Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday November 28 Ag News

AFAN unveils new livestock development projects

The unveiling of two special livestock development projects and an address by Governor Pete Ricketts were among the highlights of the joint annual stakeholders meeting of the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (AFAN) and We Support Agriculture (WSA).

AFAN Executive Director Kristen Hassebrook introduced a new Producer Empowerment Initiative, which will provide producers with the knowledge and tools to work through the process of starting or expanding a livestock operation.  She says one section of the training is called “Community Conversations”.

“Community Conversations is focused on getting them prepared and giving them the right resources to talk with their neighbors, solicit buy-in from community members, and really get that grassroots support going at the community level for their existing operation or their expanding operation,” Hassebrook said.

The other section of the training is called “Know Before You Build”.  “This part focuses on the things that they need to go through the zoning permit application and to talk about manure management and how they’re going to manage those nutrients on their farm,” she said.

Producer Empowerment workshops will be held in key locations across the state starting in January.
AFAN has also created new livestock improvement videos. Livestock Development Coordinator Emily Skillet said they feature many aspects of modern livestock production.

“Contract feeding, bringing the next generation to the farm, expansion and technology,” Skillet said. “But we didn’t want to stop there. Livestock and industry-related development is only successful when the communities embrace them.  So we set out to highlight the benefits of collaboration with communities.

Skillet says the new videos will be part of a strategic recruitment and grassroots support campaign, which will also feature radio and social media messages on livestock development.

In his remarks, Governor Ricketts said that his administration continues to look for opportunities to expand livestock agriculture in Nebraska.

“By making sure we continue to promote trade and promote our products around the world—and by making sure we have an environment that is livestock friendly and working collaboratively to put infrastructure in place to be able to grow animal agriculture,” Ricketts said. “If we’re going to grow Nebraska, we have to grow agriculture.”

The meeting concluded with the recognition of Kurt and Wayne Kaup, (K&W Farms) of Stuart, Nebraska, winners of the 2017 Nebraska Leopold Conservation Award. The award is sponsored by the Sand County Foundation.

The annual meeting of AFAN and WSA was sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board and the Nebraska Corn Board.

Test Before Feeding Corn Stalk Bales

Larrry Howard, NE Extension - Cuming County

Baled corn stalks are going to provide a lot of feed this winter.   But before you feed those bales, find out what they have to offer nutritionally.   Sample and test your bales as soon as possible so when snow gets deep or other feeds run out you will already know how to best feed your corn stalk bales.

Begin by testing the bales for protein and energy.   Many might be surprised at how variable the protein and energy content can be in corn stalk bales.    Protein can be as low as 3 percent and as high as 7 percent.   Dry pregnant cows need 7 to 8 percent protein in their diet so high protein bales will need only a little protein to adequately care for the cows.   But those 3 percent bales will need quite a bit of supplement to keep cows in good condition.

Use a protein supplement that is nearly all natural and is mostly rumen degradable.   Maintenance-level forage diets need degradable protein for the rumen microbes, but remember that urea and other non-protein nitrogen sources aren’t used as well.

Many bales have pretty good TDN levels, nearly 60 percent.   Cows fed these bales should do well up until calving with just corn stalk bales and adequate protein supplement.   However, stalks rained on before baling can be below 50 percent TDN.   Cows fed these lower quality bales will need some extra energy, too.

If your bales came from stressed stalks, like from drought or hail, also get a nitrate test to be sure they are safe.  Good testing of corn stalk bales can help make them a nutritious and safe feed.


The 2017 Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo will assist soybean producers in planning for growing season. The expo is 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Dec. 14 in the pavilion at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo.

The expo opens with coffee, doughnuts and the opportunity to view equipment and exhibitor booths. Speakers start at 9 a.m. and include university researchers and specialists, Nebraska Soybean Checkoff representatives, soybean growers and private-industry representatives.

"We are bringing back Jason Norsworthy due to the popularity of his presentation last year," said Nebraska Extension Educator Keith Glewen, who coordinates the expo. "This year he is going to focus on a topic that has gained widespread attention and is on the mind of most growers – dicamba."

