Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday April 1 Ag News

Researchers Launch Two New Farm Decision Tools

A group of Purdue University researchers has led the Useful to Usable climate initiative in launching two free online tools to help farmers make crop decisions in variable weather conditions.

In addition to Purdue, U2U project partners are Iowa State University, Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, High Plains Regional Climate Center, Midwestern Regional Climate Center and the National Drought Mitigation Center.

Useful to Usable, or U2U, aims to improve profitability and longevity of U.S. farms amid a variable and changing climate. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is composed of a team of 50 faculty, staff and students from nine universities who specialize in applied climatology, crop modeling, agronomy, cyber technology, agricultural economics and other social sciences. The team is led by Linda Prokopy, Purdue associate professor of forestry and natural resources.

One of the recently launched tools, "AgClimate View," offers users access to historical climate and crop yield data for the Corn Belt, including monthly temperature and precipitation, and plots corn and soybean yield trends. It also allows users to compare climate and yield data from the past 30 years.

The second tool, "Corn Growing Degree Day," gives producers the ability to track current and historical growing degree day accumulations. Growing degree days are a measure of heat accumulation that helps farmers predict plant development rates and maturity dates.

This tool also offers information to help farmers assess spring and fall frost risk and make planting, harvest and seed-selection decisions. It integrates corn development stages with weather and climate data and allows farmers to find location-specific information.

"We're excited to announce the launch of our first of several decision-support tools," Prokopy said. "Our social science research on the front end helped our team create easy-to-use tools that make climate data accessible and useful to the agricultural community.

"We'd like to think we are demystifying climate data one user at a time and hope producers will use the information to make better decisions and ultimately increase yields with minimal environmental impact."

Both tools are designed for crop producers and agricultural advisers in the North Central region of the U.S., as well as Kentucky and Tennessee. They can be found on the U2U website at www.agclimate4u.org.

Also on the site are a number of other decision-support resources from U2U partner universities. Those resources include a corn nitrogen calculator, nitrogen watch, irrigation scheduling and a cover crop decision tool. All of these can be found by clicking on "Decision Dashboard" tab.

E15 Delayed in Iowa Senate

Iowa Democrats are pushing to pass a package of bills designed to increase the state's production of energy from solar power, wind and renewable fuels.

The wind and solar bills passed the Senate without opposition and were sent to the House, but the biofuels bill was delayed by Senate Republican leader Bill Dix, who says he wants more time to study it. The measure is estimated to cost $23 million over six years.

The bill increases the tax credit for E15 to 10 cents per gallon from June 1 through Sept. 15. During the remaining months the credit is 3 cents. The fuel must be reformulated during summer when it's more volatile, increasing distributors' costs.

Democratic Sen. Robb Hogg says it will help encourage use of E15 year around.

Reynolds to Lead Trade Mission to Thailand

Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, accompanied by Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) director and soybean farmer from Maxwell, Iowa, Grant Kimberley, Monday announced that she will lead a trade mission to Thailand to encourage the purchase of Iowa soybeans, soymeal and other Iowa-made products. The trade mission was organized by ISA. The lieutenant governor and the Iowa delegation will depart April 5 and will return April 12.

"Last year, Iowa exported $5.6 billion in oilseeds and grains, and with new markets opening up in Asia, we want to encourage those markets to buy Iowa-grown soybeans and other Iowa-made products," said Reynolds. "Thailand, with a population over 69 million, has the largest and most sophisticated soy food industry in Southeast Asia. With Iowa producing more soybeans than most countries in the world, there is tremendous potential to increase Iowa's exports."

The Iowa delegation will travel to Bangkok and Nakhon Rathasima, Thailand, for three days of meetings with industry leaders, site visits to processing facilities and feed companies, and talks directly with potential buyers. Reynolds will be accompanied by Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, and Brian Kemp, ISA president and farmer from Sibley, Iowa.

