since 2005, more than 120 separate classes, please click here. It's a great bunch of individuals!

K-State: Wheat Rust Update

May 6, 2018

Rust Map April 27, 2018

The April 27, 2018, K-State eUpdate reports that stripe rust has arrived in southeast Kansas at low levels. Notably, the disease apparently traveled across the vast area of dry, poor wheat in Texas and Oklahoma. The lack of a wheat host which was thriving which was considered a mechanism to slow or suppress northward movement, so the arrival in Kansas was notable.

Despite this news, it is not clear if the disease will continue to spread across Kansas. The wheat crop in our region appears to have good yield potential, but might be behind in development stage, possibly because of cool weather and an extended spring.

The K-State article does quote Josh Coltrain, K-State Extension Agent in the Wildcat Extension District: "many growers are considering a fungicide to suppress stripe rust in the southeast region."

We have some growers who are now considering treatment, but the outlook is always difficult to predict. Best advice is to scout susceptible varieties (here is a K-State susceptible variety publication) and irrigated wheat first. Fields with high yield potential would come next in the process. To read the K-State eUpdate, please click here.

China Stops Importing US Soybeans

May 5, 2018

Soybean Trade War?

According to this Bloomberg story, China has stopped importing US soybeans. This termination of soybean imports is presumably in response to the growing trade war recently begun by the US. Last month, China annouinced tariffs on US soys, but now the world's largest oilseed processor--Bunge Ltd,--says China is ceasing US imports, relying instead on Canada, and to a greater degree, Brazil.

In our local area, soybeans are a relatively small percentage of the landscape, but they are important, and the implications of this action potentially affects other grain exports.

The article adds that, "Soybeans are the second-largest American crop and prices are heavily dependent on trade with the Asian nation, the world’s top importer."

The article continues, saying, "In the two weeks ended April 19, China canceled a net 62,690 metric tons of U.S. soybean purchases for the marketing year that ends Aug. 31, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. At this time of year, South American countries typically complete their harvests and become the dominant shippers for several months. Brazil’s lead on global exports is expected to widen to a record in the 2017-2018 season as it sells 73.1 million tons abroad versus 56.2 million from the U.S., the USDA estimates."

To read the entire Bloomberg article, please click here.

Ag Pilots And Video Cameras

April 25, 2018

Video: Thrush Landing On Runway 14

About a week ago, a professional video crew--KEO Films--was working with a local pilot, Mike Callicrate of Callicrate Cattle Company, recording his landing as part of a documentary. By coincidence, we were returning from a job in the turbine Thrush ag aircraft, and saw the camera crew from a distance.

The old joke is that it is dangerous to get between a politician and a video camera, but a similar danger exists with ag pilots. So as soon as Mike's Piper Commanche cleared the runway, we dropped into the final approach slot on runway 14, and hoped for our fifteen minutes of fame. A careful approach and the judicious use of the Garret's beta power during rollout allowed us to stop precisely at the camera crew, resulting in this 34-second video.

We are admittedly biased, but we like this video, not to mention a fairly decent landing.

The video quality is reasonably high, so try the full-screen image. (It might take a few seconds to load if you have a slow connection: we feel your pain, but we hated to lose resolution.)

Finally, a big thank you to KEO Films for providing the footage.

Cheyenne County Land Auction

April 11, 2018

Flyer For Dryland and Pasture

A land and mineral auction was held at Western Auction and Real Estate in Saint Francis, Kansas, on April 11, 2018.

Two tracts were sold: the first was 480 acres of grass and dryland. The second tract was for mineral rights on some adjoining property: the mineral rights for the first tract were sold with the tract 1 sale. The seller was Gladys E. Cullum.

The land in the first tract is located just southwest of Saint Francis: the W 1/2 and SE 1/4 of 12-4-14. The northwest quarter of the land is divided by a rural, hard-surfaced county road. The 480 acres were advertised as 130 acres of summer fallow, 156 acres of wheat, 152 acres of grass, and 39 acres of waste. The 2017 taxes were $1,945, and the wheat base was 141 acres with a PLC yield of 35 bu/acre. All of the land was shown as HEL and UHEL.