Norsworthy is the chair of weed science at the University of Arkansas. He will discuss issues associated with dicamba use, including likely causes for non-target damage based on field observations of weed scientists across the United States. Norsworthy will highlight research on off-target movement of the new, lower-volatility formulations of dicamba. He will also provide input on ways to minimize the likelihood for damage from off-target dicamba movement.

Also on the agenda is Michael Swanson, a Wells Fargo agricultural economist. Swanson believes growing top-yielding soybeans requires the right inputs. His talk will focus on getting crop metrics right. 

Chris Proctor, weed management educator with Nebraska Extension, is a strong proponent of measuring herbicides accurately for successful weed control in soybeans. He will discuss how accurate measurements are often overlooked in the big picture of herbicide resistance. 

Other expo topics include an update on the Nebraska Soybean Checkoff and association information; visits with representatives from seed, herbicide, fertilizer and equipment companies; and viewing of new farm equipment.

A complimentary lunch will be served at noon.

Registration is available at the door the day of the expo. Registration is free, but the Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization requests donations of one or more cans of nonperishable food to the food pantry.

For more information about the program or exhibitor details, call 800-529-8030 or email kglewen1@unl.edu. Information is also available at https://enre.unl.edu/nebraskasoyexpo.

The program is sponsored by Nebraska Extension in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Nebraska Soybean Board, Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization and private industry.

Hiland Dairy Foods Company Wins High Honors at 2017 World Dairy Expo

Hiland Dairy Foods Company, a leading farmer-owned dairy producer, is pleased to announce that the company recently received awards in 17 product categories during the 2017 World Dairy Expo (WDE) Championship Dairy Product Contest. The WDE contest is the only one of its kind in North America that includes all dairy products.

The prestigious WDE all-dairy national contest allows Hiland Dairy and other winning companies the right to claim their products as "the best of the best" in North America.

"It's an honor to have so many of our products and processing facilities recognized at a national level," said Gary Aggus, president and CEO of Hiland Dairy Foods Company. "Our goal is to provide the freshest products from our local facilities. Winning so many WDE awards corroborates our goal of providing the best-tasting, quality products for our customers."

Competing against dairy industry leaders in North America, Hiland Dairy was awarded top honors in the following categories:
    First Place — White Milk, Hiland Dairy, Fayetteville, Arkansas
    First Place — Lowfat Sour Cream, Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska

    Second Place — Whole Chocolate Milk, Hiland Dairy, Springfield, Missouri
    Second Place — Drinkable Yogurt Smoothie (Pina Colada), Hiland Dairy, Chandler, Oklahoma
    Second Place — Lowfat Cottage Cheese, Hiland Dairy, Wichita, Kansas
    Second Place — Sour Cream-Based Dips–Onion (Toasted Onion), Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska

    Second Place — Sour Cream-Based Dips–Southwest (Southwest Ranch Dip), Hiland Dairy, Norman, Oklahoma
    Second Place — Open Sour Cream-Based Dips (Bacon and Cheddar Dip), Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska

    Third Place — Fat-Free Chocolate Milk, Hiland Dairy, Little Rock, Arkansas
    Third Place — Bulgarian Buttermilk, Hiland Dairy, Fort Smith, Arkansas
    Third Place — Blueberry Yogurt, Hiland Dairy, Wichita, Kansas
    Third Place — Drinkable Yogurt Smoothie (Strawberry), Hiland Dairy, Chandler, Oklahoma
    Third Place — Cottage Cheese, Hiland Dairy, Wichita, Kansas
    Third Place — Natural Sour Cream, Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska
    Third Place — Sour Cream Based Dips–Southwest (Salsa Dip), Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska
    Third Place — Open Sour Cream-Based Dips (Ranch w/Dill Dip), Hiland Dairy, Omaha, Nebraska
    Third Place — Vanilla Ice Cream, Hiland Ice Cream, Norfolk, Nebraska
    Third Place — Ice Cream with Peanut Butter, Hiland Ice Cream, Norfolk, Nebraska

This year, the WDE received a record 1,400 entries in 79 product classes, which were evaluated by 50 independent judges. The judges, experienced in product sensory evaluations, used strict criteria and guidelines for taste, texture, appearance and other product factors.

