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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

the north platte telegraph

Corn yields expected to bounce back this year Production likely to be better despite lingering drought conditions

U.S. Drought Monitor High Plains

By Andrew Bottrell | abottrell@nptelegraph.com

As Nebraska continues to try and bounce back from an historically dry 2012 and early 2013, crop yields are expected to be higher, especially north of North Platte. “Overall, production is going to be better than last year. There was good rainfall over the summer, especially I-80 and north,” said Tim Goding, grain manager for Ag Valley Coop. In general, he said they are expecting corn yields to bounce back somewhat from last year, when the area experienced exceptional drought conditions, the highest issued by the Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The latest drought map, issued on Sept. 10, shows west-central Nebraska still in severe and extreme drought conditions. Specifically, northern Lincoln County as well as Logan and Custer counties have experienced above normal rainfalls for the spring and summer, and Goding said he expects yields for dryland corn in that area to be as high as 80 bushel per acre. “Our local areas, depending on who got the rain to help out, you could see dryland yields up over 80 bushel. Areas that didn’t get it, you could see fields abandoned and if not abandoned, very poor yields.” Goding said he is expecting lower yields across southwestern Nebraska, where producers experienced drier conditions and natural resources districts restrict water usage. On Sept. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its latest projections, saying 13.8 billion bushels of corn are expected to be produced this year, up 1 percent from August and up 28 percent from 2012. According to the USDA report, this would be a new record production for the United States. Yields are expected to average 155.3 bushels per acre, up 0.9 bushels from the August forecast and 31.9 bushels from 2012. If the forecast is correct, that would be the highest average yield since 2009. A cool, damp beginning to August led to a hot, dry end of the month and beginning of September. While locally irrigated corn withstood the heat, soybeans did not fare as well, though yields are expected to be up from 2012. “I think it helped on some of the irrigated corn and corn that had good rains. It helped allow the plant to get pollination and fill the

Intensity: Abnormally Dry Drought — Moderate Drought — Severe

Drought — Extreme Drought — Exceptional

kernels,” Goding said. “The production there would be good. Soybeans, the cool weather was good, but with the heat some of the beans will be smaller because we just ran out of water.” Nationally, soybean yields experienced the same affect from the late-season heat. The USDA is forecasting a national yield of 3.15 billion bushels, down 3 percent from the August forecast, but up 4 percent from 2012. While it’s still too early to predict what will happen in 2014, the most challenging aspect heading into the next year is the lack of soil moisture content. This year started off with low soil moisture, and though rains have helped crops, they haven’t replenished the soil moisture. “For the most part, they’d like to have more [soil moisture content]. We’ve still got a deficit,” Goding said. “Normally, we don’t receive that much moisture in October, November and December. We’ll go into fall with a deficit on sub-soil.” While crop yields are just projections at this point, it won’t be long before the ag industry finds out. “Normally, we see some high-moisture corn go to the feedlots in the middle part of September,” Goding said. “In late September, the bean harvest starts in. Then we see the dry irrigated corn dry enough to start on that. Harvest usually wraps up the first part of November.”

Andrew Bottrell / The North Platte Telegraph

Irrigated corn near Hershey is nearly ready for harvest this September. On Sept. 13, the United States Department of Agriculture released its latest projections, saying 13.8 billion bushels of corn are expected to be produced this year, up 1 percent from August and up 28 percent from 2012.

Heat still hurting dryland corn LINCOLN (AP) — Federal authorities say above-normal temperatures and limited rainfall have added more stress to Nebraska’s dryland corn. The Department of Agriculture says that for last week, dryland corn conditions rated 35 percent good or excellent,

compared with 59 percent on the average. Irrigated corn conditions rated 81 percent good or excellent, compared with 75 percent on average. Soybean conditions rated 61 percent good or excellent while the state’s alfalfa was rated 49 percent good or excellent.


the north platte telegraph

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

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Nebraska may be ready for regional food systems World-Herald News Service

LYONS — There is significant interest in creating local and regional food production and marketing systems among Nebraskans, especially among farmers, ranchers, consumers and institutional buyers, according to a report released Wednesday by the Center for Rural Affairs here. The report also indicates that despite that interest, there are major challenges existing today that will have to be resolved before more local and regional food systems can be fostered. In February, the Center for Rural Affairs released a report that analyzed the results of a survey of Nebraskans on local food system issues. After the survey was completed, the center conducted a series of focus groups for each of the project-relevant groups: consumers, farmers, ranchers, food-serving institutions and grocery stores. “Both the surveys and focus groups done for this project show there are several issues between producers and consumers that require answers before local and regional food systems can be truly successful,” said Jon Bailey, the center’s director of rural research and analysis and author of the report. Bailey said the usual food-buying experience of consumers (location, hours, convenience) do not always translate to a local or regional food buying experience. Farmers are experienced in farming and growing and producing their products for sale; their skills in marketing and basic business operations may be lacking at times. Moreover, balancing

the expectations and needs of consumers and the skills and desires of farmers and ranchers will be necessary to create long-term successful and sustainable local and regional food systems. “Nonetheless, all groups with a stake in the food system appear to want to make a local and regional food system work,” Bailey said. “It is clear from the survey results and the focus groups that all three groups — farmers, consumers and institutions — will need to collaborate to make regional food systems in Nebraska a viable reality,” he said. “Those involved in developing regional food systems also need to address questions regarding future viability for regional food systems.” The report describes a number of steps that need to occur to bring about the necessary collaborations between food system partners, including: n Development of a state food policy council or local and regional food policy councils to organize regional food systems and determine the strengths, challenges and needs of localities and regions in relation to food systems. n Local and regional entities to develop infrastructure necessary for the cultivation and advancement of regional food systems. Needed infrastructure includes information and education for consumers and institutions on local foods, their advantages, how to purchase them and how best to use them; nonfarm business training for farmers involved in local food production and marketing; and infrastructure such as distribution and retail channels.

Photo courtesy on West Central Research and Extension Center

A combine makes short work of a cornfield. Weird weather conditions this year have thrown harvest season for a loop, making producers wonder what to expect.

Season has seen ups and downs Dryland corn fields may see increased yields thanks to late rainfall By Heather Johnson | hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

Rains this week provided a much needed boost for dryland crops — exactly how much remains to be seen. Greg Kruger, cropping systems specialist for the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, said the hot, dry weather before the rainfall caused corn to start shutting down prematurely. “Now we have to look at whether it has shut down so much it can’t come back, or will the rain help?” Kruger said. “I think it will certainly help. Some hasn’t reached black layer, signaling physiological

maturity. That rain will help the plants continue to develop.” He said irrigated corn isn’t going to benefit much from the moisture. However, he does predict a slightly higher yield in terms of dryland production because of the rainfall. “But, the question is, ‘How much?’ because we don’t have much season left to capture,” Kruger said. The current growing season has certainly seen its share of ups and downs as far as the weather is concerned. Kruger said cool temperatures earlier in the summer slowed crops

significantly. He said the 50- to 86-degree range is needed for optimum plant development. The cool weather was followed by a brutal heat wave the first part of September, which bumped temperatures up to the triple digits. The leaves on corn started to curl as a result. “The daily highs and lows were both above 86,” Kruger said. “So, we were pushing growth and development as fast as it would go, but that was counteracted by the fact that we didn’t have much rain during the rest of the growing season.” When the season ends will depend partly on the weather conditions, but it will also be determined largely by the hybrids farmers selected. Kruger said each hybrid has a certain number of growing degree

days it needs to become mature. “Most of the time, around the end of September or early October, we see harvest start,” Kruger said. “But, sometimes it’s late into the fall, past Thanksgiving. In 2009, we had an early frost that really slowed the grain drydown stage and pushed our harvest back into January, February and March of 2010 in a few fields.” He said there’s not much that can be done to change the maturity date of a hybrid once it’s in the ground. “A lot of it is just a roll of the dice,” Kruger said. “The best thing is to do is your homework when selecting a hybrid and talk with a seed dealer. That person will have the best feel for the genetics and the local environment.”


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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

FALL HARVEST

the north platte telegraph

Debate: Are genetically-engineered crops safe?

Expert says there isn’t enough data either way

“It’s a gray area, and it’s high-stakes. I base my decisions on peer-reviewed evidence. I want to report the science, and it’s hard to say at this moment if GE foods could cause long-term human nutrition problems.”

By Heather Johnson hjohnson@nptelegraph.com

The world of agriculture is making great strides in technological advancements, but is it coming at a price to consumers? The safety of genetically engineered foods, also referred to as genetically modified foods, is an ongoing controversy. Some say biotech foods are highly toxic, while others claim there’s no risk at all. So which is it? There may not be an easy answer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, genetically-modified organisms are living organisms genetically altered by inserting a gene from an unrelated species — something that cannot occur naturally through sexual reproduction. The technology has been applied toward more than 40 species of plants, including corn, cotton, tomatoes, potatoes, soybeans, tobacco, rice, cranberries, papayas, raspberries and walnuts. According to the USDA, 94 percent of the cotton planted in the U.S. in 2012 was genetically engineered. Ninety-three percent of the soybean crop and 88 percent of corn planted was also genetically engineered. Many GE crops have been developed to resist both insects and herbicides. GE plums can resist plum pox, a disease carried by aphids.

—Dr. Farryl Bertmann, research scientist, about geneticallyengineered crops

Photo courtesy of the Department of Agronomy & Horticulture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A research technician collects plant growth data on a controlled trial of genetically engineered soybeans. The field is part of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln experiment station. The enhanced Vitamin A content in golden rice comes from inserting genes from a microbe and daffodils into the rice. The USDA believes the increased nutritional content could improve the diets of people in third world countries. The USDA also predicts transgenic plants will be used as bioreactors in the future to produce large quantities of inexpensive pharmaceuticals, polymers, industrial enzymes, modified oils, starches and proteins. Many say the positives come with their share of drawbacks. Numerous websites denounce the safety of GE crops, blaming them for causing everything from endometriosis and antibiotic resistance to tumors. Although the U.S. Food and Drug AdComplete Water Systems for Lawn Yard • Domestic Livestock Pumps, Sprinklers, Stock Tanks

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ministration regulates foods and ingredients, including those from GE plants, the agency says it neither supports GE plants based on their perceived benefits nor opposes them based on their perceived risks. Labeling of GE products is on a volunteer-basis. In January, German-based Testbiotech released a study about genetic engineering in the U.S. and the impact it could have in Europe, where U.S. crops such as corn, are imported. Testbiotech is a non-profit organization that promotes independent research and public debate on the impacts of biotechnology. Its goal is to make research and transparency higher priorities in political decision making. According to the study, because there’s no label-

ing requirement in the U.S. and no traceability of products on the U.S. food market, there’s no way to collect data about the potential health impacts of GE foods. In 2005, the European Commission decided that based on the data available, it was possible to rule out a link between eating GE food products and symptoms associated with acute illnesses. However, it also decided it was impossible to determine to what extent GE foods increased the risk of the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and allergies. Dr. Farryl Bertmann, research scientist at the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition in Omaha, said the issue is complicated. According to Bertmann, there are conflicts of interest in-

volved, which can make it difficult to figure out who is defending the information presented. “It’s a gray area, and it’s high stakes,” Bertmann said. “I base my decisions on peer-reviewed evidence. I want to report the science, and it’s hard to say at this moment if GE foods could cause long-term human nutrition problems.” GE products weren’t introduced into the U.S. food supply until 1996. Bertmann said some cancers take longer than that to develop. She worries about allergies and a battle of good bacteria versus bad bacteria. “Often they will take bacteria and slice it into the genome of the plant, so they’re going across two different kingdoms,” Bertmann said. “There’s concern that the bacteria could cause an allergic reaction. We also have really specific gut flora in our intestines. There’s the potential that this new genome could disrupt our gut flora. The evidence is still out.” Dr. Sally Mackenzie is a professor of plant science for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Biological Sciences. She said GE products are tested extensively before they are eaten.