The second tract was listed as "An undivided 1/4 of all, gas, and other NW 1/4 of 17-4-40 and the NW 1/4 of 8-4-40 and the seller's lease interest in section 17-4-40", the latter listed as $825.46 in 2017.

There were about fifty people attending the sale, and there were also telephone bids. The first tract sold to a local buyer for $740/acre, and the mineral rights sold for $14,000.

The Western Auction and Real Estate website is here.

Wheat Herbicides Postcard

March 23, 2018

Recent Moisture On Area Wheat

Our area's wheat crop currently has excellent prospects: generally good stands, adequate sub-soil moisture, and recent rain and snow. It is time to consider your spring herbicide and top-dress options.

If you have any mustards or wild lettuce, treating now with Ally (metsulfuron), dicamba, and 2,4-D is a good option. This treatment must be applied before joint stage, and before the kochia grows out of its early dicamba-susceptible stage. This is the least expensive option, and with early timing, is a proven effective program, despite minor kochia resistance concerns.

No mustard in your wheat? Kochia and summer annuals can be treatment can be delayed up to the wheat's flag-leaf stage, using a tank-mix of Ally and Colt+Salvo, for a cost of less than $4/acre more than the early treatment above. Note: Colt+Salvo is a trade name for a mixture of the active ingredient in Starane (fluroxypyr) and 2,4-D.

Weed control with this tank-mix is normally very good, and is reliable on kochia, with no resistance issues. In addition, the soil activity is more likely to extend into the post-harvest stubble season, because of the later application date.

All herbicide applications in growing wheat aid harvest and also delay the stubble's post-harvest weed flush.

We have CoRoN in stock: If you want, we can add it to a herbicide applications for a foliar boost. Any CoRoN which lands on the dirt, as opposed to the leaf surface, needs incorporation by moisture to be effective. So earlier top-dress has more time to catch rain, but later applications have more leaf surface to "catch" the CoRoN. We think timing should be based more upon the weed profile than the top-dress considerations, but sooner is probably better than later if you are adding top-dress.

Remember that we leave no tracks, and we do all required application paperwork for you.

Questions? Please contact us.

The above article is from the postcard that we recently mailed to our customers. This article has some added detail that space constraints on the postcard prohibited. If you would like to be on the postcard mailing list, please contact us and give us your mailing address.

Pigweed DNA Sometimes Circular

March 16, 2018

KSU Researchers Announce Resistance Mechanism

Kansas State University researchers published a technical paper which outlines a previously unknown mechanism which allows Palmer amaranth plants to modify their DNA in order to rapidly develop resistance against the herbicide glyphosate. According to this article the new structure is described as extra-chromosomal circular DNA or eccDNA. It says, "Each eccDNA has one copy of the gene that produces an enzyme that is the target for glyphosate."

The KSU article says that “We found that glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth plants carry the glyphosate target gene in hundreds of copies,” Mithila Jugulam, a researcher, said. “Therefore, even if you applied an amount much higher than the recommended dose of glyphosate, the plants would not be killed.” “Because of the presence of hundreds of eccDNAs in each cell, the amount of the enzyme is also abundant,” researcher Bikram Gill said. “Therefore, the plant is not affected by glyphosate application and the weed is resistant to the herbicide.”

It is too soon to know if there are practical applications to be gleaned from this discovery, so KSU says that the existing practices for combating herbicide resistance should be followed. The study indicates that once a weed has acquired eccDNA, the resistance may evolve as quickly as one generation.

Grain Prices Rally

March 9, 2018

Wheat Prices, October, 2017, to March, 2018

This article from Successful Farming outlines the recent rally in hard red winter wheat prices, along with soybeans and corn.

The article says, "... prices were reacting to the new developments that included the deterioration of the US HRW wheat crop as well as the Argentine 2018 crops. So, prices of winter wheat (and) corn are now near or at their highest price levels since August and highest prices for soybeans since Jan. 2016!"

