Farm Equipment

  • Agriculture’s Not-So-Secret Canine Weapons

    United States Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Agriculture Canine (K9) Hardy captured America’s heart when he discovered a 2 lb. cooked pig in checked luggage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Not long before that, one of his canine pals found pork sausages in canisters of baby formula at Washington Dulles International Airport.

    Sound a little crazy to you? Kevin Harriger, executive director for agriculture programs and trade liaison with CBP, says these stories are anything but unusual.

    “People will go to great lengths to bring in something they want,” Harriger says. “Most people don’t make the nexus between epidemiology and the spread of a foreign animal disease. They think if they want ham, they’ll bring ham into the U.S. with them. It’s that simple to them.”

    However, bringing agricultural products across the U.S. border without properly identifying them is illegal. It is one of the greatest threats to the United States’ efforts to stop the spread of foreign animal diseases (FADs) from entering the U.S.  Working dogs provide an additional tool in detection of these prohibited agricultural items.

    Brave Beagles Go To Battle for U.S. Agriculture
    In 1979, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched its first K9 pilot program with large dog breeds such as Labradors. In 1984, the first teams using beagles were trained.

    Harriger says beagles are the breed of choice for the agriculture mission due to their non-threatening appearance and kind nature, as well as their high drive for food, which is their reward. Beagles were selected for use in the air and cruise line passenger environments to enhance CBP’s layered approach to safeguard the nation from invasive plant pests and FADs.

    The beagles’ keen sense of smell is extremely effective in detecting agricultural products, he says. The Beagle Brigade is also used as an outreach and education tool providing pertinent information regarding entry of agricultural products while simultaneously indicating the risks presented to American agriculture from invasive pests and diseases.

    “Beagles are extremely docile and were selected for that trait,” he says. “Large breed dogs are used in cargo and land border passenger operations due to their innate resilience in harsher environments.”

    Today, CBP has 114 K9 teams, including 84 beagle teams and 30 large breed teams, stationed throughout the country in all major international airports.

    “The beagles are an extremely valuable asset,” Harriger says. “They are beloved because they want to serve. It’s truly a partnership between the dog and the handler.”

    Rigorous Training for Rescued Dogs
    USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the National Detector Dog Training Center (NDDTC) procures and trains the K9s and the CBP K9 agriculture specialist handlers. The program uses rescued and donated dogs that pass initial screenings for age, temperament and drive. The dogs are then trained at NDDTC in Newnan, Ga., in a state-of-the art and certified green facility where they receive specific training for target odors in CBP’s different working environments, including pork, beef, apple, mango, and citrus.

    The initial team training takes 10 weeks for beagle teams working in passenger environments and 13 weeks for teams in the border and cargo environments, Harriger says. Training continues throughout the team’s career reinforcing their skills and adding target odors of interest unique to their home ports. Some handles say their K9s can detect up to 150 odors.

    “We have training every two weeks to keep dogs interested,” he says. “We work hard to make sure it doesn’t get monotonous and build new odor training into the program.”

    In addition, the dogs are trained that there are some odors they should not “hit” on – these are called non-targets. Processed foods, candy, perfumes and toiletries may cause the K9s to alert, but once the handler identifies the item is not of agricultural interest, the K9 is not rewarded and will not respond on that item again. The periodic K9 training exercises reinforce the correct target and non-target responses learned at NDDTC.

    You can’t have a successful K9 team without a good dog handler. The handlers are CBP agriculture specialists who have expressed interest in working with the dogs. Prior to becoming a K9 handler, they have received extensive training and gained experience in the biological sciences and in agricultural inspection.

    On a typical day nationally, the K9 teams inspect more than 1 million people as well as air and sea cargo imported to the U.S. and intercept 352 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 4,638 materials for quarantine: plant, meat, animal byproduct and soil.

    “Just like the dogs, the handlers have to meet some prerequisites,” Harriger says. “We don’t grow them, they step up and decide that it’s something they want to do. The dog handlers need to have good interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with the public.”

    Creating a positive experience with the travelling public, especially children, encourages compliance with agriculture regulations at U.S. ports of entry. The teams help people understand what the dogs are trying to do to protect the country.

    “The teams interact with people every day,” he says. “They hand out comic books and trading cards that feature the beagle with his or her stats, including name, favorite odors, training site, etc.”

    First Defense Against Foreign Animal Disease
    Although it is very difficult to help every traveler understand the consequences of FADs hitting U.S. soil, the K9 teams give it their best shot.

    “We are not the judge and jury,” Harriger says. “But it’s up to our team to keep plant and animal diseases out of the United States. And with African swine fever, for example, the virus can manifest itself in meat or refuse. If it doesn’t go through a sanitary system or get destroyed through an incineration or steam sterilization process, we’ve got live virus in the U.S. People don’t understand how serious this really is – it just sounds really science-geeky.”

    The U.S. prevents any pork and pork products from other countries from entering the country to prevent the introduction of FADs such as African swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. However, regulations and permits are in place to allow some agricultural products to enter the U.S. – but smuggling pork sausages in infant formula cans is definitely not permitted.

    “We have a layered approach about how we try keep problems out,” he says. “We are on the lookout for prior offenders, flights with higher broach rates, flights with high numbers of passengers, and of course, looking at the items they declared.”

    For Harriger, working with the Beagle Brigade is one of the best aspects of his job. He oversees 2,500 agriculture specialists and 114 teams guarding the U.S. ports of entry by administering the regulations and laws that USDA-APHIS sets forward.

    “I’m still so enamored with the beagles,” Harriger says. “I think they are the best thing in the world.”

