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January 28, 2010     Superior Express
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Page 4 A Special Supplement of The Superior Express and Nuckolls County Locomotive-Gazette, Thursday, January 28, 2010 New tools allow farmers to reach out from the cab Communicating from the combine has taken on a whole new meaning with the adoption of smart phones by farmers. These newer mobile phones allow farmers to send real time reports - and even pictures and video -on what they are doing and why, giving anyone who has an Intcrnet connccuon the oppor- tunity to peck into the lifc of a farmer. "'i can use the microblogging tool Twittcr to post quick 'updates, photos, video and. at the same time, post those items on Facebook for friends and fam- ily to see," said Brandon Hunnicuu. a farmer from Giltner. "It's a simple way for me to com- municate with people down the road or across the country, and reach out to other farme.'s or those interested in the current presiderlt of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. Several Nebraska farmers post regu- larly on Twitter, chat with other fm'm- ers and answer questions from those who ask. said the Nebraska Corn Board's Kelsey Pope. "Twitter alh)ws anyone to folh)w a farmer and learn more about agricul- ture. food production and rural life.'" Pope said. "Going fl)rward. ,Twitter posts may turn up on lnternet search engines, which is great because it will broaden the audience for farmers." Hunnicutt. who can be Iound on Twit- tcr at www.Twitter.com/ cornfcdfarmer, said it is more impor- tant than ever for larmers to reach out. and communicate with the world. "'The more peoplc can see real farm- better." he said. "So many people are removed from agriculture and don't understand how we farm and why. Using the Internet is a way to narrow the gap and explain answers to ques- tions often beginning with 'Why do ) ou' .'" The ease of asking and receiving a reply helps farmers counter negative messages put out by those who have an agenda against modern farming, live- stock production or just don't under- stand agriculture and food production. POD,. who can he found on Twitter al www.Twitter co n/ag4front, said while Facebook is often geared to- wards friends, family and acquaintan- ces, farmers understand many people they know may not really understand contemporary farming. .agriculture," said Hunnicutt, who is ers and ask a real farmer questions the Continued to page 5 Twenty-first century American diet built primarily on corn By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters Zea mars is quite a different plant a second time prior to his visit. If you It's a world-famous grass, and cru- cial to our bellies. It's called Zea mars by botanists: rock-heads like me call it com. Compared to many plants, it's excellent at toler- ating drought and heat -- ahnost in ........ :7-,, a class by itself in that 'regard. Corn is obvi- ously at the heart of corn muffins and tortillas, but you likely eat more corn in the fornl of corn .... ........ " based sweetener in "junk food" and sweet dri n ks than directly as corn meal. Processed corn also gives t.s corn oil and corn coatingsthat are used in pack- aged foods. But it might surprise you to learn that if you went to a standard super- market, did your shopping, and then hade=es fi~r breakfast, chicken salad for lunch, and beef for dinner, you would be, in fact, essentially eating corn at each and every meal. That's because chickens these days eat corn - - on the4r way to producing eggs and chicken flesh fl~r us ~ and modern steers gulp down corn in feedlots. In short, the 21st Century Ameri- can diet is built on com. You don't have to trace grain through the food supply t() prove that statement. We can even demonstrate it by taking a chemical analysis of our bodies. Here's why the chemical analysis works: from other grasses like wheat. It has a different way of capturing carbon di- oxide from the air around it. Now, as it happens, there are sev- eral kinds of carbon atoms in this world. They are all carbon -- but they have slightly different weights (called iso- topes in the trade). The carbon in corn has a different ratio of isotopes in it than the carbon of wheat because of the differences in the way the two plants "breath in" carbon dioxide and water from the air. So wheat, in this sense, really is different from corn, and a human body' made of eating wheat is ever so slightly different from a human body made of eating corn. We literally are what we eat (which makes me a walking blob of peanut butter, but that's another story). There was a day hmg ago we grew a lot of wheat in the Midwest. But we switched to erowine corn. The ~eason is that--using indu~rial,, farming tneth- ,, ods -- it happens that corn can be grown in the American Midwest in great abundance. It's tin accident, if you will, that Zea mars does so very, very well in our Mitlwest. But flourish it does, and with fertilizers derived largely from t'os,~il rue I& we can grow prodigious amounts of corn. Part of the complex story of King Corn is sketched in a book by Michael Pollan called The Omnivore's Di- lemma. Later this month, the author will be coming to Washington State University where I work. He'll field our questions about everything from industrial agriculture tO corn genetics. I' m rereading parts ofPollan' s book are looking for something to give you one person's view of modem agricul- ture, the book can be fun. To be sure, it's only-the kind of book that starts a discussioh -- not finishes it. One point to always remember is that the American farmer has fed mil- lions and millions of people both here and overseas. Part of the recipe for that accomplishment has been the success ofZea mays right here in the middle of our continent. We've built a lot on an unusual grass -- and been inventive in all that we do with its by-products. The ques- tion now is how much we like the current system, with its drawbacks and advantages, and whether we really want to make changes toward more diversi- fication in our agricultural base. To do that, we all have to think through how we'd like to cook and eat, and what we want to pay for our meals. The issues are so complex I'm cer- tainly glad it's not up to geologists to decide them. But we all, together as citizens and consumers, determine such matters. So if you are looking for some post-dinner armchair travels through the food supply on long winter eve- nings, Pollan's book is one