“Nothing is 100 percent safe, but we have been consuming these products for going on 15-20 years. During that time, we have zero documented cases of any health related problems,” Mackenzie said. “That’s a better record than our milk, meat or organic vegetable supplies.” She said the FDA has found no difference between the composition of a GE crop and a non-GE crop. “That is the basis for their lack of labeling for these products. All those expenses would be passed on to us — the consumers,” Mackenzie said. “There’s a perception that the industry is trying to hide things. That’s not the case at all. If you’re going to label, you have to label for something being constitutionally different.” Mackenzie and her husband raise and eat GE crops. “Everybody does whether they realize it or not,” Mackenzie said. “It’s processed in a variety of foods such as corn chips and corn oil.” Bertmann said her recommendation to consumers would be to understand where food comes from so an informed decision can be made. “Right now, there’s nothing that directly points a link between human health concerns and genetically modified organisms,” Bertmann said. “There’s concern and speculation, but at this point I can’t give a definite answer as to whether they are bad for health. There just isn’t enough evidence.”

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the north platte telegraph

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

Governor, UNL officials say water still critical issue

Gov. Dave Heineman (center left) discusses the aquifer’s relationship to the rivers in Nebraska with (from left) geologist Jesse Korus, Nebraska University Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Ronnie Green and hydrogeologist Doug Hallum as he tours the UNL Building during Husker Harvest Days at the site west of Grand Island.

IANR has earned global reputation for water research

availability of water or the sustainability and conservation of water.” Nebraska and California are the nation’s two leading irrigation states. In Nebraska, nearly 9 million acres of principal cropland are By RoBert Pore irrigated. World-Herald News Service Green said the UNL GRAND ISLAND — research, education and Gov. Dave Heineman extension work being has said that water is conducted on water “is one of the most critical increasingly importissues facing Nebraska ant because we want this century. to look to the future to Heineman visited make sure that we have Husker Harvest Days a sustainable resource last week and got a for many, many years to lesson from experts come.” from the University He said the UNL of Nebraska-Lincoln Husker Harvest Days on groundbreaking exhibit focuses on all research to conserve that research and develand improve that vital opment. natural resource. “Whether it is new “Raising Our H2O technology development IQ,” the theme for the or new management UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Re- practices or a new seed sources’ exhibits at this germ plasm or precision technology in irrigayear’s show, focused tion, it is research we on initiatives that are are extending all the earning IANR a global way around the world reputation as a leader through the Water for in critically important Food Institute at UNL,” water research. he said. Ronnie Green, UniAccording to the versity of Nebraska United Nations, 780 vice president and million people — apHarlan vice chancellor proximately one in of IANR, visited with nine — lack access to an Heineman at the UNL improved water source. exhibit. In Africa, there are 345 “We certainly see all million people without the challenges that are water access. A total of ahead for agriculture 3.4 million worldwide in meeting the needs of the world ahead of us for die annually due to a decades to come,” Green water-related disease. More people own mobile said. “A lot of those phones than toilets. challenges hinge on water, whether it is the Green said this is a

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World-Herald News Service

“Renaissance time” for land grant universities, such as UNL, to research and develop sustainable ways to conserve and use natural resources so they will provide for generations to come throughout the world. “That is especially true in and around agriculture and rural issues, which is much of our heritage of the university system,” he said. When looking out over the generations to come, Green said, “The challenges the world is going to face around food security, around natural resources security, we are in a place here where we are having to work very hard on all of those issues and dealing with questions, such as, ‘How are we going to be sustainable and successful long term in our natural-resource-based economy that we have in Nebraska and an agricultural-based economy that all indications are has a very bright future ahead of it worldwide?’ ”

“We are going to have to continue to work on these challenges if we are to meet the needs of the world out ahead of us,” Green said. “We are very fortunate in Nebraska that our land grant university is doubling down on these issues. We are investing more resources and more people and more talent in Nebraska to engage in these issues, so we are fortunate that we are adding faculty and our student numbers are busting out, especially in the area of agriculture and

natural resources,” he said. Heineman said UNL is doing a “fantastic job” of protecting and strengthening Nebraska’s natural resources. “The research they are doing on water is critically important to our future,” he said. That research is so important, Heineman said, as agriculture is Nebraska’s top industry. “When ag does well, main-street Nebraska does well,” he said. During recent years when the nation’s economy was stagnating,

Nebraska’s economy was doing well because of a strong agricultural economy. Also, under the Heineman administration, the state’s ethanol industry has become the second largest in the nation and agricultural trade has increased due to various trade missions, especially to Asia. “We are going to be supportive of the university and its efforts,” Heineman said. “The university is a critical partner with us in agriculture and economic development.”


