Syngenta Survey Confirms Ag Loves Digital Tech

Syngenta_BiotechA majority of growers and other agricultural professionals turn to online sources first for general information about their industry, and over half of them use mobile or handheld devices 10 or more times per workday. These are some of the key findings in a recent Syngenta survey, in which more than 300 readers of Thrive, the company’s production-focused magazine and website, responded to questions about their online habits and appetites.

Anthony Transou, Internet marketing manager at Syngenta, is not surprised that, like other industries, U.S. agriculture is embracing digital communications—from social media campaigns and blogs to precision farming and recordkeeping.

“Digital platforms give users a way to share and learn from others in the agricultural industry, whether they are around the corner in their communities or across the globe,” he said. “One of our key concentrations is to create optimized content that can spread across channels and be consumed anywhere, so there is a seamless experience from desktop to mobile users.”

Transou’s team has made several recent adjustments and additions to the Syngenta digital platform. For example, new websites like Tools to Grow More Soybeans and the Quilt Xcel®Fungicide Stress Management Training Module help growers locate information about specific issues or products more easily. Another recent online development is the Know More, Grow More agronomy blog, which features tips and local news updates from Syngenta agronomic service representatives. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels are also convenient ways for growers to interact with Syngenta via questions, comments, contests and general discussions.

“Additionally, we are adding online companions to many of our print communications, including Thrive magazine,” Transou said. “This digital initiative allows us to reach a larger audience and provide deeper, more interactive content.”

One of his team’s proudest accomplishments is updating the company’s flagship grower-focused website, FarmAssist.com. This online resource has evolved into a one-stop shop for news, market updates and information about the Syngenta product portfolio. But until 2012, FarmAssist users needed a desktop computer for the site’s features to work properly. That changed with the launch of m.farmassist.com, a mobile-optimized version of the website that allows cellphone and tablet users to access the same capabilities as if they were on a desktop computer.

“Our current suite of digital assets is a result of our early preparation to become an active participant in the digital world,” Transou said. “We thought about a mobile strategy for Syngenta very early on so we could easily transition our content and existing assets to some of the emerging technologies and mediums.”

Looking forward, Syngenta aims to include more interactive localized content, which is a process of natural progression with the increasing use of mobile technology in agriculture. Transou said he envisions being able to send growers and other users pest alerts, weather information, market prices and yield data specifically targeted to their local areas.

The nature of digital communications allows Syngenta to gather and analyze customer feedback, which it uses to constantly improve existing digital assets and formulate ideas for new ones. The Thrive online survey is a good example of how the team uses feedback to influence content creation. Because respondents indicated that they are most interested in production best practices and new product information, the editorial team will start developing more articles and Web content around those topics.

“Farmers understand that information is now flowing in a digital world, especially the well-connected younger generation,” he said. “Our ultimate goal at Syngenta is to give growers the most positive digital experience in the industry.”

Forest Service Helps Farming Trees as Fuel Source

forestserviceIn honor of Earth Day today, the U.S. Forest Service is seeking proposals that expand wood energy use and support responsible forest management. This news release says the service is also offering a Wood Energy Financial App to help business leaders see a positive bottom line for these efforts.

“USDA through the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies, and create new jobs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These efforts, part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, create opportunities for wood energy products to enter the marketplace.”

“Building stronger markets for innovative wood products supports sustainable forestry, reduces wildfire risk, and creates energy savings for rural America,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

Under the Forest Service’s Wood-to-Energy Grant program, about $2.8 million will be made available to help successful applicants complete the engineering design work needed to apply for public or private loans for construction and long-term financing of wood energy facilities. Another $1.7 million from the Statewide Wood Energy Team cooperative agreement program will help public-private teams make advancements in wood energy.

The Wood Energy Financial App that allows users to do a simple and quick analysis to see if wood energy is a viable alternative for their community or small business. You can dowmload the app here.

New Holland Launches MyNewHolland.com

MyNewHolland.comToday is the launch of MyNewHolland.com. This new virtual community is set up to provide a meeting place to share information, contribute to farming related discussions and access premium contents and services. It is very simple to create your account by visiting MyNewHolland.com. Then you’ll have access to the features currently active.

