June July 2017 Today's Farmer articles

Written by webadmin on .

The June/July Issue hit mailboxes last week. The stories will soon be available here online and linked below. Subscriptions to Today's Farmer magazine are available HERE.


Coming of age (Cover Feature)
Hemme brothers craft their farm’s future with artisan cheese
by Allison Jenkins

A drive against hunger
Sawyer Brown concert at Missouri State Fair will benefit food-insecure families
by Jason Worthington

Under surveillance
Vigilant scouting helps detect, identify soybean disease for timely treatments
by Jason Worthington

Propane proponents
Farmers power up with rural America’s energy source
by Nancy Jorgensen

Finding a cure
Doctor’s search for answers leads to greener pastures with Nutri-Track
by Kerri Lotven

Making it personal
Customer care helps Shelbina MFA Agri Services strengthen loyalty, grow business
by Allison Jenkins

Spring flooding raises crop concerns
MFA agronomists share advice on putting fields back on track
by Allison Jenkins

Turning down the heat
Simple strategies can improve cattle 
performance this summer
by Dr. Jim White

Pay close attention to 
Timing, conditions, product selection are keys to successful crop protection
by Dr. Jason Weirich

Purple Power
MFA Health Track program adds ABS program
-TF Staff

New Federal Leadership with a different perspective
by Ernie Verslues, MFA President and CEO.


Upfront/Blog articles


June July Winning Recipes as printed / NEW TF FOOD PAGE



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Dilution is the solution

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

Graduate Student project identifies effective sprayer cleanout procedures

While new agronomic traits such as dicamba-tolerant soybeans bring benefits to growers, they also bring new challenges in judicious care.

One such challenge is making sure that sprayers used to apply dicamba to tolerant crops can also be used on other fields without causing damage to nontolerant plants. With that concern in mind, Jason Weirich, MFA Incorporated director of agronomy, teamed up with University of Missouri’s Reid Smeda, professor of weed science, and graduate student Andy Luke to determine the most effective procedure for cleaning out sprayer tanks between applications.

“With MFA’s footprint, we have several hundred sprayers covering over a million acres across our geography,” Weirich said. “Just a small amount of dicamba left in the tank can cause damage to nontolerant crops. We needed assurance we were doing proper tank cleanout procedures for our custom application rigs.”

The two-year project confirmed that the commonly recommended practice of triple-rinsing a sprayer is critical and that using a commercial cleaning agent such as Cleanse or Erase resulted in the least amount of dicamba left in the tank.

“Based on the data, we approve of this procedure: After spraying, rinse with water and a commercial cleaner, properly circulate it through the system and let it sit one hour,” Smeda said. “Then perform two additional rinses with water. If you do this, we believe you have a sprayer that’s been properly prepared to go spray other fields. What we’ve been saying is that ‘dilution is the solution’ to avoiding potential problems.”

Weirich said this recommendation will now be standard procedure for MFA.

“I’m happy with the results of the study, although I was hoping for an easier process,” he said. “The main thing is that we are doing a good thing for our customers.”


RELATED TOPIC STORY - DR. WEIRICH TALKS ATTENTION TO DETAILS - http://todaysfarmermagazine.com/mag/crops/1322-pay-close-attention-to-applications

Spring flooding raises crop concerns

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

A slow-moving storm system brought more than 9 inches of rain to parts of the Midwest the weekend of April 29-30, sending rivers out of their banks, flooding communities, closing roads and submerging crop fields, many planted with young corn and soybeans and developing wheat.

Some rivers measured crests that topped previous records standing for over 100 years, and at one point, Missouri had more than 300 roads closed across the state, including two major interstates.

As waters receded, farmers, government officials and MFA agronomists began evaluating the impact on agriculture in these flood-impacted areas. In Missouri, damage was still being estimated at press time, but in neighboring Arkansas, preliminary reports estimated soybean losses at 83,200 acres, corn at 47,900 acres and cotton at 9,300 acres. Rice was hardest-hit with 156,000 planted acres potentially lost.

