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Volume 7, Number 2 - February 2001

This Month in Ag Connection

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Soybean Aphid: A New Bug


The book says, "No aphids colonize soybeans in North America". Now, the book is wrong. Asian soybean aphids, a colonizing aphid, were found in the late summer of 2000 in Illinois. Missouri entomologists have found these aphids across Northeast Missouri. They have currently not been found south of the Missouri River. They were also found in the upper Mid-west in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota.

The next question is what does this mean? The Chinese and Australians report up to a 27% yield reduction and 8-inch stunting from typical (Asian) soybean aphids infestations. Michigan and Illinois soybeans that were attacked early showed signs of stunting, cupped and yellowing leaves. A relatively large number of fields were treated in both states. This aphid builds its numbers on soybeans in the vegetative stage and begins to decline during flowering, pod set, and pod fill.

The (Asian) soybean aphid is a small, light green (sometimes yellow) aphid. If aphids are found on soybeans it is almost sure to be the (Asian) soybean aphid. They have a very narrow host range (soybeans, buckthorn, tick clover "sticktights", and kudzu). Gardeners with beans or peas, etc., and farmers growing other beans or field peas do not have to worry. When first found in Michigan, they were described as "dripping off the soybeans". Damage to the soybean plant occurs when aphids suck sap and the excess water and carbohydrates (sugars) are expelled as a material called "honey dew" (a very descriptive name). Fortunately, they do not inject a toxin during feeding. When high numbers are on infested plants, the amount of honeydew is large enough to literally drip. Soybean aphids are all females and produce all live females young. At the end of the season, the aphids lay eggs on wild hosts and the eggs over-winter.

Soybean growers in Missouri have been lucky with only a few minor soybean insect pests up to now. Although, the full impact of this new soybean pest will not be seen until next year or later. All soybean growers need to become familiar with this pest and catch infestations early. Pesticide tests were conducted in northeast Illinois on infested soybeans. They found Dimethoate, Lannate SP, Lorsban 4E, Penncap-M, and Warrior T seemed to provide the best control of soybean aphids for the duration of their study. These products will either have special use permits in 2001 or the labels will be re-written.

(Author: James Jarman, Agronomy Specialist)

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Nitrogen Considerations for 2001

Test tubes

Communications with area fertilizer retailers have given reason for considering nitrogen (N) fertility management strategies for 2001. Recent increases in fuel prices coupled with increases in N fertility cost will directly affect your crop operation. Currently, local N prices are ranging from 25 to 45% higher than last fall and are expected to reach 60% by March. In addition to higher prices, N supplies may be limited. For example, Terra Industries Inc. has opted to idle N manufacturing in most of its North American facilities until natural gas prices moderate allowing for a positive cash flow. The effects of energy prices on agriculture have not been this dramatic since the Arab oil embargo of 1973.

Even though N prices have increased, reducing your N application rates for corn and grain sorghum may not be the best way to maximize your economic returns. University research can help you determine optimal fertility rates for crop production.

Alternative management approaches could include the following:

In summary, don’t be tempted to reduce your nitrogen rates due the expected increased costs this year. Nitrogen provides the most economical return from your fertilizer invested dollar. Despite high N prices when it comes to committing resources to a crop, N is still a good buy. Evaluate other management options in times of high prices and find the best fit for your operation.

(Author: Todd Lorenz, Horticulture/Agronomy Specialist)

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2001 Soybean Seed Quality

There are some early indications that the past growing and harvest season has had an adverse effect on the germination and quality of seed produced. Be sure to check the germination level of the seed you purchase. If you kept seed back for planting in 2001, be sure to run a germination test. If the seed you kept is dry, it will be susceptible to further mechanical damage as it is conditioned, transported, and handled. When the initial germination test is marginal and the seed is relatively dry, a second germination test is advisable to determine if the germination level changed after processing.

