crops | Carbon credits |
Disabled farmers | Mold & Health | Lewiston
Treescapes | Biodiesel workshop | Livestock
IDs | Chinook
Finding alternative crops one niche at a time
by Marlene Fritz
Six years ago, when Power County farmers were
looking for an alternative crop, they scanned the horizon--to the East. I thought
if Nebraska can grow potatoes, then I can grow corn,” said Jim Tiede.
Not only were growers looking for a more profitable crop to precede potatoes in their limited small grain-small grain-potato-sugarbeet rotation, but Snake River Cattle Feeders was serendipitously in the market for a local source of high-moisture corn for its feedlot.
UI Extension Educator Stan Gortsema quickly stepped in as the go-between, and the result is an unexpectedly high-yielding crop enterprise that's worth about $1.4 million each year to Power County. Four years of in-field trials led by Gortsema helped participating growers identify one 84-day corn variety and one 86-day corn variety that are consistently yielding 180-plus bushels per acre--much more than the 140 bushels growers had originally anticipated for their long-winter area.
Corn is profitable, helps spud crops
Corn has been much more profitable than wheat most years,” says Power County producer Kevin Ramsey. In addition, after grazing his cattle on his corn stubble, Ramsey improves his soil by turning under the remaining fodder. My potato yields have been getting a little better every year,” he says. I have no intentions of quitting.”
Tiede is harvesting a higher proportion of large-sized potato tubers, putting more dollars in his pocket even in years when wheat is more profitable than corn. At least corn is an alternative,” he says. You're a little more diverse; you don't have all your eggs in one basket.”
Strong yields. Gortsema says corn yields have been so strong that it now takes only four growers--rather than the original 13--to meet Snake River Cattle Feeders' average contractual needs of 2,400 acres. This year, Gortsema will once again coordinate the crop's precisely timed harvest.
Two counties north, Skaar Feedlot of Lewisville recently contracted 2,700 acres of high-moisture corn from nearby farmers. Vice-president Justin Skaar is evaluating especially short-season varieties for his even colder area, knowing that season's end could come before harvest. We thought we'd give it a go,” he says. It saves us bringing this corn in from the Midwest.”
Contact Gortsema at email@example.com.
Ag economists help Kazak farmers put a pencil to no-till production; Earning from carbon credits
by Marlene Fritz
A 10-day trip to northern Kazakhstan in July 2004 by CALS agricultural economists Larry Makus and Paul Patterson prompted an invitation to a carbon-sequestration conference sponsored by Ohio State University this past November.
Experts in what is becoming a global trade in carbon credits” sought the economists' observations about the potential for central Asian wheat farmers to turn undisturbed carbon from their unplowed fields into cash.
Who buys carbon credits? Increasingly, industries that release significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are buying offsetting carbon credits” from farmers who prevent their soils' carbon from combining with oxygen in the open air to make carbon dioxide.
While price tags and brokers are still lacking for Kazakhstan's potential sales of carbon credits, Makus and Patterson say those credits could one day become a key source of capital, helping farmers replace worn out farming machinery with conservation-tillage equipment.
From personal conversations with four Kazak wheat growers who evaluated conservation tillage on their rainfed farms for three years, Makus and Patterson initially developed crop-enterprise budgets, then computer models representing typical conventional and no-till operations.
$15,896 per farm. On a whole-farm basis, they concluded that the representative thousand-hectare no-till farm would have generated $15,896 in net returns--$6,489 more than the representative conventional farm--largely because of improved yields.
Now all they need is capital
Unfortunately, while no-till production may pencil out for Kazak farmers, they don't have the capital to put wheels under the practice. I had thought I would be educating people about using new technology, but education and knowledge aren't what's constraining them,” says Makus. Their farm managers have college degrees, but little capital.”
Patterson says their expertise was beneficial, because we came in as a neutral, outside party to make sure the comparisons were fairly evaluated, and that the farmers had an unbiased source of information.”
The three-year project was funded primarily by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Farmer-to-Farmer program underwrote the economists' travel.
Contact Makus at firstname.lastname@example.org; Patterson at email@example.com.
