Agriculture | St. Louis Public Radio

Agriculture

Mild weather and moderate rainfall predicted for this summer could boost corn and soybean yields.
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.” 

provided by the CDC

Federal officials have tied eight cases of salmonella over the summer to a family-run egg company an hour south of St. Louis.

The Good Earth Egg Company in Bonne Terre, Missouri has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the likely source of the infections, although investigations are ongoing. The company has recalled all of its shell eggs with sell-by dates before Oct. 8, 2016.

Cattle head to a barn.
Donna Korando | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

Owners of animals in Missouri that cause property damage are no longer liable unless negligence can be proven in court.

The new law took effect Wednesday when the House and Senate overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.  Senate Bill 844 was sponsored by Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who's also running for lieutenant governor.

/ Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

A handful of agriculture-related bills passed by the Missouri General Assembly this year have been signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Senate Bill 665 renews the Qualified Beef Tax Credit through December 2021 and caps the incentive at $2 million per calendar year.  The size of the tax break will become larger for cattle weighing 600 pounds or more; it's set to increase to 25 cents per pound. For cattle weighing less than 600 pounds the tax credit will remain at 10 cents a pound.

Eli Chen

There's a tremendous distance between where food is grown and how it travels to the dinner plate, and people living in cities often only see where the journey ends: the grocery store.

GROW, a new exhibit opening Saturday at the Saint Louis Science Center, aims to connect people to where their food comes from through a series of hands-on activities and demonstrations. The indoor and outdoor spaces take up one acre, where the Exploradome used to be, making it the largest permanent exhibit the Science Center has built since its expansion in 1991.

 

Current and Jacks Fork rivers
National Parks Service

Legislation now before Gov. Jay Nixon could give corporate agriculture more input into the state’s water resources. It could lead to more industry representatives, which would mean fewer public voices on the Missouri Clean Water Commission.

Near the end of session, it’s not unusual for controversial amendments to be tacked on to bills. This change, sponsored by Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown, fits that description.

Missouri farmers grow rice mostly in the state's Boo theel.
USDA

Gov. Jay Nixon is working to strengthen a trade agreement with Cuba to export Missouri goods. On Wednesday, Nixon returned from Cuba, where he led a delegation of the state's agriculture and business leaders.  

snebtor | Flickr

Owners of the best agricultural lands in Missouri will not see their taxes going up in 2017 and 2018.

The Missouri House and Senate have both passed a measure blocking a 5 percent tax hike on lands graded "1 through 4." That amounts to one-third of the state's most productive farmlands. The increase was authorized in December by the State Tax Commission and would have automatically taken effect without legislative action to stop it.

United States Department of Agriculture | via Flickr

The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan. So how is it that the National Tree Christmas Association is based in Chesterfield?

"There’s lots of office space," joked executive director Rick Dungey.

The trade organization represents about 600 active member farms, 29 state and regional associations, and more than 3,800 affiliated businesses. While Missouri ranks 26th in Christmas tree production, Dungey said their office's location doesn't much matter when handling their members’ business.

The drought of 2012 took its toll on agriculture across the Midwest, including this soybean field near Dayton, Indiana.
Tom Campbell | Purdue Agricultural Communications

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up in Paris over the weekend. While talking heads analyze the merits of the plan that came out of the meeting, farmers in the Midwest are thinking about the very real impact climate change is having on them.

Agriculture could be among the sectors hardest hit by a warming global climate, and farmers here already are having to adapt to changing weather patterns.

Pumpkin patch
Courtesy of the Illinois Farm Bureau

Hopefully you got your fill of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. It may be your last until next fall.

Canned pumpkin supplies are expected to run out after the holiday. This year’s yield was down by about half in Illinois, where 90 percent of the crop for canned pumpkin is produced.

Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

The 2014 farm bill included a negotiated rate of return of 14 percent for companies providing federally subsidized crop insurance to farmers. The budget compromise between congressional leaders and the White House unveiled this week would re-open that five-year agreement and reduce the rate of return to 8.9 percent. This would save approximately $3 billion over the next 10 years, but may cost the budget deal some support.

