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Michelle Martin

Owner/Editor (956) 330-8870

Philippians 3:13-14 But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.

A Letter from the Editor When to Let Go... Have you ever seen that show hoarders, where people have a difficult time letting go of objects. It seems there is some sort of emotional attachment to these “things” they won’t rid of. Key word here is emotional. Is there something in your life you have a hard time getting rid of? We all have something tangible or non-tangible that we have a hard time letting go of, because of some emotion. I feel the non-tangible things are the ones that hold us back the most. Maybe trust is an issue for you, and you hold yourself back because you can’t let go of the event that caused you to have trust issues, sometimes it’s a job we won’t let go of, other times it’s a relationship, or it can even be something tangible like that shirt you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, because it beings reminds you of some sort of memory. Again, an emotion. But when is time to let go of these things? Some of the things we hold on to are toxic to our life and to our journey. Until we let go and let God we won’t move forward. Personally speaking, I like to do things my own way, it comes with the only child territory, but I have learned through time and many failed attempts that my way isn’t always the right way. Some of the things I was holding on to prevented me from proceeding down the path before me. I have held on to some resentment, anger, amongst other emotions from my past for years, but I have learned that sometimes I have to let go of my perceptions of what things should be, and accept them for what they are. I can’t hold on to something that isn’t bettering me or my attitude. It does no good for me or others around me. By not letting go, we limit ourselves. The only limits we see are the ones we impose on ourselves. Don’t let that one thing you can’t get rid of limit you. The limits we place on ourselves are endless. Maybe it’s a grudge you won’t let go of which is holding you back from re-establishing a relationship, or it’s a job you won’t let go of because you need the money, could even be an expectation you have for a person that they will never meet, which eventually creates a hostile relationship. There are countless things we never let go, simply because we CHOOSE not to. And by choosing not to let go we are creating more harm than good. Don’t hold yourself back, letting go is one of the bravest and toughest things to do, especially when these things are out of our control, or have a strong emotional attachment to you. The only thing you can control is how gracefully you let go. So let go of the guilt, anger, loss or betrayal. Take that leap forward. Let go, get out there and be who you are meant to be. Let go and be joyful. The only thing we shouldn’t let go of is God. He will direct your paths. Hold on tight to him. Owner/Creator of AG MAG

Al Benavides Graphic Design (956) 492-6407

In This Issue: pg. 6 Growing Up in Ag pg.10 Economic Impact of the Texas Citrus Industry pg.12 Valley Farmers Responding to Mexico’s Growing Interest in Truck Corn pg.16 LAYing down the Legacy pg.20 Lone Star State Reminders pg.22 Cotton Harvesting and Handling Advancements Meet Grading and Milling Technology pg.26 A Bright Future for Vegetable Production in South Texas pg.28 Texas Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers Conference pg.30 Bring the Big Brains to the Field pg.32 Texas A&M opens in Tres Lagos Development pg.34 A Letter from the Editor pg.38 Water Testing: An Essential Tool No Farmer Can Do Without pg.44 PULLING THE TRIGGER pg.46 FFA & 4-H 2018 Calendar pg.52 Revelations on Ag & Water pg.54 North Alamo Water Corp. begins construction of $3 Million Resevoir pg.60 Farm Her: The Regroup pg.62 The Marco Effect pg.70 Are You Stock Show Ready? pg.76 Time to Decide...December 7th

Year 5, Issue 26 Nov/Dec 2018. No part of this publication can be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Ag Mag reserves the right to edit, rewrite or refuse editorial materials and assumes no responsibility for accuracy, errors, omissions or consequence arising from it. All correspondence to the publication become the property of Ag Mag. Ag Mag is published bi-monthly ©2018. To advertise in Ag Mag, call (956) 330-8870 or email





ike most children, when I was younger, I was often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I would respond with a variety of answers, but usually they were just to appease the inquisitor, because the fact was, I had no idea. While I was growing up I looked for opportunities that would let me explore what was out there and eventually I fell in love with the one thing I had known my whole life, production agriculture. Looking back, there were a lot of small things that combined to lead me where I am today, a Junior Plant and Environmental Soil Science major at Texas A&M University; but the common thread in all of them was taking advantage of opportunities and staying involved. Looking back, I was completely unware of the foundation my FFA and 4-H projects were laying for my future. Like most, I first joined 4-H to show animals. It required a lot of urging to get my dad to go along at first, but he relented and soon my little brother and I both had cattle projects and we were all in. In the early days, I thought that was the extent of 4-H, until a friend and I did our first Educational Presentation. Together, we presented on the advantages of Brush Sculpting using Geographical Information Systems, placing at State level, and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of opportunity that these youth organizations had to offer. I continued with Educational Presentations and then in high school I added FFA prepared public speaking to my list of activities. Even though I had grown up on a farm, taking




advantage of these opportunities and striving to be competitive in contests required that I learn more and more about the practices and technologies that make our industry work. Agriscience Fairs helped me build a technical background and later I incorporated what I learned into other things as well. I designed my own research projects using UAVs to study glyphosate resistant weed populations and presented my results for FFA competition. I also learned about the disconnect between production agriculture and its customer base; how advances in biotechnologies had outpaced the public’s trust of them. So, I decided to present talks about their constructive uses in agriculture; for instance, how RNA interference technology can possibly be the future in the fight against glyphosate resistant weeds. Each opportunity I took advantage of seemed to build on the last. After high school the “what do you want to do when you grow up” question became more than just a way to make conversation. Every college professor, counselor, or mentor would ask and while it seemed that all my classmates had great answers, mine was still “I don’t know”. That was the truth, and I was looking everywhere for an answer. Through my major I had worked in research and I knew that wasn’t my first choice. One day in my Soil Science class my professor mentioned that our department was sponsoring a study abroad to Brazil studying the developing agricultural industry as well as the “miracle of the Cerrado”. It only took a moment to decide I wanted take advantage of this opportunity and experience what an international agricultural system looked like. In Brazil, I learned a lot about how they have

managed their soil nutrients and what made the Cerrado incredibly productive. I was introduced to their double cropping system and learned that mixed cropping is found in many agricultural traditions. The trip intrigued me and I became interested in international agricultural policy. At the same time, some of my friends had just come back from TAMU Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Internships in Washington D.C. and together we endeavored to learn a little more about setting policy by participating in student government. We ran for Student Senate at Texas A&M and I was fortunate to be elected. Through this opportunity, I’ve seen first-hand how politics works and while I continue to enjoy serving my fellow students as their representative on Senate… I have concluded that a life in Public Policy is not for me. Opportunity, though, is always right around the corner. While working at the campus Career Fair last spring I struck up a conversation with an employer and the result of that was the rare opportunity to intern with a major crop protection and seed company in the wake of my sophomore year. Thanks to Corteva Agriscience, I experienced the industry that supplies the row-crop, vegetable, and range management products that keep our farms and ranches productive. Through my

internship project I learned how these products are placed in the market and all the resources that that go into making sure they are safe for both the environment and the crops they are applied to. Through interviews with growers, consultants, and retailers I learned what criteria customers use to make their decision on what they use for their crops. Most importantly though, I finally learned what I want to do. I look forward to another internship this summer and hope that upon graduation I can start a career in the crop protection industry. I would never have guessed that those early 4-H and FFA speaking projects would have led me here, but saying ‘yes’ when presented with an opportunity has been the best way to find direction. Some opportunities led to the affirmative and some helped me rule things out, but either way each one has been a waypoint on my journey this far. Agricultural youth are fortunate to have these deep-rooted organizations that afford them the opportunity to develop skills that will serve them the rest of their life and in my experience -those same opportunities might provide some life direction as well.





e all know that the Texas Citrus Industry holds great value in our hearts, history, and culture. But just how much value does this Industry bring to Texas’ economy? To answer that question, we brought in Luisa A. Ribera, Flynn Adcock and Dan Hanselka with the Texas A&M Extension Services or Texas A&M AgriLife Research to help us answer that question. Let’s start off with some basic facts. There are approximately 28,000 acres of commercial citrus production.




Our world famous grapefruit accounts for 68% while all orange varieties makes up the other 32%. Texas is the third largest citrus producing state behind Florida and California. Total business activity statewide required to support the Texas citrus industry is $465.9 million annually. This includes citrus sales of $173 million, sales by the citrus processing industry of $58.2 million, and supporting business activity of $234.7 million.

EMPLOYMENT Total employment associated with the Texas citrus industry is estimated to be 5,591 jobs with farm employment representing 3,723 of those jobs and 117 jobs in citrus processing. The balance of employment, 1,861 jobs, is located in non-farm sectors of the Texas economy which support the Texas citrus industry.




1,861 Non-Farm Related Jobs 3,723 Farm Related Jobs



SUPPORTING SECTORS STATEWIDE Significant indirect spending statewide associated with the Texas citrus industry is dispersed over numerous sectors.

Agriculture support activities

$22.9 million

Wholesale trade

$22.2 million

Transportation & Warehousing

$11.6 million

Power generation

$6.9 million

Fertilizers, pesticides & agricultural chemicals

$6.7 million

Maintenance & repairs

$4.4 million

Financial services

$23.7 million

Real estate

$23.1 million

Business services

$19.7 million

Health care

$14.7 million

Retail stores

$11.7 million


$7.2 million

174.6 Million Total

To Sum it up, the citrus industry is very important for the Texas economy with total economic impacts of $465.9 million annually and an estimated 5,591 jobs statewide. To learn more about important pest and disease issues that this industry is facing, visit



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ack Wallace Sr. was a quiet, shy man. But in 2009 there he was along with his son and other growers from around the country standing on the stock market stage. He and other growers had just finished being “the talent” in a nationwide commercial - they were even required to be a part of the Screen Actors Guild for the commercial. “Big Jack, will you ring the opening bell for us?” he had been asked, recalled his son, Jack Wallace Jr. The market’s floor was bustling with anticipation, especially as the countdown began at 30. Excitement resonated throughout the building and everyone’s eyes were focused on the growers standing near the historic bell that, when rang, signaled the open of the New York Stock Exchange. As the big moment approached, Big Jack – who never once was interested in the spotlight – leaned over and whispered simply into young Jack’s ear, “you better press the button.” “Dad was in his 80s but they wanted him to ring the bell,” Wallace Jr. said “Here we are elevated above the floor and all this excitement was going on and time was ticking away – there was so much adrenaline, like playing in a football game.” Wallace Sr. may not have been loud, boisterous or in the spotlight much - he didn’t really care for any of that - but his work ethic and success building JW Farms speaks volumes in



– and around - the agriculture world. The Wallace story begins when James “Wade” Wallace moved from Mississippi in 1923 and settled in the La Blanca, Texas, area. Two years later he brought his family and Jack was born the same year. He came because he heard that he could farm “two crops a year.” “His wife’s sister basically financed him to come down here and start farming,” Wallace Jr. said. “At his peak, granddaddy had 1,200 acres of citrus, 5,300 acres of vegetables, a packing shed and three cotton gins.” Wallace Jr. spent time working the farm during the summers and Christmas holidays, but when it came time for him – or when he thought it came time for him – to take over and become a full-time farmer, his dad had other words for him. “Dad said ‘you gotta get an education first, then work for somebody else and make it on your own,” said Wallace Jr., who has been married to Sheila for 21 happy years. “I went into the banking business for 13 years.” Wallace Jr. was visiting him mom and dad during one harvest when his grandmother came up to him and told him that his dad needed help

around the farm. “I’m here but I’m not going to ask him,” Wallace Jr. recalled. “Farming isn’t a I’ll give it a try then get out if it doesn’t work. It’s a long-term commitment. I told grandmother that I’d be willing. She told mom, mom told dad and dad said ‘when can you start.’” Wallace Jr. started with his father in 1993, planting potatoes, peanuts and sorghum. JW Farms have continued a partnership with Frito Lay since 1964 and they have diversified what they plant – now with watermelons and potatoes being their biggest crop, even though they recently started planting carrots fr Campbell Soups and sold some to Gerber last year. They also harvest cabbage, onion and black-eyed peas. Wallace Jr. believes that his dad never really ended up fulfilling his dreams in the engineering world, where his passion lay. Instead, as “an act of love he came back to work with his dad on the farm,” he said.

