R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: 2018 Farm Bill and ISA Soybean Yield Challenge

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Scientists and researchers at the University of Illinois say there may be hope for farmers whose corn crops are threatened by the “billion-dollar bug,” western corn rootworm. (Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Extension)

Topping this week’s rural and farm news roundup, Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos told news sources that the House may begin debating the 2018 Farm Bill in earnest in February. Also this week: winners of the ISA Soybean Yield Challenge have been announced, and university scientists may be closer to developing new, non-GM corn hybrids capable of withstanding assaults by western corn rootworm. For these stories and more, please read on …

Bustos: Farm bill debate coming soon

URBANA — Talks shaping the 2018 Farm Bill have just gotten underway in the House Committee on Agriculture, but Illinois Congresswoman Cheri Bustos is already encouraged by the chances of producing a finished House bill sooner rather than later. Meghan Grebner of Brownfield reported last week that “An Illinois Congresswoman says while tax reform is currently at the top of the to-do list in Washington, D.C., debate over the 2018 Farm Bill is in sight.” Representative Cheri Bustos says, “tentatively it looks like we will start looking at the farm bill more closely in about February of 2018.”

The statement was supported by an update on Red River Farm Network: “A spokesperson for House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway was unable to confirm the timing for mark-up of the farm bill, but said it will move in the first quarter. The spokesperson said “the committee stands to be ready when the (Majority) Leader provides floor time.” (Mike Good/Farm Policy Update)

Soy Yield Challenge winners announced

BLOOMINGTON — For the third consecutive year, Robert and Jason Lakey of Champaign County have won the Illinois Soybean Association 100-Bushel Challenge for soybean production. The pair produced a yield of 110.3 bushels per acre to win the 100-Bushel Challenge, which was one of four competitions comprising the ISA’s 2017 Illinois Yield Challenge.

In addition, 15 district winners were announced, paced by Greg McClure of Lawrence County with a yield of 101.84 bu./acre. Five Side-by-Side plot winners were also named, along with five Double-Crop competition winners. Scott Landrey of Montgomery County was the competition’s third 100-bushel soybean producer.

This was the seventh year of the friendly competition, which is conducted for the benefit of all Illinois soybean growers, according to Jenny Mennenga, ISA at-large director and a farmer from LeRoy. “Year after year, we see crop technology and innovations continue to grow. Growers continue to challenge their limits and push their crops to their maximum potential, all for the sake of exploration and expanded management strategies. The Yield Challenge encourages that in-field experimentation,” she said. (ISA news)

Illinois Farm Fact:

The agriculture sector invested nearly $55 million in nutrient loss reduction research, outreach, implementation and monitoring from 2015-17. (Agriculture Water Quality Partnership Forum)

Genetic basis of rootworm discovered

URBANA — Scientists and researchers at the University of Illinois say there may be hope for farmers whose corn crops are threatened by the “billion-dollar bug,” western corn rootworm. Their new study has uncovered the genetic basis of resistance to WCR, paving the way for development of non-GM corn hybrids that can withstand the worm.

“Our previous research showed that there is no inherent resistance in the elite hybrids grown by most farmers in the Midwest,” reported Martin Bohn, a corn breeder in the U of I Department of Crop Sciences. “We want to improve native resistance to WCR in maize, without using transgenics.”

While the researchers haven’t isolated the gene for resistance, they have identified regions of the genome that appear to contribute to resistance. This was accomplished through a technique known as QTL mapping. According to Bohn, one mechanism explaining WCR resistance may be the manufacture of ascorbate in the plant. “When we look at other genes in these regions, one of the common denominators is ascorbate biosynthesis,” he said.

An article summarizing the study may be accessed at the U of I’s farmdocDAILY website. (U of I College of ACES news)

TFI honors Illinois 4R advocates

WASHINGTON, DC — Washington, D.C.-based The Fertilizer Institute has recognized an Illinois producer and an ag supply retailer as part of its 2018 crop of 4R Advocates. Just five farmers and five fertilizer retailers across the country were selected for the honor, which spotlights those who are implementing innovative and sustainable 4R fertilizer management practices that increase production and reduce environmental impact. Honored were Maria Cox of Whitehall and Kyle Lake, an employee of CHS Carrollton in Carrollton.

“We talk a lot about 4R Nutrient Stewardship at TFI, but these practices only work if they are used on the farm,” said TFI president Chris Jahn, in a December 14 TFI news release. “The 4R Advocate program is our way of recognizing good work when we see it, and these farmers and retailers are the fertilizer industry’s boots on the ground and represent the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship.”

Ag teachers receive farm bureau grants

BLOOMINGTON — Responding to a shortage of agricultural education teachers in Illinois — and repeated efforts by legislators and the governor to zero out ag education funding at the state level — the Illinois Farm Bureau has announced the first recipients of a new program that provides grants to first-year teachers and ag instructors. The program’s goal is to fund 32 teachers over a 12-year period.

Inaugural grant winners were Kathryn King of Taylorville High School, Grace Foster of Rushville-Industry High School, Jacalyn Meisner of Blue Ridge High School and Brittany Bosecker of Red Hill High School in Bridgeport. “It was really a challenge to narrow down the selection because every new teacher we heard from is working so hard in the classroom,” said Susan Moore, director of the IAA Foundation, which is the IFB’s funding arm. (IFB news)


–R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: 2018 Farm Bill and ISA Soybean Yield Challenge–