    Article courtesy of: AgWeb by Farm Journal

  • Amazon, Walmart? Farming’s Wild Scramble For Online Ag Retail

    What if an entire farm supply of herbicide, fertilizer or seed was a mere click away and deliverable by Amazon or available by pickup from Walmart? Outlandish? Probably. Maybe. However, farming is rooted in one inescapable certainty: Change waits perpetually offstage.

    The scramble for ag retail dollars has kicked up a dusty haze as traditional chemical players scrap gravel with an expanding list of online start-up companies elbowing for market space. It’s a brick-and-mortar vs. e-commerce clash, and the rules of purchase, customer loyalty, and transparency are at stake. The Wild West has come to ag retail and the outcome for U.S. farmers remains a looming issue.

    Confusion and Surprise

    “It’s crazy right now and I’ve never seen a more competitive time in the ag retail space,” says Curtis Garner, senior farm analyst for Bowles Farming Co. in Los Banos, Calif. “Twenty years ago, there was money made hand-over-fist; not now. Ag retail is in new territory and I can’t even predict what’ll happen a decade from now.”

    In November and December of 2017, Bowles Farming Co. joined five neighboring farms and approached 11 retailers with a proposition to buy in bulk, shaking the tree for the best deals available on herbicide, fertilizer, defoliant, growth regulators, and more. Retailer reaction? Confusion and surprise, according to Garner: “They wanted to know why I was doing this and what was going on. A lot shied away and said we were already getting the best deals possible, but some guys wanted to play ball—especially the independent dealers.”

    Garner believes ag retailers are caught in a whirlwind of change. “There is a new generation of farmers raised on an ‘information should be open and free’ mentality and we’re seeing the reverberations specifically in ag retail. The culture is changing so fast that business is playing catch-up.”

    “Maybe no one wants to admit it, but some retailers are scared and see change coming from online competition. No question, the big retailers got lazy and provided opportunity for online disruption. Nobody knows where this is headed, but I don’t think online ag retail will blow up the supply chain as much as some think,” he adds. “In the end, the ones who create value on both sides are going to win.”

    Who Fits the Future?

    According to USDA’s Farm Production Expenditures 2017 Summary, “Combined crop inputs (chemicals, fertilizers, and seeds) are $51.8 billion.” The number of online ag vendors seeking to tap the input market is steadily growing, with a roster including AgrellusAgroyAgVendCommoditAgFarmer’s Business Network (FBN), FarmTradeHarvestPortINPUTSThe FarmElement, and more. In addition, InCeresAgriconomieYagro and Agrofy are based overseas. (According to a 2018 Farm Journal purchasing behavior study of 997 U.S. farmers, 8% of growers bought at least some inputs online this year and 13% plan to buy some inputs online in 2019.)

    Despite the crowded stage, Alexander Reichert, co-founder and CEO of AgVend, sees the future of ag retail as the combination of the convenience and time savings of e-commerce, with the service and local agronomic expertise of traditional ag retail. AgVend launched in 2018, covers 26 states, and partners with ag retailers looking to sell crop protection, nutrition, fertilizer, lubricants and oils online (seed sales are set for 2020). AgVend enables growers to search for products, filter results (based on price, delivery, bundled services, etc.) and select the option that best fits their needs, with the retailer handling the last mile delivery or pickup. (AgVend also offers retailers an online storefront if needed.)

    Reichert estimates total sales of online ag inputs in the single digits, but expects the figure to steadily rise. “We’re going to see the percent of e-commerce purchases hit 10% and rise fast. Within three to five years, I project we’ll see the number grow as high as 25%.”

    “AgVend has an advantage of credibility and network with established retailers. Other players in the online retail market are held back by trust issues. Buy a branded product online and watch what happens when a generic shows up at the door. It’s a very, very bad customer experience,” Reichert adds.

    Representing approximately 11 million acres of U.S. farmland, Brad McDonald is the managing director and co-founder of Agroy Inc., which utilizes online technology to link suppliers and buyers. Agroy connects farmers directly to providers of ag inputs through direct purchases online, or through mobile applications specifically designed for given retailers. Essentially, Agroy connects the dots as a third-party seller.

    McDonald is certain: Online ag input purchases will continue to gain traction. “This is going to be second-nature. Twenty years ago nobody bought online and now look at the pace of change. I don’t believe farmers are going to abandon current retailers, but the overall system is going to be more efficient through new purchasing technology. The players willing to disclose prices and offer products online will fit into the future.”

    Praised and Pilloried

    In 2015, FBN lobbed a grenade into the online ag retail market, allowing growers to go further upriver to source ag chemicals directly from manufacturers. In addition, paid membership allowed growers to view anonymous aggregation of seed performance data. The access to transparency was a radical change for growers, further accented in 2017, with the release of FBN’s seed relabeling project, which showed when a given corn or soybean seed was sold by multiple companies. Seed relabeling remains a common industry practice and one that farmers are often unable to track or recognize. According to FBN, relabeling is practiced by 67% of corn seed companies and 78% of soybean seed companies.

    FBN was praised and pilloried from all ends of agriculture, and the clamor continues with the kickoff of the F2F Genetics Network in 2018. Pared down, FBN offered its own seed line for non-GMO corn ($99 per bag) and off-patent glyphosate-resistant soybeans ($29 per bag).

    Charles Baron, co-founder of FBN, says the pushback from major industry players is consistently strong. “We’re constantly up against heavy-handed tactics, but we maintain focus on grower profit through a fair and transparent market. Whether it’s seeds, inputs, or crop marketing, the future is transparency and increasing farmer profit—and that’s our model.”

    “When we first started, we were attacked for introducing transparency. What does that say about principles of the industry? Well, first they attacked and now they’re trying to replicate our online system.”

    As anemic commodity prices pile the pressure on farmers, Baron insists the online option is not merely about cheaper products, but it is the future of distribution. “This is going to restructure the industry in ways massively beneficial to farmers. Why? It puts the farmer consumer in control.”

    Baron is insistent: Following mechanization, the Green Revolution, and genetic technology, the online transformation will trigger a “fourth revolution” in farming. “Growers can connect and network online to leverage power through data sharing on genetics and pricing to actually change the structure of the industry. That’s where the deepest and most profound change is going to come and it is already starting. Online is going to be the fourth revolution in agriculture.”

    Subscribing to the local and personal formula, Tyler Horbach believes the future of online ag retail will be a marriage of brick-and-mortar and e-commerce. Horbach is the founder of The FarmElement, an Iowa-based startup that partners with local retailers and co-ops. “We don’t disrupt their way of business, but enhance it by adding an additional channel to their business model.”

    Within 10 years, Horbach estimates 50% of fertilizer and chemicals will be purchased online. He says the tide of younger farmers is inescapable. “Everyone can see this happening, especially growers 35 and younger, who already have limited loyalty to retailers.”

    Horbach acknowledges a wave of online change, but says the gravity of purchases will always require a hands-on connection. Growers betting livelihoods on chemicals, fertilizer and seed can’t afford to make flippant purchases: “This is not like buying a pair of shoes. A farmer will always need human interaction, service and trust.”

    Achilles Heel

    Online retail expansion has an inescapable ceiling, according to Michael Boden, head of U.S. Crop Protection Sales for Syngenta. Crop management requires a host of decisions which can’t be completely met by e-commerce and the lack of human interaction is a major Achilles heel, he says. “Most growers value a service component and the agronomy that comes with it from a local relationship. That’s where online ventures miss the mark. Online options may offer more price transparency, but they don’t provide the decision-making components needed to make good agronomic decisions.”

    In addition, Boden says counterfeit products and stewardship are growing areas of concern over online sales: “When online entities acquire products from sources other than authorized dealers or contracted distributors, you’d better question and be concerned about the quality.”

    Echoing Boden’s concerns, Chris Novak, CEO of CropLife America, says the online sale, handling and delivery of agriculture chemicals raises significant stewardship questions and requires understanding of federal and state law. “We’re beginning to hear stories and we’re looking for data on counterfeit ag products sold online. It’s a major concern that speaks to farmer loss, quality control and lost sales for the industry.”

    “There is certainly opportunity for farmers to purchase online, but if they end up with any problems that result in damage to crops, they may not be able to resolve these issues by going back to the company or the sales rep. An online purchase can mean farmers give up some of that access to service. It is important that consumers consider this factor,” Novak adds.

    “There’s been a lot of fearmongering from the existing channels,” says Baron. “We, frankly, find it ridiculous.”

    Consolidation and Crystal Balls

    The number of major market players on center stage continues to shrink, and further consolidation is an incessant concern for farmers. How might an expansion of online retail affect future consolidation? Todd Janzen, attorney with Janzen Ag Law, says the legal spillover from e-commerce is a likely road to turmoil, at least in the short-term. “It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see the big online issues stacking up. If farmers can go online and see that they’re being price-gouged, it’s going to create waves. Zone pricing, seed rebranding, and now seed sales are all related to transparency. Traditional agribusiness has consistently moved toward consolidation, but these online players have definitely upset the traditional apple cart.”

    “Agriculture is headed for a wild time of anti-trust questions, regulatory issues, transparency factors and Amazon.com comparisons, and it all connects with online ag retail,” Janzen continues. “Who can say that even more online ag companies won’t pop up and what happens then?”

    Selection will play a counterbalance role, notes Reichert. “There are so many products out there that struggle to get in front of growers because they don't come from one of the top manufacturers. Traditionally e-commerce in other industries has given rise to these lesser-known brands, which slows consolidation and creates more product diversity.”

    Networking, in tandem with online retail, is a vital counterweight to consolidation, according to Baron. “Who really believes there’s not more consolidation coming in all aspects of agriculture? Farmers have to connect to gain market strength with independent genetics, price transparency and lower cost technology. Selling online is just one piece; farmers need to network to drive deep market transformations.”

    The torrent of change is so rapid that Garner declines to make a 10-year prediction, but says online ag retail could boomerang on consumers and spark another level of consolidation: “I think the successful online ag retail sites may eventually be purchased by established manufacturers and retailers. What’ll happen if you can just go buy UN-32 from Walmart?”

    “You have to be willing to recognize change,” Garner concludes, “because there is one thing for certain in agriculture: Nothing remains the same.”

     Article courtesy of: Farm Journal's AgPro

  • October - Classic Tractors

    Collector/historian has had “...quite a journey”

    Dave Becker of Elizabethtown, Pa., calls his farming career “... quite a journey.” And indeed it has been. He was a junior in high school when he started out with 60 rented acres and a new Allis Chalmers D12. In 1967, he married and moved with his new bride to another 120-acre farm, where, as part of the rental agreement, the land owner wanted the Beckers to grow 10 acres of tobacco. When they rented an adjoining farm of 10 acres, the landlady wanted to also see 10 acres of tobacco. Same with the next landlord.

    The Beckers eventually found themselves farming 1,000 acres of Lancaster County farmland — rented from a dozen landlords — and raising 30 acres of tobacco and other field crops for three decades. “I don’t know how we did it, especially the tobacco,” Becker said said in a conversation about his years in the tractor seat.

