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Farmer Research Tour kicks off in Storm Lake

Article cover photo
Erin Hodgson, Iowa State University, was the featured speaker at the Farmer Research Conference in Storm Lake earlier this week. She spoke about the gall midge a pest that is relatively unknown to researchers and farmers. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Carol Brown, ISA environmental communications specialist


Not much is known about the soybean gall midge and that has western Iowa farmers anxious for 2019.

Erin Hodgson, an Iowa State University Extension entomologist, was the lunch speaker at the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Farmer Research Tour in Storm Lake Tuesday. She spoke to a capacity crowd, providing an update on the pest that has not been found anywhere else in the world beyond 65 counties in four U.S. states.

“The first report of the soybean gall midge was in Nebraska in 2011,” Hodgson said. “It has since been reported in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Finding this fly has changed the direction of my career.”

The pest is so new, researchers are scrambling to learn as much as they can. Entomologists in Nebraska recorded soybean field loss from 20 to 100 percent, Hodgson said. She plans to research the life cycle this summer with a goal of 100 gall midge cages located on research and private farms in western Iowa. 

Hodgson shared what to look for and asked farmers to report sightings as they scout fields this summer. The larvae, or maggot, is bright orange and can be seen with the naked eye at the base of the main stem. The stem will be swollen and discolored.

“It doesn’t take many midges to kill a soybean plant,” Hodgson said.

Ron Sennert, a farmer near Storm Lake, did not have issues with the soybean gall midge last year, even though it was reported in Buena Vista County. He plans to scout for the pest this year.

“I thought, ‘Another pest? Here we go,’” he said after hearing Hodgson detail the few facts that are known about pest.

Drew Clemmensen, ISA regional agronomist, has worked with several farmers who have found soybean gall midge in their fields.

“The farmers found the pest was not operation-wide, but they are concerned that the infestations will get worse this year,” Clemmensen said.

The Storm Lake venue was one of three stops on the 2019 ISA Farmer Research Tour, which continued in Ames on Feb. 7. The final stop will be on Feb. 12 in Cedar Rapids. At all venues, the three ISA research teams — Analytics, Environmental Programs and Services (EPS), and On-Farm Network® — are highlighting projects and providing overviews of their findings from 2018.

Colton Meyer, watershed coordinator in Sioux County, was motivated after hearing ISA EPS Director Roger Wolf give a primer on watershed planning and implementation. For Meyer, some of Wolf’s talk was part affirmation and part inspiration.

“Roger showed that having farmers involved from the beginning is critical,” said Meyer. “I’ve had several farmers on board for our watershed project, so I was glad to hear that. I now have clearer direction to achieve a successful watershed project based on ISA’s extensive work.” 

Al Kluis closed the day discussing commodity markets. The long-time commodity advisor and broker will also speak at the Ames and Cedar Rapids tour stops. He reviewed 2018, gave insights for 2019 and offered advice for attendees.

“Work hard to manage your input costs,” he said. “About 80 percent of farmer income goes into fixed costs.”

He urged farmers to spend more time working on selling their crops, commenting that most farmers spend 98 percent of their efforts growing the crop and only 2 percent marketing it.

Kluis was optimistic about the markets and hopes President Trump can reach a trade deal with China soon. His firm, Kluis Commodity Advisors, believes that soybean revenue is starting to stabilize as they are seeing a 3 percent improvement in global demand. He is noticing corn revenue is trending higher and predicts that “we’ll look back to 2017 as a low year.”

Registration is still open for the Farmer Research Tour stop in Cedar Rapids on Feb. 12. Visit the ISA website to see the full agenda. To register for Cedar Rapids, email or call 515-334-1063.


Contact Carol Brown at


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