A peek into the future of ag data collection, a reminder to watch grain sorghum closely to ward off sugarcane aphid damage, a refresher on nutrient deficiency symptoms caused by saturated soils, and a demonstration of a new tool to control horn flies on cattle were the takeaways for participants at the 53rd annual Stiles Farm Foundation Field Day.
They also heard Texas AgriLife Extension Director Doug Steele discuss the importance of the Stiles Farm Foundation for research and demonstrations, got the latest on ag laws and regulations, and helped honor scholarship winners and farm and industry leaders.
Here are seven good reasons the 53rd Stiles Farm foundation Field Day attracted a large crowd of farmers, livestock operators, and ag industry leaders.
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — UAVs, or drones, represent the next big step in data collection for farmers and ranchers. But initial widespread use may begin with crop consultants rather than with individual farmers. Bob Avant, program director, Texas A&M AgriLife Research at College Station, says the expense, required training, and permitting process could delay on-farm adoption of these flying data collectors. He says technology is improving at a rapid pace, and will evolve into a system that provides “actionable information” to help with decision making. “Over the next five years, we will see a lot of advances,” he says.
- A late application of nitrogen may improve yield potential in corn fields saturated by persistent rainfall. Yields may still be off a bit if heavy rain or flooding prevented or delayed fertilization or leached away early nitrogen applications. But late nitrogen application could mean a producer loses less than he would without applying any added nutrient. “It makes sense to look at how much is needed, how much it costs, and then evaluate the economics,” says Ronnie Schnell, Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist.
- Sugarcane aphids do survive Central Texas winters, says Schnell. “We found them coming out of johnsongrass early this spring. Last year, we suspected they had overwintered in the area. Now we know they do.” He says this emphasizes the imperative that grain sorghum farmers scout crops thoroughly, checking lower and upper leaves to find aphids that overwinter, as well as those that “blow in from down south.” He reminds growers that they have two control options available for 2016: Sivanto with a sorghum label, and Transform with a Section 18 exemption.
- Cattle operators might want to take a look at a new method of applying an insecticide to control horn flies, says Dr. Sonja Swiger, assistant professor/veterinary entomologist. “We like to follow an integrated approach for horn fly control,” she says. That could include pour-on insecticides, ear tags, and sprays applied to take advantage of fly population dynamics and life cycle. “We want to control both the larvae and adults,” she says. Also, a relatively new tool, the Vet Gun, allows operators to apply insecticide in the pasture, without bringing cattle into holding pens. It works similar to a paintball gun — propelling an insecticide capsule onto the animal’s hide, where it’s absorbed to control insect pests. Swiger says cost is about $2.30 per capsule, which last about five weeks. Retreatment may be necessary, so total cost would be about $6 per head per year, about the same as other options.
- Doug Steele, director of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, offered an assessment of the importance of agricultural research, not only to individual farmers, Central Texas, the state, or the nation, but also to meet the increasing world demand for food. A recent trip to Germany, he says, provided ample evidence that feeding the world would not be a European Union priority; nor would it be a main concern for European farmers.
A top German farmer told him he wasn’t interested in feeding the world — “He said, ‘We’re just interested in feeding ourselves.’”
It will be the United States that is the international leader in providing food, Steele says, recalling that the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug believed that unrest across the globe was created in large part because basic needs were not being met. Agricultural research, Steele says, will help meet those needs. “And a strong rural Texas depends on a strong agriculture.”
- New worker protection standards will be in place for agriculture in 2017, says Mark Matocha, assistant professor and Extension specialist, Agricultural and Environmental Safety. Among changes are requirements that workers be trained every year, and that trainers must be licensed applicators or be trained through an EPA-approved training program. Matocha also discussed limited use pesticides, regulated herbicides, and local (county level) pesticide permits.
- A farmer, an agricultural businessman, and two students received honors following the Stiles Farm Foundation Field Day luncheon. James “Buster” Davidson received the 2016 Agriculturalist of the Year award, and Joe P. Mueck II was presented the Agribusiness Person of the Year award. Both awards are sponsored by the Williamson County Farm Bureau. Whitney Whitsel, Lee County, and Emma-Leigh Coffman, Bell County, received Stiles Farm Foundation Scholarships.