Iowa Learning Farms Report: 15 Years of Conservation Outreach

Iowa Learning Farms, a hands-on education and outreach program for Iowa landowners and agricultural producers, published its 15-Year Summary Report highlighting the organization’s activities, successes and challenges since its inception in 2004. Using the visual communications style ILF has become known for, the report shows conservation practice trends of their field day attendees and impact of community outreach across the 15-year span.

Some of the key findings in the report include:

  • ILF farmer partners have steadily expanded to include 88 farmers located in 51 Iowa counties.
  • Field days have grown from five to 32 annually, and have engaged more than 32,500 attendees.
  • Twenty-two percent of field day attendees heard about the event through word-of-mouth.
  • Cover crops were planted on more than 880,000 acres in 2018.
  • ILF field day attendees, through networking, are extending ILF influence to 58 percent more farmers than attended an ILF event over the years.
  • ILF and the Water Rocks! youth education program reached some 185,000 Iowans through community events and school programs – including 42,000 in 2018 alone.

“ILF started with a simple idea, building a culture of conservation in Iowa through helping farmers talk to other farmers about protecting Iowa’s soil and water,” said Jacqueline Comito, ILF director. “Through the years our tactics and tools have evolved, but the fundamental strategy of applying a multidisciplinary approach to increase adoption of conservation practices has led to increased practices and greater natural resource protection.”

Feedback and research strategies employed by ILF to measure performance, inform program development and better understand needs, include surveys, post-event evaluations, and regular meetings with stakeholders statewide. The data included in this report also incorporates specific feedback gathered as a part of ILF’s 15-year anniversary activities.

In late December 2018, the ILF team mailed a one-page survey to 3,710 farmers and/or landowners who attended an ILF field day over the years. These attendees were asked about their efforts to protect their natural resources and their success in networking with other farmers and landowners. As of March 2019, 904 people have responded, representing a 24 percent response rate.

“This is a good response rate considering that we don’t know how many of those on our list are still farming,” said Comito. “We average at least a 40 percent response rate to our field day evaluations in any given year. In this case, the sample size is more important to me than the response rate. Our sample represents 2.5 percent of the farmers across Iowa who have 200 or more acres of cropland, as well as 2.5 percent of the overall acres of harvested cropland in the state. We estimate that our sample also represents 15 percent of all the farmers using cover crops in Iowa in 2018. I feel like our sample gives us insight into cover crop farmers as well as the innovators and early adopters of other water quality and conservation practices.”

The report includes challenging results such as the slowing of new acres planted in cover crops over the past two seasons. ILF recognizes that networking and leadership from within the farming community will be an important catalyst to increased adoption of conservation practices.

“The report contains a lot of good news, but also highlights some challenges we face in Iowa,” concluded Comito. “We’ve made a good start — we’ve built the foundation of this Culture of Conservation — but that is only the beginning. We’ve established difficult but attainable goals for the next five to 10 years for us to continue to be successful. These include engaging with a broader range of farmers with conservation ideals, nurturing and facilitating farmer-to-farmer influence, focusing development efforts on understanding why adoption is slowing and working to solve the problem, and increased outreach with the Conservation Stations and public events.”

The full ILF 15-Year Summary Report can be viewed or downloaded at…

To learn more about the Iowa Learning Farms outreach and education program, visit us on the web at

Source: Jacqueline Comito, Iowa Learning Farms

Flood Damage and Prevented Planting

Depending on the extent of flood damage on your property, you may qualify for crop insurance prevented planting payments. This article will review the final planting dates and late planting periods, and highlight some unknowns and considerations as you assess the damage to your property.

Prevented planting payments are available for both revenue and yield protections policies, but not for Area Risk Protection Insurance. Eligibility for prevented planting payments will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

2019 Final Planting Dates and Late Planting Dates

For all counties in Nebraska, regardless of flood damage, the final planting date for corn is May 25, and the end of the late-planting period is June 14. The final planting date for soybeans is June 10, and the end of the late-planting period is July 5. Farmers may be eligible for prevented planting crop insurance claims if acres have not been planted by the final planting date of the crop. For a farmer to be eligible for a prevented planting payment, prevented planting must be general to the surrounding area.

According to the Risk Management Agency, “Prevented planting is the failure to plant the insured crop by the final planting date designated in the Special Provisions for the insured crop in the county, or with in any applicable late planting period, due to an insured cause of loss that is general to the surrounding area and that prevents other producers from planting acreage with similar characteristics. Failure to plant because of uninsured causes such as lack of proper equipment or labor to plant acreage, or use of a particular production method, is not considered prevented planting.”

The severe flood has caused extensive damage to some farms. Farms may be eligible for prevented planting payments based on inability to farm the ground due to silt/sand/debris deposits, inability to enter the farm property from damaged roads and entries, and damaged irrigation systems or wells. Regardless of the reason you are claiming prevented planting, keep detailed records of the event. Records include pictures of the damage and any seed/chemical/fertilizer orders that were in place to show original intention to plant the acres.

The prevented planting payment is 55% of the final guarantee for corn and 60% for soybeans.

If you are prevented from planting, and you do not intend to plant the crop during the late planting period, you need to provide notice to your insurance agent within 72 hours after the final planting date.

Late Planting

Farmers can plant a crop after the final planting date and still receive crop insurance coverage. However, the crop insurance coverage will be reduced 1% per day after the final planting date, for 25 days (the late planting period). You are not obligated to plant in the late planting period.

Corn Soybean
March 15 — Sales closing date March 15 — Sales closing date
April 10 — Earliest planting date April 25 — Earliest planting date
May 25 — Final planting date June 10 — Final planting date
June 14 — Late planting period
end date
July 4 — Late planting period end
November 1 — Cover crop grazing/haying cutoff date November 1 — Cover crop grazing/haying cutoff date

If you plant during the late planting period, you are not eligible for prevented planting payment.

If you cannot plant during the late planting period, you need to provide notice to your insurance agent within 72 hours after the final date of the late plant period.


Farmers who have existing or “carryover” policies may qualify for prevented planting payment as a result of the flooding.

The bigger question is for new insureds. The crop insurance sales closing date for corn and soybeans in Nebraska was March 15. Insurance coverage for a new insured does not begin until the sales closing date. Insured causes of loss occurring before this time, are not covered. Depending on the location of the farm, this sales closing date could have occurred after the flooding event. Farmland with new policies may not be eligible for crop insurance indemnities related to the flooding.