It may not have been easy, but that marriage/partnership – which today might be better known as a power couple marriage – was good for business, family and South Texas. “She was gritty and witty and very outgoing,” Wallace Jr. said. “And he absolutely adored my mother.”

My dad is my example – he is the hardest working and most intelligent man. The same could be said for my mom, I love her and admire her so much.

– Jack Wallace Jr.

“That’s why he told me to pursue something different. He came because his father asked him,” Wallace Jr. said. “My dad is my example – he is the hardest working and most intelligent man. The same could be said for my mom, I love her and admire her so much.” Wallace Jr.’s mom, Rene Wallace is the cliché “opposites attract” personified. Wallace, who is featured in a video entitled “Rene Wallace – UTPA Pillar of Success 2013,” was a vocal and strong woman who made a difference in the Valley and played a part in Pan American University (now known as University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley) becoming a four-year institution. Born in Missouri, Rene Wallace was known as a “savvy and spunky business woman who gets things done,” according to the video. She considered herself the first Winter Texan and was a master at the card game bridge. In fact, she is a Gold Life Master Duplicate Bridge player and she has played in tournaments all across the United States and into Mexico. https://ssl.gstatic. com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/ cleardot.gif “I remember my dad telling me, if it wasn’t for your mom I’d be a hermit,” Wallace Jr. said. “He said ‘it’s not easy being Mr. Rene Wallace.”



LMC Special Award Winners Carlos Guerra believes the old adage that says there are three types of people. “Ever since I heard the saying that there are those who wonder what happened, those who watch what happens and those who make things happen,” Guerra said. “Ninety percent of people like to be led. Early on Sister and I asked ourselves if we could be a part of that 10 percent of leadership that make things happen.” Over the years, that question has been a resounding “yes” over and over again. Guerra, his wife and family own La Muneca and San Antonia Ranches in Linn - San Manuel and have “kicked around several ideas at our kitchen table,” he said. Many of these ideas have not only come to fruition, but have been been life-changers for many “kiddos” in the agriculture field. From the American Jr. Simbrah Round Up, STAR (South Texas Ag Roundup), STAR GALA, the Brahman Foundation and MAS (Marketing American Simbrah), young ag participants have not only earned premiums and scholarships for their hard work, but have learned life lessons such as responsibility and showmanship – skills that are taught better hands on. Guerra and his wife are also hold the LMC Junior Round-Up, their annual field day that they started 31 years ago.   “After attending a few field days I realized it was a great vehicle by which to grow our industry and we’ve always loved working with our youth,” Guerra said. “We were in 4-H and realized what benefits children and their families get from being involved in 4-H and FFA. It’s good for our community to gather students together in the name of agriculture and expose them to hands-on demonstrations and bring in positive speakers.” Guerra added that one thing he saw was that at all of the different shows and junior events that a majority of the ag teacher and judges were all men. He wanted to make a special effort to bring women into the different events he’s part of to “give our young girls some new role models they can emulate and inspire them not only to be in ag but in other fields as well.”   Guerra was quick to applaud the career of district Judge Rose Guerra Reyna, who was one of the guest speakers at their recent Field Day event. “She is a wonderful person and she is an inspiration,” Guerra said. “That’s the point, even if they don’t end up being in Ag the rest of their lives, there are so many things they can do and so many fields they can pursue. We want to inspire and encourage our young people.” Guerra’s event, which is held at La Muneca, has grown over the years. The first event was held in an old hay barn on their property but quickly moved to the open space of the Guerra’s back yard – they even used a neighbor’s barn when the weather was wet – and finally built their own barn at La Muneca Ranch. There are a lot of different aspects that Guerra enjoys in regards to their Annual Round Up. Being able to donate time, money plus round up sponsors and watch as each child receives a door prize and listen to the speakers is just part of what he sees as an investment that will last a lifetime for others. “My favorite parts are watching the interaction among families who come, the questions asked by the kiddos and the tremendous volunteer spirit we have created by several families – like the Grahmanns, Onstots, Wells and Atzenhoffers – who come to help from many miles.   “We always give half of the monies raised toward showmanship – that’s the best part of junior shows. Everyone has the same opportunity to win – the quality of the animal has nothing to do with it. It’s about the bond and work ethic that was invested. Plus, they learn so much about life and life skills.” Guerra said he doesn’t see a lot of changes happening in the future with their Jr. Round Ups, following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” philosophy. He said they will continue to challenge themselves to find new speakers who are impressive and can make a difference in the “kiddos.”   “We want the kids to see the people and realize they are coming in to invest time with them, to motivate them to continue their education and make something of themselves,” Guerra said. “I just hope and pray our children will continue the legacy we have started – I love to visit with young parents who come up to me and say ‘I used to sit in those chairs that our kids are in now.” The Guerra’s believe in Volunteerism and encourage our youth on a daily basis to volunteer their time every chance they can as that will make them feel good, be productive, be a part of the solution and want to give more as they graduate and become successful in life. Carlos’s favorite word is ANIMO which he says encompasses determination, commitment, dedication, spirit, desire and heart. A person without ANIMO will never optimize their potential. He thanks the Lord daily for his and Sister’s ANIMO and prays that their grandchildren and theirs will inherit their share of it.

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LMC Judging Contest Champions Junior - Brock Sartwelle Intermediate - Cooper Mau Senior - Claire Lee

LMC Futurity Champion Simbrah - Loralai Hill

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PO Box 81 • Linn, TX 78563 956-383-7566 (Office) Carlos 802-1641 • Victor 607-5515 email: Website:

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g n i t a i c e r App e m o h w e my n 20


Jean Lonie is a consultant working with agricultural organizations to support their marketing, communications, and strategic planning efforts. Jean is a public speaker, writer, facilitator, and advocate for the agriculture industry. She has a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education from Penn State University, and was a 2018 Nuffield International Farming Scholar. You can connect with Jean at


s a recent transplant to the Lone Star State, I’ve had many reminders of how different things are here when compared to my home state of Pennsylvania. Sometimes the reminder gives me a second of pause – like the myriad of ways I need to be aware of potential surprises in pastures, the house, and my boots! Once in a while, the reminder starts as a slight miscommunication. Apparently, I have an accent and never knew it! But most times, the reminders bring to life how unique and special Texas is. Before moving here, I had two years and thousands of miles of Texas visits under my belt. I’ve read about and explored Gonzales, Goliad, and San Antonio (San Jacinto is next!), and love touring the Capitol. I’m learning about the history of locales that are important to me, and am still gapejawed when I see the stars at night. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s just the tip of the Texas iceberg! The real history of Texas is spread across farms, ranches, and homesteads covering this amazing place. Geographically diverse though it may be, Texas is a place of people. The stories of how families arrived here many generations ago fascinate me. People headed to Texas for opportunity, adventure, and/or freedom – just as they do today! But recently I had the chance to explore a few ranch pastures, and the history of this place really came to life. Being out on the ranch reminded me of the critical role agriculture plays in every person’s life. I’m blessed to work in this industry, and to meet people who step up each and every day to provide for this nation and others. I’ve worked for years amazing people in agriculture across the US and around the world, but for some reason this move to Texas has really reinforced how agriculture is the foundation of our country – and any stable society. As I reflect on my time out in the pastures, I realize the myriad of lessons that I was learning … even though they took a few days to process. A big lesson for me was the history the land here has been witness to. While my roaming around the countryside took place in an 82 Dodge pickup (my boyfriend’s truck from high school in the 90s, which he has kept running ever since!), this was an untamed place that took a lot of guts to transverse. Even today, it takes almost as long to drive from Brownsville to Dalhart as it does to go from Philadelphia to Disney World. To say Texas is big is a massive understatement. But thinking about the advances this land has seen, in terms of farming and ranching practices as well as the history of each parcel, it’s clear that if the land here could talk there wouldn’t be a book big enough to capture it all! On a day when I thought I would see some pretty sights and enjoy a hike, I was regaled with tales of Indian settlements, historic highways, and agriculture many centuries ago. Finding an old scraping stone that still had

the worn areas for someone’s thumb and fingers, and a strong edge for cleaning hides reinforced the idea that this wasn’t always an open pasture. It was home (temporarily or otherwise) for those who made their living off the land. Later, the same land was home to cotton sharecroppers. I saw and touched the foundations of houses, glass jugs, old stove cooktops and enameled bowls; remnants of lives uprooted in a hurry with no intention of coming back. Entire cars and wagons were left behind, which boggled my mind, but seemed normal to those who know these pastures well. I’d love to know about the families that walked away, seemingly, from everything they had to start over somewhere else. I am also enamored with the stories told by those who now care for the land. Home pasture. Round Barn. Jim Bob tank. These are just a few of the places I hear referenced by an amazing agricultural family that knows the land, lanes, gates, and preferred cattle hiding spots of their ranch as well as they know the names and backgrounds of each other. I can only find a few of these locations without very specific directions, but I continue to ask about the names and history. Every gate and fenceline here has a story – and multiple generations of keepers who care for them. Riding through the first block of land a family purchased four generations ago was a pretty cool. Hearing how their first cattle came as trade for a vehicle they were selling was even cooler! Texas to me is a living reminder of how much our future is connected to our heritage and history. We have to know where we’ve come from to navigate the path to where we want to be. That doesn’t mean we’ll always get there, but it gives us a road map to use when evaluating the opportunities and challenges that inevitably pop up. I was fascinated with Texas when I was a high school and college student. I can’t tell you why – I just was. Yet I never in a million years thought I would wind up here myself. Now that I’m in the Lone Star State, I’m pretty excited to keep getting those reminders of how special Texas is. I hope that I continue to appreciate its beauty and heritage, and use these lessons to build my own history here.



