Monday, March 31, 2014

Delivering Grain

Here is a good story I ran across.  I've lost the link to it so maybe you can help find it.

Productivity in American Agriculture

The statistics below showcase how productivity and agricultural methods have changed over the last several decades:

In 1930:
One farmer fed 10 people

25% of income spent on food

22% of the U.S. workforce in Ag

Since 1960, U.S.:
Corn yields have tripled

Wheat yields have tripled

Soybean yields are up 70%

The most populated countries in 2020 are projected to be China, India, U.S., Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia, and Japan, with an anticipated 7.6 billion people total. Nearly half of that is expected to be in the 10 countries listed above! Food production demand is expected to soar over the next 50 years; adoption of modern business/production management practices coupled with the application of safe and proven technologies will drive that initiative.

The story of American agriculture is a phenomenal one, and our sincerest thanks to you, the producer, for feeding a growing world! "

Those numbers are pretty impressive even though we have discussed the relatively flat yield numbers many have faced in the last ten years.  Wheat and soybeans have received more attention for improvement while corn yields increased primarily to corn breeding.

Can the world feed another billion people in the next 12 years?

Ed Winkle

Sunday, March 30, 2014

200 Years Of Farming

"One night in the winter of 1907, at what we have always called “the home place” in Henry County, Kentucky, my father, then six years old, sat with his older brother and listened as their parents spoke of the uses they would have for the money from their 1906 tobacco crop. The crop was to be sold at auction in Louisville on the next day.

They would have been sitting in the light of a kerosene lamp, close to the stove, warming themselves before bedtime. They were not wealthy people. I believe that the debt on their farm was not fully paid, there would have been interest to pay, there would have been other debts. The depression of the 1890s would have left them burdened.

Perhaps, after the income from the crop had paid their obligations, there would be some money that they could spend as they chose. At around two o’clock the next morning, my father was wakened by a horse’s shod hooves on the stones of the driveway. His father was leaving to catch the train to see the crop sold.

He came home that evening, as my father later would put it, “without a dime.” After the crop had paid its transportation to market and the commission on its sale, there was nothing left. Thus began my father’s lifelong advocacy, later my brother’s and my own, and now my daughter’s and my son’s, for small farmers and for land-conserving economies."
This was posted in Stock Talk.  I had some difficulty reading the entire attachment but I thought this farmer's reply was very good.
"Great read, many on here have said how GMO's are the saving grace to feeding the planet in the middle of this century. Well this just isn't true, they may have a role but land stewardship trumps all. Some how government scientists say we are doing better than 30 plus years ago.
Take look at old aerial maps and compare them to today. It really makes me sick, Livestock people, have been beat out by the grains being more profitable so many acres have been plowed up and farmed.  Land that used to be seeded down to grass only sees a bit of foxtail occasionally.  Land that I used to farm, the waterways have been reduced to small rises of grass with the water going down both sides of it.
Another field that I used to farm, when I had it, it had 8 waterways and now it has none. My son was the second highest bid on 400 acres of land. He missed it by 40000 bucks from a guy that comes from 30 miles away. He told me they {the landlord} are really loosing, dad I was going to put cover crops and really take care of the land. Based on what this guy has done to neighboring farms, I would not let him rent my garden.
Farming has changed, there are good crop growers but from the roads I drive down I don't see many good farmers. Some call it "just business", yes it is a business but it is national security when we can't feed ourselves. Look at chicken and to a slightly lesser extent hogs what the "industrialists" have done. I see school consolidation, terrible erosion, no dealerships around, neighbors who circle above like vultures waiting for a bit of gossip about someone being in a bind. I don't like it, I told my son we need to expand inward not outward."
That is an observation I understand from traveling Iowa the past 15 years.  It is our number one agricultural state in the Midwest but it too has problems.
When I look at my own family after over 200 years of farming in this country, I understand these struggles that is written down.  My own family line went from owners to tenants and now back to small farm owners again.
It's been a long hard, struggle.
Someone farmed this place before I got here and someone will farm it when I gone.  We are just the temporary stewards.
Ed Winkle

Saturday, March 29, 2014

What Is Soil Health?

A twenty year friend of mine, a very good farmer, asked me, "Ed, what is soil health?"  It is a new concept brought to life by Ray Archuleta by NRCS.  He is the first soil and water man I've heard who really tries to address this issue of soil health.

 "Soil Health is the capacity of the soil to function to sustain life. A healthy soil can be used productively without adversely affecting its future productivity, the ecosystem or the environment. Soil health emphasizes the integration of biological with chemical and physical measures of soil quality (used synonymously with “soil health”) that affect farmers' profits, risks, and the environment.
Soil health deals with both inherent and dynamic soil quality. Inherent soil quality relates to the natural (genetic) characteristics of the soil, such as its texture. These qualities are the result of soil-forming factors, are generally represented in soil surveys, and cannot be changed easily."

Soil health addresses soil physics, chemistry and biology beyond soil tilth.  Tilth is friability, doesn’t mean it is well balanced, it means it crumbles and handles nicely.

 Soil health is about oxygenated soils full of life and nutrients that can grow any crop suitable for that environment.

 No one really understands soil though we are making great strides!  I now understand more what dad and grandpa were trying to do to make a living on a tenant farm.  They HAD to take care of that soil because it is old, thin, and highly erodible.  The recent discussion on Dirt and Civilization on my blog and on Crop Talk shows how this concept is finally starting to gain attention and maybe sink in a little!

Soil health addresses beneficial bacteria and fungi most of us know little about.

 We all have so many crops left in us.  10?  I hope so!  A local farmer had his plans changed yesterday when a widow maker fell while cleaning fence rows, crushed his chest and killed him.

