November Weed of the Month: Palmer Amaranth

November’s Weed of the Month is Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri). This fast growing weed has developed resistance to multiple herbicide modes of action so it is difficult to control. Palmer amaranth produces a lot of seed, up to 250,000 per plant, and is highly competitive. It spreads quickly and will cause extensive corn and soybean crop losses.

Palmer amaranth is native to the arid southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It was accidentally introduced to the southeastern United States and became the most troublesome weed in cotton production, by far. It developed resistance to many herbicides with multiple modes of action and spread to row crop fields in much of the eastern half of the country. This dreaded weed was discovered in Minnesota in 2016.

Palmer Amaranth weeds

Palmer amaranth plant with seed spikes. (photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.)

Palmer amaranth can be distinguished from closely related waterhemp and other pigweeds by a long petiole length and very tall flower and seed spikes. Unlike other pigweeds, Palmer petioles are often longer than the leaf blades. A petiole attaches a leaf to a stem. The flowering spike is much longer than that of other pigweeds. Leaves of some Palmer plants have a whitish V-shaped mark on them. Palmer amaranth is a summer annual that commonly reaches heights of 6-8 feet but can reach 10 feet.

If you find this plant, please report immediately by calling the Arrest the Pest at 888-545-6684 or emailing arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us.

Palmer amaranth detected in Minnesota

 ST. PAUL, Minn. – Crop scientists at the University of Minnesota and officials at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urge farmers to check fields for Palmer amaranth, an aggressive weed that can put corn and soybean crops at risk. A plant detected in a native seed planting plot on a Yellow Medicine County farm was confirmed today to be Palmer amaranth. This is the first confirmation of the weed in the state.

The MDA asks possible infestations to be reported by contacting the MDA’s Arrest the Pest line by phone at 1-888-545-6684 or by email at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us. Landowners are encouraged to email photos of suspected infestations for identification.

“We encourage landowners to scout fields now before harvest for Palmer amaranth and report any possible infestations to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture,” said Geir Friisoe, MDA’s Director of Plant Protection. “The quicker we’re able to identify and start managing this weed, the better our chances will be to minimize the impact to our ag industry.”

Palmer amaranth

Palmer Amaranth has been found in Minnesota and the Department of Agriculture wants farmers to keep an eye on their fields to help nip this in the bud before an infestation can occur. (Photo by Bruce Potter)

 

Palmer amaranth can grow 2 to 3 inches a day, typically reaching 6 to 8 feet, or more, in height. Left uncontrolled, a single female Palmer amaranth plant typically produces 100,000 to 500,000 seeds. It is resistant to multiple herbicides.

It has been found in 28 other states, including Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

“Palmer amaranth infestations have caused substantial yield losses and greatly increased weed management costs in cotton, soybeans, and corn in the southern states,” said Extension agronomist and crops leader Jeff Gunsolus. “This is a disconcerting, though not completely unexpected, discovery in Minnesota. We have been discussing proper identification procedures with crop consultants over the last three or more years.”

Close-up of Palmer amaranth

Palmer Amaranth has been found in Minnesota fields and it’s important for farmers to watch their fields in order to avoid an outbreak in farm fields across the state. (Photo by Bruce Potter)

 

Extension and MDA officials commend the grower and crop consultant who quickly contacted Extension after discovering a suspected Palmer amaranth plant. The weed is on MDA’s prohibited-eradicated noxious weed list, requiring all above- and below-ground parts of the plant be destroyed. Transportation, propagation or sale of the plants is prohibited.

MDA and Extension continue coordinating action steps to address the weed.

The MDA is investigating how the weed may have been introduced to the state.

In August, an Extension blog updated steps for both prevention and management at z.umn.edu/palamthbknd.

Further information is available at z.umn.edu/MDAPalmerAmaranth.

MDA value added grants available for Minnesota agriculture

Value added agriculture grants are available from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Exporting soybeans overseas is one way to add value to Minnesota’s agricultural products. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has grants available for adding value to all kinds of agricultural products. (photo from archive.constantcontact.com)

Value added to agriculture sustains the long-term success of the industry and The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) wants to ensure the industry’s future.  The MDA has up to $1 million in grants available through the competitive Value Added Grant Program. The grant was established to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program.