Grant helps disabled Idaho farmers
by Barbara J. Smith
Tom Karsky, professor in biological and agricultural engineering and UI Extension farm safety specialist for Idaho, has secured a five-year, $800,000 USDA CSREES State and Regional AgrAbility grant to address and assist Idaho farmers affected by accidents, or illness.
Karsky and UI Assistive Technology Project Director Ron Seiler are program leaders. They have partnered with United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho Executive Director Lynn Cundick to administer the program and respond to farm and ranch workers and owners needs.
The farming industry is the most dangerous business in America. Idaho's agricultural industry is more than an area of commerce; it's a way of life--highly independent. When a disabling accident or disease strikes, it brings an economical and psychological impact to the worker and family.
Research shows barriers for individuals with disabilities include a lack of awareness about assistive technology, a lack of funds for devices, and knowledge gaps among professionals. The partnership of UI Extension, the Idaho Assistive Technology Project, and United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho will pool their expertise and resources to help this Idaho population.
Clearinghouse for the grant is United Cerebral Palsy: 888.289.3259.
UI's Miller joins effort on food mold-human health connection
by Bill Loftus
Microbiologist Bruce Miller joined colleagues
at the world's most prestigious institutions when the international journal Nature
in December 2005 published the sequenced genomes of important filamentous fungi--typical
molds that grow on breads.
The genome sequencing, deciphering an organism's genes, revealed new understandings of Aspergillus fumigatus, an important source of human disease, and A. nidulans, one of the most useful laboratory organisms.
International collaboration. Experts from Germany, Great Britain, France, Japan, Switzerland, and the United States also analyzed the genome of Aspergillus oryzae, the fungus that makes sake and soy sauce.
Geneticists have studied the common fungus Aspergillus nidulans for more than 50 years. Because fungal cells have a nucleus like that of higher plants and animals, researchers glean from it key facts about cell division including when developmental problems occur.
Fungus as mortal threat
A. fumigatus, the fungus that flourishes on rotting vegetation, can act as both allergen in people and as mortal threat for those with AIDS or other immune system weaknesses. As many as half of immune-weakened patients become infected with the fungus, and half will die, according to the authors.
Contact author Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UI faculty, students help Lewiston
develop city's treescapes
by Bill Loftus
The bright blooms of an experimental crabapple orchard in Lewiston's Syringa Park this spring demonstrate a growing cooperation between the city's government and the UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Nurtured by retired Lewiston city forester Mike Bowman, the idea of closer ties between the two took another step with the appointment of UI Assistant Professor of Arboriculture John Lloyd to assume Bowman's title this spring. In the photo above, Lloyd examines blooms with UI horticulture undergraduate Molly Stout. The contract will allow the university to recruit two graduate students to work directly with Lewiston officials to operate one of Idaho's most active city forestry programs.
Angela Vanhoozer, a master's candidate in plant science, worked with Steven Drown, professor of landscape architecture, during the spring to steer 20 undergraduate students through a conceptual planning exercise for 22 acres of city property in Bryden Canyon.
The project required the students to plan an arboretum-like Bryden Canyon Research Learning Center that could provide a demonstration and education area devoted to plants suited to the area's arid climate.
Contact John Lloyd at email@example.com.
Summer biodiesel workshops catch fire
by Barbara J. Smith
Biodiesel education has caught fire! With rising gasoline prices and uncertainty in Middle Eastern fossil fuel- producing countries, people are looking for alternatives to stretch their transportation dollars. For the business of farming, fuel costs make a difference between making a profit or planting for a loss.
For Jon VanGerpen, biological and agricultural engineering department head and lead researcher on the USDA Biodiesel Education Grant, it means workshops, seminars, conferences, and one-on-one consulting. He is educating the public on how they can be a part of the rapid-growth industry of biodiesel production and use.
UI a pioneer. Because the University of Idaho is considered to be the pioneer in biodiesel research, and because of UI's wealth of educational expertise, VanGerpen and his team of researchers' summer calendar is filled with educational opportunities taking place in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
Some of the topics being covered by these educational programs include growing and processing seeds in the Pacific Northwest, biodiesel production practices, standards and fuel quality, and biodiesel economics.
