Fallow syndrome adds insult to last year's prevented-planting injury

Written by MU extension and TF Online on .


It wasn't enough to miss a year of crops in some fields, this spring brought on another complication: corn fallow syndrome. 

Cornfields in northeastern Missouri this spring were more uneven following prevented planting acres. Typically, they were phosphorus-deficient and had slower early growth than fields following soybean. These are symptoms associated with corn fallow syndrome, which is known to stunt corn and cause purple, phosphorus-deficient leaves and poorly developed roots.

It's rare occurrence caught producers off-guard, says University of Missouri Extension corn specialist Greg Luce. The syndrome sometimes happens in the year after extremely wet conditions and no crops, or weeds, are grown on the field the previous year. He last remembers it after the 1993 floods.

Fallow syndrome happens when a beneficial fungus, vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM), is reduced in the soil. The fungus is associated with the roots of many plants and it benefits corn by helping it take up phosphorus and zinc.

Last year’s unplanted soybean acres were often planted to corn this year as part of a soybean-corn rotation.

Luce says the fallow syndrome was common in Audrain County. Last year, it led Missouri in prevented-planting acres. More than a million Missouri soybean acres went unplanted last year because of the unusually wet conditions through much of May, June and early July of 2015.

In May, farmers in Audrain County and other areas with prevented planting began telling Luce and others that corn was stunted and purple. One corn grower used an unmanned aerial vehicle to photograph adjacent fields. One field appeared normal, the other stunted with a purple cast.

Luce asked about practices and learned that the field with stunted plants went barren of vegetation last year.

Many farmers and farm consultants initially blamed herbicide injury for problem fields. MU Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley investigated a number of these cases and found no evidence of herbicide injury. Because so little is known about fallow syndrome, Bradley had an analysis conducted on several problem fields and found many of them had reduced levels of microbial populations compared to similar unaffected fields.

Manjula Nathan, director of the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory, published a two-year study in South Dakota that showed a connection between fallow syndrome and low phosphorus.

Luce says little can be done to correct fallow syndrome. To prevent it, he recommends continuing to plant soybeans late into a season. Planting cover crops in early fall helps if soybean cannot be planted. You can apply phosphorus in the spring. Banding on with the planter would be most beneficial. Some 1960s research showed yield improvement by adding phosphorus close to the row and cultivating it in. Rescue attempts are not well-documented. Knifing in additional nitrogen could possibly help also.

Prevention is the best option, Luce says. It is unlikely fallow syndrome will occur two years after the initial fallow period.

Luce recommends the following:

  • Plant soybean as late as possible. Soybean has the potential to yield well even late in the season.
  • Plant a cover crop. Grasses such as cereal rye, wheat, oats or legumes would be good choices. Turnips and radishes are not hosts to mycorrhizae.
  • Consider planting soybean after fallow syndrome. They are not as susceptible to fallow syndrome.

 University of Missouri extension has more information available. Check out:  “Stunted Corn Following Prevented Planting - Fallow Syndrome” at

More than 100 Nobel Laureates to Greenpeace: Stop blocking golden rice

Written by TF Staff on .

More than 100 Nobel Laureates from diverse disciplines are voicing their support for GMO precision agriculture and calling on leaders of Greenpeace, the United Nations and governments around the world to join them. The Laureates -- winners in fields including Medicine, Economics, Physics, Chemistry, Literature and Peace -- have all signed an open letter asking Greenpeace and others who have been blocking progress and access to beneficial plant biotechnology products, like Golden Rice, to abandon their campaigns against GMOs.

The campaign was announced on Thursday June 30th at a Washington, DC press conference by representative signers Sir Richard Roberts (1993 Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine), Professor Martin Chalfie (2008 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry) and Professor Randy Schekman (2013 Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine).  A website offers details on the Nobel Laureates’ statement, list of signers and background on the benefits and safety of GMOs.

At the Washington press conference, Laureate Sir Richard Roberts stated, “In our letter we call upon Greenpeace and like organizations to end their shameful campaign of propaganda and criminal destruction of crops improved by modern genetic technologies, such as GMOs.” Roberts, added, “We call on governments and world organizations to do everything in their power to oppose anti-GMO obstruction and to accelerate farmer access to the life-saving tools provided by modern biotechnology.”

The Laureates urged policy makers, the public and others to come together and add their names to the list of signers and asked how many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a "crime against humanity."

Saint Louis Science Center opens agriculture focused exhibit

Written by Chelsea Robinson on .

On June 18th the Saint Louis Science Center will open an interactive exhibit highlighting Missouri and Illinois agriculture. With more than an acre of land featuring 40 indoor and outdoor exhibits, "GROW: Explore the Journey of Food" lets visitors get their hands dirty while following the journey food takes from the farm to the dinner plate.

At GROW, kids can make treats for the resident chickens, race mini tractors and much more. On Saturday's the Fermentation Station will host local beer and wine tastings to teach visitors about the fermentation process. You can also enjoy pairings from their locally sourced seasonal menu. With a greenhouse, garden, and orchard GROW will change with the seasons and educate about agriculture year round.

Want to help tell the story of agriculture? The Saint Louis Science Center is looking for volunteers to help educate visitors with hands-on programs or tend to the plants and animals at GROW. For more information visit

The diminishing cash market in the livestock industry

Written by TF Staff on .

Producers and packers use three general methods to price livestock in the United States.

The most common is referred to as formula pricing—a bilateral contract between producer and packer. The contract specifies a formula that benchmarks its transaction price to either a reported livestock price from a national or area cash market, a plant-average price, or a composite wholesale price (cutout) for the animal’s meat.

This formula system dominates non-cash market settlements. Another method of pricing livestock, negotiated pricing, represents sales that are negotiated between buyer and seller at a cash market.

Forward pricing is a third and less popular pricing method—transaction prices are based on the Chicago futures market contract prices for both slaughter hogs and cattle.

Because livestock futures contracts represent expected prices at cash markets, forward prices are closely related to negotiated prices but are paid via a bilateral contract.

The share of negotiated livestock has declined rapidly over the last decade. In 2004, over 60 percent of all cattle were sold on some type of negotiated basis; by 2014, that number had dropped to about 27 percent. (The share of hogs sold on a negotiated basis between 2007 and 2014 fell from about 8.4 percent to 2.6 percent.)

Source: USDA’s report: Thinning Markets in U.S. Agriculture (

Grain rescue training grant

Written by TF Staff on .

The MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation recently donated $15,000 to the University of Missouri Extension on behalf of the University of Missouri Fire & Rescue Training Institute. The money will be used for the institute’s Grain Engulfment Rescue Training Program to provide specialized training for Missouri emergency responders to grain entrapment and engulfment emergencies.

Through this training, the first responder will learn about the hazards and issues associated with grain entrapment/engulfment emergencies, and the basic techniques to safely conduct initial rescue operations. Students will apply selected rescue techniques to safely retrieve patients from grain entrapments utilizing a mobile grain bin simulator that is part of the course. Local fire departments are the first on the scene to deal with these emergencies and need the appropriate training to safely deal with the incident.

A 2010 Purdue University study revealed that the rate of grain entrapments in 2009 increased by 22.5 percent over the previous five-year average. Other data show that 61 percent of grain bin incidents occur at rural farm facilities.

“MFA has been a significant program partner since the start by providing grain for use in the mobile simulator. This funding provided by the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation will further enable the program to be more accessible by reducing the course costs to deliver the programs throughout the state,” said David Hedrick, director of the institute.


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