D6

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

the north platte telegraph

Enough water? It depends on location Expert says year’s biggest challenge was starting with little to no soil moisture By diane wetzel | dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

The combines have not started in the fields yet, so crop yields are not yet known. But area farmers who irrigate their crops are looking at a pretty good year. Did we have enough water this year? It depends on where you were, said Lorre McKeone, past interim director and current communications facilitator with Nebraska Water Balance Alliance. “It’s variable,” she said. “In the Republican watershed, for example, their allocations were reduced. It depends on if they had timely rain whether or not they had enough water for crops.” Nebraska received more rain in 2013 than in 2012, she said. “From an overall standpoint, the biggest challenge was that we started the year with no water reserves in our topsoil,” she said. “Ironically, we had a really wet year in 2011 and went into the following year with our reservoirs full and lots of water in the ground. Last year pretty much drained all our reserves. Plants used all available water and farmers were irrigating just to get plants up.” A study done by Decision Innovation Solutions of Des Moines for Nebraska Farm Bureau

found that the ability to irrigate crops in 2012 contributed almost $11 billion to the state’s economy. That’s money that would have been lost if all fields were non-irrigated. “Those who have access to irrigation will do better than those who don’t,” McKeone said. “And different parts of the state are more dependent on irrigation than others.” “The crops in our area look good,” said Jeff Buettner, spokesman for Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District. Central’s irrigation project provides water to more than 112,000 acres the company serves directly and to another 100,000 acres that receive water from Lake McConaughy through contracts with Central. The irrigation division provides services to about 1,300 accounts in Gosper, Phelps, Kearney, Dawson and Lincoln counties. “We did have a water allocation of 10 inches of surface water over a 12-week irrigation season,” Buettner said. “We also had the availability of temporary transfers. Guys who had access to a well could either co-mingle or make that water available to their neighbors who didn’t have

Diane Wetzel / The North Platte Telegraph

Irrigation season has wound down and now area farmers are gearing up for harvest. Yield forecasts for irrigated corn are looking good this year, according to Kelly Brunkhorst with the Nebraska Corn Board.

from Mother Nature this year. And the river water supply was more than adequate. “Adequate would be a good term for what this year has done for —L orre McK eone, us. It would be different Nebraska Water Balance A lliance, depending on which about irrigated and non-irrigated crops district you talked to, depending on their water right date. Some about 1,200 acres of iraccess to groundwater. of them would be more They were able to cover rigated crop land north junior and would be of Paxton. things that way.” more stressed.” “We operate differThere was enough Platte Valley Irrigaently than Central,” he tion District’s diversion water to get their said. “K&L Irrigation customers through the is northwest of SutherDistrict’s water rights season, he said. land on the North go back to 1887. We “We are below norPlatte River. have good water rights, mal in terms of growOrr farms about 1,000 which is a benefit for ing season precipitaacres of irrigated land. us. The Platte River tion,” Buettner said. “My crops are doing held up good enough “If farmers were able fairly well,” he said. for us. I would considto catch a timely rain, Heat stress from the er this to be a normal that sure helped.” high temperatures and year.” Before there was dryness this summer The irrigation disa Central Nebraska has caused some losses, tricts are answerable Power and Irrigation to the taxpayers within McConnell said. District, before King“We are quite a bit the district, he said. sley Dam was built at better off than we were “There are a number Lake McConaughy, of irrigation companies last year,” he said. even before farmers that were formed many “Last year was pretty used gasoline-powered tough, almost as tough years before Kingsley equipment to harvest as we have ever seen.” Dam was thought of,” their crops, there were Next year could be said Jeff Orr, president irrigation districts in of the Platte Valley Irri- another story, McConthe state. nell said. gation District. Mark McConnell is “It will probably be “They have to honor a director with the worse than this year,” those water rights,” Keith-Lincoln County he said. “We’ve got Irrigation District that Orr said. “We always like to see some non-de- Lake McConaughy draws irrigation water pulled down and I don’t structive rainfall and from the North Platte we did get that help think it is going to River. He also has

“Those who have access to irrigation will do better than those who don’t. And different parts of the state are more dependent on irrigation than others.”

recover through the winter. When the lake gets below a certain level, it affects our storage contracts and then we are at the mercy of the river. If we get plenty of inflows through the summer, we can come close. If we don’t have any storage, it will get tight.” Local irrigation districts are governed by the Department of Natural Resources, which controls surface water flows in the state, while Natural Resource Districts control ground water. “They are starting to blend that control a little more,” McConnell said. “But for us, so far, the Department of Natural Resources is the final authority.” Surface water irrigators are like all other irrigators, trying to implement conservation measures as they can. “It’s a slow process,” McConnell said. “We hope to keep improving and applying new technology to keep surface water as a viable source for irrigation. There are people who are losing faith in surface water, but I’m not one of them.”

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FALL HARVEST

the north platte telegraph

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

D7

Farmers urged to ‘Invest an Acre’ to fight hunger Donations to program matched, will benefit local food banks World-Herald News Service GRAND ISLAND — In one of the nation’s largest food-producing states, one out of every seven Nebraskans goes to bed hungry. To address this problem, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has announced a new initiative. Through Invest an Acre Nebraska, farmers can donate a portion of their crop proceeds to help alleviate

For more info ...

hunger in their communities. Those donations will be matched by Farm Credit Services of America and Monsanto, with 100 percent of all contributions going to local food banks. Invest an Acre Nebraska is a new state-level extension of a national program created in 2012 by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Invest an Acre provides

USDA awards funds to improve conservation Telegraph staff reports

and demonstrating new ideas for conservation WASHINGTON — Ag- on America’s private riculture Secretary Tom lands and strengthening Vilsack announced 33 rural communities. EvConservation Innovation eryone relies on our naGrants awarded to entition’s natural resources d ties across the nation to develop and demonstrate for food, fiber, and clean water and will benefit cutting-edge ideas to from these grants.” accelerate private lands “The Conservation conservation. Innovation Grant proGrant recipients will gram brings together demonstrate innovative the strength and innoapproaches to improve soil health, conserve en- vation of the private and non-profit sectors, ergy, manage nutrients academia, producers, and enhance wildlife and others to develop habitat in balance with and test cutting-edge productive agricultural systems. USDA’s Natural conservation tools and Resources Conservation technologies and work side-by-side with producService administers ers to demonstrate how this competitive grants solutions work on the program. “Conservation Innova- land,” NRCS Chief Jason tion Grants activate cre- Weller said. The awards total $13.3 ativity and problem-solvmillion. For more on ing to benefit conserthis program and a comvation-minded farmers plete list of awards, visit and ranchers,” Vilsack nrcs.usda.gov or contact said. “These grants are critical for developing your local NRCS office.

Want to learn more about Invest an Acre Nebraska? Visit the initiative’s website at InvestAnAcre.org. a simple process for donating crop proceeds: Farmers deliver their grain to the local elevator and designate a donation amount. Then, the elevator mails a check for that amount to Feeding America, the nation’s leading food bank network, which distributes

100 percent of the donation, plus the matching funds from Farm Credit and Monsanto, to the farmers’ local food banks. Howard G. Buffett, farmer and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, said, “Invest an Acre Nebraska provides farmers with an easy way to provide meals to hungry individuals in local communities across the state.” He said his goal is simple; he wants to “put hunger out of business in Nebraska.” In order to encourage grain elevators and cooperatives across Nebraska to also

join this hunger-relief effort, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation also announced a $500,000 Community Grants Program. Through this new initiative, grain elevators and cooperatives can compete for award money either by raising the most funds for Invest an Acre Nebraska or by being among the first to recruit 50 or more farmers to participate in Invest an Acre. The elevators that win the competition will be allowed to designate a grant to a local community organization of their choice.

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D8

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

the north platte telegraph

Safety first with garden produce Fall harvest includes backyard fruits and vegetables; proper preservation is key By DIANE WETZEL | dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

Courtesy photo

Through the years, practices have changed for keeping garden produce safe during the canning process. Anyone who cans or freezes fruits and vegetables to enjoy throught the winter is encouraged to follow the latest safety tips.

Harvest time isn’t just about giant trucks loaded with grain heading to elevators. It’s also about enjoying the end-of-season bounty from farmers markets and backyard gardens. “Harvest isn’t just about Brenda corn, Aufdenkamp it’s the tomatoes and vegetables we are taking out of our own yards,” said Brenda Aufdenkamp, extension educator with West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte. “Everyone of us needs to be in control of food safety,” she said. “When you think about home canning, yes, it

may have been the way you always have done it, but we are a way more mobile society now, bringing in bacteria and viruses from all over. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides updates on safety.” Canning low-acid vegetables requires the use of a pressure canner because bacteria spores of Clostridium botulinum — found naturally in soil — are extremely heat resistant. Even hours boiling in a water canner will not kill them if they are inside the jars. Left alive, the spores will eventually germinate into active growing bacteria cells that produce a deadly toxin. Containers of improperly canned vegetables can have the botulism toxin without showing

any signs of spoilage. To follow the USDA recommended procedures, a pressure cooker/canner should hold at least four quart jars on the rack with the lid in place. Anything smaller is not recommended for home canning. Check to be sure all parts of the pressure cooker are in good shape, with no brittle, sticky or cracked rubber gaskets. Check the openings of any small pipes or vent ports to make sure they are clean. Pressure canners should have the air vented from them for 10 minutes of boiling before it is pressurized. The USDA’s home canning procedures can be found at uga. edu/nchfp. Freezing is one of the easiest and least time consuming ways to preserve vegetables from the garden. The National Center for Home Food Preservation points out that freezing stops the growth of micro-organ-

isms and slows down the changes that can cause food to spoil. Fruits should be washed and sorted before freezing, the center reports, and should be stemmed pitted, peeled or sliced before freezing. Vegetables should be frozen at the peak of flavor and texture. If possible, harvest in the morning and freeze within a few hours. Vegetables should be washed throughly in cold water and sorted for size before blanching. Blanching or scalding vegetables in boiling water helps make sure they are of the highest quality by stopping the action of enzymes that cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Specific blanching times can be found at homefoodpreservation. com “We get lots of questions from people about how to preserve their food,” Aufdenkamp said. “We are always happy to answer any questions people have.”

Tips for harvesting onions and potatoes Top 10 tips for harvesting onions and potatoes from the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. 1. Onions that are grown from seed will keep better than those grown from sets. 2. Harvest onions when the tops fall over and begin to dry. Waiting too long can cause the bulbs to rot. 3. After pulling the onions, let them dry for three to four days with the tops on. 4. Cut the tops back to 1 inch above the bulb and store somewhere with good air flow for another 2-3 weeks at room temperature. The onions are cured when the neck has tightened up and the outer skin is dry enough to rustle. 5. Potatoes can be harvested when they are small and immature as new potatoes or when the crop is fully mature. 6. New potatoes do not store well, so refrigerate them and use quickly. 7. Dig potatoes after the tops have died. 8. Avoid cutting or bruising the potatoes when harvesting. Curing them promotes the healing of minor cuts and bruises and thickens the skin. 9. Potatoes should be stored in a dark location at a temperature between 38-40 degrees with high humidity of 90-95 percent. 10. Potatoes will sprout if they are stored too warm and will taste sweet if stored in the refrigerator.