As the growing season progresses, MFA Incorporated’s agronomy team says nitrogen loss in corn fields is among top concerns for crops that survived the excessive saturation and flooding. Denitrification, a biological process that converts nitrate to gaseous forms of nitrogen that are lost to the atmosphere, can occur in soils that become waterlogged.

“Be honest about how long your soil was under water,” MFA Director of Agronomy Jason Weirich said. “If it was saturated for three days or more—and there aren’t many fields around here that weren’t—you could’ve lost up to half your nitrogen to denitrification, especially if you didn’t use a nitrogen stabilizer.”

Nitrogen losses can be corrected with a topdress or sidedress application all the way until tasseling, MFA Senior Agronomist Jason Worthington said, but the earlier the better.

“It may not be real apparent until the V8 growth stage. That’s when corn starts to take in a lot more nitrogen and when it’s going to show up hungry,” Worthington said. “Small corn won’t show those symptoms of hunger.”

While potassium and phosphorus are stable unless the field was severely eroded by floodwaters, sulfur is also subject to loss in saturated fields. Worthington encourages growers to add sulfur with nitrogen applications to correct potential deficiencies.

“Sulfur is a very mobile nutrient as well,” he explained. “It’s not always lost in the same way as nitrogen, but it is still vulnerable in the presence of excess moisture.”

On fields that were flooded, evaluating the weed control program is also important, Weirich pointed out.

“If you had a prolonged period of water on the field, herbicide effectiveness and residual control may be compromised,” he said.

Weirich and Worthington advise growers to make honest appraisals of their crops as soon as possible. If there are concerns, call on your MFA experts for advice on what products and practices can put the fields back on track for a productive season.

“If you haven’t already decided to do something to address potential losses, get someone who knows what they’re looking for in the field,” Worthington said. “A good trained scout can pick up symptoms of nitrogen deficiency, and we have tools that can give us insight even when the plant isn’t showing visible symptoms. It’s a lot more expensive not to add nitrogen than the actual cost of applying it in a year like this.”

Related Article: Dilution is the solution

Making it personal

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

It’s the 18th of the month, and Kelley McNamar is sticking close to the store at MFA Agri Services in Shelbina, Mo.

Accounts are due today, and many customers come in to pay them in person. As location manager, McNamar makes a concerted effort to thank those patrons face to face.

“My schedule doesn’t always allow it, but I love to be here that day,” McNamar said. “They give us their business, and it’s the least I can do to be here to let them know we appreciate it.”

Customer care is a hallmark throughout the Shelbina operation, which encompasses a retail store, granary and fertilizer plant in Shelby County. The location is part of a network of six MFA Agri Services centers in northeast Missouri, joining facilities in Kirksville, Lancaster, LaPlata, Macon and New Cambria.

The personal touch of McNamar and her staff of 10 extends to the farm. They regularly conduct on-site visits to make recommendations on crop and livestock management and otherwise go above and beyond to serve their customers. It’s just “part of the job,” said McNamar, a 14-year veteran of the MFA system who came on board as Shelbina’s manager in December 2013.

“It’s important to have a personal relationship with our customers. After all, their farms are very personal to them,” she said. “It’s hard to determine what would best fit their operation unless you go look. We solve problems for them, and that earns their trust and builds relationships that last a lifetime.”

Serving a mixed customer base that includes row-crop growers, beef producers and diversified farmers, Shelbina is a full-service operation. The retail store features a showroom and warehouse stocked with feed, seed, animal health products and a wide range of farm supply items. Wheat and soybean seed is also treated on site. The adjacent grain elevator has a 500,000-bushel capacity to buy corn, soybeans and wheat.

The bulk fertilizer plant, located a few miles down the road, offers dry fertilizer, anhydrous ammonia and a full range of crop protection products along with custom application services, including a new variable-rate fertilizer spreader added last year.

