Tag Archives: crops

A drone soared over a blazing hot cornfield in northeastern Colorado on a recent morning, snapping images with an infrared camera to help researchers decide how much water they would give the crops the next day.

After a brief, snaking flight above the field, the drone landed and the researchers removed a handful of memory cards. Back at their computers, they analyzed the images for signs the corn was stressed from a lack of water.

This U.S. Department of Agriculture station outside Greeley and other sites across the Southwest are experimenting with drones, specialized cameras and other technology to squeeze the most out of every drop of water in the Colorado River — a vital but beleaguered waterway that serves an estimated 40 million people.

Remote sensors measure soil moisture and relay the readings by Wi-Fi. Cellphone apps collect data from agricultural weather stations and calculate how much water different crops are consuming. Researchers deliberately cut back on water for some crops, trying to get the best harvest with the least amount of moisture — a practice called deficit irrigation.

In the future, tiny needles attached to plants could directly measure how much water they contain and signal irrigation systems to automatically switch on or off.

“It’s like almost every month somebody’s coming up with something here and there,” said Don Ackley, water management supervisor for the Coachella Valley Water District in Southern California. “You almost can’t keep up with it.”

Researchers and farmers are running similar experiments in arid regions around the world. The need is especially pressing in seven U.S. states that rely on the Colorado River: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The river has plenty of water this summer after an unusually snowy winter in the mountains of the U.S. West. But climatologists warn the river’s long-term outlook is uncertain at best and dire at worst, and competition for water will only intensify as the population grows and the climate changes.

The World Resources Institute says the seven Colorado River states have some of the highest levels of water stress in the nation, based on the percentage of available supplies they use in a year. New Mexico was the only state in the nation under extremely high water stress.

The federal government will release a closely watched projection Thursday on whether the Colorado River system has enough water to meet all the demands of downstream states in future years.

The river supplies more than 7,000 square miles (18,000 square kilometers) of farmland and supports a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry, including a significant share of the nation’s winter vegetables, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages most of the big dams and reservoirs in the Western states.

The Pacific Institute, an environmental group, says the river also irrigates about 700 square miles (1,820 square kilometers) in Mexico.

Agriculture uses 57% to 70% of the system’s water in the U.S., researchers say. The problem facing policymakers is how to divert some of that to meet the needs of growing cities without drying up farms, ranches and the environment.

The researchers’ goal is understanding crops, soil and weather so completely that farmers know exactly when and how much to irrigate.

“We call it precision agriculture, precision irrigation,” said Huihui Zhang, a Department of Agriculture engineer who conducts experiments at the Greeley research farm. “Right amount at the right time at the right location.”

The Palo Verde Irrigation District in Southern California is trying deficit irrigation on alfalfa, the most widely grown crop in the Colorado River Basin.

Alfalfa, which is harvested as hay to feed horses and cattle, can be cut and baled several times a year in some climates. The Palo Verde district is experimenting with reduced water for the midsummer crop, which requires more irrigation but produces lower yields.

Sensors placed over the test plots indirectly measure how much water the plants are using, and the harvested crop is weighed to determine the yield.

“The question then becomes, what’s the economic value of the lost crop versus the economic value of the saved water?” said Bart Fisher, a third-generation farmer and a member of the irrigation district board.

Blaine Carian, who grows grapes, lemons and dates in Coachella, California, already uses deficit irrigation. He said withholding water at key times improves the flavor of his grapes by speeding up the production of sugar.

He also uses on-farm weather stations and soil moisture monitors, keeping track of the data on his cellphone. His drip and micro-spray irrigation systems deliver water directly to the base of a plant or its roots instead of saturating an entire field.

For Carian and many other farmers, the appeal of technology is as much about economics as saving water.

“The conservation’s just a byproduct. We’re getting better crops, and we are, in general, saving money,” he said.