NEBRASKA AG FACTS n Cash receipts from farm marketing contributed more than $21 billion to Nebraska’s economy in 2011 and 5.8 percent of the U.S. total. n Nebraska’s 10 leading commodities (in order of importance) for 2011 cash receipts are cattle and calves, corn, soybeans, hogs, wheat, dairy products, chicken eggs, hay, sugar beets, and dry beans, which represent 98 percent of the state’s total cash receipts. n Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.34 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing, and production. Nebraska’s $6.9 billion in agricultural exports in 2011 translate into $9.3 billion in additional economic activity. Nebraska’s top five agricultural exports were corn, soybeans, other products, grain products, and hides and skins. —Source: Nebraska Department of Agriculture


FALL HARVEST

the north platte telegraph

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

D9

Fruit flies buzzing into the area Pest could have devastating impact on vineyards, gardens

Michigan in 2010, and by 2011, had emerged in the northeastern part of the U.S. Boxler expects it to be estabBy Heather Johnson | hjohnson@nptelegraph.com lished across Nebraska by the end of the year. Fruit growers in Neimen. It’s a relative of “What really makes braska are up against a the fruit f ly.” this fly different from new obstacle that’s likeThe spotted-wing our native fruit flies is ly to get worse before it variety was caught in traps and confirmed in the female will deposgets better. it eggs in unripened Lincoln County TuesA new pest, known fruit,” Boxler said. day and Wednesday. as the spotted wing “By the time the fruit The species is a long drosophila, has been ripens, the damage is way from home. found in the state. Exdone. Rot and fungal “This particular f ly perts say it could have diseases occur in the a devastating impact on was introduced into California in 2008 from fruit when eggs are local vineyards, backintroduced.” yard gardens and prod- southeast Asia, probaHe said the insect ucts grown for farmers bly on a cargo ship with likes strawberries, fruit,” Boxler said. “It markets. raspberries and other was certainly trans“It was first detected ported by man because berries, but will also in Nebraska in Auattack fruits such as it’s small — only about gust in counties east 2 millimeters in length peaches, cherries and of North Platte,” said grapes. Boxler said one — and is not a strong Dave Boxler, entofemale can lay up to 300 f lier.” mologist for the West eggs. The larvae hatch According to Boxler, Central Research and the insect moved rapwithin a couple of days Extension Center. idly through the west “Washington County and begin eating the reported the first spec- coast. It appeared in fruit around them.

“Treatment can only be applied to the adults,” Boxler said. “Once the egg is in the fruit, it’s impossible to stop the damage.” According to Boxler, monitoring will be key to controlling the pest. He said commercial traps are available, or people can find out how to make their own by contacting their local extension office. Boxler recommended cleaning up any fruit on the ground that could give the flies a place to overwinter. Numerous pesticides are also available to treat the spotted wing. “This insect will pose the most concern we’ve seen in this area for a long time,” Boxler said. “I’m afraid it’s going to be an issue we have to deal with for a number of years.”

Courtesy photo

A new fruit fly, the spotted wing drosophila, has been detected in North Platte. Officials fear it could do significant harm to, if not wipe out, local vineyards.

NEBRASKA AG FACTS n The top five counties ranked by agricultural sales in 2007 were Cuming, Dawson, Custer, Phelps and Lincoln. n Nebraska had 46,800 farms and ranches during 2011; the average operation consisted of 972

acres; average net income per farm averaged $92,208 during the 2007-2011 period. n In 2012, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 25 operating plants having production capacity of

2.25 billion gallons. More than 40% of the state’s 2011 corn crop was utilized in ethanol production. n Livestock or poultry were found on 50% of Nebraska farms. —Source: Nebraska Department of Agriculture

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D10

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

FALL HARVEST

the north platte telegraph

Things are looking up for the ethanol industry during that same period in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of After a down year in Agriculture. 2012, the ethanol mar“Last year was espeket is seeing a slightly cially tough, because improved 2013. gas prices were lower “Corn prices have on average, but corn come down in the prices were almost 40 to last year,” said Steve 50 percent higher. That Sorum, ethanol projput a squeeze on the ect manager for the producers. That situaNebraska Ethanol tion has been changing Board. “Gas prices rapidly.” have increased. That The USDA is also has helped profitability reporting that distiller in the ethanol industry grains are selling at considerably.” $209 to $219 per ton, Sorum said that down $6 per gallon while it is typical for from Aug. 30. most ethanol plants to Nebraska ranks sectake a 7 to 10 day proond nationally in ethaduction hiatus during nol production, producthe year to work on ing more than 2 billion maintenance. In 2012, gallons of ethanol each those hiatuses were year, according to the longer on average. Nebraska Ethanol “We noticed those Board. periods were being exThere are 24 active tended to two or three plants in Nebraska, inweeks,” he said. “In cluding six plants west general, they maybe of Kearney: Bridgehad purchased expenport, Cambridge, Lexsive corn ahead and ington, Madrid, Sutherwere still paying corn land and Trenton. prices higher than marBridgeport Ethanol ket prices.” is the largest plant This occurred at most west of Kearney with a of the state’s 25 ethanol maximum production plants, though almost of 54 million gallons all are at full operation per year. Midwest in 2013. Renewable Energy in “The crush marSutherland is the smallgin, which is a rough est with a maximum assessment of profit, production of 25 milis much improved over lion gallons per year. this same period last ADM in Columbus is year. Things are lookthe largest plant in the ing up,” Sorum said. state, with a maximum In Nebraska prices production of 500 milfor ethanol range from lion gallons per year $2.47 to $2.56 per gallon and 285 permanent for the week of Aug. 31 employees. to Sept. 6, down about Cargill, Inc., in Blair is the second largest, 10 cents from Aug. 23 producing 200 million to Aug. 30, and 7 cents gallons per year. higher than prices By Andrew Bottrell abottrell@nptelegraph.com