A list of features includes:

  • My New Holland: a new online community for all
  • The Spotlight: discussions on a variety of topical subjects in the farming world
  • The first Spotlight: ethanol and renewable energy
  • Valuable information resources: instructional videos, white papers and more
  • Premium content: owners of New Holland equipment and Precision Land Management products gain access to useful materials that will help them get the most from their machines
  • Easy registration and log in through social networks

The Spotlight discussion is a key feature of MyNewHolland.com. Each discussion will feature a guest farmer or industry expert who supports a farming-related topic. All My New Holland members are invited to contribute their comments, opinions, material or images, driving the conversation forward. Each discussion will be open for a number of weeks; subsequently a white paper will be produced and made available for downloading.

Ron Clauson MyNewHolland.comThe first Spotlight discussion topic is “Ethanol: Renewable Energy for America – Profit for American Farmers.” Our guest is Indiana farmer Ron Clauson. His farm has produced corn for ethanol production for the last eight years and he’s passionate about it.

“One hundred percent of the corn and soybeans we produce go into ethanol and biodiesel,” Clauson says. “It makes me proud to be able to say we market our crops to produce fuel that reduces dependence on imports.”

There are several questions being posed in this first Spotlight discussion for you to respond to and your feedback is highly appreciated.

  • Are you producing a crop for ethanol production? If so, what type and why?
  • How would a change in the Renewable Fuel Standard impact your community and you personally?
  • What do you think about the misleading claims against ethanol by critics and what can farmers do about it?

I am very proud to be assisting our long time sponsor in the daily management of MyNewHolland.com in this startup phase. To get some more perspective on it I spoke with New Holland Director of Marketing for North America, Mark Hooper, while visiting headquarters in Pennsylvania recently. He says there are many more features planned for MyNewHolland.com as the community grows and develops.

You can listen to Mark talk about MyNewHolland.com here: Interview with Mark Hooper

So there you have it. The website is live and available for you to create your personal login and let New Holland know what you think, especially about the first Spotlight discussion. See you there.

5 Reasons to “Root” for Soil Health Farmers

nrcsTo meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers:

5. A lot of people are coming to dinner. We all rely on the soil for our food and fiber. By the year 2050, an estimated 9 billion people will join us at Earth’s dinner table, meaning we’ll have to grow as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the past 500.

The Soil Health Solution: Improving soil health increases the productivity and function of our soil (including nutrient uptake to plants), which offers increased food security in a growing world.

4. There are fewer acres of land to grow the food we need. Globally, millions of acres of cropland are lost to development or resource degradation.

The Soil Health Solution: Improving soil health naturally can protect our working lands from erosion and desertification and ensure that our food-producing acres stay fertile and productive.

3. Weather extremes like drought and climate change pose increasing food production challenges.

The Soil Health Solution: Healthy soil is more resilient soil, with greater infiltration and water-holding capacity, which make farms more resistant to periods of drought. And since it holds more water, healthy soil helps reduce flooding during periods of intense rainfall.

2. There is growing competition for water and other food production resources — and many resources are limited (or in some cases finite) in their supply.

The Soil Health Solution: Healthy soils help optimize those inputs and maximize nutrient use efficiency. In addition, healthy soil keeps production inputs like fertilizers and pesticides on the land and out of our streams, lakes and oceans.

1. We can repair and rebuild it. For years, it was believed that a certain amount of cropland soil erosion was inevitable.

The Soil Health Solution: By using conservation techniques like cover crops, no-till and diverse crop rotations, an increasing number of farmers are proving that we can actually build our soils — and, in some instances, increase soil organic matter by as much as 3-4 percent. In the process, farmers are actually using less energy, maintaining or increasing production and improving their bottom lines. Meet some of those farmers.

In fact, there are many more reasons why soil health is important to all of us on Earth Day — and every day. Learn more about the basics and benefits of soil health and how NRCS is helping our nation’s farmers “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil.”