SAVE THE DATE- Feb 22-23, 2018 Women in Agriculture Conference

Amy Timmerman – NE Extension Educator, Holt County

The Nebraska Women in Agriculture (WIA) Conference is an annual two-day event designed to educate and uplift women producers involved in any aspect of Nebraska's agricultural industry. Through workshops and presentations, attendees will learn how to better manage risk, improve their farms and ranches and become more successful operators and business partners.

This conference focuses on the five areas of agricultural risk management. Over 30 concurrent workshops will be hosted over the two-day event that focus on:

Ruth Hambleton, the founder of Annie’s Project, is a keynote speaker who will empower and educate women producers. Ruth counseled hundreds of Farm Families through the 1980’s and brings fresh hope for the current financial crunch.

Ann Finkner, Farm Credit Services of America Senior Vice President Chief Administrative Officer, will be the Capstone Speaker. Ann understands the complexity, stress, and multiple roles women in agriculture face and will share resources to help women recharge themselves. 

The Women in Agriculture Conference will be held on Thursday, February 22 to Friday, February 23, 2018 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Kearney, NE. Early bird registration is $125, with registration after Feb 5th at $150.

Animal Agriculture Alliance names 2017 College Aggies Online winners

The Animal Agriculture Alliance announced the winners of the 2017 College Aggies Online (CAO) scholarship competition, which prepares students to become lifelong advocates for agriculture.

Since CAO launched in 2009, nearly 6,000 students have participated. This year’s program kicked off in early September with about 300 students competing in the individual division while 30 student organizations competed in the club division. The participants represented 43 states and 89 different universities.

In the individual competition, the winners were:
    First place, $2,500 scholarship: Erica Ballmer, Purdue University
    Second place, $1,000 scholarship: Allison Burenheide, Oklahoma State University
    Third place, $500 scholarship: Alex Jacks, Mississippi State University

In the club competition, the winners were:
    First place, $2,500 scholarship: Agriculture Club, Western Illinois University
    Second place, $1,000 scholarship: Agriculture Advocacy Class, Northwest Missouri State University
    Third place, $500 scholarship: Les Voyageurs, Louisiana State University

The top three individual winners along with a representative from each winning club will receive an expenses-paid trip to the Alliance’s 2018 Stakeholders Summit set for May 3-4 in Arlington, Va.

The 2017 competitors shared more than 3,000 posts about agriculture on Instagram and Twitter which earned more than 4.4 million impressions and nearly 400 posts were shared on Facebook. More than 16,000 students and faculty members attended the numerous farm tours, guest speaker presentations, booths and other events held on college campuses.

In addition to recognizing the winners, the Alliance is spotlighting the individuals and clubs who successfully finished the program with the CAO Completion Emblem, which demonstrates their commitment to advocating for agriculture.

Individuals who earned the CAO Completion Emblem were:
    Erica Ballmer, Purdue University
    Allison Burenheide, Oklahoma State University
    Alex Jacks, Mississippi State University
    Keely Egelhoff, Western Illinois University
    Madeline McGarry, Iowa State University
    Megan Nelson, North Dakota State University
    Jessica Miller, Oklahoma State University
    Markie Hageman, Fort Hays State University
    Ellen Schutt, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Callie Rathjen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    Lindsey O'Hara, Western Illinois University
    Ashley Huntsberger, University of Nevada, Reno
    Daiton Tietz, Iowa State University

    Madison Martin, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
    Rebekka Brown, University of Florida
    Emily Solis, University of Maryland-College Park

Clubs who earned the CAO Completion Emblem were:
    Agriculture Club, Western Illinois University
    Agriculture Advocacy Class, Northwest Missouri State University
    Les Voyageurs, Louisiana State University
    Ag Ambassadors, Eastern Oklahoma State University
    Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, Tuskegee University

“Every year we applaud the students for being the most engaged and enthusiastic group to compete, but it seems each group outdoes the last,” said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. “We are thrilled to see so many individuals passionate about agriculture.”

