Farmers and scientists have long understood that what lives beneath the soil affects how crops grow. Often, they work to fight plant diseases—warding off infectious viruses and damaging fungi, for example. But now some microbiologists are focused on how to harness the good things microbes can do, with the goal of increasing farmers’ yields and diminishing their dependence on chemical inputs.
Walk into a grocery store these days and you’re likely to find whole sections devoted to organic foods. The organic label gives insight into how the food was produced, usually without the aid of synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and food additives.
Normally, Friday, Oct. 11, would be a big day for the commodity markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Report is due, providing what is widely excepted to be the most trusted and complete snapshot of farm markets in the middle of harvest season.
But, with the government shut down the report is not coming out. In fact, farmers and ranchers aren’t getting any of the USDA information they rely on, and in this case, ignorance is not bliss.
Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones is planning a statewide tour that will focus on agricultural issues.
The Eureka Republican will make about a half-dozen stops Oct. 15-17 with visits to farms, agricultural products plants and bioenergy facilities. Jones wants to talk with farmers and gather information for the 2014 legislative session.
Communities on the schedule include California and Sedalia.
The driest August across northern Missouri since 1984 has the United States Department of Agriculture revising crop yield projections downward for the upcoming harvest. In addition, a continued drought plagues the northern part of the state, with 20 counties affected by what the National Weather Service calls a “severe drought”.
“Drought has and always will be a part of the Missouri landscape,” said University of Missouri Climatologist Pat Guinan. However, he characterizes the last few weeks as a flash drought, and a “drought on steroids.”
Farmers across the country received more than $17 billion in federal crop insurance payouts after last year’s drought. A report released on Tuesday by an environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat.
The University of Missouri Extension is warning that recent wet weather increases the chances of diseases developing in corn and soybeans.
Agronomy specialist Jill Scheidt says rain carries funguses in the air, making it easier for the funguses to spread. She says diseases like rust, gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight, brown spot, crazy top and stalk and ear rots develop best in wet and humid conditions.