THE PRACTICAL FARMER
QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER OF PRACTICAL FARMERS OF IOWA
VOL 8, #4, WINTER 1993
I N T H I S I S S U E
1 PFI, Politics, and Policies
2 Sidebar: Organizations Involved in Policy Work
2 Marty Strange Talk at PFI Meeting
3 Member Reminder
3 Workshop Reports
7 SARE Producer Grants Guidelines
8 Soybean Contracting Opportunities
9 PFI Profiles: Kathy and Mike Walter
10 Sweet Sorghum for Energy
12 Notes and Notices
Northeast Grazing Conference
Talks on Tape
Harmony with the Lakota
Farmers for the Next Century
Beginning Farmer Conference
13 1993 On-farm Trial Results
13 Reading the Numbers
14 Nitrogen Trials
16 Manure Trials
16 Starters and Placement Trials
16 Other Fertilizer Trials
24 Tillage Trials
24 Miscellaneous Trials
25 Wind Charger Demonstration
26 Weed Trials
28 Narrow Strip Intercropping
32 Backgrounding Cattle
Doyle and Lowell Wilson
33 Footprints of a Grass Farmer
35 From the Kitchen
List of Officers and Staff
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PFI, POLITICS, AND POLICIES
Vic Madsen, PFI President, Audubon
Every year, during our annual meeting, we set aside some time for
open discussion about PFI activities. This year we were happy to
have a number of members voice their opinions about three or four
The most time was spent on our potential involvement with the
Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG). This group of
organizations, among other things, takes policy positions on
national agricultural and environmental issues. The question is
an interesting one and deserves a reply.
>From the time when PFI was begun nine years ago, our niche in
Iowa agriculture has been to encourage profitable,
environmentally sound farming methods. We use randomized,
replicated plots to test alternatives and share that data plus
personal experience at field days, at annual meetings, this
newsletter, and other cooperative activities with ISU Extension.
It is tempting to move our organization into the area of trying
to influence ag. policy. The majority of the PFI board of
directors feels it would be better to stay focused on what has
made us successful.
Our membership includes people who also belong to a wide range of
other farm organizations. That diversity of views helps us
evolve as an agricultural group that welcomes anyone who wants to
improve the sustainability of her or his farm. Any policy
position is bound to be divisive.
There is another point that needs to be made, a philosophical
one. Virtually all policy discussions involve someone saying
that someone else (she, he or they) should or shouldn t do
whatever. This is a direct contradiction to the belief that the
best people to make a decision are those on the farms or in the
communities that will be affected by that decision.
We sometimes underestimate the power of example and of practicing
what we preach. Many members are developing farming systems by
putting together practices proven by our research plots. The
resulting farming systems have dramatic profit potential compared
to conventional corn and soybeans. We feel PFI serves best by
helping people develop their farm and communities. |
SIDEBAR ON PREVIOUS ARTICLE:
Organizations Involved in Policy Work
Two groups, The Center for Rural Affairs and the Iowa Natural
Heritage Foundation, have told us they would welcome PFI members
who want to work with their organization to be involved in farm
policy through the Sustainable Ag. Working Group. PFI members
will be receiving a mailing from the Center for Rural Affairs
introducing that organization and its newsletter. The work of
two other organizations, the National Catholic Rural Life
Conference, and the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, also includes
legislative issues, both in Iowa and nationally. The addresses
of these groups follows.
Center for Rural Affairs
Walthill, NE 68067
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
444 Insurance Exchange Building
505 Fifth Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50309-2321
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
4625 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50310-2199
Iowa Farm Unity Coalition
550 11th St., #200
Des Moines, IA 50309
MARTY STRANGE TALKS ABOUT RURAL COMMUNITIES
Osh Andersen, Rhinelander, WI
Small communities are not going broke as fast as the economists
say they should because of the economies of community: honesty,
neighborliness, trust, mutual confidence and integrity, said
Marty Strange. He spoke on Plateglass or Plywood: Alternative
Futures for Small Town Main Streets at the annual membership
meeting of Practical Farmers of Iowa, in Ames, on January 6th.
Strange is the program director of the Center for Rural Affairs,
in Walthill, Nebraska (population 750). He co-founded the Center
in 1973 with Don Ralston. The Center is involved in issues of
sustainable agriculture, rural economic development, federal farm
programs, tax policy, and the environmental impacts of
contemporary farming practices.
Using the economies of community as a principle for doing
business is better than convenience, Marty said. Convenience
is a code word for business opportunities that have been created,
when really it s mitigating a miserable lifestyle where people
don t have the economies of community. Marty Strange asked us to
think about the issue of convenience by using the example of
how he gets cash in Walthill after banking hours without an
automated teller card. He stops in to the bar and buys a 50-cent
beer, paying for it with a check of $100. In return, he receives
a report on the local news, sports (how the local football teams
did last Friday), and weather (prediction for tomorrow s winter
storm watch) from his neighbors there and $99.50 in change.
Marty related how U.S. agricultural policies have acted to
produce more crop but fewer people in rural areas. The trend has
been for increases in the amount of money in farm programs, while
the money in most farmers pockets has been reduced. Forty
percent of the income in rural areas is nearned income in the
form of farm payments, rent income, and other mostly passive
investments. Two-thirds of farm program benefits go to the top
5-10 percent of farmers with the highest net incomes. The
effects of these inequities are seen in Marty s Walthill
community and all over the rural Midwest. Small towns have fewer
retail establishments, and the Main Streets have become
warehouse districts, with wholesale marketing businesses that
deal in commodities, rather than with processing or people.
An alternative is to increase the number of people on the land
and the money in their pockets through low-input agriculture,
said Strange. This type of farming is actually high-input
agriculture, he explained, because new business opportunities
oriented towards sustainable agriculture create opportunities for
people off the farm as well. Marty brought with him stories of
how people have successfully created these opportunities for
themselves. He told of a small business that shreds and bales
newspapers as livestock bedding and of low-cost applications of
solar technology for solar grain dryers and for pre-heating water
for dairy operations. These examples illustrate the principle,
It s better to think about creative solutions to problems than
to think that every solution is going to come out of a barrel of
oil, he said.
Marty Strange concluded by describing how the Center has been
organizing revolving-loan credit groups for small businesses and
farmers. This micro-enterprise strategy is modeled after
self-help programs in Third World countries such as Bangladesh.
Before the Center will come in with matching funds, the local
communities meet and decide how to raise their own money.
Meetings are held for people to make their payments and, most
importantly, to give and receive support and help from their
neighbors. The Center has assisted with 120 loans, and there is
a waiting list of more communities.
For the people in Walthill, Nebraska or Ida Grove, Iowa, the
economies of community are really based on the ways we look at
convenience and efficiency. Rather than relying on a bigger,
more technology-based agriculture, communities can and are
finding better ways to farm and live in rural areas by living
more cooperatively and relying on the intelligent and careful
nurturing of local resources. |
If your PFI membership is not current,
THIS IS YOUR LAST NEWSLETTER
There s no substitute for actually being there, but here is a
brief rundown of the main features of the winter workshops.
Thanks to the session moderators and note-takers!
Woody Agriculture: The Hazelnut Story
The room was full! Phil Rutters, of Badgersett Research Farm
discussed why an agriculture based on woody plants is important.
He needed more time. There were lots of good slides.
Management-Intensive Grazing (two sessions)
Because of sick cooperators and the weather, there weren t a lot
of cooperators available to present, but the attendance was good.
There was interest in the data from Steve Hopkins and Sarah
Andreasen, even though they weren t able to attend. Tom Frantzen
explained his grazing notebook records of grazing cells and
timing. He explained that clear goals are the first step to any
successful farming. John Cowles showed his paddock layouts.
There was discussion of what grass/legume mixture he should use.
In one session, there were a lot of questions, in the other one,
people held back on questions because of the time limits.
Narrow Strip Intercropping
Moderator Tom Frantzen carefully allocated scarce time among
himself, Doug Alert, Paul Mugge, and ISU researchers Rick Cruse
and Mo Ghaffarzadeh.
