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The magic of a grain bin
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Throughout our farm you can see large, metal grain storage bins scattered about. While many farmers haul their grain to the local elevator while their crop is being harvested to either sell or to pay to have the grain stored for later sales, many also store grain in their own bins.

These “big bins” as the kids call them can hold an impressive amount of grain. It allows our family the ability to store grain to sell throughout the year as the market changes.

A few years ago, we had a large grain bin built near our house. This new metal “giant” has held some of our corn since last fall. The year before, it was filled with grain sorghum.

Just like the stages observed during an annual life cycle of a crop, our newest bin also experiences stages. August generally sees a bin with just a few remnants of the previous crop. It’s swept and cleaned and prepared for fall harvest.

September ushers in a cleaned, empty bin, which encourages the family to go for evening walks to the structure and utilize the large chamber to hold impromptu mini-concerts. My daughter prefers singing songs associated with Disney princesses at the top of her lungs, while my son likes showcasing his novice beatboxing skills.

While the echoes allowed by the tall, metal walls make it feel like one is singing within a stadium, I’m sure that from outside any observer would question the cacophony of sounds produced from both kids combining their preferred vocal performances.

Later in the fall, the concerts end, and we again review our safety rules with the kids before and while we monitor the trucks unloading grain. During this time, the bin ultimately will fill plum to the top. From late fall until early spring will welcome semi-trailers ready to be filled with golden streams of grain and then hauled to local feed yards, ethanol plants or elsewhere.

The stairs which curve around the outside of the bin allow the perfect opportunity to take in scenic views and look for wildlife during these storage months. While we take in the views, no one is allowed into the bin until it’s time to start shoveling and sweeping the remains of the grain.

Currently there’s only a thin layer of corn covering the floor of the bin. It’s the perfect time for the family to take evening walks over to the silver structure, allowing the kids the opportunity to enjoy the feeling of the kernels between their bare toes. I’ll sometimes do the same.

Later in the evenings following a visit to the bin and after bath times, I’ll come upon a small collection of grain on the floor somewhere — usually making the discovery only after stepping on the kernels. It’s better than stepping on a Lego brick.

Soon the bin will be swept and cleaned completely and then sit empty for a few months. During that time, its purpose will change from holding grain to holding mini-concerts.

The annual stages of the large structure will reset, and soon more grain will gather within the walls. The levels of the stored crop will slowly lower until a thin layer remains, and the kids will once again relish the feel of grain between their toes. And throughout the year, we will continue to safely enjoy the magic of a grain bin.

Multi-stemmed brush species - roughleaf dogwood
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While buckbrush is more commonly known to producers, another troublesome multi-stemmed species of concern in grazing lands is roughleaf dogwood. Reaching heights of up to 15 feet, it is often found in fence rows and along streams, first, spreading in to open areas as well.

Roughleaf dogwood comes on later than buckbrush, often not exhibiting its flat topped clusters of white flowers until late May or early June. In native grass pastures where regular burning occurs, fire may have prevented it from even getting started. In cool season forage stands, or unburned warm season prairies, however, roughleaf dogwood becomes very difficult to remove once it gets established.

Herbicide applications can be effective from the flower bud state through early seed production. Many common herbicide active ingredients have some activity – but seldom result in what we’d consider acceptable control. In fact, research with single active ingredient products like triclopyr or dicamba or picloram, even in combination with 2,4-D, seldom result in mortalities greater than 25 percent. Even ‘good’ control isn’t great, with high volume treatments of multiple active ingredient products resulting in around 50 percent control. Single applications, even of multiple active ingredient products, likely won’t eliminate roughleaf dogwood in a single year, instead requiring a multi-year effort, possibly in combination with prescribed fire.

Herbicides may damage desirable grasses under the right conditions and all of the herbicides above will do significant damage to desirable legumes and other broadleaf forbs in forage stands. Always read and follow label directions prior to application. For additional information on rates/timings/products, request a copy of (or link to…) the 2021 KSU Chemical Weed Control Guide available through any District Office.

Bagworm Scouting –

Put it on the Calendar

I blame it on mowing. When we start mowing each week, we see the ‘after effects’ of the previous year – and it gets us to thinking about what’s ahead.

One previous year’s pests that is noticed each spring is bagworms. It’s hard to miss them if your control program wasn’t 100 percent effective last year (it never is) – inch and quarter long brown colored inverted cones hanging from branch ends. They aren’t active right now, but it is time to start planning for the next hatch.

That hatch typically begins in mid-May in to early June. Larvae will emerge from bags over two to three weeks, starting as small foliage covered cones that blend in with their food source. During early stages of growth, they’re easily controlled – and that means preparing now.

Mark your calendar to start scouting in mid-May. Monitor trees on a weekly basis for bags smaller than the end of a sharpened pencil. If pressure is already high or has been heavy in the past, consider initiation of control programs in fairly short order. If pressure is still low and past damage wasn’t bad, you can delay a bit longer until more of the hatch has occurred. Don’t let bags reach much more than a quarter of an inch long, or control may become difficult. Bagworms will hatch over three plus weeks – and feed for almost three months, so repeat applications may be necessary.

Now is not the time for application, but make a note on the calendar to start scouting. The feeding season will be here before we know it.

Growing Climate Solutions Act demonstrates support of conservation efforts
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Carbon payment programs offer a financial opportunity for farmers implementing important conservation on their farms and while there has been growing excitement for these programs, standardization and verification is necessary.

Thanks to a bipartisan effort, which includes Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Growing Climate Solutions Act has been reintroduced in Congress and passed through the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on April 22.

The act will establish a certification program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for private parties who work with farmers to receive payments for carbon sequestration, which will bring legitimacy and transparency to agricultural carbon trading.

The large group of bipartisan legislators sponsoring this bill demonstrates the support for America’s farmers scaling up their conservation efforts to address climate change. In addition to bringing legitimacy to carbon trading, the legislation would make the enrollment process less cumbersome.

Farmers have the important opportunity to sequester carbon, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, by implementing conservation in their operations. This legislation solidifies the important role agriculture plays in addressing climate change by providing a good path forward for carbon markets.

While carbon payment programs have already generated excitement among farmers and companies, this legislation further increases the interest in these programs. By providing a streamlined process, the Growing Solutions Act would raise the excitement even more, giving farmers the opportunity to earn more revenue while protecting the environment.