Agriculture | St. Louis Public Radio

Agriculture

The Missouri Farm Bureau says roughly 60 percent of the soybeans grown in the state are sent to China.
The United Soybean Board | Flickr

Denny Mertz lost $12,000 on his soybeans last week when China proposed tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.

The Chesterfield resident grows soybeans and corn on his 500-acre farm in Elsberry. He said he'll be able to weather the loss, as he owns his land and doesn't have much overhead. Yet Mertz worries that younger farmers could take a significant hit if China and the U.S. don't settle their trade differences, especially because many don't own their land.

"They do not have a lot of equity built up and there's not much reserves to fall back on," he said.

Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.

Western Illinois might be close to the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, but it’s the driest part of the state this year.

“We really haven’t really had any measurable rain since the middle of October,” says Ken Schafer, who farms winter wheat, corn and soybeans in Jerseyville, north of St. Louis. “I dug some post-holes this winter, and it's just dust.”

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has extended its restrictions on dicamba herbicides to products manufactured by Monsanto and DuPont. The new rules are part of the state's effort to curb crop damage for farmers who don't use genetically modified soybeans. 

In the 2018 growing season, farmers in several counties in Missouri's bootheel region will not be allowed to spray Monsanto's XtendiMax and DuPont's FeXapan on dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton after June 1. In the rest of the state, farmers cannot apply either product after July 15. Pesticide applicators can only spray XtendiMax and FeXapan between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., submit daily forms to the department before every application and complete training with the University of Missouri Extension.  The same rules were imposed on BASF's dicamba product Engenia in mid-November. 

Gov. Eric Greitens sits down for an interview with St. Louis Public Radio in downtown St. Louis on July 17, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

 

 

Gov. Eric Greitens is taking his smaller-government message to Missouri’s agriculture industry, ahead of the 2018 legislative session that begins next month.

The first-year Republican governor told Missouri Farm Bureau members at their annual gathering this week that his administration is poised to roll back “tens of thousands” of regulations that affect farmers, ranchers and agribusiness.

 

The Missouri Farm Bureau says roughly 60 percent of the soybeans grown in the state are sent to China.
The United Soybean Board | Flickr

Governor Eric Greitens is taking his smaller-government message to Missouri’s agriculture industry, ahead of the 2018 legislative session that begins next month.

The first-year Republican governor told Missouri Farm Bureau members at their annual gathering this week that his administration is poised to roll back “tens of thousands” of regulations that affect farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness.

provided by the CDC

Missouri and 12 other states are continuing their legal fight against California over a state law there that plaintiffs say is inflating the price of eggs.

California law requires any eggs sold there to come from chickens whose cages are large enough for them to stretch out and move around. Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

Missouri Dept. of Agriculture

Chris Chinn’s first year on the job has not been boring.

Her tenure as director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture began with flooding in the spring that’s now causing delays in crop harvests. Along the way, Chinn’s office had to deal with contamination in southeastern Missouri that triggered a temporary ban of the herbicide Dicamba. It's an issue that caught the attention of the Missouri General Assembly and farmers across the state.

St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin caught up with Chinn to talk about those challenges and her department’s major priorities.

A cornfield
File Photo | Adam Allington | St. Louis Public Radio

The National Science Foundation has awarded $3.4 million to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana and the University of California-Davis to study genes that promote high corn yields.

Advances in crop technology have helped boost corn yields by eightfold in the last century. But productivity of the staple crop has plateaued in recent years and that has pushed researchers to take a closer look at genes that can improve production and help feed the world's rising human population.

Sikeston farmer Trey Wilson said he saw substantial damage to his soybean crops this year. On the left is what a healthy soybean plant looks like; on the right is a soybean plant showing signs of dicamba damage.
Trey Wilson

Sikeston, Missouri — In front of several greenhouse scaffolds, Steve Hamra gestured to a metal cart containing trays of seedlings for bell peppers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce. About 150 miles south of St. Louis on a 10-acre site, Hamra is growing produce hydroponically, or in water instead of soil, for about 400 schools, in Missouri and other states.

Logan Jackson | Curators of the University of Missouri

Large agricultural corporations influence all stripes of Missouri politicians, including the Republicans who control the Missouri General Assembly.