Considerations for 2019

Leave ground idle.After notifying your crop insurer of a prevented planting situation, you can leave the ground idle until the following crop year.

Planting soybeans rather than corn. If you are unable to plant a corn crop during the corn-planting period, you still may be able to put in a soybean crop. Notify your crop insurance agent of changes of crop planting intentions.

Plant a cover cropA cover crop can be planted on acres declared as prevented planting. However, to receive the full prevented planting payment, the cover crop cannot be grazed or hayed before November 1 or otherwise harvested at any time. If the cover crop is planted during the late planting period and grazed or hayed before November 1, no prevented planting payment will be made. If the cover crop is planted after the late planting period and grazed or hayed before November 1, you will receive 35% of the prevented planting payment.

For specific questions regarding your insurance policy, contact your crop insurance agent.

Source: Jessica Groskopf, Extension Educator for Agricultural Economics

NDSU Extension Helps Vitalize Rural Communities

On a Friday night in 2013, Edie Ramstad decided to close her business the following Monday, not because it was failing, but because she couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Then the owner of the Weave Got Maille jewelry business attended the 1 Million Cups program in Fargo that gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect, engage and learn from each other. After receiving encouragement and advice on ways to run her business without working 60 hours a week and deal with issues such as the post office having trouble handling the volume of her mail orders, she opted to give the business a second chance.

Now the Ada, Minn.,-based business, which makes small metal rings called jump rings that customers can turn into intricately designed chainmaille-type bracelets and other jewelry, has $1 million-plus in sales annually. Ramstad also launched two other companies: Premier Anodizing, which provides a protective oxide coating for Weave Got Maille’s aluminum jump rings and items such as ID tags, tools and car parts for other companies; and 13 Straws, which produces reusable drinking straws made of anodized aluminum.

Ramstad will share her experiences during Energizing Entrepreneurs, a conference North Dakota State University Extension is hosting in Oakes, N.D., May 7-8.

This isn’t your typical conference, according to organizers. It’s being held in a rural community, not a major city, and breakout sessions will be at local businesses, not a conference center. Local business owners will be the presenters. They’ll discuss issues such as how fledging businesses can make use of empty buildings or shops on Main Street, and show that entrepreneurs can be successful in rural America.

“It’s a whole different world in the rural area,” says Lynette Flage, NDSU Extension’s assistant director for family and community wellness. “That’s what’s exciting about this.”

Extension plans to host another Energizing Entrepreneurs conference in northeastern North Dakota this fall.

The conference is one of several NDSU Extension programs and events designed to support the statewide effort to build healthy, vibrant communities, a 21st century workforce and a smart, efficient infrastructure. In late February, Extension community development specialists joined a number of agencies on a webinar to inform community leaders throughout the state about the assistance and resources Extension has to offer.

Community Impressions is one of those programs. A group of volunteers from two similar communities make unannounced visits to each other’s town, then report their findings to the other town’s residents and leaders. The idea is to help communities learn about their strengths and weaknesses through the eyes of first-time visitors, then use that information to improve themselves.

“We all have to be better at telling our story,” says NDSU Extension leadership and civic engagement specialist Jodi Bruns.

Teams from Hankinson and Park River recently exchanged visits.

“I think it kind of gets ideas in our head about what would be nice to have in our community,” says Angie Evans, Hankinson’s deputy city auditor and a member of the team who visited Park River.

She adds that residents are so used to what they have that seeing the community from outsiders’ point of view will be very helpful.

Extension soon will have a new tool in its community development toolkit: the Design Your Succession Plan for Small Businesses program. Based on Extension’s Design Your Succession Plan program for farmers and ranchers, the new program helps businesspeople transition their small business to the next generation.

Other Extension programs that can help vitalize communities include:

  • Marketing Hometown America – In this program, community members start with structured conversations, called study circles, with assistance from a trained community facilitator. Residents then brainstorm ideas for marketing the community and identify issues they can’t do anything about, such as regulations, age and composition of the community, technological changes, the economy, and competition from neighboring communities, regions or states. Plus, they discuss issues they can change, such as the visual first impression of the community, the condition of infrastructure, the way residents choose to identify and act on their decisions, and how the community develops a welcoming culture for new residents.

Program participants also do research on who is coming to the community and why; decide whom to target with their marketing efforts; and identify aspects of the community that need to be improved, updated or removed to meet that target group’s needs.

The final step is developing a marketing plan. That includes looking at the community through the eyes of the target group, and determining if the community has a slogan or marketing message and whether it fits and is effective, whether existing marketing materials have a consistent message and what techniques the community should use to reach its target audiences,

  • Lead Local – It’s a one-day program that teaches aspiring, elected and appointed leaders about ethics, parliamentary procedure, different personality styles and conflict resolution.
  • Building Tomorrow’s Leaders – It helps ninth- and 10th-graders get involved civically, build skills and confidence to lead, and develop personal and professional networks.

Extension also helps support farmers markets, which give local produce growers a place to sell their fruit and vegetables. As part of that effort, Extension encourages farmers markets to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits so low-income families are able to buy the locally grown produce.

Flage calls this a win-win situation because local entrepreneurs are able to market their produce and communities have access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Source: NDSU Extension Service

Take Action Against External Parasites and Pests in Poultry

Whether a producer keeps a few poultry birds or several thousand, common external parasites such as fleas, ticks, lice and mites can be devastating.

Left unchecked, parasites can spread throughout a flock, causing economic loss and unnecessary suffering by the infected birds.

one healthy and one diseased chicken foot by Yuko Sato.

Fortunately, the signs of a parasite infestation are often easy to detect, and there are a wide variety of products available for treatment.

“Some of the most common questions I get asked are about parasites,” said Yuko Sato, DVM and poultry veterinarian with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

A new ISU Extension and Outreach publication provides a list of common parasites that affect poultry, along with a chart that compares the different insecticides available. The publication is called “Poultry External Parasite and Pest Control,” (ASR 0001) and it includes a description and photos of common external parasites.

After correctly identifying which parasite is affecting their birds, producers can compare insecticide names, brands, application method and the amount necessary per bird, or per premise.

The publication provides producers with “something that is tangible,” Sato said, so they can make sound comparisons and decisions about the most effective treatment.

Producers are reminded to carefully read and follow all label directions, and to follow any changes to product labeling and use. A good resource is VetPest(, which provides a database of registered pesticides used for animals.