Cotton Harvesting and Handling Advancements Meet Grading and Milling Technology


s someone that focuses on commodity prices and farmer marketing plans, it is not too often that I discuss the implications of improve ments in farm equipment and related techno logies. The amazing advances in all aspects of production agriculture in recent years coupled with farmers skill and ability to quickly adopt new methods often have me taking rapid technological change for granted. And it is not that often that an implication of technological change makes its way back through the marketing channel in a negative way. For cotton in fact, advancements in seed traits, chemical use, farm equipment modification and ginning operations have greatly enhanced prices received by the farmers due to positive impacts on fiber traits, cottonseed and oil quality. When there is a problem with cotton quality, it can usually be traced back to uncontrollable weather events like drought, flood or pest invasion. Over the past decade especially, mills around the world that turn cotton into yarn and/or fabric have been willing to reward US farmers for the improved quality of their cotton. Over that time, US cotton has become some of the most desirable cotton in the world. While among many great achievements in the cotton industry, perhaps the most noticeable to you in recent years has been the harvesting equipment. I am sure that over the years when driving through the Rio Grande Valley in late summer or early fall that you remember seeing the large rectangular ‘modules’ of cotton tarped and setting alongside cotton fields or at the gin yard. And how in recent years these rectangular modules have mostly given way to round bales of cotton similar in size to large hay bales. This new way to store cotton from the point of harvest until it is ginned has brought many benefits to entire cotton handling chain. In general, it has been observed that the round bales,




which are wrapped tightly in plastic material, stand up better to adverse weather. And the building of the bale itself has proven to be a much more efficient and time-saving way to harvest and ultimately transport and store at the gin until that time it is processed into the cotton bale. The ability of these newer cotton pickers or cotton strippers to automatically tightly wrap the completed roll with plastic has been proven to be a major deterrent to loss of quality especially in the case of heavy wind and rain events that in the past would likely have severely damaged a tarped rectangular module. It has come to the attention of the cotton industry, however, that the pieces of the plastic wrap can under certain circumstances become embedded in the cotton bale. Feedback from the cotton mills make it clear that plastic contamination is a serious problem that can greatly affect the quality of their fabrics and the integrity of the very costly spinning equipment. Plastic fragments had been found in the days before the round wrapped bales, but this was typically from harvesting equipment picking up a stray shopping bag or other plastic product that found its way to the cotton field. The reason for the high anxiety this time around is due to the plastic originating from the wrap used in the harvest process. In addition, using the wrapped round bale has become the most common way package cotton in the field. Fortunately, finding a cotton bale contaminated with plastic is still relatively rare. Ginners along the Gulf Coast region of Texas indicate seeing no more than 1 bale per thousand, or maybe several thousand ginned. But the rarity of the plastic contamination in a given bale of cotton has not stopped this from becoming a much talked about issue throughout the industry. Companies that purchase cotton from US farmers and then organize sales and delivery to the mills run the risk

of entire shipments being turned down by the buyer if even only a few plastic contaminated bales are found in an entire container for example. Milling operators say that any plastic fragments in the cotton run the potential of putting runs in the fabric which then have to be repaired if possible, or another use for the damaged fabric found. We are told that the added time and expense required to deal with the problem is next to intolerable, suggesting that this is an issue that deserves a lot of attention. The plastic contamination problem caught the attention of the USDA cotton classing division. So much so that a new grade classification was created so that those bales could be identified and dealt with separately. Like bark, grass, or seed coat contamination, plastic now has its own designation at the classing office. The new class code for plastic contamination is the number 7. A 71 indicates light plastic contamination, and a 72 indicates heavy contamination. A farmer would rather not see this designation since the discount (or penalty) for this problem is costly. From a USDA loan rating perspective, the discount for even a level 1 plastic contamination is approximately 4.5 cents per pound, or 23 dollars per bale. In reality, the cotton buyers/shippers have a difficult time finding a home for this type of cotton and therefore make no promises to buy these bales. Fortunately, there has been enough of a secondary market to where farmers have received up to 40 cents per pound for the contaminated bales. This is definitely better than destroying the bale, but well below the value of what could have been a perfectly good bale otherwise. Everyone agrees that we do not need plastic contaminated cotton bales entering the mainstream cotton supply and further recognize that this is a problem that needs to be addressed as an industry. Whether it is cotton, or a grain commodity, being out front of a quality issue pays off. Part of the current challenge relates to the nature of the contamination itself. With most weather-related damage for example, the problem would likely be distributed throughout the bale and therefore easily picked up in a given sample so that this bale could be pulled aside. We are told that the plastic contamination is most often not evenly distributed so that a sample could miss the fact that there is plastic contamination. This is where the problem could become expensive. Even a good faith effort at sampling could miss the contamination that is found only after reaching the manufacturer. As sophisticated as the digital grading has become, even an electronic eye can miss scattered plastic. A few experiences like this could cause a manufacturer to reject a given shipment, but also avoid cotton from a given area. Farmers, ginners, and cotton associations across Texas are taking this issue very seriously and working diligently to find all possible causes

for plastic contamination. Experts have gone back to look at how the plastic wrap is produced, loaded into the harvest machinery and investigated the wrapping process itself. Once the round cotton bale is produced, there is also the potential for plastic breaking down in the transportation and unwrapping of the bale in preparation for ginning. The bottom line is that US cotton has earned a very high reputation worldwide for high quality fiber. The new classification of for cotton contaminated with plastic underscores the importance of keeping that reputation especially among the foreign buyer community that we depend on for selling our cotton. So when you see the wrapped round bales of cotton setting on the edge of cotton fields, understand that although the farmers work in nearly complete, the cotton itself is just beginning a long journey towards becoming the fiber you find in a wide range of clothing and many other day-to-day products. Modern science and technology have brought huge improvements to the cotton harvesting and handling industry, but the rapid pace of this change has bumped up against similarly impressive changes in the way the cotton is graded and processed. Fortunately, the cotton industry as a whole is working to overcome this limitation and keep Texas and US cotton among the best in the world.







ack in the 1960’s and 70’s the Lower Rio Grande Valley had an expressive position in the national market for vegetable production and Texas A&M Agrilife Research Station in Weslaco was supporting extensively with a team of very knowledgeable scientists the development of adapted varieties for the region. A lot has changed since them and right now, because of environmental pressure of pest and diseases, the Rio Grande Valley does not produce as much vegetables as it used to. Texas A&M Agrilife created the Vegetable Initiative Program, for it believes that South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley is a very strategic region and can compete at a national level on vegetable production. The program is




engaged in helping growers by investing on a team of multidisciplinary scientists to bring back the “golden era” of vegetable production. The main goal of the Vegetable Initiative Program at Texas A&M Agrilife is to develop a pipeline of new Texas A&M vegetable varieties focused on consumer preference and market trends, with cost-effective production systems and input-use-efficiency, helping producers increase profitability and competitiveness. Another major goal of the Program is to deliver vegetables with higher nutritional value to consumers. My name is Dr. Thiago Marconi and I am one of the research scientists that recently join the Vegetable Initiative Program. My research focuses are on helping to

integrate and develop new management practices, production systems and introduce new improved and adapted varieties coming from Texas A&M vegetable breeding programs. Since I joined the Program, I have been working with Texas A&M varieties of tomatoes adapted to our environment and developing management practices and different production systems e.g. traditional open field staked during spring and during fall use of protected structures. This winter/spring I will start to work with specialty types of potatoes adapted to the higher temperatures of the South from the Texas A&M potato breeding program. Every season field trials are set to evaluate the response of new potential varieties to different management practices, e.g. production systems (different environments, plant spacing, staking system, different concentration of fertilizer, among others) which we call phenotyping.

management practices considering the different varieties. Another big advantage of this system is to eliminate human error during data collection because all data is collected using sensor mounted on UAS, having a standard protocol to collect the data allows scientists across US to exchange information and compare the performance of plants across different locations or environments.

To be able to determine the most efficient treatment, the phenotypic data is constantly recorded by scientists, this step is very laborious and requires specialized and trained personnel being one of the main bottlenecks of the process. To speed up the phenotyping process, I have been collaborating with a team of engineers from Texas A&M Corpus Christi to develop a high throughput phenotyping system with focus on vegetables that is based on the use of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) equipped with sensors that can measure the major plant characteristics like plant height, canopy volume, color vegetation indices, pests, diseases and predict total yield. All this data is extracted from aerial images taken weekly and using a computer simulation model, we are able to rank the best performing varieties according to each treatment applied. The new methodology for high throughput phenotyping only requires a person with Remote Pilot license and basic training to collect the aerial images and all the data is extracted automatically by the computer, allowing scientists to screen a larger number of plants and collect valuable data to make decisions on selecting the best



Texas Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers ConferenCE BY ROBERT MAGGIANI


re you a Hispanic farmer or rancher in the Rio Grande Valley who would like to expand your knowledge base regarding sustainable agriculture? Would you like to grow your operation in a more sustainable way and learn about opportunities that can greatly improve your success? If so, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is hosting its second annual Texas Hispanic Farmers and Ranchers Conference and would be glad to have you as a participant.

egies that build soil organic matter to increase the capacity for your soils to absorb and hold rainwater for drier periods, filter potential pollutants in water ways, provide habitat for soil microbes to flourish, and serve as a nutritive foundation for your agricultural endeavors. Resources and Regulations presentations will offer insight on determining which resource opportunities and government regulations apply to your agricultural operation and how to make smooth and supported transitions to scale up. Topics such as farm credit, benefits for beginning veteran producers, and the Food Safety Modernization Act will be discussed along with other pertinent topics in each agricultural sector.

NCAT’s mission is to help people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. NCAT, along with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SSARE) are co-hosting this not-to-be-missed Hispanic agriculture conference on December 6-7, 2018 in McAllen, Texas at the Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel. These renowned organizations bring together the Hispanic farming and ranching community, experts from the agriculture industry, advocates for sustainability and agribusinesses for two days of workshops, networking, and learning from fellow farmers and ranchers. This conference develops and offers workshops based on the most influential issues affecting Hispanic agriculturalists today. All workshops are presented by professional specialists in all major agricultural industries. We provide breakout sessions in four tracks of learning, which include: Small Scale Producers, Farming, Ranching, and SSARE Research. Each track will offer presentations that address our workshop themes, which are as follows: Resource Conservation presentations will focus on ways to safeguard natural resources and enhance how you operate your agricultural endeavors to improve air and water quality, increase the efficiency of product and water use, protect agricultural lands from fragmentation, and preserve and restore wildlife habitat for better functioning ecosystems. Soil Health presentations will focus on amendment and grazing strat-



Marketing presentation will show you ways to improve your bottom line with various marketing strategies that have shown to improve sales in each agricultural sector. We will discuss topics such as value-added processing, niche marketing ideas, and packaging options that can give you a leg up in your industry. From irrigation strategies that reduce water use to improving pasture performance and your overall bottom line through value added opportunities, we will be presenting strategies to keep your operation on the leading-edge. We hope to see you there! To register please visit our website at or call us at 1-866-319-1669. Email inquiries can also be sent to or

Emerald SALINAS Hey everyone! I am Emerald Salinas, better known as

Julianna here to share one of the biggest impacts of my life, my experiences in and out of the show arena. Throughout my nine years of exhibiting livestock, my hard work and dedication to my animals have been rewarded differently each year; I’ve had my share of hard losses and great successes. From some of my best animals not making it to show day, at the last possible time from sickness or injury, to being in the grand drive and selected for grand champion, my experiences in the show ring have helped me shape into the person I am today, without it I have no clue where I’d be in life. With the background of a swine operation, Jolly Roger Show Pigs, I’ve been given the opportunity of a first-hand overlook of not only the swine industry but how something so little becomes something so great. This has factored my showing career by having a positive impact on both myself and my projects. First off when anyone joins in an organization where friendly competition isin play, no one says, “I hope you get last place today”, but thoughts are often hidden which is why it’s important to stay humble. Everyone competing has an ultimate goal to win that blue ribbon, am I wrong? However, through showing I realized in order to win, you have to learn to lose first. Although it’s hard, failure is only the first step in succeeding, we must learn from our mistakes in order to achieve our goals. Believe me, when I say this, I’m not ashamed, in the end of the day only one is named grand champion, but everyone can certainly be a true winner in their heart it’s just an opinion at the end of it all. In addition, as time goes by, I’ve come to the realization that it is not all about those fancy buckles and banners, it’s the memories made with great people, and the knowledge gain from fellow adults, my peers, parents and importantly, my one of a kind ag teacher who’s always there for me. Isn’t it crazy how something as simple as showing animals leads you to valuable life lessons as responsibility and patience, I sure think so! To me showing animals brings out the best in people, it’s a bond like no other, transforming ordinary people into extraordinary people. In the end, I can certainly say my showing career has by far had a huge impact on my life and the person I’ve become. Just remember it’s not all about winning, it’s about the memories, experiences, and the friends you’ll soon call family!