Widespread drought conditions in the major wheat growing areas of the US, as well as in South America, are reportedly driving the rally in prices. Fortunately, here in the tri-state area, the abundant snows we had early in the year have helped soil moisture, and we are in much better shape than our neighbors to the south.

The article notes, " March unfolds we are at a most critical point in the crops development, as March and April usually make or break the winter wheat crop. Rains must arrive soon, or the winter wheat crop will suffer irreversible damage, as this is the time of year that winter wheat gets a good deal of its moisture and best growing season weather, typically. But currently, the warm/dry weather is forecast to continue through the next few weeks..."

We agree that spring rain would help a lot, but since our wheat is just now breaking dormancy, we can wait a little longer in this area. To read the entire Successful Farming article, please click here.

New Dicamba Certification Requirements

February 12, 2018

RUP Dicamba Training Certificate

For the first time since 1958, when the dicamba molecule was discovered, some formulations now require a special training and certification to mix and apply the product. The new certification is added to your existing pesticide license in whichever state(s) that you have pesticide certification.

The new formulations are classified as Restricted Use Products (RUPs), so they require a pesticide license to purchase them, and the new additional training and certification to mix and apply them.

The new "RUP dicambas" are used on dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton varieties, and no other formulations of dicamba require the special certification, although the 1.5 hour training session might be useful to remind applicators of the safeguards to be employed when applying any pesticide. The RUP dicambas are now sold as FeXapan (DuPont), XtendiMax (Monsanto), and Engenia (BASF).

We attended a certification seminar held by DuPont in Colby, Kansas, on February 9, and found the discussion interesting. Because dicamba is slated for re-certification by the EPA in November, 2018, and because of the debacle (click here for our previous reporting ) that occurred in the 2017 growing season, the chemical industry says that they are very concerned that if the new practices and record-keeping requirements aren't adopted for this season, there is a very real chance that dicamba could be lost to agriculture. As you might imagine, this loss would be considered a major issue for both the chemical companies and for agriculture in general, given the widespread usage of relatively inexpensive dicamba products.

We don't have enough space to go over all of the new requirements, but here are a few highlights of the training seminar:

-certification is automatic upon attendance of the training: no testing is required.

-the RUP dicambas must be applied in less than 10 mph winds, and no treatment is allowed if susceptible crops exist downwind and adjacent to the the target crop.

-15 gpa is the required volume, and nozzles used must be on a list of approved nozzles which is obtained from the label's website.

-before application, the applicator is required to read the label website to get the most recent information.

-all tank mix products must be listed--by trade name, not merely active ingredient--on the label website.

-the spraying equipment must be cleaned, using an approved procedure, both before and after application.

-the record keeping requirements are extensive if not onerous: there are 16 parameters that must be recorded.

-a 110 foot wide buffer-strip must be left if there are non-cropland targets downwind. The buffer strip is not for crop damage protection, but rather an endangered-species requirement mandated by lawsuits against the EPA by environmental groups.

-even very small amounts of AMS in the tank mix will greatly increase the dicamba's volatility, which is why the equipment cleaning requirement is so extensive.

-it has been demonstrated that non-resistant soybeans will exhibit cupped leaves if subjected to an application rate of dicamba that is only 1/20,000 of the labeled rate.

DuPont believes that some of new requirements, especially those concerning buffer strips for endangered species and the enhanced record keeping, might be required for new herbicides as they are granted labels by the EPA.

Even though many farmers in our area only use the older formulations of dicamba, and therefore won't need the additional certification, it would be a good idea to review your current practices and record-keeping. We imagine that regulatory agencies will be on increased alert this summer for misuse of any form of dicamba, not just the RUP formulations.

Land Auction in Wray, Colorado

February 8, 2018

Bidding Screens

On February 6, 2018, we attended the land auction held in Wray, Colorado, at the Cobblestone Inn. On sale was 1,678 acres of pasture and dryland farm ground, which was sold in four parcels. Three of the parcels were mostly dryland with some bordering grass, and the last parcel was 1,177 acres of grass.