When planning seed purchases be sure to allow for variations in seed size when determining the amount of seed to purchase. Soybean varieties differ in their genetic potential for seed size and can respond differentially to various environmental conditions resulting in a wide range of seed size for different varieties and even lots of the same variety. When you calculate your seed needs, figure the quantity based on seeds per acre not pounds per acre. In a drilled situation where the goal is 200,000 seeds per acre, a variety with 3300 seeds per pound versus a variety with 2600 seeds per acre would save about 17 pounds per acre. If this was a roundup ready variety priced at $24.00 per 50 pound unit, this could save about $8.00 per acre in seed cost. There are a lot of good varieties to choose from, but as the spring buying season progresses, the supply and choices will diminish.

Usually if germination levels are 85% or higher, it is not necessary to increase seeding rates. There is a general tendency to over plant soybeans and under ideal conditions you may get a higher level of emergence than the germination would indicate. Four or five percent difference in germination will have little effect, if any, on final yields with most varieties as long as stands are fairly uniform. If germination levels fall below 85%, it may be necessary to increase the rate accordingly. Environmental conditions and cultural practices, in addition to the specific variety, need to be considered when determining the seeding rates. Increases of five to ten percent over normal rates are common for rough and or cloddy seedbeds, no-till and reduced tillage, drier seedbed conditions, and earlier planting with cool soil temperatures. If you have seed lots of different germination levels, planting the higher germination lots first and the lower germination lots later would improve the probability of establishing the desired stand.

(Author: Wayne Crook, Agronomy Specialist)

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Taxation Tidbit: MO$T -- Education Fund

MO$T Missouri label

Missouri has a relatively new, tax-favored higher education savings program – Missouri Savings for Tuition (MO$T). Funds placed in a MO$T will qualify as a reduction adjustment for calculating Missouri taxable income. Additionally, the earnings on the account are exempt from Missouri state income tax. Federal taxes on account earnings are deferred until the funds are distributed and are then taxed at the student’s tax rate. Contributions to the student’s MO$T can be made by anyone.

State-deductible contributions of up to $8,000 ($16,000 joint if both have at least $8,000 of earned income) per year can be made to the MO$T. Transfers to the MO$T will be treated as a present interest gift (qualifying for the annual gift exclusion) from the contributor to the beneficiary of the MO$T. However, a provision is available for greater up-front funding of the MO$T. The contributor may elect to treat the contribution as if made ratably over five years, beginning in the year of contribution. Thus, someone could fund a MO$T with $40,000 and elect to have it treated ratably over five years. The maximum total contributions allowable to a student’s MO$T is $100,000.

MO$T funds are managed by TIAA-CREF (a New York-based financial services organization) with oversight of the Missouri State Treasurer and Missouri Higher Education Savings Program Board. A MO$T account can be started with a $25 deposit. Three investment options are available: 1) Guaranteed Option, 2) Managed Allocation Option, and/or 3) 100% Stock Fund Option.

An attractive feature of the MO$T program is that nearly all public and private four-year colleges and universities, two-year colleges, vocational-technical schools, proprietary and professional schools, and theological institutions in Missouri and the nation would be eligible schools of higher education. Additionally, accumulations can be used for tuition, certain room and board expenses, books, and required fees and supplies.

While it is too late to make contributions for the 2000 tax year, now is the time to start investigating this education tuition savings tool for the 2001 tax year.

Click here for more information on the MO$T program or call 1-888-414-6678.

(Author: Parman R. Green, UO&E Farm Business Mgmt. Specialist)

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Have You Thought of Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is defined as intensive land management that optimizes the benefits created when trees and/or shrubs are deliberately combined with crops and/or livestock to achieve economic, conservation, and/or ecological goals. Agroforesty has excellent potential in diversifying traditional farming operation in Missouri with the flexibility to define your short term and long term goals. Many opportunities are available for assistance in developing agroforestry practices including designing, equipment loans, cost sharing, and grants.

Information gained during this program will allow specialists to introduce five agroforestry practices. Any of these practices could be modified to your individual needs.

Center for Agroforestry symbol

The University of Missouri Center for Agriforestry (UMCA) is a resource from the University of Missouri.

Input from several agencies is available when developing your whole farm plan. Adoption of any combination of these practices have the potential to increase and diversify income potentials, reduce nutrient loading in streams, reduce soil erosion, and enhance wildlife.

If any of these agroforestry practices have merit in your operation and you would like to have more information please contact your local extension office.

(Author: Todd Lorenz, Horticulture/Agronomy Specialist)

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.