Life on the Western edge oof NEbraska

A friend wrote today of life last week in her town.  Understand that all true wealth comes from the soil and we in Agriculture are suffering to some degree by the lack of moisture.


No rain this month…or the month before…….our last measurable precipitation (nearly an inch on the home place…half that on fields further away) fell June 6.


The North Platte River Valley has moved from extreme to exceptional drought…a meteorological designation which, in just two words, tells an unforgiving story of pasture degradation, dying sagebrush, and empty reservoirs.


Disguised by irrigation our area doesn’t look much different than it has during previous dry spells, but once the irrigation canals and wells are shut  down the horror that comes from a rainless spring and summer will unmask… and even the most distracted and preoccupied observer will be able to grasp its true nature.


As drought intensifies so does the size, scope, and number of wildfires. Thursday, about noon, a gigantic cloud of brown smoke crawled over the northern horizon, rolling over Morrill like a 1930’s black blizzard, staining  the daylight a sickly nicotine yellow. Fine ash had just begun to fall when a local fire volunteer,  who had stopped in at the tire shop, said,  “I fought that fire all day yesterday until early this morning.  I came home to eat and clean up before they call me out again.”


A few moments later a longtime friend confided that his father had the ranch pickups and trucks loaded with personal belongings…ready for the evacuation order that was sure to come. “He sold his calves last week.” Neal said. “ It’s a good thing.  After this the ranch will be nothing but charcoal and dirt.”


Years from now the 2012 drought will be a single notation in Mother Earth’s logbook,  its complexities and challenges relegated to nostalgic history, the demands it made on daily life softened by emotional distance. But right now, at this very moment, it’s an extraordinarily powerful force of Nature which can’t be , for any length of time, successfully mitigated, managed, or fixed…despite journalistic stories to the contrary.


About all a person can do, other than pray, is prepare for it, live through it, and put it behind you when the rains return.


Until then the land aches for water……


As always,





Income Opportunity

Good Day

We have a seed company that we have worked with for several years. They are interested i finding a few people to expand their operation into the western corn belt.
We have trialed these seeds offering for several years and we are positive that they have both Organic and non organic and conventional seeds for marketing. Take a look and call if you have any questions about this opportunity. We have no “dog” in the fight as an independent agronomist I report what I see to the producers. Facts are facts and sharing that we have no pay for sign ups.

Mike Williams
Independent Agronomist
Board Certified
(We sell no products- just service and information)

At Gristmill Enterprises, we continue to build our seed offerings. We are looking for good independent minded people to work with in your area.

1) Offering – full line organic seed products (Seed corn will be tight)

2 Full line of non-gmo farm seeds – excellent supply

3) Have access through one of our seed growers to offer traited corn to those who so wish.

4) Maturities from 80-116 days on the corn.

Best case scenario for Grist Mill Enterprise

Commission sales. I don’t want to put a limit on income possible .

Art Scheele
Gristmill Enterprises

Soil Fertility Management after Drought

Greeting from the shores of the dry Platte river.

At OPINS CO-op we do Fertility recommendations based on 3 decades of soil testing activity.
Clearly we are under stress with the summer drought and knowing what is available for the 2013 crops is vital information.
When you have questions why not review and possible test for fertility with an established organic agronomist. The local chemical sales offices do little to understand why organic producers are different. This summer we have nited that conventional corn fields died fist, no till were 7-10 days later in the on going onslaught of dry skies. The organic fields we able to hold on an additional 7-10 days in a not rain 6-8 weeks this summer. Why and what is happening below ground is important knowledge that will make a difference next planting time.
When you need answers to your fertility consider an experienced organic agronomist as your source of knowledge to make the best decisions for your fields.
Mike Williams
Board Certified
Independent Agronomist
Soil fertility management after drought
John Sawyer and Antonio Mallarino, Iowa State University

The dry growing season in 2012 has raised several soil fertility questions. In some cases, there has been relatively normal crop production and no need for management changes. In other situations with severely damaged crops, there is potential for adjustments for the 2013 corn crop.

Soybean yield and next year corn N rate

In Iowa we no longer use the soybean yield to adjust nitrogen (N) rate recommendations for the next-year corn crop. The reason is that there is no relationship between soybean yield and the rotation effect on corn N fertilization rate for the next year. Would the same hold for drought-damaged soybean in 2012? Yes, even with very low yields. What is important is that soybean was the previous crop. Soybean does not leave “extra” N behind at the end of the season. The reason for the difference in N rate requirement between corn following soybean and corn following corn is complicated, but important reasons deal with the difference in amount and quality of crop residue, and how that affects soil microbial processing, soil mineralization and N for crop residue decomposition. Also, there would not be carryover nitrate-N following soybean. So, just use the normal rate recommendation system (Corn N Rate Calculator, MRTN rate or profitable N rate range) for corn following soybean.

