With volatile corn prices and rising input costs, when will corn growers switch from continuous corn to a corn-soybean rotation? We asked three farmers from Iowa, Ohio and Illinois what their tipping point would be. Answers ranged from no hard and fast rules to farm setups to agronomic factors, but ultimately, it comes down to the price of corn and beans.
Mark Lynas, one of the architects of the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s, now says environmentalists must open their minds to science if they want to heal the earth.
Lynas, who recanted his anti-GMO stance in a January speech at the Oxford (England) Farming Conference, says his main goal isn’t just the acceptance of GM crops – such as Roundup Ready soybeans or Golden rice – but to inject a scientific perspective into environmentalism.
If the latter half of the 20th century was about an herbicide revolution in agriculture, the early 21st century will be about nitrogen (N). Public and private researchers are focusing on its role in boosting corn yields above the current average high-yield mark of 164 bu. Seed companies feel they can eventually push this to 300 bu. to meet growing global demand.
Dave Rodibaugh wants more from his cover crops. In addition to seeking advice from his local Extension officers or seed company representatives, he talks to neighbors. Rodibaugh, who farms a little more than 2,000 acres in Renssalaer, Ind., is one of a dozen farmers participating in an informal peer group organized by Dan Perkins, Jasper County Soil & Water Conservation District program specialist. The growers meet regularly to discuss farm-related topics, examine new ideas and talk about what works and what doesn’t on their farms.
What is normal weather anymore? This downed corn resulted from a 60-80-mph wind shear storm in central Iowa July 11, 2011. The storm damaged crops last summer from Nebraska to Maryland, with the worst damage in central Iowa. Its wind shear was triple the force of a severe storm, weather experts say.
When one of his largest landowners walked away last year, Rob Richards of Indy Family Farms in Indiana realized that his communications to landlords were falling short. The loss was a wake-up call for the family business, which covers 12,000 acres in counties south of Indianapolis and includes 164 landlords, who range from retired farmers to investors.
Allelopathy in continuous corn is as hard to pin down as an election-year politician. By definition, allelopathy occurs when organisms produce biochemicals that influence the growth of other plants – such as when corn residue harms young corn plants. Such interference can be measured by researchers in controlled studies, but so far it can’t be replicated in the field. Yet it’s often cited as an underlying cause of the yield drag that many growers experience in continuous corn.
Getting the most from a bag of soybeans has become an obsession for Tom Tullis, farmer from Champaign, OH. And he’ll try anything to get that extra bu./acre. In the past five years, Tullis says he’s defoliated beans, experimented with seeding rates and even bush-hogged plants after first bloom. He’s also tried inoculation, foliar feeding and micronutrients, as well as pivot irrigation, fungicide and bean turndown.
Ohio farmer Dave Brandt’s most important crop this year is one he won’t harvest. Brandt plants radishes and other cover crops as part of the ECO (see http://bit.ly/rspLDN and http://bit.ly/ok3Y1J) farming system to keep his soil healthy and his farm profitable. “ECO farming stands for Ecological farming, Continuous living cover and Other best management practices," says Jim Hoorman.