“We’re slowly working into more precision ag services,” said Trey Neill, Shelbina’s assistant manager. “It’s a small part of our business now, but it’s growing more and more every day. Farmers are feeling the pressure to put the nutrients where they’re needed, and we’re ready to help them when they get there.”

While row-crop business is big for the Shelbina operation, feed has taken the largest leaps since McNamar became manager.

“We used to sell 400 tons a year, and we’ve built that up to about 1,800 tons over the last three years,” she said. “Now, we sell almost as many tons of feed as we do dry fertilizer.”

She credits quality products, expert advice and strategic salesmanship with that increase. She also described MFA Incorporated Director of Nutrition Dr. Jim White as the cooperative’s “ace in the hole.”

“We call him regularly, and he’s a tremendous help,” McNamar said. “For our customers, it’s an added perk to be able to say we have our own nutritionist right on the line.”

With support from Dr. White and other MFA feed personnel, McNamar said she and her team work closely with livestock producers to plan nutritional programs based on the concept that “cost per ton of feed is not as important as cost per pound of gain.”

“No one’s feed performs like ours does, and performance determines profitability,” McNamar said. “Take Shield Technology, for example. No other company has that, and it’s amazing. Someone else may have a better price, but I guarantee their products won’t perform like ours. It’s an easy sell when you have the best of what there is to offer.”

Beyond products and services, McNamar pinpointed people as Shelbina’s greatest strengths.

“We have a really good bunch of customers. That’s one of the reasons I came here,” she said. “And our employees—where would we be without them? Everyone here adds value to our operation. In fact, one of our employees, Jim Thompson, has been here for more than 44 years! Everything doesn’t always go wonderful every day, but we work together to make sure we get the job done. We all wear a lot of hats, and no one is above doing one thing or another.”

“Getting the job done” often means long hours and extraordinary measures, especially during spring planting and fall harvest, but Neill said that’s all in a day’s work for employees at Shelbina Agri Services.

“Growing up on the farm, I learned as a kid that you work when it was time to work,” said Neill, who began his MFA career as an intern in the spring of 2014 and was hired that December as assistant manager. “That’s how we operate here. It’s not an 8-to-5 job. You’ve got to be there when it’s time to farm. Our customers know they can call us anytime, and we’ll go out of our way to help them.”

Finding a cure

Written by Kerri Lotven on .

When Dr. David Black first contacted MFA Precision Specialist Jason Sutterby in 2013, the orthopedic surgeon and part-time cattleman was looking for a second opinion.

Black wanted to increase his herd numbers on the 2,000-acre farm in Arcadia, Kan., where he and his wife, Cindy, raise beef cattle as a part-time venture. After three consecutive years of drought, however, their pastures were struggling to support the 200 cows they had.

A pasture management expert from Kansas State University had visited the farm for a consultation, but Black didn’t like the diagnosis. In one particular pasture they observed, the university representative told Black that the 160-acre tract would support no more than 40 cows without improving the quality of the forage. The same problem persisted across most of the farm.

“I wasn’t thrilled about what they told me about my grasses,” Black said. “I didn’t think it would be very productive to continue doing what I was doing, so I reached out to MFA. About four years ago, we started on the Nutri-Track program. Since then, we’ve more than doubled the carrying capacity on most of my pastures.”

Black recalled that one of his patients had told him about MFA’s Nutri-Track program, which focuses on a precision approach to field fertility. Soil is grid-sampled and tested every four years to provide a baseline for nutrient levels. From the soil sampling results, MFA’s precision agronomy staff works with growers to build fertility recommendations based on their goals.

“What the Nutri-Track program really allows us to do is add fertility where it’s needed,” Sutterby said. “We’re not blanket-spreading fertilizer anymore. We’re applying fertilizer to the areas that need it, and we’re not applying fertilizer to those areas that don’t.”

Black said that variable-rate method is what initially appealed to him. For years, he’d applied the same amount of fertilizer and lime to all of his pasture ground.  

