Study: Bioenergy Crops Could Become Invasive

invasiveplantjournalWhile some crops could hold great potential as bioenergy sources, they could also pose a threat as an invasive species. A new study in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management says that a seed-bearing form of giant miscanthus could be trouble for farmers if it escapes cultivation.

The article “The Relative Risk of Invasion: Evaluation of Miscanthus × giganteus Seed Establishment,” reports the results of field tests on the fertile “PowerCrane” line of giant miscanthus…

Giant miscanthus produces abundant biomass, has few pests, and requires few inputs after establishment. While these traits make it an excellent bioenergy crop, they are also traits of invasive species. This species has the ability to produce up to 1 billion spikelets per acre per year that can disperse seed into the wind.

The researchers looked at seedling establishment in seven different habitats and found a high seedling mortality—99.9 percent overall. But that small percentage that escapes would still leave 1 million spikelets per acre in the seed bank. The authors urge caution in establishing any species that has the potential to become invasive to surrounding farmland.

Bayer Tackling Citrus Greening

bayer-aif14-schrickCitrus growers in the country, especially those in Florida, have been under siege from a disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or perhaps better known as citrus greening. During the recent Ag Issues Forum, Chuck caught up with Bayer CropScience‘s Rob Schrick, who said while his company is able to provide some chemicals to fight the disease, they want to offer growers a more sustainable solution.

“We need these growers to be in it for the long term, so we need to be able to look beyond that [chemical solution],” he said, adding there are promising treatments out there, some of them in the GMO realm, which creates its own issues with how quickly a company can respond with a solution, trying to clear the regulatory hurdles, as well as consumer confidence hurdles to prove the technology. But Bayer wants to find a real solution for the long haul. “There’s no silver bullet, so we’re investing into enhanced research and partnering with universities and grower groups to combine our efforts.”

Rob pointed out that they are racing the clock to find a solution. In the more accepted GMO realm of crops, such as corn and soybeans, it takes 10-12 years to get a new strain through the regulatory process. For direct consumable crops, that timeframe could be extended substantially. He hopes that working with the government and universities will get them to take a new look at this to provide a solution that has that citrus tree applying its own natural defenses without the introduction of more chemicals before it’s too late.

“We need to keep these growers viable and keep these orchards in production for the long term and let these growers get back to doing what they do best: grow oranges.”

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Rob here: Interview with Rob Schrick, Bayer CropScience

bayer-issues-button2014 Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum Photos

PRRS Research At It’s Finest

BI-PRRS-13-47-editedThe PRRS virus is nothing new to swine producers across the country and has been around for years. But that doesn’t mean research has ceased. During Boehringer Ingelheim’s PRRS Seminar in Chicago, Dr. Scott Dee, director of research at Pipestone Vet Clinic, shared with his peers the research he has conducted regarding the PRRS virus found in the air surrounding farms.

“We are a strong believer of air-filtration to prevent airborne virus introduction to farms. It’s an expensive proposition. One of our goals was can we prove that there is indeed virus in the air outside our farms. And if we can, how often is it there, what quantity is present and how many different varieties of viruses are circulating around our farms.”

Pipestone conducted a study last fall and found that the frequency of the air-born virus was very high. The quantity of viable virus in the air was also high, as well as the diversity of virus types around the farm was high. With this finding, Dr. Dee talked about two options that farmers can take to help combat PRRS in their barns. The first is air-filtration, which he further discusses in my interview with him, and vaccination at weaned-to-finish operations.

Listen to my interview with Scott here: Interview with Dr. Scott Dee, Pipestone Vet Clinic

Here are photos from the event:2013 BIVI PRSS ARC&E Seminar Photo Album

Kenyan Researcher Honored at World Food Prize

DSC_1615Brilliant, well-spoken and pretty as a doll, Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi was everyone’s darling at the World Food Prize symposium last week.

The 38-year-old researcher from Kenya received the 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, in recognition of her efforts to find the cause and a solution to a deadly outbreak of aflatoxicosis in 2004-05 which killed 125 in eastern Kenya.  Her relentless research led to solutions fending off future outbreaks and securing the region’s crop of maize.

Dr. Mutegi and her team are eradicating aflatoxin, a naturally occurring mold, a major concern for farmers, and toxic to people who directly or indirectly consume it.  The way she accomplishes this is by using the non-toxic form of the fungus which has a competitive advantage over the deadly strains.  Dr. Mutegi says this is just one way to rid her country of the disease which has killed hundreds.