Field to Market Adds Water Metric to Online Tool

gI_130264_F2M_NewTag_a02Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, announced today that the Fieldprint® Calculator now incorporates the Water Quality Index (WQI) offered by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). The metric’s inclusion in the tool, which will help farmers track continuous water quality improvement on their farms, is a result of ongoing collaboration between Field to Market and USDA.

The WQI is an existing tool that looks at several factors to determine a score for the quality of water leaving a particular field. Those factors include: field physical sensitivity, nutrient management, tillage management, pest management, irrigation and other conservation practices.

“We are proud that Field to Market is using a tool developed by NRCS scientists for the Fieldprint Calculator,” said Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, NRCS Deputy Chief for Science and Technology. “We believe it’s important to equip farmers and ranchers with information on how conservation practices can benefit natural resources as a way to encourage good stewardship of the land.”

The Calculator, first launched in 2009, is a free, interactive online tool to help growers assess corn, cotton, potato, rice, soybean and wheat operations in terms of land use, soil conservation, soil carbon, irrigated water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and now, water quality. The tool is accessible at www.fieldtomarket.org.

“Field to Market updated the Calculator to incorporate NRCS’s Water Quality Index (WQI), because it’s a simple, convenient way to express multiple water quality parameters into a single, easy to understand value,” said Rod Snyder, president of Field to Market. “The alliance offers important tools to help farmers explore continuous improvement opportunities and allows the food and agriculture value chain to work together to achieve productivity and natural resource conservation.”

Snyder said the WQI addition builds upon the private-public relationship between Field to Market and NRCS, which also collaborated with technology consultant ZedX, Inc. to build the NRCS RUSLE2 and WEPS models for soil erosion into the Calculator.

Using the Fieldprint Calculator, Field to Market member-organizations and growers have supported a variety of Fieldprint projects totaling approximately 400 growers in eight states, which represents nearly 130,000 acres. Examples of Fieldprint projects using the WQI include:

Moving forward, Field to Market will continue expanding the capabilities of the tool, with current testing on a biodiversity metric and the inclusion of alfalfa underway.

Spring is running late

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Has spring sprung for you yet?”

It looks like many across the nation are still shoveling snow. Good thing Easter weekend looks warmer for most. Here in Missouri the Dogwoods are in full bloom and the grass is getting greener by the day.

Our poll results:

  • Still snow on the ground – 27%
  • Still too cold – 24%
  • Seeing positive signs – 18%
  • Late spring for sure – 15%
  • Same as normal – 3%
  • Too wet – 9%
  • Too dry – 3%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “What’s your favorite use for Easter eggs?”

The incredible edible egg is in the spotlight this time of the year, but what do you do with all those hard boiled, multi-colored eggs on Monday? Eat them, toss them or watch them rot?

Summer Precision Ag Training

Insights WeeklyDid you know Ag Leader offers a variety of SMS training sessions to help answer your questions about the software? That’s right, whether you’re more comfortable listening in on a webinar from your home computer, or attending an in-person, hands-on classroom training session, Ag Leader has a variety of courses to fit your needs.

Jessica Ahrens, software training specialist, says the software is always changing and customers need to stay up-to-date on the new features in order to best utilize them for their operations.

Listen to Ahrens explain

Ahrens says Ag Leader provides a wide variety of training for customers. Find out what’s available to you.

Listen to Ahrens explain

Ahrens says the training enables customers to troubleshoot and answer questions on their own instead of spending time on the phone with software support specialists, even though they are always available as a resource.

Listen to Ahrens explain

Be sure and sign up today for your training!

Become a fan of Ag Leader on Facebook today, and get the latest precision ag videos on the YouTube channel. For more information about Ag Leader products and services, or to visit the blog site, go to www.agleader.com.

Hick Chick Chat with AEM on Farm Equipment

11326519286_c9a07ae0bf_oThe important contribution of U.S. agriculture equipment manufacturing to the health of the nation’s economy is demonstrated in an economic paper recently released by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

charlie o'brienFor this edition of the Hick Chick Chat, I spoke with AEM senior vice president Charlie O’Brien about the analysis. “Agriculture’s achievements have resulted from scientific advances in many areas, including inputs and other efficiencies, yet the productivity explosion continues to be driven by enormous strides in the farm machinery and equipment technology now used to farm millions of acres,” he told me. “We want people to understand how important this industry as a whole is for the U.S. economy.”

Hick Chick Chat on Impact of Ag Equipment Industry to Economy

Join in the conversation on Twitter and on Facebook

Congresswoman Visits Bayer Bee Center

bayer-bee-ellmersEven though she had to miss the grand opening ceremony due to a conflict, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) made it a point to make it out to see the new Bayer CropScience North American Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park.

“The research and development that they are doing here is going to help us grow more food into the future,” she said in an interview. “It is vital to the North Carolina economy but also to the world.”

Ellmers added that bees are an important part of the discussion about genetically modified crops. “It’s a discussion that’s being had on the national level,” said Ellmers. She is pictured here at the Bee Care Center with Bayer’s Robyn Kneen who was instrumental in the development of the center.

I also asked the Congresswoman about the new farm bill and why she is a strong supporter of immigration reform for farmers in her state. Interview with Rep. Renee Ellmers


Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center Grand Opening Photo Album

Propane Irrigation Engines Reduce Fuel Costs

propane-farmFarmers who installed propane-powered irrigation engines cut their fuel costs by 56 percent per hour compared with similar diesel-powered engines, according to the post-season survey results released today from the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program.

Participants in the 2013 Propane Farm Incentive Program also reduced overall fuel consumption by 37 percent per hour, the survey data showed.

“The feedback from our participating farmers shows that, without a doubt, clean, American-made propane is a cost effective and efficient fuel source for irrigation,” Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing at PERC, said. “New technologies, like propane-powered irrigation engines, help farmers cut their input costs and increase overall farm profits.”

The results were based on self-reported performance and post-season survey data from 148 program participants in 16 states. Participating farmers installed and demonstrated 214 propane irrigation engines, displacing 180,000 gallons of diesel, and irrigating a total of 21,700 acres of 17 different crops nationwide. Farmers demonstrated 16 different engine models from six original equipment manufacturers.

Propane irrigation engines also garnered high performance and overall satisfaction ratings from program participants. Eighty-six percent of participants who bought a new propane irrigation engine to replace another engine reported that the new propane irrigation engine performed better. Participants rated the performance of their new propane engine 33 percent higher than the diesel engine they replaced. In addition, 93 percent of participants said they were likely or highly like to buy another propane irrigation engine. More than 70 percent of program participants had also considered purchasing a diesel engine, but when they studied the facts, determined propane was the better option.

Producers can still earn up to $5,000 to upgrade to cost-saving, fuel-efficient propane-powered farm equipment, including irrigation engines, grain dryers, building heaters, and other eligible equipment through the 2014 Propane Farm Incentive program. Find out more at agpropane.com.

Bayer Bee Care Center Opens in NC

bayer-bee-14-ribbonBayer CropScience Tuesday celebrated its more than 25 year commitment to pollinator health with the grand opening of the North American Bee Care Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Jim Blome, president and CEO of Bayer CropScience LP, pictured here cutting the ribbon to officially open the new facility, is thrilled to see this dream fulfilled. “This is an absolutely great day,” he said proudly. “We’ve been dedicated to bee health, it’s an important part of who we are, and we’re very serious about finding the science behind what the interactive functions are here so we can come up with some solutions.”

The $2.4 million center brings together significant technological, scientific and academic resources, with goals of promoting improved honey bee health, product stewardship and sustainable agriculture. A 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, the Center will complement the Eastern Bee Care Technology Station in Clayton, N.C., and a Bee Care Center at the joint global headquarters campus of Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health in Monheim, Germany.

Listen to my interview with Jim here: Interview with Jim Blome, Bayer CropScience


Bayer CropScience Bee Care Center Grand Opening Photo Album

An Interactive Directory For Agriculture

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.09.34 PMTechnology start-up company Agribite has just launched an innovative interactive directory website aimed to help the agriculture community. Agribite has been built with the sole purpose of connecting the agriculture community with vendors, clients, organizations, and friends in one place. It provides an easy-to-use platform for all ag industry members to have a free web and mobile presence and to be listed in a growing directory without cost.

Agriculture is a multibillion-dollar industry that creates millions of jobs in the U.S. alone. However, there is a widening gap between consumers and producers due to a lack of awareness. Agribite aims to be the face of the ag industry to stand alongside other networks but with the more focused goal of empowering agriculture.

Census of Agriculture Report Coming Soon

nama14-nassThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) announced it will publish the 2012 Census of Agriculture full report on May 2. The announcement was made last week as NASS Census and Survey Division Director Renee Picanso was attending the National Agri-Marketing Association conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

“Agribusinesses are highly represented here and they are definitely big users of the data,” she said during an interview. The complete data series will be available in multiple formats, including Quick Stats 2.0 – an online database to retrieve customized tables with Census data at the national, state and county levels.

Picanso says the census data is being released a little later than normal this time around. “Usually we release in early February, but with the government shut down last fall, we got a little bit behind,” she said. Interview with Renee Picanso, USDA-NASS

Is it Spring yet?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What’s the largest percentage of your 2014 marketing budget?”

It looks like the old faithful form of print marketing tops this week’s ZimmPoll. But what is interesting is that rest of the choices were almost evenly spread across the board, with the newer trends of social media and digital marketing right up there with broadcast and direct mail.

Our poll results:

  • Broadcast – 10%
  • Digital – 15%
  • Direct mail – 10%
  • Print – 25%
  • Social media – 15%
  • Trade show/promo items – 15%
  • Other – 10%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “Has spring sprung for you yet?”

If you haven’t got a case of Spring Fever, then you must be living in Florida with Chuck and Cindy. Here in the Midwest we had an 80 degree weekend and now are back into the 30′s. I think Mother Nature is a little confused. Are you seeing any signs of spring in your neck of the woods?

GROWMARK on Board with ResponsibleAg

responsibleagThe Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) recently announced the selection of individuals to serve on the newly formed ResponsibleAg Board of Directors.

The nine representatives include:
– Alicia Duke, Director, Health and Safety, Simplot
– Justin Gough, Director, Agricultural Products, LSB/El Dorado Chemical Company
– Dave Ito, Manager, Human Resources & Regulatory Affairs, Lyman/Tremont Group
– Pete Mutschler, Environmental and Safety Director, CHS Inc.
– Tim McArdle, Executive Vice President & COO, Brandt Consolidated, Inc.
– Rosemary O’Brien, Vice President, Public Affairs, CF Industries, Inc.
– Billy Pirkle, Sr. Director, Environmental, Health & Safety, Crop Production Services
– Scott Rawlins, Director, Regulatory & Governmental Affairs, Wilbur-Ellis Company
– Rod Wells, Manager, Plant Food Division, GROWMARK, Inc.

Wells says it’s important for GROWMARK to be involved in this non-profit organization designed to work with retailers ensuring best practices are in place providing a safe product to the consumer.

“This is an industry led initiative,” said Rod. “We want to demonstrate that we are doing the right things, that we are operating safety, we’re complying with regulations, that we are accountable. We feel like ResponsibleAg is a very transparent way to show that we are committed, compliant, and safe operators in the communities that we serve.”

You can listen to an interview with Rod here: Interview with Rod Wells, GROWMARK

The board of directors for ResponsibleAg will meet next month to finalize bi-laws, an operating budget, elect officers and begin looking for a business manager to oversee the day to day operations of the new organization.

ResponsibleAg is an independent, not-for-profit organization designed to support fertilizer retailers’ compliance with federal safety and security regulations. Under ResponsibleAg, retail fertilizer dealerships will have access to comprehensive inspections based on federal regulatory requirements. The inspections will be carried out by trained auditors who will have successfully completed an intensive training course based on the objectives of ResponsibleAg.