Sato said that parasites “do not discriminate” between small and large flocks, and that there has been a resurgence of parasite-related issues, in part due to the move toward cage-free housing and free-range flocks, which has led to an increase in bird-to-soil contact.

“Poultry External Parasite and Pest Control” is available on the ISU Extension and Outreach Store, at

For more information, contact Sato at 515-294-0710, or

Source: Yuko Sato, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Here We Go Again: How Many Days Does It Take to Plant the U.S. Corn Crop?

USDA’s release of the March Prospective Planting report indicated an increase in planted acreage for corn in 2019.  At 92.8 million acres, the report shows approximately 3.7 million additional acres of corn planted to be planted compared to last year.  Given the large acreage, corn planting progress in 2019 will once again merit considerable interest.  This is compounded by cold and wet conditions over large areas of the Corn Belt that have delayed early planting.  The potential for more significant planting delays or acreage adjustments depends on the rate that corn planting can proceed once the weather improves.

Conventional wisdom suggests that the U.S. corn crop can be planted in a relatively small number of days, perhaps as few as five suitable field days.  This thinking is spurred on by the large size of modern planters that can obviously plant many more acres than the smaller planters of the past.  However, our analysis last year (farmdoc dailyApril 19, 2018) showed that the conventional wisdom is not borne out by historical data on planting progress for three states in the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt—Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.  We found a striking stability and similarity in the minimum number of days required to plant the corn crop in the three states over 1980-2017.  While there is some variation in these estimates over time, on average, producers in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa need about 14 suitable field days, or two weeks, to plant the corn crop based on maximum daily rates of planting progress, and this has changed little since 1980.  Essentially, fewer bigger planters today plant about the same rate in aggregate as more smaller planters did in the past.

We can now add 2018 to our previous sample.  This is especially helpful because 2018 serves as an ideal case study for the potential pace of planting the U.S. corn crop.  Given the cold and/or wet conditions experienced by nearly all of the Corn Belt last April, the 2018 planting season got off to a very slow start.  The USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report indicated that only 5 percent of the corn acreage in 18 major producing states was planted as of April 22, 2018, compared to a five-year average of 14 percent.  Notably, 8 of the 18 states in the April 22 report had zero planting progress.  The very late start to planting the 2018 corn crop meant that producers had a large incentive to plant faster if that was possible.  Some have argued that investment in planting equipment during the last decade created extra capacity that simply had not been fully utilized.  If this was the case, it should have been apparent in the 2018 data on planting progress.  The purpose of today’s article is to update our previous estimate of the minimum number of suitable field days required to plant the U.S. corn crop and determine whether the pace of planting in 2018 was much faster than in earlier years.


We follow the same procedures as in our earlier analysis (farmdoc dailyApril 19, 2018) and examine planting progress data reported in the USDA’s weekly Crop Progressreport for Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa over 1980 through 2018.  The sample is extended by one year (2018) compared to our previous work.  These three states contained 33 percent of the corn acreage planted in the U.S. during 2018 and are assumed to be representative of planting rates throughout the Corn Belt.  We start by computing the number of acres planted per suitable field day each week that progress data is reported for each state.  It is important to measure planting progress per suitable field day since this standardizes for the varying number of days during a week that are suitable for planting.  Some weeks may have large reported planting progress but this could be due to an unusually high number of suitable field days rather than a high rate of planting progress per day.  Since planting progress is reported as the percentage of total acreage planted, we multiply the percentage progress by total planted acreage of corn for each state in a given year to obtain planting progress in terms of acres.  Note that 1994 is excluded for Indiana as we were not able to collect complete data on suitable field days that year.  We recognize that the estimates of weekly planting progress and the number of days suitable for field work reflect some judgment on the part of reporters and therefore may not always be completely accurate.  However, consistent reporting procedures over time should provide useful information for analysis.

Since we are interested in the minimum number of days that it is possible to plant the U.S. corn crop, we focus on weeks with the highest acreage planted per suitable field day.  In other words, we want to know how fast the corn crop can be planted based on the highest rates of planting progress in the historical record.  This should be kept in mind when considering the results of the analysis.  Whether producers can actually maintain peak week progress for an extended period is uncertain.  In addition, we average the progress per suitable field day for the two highest weeks each year in order to smooth out some outliers that appear in the single highest week each year.

Figures 1-3 present our estimates of the maximum corn acreage planted per suitable field day in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, respectively, over 1980-2018.  We had previously reported (farmdoc dailyApril 19, 2018) a pronounced lack of an upward trend in the maximums for Illinois and Indiana, with a slight upward trend for Illinois over the sample period, from about 900 thousand acres per day in the early 1980s to about 1 million acres per day in recent years.  The maximum rate per day in Indiana showed virtually no trend since 1980, averaging a bit over 400 thousand acres.  The maximum rate of planting progress in Iowa exhibited a different pattern than the other two states.  A pronounced upward trend was evident from 1980-2004, with the maximum rate increasing from around 1 million acres per day to around 1.6 million acres per day, an increase of 60 percent.  After 2004, the maximum rate for Iowa leveled off and then dropped precipitously.  Despite the obvious incentives to maximize the pace of planting in 2018 due to poor conditions during most of April, the maximum rates per suitable field day in 2018 in each of the three states were very similar to 2017 and well within the ranges experienced in recent years.  In sum, the estimates in Figures 1-3 show that maximum planting rates per suitable field day in the heart of the Corn Belt have increased very little over time and were not out of the ordinary in 2018.  This also indicates that investment in planting equipment during the last decade did not create extra capacity that could be called upon when conditions delayed planting substantially.

The next step of the analysis is to update our previous estimates of the minimum number of days required to plant the corn crop in each of the three states.  We do this by dividing total planted acreage of corn in each state each year by the estimated maximum rate of corn planting progress per suitable field day shown in Figures 1-3.  This provides an estimate of how fast the corn crop in the three states could be planted assuming the rate of daily planting is at the maximum.  The computation also takes into account the changing total planted acreage of corn in each state over time.  Figures 4-6 present the estimated minimums for Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, respectively, over 1980-2018.  One is immediately struck by the stability and similarity of the minimum number of days required to plant the corn crop.  There is a slight downtrend in the minimum number of days for Illinois and Indiana, from about 15 days in the early 1980s to about 14 days in recent years.  Mirroring the earlier results, the pattern for Iowa is different, with a notable decline through 2004 and a return in recent years to a similar number of days, about 14, as in the early 1980s.  The results indicate that it takes about 14 days, or two weeks, to plant the corn crop in each of the three states assuming maximum daily rates of planting progress and this conclusion is not altered by the addition of observations for 2018.