Bring the



very year, farming becomes more and more technical. Inputs have to be closely measured and monitored. Yield improvements, no matter how small, can mean the difference in the success or failure of a year. Everything has to be watched with a sharp eye.

But how do you know what activities are making the most difference? How does today’s farmer even go about gathering the data? And once you have the data, how do you analyze it to provide the best results? Farmers are faced with more challenges than ever. The traditional obstacles like weather and water are always factors. Then tack on things like regulatory, compliance, safety, and environmental. Don’t forget there’s labor and machinery. And somewhere in all of that, farmers are farming. Doesn’t leave much time for taking notes, collecting measurements, and analyzing it all. The good news, especially for our South Texas farmers, is that there’s help. In fact, there’s more than a few options to overcome the challenge of gathering and making sense of the technical



information of your operation. If you have the money and the tech-savvy know-how, you can spring for an app. The best thing about having a mobile app is that it’s right on your phone, and all it takes is diligence in putting in the data. As the season goes, the data is automatically tabulated and creates analytics. The cons in this approach are that many times the apps are very specific in the measures they collect or the way in which the data is computed. If there’s a single or only a few input-to-yield factors you want to measure, then an app may be your best approach. The Texas Department of Agriculture, A&M Agrilife Extension, all have great lists of apps to give you a start. It also takes diligence and commitment to inputting the data every day/ occurrence. Another option is to take advantage of the local universities and their students. UTRGV in Edinburg is in their second year with the SARA (Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Advancement) program. Texas A&M Universities recently opened their new campus at Tres Lagos in McAllen, and their first classes for FSIM (Food Systems Industry Management) are currently underway.

There’s really two things in working with the local universities that makes this option great. First, its a great trade between the farmer and the students. The students are getting the hands-on, real world training they need before they enter the work force. By working with your farm, they can get that experience and not only be better prepared but more efficient when they join the work force. Meanwhile for the farmers, they get to work with the students to customize the reports and output. This means they can have multiple data points being collected and reviewed, and having a team review that data and develop studies means the data can even come with suggestions and improvements. Second, is the cost. Sometimes, especially with graduate level students, the internship program could be free since these students need final projects for their thesis study. Outside of those types of scenarios, internships are rarely free but sometimes you can arrange a trade-out. Example: offer the university a small test plot or area for their own studies in exchange for a team from the university to conduct the studies you need. Or you could always just pay for the project. Typically a small lump sum but still, for a season-long that could improve your yields every single year thereafter it seems like small price to pay. While some companies may be able to hire a permanent employee to do this every day and every year, not all companies will have that ability. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be trying to take notes about what’s going into the field and when and how that affects the yields. Regardless of the way we take the next

steps in advancing the technical nature of farming, gathering and understanding data is a critical element in driving the efficiency of agriculture operations. Being able to produce more using less has really been the niche for American agriculture. And while we may not have the same access to resources as some other industries or regions, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make use of what is available and find ways to drive production improvements and make every season more plentiful than the previous.



Texas A&M

Opens in Tres Lagos Development



Valley Aggies are growing in number. The Rio Grande Valley may not be ready to be called Aggie Valley, yet, but it’s not because of a lack of growth in numbers.

After the current building begins to be filled on a regular basis, Margo said there are two more building in the planning stages with the drawings “in the books.”

In fact, it’s the numbers at Texas A&M campus in McAllen, inside the Texas A&M University Higher Education Center at Tres Lagos in the northwest part of the city that has everyone already talking about expansion.

“We expect to fill this up pretty quick.”

Last year, the new campus welcomed 38 freshmen – the Pioneer Scholars, as they were called - and saw that number spike to 156 freshmen this year, with more than 200 projected for next year. Rick Margo has bigger visions for the center and the McAllen campus which, as he puts it, is “attached at the hip with Texas A&M College Station.”

The McAllen campus provides a way for students who want to be an Aggie to attend school without having to make the long trek to College Station. It works both ways too – if a student decides he or she wants to stop traveling to College Station, they can transfer and finish their degree, as long as it is one of the ones offered, at the local campus. Students not only study from the Rio Grande Valley at the McAllen campus but they come from all over the southern part of the state including Corpus Christi, Del Rio, the Coastal Bend area, Laredo and Eagle Pass, among other areas.

“We are full-fledged Texas A&M. Students can earn their degree here – or here and there – and they can get their ring here and everything,” said Margo, director for the center since March, after a brief span as interim director. “The only difference between here (McAllen) and there (College Station) is 375 miles.” There are five different degrees students can earn at the McAllen campus, two in engineering and one each in public health, bio-medical science and food systems industry management. “These are the degrees that are needed in the Valley right now,” Margo said. “In the future we will have more, as we fill out this building – and that will happen fairly quickly. For now, these are the degrees and the type of workforce that we need here in the Valley to continue growing.” As director of operations, oversees facilities, coordinates with municipal and contracted services, and facilitates appropriate coordination with central university services for prospective student recruitment and community partnership and outreach. “When I came in, it was like ‘we have a building, we want to start classes,’” Margo said. “This was before the building was ready. Now, go get students and get them enrolled.”

Rick Margo

VAMOS Board Treasurer “It’s always just an option,” Margo said. “If they want to be living next to Kyle Field (home of the Aggies football team) or in the dorm rooms. The one thing everyone needs to know is that this campus is not a stepping stone – this is Texas A&M.”



A Letter from the Editor Isaiah 40:31

“ but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.”

Are we really who we say we are? If someone were to ask you who are you, what would you say? Would you say you are a person who is strong, a person who is giving, an insecure person, a troubled person? Someone recently asked me to describe myself in three words. The words I chose were giving, joyfully humorous, and forgiving. (Ok, so that’s four) But if someone were to have asked me that question five years ago, my answer would have gone more along the lines of selfish, negative, and unforgiving. I’m just being honest. So what changed? Was it my circumstances that morphed me from selfish to giving, negative to joyful, and unforgiving to forgiving? Was it my circumstances or was it time? I think it was a perfect combination of time and circumstances. When I was sitting in my darkest days, I was a person I never want to be again. I was miserable, I was discreditable and dishonorable to many. As time passed I began to grow much like a caterpillar grows into a butterfly. Sometimes we have to be wrapped up in darkness (aka a cocoon if you will), in order to spread our wings and become who we were meant to be. This journey is not easy by any means. You have to stop looking for happiness in the place you lost it. Once we have vacated the cocoon and have spread our wings it becomes tough to remain with our wings spread. It is difficult to soar continually. Why? One word, SOCIETY. Life is so unpredictable, and society places so many demands on what we should be, that sometimes our beautiful wings become less beautiful and we start to descend from soaring so high. We allow society to mold us into someone we don’t want to be. Pressures to look a certain way, pressures to make money, the “pressures” can go on and on, but temptation also plays a factor. Sometimes we are tempted to do things that are beyond our beliefs in order to fit in or please people. Sometimes we change ourselves for someone to accept us. People set expectations for people and if these are not met, the outcome can lead to a person becoming hurt, insecure, or even disgruntled. In these demands to “change” it is so easy to lose ourselves. There were many times in the Bible where the disciples were pressured into denying Christ one way or another. Pressure can literally detach you from your true self and beilfs.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. Nobility is being true to yourself. Life is a journey, and throughout our journey we learn more about ourselves. Certain circumstances show us areas where we are weak and where we are strong. We are always learning about who we are. God made you the way you are. He made you perfect in HIS image, not the world’s image. Live for God. Don’t live to meet the expectations of others. Be true to yourself. Make mistakes, learn from yourself. Better yourself through the hard times, lean on God, family, and your friends, to help keep you soaring high. God places people in your life to help you change for the better, and make sure you keep soaring. Now that my three words about myself have changed, I see clearly the person I used to be. I learned that life isn’t about what I look like through someone else’s eyes, but what I look like through mine and God’s eyes. We will mess up, we will have times where we re-visit the cocoon, but in those times while wrapped up we need to reflect and change our perspectives. The view from above is much better than below. So keep soaring high, be true to yourself. So who are you? Are you the world’s version of you, or are you the person you want to be, the person God set you out to be? Remember that the biggest challenge of life is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.





17767 PRIMERA RD HARLINGEN, TX 78552 956-778-4295

2315 W. Expressway 83 #102, San Benito, Texas 78586

956-688-8485 Thanks for 11 Years!



Water An Essential Tool No Farmer Can Do Without Testing: When you stand on a plot of land in South Texas, staring out onto the sun-drenched fields, are there concerns whether this is the right land to purchase for your crops? You want to know everything about the land before investing your hard-earned money, and while technological advancements make measuring soil content and ambient pressure easier than ever, those answers aren’t enough. Don’t close on farmland without testing the water quality. With frequent droughts, diminishing aquifers, and government water restrictions, water management and efficiency are more important than ever when planting crops. Precise water testing is an indispensable tool to conserve water, preserve the fertility of your land, and produce high-quality crops. But don’t rely on just any water testing system that only gives you numbers. Rely on a test that tells you what’s in your water and how to manage it.

Know What’s in Your Water There are three major components to producing good crops– soil, water, and the plant. However, many farmers focus on soil and plant testing, neglecting to pay attention to water quality until a problem arises. Few realize that, what’s in the water will eventually become part of the soil. Basic water testing systems often fail to provide context for their findings, which makes the reports difficult to use. In contrast, a comprehensive water analysis, when complimented with your complete soil analysis, shows a full picture of how crops will perform in that field. For example, water testing shows you the salt concentration in your water, making it easier to find a balance in your irrigation practices. Knowing the concentration of salts, or total dissolved solids (“TDS”), in your water will help you avoid accumulating too much sodium chloride that can interfere with a crop’s ability to glean nutrients from the soil and use water. But the right proportion of salts, like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sulfates, produces healthy and flavorful crops. Average water tests don’t show you the distinction between these salt types. Additionally, comprehensive water testing tells you which compounds in your water will interact with the soil, which affects the success of your crops. An example would be, despite good phosphorous soil levels, using water high in bicarbonates will impede root function and render healthy soil useless.

Understand What to Do with Your Water It’s time to know what’s in your water, how it impacts your crops, and what you can do about it. Concrete recommendations that are specific to your unique farming situation are only possible with a comprehensive water test. Depending on crops and conditions, comprehensive water testing offers



solutions like: 1. Using variable water application rates, which help you minimize the use of water in one area and maximize it in another, thereby increasing your water use efficiency and reducing costs. 2. Incorporating application specific fertilizers to combat lessthan-ideal water quality and facilitate nutrient absorption. 3. Adjusting how, when, and how long you deliver water to your crops. Again, it all comes back to that delicate balance between soil and water. When farmers strike that balance, they can produce excellent crops. That’s how farmers in the Rio Grande Valley have produced nationally renowned citrus crops to rival California and Florida, despite the high salt content in the area’s soil and water.

Get Comprehensive Water Testing You can obtain comprehensive water testing from TPS Lab, the longest-running agricultural testing lab in Texas. Their experienced and dedicated team assists farmers like you with salinity issues, enhancing water use efficiency, and promoting healthy crops. They also offer water testing services unique for livestock, fish ponds, water wells and domestic potable suitability for safe drinking water. In all cases, TPS Lab makes sure its results, interpretations, and recommendations equip you with the information you need. To better serve your specific needs, TPS Lab offers three main testing options only requiring a 20-ounce water sample and 3-5 working days. 1. Basic Water Analysis – Breaks down your TDS results into different components, along with an interpretation and recommendation. Ideal for farmers using irrigation systems, canal water, river water, water from shallow wells, and rain-fed ponds. 2. Primary Analysis – Includes the Basic Water Analysis plus iron and boron analysis, which is a toxic salt. Ideal for farmers using well water from wells deeper than 100 feet. 3. Comprehensive Analysis – Includes both the Basic Water and Primary Analysis, plus a zinc, manganese and copper analysis. Best for farmers using drip irrigation systems and water filtration systems. TPS Lab also offers Water Management Consulting to help you best navigate your water issues. From choosing the right fertilizers to irrigation practices, TPS Lab is ready to help. Don’t leave your success to chance. Visit our website,, or contact us at 956-383-0739 to learn more about how comprehensive water testing can help you produce quality crops.