The goal of the Value Added Grant is to increase sales of Minnesota agricultural products. Some of the ways to add value include  diversifying markets, increasing market access, and increasing food safety of value-added products.

Dave Frederickson supports value added agriculture in Minnesota

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson notes that value added agriculture does a lot to support the state’s economy, including the off-farm sectors. (Photo from mda.state.mn.us)

“Value-added businesses benefit the state of Minnesota in lots of ways,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson. “They utilize Minnesota grown agricultural products in creative ways and the extra sales revenues help support our state’s economy. It’s exciting to watch Minnesota entrepreneurs improve their businesses with funding from the Value Added Grant Program.”

New or established for-profit businesses may apply for funding to help with the development of value-added agricultural products.  Some of the ways value gets added to agricultural products include added processing, marketing, or manufacturing. Grant funds reimburse up to 25 percent of the total project cost.  The maximum award is $150,000 and the minimum grant is $1,000. Equipment purchases and facility improvements are also eligible ways to add value to agricultural products.

Applications must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27, 2016. Applications are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/valueaddedgrant.aspx and may be submitted online, by mail, or in-person.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas bouncing back

On this next edition of the ChadSmithMedia podcast, I had a unique opportunity to visit with a woman named Sandra Levering, a cattle producer from Comanche County in Kansas.  If that rings any kind of bells, it’s because they were part of a large area on the Kansas and Oklahoma border affected by the biggest wildfire they’d seen in that area’s history.  It burned roughly 400.000 acres.  Thankfully, there was no loss of human life, but livestock was badly affected as was a lot of pasture and grazing areas.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas recovering

A shot of the grass fires that roared through the Kansas and Oklahoma border areas in late March. It totaled nearly 400,000 acres of land before it was put out. (photo from KFDI.com

The amazing part of the story is this:  With apologies to the movie Pay It Forward, that’s just what the situation turned into.  Levering was one of the folks who took it upon themselves to coordinate aid to those farmers who needed it.  They brought in loads and loads of hay to help feed cattle that literally had nothing.  Loads of people came down from the north to help with repairs, including a whole lot of fencing to put up.

The one thing I want you to remember is this:  If you hear a so-called “expert” tell you that farmers don’t care for their animals, listen to the emotion in Sandra’s voice when she spoke about the animals that were badly injured in the fire.  You’ll either change your mind or have to check your pulse to make sure you’re still alive.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas are recovering

Harvey County, Kansas lands that were burned by a 400,000-acre wildfire in late March. Recovery efforts are well underway, and reports of green grass growing in the affected areas are starting to come in. (photo from ksn.com)

She is out in wide open spaces, so her cell phone dips a little, but I think you’ll get the gist of what’s happening and how that area has slowly begun to bounce back from a horrible tragedy.  After all, as she puts it, “In agriculture, we don’t wait for the government to come help us, we do it ourselves.”

 

 

 

Spring planting will require patience, as usual

I thought we’d talk spring planting on the chadsmithmedia.com weekly podcast.  I wanted to introduce you to Ryan Martin, the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com, and it’s not just because I work for him.  I was in radio a long time and read thousands of weather forecasts, and his is the most accurate I’ve seen in a long time.  No weather forecast will be 100 percent accurate, but a reliable forecast can be really hard to find nowadays.

Spring Planting

Ryan Martin of Warsaw, Indiana, is the Chief Meteorologist at Hoosier Ag Today, pictured here at a recent weather seminar. He’s also the owner of advantageweathersolutions.com)

I can remember during my last radio gig at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls there were more than a few times I’d read the weather forecast and have no idea where they were getting their information.  Just for the record, I wasn’t the only one that paused more than once due to confusion over what we had just read in the forecast.

Certain parts of the country have had spring planting challenges, and the challenge vary based upon where you are at.  The deep south has been wet, other areas have been extremely windy, and still others have been well below normal in terms of temperatures.  Let’s talk weather with Ryan, who happens to be the Chief Meteorologist for Hoosier Ag Today…tape

April Weed of the Month: Prescribed Burns

MDA-logoMany management strategies, including prescribed burns, can be used against invasive plants.

In most cases, no single strategy used by itself will provide the desired long-term solution that landowners and managers seek. However, when used together as part of a larger integrated strategy, they can provide significant benefits for achieving successful, long-term management.