Schedule. To find the schedule of training events, go to the website www.BiodieselEducation.org.
UI helps livestock producers evaluate electronic animal identification
by Marlene Fritz
UI Extension livestock faculty blended a new educational effort with an ongoing one last fall when they attached electronic animal-identification eartags--provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture--to cattle entering the 14th annual A to Z Retained Ownership, Inc., program.
Rather than sell their cattle to a feedlot in fall, participants in the now-private A to Z program retain ownership through the winter, gaining the potential for higher spring-time prices and netting critical carcass data from the packing plant. Now, they'll also see how electronic identification systems can improve their record-based management by instantly and accurately downloading an animal's 15-digit number into a computer spreadsheet whenever its weight, veterinary treatment, or other information is updated.
Fort Hall's buffalo also get tagged
At the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, UI Extension Educator Danielle Gunn hopes the new electronic eartags attached to at least 200 buffalo this winter will help the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes track the herd's production, growth, reproduction, and genetics and thereby improve its quality. Traditional dangling plastic eartags can be unreliable forms of identification, Gunn says. They have the tendency to come off when bison rub against fences and water troughs.”
15 cooperators in Idaho.
The tribes' buffalo operation is among 15 cooperating Idaho ranches (with 8,000-plus livestock) that are evaluating electronic identification hardware and software through a pilot UI project. Led by Dr. Jim England of the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center, this project is one of eight being funded by a USDA grant to Idaho's National Animal Identification System (NAIS) Coalition. The NAIS is designed to enable the livestock industry to trace back animal disease outbreaks within 48 hours, thereby thwarting economic losses and bioterrorism. The pilot project has recently begun providing cattle purchasers with digitized lists of electronically identified animals at shipment.
Even 4-H youth got into the act this spring. In 30 of Idaho's 44 counties, the animals the 4-H'ers enrolled in this year's market beef projects were tagged with both traditional dangle” and electronic IDs. We want them to understand the importance of the program, how it works, and how they can participate in it,” says UI Extension Beef Specialist Jason Ahola, who has also brought NAIS training to over 500 adult producers through statewide workshops.
England at firstname.lastname@example.org;
Ahola at email@example.com; and Gunn at
Where did your Chinook come
from? New markers will tell
by Marlene Fritz
Researchers from 10 salmon genetics laboratories--including three in Idaho--have made it possible to pinpoint with greater than 95 percent accuracy the origin of any Chinook salmon found dead or alive in a West Coast waterway.
This is phenomenal,” says University of Idaho animal scientist Matt Powell at Hagerman. It provides us with a tremendous informational tool to manage and conserve these fish, because we can tell where they came from, whether they're in decline, or whether they're being exploited unequally out in the ocean.”
Powell's Idaho team of genetic curators” included researchers from the UI Hagerman Fish Culture Experiment Station and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game was also a project collaborator.
Just 15 genetic markers; it's nonlethal
Participating West Coast scientists selected just 15 genetic markers that accurately characterize an individual Chinook salmon's birthplace down to the marine equivalent of an expanded zip code.
Chinook have hundreds of these microsatellite” markers--nongene DNA associated with particular traits--but the scientists successfully narrowed them down to only the necessary few. Of the three markers for which the UI/Columbia River intertribal team was responsible, the one Powell considers the most significant can discern between ocean-type and stream-type Chinook.
The old way. Previously, scientists had depended on incomplete information from coated-wire nosetags attached only to hatchery-grown--not wild--fish, and they had to sacrifice the fish in order to read the tags. Different laboratories had also used different sets of markers to describe various populations of Chinook. Not only is the new method standardized across all participating laboratories, it's also nonlethal: each fish gives up only a small clipping of one fin.
Uses of markers. Powell expects the new methodology to prove invaluable in adjusting fishing seasons, amending fishing quotas and treaties, understanding basic salmon biology, and otherwise boosting the species' ability to survive and thrive. All Idaho populations of Chinook are currently listed as either endangered or threatened.
The research was funded by the Pacific Salmon Commission and led by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service.
Contact Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org.