Spirituality in Agriculture Sharing Experiences from 1993
Forty-five farmers and agriculturalists shared thoughts and
experiences from the 1993 growing season during the Spirituality
and Agriculture workshop. The discussion was led by Carmen
Lampe, an American Baptist minister from Mt. Ayr, and Father
Richard Ament; who serves three parishes in Central City,
Prairieburg, and Coggin. Participants shared spiritually
significant experiences from rain-soaked 1993. We constructed
life-experience wheels on paper, noting important events in our
lives and farming careers. Our task was to include events from
before and including 1993, and to project what we envision for
the future. Using this tool helped us to view life as a cyclical
process and to place this trying year in perspective of an entire
life. Although in much of Iowa we experienced the most rain and
worst flooding of this this century, life and love and farming
will continue. The session concluded with a prayer to north,
south, east and west from Native American tradition.
Costa Rica: A Farm Visit in Slides
Costa Rica, like many developing countries, is promoting
agricultural exports to help pay loans from the developed
nations, said Dan Brouse and Shelly Gradwell. Unfortunately,
this is often done in ways that harm the natural resource base
(damage to the coral reef by agricultural runoff) and/or decrease
the economic independence of farmers (plantation agriculture).
But for 20 years, the country has made available small business
loans and development loans that some communities have used to
reinvent their agricultural economies. Several suc communities
now welcome visitors to see how nature and farmers can coexist in
The workshop was attended by about 20 people, a number of whom
want to establish some sort of farmer-to-farmer link with these
communities. Not enough people were ready to make a visit
themselves for a PFI trip to take place this winter, but this
might develop at a later date.
Nitrogen and Manure Management
PFI cooperators presented results of N rate trials and manure
trials, and Fred Blackmer reported on ISU nitrogen research in
1993. He has been focusing on using the late spring soil nitrate
test in manured soils. None of those fields, whether the manure
application was recent or not, showed corn stalks deficient in
nitrogen at the end of the growing season. So far there is no
evidence that these fields require a different critical level on
the late spring test than corn fields without a history of
Weed Management, Tillage, & Cover Crops
Obviously, 1993 was not a good year for weed control by any
manner or means, but reduced-chemical approaches were not the
disaster some might have expected. Todd Hartsock has progressed
in his ridge-tilling system from broadcast herbicides to banding
to no herbicides, and he is now growing organically. Ridge-till
and the rotary hoe are the secrets to his success in a
corn-soybeans-oats-meadow rotation. On the other hand, Dick
Thompson s rotary hoeing had little effect in a trial in which
all weed numbers were low.
Dick Thompson showed data from trials and described a field of
soybeans that was planted in two sessions ten days apart. There
were hard, driving rains after the first beans were planted, and
this gave rise to a bumper crop of broadleafed weeds. The
soybeans planted later received no such rain immediately after
planting, so the soil stayed looser. This part of the field was
virtually without broadleafed weeds. Even without the factor of
rain, later planting allows more weeds to germinate and be
eliminated at planting. With such late planting, Thompson said,
you can leave the rotary hoe in the shed.
Ron Rosmann described their weed management trial comparing a
variety of approaches. There were no significant differences in
yield or weed numbers. Ron recounted the evolution of his
farming methods, which are leading him to a ridge-till-organic
Doyle Wilson described the long-term weed management comparison
he and his brother Lowell have carried out. They believe they
are seeing an increase in weed pressure where they have used
less/no herbicides, but they have not seen statistically
significant differences in crop yield. The appropriate, low-cost
method of management depends on the conditions in a given year.
The workshop also provided a good discussion on topics ranging
from cultivator modification and adjustment to contract
production of herbicide-free crops. Audience participation
really helped make the workshop valuable.
Structuring for Financial Stability
Vic Madsen and Roger Schlitter presented their information in
1) Live within means
2) Farm within means
3) Income from three or more enterprises, not more than 50%
from any one
4) Farming systems that use nature s strengths vs.
5) As little bulk, generic production as possible
6) At least one niche-type, specialty market
7) Balanced borrowing
Roger Schlitter: Five basic credit factors
1) Character to manage the enterprise being financed
2) Capacity to reasonably insure repayment
3) Capital to reasonable support capacity and collateral
4) Collateral to reasonably protect the lender
5) Conditions established in a written contract
Getting Started in Farming
John Gilbert is part of a group that wants to help get new
farmers started. He believes the need for a new generation of
farmers is a local community development issue demanding a local
solution. His group will encourage new farmers to use practices
that generate income, not debt. There are many questions to be
worked out, such as the appropriate level of equity. However,
the group is already coming up with creative approaches, such as
the board of uncles for mentoring.
John Baker, of the ISU Extension Farm-On program, said farmers
need to acquire assets at the right point in their farming
careers: 1) livestock, 2) machinery, 3) facilities, and 4) land,
in that order. He said retiring farmers lose nearly half the
value of their equipment in the taxes levied on a farm sale.
They could instead lease the equipment to a new farmer until it
depreciated, saving themselves money and helping a young person
get started at reasonable cost.
Proposal Writing for FARMERS
You don t need to be a professional grant writer to get a grant
under the SARE producer grant program or PFI Sustainable
Projects. On the other hand, you won t get funding just because
you need it. You will get the grant because: 1) the funder likes
the project; 2) you and/or your organization has a reputation for
competence; 3) your project will make the funder look good or
allow it to achieve its own goals; and 4) you can show that your
research will bnefit your occupation or your community. Some
funders are now placing more emphasis on quality of life
issues. Tailor your proposal to the issues important to the
Defining the problem is key to creating a compelling proposal.
Look for input from other individuals before the project is
finalized. Type the proposal if possible, black print on white
paper (copies better). Go back over the guidelines and check
that you have met all the requirements of the funder (such as
number of copies).
Marketing Organic and Crops Grown Without Pesticides
We had three guest speakers for the session. The first one was
Greg Welsh, who is an Organic Agriculture Field Specialist with
Iowa State University. Greg is involved in 29 eastern counties
and works with crop and livestock producers who are interested in
organic production or becoming organic. Some key points of
Greg s presentation are that he is anxious to help anyone who is
either considering organic farming or is practicing organic
farming and that organic farming can work for both large and
small farmers. With organic farming, farmers have more input as
to what the sale price will be for their product. An organic
farm typically is a diversified farm with both livestock and
Ken Rosmann is an organic farmer from west central Iowa, farming
500 row crop acres plus a cow calf operation. Ken is president
of the Heartland Organic Marketing Coop. Demand for organic
products is on the increase because of consumer quality
preferences and also for health reasons, said Rosmann. Organic
farming requires more management and records because the product
has a trail from producer to consumer. Ten years ago soybeans
were the only organic product marketed, but today there is a
demand for a wide variety of commodities. The greatest demand is
for a clear hilum soybean that can be used for human food. The
Heartland Organic Marketing Coop is a group of small growers who
came together to pool products, allowing them to offer greater
variety and volume of products to consumers
Tim Jensen, manager of food grade soybean production at the
Specialty Plant Product Division of Pioneer Hi-Bred
International. It s his third year in the Better Life Program,
which deals in pesticide-free grains. His goal is to find and
work with producers as well as find new markets for soybeans.
Pioneer is testing many new soybean varieties to fit consumer
preferences. They do work with people who are in the transition
stage to become an organic farmer. It s estimated that the
average grower will make an extra $61 dollars an acre over a
standard soybean grower. Pioneer is trying to open more markets
for corn as well.
This project, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is a
collaboration of Practical Farmers of Iowa, ISU Extension, and
the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The same kind of
cooperation will be necessary at the local level, as participants
build their communities through agriculture-related projects.