"With 95 percent of the world's consumers residing outside the United States, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I understand the importance of creating and fostering global partnerships to increase economic development and job creation in Iowa," said Branstad. "With one in five Iowa jobs depending on international trade, Lieutenant Governor Reynolds and I are committed to promoting and growing Iowa's trade reach beyond our domestic borders."

Over the past three years, the Branstad-Reynolds administration has organized and led trade missions leading to impressive economic development in the state. Since January of 2011, the Iowa Economic Development Authority has assisted foreign direct investment projects that are expected to result in the creation of nearly 1,000 jobs and over $2 billion in capital investment for Iowa.

The visit to Thailand represents an important investment in Iowa's soybean industry.

"According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture report, at more than $30 billion, Iowa ranks second nationally for the total value of ag products sold, representing both crops and livestock and exports represent an important component. These trips are truly an investment; for our farmers and our state," says Kimberley. "And we can identify the return on these investments when we see shipments of U.S. soybeans to Thailand. These didn't exist just a few years ago. ISA understands the importance of connecting with our partners by visiting their facilities and businesses overseas and also hosting these partners at our own farms."

AgriBank Pays Quarterly Preferred Stock Dividend

Today St. Paul-based AgriBank paid a quarterly cash dividend of $1.7188 per share on its 6.875 percent non-cumulative perpetual class A preferred stock to holders of record as of March 1, 2014.

AgriBank issued 2.5 million shares of preferred stock on Oct. 29, 2013 to provide the Bank and the 15-state Farm Credit District it serves with long-term access to high-quality capital, helping ensure the District is well-positioned to meet the long-term growth and credit needs of farmer and rancher customers.

AgriBank is one of the largest banks within the national Farm Credit System, with more than $85 billion in total assets. Under the Farm Credit System's cooperative structure, AgriBank is owned by 17 affiliated Farm Credit Associations. The AgriBank District covers America's Midwest, a 15-state area stretching from Wyoming to Ohio and Minnesota to Arkansas. More than half of the nation's cropland is located within the AgriBank District, providing the Bank and its Association owners with exceptional expertise in production agriculture.

U.S., South American Soybean Farmers Unite in China

Farmers representing countries that produce 90 percent of the world’s soybeans recently met with the customers who buy 25 percent of the world’s soybeans. As part of the International Soy Growers Alliance (ISGA), leaders from the soy checkoff, American Soybean Association (ASA), and the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) met with customers and government officials in China to discuss the farmers’ commitment to providing a safe and abundant supply of soybeans and the importance of eliminating trade barriers.

“China is without a doubt the largest importer of U.S. and South American soy, so it’s really powerful when we can stand side-by-side with farmers we usually consider competitors to deliver a message,” says Jared Hagert, soybean farmer from Emerado, N.D., and United Soybean Board (USB) treasurer. “Our common goal is to build on these partnerships and strengthen trade relations so we can remain the premier supplier of soy for China.”

One trade barrier that concerns soybean farmers is the approval of soybeans improved through the use of biotechnology. While in China, the ISGA delegation will highlight the importance of timely, transparent approval processes of new biotech soybeans to help keep trade moving smoothly.

“There’s really no way to overstate just how important the Chinese market is for soybean farmers, not only here in the U.S., but in South America as well,” added Ray Gaesser, ASA president and soybean farmer from Corning, Iowa. “The cooperation and coordination of our three organizations – ASA, USB and USSEC – makes our partnership with our South American counterparts possible, and the more we’re able to stand together as the world’s primary producers of soy, the stronger we can make this trading partnership and the more each of our countries stands to benefit. That’s why we’re all here, together, in interest of farmers, consumers and stakeholders in each country.”

ISGA brings together soybean farmers from South America and the United States to address common issues. Its members include Argentine, Brazilian, Paraguayan, Uruguayan and U.S. soybean farmers.