Although the land had been previously irrigated via center pivot, the wells were being capped--by the buyer--as per Colorado River Compact regulations. After a somewhat complicated bidding procedure, which required multiple bid rounds, the three farm land parcels ending up selling as a single unit. These three dryland parcels totaled 64 acres of grass and 437 acres of dryland farm ground.

The pasture contained four water tanks, but only one well, which had underground piping to the tanks. An auction attendee told us that the local water regulations prohibited adding a stock well to this pasture, but the pasture was advertised as having a pond on the property. The used center pivots and other irrigation equipment was sold separately after the land sale.

There were perhaps fifty people in the room, and telephone and internet bidding was present, but we believe that all the successful bidders were in the room. The auction was handled by Reck Agri Realty and Auction.

When the bidding ended, the farm ground parcel and the pasture went for nearly an identical price: $588 per acre for the former, and $598 for the pasture ground, to two different bidders.

If you were to figure the grass on the dryland parcels at zero dollars per acre, then the farm ground calculates to roughly $687 per acre. But since the balance of the pasture ground sold for more money than the dryland, even that calculation is worth pondering.

Autonomous Ag Aircraft?

January 29, 2018

Thrush 510G

Although there is spirited debate in the ag aviation industry, we believe that fully autonomous aerial crop applications are only a matter of time. In this Ag-Air Update article, Thrush Aircraft Company announces a strategic alliance with Drone America to develop a fully autonomous air tanker to be used to fight wildfires. The companies hope to be able to monitor and fight fires 24 hours per day, and bypass the current prohibition on nighttime fire fighting.

Thrush Aircraft is a major manufacturer of ag aircraft--they built the Thrush S2R aircraft flown by Grace Flying Service--and Drone America designs and manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles and systems. The article doesn't mention it, but it should be noted that this is not only a technical problem, it has significant regulatory hurdles to cross: The Federal Aviation Agency will have to approve this type of operation. The FAA, like most government agencies, can exhibit significant inertia in their approval process.

Despite the hurdles, this might be the beginning of a major transformation in the way that pesticides are applied aerially. As noted earlier, it is only a matter of time...

A Big Snow...

January 23, 2018

Wave to the Snowplows

A major snow event began on Sunday, January 21, 2018. All of the tri-state area was affected, from an area south of Goodland, Kansas, extending northeast well into Nebraska. Click here to see a map.

By Monday morning, most areas had between 8 and 12 inches of wet snow. In some cases, the total precipitation was reported at more than 1.00" of moisture. There were substantial winds later in the storm, with gusts to 40-50 mph, and subsequent drifting. We heard of eight foot drifts, and we don't doubt that the reports were true.

Highways were closed over much of the area for a period of time. The early precipitation came as sleet, and the winds were not strong early in the storm, so there was a reasonably even distribution of the badly needed water.

The temperatures were in the 29-30 F range, so the snow was wet, and some melting began as soon as Monday afternoon when the skies cleared.

Kochia, Cattle, and Pluvials

January 19, 2018

We recently attended the annual Cover Your Acres conference in Oberlin's Gateway Center. As usual, they had an exhibit floor and a lot of seminars on many topics, including herbicide options, climate trends, grassland management, and soil probes as irrigation management tools.

Cover Your Acres Conference

Curtis Thompson, KSU Extension Agronomy, talked about kochia and palmer amaranth control. Both species are major problems, due to multiple herbicide resistance patterns. Thompson believes the best solution for both weeds is using soil active herbicides pre-emerge, to prevent germination.

As to kochia in wheat, treatment to the rosette stage with dicamba still mostly works, but waiting will likely result in unacceptable failure rates. Their studies show that treating weeds during the wheat growing season improves the percentage of kochia controlled in the fallow season. In corn, the use of pre-emerge applications followed by up to 16 ounces of dicamba will probably be effective. As usual, timing is everything.

Keith Harmoney, Range Scientist, K-State Research, Hays, spoke on managing rangeland. Harmoney noted that while cropland has increased in Kansas, rangeland acreage is decreasing. The three tools available are stocking rate, stocking systems, and managing encroaching species.