Local groups will develop their own shared vision, identify
goals, identify strategies toward those goals, choose a specific
project, and make it a reality. Six community groups will be
started in each of the next three years. They will be selected
for their diversity, commitment, sense of shared responsibility,
collaboration, and geographical location. Models that have
contributed to the Shared Visions approach include Extension s
Tomorrow s Leaders Today (TLT), and the Farm Improvement Clubs of
Montana s Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO). |
SARE Producer Grants Guidelines Released
Grants of up to $5,000 are available to farmers to study
sustainable agriculture production and marketing methods in the
upper Midwest. Up to $100,000 will be granted to farmers in the
12-state area, according to the North Central Region of the USDA
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE).
The information from the SARE office states During the first two
years of the program, 56 grants were awarded to producers
studying a variety of projects ranging from rotational grazing
and grass mixtures to biological weed and pest control, low-input
crop production, nutrient management, composting of manure, use
of post-CRP land, and production and marketing of sweet sorghum
syrup. Grants have been used to conduct on-farm research trials,
sponsor educational programs and field days, and develop new
technologies and equipment modifications.
Proposals are due at the SARE office by May 1. You'll be
preoccupied with planting by then, so act now. Applications,
budget forms, and guidelines can be obtained by contacting:
Producer Grant Program
NCR SARE Office
13A Activities Building
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0840
phone: (402) 472-7081
Applications will be reviewed by the NCR SARE Administrative
Council, which consists of producers, researchers, educators, and
representatives of nonprofit organizations and government
agencies. In 1993, three PFI members obtained producer grants
from the SARE program. The competition this year is likely to be
strong, as more farmers find out about the grants. At the PFI
winter meeting, SARE grant recipient Ron Rosmann organized a
special workshop (page 6) on grant writing to give interested
members the edge in writing their own project proposal. |
OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONTRACTING SOYBEANS
At least three Iowa companies are now contracting with Iowa
farmers for identity-preserved soybeans of one kind or another.
These programs carry premiums that are sometimes significant.
West Central Co-op has both an organic and a non-organic
specialty category. They are seeking about 2,000 acres of
organic, light hilum, food grade soybeans. They are signing
contracts with growers for a minimum of double the Board of Trade
price. The beans must be stored on-farm and delivered to the
Jefferson elevator. Growers must be certified by the Organic
Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), which requires three years
away from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Besides the
organic program, West Central is also buying several varieties
oflight hilum soybeans, contracting for $0.25 per bushel of food
grade beans delivered to Jefferson. For more information, call
Larry Tomsen or Bill Doubler at (800) 522-1946.
Strayer Seed Farms, in Hudson, has contracted for specialty
soybeans for a number of years. They apply a yield adjustment
for the food-quality soybeans they are seeking, with the specific
factor depending on variety and region of the state. This
multiplier ranges up to more than 130 percent, factored on a
maximum yield that also varies by region and variety. Bushels
over the maximum yield may be marketed, but without the
adjustment. The second adjustment is a quality bonus of up to
one dollar, applied for seed size, seed coat quality, etc. The
third price adjustment is connected to special production
methods. This year Strayer will pay $1.00 per bushel additional
for soybeans grown without pesticides and $3.00 for organic
soybeans. Organic soybeans need to be from farms certified
organic by some third party such as OCIA. Growers for Strayer
would add together the three premiums and yield adjustments, if
applicable, for a final price. For information, contact Dennis
Strayer, at (800) 728-4187.
Pioneer Hi-Bred International is continuing its Better Life
program for soybeans grown without pesticides (synthetic
fertilizers are permitted). Their primary focus is on northern
Iowa, with a variety, HP204, that is adapted north of Highway 30.
They are contracting for $3.00 per food-grade bushel (bushels
after screening and cleaning). They may also offer a $2.50
premium to producers in southeast Iowa who want to grow LS301.
For additional information, contact Better Life at Pioneer
Specialty Plant Products, 800-356-0393.
Marketing opportunities have expanded considerably for growers
who are able to apply alternative production practices. It is
difficult to know where the market will develop. Strayer and
West Central seem to view no-pesticide soybeans as a short-term
category. The demand is presently from Japan and for
certified, organic beans. One also senses some nervousness that
this consumer preference may be a passing fad in that country.
Many people believe, nevertheless, that identity-preserved grains
represent a general trend in the industry. Iowa soybean
producers should compare these options and similar ones and
decide if they are in a position to grow for those premiums this
PFI PROFILES: KATHY AND MIKE WALTER, ANDREA AND JASON
Kathy Walter lives with her husband and 2 teenagers, Andrea and
Jason, west of Tipton in the hills of the Cedar River valley.
Although she and her husband Mike work together on their 240 acre
farm, Kathy takes the major responsibility for the farming
operations. Mike is also in business doing painting and
Kathy thinks that she s probably always been a farmer at heart,
but didn t start farming until about 5 years after graduating
from high school. She attended college for a few years in
Indiana, where part of the curriculum was to study and do service
in another country. Kathy lived with a Honduran family and
worked in an orphanage over a four month period. That experience,
she says, has had a long-term effect on me. At the time it made
me less sure of myself seeing other people s hunger an poverty
made me wonder what I was doing with my life.
After returning to the U.S., Kathy and Mike were married and
began working full-time in two different mobile home factories in
northern Indiana. We had no money and didn t know much, but we
did know that we didn t really want to work for someone else,
she admits. Early in their marriage, Kathy and Mike supplemented
their income and savings by hunting and trapping together. They
knew that they wanted a place of their own, and even considered
buying land in Australia before returning to Iowa in 1973 and
buying 25 acres that had originally been part of Mike s parents
They have always worked together on the farm and early-on assumed
fairly traditional decision-making roles. As Kathy s interests
developed, though, she gradually took more responsibilities of
the farming operation. She does land preparation for planting
and fertilizer application, then she and Mike share planting
chores. Kathy and a neighbor work together on combining and
Currently, of the 240 acres they farm, Kathy and Mike own 120
acres and are buying the other 120. They raise corn, soybeans,
oats, alfalfa, and have 13 acres of permanent pasture and 12
acres of timber. They have a 70 ewe flock on their farm, from
which they feed and market lambs and sell wool. In addition,
they have 50 ewes managed by another farmer on shares. Kathy has
also been experimenting with raising hogs. She has been able to
buy small feeder pigs from a neighbor, which in his larger
operation did not grow well due to competition. By grouping them
with like-sized animals, they have thrived. She also farrowed a
few sows this winter and would like to expand this enterprise,
but not in the winter again with our current facilities! She
is also feeding a few calves on shares with another neighbor,
exploring the possibility of adding another complementary
Kathy hasn t been afraid to try a new or unconventional
enterprise and has also worked part-time at a number of jobs to
help achieve their family s goals. Her moonlighting has
included coaching basketball at Mt. Vernon, serving as a nurse s
aid, reading meters for R.E.C., and working for other farmers
doing both construction and demolition of buildings. From 1980
until 1990 the family raised potatoes, blueberries, red
raspberries, blackberries, honey, sweet corn, melons, and cut
flowers and sold them at farmer s markets. During these years,
Andrea and Jason contributed by picking berries and corn, washing
potatoes, and helping sell the produce. Clearly, these crops
were labor intensive. Weighing the labor requirements and the
fact that more people were entering the market, increasing
competition, they decided to discontinue these enterprises.
Andrea, 17, is a senior at Tipton and has tried everything, her
mother says. She has played basketball and volleyball, throws the
discus in track and is swimming this year. She plays the flute
and piccolo in band and is a member of the Academic Decathlon
team. Andrea will be attending college next year and plans to
major in engineering. Jason, 15, is in 9th grade and also
participates in track. He plays the string bass too, but his
major interest seems to be in computers and electronics. Kathy
says, He s always trying to hook something up to something else!
