Beware Of Signing GMO-Free Certificates Even growers who have never planted a genetically modified organism (GMO) should be wary of signing a certificate assuring that their grain is GMO-free.

"Don't casually sign an unlimited liability certificate. Carefully consider what you are certifying," says Kim Nill of the American Soybean Association. "If you don't, it could cost you your farm."

Nill points out that a few kernels of grain in a truckload might have acquired new genes through cross-pollination or contamination from harvesting, transportation or auger equipment. Volunteer plants in a field might also introduce GMO into the harvested crop.

If a load of grain is put onto a barge loaded with GMO-free grain, and it's determined that the grain did have transgenics, under an unlimited liability certificate the farmer could be responsible for the whole barge load of contaminated grain.

"You could be responsible, not only for all of the grain, but also all of the lawyer fees," Nill says. Grain buyers asking for certificates of assurance of GMO-free grain should be willing to pay a premium for the extra effort and cost of identity preservation, he adds.

Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri extension soybean specialist, says producers can say they planted seed represented by the seed company as GMO-free. But, to back that up, they should keep records listing the variety names and hybrid numbers, along with seed sources. He also recommends that they keep records of steps taken to reduce contamination from pollen drift, contaminated equipment and volunteer crops.

GMO Guidebook Published The Nebraska Corn Board (NCB) has published a guidebook for Nebraska farmers to use in deciding whether to plant genetically modified (GM) corn this year.

The 12-page booklet, funded by checkoff dollars, was mailed to all Nebraska corn growers.

It includes a list of European Union unapproved corn hybrids, approval status of transgenic corn hybrids for other export markets, tips on how farmers can protect themselves when marketing GM crops, information on the economics of GM vs. conventional corn and insect resistance management strategies.

Copies of the GMO guidebook are available from NCB at 800-632-6761.

Consider Hiring A CEO

While most farmers still like the production side of farming, not all like the business end. If you fit that description, consider hiring the business advice, suggests Kent Olson, farm management economist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.

"Farmers can't be, or do, everything," Olson says. "One farmer described it as hiring a 'chief executive officer.' Farming is getting more involved and more specialized expertise is needed."

Many farmers have hired bookkeepers, crop managers and marketing strategists, he adds.

"Farmers themselves say they're going to need more help and expertise in the future. This isn't because they can't do it all, but because they realize the complexity of farming is not decreasing."

Tillage Conference Is Feb. 28-29

The 11th annual Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference will be Feb. 28 and 29 at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. The two-day event offers sessions on new research and techniques for conservation tillage along with a trade show of commercial displays.

"We bring in farmers, industry personnel and researchers from around the region who are doing things with conservation tillage that could help farmers in this area," says Ohio State University extension agriculture and natural resources agent John Smith, the event's co-chair.

The program also covers value-added farming, soil and water quality and precision farming. Some scheduled topics include: specialty crop contracts, legal issues related to contracts, fertilizer management, filter strips, interpreting soil and plant analysis results, GPS-based vehicle guidance systems and the economics of precision agriculture.

The event is sponsored by Ohio State Extension, northwest Ohio soil and water conservation districts, and USDA. Registration is $30/day or $40 for both days. For more information, call 419-223-0040 or contact Smith at 419-738-2219.

DNA Marks Flood Tolerance

A USDA-ARS scientist has identified a DNA marker that points to genes responsible for flood tolerance in soybeans.

Tara VanToai, ARS plant physiologist at the Soil Drainage Research Unit in Columbus, OH, discovered that plants with the genetic marker had a 50% yield advantage after spending their flowering stage in waterlogged soil for two weeks. The two-year study included 208 soybean lines.