You can listen to a portion of Dr. Mutegi’s press conference at the 2013 World Food Prize here Dr. Charity Mutegi remarks

2013 World Food Prize photos

Monsanto Increases Corn Rootworm Research Dollars

monsanto-postMonsanto Company is ponying up an additional $3 million in corn rootworm academic research which will extend the program, started earlier in the year, to 2016.  

Research projects that are rootworm-based will be able to receive up to $250,000 per year for three years. Areas of research include; economics of corn rootworm management, the development of predictive models, the characterization of resistance, and the development of broad survey methods.

USDA estimates that damage and the cost associated with controlling corn rootworm is $1 billion annually.  They further breakdown the estimate to $800 million in yield loss and $200 million in prevention.  Dr. Dusty Post, Monsanto’s Global Insect Management Lead is co-chair of the CRW Knowledge Research Project Advisory Committee.  I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Post and discuss how important the research is to managing this pest.Interview with Dr. Dusty Post

Anyone interested in applying for funding or have any other interests in the study should go to for key dates and instructions on how to apply.

World Food Prize Honors Pioneers in Biotechnology

WFPThe 2013 World Food Prize will honor three distinguished scientists – Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States.

Building upon the scientific discovery of the Double Helix structure of DNA in the 1950s, Van Montagu, Chilton, and Fraley each conducted groundbreaking molecular research on how a plant bacterium could be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells, which could produce new genetic lines with highly favorable traits.

The revolutionary biotechnology discoveries of these three individuals – each working in separate facilities on two continents – unlocked the key to plant cell transformation using recombinant DNA. Their work led to the development of a host of genetically enhanced crops, which, by 2012, were grown on more than 170 million hectares around the globe by 17.3 million farmers, over 90 percent of whom were small resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

From their work in the laboratory to applying biotechnology innovations in farmers’ fields, the combined achievements of the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates have contributed significantly to increasing the quantity and availability of food.

Benefits of Mintrex Cu on Pigs & Mode of Action

Mintrex Cu (copper) has benefits on pigs and mode of action.

Yulin Ma NovusDr. Yulin Ma, who works on Novus International’s research and development team, gave a presentation during the 25th Anniversary of the World Pork Expo about seven trials pertaining to the company’s new product Mintrex Cu. Ma explained that when adding the product to premix, the copper sulfate helped the pig digest more of the feed. The product also showed that it reduces fecal excretion of copper, which is better for the environment, and improved carcass weight – where the real payback occurs says Ma.

Ma, whose excitement about the product was evident in his presentation, explained that Mintrex Cu has higher mineral digestibility than inorganic sources and thus helps improve immune function – a healthier pig means less antibiotics. The product also improves feed intake and performance. Ma says Mintrex Cu is really a triple threat and for farmers who understand the value of the product, the payback will be threefold.

Listen to my interview with Yulin Ma here and/or watch a video of his presentation below. Benefits of Mintrex Cu on Pigs & Mode of Action

Visit the 2013 World Pork Expo photo album.

Entomology Fellowship Recipients

FMCFMC Agricultural Products has partnered with the Entomological Foundation to recognize and encourage teachers to bring knowledge and hands-on experience from the lab back to the classroom through the FMC Educator Fellowship Program. FMC announces Timothy Anderson and Richard Shevalier, III., as recipients of this year’s fellowship.

Timothy Anderson and Shevalier will team up with FMC scientists at the FMC Agricultural Products Global Innovations Center in Ewing, N.J. Throughout the summer, they will be involved in entomological research with their mentor at FMC and be provided with an opportunity to develop new teaching strategies with long-term scholarly collaborations.

Fellows will attend the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas, where they will present a recap of their fellowship with FMC and learn from other scientists.

Study Shows Internet Increases Small Farm Income

LSUAC4CAccording to research conducted by Aditya Khanal & Ashok Mishra, both with the Department of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness at Louisiana State University, the internet has added $2,000+ annual gross farm income to small farms.

“Small farms with access to the Internet earned approximately $2,200 to $2,700 more in gross farm income compared to small farms without access to the Internet.”

The pair of agricultural economists presented their findings in February. Researchers used data from a nationwide U. S. Department of Agriculture survey of farm households in 2010. They defined a “small farm” as having a gross cash farm income of less than $250,000. Sixty-two percent of the small farm households had access to the Internet.

Researchers concluded that small farm businesses, through good management of off-farm and on-farm activities, can benefit from Internet service as it opens up options for gaining information and potentially reducing input costs and household expenses.

Those living in rural areas understand that access to high-speed internet or any form of internet is sometimes hard to find. But is getting better. The internet allows farmers to have access to more education and research, enables different marketing opportunities and can serve as a networking tool.