    His first wife passed away in 2001 and Becker cut way back on the farming operation. Today he’s remarried, retired from farming and living on 200 acres that he bought, then sold to his son, David S. Becker, who owns D.C. Welding in Elizabethtown.

    Becker’s grandson, Scott Becker, now runs the 200-acre farm.

    Which is not to say that Becker Sr. spends his days in a rocking chair. That D12 he started farming with in 1963 is still in a shed, still looking good and still field ready. Early on, he bought three more new Allis-Chalmers tractors, one each in 1970, 1973 and 1976.

    And then he got some more A-Cs, then some Cockshutts, a Gleaner or two, a collection of wagons...quite the collection. Becker does most of his own work on the collection, but gets help on fabrication and welding from D.C. welding and has done some projects with his grandson.

    We visited Becker this past summer when he had his collection out on the lawn for his annual tractor show, then followed up with a phone interview about how he keeps it all going. We came away with pictures of just a few items from his collection and more than a few stories.

    -Dick Wanner Reporter

    In 1949 or thereabouts, you could buy an A-C Model B and a Crop 40 combine for about $1,000. The tractor and the combine were a good match. This tractor was pretty much a basket case when Becker bought it. He did some body and paint work and overhauled the engine.

    When his grandson was a young boy, Dave Becker started to convert an old Wheelhorse riding mower into a miniature replica of an A-C Model 40. The project never quite got off the ground and sat in Becker’s shed until Scott became a teenager. Scott finished the project with his grandfather, including making the toscale plow.

    This 1947 Co-op and the 1951 Cockshutt 30 look pretty much alike because they are alike. When Cockshutt was marketing Co-op tractors through the American Farm Bureau, the only major change between the two brands was the paint color.

    This good looking combo includes one the the least inexpensive auction finds in Becker’s barn. He overhauled the tractor and the sickle bar mower, which he found nearby in Elizabethtown. The A-C crimper came from Vermont.

    This sign at the driveway into Dave Becker’s driveway lets visitors know that his 200 acres is one of more than 900 preserved farms in Lancaster County. It also lets visitors know that Becker is a fan of the Cockshutt brand.

    One of Becker’s goals as a tractor collector/historian was to own the entire Allis-Chalmers D series. He completed that part of the mission when he bought this D19, which was in really good shape. It was straight and clean and just needed new tires.

    An Allis-Chalmers WC with a Model 33 mounted picker. Probably dates to the mid-1940s, according to Becker. The 33 was a definite leap ahead from hand harvesting. It was good for snapping ears from the stalks, not worth much as a husker.

     

  • Follow These Steps To Grow High-Yielding Winter Wheat

    “That will never work in my area.” Growers often say this when presented with the idea of raising high-yielding winter wheat.

    BY JASON JENKINS | PHOTOS BY WADE THOMASON

    Crossing that elusive 100-bushel-per-acre threshold with winter wheat can seem like an unrealistic, unachievable goal.

    It doesn’t have to be, according to Wade Thomason, professor and grains specialist at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia. If growers stack the high-yield deck in their favor from the start, he says, achieving 100-plus bushels of wheat per acre is entirely possible in conducive environments.

    “My advice is always, if you’re going to do it, do it as well as you can,” Thomason says, noting that increased expenditures on seed, fertilizer and disease protection can increase a grower’s overall return on investment. “If your plan for management is to spin seed out on the ground and maybe throw some fertilizer on it in February, that’s a recipe for not making any money.”

    Farther west, Oklahoma State University small grains Extension specialist David Marburger says high-yield wheat is possible, even in his state, where average wheat yields are around 30 bushels per acre and the crop is often expected to multi-task as both cattle forage and grain.

    “Here in Oklahoma, we focus a lot on cattle, so wheat is often dual-purpose,” Marburger explains. “We plant like any winter wheat crop, but get it in a little earlier in order to get more growth for grazing throughout the fall and winter. Once we break winter dormancy, we’ll pull the cattle off and let the wheat go to grain for harvest. We’re making beef and grain with one crop.”

    Seed Selection and Rate

    Whether producing dual-purpose or grain-only wheat, choosing the right genetics is the foundation of a high-yielding wheat crop. Thomason recommends growers look beyond their tried-and-true seed selections and consider newer varieties on the market.

    “Having the right seed to begin with is a huge portion of what your expected outcome can be,” Thomason says. “If you’re not keeping up with the times, then you’re also not keeping up with the increase in potential being developed.”

    Timely seeding can have a direct relationship with yield, he adds, citing Virginia Tech research that shows that fall-developed tillers produce more kernels and bigger kernels than spring-developed tillers.

    “With winter wheat in this region, we have a nice window of several weeks for optimal planting,” he says. “But farmers must have their labor and machinery components in place to be able to get it done in a timely manner. I see people who continually try to do too much with too little.”

    Only by establishing an adequate number of seedlings can optimum yields be achieved, says Thomason. “Singulation is certainly not as crucial as it might be with some crops like corn,” he says. “For optimum yields, we need a plant population of 22 to 25 vigorous plants per square foot. Taking germination rate into account, actual seeding rates will likely need to be 30 to 35 seeds per square foot.”

    Nutrient Needs

    When it comes to fertilization, Thomason advocates a fall application based on soil-test results and then two passes of nitrogen in the spring—one at green-up and one at jointing. “The first spring application is based on tiller density,” he explains. “Our strategy at that point is canopy management, making sure we have enough potential tillers so we can start growing again. The second application is based on laboratory tissue analysis. It’s a sufficiency approach. Do you have enough nitrogen to finish the season?”

