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  • Farmers are invited to participate in University of Missouri Extension’s 2017 Strip Trial Program, which focuses on cover crops and other agronomic comparisons.

    The trial consists of multiple long strips laid out side by side in a field. Researchers and growers compare different management practices on each strip, using in-season aerial imagery and GPS-referenced yield monitor data to compare different cover crop treatments.

    MU conducted strip trials at 40 locations last year. This year, cover crop trials will focus on yield impact to corn and soybean, optimum termination dates, ILevo soybean treatment, fine-tuning phosphorus requirements and optimum nitrogen timing for corn.

    Farmers use their own equipment or that of their commercial applicator and work with their choice of an MU Extension specialist or other crop consultant to guide them through the process. At the end of the season, growers receive personalized, confidential evaluations of their trial. They also have access to aggregated results from trials in their area and statewide.

    The grower-based program helps farmers and crop advisers compare on-farm management decisions and practices in a low-cost, low-risk setting, said Greg Luce, MU Extension corn specialist and research director for the Missouri Soybean Association and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. He said strip trial research can help answer questions such as when growers should terminate cover crops for best results, whether erosion control or long-term soil health is the biggest benefit of cover crops, and whether cover crops are giving up nitrogen or tying it up in the soil.

    Visit striptrial.missouri.edu or contact Luce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 573-473-7079 for more information.

  • Missouri Department of Conservation wildlife biologists on the feral hog strike team have tallied up numbers for 2016. The year yielded a total of 5,358 feral hogs removed by MDC, partner agencies and private landowners, a significant increase over 2015 when 3,649 feral hogs were removed from the landscape. 

    Some attributing factors in the increase include MDC’s “Report, don’t shoot” message encouraging trapping (see April 2016 Today’s Farmer), banning hog hunting on conservation areas and a strong public awareness campaign.

    Some 2,941 feral hogs were trapped in southeast Missouri, which is where the highest density of feral hogs occurs. The Ozark region trapped 1,293, while the Southwest region trapped 1,006 hogs. St. Louis, Central and Kansas City regions all trapped fewer than 100 feral hogs each.

    Alan Leary, MDC’s wildlife management coordinator and leader of its feral hog eradication efforts, said the immediate goal is to keep feral hogs from spreading to northern regions of the state while working to eliminate the population altogether. Feral hogs are a serious threat to fish, forests and wildlife as well as agricultural resources. Economic losses resulting from feral hog damage in the U.S. is estimated at greater than $1.5 billion per year.

    “We made significant progress in 2016,” said Leary. “The key to eradicating these destructive, invasive pests is cooperation with private landowners and partners in efforts to report hog sightings, continue trapping and deter hog hunting and the illegal release of hogs.”

    In 2016, MDC partnered with other conservation groups, agriculture organizations and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to provide the state’s feral hog strike team with more trapping equipment for use on both private and public land and to fund public education efforts on the dangers of feral hogs.

    MDC also increased communication efforts with a campaign featuring private landowners who suffered hog damage and are working with MDC and USDA to eradicate feral hogs.

    Visit mdc.mo.gov/feralhog to report feral hog sightings or damage.

  • Farmers and agricultural organizations across the nation have applauded President Trump’s executive order that reverses the EPA’s “Waters of the United States” rule, which gave the agency virtually limitless authority to regulate water on private land.

    Introduced under President Obama in 2015, WOTUS expanded the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Water Act to include not just “navigable waterways” but any water that might eventually flow into navigable waterways. Trump’s order asks the heads of the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to publish a proposed rule rescinding or revising the rule for notice and comment—the first step in what is likely to be long administrative review process that many expect to end up at the Supreme Court.

    At a White House signing ceremony on Feb. 28, the president called the rule, which has never been implemented because of a series of lawsuits, “one of the worst examples of federal regulation.”

    “It’s been a disaster,” he went on, claiming that the EPA had decided it could regulate “nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land or any place else that they decide.”

    Farmers and landowners have also criticized the rule, saying there are already too many government regulations that affect their businesses. And while changes won’t happen overnight, the agricultural industry is hoping that any revised rule will be transparent and fair for America’s farmers and ranchers.

    “The executive action taken by President Trump marks the beginning of the end of the Waters of the U.S. rule,” Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said in a statement, pointing out that some 99 percent of Missouri land would be impacted by the rule. “The repeal of the rule shows the strength of the grassroots and the importance of people belonging to organizations where one voice can make a difference.”

  • FFA students from Missouri and Kansas who recently attended the Western Farm Show in Kansas City made a major contribution to the fight against hunger by collecting 5,958 canned goods and other non-perishable items in the show’s annual “Border War” Food Drive.

    Almost 3,400 FFA students – 65 chapters from Missouri and 10 from Kansas – brought their food collections to the 2017 Western Farm Show, which was held Feb. 24-26 at the American Royal. The food items were donated to Harvesters – The Community Food Network, based in Kansas City, and are expected to provide over 3,100 meals in the regional food bank’s service area that includes northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas.

    “We continue to be amazed at the generosity and commitment of the FFA chapters through this annual drive to fight hunger in our community,” said Katie Warning, Harvesters Food and Fund Drive Engagement Manager. “As always, we appreciate the Western Farm Show and Western Equipment Dealers Association’s support of Harvesters and the hungry in our community.”

    The Border War Food Drive is a friendly competition between Missouri and Kansas FFA chapters to see which chapter can bring the greatest number of food items to the show, with a $500 prize going to the winner. For the fifth time in the past six years, the Lone Jack, Missouri FFA turned in the top performance, collecting 3,003 items. Other top performing Missouri chapters were from La Monte and St. Joseph. The top three Kansas FFA chapters were from Hiawatha, Louisburg and Fort Scott. 

    The 2017 Western Farm Show featured over 500 exhibitors and more than 400,000 square feet of floor space that showcased one of the largest indoor displays of farm equipment and other agricultural products in the Midwest. Other attractions included the Livestock Low-Stress Handling Demonstration, the Health & Safety Roundup, Family Living Center and cooking demonstrations provided by the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  To learn more, visit WesternFarmShow.com or Facebook at Facebook.com/WesternFarmShow and follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/WesternFarmShow.

  • In 1988, MFA began Leadership Corps, a program aimed at educating and informing future leaders in rural communities served by the cooperative. Formerly known as the MFA Cooperators Program, Leadership Corps seeks civic-minded couples interested in furthering their leadership expertise. Applications will soon be open for the 2017-18 session, which will begin in July 2017.

    During the most recent Leadership Corps sessions, 20 couples from across MFA’s trade territory honed their leadership skills, learned about MFA and developed an approach to agricultural advocacy. Ultimately, the challenges MFA’s constituents face in their farming operations are the challenges of agriculture as a whole—challenges that lend opportunity for working together to find solutions, said Ernie Verslues, MFA Incorporated’s president and CEO.

    “Through this program, participants gain better awareness of the need for leadership in their local communities,” Verslues said. “We want to help foster that leadership and provide a forum for future leaders to network, exchange ideas and join the conversation about production agriculture. If we form relationships with these leaders and make a positive impact, then we believe they will be both a positive voice for MFA and agriculture.”

    In their evaluations, past Leadership Corps participants described the program as “a wonderful opportunity” and praised the quality of the speakers and topics. They also said they “enjoyed visiting with the other couples” and were “motivated to make changes in our farming practice.”

    “This program is designed to give people the tools and opportunities they need to find a voice and become leaders in their communities and agriculture,” said Erin Teeple, corporate services and human resources supervisor for MFA Incorporated. “Past participants have gone on to serve in the legislature and other governance roles, MFA Board of Directors, organizational councils and school boards.”

    Participants attend two weekend sessions in Columbia, Mo. The upcoming program starts July 21-22, with the second session scheduled in January 2018. Participants hear firsthand from speakers with expertise in leadership and agricultural advocacy, and topics are selected to benefit all types of agricultural enterprises. Industry leaders touch on the current agricultural climate and provide insights into new technology. The agenda also includes cooperative education, leadership development and technical workshops aimed to provide value to participants’ farming operations.

    “The farm couple is MFA’s foundation,” said Teeple, who handles coordination and development of the program. “We recognize the value that each partner brings. One or the other may be the farmer. One or the other may have off-farm jobs, but both play integral roles in the operation.”

    Leadership Corps isn’t all work, though, Teeple added.

    “This program is designed for learning, but we also want it to be fun,” she said. “Dining, entertainment and lodging are provided, and previous participants have formed lasting friendships with their peers in the program.”

    Leadership Corps nominations will be accepted through late spring 2017. Applications are available at MFA locations. If you are interested or know a promising couple who may want to participate, visit with your local MFA manager, call 573-876-5344 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • In severe cold weather, cows eating toxic fescue can suffer frozen feet with lost hooves. In one case, a Missouri producer lost five cows out of a herd of 30. Other less-severe cases are also being reported, said Craig Roberts, a forage specialist at the University of Missouri.

    While it’s too late to solve the problem this year, improving pastures can help prevent the problem in the future, he said.

    “We’ve known prevention for 15 years,” Roberts said. “There are ways to reduce the problem but only one preventive: replace toxic fescue with a new variety.”

    Fescue foot is caused by ingestion of an alkaloid from a fungus growing inside toxic endophyte varieties of tall fescue. The alkaloid is a vasoconstrictor, causing blood vessels to contract and shutting off flow to body extremities. In the winter, feet, tails and ears can freeze.

    Cows can survive a lost tail switch, but animals crippled from the loss of a hoof cannot walk to graze. They must be put down.

    Low blood flow in summer causes heat stress. While not fatal, it can cause unseen economic losses. Cows in heat stress quit grazing and head to shade or to ponds to cool off, Roberts explained. Animals that stop grazing stop gaining weight. That loss cuts farm income when calves are sold.

    Fescue foot was first reported 75 years ago, but it took until 1977 to discover the cause was an endophyte fungus, a threadlike growth that lives between plant cells in the grass. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The endophyte protects fescue from insects, diseases, drought and overgrazing.

    Other naturally occurring endophytes give protection but don’t have the vasoconstrictor alkaloid, Roberts said. Through breeding programs, these “novel-endophyte” fescue varieties have become more prevalent in the seed market.

    “Replacing toxic fescue with a novel-endophyte variety has huge economic benefit,” he said. “However, it does require a season-long process to kill the old variety and reseed to new fescue.”

    Roberts warns that seeding an endophyte-free fescue doesn’t work.

    “We tried that in Missouri,” he said. “Fescue needs endophyte protection to survive much past one year.”

    While fescue foot can be critical and costly, other losses attributed to the old endophyte fescue are mostly unseen, he added. In fact, fescue foot is third or fourth down the list of losses. Early abortion of unborn calves and lowered daily weight gains pose bigger threats to herd profitability.

    “That can mean a big loss on payday,” Roberts said.

    Fescue foot cases drop as the weather warms up, but other losses continue in all seasons.

    “We know how to prevent losses, estimated at $900 million a year,” Roberts said. “Producers solve problems and increase profits by planting novel-endophyte fescue.”

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