Sweet corn is ready for 2014

Nothing defines summer in Iowa quite like home-grown sweet corn and the season is underway! The Van Manen siblings make sure people get plenty as they carefully plant, tend, harvest and sell the delicious yellow and white ears.

Emily and her brother Jacob own J & E Delicious Sweet Corn in Kellogg and have been growing and selling the Iowa staple since they were five.

Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Severe weather continues to pound crops

Ron Dreher checks his corn field to assess the damage that was caused by a severe storm. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)
Hail, torrential rain, tornadoes and strong winds pummeled much of the state again this week causing significant crop and property loss.

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) members are assessing damage from punishing storms Sunday and Monday. Volatile weather has plagued the state for several weeks.

On Monday ISA member Ron Dreher of rural Adair endured the worst storm in 40 years of farming. Large hail, coupled with 6 inches of rain in 20 minutes and winds in excess of 80 miles per hour, decimated about two-thirds of 1,000 acres of soybeans and corn he raises with his son Dan.

“It’s hard to look at the fields and see all the damage,” Ron said. “It makes me sick to my stomach to think that in 20 minutes all of the hard work was lost.”

Dan added, “We have 40 acres of corn and soybeans on the edge of town and it was defoliated completely. All that’s left of the beans are stems.”

Damaged soybeans in one of Ron Dreher's fields near Adair.

Damaged soybeans in one of Ron Dreher’s fields near Adair. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Crop adjusters will assess the damage soon, the Drehers said. They think at least 40 acres are a complete loss.

Gov. Terry Branstad declared Adair, Guthrie, Jones and Linn counties disaster areas.

Hail from the most recent storms shredded soybean and corn fields near Adair and Casey. Pockets of farmland in Story County are under water. Machine sheds and livestock buildings near Stuart and Traer were flattened. Empty grain bins folded like accordions and blew away.

Other rural areas endured similar damage.

Estimated losses

Iowa farmers planted an estimated 10.1 million acres of soybeans and 13.6 million acres of corn, according to Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acreage Report. Acres forecasted to be harvested for grain are 10 million and 13.2 million, respectively.

Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach cropping systems agronomist, and other colleagues estimate 2 to 3 percent of Iowa’s crops have been destroyed. Five percent of row crops are underwater, experts believe, which could add to the hundreds of thousands of acres already lost.

“Every year we have crop loss due to hail and floods. This year is on the higher side of normal,” Licht said.

Hail recently ruined a portion of April Hemmes soybean fields near Hampton. A sizable area of farmland is under water as well after 10 inches of rain fell from June 16-18, along with several more inches the past two days.

A crop insurance adjuster surveyed damage, the ISA member said.

“You know it’s bad when they look at you and say, ‘April, you don’t have enough insurance,’” Hemmes said.

Hemmes also lost numerous trees and a barn.

In general, soybeans can typically handle flooded conditions 6-8 days, research shows. Young corn plants can survive for 2-4 days. Oxygen, needed for plant survival, is usually depleted in flooded areas within one or two days.

Temperatures of 77 degrees or cooler helps with plant respiration and prolongs life. According to the National Weather Service in Des Moines, dry conditions and high temperatures ranging from 70 to 80 degrees are forecasted for much of the state through Friday.

Licht said conditions are favorable for crop diseases. Plants in waterlogged soil and those with bruised stems and other injuries from hail are more vulnerable.

For soybeans, that means Sudden Death Syndrome and White Mold.

“I’m not ready to say cover every acre with a fungicide yet, but farmers really have to be watching,” Licht said.

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A county road is flooded by water that overflowed a culvert near Dallas Center on Monday. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

The garden spot

ISA members, whose fields have dodged most of the nasty weather, say crops are the best they’ve seen in years. Southeast Iowa appears to be the garden spot of the state.

The USDA Crops and Weather Report released Monday indicated the vast majority of crops are still in good to excellent condition.

“The crops in Southeast Iowa are looking really good,” said Lindsay Greiner, an ISA Board member who farms near Keota. “You have to look really hard to find a bad spot.”

Six percent of Iowa’s soybean acreage is blooming, 10 days ahead of last year but two days behind normal, according to the report. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 5 percent poor, 19 percent fair, 57 percent good and 18 percent excellent.

There were isolated reports of corn silking. The crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 4 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 56 percent good and 23 percent excellent.

Licht believes the assessment is a bit optimistic, saying “the good to excellent should be a little lower.”

There were only 2.2 days, on average, suitable for fieldwork last week due to persistent rain, according to the report. Some spraying and herbicide applications were done between storms.

ISA Board member Dean Coleman, who farms near Humboldt, sprayed soybeans that were about a foot tall last week. He said some head-high corn was two to four leaves from tasseling.

For the most part, Coleman said crops are in good shape. Corn and soybean acres lost to flooding has been minimal. He’ll replant soybeans.

Farmers replanting soybean will want to change maturity group to compensate for a shorter growing season.

“Overall it’s a pleasure to drive around and look at the crops after last year,” Coleman said.

Heavy rains have just missed Brock Hansen’s farm near Baxter. The ISA District Advisory Council Communication Action Team member said spraying and sidedressing corn has been a challenge due to the intermittent rain.

With the exception of southeast Iowa, every district in the state has over one-quarter of topsoil in surplus condition.

“At this time our crops look the best they have in a couple of years,” Hansen said.

By: Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Weather slams parts of Iowa, crops in other areas off to good start


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Hail and flooding this week decimated crops in the northern third of Iowa. Soybeans and corn in the majority of the state that escaped severe weather are faring well, experts say.

Counties in northwest Iowa received 8 to 10 inches of rain and localized areas of hail causing crop damage in multiple counties.

Farmers in Palo Alto, Kossuth, Humboldt, Dickinson and Lyon counties were among those impacted by storms that swept through the state on Monday and again early Wednesday morning. Monday’s storm dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain on several counties and included reports of tennis- to baseball-size hail.

“It’s a blow to the gut,” said Wyan Metzger, a farmer near West Bend. “Things were looking, as a whole, pretty good. But we’re back to planting beans the last week of June like we were last year. “


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Metzger’s corn and soybean fields collected 2.5 inches of rain on Saturday and another 6.3 inches on Tuesday.

“The fields are saturated so there is nowhere for the water to go, and as hard as it rained it just compounded the problem,” he said.

Jay Bargman, who farms near Rodman in Palo Alto County, watched as tennis ball sized hail fell on his crops, shattered lighting fixtures at his home and dented the roofs of out buildings. He kept several of the stones in his freezer as proof of the ordeal.


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

“It was a long stretch of nasty weather,” Bargman said. “I have about 400 acres underwater right now and I’ll lose about 100 acres. Some of the corn was sawed off, so it’s gone.”

Both farmers are in wait-and-see mode. If they receive more rain this week before they can determine areas that will need to be replanted.

“We’ll replant beans until the tenth of July,” Bargman said. “We should be replanted in a week-and-a-half but there are areas north of here that won’t get it done.”


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

Crops in the rest of Iowa looking good

Few problems with soybeans and corn were reported by Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach field agronomists during their weekly conference call on Monday, according to agronomist Mark Johnson who covers central Iowa.

“Replanting is occurring in some parts of the state, but overall things looks good. In my area, stands seem to be good with minimal replanting,” Johnson said. “Some fields are a little yellow, but if we get the rain and heat units predicted this week, plants will snap right out of it.”

The June 16 U.S. Department of Agriculture Crops and Weather Report said 95 percent of the state’s soybean acreage has emerged, 41 percentage points ahead of last year and 9 percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Almost the entire corn crop is out of the ground.

Soybeans are mostly in the V1 to V2 stage, Johnson said. According to the report, the crop is rated 2 percent very poor, 3 percent poor, 16 percent fair, 61 percent good and 18 percent excellent.

Corn in the western part of Iowa is mostly in the V6 stage, while growth varies from V3 to V6 in the eastern half, agronomists said. The report said the corn crop is rated 1 percent very poor, 2 percent poor, 14 percent fair, 63 good and 20 percent excellent.

Statewide there was 5.4 days, on average, suitable for fieldwork last week, the report said. Activities included replanting, spraying and nitrogen sidedressing.

Johnson said there have been a “fair number” of calls from farmers about herbicide injury to corn. Herbicide that was sprayed on soybeans last year lingered in some fields longer than normal due to the dry fall. There were no major concerns about soybeans, he said.

Waterhemp is starting to take off in fields. Johnson recommends spraying as soon as possible.

“Farmers need to get it before it gets out of control,” he said.

Assessing crop damage

Aaron Saeugling, ISU field agronomist covering southwest Iowa, said tens of thousands of acres — primarily soybeans — have or will be replanted. Large hail and torrential rain devastated crops recently in southwest Iowa and the far northwest part of the state.

A limited amount of corn will be replanted due to the potential yield hit. Planting late isn’t as much of an issue if it’s cut for silage. Crop insurance considerations and previous herbicide applications will also play a role in replanting decisions.