It turns out that the 2018 corn crop was planted in a timely fashion despite the late start and the fact that the maximum rate per suitable field day was not especially fast.  For the U.S. as a whole, 19 percent of the corn crop in 2018 was planted after May 20, our selected cutoff date for defining late planting, and this was only slightly higher than the historical average of 18 percent.  Figures 7-9 demonstrate that late planting came in near the average in 2018 due to the exceptional planting window that opened up between April 25 and May 20 in many Corn Belt states.  For example, 22 out of the 26 days in 2018 for this period in Illinois were classified as suitable field days, compared to an average of 14 days.  The historical distribution indicates the chance of having this many or more suitable field days is only 8 percent, or approximately a 1 out 10 event.  The situation was similar for Indiana, but Iowa had a lower number of field days and this was reflected in a bit more late planted corn in that state.  Regardless, there was at least 14 suitable field days between April 25 and May 20 in all three states, and consistent with our findings on the minimum number of days needed to plant the crop, this was sufficient to plant the 2018 U.S. corn crop in a timely manner.


Conventional wisdom suggests that the U.S. corn crop can be planted in just a few days, perhaps as few as five suitable field days.  This thinking is spurred on by the large size of modern planters that can obviously plant many more acres than the smaller planters of the past.  We update our previous analysis (farmdoc dailyApril 19, 2018) of this issue by including data from 2018, which is important because 2018 serves as an ideal case study for the potential pace of planting the U.S. corn crop given the very slow start to that planting season.  Once again, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by historical data on planting progress for three states in the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt—Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.  We show that maximum planting rates per suitable field day in the heart of the Corn Belt have increased very little over time and were not out of the ordinary in 2018.  It turns out that the 2018 corn crop was planted in a timely fashion despite the late start and the fact that the maximum rate per suitable field day was not especially fast.  The reason for the timely planting is the exceptional window that opened up between April 25 and May 20, 2018 in many Corn Belt states.  For example, 22 out of the 26 days in 2018 for this period in Illinois were classified as suitable field days, approximately a 1 out 10 event.  This demonstrates that weather is the key determinant of timely planting of aggregate corn acreage in the U.S. not planting rate per day, which is surprisingly stable through time.  The implications of these findings for timely planting of the 2019 U.S. corn crop will be examined in a farmdoc daily article next week.

Source: Scott Irwin and Todd Hubbs, Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

Introducing Beescape: A New Online Tool and Community to Support Bees

A new online tool and community, called Beescape, enables beekeepers, or anyone interested in bees, to understand the specific stressors to which the bees in their managed hives, home gardens or farms are exposed, according to researchers at Penn State.

“Pollinators, particularly bees, play a vital role in supporting ecosystems in agricultural, urban and natural landscapes,” said Christina Grozinger, distinguished professor of entomology and director of the Center for Pollinator Research in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Nearly 90 percent of flowering plant species use pollinators to set seed and fruit, which animals — including humans — rely on for food.”

Yet Pennsylvania beekeepers lose nearly 50 percent of their honey bee colonies each winter, Grozinger added, and several wild bee species — including the bumble bee Bombus pensylvanicus — are threatened or endangered. These trends are occurring across the United States and around the world.

“We know that bee populations are declining because of several key stressors, including exposure to insecticides, reduced abundance and diversity of the flowering plants that bees depend on for their food, and loss of nesting habitat for wild bees,” she said.

Grozinger noted that bees travel large distances — several kilometers from their hives in the case of honey bees — to find food for their babies. But it has been nearly impossible for a beekeeper, or anyone interested in understanding what the bees in their backyards or farms are experiencing, to know what stressors their bees might encounter during their trips.

Beescape web page

Images from the “methodology” page on IMAGE: PENN STATE

Grozinger and her colleagues designed to answer these questions. Previous work by members of the research team created methods to estimate the forage quality, nesting habitat quality and insecticide load in a landscape. allows users to select a specific location — the apiary where they house their honey bee colonies, their home garden or their farm, for example — and obtain these landscape-quality scores for the surrounding region, up to 5 kilometers away. Users also can examine the crops that are being grown in the areas around them.

“Beescape allows people to see the world as a bee, which will help them make decisions about where to place their colonies or steps they and their neighbors can take, such as planting pollinator gardens or reducing insecticide use, to make the landscape more friendly for bees,” said project collaborator Maggie Douglas, an assistant professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle.

Importantly, noted Grozinger, Beescape enables researchers to partner with beekeepers and gardeners to gather information about how their bees are doing. The data generated from this partnership and community of collaborators will help researchers to better calculate how these landscape-quality scores translate to health outcomes for bees.

“With data provided by beekeepers from agricultural, rural and urban landscapes across multiple states, we will be able to develop high-quality predictive models that will be included in the website in the future,” said Melanie Kammerer Allen, graduate student in ecology at Penn State, who is involved in the project. “This will allow beekeepers to determine if they should provide the bees with supplementary food, for example, or for a grower to decide if they should add pollinator nesting habitat near their crops.”

The team collaborated with Azavea, a Philadelphia-based company that designs civic geospatial software and data analytics for the web, to develop the site.

The site currently has map information for Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, and the team plans to include additional states in the future. Beekeepers and individuals with wild bee hotels in their backyards are encouraged to join the community and help provide information on the health of their bees.

Beescape is a partnership led by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, Center for Pollinator Research and Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences. Other collaborators include Eric Lonsdorf, a lead scientist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment; Harland Patch, research scientist; Doug Sponsler, postdoctoral fellow; and Kate Anton, research technician, all with the Penn State Department of Entomology; Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Brock Harpur, assistant professor at Purdue University.

The research was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

To learn more, visit or Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research at

Source: Amy Duke, Penn State University

Assessing Personnel Management Skills


As farms continue to consolidate it becomes increasingly important to assess a farm’s management skills.  At a certain farm size, it is no longer easy or feasible for the manager or managers to wear every management hat.  How does the management team determine when to focus on professional development, delegate management tasks among mangers, and seek outside assistance?  This is the fourth article in a series of articles pertaining the assessment of management skills.  The topic of this article is the assessment of personnel management skills.