But researchers say water-saving technology could determine whether some farms can stay in business at all, especially in Arizona, which faces cuts in its portion of Colorado River water under a drought contingency plan the seven states hammered out this year.

Drone-mounted cameras and yield monitors — which measure the density of crops like corn and wheat as they pass through harvesting equipment — can show a farmer which land is productive and which is not, said Ed Martin, a professor and extension specialist at the University of Arizona.

“If we’re going to take stuff out of production because we don’t have enough water, I think these technologies could help identify which ones you should be taking out,” Martin said.

Each technology has benefits and limits, said Kendall DeJonge, another Agriculture Department engineer who does research at the Greeley farm.

Soil moisture monitors measure a single point, but a farm has a range of conditions and soil types. Infrared images can spot thirsty crops, but only after they need water. Agricultural weather stations provide a wealth of data on the recent past, but they can’t predict the future.

“All of these things are tools in the toolbox,” DeJonge said. “None of them are a silver bullet.”

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — Kansas State University is partnering with the Kansas Water Office and farmers across a swath of western Kansas to host eight Water Technology Field Days in August and September. The events are designed to show agricultural producers and others how the newest crop irrigation research and technology is being applied in real-life situations on private farms.

The dates, locations and times are:

  • Aug. 8 – Tribune – Homeland Farm – 5 p.m.
  • Aug. 9 – Hesston – Jacob, Weber and R&E Goering farms – 10:30 a.m.
  • Aug. 20 – Scott City – Circle C and Long farms – 10:30 a.m.
  • Aug. 23 – Larned – WaterPACK & ILS Farm – 10:30 a.m.
  • Sept. 4 – Goodland – NW Kansas Tech College Farms – 9:30 a.m. (multiple events)
  • Sept. 5 – Garden City – The GCC-Roth Family, T&O and Harshberger farms – 10:30 a.m.
  • Sept. 5 – Liberal – Hatcher Land & Cattle Farm – 5 p.m.
  • Sept. 10 – Troy – Loess Hills Water Quality Farm – 9 a.m.

The KWO provides financial assistance to K-State’s efforts to give technical support for some of the technology demonstration farms.

“K-State Research and Extension is committed to developing and promoting new irrigation technologies that will be environmentally and economically efficient while conserving and protecting limited water resources,” said Ernie Minton, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension. “The K-State Research and Extension services conducted at these Water Technology Farms significantly advances the knowledge of the most efficient water management technology and practices.”

Some of the technologies that these Water Technology Farms have are replicated in small plots at the Southwest Research-Extension Center in Garden City.

“We are excited to work with the producers on these farms because we could validate the results in our research plots to the production scale and conditions of actual farms,” said Jonathan Aguilar, K-State associate professor and water resource engineer located in Garden City.

He leads the monitoring activities of six water technology farms within the Ogallala Aquifer region.

“We hope farmers can see better options in managing their water as their peers test new – and even not so new – irrigation technologies,” he said.

More information on other collaborators and details on the field days is available online or by contacting Armando Zarco, KWO water resource planner, at 620-765-7485.

A pair of K-State Research and Extension western stations that are conducting irrigation research are also hosting field days this month:

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The Kansas Association of Wheat Growers will hold its annual membership meeting on August 14, 2019, in conjunction with High Plains Journal’s Sorghum U – Wheat U event.

The annual meeting will begin at 7:00 a.m., in the Fire Club Room at the Kansas Star Event Center, 777 Kansas Star Drive in Mulvane.

Grower members will discuss and debate the policies of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and will vote on renewing KAWG Resolutions. They will hear an update on KAWG activities and priorities, as well as the announcement of a membership referral program that can earn members some unique wheat gear while building grassroots support for the issues facing wheat farmers in Topeka and Capitol Hill.

At the conclusion of the KAWG annual meeting, members are invited to join other wheat and grain sorghum producers to stay for the Sorghum U – Wheat U educational event, which features breakout sessions on grain sorghum and wheat. There is no charge to attend the Sorghum U – Wheat U event, and lunch will be provided.

