The plant hormones called auxins are well-known for stimulating development of roots and other structures, and now University of Florida scientists have shown that auxins help plants cope with environmental stresses.
“Our findings show there’s a possibility of manipulating plant stress tolerance with auxins,” Rathinasabapathi said. “It may be possible to administer auxins to crops at critical stages of growth or possibly engineer new varieties that respond to auxins more efficiently.”
The study compared wild-type Arabidopsis thaliana plants with mutant specimens that weren’t able to transport auxins through their tissues effectively. When subjected to oxidative stress, salt and high temperatures, the wild-type plants fared better than the mutants.
Next, the team will investigate whether auxins could improve stress tolerance in rice plants. Rice is one of the world’s most widely consumed staple crops and is subject to heat and drought damage.
Farmers are accustomed to adjusting to the twists and turns of growing seasons on a short-term basis, but long-term planning is more difficult, according to climate field specialist Laura Edwards from South Dakota State University’s Extension office in Aberdeen.
The Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project explores ways that corn growers can adjust their cropping practices to make their operations more sustainable. It is also aimed at limiting or reducing the vulnerability of farmers to short term climate events, such as the 2012 drought. The $20 million grant, headed by Iowa State University, brings together 140 experts from 10 land-grant institutions and a USDA research unit in the Corn Belt.
A smaller more applied project, Useful2Usable, seeks to give farmers the soil, crop and climate data they need to make shorter-term and long-range decisions. The $5 million project is headed by Purdue University.
Growers across the Corn Belt are either anxiously waiting to get into their fields or are in the early stages of planting their 2013 corn crop. If cool, wet weather continues, planting will be delayed for many growers and prompt questions about switching to earlier season hybrids.
Long-term research studies from DuPont Pioneer and several universities show that adapted, full-season corn hybrids usually offer the best yield and profit advantage when planting delays are not extreme.
Full-season hybrids typically make full use of a growing season. Even when planted late, these hybrids often outperform early maturing hybrids, adjusting their growth and development to reach maturity in a shortened growing season.
Long-term studies by both Pioneer and universities which included a range of hybrid maturities across planting dates extending from April through June have shown a clear yield and profit advantage for full-season hybrids.
The recent acquisition of Becker Underwood by BASF is more than just putting the two companies together. It means more research and development as each is able to look at the other’s advancements and see how they might be able to combine products for maximum efficiency
“Both companies are bringing together a lot of existing technology that we’re starting to examine to see if we can find some synergies with what we already have,” explained Kurt Seevers, field development leader for seed enhancements and biologicals, during the recent tour of the plant facility in St.Joseph, Mo. He added that going forward, they’ll also look at combining new material they are each developing.
Kurt said they might work on 750 treatments in a year, and of course, not all of them make it to market. But he said since they’ve done a lot of their prep work in the labs, more often than not, a treatment will go forward once it has hit the field testing.
He said they have some real challenges, including improving on already hot products, such as VAULT HP. “It does give us a challenge in research so we have the opportunity to take materials we’re looking at and put them in products that look really good already and see if we can make improvements that way. That’s typically how we take that next step.”
Kurt concluded that they are working on agriculture’s overall goal of feeding a growing world in a sustainable, ecologically respectful way.
Spatial variation is at the core of precision agriculture and geostatistics. All aspects of the environment — soil, rocks, weather, vegetation, water, etc. – vary from place to place over the Earth. The soil, landform, drainage, and so on all affect crop growth, and these factors generally vary within agricultural fields. Farmers have always been aware of this situation, but have not been able to measure and map it in a quantitative way.
Research, planning and implementation of the proper use of nutrients could shape food production and yields in the years ahead. A new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology examines the process shaping the current nutrient situation and the resulting requirements as world food production evolves during the next 40 years.
Two of the authors of the report, Food, Fuel and Plant Nutrient Use in the Future, will discuss their findings at a 3 p.m. briefing on Monday, March 18. This briefing will be in the State Room of the DoubleTree Hotel, 1515 Rhode Island Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. There is no charge to attend and registration is not required.
Future food, fiber and fuel demands will not be met by expanding cropland area, according to the report. Continued advances in nutrient use efficiency will moderate increased nutrient demand. With growing populations, dwindling arable land, and greater demand for biofuels, the world cannot count on an expansion of harvested area to meet food demands. Genetics will be needed to improve crop productivity, promote soil conservation and management, and maximize nutrient efficiency.
