Category Archives: organic farms

Is Organic Corn the Way to Go Next Year?

Let’s face it. Input costs for seeds and chemicals cost a lot when growing field corn.

Will the new farm bill step up to the plate and cover these costs with its new higher price floors?

Is it worth it?

What are the options?

Is it time to switch to growing organic corn?

Or, might policy increase the demand for corn and soy through biofuel policies – to pick up this over-production slack?

Or, should government conservation programs step up and pay more to idle land? (That is not the plan as far as I know.)

Today, let’s take a look at what Chad Hart over at Iowa State is expecting in negative returns per acre to grow corn this year and next. Then, let’s take a look at profit margins for growing organic corn from previous USDA data.


From Iowa State’s Hart:
Based on our ISU estimated production costs, corn margins are a negative $225 per acre and soybean margins are negative $100 per acre. After several years of significant profits for Iowa crops, these margin losses are large. And the margins don’t improve much as we look at the 2015 crops. For corn, the futures market is showing enough carry to push the projected 2015 season average price to roughly $3.50 per bushel. But that’s still $1 per bushel below projected 2015 production costs. Soybean futures for the 2015 crop aren’t provided nearly the same boost. The projected 2015 season average soybean price based on current futures is $9 per bushel. That’s $2 per bushel below projected production costs.


From the USDA:

In 2010, U.S. producers saw average returns of $307 per acre for conventional corn, compared with $557 per acre for organic corn, primarily because higher organic corn prices more than offset lower organic corn yields. Total operating and ownership costs per acre (seed, fertilizer, chemicals, custom operations, fuel, repairs, interest, hired labor, capital recovery of machinery and equipment, taxes, and insurance) were not significantly different between organic and conventional corn, although many of the individual cost components differed. Three major components of operating costs—seed, fertilizer, and chemicals—are lower for organic corn than for conventional corn, while some components of ownership costs—the capital recovery of machinery and equipment, and taxes and insurance—are higher for organic corn. Although the acres planted to organic corn nearly tripled between 2001 and 2010, organic corn accounted for less than 1 percent of total 2010 corn acres.


It will be interesting to see what the producers decide and how acreage numbers look next year. And it will be interesting to see if there will be more farms coming available for sale in corn country.

Leaf Illustrations and Charts to Help Diagnose Plant Nutrient Deficiencies

For the farmer or gardener, it is important to be able to read your plant. The seasoned grower develops an intuitive sense over time in response to plant signals of stress. The key is observing and being able to notice unhealthy leaves, and developing the ability to understand what the plant’s leaf is telling you. Something to note is that a young leaf’s message differs from an old leaf’s message. In this post, I have assembled a number of good graphics to help you do just that. While there is some overlap between the illustrations, they should be helpful as a whole in helping you figure out your specific problem.

PLANT LEAF CHART OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES


Credit: Twitter @FarmerRaviVKV “Plants speak to us through their leaves what they want. Farmers must keenly understand the language of his plants.”


DIAGNOSING NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES CHART


Credit: Twitter @trouttroller Day 2 of #canoLAB14. John Mayko with a great slide depicting location of nutrient deficiency symptoms.


SIMPLE PLANT DEFICIENCY GUIDE


Credit: Twitter @JSKProperty. Plant deficiency guide – Some possible problems because of nutrient deficiency or even too much of any one nutrient.


CORN LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY ILLUSTRATION


Credit: farmwifediary.blogspot


CHART OF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS IN PLANTS



Credit: Atlantis Hydroponics.
For more charts showing the inter-relationships between nutrients (excess-induced deficiencies) see this PDF, also from Atlantis Hydroponics.


LEAF DEFICIENCY GUIDE (MAPLE LEAVES)





Credit: CANNA.


NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY FLOWCHART – OLD AND NEW LEAVES – CHLOROSIS AND NECROSIS


Credit: UNKNOWN


NUTRIENT ANTAGONISMS CHART


Credit: UNKNOWN


NUTRIENT DISORDERS MARIJUANA LEAVES



Credit: mjforum


DEFICIENCIES AND ABUNDANCE OF FERTILIZATION ELEMENTS (MARIJUANA LEAVES)



Credit: OCK.PEACE.ORG


NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS – Citrus


Credit: Twitter @247Garden. Nutrient deficiency symptoms at a glance! #growing #gardening #hydroponics #green Courtesy of NATESC and IPCC.


AQUATIC PLANTS – LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY


Credit: Zapins at Aquatic Plant Central. Plant Deficiency Picture Diagram for aquatic plants.


CHART EXPLAINING LEAF NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY


Credit: Hawaii.edu. Plant Nutritional Deficiencies Symptoms chart.


If you have any links to other great graphics on this subject, please leave them in the comments.

A Barrier Net Instead of Pesticides or Greenhouses Proves Successful in Africa for Growing Vegetables

In Kenya and Tanzania, farm producers are turning to a physical barrier to keep bugs out instead of using chemicals. Called Eco-Friendly Nets or Agronets, they can save growers 90 percent in pesticide costs and allow the farm to be classified as organic.

The nets are used for growing tomatoes, cabbages, kales, spinach, capsicum, and other vegetables.

They cost much less than constructing a greenhouse, and just may produce healthier crops than a greenhouse. Farmers using them have drastically increased their output of tomatoes since they help create a micro-climate which increases the heat and lessens the time required for maturity, in addition to restricting pests.

The nets are affordable for many of the small scale farmers.

AgroNet is a family of clear netting products developed by A to Z Textile Mills based in Arusha for use in horticulture—vegetables, fruit and ornamentals.


Sources:

http://www.freshplaza.com/article/124804/Kenya-Forget-greenhouses,-Agronet-technology-is-the-in-thing

http://www.freshplaza.com/article/124716/Tanzanian-vegetable-growers-use-netting-technology-to-control-pests

Hmong Farming Community Near Minneapolis, Minnesota


Photo by Kimberley Britt @ FlickrCC July 10, 2014.
“Smiling Eyes” – local farmer – in Minnesota

With a population of 66,000, Minneapolis has the largest Hmong urban population in the world. Farm programs for the Hmong in the Twin Cities area were begun in the 1980s.

These next photos are all taken at HAFA farm in Minnesota. HAFA stands for Hmong American Farmers Association. This group has benefitted the region with their unique and diverse specialty crops, as you will see in the photos.


Mao – onions – HAFA FARM


JUDY GAO – looking south – HAFA FARM


Veronica – wash stations – HAFA FARM


Mo, Sam, Mao, Vinai – red potatoes – HAFA FARM


Mao, Moua, Mao – peas – HAFA FARM


Tha corn seed – HAFA FARM


DOUA – TRACTOR leak – HAFA FARM

Finally, here is a video explaining the HAFA farm:

I’d venture to guess that this Hmong farm community around Minneapolis is aging as its younger generation chooses urban jobs over rural, as is the case everywhere else, too.

Photos are by Mike Hazard, Media for HAFA, FlickrCC.