We must be profitable and long term profitability and sustainability has to address soil health in my thinking.  Otherwise we would be like the tenant farmers moving from farm to farm until the “soil ran out.”  Farmers are concerned about conditions today that remind them of the Dust Bowl of the 30's.

I hope this makes a little sense.
Ed Winkle


Friday, March 28, 2014

Great Story About Trying To Farm In The Ukraine

I ran across this on Crop Talk this week.  It's about an Iowa farm boy who took the challenge to manage a farm in the Ukraine for Morgan Stanley.  What he went through is something few of us can handle.  I am glad I never had to.

"Enselco Ltd., the company Morgan Stanley funded that owned the Ukrainian farms, bought satellite-guided John Deere tractors to plow its weed-strewn Ukrainian acres and imported mold- preventing grain bags as long as football fields. Bruch picked up enough Russian to joke with his tractor drivers and order a meal in his adopted home.
Things began to fall apart within months. The locals stole fertilizer and insecticide, Bruch says, and he suspected that harvested wheat was disappearing too. He wound up fighting with tax, immigration, fire and police inspectors and trying to satisfy officials who wanted him to build roads, not just till fields. He left the farm, called Golden Fields, in June 2009 to manage a Ukrainian farm owned by another foreign investor.

‘Worked My Tail Off’

“I worked my tail off for a year on that, trying to do a good job, produce a good crop,” Bruch says in a Lviv beer garden over a meal of spit-roasted pig. “It was pretty stressful and pretty much a headache, so I’m really happy not ever to deal with any of it again.”Morgan Stanley gave up on farming in Ukraine in July 2009, abandoning the initiative in the middle of a harvest. It bought out its local partner, Aleksandr Mamontenko, then sold Enselco to an investment firm based in Jersey in the Channel Islands, at what people familiar with the situation say was a loss. All told, Morgan Stanley put about $30 million into Enselco through loans. 
This kind of goes with my blog about Sustainability in Agriculture and even the discussion of kangaroo's in the beans.  I would love to see farming the Ukraine but my chance of seeing that in my lifetime may be ruined, too, with the unrest in that region and around the world today.  I am not even sure we will get to see farming in South America in our lifetime, though we would really like to.
Shoot, I would be happy to travel Canada again and maybe find some of my good readers up there.

Ed Winkle

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tornado Drought?

This is the second consecutive year we are seeing few tornadoes in March!  At least something good comes out of this crazy weather pattern!

"Through March 20, only four tornadoes have been confirmed across the nation. According to The Weather Channel's severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes (Facebook | Twitter), only two other Marches have featured fewer tornadoes through the first 20 days of March, dating to 1950:
  • 1969: 0 tornadoes
  • 1951: 3 tornadoes
However, the lowest March U.S. tornado count on record dating to 1950 was six tornadoes in March 1951, according to Forbes. If the rest of the month features at most one additional tornado, we would set a record low for the month.

If this sounds familiar, March 2013 was the least tornadic March in 35 years, with only 18 tornadoes.
March continues a slumbering tornado trend for the year. A preliminary 49 tornadoes have been tallied in 2014, which is roughly one-third of the 10-year average-to-date of 144 tornadoes.

"Twenty other years since 1950 have had fewer tornadoes (than 2014) thus far," says Forbes. "There had been just eight tornadoes thus far in 1969. The 41 tornadoes in February 2014 have kept the year from being closer to a record-low pace."

So what were crop years like in 1951 and 1969?  I noticed the cattle numbers are the lowest since 1951 and that year was record high tractor and machinery sales for that time.  World food production was up with the war over.  Dad had good years early in his marriage 1949 on.  I don't remember much until 1955 but I knew he had good crops.  We were prospering.  1963, 68 and 69 were wet, we had crop loss to floods.

I remember Dr. Tom Stockdale and found an interesting report from him.  I had completed my first year at Ohio State and worked at the Beef Barn and OSU Farm Operations.  I remember pretty good crops but only the really severe years stick out.

The lack of tornadoes is "sticking out" and I have no idea what kind of year we will have but odds say it won't be quite as good as last year.

We had a good year last year and our moisture has been varying every other year.

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Soy Quality Improving In Illinois

"Over the past few years, the Illinois Soybean Association has been educating farmers about the importance of producing quality soybeans in order to remain competitive in a global market.

A main component of that quality is meeting minimum industry standards for protein and oil content.
Soybeans with at least 35 percent protein and 19 percent oil content provide optimal value to buyers in today’s market, and Illinois soybean growers met those standards on average last year.

A soybean checkoff-funded study indicated protein and oil levels were higher last year than in 2012. The average protein levels from more than 500 soybean samples met the 35 percent target, and the average oil content was 19.2 percent, compared to 34.3 percent and 19 percent, respectively, in 2012."

Are farmers finally feeding their soybeans or is improved genetics the cause?  Or is it some of both?

Personally, I've seen fertilization change oil and protein content more than I have genetics.  Some of the older public varieties still outperform newer varieties for quality, oil and protein content.

I assume 99% of the soybeans in the study are modern day GMO varieties since they don't specify which.  That is what is raised most today.  Therefore, I think the fertilization program has had impact since more and more farmers are fertilizing soybeans and not use them as a scavenger crop to pick up what might be left after corn or other crops.

I was impressed with my Apex soybeans producing 38% crude protein and 22% oil last year.  That wasn't true 20 years ago when those varieties were being developed.

Ed Winkle

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

National Ag Day

March 25 is National Agriculture Day!  Agriculture is a bright spot in my home state of Ohio where "corn is grown and FFA members meet!"  This picture demonstrates our lifelong endeavor of educating and sharing with others.  300 people had "dinner in the field" on our farm last August.

