Tag Archives: crops

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A little more than 17 years ago, a devastating bacterium served as a glaring example of just how vulnerable the United States’ plant and food system had become to disease.

“At that time, the U.S. was receiving geranium cuttings from Kenya,” said Jim Stack, professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University. “One of the organisms that we were concerned about then was a specific strain of Ralstonia solanacearum, a bacterium that infects tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and geraniums.”

The bacterium was suspected in a shipment that had entered the U.S., causing a halt in movement of geraniums across the country. The horticultural industry, which plans and markets its products as much as 18 months in advance, was suddenly crippled as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scrambled to stop the spread of the organism.

“The USDA lab in Beltsville (Maryland) was completely overwhelmed with samples, and it just couldn’t process them fast enough to clear the material to allow greenhouses to sell,” Stack said. “So, that lab had to hold them. It took three to four months to clear all of the samples.”

Stack notes that the delay cost individual greenhouses “$2 million to $14 million, and many of them went out of business.”

The incident highlights a crucial role of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, a network of diagnostic labs across the country which was in its infancy during the 2003 occurrence.

“We’re 18 years old now, having been started in the aftermath of 9/11,” Stack said, noting the day in 2001 when terrorists flew airplanes into buildings, alerting government officials and U.S. citizens to our vulnerabilities in many areas of American life.

Shortly after 9/11, “each federal department was tasked with doing vulnerability assessments, and when the USDA did theirs, they recognized they had serious deficiencies in diagnostics for both plant and animal systems,” Stack said.

Kansas State University, which at the time was working on plant diagnostic software, became one of the leaders in developing a national system to protect plants and farm crops from intentional and unintentional threats.

By 2003, the network had established five regional labs, hosted by K-State, Cornell University, Michigan State University, the University of Florida, and the University of California-Davis.

“Wisely, they decided to implement the National Plant Diagnostic Network through the land grant system,” said Stack, who is the past executive director of the national system. “The reason for that is most land grant universities already had plant diagnostics in place, to varying degrees. So, there was a presence in every state. And most states had reach to the county level. There was already an extension system in place that provided the template for this coordinated effort in plant diagnostics.”

While the network wasn’t fully ready to help with the 2003 introduction of Ralstonia solanacearum, it was able to show its capabilities soon after.

In 2004, the horticulture industry was hit by the same bacteria in a shipment of geraniums, this time from Guatemala.

With the national network in place – and each regional lab handling diagnostics for hundreds of samples – the end result was much different.

“In talking to the lab director at Beltsville, she said the difference was that (in 2003) she received thousands of samples to process, and in 2004, she received only about 150,” Stack said. “The reason was because our labs were able to clear the negatives so that the only ones they had to deal with were those that were likely positive. That’s one of the many benefits of NPDN: there are many labs that can clear out the negatives so that the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) labs can focus on the positives.”

The 2004 incident, “went so smoothly that nobody went out of business and we were able to clear the negatives more quickly,” he said.

The system is being put to the test again, Stack said: “In April 2020, we are dealing with another introduction of the same bacterium that may have been introduced into 39 states. NPDN has partnered with APHIS and the PPFQ labs to rapidly determine which states are negative, thus allowing trade to proceed.”

Stack notes that NPDN’s importance has become more critical today as countries around the world struggle to deal with such issues as food security, growing population, and climate change.

“We are going to add at least 2 billion people to the planet in less than 30 years,” he said. “Although the percentage of people who are food insecure is declining, because of population increase, the total number of food insecure people is about the same as it was 30 years ago.”

NPDN will increasingly be called upon to protect food crops from diseases and pests, he said.

“Take the example of Bangladesh,” Stack said. “That’s a nation that is one-third the size of Kansas, yet while our state’s population is 3 million, theirs is 66 million. They can’t produce enough food to feed their people, so they import from other countries, including wheat.

Wheat blast disease emerged in South America and has threatened the world’s wheat crop since 1985. It recently was found in wheat imported into Bangladesh, causing widespread epidemics and devastating one of that country’s primary food sources.

“The government came in and burned the fields to stop the spread,” Stack said. “It drove farmers further into poverty. It’s not a good scenario.”

The United States is not immune from the same type of scenario. “We import a lot of our food,” Stack said. “We are moving plant materials and food crops over greater distances and in shorter periods of time than at any point in history. And while our inspection processes are very good, they aren’t perfect. They aren’t going to catch everything.”

Plant health, he adds, affects such well-known food crops as wheat, soybeans, corn and more, but it also can affect others such as citrus and legumes. In Eastern Russia, where the perma-frost is melting gradually, scientists are finding out that seeds and bacteria that have been frozen for 30,000 years are still viable – potentially creating new challenges for plant diagnosticians.