The nine-week program is filled with assignments for individuals such as blog posts, infographics and photo contests while club members receive challenges ranging from hosting farm tours and school visits to guest speakers, food drives and many more. Each assignment and challenge helps the students to boost their confidence when communicating with their peers about agriculture issues.

The Alliance also awarded mini scholarships of $100 throughout the competition to individuals selected by industry mentors for doing the best on the weekly assignments. In the club competition, a mini scholarship of $250 was awarded to the groups who hosted the best events for each challenge.

For more information on College Aggies Online, visit www.animalagalliance.org/connect/#collegeaggies.

Trump Administration Appoints Karl Elmshaeuser to Serve as State Director for USDA Rural Development in Nebraska

The Trump Administration recently appointed Karl Elmshaeuser as the new State Director for USDA Rural Development in Nebraska. Elmshaeuser began his new role on Monday, November 27, 2017.

Karl Elmshaeuser has served as the Executive Director for the West Central Nebraska Development District (WCNDD) working with 18 counties and 58 incorporated communities for the past 11 years.  While he was the Executive Director at WCNDD they received two national awards for community innovation programs.  He served two terms on the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, recently served on the Nebraska Regional Officials Council and the National Association of Development Organizations board of directors.  He has a Bachelors degree in Management from the University of Nebraska and served for six years in the United States Marine Corps. Karl is married to Kris Elmshaeuser.  They have been married for 33 years and have four sons and two grandsons.

As State Director, Elmshaeuser will use his leadership experience to oversee Rural Development programs in a customer-focused manner to restore prosperity in rural Nebraska.

Under the direction of Secretary Sonny Perdue, the USDA will always be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. Secretary Perdue leads the USDA with four guiding principles: to maximize the ability of American agriculture to create jobs, sell foods and fiber, and feed and clothe the world; to prioritize customer service for the taxpayers; to ensure that our food supply is safe and secure; and to maintain good stewardship of the natural resources that provide us with our miraculous bounty. And understanding that we live in a global economy where trade is of top importance, Secretary Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

Pig Farmers Pay It Forward Ham by Ham

Today, the National Pork Board, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Smithfield Foods, Inc. and PrairieFresh® Premium Pork joined forces to support the second annual #HamsAcrossAmerica campaign in Central Iowa. The organizations hosted a kickoff event, on Giving Tuesday, to serve clients of the Central Iowa Shelter and Services and provided a nearly 70,000-pound pork donation to the Food Bank of Iowa, courtesy of Smithfield Foods, Seaboard Foods, Triumph Foods and U.S. pig farmers.

“As pig farmers, giving back to our community always has been an integral part of who we are,” said Bill Tentinger, a pig farmer from Le Mars, Iowa, who serves on both the National Pork Board and the Iowa Pork Producers Association board of directors. “Hams Across America and this kickoff event allow me and other farmers to live the We CareSM ethical principles and share our love of the product that we produce.”

The annual #HamsAcrossAmerica campaign encourages farmers and those involved in the pork industry to show appreciation for friends, family and neighbors through the gift of ham and other pork products.

“Smithfield is proud to participate in Giving Tuesday with the National Pork Board and support the positive impact it provides for so many of our neighbors in need,” said Dennis Pittman, senior director of hunger relief for Smithfield Foods. “As a global food company with Iowa-based facilities, Hams Across America aligns with Smithfield’s commitment to resolve hunger across the country and to cater to the communities we call home.”

“On behalf of all those in our connected food system at Seaboard Foods and Triumph Foods who raise and care for our pigs and produce pork for the PrairieFresh® brand, we understand the importance of supporting our communities whether that be someone next door in Iowa or a world apart,” said Terry Holton, Seaboard Foods president and CEO. “With Hams Across America, we’re honored to share our products so others might enjoy delicious, wholesome meals this holiday season.”

Pig farmers and those involved in the pork industry are encouraged to extend Giving Tuesday through Dec. 23 with Hams Across America. Individuals can participate by purchasing a gift of ham and paying it forward to loved ones and those in need. Participants are encouraged to share their pay-it-forward stories on social media using #RealPigFarming and #HamsAcrossAmerica.


The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced that they will continue contacting farmers who have previously registered a livestock premises in an effort to update the Iowa Premises Registration database. Farmers are asked to respond to the letter and either confirm the information is correct or respond with their updated information.