“The attraction for me was to be more cost-effective in the fertilizer I use,” said Black, who divides his time between the farm in Arcadia and his orthopedic practice in Joplin, Mo. “With this program, you’re able to put the fertilizer where it needs to be. I’m able to carry more cattle on the same piece of land and get more use out of the property I own.”

Black splits his fertilizer applications between the fall and spring. In the fall, he applies MFA’s recommendation of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) for root development and drought resistance along with a small amount of nitrogen “to get a little bit of a bump in the grass in September/October to carry into later in the fall and early winter,” Black said. He applies the remaining nitrogen in the spring, typically 50 units on most of his acreage.

“If he’s got a place that he really wants to push, then we’ll increase that amount,” Sutterby added. “One of the unsaid benefits of the Nutri-Track program is that opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with the producer several times a year about how things are going, where they want to go in the future and how you can help get them there.”

Sutterby said he’ll never tell a producer they’re going to use less fertilizer with Nutri-Track but rather redistribute the fertilizer they’re going to use. Nutrient concentration in pastures tends to occur around feeding sites and ponds where cattle congregate, leaving other areas relatively deficient, he explained.

Where growers may see cost savings, however, is in lime application, Sutterby said. Black’s farm is a good example.

“On a little over 1,000 acres of pasture, it only called for 550 tons of lime,” Sutterby said. “So, if he had blanket-applied two tons per acre like we’ve done for decades, he would have applied another 1,500 tons of lime, which is a huge unnecessary expense. What we’ve seen here is similar to what we’ve seen across MFA’s trade territory. About 80 percent of the time, we’ll save enough in lime to pay for the Nutri-Track program.”

While Black’s fall P and K applications are fairly consistent from year to year, he does use Mosaic’s MicroEssentials SZ as a phosphate source over the more traditional diammonium phosphate (DAP). MicroEssentials SZ is a nutrient granule that contains phosphorus in addition to nitrogen, sulphur and zinc.

“We’ve tried to push a lot of our grass customers over to the MicroEssentials SZ product for several reasons,” Sutterby said. “Grass needs sulphur, and this allows us to provide it in two forms—the available sulphate form and elemental sulphur, so you get a short- and long-term source. We also get some zinc, another micronutrient essential to grass production. With the granular format, sulphur and zinc are available in every granule, which allows that phosphate to be more available to the plant.”

Sutterby said he knows premium products like MicroEssentials SZ come with a premium price tag, but he believes it’s a better bang for the buck.

“I feel like it’s a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to take care of the land and the growers I work with,” Sutterby said. “They’re entrusting me to make decisions that are going to affect their bottom line, so I always try to make those decisions with their ultimate benefit in mind.”  

Sutterby said he’s seen tremendous success with Nutri-Track since he started with MFA five years ago.

“Since 2012, between my two locations [Hepler and Moran, Kan.] we’ve gone from 2,000 or 3,000 acres to over 90,000 acres now,” he said. “Increasing production, increasing carrying capacity, increasing grass health and ultimately trying to help producers make more money—those are the basics of our program.”

With his pastures, hay and alfalfa fields, Black has a little more than 1,100 acres enrolled in Nutri-Track. He says the program has worked well, and he’s happy with the results. He recently sold 600 bales of hay because he has more than he can feed.

“The hay just gets better and better. We quality-test our hay, and it’s outstanding.” Black said. “We gave the guys that bought our hay all of our test sheets, and they were pretty amazed.”

He also has increased his herd from 200 cows four years ago to almost 350 now.

“We have more and more cattle, and they have lots to eat,” Black said. “We could push it further if we wanted, but with this being my second job, the question becomes, ‘How hard do I want to work?’ But, we have plenty of grass—plenty of good grass.”

For more information on Nutri-Track, contact your MFA Agri Services or AGChoice and ask for the precision specialist in your area or visit online at http://mfa.ag/nutri-track


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