"While market value numbers increased 32.78 percent nationally, the value of Ohio crops and livestock increased 42.28 percent. This is primarily due to a sharp increase in crop values, which increased in Ohio by 60.54 percent but only 47.85 percent nationally. Ohio is ranked 13th nationally with a total value of crop and livestock sales just over $10 billion in 2012.

While the number of farms decreased both in Ohio and in the nation, Ohio performed better than much of the country. From 2007 to 2012, Ohio lost 0.5 percent of its farms while farms nationally decreased by 4.3 percent. Ohio now ranks seventh for the number of farms in the nation with 75,462.

Also, at a time when farm acres are disappearing nationally, Ohio gained land in agricultural production.

The nation lost about 7.5 million acres of farmland since the 2007 census. In Ohio, the numbers of acres in agricultural production in Ohio increased slightly, from 13.95 million acres to 13.96 million acres."

I thank Chimel for this interesting article.  It brings to light how important food and fiber production is, especially when times get tough.  This is our best answer to a huge problem that was emphasized with the crash of our economy in 2008.

Thank a farmer today.  Farmers are key to our survival just like they have been since the beginning of time and never more true than now.  Agriculture is our backbone.

Ed Winkle

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thank You Josh

Iosh Kratzer went to school with my kids.  His dad has been my main mechanic since the 90's.  His dad is around my age and decided to quit wrenching as hard as he used to.  I was so happy when Josh called a month or so ago and said, Ed, I have decided to take over dad's business and I am open for business.  I listed about 10 things we needed to work on.

Ten years ago or so I sold Josh our little farm on Canada Road.  It is a Sears and Roebuck catalog house built in the early 20's, classy old house I must say.  Josh has really fixed it up since the last remodel in 1982.

I had rented it out and it was time to move it.  You would not believe what he has done to it.  I need pictures I don't have so I will have to try and paint them with words.

I remember Josh's grandfather Dale Kratzer on his new 2510 John Deere.  He was in his 50's and robust and full of life.  Dale's son Mike opened up a mechanic shop on that farm and now grandson Josh is running his new business in the same place.  I am really glad to see that because I thought I was going to have to find someone else to help keep this place running.  The problem is there is no one else!

I've got two tractors back and the brakes work on them properly for the first time in ten years!  They actually start now, too, but I just spent half a thousand dollars on batteries!

Yes I could have saved $500 by doing it myself but that didn't happen last year and a young man needed work to start his business off!

I would say it was a good investment!

Ed Winkle

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kanagroos In My Beans!

Cane Munga posted some neat pictures of kangaroo's in his soybeans!  We got to see some neat things in New Zealand and Australia but no kangaroo's in soybeans!  Deer is the most likely unwanted dinner guest in many Midwest soybean fields.

Many people I have met would like to visit Australia and/or New Zealand.  It's on many bucket lists.  I encourage you to go because if I can do it, I think anyone can?  A tenant farmer's son builds a ham radio station and talks to a farmer down under via Morse Code in 1964.  He never loses that vision of what is it like down there and actually gets to visit 50 years later!  Pretty good story, isn't it?  It's true and it happened to me!

If time and money isn't your obstacle, I think the long flight scares many would be travelers from booking the flight.  I wouldn't recommend it for your first flight but I have met people who have basically done that!  Most of us fly a little farther each time over the years until we are comfortable with managing a long distance flight.

The airlines really make it pretty painless unless you are really scared of flying.  Airplanes are safer than automobiles but I am sure this missing flight for over a week now will make some say, that's it, I can't handle the worry of flying.  Maybe I am nuts, but I would hop a flight to Australia or New Zealand today!

If it is your dream, forget your fears and work towards visiting soon.  None of us are getting any younger.  The reality of us flying to New Zealand happened in 2010 after our dear friend Chris ventured to the states with a group of farmers visiting the Midwest in 2008.  It takes a little time to build such an itinerary, but I can help you speed it up in a hurry.

I would love to take a group of you to visit but I am not a tour leader.  That is a lot of responsibility.  I could be a guide for a few stops?   I would love to see Kangaroo's in the beans, wouldn't you?

Ed Winkle

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do What You Say

Politicians to the people next door need to mean what they say and stick to it.  A report is out that the EPA office is flushing raw sewage into the Chesapeake Bay.

"The Drudge editor believes it "utter hypocrisy" that EPA headquarters is flushing billions of gallons of untreated waste directly into the Potomac River each year while daring to threaten Andy Johnson, the owner of a family trout pond, "an oasis for wildlife such as ducks and geese," with fines of $75,000 a day for violating the Clean Water Act. The sheer hypocrisy of the agency prompted Hurt to ask, "Why not charge Gina McCarthy and every one of her EPA employees $75,000 per flush?"

My friends in Germany and around the world used processed effluent for fertilizer before we did.  I will never forget the Chinese farmers carrying their waste in a little pot on a stick.  The translation was "night soil."

Most of you know that I am appalled with the amount of debt our nation has and the disconnect that won't even try to address it.  If I farmed like government does, I would be officially bankrupt before I planted the first seed!  I was raised more conservative than that.  You didn't borrow money you couldn't pay back.  That is gone out the window with today's live for today attitude.

Our environmental efforts have been somewhat effective but EPA is not doing themselves what they ask us to do.  Many of the residents of where I live were forced to hook into a new low water sewer system to try and solve local septic tank/sewer issues.  It is still a "sore subject" around here.

I work and talk to a lot of good people who struggle to make ends meet.  We need a moral society that does what is says and says what it means.

How did we get so far off the beaten path?

We need to start our kids our right and do the right thing.

Ed Winkle

Friday, March 21, 2014

French Youth Are Leaving?

A fellow posted this interesting 4 minute YouTube in the CafĂ©.  Ohio and Michigan have witnessed this in my lifetime.

Rodrod in Texas gave his interpretation which is getting great reviews from fellow farmers I respect.

"also you have to love the self hate in the French president who is himself "rich" by any measure of the imagination......he should lop his own head off instead of killing France if he feels that way.......sort of like our wildly wealthy trust fund lover dumbocrat politicians always "looking out for the little guy" while stealing from those that actually work to pay for the lazy "little guy" and their poor ways and lack of personal responsibility and personal ambition

the real problems in developed countries is we still live with a labor work a day mindset in a technology mental based economy so we still look for "population growth" for the sake of population growth based on the idiot idea that "no successful country has ever had a declining population"........which was correct back when humans were valued based on their ability to man a shovel or hoe

so we import low skilled third worlders and even worse their families and dependents on a failed attempt to hold back the progress and mechanization of formerly labor intensive industries while demanding they are paid a "livable wage" by those that are wildly wealthy and crying about a loaf of bread costing $1.50 instead of $.99

we know for a fact that as education level increases birth rates decrease and we try everything under the sun (other than sterilization spay and neuter programs or the export of our abortion drive thru on demand industry pushed by the left) to get third world populations to decrease because it is "killing the earth".......but the results of those programs like paying them not to industrialize with idiot algore carbon credit programs and handing them food with impunity only results in keeping them stupid and uneducated and nothing but third world feral breeders.......look at ethopeia the results of our "food programs" there is that they have doubled their population or more since that time while their economy, food programs and pretty much everything else is in shambles.......well except for their out of control breeding."

He gives his view of how Europe has dealt with its change in society over the years.  Are they still peasants and don't know how to respond to freedom?  Has entrepreneurialism this sheltered and not well taught?

I watched my dad handle freedom and entrepreneurship as well as I can imagine.  It is hard to not work for "the man."  I worked for "the man" and paid its price but enjoyed its benefits.  I enjoy them today.

Does that make you fat and lazy?

Ed Winkle

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dirt, The Erosion Of Civilizations

Alberta Farmer made an interesting post on Crop Talk.  "Someone on here recommended this book by David R Montgomery, and after reading it, it should be required reading for everyone.  The first half, regarding societies and soil in history was a real eye opener, answered a lot of my long un-answered questions.  The last portion, dealing with farming today was obviously written while sitting behind a desk of his left coast university, based mostly on personal biases about ag input companies, capitalism and large scale farming.

Some comments:

He doesn't believe farming in South America is sustainable at all, and he has toured there.  The only places he thinks modern farming is somewhat sustainable is the Midwest US, most of Europe, and parts of China.  None of Africa, Australia, South or Central America.  Nothing tropical or subtropical.  That might be good news for Midwest farmers, but not so great for mankind, maybe the $15000 per acre folks read this book first?

The cradle of civilization, which today is mostly barren desert, used to be forests then farmland for centuries.  Rome used to import(to be polite) grain from Egypt, and what is now Libya, Algeria etc.  Hard to imagine, considering Egypt is now the worlds largest wheat importer.

I now understand why archaeological digs are always digs, I couldn't figure out how soil accumulated fast enough to bury a city in a millennial or two.  Turns out farmers expanding from river valleys, where the cities started, into surrounding hills created enough erosion to eventually bury the cities under dirt.  ruining both the hills, and the river valleys below in the process.  He also describes a number of port cities which are now far inland thanks to erosion.

He devotes a large section to the Palouse, which posters here claim has no erosion.  Montgomery claims otherwise, the numbers are staggering, who is right?

I do agree with his assertion that tenant farmers or absentee large scale farmers, are unlikely to look after the land as well as owners and smaller scale farmers would, within reason.

Evidently, the solution to soil degradation, and losing all of the nutrients, is to NOT apply chemical fertilizer..............  I haven't quite figured out the math behind that yet.   Apparently manure has some magic ingredient in it that multiplies nutrients when livestock are grazing..........I am the worlds biggest fan of using manure, but last I checked, cows can't "fix" nutrients out of thin air, just recycle some of them.  I realize the book is a few years old now, but I don't think he realizes how much land is no-tilled, has cover crops, and how rarely a plow is used on this continent.  Looks like a lot of research and travel was done on the rest of the world, but not closer to home, but maybe that is just my own bias.

If the rates of erosion worldwide suggested are close to accurate, we are in a lot of trouble, and very soon.  I find it hard to believe, just looking out my backyard.  But I see pictures on here all the time with dust blowing, gullies and washouts.  Here, with snow and frost half the year, and bare ground for a few weeks at most, I've never seen erosion.  In recent years, the soil has rarely ever been dry enough to even make dust.  Runoff is crystal clear.  The only gully I've seen is where I started it with a drainage ditch in mellow black soil that was brand new, and the dirt settled into its own delta shortly after.  Of course, we mostly have clay and we are mostly flat, which may explain a lot.  So is erosion still happening here and it is just too slow to see in a human time frame?  The degradation of our soil however is painfully obvious, and the oldest is barely 100 years old now.  I've got kids who want to farm, and I take the sustainability of what we do very seriously.  It is too bad that doing the right thing usually requires time and money now, for a payback generations later.

So do I have backyarditis, and erosion really is that serious?  What is happening in your area?  Who has travelled the world and seen what is happening?  I know when we were in the Black Sea region of Russia, I saw huge washouts of beautiful black soil after big rains, and it is quite flat ground, with little or no no-till in that area.

One way I look at things, the soil is still out there somewhere, not lost forever, much of it is still sitting in deltas in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, , Gulf of Mexico,  Mouths of the Amazon etc.  But, by the time we realize we need to get it back to where it came from, we may be also facing a shortage of the energy required to complete such a massive task.

I really want to spend some time on Google earth and see some of this myself, since I don't think I will be going to Iraq or Syria in the next few days to see where it all started.