Wheat and sorghum producers can take home real-world, practical solutions that can have a definite influence on their bottom line. With educational sessions targeted to wheat growers, sorghum growers and sessions for both, producers can develop a strategy that will allow them to take control and plan for profit. This event will also have CEU credits offered. Having multiple sessions and speakers filled with knowledge, this event will benefit any farmer that attends.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., with the program starting at 9 a.m. During the welcome session, attendees will hear from a panel of farmers as well as the Kansas Wheat and Kansas Grain Sorghum organizations.

During Breakout Blocks 1 and 2, farmers will be able to choose from the following four sessions: Making “Cents” of Blockchain Technology, Make Cropping Systems Work For You, Lessons in Wheat Production and Risk Management for Sorghum Producers. These blocks will repeat, so farmers will have the opportunity to attend two of the four. Kansas State University Wheat and Forages Extension Specialist Romulo Lollato will present the session on wheat production.

Over lunch, Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist with INTL FCStone, will present the keynote address on “Market Intelligence for the Future.” Market intelligence helps producers plan ahead for influences on grain markets that are out of a producer’s control. Suderman has years of experience working with farmers and helping them understand the markets. From late planting problems this spring to trade wars to African Swine Fever, Suderman will give producers an outlook that will help them make sound decisions. Following Suderman’s presentation, John Lawrence will be speaking on “IntelliFarms: Grow with a Purpose.”

Topics for Breakout Blocks 3 and 4 include Planning with Your Lender, Making the Grain Chain Work for You, Risk Management for Wheat Producers and Growing Forage Sorghum for Profit. The event will wrap up at 3:00 p.m., following the IntelliFarms $20,000 Giveaway.

For more information on the speakers and topics and to register for this free event, go to wheatu.com.

This is day 15 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest Reports, brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

Fields of wheat that are not yet harvested are fewer and farther between as harvest is wrapping up. Most farmers will be done by this weekend or the beginning of next week.

Roger Snodgrass, of McDougal-Sager & Snodgrass Grain Inc., in Rawlins County, reports that they are about 80% done with this year’s wheat harvest. Snodgrass says they missed out on most of the big rains this year and did not get too much hail. While they are seeing lower protein levels, they are also seeing above average yields and good test weights.

“Most of the guys are smiling around here and are happy with the crop that we are seeing,” says Snodgrass.

Theron Haresnape, a farmer near Lebanon in Smith County, says that wheat harvest is finally winding down. He said they didn’t receive any hail in their area, just rain showers.

Haresnape said, “It has been a pretty good year. The biggest rain we had all spring was 2.5 inches.”

With above average yields and protein levels in the area between 11.5 and 12%, Haresnape is pleased with this year’s wheat harvest. Haresnape says if the weather cooperates, they plan to increase acreage in the fall; however, he will still be planting 25-30% less than ‘normal.’

The 2019 Harvest Report is brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association. To follow along with harvest updates on Twitter, use #wheatharvest19.

ARDEN HILLS, Minn. and DULUTH, Ga. – Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN today joined global agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO Corporation in a new collaboration to help farmers deploy cutting-edge application equipment, noting the importance of precision agriculture tools to farmers’ efforts to safeguard natural resources and focus on optimizing farm economics.

“Working with AGCO to promote precision agriculture tools makes perfect sense for Land O’Lakes, including our North American network of locally-owned ag retailers, and the farmers we serve,” said Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. “AGCO’s expertise in manufacturing cutting-edge agricultural equipment complements Land O’Lakes’ commitment to supporting farmer-led stewardship with technology, insights and in-field capabilities.”

“The precision and versatility of AGCO technology equips applicators with the tools to help them tackle jobs efficiently and productively, while maintaining a focus on protecting the air, land and water,” said David Webster, director of application equipment marketing NA, AGCO Corporation. “We are pleased to work alongside Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN and committed to supporting farmers and their ag retailer advisors with tools that can help them run an efficient operation, balancing environmental benefits and profit potential on every acre.”

“At NuWay-K&H Cooperative we began offering precision ag services back in 1995, and we’ve always been on the leading edge of bringing new technology to growers faster and more efficiently than any other supplier in our market area,” said Jeff Crissinger, vice president of agronomy sales and marketing at NuWay-K&H Cooperative, a Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN agricultural retailer. “The AGCO offering through Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN is an exciting new collaboration and will help us continue to support our growers through leading technologies that support both the grower’s business and their environmental impact.”

Today’s announcement builds on an existing relationship between AGCO and WinField United, the crop inputs, seed and agronomy business of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

The Land O’Lakes ag retail network reaches more than 300,000 farmers nationwide – approximately half of U.S. harvested acres – through the farmer-owned cooperative’s locally-owned network of ag retailers.

This is day 11 of the Kansas Wheat Harvest Reports, brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.

The hot, dry weekend weather was just what farmers needed to make some excellent progress on wheat harvest in Kansas.

Mike McClellan, who farms in Rooks County, is wrapping up his wheat harvest on Monday. Their harvest started on July 1, and they have seen good yields and test weights, but lower than average protein levels.

“We’ve had a really good harvest run this year,” said McClellan. “We’re pretty happy with the yields. No complaints here.” He added, “We’re ready to wrap it up.”

McClellan reports that the area is about 80-90% finished with wheat harvest.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised on some fields, and disappointed on others,” he said. Yields have ranged from 20 on a field with hail damage to 80s on his best wheat. Test weights have remained over 60 pounds per bushel, and his proteins have been lower than average, which he partially attributes to the fact that they were late getting nitrogen on because of the moisture. He said he has neighbors who have gotten as high as 12s on protein.

Wheat harvest for Lisa Schemm, who farms in Wallace and Logan counties, got into full swing on July 10. They had started cutting on July 4, but rains kept them out of the fields until last week. A normal start date for them is June 25. A severe storm on June 22 hit some of their wheat and corn hard with hail.

Schemm reports that they are now a little over half done with harvest. She says that yields are above average, and test weights have remained well above 60, ranging from 62-63. Areas that had to be replanted aren’t yielding as well, so planting date has definitely had an effect on yields. Their protein levels have been coming in about 10.5%.

Schemm says the Kansas Wheat Alliance variety Kanmark has been performing well for them this year. She says morale is a little higher in their area, with the excellent yields and a slightly higher wheat price. Overall, wheat harvest is going well; it’s just behind schedule. She hopes to wrap up by the end of the week.

Brian Linin, a farmer from Goodland in Sherman County, started his harvest on July 8, and they’ve been rolling ever since. His wheat is yielding quite a bit above average, ranging from 70 bushels per acre and up. Test weights are 61.5 to 62 pounds per bushel, and proteins are ranging from 11.5 to 13%.

Linin says this is an above average year, with good quality wheat and good kernel size. He reports that he has about 1,200 acres left to cut, so their harvest will last about another week. The WestBred variety WB-Grainfield and a WB-Grainfield/PlainsGold Langin blend are performing well for him.

The 2019 Harvest Report is brought to you by the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and the Kansas Grain and Feed Association. To follow along with harvest updates on Twitter, use #wheatharvest19.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A Kansas State University row crop specialist says he’s happy – even if surprised – by the low incidence of disease he’s finding in the state’s corn fields so far this summer.

But he’s urging growers to continue scouting their fields for diseases that have been commonly found in Kansas in past years.

“I have been surprised by the low levels of gray leaf spot in most fields,” said Doug Jardine, who has traveled several areas of Kansas over the past few weeks looking at corn and soybean fields.

“In those areas where I was able to find gray leaf spot, it was on the very lowest leaves, even in some fields that I know have had a problem with a history of this disease.”