A prescribed burn is used as an invasive plant control tool, and to manage native plant communities and large landscapes.

At the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), one goal of prescribed burns is to improve the health of desirable vegetation. Ken Graeve with MnDOT says they use prescribed burns to promote the growth of desirable vegetation in combination with other treatments such as herbicide applications. With these combined methods, a healthy ecosystem is better able to outcompete invasive plants.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses prescribed burns not just for managing native plant communities, but also for controlling woody invasive plants.

Prescribed Burns

An autumn prescribed burn is used to improve the health of native vegetation at a wetland mitigation. (Contributed photo)

For example, after initial work of cutting and treating with herbicide application, the DNR may use prescribed burns in subsequent months and years to help control infestations of buckthorn, honeysuckle, or Japanese barberry. Shawn Fritcher from the DNR says prescribed burns can be effective against these invasive woody plants because burns can cover large areas faster than cutting and treating can. Multiple burns are often needed to reduce the vigor of woody invasive species.

Fritcher also says it is important to note that repeated fire is most appropriate in fire-dependent woodlands.

At both MnDOT and the DNR, staff who work on prescribed burns go through training. They learn about fire behavior, weather prescriptions, and how to design and write an effective burn plan. Fire breaks, or the breaks in combustible material, are often established ahead of time using a variety of equipment like tractors, mowers, ATVs, rakes, and leaf blowers. Fire breaks are controlled using trucks or ATVs that carry water, or with hand tools where access by ATV is limited. The appropriate permits must be acquired, and traffic control measures are utilized for burns along roadsides.

Timing prescribed burns depends on the management objective. Desirable plant species often respond well to early spring burns. Smooth brome and other cool season grasses can be managed with late spring burns. Burning woody invasive species after leaf-out may be the most effective since much of the plant’s energy is invested in new above ground growth. Summer burns can be effective at controlling brushy species in prairie areas. Fall burns provide another opportunity to target some invasive species.

For landowners thinking about utilizing prescribed burns, they must first get a burn permit.

Prescribed burns

Farmers use prescribed burns intheir fields to encourage growth by removing competition from weeds (Photo from farmprogress.com)

Proper planning for the burn is critical to success. The landowner needs to think about many factors such as fire break location, wind direction, smoke, control measures, and many other parameters to make decisions for the burn plan. There are multiple resources through the DNR website (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rxfire/index.html) to assist landowners with planning prescribed burns.

Wabasha Cty residents invited to meeting on emerald ash borer

Residents of Wabasha County are invited to a public meeting on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 regarding the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the county.

MDA-logoOn February 29, 2016, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) staff identified EAB larvae in an ash tree in the southeastern corner of the county after being alerted to some suspicious trees by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff.

The trees displayed symptoms of EAB infestation, including bark splits and insect tunneling under the bark.

Those attending the upcoming meeting will have an opportunity to listen to presentations on EAB, hear about local options to deal with the insect, and learn how residents can limit the spread of the bug. Experts from the MDA, University of Minnesota, and other state and federal partner agencies will be available to answer questions.

Emerald Ash Borer Informational Meeting
Thursday, March 31, 2016
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Wabasha County Courthouse
625 Jefferson Avenue
Wabasha, MN 55981

Emerald Ash Borer concerns in Wabasha

Emerald ash borer concerns are prompting a public meeting in Wabasha County at the courthouse to discuss concerns about the insect, which has been found in the southern part of the county. (photo from tn.gov)

The public will also have an opportunity to provide input on the adoption of a formal EAB quarantine of Wabasha County. An emergency quarantine was placed on the area when EAB was discovered.

The MDA will take comments on the formal quarantine from March 15 – May 1, 2016 and proposes to adopt the quarantine on May 15, 2016.

The quarantine limits the movement of ash trees and limbs, and hardwood firewood out of the county. The proposed quarantine language can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/eab. Comments can be made at the public meetings or by contacting:

Kimberly Thielen Cremers
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155
mailto:kimberly.tcremers@state.mn.us
Fax: 651-201-6108

Emerald Ash borer concerns in Wabasha County

Emerald ash borers emerge from an infected tree. EAB infestation concerns are the reason for a public meeting at the Wabasha County Courthouse on Thursday, March 31, beginning at 5:30. (Photo from ars.usda.gov)

Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk. Minnesota is highly susceptible to the destruction caused by invasive insect. The state has approximately one billion ash trees, the most of any state in the nation. For more information on emerald ash borer, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/eab.

SE Minnesota 2015 harvest results look good

I’ve got some southeast Minnesota harvest results for 2015.  Southeast Minnesota corn harvest numbers look pretty good.

Harvest was solid in SE Minnesota

The 2015 corn harvest in southeast Minnesota looked good, according to the final numbers that came in this week from the National Ag Statistics Service office. (photo from southeastfarmpress.com)

Olmsted County: 184.9 bushels per acre

  • Dodge County: 204.0 bushels per acre (one of the top counties in Minnesota!)
  • Mower: 198.7
  • Fillmore: 192
  • Houston: 185.3
  • Winona: 186.5
  • Wabasha: 188.5
  • Goodhue: 202.4 (also one of the top counties in the state!)

 

 

Here are some of the soybean numbers from southeast Minnesota.

Soybean harvesting was good in spite of disease pressure in SE Minnesota

Despite some battles with white mold, the soybean harvest numbers looked pretty good for 2015, as the final totals were released this week by the National Ag Statistics Service office. (Photo from www.thompsonslimited.com)

 

  • Olmsted County: 54.5 bushels per acre
  • Mower: 58.2
  • Fillmore: 56.3
  • Winona: 55.9
  • Goodhue: 58.1
  • Dodge: 60.6 (One of the top returns in the state!)

 

No soybean harvest results were turned in to USDA for both Wabasha and Houston counties.

This is a neat video of corn harvest in the Mankato, Minnesota area that was shot by using a drone camera.  Take a look.

SE Minnesota farmers have grain to sell

With the current lower commodity prices and no real significant bump in the short-term forecast, careful planning has become more important than ever for farmers to stay in business.

Balancing lower prices for products farmers produce against the fact that input costs to produce those products haven’t come down yet requires more juggling than in recent seasons. Among some of the more significant costs is land rental, which is squeezing the bottom line of renters all over Minnesota and across the country.

Farmers have grain to sell

Lisa Behnken is a crops specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester. (Photo from AgriNews.com)

“Boy, is that a difficult one (to control),” said Lisa Behnken, a Crops Specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester. “Rents keep going up and it’s very hard to renegotiate to bring those costs back down. It’s certainly a big part of the equation.

The high costs of renting land may lead to some tough business decisions.   Farmers may shuffle some land around, or even let a particular piece of land go back and not rent it anymore.

“We’ll see if people can do that (make things balance out),” Behnken said, “or if they’re going to let land go and back away from it because they can’t afford that. You may see some land changing hands because of the cost.”

With corn and soybean prices in the tank, are there other opportunities farmers may be looking at for profit? What about small grains?

“It all goes back to where their markets are,” Behnken said. “We have a good group with Extension that do workshops on small grains here in southern Minnesota and a good group of core farmers that grow small grains. They’ve got markets that they’re working with and are locked into.”

She added, “It can be successful, but it’s not just something you’re going to jump into. We don’t have the sell-points here. You need to have convenient places where you’re going to market it to. They don’t buy at every single elevator. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, you just have to get everything in order, from planting it to marketing it.”

Behnken, who received her Master’s Degree in Crop and Weed Sciences from North Dakota State University, said farmers don’t want to be caught with a lot of grain in their bins in the summer and nowhere to take it.

Speaking of grain stuck in bins, farmers in southeast Minnesota still have a lot of grain to move from the 2015 harvest. Low prices at harvest made farmers very reluctant to sell grain that wasn’t forward contracted.

farmers have a lot of grain to sell

While exact numbers aren’t available, Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester said there is quite a bit of grain in area bins waiting to be sold. (Photo from brockgrain.com)

“There are definitely crops to be sold,” Behnken said. “Some probably go forward contracted, but farmers don’t forward contract everything. Prices were down at harvest, so farmers didn’t sell right then, so it goes straight in the bin.”

While it’s important for commodity farmers to get their books in order, it’s equally important for livestock producers to watch their costs too, thanks to a recent run of lower prices.

“Cattle prices are softer,” said Behnken, “but the good side of that is they’re feeding animals much cheaper feed. However, they’re end product has also come down in price too.”

Do lower cattle prices mean it’s time for America’s livestock farmers to start expanding the beef herd? She said it all depends on your books and cash flow that your banker sees in those books.

“It’s all about operating money,” Behnken said. “You still have to go to the bank and make this whole thing cash flow. If I’m in the market to buy some feeders, I still have to have the cash to buy those feeders. Even if a farmer is raising his own corn to feed the animals, he still has to have cash necessary to buy the feeders.”

Cash flow. It’s more important than it’s been in many years, and it’ll determine what kind of decisions farmer make this year, and whether or not they stay in business.

“For some, it’s where their debt load is at,” said Behnken. “What’s my percentage of debt? If you have a more solid equity base, that’s a little different than if you’re highly leveraged. Then, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Olmsted county farmer takes Farm Bureau honors

Minnesota_Farm_Bureau_Logo_345x143Ben Storm’s involvement with the Minnesota Farm Bureau only goes back one year.

But it’s been a busy year for the Dover farmer, as Storm won the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Achievement Award late last year at the state convention. The state award gave him the chance to travel to Florida to compete on a national stage at the American Farm Bureau national convention earlier this month.

A simple phone call from a friend got Storm interested in the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“A friend of mine called me and told me about their leadership conference,” Storm said. “He thought it would be a good idea for me to go along. I went to the conference last year and that’s how I got involved.”

He added, “Now I’m on the Olmsted County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and I get involved as much as I can.”

Storm said Farm Bureau provides many opportunities to tell the story of Agriculture to people who don’t know where their food comes from.

“We do an event we call Fun with the Farmer,” Storm said, “and we go to elementary schools in the Rochester area and educate kids. Rochester is a larger town with not a lot of agriculture in those schools, so going there and educating the kids on what we do is a lot of fun.”

Storm adds, “Farm Bureau is the reason I get to do things like that. We also spent some time last year at the State Capitol talking with legislators about Ag. I’d never done something like that, and I thought it was a lot of fun.”

Storm said the reason for educating the public about agriculture is apparent when they go to area schools and see the disconnect between urban areas and the farm.

“The more I see it the less surprised I am by it,” Storm said. “You continually see that these kids have no idea what Ag is, because they’re 4 and 5 generations removed from the farm now.”

Storm said winning the Minnesota Farm Bureau Achievement award was quite an honor.

“The Achievement Award is for people whose primary income is from farming,” Storm explained. “There are 3 criteria: your farm operation and growth, the financials of your operation, and your leadership experience inside and outside of Farm Bureau.”

One winner is chosen from multiple nominees.

“You fill out an application,” Storm said, “and on the state level, they judge each of the applications and follow up with interviews. The interview questions are basically for clarification on things in the application they were curious about.”

After winning the state competition, it was on to Orlando, Florida, and the national Achievement Award competition at the American Farm Bureau Convention.

Olmsted county farmer gets national recognition

Olmsted county farmer Ben Storm, at left, winner of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Achievement Award, gets recognized by Derek Helms, American Farm Bureau Federation Young Farm And Rancher Committee member from Arkansas. (photo from Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation)

“There was a group of about 60 people from Minnesota that went down,” Storm said. “It was nice to have people there you knew, but it was a lot of fun to visit with new people.”

He enjoyed learning about different types of farm operations from across the country.

“We spoke with a gentleman from Florida who raises alligators, snakes, and rats,” Storm said. “It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think of. You understand alligators and snakes, but I never got to ask him why he raises rats.”

He said farmers who raise different commodities do have common concerns.

“One of the biggest ones right now is lower commodity prices,” Storm said, “and what they’re doing to everybody’s operations. Plus, people are trying to get rents adjusted, because that’s a big cost.”

He adds, “Even the price of inputs is a big concern, and how they need to adjust too.”

Ben runs the family operation in the Dover area.

“Dad (Jacob) is partially retired,” said Storm, “but he still helps out when needed. I farm a little over 1,000 acres, and it’s a 50/50 rotation of corn and soybeans”

He adds,” We have a few sows, and we farrow show pigs and sell them to 4H and FFA kids. That’s more of a project Dad handles.”