Yucca now has several products labeled for broadcast treatment--Cimarron Plus and Chaparral, both with ester 2,4-D--and they give about 70% control, so KSU recommends treating at least twice over a three year period. Harmoney noted that yucca on steep slopes can provide erosion control, but on flat ground, 1,000 plants/acre can reduce forage production from 300 to 1,000 pounds/acre. To estimate the number of plants, he said to walk 363 feet with your arms outstretched, and count all the yucca covered. Multiply your count by 20 to get the number of yucca per acre.

As to stocking rates, when comparing light, moderate, and heavy, their data shows that in the short and long term, the best practice is a moderate stocking rate. This is the most profitable and protects the rangeland. Moderate is defined as 48% forage consumption: "take half and leave half." Surprisingly, when half of the forage is used, the cattle only eat about half of it: the rest is lost to insects, wildlife, trampling, and destruction from urination, etc.

Dr. Jeffrey Basara, Oklahoma University, spoke about climate in the Great Plains. One of the subjects of their research team is studying is droughts, and the wet spells between the dry spells: called pluvials. Basara is worried that the High Plains might be entering into a drier period, but cautioned that predictions are dangerous, and that regional variations are common.

Basara noted that the Great Plains is unique when compared globally in a couple of ways. First, the rainfall and temperature gradients are orthogonal: temperature varies north to south, while precipitation varies east to west. Also, unlike most grasslands, the peaks of temperature and rainfall don't peak at the same time.

You can read much more by clicking here.

Agricultural Conditions in the Midwest

January 12, 2018

We attended the Farming For the Future conference in Scott City on January 10, 2018. There were perhaps 100 people in the room, including the sponsors and presenters.

It was noted that from 2007 to 2013, the US agricultural production had high profitability which has then been followed by big losses: this was deemed a "normal cycle". The said that the cattle market had a similar but less difficult pattern, because the last three years represented lower profits instead of losses.

Farmland Values vs Time

The number of farm bankruptcies is double the number of a few years hence: now 65-70 per year. Young farmers and those with high debt loads are the most at risk.

Land values in Kansas are down but the amount of reduction varies, depending upon how you measure it. The biggest declines are in dry land, with irrigated and pasture declining more slowly. Based upon property valuation figures from Topeka--from 6,845 actual land sales in the three years from 2014 to 2016--overall prices were down 10%.

This same sales data showed dry land down 17%, irrigated down 9%, and pasture 5% lower. For Cheyenne County, Kansas, the dry land is priced at $1,776, irrigated land at $3,786, and pasture is $1,278. Their website has detailed information: click here to see more information on land values.

Other topics included FSA loans, land rental values, and custom farming rates. To read more about the latter topic, please click here.

The presenters believe that a strong US economy will prop up oil prices, possibly raising fertilizer costs a little, although this trend isn't clear. It is possible that the weak farm economy will result in fairly constant prices for seed, pesticide, and machinery.

As to commodity prices, demand is strong across all sectors, and US production is strong but stable. Exports are in the middle of the normal trading ranges, but stockpiles are at record highs for corn and almost as bad for wheat. So any upward price pressure--possibly from increased exports or decreased domestic production--will be tempered by the big stockpiles.

Upcoming Meetings For Farmers

Upcoming Agricultural Meetings

December 30, 2017

Jeanne Falk Jones, K-State Multi-County Agronomist, recently sent an email reminding everyone of two upcoming meetings for farmers. The first meeting, Farming For the Future, is in Scott City on January 10, 2018. Jeanne said that, "This meeting will give an overview of the current farm situation, a discussion of interest rates outlook, and a look at input costs..." The registration fee is $20 by January 5, and then $30. Register online here, or contact Jeanne Falk Jones.

The second meeting is the annual Cover Your Acres Winter Conference, held in Oberlin, Kansas, on January 16-17, 2018. Topics include smart spending of your fertilizer dollars, weed management, using soil moisture probes, and soil health and profitability in dryland cropping. They will also discuss farm economics, including profitability opportunities and pitfalls, and surviving and thriving in tough economic times. The cost to attend is $40 per day or $60 for both days, until Jan 10, 2018. Register online here.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2017

We hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2018!

