The new issue of the North Dakota State University Crop & Pest Report is out, and it’s full of the latest developments involving weeds, insects and crop diseases across the state.
In reading through the report, I was once struck once again by how weather conditions that work against one pest or crop disease invariably seem to help another. Whatever kind of weather we get this growing season will bolster at least a few pests or crop diseases.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned that point to an area scientist who specializes in weeds. He agreed and said, “Mother Nature always wins.”
The South Dakota State University Extension Service reports that blister beetles have been found in alfalfa fields in the western part of the state. The bugs are particularly interesting in that they do both good and harm. The good: blister beetle larvae feed on the eggs of grasshoppers, a serious pest. The bad: blister beetle adults feed on alfalfa blossoms and also have a strong toxicity toward horses and livestock.
The SDSU Extension Service says producers need to actively scout their fields for these insects. Once the insects are found, producers have two options:
1: Early cutting: Swathing hay and allowing it to dry out before bailing will force any blister beetles to relocate elsewhere and reduce the risk to livestock. It is important that producers do NOT crimp the alfalfa. The toxicant, cantharidin, is oil based and can persist in the hay for years if the beetle is crushed while haying.
The ash grey blister beetle, the one species found in the state so far, is about a half-inch long, narrow bodied, with a gray body color and a very small thorax or neck compared to the head and abdomen, according to the SDSU Extension Service.
Pinterest is the new big thing in social media. The online bulletin board, which has more than 25 million users, allows members to share images, pictures and other objects.
Agricultural groups, especially ones involved in marketing, have been keen to use social media to spread their message. So it’s no surprise that at least one ag group is active on Pinterest. The U.S. Potato Board, the nation’s potato marketing organization, has a “Potato Goodness” page on Pinterest that allows users to share potato recipes and photos.
Area farmers are nearing the stretch run on planting. Many producers are finished already, while others expect to be done within the next week or so.
The reports I’m hearing all indicate the crop is off to a good start — but that a nice widespread rain is needed soon. People involved in production agriculture talk about ‘timely rains,” or precipitation that comes at crucial times in crops’ development.
A timely rain this week would be terrific.
Twenty-three years ago, my family grew canola for the first time on our farm in central North Dakota. On a drizzly late-summer morning, my father got on the swather to cut canola. I was skeptical: swathing in the rain? Well, my dad said, that’s what the experts recommended. (They were right; the job went smoothly.)
I’ve learned a lot about canola since then, but there’s always more to learn. The crop continues to evolve, particularly on the Southern Plains, where it’s increasingly popular as an alternative to winter wheat.
The crop’s future is bright, as a source of both vegetable oil and biodiesel. Read my cover story on canola in the May 21 issue of Agweek.
On May 15, 1862 — soon after the Union’s bloody victory at the horrific Battle of Shiloh — President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation creating the the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Today, USDA is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
In 1862, nearly half of Americans worked in agriculture. Today, less than 1 percent do. However, 920 million acres are farmed nationwide today, more than twice as many as 150 years ago. (Those numbers, as well as the Battle of Shiloh connection, come from a Washington Post article distributed by USDA.)
USDA has its critics, many of them in production agriculture. But everyone familiar with ag would agree that USDA has played, and continues to play, a huge role.
I think that most of us involved in agriculture wish USDA a happy birthday.
It didn’t receive a lot of notice outside agricultural circles, but much of the Upper Midwest was in moderate to severe drought in late winter and early spring. More than a few agriculturalists were nervous about what the new growing season would bring.
So far there’s plenty of reason to be pleased. Widespread rain has lifted most of the region out of drought,according to the Drought Monitor, a joint effort of of federal and academic scientists.
The growing season is just getting started, of course, and there’s plenty of time for drought to rear its ugly head once again. For now, though, the news is good.
If you’re not familiar with the Drought Monitor, I encourage you to check it out. Learn more at http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
Exports of U.S. agricultural products are strong. That’s partly because the weak American dollar makes our food more affordable to foreign buyers.
But a lot of the credit also goes to the folks who work overseas to build demand for U.S. ag products. A good example is the recent U.S. Dehydrated Potato Fish Ball Seminar in the Philippines. Here’s what the most recent newsletter from the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, based in East Grand Forks, Minn., says about the event:
Fish balls, similar to meatballs, are common in Pacific Rim countries. They’re made from ground fish products and include other ingredients to help bind and hold the shape of a ball.
At the seminar in the Philippines, a representative of the U.S. Potato Board — the nation’s potato marketing organization — presented information on potato nutrition and dehydrated potato product varieties. After the presentation, 22 people from eight food manufacturing companies sampled fish balls using U.S. dehydrated products as an ingredient.
I think it’s fair to say that market development — whether it involves potatoes or any other U.S. food product — seldom grabs headlines or captures much attention, in or out of agriculture. But events like the fish ball seminar are crucial to the success of U.S. ag exports.
When I was a farm kid growing up in central North Dakota, corn seemed a little exotic.
Not as exotic as coconuts or pineapples, of course, but out of the ordinary nonetheless. Corn for silage, sure: that was commonplace. But not corn for grain: it just wasn’t a viable crop in central and western North Dakota. Few farmers even thought about growing it.
Times have changed. New corn varieties allow the crop to be grown in parts of North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota once unsuitable for it. Corn acreage in the three states is soaring.
There are a lot of interesting and important agricultural trends in the Upper Midwest this spring. Corn’s rising popularity arguably leads the list.
Read my cover story on corn in the May 7 issue of Agweek.
Wheat remains the area’s most prominent and widely grown crop. So a documentary movie about harvesting wheat should be well received in this part of the world.
Conrad Weaver, an independent filmmaker based in Maryland, is making a documentary that “will encompass a 10-state region and showcase the lives of hard-working American families, who spend as many as 100 days each year traveling from state to state harvesting the wheat that feeds the world,” according to information from the movie’s web site, http://wheatharvestmovie.wordpress.com/.
The movie, which doesn’t have a name yet, is scheduled to be released in the spring of 2014. To watch a promotional trailer for the film, go to http://wheatharvestmovie.com.