Corn yield and next year corn N rate

This is more complicated than the soybean crop question. In general, as long as plant vegetative growth and/or grain yield was not drastically affected by the dry weather, then use the normal rate recommendation (Corn N Rate Calculator, MRTN rate or profitable N rate range) to determine the needed fertilization rate for continuous corn in 2013. In that situation, corn production of vegetation/grain would use much of the N applied. If there is uncertainty about unused N, and if less than normal rainfall persists into next year, one could use the low end of the Corn N Rate Calculator profitable range for the 2013 rate recommendation.
Residual soil nitrate

If the corn plant vegetation and/or grain yield was drastically affected by drought conditions, then N uptake would have been reduced and unused nitrate-N could be accounted for in determining the N fertilization rate for the 2013 corn crop. There are two methods to estimate carryover N. The direct method is to sample the soil profile (a minimum of 2 feet) after harvest and measure the nitrate-N concentration. Sampling would be by 1-foot increments. If dry conditions persist, most applied N should remain in the top 2 feet. Sampling to 3 feet would be preferable, especially where rainfall was enough to move nitrate deeper in the profile. To add up nitrate-N in the sampled profile, multiply the concentration in each foot by four to get the nitrate-N amount per foot and then add the amounts together. One would not want to account for all of the nitrate-N as a subtraction from the next crop N recommendation as there is always some nitrate in the profile at the end of the season. A suggestion from research conducted in Wisconsin (which should be appropriate for Iowa) is to only account for nitrate-N greater than 40 lb nitrate-N (2 foot depth) or 50 lb nitrate-N/acre (3 foot depth), with the remaining amount then subtracted from the normal rate recommendation. A second method to estimate carryover nitrate-N is to use the 2012 corn grain yield. Take the total N applied for the 2012 corn crop and subtract the 2012 grain yield in bu/acre. Then assume 50 percent of that amount will remain available to the 2013 crop if precipitation is normal or below normal for the fall/winter/early spring. The remaining nitrate-N amount will vary depending on the actual rainfall and potential losses from fall through spring. For example, if the total N application for the 2012 crop was 190 lb N/acre and the 2012 corn yield was 50 bu/acre, then the unused N would be 190 minus 50 = 140 lb N/acre. The 140 lb N/acre times 50 percent leaves 70 lb N/acre to subtract from the 2013 rate recommendation.

As a conservative approach, and due to uncertainty with either estimation method, a minimum rate recommendation of 50 lb N/acre should be considered. If fall/spring precipitation is well above normal, then the carryover nitrate would not be likely, especially in soils with high leaching potential. Sandy soils are not likely to retain carryover nitrate.

Spring soil profile sampling for nitrate-N is an option, especially with concerns about residual nitrate remaining after the fall/winter. In addition, such sampling could allow for a spring preplant or sidedress N application based on spring profile nitrate-N results, and instead of a fall application. Use of the late spring soil nitrate test (LSNT) to determine carryover nitrate may miss considerable nitrate deeper than in just the top foot. Therefore, it would be better to sample the deeper profile before planting.

There could be considerable variation in nitrate levels across fields, due to yield level, banded N application, and soil/topography. Therefore, many cores (at least 12) should be collected per sample, and multiple samples per field from representative areas. Since the cores are by one-foot depths, mixing in the field will be needed to obtain a representative sample for each depth. Keep the soil from each depth as a separate sample to send to the lab.
Stalk nitrate testing

The end-of-season lower corn stalk nitrate test can be useful for determination of excess plant available N from the soil (i.e. concentrations above 2,000 ppm nitrate-N). However, that interpretation is for normal weather and production conditions. In 2012, test results could be abnormally high due to the dry conditions and severe impact on plant growth and grain production. Therefore, it is suggested to not use the stalk nitrate test this year, or to use it as a measure of potential nitrate carryover.
Timing of fall N application

With the potential for early fall harvest this year, carefully consider the risks of early N fertilizer or manure application. With typical warm soils in the late summer and early fall, conversion of fertilizer and manure ammonium to nitrate will be rapid. This places the applied N at risk for loss if wet conditions develop. For many years now the ag industry in Iowa has followed the “wait until 50 ○F and cooling” before anhydrous ammonia application. That would also be a good practice for manure with high ammonium-N content.
Dry periods

Corn yield response to N rate and needed fertilization rate decreases in years with below normal rainfall. This effect can persist across periods (years) of dry conditions, and even for year(s) after rainfall returns to normal (but not excessively wet). If below normal rainfall conditions continue, then consider using the low end of the Corn N Rate Calculator profitable range for corn N rate recommendations.

Farm Service emergency loans

Senator Johanns e-Update
August 15, 2012

While traveling across Nebraska, I’ve witnessed firsthand the drought-stricken fields and pastures stretching from Scottsbluff to the Missouri River. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that ag producers in all 93 Nebraska counties are now eligible for Farm Service Agency emergency loans on a case-by-case basis.

I have contacted USDA on multiple occasions to ensure necessary actions are taken to help relieve pressure on our state’s producers. In response, USDA opened Conservation Reserve Program lands for emergency haying and grazing, provided financial and technical assistance to help crop and livestock producers in several states, including Nebraska, and recently announced that it will purchase $170 million worth of meat products for federal food nutrition assistance programs. For information on what assistance is available for you, please contact your local USDA office at or 402-437-5581.