“So we need to have the infrastructure in place that allows us to catch things soon after they’ve been introduced,” Stack said. “Our job is to provide the diagnostic services that allow us to detect things early, identify them correctly and communicate critical information in a timely fashion to those that have the authority for response.”

Learn more about the National Plant Diagnostic Network and the five regional labs online at www.NPDN.org.

Protecting lungs from risks such as chemicals and dust is critical to keeping agricultural producers healthy.

Despite current shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers and agricultural workers still need respiratory protection for many tasks in agriculture. The Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (CS-CASH) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health, in partnership with the Ag Safety and Health Alliance and the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety have developed recommendations for conserving respiratory inventory while supplies are limited.

Reuse of two-strap disposable respirators is not recommended practice, but in a time of limited availability, it may need to be considered. This type of respirator should only be reused within the following guidelines:

  • A disposable respirator can be worn more than once, but it cannot be shared with another person.
  • Store respirator in a clean, dry place between uses.
  • Conduct seal checks each time you put on or adjust the respirator. (CS-CASH seal check video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Inww-1avg)
  • Do not attempt to clean the respirator with disinfectants, wipes, soap and water, or an air compressor.
  • Avoid putting on, taking off or adjusting the mask with contaminated hands. Wash your hands before and after adjusting or removal.
  • Discontinue use and throw away when it is splashed on, becomes dirty, becomes difficult to breathe, or when a seal cannot be obtained.

If using a reusable respirator such as a half-facepiece, full-facepiece or powered air purifying respirator, the following recommendations should be observed:


  • Clean and sanitize the respirator after each use. This type of respirator can be shared only if it is cleaned and sanitized properly.
  • Store respirator in a clean, dry place between uses.
  • Avoid putting on, taking off or adjusting the mask with contaminated hands. Wash your hands before and after adjusting or removing.
    • Change P100 filters after eight hours or 30 days, whichever comes first. If there is a shortage, continue to wear the P100 filter until it becomes dirty or difficult to breathe comfortably.
  • Change cartridges according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If there is a shortage, change the cartridge when you can smell or taste what you are protecting yourself against.
  • To prolong the life of the cartridge, add pre-filters to cartridges that don’t have built-in pre-filters.
  • Check and replace valves and head cradle as needed to ensure the respirator is in good working order.

A guide for choosing agricultural respiratory protection can be found at: www.unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash/_documents/outreach_resp_selection_guide_jun14.pdf

Cloth face coverings are not an acceptable replacement for a respirator at preventing exposure to respiratory hazards in the agricultural workplace. They should only be used as a means of infection control.

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public setting where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (grocery stores, farm supply stores, machinery dealerships), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. This practice may help people who have the virus and not know it from spreading it to others, but it does not provide you with protection from any other respiratory hazards or COVID-19. Follow CDC guidance for cleaning and removing cloth face coverings: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

Consider alternative controls that reduce exposure to respiratory hazards and thus reduce reliance on personal protective equipment (PPE). Examples include:

  • Eliminate the process/task that creates hazardous dusts or gases.
  • Use an alternative pesticide product that requires less PPE or the PPE that you have available.
  • Ventilate and control dust at its source to reduce exposure in confined spaces.
  • Hire an applicator or other contractor who has the required PPE.

When applying pesticides, the label is still the law. You must wear the PPE required by the product labels. If the label required respirator is not available, consider using a respirator that provides greater respiratory protection.

To find out more about best practices for respiratory protection during the COVID-19 pandemic visit: www.unmc.edu/publichealth/cscash/_documents/COVID-19-Respirator-Reuse.pdf

MANHATTAN, Kan. — There’s always a lot of interest in the quality of the U.S. hard red winter wheat crop during the Wheat Quality Tour, held annually during the first week of May. This tour, held for the past 50 years by the Wheat Quality Council, aims to give a snapshot in time of the crop to those who attend, including international buyers, wheat farmers, flour millers and others in the wheat industry. For many, this tour is their first time to step foot in a wheat field.

Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the winter wheat quality tour was canceled for the 2020 crop year.

Others in the industry are making plans to host a virtual wheat tour during the week of May 18. While it will be based loosely on the previous tours, there will be no caravans of cars traveling across wheat country. Alternatively, we will be working with certified crop advisors, extension agents, elevators, farmers and others in the field to make observations of the crop during that week.

The virtual tour will held via Zoom. Speakers include Aaron Harries, VP of Research and Operations, Kansas Wheat; Dr. Romulo Lollato, Wheat and Forages Production Specialist, Kansas State University; and Jeanne Falk Jones, Multi-County Specialist, Northwest Research-Extension Center, Kansas State University.