I do highly recommend the book to all fellow farmers, and for that matter, everyone who eats, I do however believe the section about modern agriculture could use more research and a more balanced view, possibly a lot less about global warming and anti-business."

Erosion is that serious.  Friends in Texas to Kansas are posting horror stories about days like the Dust Bowl going on right now.  On the other hand, our friend Brad just posted this nice soil story in Crop Talk.

I wish you a wonderful first day of spring!  It may be cold outside but the calendar says we are heading the right direction!

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New Soil Health Test

"The test came about after a chance meeting between two researchers, Will Brinton, president of Woods End Laboratories in Maine, and Rick Haney, a soil scientist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Texas. The two men joined forces in 2005, to find a way to "manage soil health in a laboratory."

 The result is a test that goes beyond just nutrients, and measures the quality, or the health of the soil system, Brinton said, as it relates to soil biology, structure and porosity.

 The test relies on the same kind of core soil samples farmers already take and is currently offered in three locations: Woods End Labs in Mount Vernon, Maine; Brookside Laboratories in New Bremen, Ohio; and Ward Labs of Nebraska.

 If you want the nitty-gritty technical details, the test methods "use green chemistry, in that the soil analysis uses a soil microbial activity indicator, a soil water extract (nature's solvent) and H3A, a soil extractant that mimics organic acids produced by living plant roots to temporarily change the soil pH, thereby increasing nutrient availability," said Haney, in a released statement.

 The end result is the Soil Health Score, which Haney said "represents the overall health of the soil system," and combines five independent measurements of a soil's biological properties."

Local lab, Spectrum Analytic at Washington Court House, Ohio offers the Solvita test we've talked about here in this blog.

This fits right with the jar tests I am helping farmers with this spring to see how valuable gypsum could be to their soil health.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chinese Funding Of GMO Decreases

"Chinese research funding into genetically-modified organisms (GMO) has fallen by 80 percent over the last four years, a member of a parliamentary advisory body said, as Beijing faces public unease over a technology it has been promoting to boost food security.

The government has urged its scientists to take a global lead in GMO, although it has been reluctant to commercialize GMO crops given public concerns over health risks.

Safety approvals for pest-resistant Bt rice as well as phytase corn, designed as a more environmentally friendly feed for pigs, were completed as early as 2009. But the world's largest buyer of imported GMO soy and cotton has not approved commercial production of GMO grains.
It has also delayed approval of new strains of imported GMO corn such as the MIR162 variant developed by Syngenta.

China's spending on GMO research has fallen to around 400 million yuan ($65.38 million) in 2013, down from as much as 2 billion yuan in 2010, Ke Bingsheng, president of the China Agricultural University, said in an address to Premier Li Keqiang during last week's annual session of parliament.
Ke said agriculture technology, particularly GMO, was crucial for a rapidly urbanising China to increase food production from its shrinking farmlands and water resources.

"GMO technology is extremely important to increase yields and efficiency," Ke said, according to a transcript of his speech made available by his university.

Beijing agreed an initial budget of 26 billion yuan to fund GMO development under a 12-year programme launched in 2008.

Ke did not say why the funding had fallen."

Our Citizen Ambassador group presented to China Agricultural University in 1985 before GMO was introduced.  I wish I had a picture handy to show you!

Ed Winkle

Monday, March 17, 2014

Access And Availability Is Key To Farmer Sustainability

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 11, 2014 – Securing adequate land to grow crops and raise livestock was the top challenge identified again this year in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual outlook survey of participants in the Young Farmers & Ranchers program. That challenge was identified by 22 percent of respondents, followed by economic challenges, particularly profitability, which was identified by 15 percent of the respondents.

 Listen to a Newsline Audio Report

Jake and Jennifer Carter live in Georgia with their children Karson and Kennedy.
“For young people today, securing adequate land to begin farming or expand an established farm or ranch is a major challenge,” said Jake Carter, AFBF’s national YF&R Committee chair and a farmer from Georgia. “Another major challenge is figuring out how to excel – not just survive – in today’s economy,” he said.

Other issues ranked as top concerns by young farmers and ranchers included burdensome government regulations and red tape, 12 percent; availability of farm labor and related regulations, 9 percent; water availability and urbanization of farm land, 7 percent each; and health care availability and cost, 6 percent.

The 22nd annual YF&R survey revealed that 91 percent of those surveyed are more optimistic about farming and ranching than they were five years ago. Last year, 90 percent of those surveyed said they were more optimistic about farming compared to five years ago.

The 2014 survey also shows 93 percent of the nation’s young farmers and ranchers say they are better off than they were five years ago. Last year, 83 percent reported being better off.

More than 91 percent considered themselves lifetime farmers, while 88 percent would like to see their children follow in their footsteps. The informal survey reveals that 87 percent believe their children will be able to follow in their footsteps.

The majority of those surveyed – 69 percent – consider communicating with consumers a formal part of their jobs. Many use social media platforms as a tool to accomplish this. The popular social media site Facebook is used by 74 percent of those surveyed. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they use the social networking site Twitter, 16 percent have a farm blog or webpage and 13 percent use YouTube to post videos of their farms and ranches.

“Use of technology and all the tools at our fingertips to not only improve production practices on the farm but also to interact with consumers – our customers – among young farmers continues to grow,” Carter said. “Use of social media platforms, personal outreach through farm tours, agri-tourism, farmers’ markets or a combination of these methods is where we’re at today,” he added.

High-speed Internet is used by 71 percent of those surveyed, with 28 percent relying on a satellite connection and fewer than 2 percent turning to dialup.

New this year, the young farmers and ranchers were asked about their rural entrepreneurship efforts, with 40 percent reporting they had started a new business in the last three years or plan to start one in the near future.

The survey also shows that America’s young farmers and ranchers are committed environmental caretakers, with 55 percent using conservation tillage to protect soil and reduce erosion on their farms.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said the results of the YF&R survey point to the future of U.S. agriculture being in good hands.

“I am confident that the know-how and tenacity of our young farmers and ranchers will ensure that the best days are ahead for our country and agriculture,” Stallman said. “They are the future of American agriculture and food production.”

Availability and access to land is key to farmer sustainability.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Singing And Swinging With Seniors!

"AVON, Ohio - - It's Tuesday morning and five youngsters ages 10 months to 8 years old are happy to see their new friends. Along with their mothers, they are ready to dance and sing with residents of St. Mary of the Woods Senior Living Community.

It's difficult to tell who is having a better time, the kids or the adults. Ann Howard, the Sing and Swing music teacher, leads the intergenerational group in a variety of dance movements and vocal and instrumental performances.

"These children are wonderful," said Jean Walsh, a long time resident of St. Mary's. "Did you see how that little baby's eyes sparkled while he crawled around? He was moving to the music like all the older kids. It was just precious."

Another resident commented that the movement routines that she is able to complete while sitting in the chair gives her some needed activity. "After one of these sessions, I'm ready to have a cup of coffee and take a rest!" she said.

Jenifer Woda, director of Sing and Swing Northeast Ohio said that the early childhood music program is part of an internationally recognized Music Together curriculum.

Central to the success of the program is the power of adult role models as youngsters participate in a rich musical environment. "Without the seniors, it just wouldn't have the same impact," Woda said.
Rebecca Peters from North Olmstead homeschools her four children. Having the opportunity to participate in the music program with St. Mary's residents has enriched her children's learning experiences in all areas.

"My older children are studying musical instruments, and having been in the Sing and Swing classes as toddlers prepared them well for individual music lessons," said Peters."

We are proud of you Becky and this is an awesome story of what I feel life should be really be like.


Saturday, March 15, 2014


Phytopthora cost me money last year by killing off some of the stand in my non GMO soybeans.  They bushed out great but I still had some bald spots in the field that hurt the yield.

I started learning more about Phytopthora in 1985 when I became a seed scout for Ohio Seed.  At that time Dr. Pat Lipps spent a good deal of time teaching us how to identify the different strains of phytopthora.

I just saw a Tweet from Bill Gates about science attacking phytopthora in potatoes.  The Great Potato Famine starting in 1845 is estimated to have starved a million people.  That led to the Carrington's, my mother's side coming to America.  This disease even led to my birth!

The Oxford study, published in Science, examines the biochemical differences between two related blight strains affecting potatoes and the four o’clock flower. The findings may not be particularly glamorous, but understanding how such pathogens adapt to new hosts and spread between plant species is crucial in the fight against a disease so harmful that the U.S. once researched it as potential agent for biological weapons.

In fact, the same pathogen, Phytophthora infestans, that caused the Great Famine still affects tomatoes and potatoes today, all over the world, costing an estimated $7 billion a year. That’s enough money to feed the entire world for 2.7 days.  Doesn't sound like much, does it?  That's a whole lot of food.

Read more: A New Generation of Disease-Resistant Crops | Fast forward | OZY

Phytopthora has always been a problem in crops in Ohio because of our favorable conditions for its growth.  Seed treatment pays here and the beans I lost were untreated, only a planter box mixture that by itself was not strong enough to fight the pathogen.

If you fight phytopthora on your farm, what are you doing differently this year?

Ed Winkle

Friday, March 14, 2014

Mean, Anonymous Posters

Has social media unleashed the next "beast" to society?

"It doesn’t take long to find a cruel, anonymous comment on everything from newspaper websites to Yelp and Amazon.

“That’s the stupidest book I’ve ever read,” wrote one person while reviewing a novel on Amazon.
Well-known vlogger, ZE Frank, recently taped a YouTube video responding to online critics. In it, he says: “For example, some young gentleman said he wanted to punch me in the face because my voice was so annoying.”

A Pew Research study found 25 percent of people admit to posting anonymous comments online. A communications professor at the University of Houston studying the issue found anonymity contributes to less civil discourse. He looked at online comments in newspapers for more than a year and half and found 53 percent of comments were uncivil in papers that allowed anonymity. That percentage dropped to 29 percent when newspapers required names or links to Facebook accounts."

Anonymous posting has affected agricultural forums, too.  But even they are treated like those of us who post our real names and email addresses.  Ag forums generally draw good people and agriculture is pretty much the cream of the crop.  There are some crackpots in every part of society though, even agriculture.  I decided a long time ago, when I first bought into the idea of an Internet that I was going to post my name and address and not be secret.

60 Minutes proved last night you are not secret.  Our data trail leads right back to us.  About anyone can find about anyone from our past.  That has been true forever, if someone wants to find you, they will.  It's so much easier today with technology so the gap continues.

Mean, anonymous posters ruins a good thing for me but it truly shows what people are made of.

Like what I type or say or how I live or not, you know what you got.

I've even invited you to our farm and we have guest rooms.  We will leave the light on for you.

Ed Winkle

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Attack On Ag

The attack on agriculture continues:

Dear colleague:

 One of Syngenta’s core products—atrazine—has been the center of on-going dialogue for some time. The company has focused on the proven science about the safety of atrazine and tried to stay away from the controversy surrounding various personalities and agendas. That said, Syngenta employees have gracefully weathered negative attacks for years and some have been on the receiving end of unprofessional conduct in this ongoing story.