Personnel Management Skills Assessment

Table 1 presents important personnel management skills.   Skills listed include utilizing job descriptions; providing training and orientation to employees; developing a compensation package based on job responsibilities and performance; utilizing formal interview and search procedures when hiring employees; conducting formal performance appraisals; identifying, developing, and promoting top performers; delegating authority and responsibility to others; and offering strong reasons for talented people to join the farm.  Each farm operator should rank their ability with respect to each skill using a 1 to 5 scale with 1 be relatively weak and 5 being relatively strong with respect to that skill.  The idea behind checklists such as that presented in Table 1 is to assess whether a farm has a skills gap, which is defined as the difference between skills that a farm needs and the skills of their current workforce (operators and employees).  Conducting a skills gap analysis helps a farm to identify skills that will be needed to become more efficient and expand.  It can also be an important input into hiring programs, employee development plans, or hiring outside consultants.

The checklist in Table 1 does not include a final tally score, nor does it address tradeoffs in various skill or ability areas that may lead to success.  Rather, the checklist helps farm operators evaluate their skills and abilities in areas critical to long-term financial success.  As farm operators fill out the checklist, they should try to determine which of the skills listed are most essential to improving efficiency and expansion plans.

The Functions of Management

The five functions of management include planning, organizing, controlling, staffing, and directing.  Planning provides direction for the business.  Organizing involves grouping the tasks to be done and then assigning individuals or groups to accomplish these tasks.  The control function examines how well actual farm performance relates to business plans and goals.  Staffing relates to hiring employees and developing them to achieve goals and objectives.  Directing involves supervising and guiding employees so that the employees can successfully complete their assigned tasks.

Staffing and directing are related to the skills listed in Table 1.  Before discussing these two management functions, it is important to note that managing both family and non-family employees is essential for business success (Erven, 2000; Erven and Milligan, 2000; Lencioni, 2002).  As farms grow, they often need to hire additional employees.  In tight labor markets, farms must compete with non-farm businesses for quality employees.  We encourage farms to answer the following question.  Is my farm a highly desirable place of employment?


The staffing management function includes employee recruitment, employee selection, training and orientation, and managing employee performance (Milligan and Maloney, 1996).  When recruiting employees, a farm needs to assess the external environment, identify long-term personnel needs, and develop a recruitment plan.  The selection process involves developing an application, setting up an interview process, checking references, and determining whether a trial period is needed for a particular job.  Effectively training an employee can help avoid error and poor performance.  Part of the training process is to develop an orientation program, particularly pertaining to the first few days of employment.  Performance management involves establishing performance expectations, providing regular coaching and feedback regarding employee performance, and conducting a performance appraisal interview.


The directing management function includes leadership, employee motivation, communicating, employee discipline and discharge, and total quality management (Milligan and Maloney, 1996).  Leadership dimensions include vision, motivation, integrity, and knowledge.  A motivational work environment can be accomplished by hiring individuals with the potential to achieve, considering individual wants and needs, and setting a good example.  Part of motivation is related to compensation (wages, benefits, and perks).  However, compensation is not the “be all and end all” when it comes to motivating employees.  In addition to oral communication, good communication involves listening and effectively managing conflict.  To attain peak productivity of employees, the supervisor needs to have a vision of what success means, communicate that vision to employees, create performance standards, and provide the training and resources needed for employees to meet performance standards.  Discipline occurs when an employee’s performance is not consistent with established standards.  Total quality management involves managing quality, technology, changing work force expectations, and competitiveness.  Successful supervisors have a commitment to success, accept that people are a critical asset to the business, and are committed to providing the training and support needed for employees to improve on the job.

Concluding Comments

Assessing management skills is an important part of benchmarking farm performance and figuring out where improvements may be needed.  If the operators on the farm identify management areas which are not currently being addressed, they will need to determine whether someone is going to get up to speed with regard to these areas or outside help is going to be sought to address weaknesses.

Personnel management skills help ensure that all individuals in the organization understand their roles, be trained to perform them, and work effectively as a team.  Good human resource managers are not born.  Rather, they learn their personnel management skills over time through effort and attention.  Learning these skills can reap rewards such as employee retention, low turnover, and improved productivity.


Erven, B.L.  “Building Your Reputation as an Employer,” Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University, August 2000.

Erven, B.L. and R.A. Milligan.  “Business Success through People-Oriented Management,” August 2000.

Lencioni, P.  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002.

Mahoney, T.R. and R.A. Milligan.  “Human Resource Management for Small Business Managers,” 1996.

Source: Michael Langemeier, Farmdocdaily

Corn and Soybean Export Update

As the administration continues to negotiate a trade deal with China, the prospect of a resolution looms larger for corn and soybean export potential in 2019.  Corn exports weakened in the early part of this year as they pulled back from the torrid pace seen throughout 2018.  Soybean exports look to benefit from a trade deal resolution as recent sales to China buoyed optimism for this marketing year.

The USDA lowered the 2018-19 marketing year projection for corn exports to 2.375 billion bushels in the March WASDE report.  Corn export sales continued to disappoint until a bump from Chinese buying last week.  For the first half of the marketing year, corn exports came in at near 1.12 billion bushels.  Through April 4, corn exports sit near 1.317 billion bushels.  For the rest of the current marketing year, 1.06 billion bushels of corn exports are required to meet the USDA projection.  Over the last four marketing years, corn export totals from April through August averaged 1.08 billion bushels.  The largest total, associated with poor crops in some major exporting countries, occurred during the previous marketing year and came in at 1.39 billion bushels.  Without the hefty export total from last year, the remaining three years averaged 978 million bushels.

Looking forward, outstanding sales of corn through March 28 total 518 million bushels, down from the 910 million bushels of sales at the same time last year.  Mexico, Japan, and South Korea lead the way in corn purchases.  While the prospects of China entering the corn export market continue to generate speculation, current outstanding corn sales to China sit at 18 million bushels.  When taking into account accumulated exports and sales, the total commitments for corn through March 28 sit at 1.7 billion bushels, down 164 million bushels for commitments at the same time last year.  Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and Columbia account for 70 percent of total commitments on the books thus far.  As a percentage of last marketing year’s exports, total commitments for Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and Columbia sit at 85, 71, 59, and 68 percent respectively.  The potential for continued strong exports remains for major U.S. markets, but an increase in corn buying from other markets looks necessary to reach the current USDA projection.