U.S. Senate Eyes Biofuel Tax Credit Extension

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee will consider reinstating tax incentives for two years for biodiesel and other advanced biofuels in a markup scheduled Thursday, April 3.

The committee, chaired by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., released a description Tuesday that includes four biofuel-related extensions of credits that expired Dec. 31, 2013, that would be retroactive to the start of this year and extended for two years.

The biofuels incentives, all of which would be extended to Dec. 31, 2015, include:
-- The incentives for biodiesel and renewable diesel, which provide a $1 per gallon tax credit.
-- The alternative fuel and alternative fuel mixtures incentive, which provides 2 cents per gallon for alternative fuels, and includes compressed or liquefied natural gas, liquefied hydrogen and liquid fuel derived from coal through the Fischer-Tropsch process.
-- The second-generation biofuel producer credit, which allows a $1.01 per gallon credit for qualified second-generation biofuel production, including cellulosic biofuel.

The Senate will also consider extending the special depreciation allowance for second-generation biofuel plant property, equal to 50% of qualified second-generation biofuel plant property. The credit applies to property placed in service after Dec. 31, 2013, and extends the incentive to Jan. 1, 2016.

NMPF Asks FDA to Rewrite Draft Animal Feed Regulation

The National Milk Producers Federation has asked the Food and Drug Administration to rewrite a draft livestock feed regulation, saying the agency went beyond the intent of Congress by seeking to impose requirements that will not make animal feed safer.

In comments sent to the agency Monday, NMPF asked FDA to substantially revise the regulation and requested the agency establish a new round of comments from industry and the public. “FDA has the authority to re-propose the regulation and still comply with (a) court-ordered deadline to publish a final rule by August 30, 2015,” NMPF said. NMPF made the request in two sets of comments, one focused on dairy plant safety and the other addressing animal feed.

The draft regulations were issued under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which gave the FDA broad new authority to regulate food. NMPF said it supports efforts to implement the 2010 law, but believes that the draft animal feed regulation goes too far, particularly because it would make it harder to use brewers’ grain as animal feed, a practice in use for hundreds of years.

Among other things, NMPF, the Washington voice of more than 32,000 dairy producers, said the draft regulation incorrectly imposes safety standards on animal feed that are similar to those for human food. The proposed regulation incorrectly establishes manufacturing standards that equate animal feed and human food. “The innate hygienic standards of humans exceed the hygienic standards of livestock,” the organization said. It asked FDA to propose manufacturing standards specific to animal feed.

The proposed regulation also unnecessarily regulates by-products from brewing when they are used in animal feed, even though there is no public health risk associated with these products.  This “will result in unnecessary increased costs to dairy producers,” NMPF said. It joined the Beer Institute and the American Malting Barley Association in requesting FDA use the existing authority in the FSMA to exempt animal feed products made during the production of alcoholic beverages.

In separate comments submitted jointly with the International Dairy Foods Association, NMPF also identified unnecessary and duplicative requirements for dairy processing plants which may divert some food production materials such as cheese trim and liquid whey to animal feed. These plants are already subject to FSMA requirements for human food production. NMPF stated the proposed standards “do not reflect the inherent differences between foods for human and animal consumption” for diverted food production materials and requested regulatory relief for these dairy processing plants.

With the substantial changes requested, NMPF asked FDA to conform the regulations with the intent of the FSMA and issue a new draft. “Given the very significant nature of these regulations, a second opportunity for stakeholders comment is essential to ensure the final rule is practical, achievable and fosters the safe production and distribution of animal feed,” NMPF said.

Great American Milk Drive Launches Wednesday

On April 2, dairy farmers (through the National Dairy Council) and milk companies (through the Milk Processor Education Program) will launch The Great American Milk Drive, which will help deliver much-desired milk to 12.5 million families who need it most across the country. The campaign, in partnership with Feeding America, is the first-ever, multi-year, nationwide program that will deliver gallons of milk to the one in six Americans who are food insecure. Through the Feeding America network of more than 200 food banks that serve thousands of local community agencies and pantries, consumers will provide milk in donations made online, via text or at retail and processor events. While MilkPEP is providing some initial matching funds, the dairy farmer-funded checkoff is not purchasing any milk -- it will be donated by consumers, helping to expand milk sales. The Great American Milk Drive effort was formed as a result of National Dairy Council’s partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Feeding America.  Midwest Dairy will co-host launch events in Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis on Wednesday. The national launch event will be held in New York City.

CWT Assists with 21.5 Million Pounds of Cheese, Butter and Whole Milk Powder Export Sales

Cooperatives Working Together (CWT) has accepted 47 requests for export assistance from Dairy Farmers of America, Foremost Farms USA, Land O’Lakes, Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, Michigan Milk Producers Association, Northwest Dairy Association (Darigold), Tillamook County Creamery Association, United Dairymen of Arizona and Upstate Niagara Cooperative (O-AT-KA) to sell 7.037 million pounds (3,192 metric tons) of Cheddar, Gouda and Monterey Jack cheeses, 13.928 million pounds (6.318 metric tons) of 82% butter and 485,017 pounds (220 metric tons) of whole milk powder to customers in Asia, Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the South Pacific. The product will be delivered April through September 2014.

Year-to-date, CWT has assisted member cooperatives in selling 36.337 million pounds of cheese, 29.423 million pounds of butter and 3.366 million pounds of whole milk powder to 27 countries on five continents. These sales are the equivalent of 997.8 million pounds of milk on a milkfat basis.

In the long term, assisting CWT members through the Export Assistance program helps member cooperatives gain and maintain market share, thus expanding the demand for U.S. dairy products and the U.S. farm milk that produces them in the rapidly growing world dairy markets. This, in turn, positively impacts U.S. dairy farmers by strengthening and maintaining the value of dairy products that directly impact their milk price.

Fertilizers Higher Once Again

DAP and MAP led retail price increases for all fertilizers, according to retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the fourth week of March. This marks the sixth straight week all fertilizers have been higher.  Both DAP and MAP were up 6% compared to the previous month. DAP had an average price of $573/ton while MAP is at $595/ton.  The remaining six fertilizers' prices were higher but the shift higher was fairly minor. Potash had an average price of $474/ton, urea $542/ton, 10-34-0 $514/ton, anhydrous $633/ton, UAN28 $349/ton and UAN32 $393/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.59/lb.N, anhydrous $0.39/lb.N, UAN28 $0.62/lb.N and UAN32 $0.61/lb.N.

Fertilizers have been moving higher in recent months, but six of the eight major fertilizers remain double digits lower in price compared to March 2013.  Urea is now down 5%, DAP is 7% less expensive and MAP is 10% lower. UAN32 is 11% lower, UAN28 is 14% less expensive while 10-34-0 is down 16%. Potash is 20% less expensive while anhydrous is 27% lower than a year earlier.

USDA Announces Commodity Credit Corporation Lending Rates for April 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) today announced interest rates for April 2014. The CCC borrowing rate-based charge for April is 0.125 percent, unchanged from 0.125 percent in March.

The interest rate for crop year commodity loans less than one year disbursed during April is 1.125 percent, unchanged from 1.125 percent in March.

Interest rates for Farm Storage Facility Loans approved for April are as follows, 2.125 percent with seven-year loan terms, unchanged from 2.125 percent in March; 2.750 percent with 10-year loan terms, unchanged from 2.750 percent in March and; 2.875 percent with 12-year loan terms, unchanged from 2.875 percent in March.

Controversial tractor campaign takes ‘tough love’ approach with children

Controversial and blunt, the Childhood Agricultural Safety Network’s “Keep Kids Away from Tractors” campaign has rattled traditional thinking.

Stating that it is never okay for a child younger than 12 years to be on a tractor, the campaign takes a “tough love” approach. The earliest a child should be on a tractor is when he or she is old enough to take and pass tractor safety educational classes, according to the network.

The campaign may be unpopular or even upset parents and farm owners. Riding a tractor with parents, or grandparents, is considered a childhood tradition in many rural areas. Some adults consider this “quality time” with the child. During the past year, however, a number of fatal, high-profile incidents underscored the danger of allowing children -- some just toddlers -- to ride on a lap, sit on a fender, or stand on the axle. In an eye-blink a child can fall in the path of a tire, mower or other implement. Some of the fatalities occurred despite cabs.

The Childhood Agricultural Safety Network is a coalition of 38 health, safety and youth organizations who advocate for child safety on the farm. The network urges individuals and groups to incorporate its resources in their safety initiatives. An archived webinar, posters, radio ads and more information can be found at www.childagsafety.org.

The message may be controversial and blunt, but the lives it saves will be worth it. Remember -- “It’s easier to bury a tradition than a child.”

American Ethanol to Plant Trees and Put a Little More Green in Spring

During the month of April, the National Corn Growers Association will join NASCAR® in kicking off its second year of the NASCAR Race to Green Campaign. The campaign is intended to highlight the environmental accomplishments of green programs put in place by NASCAR and its partners like American Ethanol.

The goal of NASCAR Race to Green is to highlight the accomplishments of NASCAR Green™ programs like the move three years ago to Sunoco Green E15, a fuel blended with 15 percent American Ethanol, and its massive tree planting initiative to help reduce the sport's carbon footprint.

"American Ethanol is a key part of NASCAR's efforts to reduce the sport's carbon footprint," said Jon Holzfaster, a Paxton, Neb., farmer and chairman of NCGA's NASCAR Advisory Committee.  "These high-performance cars have put more than five million tough competition miles on E15 in the last three years, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. Combine this with the massive tree planting effort underway, and the results are phenomenal."

American Ethanol, which is supported by corn checkoff investments and ethanol plant members of Growth Energy, has committed to plant 50 trees for every American Ethanol Green Flag waved during NASCAR's national series races in the month of April.

In 2013, the 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced in the United States reduced greenhouse gas emission on our roads and highways by 38 million metric tons.

"That's equivalent to removing eight million cars from the road." Holzfaster said. "Through the course of one mature tree's lifetime, it absorbs one metric ton of carbon dioxide -the same amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ car driving 500 miles. American Ethanol and trees offer a great one-two punch for the environment."

NASCAR Green, the largest sustainability effort in professional sports, includes everything from recycling of racing tires and engine oil to cleaning up the emissions by using 15 percent ethanol fuel blend, made from American grown corn. The model environmental program, which includes American Ethanol, will be featured in a nationally televised commercial that will break on Sunday, April 6th during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series broadcast. The race from Texas Motor Speedway begins at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on FOX.

To date, NASCAR Green Clean Air Tree Planting Program Delivered by UPS™ has planted 188,000 trees. This is enough to completely offset carbon emissions for all three NASCAR national racing series for the past five years of NASCAR Green, plus the next 18 years.

As an environmental leader, NASCAR is taking its commitment to the next level by using American Ethanol and introducing impactful initiatives in recycling, alternative energy and carbon mitigation.

NASCAR Green has championed the adoption and implementation of sustainability practices across the sport. Since 2008 NASCAR and its stakeholders have:
- Recycled more than 20 million bottles and cans
- Recycled 600,000 race tires
- Recycled more than 200,000 gallons of automotive engine oil which is enough to power the Empire State Building for one year.
- Installed the world's largest renewable energy project to-power a sports facility. The solar array at Pocono Raceway represents an energy savings equivalent to more than 806,000 gallons of gasoline.

The NASCAR Race to Green program will run until April 25. To learn more about American Ethanol and NASCAR Race to Green log on to www.AmericanEthanol.org or http://green.nascar.com/.

Make reproductive health top priority this spring

The spring calf crop is a natural focus for beef producers this time of year, but the most important thing a producer can do to maintain productivity and help improve profitability potential is to keep reproductive health of the cow herd top of mind.

“Reproduction is the top performance tool that producers can use to impact their bottom line,” explained Richard Linhart, DVM, DACT, managing veterinarian for Zoetis. “Cow/calf producers can impact their herd’s reproductive success fairly easily through proper management, good nutrition and by making sound animal health decisions”

Reproductive diseases are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to visibly diagnose since they rarely cause clinical symptoms. However, no producer wants to learn of the problem with a late-term abortion, by not having cows calving when we expect or potentially not calving at all next season.

“Diseases such as bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), vibriosis or leptospirosis may be to blame, and are best diagnosed by a veterinarian,” Dr. Linhart continued. “The losses from reproductive disease can be devastating to producers.”

In fact, a study showed that when all reproductive diseases and conditions are considered — including infertility, abortions or stillbirths, dystocia, retained placentas, and metritis or pyometra — cow/calf producers can see an annual loss of $13.10 to $14.90 per cow.1 And that doesn’t factor in reduced efficiencies and losses from unvaccinated animals.

“Developing and updating a reproductive vaccination program that helps ensure a productive and efficient cow herd can be a seamless process when utilizing the technical expertise of a veterinarian.” Dr. Linhart said. “Veterinarians can be a great asset in helping producers understand current disease challenges in certain geographies and how to help prevent those diseases.”

Achieving optimal reproductive health for your cows doesn’t stop with implementing a comprehensive vaccination program. With their reproductive health at risk, Dr. Linhart encourages producers to:

    Take a hard look at day-to-day management practices such as nutrition and bull fertility. Maintaining an adequate nutrition program that includes protein and minerals to maintain body condition will help ensure cows are ready to conceive this summer. Breeding soundness exams will help ensure the bulls are ready, too.

    Look for vaccines that help protect against viruses and bacteria that can cause poor reproductive performance, including IBR virus, BVD Types 1 and 2 viruses, Campylobacter fetus (vibrio) and Lepto hardjo-bovis.

    Examine fetal loss between pregnancy checks and calving to determine reproductive issues that may exist in a herd. Fetal losses of over 2-3% may be indicative of a reproductive disease. Recognize that it is not just about how much the calves weigh at weaning. It is equally important to consider the number of cows that deliver and raise those healthy calves.

The Zoetis portfolio of reproductive vaccines offers producers the flexibility to choose a reproductive vaccination program that best fits their operation and helps reduce the risk of reproductive problems. The portfolio includes BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP®*, PREGGUARD GOLD FP* and CATTLEMASTER® GOLD vaccines lines. Modified-live virus (MLV) vaccines, such as BOVI-SHIELD GOLD FP and PREGGUARD GOLD FP, help give cattle effective protection and, can be used in pregnant cows provided they are vaccinated according to label directions.

“Producers can help minimize losses from reproductive diseases with MLV vaccines because they help provide a long lasting demonstrated protection when compared to killed IBR and BVD vaccines,” Dr. Linhart said. “Reproductive diseases such as BVD can hurt productivity and can cause significant losses in a herd — and MLV vaccines help protect cows from the reproductive impacts of the BVD virus.”

With cattle prices reaching all-time highs, it’s more important than ever for cow/calf producers to be proactive about their reproductive vaccination programs and make sure a healthy, productive calf hits the ground next spring.

Dow AgroSciences Receives EPA Registration for Seeker™ Insecticide

Dow AgroSciences announces that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved federal registration for Seeker™ insecticide with Isoclast™ active. Seeker provides effective, long-lasting control of troublesome insects such as aphids, beetles and weevils. Seeker is powered by two modes of action that enhance pest control by moving up into new plant growth and throughout the canopy. This provides quick knockdown of targeted pests with the benefit of extended residual control.