A new nonprofit organization is seeking to change that, pushing back against Big Ag’s money and lobbyists. But it’s a tall order, especially when multibillion-dollar companies like Monsanto and Smithfield donate hefty sums to rural Democrats’ and Republicans’ campaigns.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri corn and soybean farmers may see higher yields this year, as scientists from the University of Missouri-Columbia forecast mild weather and moderate rainfall this summer. 

Meteorological records show that dry, mild winters typically are followed by average to slightly more than average rainfall in the spring and summer. 

"The reason why that would be is just a switch in the jet stream pattern and now is the time of the year when we expect there to be wetter conditions in April and May," said Tony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science at Mizzou. 

Gov. Eric Greitens signs a bill. (20170
Courtesy of Office of Gov. Eric Greitens

Updated March 31, 2017 – Stiffer penalties are now in place for anyone who misuses dicamba and other herbicides in Missouri.

Governor Eric Greitens signed House Bill 662 into law Thursday, but also held an official signing ceremony Friday at the University of Missouri’s Fisher Delta Center in Portageville, which conducts agricultural research in the Bootheel region.

Marshall Griffin|St. Louis Public Radio

With Missouri facing slower income growth, Gov. Eric Greitens isn’t sparing the state’s Department of Agriculture from proposed budget cuts. 

The agency will receive about $14 million dollars less in the coming fiscal year, which new agriculture director Chris Chinn says is more like "belt tightening." But she made it clear that farmers and ranchers will receive the same level of services they currently see.

Fields of sorghum at the University of Arizona's Maricopa Agricultural Center.
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

A $6.1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will fund the Danforth Plant Science Center's research on sorghum, a staple food crop in sub-Saharan Africa. 

In several Asian and African countries, grain sorghum is essential to a person's diet. Given worldwide concerns over feeding a growing human population during a time of rising global temperatures, scientists have started paying attention to crops such as sorghum, that are highly resilient to drought and extreme heat.

Corn stalks sit in a new greenhouse structure, which features 160,000 feet of glass at Monsanto on Oct. 28, 2016.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto has reached a non-exclusive licensing deal with a local company to use a tool that could help engineer new, high-yielding seeds. 

The GenoMAGIC technology was developed by NRGene, an Israeli startup that opened its U.S. headquarters in St. Louis last spring. Scientists use the tool to analyze genes in plants. Monsanto wants to use it to find new combinations of genes that could produce bigger harvests for farmers.

Sen. Brian Munzlinger
Marshall Griffin I St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Jo Mannies are pleased to welcome Sen. Brian Munzlinger.

Munzlinger is a Republican from Williamstown, an unincorporated community in Lewis County in northeast Missouri. He represents a mammoth district that includes Adair, Chariton, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Linn, Macon, Marion, Pike, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Ralls, and Randolph counties.

Provided by The Land Institute

Story updated at 1:18 p.m. Oct. 18 | Originally posted at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 11

Some scientists dream of a future in which people can add sorghum, intermediate wheatgrass and other currently wild perennial plants to their diet.

In St. Louis, researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Saint Louis University are developing a list of wild perennials, which live for many years, to recommend for domestication. Researchers say such plants have the potential to make agriculture more sustainable and feed a growing human population.

Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

Missouri lawmakers continue to follow reports of illegal spraying of crops in the Bootheel region.

So far, 124 complaints have been made of people using an outdated version of the herbicide dicamba. Investigators from the Missouri Department of Agriculture have been looking into the complaints over the past few months.

Christine Anyeko, a laborer in Uganda's northern Amuru district, weeds a field of cassava, banana and beans by hand.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

NAMULONGE, Uganda — Before rows of tall, green bushes, Jude Aleu picks a cassava tuber off the ground and cracks it in half.

That shouldn’t be so easy. Healthy cassava tubers — a staple food crop in the region — can grow as thick as your upper arm. But the root in Aleu’s hands is stunted and gnarled because of a plant virus called brown streak disease. When he breaks it open, the flesh is streaked with brown and yellow, a necrosis that will render the harvest inedible.

“It’s corky,” said Aleu, a cassava safety manager for Uganda’s National Crops Resources Research Institute. “This root you cannot eat. Even animals cannot eat it.” 

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