Soybeans replanted soon still have good yield potential, Saeugling said. According to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach research, soybean yields, on average, decline by .25 to .9 bushels per day seed isn’t in the ground after May 15.

Farmers replanting soybeans may want to consider changing maturity group to compensate for a shorter growing season, Saeugling said. In southwest Iowa, farmers typically plant 2.9-3.5 beans.


(Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

By: Matthew Wilde, ISA senior writer and Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Students petition for Ag education

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Renea Ogren talks with students during a class meeting. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager)

What do you do when you want to pursue a career in agriculture but your high school doesn’t have a vocational program? If you are Justin Theisen, you start one.

That’s exactly what Theisen, along with 10 other students, did at Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Community School District (MMC) in Cherokee County. Cherokee County has a rich agricultural heritage, but until this past semester at MMC, there were no agriculture-related studies in the schools. That is until a petition, put forth by students at MMC, was accepted by the school board to allow an independent studies program to be started.

“I started thinking about trying to start a program last year,” he said. “I kept bugging Ms. Ogren and went around and gathered signatures from students. We gathered enough support for her to take it to the school board.”

The students, under the guidance of Renea Ogren and Mary Tuttle, are now learning about perspective careers in the agriculture industry in a new, independent studies program called AGsplorations. Students involved with the course meet once a week to talk about the progress of their projects. All of the work done for the class are outside of school hours. The projects range from biosecurity on pig farms, soil conservation, examining watersheds and even a blind taste test between organic and conventional meats.

Ogren, a full-time school counselor for MMC, took on the responsibility of being the adviser for the new program because of her family’s heritage in farming.

“I barely got started in describing the idea to the school board and you could see they wanted this,” she said. “They are very supportive but just don’t have the money to hire an instructor for a vocational agriculture studies program.”

Not having a full-time vocational ag instructor has prevented the school from starting an FFA chapter, according to Ogren. Since she doesn’t have a background in vocational ag, she modeled the independent studies course as a careers course.

“It clears my conscious now to know there is a program like this. Ag businesses and small banks in the community would beg for some of these kids to come back to the area. There are so many opportunities now and I think this program will help open the students’ eyes to the possibilities in agriculture.”

The Iowa State University Extension and other community members are providing support for the new independent studies program, too. Tuttle, the ISU Extension program coordinator for Cherokee County, is working side-by-side with Ogren to lead AGsplorations.

“We have to get the word out about how important agriculture is in this area.” Tuttle said. “Right now there are a lot of jobs available in agriculture. We have to let people know this is a wonderful place to live and come back to.”

Although the program is in its infancy, there are hopes other ISU Extension staff in the county will be able to help with the program.

“Education and youth are my passion,” Tuttle said. “This group of students are eager and the specialists are eager to tell their story. We try to find what the students want and give them the opportunity to talk with specialists and learn about different careers.”

Heather Hoefling, one of four girls in the program, is planning to attend Iowa State University to study agriculture engineering and business when she finishes high school. She has enjoyed working alongside other students in the Agsplorations program, saying she thinks the independent study course will help her as she works towards college.

The idea of a career-focused, independent class is already spreading, according to Ogren. Cherokee Community School District has indicated they would like to start a similar program for their school next year.

“We are essentially the pilot for Cherokee County and the other schools that want something like this. They can look to our school as a model,” Ogren said.

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Students and teachers involved with the first Agsplorations class. (Photo by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications)



Planters roll in the countryside


Dennis Bogaards, American Soybean Association director and Iowa Soybean Association member, was planning on planting through the night if needed to finish his corn acres earlier this week. With over 100 acres left and a system of storms pushing into Iowa Bogaards was planting acre after acre while focusing on the finish line.

Bogaards like many other farmers across the state have been battling colder than normal temperatures and wet weather that, until this week, was eerily familiar to the conditions they worked through last year.

“Planting was slowed by the wet weather that affected much of the state for several days last week, but 23 percent of the corn crop has now been planted,” said Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. “Farmers will look to make significant progress on corn and some will likely start planting beans if we do get several days with warm dry weather as forecast.”

To get more information about the progress of the 2014 planting season follow the Soybean Brief at: http://www.iasoybeans.com/SoybeanBrief/


Civility luncheon emphasizes dialogue, understanding about agriculture

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“Being civil means being constantly aware of others,” Carla Hicken said as she read from the book Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni. “It also entails an active interest in the well being of our communities and even a concern for the health of the planet in which we live.”

