Centennial celebrations for MFA cooperatives

October is Co-op Month, celebrated nationwide to spotlight the many ways coop­eratives create shared prosperity for their members and communities. MFA was organized as a cooperative in 1914 by a visionary group of farmers who recognized the benefit of working together to leverage buying power and their collective voices. MFA continues to operate un­der that business model today, with an extensive network of company-owned retail facilities and local affiliate co-ops serving some 45,000 farmer-owners in Missouri and surrounding states.

Co-op Month is the perfect time to congratulate MFA’s local cooperative affiliates for reach­ing milestone anniversaries. Six are celebrating 100 years of service in 2020:

  • Cooperative Association No. 86, Aurora, Mo., incorporated Oct. 15, 1920
  • Farmers Exchange, Bolivar, Mo., incorporated March 19, 1920
  • Dallas County Farmers Exchange No. 177, Buffalo, Mo., incorporated Dec. 21, 1920
  • Farmers Producers Exchange No. 139, Lebanon, Mo., incorporated July 24, 1920
  • Producer Exchange No. 84, Lincoln, Mo., incorporated May 15, 1920
  • Lohman Producers Exchange, Lohman, Mo., incorporated Sept. 14, 1920
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Dr. Deanna Smith is CropLife Ambassador of the Year

The Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) has named Dr. Deanna Smith, MFA Crop Protection marketing specialist, as Ambassador of the Year. She received her award during MACA’s virtual annual meeting Sept. 8-10.

The Ambassador of the Year Award was first presented in 1993. It is designed to recognize an ambassador for his or her efforts in promoting the crop protection industry through presentations to students or consumers. Smith shares the award this year with Bayer’s Brian “Mac” McDaniel, who was named a co-recipient.

Smith said she developed a love for agriculture in high school FFA, prompting her to further her education in the field. She attended the University of Missouri, where she earned a bache­lor of science in plant genetics, master of science in agriculture education and doctor of philosophy in plant science.

In 2015, she joined MFA Incorporated in the Crop Protection Division. She became a member of the CropLife Ambassador Network in 2017 and was elected to the MACA board of directors at its recent annual meeting. As an ambassador, Smith has made 22 presentations to nearly 650 students, reaching 353 students during the 2019-2020 school year alone.

“One day in St. Louis, I made the same presentation seven times to kindergartners,” Smith said. “I love the opportunity to explain the importance of agriculture.”

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Crop residue decisions affect soil life

In some ways, farming is like cooking. Cooking would be much easier if we could leave the kitchen after eating and not come back until we make the next meal. But someone needs to put away the leftovers, do the dishes and clean up the table.

Similarly, there’s work to do in farm fields after harvest and before planting the next spring, especially when it comes to the crop residue left behind.

No-till and prescribed fire are two potential ways to manage crop residue. Both practices help keep organic matter and nitrogen in the soil. However, research was needed to understand how these two practices can affect long-term soil health.

Lisa Fultz, researcher at Louisiana State University’s AgCenter, and her team want to help farmers deter­mine the best way to manage their residue between growing seasons. To do this, they decided to learn more about how no-till and prescribed fire manage­ment affect nutrients and microbes in the soil. The AgCenter team focused their research on wheat and soybean rotations and continuous corn production systems.

“Common practices, like conventional tillage, are highly disruptive to the soil,” Fultz said. “The need to identify viable conservation practices is growing in importance.”

Both no-till and prescribed fire cause minimal phys­ical disturbance to the soil, but they also come with drawbacks. No-till can create poor conditions for crop growth, such as cooler soil temperatures and increased moisture, which promote disease. Burning off the previous crop debris with controlled fire can leave bare soil vulnerable to erosion.

Crop residue and its degradation by soil microbes is an important part of the carbon cycle. Plants store carbon during the growing season, then microbes use the plant residue for food. The carbon then gets stored in the soil in a chemically stable form.

“Fresh, green material in no-till fields is easy to break down and provides rich nutrients for soil microbes,” Fultz said. “Ash from burned residue is more chemically stable, but it doesn’t provide a nutrient source for microbes.”

The team found that impacts from crop management practices, such as crop rotation or fertil­ization, outweighed the influence of prescribed fire for residue management. Researchers found some decreases in microbial activity after yearly prescribed burns.

Findings show prescribed fire had some possible short-term benefits for soil nutrient availabil­ity, but timing is crucial. Prescribed burning of wheat residue provided an increase of nitrogen for about seven days. These benefits should be weighed against other possible impacts, such as carbon dioxide production and crop yield.

“We still need to learn the long-term influence of prescribed fire on the soil biological com­munity,” Fultz said. “While short-term impacts were measured, the long-term influence on soil nutrients, biological cycles and soil health are not known.”

No two farm management systems are the same, and their success is defined by the user. Scien­tists continue to examine possible scenarios to provide accurate and sustainable recommendations to farmers.

“I have always been interested in soil conservation and its potential to impact many facets of life,” Fultz said. “By improving soil health, we can improve air and water quality, store carbon, and provide stable resources for food production.”

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