In December, the Department will be sending letters to producers that had previously registered a premises in Clinton, Crawford, Dallas, Davis and Decatur counties.

In January, letters will be sent to producers in Delaware, Des Moines, Dickinson, Dubuque, Emmet, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Fremont and Greene counties.

“We a very appreciative of the positive response we have received from the farmers that have been contacted to this point and just want to encourage those that will be receiving a letter in December and January to do the same,” said Mike Naig, Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture.  “We understand it is very busy time during the holidays, but do ask producers to make a few minutes to respond.”

All Iowa livestock farmers are encouraged to make sure that all locations where they have livestock have a premises identification number (PIN) and to make sure their information is up-to-date.  All the information in the premises ID database is completely confidential and protected under federal law and can only be used for animal health purposes.

Farmers can complete or renew their premises registration by completing the form found on the Department’s website at http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/animalIndustry/pdf/premiseIDapp2.pdf  and submitting the signed form to the Department.

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about premises identification can be found on the Department’s webpage www.IowaAgriculture.gov under “Hot Topics.”  Or, if farmers have questions they can contact the Department’s Animal ID Coordinator toll free at 888-778-7675 or by email at idals_id@iowaAgriculture.gov. More information is also available on the USDA’s Animal Disease Traceability Home Site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/traceability/.

The Department will continue alphabetically through the remaining counties over the next several months.  Iowa currently has more than 32,500 premises registered.

USDA: Soybeans to Top Corn Acres in 2019


On Nov. 28, 2017, USDA released several tables previewing the annual long-term Agricultural Projections to 2027 (the complete projections will be released in February 2018). These early-release tables provide USDA estimates on the supply and demand for agricultural commodities through 2017 and take into consideration macroeconomic conditions, GDP growth, population growth and farm policy, among other factors. USDA assumes in the projections normal weather and no significant supply or demand disruptions, i.e. a business-as-usual environment.

One of the most anticipated items from the early-release is USDA’s projections for planted area in 2018. During 2017 the total planted area for the eight principal crops and conservation reserve program was 275.8 million acres. For 2018, USDA projects planted area to increase for all crops except upland cotton and wheat, with a total acreage gain of 1.8 million acres to 277.6 million acres. Then, from 2019 to 2027, USDA projects planted area and CRP land to remain steady between 276 and 278 million acres – slightly lower than the 280-million-acre-average over the last decade.

Of the acreage change projected in 2018, barley is projected to add 519,000 acres to 3 million acres. Sorghum acres are projected to increase by 991,000 acres in 2018 to 6.7 million acres. Rice planted area is projected to increase 413,000 acres to 2.9 million acres. Oat acreage is expected to increase 312,000 acres to 2.9 million acres. CRP acres are projected to increase modestly but will remain below the Congressional cap of 24 million acres. Soybean acres and corn acres are projected to increase by 793,000 acres and 571,000 acres, respectively, to 91 million acres each. If realized, 91 million acres would be a new record-high for soybean acreage. Wheat acres are expected to decline for a fourth year in a row, down 1 million acres to 45 million acres – the lowest level since U.S. first began recording acreage data in 1919. Finally, upland cotton acres are projected to decline 1.2 million acres to 11.2 million acres in 2018.

While in aggregate USDA projects acreage to increase slightly in 2018, the biggest takeaway is that USDA projects soybean acreage to top corn acreage beginning in 2019 and continuing through 2027. 2018 soybean plantings are projected at 91 million acres, up 793,000 acres from 2017 or approximately 1 percent. Corn acres in 2018 are also projected at 91 million acres, up 571,000 acres or approximately 1 percent. By 2019 however, soybean acres are projected at 91 million acres while corn acres are projected at 90 million acres. If realized, this would be the first market-driven acreage shift that resulted in more soybean acres planted than corn, i.e. King Soybeans.