Projected soybean exports began the marketing year at 2.06 billion bushels last September despite the ongoing trade fight with China.  USDA projections for soybean exports decreased 160 million bushels in November and subsequently fell to the current forecast of 1.875 billion bushels in the February WASDE report.  Through April 4, soybean exports sit near 1.16 billion bushels.  For the rest of the current marketing year, 718 million bushels of exports are required to meet the USDA projection.  Over the last four marketing years, soybean export totals from April through August averaged 386 million bushels.  The largest total occurred last marketing year and came in at 559 million bushels.

Total outstanding sales through March 28 for the current marketing year totaled 501 million bushels.  Outstanding sales to China constitute 58 percent of the total sales.  At 293 million bushels, the sales to China highlight the recent uptick in Chinese buying associated with trade negotiations.  Since March 28, the Foreign Agricultural Service reported two additional purchases of soybeans totaling 60 million bushels to China for the 2018-19 marketing year.  The lack of a trade deal holds peril for soybean exports this marketing year given China’s prominence in current outstanding sales.  Currently, total outstanding sales come in 137 million bushels above last year.  Sales to Mexico sit at 58 million bushels, eight million bushels above last year’s level.  Additionally, outstanding sales to countries outside of China and Mexico trail last year’s level by 69 million bushels with 149 million bushels of sales.

Total commitments for soybeans through March 28 came in near 1.6 billion bushels, down 289 million bushels for commitments at the same time last year.  China, Mexico, Japan, and the EU-27 account for 60 percent of total commitments. Development of growth in the soybean export market remains highly contingent on events associated with the current trade negotiations.  African swine fever in China could dampen soybean meal demand over the next 6-12 months.  Argentina and Brazil stay on track to produce large soybean crops.  Weak currencies and low prices in both countries make competition for soybean export markets stiff this year.

The implications of a failed trade deal with China appear to be growing more acute for soybean exports this year.  Soybean ending stocks and prices remain exposed to severe issues without a resolution.  Corn export pace needs to pick up to meet current USDA projections.  The upcoming WASDE report may not adjust exports, but the risks remain.

YouTube Video: Discussion and graphs associated with this article

Source: Todd Hubbs, Farmdocdaily

Disaster Aid Issues

On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture held a hearing regarding the Administration’s FY 2020 Agriculture Department Budget Request, and heard testimony from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.  During the discussion part of the meeting, significant attention was focused on recent flooding in the Midwest, and disaster aid legislation.  Today’s update highlights that discussion, as well as other developments associated with disaster aid legislation.

Disaster Aid: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Hearing

In his opening remarks yesterday, Subcommittee Chairman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D., Ga.) pointed out that, “Before we begin, I want to say that we need to get a supplemental disaster bill through Congress.  I know the Secretary shares my sense of urgency about this.  The House passed its bill in January and we are ready to go to conference with the Senate as soon as it passes a bill.  I know all House members are also committed to ensuring the areas of the Midwest that were hit with monumental floods just a few weeks ago have the funds they need.”

Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, convened a hearing on Tuesday titled, “Department of Agriculture Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020.”

Secretary Perdue indicated in prepared testimony that, “USDA played a significant role in helping rural communities and agricultural producers recover from hurricane-related damage and wildfires. USDA assistance has included providing children affected by Hurricane Florence access to free meals, helping Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients replace food lost due to power outages, helped businesses and utilities by considering requests to defer principal and/or interest payments, and provided emergency farm loans to impacted operations.”

During the discussion portion of yesterday’s hearing, Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R., Neb.) stated that, “Mr. Secretary, there’s a lot of consequences to flooding, some of which are…couldn’t be perceived before it actually happens, one of which is the loss of on site grain that was stored. You’re dealing with the immediate aftermath of flood waters rushing over fields, drowning cattle, covering fields in debris and sediment, making the possibility of planting not only difficult, maybe even impossible in many areas. But another manifestation of this has been the loss of grain stored on site.

“So I want to ask you two questions. Are you looking at that issue through the lens of any flexibility that you have in current programming or as a part of the disaster assistance package that is potentially coming through Congress? And then secondly, I think it would be helpful, particularly for the public, if you could just tick through a high level summary of what the USDA is already doing in response to the flood.”

Sec. Perdue explained that,

Unfortunately, I would love to answer in the affirmative that these stored grains would qualify for the safety net that’s there. They do not currently. And that’s why the disaster appropriation supplemental is so important, to cover issues that were not covered in the destruction and devastating by the flooding there. But this is an area that is not legally or statutorily approved under our safety net provisions currently.

Sec. Perdue then listed some of the current USDA programs that are available, and explained a little about each one:

  • Emergency Conservation Program– “where we pay a cost share on practices recovering stream banks and other types of debris, sand removal, re-grading the land, filling gullies and restoring other properties.”
  • Livestock Forage Disaster Program– “that’s utilized to feed, for cattle feed and livestock feed also qualifies for grazing losses due to drought, flood or fire in that regard.”
  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock– “that’s another program that FSA can advise your producers and farmers about that.”
  • Emergency Watershed Protection Program– “is another that again helps debris removal from the streams and culverts, and again, help reshape stream banks. And that’s, in a flood that’s certainly necessary.”

Sec. Perdue added: “Those are examples of that. And we’d be happy on our website,, you go, if you’ve had a disaster, see what you qualify for. And I would advise your constituents to take advantage of that.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday at the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture hearing on the Department’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2020.

More narrowly, Ranking Member Fortenberry asked, “One other subset of this is do you have any idea—and it can be just an approximation—of how many farmers actually use private insurance to indemnify on site storage of grain? Because I’m trying to get a handle on just how large a problem it is. I suspect that’s pretty small, but I don’t know.”

“We don’t know, either, the exact number. I expect it’s very, very, very small,” Sec. Perdue said.

Sec. Perdue elaborated and noted that,

Commercial operations, elevators have that kind of stock coverage for their operations, but typically producers, once it’s out of the field and crop insurance is no longer a factor, most of them do not cover the stock within their bins over their grain production, so I think it’s a very, very small number.

Ranking Member Fortenberry followed up and asked, “So in the supplemental disaster package that’s being written currently, is there enough flexibility in this regard to potentially help you to help with the problem of on site grain storage that’s been lost?

