May 23: Corn is looking good for the most part with few major concerns yet. Some have commented on the yellow-looking corn. This is most likely due to cool, wet soils rather than any nutrient issues. There may be field-specific issues such as saturated soils, compaction, and some herbicides that can cause this yellowing too. Also had a call on cutworms in seed corn but not widespread calls on this yet. Extension Educators have set up light traps for tracking cutworm moths and you can find that information here: http://go.unl.edu/rhhe. Cutworms will cause the most damage the first 7 days after corn emergence so scouting is important. The York County Corn Grower Plot was planted on April 24th with the corn currently at 2 leaf stage. Special thanks to Ron, Ray, and Brad Makovicka for hosting and the work put into this plot each year!
May 1: It never ceases to amaze me how quickly planting occurs each year! Corn planted the week of April 10th has emerged and for those fields that received hail from last week’s storms, I’m hoping we don’t see disease issues later on. Also of note, some have asked me about the CropWatch soil temperatures as they are higher than what some of you have been measuring in your fields before planting. The CropWatch soil temps at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatchsoiltemperature are averages of 24 hours under bare soil which may be different than the residue conditions in your fields and is an average of the entire day vs. one point in time. This may help explain some of the differences.
Many stands of alfalfa are lush green with over a foot of growth at this point. I looked at some alfalfa in Clay County that got dinged by cold temperatures in areas of the field and stopped growing. At this time I’m also finding quite a few aphids and a few alfalfa weevils. A disease common this time of year called spring black stem can be observed in nearly all alfalfa fields right now in the lower canopies. This disease consists of small black lesions on the leaves which eventually cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. Normally this disappears with later cuttings as humidity and rainfall are typically high during the first cutting and can be managed with cutting the alfalfa. One option to consider according to Dr. Bruce Anderson, our Extension Forage Specialist, is to consider cutting alfalfa before bloom. He shares that weather can cause long delays and alfalfa doesn’t bloom very aggressively during spring. Bruce felt there were advantages to cutting alfalfa when it is 15-20” tall before bloom during first cutting including: weather compared to later spring, spread out alfalfa harvest if you consider cutting one field earlier, reduction in insect and disease problems by early harvest, and high feed value. It also potentially allows the second cutting to be ready before the summer heat which can lower forage quality. Disadvantages include lower yield from cutting early which could be made up in later harvest, regrowth may be slower if cut early, and the need to allow for longer recovery after first or second cutting to maintain long-term stands. So, harvesting before bloom may be something you wish to test in one of your fields this year and consider how this works for you, especially if you did have some frost damage or are having insect/disease issues in your alfalfa right now.
On March 15, 2016, we will celebrate National Ag Day. The Agricultural Council of America began celebrating Ag Day in 1973 with the desire to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives. This program encourages every American to understand how food and fiber products are produced; value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; and appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products.
Today, each American farmer feeds more than 144 people which is a large increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Today’s farmers also produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950. Farm and ranch families comprise just two percent of the U.S. population. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, America’s rural landscape is comprised of around 2.2 million farms with 97 percent of U.S. farms being operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
Regarding Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Ag reports in its “2016 Ag Facts” card that cash receipts contributed almost $25 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2014 and 5.9 percent of the U.S. total.
- Nebraska’s ten leading commodities (in order of value) for 2014 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybean, hogs, wheat, dairy products, chicken eggs, hay, dry bean and potatoes.
- Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.27 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production.
- Nebraska’s $7.2 billion in agricultural exports in 2014 translates into $9.2 billion in additional economic activity.
- Nebraska’s top five agricultural exports in 2014 were soybean and soybean meal, corn, beef and veal, feeds and fodder, and hides and skins.
- Nebraska had 49,100 farms and ranches during 2014; the average operation consisted of 921 acres.
- In 2014, Nebraska had 25 operating ethanol plants with a total production capacity of 2.125 billion gallons.
- Nebraska ranked 2nd among states in ethanol production and utilized 43% of the state’s 2014 corn crop.
- Livestock or poultry operations were found on 49% of Nebraska farms.
- 1 in 4 jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture.
- From east to west, Nebraska experiences a 4,584 foot elevation difference and the average annual precipitation decreases by one inch every 25 miles.
- Between 2007-2012, Nebraska experienced a 5% increase in the number of farms and 10% increase in the number of new farmers.
Future of Agriculture
As we look at the future of agriculture, many challenges and opportunities lie ahead. We are tasked with feeding over 9 billion people by 2050 with less land and water resources and more efficient inputs…essentially do more with even less while being environmentally sustainable. Water quantity and quality will continue to be important. We are in an exciting time of technological advancements providing numerous opportunities for young people to attain careers in agriculture. Technological advancements with seed and animal genetics; variable rate applications of fertilizer, water, seed/hybrids and other inputs; the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), satellite, or other aerial technologies; and much more. Perhaps the largest challenge agriculture faces is the continually growing disconnect between our consumers and from where their food originates. Social media, internet, TV personalities, and activist groups have done much to share mis-information and spread fear regarding production agriculture. Many farm families are working to share their own farm stories which is wonderful and I would encourage more to do so! Perhaps in some ways we in agriculture are our own worst enemies? I wonder if we could exponentially change the course of this growing disconnect if by instead of the divisions that occur based on production practices and marketing we would unite together under a common mission? Perhaps one of providing the opportunity of consumer choice in a world where our ultimate goal is to provide a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply?