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Crop roundup: soil health

A new partnership formed to enhance soil health, growers planting Mycogen brand seed can earn cash rebates, and refuge compliance report shows increased compliance.

New partnership focused on helping farmers enhance soil health
The importance of soil health for farmers and the environment took center stage recently as a new Science Advisory Council convened to kick off the Soil Health Partnership, formed by the National Corn Growers Association with support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto.

The health of a farm depends on the health of its soil, and that’s what makes this new program an important one for our organization, said NCGA President Martin Barbre, a corn grower in Illinois. We developed the Soil Health Partnership with our partners to help our growers be the best farmers they can be, and ensure that their farmland remains valuable and productive for future generations.

The mission of the Soil Health Partnership is to catalyze enhanced agricultural sustainability and productivity by demonstrating and communicating the economic and environmental benefits of improved soil health. The initial objectives of the program include building a network of demonstration research farms in key corn states; developing recommendations to farmers on a variety of soil management practices aimed at improving productivity, profitability and environmental outcomes; increasing adoption of those recommendations beyond the network of demonstration farms; and increasing the visibility and importance of sound soil management.

In addition to the Science Advisory Council, the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund are providing technical support to the Soil Health Partnership as it kicks off in 2014.

We look forward to helping demonstrate and measure how different conservation practices can improve soil health and simultaneously lead to increased yields, profitability and environmental performance, said Sean McMahon, The Nature Conservancy's North America Agriculture Program Director. We hope that this innovative partnership will help lead to widespread adoption of conservation practices that improve soil health and ultimately improve water quality at a watershed scale.

A key part of the success of the Soil Health Partnership is the Science Advisory Council, Barbre said, the experts who will advise the partnership about the identification, measurement and evaluation of best practices that can improve soil health while boosting yields and improving environmental outcomes.

Helping farmers understand what management practices help build healthy soils is a priority for this partnership, and important for everyone in the long run, said Purdue¹s Dr. Kladivko. I’m happy to be able to offer expertise to help farmers become even better stewards of the environment.

Dr. Honeycutt of the USDA agreed about the importance of grounding conservation practices in sound science.

Enhancing soil health is one of the most important things we can do for this and for future generations, Honeycutt said.  That’s because enhancing soil health allows us to simultaneously address so many of our most pressing natural resource needs.  It allows us to address water quality, farm profitability, resilience to extreme weather, economic risk, wildlife needs, and many others.  The Soil Health Partnership will provide a platform to measure and demonstrate these benefits, building on what is known from academic research and connecting it directly to on-farm management approaches.

Members of this advisory council include Doug Karlen, Ph.D., Supervisory Soil Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; C. Wayne Honeycutt, Ph.D., Deputy Chief for Science and Technology of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service; Jerry Hatfield, Ph.D., Lab Director at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; Charles W. Rice, Ph.D., University Distinguished Professor of Soil Microbiology at Kansas State University; Mike Plumer, Ph.D., Consultant with Conservation Agriculture and Coordinator of the Illinois Council on Best Management Practices; Daren Harmel, Ph.D., Supervisory Agricultural Engineer at the USDA-ARS
Grassland Soil and Water Research Laboratory; Eileen J. Kladivko, Ph.D., Purdue University Department of Agronomy; Peter C. Scharf, Ph.D., Professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri; and Harold M. Van Es, Ph.D., Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Grower rewards program allows growers to earn cash back
Growers planting Mycogen brand seed and using crop protection products from Dow AgroSciences can earn cash rebates through the Grower Rewards program during the 2013-14 season.

“Growers understand it takes the right seed and proper protection to maximize the potential of every acre,” says Chris Garvey, Mycogen Seeds general manager. “The Grower Rewards program gives growers the opportunity to earn cash back for utilizing our products and technologies that will help them produce a successful crop.”

To qualify for the Grower Rewards program, growers must purchase a minimum quantity of Mycogen brand corn, soybean, sunflower, canola or alfalfa seed; and purchase one or more of the 22 participating crop protection products from Dow AgroSciences. Growers also can qualify by purchasing a second qualifying Mycogen seed product.
The minimum purchase quantity for seed varies by crop. The minimum purchase quantity for each participating Dow AgroSciences crop protection product is 250 acres.

To calculate potential cash-back rewards and for full program details, growers can talk to their local Mycogen Seeds or Dow AgroSciences sales rep or visit

Refuge compliance report shows increased compliance in 2013
The National Corn Growers Association announced today that it is pleased the enhanced Compliance Assurance Program is seeing strong success. The program, which includes on-farm refuge assessments, an online survey and IRM education and awareness, has documented an increase in both the overall number of growers planting proper corn refuge and use of integrated refuge products.
The CAP aims to improve compliance with Insect Resistance Management requirements. The Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC), a consortium of Bt corn registrants, submits an annual CAP report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describing industry-coordinated compliance assurance efforts for Bt traits.
Adoption of integrated refuge products result in automatic compliance in the Corn Belt
Highlights of the survey indicate a strong adoption of integrated refuge products, which include Bt and refuge seed interspersed in a single bag or container.
“We are pleased to see that the number of growers planting integrated refuge products on their entire farming operation has more than tripled this year and the percent of those who planted at least one integrated product increased from 50 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2013,” said Mike Smith, ABSTC IRM subcommittee co-chairman.
ABSTC projects that the adoption of integrated products will continue to increase, contributing to the overall increase in compliance, which helps preserve Bt corn technology durability.
Survey shows that most growers are in compliance
 In 2013, the majority of growers surveyed planted the required refuge size on their farms and planted it within the required distance for all of their Bt cornfields. Furthermore, the survey indicated that the percentage of growers not planting any refuge acres continues to be less than ten percent.
The ABSTC continues to promote education programs and strategies to preserve the efficacy of Bt technology. In addition, the ABSTC continues to partner with NCGA to provide information on refuge ensures that NCGA’s membership and networks are fully informed of refuge requirements and the CAP. A collaboration supporting the use of best management practices for corn rootworm was initiated.  The campaign includes advertisements and editorials in local publications on practices to utilize to help protect your fields from CRW.
“This type of collaboration is vital to the industry’s efforts to showcase the benefits of best management practices – including crop rotation and agronomic factors associated with corn-on-corn production,” said Jim Zimmerman , chairman of the National Corn Growers Association’s Trade Policy and Biotechnology Action Team. 

Sources: National Corn Growers Association, Mycogen Seeds

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