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PA Farmers Losing Millions Of Dollars From Stink Bugs

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Pittsburgh, PA (Titusville Herald, October 13, 2014):  They don't make fruit and vegetables inedible as some insects do, but stink bugs can turn a beauty of an apple or berry or ear of corn into a beast destined for food processing.

Best known to annoyed homeowners, stink bugs are a substantial agricultural pest that farmers and researchers have not fully figured out how to eliminate.

"They really seem to enjoy the orchards. They seem to enjoy pretty much any fruit or vegetable," said Rob Shenot, owner of Shenot Farm & Market in Franklin Park and president of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association.

"We lost almost 80 percent of certain varieties of apples. Stink bugs put them into the juice bin. It takes it out of the Grade A apple category," said Reed Soergel, whose family owns Soergel Orchards in Franklin Park.

Stink bugs arrived in Western Pennsylvania in large numbers about four years ago.

Don't Let Fall Leaves Become A Watershed Problem

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University Park, PA (Penn State Extension, October 13, 2014):  In addition to clogging storm sewers which can lead to potentially flooding streets during a rainstorm, leaves can also contribute to nutrient pollution in your watershed as they are washed into local creeks, streams, and rivers. For this reason, unless your municipality has a leaf collection program in which you are asked to do so, leaves should not be raked or collected in the gutters along the street. According to the DEP, more than 80 municipal leaf composting facilities are in operation in Pennsylvania, so if you aren't sure if your area has such a program in place, check with your local government.

There are other "greener" options that you may want to consider for dealing with the leaves in your yard. Options for using leaves at home can include: spreading them as a mulch around trees, shrubs, and in planting beds, adding them to your compost pile, or simply leaving some of them where they fall in your yard.

The Department of Environmental Protection offers some more information on yard waste management here:

Corn Stover Harvesting Opportunities

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University Park, PA (Penn State Extension, October 14, 2014):  This year's corn crop will be a record and along with it we will produce a record amount of corn stover. Stover production has been increasing over time as corn yields have increased. These high levels of stover have generated many tactics for stover management to reduce the potential impacts of high stover levels. These tactics include stalk chopping, nitrogen applications, vertical tillage and fall tillage. Each of these tactics adds to the cost of crop production.

Another option some folks are using is a partial stover harvest. This provides some return and reduces the potential for slugs, cold soils in the spring and provides a better seedbed for sowing wheat following corn, if that is something that a producer is planning. It also reduces the need for tillage that some feel is necessary in these high residue conditions. Stover also provides a resource for bedding and mushroom substrate production.

A few management practices can really reduce the impacts of stover harvest on the soil and subsequent crop yields. In most situations, a partial (50-60%) stover harvest is best to leave some residue on the soil to reduce erosion and maintain soil carbon levels. A 200 bushel per acre corn crop will produce about 4.5 tons of stover, so a harvest goal of 2-2.5 tons for that crop might be a target, and less for lower yielding crops. Supplementing a partial harvest with no-till and other practices such as manure, mushroom soil or cover crops can help to continue the soil building process even while removing some stover. Some dairy farms have tried manure for stover trading options with grain farms to address this issue.

We recently completed a five year study and saw no negative effects related to soil carbon or corn yields from a 50% stover removal treatment in a no-till system. In some wet springs we saw a corn growth improvement with some stover removal. We managed potassium carefully and applied extra potassium to compensate for the removal. Potassium removal in our study averaged 18 lbs K2O per ton. One option in heavy corn crops is to delay stover harvest until the spring. The stover is dry then and the potassium removal dropped in our study to 7 lbs K2O per ton.

Stover harvest typically consists of a mow, rake and bale system requiring three additional trips across the field. POET, an ethanol producer in Iowa, has recently started a stover based ethanol plant in and has developed a one pass process called the EZ Bale system. It consists of modifying the corn head with stalk stompers or rollers, and having the combine discharge the residue in a 60 inch or less windrow. Then a round baler follows the combine and bales the material in the windrow. This results in a partial harvest and the material is only the upper part of the corn plant that went through the combine, which turns out to be the best fraction for cellulosic ethanol production. Stover harvest yields are lower, but two additional passes are eliminated and the field has lots of residue remaining. More details can be found in the Biomass Program Overview document at the POET biomass site. There could be other combine options more suited for our conditions, but it provides an example of an innovation to reduce cost and improve sustainability.

Time To Empty Manure Storages

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Greenwich, NY (Morning Ag Clips, October 14, 2014):  Cold weather is coming. Now is the time to prepare your manure storage structure for the winter months ahead. The most important thing is to get the level down to a minimum of what will be needed to hold winter's manure production.