CLF chairman of the board Jay Vroom presented preliminary findings of the report last week at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) Corn & Sorghum Seed Research Conference 2012 & Seed Expo.
“Precision seed protection, as part of an integrated pest management system and when combined responsibly with other crop protection products, makes it possible for U.S. farmers to grow more resilient crops that can withstand harsh climate conditions and provide consumers more healthy and nutritious food choices,” said Vroom. “CLF looks forward to the publication of this report in the spring and sharing important findings on the benefits of precision seed protection for modern agriculture.”
CropLife Foundation (CLF) announces that it will publish a comprehensive report in spring 2013 entitled “The Role of Precision Seed Protection in Modern Crop Production.” The report closely examines research from case studies conducted throughout the U.S. and outlines the benefits of using pesticides for sustainable crop production. Preliminary findings of the report were presented at the American Seed Trade Association Corn & Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference and Seed Expo 2012.
The report cites many specific benefits for modern crop production as a result of precision seed protection, including:
• Research demonstrates that the use of precision seed protection in corn results in improved plant health and stress tolerance under drought conditions;
• Soybean seed treatments reduce the damage caused by soybean cyst nematodes, which can decrease yields by 15 to 30 percent;
• Modern precision equipment is highly computerized and ensures that seed protection products are applied at the correct rates and leave minimal environmental impact;
• Precision seed protection increases crop yields, decreases operating costs and encourages other sustainable practices such as no-till farming.
The report states that global precision seed protection sales grew from $700 million in 1997 to $2.25 billion in 2010 and are projected to exceed $3 billion in 2016.
A root comparison study conducted this season at Monsanto’s Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, Neb., provided a dramatic demonstration of just how important a deep, strong root structure is to help corn plants withstand drought conditions.
The research program evaluated the performance of a DEKALB® drought-tolerant corn product versus two competitor products – a Pioneer® Optimum® AQUAmax™ hybrid and a shallow-rooted product. A root dig conducted in mid-September showed that the DEKALB product had a significantly deeper, more evenly spread root structure than the other two products.
The result was healthier ears and a yield advantage for DEKALB of 12 bu./A versus Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax and 15 bu./A versus the shallow-rooted product.
This December DEKALB will continue a tradition of introducing innovative new products with the stewarded introduction of Genuity® DroughtGard™ Hybrids in the Western Great Plains for 2013 planting. These products combine the DEKALB brand’s drought-tolerant genetics, developed through the brand’s industry leading breeding program, with the industry’s first drought-tolerant biotech trait and agronomic practices. The DEKALB DroughtGard Hybrids available for planting in 2013 delivered farmers more than 5 bu./A versus competitor products in field trails this year.
Click here to see time-lapse photos of the root dig and video interviews with the participants.
DuPont and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announced the renewal for another five years of a research collaboration that began in 2007. This multi-million dollar collaboration supports cutting-edge plant biology research focused on meeting growing food demands worldwide.
With the world’s population expected to grow by more than 2 billion by 2050, this collaboration will help make possible crucial improvements in plant breeding that will help increase yields from available acreage.
CSHL and Pioneer are investing in discovery research that tackles some of the most fundamental aspects of plant biology. The renewal of the collaboration agreement will continue the expansion of knowledge about the genetic basis of fundamental plant processes controlling growth, development and yield. This collaboration will help facilitate the development of innovative products to meet future global food needs.
Precision farming is the latest trend with sophisticated and large farms all over the world. Precision farming involves soil fertility and crop growth monitoring, electronic equipment, remote sensing, global information systems, global positioning systems, computer models, decision support systems, variable-rate technology, and accurate record-keeping. It potentially leads us to “Push Button Agriculture”. This new book on precision techniques is concise and provides valuable information on instrumentation and methodology. It encompasses lucid discussions on the impact of precision techniques on soil fertility, nutrient dynamics and crop productivity.
This new book, Precision Farming: Soil Fertility and Productivity Aspects, highlights the application and impact of GPS techniques to regulate fertilizer supply based on soil nutrient distribution and yield goals set by farmers. It considers advances and examples from different agroecosystems from all continents. It will be highly useful to advanced-level students, professors, farmers, and those involved in agroindustries.