There are a number of reasons for soybean acreage to continue expanding. The primary reason being demand for soybeans, soybean oil and soybean meal from China. A recent Market Intel reviewed China’s Insatiable Demand for Soybeans. For now, the U.S. is the number one producer of soybeans, but Brazil is a close second. Combined, Brazil and Argentina produce approximately 2 billion more bushels than the U.S. Another Market Intel reviewed South American soybean production trends, Is it too Late for U.S. to be Crowned ‘Soybean King’?

Chinese demand for soybeans, from North and South America, has driven the rapid expansion in soybean planted area. U.S. producers responded to these market signals by increasing soybean production by 130 percent since 1990. Brazil and Argentina have been much more aggressive, expanding production by 579 percent and 396 percent, respectively. USDA’s most recent projections confirm U.S. producers will continue to respond to Chinese demand and as a result, soybeans are likely to be the largest field crop planted in the U.S. by 2019.

A lot of uncertainty remains before planting decisions are ultimately made. Improvement in the global economy could increase demand for grains and oilseeds, pushing stocks lower than anticipated and pushing prices higher. Higher prices could result in acreage shifting into crops with a more profitable per acre return.

The black swan events that could roil grain markets and alter planting decisions include withdrawal from existing trade agreements (30 percent of corn exports go to NAFTA countires compared to 7 percent for soybeans), a slower pace of consumption, favorable growing conditions in South America and a strong dollar. This does not include what could happen in 280 characters or less, i.e. blue swan events.

These metrics are important to monitor for evaluating planting decisions in 2018 and marketing the 2017 crop. The next opportunity to review potential acreage decisions will come in the March 2018 Prospective Plantings report.

NBB Members Head to the Hill to Urge Reinstatement of the Biodiesel Tax Incentive

Starting today, nearly 100 members of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) are in Washington, D.C., to participate in their biannual fly-in to the Nation’s Capital. NBB members plan to storm the Hill to encourage reinstatement of the biodiesel tax credit, which expired in December 2016.

In meetings with their elected officials, NBB members can share firsthand their experiences of operating in such an unstable business environment where the intermittent nature of the credit stymies investments. Additionally, NBB members will discuss the results of a new survey conducted with 1000 registered voters nationwide. The survey found that 82 percent of registered voters support a federal tax incentive. The same percentage of people polled expressed support for a national Renewable Fuel Standard.

“This fly-in couldn’t come at a better time, given the many federal policy priorities affecting the biodiesel industry. With the RFS volumes expected this week, reinstating the biodiesel tax credit is the next big policy issue we need to tackle to stabilize the business environment in which our industry is forced to operate,” said Doug Whitehead, chief operating officer of the National Biodiesel Board.

Since the July proposal was released, NBB has repeatedly called for growth in the volumes. Investors are unwilling to expand capacity if there’s no signal of growth in the program. The July proposal offered up a reduction in advanced biofuels (of which biodiesel fills roughly 90 percent) and a flatline of biomass-based diesel—neither being growth.

In a recent letter to the president, NBB’s governing board members reiterated the association’s ask of at least 4.75 billion gallons for advanced biofuels for 2018 and at least 2.5 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel for 2019. The governing board includes members from a diverse group of states: Arkansas, California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. But the bottom line is that any growth is better than no growth.

USDA Under Secretary McKinney Travels to Colombia and Panama

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney is traveling to Colombia and Panama this week to highlight the mutual benefits of the United States’ free trade agreements with both countries.

In addition to holding bilateral discussions with his government counterparts in Bogotá and Panama City, McKinney will meet with U.S. agricultural interests and with importers of U.S. food and farm products.

Verdesian Life Sciences and the American Society of Agronomy host December webinar on soil health management

Verdesian Life Sciences, the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America will provide a soil health management systems webinar on Wednesday, December 13, 2017 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Central, 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Eastern.

The live webinar focusing on Soil Health Management Systems and Microbial Soil Health will provide participants:
•         An overview of soil health management practices
•         Changes to expect in the soil organic matter
•         The role of soil enzymes
•         Some of the major microbial groups involved in carbon and nitrogen dynamics
•         How cover crop selection can help manage soil nitrogen.

The educational webinar will be presented by Diane E. Scott, National Soil Health Specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Soil Health Division. Scott has over 40 years of experience with soil health, carbon and nitrogen cycling, and soil metabolic activity.