Mike still enjoys hunting and fishing and often travels west to
hunt elk in the fall. Kathy has been a member of PFI since its
early years and is also a member of the Iowa Corn Grower's,
Tipton High School Athletic Boosters, and the National
Organization for Women (NOW). It's been rewarding to interact
with soo many good thinkers in PFI I always come home from the
annual meeting with a head full of information and ideas, she
says. With children growing, Kathy is hoping that she may have
more time in the future to pursue some of her interests in
addition to the farm. It s clear that she likes learning new
things, and she also enjoys meeting new people. She is becoming
more interested in politics, especially issues related to farming
and agiculture and would like to participate more on the local
At this stage of their family s growth it is often hard to find a
time when everyone is home. Kathy senses that, Sunday morning
may be the only time of the week we re all going in the same
direction at the same time, when they attend the First Mennonite
Church, in Iowa City. She feels that life is a continual
challenge, which requires exploring her beliefs spiritually,
politically and socially. Nothing seems to or can stay the
same. I have to continue growing, she concludes. |
ON FARM SWEET SORGHUM PRODUCTION FOR ENERGY
This project began as a proposal from PFI to the Iowa Energy
Center to evaluate sweet sorghum for biomass using sustainable
agricultural practices. Substituting crop rotation for nitrogen
fertilizer and using narrow strip intercropping, we would see
whether it is possible to really get more energy out of a crop
than was put in growing it. The proposal was rejected, but we
continued with a scaled-back demonstration, working with Jeff and
Gayle Olson, near Winfield.
As a graduate student in agronomy, I was interested in on-farm
production of sweet sorghum (my research crop). We planted a
strip of M81E a late-maturing variety on June 18, and things
looked pretty good. Needless to say, the events of the rest of
the summer kept us from working on the sorghum as we would have
wished, but we still have some results.
My research has involved: 1) evaluating sweet sorghum varieties
for sugar production, and 2) testing several growth regulators
for increasing sugar yields and decreasing lodging in these very
tall varieties. From the sugar yields and small fermentation
trials we can consider the viability of sweet sorghum as an
on-farm source of ethanol. The narrow strip intercropping system
would work well in this type of production. Our thinking was
that the growth regulators could easily be applied to the late
stage sorghum from the small grain strip after the grain had been
harvested. Sweet sorghum is also an additional option in
diversifying a crop rotation. Weather prevented us from making
any growth regulator applications, but we can make some
projections about ethanol production from sweet sorghum grown in
a narrow strip.
We found significant differences among rows in percent dry matter
content, dry matter production, total sugar production, and plant
height (Table 1, SORGHUM.WMF graphics file). Rows one and six
were bordered by soybeans and spring wheat/berseem clover,
respectively. The table shows yields for variety M81E in the
Olson trial and at the experiment station in Ames. The lower
yields at the Olson farm are most likely attributable to the
immaturity of the crop. The heads were just emerging at harvest.
In mature sorghum plants, the predominant sugar is sucrose, but
these plants contained more simple sugars. Maximum sugar yields
are usually associated with onset of the grain filling period.
The lack of solar radiation, cooler temperatures, above normal
precipitation, and a pre-harvest frost also contributed to the
yield depression. The significantly lower yield in row 6 may be
due to the plants being less mature and stunted due to
Ethanol potentials were calculated based on the total sugar
produced (Table 1, SORGHUM.WMF graphics file). These values
correspond to an estimate of 276 gallons/acre for a corn crop
averaging 110 bu/acre. Calculated ethanol yields from our Ames
plots have ranged from 427 996 gal/acre. When considering energy
production from crops, we must also consider crop inputs,
particularly nitrogen. The nitrogen requirement of sweet sorghum
does not exceed 100 pounds/acre; this crop received just 18
pounds/acre N. The nitrogen energy costs for ethanol production
from corn exceed those for sweet sorghum. One gallon of diesel
fuel contains the energy equivalent of about 4.1 pounds of
nitrogen fertilizer. And unlike corn starch, sorghum sap does
not require mashing prior to fermentation. Sweet sorghum also
has other beneficial characteristics: high water use efficiency,
high radiation use efficiency, adaptability to a wide range of
locations, and an easily fermented form of carbohydrate, sugar.
The energy gained in the production of this crop can be seen in
the last column of Table 1 (SORGHUM.WMF graphics file). It is
the difference between the fermentable energy produced by the
crop and the energy used to grow the crop. It does not take into
account the energy that would be required to process the crop for
fermentation, carry out the fermentation, or separate the alcohol
from the water to make a combustible product. It also ignores
the energy required to manufacture the farming equipment in the
Ultimately, ethanol could be produced be acidifying and ensiling
the chopped forage in a trench silo. Throughout the year, silage
would be taken from the trench and heated to flash off the
alcohol. Utilizing the heat from burning the pressed stalks, a
crude distillation could than be done on the farm in order to
reduce the amount of liquid to be transported to a central
facility to be made combustion-ready. This is one of several
scenarios being considered by researchers looking at the issue of
local biofuel production. |
NOTES AND NOTICES
Northeast Iowa Grazing Conference
The Northeast Iowa Grazing Conference will be held Monday,
February 28, from 12:30 to 4:30, in the Wilder Bldg., at
Northeast Iowa Community College, in Calmar. The keynote address
will be There to Here: Seven Years Experience with Rotational
Grazing, by Carl Pulvermacher, farmer from Lone Rock, Wisconsin.
His talk will touch on March calving, breeding techniques, and
grass-based dairying. Workshops will also be offered, including
Fencing Materials for Grazing, Economics of Grazing Dairy,
Management-Intensive Grazing Basics for Beef, and Hog Grazing and
To register, mail $10, payable to NICC, to Connie Hvitved,
Northeast Iowa Community College, Box 400, Calmar, Iowa, 52132,
or call 1 (800) 728-2256. For additional conference information
call Steve Hopkins, (319) 382-9640, evenings.
New Jobs for PFI Members and Associates
As everyone knows by now, Decorah dairy farmer Paul Johnson has
assumed the reins at the U.S. soil Conservation Service.
Johnson, a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa since 1990, was
the featured speaker at a previous annual membership meeting.
Karl Stauber has left the Northwest Area Foundation to become
Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development, in the USDA. PFI
board and staff have worked with Stauber for nearly five years on
a study of the agricultural, social, and economic impacts of
sustainable agriculture. Stauber s sustainable agriculture work
at the Northwest Area Foundation will be taken up by Marty
Strange, program director at the Center for Rural Affairs, who
has joined the foundation as a senior consultant. Strange, who
addressed the PFI annual meeting last January, will also continue
at the Center for Rural Affairs.
Talks on Tape
Marty Strange s talk at the PFI winter meeting was videotaped and
captured on audio tape as well. Tapes may be borrowed by
contacting Rick Exner or GaryHuber, at (515) 294-1923. Grazing
expert Joel Salatin s Iowa City talk and the farmer panel
discussion were captured on video by Jeff Olson, PFI southeast
director. He may be reached at (319) 257-6967.
Harmony with the Lakota
Learning Harmony with the Lakota: Unlearning the Disharmony of
Racism is the title of an event to be held in June by Nonviolent
Alternatives. This program, which will travel among several
South Dakota reservations and the Black Hills, invites persons
from many different cultures to experience together the
contribution Lakota culture makes to a harmonious world view and
whole earth ethic. Nonviolent Alternatives describes itself as
a resource and activity center for exploration and
experimentation with alternatives to violence. It is coordinated
by Carl Kline, who is a UCC minister, and Chris Klug, a certified
trainer for the Children s Creative Response to Violence program,
the Alternatives to Violence Project, and peer mediation. Cost
of the Lakota program is $900 plus round trip air fare. Contact
Carl Kline, Nonviolent Alternatives, 825 4th St., Brookings, SD,
57006, or call 605-692-8465.
Farmers for the Next Century Conference to Help Beginning Farmers
March 4-5, in Omaha, the Center for Rural Affairs and Successful
Farming Magazine are co-sponsoring an event to bring together
young, prospective farmers with landlords and farmers planning
for retirement and willing to lend a helping hand. Sessions will
be both inspirational and informational, covering financial
planning for beginning farmers, low-cost farming strategies,
estate planning, and lender expectations. Advance registration
is $20 per person, $25 per couple. For details call Successful
Farming at (800) 678-5755. |
PFI ON-FARM TRIAL RESULTS, 1993
READING THE NUMBERS, KNOWING THE TERMS
Valid and reliable farmer-generated information is a cornerstone
of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Consequently, PFI has worked to
develop practical methods that safeguard the accuracy and
credibility of that information. PFI cooperators use methods
that allow statistical analysis of their on-farm trials. Chief
among these are: 1) replication, and 2) randomization. (See
Figure 2., PAIREDCM.WMF graphics file, a typical PFI trial
layout.) The farming practices compared in a trial are repeated,
or replicated, at least six times across the field. Thus trial
results do not depend on a single comparison only, but on six or
more. The order of the practices, or treatments, in each pair
is chosen with a flip of the coin. This randomization is
intended to avoid unintentional bias. PFI on-farm trials have
been recognized for their statistical reliability. So, while PFI
cooperators don t have all the answers, they do have a tool for
working toward those answers.
