Monthly Archives: December 2022
I’ve been reflecting a lot since harvest. There were many hard things, particularly in agriculture, that happened in 2022. Quick recap list were: Dec. 15, 2021 tornadoes and wind storm that began pivot destruction, dry winter and spring, high input costs and difficulty finding chemicals, wildfires, endless wind and dust storms, dry and cold planting season, numerous hailstorms, replanting crops, pivots throughout state needing replaced, drought, more wildfires, more wind, avian influenza, deep cold, and blizzards out west. There were also those who lost loved ones or had family/friends get sick or hurt. It seemed to be the year that kept on giving.
There were many blessings though too! Good crop prices and the benefit of insurance to help with homes, buildings, vehicles, crops were large blessings. Family and friends pulled together to cleanup destruction, patch homes, and get crops in the ground. For those who replanted crops, we witnessed a miracle in the fact that an entire growing season was re-started in mid to late June in two weeks! Seriously, think about that. With all the moving parts in ag, how chem was in short supply, the large area impacted, it truly was a miracle. I was so proud of how ag industry pulled together to make that happen! This year was taxing on mental health, and I heard and watched people reach out to each other to talk through the difficulties of the year. I’m also so grateful for our livestock and ethanol industries in Nebraska as markets for our crops. The feedlots were an extra blessing with the wet corn that was prematurely froze. There also was much learned, in spite of the fact it may not be what most of us set out to learn for the year!
Many of us have wanted to get to the end of 2022 and it’s now here. We each dealt with the year in different ways. Did we finish well? Each year will have its challenges and opportunities. How we choose to work through them can help us with perspective and build resilience for future hard times.
In reflecting on the way home from church one day, the word ‘character’ came to mind. 2022 was truly a character-building year!
Those thoughts were reinforced as I walked into the grocery store to find two farmers discussing the year with one mentioning the exact same thing. I googled the definition of character. It said, “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” I’ve thought about the good things built in my character from the difficulties of 2022 and also areas I need to improve for the future. Reflecting on 2022 has helped me with personal and professional goal setting for 2023.
As you reflect:
- How did your character build in 2022?
- What areas could use improvement?
- What did you learn in 2022 about yourself and the situations you went through?
- How can you use what was learned in 2022 to plan for 2023?
Wishing you and your family blessings in 2023; a new year with new opportunities and renewed hope!
End of Year Reporting: The end of the year also means report time for those of us in Extension. Each year we need to justify the things we do in trying to help people. This year, I’d particularly appreciate any comments if you felt my blog posts or farm visits helped in regards to the hail damage. I know we get bombarded with surveys! So, if you’d consider taking time for this 5 question survey I’d greatly appreciate it. For those of you who’ve responded in the past, re-reading your comments encourages me throughout the year. Thanks! https://app.sli.do/event/tPSXB8muP9hDm8M42qkRER
Hope you have a blessed Christmas and wishing you joy, peace, and hope this Christmas season! A reminder for holiday food safety tips, please check out: https://food.unl.edu/article/holiday-food-safety-tips. This week going to share some info. on a number of Christmas-related plant topics that were written by Extension Horticultural Educator Kelly Feehan.
Live Christmas Trees: Just a reminder to daily check live Christmas trees for their watering needs to avoid a fire hazard. Kelly shares, “The rule-of-thumb is a tree will use one quart of water per day for every inch of trunk diameter near the base. If you have a tree with a 3-inch base, it can use 3 quarts of water per day. The trunk should have been freshly cut at a slant just prior to putting it in the stand. If the stand is empty for more than six to eight hours, the tree’s pores plug up again. Water uptake is much reduced and the tree dries out sooner. If a tree stand dries out for half a day or more, the only thing that can be done is to remove the tree from the stand and recut the base; which is not a fun task with the lights and ornaments. When watering, nothing needs to be added to water in the tree stand to promote freshness.”