Gray leaf spot is a fungus that causes an estimated loss of 9 million bushels of corn per year in Kansas. It was first found in the state in 1989, and is considered the most serious foliar disease of corn in Kansas and the north central United States.

For that reason, indications that it might not be as prevalent so far this summer is no reason for growers to become complacent.

“It’s present in the state, so we need to be scouting,” Jardine said. “But at this point, I was not personally in any fields that I think are going to need a fungicide this year. And given the commodity prices this year, if we can save $15 to $25, that’s probably a good thing.”

He added that the lower incidence of the disease in Kansas could be due to growers’ tendency in recent years to plant hybrids containing tolerance to gray leaf spot, “because that’s what we’ve preached as the primary management practice for years.”

Jardine said that gray leaf spot is sometimes confused with another disease that shows up routinely in Kansas – bacterial leaf streak, a bacteria that is more common in corn fields managed under continuous no-till and center pivot irrigation.

He noted that bacterial leaf streak is mostly found in the western one-third of Kansas, but has been found recently in the southeast (Labette County), north central (Clay County) and south central (Butler County) parts of the state.

“To an untrained eye, this disease can look very similar to gray leaf spot,” Jardine said. “We know over the last 3-4 years that people thought they had gray leaf spot, went out and sprayed and saw no response to the fungicide application – that’s because fungicides don’t work on bacteria.”

Differences between the two diseases are often seen in the lesions that appear on the leaves of the corn plant.

“With gray leaf spot, the lesions are defined by the vein, so they have very sharp borders on them; they don’t cross the vein,” Jardine said. “With bacterial leaf streak, they don’t respect that vein, so they can have a wavy edge that crosses the border and comes back. They tend to be very long and linear.”

He noted that another test is to hold up an infected leaf so that it is back-lit by the sun. If the light passes through readily (translucent), the disease is likely to be bacterial leaf streak. But if light doesn’t pass through the lesions (opaque) and appears dark brown, the disease is likely to be gray leaf spot.

In either case, Jardine suggests that growers submit samples of suspect leaves through their local extension office, or send directly to the plant disease diagnostic lab at Kansas State University.

In addition, Jardine said corn growers should be on the lookout for signs of the root lesion nematode, which were “very severe” in northeast Kansas (Doniphan and Brown counties) a year ago.

Producers who suspect an infestation of root lesion nematodes should dig up whole plants 30-40 days past emergence, shake off the excess soil from roots, and send the sample into the plant disease diagnostic lab.

Jardine said one sample received at K-State a year ago had a count of 100,000 nematodes per gram of root weight. That’s a huge number considering that yield losses in corn are common with infestations of 5,000 to 10,000 nematodes per gram of root weight.

“You’re looking for stunted areas in the fields, especially if they’re starting to become a little chlorotic (yellowish),” Jardine said.

Specific to soybeans, Jardine said he’s keeping his eye out for the presence of frogeye leaf spot, which could take hold in some fields this year because of the wet June weather in Kansas.

More information on crop diseases in Kansas is available from K-State’s Department of Plant Pathology, and the weekly e-Update published by the Department of Agronomy.

Lindsay Corporation (NYSE: LNN), a leading global manufacturer and distributor of irrigation and infrastructure equipment and technology, today announced results for its third quarter ended May 31, 2019.

Third Quarter Summary

Revenues for the third quarter of fiscal 2019 were $121.1 million, a decrease of $48.5 million, or 29 percent, compared to revenues of $169.6 million in the prior year third quarter. Approximately $27.2 million of the decrease in revenues was attributable to previously announced business divestitures in the irrigation segment as part of the Company’s Foundation for Growth initiative.