Pre-Harvest sprays to Reduce Post-Harvest Problems The dog days of summer are finally over. School has started once again. Football games are played every Friday and families gather around bonfires on the weekend to enjoy each other’s company. But, what does this mean to local farmers? For them, it’s time to ensure the next seasons crops will make it to market. As the cooler months start to replace the long days of heat and sunshine, local growers feel the excitement as the harvest crews start picking our beautiful, world-renowned Texas red grapefruits and sweet oranges. Winter crops pop up from the fallow soil. New crops of leafy greens, onions and peppers make their way back to the fields. Each grower has methodically cared for and nurtured their crop to ensure a profitable year. Throughout the season, growers input nutrients, water and other necessities so the best crop reaches your plate. This is the time to reap the benefits of well-maintained crops. Within the last few years, an increase of post-harvest degradation has become a major concern. Wetter weather and longer intervals of inability to get into fields in a timely manner has caused mold, yeast and fungus to remain on fruits and vegetables for longer periods of time. Once at the packing sheds, produce is washed to remove dirt, debris and human health pathogens. Even with the precautions taken at the shed level, some of these issues may remain. These molds, fungi and yeasts are not harmful to humans, will cause produce to spoil as a faster-than-normal rate. At preventative levels, fungicides/bactericides that target the cell membrane and oxidize the pathogen have a greater application for these issues. These types of chemistries allow for tank mixes to be used for a fully integrated management program. Chemistries such as peroxyacetic acid (PAA) in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide provide contact kill of most fungi, molds and spores before they enter the packing

sheds. The PAA acts as a bullet to break the cell membrane while the hydrogen peroxide eats away at the core of the cell, causing it to disintegrate. This action reduces the chance of reproduction and eliminates the possibility of resistance. Integrating PAA products into a management program allows other chemistries that have a residual effect to last longer due to better adhesion to the surface. After countless studies and field applications of these products, producers have seen a decrease in food spoilage. Pre-harvest spray with a proven biochemical that’s safe on late-season fruit, yet powerful enough to provide a 2 to 4 log ensures even the long-distance fruit hauls maintain shelf life and quality. For over 20 years BioSafe Systems has produced chemistries with proven stability and proper buffering to ensure excellent results. As a leader in the industry for sustainability, BioSafe Systems vision is “an unwavering commitment to improving environmental health for future generations by balancing the needs of our customers with the universal sustainability requirements of protecting the land, air and water.”

For more information about the benefits of our products please visit our website at www. or contact your local Technical Sales Representative, Raina King, at 830-480-9178.



PULLING THE TRIGGER: Grazing ManagementPlanning for the Next Drought


ow do you run livestock in a country inter spersed with periods of drought”? This is a question that J. Frank Dobie asks in his book ‘Cow People’. In the last edition of the ‘Ag Mag’ I wrote about droughts in Texas and was planning to make it a two-part series, then it started raining. However, there may be no better time to write about planning for the next drought through grazing management than while we have a surplus of moisture. Because the day after the last rainfall may be the first day of the next drought as wise ranchers profess. Grazing management is both an art and a science. There is no one ‘rule-of-thumb’ that works the same for every ranch, rancher or livestock operation. Texas is quite vast with varying rainfall. Another element that differs from ranch to ranch is the condition of your particular rangeland- factors such as how much grass do you have, what is the percent growth in the growing season, what kind of grasses are the soils adapted to grow, is it native or introduced grass, what is the condition of the land, what is the condition of the livestock, what is the class and sex of the livestock and where are the livestock in their reproductive cycle?. To make matters more inconsistent; not every single year is the same; “temperatures are different, and precipitation is different; so you can’t expect the forage to be the same year after year”, Explains retired NRCS State Range Specialist, Kent Ferguson. He adds that “growing conditions typically reflect precipitation events”. Some keys to grazing and drought management is to learn to be flexible; not every year has to be grazed, rotated or stocked the same way as the last year. Likewise, livestock management doesn’t have to be done the same way as the past generations. Kent Ferguson explains that “for decades, ranchers relied on county averages when it came to stocking their land” with the mindset being that if your “neighbor could stock 1 cow to 20 acres, then you could too”. They also relied on historical records with the idea being that if your grandfather ran 200 cows in the pasture for the last 30 years then you can too (Dunkel, 2014). But we know that even in the past ranches were being over grazed and the land may not have had the




capacity to carry as many cattle as we originally thought. This overgrazing has led to the decrease in many of the grasses preferred by cattle. One of the ways to estimate your stocking rate is to conduct a forage inventory. A forage inventory is a method in which you clip the grasses in a plot to find the pounds per acre which can allow you to be able to predict your animal units per acre per year or month for each pasture. Along with a forage inventory you can also do a transect line and name the grass that is closest to every footstep and state whether or not you are standing on bare ground, plant or leaf litter, or live plants then you look above your head and say whether or not you are standing under the branches or canopy of a tree. You can also do a brush transect or plot to assess how much brush you have in a pasture. The amount of brush, bare ground and erosion and annual weeds is an indication of your range health. This aspect also contributes to the idea of grazeable acres. Just because you have a 140 acre pasture does not mean that you have 140 acres that is available for cattle to graze. The amount of brush out there, the slope and the proximity to water are all part of the grazable acre factor; which in turn contributes to your stocking rate and how you mange for future droughts.

You can also calculate stocking rate based on rainfall averages for your area too. According a video posted by Dr. Reid Redden,

Associate Professor and Extension Specialist focusing on Sheep and Goats and Dr. Morgan Russell- Treadwell, Associate Professor and Extension Range Specialist in Ecosystem Science and Management this is how the calculation works: you take the acreage amount for your pasture or land divided by 640 (which is one section of land) then you take that amount and multiply it by the annual average rainfall for your area which will give you the animal units then you take the animal units and multiply that by the animal unit equivalents (the particular livestock animal unit equivalent that you are grazing on your property) this will give you the number of head of livestock that you can stock per year. From there you can break it down per month or day. Under a good rotational grazing system along with adequate rainfall your forage will recover after a drought and could be ready for grazing again as early as to 45 to 60 days after the rest period has begun.

Just as it’s important to keep track of your forage it is also important to keep track of your rainfall rates and compare them to the averages or where you should be for a specific point in the year. This helps you predict how you should plan for any upcoming drought that may occur. Knowing the season of growth for your grass is an important component too. The season of growth helps you determine the nutrition and palatability of the grass that is needed for your livestock at that time. If you haven’t gotten a decent amount of rainfall or close tothe average by mid-April (spring rainfall) Mid-July (summer dormancy) and mid-October (fall rainfall)- then you may want to use these dates as a trigger to determine if you need decrease your stocking rate or rest pastures for longer or move cattle to leased land in another county. These dates are also good indicators of whether or not we are entering a drought, says Eric Bailey, PhD and Endowed Chair of Cow-Calf Management and Nutrition at West Texas A&M. Bailey further explains that another step during a dry spell is to determine when to wean calves in order to ensure that they are getting the most gain before selling (a trigger) (Bryant, 2016). Another option is to start buying hay or supplement feeds, but if your managing your land properly and have a proper stocking rate and rotational grazing schedule then you should have enough grass available in rested pastures so that you should not have to supplementally feed even in the worst drought. It is better to reduce your herd and cull unproductive cows early on rather than haveing to invest in supplemental feed. North Texas rancher, Frank Price, says that he doesn’t allow his cowhands to use any supplemental feed or hay except for mineral because having a sustainable amount of grass with a good rotation schedule and stocking rate is enough no

matter the rainfall. Planning for drought, rotating livestock, having proper stocking rates and maintaining good grass cover leads to a good infiltration rate on your land and decreases potential for erosion and runoff. Infiltration is the downward entry of water into soil. Having grass cover disperses the rainfall and raindrops and allows for more water infiltration into the soil right where you need it. Rainfall patterns and drought seem to feed on conditions where you’ve received rainfall and have good grass cover; while where it is dry and there is bare soil and hotter soil temperatures the rain seems to stay away. When managing for drought there are a few important take-aways to note: one being that you cannot feed yourself out of a drought. You should constantly monitor available forage and adjust stocking rates when necessary. Jeff Goodwin of the Noble Foundation explains that drought is survived by matching animal numbers to available forage and by rotating grazing over the whole ranch. Distribution of grazing is a critical management practice for efficient forage utilization. Knowing when to rotate the pasture due to grazing pressure (take half, leave half) and the height of the grazing on the grass (whether it is a short, mid or tall grass) tells you when to ‘pull the trigger’ on rotating your cattle, resting your pasture or reducing your herd (Fears, Top 10 Attributes of Successful Grazing-Land Managers, 2016).

In addition, when you have a well-managed cattle ranch you will also potentially have good habitat for your wildlife. For example, cattle grazing, and quail habitat coincide well as quail don’t like a thick, dense stand of grass. And leaving some brush provides shade for cattle as well as cover and nesting for White-tailed Deer, Quail, Turkey and Dove. Historically and ecologically records have shown that the native Bison of the prairies would graze up and down the Great Plains from Canada/Montana and down to Texas and therefore would give the rangeland at least several moths to a year of rest. There is also evidence that in dry years there was less Bison which equates to a lower stocking rate or stocking density. Nature has always known best and why should we not try to mimic what has worked in nature for centuries. References: Bryant, G. V. (2016, February). Trigger DAtes Help Plan for the Next Drought. The Cattleman, pp. 9093. Dobie, J. F. (n.d.). Cow People. Dunkel, J. J. (2014, February). Learning the Science, Mastering the Art. The Cattleman, pp. 68-77.Fears, R. (2016, February). Soil Health-the Foundation of a Profitable Ranch. The Cattleman, pp. 86-89. Fears, R. (2016, February). Top 10 Attributes of Successful Grazing-Land Managers. The Cattleman, pp. 72-75. Nelle, S. (2015, April). Cowboy Hydrology. Texas Wildlife Magazine, pp. 37-41. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


FFA&4-H 2 018



November 3, 2018

Commercial Heifer Validation Location: RGVLS Time: 9am -1pm

November 8, 2018

Palm Valley LDE’s

November 10, 2018


November 17, 2018

Bobcat Showdown Location: RGVLS

November 19, 2018

Area X LDE’s

Location: TAMUK

November 20, 2018

Hog Validation Location: Edinburg




November 30, 2018

State LDE’s

Location: SHSU December 1, 2018

State LDE’s Cowboy Classic Location: RGVLS

December 11, 2018

Palm Valley AST Meeting

Location: Sharyland Time: 5:30pm

December 14-15, 2018

Fruit/Veggie Show Location: RGVLS

H Calendar DA R



Sponsored by:

November 1, 2018

Ft Worth Show entries due to the Hidalgo County Extension Office November 3, 2018

RGVLS Commercial Heifer Show Validation November 9, 2018

Path to the Plate

Location: RGVLS Mercedes,Tx

November 15, 2018

Houston, San Antonio, Austin and San Angelo show entries to the Hidalgo County Extension Office

November 17, 2018

Youth Sewing Class Location: Extension Office

November 17, 2018

D12 Food Show/ Food Challenge Location: Alice, TX

November 17, 2018

D12 Consumer Decision Making Location: Alice, TX



From our family to yours. THANK YOU FOR YOUR BUSINESS!