Glyphosate and Cancer

December 10, 2017

According to this two-decades long study, which involved 89,000 farmers and their spouses, glyphosate is a not a risk for cancer, even among groups which apply the pesticide.

Glyphosate Molecule

There are other studies which do find carcinogenic links, and the information is confusing. This Wired article does a good job of explaining some of the contradictions, and explains the different terminology employed: the difference between "hazard" and "risk", using a clever shark tank analogy.

Our take? Most human activity represents health risks: most of these risks are minor, but non-zero. In this case, we think farmers face many much greater risks than this one.

Dicamba Story Continues

November 26, 2017

Dicamba Injury By State, Acres

According to this CropLife article, 3.1 million acres of soybeans were damaged by dicamba in the 2017 season, spurring a staggering 2,200 injury investigations. As the image shows, Kansas had 100,000 acres of beans reportedly damaged.

We have reported on this issue twice before, here and here , and yet the controversy has not abated. Monsanto has sued the government, there are rumors of banning dicamba except for early season applications, and Monsanto also accuses its customers of improper use and claims that illegal, out-dated formulations are being sold.

The CropLife article is a good summary of the present situation.

Corn Rootworm Resistance Options

November 12, 2017

Jeff Whitworth, KSU Entomology, Speaking

We recently attended a re-certification seminar, and one of the speakers was Jeff Whitworth, KSU Entomology. Whitworth reviewed the 2017 growing season in terms of crop insects, and noted that the Sugar Cane Aphid, which was a major pest in milo in 2016, did little damage in 2017. We reported on the Sugar Cane Aphid here.

Whitworth also spend a fair amount of time discussing the issue of increasing Western Corn Rootworm resistance to Bt corn. He said KSU is seeing more and more resistance, and increase crop damage, including lodging.He added, "Bt is just an insecticide", and therefore resistance was to be expected. He said that some seed companies are going back to planting time treatments.

Jeff also noted that adult rootworm control--where the females are controlled via aerial application in the silking phase--can be very effective. He thinks adult control is "under utilized": Typically two treatments will keep the number of adults below 5 adults per ten plants: 0.5 beetles per plant is the threshold.

Since Grace Flying Service is in the business of treating adult insects, we want to agree with Whitworth. But even publications like the Huff Post are discussing the issue, perhaps with a little more alarm that it deserves.

In a related aside, we learned at a later conference about the history of pesticide resistance. Thaddeus Gourd, CSU Extension, said the first documented case was insecticide resistance: DDT in house flies in 1947. The resistant flies developed longer foot pads so that they didn't absorb the pesticide when they walked over treated surfaces. The first herbicide resistance was spreading dayflower, against 2,4-D in 1957, and benomyl debuted resistance to fungicides 1969.

EPA Reverses Course On Renewable Fuels Mandate

October 31, 2017

US Corn Usage By Sector--USDA

According to this Reuters article, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed a previous agency plan which threatened to open the door to cuts to the renewable fuel plan.

This reversal by Pruitt is a big win for corn producers and the biofuels industry, since about 40% of US corn production is used for ethanol. Reuters said the decision was spurred by lobbying "by Midwestern lawmakers, including Republicans Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, had vocally opposed all those ideas, calling them a betrayal of the administration’s promises to support the corn belt." Grassley issued a statement saying, “It’s a great day for Iowa and a great day for rural America. Administrator Pruitt should be commended for following through on President Trump’s commitment to biofuels.”

The move dealt a blow to merchant refiners like PBF Energy Inc and Valero Energy Corp who have argued that biofuels compete with petroleum, and that the blending responsibility costs them hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

"The program disproportionately hurts mid-sized refiners and mom-and-pop gas stations that are the backbone of the nation’s energy infrastructure and needs to reformed", said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Fueling American Jobs Coalition. In the EPA's letter, Pruitt said the EPA was prepared to work with Congress to examine the possibility of a waiver that would allow the year-round sale of E15 gasoline (which contains 15 percent ethanol), which is currently not permitted during the summer due to concerns about smog.