When you see the outcome of a PFI trial, you also see a
statistical indication of how seriously to take those results.
The following information should help you to understand the
reports of the trials contained in this document. The symbol *
shows that there was a statistically significant difference
between treatments, one that probably did not occur just by
chance. We require ourselves to be 95% sure before we declare a
significant difference. If, instead of a *, there is a N.S.,
you know the difference was not significant.
There is a handy yardstick called the LSD, or least
significant difference, that can be used in a trial with only
two practices or treatments. If the difference between the two
treatments is greater than the LSD, then the difference is
significant. You will see in the tables that when the difference
between two practices is, for example, 5 bushels (or minus 5
bushels, depending on the arithmetic), and the LSD is only, say,
3 bushels, then there is a * indicating a significant
The LSD doesn t work well in trials with more than two
treatments. In those cases, letters are added to show whether
results are statistically different from each other. (We use
something called a Duncan multiple range grouping.) The highest
yield or weed count in a trial will have a letter a beside it.
A number with a b next to it is significantly different from
one with an a, but neither is statistically different from a
number bearing an ab. A third treatment might produce a number
with a c (or it might not), and so on.
Average 1993 statewide prices for inputs were assmed in
calculating the economics of these trials. Average fixed and
variable costs and time requirements were also used. These can
vary greatly from farm to farm, of course. The calculations use
1993 fall prices of $2.57 per bushel for corn, $6.21 for
soybeans, $1.56 per bushel for oats, $3.00 per bale for straw in
small square bales, and $55 per ton for clover hay in large
bales. Labor was charged at $7.00 per hour.
Some tables show both a treatment cost (which includes relevant
costs, but not the total cost of production) and treatment
benefit. The treatment benefit is the relative advantage of a
practice compared to the least profitable treatment in that
trial, which is assigned a treatment benefit of $0. If there are
no significant yield differences in the trial, treatment benefit
is calculated solely from input costs. If the yield of a
treatment is significantly different from that of the least
profitable treatment, then that difference in bushels is also
taken into account to calculate treatment benefit for the more
Dollar amounts shown in parentheses ( ) are negative numbers. A
treatment benefit that is a negative number indicates a
relative loss. The highest-yielding practice doesn t always have
the greatest treatment benefit. You will see that sometimes the
additional input costs of a practice outweigh its greater gross
Here is one more thing to be aware of. Fertilizer shown with
dashes between the numbers (18 46 0) means percent by weight of
nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in the product. Fertilizer shown
with plus signs (18+46+0) indicates pounds per acre of those
nutrients in an application.
The results that appear here imply neither endorsement nor
condemnation of any particular product. Producers are encouraged
to carry out their own trials to find what works in their
operations. In reports of trials that involve proprietary
products, brand names are included for informational purposes.
Nitrogen rate trials, always the mainstay of PFI on-farm
research, were more severely affected by the rainy weather of
1993 than any other kind of experiment. In both 1991 and 1992,
cooperators carried out nine replicated trials of N rates in
corn. In 1993 the number dropped to two. The rain kept
cultivators out of the field, so it was not possible to sidedress
different rates of N. If the cultivator or other nitrogen
applicator was eventually used, the corn crop was past the
6-12-inch stage at which the late spring soil nitrate test could
1993 was not a year for precision applications. Many producers
applied what they could, when they could. Those who did not have
to rely on sidedressing to supply all of the crop s nitrogen were
in a better position. Yellow corn plants reflected not just
nitrogen stress but multiple environmental assaults. By
mid-summer, it was evident that sidedressing could hardly be
justified in some fields.
Ironically, 1993 was also the year a revised ISU bulletin for the
late spring test was released (Pm-1521). PFI members received
this bulletin hot off the press with the spring newsletter.
Figure 2 shows graphically the new guidelines. Instead of a
recommendation range, producers now have a simpler, one-number
recommendation. The notable change is the separate guidelines
for corn following one or two years after a stand of alfalfa that
was established two or more years. For these fields, the
critical range cmes down to 10-15 parts-per-million (ppm)
nitrate-N (See Figure 2, TESTREC.TIF graphics file).
Perhaps surprisingly, the two trials on record do not argue for
high nitrogen rates. In both, the lower rate was the more
profitable (Table 2, NTRIALS.WMF graphics file). This was true
even in Ted and Donna Bauer s trial, in which yield was
significantly higher (3.5 bushels) at the higher N rate. That
yield increase did not justify the cost of the additional
32-percent nitrogen solution.
In 1993, two cooperators continued manure trials begun in
previous years (Table 3, MANURE.WMF graphics file). Vic and
Cindy Madsen, Audubon, want to demonstrate that livestock manure
is an asset to the farm operation, not a liability. Their
manured field strips averaged 21.4 bushels per acre more corn
than strips with no fertilizer input, easily justifying the cost
of proper application.
Dick and Mary Jane Svoboda, Aurora, compared manure to 28-percent
nitrogen solution. The corn sidedressed with manure yielded just
as well as the corn receiving 28-percent N. Economically, it was
cheaper to use purchased N until the other manure nutrients are
also taken into account. Those other nutrients are needed on the
farm, too. In dry years, for example, some of the Svobodas corn
fields have shown potassium deficiency symptoms. And economics
for manure N P K don't reflect benefits like tilth improvement,
micronutrients, and food for soil biota like earthworms.
STARTER AND FERTILIZER PLACEMENT TRIALS
In 1993, cooperators carried out trials to test whether starter
fertilizers would work and where they would be most effectively
placed. Three with-and-without trials were conducted by Jeff
and Gayle Olson, Ray and Marj Stonecypher, and Dick and Sharon
Thompson (Table 4., STRTOFRT.WMF graphics file). All three found
no yield increase with starters.
But wait. Three other trials examined starter rates or placement
and did show a starter fertilizer benefit (Table 5, MULTITRT.WMF
graphics file). They also did not show that either the rate or
placement was critical. Doug Alert, Hampton, compared: 1) no
starter, 2) starter two inches below and two inches to the side
of the seed, and 3) starter two inches directly below the seed.
The last treatment was accomplished with the aid of a custom-made
planter shoe. Both starter treatments yielded significantly more
than the corn without starter fertilizer, but the yields of these
two starter treatments were not significantly different from each
Harlan and Sharon Grau, Newell, deep-banded 12+30+100 pounds per
acre at last cultivation of corn, comparing that to a broadcast
of the same rate and to no fertilizer. Both sidedressing methods
yielded significantly better than the zero-fertilizer check
treatment. But there was no difference between the two kinds of
Dick and Sharon Thompson, Boone, compared three rates of starter
for corn and a zero-starter treatment. The starter fertilizer
was applied with the same kind of deep bander used by Doug Alert.
The low-rate 20+14+27 starter produceda greater yield than the
check treatment and the same yield as the higher starter rates.
Why did this trial show a starter effect while the other trial by
the Thompsons showed none? Perhaps it was because the field had
received only three dry tons of manure, plowed down in the
spring, while the field where the trial showed no effect had six
dry tons plowed down in the previous fall. Dick is wondering if
nutrients from fall-incorporated manure are more available to the
succeeding year s corn.
While these trials are interesting, it is important to remember
they are only one year s data. Placement or rate effects may be
different in a year with weather different from 1993. PFI
cooperators will continue to experiment. Harlan Grau, for
instance, has this fall banded fertilizer five inches deep into
the ridges of next year s corn fields, hoping to achieve a
OTHER FERTILIZER TRIALS
Two cooperators evaluated unconventional fertilizer materials in
1993, and a third PFI member carried out two trials under the
Sustainable Projects program (Table 4., STRTOFRT.WMF graphics
file). Jeff and Gayle Olson, Winfield, looked for a residual
effect from the pell lime they banded in 1992. No effect was
observed on last year s soybeans, and none was evident in 1993
Ray and Marj Stonecypher, Floyd, tested AchieveTM a product
described as a bacterial inoculant. The material has been
recommended as part of a package that includes reducing inputs
and lengthening the crop rotation. The Stonecyphers, who already
practice input efficiency and crop rotation, were interested in
evaluating the product in their system. They found no
significant yield effect.
John and Rosie Wurpts, Boone, applied for a Sustainable Projects
grant to evaluate two fertilization recommendation approaches
Iowa State University s and that of a local dealer for Agrienergy
products. This was the third year of the experiment, which
includes both years of a corn-soybean rotation. Based on soil
tests, ISU Extension recommended no fertilizer other than
nitrogen. One hundred-twenty pounds N was applied to the corn in
both the ISU and the alternative treatment. No significant
difference in yield was measured in either the corn or soybeans,
so net profit was determined by input costs.
The weather is certainly a factor in the performance of any
system of tillage. In 1993, three replicated trials compared
ridge tillage and no-till (Table 6, TILLAGE.WMF graphics file).
The tillage treatments in Jeff and Gayle Olson s field trial
differed only in that corn was planted into either drilled-bean
ground or ridges from the previous year s trial. Both treatments
were cultivated once and received the same application of
ExtrazineTM and 2,4-D. Costs were the same, and there was no
difference in corn yield.
Don and Sharon Davidson, Grundy Center, continued their
comparison of ridge tillage and no-till, with 1993 the second
year on the same site. Whereas in 1992 drilled soybeans were
more profitabl than ridge-till beans, in 1993 row-seeded no-till
soybeans were much less profitable. Not only were costs higher
in the no-till soybeans, but yields were almost 8 bushels less.
Don had some trouble at harvest because of dirt clods thrown into
the row by the one cultivation in the no-till treatment. He also
observed that the ridge-till controlled early grasses much better
than the no-till. Don admits that the postemerge PoastTM
application on July 28 was later than it should have been. He
had to balance the demands of the experiment against those of the
rest of the farm, and he is still learning how to be a no-tiller.
Don Davidson also attempted to raise no-till corn the way his
neighbors do. That meant not applying a starter fertilizer. As
do the majority of ridge-till farmers, Don does use starter
fertilizer in corn. His no-till corn yielded almost 13 bushels
less than the ridge-till corn. Was it because of the lack of
starter? This illustrates one of the dilemmas of on-farm
research. Should you compare individual variables or whole
PFI cooperators make their own decisions on what trials are to be
done, so it s not surprising that there are some one of a kind
trials. The Dordt College Agricultural Stewardship Center, for
example, is located near Sioux Center, an area with many dairy
farms. The Center carried out two corn variety trials in 1993,
one for silage and one for grain (Table 5, MULTITRT.WMF graphics
file). They were interested in seeing if the waxy varieties, not
usually grown in Sioux County, would perform as well as others,
which they did.
Ted and Donna Bauer, Audubon, continued two trials they have
carried out before (Table 6, TILLAGE.WMF graphics file). They
compared purchased soybean seed to seed they grew and cleaned
themselves. As in 1992, the seed that was saved back yielded as
well and was more economical than purchased seed of the same
The Bauers also repeated a comparison of corn harvest dates. Ted
combined strips through the field every 48 rows on October 15.
Then on November 4, after three weeks of good drying weather, he
harvested strips halfway between the previous harvest areas.
Whereas in 1991 late-harvested corn was more profitable, in 1993
ear drop and stalk rot combined to make late harvest less
desirable by almost $7 per acre.
Jeff and Gayle Olson, Winfield, raised corn with and without 9
pounds per acre of ForceTM rootworm insecticide (Table 6,
TILLAGE.WMF graphics file). They did not scout the previous
year s corn, so they did not know what to expect for insect
pressure. The corn without insecticide yielded 9.2 bushels less,
more than justifying the cost of insecticide.
Tom and Irene Frantzen repeated their evaluation of the
rotational effects of grain amaranth (Table 6, TILLAGE.WMF
graphics file). In 1992 trials, soybeans following amaranth had
performed as well as following corn, but corn following amaranth
grew unevenly and yielded much less than corn following soybeans.
In 1993, however, no such difficulties were encountered. Corn
following corn required additional nitrogen, which the Frantzens
supplied in manure, but it still did not yield as well as corn
following amaranth. The information from these trials will be
very useful as more growers begin to integrate amaranth into
their cropping systems.
Repeating trials like these, far from indicating a lack of
creativity, shows that cooperators have a lasting commitment to
addressing some basic questions. Many questions in farming can t
be answered in a single trial. A variety of years and sites are
required to discover the range an reliability of a practice or
response. Especially when weather and other changeable factors
are involved, patience and persistence pay off.
WIND CHARGER DEMONSTRATION
Doyle and Lowell Wilson, Primghar, included at the August field
day a demonstration of the economics of their wind turbine. The
charger has been in place since 1983, when investment tax credits
were available for purchase of alternative energy technologies.
With three blades 13.5 feet long, the Jacobs Co. charger sits
atop a 100-foot tower. In a 27 mph wind, the device tops out at
17.5 kilowatts per hour. Present technology has raised the
output of similar systems to 22-25 KW/hr.
Table 7 (WINDCHRG.WMF graphics file) shows the cost of the
charger, the operating costs since 1983, and the savings in
purchased electricity at the local rate of $0.11 per kilowatt.
The Wilsons sell back $3-$10 per month to the utility, at a
co-generation rate of $0.048 per kilowatt-hour. Doyle says the
charger was something they tried just out of curiosity and
because of the tax credit. The tax credit has meant that the
charger has turned a profit within the first ten years of life.
Chargers sold today have an output/cost ratio about one-third
greater, and the additional output over ten years would
approximately equal the tax credit originally obtained by the
WEED MANAGEMENT TRIALS
Weed management in 1993 was often a case of damage control, as
the effectiveness of both chemical and mechanical controls was
hurt by the continual rains. Despite the problems, a number of
PFI cooperators conducted weed management trials. Paul and Karen
Mugge, Sutherland, compared ridge-till corn grown with one rotary
hoeing and one cultivation to corn with preemerge and postemerge
herbicide bands (Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF graphics file). Although
the mechanical-control corn yielded a significant 3.0 bushels
less, it was more profitable because it cost less than the
The Mugges also compared one rotary hoeing to a preemerge band of
DualTM and LexoneTM in ridge-till soybeans. Yields did not
differ, and the hoeing was the cheaper practice. Up the road in
Primghar, Doyle and Lowell Wilson compared a preemerge band of
ScepterTM and CommandTM to one cultivation for ridge-till soybeans
(Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF graphics file). Yields were similar, and
the cultivation was cheaper by about $0.86 per acre.
Vic and Cindy Madsen, Audubon, examined a postemerge band of
PursuitTM on ridge-till soybeans (Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF graphics
file). The whole field received RoundupTM/ 2,4-D at planting and
one cultivation. This basic management controlled weeds well.
The Pursuit only reduced the number of broadleafed weeds from 20
to 6 per acre. But the Pursuit also stunted the soybean plants,
setting them back about two weeks. Partly because of late
planting, the crop never had time to recover, and the Madsens
measured a 35.8 bushel yield loss.
Dick and Sharon Thompson, Boone, also evaluated a practice that
turned out to be unnecessary. They compared ridge-till soybeans
that were not rotar hoed with beans receiving a double-pass first
hoeing and a single-pass second hoeing (Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF
graphics file). The rotary hoe brought broadleafed weeds down to
6 per acre from 14, but there was no difference in soybean yield.