Net earnings for the quarter were $2.9 million, or $0.27 per diluted share, compared with net earnings of $10.4 million, or $0.96 per diluted share, for the same period in the prior year. In addition to the impact of lower revenues, net earnings for the quarter were reduced by after-tax costs of $2.6 million, or $0.23 per diluted share, related to the Company’s Foundation for Growth initiative. Excluding these additional costs, net earnings for the third quarter would have been $5.5 million, or $0.50 per diluted share. 1 Net earnings for the same period in the prior year, adjusted for Foundation for Growth costs, would have been $17.9 million, or $1.66 per diluted share. 1 Net earnings in the prior year included $1.5 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, related to the business divestitures.

“Low commodity prices and uncertainty regarding the outcome of trade negotiations continued to weigh on farmer sentiment and demand for irrigation equipment during the quarter,” said Tim Hassinger, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Along with that, strong Road Zipper System ® sales in the prior year third quarter resulted in a challenging year over year comparison.”

Segment Results

Irrigation segment revenues for the third quarter of fiscal 2019 were $98.6 million, a decrease of $29.8 million, or 23 percent, compared to $128.4 million in the prior year third quarter. Excluding the impact of the divestitures, North America irrigation revenues of $63.0 million increased $2.8 million, or 5 percent, compared to the prior year. Higher revenue from engineering project services and the impact of higher average selling prices were partially offset by lower irrigation equipment unit volume and lower sales of replacement parts. International irrigation revenues of $35.6 million decreased $5.4 million, or 13 percent, compared to the prior year. Excluding the negative impact of differences in foreign currency translation compared to the prior year, international irrigation revenues decreased $2.7 million, or 7 percent.

Irrigation segment operating margin was 11.2 percent of sales (11.7 percent adjusted) 1 in the third quarter, compared to 9.1 percent of sales (14.1 percent adjusted) 1 in the prior year. The prior year benefited from the recovery of $2.5 million in previously reserved accounts receivable that did not repeat. In addition, lower sales of irrigation equipment and replacement parts in North America resulted in a lower margin mix in the current quarter.

Infrastructure segment revenues for the third quarter of fiscal 2019 were $22.4 million, a decrease of $18.7 million, or 45 percent, compared to $41.2 million in the prior year third quarter. The decrease resulted almost entirely from lower Road Zipper System ® sales compared to the prior year’s period.

Infrastructure segment operating margin was 15.8 percent of sales (16.0 percent adjusted) 1 in the third quarter, compared to 34.6 percent of sales (35.0 percent adjusted) 1 in the third quarter of the prior year. The prior year period included high margin Road Zipper System ® orders that did not repeat in the current quarter.

The backlog of unshipped orders at May 31, 2019 was $42.5 million compared with $55.8 million at May 31, 2018. Approximately $12.4 million of the reduction in backlog resulted from business divestitures. Excluding the impact of the divestitures, irrigation segment backlogs were higher and infrastructure backlogs were lower compared to the prior year. Subsequent to the end of the quarter, a $15.0 million Road Zipper System ® order was received from a customer in Japan, with delivery expected to begin in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.

Foundation for Growth Initiative

In fiscal 2018, the Company announced a defined performance improvement initiative, referred to as Foundation for Growth, with the objectives of simplifying the business and achieving operating margin performance of 11 percent to 12 percent in fiscal 2020, assuming no improvement in market conditions from fiscal 2017.

Outlook

“Severe wet weather and widespread flooding in the U.S. have caused delayed corn plantings and curtailed planted acreage, reducing supply estimates and driving a recent increase in corn prices. Any further reduction in supply and increase in corn prices supports an improved outlook for irrigation equipment demand,” said Mr. Hassinger. “The short-term outlook for international markets remains mixed, with growth expected in Brazil and developing markets while certain other markets remain challenged.”

Mr. Hassinger added, “The receipt of a large international Road Zipper System order, along with early successes we are seeing in partnering with states on road construction projects, positions the infrastructure segment for growth. In addition, we expect that execution of our Foundation for Growth initiative will help us achieve our objective of delivering improved operating margins.”