 In recent weeks, this rhetoric crossed the line. Outrageous and utterly false accusations were made against one of our scientists on “Democracy Now!,” a syndicated program airing on National Public Radio as well as other radio and online media outlets around the world.  This targeted and very personal attack forces us to take action. It is indefensible that this program would not only allow such defamatory statements to air, but that it would also further promote these falsehoods online without attempting to check the credibility of the claims.

 We cannot allow this malicious treatment of a colleague to go unchallenged. We also want to be fully transparent about taking necessary steps to ensure our employees are treated with respect and dignity. This week, we sent letters to “Democracy Now!” and the parties involved, making it clear these allegations are completely untrue. Further, we’re asking them to retract their comments and publicly apologize.

 For more than a decade, the company has been trying to figure out how best to deal with these personal attacks. But sensationalized and devastating harassment of real people with real reputations should not be allowed to go unchecked.

 Our employees have every right to be fiercely proud of the work they do. We are helping to provide the technologies that will make it possible to feed a hungry world in the 21st century. Syngenta operates according to the highest ethical and scientific standards and will continue to do so.

Here’s the link to the letters referenced above. If you have questions about the letters, please contact our Attorney Alan Nadel. For any other questions about this matter, contact Communications Manager Ann Bryan.

 Vern Hawkins

Region Director

North America

I support Vern.  Do you?

Ed Winkle

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Mentor, My Legacy

Thanks to Chuck's post in the Cafe, I ventured back to this morning.   This is a pretty good thread and talks about the monetary value of NAT.   Successful Farming's are the ones who got me into the Farm Forum discussions and actually led to the formation of NewAgTalk.  They have a new contest which intrigued me and made me think about my many mentors over my lifetime. 

"SUBMIT A NOMINATION: During the Nomination Period you ("you," "your" or "Nominator") may nominate a person you know who has made a difference in your life and how they inspired you to farm or impacted you somehow in the way of Agriculture. ("Nominee"). To be eligible, a nomination must include: (1) your name, address, e-mail address, daytime phone number, and relationship to the Nominee; (2) the Nominee's name, address, e-mail address, and daytime phone number; (3) the name and a description of the charity you'd like to receive a donation in the nominee's name (4) an essay (in 200-1,000 words) or a video (maximum 5 minutes) describing how Nominee has impacted or influenced your life or career on the farm or impacted you somehow in the way of Agriculture; and (5) Optional Photos, Videos,

Testimonials that help to convey who the nominee is and how they've impacted you (collectively, a "Nomination"). To submit a video as part of your Nomination, upload a video of yourself describing how the Nominee has impacted or influenced your life or career on the farm or impacted you somehow in the way of Agriculture onto a video sharing site (i.e., a website that permits the uploading of personal videos and sharing of such videos via links to the website), title the video "My Mentor, My Legacy" and include the URL of the video in your Nomination."

That description got too technical for me way too quick.  How could I pick out one mentor?  How could I post a video of someone who really impacted me as a child 50-60 years ago when such was not common?  Nonetheless, I will probably nominate someone just to participate.  I like the idea, I doubt my entry would be sufficient.

Who would you nominate for your mentor, your legacy?  I don't care for the legacy deal, it makes it sound like you are more important than someone else and that just isn't true.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Two Cookies And A Cup Of Coffee

Today we grabbed two Girl Scout Samoa cookies and a cup of coffee for breakfast.  That has become quite unusual for us and something we rarely do these days.  LuAnn said it would make a good blog!

We have a girl scout in our family now so we have to support our troops!  Then our daughter Becky posted this link and it reminded us of another possible blog title, "everything in moderation," but don't forget nutrient dense foods!

"Old Wisdom: Eggs clog your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and early death.

New Wisdom: Nonsense! Eggs are very nearly the perfect food.

How did this one happen? A century ago, when our grandparents gathered their eggs from the backyard hens, there was no controversy. Then cholesterol became the big bugaboo, and all of a sudden, we were being lectured to limit our consumption of eggs to four a week, if any.

Last year, scientists decided to settle the matter once and for all. A meta-analysis of 17 studies on egg consumption and health discovered that eggs did not contribute—at all—to heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. On the contrary, eggs raise our good (HDL) cholesterol numbers and change the bad (LDL) cholesterol from small and dense to large and benign. Eggs are also high in iron and protein and two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthine, which protect against age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts."

The key is to eat eggs from free-range, happy and healthy chickens, just like in the old days, but I imagine most of us still get our eggs from those dangerous caged hens that are sold in our local grocery?

Thank you Lord for 12 very healthy grand children from 12 very healthy parents.  They don't necessarily avoid the foods listed in the link's group of seven.

How about you?

Ed Winkle

Monday, March 10, 2014

Is Seed Chipping Safe?

I recently wrote about the seed chipping we saw at our Monsanto and Pioneer tours in Hawaii this month.

I was asked that question recently and don't know the answer.  Is it cloning?  Is the DNA compromised?

"Scientists have found a way to use a trick of nature to increase crop yields, combat hard-to-kill pests, grow coffee beans with no caffeine and even save the honeybee.
The technology also could help farmers sidestep some of the issues that have fueled opposition to the genetically engineered foods that are now on the market. Critics, however, fear that biotech giants such as Monsanto Co. are rushing the technology to market before some potential side effects are fully understood.
Federal regulators are now assessing the safety of one application of the technology. It would make way for a new generation of pesticides that could, for example, kill agricultural pests with supposed pinpoint accuracy, sparing harmless insects.
“It’s very exciting and offers potential in a lot of ways,” says Bryce Falk, a University of California-Davis scientist who is trying to use the technology to stop the spread of a disease that is devastating U.S. orange groves.
The new technology, called RNAi for short, allows scientists to switch off key genes in plant and animal cells in a way that nature already does. Human cells use RNA molecules, for example, to destroy viruses. The discovery of the process earned two American scientists the Nobel Prize in 2006.
The RNA molecules can be engineered into the plant or animal or applied from the outside via a spray, for example. RNA interference has already been used by plant scientists to tweak soybeans to produce more healthful oils and to engineer virus-resistant food crops. Other future applications include producing coffee beans that are naturally decaffeinated.
Biotech giant Monsanto is employing RNAi to develop new pesticides, including a treatment designed to reverse declines in honeybee populations by using RNAi to control a virus that mites carry into hives. Department of Agriculture scientists have been conducting similar research.
Bees are critical to pollinating a variety of crops, so success in combatting the virus could be a huge public relations coup for the biotech industry, which has struggled to convince critics of the public benefits of genetic engineering.
Monsanto also is using the RNA technology to develop virus-resistant vegetables and to address problems that have resulted from the widespread use of genetically engineered crops."

