Farm Visits to Focus on Soil Health

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

Farm VisitsThe California Farm Demonstration Network (CFDN) will be showcasing long-term goals for health soil during their May and June farm visits. The visits will highlight farmers using cover crops, conservation tillage and other soil health practices. Growers will discuss their soil management systems and experiences using them.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service, UC Cooperative Extension and Resource Conservation Districts, among others, will partner in the events. Representatives will attend to explain and answer questions.

“Soil health management systems show promise for maintaining and improving production, while reducing or eliminating many common resource concerns including soil erosion, nutrient loss, and soil degradation associated with the loss of soil organic carbon,” said CFDN coordinator Jeff Mitchell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “An important component of these on-farm demonstrations is monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation practices.”

Each event starts at 10:00 a.m. Dates and locations include:

Wednesday, May 4
Lone Willow Ranch
11356 Road 5 ½
Firebaugh, CA 93622

Tuesday, May 10
Bar-Vee Dairy North Ranch Dryland Cropping Site
Hwy 12 west of Hwy 113 and south of Dixon, CA just north of Rio Vista Train Museum

Wednesday, June 15
T&D Willey Farms
13886 Road 20
Madera, CA 93637

Friday, June 24
Sano Farms
44935-B West Shields Ave.
Firebaugh, CA 93622

Interested parties can see maps and flyers here.

“These visits are just the beginning of a series of similar demonstrations to be held throughout the state,” Mitchell said. For more information, contact Mitchell at 559-303-9689.

Conservation, Cover Crops, Soil, sustainability

#GrowSmart University Launched by @BASFAgProducts

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

basf-grow-smartBASF Crop Protection is all about helping farmers grow smarter and to that end has announced the launch of a new online educational resource – Grow Smart™ University.

Grow Smart University is designed to connect growers and industry professionals with agronomic and agribusiness content and offers an extensive library of farm management information, according to Paul Leeland, Product Manager, BASF. “Growers face increasingly complex situations in farming, and many look to the Web for answers,” said Leeland. “Grow Smart University helps provide necessary educational resources to make informed decisions.”

Content is available in videos, e-books, industry expert webinars, educational modules and flashcards to accommodate a variety of learning-style preferences. All materials are categorized by topic, allowing visitors to delve deep into a variety of subjects. Crop-specific courses cover best practices from seed to harvest, while courses on general agricultural principles focus on whole issues, such as plant health or agribusiness. New content is uploaded regularly to keep visitors abreast of new issues and technologies in the industry.

“Grow Smart University is a tool as flexible as the growers who use it,” Leeland said. “By having on-demand access to education, growers can operate on their own schedule to learn about new developments and tools to help their operation.”

BASF’s Grow Smart approach helps growers get the most out of every acre by combining the best partnerships, resources and risk-reduction tools to build customized plans focused on individual operations. With teamwork at its core, Grow Smart is a better way to do business.

Gain access to Grow Smart University by logging in at


Crop Advances Grow with Protection

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

intellectual property protectionIntellectual ownership of seed technology has long been argued.  Some support the free exchange of seed and plant varieties because of the benefits to plant breeders and growers.

Others are in favor of intellectual property, which protects a company’s investments.  But every issues has pros and cons.  To determine the impact of intellectual property protection on seed development Stephen Smith and a team at Iowa State University conducted a study.  Their results?  Intellectual property protection benefits plant breeds and society.

Smith’s team studies the link in crop improvements to the economic welfare, health and nutrition of consumers.  The results showed that, in general, protection for seeds benefited everyone when using genetic innovation as the standard for success.

“Future generations will rely upon an adaptive, productive, and sustainable agriculture,” he says, “conducted in a healthy and diverse biological environment.” That diversity demands the development of more crops with improved qualities.

According to Smith, intellectual property protection is necessary for several reasons. First, it helps researchers attract funding. This funding supports risky research that would not be possible otherwise. This research can lead to better products for farmers.

Second, intellectual property protection pushes crop research and development. This innovation is vital to meet increasing global challenges. Increased demand for crops, climate change, and attacks from diseases and pests are stark realities.

Finally, Smith says, “Protection is essential to help prevent misappropriation of varieties and counterfeiting of products.” Such practices hurt the abilities of farmers to run their business. They can also lead to crop failure if seeds or crop varieties are mislabeled.

Factors considered in the study include “strength and length” of the protection and the  cost of purchasing or developing genetic stocks and new technologies.  Without intellectual property rights companies have no incentive to produce innovative plant varieties.  “Private sector funding would not occur sustainably without the opportunity to obtain some degree of exclusivity on sale and commercial returns,” Smith explains.

You can read more about his work in Crop Science.

Agribusiness, Plant Science, Research, seed

TerraStar-L from NovAtel Ensures Continuous Positioning

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

NovAtelNovAtel Inc. is announcing the new 40 centimeter Precise Point Position (PPP) correction service, TerraStar-L.  This new service is a subscription based program that provides GNSS correction data from a satellite to a precision navigation system.  TerraStar-L’s position accuracy makes it perfect for agriculture, GIS or unmanned vehicle navigation, especially around trees, buildings or other obstructions.