García Grain Trading 956 - 464 - 6000 SERVING THE VALLEY FOR OVER 20 YEARS ALAMO, TX MCCOOK, TX





20th Annual

Cotton and Grain Golf Tourney



29th Annual

4-H Country Hoedown Fiesta like there’s no Mañana!



Writer Karen Ford is a principal at WaterPR, a full-service communication company located in San Marcos, Texas. Research partner on this project was Robin Rather, principal at Collective Strength. Please send your thoughts, ideas and input on this article to: If you would like to get on the mailing list for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Education & Outreach Program, contact:

Recent Focus Group with Valley growers found consensus on the many benefits of drip irrigation, but the economics for grower, and District, still present a challenge.



Report on focus groups with growers in the RGV BY KAREN FORD Water PR

Focus groups are a great way to gather information about attitudes and behaviors on just about anything. We were happily tasked with learning more about irrigation practices in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and decided qualitative research through focus groups and in-depth interviews was a good choice for our purposes. In August 2018 we conducted two facilitated focus groups—one with Valley growers and the other with irrigation district managers.

the focus group represented more than 19,400 acres currently being farmed in the RGV. Crops included mixed vegetables, citrus, native grasses, sorghum, cotton and sugar cane. The group included three women and seven men with an average age of 32 and an age range from 24 to 66 years. Three participants were Hispanic and seven were Caucasian. Counties represented included: Cameron, Hildago and Willacy.

This article presents the findings from the Valley growers group. We will bring findings and conclusions from irrigation districts in the next issue of Ag Mag. Here, we provide a brief recounting of the research objectives and methodology, as well as the trends we discovered, the challenges faced, and solutions recommended. The full report on our Focus Group research will be available in the final report for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Irrigation Education and Outreach Program that is underway and funded by the Texas Water Development Board through an Agricultural Water Conservation Grant.

Key Findings from Growers

This qualitative research seeks to understand and synthesize the mindset of agricultural growers about the water challenges and solutions. Specifically, our research team had the following objectives: • Gather opinions about future of agriculture in RGV in relation to water avail ability and supply reliability • Increase efficient irrigation practice understanding; discuss barriers to imple mentation • Define grower’s priorities for implementing water efficient practices • Determine best communication vehicles and messages to connect with Valley growers on irrigation efficiency. • Utilize results to refine and enhance outreach and education to growers regarding water conservation and irrigation efficiency practices. Methodology & Demographics The grower’s focus group was conducted at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco, Texas, on August 15, 2018. A total of 10 growers participated on a confidential basis in order to maximize candor. Participants in



1. Long Term Viability of Farming is in Doubt Despite a willingness to do whatever it takes to continue farming the land, growers are increasingly pessimistic that farming itself can survive in the RGV. Water deliveries from Mexico are seen as both essential and precarious. Investment in water infrastructure for agriculture is not forthcoming. Expenses are up, and prices are down. Urbanization is paving over rich soil. Changing consumer tolerances for chemicals and a crippling shortage of labor willing to farm are key trends that in combination are leading growers to doubt whether farming in the region will survive. 2. Generational Differences in RGV Agriculture The current, young generation of farmers perceives several systemic differences that did not affect prior generations as dramatically, including: • Intensified global market competition • Higher volume of crop imports than exports • Expectation that food products will be delivered “cheaper and cheaper” • Shift in financing to a “cost upfront” model, where largest investment comes before the seed is in the ground • The transition from family farms to large corporate farms • A feeling that no real support for farming endures at the federal level 3. Mexico/ US Treaty Rights a Top Concern This treaty is critical to water deliveries that RGV growers depend on. There is an overwhelming sense that Treaty enforcement from the U.S is inadequate and/or misinterpreted. Growers believe Mexico should be held accountable for its water deliveries as clearly specified in the 1944 US/Mexico Treaty.

4. Metering and Selling Water By Volume is a Key Driver The way water is currently sold doesn’t incentivize or reward those who conserve water, nor does it penalize those who are inefficient with water in their irrigation practices. 5. Losing Farms to Urbanization is A Serious Threat Growers understand all too well that agriculture is legally secondary to municipal water rights. As the region continues to explode with population in cities, growers believe their water rights are increasingly threatened both by municipal water use and by land fragmentation. 6. Drip Irrigation is Well Understood, but Price Point Way Too High The pros and cons of drip irrigation were well understood and easy for the participants to articulate. Pros for drip irrigation: • water savings/efficiency • being able to put water where you need it • fertilizing while you drip (fertigating) • ability to grow multiple crops on the same line • better yields • harvesting while irrigating • fewer weeds • less need to level land.

and outreach. They feel the general public doesn’t respect farmers, sees them as “behind the times”, “not cool” and “water wasters” due to media coverage. Growers like the idea of a public media program that delivers a positive message about farming, farmers and their efforts to be good stewards of the land and water. Conclusions from Grower Research Growers are willing and able to adapt and invest in water conservation, but feel it is largely out of their control with Irrigation Districts in the RGV holding all the cards instead. They believe that funding for modernized infrastructure improvement is an important solution, but are concerned that perceptions and lack of education will hold back efforts to get the necessary funding from State of Texas, let alone federal sources. A tremendous amount of frustration exists over the uncertainty posed by enforcement issues around the 1944 Treaty with Mexico, as well as a strong desire to see a far more effective strategy deployed. Drip Irrigation is perceived in a positive light except that the price point is considered too high at this time. Water metering and pricing by volume is perceived as a key strategy going forward. Growers want to see a strong communications and outreach strategy deployed to help educate and improve perceptions among the general population and especially among elected officials so that water policy and funding will advance.

Cons of drip irrigation: • high cost of drip (currently at $1-3K per acre) • perception that districts are ill-equipped to provide drip at scale • a fear that districts will go bankrupt if they deliver water for drip (due to need for small volumes of water over long period of time vs large volume for short period). 7. Climate Change is NOT Perceived as A Serious Worry Participating growers rated climate change an average of “two” on a ten-point scale where one was not at all worried and ten was intensely worried. However, growers did express concern about increasingly volatile weather events. 8. Irrigation Districts are Perceived as Holding All the Efficiency Cards Growers believe that they get a lot of the blame and pressure for water inefficiency but that in reality, it is the Districts who have the most to gain with efficiency measures. Growers believe that the only thing farmers can control is how much water they spill on their land. 9. Municipalities Seen as Far Stronger Politically Than Growers Urbanization and its effect on agriculture land are seen as the top negative trends affecting the future of agriculture. Growers feel that municipalities have far greater political influence than they do thus driving this trend. Growers believe that the number of voters that can be won by an elected official is much higher in municipalities and thus all the political focus—and investment—goes to cities and not to agriculture.

Recommendations from Grower Research 1. Develop a more aggressive strategy regarding enforcement of the US-Mexico 1944 Treaty.

10. Solutions When asked what they would do to solve the most pressing issues facing farmers, the following solutions were offered by the growers:

2. Obtain sufficient funding to upgrade water infrastructure.

• Fight the Mexico Treaty rights issue with far more intensity. • Change the perception of farmers and educate both elected officials and the general public about the role of farmers in the RGV and the water/crop issues they are facing. • Fund and Implement infrastructure improvements – specifically rebuild and modify the canal system to make it more efficient and get it ready for drip irrigation. • Provide incentives for farmers to work together within a farm block. • Price water on a graduated scale based on usage and impose stronger penalties for those who are not using water efficiency practices. • Revoke the “blanket allocation” and gradually increase the price with each irrigation cycle. • Merge the current 26 water district system down to perhaps 5 in order to upgrade the management of the districts, make them more efficient overall and provide more consistency regarding water saving policies. (It must be noted, growers agreed this type of district consolidation would be very difficult, if not impossible, to enact.)

4. Consider pricing water by volume and metering to encourage and reward conservation.

11. Communication and Outreach as a Core Strategy Growers believe they are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to education

3. Attack drip irrigation affordability problem. Good subject for workshop.

5. Form an “innovation incubator” in the RGV to test new technologies. 6. Evaluate benefits of restructuring/ streamlining irrigation districts to improve consistency in pricing, water saving policies, and infrastructure upgrades. 7. Create a communication and outreach strategy that changes perceptions of farmers, “tells the RGV story,” highlights success stories and statewide impacts of agriculture in order to drive water infrastructure investment. 8. Grower to grower outreach. Have growers host workshops. Partner with NRCS and other funding programs. 9. Develop more content for Texas AWE YouTube channel. 10. Focus on drip irrigation and ways to convert from flood, develop programs with financial assistance for conversion, develop infrastructure enhancements to support drip, educate growers on conversion. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


North Alamo Water Supply Corp. recently held a ground breaking ceremony for a $3 million reservoir in the Delta Area. Pictured, left to right are: Steven P. Sanchez, general manager; and board members: Tommy Jendrusch; Dennis Goldsberry, vice president; Martin Drewry; Steve Krenek, president; Derrick Swanberg, secretary/treasurer; and Ray Yeary. Not pictured are board members: Manuel B. Garcia, Michael England and Abdiel Cuevas.

Steve Krenek, board president for North Alamo Water Supply Corp., addresses guests at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for a new 60-acre reservoir.

North Alamo Water Corp. begins construction of

$3 million reservoir to benefit farmers and communities in the Delta Area and Willacy County BY NORA N. GARZA




new $3 million reservoir to be built by North Alamo Water Supply Corp. will give the Delta area and Willacy County a much needed water supply, especially in times of drought. The 60-acre reservoir is a manmade lake, which will store 120 million gallons of raw water, diverted from the Rio Grande by irrigation districts. A ground breaking for the reservoir was held recently on the site of the Delta Area Regional Water Treatment Plant, located north of Edcouch. Steven P. Sanchez, general manager, said the reservoir will help with planning, management, water processing and conservation. “The purpose of the reservoir is to provide a ready source for irrigation and potable water,” he said. “The reservoir is good for the community,” Sanchez said. “It will provide stability for operating our water plants and alleviate demand from water diverters, or irrigation districts.” “The reservoir will help us prepare for unforeseen circumstances, such as drought. Farmers work on a time schedule and must have water available when needed.” The additional water source will not only help farmers, but also the cities of Edcouch, Elsa and La Villa for which North Alamo Water has interconnections with, as well as the community of Monte Alto. The reservoir’s water can also travel farther north and provide a more reliable water source to Willacy County. North Alamo Water Supply Corp. will not have to depend solely on district irrigation divertors. Water will be available when customers need it, Sanchez said. “It’s like having your pantry full,” Sanchez said. “In the past, North Alamo Water had to shut down water plants when the irrigation districts could not meet water demand.”

financing partner, headquartered in Colorado: “Co-Bank is proud to be a part of this project with North Alamo Water Supply Corp. We look forward to working with both the USDA Rural Development and North Alamo Water as this project moves forward.” “The future of dependable access to clean water in the region is bright, and we are excited for the people who will count on this reservoir.” Other projects for the Delta Area water plant include adding a reverse osmosis water treatment plant and possibly two wells. The new plant will increase water production by 2 million gallons daily, for a total production of 10 million gallons daily. Phase I also includes 16-inch and 12-inch transmission lines, which are currently under construction, and a 1-million-gallon water tower in Edinburg. These projects are part of an expansion of infrastructure to keep up with population growth in the corporation’s service area, which covers nearly 1,000 square miles in rural eastern Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and northwestern Cameron County.