Do you think seed chipping is safe or do you think it is too much manipulation by man?

Ed Winkle

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"Darned Time Change"

It seems half the people I talk to don't like the time change.

Why do we observe Daylight Saving Time? The simple answer is to save on energy costs.
One of the biggest reasons we change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time (DST) is that it reportedly saves electricity. Newer studies, however, are challenging long-held reason.
In general, energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting our homes is directly connected to when we go to bed and when we get up. Bedtime for most of us is late evening through the year. When we go to bed, we turn off the lights and TV.
In the average home, 25% of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, we can cut the amount of electricity we consume each day.
Studies done in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that we trim the entire country’s electricity usage by about 1% EACH DAY with Daylight Saving Time.
Benjamin Franklin proposed Daylight Saving Time as an American delegate in Paris in 1784. The idea didn’t really catch on in the United States until World War I, in an effort to save on artificial lighting costs. The same thing happened during World War II.
After the war, states individually chose whether to observe daylight saving time and when they wanted to begin it during the year. As you can imagine, this just caused a lot of confusion, especially for travelers and those of us in the news business.
The Uniform Time Act of 1966 provided the basic framework for alternating between Daylight Saving Time and standard time, which we now observe in the United States. But Congress can’t seem to resist tinkering with it.
For example, in 1973 Daylight Saving Time was observed all year, instead of just the spring and summer. Again in 1986, Congress declared that DST would begin at 2 AM on the first Sunday in April and end at 2 AM on the last Sunday in October.
In 2007, Congress voted to switch the end of daylight saving time to the first Sunday in November to offer trick-or-treaters more daylight time to venture into the streets, even though most children wait until after dark to go out anyway.
While most states observe the spring forward / fall back switch in time, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and Arizona do not change the clock.
However, the Navajo Nation in Arizona does participate in daylight saving time and will roll the clock back Sunday. The Hopi Reservation, entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, does not observe daylight saving time, creating a “doughnut hole” in time in the middle of Arizona.
When’s the next time change? Fall back Sunday, November 2, 2014.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Six Lock Boll

I will be honest with you, I didn't know what a five lock boll of cotton was until a farmer took that name as his handle and started posting on NewAgTalk.  I would like to meet him someday, he is an interesting character.

One of our Australian posters one upped Five Lock today by posting a six lock boll.  A boll is usually divided into four sections or four locks, like locks of hair.  Less then four is a poor crop, five lock is exceptional.  I had never heard of six locks.

This could be called a "freak of nature" or the result of good genetics and good environment.  The seed breeders bring the genetics since the very first plant of that specie and we bring the best environment for those genetics since crops were first cultivated.  We can't control the weather but we even control the drainage and sometimes the water through irrigation.

Is a six lock boll like a five or six bean pod?  I've seen five but never six.  Four is a very good sign that we good genetics, weather to allow them to express and weather to let them develop.  Since cotton is probably GMO,  I don't what impact that had on the six locks.  Same on the soybeans, I see more exceptional pods in non GMO soybeans but that is what I spend my summer looking at.  I inspect soybeans for seed, food and shipment.  GMO beans don't get an independent third party inspection like mine.  They are sold as generic soybeans.

Here's hoping for a five or six lock boll to all of you cotton growers this year.  The demand for cotton is good and that is good for price of other crops.

There is nothing like good competition for our commodities.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Procuring Gypsum

We have talked a lot about gypsum over the years.  How do you get it?  They don't sell it at most NPK stores.  There is a whole lot more to feeding soil and plants than NPK.

There are two major firms in the Midwest who handle most of the fly ask and other contracts.  That is GypSoil and AgroSoil.  I talked to principles at AgroSoil yesterday to see we could get the word out.  Their 40 distributors need help in agronomy because many farmers and landowners will ask questions.

There are hundreds of benefits from gypsum but it is not cure-all.  Nothing is.  The first question is, is it safe?  It came out of a chimney.  Massive amounts of lime are used to clean the sulfur out of coal burning electric generating plants.  The result is there are massive piles of this fly ash gypsum and it's cheaper to almost give it to farmers than to pay for land filling it.

After talking to scientists and reading reams of tests and documents, I figured out we know more about fly ash than we do the fertilizer we produce or import!  I have one friend who totally screwed up his organic like production field by spreading a litter blend he had no idea had a pesticide in it.  He had to test it to find at his cost and pay for the loss!

The need for gypsum has come from the ground up as farmers learn its benefits.  That is, it oxygenates soil by flushing magnesium off clay, or flocculation.  Soils need about 35 lbs of gypsum per inch of rainfall per year to achieve this.  I started teaching this principle 14 years ago after it was taught to me and the word has finally gotten around.

We need gypsum.  At my price of $6 per ton picked up at the power plant, it's the cheapest input I have this year.  I need 17 nutrients and several of them in mass quantities.  Gypsum provides and calcium and sulfur to balance the nitrogen I buy.

Ed Winkle