    For producers growing dual-purpose wheat for grazing and grain, Marburger recommends adding extra nitrogen to compensate for forage removal. “Oklahoma State University recommends applying an additional 60 pounds of actual N for every ton of wheat forage,” he says. “Around here, wheat will typically produce 1 to 2 tons of forage per acre per year for the grazing season.”

    Don’t forget the lime and micronutrients, Thomason warns. “As silly as it sounds, one of the most common mistakes is not getting lime applied soon enough,” he says. “Growers think they’re going to make it one more year before pH gets too low. We also have to be cognizant of sulfur and micronutrients. In 50-bushel wheat, deficiencies of nutrients needed in tiny concentrations aren’t as big a deal. But in 100-bushel wheat, the need is doubled. The likelihood of a deficiency is much more common.”

    Managing Pests, Reaping Rewards

    While insect pressure can be sporadic, foliar diseases and head scab can be a threat every year, Thomason says. He recommends, at a minimum, to use a seed-treatment fungicide. In season, growers need to scout fields to determine whether applications of fungicides and insecticides are warranted.

    “Our data says if you make a fungicide application based on scouting thresholds, it makes money for the farmer almost every time—above 90%,” Thomason says. “If you just spray fungicide, and there’s no disease present, it only makes money about a third of the time.”

    Such site-specific information needs to come from the farm’s agronomic and economic decision-makers, he adds. In other words, growers need to get their boots on the ground.

    “The guy who’s paying the bills needs to be the one in the field,” Thomason says. “He needs to be looking at the crop, making the counts and deciding what needs to be done.”

    The best management in the world won’t do any good if the crop isn’t harvested in a timely manner, Thomason adds. Wheat is less forgiving than other crops when left in the field, since weathering, shattering, lodging and other factors can add up to significant losses.

    “When the wheat is ready, it needs to come out,” Thomason says. “Timing is crucial. That comes back to making sure your machinery and labor are adequate.”

    Spend Money to Make Money

    Both Thomason and Marburger acknowledge that Mother Nature sometimes can prevent high-yield results, but they say lack of management is often the bigger issue. Growers who create the potential for success at the start are the ones who will likely achieve the most profits at harvest.

    “Cost is the most common argument I hear against high-yield management,” Thomason says. “But we’re not just telling the grower to throw a bunch of money at the wheat crop. We want them to make educated input decisions based on threshold levels, tiller counts or nutrient values. That way, you know if you’re spending money, it’s for a real reason.”

    Marburger agrees. “That’s been a hurdle to get over, just getting producers to spend a little bit more money because it’s going to make them more money in the end, even with the poor commodity prices we’ve had the past few years. Managing soil acidity by liming or at least using an in-furrow phosphorus fertilizer source, applying nitrogen when needed, and scouting and protecting the crop with the fungicide application would be three things that would help us make large strides in trying to maximize our yield potential.”

    Article courtesy of: myfarmlife.com

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  • 6 Tips For On-Farm Research Success

    Purdue University Extension Corn Specialist Bob Nielsen reveals 6 tips to get on-farm research right.

    BY DEBBIE CLAYTON & MARILYN CUMMINS | PHOTOS BY PURDUE UNIVERSITY

    1. Choose the treatments smartly by developing a simple, meaningful research question or hypothesis. Include a control or check treatment.
    2. Design the trial appropriately, relative to statistical soundness, including replicating and randomizing treatments. “If research is not your vocation, ask for help from those who conduct research for a living,” Nielsen says, whether university researchers, consulting agronomists or others.
    3. To avoid having to abandon test plots, pay faithful attention to detail throughout the whole season, because things can go wrong pretty easily. That goes for establishing the treatments, conducting the trial, collecting data and harvesting. Double-check the math, equipment settings and the condition of row units or nozzles that could malfunction.
    4. Take plenty of notes through the season, especially about weather events, pests and oddities in the field that could cause “noise” in the data. Take advantage of aerial images for visual evidence of human error, as well as stress areas caused by soil variations, insect damage, herbicide injury or weather.
    5. Before you harvest, check the accuracy of grain moisture meters. Calibrate the yield monitor, grain moisture sensors and vibration settings on the combine to the grain conditions of the field. Then triple-check the yield-monitor settings, and harvest carefully.
    6. Don’t skip the step of processing or “cleaning” yield data to remove anomalies before analyzing the results of the trial. Again, ask for help with analysis if needed.
  • 6 Steps to Prep Your Equipment for Winter

     

    You’ve worked hard all year to keep your farm running at peak productivity, and now you’re getting ready for the winter. Make sure your productivity extends into the way you winterize your machines, so the equipment you operate can keep up with winter temperatures and equipment that is stored for the winter can hit the dirt running when it rolls out of the shed next year.

    Here are our top recommendations to keep your equipment at peak condition through the winter:

    1. Review your operators manual. For most equipment, your manual will guide you through the long-term storage process. It will also provide maintenance schedules, along with grease points, etc., for equipment that will stay running through winter.
    2. Clean it up. Dirt, dust and chaff put nearly every moving part to the test. Pockets where these materials accumulate provide an ideal nesting spot for rodents and can hold moisture. An air compressor, broom or utility brush can help you clear the tightest nooks and crannies. Avoid using a power washer or garden hose, as lingering moisture can promote rust.Don’t risk it. Winterize your equipment to keep it running smoothly. Via @Case_IHCLICK TO TWEET
    3. Check fuel and fluids. Use your operators manual to locate all lubrication points, including grease fittings, PTO drivelines and chains. Check oil levels in gearboxes. This layer of protection helps keep out moisture, dust and, ultimately, corrosion. For operating equipment, ensure your engine coolant is appropriate for winter temperatures in your area and use a winter fuel blend.1
    4. Paint and protect. Farming causes wear and creates areas of bare metal. After cleaning, consider applying a spray-on protectant or touch up with paint to prevent rust.
    5. Inspect thoroughly. Take advantage of extra time to repair broken components or anything that needs maintenance. Make sure tires are properly inflated. Check belts and replace anything that appears damaged or cracked. Look for oil leaks, which can indicate worn or damaged seals or hydraulic lines and hoses. Address items that need attention now and make note of anything to keep watch for in the next season.
    6. Take care of batteries. If you plan to use equipment, keep your batteries charged. If you plan to store your equipment for winter, disconnect the battery to prevent a leak, and keep it charged with a maintainer.1