“In University trials, Seeker has demonstrated superb control of key pests in Midwest crops,” says Phil Jost, portfolio market leader for Dow AgroSciences. “Seeker is a reliable insecticide that can work effectively across multiple crops. It will address a wide variety of insect problems across crops with the convenience of one product.”

Seeker™ will be available for use in soybeans, wheat, and canola for the 2014 growing season. Additional crops are anticipated for the future.

Seeker provides insect control through both contact and ingestion activity, and maintains its effectiveness after rainfall or irrigation due to excellent rainfastness. Seeker also does not flare other secondary pests.

In addition, Seeker will offer tank-mix compatibility with nutrients, adjuvants and other pesticides, including fungicides.  A planned approach of mixing the insecticide with an effective fungicide can help control both insects and diseases with a single application.

“We are extremely excited to bring Seeker to the Midwest market,”  Jost says. “It is products like Seeker that have made Dow AgroSciences the leader in foliar insecticides.”

Isoclast™ active designates that Seeker contains sulfoxaflor as one of its active ingredients.  Isoclast belongs to a novel chemical class called sulfoximines, discovered by Dow AgroSciences, and offers extremely effective control of many important sap-feeding pests and can be used in a large number of major crops.

Initiative Aids in Development of Barley Varieties with Improved Scab Resistance

         Like wheat, barley production faces threats from a myriad of diseases – one of the most important being Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), or scab.  Since the early 1990s, scab has inflicted billions of dollars in damages to U.S. wheat and barley crops by causing lower yields and test weights and by triggering formation of a mycotoxin known as DON.  Above a certain level, DON can make barley unhealthy for direct human or animal consumption and likewise can make it unsuitable for malting and brewing purposes.

         That’s why barley has been part and parcel of the U.S. Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative (USWBSI) since the group’s establishment in the latter 1990s.  Through funding support and information exchange venues, the USWBSI provides substantial assistance to barley researchers as they combat scab via the development of cultivars with higher levels of resistance to this disease.

         While there are, as yet, no barley varieties that can be considered “highly resistant” to scab, progress definitely has been – and is being – made.  In 2010, for instance, the University of Minnesota released a new six-rowed barley variety called “Quest,” which is significantly more resistant to scab and DON accumulation, compared to most other Upper Midwest barley varieties.  And North Dakota State University has released a two-rowed malting barley variety, “Conlon,” that accumulates less DON than any other currently malting-approved variety.

         University of Minnesota barley breeder Kevin Smith says one of his program’s main priorities is to develop and test methods that improve the efficiency of breeding barley with lower DON, high yield and acceptable malting quality.  His work is intertwined with research conducted by other scientists in the U.S. Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative, such as UM cereal plant pathologist Brian Steffenson and UM molecular geneticist Gary Muehlbauer, as well as North Dakota State University barley breeder Richard Horsley.

         All four of these scientists emphasize that the financial support provided by the U.S. Wheat & Barley Scab Initiative has been integral to the progress made by their respective programs in the development of enhanced scab resistance.  “We have invested a lot of resources into FHB/DON breeding because this is an important disease in our region,” Smith states.

         NDSU’s Horsley says that a key challenge when developing a malting barley variety with improved FHB resistance is “making sure that the variety also has agronomics acceptable to the producer and the malt quality acceptable to the maltster.”  Much of the resistance used by the NDSU and Minnesota breeding programs originates from Chinese sources of resistance that are agronomically unsuitable for the Upper Midwest.  That reality can add several years to the already-long process of developing a new malting barley variety acceptable for release to producers.

         “Finding the potential variety that has improved FHB resistance – and acceptable agronomic performance and malt quality – is a ‘numbers game,’ ” Horsley observes.  “To identify variety candidates, we had to increase the size of our breeding program, which would have been extremely difficult without the USWBSI funding.” 

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