In addition, the Thompsons compared the standard Buffalo
ridge-till planter, with coulter and gauge wheel over the row, to
a modified Buffalo planter with no coulter and the press wheels
off the ridge (Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF graphics file). By not
disturbing the ridge ahead of the planter sweep, Dick thought he
might attain better weed control. There was not a significant
difference in broadleafed weed numbers, but the tendency in 1993
was for weed numbers to actually be greater with the modified
These two treatments were actually part of a larger trial in
which the Thompsons focused on the effect of a rye cover crop on
the ridge (Table 5, MULTITRT.WMF graphics file). Using the
off-row planter, they compared: 1) no cover crop, 2) rye seeded
on the ridge the previous fall, and 3) rye seeded on the ridge in
the early spring. A drill was used to place two rows of the
cover crop on the top of the ridge, where it could be removed
easily by the planter sweep. The soybeans following
spring-seeded rye had slightly fewer broadleafed weeds than the
beans after fall-seeded rye. However, contrary to expectations,
the beans without a cover crop had even fewer broadleafed weeds
significantly fewer than the fall-seeded rye treatment. Because
of the wet conditions, not all of the rye cover was eliminated by
the planter, and the surviving cover crop may have competed with
Another multiple-treatment weed management trial was carried out
by Ron and Maria Rosmann, Harlan, with the help of a producer
grant from the LISA program of the USDA. In a trial that
occupied most of a large field, the Rosmanns compared six weed
management systems for ridge-till corn, varying from
all-mechanical to mostly-chemical (Table 5, MULTITRT.WMF graphics
file). Weeds were a problem in all six treatments, and there
were no real differences in corn yield. As a consequence, the
lowest-cost weed management systems were the most profitable, and
these were the two-cultivations treatment and the
two-hoeings-plus-two-cultivations treatment. Included in the
costs of these two systems is the labor for field operations.
That wage labor is either a liability or an asset, depending on
how you look at it.
Finally, the Dordt College Ag Stewardship Center conducted an
unrandomized demonstration of an unusual approach to weed
control. They planted corn into spring-seeded annual medic
(Table 8, WEEDMGT.WMF graphics file). This alfalfa relative is
being evaluated in Minnesota for its ability to control weeds in
row crops. It is said to have the advantage of self
destructing, so as not to compete with the crop. It did not
behave in this way in northwest Iowa in 1993. Perhaps because of
the cool, wet growing season, the medic did not senesce. That
and the high seeding rate used led to strong competition with the
corn crop. The economic loss in the table reflects only seeding
and field preparation costs. The yield difference, if real,
would cause an additional financial loss. Cooperators may give
annual medic another try next year, based on the farmer interest
in Minnesota. However, as with Nitro annual alfalfa, Minnesota
imports can be expected to change their behavior when they come
down to Iowa.
NARROW STRIP INTERCROPPING
Past experience has suggested that the biggest advantage of
narrow strip intercropping is seen in years with good yield
potential. In years of drought stress, yields of stripped crops
are no better than yields of whole-field blocks, ad the outer
rows of strips yield no better than the inner rows. The crop
stress in 1993 was not from drought but too much moisture and
late planting. With support from the Leopold Center for
Sustainable Agriculture, PFI cooperators collected data from
around the state on the behavior of this practice in a wet, short
year like 1993.
As Table 9 (NSI1.WMF graphics file) shows, yields in strips
relative to whole-field blocks was variable. Doug Alert,
Hampton, found the greatest advantage to strips, with a 27.8
bushel advantage. Stripped soybeans varied from a 3.9-bushel
deficit (Jeff and Gayle Olson, Winfield) to a 1.6-bushel
advantage (Doug Alert). Dick and Sharon Thompson, Boone, found a
12 bushel benefit to stripped soybeans, but the figure is not
directly comparable. Their strip system is a
corn-bean-oats/berseem clover rotation using ridge-till and
banded fertilizer, while the comparison field block is in a
corn-soybean rotation with disk tillage and broadcast fertilizer.
Because of weather problems, Paul and Karen Mugge, Sutherland,
could only compare strips in a corn-soybean-oat rotation to field
blocks in a corn-soybean rotation.
With help from ISU researchers Rick Cruse and Mohammed
Ghaffarzadeh, yields-by-row were gathered on eight cooperators
farms (Table 10, NSI2.WMF graphics file; and Figure 3,
STRIPRW1.PCX; and Figure 4, STRIPRW2.PCX graphics file). These
yields may differ somewhat from those shown in Table 9 (NSI1.WMF
graphics file). Four cooperators had strips running north-south.
(A strip of Doug Alert's was thinned to different populations.)
There was a tendency for corn to yield more on the eastern edge
of these corn strips than in the row bordering the west edge of
the strip. These east edges also were usually next to oats,
while the lower-yielding west rows were next to soybean strips.
No such trend emerged in the strips running east-west. In
addition to five corn strips, yields were measured by row in two
soybean strips. Dordt College estimated soybean yield by
counting plants, pods, and beans per pod in each row.
In the next months, PFI cooperators will be working with Don
Davidson and Extension field specialist John Creswell to complete
the Crop Enterprise Analysis on their strip and whole-field
systems. The economic information that emerges from that work
will reflect yields, but it will also show where cooperators made
the most of the oats/berseem clover crop. Previously the
weakling of the crop rotation, oats/berseem was a highly
productive source of forage this year for those who had livestock
to utilize it. Paul and Karen Mugge, Sutherland, examined the
economics of oats alone, berseem seeded with oats, and berseem
seeded into oats (Table 5, MULTITRT.WMF graphics file). Tom and
Irene Frantzen, New Hampton, documented the utilization of the
berseem strip for greenchop feed. Their results appear on page
31. These cooperators are coming to see narrow strip
intercropping as more than a fancy way to row crop. It can be an
entry point into a more diverse and integrated farming system.
PFI cooperators are working with support from the Leopold Center
for Sustainable Agriculture to document the economics of
management-intensive-grazing, using the Beef Cow Business Record.
Those results will become available later in the project. The
Leopold Center and PFI Sustainable Projects also sponsored PFI
members Steve Hopkins and Sarah Andreasen, Decorah, to document
their dairy grazing system.
In 1993, the couple milked 16 Jersey cows and 2 Ayrshires on 20
acres of steep pasture divided into approximately 30 paddocks.
They recorded not only costs and production (Figure 5, DAIRY1.TIF
graphics file), but also the growth and quality of forage over
the summer (Figure 6, DAIRY2.TIF graphics file). At the field
day August 3, Steve described how weekly forage analysis was
teaching them things they could not learn by just watching the
paddocks. While forage protein content had remained high, an
energy component of the grass nonfiber carbohydrate (NFC) had
steadily declined over the summer. This explained the drop in
production they had experienced, and it allowed them to remedy
the deficit with supplemental feed.
Steve and Sarah and their neighbors will be watching to see if
forage quality and quantity hold up next summer, in the second
year of the study. In a drier summer, NFC is not likely to be as
much of a problem as in 1993. Steve s goal is to rely as much as
possible on pasture and to avoid investments in row cropping or
ensiling equipment. The couple has dried out the milking cows
for the winter and will resume milking next spring. |
BACKGROUNDING CATTLE WITH AVAILABLE RESOURCES
Doyle and Lowell Wilson, Primghar
During the past year our farming operation has expanded into
backgrounding cattle. Our premise is that there is a need to
diversify farms, including ours. In Iowa there are many areas
where older, small feed lots exist; with the addition of capture
pens and chutes at minimal cost, a profit can be realized. Also,
there are many potential bales of hay that are going to waste in
road ditches, waterways, and headlands.
Backgrounding is a niche that not all farmers can fit
psychologically, as treating sick cattle can be wearing. To
carry out this kind of project you must have: 1) a desire for
more income and the time to spend feeding and caring for the
cattle; 2) facilities to handle 20-50 head of cattle; and 3) the
desire to learn about cattle, some of their diseases, ways to
treat those diseases, and a little about ruminant nutrition.
The facilities you need include a cattle lot with drainage for
wet weather, some concrete to feed on, plenty of feed bunk space,
and a catch pen (with a chute and head gate) that will hold about
six head. The facility needs to work smoothly so that cattle can
be captured with the least effort on your part and the least
stress on both you and the cattle. Along with the pen and chute,
you need a good digital thermometer.
You need a good source of good quality cattle that are green.
Green in this case means a weight of 400-500 pounds. They need
to look like they have not eaten well in life. If they are
fleshy and nice looking, they don t have the potential to gain
well and make you money. A reputable order buyer can be one
source of cattle.
A veterinarian should be able to help with a sound vaccination
and antibiotic program when they get sick. I mean when, not if.
The digital thermometer is an important tool, because in the
first 28 days you will probably take each animal s temperature
10-15 times. Taking temps on all animals often, helps in
catching sickness as it starts in the animal, before damage has
occurred to the lungs. Visibly sick animals have usually been
sick for a few days, and damage can easily already have occurred.
Another part of the program is feed. When starting the animals,
it is important to get them to come to the bunk twice a day and
clean up all the feed in it. Grass hay is the best to start them
on, with top-dresed protein and whole corn. All changes in
feeding rates should be done slowly over two or three days.
Within a week the cattle should be eating one percent of their
body weight in corn, and within two weeks 1.5 percent of body
weight. After two weeks there should be similar amounts of grass
hay and corn. At two weeks start replacing the grass hay with
coarse alfalfa, and at about three weeks a large, round bale of
coarse alfalfa or good quality grass can be put in to be fed
This method of feeding eliminates the need for an expensive
investment in machinery and facilities. Cost of gain should be
in the area of $0.40 per pound, depending on weather and how you
protect the animals from it. It is important to have bedding in
bad weather and shelter to keep them dry. Steamy, tight barns
are worse than no barn at all, though.
The important thing is to keep the animals heathy and growing.
For a feeding period of 90-120 days to put on 150-200 pounds, the
return on investment is better than doing nothing. You can
either sell the cattle to someone else to finish or finish them
yourself. This enterprise makes use of buildings and feedlots
that may not be used any other way. Small is better than large
numbers anyway, because of the attention required by each animal.
The old saying is that 30 done right is better than 300 done
FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
A Marriage Made in Heaven or More Heavy Metal From Hell?
Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
Graziers following the Savory or Voisin pasture management
monitor the growth of grass. Typically the dry matter production
decreases as the summer progresses. To avoid overgrazing, the
rest recovery period is lengthened. To allow for this recovery,
either more paddocks are added to the cell or the number of
animals is reduced.
On our farm, we are exploring a different strategy to compensate
for the seasonal decline in pasture dry matter production.
Basically, we are green-chopping an alternative annual forage and
feeding this supplemental to our grazing. The annual forage that
we are experimenting with is berseem Egyptian clover. Iowa State
University is actively involved in the project. Drs. Mohammed
Ghaffarzadeh and Mike Brasche initiated the research project,
with 13 on-farm locations across the state, as well as on-station
Berseem is a highly productive annual. Excellent seedling vigor
and robust growth characteristics result in dry matter yields of
3-4 tons per acre. Feeding quality is comparable to alfalfa. It
does not have bloating characteristics.
One of the driving reasons for the research into berseem is the
near chronic failures in small grain production in recent years.
Oats harvested as a cash grain resulted in a net economic loss 7
of the past 10 years.
We are hesitant to abandon small grain seeding. The soil
conservation and ecological diversification benefits are too
good. Why not skip the grain harvest and chop the oats and
berseem as a forage?
Figure 7 (BERSEEM.TIF graphics file) details how well this annual
forage compliments the pasture. With help from ISU and Practical
Farmers of Iowa, we put the above theory to a farm test. A group
of 480-pound stocker cattle were purchased in April. They were
pastured as a group until July 12th. From early June on, they
were fed a limited amount of green-chopped berseem to help
acclimate their rumens. On July 12th, the group was split and
weighed. One group was drylot fed greenchop, the other remained
on intensely managed pastures. Both sets were fed 1 percent of
bodyweight in grain plus free choice minerals. ISU assisted the
project with analysis of forage quality and feedlot rations.
Researchers also conducted weekly, hand-harvest yield checks in
the berseem strips. PFI s Sustainable Projects provided
financial support to assist with weighing both cattle and
Both groups of cattle were scaled again on Sept. 7th. Each group
gained 2.1 pounds per head per day. The cattle consumed roughly
two-thirds of the available forage during the trial. The
greenchop berseem produced around 600 pounds of beef per acre.
The pastured stockers yielded 735 pounds of beef per acre. Both
yields are adjusted to a full season basis.
The economics point to the value of well managed pastures.
However, the Berseem green chop easily beats cash crop oats. I
don t cherish the heavy metal aspect of green chopping. However,
the three tracts of land we farm are not contiguous. Pasturing
is done on the home 80. Down the road on the remaining 240
acres, we apply ridge till conservation tillage and narrow strip
Is greenchop a viable mid- to late-season forage supplement? We
plan to repeat the trial this year. |
FROM THE KITCHEN
Marj Stonecypher, Floyd
Hope all of you survived 1993?? Or maybe we should not even
mention 1993?? A year to remember, right?? Let s go to 1994,
the IRS and seed catalogues.
Just baked the following bars. Our son-in-law would eat the
whole pan, if I let him. This was the winning recipe, given over
TV, at the Peanut Festival down south.
CREAM CHEESE PEANUT BARS
1 yellow butter cake mix (chocolate is good too)
1/2 stick margarine or butter
Mix cake mixture and divide. Press half into bottom of greased 9
x 13" pan. Set other half aside for the top.
1 box (2 cups) powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy
Mix filling and spread in pan over half of pressed cake. Top
with remaining half of cake.
1 to 2 cups finely chopped raw peanuts
Sprinkle on top of cake and filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (no longer).
If you love spinach, you ll love the following. If you don t,
you will be surprised, this is good.
2 pkgs. frozen spinach (chopped)
1 stick butter, divided
1 8oz. pkg. Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepperidge Farm herb dressing
pepper to taste
Cook spinach and drain well. Add cream cheese, salt, and half of
butter. Mixed well. Put into 7x11" glass pan. Sprinkle with dressing
and pepper. Melt remaining butter and pour over top. Bake 20 to 30
minutes, 350 degrees.
PFI MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION AND RENEWAL FORM
Zip Code ____________________________________
Phone # _________________________________________
This is a _____ new membership
Do you derive a significant part of your income directly from farming in
_____ yes _____ no
Please enclose check or money order ($10 for one year, $25 for three
years) payable to "Practical Farmers of Iowa" and mail to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036
Correspondence to the PFI directors' addresses is always welcome.
Member contributions to the Practical Farmer are also welcome and will
be reviewed by the PFI board of directors.
OFFICERS AND STAFF
District 1 (Northwest): Paul Mugge, 6190 470th St., Sutherland, 51058.
District 2 (North Central): Raymond Stonecypher, 1321 March Ave., Floyd,
IA, 50435-8058. (515) 398-2417.
District 3 (Northeast): Laura Krouse, 1346 Springville Rd., Mt. Vernon,
IA 52314. (319) 895-6924.
District 4 (Southwest): Vic Madsen, PFI President, 2186 Goldfinch Ave.,
Audubon, 50025. (712) 563-3044.
District 5 (Southeast): Jeff Olson, PFI Vice President, 2273 140th St.,
Winfield, 52659. (319) 257-6967.
Associate board member for District 5: David Lubben, RR 3, Box 128,
Monticello, IA 52310. (319) 465-4717.
PFI Treasurer: Dick Thompson, 2035 190th St., Boone, 50036. (515)
Coordinators: Rick Exner, Gary Huber, Room 2104, Agronomy Hall, ISU,
Ames, Iowa, 50011. (515) 294-1923
Public Relations Coordinator: Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, 1222 Ironwood
Rd., Harlan, 51537. (712) 627-4653.