Monsanto Sues Arkansas Over Dicamba Ban

October 21, 2017

Monsanto Logo

Monsanto is suing the Arkansas Plant Board, a state regulatory agency, over its ruling to ban dicamba usage in Arkansas for the 2018 growing season. This article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has details on the story, as well as a video which interviews two farmers with different views on the issue. In addition, we have previously reported on this issue: please click here to read our older articles.

Monsanto said this: "The Plant Board's arbitrary approach also has deprived, and if left unchecked will continue to deprive, Arkansas farmers of the best weed management tools available--tools that are available to farmers in every other soybean and cotton-producing state in the nation."

The lawsuit came on the heels of an agreement between the EPA and Monsanto, DuPont, and BASF. The agreement adds new restrictions to the dicamba label, including changing the product to a Restricted Use Product (RUP), which means that dicamba can now only be legally sold to certified pesticide applicators.

It is not clear how many of the problematic applications last year--which resulted in over 1,000 farmer complaints in Arkansas alone--were done by non-certified applicators. Many farmers in our geography already have pesticide certification, so it is possible that the change to RUP status alone might not make much difference out in the real world.

It is also not clear how much of the dicamba problem is due to physical drift as opposed to volatilization: We believe that the physical drift portion of this problem can be managed with careful planning and disciplined use of modern application techniques. Physical drift occurs at the time of application, and should be correctable with better training and enforcement of existing regulation. The thornier issue is rate of volatilization of the dicamba.

While pesticide volatilization often results in much lower concentrations of off-target movement than does physical drift, it can be damaging to sensitive crops, including cotton. Volatilization can also affect larger geographic areas. Volatilization commonly occurs hours or days after application, and is greatly affected by climatic conditions--including high ambient temperatures and atmospheric inversion layers.

Volatilization effects can be minimized with timing of applications, but the issue could only be truly solved if Monsanto changed the dicamba molecule itself. Alas, changing the chemical formulation is almost certainly technically difficult, and it would also likely require expensive and time-consuming re-regulation by the EPA.

It is worth repeating that the degree to which a herbicide volatilizes is inherent in the formulation, and is something that only the manufacturer can change: it is not in the control of the users of the herbicide.

There is no question that dicamba is an important herbicide for crop production, both because of the affordable price and the wide-spectrum control which it provides. However, since there are increasing numbers of weeds which are developing tolerance to dicamba, we fervently hope that Monsanto (and other manufacturers) are working on developing new, less volatile, products.

Land Sale In Bird City

October 13, 2017

A quarter section of mixed farm ground and CRP sold today at the American Legion building in Bird City, KS. The land was sold by the Gerdes family, and is located about half way between Bird City and Wheeler, about five miles south of the highway. The legal description is NE 1/4 13-4-39, and comprises roughly 97 acres of farm ground and 59 acres of CRP. The CRP has an annual payment of about $37 per acre until 2021.

There was a small crowd attending, and there were four off-site--internet--bidders. The bidding opened at $900/acre and slowly rose to $1,175/acre, which was the final selling price.

Farm and Ranch Realty of Colby, KS, managed the auction. Their website has a listing of selling prices of land they have sold since 2007: please click here to see those listings.

Precise Patterns For Ag Aircraft

October 9, 2017

On September 28, 2017, we attended a SAFE fly-in on the La Junta, Colorado, airport.

Air Tractor Spraying Dye For Testing
Video: Air Tractor Flying Over SAFE Deposition String

SAFE fly-ins are co-sponsored by the CAAA (Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association) and the KAAA (Kansas). The clinics are held several times per year in various locations to allow ag aviation operators the opportunity to fine-tune the calibration of their aircraft's spray pattern. Grace Flying Service aircraft have been calibrated using the SAFE system in the past, but at this event we were there to watch and learn.

The heart of the system is a string which is stretched across the aircraft's pass. The string collects a special dye dispensed by the aircraft. In addition, the aircraft's speed and height and the droplet sizes are recorded with other sensors. After each run, the string is analyzed with a computer which has an external device to determine the amount of deposition.