Many of Idaho’s dairy cows wade through copper sulfate baths like this to help prevent foot infections. Photo by Ernest Hovingh, Penn State University.
Getting a head start on stopping soil copper buildup will now be a bit easier, thanks to studies by USDA scientists. This research could help Pacific Northwest farmers develop long-term irrigation management strategies to protect crops from potentially dangerous soil copper levels.
Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducted a laboratory investigation to assess how copper levels in wastewater used for irrigation affected crop performance and soil microbial activities.
Copper sulfate baths are used to prevent foot infections in dairy cattle, and the discarded foot bath is often recycled to irrigate corn and alfalfa crops. The scientists surveyed alfalfa growth and development in soils containing different levels of total copper. Copper sulfate at soil levels of up to 250 parts per million (ppm) had no effect on alfalfa growth, but alfalfa growth stopped when soil copper sulfate levels exceeded 500 ppm.
The team also discovered that beneficial soil bacterial activity declined when test soils accumulated available soil copper levels above 50 ppm. Further analysis indicated that soil levels above 63 ppm of plant-available copper resulted in alfalfa copper concentrations that could potentially harm grazing livestock
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service announced that it has established a Long Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) network from among its existing experimental watersheds and rangelands nationwide to address large-scale, multi-year research, environmental management testing and technology transfer related to the nation’s agricultural ecosystems.
The 10 sites chosen are affiliated with ARS research units located at Ames, Iowa; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Columbia, Mo.; El Reno, Okla.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Mandan, N.D.; Pullman, Wash.; Tifton, Ga.; Tucson, Ariz.; and University Park, Pa.
The LTAR network can provide data that can be used in the development of innovative management systems that increase the resilience of agricultural ecosystems in the face of rapid environmental and socioeconomic change, and can help assess the environmental and societal impacts of different agricultural practices and land uses within a particular landscape.
Information from LTAR also can contribute to the development of agricultural production systems that maximize energy conservation and reduce greenhouse gases, while investigating various forms of incentives to encourage on-farm adoption and mitigation, and optimize biodiversity to conserve and protect natural resources while enhancing agricultural profitability.
New studies from the USDA look at how reduced tillage could help conserve water and reduce losses caused by climate change. This article from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) says researcher Laj Ahuja is leading a team at the ARS’ unit in Fort Collins, CO, looking at the relationship between climate projections and 15 to 17 years of field data and how that is affecting crop yields in the Midwest.
The projections included an increase in equivalent atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels from 380 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 2005 to 550 ppmv in 2050. The projections also included a 5-degree Fahrenheit increase in summer temperatures in Colorado from 2005 to 2050. The ARS scientists used these projections to calculate a linear increase of CO2 and temperature from 2050 to 2100.
Ahuja’s team used the Root Zone Water Quality Model (version 2) for crop rotations of wheat-fallow, wheat-corn-fallow, and wheat-corn-millet to see how yields might be affected in the future. They simulated different combinations of three climate change projections: rising CO2 levels, rising temperatures, and a shift in precipitation from late spring and summer to fall and winter. They ran the model with the projected climate for each of the 15 to 17 years of field crop data for each cropping system.
When they looked at all the factors, they saw yield projections over the coming 100 years drop for corn, millet and wheat, with the biggest drops in corn and millet. The researchers found that after an increase in summer temperatures by 8 degrees or more, even no-till would not halt crop losses.
Despite their seeming infiltration everywhere else, there’s one place where new technologies, such as smartphones and iPads, are not being used enough: the farm. In particular, Iowa State University research shows that just 25 percent of farmers are using them to receive crop production information. ISU Extension Entomologist Erin Hodgson says there are some reason why the technology is so under-used. “I think there are some misconceptions out there about what smartphones and other mobile devices could be used for,” she explains. “Sometimes, I think they get a bad rap that they are just for celebrities or kids, so some of the people I talk to are hesitant because they don’t feel it’s useful for them.”
Hodgson says some producers aren’t aware how the technologies could help in their management decisions. That’s why she has her own blog and podcasts to educate producers on the benefits. “We have a weekly podcast throughout the summer, which is a free subscription through iTunes,” and through ISU’s Soybean Aphids website she says. And her blog “It’s a bug’s life” gives producers “a heads up on scouting and management recommendations. You can also check out Hodgson’s twitter account @erinwhodgson for real-time updates.