Karla Thieman
U.S. Department of Agriculture

As the third youngest of four siblings, Karla Thieman, says her favorite chore growing up on her family’s farm in Concordia, Mo., came during calving season. Family members would take shifts getting up very early on cold mornings in February or March to check on the cows that were calving. “There was always this sense of excitement of potentially finding a new baby calf, and the person who found the calf or pulled the calf would get to name the calf so, that was always a very special honor.”

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- are not exactly a controversial subject at the Ag Innovation Showcase.

The three-day annual event is the place where the agriculture industry comes together to talk about new trends and startups to present to potential investors.

Yet this week at the seventh annual showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, there was also discussion around how people outside of agriculture view the technology. The auditorium was packed for a panel discussion called "Transparency Without Prejudice--Bridging the GMO Divide."

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.)

The Ag Innovation Showcase began on Monday at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. In its seventh year, the three-day event includes panel discussions on trends in agriculture and technology and gives startups a chance to find investors and partners. 

This year, 19 early stage companies will present to possible investors. Those companies are focused on precision agriculture, renewables and sustainables, biological solutions and farming innovations.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Sen. Claire McCaskill is embarking this week on an agricultural tour of the state.

The Missouri Democrat began Monday with a stop at the Danforth Plant Science Center, a non-profit research institute, in suburban St. Louis. The center’s campus also includes the Bio Research & Development Growth Park (BRDG Park), an incubator that houses and helps develop life science startups.

After touring the facility, McCaskill said such research is key to the future of agriculture.

Kevin Kliesen, Business Economist and Research Officer,
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Many Midwest farmers will be feeling the effect of this summer’s abnormally wet weather for the rest of this year and into 2016. A new agricultural survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests farmer income will continue to take a hit into next year in part because of the delayed planting of soybeans and the inability to bale hay.

GMOs, Monsanto and the fight against climate change

Jul 12, 2015
A storm hovers over an Illinois rural landscape on May 29, 2015. Extreme weather is likely to become more common in the Midwest under climate change conditions, according to researchers and federal reports.
Darrell Hoemann | Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

Twenty years ago, less than 10 percent of corn and soybean acres in the United States were planted with genetically engineered seeds, the type of biotechnology now commonly known as GMOs.

Farmers have rushed to adopt the engineered seeds since then, in part because of climate change concerns.

Missouri farmers grow rice mostly in the state's Boo theel.
USDA

A rice farmer from Dexter, Mo., asked his U.S. representative a question more than 15 years ago that launched two Missouri lawmakers into the first successful effort to open Cuba to U.S. trade since the embargo in the early 1960s.

The change came with restrictions that the Obama administration is now trying to remove, but it was the first crack in that trade wall.

Updated at 12:30 pm June 24, 2015 with comments from Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant

The chief executive officer of St. Louis-based Monsanto says the company is still committed to putting together a deal to acquire a European agricultural chemical manufacturer.

Interest in Syngenta remains high, but Hugh Grant has told analysts on Wednesday that Monsanto is keeping options option in case a deal is not reached.

"This isn’t something we’re gonna turn into an epic struggle," he stated during the company's quarterly earnings conference call.

Our previous story from June 23, 2015:

The chairman of Syngenta is laying out the general terms for any possible acquisition by St. Louis-based Monsanto.

Flooded fields, an inability to plant, and the possibility of disease are all concerns Missouri farmers have due to recent rains.
Sonya Green | Flickr

Missouri's farmers are facing significant challenges as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Bill compound an already wet planting season.

Microbiologist Mary-Dell Chilton works in her lab at Syngenta.
Syngenta

Mary-Dell Chilton pioneered the field of genetic engineering in agriculture.

She has spent most of her decades-long career working for Syngenta, where she founded the agribusiness company's research on genetically modified seeds.

But Chilton started out in academia. And it was here in St. Louis, at Washington University, that she led the team that created the first genetically-modified plants in the early 1980s.

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