This is one of the most severe droughts in our country’s history, and it is important we do everything we can to help producers manage these kinds of risks. I recently visited the National Drought Mitigation Center, where experts are monitoring every aspect of the drought’s impact—from livestock welfare to insect populations. Their comprehensive coverage provides risk management information and best practices for those coping with the lack of moisture. They also offer informed suggestions to state and federal officials on how to assist through thoughtful policy.

I will continue to monitor the ongoing drought and push for responsible efforts to reduce strain on our producers. For more information on the drought, and my work to provide assistance to Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers, visit my web page HERE.


*Save the Date, February 15th & 16th, 2013. Healthy Farms Conference. *

*2013:* Plan to attend the Healthy Farms Conference of the Nebraska
Sustainable Agriculture Society. The dates for 2013 are February 15-16 and
it will be held at the Peter Kiewit Lodge at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park.

*Keynotes:* This year we will feature three dynamic keynotes!

*Michael Forsberg.* Forsberg is a Nebraska native, a world renowned
photographer and has focused much of his work in North America’s Great
Plains, once one of the greatest grassland ecosystems on Earth. His goal
has been to try to capture the wild spirit that still survives in these
wide-open spaces and put a face to the often overlooked native creatures
and landscapes found there. His hope is that the images can build
appreciation and go to work to inspire conservation efforts on the land far
into the future. You can read more about Michael here,

*John Hansen.* Hansen comes from a sixth generation diversified grain and
livestock farm in northeast Nebraska. Hansen was first elected President
of the Nebraska Farmers Union in 1989, and has been re-elected six times
since. Hansen also serves as Secretary of National Farmers Union, a
position he has held since 2002. Find more information about John here,
**Jim Kleinschmit.** *Kleinschmit directs the Institute for Agriculture and
Trade Policy’s Rural Communities program, which focuses on strengthening
the link between rural economic policy and local, democratic
decision-making in order to aid communities in creating and retaining the
wealth that comes from their natural and human resources. Jim grew up
milking cows and learning about sustainable agriculture.

Grassfed Beef

Dear Friends;

While August has brought much-needed rain to the Northeast, I know many of you are facing very difficult and dry seasons. The economic hard times our nation faces are also starting to catch up to the farm market stall for many of us, impacting the choices our customers are making for their weekly meat purchases. This month’s story hones in on an excellent cut for folks on a budget who crave a local, grassfed steak dinner: The Sirloin Tip. While sirloin tip might not be so extraordinary when it comes to ordinary supermarket beef, something special happens in the grassfed production process that results in this particular cut being extraordinary. Click here to learn why (and to get some great recipes, too).

I am pleased to announce that Long Way on a Little has gone to print. We will be expecting our first shipment of books in just a few weeks, and I will write to let you know the wholesale pricing schedule. Advance single copies can be ordered at

Diversified Agriculture Farm Tour Offered Aug. 18 in Butler County

Diversified Agriculture Farm Tour Offered Aug. 18 in Butler County
LINCOLN, Neb. – A day-long diversified agriculture farm tour will begin 1 p.m. Aug. 18, two miles north of Abie, Neb. Farmers will visit three farms and get a chance to exchange knowledge about integrated crops and livestock systems, utilizing cover crop to extend livestock feed and increasing their farm’s biodiversity.
The tour starts at Larry Stanislav’s diversified crop farm. Stanislav has an extensive crop rotation of spring wheat, corn, soybeans and cover crops used to control weeds and increase fertility. Stanislav will discuss two University of Nebraska-Lincoln on-farm research studies that he has cooperated on: 1) a nutrient management study with third-year crop rotation results and 2) a flaming experiment for weed management and moisture conservation in corn.
In addition, a conservationist from the National Resources Conservation Services will review funding opportunities available through the NRCS for fencing, water systems, cover crops and seasonal high tunnels.
From 3-4 p.m., the tour moves to Mark Roh’s farm, Abie Vegetable People, which is one-fourth mile west of Abie. Mark Roh is a beginning organic market gardener. He will discuss his drip irrigation system, storage facility, crop rotations, pest control, on-farm processing and future greenhouse plans. Roh will also discuss vegetables to grow for farmers markets and how to fence raccoons out of sweet corn.
The day ends at Ostry Family, Wagon Wheel Farm at 2281 Spur 12B, one-half mile north of Bruno, Neb. Mike Ostry will take participants on a tour of his various field crops and cover crops, and speak about his participation in an on-farm flaming experiment with UNL. He will also explain their large organic garden, on-farm livestock processing facility and pasture for poultry, ducks, turkeys, geese and hogs.
Families are welcome. The Ostry’s have direct marketing and money-making projects that youth can do on the farm, which may spark summer job ideas for youth.
A free meal starts at 5 p.m., followed by music by the Ostry family. Call Pat at 402-584-3837 to reserve meals.