A manure storage facility can be your best (or worst) friend during the winter and early spring months. Not having to spread manure when it is below 0 or when fields would be torn up due to wetness is a great benefit of having a storage facility. Not emptying the storage to allow proper maintenance to be performed may require expensive, and unpleasant, cold weather activities. Timely fall manure spreading can help prevent soil compaction, winter crop injury from machinery traffic, and conserve manure nutrients for next year's crops. The Conservation District is available to discuss long term management practices to prevent or alleviate soil compaction.

Manure storage levels must be low enough to allow storage through early spring months while maintaining the proper freeboard. Fall manure applications should be on sod, fall planted cover crops or fields with greater than 25% ground cover (not on bare corn stubble). Here are some other important reminders as you prepare for winter:

Make needed fence repairs a priority. Safety first!

Take advantage of the empty storage to check and clean areas where pipes enter. It is much easier to clean now than to unplug a pipe on Christmas Eve.

Beware of manure gases in confined or low areas with little ventilation. Manure gases can be DEADLY!

Spend time agitating. A whole day is often needed. Well mixed manure will provide a more consistent nutrient application and prevent buildup of solids.

Maintain earthen dams.

Keep diversions above the storage clean and open. More water getting to the pit means less storage and more trips with the spreader.

Check the perimeter drain outlet. Make sure several inches of drop from the pipe remains and that water can move away quickly.

Keep records of where manure is applied in the fall to plan nutrient application in the spring. Time spent keeping records can be a good investment and is required by PA law.

Maintain adequate freeboard. This is your safety net for large spring storms.

Contact the Conservation District with any concerns.

Manure Analysis is a great value in allowing you to plan the best use of your manure nutrients. Understanding the nutrient content of manure from your operation can result in significant fertilizer savings. Several manure samples should be taken and put into a collection bucket as the pit is emptied. Then take a composite sample from those sub-samples and send to a laboratory to have an analysis completed. It is very important to follow shipping instruction provided by the lab. Manure sample kits may be obtained from the Bradford County Conservation District.

Have a safe fall season and please contact the Conservation District with any questions at (570)265-5539 ext. 6.

EPA Approve Dow's Enlist Herbicide For GMO's

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New York, NY (Scientific American, October 15, 2014):  The Environmental Protection Agency gave final approval on Wednesday to a new herbicide developed by Dow AgroSciences that has faced broad opposition, ordering a series of restrictions to address potential environmental and health hazards.

EPA said it was applying "first-time-ever restrictions" on its approval of the herbicide, called Enlist Duo, which is designed to be used with new genetically modified crops developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical.

The herbicide was developed by Dow as an answer to severe weed resistance problems that are limiting crop production around the country.

EPA said the approval lays out a template of new requirements for future approvals of herbicides designed for use with genetically modified crops.

Dow will be required to closely monitor and report to EPA to ensure that weeds are not becoming resistant to Enlist Duo, the agency said. As well, EPA is ordering a 30-foot in-field "no spray" buffer zone around application areas. It has also banned use when wind speeds are over 15 miles per hour.

EAHS Agriculture Department Receives Prestigious $25,000 Grant From The Monsanto Fund

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Elizabethtown, PA (LancasterOnline.com, October 24, 2014):  Elizabethtown Area High School’s agriculture department recently received a $25,000 grant for its “Taking Agriculture Education and STEM Outside The Classroom” initiative. The grant was part of the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program sponsored by the Monsanto Foundation. A check presentation was held between the first and second quarters of the Bears’ home football contest on Oct. 17.
EAHS accepts a check for $25,000 from the Monsanto Foundation through the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program
Growing the next generation of highly skilled students is very important to farmers, and they realize that educators are an integral part of that process.  The America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program helps farmers positively impact their communities and support local school districts. America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education offers farmers the opportunity to nominate public school districts to compete for a grant of up to $25,000. To show their appreciation, farmers in the greater-Elizabethtown area nominated the high school to receive the grant.

After Elizabethtown Area High School’s grant application was submitted, it was reviewed first by math and science teachers from ineligible school districts, then by the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council, a group of 26 prominent farmers from across the country. The Advisory Council was impressed with Elizabethtown Area High School’s Agriculture Department's  dedication to our students and our innovative ideas for improving their educational experiences.

Thanks to these local agriculture producers and the school district’s strong grant application the funds will be used to enhance math and science opportunities in the Ag program and help our students prepare for a wider range of career prospects in an increasingly technology-driven workforce.

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