    Your local Case IH dealer can help you complete these critical winter storage and maintenance tasks. Your dealer’s technicians can spot important maintenance issues before they become costly repairs and offer preventive maintenance. And be sure to shop the Case IH Partstore for genuine Case IH parts, filters and lubricants.

    LEARN MORE HERE

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    RESOURCES
    1Scott J. 6 Steps to Winterize Equipment. Successful Farming. https://www.agriculture.com/machinery/maintenance–repair/6-steps-to-winterize-equipment_567-ar46495. Published December 12, 2017. Accessed September 7, 2018.

     

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  • September 2018 Classic Tractors

    Orange you glad you went to Mid-Atlantic A-C club’s third annual tractor show

    Tractor numbers were down slightly, attendance was up significantly, and ice cream sales hit a new high, according to JoAnn Baker-Lucabaugh, the MidAtlantic Allis-Chalmers Club member who has organized the club’s last two early August tractor shows. The shows are held the first Saturday and Sunday of August in Glen Rock, Pa., on land owned by Wertz Farm and Power Equipment. A unique attraction at this year’s show was the Orange Allis ice cream flavor whipped up by York County’s Perrydale Farm. It was the first flavor to sell out, Baker-Lucabaugh said. It was definitely orange in color, with black and white bits mixed in to represent the Holstein breed. Although her family favors Ayrshires, Baker-Lucabaugh said she was very pleased with Perrydale’s innovative and delicious addition to their usual menu. She said the number of tractors entered this year was down a bit, probably because rain the week of the show resulted in a somewhat muddy field. But, she said, the number of attendees was definitely up as more people have learned about the show. Next year’s event will be held Saturday and Sunday, August 3 and 4. Anyone interested in showing a tractor is invited to contact Dave Bickmyer at 410-984- 0569. The A-C Model B will be next year’s featured model, but all tractor makes and models are welcome. The Mid-Atlantic A-C Club meets four times a year — including the show. Membership dues are $10 a year. You can find out more about the club on their Facebook page, Mid-Atlantic Allis Chalmers LLC.

    Dick Wanner Reporter

    1969 Allis-Chalmers Model 190 XT Series III

    Shaun, JoAnn and Levi Lucabaugh, Glen Rock, Pa.

    “We just bought this tractor this winter (2018) and she’s still in her working clothes. Took a trip to Breezewood, Pa., to pick her up.”

    1953 Allis-Chalmers WD45

    Shaun, JoAnn and Levi Lucabaugh, Glen Rock, Pa.

    “Purchased this tractor from the Bupp family in Brogue, Pa., who own the Gum Tree Farm. JoAnn is their milk tester. Their father pulled the tractor into the barn in the 70s, where it sat until the spring of 2017, when we bought it. We changed the oil, gas and filters, plus some ignition work, and it started right up.”

    1949 Allis-Chalmers Model G

    Randy Pickett, Woodbine, Md.

    “I bought this tractor from a friend who had already restored it.”

    1949 Allis-Chalmers Model IB

    Randy Pickett, Woodbine, Md.

    “I got this tractor from my father, and I restored it myself.”

    1969 Allis-Chalmers D-12 Series III

    Kevin L. Yoachim, Zionsville, Pa.

    “I bought this tractor from a friend, which it was his wife’s tractor. (I think he might have been in the doghouse for a while.) Anyway, my dad always wanted a D-12 ever since he came home from the Army, so let’s say I bought and own it, but Dad claimed it, that it was his little tractor. Hopefully it’s going to get redone and in memory of my Dad!”

    1957 John Deere Model 520

    Brian L. Baer, Glenville, Pa.

    “I am the second owner of this tractor, which sold new at W. L. Sterner, Hanover, Pa. It has power steering, three-point hitch with top link and front weights. It is a nice running tractor.”

    1954 Ferguson Pony

    Francis and Gary Baker, Union Bridge, Md.

    “My brother and I bought this tractor at S. G. Lewis’s sale many year ago. My dad, my brother and myself completely restored it down to every nut and bolt. Ferguson gray ponies were all made in 1954.”

    1958 Massey-Ferguson Model 65

    Justin Main, Glen Rock, Pa.

    “I purchased the tractor from the previous owner in Red Lion, Pa. I restored the body myself and had the motor rebuilt. I use it primarily for shows, but from time to time use ion on the farm to spread manure. It is accompanied on Stoney Limestone Farm by an M-F 35 and M-F 135.”

    Mike Cline, Shrewsbury, Pa.

    “I purchased this Allis-Chalmers Model D-15 in 2003 from Ed Lighty of East Berlin, Pa. “Growing up on the farm we had Allis-Chalmers tractors, grandfather had a B, Dad bought a WC unstyled, traded it for a WD when we bought an AllisChalmers round baler. An Allis-Chalmers Model CA was added later. “Back on the farm when I was 16 years old, I really wanted an Allis-chalmers D-15, but we were never able to afford one. It took me quite a while to find this one and make the decision to purchase it. My mother still had the farm and initially I used the D-15 to run a 6-foot Bush Hog to keep the farm trimmed up. We still had the CA, but the Bush Hog was a little too much for it. I retired in 2007 and eventually started to restore the D-15. It took a couple of years to make repairs and do the painting with Rust-Oleum spray cans. “The fun things I am doing now with the D-15 are hayrides at Codorus State Park’s Halloween events. The fun the kids have on these hayrides makes my day. I’ve been told that it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun — the hayriders or me.”

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  • Important 2018 Tax Law Changes for Farmers

    Angela Pecora

    AgChoice Farm Accounting Manager

    Kenny Nearhoof

    AgChoice Senior Farm Accounting Officer

    The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a sweeping tax package. Here is a look at some elements of the new law that will affect farm families. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years 2018 through 2025.

    Individual Tax Impacts

    • Standard deduction. The new law increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, $18,000 for heads of household and $12,000 for single and married but filing separately taxpayers.

    • Personal exemptions. The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions.

    • Child tax credit. The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2,000 from $1,000.

    • Medical expenses. For 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. Previously, the adjusted gross income “floor” was 10 percent.

    • Health care “individual mandate.” Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage. Business Tax Impacts

    • Net operating loss deduction. In general, under the new law, NOLs arising in tax year ending after 2017 carry forward, not back. However, certain farming losses are eligible for a two-year carry back. These NOLs carry forward indefinitely, rather than expiring after 20 years.

    • Domestic production activities deduction. The new law repeals the DPAD for tax years beginning after 2017.

    • Increased code section 179 expensing. The new law increases the maximum expense amount to $1 million. The expense indexes for inflation after 2018.

    • Bonus depreciation. Under the new law, a 100 percent first-year deduction is allowed for qualified new and used property acquired and placed into service after Sept. 27, 2017, and before 2023. After 2023, the 100 percent allowance phases down.

    • Depreciation of farming equipment and machinery. Under the new law, the cost recovery period for new farming equipment and machinery moves to five years from seven years. Used farm equipment and machinery remains at seven years. Additionally, in general, the 200 percent declining balance method may be used in place of the 150 percent declining balance method that was required under previous law.

    • Like-kind exchange treatment. Under the new law, the rule allowing the deferral of gains on like-kind exchanges of property held for use in a taxpayer’s trade or business is limited to cover only like-kind exchanges of real property. Personal property is no longer applicable for a like-kind exchange.

    • New deduction for pass-through income. The new law provides a 20 percent deduction for “qualified business income,” defined as income from a trade or business. The deduction reduces taxable income, but not adjusted gross income. The deduction applies (subject to further limitations) only if taxable income is above $157,500 for single taxpayers ($315,000 for married couples filing jointly). Important tax considerations in years with farm losses:

    • The “Optional Method” for farmers provides self-employed persons with little or no income (likely in 2018 with low milk and crop prices) the option to pay a small amount of self-employment tax for the tax year. It is important to show earnings to receive credit from Social Security toward earning requirements to collect retirement benefits and disability in the future. In many cases for people with children, the taxpayers can use the earned income credit and additional child tax credits to offset the self-employment tax. To qualify for these credits, there must be earnings, which the “optional method” provides farmers.

    • Farm income averaging provides benefits to farmers in loss years as well as profit years. It is unfortunate, but farms will be selling cows and equipment, and exiting the dairy business this year.

    Selling those assets will trigger ordinary and capital gains. In simple terms, with the last two to three years prior also not too profitable, there is an opportunity to use farm income averaging to spread the gains on cows and equipment back over three years prior and take advantage of filling up some lower tax brackets.

    During a year of a herd and farm equipment dispersal, there are many tax considerations that will require a tax professional. Farm income averaging might be a good tool to consider alleviating some tax liability.

    This is a glimpse of the various new or changed provisions under the tax law. Consult a tax professional or join AgChoice Oct. 2 for a free webinar to learn more about the changes. RSVP at agchoice. com/2018taxlawchanges.

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  • Soil Holds the Secret to Mitigating Climate Change

    Michigan State University

    Food production doesn’t have to be a victim of climate change.

    New research from Michigan State University suggests that crop yields and the global food supply chain can be preserved by harnessing the critical, and often overlooked, partner in food supply — soil.

    The research, led by MSU Foundation Professor Bruno Basso and published in Agriculture and Environmental Letters, is the first of its kind to provide critical insight to the importance of soil in managing risks associated with climate change.

    “The long-term sustainability of agricultural systems strongly depends on how we use soil,” Basso said. “This research proves that with the application of innovation through better soil management, we’re one step closer to preserving our food supply and mitigating the effect that climate change and global warming has on our lives.”

    By learning how to scientifically harness, protect and improve soil’s health, Basso’s findings prove that crop yields can continue at current production levels or even improve — especially if coupled with adaptive farming practices.

    “Up until now, research hasn’t accounted for what soil gives back to the cycle of climate change, and it is arguably the most critical resource to adapt to mitigate its effects,” Basso said. “Ultimately, soil is the ‘home’ of the plants. If we aren’t caring for the soil, plants and crops are unsheltered and left to deal with climate change on their own.”

    Basso’s research was part of the Agricultural Model Intercomparing and Improvement Project, or AgMIP, a global initiative linking climate, crop and economic modeling communities to assess the fate of food production under climate change.

    Basso spearheaded AgMIP’s soil initiative and proposed that moving forward, soil be positioned as the center of the food production cycle.

    “We went into the project knowing that with climate getting hotter, crop yields are forecasted to be lower. If the yield goes down, it also means that the amount of carbon that is returned to soil also goes down, so the question we had was: ‘If this cycle continues, where do we end up, and what role will soil have? And, will we be worse off if we don’t look after soil?’ So we ran crop and soil models to simulate the impact of weather on a crop yield and soil organic carbon to evaluate the feedbacks from soil to climate change,” Basso said.

    Basso executed a series of models in Tanzania, Brazil, Argentina, the Netherlands, France, the United States and Australia to test soil’s reactions to changes in temperature and carbon dioxide levels by analyzing soil organic carbon and nitrogen levels.

    What the researchers found was that carbon dioxide compensated for the climate-caused yield losses because it acted as a natural fertilizer to help the crops grow. But when soil organic carbon losses were included in the analysis, the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was not sufficient to prevent yield losses.

    “So, through agronomic management, which is ‘doing the right thing at the right time for your crops,’ soil quality and health can be improved.” Basso said.

    Basso explained how farmers can practice better agronomic management to protect soil against the effects of climate change. This should include the use of cover crops, conservation tillage, adding organic carbon to soil or by increasing yields through advanced genetics and agronomy.

    The forward-thinking approach to crop management — and our global food supply — is largely grounded at the root of plants’ life cycle in the soil they’re planted.

    “The approach of accounting for soil’s feedback needs to become a rule when we use crop models when we want to identify adaptation strategies,” Basso said. “The soil that we’ll deal with in 2050 is surely to be different than it is now, so recognizing how to manage it today — along with adaptation strategies for tomorrow — is critical,” Basso said.

    Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science via EurekAlert!

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  • High-Yield Farming Costs the Environment Less Than Previously Thought, and Could Help Spare Habitats

    Agriculture that appears to be more eco-friendly but uses more land may actually have greater environmental costs per unit of food than high-yield farming that uses less land, a new study has found.

    There is mounting evidence that the best way to meet rising food demand while conserving biodiversity is to wring as much food as sustainably possible from the land we do farm, so that more natural habitats can be spared the plow.

    However, this involves intensive farming techniques thought to create disproportionate levels of pollution, water scarcity and soil erosion. But a study published Sept. 14 in the journal Nature Sustainability shows this is not necessarily the case.

    Scientists have put together measures for some of the major externalities — such as greenhouse gas emission, fertilizer and water use — generated by high- and low-yield farming systems, and compared the environmental costs of producing a given amount of food in different ways.

    Previous research compared these costs by land area. As high-yield farming needs less land to produce the same quantity of food, the study’s authors say this approach overestimates its environmental impact.

    Their results from four major agricultural sectors suggest that, contrary to many people’s perceptions, more intensive agriculture that uses less land may also produce fewer pollutants, cause less soil loss and consume less water.

    However, the team behind the study, led by scientists from the University of Cambridge, caution that if higher yields are simply used to increase profit or lower prices, they will only accelerate the extinction crisis we are already seeing.

    “Agriculture is the most significant cause of biodiversity loss on the planet,” said study lead author Andrew Balmford, professor of conservation science from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. “Habitats are continuing to be cleared to make way for farmland, leaving ever less space for wildlife.”

    “Our results suggest that high-yield farming could be harnessed to meet the growing demand for food without destroying more of the natural world,” he said. “However, if we are to avert mass extinction it is vital that land-efficient agriculture is linked to more wilderness being spared the plow.”

    The Cambridge scientists conducted the study with a research team from 17 organizations across the UK and around the globe, including colleagues from Poland, Brazil, Australia, Mexico and Colombia.

    The study analyzed information from hundreds of investigations into four vast food sectors, accounting for large percentages of the global output for each product: Asian paddy rice (90 percent), European wheat (33 percent), Latin American beef (23 percent) and European dairy (53 percent).

    Examples of high-yield strategies include enhanced pasture systems and livestock breeds in beef production, use of chemical fertilizer on crops, and keeping dairy cows indoors for longer.

    The scientists found data to be limited, and say more research is urgently needed on the environmental cost of different farming systems. Nevertheless, results suggest many high-yield systems are less ecologically damaging and, crucially, use much less land.

    For example, in field trials, inorganic nitrogen boosted yields with little to no greenhouse gas penalty and lower water use per ton of rice. Per ton of beef, the team found greenhouse gas emissions could be halved in some systems where yields are boosted by adding trees to provide shade and forage for cattle.

    The study only looked at organic farming in the European dairy sector, but found that — for the same amount of milk — organic systems caused at least one-third more soil loss and took up twice as much land as conventional dairy farming.

    Co-author Phil Garnsworthy, a professor from the University of Nottingham, who led the dairy team, said, “Across all dairy systems we find that higher milk yield per unit of land generally leads to greater biological and economic efficiency of production. Dairy farmers should welcome the news that more efficient systems have lower environmental impact.”

    Conservation expert and co-author David Edwards, from the University of Sheffield, said, “Organic systems are often considered to be far more environmentally friendly than conventional farming, but our work suggested the opposite. By using more land to produce the same yield, organic may ultimately accrue larger environmental costs.”

    The study authors say that high-yield farming must be combined with mechanisms that limit agricultural expansion if they are to have any environmental benefit. These could include strict land use zoning and restructured rural subsidies.

    “These results add to the evidence that sparing natural habitats by using high-yield farming to produce food is the least bad way forward,” Balmford said.

    “Where agriculture is heavily subsidized, public payments could be contingent on higher food yields from land already being farmed, while other land is taken out of production and restored as natural habitat, for wildlife and carbon or floodwater storage.”

    Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science via EurekAlert!

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