Both ADM and Cargill run a wet mill process, as opposed to the seven plants west of Kearney, who all use a dry mill process. In North Platte, gas stations are required to provide 85 octane gas or higher, which Sorum says is typically based on altitude. The eastern half of the state is required to sell 87 octane or higher. “In North Platte [refiners] will supply 83 octane gas through the pipeline and available at the terminal. Either the local dealers, in order to meet the regulations, have to add something higher octane or they cannot legally sell it. That has been a boon for ethanol, because well over 65 percent of the gas in the U.S. is expected to contain ethanol.” That allows both ethanol producers to have a place in the market, and allows refiners to operate more efficiently. “The vast majority of the gas in the U.S. is blended with ethanol,” Sorum said. “One [reason] is the renewable fuel standard, which requires that 7.5 percent of their total volume must be renewable, or ethanol. What they are saying is if we’re going to be forced to buy ethanol, we’ll start refining gas at a lower octane level, which means we get 7-9 more gallons per barrel, and increases their efficiency.”

Andrew Bottrell / The North Platte Telegraph

Midwest Renewable Energy Inc., the ethanol plant near Sutherland, is one of six ethanol plants in the western half of the state.

Western Nebraska Ethanol Plants There are six ethanol plants west of Permanent Employees: 36 Standard Ethanol Kearney in western Nebraska. All have Madrid, North Platte a dry mill process and use corn as Mill Process: Dry feedstock. Feedstock: Corn Bridgeport Ethanol, Bridgeport Production: 45 Million Gallons Per Year Mill Process: Dry Permanent Employees: 36 Feedstock: Corn Midwest Renewable Energy Production: 54 Million Gallons Per Year Sutherland Permanent Employees: 28 Mill Process: Dry Cornhusker Energy, Lexington Feedstock: Corn Mill Process: Dry Production: 25 Million Gallons Per Year Feedstock: Corn and Milo Production: 50 Million Gallons Per Year Permanent Employees: 30 Trenton Agri-Products, Trenton Permanent Employees: 50 Mill Process: Dry Nebraska Corn Processing Cambridge Feedstock: Corn Mill Process: Dry Production: 45 Million Gallons Per Year Feedstock: Corn Permanent Employees: 34 Production: 44 Million Gallons Per Year — Source: ne-ethanol.org


the north platte telegraph

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

D11

Harvest can be a dangerous time for everyone Motorists, farm workers urged to use caution this fall By diane wetzel | dwetzel@nptelegraph.com

Harvest can be one of the most dangerous times of the year for farmers and those who travel on rural highways and county roads. “There is more traffic on the roads and a lot of that traffic is slow moving,” said Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research with the Nebraska Corn Board. “Combines and tractors are moving much slower than regular traffic and we want people to be aware of those implements as they travel up and down the roads during harvest.” Slow moving traffic on the roads is one of the biggest concerns during harvest time, said Brenda Aufdenxkamp, extension educator with West Central Research and Extension in North Platte. “The trucks are getting bigger,” she said. “Farmers are using semi-trucks to get the harvest out of the fields now because they are hauling longer distances and farms are getting bigger.” Younger drivers, especially, don’t always realize how heavy those trucks full of grain are, she said. “If you are following a grain truck too closely and the load happens to shift, it could easily topple over,” Aufdenkamp said. “It’s important to create awareness of safety on the roads for all of us.” As harvest gets underway, large piles of

grain begin to appear near elevators. “Playing on it is not a good idea,” Aufdenkamp said “Grain responds differently than dirt and it can press up against your chest and suffocate you.” Rural intersections will have more travel than usual during harvest season. Dry conditions can increase the amount of dust in the air, which can hamper visibility. Crops standing in the fields can block views of oncoming traffic. With long work hours during harvest, farmers need to take precautions to prevent accidents. “We are getting indications that this will be a good season,” Brunkhorst said. “Our dryland corn is doing better than last year, even though the drought continues. And irrigated corn has always been a good, solid, consistent crop for us.” That said, farmers need to take precautions not to become overtired or careless with equipment. “Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and step out of the combine once in a while and stretch,” Brunkhorst said. “Make sure to follow common safety practices like watching for overhead power lines and see that guards on belts and chains are in place.” Grain production and

Soybean rivals team up on common issues predictable approval systems for soybeans imST. LOUIS — Farmers proved through biotechwho grow 90 percent of nology. the world’s soybeans and Currently, these apnormally battle for global provals in several counmarket share met recent- tries tend to take long or ly to discuss how they can not happen at all, holdwork together on issues ing up or blocking U.S. that affect all farmers. soybean sales or delay Among other topics, farmers’ ability to plant they discussed what new biotech varieties. they could do to speed up To show support for getting new, biotechnolthese issues, ISGA has ogy-enhanced soybean also begun plans to bring varieties approved in together farmers from more markets around the both continents to meet world. with common customers, This type of gathering decision makers and isn’t new to these farmgovernment officials next ers, who are members year. of the International ISGA members will Soy Growers Alliance stress the importance of (ISGA), a group formed swift and science-based in 2005 to bring together approval processes to Argentine, Brazilian, prevent trade disrupParaguayan, Uruguayan tions. and U.S. soybean farmIn 2012, ISGA conducters around issues that ed a similar mission to affect them all. the European Union, “It’s important for us where U.S. and South to come together and dis- American farmers met cuss issues we all have in with officials from sevcommon: trade relations, eral countries to discuss biotechnology, weather, the importance of bioto name a few,” says Jim technology approvals and Stillman, soybean farmacceptance. er and United Soybean The 69 farmer-direcBoard (USB) chairman tors of USB oversee the from Emmetsburg, Iowa. investments of the soy “When we are able to checkoff to maximize provide a united front on profit opportunities for these issues that impact all U.S. soybean farmers. the global soybean inThese volunteers invest dustry, it makes a much and leverage checkoff stronger impression.” funds to increase the Farmer-leaders reprevalue of U.S. soy meal senting the soy checkoff, and oil, to ensure U.S. the American Soybean soybean farmers and Association (ASA) and their customers have the the U.S. Soybean Export freedom and infrastrucCouncil (USSEC) particture to operate, and to ipated in the most recent meet the needs of U.S. ISGA meeting, where soy’s customers. members approved a For more information resolution that, among on the United Soybean Board, visit unitedsoyother things, calls for bean.org. science-based and more Telegraph staff reports