Nora N. Garza is the customer outreach coordinator for North Alamo Water Supply Corp. She provides presentations on water science and conservation for children and adults. She can be reached at ngarza@ or 956-383-1618.

Robert Rodriguez, manager of operations, said the reservoir will assist with water quality. The reservoir is part of the pretreatment process with sediment in the water settling naturally, and operators can also control algae growth, which is harmless but gives water an “earthy” flavor,” he said. The new reservoir will be the fourth in the North Alamo Water system. The project is part of Phase I of a $46 million Capital Improvement Plan, which is being funded by USDA Rural Development.Board President Steve Krenek read a message sent from Hunter Hook, vice president of CoBank, a



Valley producers learn about technology, management approaches used in Mississippi Delta


group of Lower Rio Grande Valley pro ducers recently learned how a combination of technology and management approaches being applied in the Mississippi Delta could be used in the Valley to help reduce water use in furrow-irrigated fields while maintaining or increasing yield. Dr. Jason Krutz, director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute, spoke Oct. 16 in Weslaco at a workshop sponsored by the Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI), Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). Krutz recommended Valley producers use three irrigation tools—computerized hole selection (CHS) for polypipe tubing, surge valves and soil moisture sensors—in their farming practices.

He said these approaches will work because the farming practices in the Mississippi Delta are similar to the practices in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Both areas predominantly use polypipe to furrow irrigate poorly drained soils. A couple differences do exist; in the Mississippi Delta, well water is the exclusive source of water for irrigation and fields have a bit more slope to them. Krutz’s recommendations stem from his research as part of the Row-crop Irrigation Science Extension and Resesarch (RISER) Program at Mississippi State University. RISER’s goal is to develop a science-based approach for evaluating irrigation water management (IWM) practices in the Mississippi Delta and to assist producers in the adoption of IWM practices that reduce water use, while maintaining or improving yield and profitability.



BY KATHY WYTHE, Texas Water Resources Institute

“I am passionate about developing production systems that maximize yield and net returns with as little water as possible, particularly in a furrow-irrigated environment,” said Krutz. “Any technology I recommend needs to give producers more money and yield while maximizing the environmental parameters.”

Computerized hole selection Unlike the traditional trial and error method for putting different sized holes in polypipe tubing, CHS provides a way to maximize irrigation uniformity in fields before punching any holes in the polypipe. This saves time, money and water by cutting down on irrigation times, reducing labor costs and minimizing excess water application to the field. At Mississippi State, Krutz has tested the use of CHS using the Delta Plastics Pipe Planner program (https://www.pipeplanner. com), a free web-based irrigation management tool that provides producers with specific polypipe irrigation design for their fields. His research results have shown that using CHS results in 25 percent less time, fuel and water with a $10 per acre savings over traditional use of polypipe. Used on an irregularly shaped field, the results are even better with 50 percent less time, fuel and water and $20 per acre savings. Krutz said they were also able to fully irrigate a field or farm in about half the time that traditional irrigation approaches take. “By using CHS, I know what I need the flow rate to be in every furrow and I know I can get on and off the irrigation set in 12 to 24 hours and I can do all that at

my desk,” he said. “I can stop guessing what size my irrigation set should be and design one correctly.”

Surge Valves Surge valves apply irrigation water in a series of on-off cycles. Krutz said using surge valves reduces surface runoff losses, decreases deep percolation losses and improves infiltration in sealing soils with an application efficiency 25 percent higher than conventional irrigation. “The big benefit (of surge valves) is they take care of irrigation delivery efficiency,” he said. Krutz said a surge valve can be programed to eliminate tailwater runoff if need be. “If you do the surge valve correctly in a furrow irrigation system, you are approaching the efficiency of center pivot, so it is not something to dismiss.”

A demonstration in Texas is needed, however, to confirm economic results locally, he said. These irrigation applications and their water savings can benefit more than just the individual producers. “The United States is running out of water,” he said. “We just can’t irrigate the way we have been doing it.” Krutz encouraged the participants to use the three tools to increase their water-use efficiency. “Irrigation is critical to sustain agricultural production in the future, but we’re going to have to stretch our water to do that,” he said.

Soil moisture sensors Krutz said soil moisture sensors are a must when scheduling irrigation because the sensors help schedule irrigation based on actual soil moisture levels. “Irrigation for a crop means giving it what water it needs in the rooting zone,” he said, adding that soil moisture sensors allow producers to see the rooting zone, the rooting depth and the point at which the moisture level could be a problem for yield. “If you can’t do those things, you can’t irrigate,” he said. “You can water but you can’t irrigate.”

Benefits to producers, water savings Krutz said using these three tools in Mississippi costs producers $8.20 per acre. For example, he said, using these tools for corn yielded a seven bushel average yield increase, used 50 percent less water and resulted in a $40 per acre increase in profits compared to the typical irrigation approach.

“My approach has always been very pragmatic,” he said. “These techniques make you more money but they are saving water as well.”

For more details about these practices, visit the H2O Initiative ( and RISER (http://www.mississippi-crops. com/2017/02/03/2016-riser-program-irrigation-summary/).

The workshop was part of TWRI’s Lower Rio Grande Valley Irrigation Education and Outreach project, funded by the TWDB. The project promotes water conservation strategies among growers and irrigation district boards and managers and the benefits and advantages of water conservation and water use efficiency of various on-farm irrigation and irrigation district water management practices, especially when compared to conventional practices. Project partners include Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center, Harlingen Irrigation District, WaterPR and commodity group leaders in the Valley.




Briggs-Coleman Seed Co. Harlingen, Texas (956) 463–6177

Farm Her The


The harvest was over, the cotton had been sent to the gin, and the machinery had been cleaned and was back in the barn. The season changed, and the weather was no longer steamy hot but became damp, soggy, and wet. The sun disappeared from the sky and the atmosphere became grey and drear. Rivers overflowed their bounds, roads were washed out, and the fields became small lakes. RoniMarie’s farmer decided to retain the water that was now in abundance and built a levy around his fields for the water to seep down deep into the sub levels to be preserved until spring. He had never tried that before, but he never hesitated at implementing new ideas.  The temperatures dropped and it seemed the hot, muggy days of summer were gone. The farmer thought about planting a fall crop but decided preserving the moisture in the field was more important for the upcoming growing season. It was a time of putting things to rest, reviewing the production of the year, setting new goals, reviewing new projects, regrouping. The farmer had plans in place to add an addition to the barn and decided that the time was right to start. So began the hours of calculations, figuring the depth, length, and distance of the blueprint. Autumn was in full swing. RoniMarie searched for her place again. Her mothers motto had always been “don’t ask what you can do, look around and find what needs to be done.” So, she did. There was still unpacking to do. The conversion of the farm from one chapter to another was in progress but not finished. She fought against the overwhelmed feelings she had as she made the changeovers and instead looked for ways to switch her mindset into a more energetic and productive level. As she searched for what needed to be done or finished, she realized what her role was in this particular period. It was building a life together with her farmer, preserving the legacy of the farm that the farmer and his late wife had built, blending families together, and restoring brokenness. However, the one thing she noticed in herself and on the farm was the words that were spoken. Sometimes the atmosphere was filled with fear and anxiety according to whatever happened during the day. It could be the weather, it could be the machinery, it could be the clouds, attitudes, communication, misunderstandings. The air was not filled with positivity but instead brimmed with the complete opposite. She had been raised to be negative and her parents taught that if one day was good, it was because tomorrow was going to be bad. It took many years for her to conceive a new way of



thinking. She realized that was her calling at this particular time for the farm. Words were her forte. If she could upgrade the atmosphere with positive words, positive thinking, positive differences, positive ideas, the hope and faith that was forthright for the farm would become the center. Why not, she thought. It was the time of Thanksgiving. There were so many blessings to see, so much to be thankful for, plenty to look forward to. She began with herself. As she diligently worked to incorporate herself on the farm, she revised her thought patterns. ‘This is an adventure. This is fun. I am organized. I am making a difference. I am creating and establishing our life. I am doing a great job. I have wonderful ideas. Things are flowing.’ And things did begin to flow. She opened her mind to the possibilities, and opportunities came. She figured out how to become a part of the home and not destroy its integrity. She believed her husband’s family could be her family and yet still have their mother. She believed her son could be joined into the family, accepted and received and as she believed, the occurrences happened.  Transitions and changes arise every day, to everyone. It is enjoyable to have a routine and never having to worry about doing things differently but that’s not the way life works. Fighting change freezes probability. Change becomes rigid, hard to manipulate and harder to accept. When life is looked at as an adventure, each day is exciting to participate in. She realized she became more adept at handling the intricacies that were presented as her mind became more positive. She worked at being open to adjusting in different ways and her mind jumped at the possibilities that could present themselves.  Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, the Wright Brothers, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs were a minute few who looked at the unknown, reached to create, accepted the unacceptable and advanced the world. The ‘what ifs’ in her mind were just as limitless. She could make a difference if she believed she could-and she did believe. The longer she lived in the farming culture, the more she realized that farmers tend to vocalize their fears and anxiety. In fact, their personality seemed to be more tense and afraid. She understood why as she watched from her bird’s eye view. The burden of providing for their family registered high on their control gauge. Providing a way to produce

from their hard work rested tightly in every fiber and cell. How different it was from the business world where one did the job according to specifications and promotions happened because the plan was followed and profited the company. Advancement and rewards occurred because of the diligence and activity. In the farm life, the long hours and intensity were not always rewarded. The control of their success was not in a farmer’s hands no matter what they got accomplished or how long it took. She wondered if it was the need for control that had them voicing their anxiety. What would happen, if they voiced what they wanted the end result to be?  She thought about the old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results each time. She thought about her years of negativity and how they did not produce anything but more anxiety and depression. She reminisced her time of being positive and the changes that had occurred in an uplifting way. It wasn’t that anything was wrong on the farm or that her farmer was amiss. The farm was productive and her husband had great insight. What was wrong was the atmosphere. Her husband stayed worried and anxious, developing health problems, and the health problems continued to progress. It was time to do new things, go a new direction. She felt substantiated as she delved into this season’s potential that here was her position for this space and time.  As she began the progress, she knew words would be the key. She also knew that Thanksgiving and being grateful were important as well, and it was that time of year. Part of the farm success was seeing what was accom plished in the past years, what was being attained now, and what was futuristic to look forward to. There were blessings every day to be acknowledged. When she opened her eyes to what good was around her, she was amazed at the magnitude of the unquestionable. There were beautiful oak trees. There were fields that had produced great fruit. There was green grass, there were even roses still in this late autumnness. The plants in the flower garden and rose-garden were thriving. The dogs were happy and loving their life.  She and her farmer could see the beauty of the earth. They could hear the sounds of nature. They gave thanks they were able to buy food and create delicious meals. They had a roof over their head. Family was around them. They were loved and they loved those placed in their lives. They had laughter. They had a great team on the farm that produced quality. They had wonderful friends. There were so many blessings that flowed through their life on a daily basis. They gave thanks for each of their children and for each of their grandchildren. They gave thanks for their transportation and for having enough finances to pay all the bills each month. RoniMarie gave thanks she had a house to clean and that she was not alone anymore. The farmer gave thanks that he was able to build and add on to the farm. She gave thanks that she was able to create. They gave thanks they had each other. They both realized that giving thanks brought and kept smiles on their faces and in their spirits. It was starting to eat away at the mounds of worry and anxiety that had permeated the air around them.   She knew her farmer wondered if her ideas had any merit and indeed, they did seem strange, even to her. She felt a mini chuckle come on as she realized she could have a little hippy and perhaps a touch of bohemian in her genetics but this idea (thought process) needed merit to be considered a viable project. That called for research. She went first to her favorite author and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer. His book Real Mag-

ic shared the thought of creating miracles in every day life. You’ll See It When You Believe It pointed out that when the spirit believes in what we want, we will see it happen. Dr. Dyer takes the use of words and the believing in our inner being to guide us into the manifesting of our tomorrow. (Manifest Your Destiny) She then researched the Bible to see what it said about words.  Proverbs 13:3 said: ‘Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.’ Joel 3:10 said: ‘Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong.’ 