Sec. Perdue noted that, “We would love to be involved in helping the language as the disaster bill moves along to make sure that gives them the flexibility. The 2017 disaster bill was fairly flexible based on giving the USDA an opportunity to design the program to help the most consumers and the most customers out there, but that was not contemplated or specified, and we would like to probably have some additional language that would ensure that.”

Ranking Member Fortenberry indicated that, “I think this is a very important point either in terms of the architecture of flexibility or some specificity for the secretary so that he can help with this particularly devastating consequence of these floods, which is a secondary effect that was completely unanticipated. So if we could work directly with you all on the type of language that you’re perceiving that you need, either, again, at a high level of flexibility or specifically targeted to this, that would be very helpful to me, Mr. Chairman.”

Disaster Aid: Additional Background

Earlier this month, Reuters writer Tom Polansek reported that, “The Black Hawk military helicopter flew over Iowa, giving a senior U.S. agriculture official and U.S. senator an eyeful of the flood damage below, where yellow corn from ruptured metal silos spilled out into the muddy water.

And there’s nothing the U.S. government can do about the millions of bushels of damaged crops here under current laws or disaster-aid programs, U.S. Agriculture Under Secretary Bill Northey told a Reuters reporter who joined the flight.

The USDA has no mechanism to compensate farmers for damaged crops in storage, Northey said, a problem never before seen on this scale. That’s in part because U.S. farmers have never stored so much of their harvests, after years of oversupplied markets, low prices and the latest blow of lost sales from the U.S. trade war with China – previously their biggest buyer of soybean exports.

On Monday, the American Farm Bureau Federation noted  that, “To assist farmers and ranchers in the rebuilding efforts, Congress is considering a much-needed relief package of $3 billion, similar to one lawmakers passed for farmers impacted by wildfires and hurricanes in 2017. Federally funded disaster assistance is as critical as ever with recent disasters more widespread and farmers and ranchers everywhere facing a severe economic downturn and mounting trade pressure.”

View image on Twitter

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Congress is debating disaster aid for #farmers impacted by #floods #hurricanes #volcanos #earthquakes and #tornados. #Agriculture in disaster areas contributes $84 billion in economic activity @FarmBureau …4

12:42 PM – Apr 8, 2019

And the editorial board at the Omaha World Herald opined on disaster relief in yesterday’s paper and stated that, “Debate in the Senate has made clear to lawmakers the disaster aid needs across the nation. Trump, meanwhile, touts himself as a deal maker. So: It’s time for a deal. Reasonably structured disaster aid, for here and elsewhere, needs to move forward.”

Disaster Aid: Recent Developments

news release yesterday from the House Appropriations Committee stated that, “House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17) today introduced new legislation to provide relief and recovery assistance for Americans affected by recent natural disasters.

The $17.2 billion emergency supplemental builds on legislation the House passed in January. It includes an additional $3 billion to address urgent needs following flooding in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South that have occurred while the House-passed bill has languished in the Senate.

summary of the bill stated that, “Agricultural Programs — $3.005 billion. Payments for crop and livestock losses due to hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic activities, tornados, floods, snowstorms, or wildfires during 2018 and 2019.”

Meanwhile, DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said Tuesday he sees the need to help farmers with losses in grain bins from Midwest floods. But he said the notion $3 billion is needed for Midwest disaster aid is ‘baloney.’”

“Peterson, D-Minn., met Tuesday with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists and spoke about several topics. On disaster aid, Peterson said inserting Midwest aid into a current disaster bill in the Senate could potentially hold up needed aid for Southern farmers whose farms were hit hard by hurricanes last year.

“‘The Southerners need this,’ Peterson said. ‘They have a lot of crops that don’t traditionally get into crop insurance that were damaged during a tough time in the cycle. Pecan trees and peaches and so forth that are not in the normal farm-program disaster deal. So they need this $3 billion deal they have been working on for the South.’”

The DTN article pointed out that,

The congressman did note that farmers who lost crops in grain bins should be eligible for an indemnity payment and Congress should work to make that happen.

“‘The only thing that’s not covered is this grain that was damaged,’ Peterson said. ‘And we have more grain being stored now than we’ve ever had because of these low prices and these tariffs.’

“Peterson added, ‘I think we can do a one-time thing to try to help people with that. But one thing that should come in here is you could have bought insurance. So this is something that is going to come up, but you could have bought insurance.’

But Peterson said of the notion of spending $3 billion in disaster aid for the Midwest, ‘That’s a bunch of baloney.’”

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News

Disposing of Flood-Soaked Grains and Forages

Regulatory Considerations

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) recognizes in NDEQ Guidance Document 11-023 that flood-soaked grain or hay is almost certain to be contaminated, making it unfit for use as food or feed. Therefore, the NDEQ has historically allowed spoiled grain or hay to be land-applied to agricultural fields, with consideration for the nature of contamination or spoilage, amount of material affected, application field topography, proximity to neighbors, etc.

Flood-damaged grain and hay have been demonstrated to be a danger to wildlife. As a result, the department recommends land application of flood damaged grain or hay to be disked into the soil within 24 hours of application. For additional information on NDEQ considerations, see Flood Damaged Grain and Hay Disposal.

Time is of the Essence

Flood-soaked grains and feeds will begin to heat and mold very quickly, making spoilage likely and spontaneous combustion of hays a possibility. The following guidance applies to water-damaged feeds that are not salvageable:

The temperature inside piles can be checked by driving a pointed pipe into the pile and lowering a thermometer inside the pipe. The thermometer should be left in place for about 20 minutes to allow the temperature reading to stabilize.

Alternatively, digging into the innermost layer of the pile with a spade or bucket loader to check for smoldering material or ash can reveal if dangerously high temperatures are present (Hellevang, 2010).

  1. Remove flooded grain from bins and stack in a well-drained location away from farm facilities. If possible, separate wet and dry grain and store separately. Wet forages and hay that are no longer submerged in water can begin to generate heat within hours due to microbial activity. It is important to move these away from farm facilities and monitor the temperature of forage piles. Farmers need to be aware of the risk of sudden flair ups in stockpiled hay and forage. Don’t get too close to these stockpiles and allow room for escape routes. If already smoking, stay away because opening the pile and adding oxygen will almost certainly result in fire. If the temperature inside the pile approaches 150°F, the feed is composting and should be monitored closely. At 170°F, material may begin to smolder or catch fire (Hellevang, 2010).
  2. Mix any pile that exceeds 150°F with a bucket loader to cool the interior of the pile. Be aware that temperatures will again begin to rise following mixing, so monitoring should continue and piles should be mixed whenever high temperatures are detected.
  3. If field conditions will hinder access for land application of these materials for several days or more, continue monitoring and mixing the pile. The heating cycles, if allowed to continue, should eventually generate compost that can be safely stored until land application is possible. Instructions for compost pile establishment follow below. When the material no longer generates heat, it is a sign that the composting process is complete (i.e. no food remains for the microbes) or that the material has dried below about 40%. If the material dries out prior to fully composting, there may still be a risk to wildlife that consume the material following field application.
  4. Inspect grain storage bins containing flood-soaked grains for possible damage due to grain swelling, and damage to electrical motors and controls. Grain swelling may cause bolts to shear, doors to misalign, or caulked seals to show signs of stretching.


