Warren Formo

Plenty to Learn at First Day of Prairie Grains Conference

Farmers from across northern Minnesota gathered at the Prairie Grains Conference in Grand Forks Wednesday, Dec. 10, to discuss on-farm research, Red River Valley Watershed water quality, soybean updates and hear from agriculture advocate Trent Loos.

The day began with an on-farm research discussion at the Alerus Center with an on-farm research discussion. Among wheat and barley related research projects, a few farmers discussed research happening on their farms that were in relation to soybean production. Read more


Something for Your Toolbox – Cover Crops and Tillage

The question of cover crops is becoming more and more of a topic in Minnesota commodity groups, special interest groups, environmental groups and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Last week, University of Minnesota Extension held a Cover Crops workshop in a Corn/Soybean Rotation Field Day in Okabena, Minn., addressing exactly that topic.

With harvest and fall field work winding down and a cooler than normal fall day, the crowd packed into the American Legion hall was large (unofficial just shy of 170). The Worthington Daily Globe happened to be there and followed up with an article about Ray Archuleta and his philosophy on tillage

While there was nothing incorrect about the article and the writer correctly quoted Archuleta, I was also at the meeting and my personal impression of Mr. Archuleta was that he was a cheer leader for farming like nature but was not necessarily up to speed in his talk for Minnesota agriculture.

Dr. Paul Meints

Dr. Paul Meints

Much of what he said concerning tillage damaging soil structure is true and documented in the literature, however his approach may not take enough into consideration heavy residue from typical corn yields, etc., in the upper  Midwest.

UMN research and extension, as well as the USDA scientist from South Dakota who also spoke at the Okabena meeting indicated that every tillage pass disrupts soil structure; however we still do not have an absolute alternative to cease all tillage in Minnesota and retain economic production.

There is however, current scientific research looking into ideas and options. A recent article by Frank Lessiter in No Till Farmer Magazine cites research by Dr. Dave Franzen, NDSU Soil Extension Specialist, reporting continuous no-till for more than six years in corn can allow for reduced nitrogen input by 40-50 pounds per year without profit loss in North Dakota. This is pretty exciting science demonstrating the potential for northern production regions and finding viable options outside the traditional box in our farming systems.  

Mr. Archuleta lives in North Carolina where winter temps are low enough that plant residue is consumed by microbes much faster than it is in Minnesota with our long winter. His own talk referenced soils in NC where the organic matter content was naturally around 1 percent in coarse textured soils and up to near 5 percent in the grassland regions.

He stated that with intensive cover crop systems they had built OM up to 6 percent. He also mentioned that this was above the percentage it was when the land was first farmed. In that argument, farming like nature is not what he is advocating for North Carolina, either. He also strongly argued for all land to return to grazing within a row crop system without looking at the practicality for both the livestock industry and the typical Minnesota farm.

The MSR&PC Production Action Team has cover crops as an upper priority component in our current Request for Proposals (RFP) to stay ahead of the curve on what does and what does not currently work in Minnesota.

Are cover crops a good idea? Yes, but we are nowhere near the understanding needed to have widespread implementation in the state.

Cover crops work well in regions of the U.S. where the winter comes later than here but the same crops and technology do not readily adapt to our system. Cover crops can hold the soil against erosion, tie up nutrients to be retained on the farm rather than lost from the field, improve soil health and structure. Again, we don’t have a workable system here yet. Thus the common theme is expect failure while initiating this into a cropping system presented by Mr. Archuleta and others who shared at the meeting. We should develop a workable approach with sound science and viable economics in this as in all things we do for Minnesota soybean farmers.

In short, Mr. Archuleta gave an enthusiastic talk, but my impression of the crowd reception was that they listened, but also retained a healthy skepticism. His talk utilized the broad brush strokes employed to present a solid concept but did not offer direct implementation solutions for Minnesota farmers.

The MSR&PC through the Production Action Team currently funds a joint project with Jodi DeJong-Hughes, Phil Glogoza, and Dean Malvick (UMN) and Aaron Daigh and Abbey Wick (NDSU) titled “Maximizing soil warming and soil health under different tillage practices in a corn-soybean rotation.” This research and other work coupled with Dr. Franzen’s study noted above will help northern farmers understand how we can adjust our farming practice while remaining economically viable.

Minnesota soybean farmer’s willingness to invest check off funds to increase understanding of optimum land management for soil health, productivity and farm profitability will continue. In addition, the Production Action Team 2015 RFP includes a query for research into cover crops and related technology practical for Minnesota agriculture. It is the commitment of the Production Action Team to fund research that will lead to sound practical and financially viable options for Minnesota farmers in the areas of cover crops and tillage options for the various soils and cropping systems throughout the state.

 Dr. Paul Meints is the Director of Research at Minnesota Soybean and has an MS in plant breeding and genetics and a PhD in Seed Physiology. Email him at paul@mnsoybean.com.

Another Look in the Field – Compaction, tillage and erosion repair

While harvest is in full swing and attention is focused most intensely on the yield monitor, soil considerations are important even if they are just below the horizon. Avoiding or reducing soil compaction is important with all of the potential traffic across your fields during harvest operations. Keep in mind that a full combine or grain cart can have an axle load near 40 tons and can create soil compaction 30-36 inches into the profile.