With those thoughts printed in black and white, she decided it was time to raise the ante. She broached the subject to her husband; “let’s stop sharing our fears and let’s start sharing what we want to see happen.” The farmer was doubtful at first as he listened to the explanation and then the example. “Let’s compliment the weather every day, no matter what it is. We can vocalize our ideas and believe they are going to be accomplished.” She suggested talking about next year’s crop and how blessed it was going to be. She started saying thank you for a banner year. She picked up a handful of soil encouraging and blessing the granules to be used next year in an even greater capacity. She looked at the fields and said, “Thank you for the protection of the crops. Thank you for enough water. Thank you that the machinery runs well. Thank you for the sky that brings enough rain for the future.” She gave thanks for the blessings forthcoming, for being led and guided in the right direction. She proclaimed they were open to new adventures and new avenues. She smiled to herself as she watched her husband’s expressions. She knew he must be thinking, “what have I gotten myself into? I’ve married a maniac.” She asked him what he thought and he said, “I hope no one can hear you.” She was a little dismayed and said, “Would you rather I not say anything?” He quickly assured her that he needed her to be positive but maybe it was for her and not for him. She thought about that for a little bit and then said that she was grateful she had the opportunity. She wasn’t able to produce a crop physically but hopefully speaking words would bring energy and a favor to the fields. She didn’t know, time would tell, but she was again going to give it her best shot.This was no longer a rehearsal, it was time to regroup and move forward. She had a job to do, this self taught, city born, transported, self proclaimed ‘Farm Her’ who wasn’t out plowing the fields but was carving out the negative and integrating the positive. Winter was in the life ahead.



Marco t c e f f E The

It was the summer of ’84 and Marco Barrientes had just finished helping a friend feed his steer for a project. The next few hours put Barrientes on a path that he has walked along for the next three-plus decades. “This was the summer prior to me entering my freshman year in high school,” Barrientes said. “On the way home (from feeding the steer) we stopped by Mr. Chris Cernosek’s house so I could be introduced to him.” Cernosek was to be Barrientes’ Ag Science Teach at H.M. King High School in Kingsville, where he would graduate in 1988. “I enrolled in Ag I and became an FFA member my freshman year,” he said. “I was hooked after that.” Now, 25-plus years later, Barrientes is an Ag Science teacher in the Sharyland School District, where he began at Sharyland High in 1993 before embarking on a new adventure and the Sharyland Pioneer in 2014. He is a sixth-generation rancher in Duval County and said he believes that Ag is important for children to be exposed to and involved in.



“The Ag Science program and FFA definitely changes lives,” he said. “It helps students with premier leadership, personal growth and career success. Students are given opportunities to apply math, science, technology and leadership skills to their life. Students are also able to explore their interests and talents and build upon them. It is an extremely rewarding experience that enables a student to broaden their network. “ Barrientes grew up in Kingsville and was introduced to agriculture and cattle ranching at an early age. “I’ve always enjoyed the ranch life. My fondest memories have been spent at the ranch with my family,” he said. “My father and maternalgrandfather had the largest influence on me while working at the ranch. The ranch is not just a place for me to work but a place to unwind and gather my thoughts.” In his 24 years of teaching, two things have come to the forefront when asked what Barrientes’ favorite thing is about Ag teaching. “I enjoy preparing students in the classroom for Leadership Development Events & Career Development Events. These competitions allow me to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. Students

demonstrate their abilities in public speaking, communication, leadership and their knowledge of technical agriculture skills,” he said. “I also enjoy supervising the SAE Livestock Projects that students can exhibit at livestock shows around the state.” Barrientes and his students have many accolades for the different competitions he has taken them to and prepared them for. And while those show success in one way, Barrientes said his greatest joy comes from seeing long-term success in his students.

the way back from helping a friend helped Barrientes discover a passion. That trip, unknown to him, his friend or anyone else, set into motion Barrientes’ plan for life. He hasn’t regretted it and says that finding one’s passion is critical in having fulfilling future.

“My advice for students is to get involved in extra-curricular events at the high school and post-secondary level. This is a unique opportunity to figure out what might interest you,” he said. “A student can be motivated to succeed when they identify their passions and pursue them. It allows them to build up their resume. Participation in these activities could even lead to a future college major or career.” Barrientes should know. It’s exactly how he got to where he is today.


“Although I cherish the accomplishments at livestock shows, I believe that my greatest accomplishment is witnessing my former students become productive members of society,” he said. “From entrepreneurs to Ag teachers and veterinarians to lobbyists, these students have taken what they’ve learned in the FFA and utilized those skills to achieve success.” Barrientes said that instilling life skills – especially developing a strong work ethic – is crucial as a teacher. He said that is father instilled in him a “tremendous work ethic” and he tries to emulate his dad (“He is not only one of my role models, but my hero.”) in every way possible. “I have been blessed to pass this along to my children and my own students,” said Barrientes, who has two children, Ty Coby, 27 and Teah Noel, 21. “I want my students to utilize their work ethic in the classroom, in their extracurricular activities and anything they set out to do. A strong work ethic will take one far in life.” That one stop at Mr. Cernosek’s house on





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Are You Stock Show Ready?


SOMEWHERE DOWN IN TEXAS – Green and white… National Blue and Corn Gold… What do those colors mean to you? To me they mean a great deal and signify so many learned life skills, cherished experiences and wonderful memories. This is the time of year when stock show season is in full gear. So, what does that mean? It means 4-H and FFA’ers everywhere are working hard on their livestock projects. Whether it’s raising hogs, heifers, steers, sheep, goats or poultry and whether they are breeding or market animals, it takes a great deal of time, effort, dedication and commitment to raise, care for and show animals. Don’t let the hard work scare you away! It’s an amazing experience.



Yes, there’s going to be dirt, mud and poop involved and sweat, tears and maybe even some blood shed. But if you have the opportunity to show animals and be a part of a program as phenomenal as FFA and 4-H … DO IT! Personally, I can attest that FFA and 4-H changed my life for the best! They helped mold me into the person I am as well as led me to where I am today, professionally. Some of my career history includes working at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Texas Animal Health Commission, D&D Farm and Ranch, and International Brangus Breeders Association. Today I oversee the Junior Beefmaster Breeders Association youth program and coordinate the Beefmaster Breeders United membership and internation-

al programs, as well. I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the opportunities and life skills that the 4-H and FFA programs afforded me. Now, I do want to say that to get the full effect and reap the benefits of youth programs as such, YOU have to do the work! Yes... YOU! You have to put forth the effort and you must commit. Yes, it’s work; but the work is worth it. You will learn to be humble, responsible, accountable, respectful, and you will learn ethics that very well may not be “taught or learned” elsewhere. You will also acquire life skills such as confidence, independence and ownership. At the end of the day, all said and done, you will have a strong sense of pride for what you have devotedly raised, cared for and showed. You will firsthand see the fruits of your labor unfold right in front of your eyes and the feeling will be indescribable. Your parents, 4-H agents, ag teachers, family and friends will always be there to empower,

encourage and lend a helping hand along the way. Let them. Listen to them. Learn from them. Respect them. Thank them. Though they may help, don’t expect them to do all the work. Your animal is your responsibility and commitment. And for you to get the full experience you must do everything from start to finish to everything in between when raising your livestock show project. Your showing years will be memories that you will cherish forever. You will miss those years and you will talk about them for years to come. In the midst of getting stock show ready and working with your projects, I wish all exhibitors the very best of luck. Make the most of the experience. The lessons learned are invaluable and will last you a lifetime. They will be the best years of your life. Go forth stock show exhibitors and proudly sport and wear those infamous green and white and national blue and corn gold colors!





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Hello friends and Neighbors, I am back again with an update on the never-ending changes to the 2014 farm bill, including Seed cotton implementation. Today we will discuss a variety of up and coming programs and help to agriculture. Some of these topics we have discussed in detail in the past but we will rehash due to the importance of these decisions.

Most may have heard by now that President Donald Trump directed Secretary of Ag Sonny Purdue USDA to come up with a tariff relief program as we move in to 2019. The goal of this short term relief approach is to allow the assistance to farmers most directly effected by the tariffs put in place on countries where trade deficits were out of balance. Push back by these countries on global trade deals could have a negative effect on global prices. There has been much talk about whether the US should use tariffs or should not. I guess time will tell if this strategy with work. In the mean time I do appreciate the forward thinking of this administration in this Tariff Relief Program. Here are the rules as we know them.

2014 FARM BILL SEED COTTON IMPLEMENTATION All should have a letter from FSA giving each farm an opportunity to bring Generic base back to Seed Cotton or some other covered commodity based on planting history. Basically, we are being asked to go back just like it was 2014 and go through the yield and base acre update for each farm. This will eliminate Generic base and allow all farms to have assigned base acres (non-changing) and will most definitely provide some simplicity and consistency with our farms going forward.

There are 3 things must happen during this update: 1. Growers will be allowed to update their CC yields at FSA. 2. Growers will be allowed to reallocate base acres a. Option 1 (select a one time up to 20% reduction in Generic Base Acres) b. Option 2 (a reallocation of Generic Base on to the existing base acres prorated from planting history in the years of 2009 through 2012.) 3. Growers must select ARC or PLC for Seed Cotton program. a. It is an industry belief that this selection between PLC and ARC will be made again next year with the sign up to the new the 2018 Farm Bill. In the June edition of AgMag , I covered in detail how to proceed in the three steps above and some questions that need to be asked by each grower and landowner. Working through this process is not easy, but can accomplished. Obviously, there are a lot of questions and we have been covering these on a case by case basis in our office to assist growers. If you have questions, feel free to contact our office and we will continue to help growers and Landlords on these decisions. The Deadline for this Cotton Seed update is December 7th, 2018.

76 Ag Mag


1. There was $12 billion funding identified and assigned to this program. 2. Growers are to submit their production to FSA for assistance. 3. There will be two payments 50% increments. a. January b. Later in the summer 4. The breakdown is as such a. Cotton .06/lb b. Corn .01/bu c. Dairy (milk) $0.12 / cwt. d. Pork (hogs) $8.00 / head e. Soybeans $1.65 / bu. f. Sorghum $0.86 / bu. g. Wheat $0.14 / bu. As we move into 2019 we are expecting to see pressure on prices at times with these unknowns. It will be interesting to see how these Tariff strategies turn out. In the long run the US is the most efficient nation to producer quality food in the world. We are needed more than not. As I said before it will be interesting‌.. C Casey Clipson CropGuard Group, INC

Important upcoming dates for Ag Producers NOVEMBER & DECEMBER 2018 DATES

Nov 7 Pesticide License Training in Edinburg Nov 8 Cotton & Grain Marketing Workshop - Weslaco Dec 5 A&M Vegetable Field Day in Weslaco Dec 12 Fike Farms Fall Corn Field Day - Edinburg Dec 14-15 RGVLS Citrus and Vegetable Show - Mercedes Contact the County Extension Office for details on any of these events Brad Cowan, County Extension Agent Agriculture Hidalgo County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 410 North 13th Avenue, Edinburg, TX 78541 o) 956-383-1026, m) 956-330-3208

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Ag Mag Issue 26  
Ag Mag Issue 26