For more information on this study you can read the complete report here.

Syngenta Unveils New Crop Research Facility

Syngenta has unveiled its new crop research facility at the company’s RTP Innovation Center, located in North Carolina. The $72 million Advanced Crop Lab allows company researchers to simulate any agricultural climate and precisely measure plant inputs. This technology will help farmers grow more food with fewer resources.

Syngenta Young Corn“Our new Advanced Crop Lab allows us to bring together components of all research where we can create environments for multiple crops from multiple regions — simultaneously,” said Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, head of biotechnology for Syngenta. “Individual controls of temperature, light and carbon dioxide levels, as well as humidity control in many growth chambers, provide tailored environments that allow our talented researchers to work on specific grower challenges. In addition to innovative facilities, being in RTP, we have access to some of the greatest scientific minds to help farmers grow more from less.”

The research facility houses 30 climate-controlled growth environments in all-glass greenhouses. Syngenta can simulate conditions from Iowa in one room and from Africa next door. This flexibility will allow company researchers to focus on developing agricultural traits that optimize crop yields, use resources efficiently and resist various stresses that farmers face every day across the globe.

Syngenta Climate Controlled Room

“Syngenta invests more than $1.25 billion annually to directly focus on solving challenges for farmers. As we consider global food security, the research conducted in our new crop lab will be essential to meet that demand,” said Vern Hawkins, Syngenta North America region director.

Design elements of the new facility include insulated glass walls that provide a virtually shadowless indoor environment, a liquid “fertigation” system to feed and water the plants and an automated roof-washing system. The building is Green Globes Certified, which recognizes the company’s sustainable construction processes. In constructing the new facility, Syngenta reclaimed a former industrial site and recycled more than 85 percent of those materials.

Studying Affects of Weather and Climate on Cattle

USDA-LogoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded $19.5 million to support research, education and Extension activities associated with climate solutions in agriculture aimed at the impacts of climate variability and change on dairy and beef cattle. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. The announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.

The University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison, Wisconsin, received $9.9 million over five years to study the environmental impact of various dairy production systems and develop best management practices for producers to implement at the farm level. The University of Wisconsin is partnering in the project with the University of Arkansas, Cornell University, the University of Michigan, North Carolina A&T University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Washington, along with four USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratories, the U.S. Department of Energy and the industry-sponsored Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, Oklahoma, received $9.6 million over five years to better understand vulnerability and resilience of Southern Great Plains beef in an environment of increased climate variability, dynamic land-use and fluctuating markets.

More R&D from BASF Acquiring Becker Underwood

becker-seeversThe recent acquisition of Becker Underwood by BASF is more than just putting the two companies together. It means more research and development as each is able to look at the other’s advancements and see how they might be able to combine products for maximum efficiency

“Both companies are bringing together a lot of existing technology that we’re starting to examine to see if we can find some synergies with what we already have,” explained Kurt Seevers, field development leader for seed enhancements and biologicals, during the recent tour of the plant facility in St.Joseph, Mo. He added that going forward, they’ll also look at combining new material they are each developing.

Kurt said they might work on 750 treatments in a year, and of course, not all of them make it to market. But he said since they’ve done a lot of their prep work in the labs, more often than not, a treatment will go forward once it has hit the field testing.

He said they have some real challenges, including improving on already hot products, such as VAULT HP. “It does give us a challenge in research so we have the opportunity to take materials we’re looking at and put them in products that look really good already and see if we can make improvements that way. That’s typically how we take that next step.”

Kurt concluded that they are working on agriculture’s overall goal of feeding a growing world in a sustainable, ecologically respectful way.

Hear more of Cindy’s interview with Kurt here: Kurt Seevers, Becker Underwood field development lead

Becker Underwood media tour photo album

The Science Behind BASF’s Herbicides

basf-classic13-lukeThe research and development teams are the key to making BASF a household name among farmers. These biologists and chemists make it possible for BASF to stay innovative, provide solutions and create relationships with growers.

During Commodity Classic I was introduced to Luke Bozeman, Technical Marketing Manager in herbicides at BASF. Herbicide resistance is a on-going problem no matter what crop you grow and Luke shared what we will being seeing soon from BASF to solve this prevalent dilemma.

“Herbicide resistance has been a growing problem over the last several years and at BASF we’re excited about a new product that we haven’t developed yet or available yet, but Engenia has been designed to control some key resistant weeds including palmer pigweed, water hemp and ragweed in soybeans. We are excited about those technologies and how Engenia is going to help the farmers control those weeds in crops.”

“We are hopeful in 2014 all the approvals will be in place and we’ll be able to commercialize. There are still a lot of activities to go between now and then, but things are on track. It’s a very good technology and we’re excited it will be available in 2014.”

Luke and I also discussed what BASF is doing to face challenges and changes growers across the industry are seeing each growing season.

“We have an excellent R & D group that begins with our chemist in Germany and United States. Then our biology team in the United States range from field based biologists to biologists that are in our greenhouses and labs in North Carolina. They look out 8-10 years to try and define and determine what those key needs are going to be for growers and begin developing their programs to address those needs.”

Listen to my interview with Luke from here: Interview with Luke Bozeman

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Innovations in Every Corner

classic-13-jamie-86-editedI had so much fun talking with Dr. Jennifer Holland in the BASF booth during Commodity Classic because the passion she has for her job simply radiates through. Jennifer is the Technical Marketing Specialist with the Row Crop Fungicide Team at BASF.

She had a wealth of knowledge to share with me and more importantly to growers about their proven products and what we can see from BASF in the near future.

“In 2012 we launched Priaxor to much acclaim and a lot of challenges in the marketplace with the drought of 2012. And one of the things we were able to do was get 60 on-farm trials looking at Priaxor compared to Headline. What we were able to see was Priaxor actually out performed Headline with a 2 bushel better increase in yield. Which really delivers significant value for growers. We believe that yield is underpinned by all the plant health benefits we’ve researched and we can offer with Priaxor. For us those plant health benefits really fall under three buckets. First and foremost, is disease control, which we know is very important with fungicide, but also with growth efficiency in maximizing photosynthesis and nutrient utilization. And finally stress tolerance, which of course the drought of 2012 falls into that bucket.”

“In 2013 we’re really excited because we are looking to continue the integration process with Becker Underwood. Both of us have very strong innovative pipelines and I think growers are going to see new, exciting innovations from from us as we move forward with that process. And one of the things BASF has always prided itself on is it’s commitment to the agricultural industry and to innovation. In fact, in 2015 we will of launched 33 new products, which really speaks to our commitment. In terms of research and development, we spend approximately $2 million a day, and that’s Monday – Friday and weekends, making sure we are bringing the most innovative solutions to growers.”

Listen to my interview with Jennifer from here: Interview with Jennifer Holland

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Six Secrets of Soybean Success Revealed

classic13-belowMove over Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World. Dr. Fred Below has a new hit message – the Six Secrets of Soybean Success – and he revealed it for the first time to growers at the 2013 Commodity Classic, thanks to BASF Crop Protection products.

Dr. Below, who is Professor of Crop Physiology at the University of Illinois, was joined by BASF Technical Crop Production Specialist AJ Woodyard for the educational session that drew a record-breaking number of attendees.

Both BASF and Dr. Below shared new data that shows farmers how they can nearly double their yields with a comprehensive pest management plan. Even though they conducted research separately, their results both indicated that growers can maximize yields by using agronomic management program featuring a combination of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides.

classic13-secretsWoodyard highlighted studies that consisted of a combination treatment of BASF herbicides and fungicides in corn, and BASF herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in soybeans, and compared their effectiveness to a glyphosate-based control program. Results revealed soybean yields increased by an average of 6.0 bu/A over the glyphosate-only program.

According to Below, the current average soybean yield in the U.S. is roughly 42 bu/A, and has been hovering around that figure for the past few years. “While it may seem daunting, the quest for 85.0 bu/A isn’t a stretch. Yields of this nature are produced each year in state contests, so we know it can be done,” Below said. “The trick is figuring out how to consistently produce these yield levels, and our research has identified six strategies to help accomplish this task.”

The Six Secrets to Soybean Success are:

  1. Weather
  2. Improve soil fertility
  3. Maximize genetic yield potential
  4. Protect yield potential and maximize seed size
  5. Enhance seed emergence and vigor
  6. Utilize narrow row spacing

Listen to Chuck’s interview with Dr. Below here: Dr. Fred Below

2013 Commodity Classic Photo Album

Moss Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

charles_mossThe Southern Agricultural Economics Association recently bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award to Charles Moss. Charles is a professor in the University of Florida’s food and resource economics department and has more than 20 years of experience in researching and teaching agricultural finance.

“It is always somewhat humbling for people you admire to talk about your career and the contributions you have made,” said Moss, a member of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “It motivates me to continue asking interesting questions and to continue to challenge myself.”

He has supervised six doctoral students and two master’s students while at the University of Florida. He has written two textbooks related to agricultural economics, co-authored another, edited six volumes and written 24 chapters. And has been published in nearly 100 scientific journals.