The virtual tour will open Monday afternoon, May 18, at 4:00 p.m., with an orientation and comments from industry representatives. Harries will provide an overview of crop conditions and this year’s yield formula provided by USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The formula will not be available prior to that time. Representatives from K-State Research and Extension will discuss this year’s crop and talk about weather challenges it has faced, including drought and freeze injury, and what to look for when identifying freeze loss. They will also go over disease pressure that participants may be seeing in the fields.

Data will be gathered Tuesday throughout crops in north central and northwest Kansas. The Day 1 wrap-up meeting Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., will go over the observations from those areas and provide an estimated yield potential using the formula provided by USDA/NASS. Day 2 will continue through west central and southwest Kansas, and day 3 will focus on south central and central Kansas. Daily wrap-ups will be provided each afternoon at 4:00 p.m., with a final crop discussion Thursday afternoon, May 21.

Virtual tour participants will use #wheattour20 on Twitter. Interested persons can get the schedule and sign up to receive invitations to the Zoom discussions at http://kswheat.com/virtualtour.

The tour will be hosted by Kansas Wheat and K-State Research and Extension, in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Agriculture and other industry partners.

Planting progress.  USDA report next week on the 12th.  Delivery against the May futures starting to roll in.  Will we see some changes to exports, ethanol and what could be on the balance sheet for old crop?  Will there be a corn vs. bean war?  War with China again?  Livestock…rolling positions.  Cash prices & box beef movement.  So how does Wendy’s/McDonald’s COSTCO/HyVee limiting meat purchases.  How is this long/short term going to affect the markets?  How do you market your cattle?  Weight concerns going into summer?

(LINCOLN, Nebraska) – USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices in Nebraska currently are open to phone and virtual appointments only but can still work with producers on timely filing crop acreage reports. FSA staff can provide assistance over the phone, by email and through virtual meetings via a software program called Microsoft Teams.

The deadline for acreage certification is July 15, 2020. This includes common spring-planted crops, such as corn, soybeans, and grain sorghum, but also includes Conservation Reserve Program acres and perennial grass.

“In order to comply with FSA program eligibility requirements, all producers must file an accurate crop acreage report by the deadline,” said Nancy Johner, Nebraska FSA State Executive Director. “Our FSA staff still is able to assist producers in completing acreage reports, including providing maps.”

Johner said certification plans may vary by county office, but in general customers can assist FSA by:

  • Paying close attention to email or mail from their County FSA office that outlines the process put in place for 2020 spring certification, and then follow the requested steps; and
  • Keeping good records of what is planted, where it is planted and when it was planted, and then ensuring the transfer of that information to FSA using the process outlined by their county office, as soon as possible following the completion of planting.

FSA offices are using Microsoft Teams software to virtually meet with producers to review maps and documents for certification. Producers who want to schedule a virtual appointment would download the Microsoft Teams app on their smart phone and call the FSA county office for an appointment. Producers also can use Microsoft Teams from their personal computer without downloading software.

“Producers will be able to work with their county office on available options for completing the certification process,” Johner said.

After completed maps and all acreage reporting information is received, FSA will make the certification updates and then contact the producer to acquire signatures on the completed Report of Acreage form (FSA-578).

The following exceptions apply to acreage reporting dates:

  • If the crop has not been planted by the acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is completed.

  • If a producer acquires additional acreage after the acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 30 calendar days after purchase or acquiring the lease. Appropriate documentation must be provided to the county office.

Producers should also report crop acreage they intended to plant, but due to natural disaster, were unable to plant. Prevented planting acreage must be reported on form CCC-576, Notice of Loss, no later than 15 calendar days after the final planting date as established by FSA and USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy holders should note that the acreage reporting date for NAP-covered crops is the earlier of the dates listed above or 15 calendar days before grazing or harvesting of the crop begins.

For questions, please contact your county FSA office. To locate your county FSA office visit farmers.gov/service-center-locator.

An analysis released by the National Corn Growers Association shows cash corn prices have declined by 16 percent on average. Several regions are experiencing declines of more than 20 percent, since March 1, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The analysis projects a $50 per acre revenue decline for the 2019 corn crop. NCGA commissioned the economic analysis, conducted by Dr. Gary Schnitkey of the University of Illinois, to better understand the economic impact of the global pandemic on the corn industry. Schnitkey writes in the study, “Corn will be one of the most impacted crops as its two largest uses – livestock feed and ethanol – are under pressure.” NCGA will use the data to create solutions to help corn farmers and their customers recover.

The analysis was based on cash corn prices as of mid-April and estimated losses would likely increase through the rest of the marketing year. Further analysis is already underway for the 2020 crop year, with losses anticipated to be higher than those in 2019.