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Volume 11, Number 5 - May 2005

This Month in Ag Connection

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Reflections on Native Warm Season Grasses

There is a great history of native warm season grasses (NWSG) across the Missouri prairies. From the many uses by Native Americans to buffalo foraging the prairies, these grasses were adapted to everyday life. Today, many farmers are re-considering the benefits of conservation and wildlife practices as well as forage rotations including native species.

Both federal and state cost share programs offer practices that could include NWSG plantings. Popular examples of federal cost share programs include riparian buffers and the CP-33 habitat program. Examples of state cost share programs include DSL-1 (permanent vegetative grass seeding), and DWP-3 (waterways) offer NWSG options. The concern with seeding NWSG in critical areas like waterways is due to the length of time associated with establishment. The rule of thumb is "the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap."

A more common practice is the State's DSP-3 planned grazing system for forage rotations. Whether you decide to partner in the cost share program or venture into managed intensive grazing alone, NWSG offer an excellent opportunity to fill in those warm mid summer spells when cool season grasses go dormant and the warm season grasses flourish.

Native species used most extensively in Missouri forage systems include Eastern Gamagrass, Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, Indiangrass, and a recent interest in Bermudagrass. While typically seeded from April 15 through June 10, there are also acceptable establishment dates in the Fall. MU Guide G4652, Seeding Rates, Dates, and Depths for Common Missouri Forages provide information on all species.

While NWSG produce well on low fertility soils, it is always advisable to take a soil sample prior to seeding in order to ensure proper fertility levels of P, K, and lime. Adequate fertility levels will increase stand vigor and production. Nitrogen is not recommended during establishment due to the possibility of increased weed competition. The late spring seeding date allows ample time for weed control through chemical or tillage prior to planting.

The hardest part of establishment can sometimes be the wait. Many producers are proving that it is well worth the wait. So, whether you are interest in improving wildlife habitat, conservation or forage production, NWSG offer a viable option for consideration in your plan.

(Author: Todd Lorenz, Horticulture/Agronomy Specialist)

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Roundup Ready Alfalfa Available Soon

Roundup Ready alfalfa is expected to be available to forage producers in 2005. Forage Genetics and Monsanto are the partners in this research and technology. Forage Genetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Research Seeds, Inc. of St. Joseph, Missouri, is an industry leader in the research, development and marketing of value added technologies. Research Seeds is recognized as a worldwide leader in the development, production and marketing of proprietary forage and turf seed. Monsanto is the contributor of the gene technology.

Glyphosate-resistant crops are common to United States agriculture. In 2004, 13% of corn acres, 85% of soybean acres and 60% of cotton acres were planted with herbicide-resistant varieties. Alfalfa, the nation's third most important crop in economic value, will join the list and be the first ever perennial crop to be genetically engineered.

Roundup Ready alfalfa is a little different than Roundup Ready soybeans in that alfalfa is a polyploid. This means that all plants will not have the gene for resistance to glyphosate. About 92- 95% of the alfalfa plants will be resistant to glyphosate, not 100%. At the first application of glyphosate, the 5 -7% non-resistant plants will be killed. After the plants are past the seedling 2 to 3 leaf stage, glyphosate can be applied about any time. Initial releases will be for dormancy classes 3 to 8. In Missouri, use fall dormancy Roundup Ready alfalfa of group 4-5.

There will be no old varieties with the Roundup Ready trait incorporated into them. The Roundup Ready varieties were developed using a forward breeding process, therefore; the trait was incorporated only into new and improved varieties. Because of the forward breeding, the originators claim that the varieties will be better yielding and improved and there should be no yield drag.

Growers will be able to use Roundup herbicides over the top of biotech alfalfa to control more than 200 species of weeds. However, Roundup will not control all weeds such as cheeseweed, nettles, fleabane, filaree, henbit and marestail. Tank mixes will be necessary to cover all weeds. This is not all bad in that it results in the use of multiple chemistries to minimize the development of herbicide resistance and weed shifts. Roundup Ready alfalfa will not be a panacea, but it will be a good tool in establishing alfalfa and producing quality hay for the life of a stand. Hay quality, animal production and welfare should improve with the control of poisonous and other undesirable weeds.

Forage Genetics indicates that herbicide resistance should be the first of many biotech traits in alfalfa. Other traits under development include traits to enhance yields, tolerance to other herbicides, insect resistance and stress tolerance. Output traits likely will be improved fiber digestibility and increased efficiency in protein utilization that will result in significant increases in milk and beef production.

The bottom line for growers will be the economic benefit. Producers must pay technology fees on top of the cost of the proprietary seed and the herbicide itself. Roundup Ready alfalfa is not the solution for every producer. But the benefits will make it an improved value for many alfalfa growers. The company is legally unable to talk about the pricing of the new alfalfa while it is going through the regulatory process. However, regional pricing will be likely. While Roundup Ready technology is being regulated, USDA puts constraints on field production practices, which limits how much seed can be produced. The initial seed released this year likely will be limited to approximately 1 million pounds.

(Author: Wayne Crook, Agronomy Specialist)

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Bottom Line Tidbits: Farm Tenant Landowner Communication

Shaking hands

Heads-up farmers: the number one complaint consistently shared by rental landowners is "my tenant takes me for granted and fails to communicate with me". Improving communication with your landowners or potential landlords can give you a competitive advantage.

If you rent land, addressing and curing this number one complaint of landowners should be one of your highest business management priorities. In emphasizing this point, I would suggest it would be easier and cheaper for the landowner to come up with a new tenant - than it would be for you to come up with replacement land. The ironic point is that addressing and curing this lack of communication complaint can be easily handled.

If you don't feel comfortable visiting in person or telephoning each of your landowners on a regular basis - consider developing a seasonal or quarterly newsletter. This letter should inform the landowner about:

Don't be afraid to share information about your personal or family activities. Remember, the goal of communication is to develop a feeling of inclusion - that you are not taking the landowner for granted.

On the subject of activities or events - have you considered having a field day for your landowners? This could be an excellent way of showing off your line of equipment and impressing upon them the significant investment you have made in machinery and technology. This would also be an excellent opportunity to invite some of your service or input representatives to your farm. In fact, they could help communicate to the landowners the need for their services or products. An additional benefit, this field day would give you the opportunity and motivation to cleanup or cleanout the shop and machine shed.

Use your imagination for ways of enhancing your communication with your landowners and approach the task with a positive and creative attitude. The ball is in your court - go for it!

(Author: Parman R. Green, Ag Business Management Specialist)

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Technology Tips: Internet Searching

This is the first in a series of articles on information technology. A recent farmer panel suggested that technology information was needed.

Search Engines:


You can use several techniques to improve results when you search the Internet. It is difficult to know where to start as searching the Internet can be mind boggling. Let's suggest that you start with selection of the search engine.

There are many different search engines. They all have different characteristics and they all search the Internet in different ways. Some search engines are what are called "crawlers." They automatically scan the Internet for new sites and changes to sites. They differ on how many sites they scan and how often they scan these sites. Other search engines are directories of web pages that are put together by people.

Search engines can be ranked by how many searches are done per day. It is estimated that the search engine Google does 250 million searches per day. Contrast that to the search engine AltaVista that does about 18 million searches per day. This can vary and doesn't really mean that one is better than the other.

Search engines are also rated by how many pages they index. Some say they index as many as over three billion pages.

One good place to get statistics on web pages is searchenginewatch at the following web site:

Since there is so much difference between search engines, you should try your search on several of them. Here are several search engines you might want to try:


The last two sites search several search engines at once. They will list results from the search engines they look at and you can quickly review these findings. Rather than search, Dogpile fetches. This list is just a few possibilities. There are many more to choose from. We are not endorsing any particular ones.

A collection of various types of search engines can be found at:

We will explore some search techniques next month that will help you refine your searches. In the meantime, have a good time exploring the information superhighway with these search engines. Just don't get stuck on the entrance ramp.

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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EPA Air Quality Compliance Agreement Update

On January 31st, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Air Quality Compliance Agreement to quantify and minimize air emissions from animal feeding operations. EPA is beginning to scrutinize agricultural operations along with non-agricultural industry.

Regulators currently lack comprehensive data on air emissions from modern agricultural operations. EPA has a consent agreement program to gather this data while protecting participating livestock producers in the process. If you choose to participate in this program, EPA will provide a release for any federal and state liabilities for alleged past air emission violations as long as they comply with the agreement.

To be eligible for the agreement, an operation must meet the definition of an animal feeding operation under the Clean Water Act. This includes facilities where animals are confined and fed for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and crops, vegetation, forage growth, or post-harvest residues are not sustained in the normal growing season.

More information on this program is available at:

(Author: Amy Schmidt, Extension Agricultural Engineer, (573) 882-2731)

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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.