The best management practice to reduce compaction is to use the same wheel tracks when making additional passes across a field. Under the best conditions, more than 80 percent of compaction damage is done on the first pass across the field so limit that damage to the fewest number of wheel tracks when possible. Avoid angular traffic or “shortest path” traffic, as well. While it might save you a few moments of time, the potential damage to your soil and future yields can have an even greater value.

Read more

todd county

MSGA Pleased with EPA Enlist Duo Decision; Awaits Minn. Approval

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will register Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide for use with Enlist soybeans, a decision the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) applauded.

George Goblish

MSGA President George Goblish

“The EPA’s decision to register Enlist Duo herbicide is important for all farmers,” MSGA President George Goblish said. He added that it will be important for the EPA to register the herbicide in Minnesota.

Currently Enlist Duo is registered for six states, with an additional 10 being considered. The initial six states were part of the Agency’s original proposed registration for the Enlist Duo product. During the decision-making process, EPA scientists completed an endangered species risk assessment for the 2,4-D choline salt, as required by the Endangered Species Act, for the initial six states and concluded that the use, as approved, would not pose a risk to endangered species or their habitat.

EPA scientists have now completed risk assessments for the 2,4-D choline salt for 10 additional states, including Minnesota. The Agency is accepting comments until Nov. 14 to register Enlist Duo in those 10 additional states.

“While Minnesota soybean farmers won’t be able to take advantage of this new tool yet, we’re still excited about the decision,” Goblish said. “The Enlist Duo registration unties farmers’ hands and gives them another option to combat weed issues.”

The new, low-volatility Enlist Duo herbicide will be utilized with Enlist soybeans, when commercialized, to control resistant and difficult to manage weeds.

More information on the EPA’s decision can be found here.

MDA Offers Reminders Regarding Fall Nitrogen Application

As harvest begins, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is advising farmers and fertilizer applicators to check the soil temperature when determining the best time to apply anhydrous ammonia (NH3) and urea this fall.

Waiting until the soil temperature stays below 50º F before applying anhydrous ammonia and urea increases the availability of nitrogen to next season’s crop and decreases the amount of nitrate that could potentially leach into groundwater. Read more

todd county

Another Look in the Field – Palmer Moves Farther North

On Friday Sept. 26, Ag Professional reported that Palmer amaranth had been found in Buffalo County, South Dakota. Early this spring Dr. Bob Hartzler with Iowa State University confirmed that Palmer had been identified at several locations in Iowa. Read more

weed resistance

ASA Addresses Dicamba Regulation; Comment Period Extended

This week, ASA encourages soy growers to take a minute and submit comments on USDA-APHIS’s petition for deregulation of Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton varieties. Comments on the petition have been extended and are due by midnight on Friday, Oct. 10. Read ASA’s official comments here.

ASA’s stance on Monsanto’s petition includes the following points: Read more

soil tillage field day

U of M Extension to Release Tillage Videos

Do you often wonder what type of tillage is really best for your soil conditions and crop rotation? Or maybe you’re unsure how tractor and implement traffic affects your soil?
While there is no one answer for all farmers, there are many aspects that factor into what is best on your farm. Soil health is valuable to your crop yield year after year, so choosing tillage that will minimize damage to soil structure and avoiding compaction is important. Read more

Northwest Minnesota variety trial

Science, not Dr. Oz, Should Drive 2,4-D Debate

Today, a popular television show, The Dr. Oz Show is scheduled to air a piece titled “New GMO Pesticide Doctors Are Warning Against today, Monday, Sept. 22, 2015 and will focus on the pending decision by EPA on registration of Dow AgroSciences Enlist Duo. For a sneak peak video of today’s Dr. Oz show, go to http://www.doctoroz.com/episode/new-gmo-pesticide-doctors-are-warning-against. Enlist Duo is an herbicide containing glyphosate and 2,4-D developed to aid agriculture against weeds resistant to the glyphosate alone. In order for this combined chemistry to be effective crop plants must have genetic resistance to both glyphosate and 2,4-D. Read more

big iron farm show

Thousands flock to West Fargo for Big Iron Farm Show

One of the upper Midwest’s largest farm shows is underway this week, bringing farmers from Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada and elsewhere together to see what’s new and important in agriculture. The Big Iron Farm Show features more than 700 exhibitors and annually draws about 85,000 visitors to the three-day event at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, N.D.

Minnesota Soybean participates in this premier event, promoting the value of the soybean checkoff and the importance of membership in the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. Soybean farmers Kurt Krueger, Jim Kukowski, Theresia Gillie, Cecil Deschene, Kevin Amiot, Elliot Solheim, Bill and Karolyn Zurn all spent time in the Minnesota Soybean booth interacting with their fellow farmers. They joined Justin Ge of MEG Corp and Tom Verry of the National Biodiesel Board, who were on hand to promote biodiesel and answer questions about the industry.

Despite chilly temperatures, rain and gusty winds at times, strong crowds filled the buildings on the Big Iron grounds looking at everything from the newest precision planting equipment to the newest seed genetics, livestock handling equipment and more. Hundreds of farmers took part in information sessions on a range of topics including grain marketing.