way to begin. Note: You can now t'oliow the Rock Dec more frequently on Twitter @RockDocWSU Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geolo- gist at Princeton and Harvard. Follow her on the web at rockdoc.wsu.edu and on Twitter @RockDocWSU. This col- umn is a service of'the College of Sci- ences at Washington State University. JOHN DEERE 1890 Idaho - Superior, Neb., 68978 402-879-3276 1-888-252-0242 www.oregontrailequipment Water monitoring technology allows farmers to put off starting irrigation until later in the growing season, delay it longer after a rain and shut it down earlier in the fall. Keeping irrigation equipment shut down for longer periods of time reduces water and energy usage. Technology, knowledge improving water management Genuine JOHN DEERE Seeding Parts Davenport farmerMark Jagels' corn used about 14 hundredths of an inch of water during a cool week this past July - only 2 hundredths per day and well below a normal July's water use of 35 hundredths a day. Knowing Iris corn was using so little water, Jagels cut back on the number of times he irrigated the crop, saving water and the energy needed to pump it. "The tools we have available today measure how lntlch water is in the soil and how much water the crop is us- ing," said Jagels, a member of the Nebraska Corn Board. "This reduces our water use, which is important be- cause water is a natural resource that we want to protect for future genera- tions." While nearly all of the corn grown across the country is only watered by Mother Nature in the form of rainfall, the landscape is different in Nebraska, where water resources like an aquifer and reservoirs allow irrigation to be more common. hTigation can help farmers to con- sistently produce good crops, yet farm- ers' understanding of how and when to use this natural resource have changed dramatically in just the last few years. Jagels said w~/t~fmark S6nSorg read moisture levels in tile groun~at depths of 1, 2 and 3 feet, so he knows how much moisture is available to the crop. Evapotranspiration gauges then mea- sure how much water the corn plants use each day. "'Combined, we can go through a calibration el'how much water is avail- able, how much was used over the previous week and project what will be needed in the coming week," he said. "That allows us to set an irrigation schedule that better matches the actual need of the crop. It reduces the guess- work significantly." The University of Nebraska has a network of evapotranspiration gauges and other,'esources farmers use during UPDATE YOUR PLANTER with John Deere's Pro Max 40 Flat Disk Make Planting Easy Plant Multiple BT - Refuge varieties with different shapes and seed weight, all with one disk. Easy, simple, no moving singulator parts, Uses only Talc-not Graphite. Slower meter speed with ProMax 40 Flat Cell disk vs. 30 Cell John Deere or 30 hole E-set. Plants any size seed - even large seeds bigger than 62 Ibs. Set to one vacuum level and forget it. Better seed pickup on hillsides. Use the genuine John Deere solution for the best possible seed population, spacing and meter reliability! Make sure your planter'svital signs are in check Schedule an inspection today! Blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature. They're all vital signs that, if not in check, could indicate serious problems with your health. And while you know it's important to stay healthy, you trust your doctor to catch any warning signs at your annual checkup. Same goes for your planter. Because you don't have time to check for the more than 150 variables that could stop you in the field, you should trust your John Deere dealer to do it for you. Our experts will make sure your planter is in top operating condition to provide PROPER residue and soil condition management, ACCURATE seed metering and PRECISE placement. Pass after pass, season after season. JOHN DEERE So, see your Oregon Trail dealer for your yearly planter checkup before you head to the fields this spring. I the growing season to help make irri- gation decisions. "Taking that knowledge and apply- ing it to tile farnl saved tlS 4 to 6 inches of irrigation water this year," Jagels said. "It allows us to put olT starling irrigation until later in the growing season, delay it longer after a rain aud shut it down earlier in the fall.'" Curt Friesen, a member of the Ne- braska Corn Board and a farmer from Henderson, said new technologies will help farmers be even more efficient in applying water to their crops. "Tools being developed will read leaf conditions and trau"ro stress that the phml is facing. By combining these sensors with cell phone technology and a database, it will be possible to The tools we have available today measure how much water is in the soil and how much water the crop is using. This reduces our water use, which is important because water is a natu- ral resource that we want to protect for fu- ture generations. ~ ~ Mark Jagels, Ne- braska Corn Board member and Davenport farmer receive a customized irrigation sch'cd- tile,'" Fricsen said. In addition, new corn hybrids under deveh)l-m~ent (viii simply require less water It)i-uoducc a bumper erep. "'While known as drought tolerant hybrids, what that incans for US is less irrigation for the salhe ritunber o1 bushels," he said. "'h will be a great technoh)gy once it's available." Advances in irrigation incthods also cut water tlse. Many farmers have switched the acres they could front gravity irriga- tion, where water is pumped on the ground through rows, to pivots, where water is applied above the crop. "'That culs wa!er use considerably," Fricscn said. Some farmers are installing subsur- lace drip irrigation systems. This in- volves b.urying lines underground that provide a set anlounl of water to the plant directly in the root zone. "This is ideal for irregular shaped fields where a pivot system won't work, but it also provides better water efficiency and reduced evaporation," he said. No-till and other reduced tillage options help keep water in the ground, in addition to providing other environ- mental benefits. "Farmers have taken notice that no- till and other farming methods reduce water needs," Friesen said. "Research and demonstration plots have also shown that reducing irrigation a few inches a year can pay off - and that over irrigating can actually cut yields." He said once farmers get a taste of being able to pump less they won't go back. "Seeing the crop produce out- standing yields on less water is all it takes," Friesen said.