Composting may reduce the potential for livestock and wildlife to consume the contaminated grain and would limit their exposure to potential toxins. It should also reduce the potential for germination of grain seeds following land application and the potential for volunteer corn in fields.

To actively compost the material, pile the wet feedstuffs in windrows four to six feet high. Smaller windrow can reduce the risk of piles over-heating and spontaneous combustion. Leave adequate space between windrows to provide access for a bucket loader to turn the piles. It is desirable to cover wet grain with damaged hay or other forage or residue.

As noted in the previous section, closely monitoring pile temperatures is essential to detect and manage excessive heating that could generate a fire. Good compost is achieved when temperature peaks between 140°F and 160°F Checking pile temperatures regularly and maintaining a water source nearby to suppress smoldering or burning material are advisable.


The NDEQ guidance for flood damaged grains and hay suggests that burning might be a preferable method for disposal of flood-damaged foodstuffs. According to the NDEQ, open burning of these materials can be conducted without an air permit provided that the material is burned on the same site where it was damaged by flooding and no other debris or waste is combined with the grain and/or forages during burning. It is advisable, however, that the local fire department be contacted to secure a burn permit. Burning these materials may require careful monitoring over an extended period of time to ensure the fire is well-controlled and may produce significant smoke, which could generate nuisance complaints. Notifying neighbors prior to conducting disposal of feedstuffs in this way is recommended.

Land Application

If grain is spoiled but not capable of causing an infectious disease to humans (e.g. contaminated with human septage or sewage), then it may be either sent to a permitted municipal solid waste landfill or land applied. If the grain is applied to the land at an appropriate agronomic rate, prior approval from the NDEQ for land application of this material is NOT required. However, notifying NDEQ of your plans for land application is encouraged.

An agronomic application rate should be based upon nitrogen. Not all nitrogen in the flood-soaked feed would be available in the first year following application. If we assumed 50% availability, application rates shown in Table 1 would likely be a maximum acceptable rate for a typical rainfed field averaging 160 bushels/acre and an irrigated field average 225 bushels/acre. Table 1 includes application rate estimates for feed at both 30% and 50% moisture, and for corn silage at 70% moisture.

Because the moisture content of the feedstuff impacts your final application rate, if the table does not represent the moisture content of a material being considered for land application, an application rate estimate can be calculated by dividing the “Tons of Dry Matter Per Acre” value in the table for that feedstuff by the fraction dry matter (or 1 – fraction moisture). As an example, for corn at 65% moisture content, divide 4.3 tons DM/ac by (1 – 0.65) to arrive at an application rate of 12.3 tons/ac).

Additional considerations when land applying flood-soaked feeds include:

  • An in-season N assessment is recommended due to low predictability of applied organic N availability (50% assumption is likely high). Additional N application may be warranted and an option should be available for side-dressing corn.
  • Incorporation of land-applied feedstuffs is recommended to minimize risks to wildlife from toxins in the grains. A moldboard plow or other aggressive tillage practice may be necessary to completely bury grains. Flood-damaged grains can be particularly dangerous to bird wildlife. Composting grain before land applying should reduce palatability and risk of consumption.
  • Volunteer plant growth from land-applied grain is likely. If corn has herbicide tolerant traits, controlling volunteer plants will present unique challenges. Composting of grains should reduce germination of grain seeds. For additional information on controlling volunteer corn, please review these CropWatch articles:
  • If flood-soaked corn has herbicide-tolerant traits, it should NOT be applied to fields that will be used for human food production (e.g., popcorn production) or seed grain production in the following growing season.

Recordkeeping Recommendations

Document flood-damaged grains and forages with written records summarizing amounts of feedstuffs damaged and dates of flooding. Time-dated photos can be particularly valuable.

When land-applied, record the number of loads hauled (or scale records, if available), area covered by land application, and timing. Again, time-dated photographs are valuable. An estimate of moisture content of the grain or hay when land applied is also desirable for document application at an agronomic rate. If feedstuffs are incorporated into the soil, photographic documentation would be desirable.

Recovering Dry Grains in Flooded Bins

Also see Grain Vacuum Services/Rentals/Suppliers

Any dry grain should be inspected, checked for moisture content, and possibly considered for re-use with animals. If the grain can be salvaged for use by animals, Ken Hellevang, agricultural engineer at North Dakota State University, recommends:

  • If the grain depth is less than 6 feet, use a natural-air bin drying system with a perforated floor and a high-capacity drying fan. Verify that the air is coming through the grain. Supplemental heat can be used to speed drying, but do not raise the air temperature more than 10 or 15 degrees F.
  • If a dryer is not available, spread the grain in as dry a place as possible. Don’t pile it any higher than 6 inches. Stir it daily to prevent overheating and to speed drying. Watch for and remove molded grains.
  • Wet grain can be ensiled if it is intended for feed and the moisture content is between 25% and 35%. If using a conventional silo, contact an Extension educator about treating the grain with propionic acid to prevent mold.

Lastly, in a North Dakota State University publication, Hellevang and his co-authors warn: “Do not feed flood-damaged grains until they are tested for mycotoxins, toxic substances produced by fungi. Ask your county Extension agent for locations of testing laboratories. Even if the feed is deemed safe to use, watch animals carefully for signs of illness.”


The authors are indebted to the authors of the following resources that served as a foundation for multiple topics presented.

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ). 2016. Flood Damaged Grain and Hay Disposal, Guidance Document 11-023, rev. November, 2016.

Hellevang, K., H. Kandel, C. Stoltenow and G. Lardy. 2010. Salvaging Stored Wet Feed and Grain. North Dakota State University.

Source: University of Nebraska CropWatch

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