With the addition of the new TerraStar-L correction service, NovAtel now offers two levels of PPP corrections through its NovAtel CORRECT positioning engine; the new 40 cm accuracy service, and a 4 cm service through its TerraStar-C solution. By offering two diverse accuracy options, customers have the flexibility to choose the performance level best suited to their application. The correction data for both services provides consistent worldwide accuracy and is delivered over satellite which eliminates the need for a local base station.

“The robustness and redundancy built in to the TerraStar network infrastructure makes TerraStar correction data extremely reliable,” stated Sara Masterson, Business Development Manager of Correction Services at NovAtel. “When our customers operate in environments with obstructions that can block GNSS signals, TerraStar-L offers a repeatable 40 cm solution, reducing position drifts or jumps. This maximizes uptime and productivity for our customers by providing fast initialization to a reliable decimeter position.”

The new service offers solutions with high accuracy and instant re-convergence on a challenging terrain.  It is available to order beginning May 4, 2016.  Learn more at

Agribusiness, GPS, Satellite

Pioneer, PrecisionHawk Accelerate Use of Aerial Data

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

DuPont Pioneer PrecisionHawkDuPont Pioneer has come on board as a strategic investor for the innovation and global expansion of PrecisionHawk.

DuPont joins Intel Capital, Verizon Ventures, Yamaha Motor, USAA, NTT Docomo, Millennium Technology Value Partners and the Innovate Indiana Fund in an investment that brings PrecisionHawk’s total funding to more than $30 million.  The new technology that will be made available by this investment is exciting for leaders at DuPont Pioneer.

DuPont Pioneer PrecisionHawk 2“At DuPont Pioneer, we’re driving a new era of agriculture productivity that enables farmers to increase profitability and sustainability through data-driven insights,” said Neal Gutterson, DuPont Pioneer Vice President of Research & Development. “The deepening of our relationship with PrecisionHawk is an important part of the Pioneer digital agriculture platform strategy, as well as our Encirca℠ services offering. Our goal is to provide growers valuable prediction-based product placement insights by incorporating elite genetics, agronomic management and environmental variation analysis into our already successful prediction-based breeding program.”

Both companies look forward to what the future of precision farming will bring; both the possible solutions for agriculture and the economic impact such solutions can make.

“Working with an influential client like DuPont, we immediately saw the value that has yet to be unlocked for aerial data analysis in agriculture,” said Christopher Dean, President of PrecisionHawk. “With investors now representing the agriculture, insurance, and telecommunication industries, PrecisionHawk is well positioned to understand the nuance that will help us create unique value for all of our commercial partners.”

Aerial Imagery, Agribusiness, Data, drone, Dupont Pioneer

Valley Irrigation Earns Recognition

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

GG_GreenSite_logo clThe worldwide leader in precision irrigation, Valley Irrigation, has earn the Groundwater Guardian Green recognition from the Groundwater Foundation.  This program honors organizations that implement, measure and document their groundwater-friendly stewardship practices.  They focus on company’s water and chemical use, pollution prevention, water quality and environmental stewardship.

“The Valley management team worked closely with the Groundwater Foundation to achieve this important designation,” says Matt Ondrejko, VP Marketing at Valley Irrigation. “The success of our entire business is based on good stewardship of the land and efficient use of water. This is why we felt it was imperative to work on being a part of the long-term sustainability solution in our own plant and community when it comes to ensuring clean, usable groundwater for future generations.”

Valley Irrigation has shown commitment to educating their employees, dealer network, growers and the community on the importance of the sustainable use of groundwater.  You can learn more about the Groundwater Guardian Green Site at

Agribusiness, Conservation, Irrigation, water, Water Management App Offers New Updates

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

The Job Seeker mobile app has gotten an upgrade on both its Apple and Android platforms.  New updates mean significant changes to enhance the search process.

AgCareersThe app, which as been available since 2013, now includes better search criteria, equating to more accurate results.  Seekers can narrow down available jobs through keywords, location, industry sector, industry type, career type and even by specific employer.  Users can now also create an account with a job seeker profile; something that couldn’t be accomplished in the previous version.

The app is now capable of uploading a resume as well, a job which required a computer in the past.  Resumes can be uploaded through Google Drive or DropBox, creating three methods for users to apply for a job: logging in, creating a profile, or as a guest with no profile.

The new ability to save search criteria for use in the future can also save users time.  It is also now possible to share a job opening via email, Twitter or Facebook.

You can access these updates from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Agribusiness, Apps

Thirsty Land Debuts To Positive Response

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

As a hush came over the theater and the lights went down for the opening scene of the documentary Thirsty Land, the sound of rain pounding on the roof served as background noise. A bit ironic. Especially in light of meeting a community in California that has run out of water.