Christmas Cactus: Kelly shares, “to keep Christmas cactus blooming as long as possible, place it in bright but indirect light. Too much sun can cause leaves to turn yellow. Keep soil or potting mix constantly moist but not waterlogged. Even though they are cactus, they are jungle natives and prefer just moist conditions with indirect light. Avoid fertilizing Christmas cactus during the winter; but do fertilize every other week from spring through fall. Plants seem to flower best if they are a little pot bound; but if roots become over-crowded in the container, blooming will decrease. If you haven’t repotted in several years, or you notice a decrease in flowering from the previous year, repot the plant into a slightly larger pot, but wait until spring. If possible, move the plants outside for summer. Keep in a shady area as Christmas cactus will not tolerate full sun.”
Poinsettias: Kelly also shares, “It’s Poinsettia time. Hard to believe these bright, colorful plants originated from a weed. And amazing what plant breeding and good marketing can do. To enjoy your Poinsettia as long as possible, place them in an area with bright sun for at least half the day. If possible, provide a night temperatures in the 50’s or 60’s. This is often the most challenging condition to meet in the home, but keep plants as cool as possible at night. If plants are near a window, don’t let the leaves touch cold window panes; and keep Poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts. Poinsettias need to be well-watered. Because they are in a light weight soil-less mix, they will dry out quickly. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering; then water thoroughly until water runs out of drainage holes. Be sure to punch holes in decorative foil wraps to prevent soggy soil conditions or at least pour excess water out of the foil after each watering.”
Amaryllis: Finally Kelly shares, “Amaryllis is a popular holiday plant. It is easy to grow and blooms well indoors with large, colorful blossoms. For these reasons, the National Garden Bureau has named 2023 as the Year of the Amaryllis. The plant we call Amaryllis and enjoy during winter is actually Hippeastrum. It is a member of the Amaryllidaceae genus and this is likely why it is called Amaryllis. If you received an Amaryllis bulb as a gift, plant it in a container that has drainage holes and is one to two inches larger than the bulb. Use a well-drained potting mix and plant so the top one-third of the bulb remains above the soil. Water to moisten the potting mix but then wait for signs of growth before watering much. Once growth begins, keep the soil barely moist. After a flower stalk forms, the soil can be kept uniformly moist but avoid overwatering. Amaryllis need very bright light for blooming. Place them in or near a south window.”
In some ways, it’s hard to believe that Christmas is this coming week; wishing you and your family a very blessed Christmas! For holiday food safety tips, please check out: https://food.unl.edu/article/holiday-food-safety-tips.
Extension is an interesting career that’s hard to explain what all it entails. Many people realize we’re involved with the fair and 4-H. Beyond this, the responsibilities just change with each season. For me, January and February are filled with winter meetings where I have the opportunity to teach and learn throughout the state each day. This past month was spent scheduling and planning for those meetings. Pesticide letters and winter program brochures should be mailed from local Extension offices in the next few weeks. The winter program brochure is also here: https://jenreesources.com/upcoming-events/.
Winter meetings mostly entail certification training and learning opportunities to discuss the past year and preparing for the coming one. Anyone who applies restricted use pesticides take pesticide certification training every three years to handle and apply pesticides safely. Those who apply chemicals and fertilizer through irrigation systems take chemigation training to do so safely. Nitrogen certification training is taken for those who farm in areas of NRDs that have groundwater nitrate levels higher than 7 ppm. Livestock operations of designated sizes take training on the proper handling, storage, and application of manure. Organic producers also go through a certification process. All the certifications mentioned above require our farmers, applicators, and livestock producers to keep records of what they are doing, and random inspections can occur for some of the certifications to ensure they’re in compliance.
Beyond the required trainings, many attend meetings throughout the winter to continue learning and improving efficiencies in their operations. While there’s always a few outliers in any industry, the majority of farmers I know are seeking increased nitrogen use efficiency (applying less nitrogen per bushel of grain received). We can’t change the past for what wasn’t known back then of fertilizer and water applications that would eventually impact nitrates in groundwater. In general, while there are some outliers, practices have changed and farmers seek to be increasingly efficient with fertilizer and water use.
UNL Soil Specialists share of these improved efficiencies in an article found at https://go.unl.edu/mxu0, “Partial factor productivity (PFP) is a measure of efficiency of input use…PFP is commonly expressed as yield per unit input, e.g. bushels of corn per pound of fertilizer nitrogen (N) applied (bu/lb N). PFP can be adapted to units of nutrient removed in grain harvest to units of nutrient applied, such as corn N harvested relative to fertilizer N applied (PFPN, lb/lb).
The PFPN used for the analysis in this article was derived from growers’ practices statewide with the assumption that growers’ N use was aimed at profit maximization. The average PFP of fertilizer N for corn in Nebraska was estimated to average 1.16 bu/lb N in 2012 compared to 0.57 bu/lb N in 1965 (Ferguson, 2014). This represents a doubling in PFP for fertilizer N applied to corn. The trend of increase was linear from 1965 to 2012.” (What they’re showing is increased nitrogen use efficiency between 1965-2012 of more corn produced per pound of nitrogen applied). The ratio can also be flipped to look at how many pounds of N are being used to produce 1 bushel of grain.
Most farmers I talk with, for the yields they are receiving compared to nitrogen applied, have nitrogen use efficiencies of 0.8-1.0 lb of N per bushel of grain produced. There’s an increasing number of farmers I know who are working to push that further to 0.6-0.8. There’s also those above 1.0 who could improve.
In my nearly 19 years of Extension, I have yet to meet a farmer or livestock producer that didn’t care about the future of his/her land, about water, about making improvements for the next generation. An increasing number of producers are testing ways to improve nitrogen and other input efficiencies via on-farm research. I will share results from these studies on what our growers are learning over the first few months of next year.
Walking in the misty rain Thursday, it just felt wonderful to get some moisture, even though it became ice! Sharing some things learned from Dr. David Kohl that day. His overall theme was to “Be in the black (profitable) without the government”. Many illustrations he likened to sports in needing to stick to fundamentals such as knowing cost of production, our marketing plan, staying the course with what we can control vs. getting derailed by what we can’t. Media headlines can rapidly change things thus the extra importance to stay the course. Ag is such a global market. With all the politics, he emphasized the need to have a fuel and fertilizer input cost strategy as China will more directly trade with Brazil/Argentina first. And, because of the world dynamics, he emphasized several times to “Never bet your farm or ranch on an authoritarian government”. Another thing that’s kept me thinking was “People who are successful are 5% better in a lot of little areas”.
My colleague, Brandy VanDeWalle, wrote the following in her column, “Recently at a Farmers & Ranchers College program, Dr. David Kohl emphasized the importance of maintaining working capital or cash for businesses and families, among other important business principles. As always, his global knowledge of events and how they impact U.S. agriculture is fascinating.
One of the mega-trends for producers to pay attention to is the increased focus on healthy soil and water. Healthy soil and water quality creates healthy plants, animals, humans, and environment. Likely there will be paid incentives for producers who excel in these areas. Continuing to reassure consumers where and how food is produced, processed, and distributed remains important. It is also crucial to know your cost of production to plan best, average, and worst-case scenarios. Kohl also recommends overestimating capital expenditures by 25%.
His “Rule of 78” caught the attention of a lot of participants. When most people reach 78 years of age, usually health starts to decline unless you practice 8 habits. Those eight habits to have a quality of life included taking care one oneself physically by drinking water, exercising regularly, eating healthy and getting enough sleep. Mentally, people should have a support network, life purpose, engage in mental activities such as reading or meditating and practice your faith/spiritual life. He emphasized the importance of allowing oneself 2 hours per day with no technology.
Farmers and ranchers should also manage things that can be controlled and manage around those that cannot be controlled. He reinforced the idea that for a successful operation, you must plan, strategize, execute, and monitor. Examine monthly or at least quarterly financials to ensure you are on track. Those with a written business plan are four times more profitable than those without a plan. Also, the mental health of those with a business plan have two times the mental health as those without a written plan.
Kohl reminded participants of his business IQ exercise that ANY business should undertake. The areas in the business IQ included cost of production knowledge, cost of production by enterprise, goals (business, family, personal), record keeping system, projected cash flow, financial sensitivity analysis, financial ratio/break evens, those who work with an advisory team/lender, those whom have a marketing plan and execute, those whom have a risk management plan and execute, modest lifestyle habits, strong people management plan, transition plan, those whom attend educational seminars, and their attitude.
