Tag Archives: K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A flawed study that takes aim at the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was discussed in a Congressional staff briefing today in Washington DC hosted by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Kansas Corn Growers Association leaders said they were disappointed in the study funded by NWF, a long-time opponent of ethanol and the RFS. The study makes flawed assumptions about ethanol production, crop planting choices and the environment.

KCGA was especially disappointed to see a K-State researcher playing a major role in the study that judges corn and ethanol production with such a narrow scope. The study claims that the RFS has caused an increase in corn acres leading to environmental harm. The RFS provides market access for ethanol into a fuel market controlled by Big Oil.

“Our corn producers, through their checkoff, fund research at K-State, but we certainly did not fund this questionable study,” Kansas Corn CEO Greg Krissek said. “The corn commission actually funds efforts with K-State that provide their ag educators with needed lab supplies to use in their classrooms to demonstrate the clean air benefits of ethanol. I think our growers will be dismayed to know that K-State Researcher Nathan Hendricks had a hand in this study and that he is on Capitol Hill today with the NWF, an organization that is suing EPA to dismantle the RFS.”

Krissek noted that many factors impact planting decisions. Corn and other commodities have experienced a multi-year economic downturn, and growers make decisions based on what crop offers the greatest economic return. The NWF study failed to take into consideration many factors that affect planting decisions including improved biotech corn varieties that have allowed corn to be planted in areas where it could not be grown well before. In fact, while corn production in Kansas has doubled over the past 20 years, nearly all of the increase is in non-irrigated acres. Other factors include weather patterns that affect planting decisions, as well as changes in markets for other crops.

“The statement that ethanol has driven corn prices up is laughable in view of the low corn prices and profitability our growers have been experiencing for the past few years,” Krissek said. “Many factors figure into planting decisions including weather, improved seed varieties, market demand and profitability. Our Kansas farmers aren’t plowing up virgin prairie to plant $3 corn.”

A recent study by University of Illinois and Auburn University agricultural economists showed that although ethanol production more than doubled between 2007 and 2014, total cropland acres in 2014 were very similar to those in 2007.

“Corn farmers led the charge to create the ethanol industry to build needed market demand for our crops. Those ethanol plants have brought sustained economic growth to our rural communities. Looking at today’s corn prices, I’d hate to think what our price would be without the ethanol industry,” Krissek said. “Ethanol, livestock and exports are the three-legged stool that corn sits on. Without any one of these three, we’d be looking at $2 corn, and farmers would definitely be planting fewer acres. In fact, there would most likely be fewer farmers. I’m sure NWF would like that outcome.”

Kansas Corn Growers Association President Steve Rome, Hugoton, questioned the narrow scope of the study, which ignores environmental efforts from growers, and environmental benefits of ethanol blended fuels.

“Through checkoff funding of conservation research, and conservation efforts our growers are carrying out on their own farms, corn producers in Kansas and across the nation are heavily invested in many efforts that strive to conserve water, protect pollinators and promote soil conservation” Rome said. “We are puzzled how a study can reach these incorrect conclusions about the environmental impact of ethanol production, but at the same time can ignore proven facts about the substantial environmental benefits from the use of ethanol in our fuel which greatly reduces emissions for cleaner air.”

Studies show the use of ethanol in fuel provides many positive environmental advantages reducing auto emissions for cleaner air. The use of ethanol in gasoline in 2018 reduced CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 55.1 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to removing 11.7 million cars from the road for an entire year or eliminating the annual emissions for 13 coal-fired power plants.

HAYS, Kan. —  A Kansas State University researcher is reporting the first-ever study confirming that Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to the herbicide 2,4-D, findings that may signal an important step in developing future controls for the pesky weed.

Vipan Kumar, a weed scientist at the Agricultural Research Center in Hays, said that since 2015 a few farmers had reported poor control with 2,4-D, but until now, researchers were not able to confirm the resistance levels to 2,4-D in Palmer amaranth.

“Historically, Palmer amaranth was not a problem weed in western to central parts of Kansas, but over the past 10 to 15 years, it has become a major problem and it is present in all crop situations, and even in non-cropland situations,” Kumar said.

Palmer amaranth is extremely aggressive and thus considered the No. 1 weed problem in U.S. agriculture. It is commonly found in Kansas cropping systems and negatively affects soybean, corn, sorghum, sunflower, cotton, wheat, and fallow fields. It is also a serious problem in wheat stubble.

Kumar and his research team have recently tested one strain of Palmer amaranth – known as a biotype – and the results, Kumar says, are sobering.

That biotype has been confirmed with low levels of resistance to 2,4-D, as well as resistance to glyphosate (Roundup PowerMax), chlorsulfuron (Glean), atrazine (Aatrex), and mesotrione (Callisto).

In addition, Kumar said the biotype showed less sensitivity to fomesafen (Flexstar) herbicide, a commonly used herbicide in soybeans. He added that more research is underway to confirm if this biotype has developed resistance to fomesafen.

“This discovery confirms the first case of 2,4-D-resistant Palmer amaranth biotype that has also developed multiple resistance to four other herbicide modes of action,” Kumar said.

“We have been seeing a lot more populations with multiple resistance, especially with glyphosate, atrazine and HPPD inhibitors. There is increasing concern about Palmer amaranth’s ability to resist multiple modes of action.”

That situation has left farmers with few options to manage the weed.