Certified Crop Advisers (CCA) and Certified Professional Agronomists (CPAg) will receive half a continuing education unit (CEU) for Nutrient Management and half a CEU for Soil and Water Management. Sponsored by Verdesian Life Sciences, the webinar is free to all those who register online.

The ASA is dedicated to providing the best continuing education results in a robust portfolio of online learning opportunities, specifically designed for the agricultural professional with the goal to provide the latest and greatest in the field of agronomy. Verdesian Life Sciences is committed to developing nutrient use efficiency (NUE) technologies that, when implemented, enable sustainable agricultural farming practices.

Registration is through the ASA’s Online Learning Platform. Participants will also receive a recording of the on-demand webinar. For details or to register visit agronomy.org/education/classroom/classes/533.

Corn Research Exposes Mechanism Behind Traits Becoming Silent

For more than a century, plant geneticists have been studying maize as a model system to understand the rules governing the inheritance of traits, and a team of researchers recently unveiled a previously unknown mechanism that triggers gene silencing in corn.

Gene silencing turns off genetic traits, an important consideration for plant breeders who depend on the faithful inheritance of traits from one generation to the next.

Historically, the maize p1 gene has been used as a model by maize geneticists. Previous researchers did not know that two types of overlapping DNA methylation marks could modify, silence or activate this gene. The discovery adds to geneticists' knowledge of different mechanisms of non-Mendelian inheritance, according to lead researcher Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State.

In findings reported in PLOS One, Chopra's team showed that silencing the corn pericarp color 1 gene -- regulator of the kernels' outer layer color and the cob color -- can have two "overlapping" epigenetic components -- RNA dependent DNA methylation (RdDM) and non-RNA dependent DNA methylation (non-RdDM).

"DNA methylation, which is the addition of methyl groups to the DNA molecule, can change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence," he said. "DNA methylation typically acts to repress gene transcription, which is the first step of gene expression."

In plant cells, when and at what level a gene is expressed is under tight control between transcription activation and suppression, Chopra explained. Small RNAs -- molecules essential in regulation and expression of genes -- can mediate methylation of DNA strands and shut down transcription activity, therefore playing a role in silencing inherited genes or transgenes introduced to produce desirable crop traits.

In corn, the pericarp color 1 gene regulates the accumulation of brick-red flavonoid pigments called phlobahpenes. The pattern of pigmentation on the corn kernel pericarp and "glumes" -- membrane covering the cob -- depends upon the expression of the pericarp color 1 gene. Some examples of these patterns are: white kernels, red cob; red kernels, red cob; variegated kernels, variegated cob; red kernels, white cob; and white kernels, white cob.

"Our study on maize pericarp color 1 gene has demonstrated the involvement of both small RNA-dependent and small RNA-independent mechanisms for gene suppression," Chopra said. "This study reveals the additional layer of gene regulation by small RNAs, and improves our understanding of how gene expression is regulated specifically in one tissue but not in the other."

Typically, when plant breeders are creating new types of cultivars, several traits they are breeding for may disappear or their expression gets reduced in the progeny, he said. "And that, we now know, is because of gene silencing."

A better understanding of how gene-silencing mechanisms cause the disappearance of desired traits has long been needed, Chopra believes. It can be disastrous for a farmer to buy seeds that do not behave in the grow-out the way they were promised by the producer.

If one or more genes that are controlling a trait become silent due to overlapping DNA methylation, then that trait basically disappears from the population.

"That is a big setback for anyone trying to breed for traits such as high yield, which is regulated by several genes," said Chopra. "If one or two of those genes that are essential for high yield become silent, then a reduction in the overall yield may result."

Also involved in the research were two doctoral students advised by Chopra in Penn State's Department of Plant Sciences: Po-Hao Wang, who is currently working as a scientist with Dow Agro Sciences, and Kameron Wittmeyer; Blake Meyers, with Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Mo.; and Tzuu-fen Lee, a post-doctoral fellow from Meyers' lab in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Delaware Biotechnology Institute, University of Delaware, who is currently employed by Pioneer Hi Bred International Inc.

The National Science Foundation supported the research.

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