Africa’s Guinea savannah is “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world,” according to a 2009 World Bank study that found 990 million acres suited for agriculture, of which less than 10% was in crops.
Next in our Q+A series, we asked farmers what practices they've used that improved return on investment. From split nitrogen applications to variable rate and grid sampling to implementing auto-steer, farmers in Minnesota, Ohio and Iowa talk about what practices have offered them a better ROI.
Soybeans fix their own nitrogen, but high-yielding beans need a lot of nitrogen – 4 to 5 pounds per bushel total with some 3 pounds per bushel in the harvested seed, according to Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences. “That’s why some people try applying nitrogen to boost yields,” he says. “You would think if you put on 100 to 200 pounds per acre, there would be a response.”
We asked farmers which ag practices and ideas paid off for them in 2013. From narrow rows in corn to cover crops to nutrient management, growers sounded off about the new things they tried with success last year.
A consistent corn supplier in recent years, India has captured some 45% of the Southeast Asian corn export market. India’s ability to supply those exports reflects a long-term increase in harvested acreage, yield gains from increased hybrid seed use, and expanded production that, so far, has kept up with growing domestic demand.
“Ukraine is going to be bigger than Argentina in corn, when you look at projections,” says Chad Hart, associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. “Call them a regional powerhouse in the Black Sea region."
Kevin Rempp, Montezuma, Iowa, a grower who chairs the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, saw the inefficiencies of the traditional Chinese system on a U.S. Grains Council crop tour. “The plots were about three-fourths to two acres maximum per farmer, so a field of 80 to 100 acres could have many, many plots,” he recalls.
Brazil’s larger corn and soybean crops strain its already-inadequate transportation system. That hinders Brazil’s ability to deliver promptly at a competitive price – and infrastructure improvements aren’t advancing quickly enough to ease the problem in the near future.
Corn growers from the world’s three largest corn exporting nations will collaborate on a global initiative to resolve common problems that restrict trade under a unique pact signed by grower leaders in May at Argentina’s MAIZAR corn congress. The agreement – the first of its kind among corn grower groups – creates The International Maize Alliance (MAIZALL), which will work on biotechnology, food security, stewardship and trade issues.
Seedling diseases and seed rot accounted for more than 20% of soybean establishment problems in the past five years, and farmers had to replant almost 20% of affected acres. (This comes from a March 2012 survey of Midwestern and Southeastern certified crop advisors in 12 major soybean-producing states as part of a soybean seedling disease study.)
“It’s 75% true – we dodged a major bullet and were able to carry commodities through the winter on the Mississippi,” says Ann McCulloch, vice president of public affairs for the American Waterways Operators (AWO). “But we are still very concerned. That was a major concern from November when the Corps of Engineers (USACE) reduced Missouri River flow into the Mississippi.”
From Kuala Lumpur, in the heart of Southeast Asia, it’s almost 10,000 miles to Julius Schaaf’s corn and soybean farm in Randolph, Iowa, but Schaaf is quick to point out the region’s growing importance as a market for U.S. farmers.
A new iPad/Android tablet app offers a comprehensive approach to corn and soybean crop scouting, management and recordkeeping. So says Michael Koenig, who co-founded ScoutPro with Stuart McCulloh and Holden Nyhus through Iowa State University’s (ISU) Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. Tap into university Extension photo references like ISU’s Weed Identification Field Guide to identify weeds, insects and diseases in the field.