The net result is a graphic showing span-wise distribution of the swath. This allows modifications to be made to the system, if necessary. After changes, the aircraft may "fly the string" again, to analyze the efficacy of the modifications made. Trained operators download the data and make suggestions as to optimal swath width and nozzle options.

Please click on the 10-second MP4 video to see an Air Tractor applying dye to the string. After the pass, the string is rapidly rolled up and a clean string deployed for the next pass.

Airport Beacon Replaced

September 27, 2017

The Old Beacon's Last Day In Service: August 30, 2017

Shiny New Beacon, Green Lens Shown

The flashing light at the Cheyenne County Airport has changed from a flashing white light to alternating green and white flashes. The green and white sequence is appropriate for a land airport, but for more than sixty years, the airport had only a flashing white beacon. The reason for this discrepancy has to do with aviation history, tight budgets, and truly phenomenal reliability from the Sperry Corporation about eight decades ago.

The old beacon was a retired airway beacon. It was presumably purchased as surplus, or possibly the Commerce Department donated the beacon to the tiny new airport. In any event, it was likely the cheapest way to provide a rotating beacon to the grass-runway airport, and the lack of a green flash was not considered a deal breaker. The airway beacon history is interesting:

According to this Wikipedia link, more than 1,500 of these beacons were used from 1923 to 1933. The Post Office, which had a need for reliable night flight to transport airmail, helped with the financing of this 18,000 mile network. Pilots flew from airway beacon to airway beacon, identifying them via a coded light flash, among other means. The obvious shortcoming to this system was that it was only useful at night, and in reasonably clear weather.

So when radio navigation appeared in the form of the Adcock low-frequency radio range , the airway beacons were quickly retired. But the builder, Sperry Gyroscope Company (which later became Sperry-Rand) did an excellent job of building the beacons, and this one kept spinning year after year, requiring only a few bulbs and belts. The 24-inch diameter parabolic mirror directed a very bright incandescent light as it spun round and round at 6 rpm, for more than 20,000 nights and more than a 100,000,000 revolutions, in heat waves and ice storms, all powered by a rotating brush. It's a big heavy device, so there was significant inertia, yet it was well balanced, and remarkably reliable.

This old airways beacon was, and is, a clever device. This one is serial number 11, as you can see from the photos on this page. We hope to find a happy home for this piece of aviation history.

The Adcock low-frequency radio range navigation which replaced the airways beacon is worth reading about: it required only a headset on the pilot, who listened to a continuous tone in headset: the Morse code for A and the code for N: "di-dah, di-dah" and "dah-dit, dah-dit" respectively. One letter meant that you were flying left of course, and the other indicated a right deviation. If you were in the middle, the two tones blended into a monotone. Read more about radio ranges here.

John Grace, a WWII Army Air Corps P-38 pilot, described the "radio range" system to us on several occasions. It was the only radio navigation system available, but difficult to use, especially when electrical interference--lightning, for example--made it hard to hear. Worse, the lack of precision over the "cone of silence" could create situations that were potentially fatal. War stories for another time...

If you'd like to see more photos of the retired airways beacon, please click here.

Pasture Thistle Postcard

September 7, 2017

We are mailing our annual musk and Canada thistle postcard to our customers who have noxious weeds. The text of the postcard is shown below, and the postcard will arrive next week.

If you don't get the postcard, and would like to be added to the noxious weed mailing list, please contact us.

Pasture Thistle Postcard

Postcard text:

"Fall is the best time to treat pasture thistles. Please contact us now if you want your pastures treated. We need your order and maps so that we can plan an application schedule.

"The window of opportunity can be very short in the fall. Also, the small field sizes mean we need multiple customers on a single load.

"Our deadline for taking thistle orders is Monday, October 9, 2017.

"Musk and bull thistle can be treated until the ground freezes, but Canada thistle needs to sprayed before a killing frost.

"We think the best chemical choice is GrazonNext HL, which is Milestone in a pre-mix with 2,4-D."

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