DSC_0077Thirsty Land, directed and produced by Conrad Weaver, focuses on the multi-year drought facing California, Washington and other southwestern states. The documentary debuted as part of the Water for Food Global Conference taking place April 24-26 in Lincoln Nebraska at the Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Maybe the biggest impact the drought has had is not to consumers, but to hundreds of farmers in California who were given no water allocation for the 2015 growing season. This has led to hundreds of thousands of acres of fallow agricultural land, much of which used to produce much of America’s produce, fruits and nuts. Yes, consumers, no water = no food. No water = no life. For anyone.

Why must I make this obvious statement? Because as water shortages become more common, there has been a call for agriculture to reduce its use of water. Approximately 70 percent of all water used globally is for agriculture. Farmers are feeling the pressure of lack of water while trying to grow safe, healthy food and more of it. A resonating message in the film from the farmers is “Stop vilifying us. Stop vilifying agriculture. We need to work together to solve water problems, not play the blame game”.

A truer statement was not uttered. Farmers intrinsically understand the value of water and have been some of the first in the country to begin integrating water sustainability and conservation programs. Thirsty Land follows the journey of growers who share their stories of how water shortages have affected operations from dairy farmers to fruit producers to sheep producers. The film follows the farmers as they try to find solutions to get through the drier years; yet still produce enough food to keep the farm in operation all while putting conversation programs in place for future drier years.

DSC_0085There are some very touching stories in the film – especially around the town in California with no water while the documentary was being filmed. Weaver said they did get access to water again earlier this year but it’s still spoty, at best. The cinematography is stunning in places and there is even a horrific beauty in the shots of deep cracked earth and the dying environment.

While the documentary is about the unbreakable connection of water and food, it is really a film not for the agriculture industry, says Weaver, but for consumers. Weaver stresses there is a need for consumers to better understand the dynamics of water and food and thus, become more supportive of water programs that put agriculture first.

Thirsty Land will be playing in cities across the country and on college campuses this fall. Please go see this film when it comes to your community or campus. If it is not scheduled, then consider hosting a screening. And consider donating funds to get this film in front of as many consumers across the country as possible.

To learn more about the film, the experiences of the filmmaker and why he feels Thirsty Land is so important, listen to my interview with Conrad Weaver here: Conrad Weaver, Thirsty Land Producer & Director

Agribusiness, Audio, Movie Review, water, Water Management

Boll Weevil Hideouts Spotted by Aerial Survey

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

boll weevilsScientists for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in College Station, Texas have developed a new technique to discover boll weevil hideouts.

Growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley typically mow cotton plants after harvest and may spray with herbicide to prevent boll weevils from living in the regrowth.  Mother Nature fights against this management plan, however, with subtropical, heavy autumn rains.  Because this leads to large areas of “regrowth cotton,” detection of the pest is difficult.  Now ARS meteorologist John Westbrook, entomologist Charles Suh and agricultural engineer Chenghai Yang have found a way to use digital images taken during an aerial survey to find boll weevils.

The team started by growing cotton, defoliating it and then mowing or shredding the stalks.  During this time they arranged nine flights to take high-resolution images of the cotton as it grew and for about two months following harvest.

The scientists also conducted ground-based surveys on the same dates as the aerial surveys, measuring the height and width of cotton plants as they grew, and after plants were harvested and shredded. The team recorded the postharvest daily air temperatures and correlated them with the sizes of the regrowth cotton to predict when regrowth plants would reach sufficient sizes to detect in aerial surveys.

The results show that the airborne imagery can be used to estimate regrowth when the leaf canopies of cotton plants are at least 8-12 inches wide. The scientists also were able to use data on air temperature and plant size to develop a model to predict when the regrowth cotton would reach detectable sizes, based on temperature patterns. The approach will give growers better information regarding areas harboring boll weevils so they can spray for them and reduce the threat they pose in the area.

You can find the research results in the April issue of AgResearch.

Aerial Imagery, Cotton, Insect Control, Research

Corn Planting Progress Ahead of Average

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

#plant16The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that corn planting continues to be ahead of the five-year average.  Last week results showed 30 percent of the total corn acres have been planted, numbers that exceed the average by 14 percentage points and ten percentage points ahead of where growers were just the week before.

Missouri leads the way in corn planing, surpassing the five-year average by 50 percentage points.  Iowa and Minnesota are ahead of the game as well, showing more than 30 percentage points ahead of the five-year average as well.  Texas is currently the only state behind the five-year average by more than five points.

The USDA also released its first forecast of the percentage of corn emerged this week. While planting ran far ahead of the five-year average, the percentage of the corn crop emerged surpassed the five-year average by only one percentage point. Again, Missouri saw progress the furthest ahead of the average, with 24 percent of corn acres emerged. The state normally sees only ten percent emergence by this point.

The full report is available here.

Agribusiness, Corn, Planting, USDA