handling continues to be one of the most dangerous aspects of crop production. With more than 1 billion bushels of on-farm storage capacity in Nebraska, grain bins and associated equipment are common sights on farms and require careful attention. The Nebraska Corn Board recommends that farmers and their families and employees pay special attention to safety features of their equipment. Other safety suggestions include making sure that only trained

family members and employees are operating powerful equipment and that safety rules are developed and enforced. Consider creating an emergency plan just in case. “Harvest time means farmers and their crops are coming closer to town,” Aufdenkamp said. “Trucks will be lined up at elevators day and night. We all need to be aware that these trucks can’t stop or turn as quickly as we can because of the amount of weight they are carrying.”


D12

FALL HARVEST

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2013

the north platte telegraph

Different crop, same issues

The public is invited to wander through the J’s Jack-O’-Lantern pumpkin patch near Cozad on Saturdays and Sundays in October to look for the perfect Halloween pumpkin. Steve and Julie Griffis grow 25 different varieties of pumpkins in their 4-acre pumpkin patch.

Growing pumpkins is similar to corn, Cozad producer says By Andrew Bottrell | abottrell@nptelegraph.com

October is the time to pick out our jack-o’-lanterns. But how many of us think about how those pumpkins are cultivated, and the year-round process it takes to ensure us we have that Halloween staple? Steve and Julie Griffis own J’s Jack-O’-Lanterns near Cozad. They have a small four-acre plot that began as a smaller plot with pumpkins for their kids. That first year, it was just a handful of seeds on the side of their small farm acreage. “My wife loves Halloween. That’s really where it comes from,” Steve said. “I was farming. She just loves [Halloween] so I threw out a handful of seeds. She ended up with a fair amount of them.” It grew from there, and now J’s Jack-O’Lanterns is open on Saturdays and Sundays in October as well as being available for school groups. Steve said that raising pumpkins is akin to raising corn, including the amount of water used and how its planted. Planting of the pumpkins occurs in late May to early June after the corn is in the ground. “We use a corn planter to plant them

in May,” Julie said. “Steve cultivates and ridges them until they start to vine out. We usually try and water them starting in June using a pipe irrigation system.” “We basically treat it the same as corn, except the manual labor that goes into it,” Steve added. “We plant it after the corn goes in. People try to get their corn in that first week of May. What we look for is we try to get [the pumpkins in by] the 15th of May to the 20th.” Once the watering starts in June, that manual labor keeps Julie busy through the summer months, until irrigation ends. “We have to weed them by hand after that because we are unable to cultivate due to them spreading out,” Julie said. “They are a broadleaf so you cannot use any herbicides on the weeds. We have thought of trying preen for the weeds but that would be too costly for the size of the patch.” Steve said that pumpkins are susceptible to mildews and other diseases if over-watered, so they have to monitor how much water is applied pretty closely. They also have to monitor the patch for

Courtesy photo

any problem with getting irrigated water to their plot. “Everything that we know about pumpkins is that they do well with a good water supply, but they are also pretty hardy,” Steve said. “They vine out and take a big area, but they don’t put out as much. They spread out more to gather more water and put out tap roots.” As many farmers do with other crops, pumpkins also need to be rotated. InterestingCourtesy photo ly, Steve said they’ve Growing pumpkins is a labor-intensive venture but found that corn is a Steve and Julie Griffis, of Cozad, reap their best rewards good cover crop for when children such as this young lady are all smiles planting pumpkins. “We try not to treat with their jack-o’-lanterns. it any different than what you do your corn “When you step on beetles and other pests ground. We rotate it that vine now, it kills that like the taste of back and forth across the vine,” Steve said. pumpkin. our field. You wouldn’t “When you quit irriWhen the irrigation want to go pumpkins system shuts off for the gating, it’s time to quit being in the patch. The after pumpkins. You’d corn at the beginning canopy out there is 3 to have so much weed of September, Steve pressure, you’d nev4 feet high in places.” said that’s the time er get them back up,” Pumpkins are fairly when they give the Steve said. drought resistent, he pumpkins their space The patch includes 25 said. However, this until it’s harvest time varieties of pumpkins, year there hasn’t been in October.

Telegraph Time and Temperature 532-6007

as well as different gourds. “She has some [pumpkins] that are apple-sized, which are more along the lines of gourds,” Steve said. “Down to the little ones that are no bigger than a golf ball. Different colors, white, orange, green, all the way to the mammoth ones that are 300-400 pounds.” On their 80-acre plot, some of which is leased out, the Griffises also plant Indian corn and sweet corn. When J’s opens in October, there is a 7-acre corn maze for families to run through. “We’ve got a pedal trike out there, a trampoline and corn maze that we carve into the corn,” Steve said. “People go out and wander through the maze. [Julie] really enjoys the little ones the most and that’s what propels her. She gets a lot of first-, second- and third-grade kids that come on bus tours and really enjoy it.”

Fall Harvest 2013  

Publication dedicated to the 2013 Fall Harvest season for local areas.

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