And with that, Hicken opened the final of four spring civility “Lunch and Learns” hosted by the Wallace Centers of Iowa at the historic home of Henry C. Wallace in Des Moines.  This year’s spring series featured informal conversations on a variety of topics with Wednesday’s session focusing on today’s agriculture.

Aaron Putze, Iowa Soybean Association communications director and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project, keynoted this week’s luncheon attended by 16 guests.

Hicken said an exchange on Facebook with a high school classmate about the “evils” of genetically modified food led her to recall and act on Forni’s quote about civility.

That classmate was Mark Jackson of Rose Hill, a farmer and immediate past president of the Iowa Soybean Association. Hicken and Jackson soon carried on a discussion about food and modern farming, eventually agreeing that the topics of today’s agriculture would be a timely topic for conversation.

In his presentation to the group April 23, Putze touched on the history and priorities of the Iowa Soybean Association and the organization’s 2011 launch of the Iowa Food & Family Project. He also juxtaposed current agriculture practices with the way farming was done decades ago, including when Henry A. Wallace was Secretary of Agriculture in the 1930’s.

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Putze said the Iowa Food & Family Project’s mission to better acquaint people with farmers and the food they grow matches the aspirations of the Wallace Center’s civility luncheons.

“People want greater confidence that the food they purchase is wholesome, good for the environment and benefits the communities where its grown,” he said. “Rest assured that today’s farmers, regardless of the food they grow or where it’s sold, share your values, want to improve the environment and take pride in the cities and towns they call home.”

Putze told audience members that farmers welcome the growing interest in credible, balanced and thoughtful information about food and farming.

“These conversations build relationships and these relationships thrive on mutual respect and a desire to understand as much as to be understood,” he said. “The Iowa Food & Family Project is dedicated to cultivating dialogue and engagement to the betterment of everyone. It’s a message and approach that’s resonating.”

At the conclusion of his presentation, Putze answered questions from the patrons ranging from seed varieties and environmental quality to tillage methods, sustainability and destinations for Iowa food and commodities.

Vi Darsee, Clive, attended the luncheon and contributed to the civility conversation by asking several questions.

“I asked about no-till farming and I think I gained a better understanding of the process,” Darsee said. “I have a real concern for feeding the world. My daily prayer has to do with all people in the world having access to clean water, adequate food, education and jobs. So looking at the big picture I want to know how GMOs fit into that.”

Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager









Outdoor learning at the Envirothon


Warm spring weather arrived just in time for fifteen high school teams to compete at the 2014 Iowa Envirothon State Competition at Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center on Monday. This year’s state winner was Marshalltown Whales 1. They will be sent to the 2014 Stewardship Challenge at Loyola University Chicago, Sunday August 3rd through Thursday, August 7th with 9 other teams from the Midwest. The Iowa Soybean Association is a sponsor of the annual competition.

Envirothon is a team competition for high school students testing their knowledge of natural resources. In the field and classroom, teams of five students are challenged to use their knowledge and critical thinking skills to conduct hands-on investigations, solve real-life scenarios and answer written questions covering five categories: Aquatics, Forestry, Wildlife, Soils, and Current Environmental Issues.

“Education has gone more and more to computer based so this really engages them back in the natural world,” Claire Lindahl, the executive director of the Envirothon said. “I’m always impressed with the oral presentations. I can see how excited the kids are to participate and compete in the Envirothon.”

DJ Kohl, a junior, competed alongside other classmates on the Alburnett FFA 1 team. The second year participant sat at a picnic table with his other teammates while trying to measure PH levels and other characteristics of water drawn from a nearby lake at Springbrook State Park.

“We do this through the FFA so it helps me stay involved. I’ve learned a lot through this and it helps me to get in touch with nature,” he said. “My favorite station is wildlife.”

Melody Bro, a watershed project coordinator for Tama Soil and Water Conservation District administered the aquatics test for this year’s Envirothon.

“There’s a lot to be said for the advisors that put a team together and prepare them for a day like this,” Bro said. “For many of these kids special events like this are their only exposure to the outdoors so I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of our high schoolers to learn about these topics.”

The 2014 Iowa Envirothon runner up was Riceville FFA 1. The following teams were this year’s first place category winners: Marshalltown Whales 2 in Soils, Iowa City Benthos in Aquatics, Waverly- Shell Rock FFA in Wildlife, Glenwood 2 in Forestry, and Marshalltown Whales 1 in the Oral Presentation. The top FFA Score for the 2014 Iowa Envirothon competition was Riceville FFA 1. The Muscatine FFA 1 was runner up and Alburnett FFA 1 was the second runner up.

Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager