As we celebrate National Dairy Month, my thoughts are with Jack & Frances Watt, my old neighbors (when you live in the country, a “neighbor” can reside within at least 5 miles of you) who were dairy farmers. They were among the hardest working, kindest people I’ve ever known. Vacations were a foreign concept to them; they never left their cows. As a kid, I would frequently visit them and help Jack. Since they had no children of their own, they welcomed my visits. Their milking parlor was anything but modern. The work was hard and began before sunrise. Cows were fed with square hay bales and manure was shoveled from the stalls. And yes, milking was done by hand. But the rewards of that cold, fresh milk were beyond description. As a former school teacher, Frances always had a book for me to take home and read, usually from a classic author such as Dickens, and upon returning it we’d discuss it, much like giving a book report to your teacher, except our discussions were always fun and she served you homemade cookies with fresh milk. Looking back, she helped inspire me to enter a career in writing and communications, and Jack was happy I pursued agriculture (they were extremely proud when I landed my first job writing for Prairie Farmer magazine). When mom and I would go into our local grocery store, you always knew when Jack was there, no matter where he was in the store. The iodine he used to disinfect his cow’s udders carried a very strong, distinct odor. We’d open the door to the Hi-Lo Grocery, and I’d immediately look at mom, smile, and say, “Jack’s here.” I wish Jack and Frances were still here. They, and so many like them, are what’s always made country life the greatest life.

Opportunities from CI (carbon intensity) scores are the talk of farm country. At least they were last week in the community of Washington, Iowa, site of Continuum Ag’s TopSoil Summit. Attendance for this year’s event – focusing on the topic of CI scores – doubled from last year, drawing over 450 attendees, mainly farmers anxious to learn about a new revenue stream. A dynamic speaker line-up included not only industry thought leaders, but representatives from Southwest Airlines and Chevron. After attending the event, I’m more convinced than ever that Huma is on the right track with our regen ag and CI score priorities. What we uniquely offer is exactly what biofuel markets want: an efficient, universal way to dramatically reduce synthetic fertilizer across multiple application methods, while increasing crop yields. The TopSoil audience seemed very receptive to our presentation. It certainly helped that we focused specifically on how Huma products help reduce CI scores. For example: substituting Super Nitro for conventional N sources can conservatively reduce CI scores by about 10 points. This type of content was very relevant to the audiences and was literally set up by the prior speakers.

While driving through Arkansas last week, what stood out was what we did not see: corn. I counted only one cornfield from Memphis to the Bootheel. This has everything to do with corn prices and the number of options Natural State growers have. We saw lots of great looking rice, cotton, soybeans and wheat. Once we entered Illinois, and later Iowa, what immediately stood out was the amount of very young corn plants. This is primarily due to the high number of replants this spring, due to heavy rains and cool temperatures, as well as delayed planting.

My corn has hit a key milestone: canopy. This is marked by when leaves from the plants in one row reach out and touch the leaves from plants in the next row over, creating a crop canopy between the rows. Why is this important? By essentially closing the area between the rows, the crop can shade weed competition. For corn, this usually means future weed competition is suppressed or even eliminated – provided the rows are fairly clean at the time (which mine are). Corn plants will grow rapidly from this point and typically outcompete weeds, which will lack sunlight. This is not the case for slower growing or shorter crops, such as soybeans. Yes, crop canopy is helpful, but weeds such as waterhemp are very aggressive and can still present problems, even late in the season. Crop canopy also means the crop is optimizing light capture throughout the entire field. While growing crops, farmers are actually harvesting sunlight, used for photosynthesis. So having green foliage spread across the entire field maximizes this vital process. My corn hit crop canopy in just 36 days – that is an incredibly fast pace for corn grown in 38-inch rows. This speaks to the vigor of my plants, which is a major contributor to high yields.

About the Author

Fred Nichols

Fred Nichols, Chief Marketing Officer at Huma, is a life-long farmer and ag enthusiast. He operated his family farm in Illinois, runs a research farm in Tennessee, serves on the Board of Directors at Agricenter International and has spent 35 years in global agricultural business.

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