This busy man has also served as co-editor of the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics and was a member of the editorial board of that journal and the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Congratulations Charles for such a prestigious honor.

Some Sweet Science Behind Maple Weekend

maple logoSome recent research has uncovered some significant health benefits to maple syrup. So when attend this year’s Maple Weekend in New York, held March 16-17 and March 23-24, remember there is a little more to it then it’s simple sweet taste.

University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram has found 20 compounds in maple syrup that play an important role in our health.

“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it,” Seeram said. “It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.”

Did you know a quarter of a cup of maple syrup has more calcium than the same amount of milk or that there is more potassium in maple syrup than a banana?

More than 100 maple syrup producers across New York State open their sugarhouses to the public and share their secrets. Maple Weekend is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day where visitors can learn about tree tapping, boiling and even do some taste testing. Oh, by the way, admission is free.

A list of sugarhouses and maps can be found online at Production techniques from vary from producer to producer. See state-of-the-art maple tapping one day and then traditional tapping the next.

Get Schooled in Ants

Lucky largeThe nationwide School of Ants has found a home at the University of Florida. The school is an example of citizen science, a project where anybody can collect and submit data for experts to review and compile.

Ants are collected from personal yards and neighborhoods and then entomologists identify each species and plot its location. These digital maps provide a snapshot of any distribution around the county.

“Knowledge of the presence of a species of ant might help for things like quarantine and control, if the species is a problem,” said founder Andrea Lucky, and assistant scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “If we find a rare ant, or an ant that’s way outside its known range, we many want to keep an eye on it purely for academic purposes.”

The program originated at North Carolina State University in 2011, between Andrea and Rob Dunn, a biology assistant professor. The expansion and movement of the headquarters to Florida has the team excited due to it having more ants than any other state.

“We want to really focus on Florida,” Lucky said. “The ant populations are so diverse, and we’re eager to get a handle on what’s here.”

Identifying that the invasive Asian needle ant had spread beyond its original home has been one of the school’s biggest accomplishments. The pest kills native ant populations in hardwood forests and carries a painful stinger.

If you are interested collecting ant specimens and mailing them in, be sure and record the location and time the ants were collected. Volunteers can register at the school’s website.

You can also keep up with the program by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Gene Chip

The gene chip my sound somewhat futuristic, but it is actually something we have capabilities of using today. Alltech is on the cutting edge of research on the gene chip. Kate Jacques is Alltech’s director of nutrition and serves as part of the research group for the gene chip.

The science behind the gene chip is state-of-the-art and it was exciting to hear Kate describe how all producers can utilize this technology soon. I talked with her after she presented to both dairy and beef producers at this year’s Global 500.

“The gene chip is microarray and it is a very exciting new technique to measure your animals response that animal science has had in ages. Basically, it allows us to directly follow gene expression. Remember that genetics give us better animals, but it’s the expression of those genes that gives performance and profit. We use it in lots of studies to follow responses to diets.”

Listen to my interview with Kate here: Kate Jacques - Global 500

Kate shared how the gene chip can be used to improve immune response, advance carcass quality and remove stress from the environment.

Listen to Kate’s complete presentation here: Kate Jacques - Global 500

Check out all the photos from this years Global 500 here: 2012 Global 500 Photo Album

Deeper Roots, Strong Yield With Drought-Tolerant Corn

A root comparison study conducted this season at Monsanto’s Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, Neb., provided a dramatic demonstration of just how important a deep, strong root structure is to help corn plants withstand drought conditions.

The research program evaluated the performance of a DEKALB® drought-tolerant corn product versus two competitor products – a Pioneer® Optimum® AQUAmax™ hybrid and a shallow-rooted product. A root dig conducted in mid-September showed that the DEKALB product had a significantly deeper, more evenly spread root structure than the other two products.

The result was healthier ears and a yield advantage for DEKALB of 12 bu./A versus Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax and 15 bu./A versus the shallow-rooted product.

This December DEKALB will continue a tradition of introducing innovative new products with the stewarded introduction of Genuity® DroughtGard™ Hybrids in the Western Great Plains for 2013 planting. These products combine the DEKALB brand’s drought-tolerant genetics, developed through the brand’s industry leading breeding program, with the industry’s first drought-tolerant biotech trait and agronomic practices. The DEKALB DroughtGard Hybrids available for planting in 2013 delivered farmers more than 5 bu./A versus competitor products in field trails this year.

Click here to see time-lapse photos of the root dig and video interviews with the participants.