“I would recommend growers use some of the pre-mixes, or tank mixes, that are still effective to control those biotypes so that they don’t get into seed,” Kumar said, noting that one female Palmer amaranth plant can produce as much as one-half million seeds.

“In addition to using effective herbicide programs, growers should look at crop rotation as a foundational practice of weed control. Grow those crops that are highly competitive with Palmer amaranth and try to grow some cover crops if you can in the fallow land. Don’t leave fallow – that’s the weakest link in this whole system where these weed species have been gaining resistance.”

Kumar also suggests that farmers consider pre-emergent herbicides, depending on the crop being grown.

“Including PRE herbicide options can help growers manage some of these multiple-resistant weed biotypes, and delay the development of resistance in this weed,” he said.

Kumar’s research group is currently studying about 200 biotypes of Palmer amaranth collected in Kansas fields to determine the extent of multiple resistant Palmer amaranth throughout the state. He said the group expects to continue their work well into the future.

“My idea is to determine the distribution of these multiple resistant Palmer amaranth biotypes in Kansas, and based on that biological information, what we can do in terms of alternate strategies to manage this problem weed in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

“If we are losing these tools, like 2,4-D or glyphosate, which are the key tools to control these weed species, then this is going to be economically expensive for growers. So we have to bring more tools into our toolbox to tackle these problems.”

Kumar’s findings have been published in the journal, Pest Management Science. The article, titled “Confirmation of 2,4‐D resistance and identification of multiple resistance in a Kansas Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) population, is available online.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — The southern Great Plains has a reputation for growing a large percentage of the U.S. wheat crop that is so important to millers and bakers around the globe who depend on it for making bread and general purpose flour.

But because of lower prices, compounded by weather challenges in recent years, fewer and fewer overall acres have been planted to wheat. A February report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated U.S. winter wheat planted area at a 110-year low.

One part of the wheat industry bucking that trend is organic wheat production. While still a tiny part of overall U.S. wheat output, organic production – wheat certified by the USDA to be grown free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers – grew by more than 11 percent to 10.5 million bushels, according to the USDA’s most recent report. That crop was grown on more than 336,550 acres.

Organic wheat sought by millers and bakers for use in flour and ultimately for organic bread, pastries, crackers and snacks, commands prices sometimes two to three times higher than conventionally-grown wheat.

But growers considering switching from conventional wheat production to organically-grown wheat face obstacles, including a lack of research focused on which existing varieties grow well in organic environments and a need for new varieties developed specifically for organically-managed fields.

To address the benefits and challenges, Heartland Plant Innovations, a for-profit innovation company that was formed through a collaboration of Kansas wheat producers via Kansas WheatKansas State University, and private investors, conducted a survey of organic wheat growers in the southern Plains and organized a conference in late January in Manhattan, attended by wheat producers, plant breeders, flour millers, extension professionals and other industry representatives.

“HPI’s goal in hosting this conference was to uncover the challenges and opportunities within the organic wheat industry,” said HPI President Dusti Gallagher. “The outcome of this conference will be to produce an industry-wide white paper that will assist in advancing the industry forward. HPI’s efforts will focus on exploring opportunities to breed and evaluate wheat lines optimized for organically-managed lands.”

Organic wheat grower Michael Raile said the biggest benefit of growing any organic crop is not having to worry about handling chemicals or protecting himself and consumers from them. He and his wife Ashley along with his parents, Tim and Robyn, grow organic wheat on farmland near St. Francis, Kansas in the far northwest reaches of the state. Their land has been in the Raile family tracing back to Gottlieb Raile Sr., who arrived in the United States from Odessa, Russia in 1885.

“My current farming operation is in transition to be fully organic on all my acres,” Raile said, adding that about half his acres are already certified and the rest are in the transitional phase. “Before becoming organic, I was a conventional no-till farm.”

He added that making a transition from a conventional wheat operation to certified organic takes three years, during which the grower cannot use synthetic fertilizers or chemicals. Crops produced in those three years must be sold on the conventional market.

“Weed control is the biggest challenge, since the only method available is mechanical removal,” Raile said, adding that seeking out markets for organically-grown wheat is something of a challenge but one he likes. “I enjoy seeking out new markets and building relationships with past buyers, since it’s unlike the conventional marketplace and being able to sell it locally.”

Other crops he is considering are organic barley, oats, peas, millet and sorghum.

Because they cannot use synthetic pesticides or fertilizer on their fields, organic farms on average produce about 23 bushels per acre less wheat than conventional farms.

Protein was the top priority for organic farmers according to the survey and conference participants. Other priorities include test weight, disease resistance, falling mixograph/farinograph numbers (which are used to measure specific properties of flour), and yield.

Early vigor was also mentioned so the wheat can grow quickly, spread out and tiller early in order to out-compete weeds. Many of the newer varieties, growers said, have been developed so the stalk and head structure are upright, which work well in conventional systems where spraying for weeds can occur. Organic growers, however, prefer heads that splay over and provide shade in the rows, which impedes weed growth.

In addition to the three-year transition phase, lower yields, and weed and pest control, producers said other challenges in changing to organically-grown wheat include

  • A lack of crop insurance instruments that would protect transitioning and organic producers.
  • A lack of wheat varieties that have consistent kernel size.
  • The need for separate storage and transportation.
  • Price transparency and market information are difficult to come by.

The survey and conference were supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.