To determine what your cost of production is, a hands-on training will be held at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds on Thursday, December 15th from 1-3:00 p.m. This program is free, but registration is preferred for planning. Register at cap.unl.edu/abc/training. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own laptop or tablet to the workshop.”
Nebraska Mesonet are the weather stations located throughout our State with the data shared in our UNL CropWatch site for ET, soil temperature, precipitation, etc. But beyond farmers/ranchers and Extension using it, the data’s also used by National Weather Service, NOAA, Drought Monitor, etc. Please consider reading this article to become more familiar with what the Mesonet is and its importance regarding what shutting down locations means for Nebraska: https://go.unl.edu/a64h.
Pesticide certification trainings are currently being scheduled. We’ll share those dates towards the end of the month.
Ag Land Management Quarterly Webinar: Here’s the recording for those interested: https://go.unl.edu/ydhc. It covered recent findings from the 2022 USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service county-level cash rent survey and trends in farm programs influencing operations across the state. It also included a segment on landlord-tenant communication issues related to closing out 2022 leases and review leasing considerations for 2023.
Farm Tax Guides are now available in many local county Extension Offices for free if you’d like one.
Nebraska Crop Budgets: A recent recorded webinar highlighted 2023 crop budget updates at: https://go.unl.edu/e9rj. My colleague Glennis McClure, who assembles the UNL Crop budgets, shares, “The Nebraska crop budgets found at https://cap.unl.edu/cropbudgets were recently updated. All of the 84 budgets indicate cost of production increases. Estimated average economic or total costs per bushel for 2023 corn production are expected to be at least 23% to 25% greater than last year. Soybeans are estimated to be 13% to 19% more in economic costs per bushel, with wheat production costs having jumped over 20% compared to last year and running as high as 63% higher over the last two years combined. Cost scenarios for individual producers can vary based on their timing of input purchases and price variabilities. Ownership costs of land and rental rates are factors adding to cost increases as well, with the all-land average value in Nebraska rising 16% for the year ending February 1, 2022.
Along with increased costs come increased financial risk exposure associated with yield or market changes. It is important to develop cost of production baseline information to utilize market opportunities as they are available, consider input decisions, and make timely risk management decisions. Knowing projected enterprise costs can provide confidence in decision making.” A UNL Agricultural Budget Calculator (ABC) found at https://agbudget.unl.edu/ aids in creating enterprise budgets. Online and in-person training sessions can be accessed at https://cap.unl.edu/abc. A nearby in-person training session will occur on December 15 from 1-3 p.m. at the Fillmore Co. Fairgrounds in Geneva as part of the Farmers/Rancher’s College. This is hands-on and you are welcome to bring your laptop. Please contact Fillmore Co. Extension to RSVP and more for info: 402-759-3712.
CropWatch Survey: For those of you who utilize our UNL CropWatch website, we ask you to share your thoughts on how we did in 2022. You can provide comments here: https://ssp.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_5AA8iYvCHQVfz9A
Houseplant Browning: If the leaf edges of your houseplants have been turning brown like mine, my colleague Kelly Feehan offers some tips. “When the tips and edges of houseplant leaves turn brown, it’s usually due to low humidity or fluoride in water. Most houseplants are injured when humidity is under 20 percent. Humidity levels between 40 and 60 percent are preferred for houseplants. The best way to increase humidity is to use a room humidifier or a whole-house humidifier attached to the furnace. Syringing (spraying plants with clean water) removes dirt from leaves and increases humidity, but only to a small degree. High humidity areas such as bathrooms and kitchens are often ideal for plants. Excessive fluoride levels in water can cause tip and leaf scorching. Sensitive plants like Dracena, Cordyline, and Chlorophytum are best watered with rain water if possible. Tap water can be used but let it stand for at least 24 hours in containers to allow chlorine and fluorine to dissipate. When watering houseplants, room temperature water is best.”