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Iowa State University scientists are working toward a future in which farmers can use unmanned aircraft to spot, and even predict, disease and stress in their crops.

The hills were blackened. What was once a house, now a concrete slab.

Wildfires brought destruction to the lush hillside vineyards, rangelands and forests of Napa County, California, in the fall of 2017. Six months later, Jacob Wright, a junior in agronomy, found himself in the midst of a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) team dedicated to the recovery of the landscape.

“Often people just didn’t know where to start,” says Wright. “We would visit the property and point them in the right direction. We worked together with multiple agencies at both the state and federal level.”

Genetic engineering systems are critical tools to advance crop genomics research and related crop improvement efforts in the United States and worldwide. These tools have been limited, however, by the high complexity and low efficiency of current crop transformation processes.

To help overcome these limitations, the National Science Foundation has awarded $2.9 million to Iowa State University and University of Wisconsin scientists to develop the next generation of crop transformation tools and the crop geneticists who’ll put them to work.

One of the pressing questions this fall is when corn will reach maturity and if there is going to be enough time to dry down in the field. We have developed and released a corn grain dry down calculator that can help determine how quickly corn grain moisture will dry down in the field. The calculator can be applied at any location across the Corn Belt, from North Dakota to Missouri and from Nebraska to Ohio. Users select a map location and then enter a date and a kernel moisture content at that date. In turn, the tool projects in-field corn dry down. This tool can be used to estimate when a specific field will reach appropriately moisture for mechanical harvest (15-20% moisture) based on user input. The tool allows scenario planning by entering estimated dates and grain moisture for crops that are yet to mature compared to fields where crops have already matured.

New students in agronomy had the opportunity to go on a field trip and visit various industry locations around North West Iowa as well as network with professionals and other students within the major. The trip was from Friday, August 23 to Saturday, August 26 and was organized by Mary Wiedenhoeft. Other agronomy faculty members also helped with the trip.

The group began by visitng NEW Co-op at Roelyn and then traveled to the Bormann Ag Center and NRCS in Bode, IA. They then spent the afternoon at Corteva Agrisciences in Algona, IA where they were able to visit both the production and research facilities. They ended the night with visiting Mycogen Seed in Storm Lake, IA and grabbing some pizza for supper.

Prepare for a long harvest season.

Planting delays in Iowa last spring could prevent a significant portion of this year’s corn crop from maturing on time, said Iowa State University agriculture experts. That means farmers may still have corn to harvest deep into November as they attempt to give their corn fields as much time to dry down as possible.

An early freeze could stop a portion of the corn crop from reaching maturity, and farmers will watch temperatures closely in the coming weeks, the ISU experts said.

The Hora brothers won Best of Show during the 2019 Iowa State Fair 'pitch-off' for their business Continuum Ag. Mitchell Hora is an agronomy alum and his brother David will join the agronomy family as a freshman this Fall. 

Continuum Ag was established by Mitchell as an agricultural consulting company offering soil sampling and fertility analysis. With a realization that traditional agronomic consulting only addresses the chemical soil component, Continuum Ag has differentiated itself by working with growers that take a more holistic approach, recognizing the physical and biological aspects of soil as well.

From the Continuum Ag website:

GDM has joined the Iowa Soybean Research Center at Iowa State University as an industry partner. In this role, GDM will have a seat on the ISRC’s industry advisory council, which provides recommendations on research priorities.

“Joining a renowned institution such as the ISRC provides us with the unique opportunity to exchange insights and acquire knowledge to develop solutions that better suit the American farmer’s needs,” said Ignacio Bartolomé, Business Director for GDM in North America.

According to Martin Sarinelli, GDM Research Manager for North America, “We are excited about this opportunity that will allow GDM to participate in the decision-making process related to research projects that will boost the delivery of solutions for farmers by using best-in-class technologies.”

Rebecca Vittetoe, student in our MS Agronomy distance masters program recently won the Muenchrath award. Named after Deborah Muenchrath the award is giving to the student with the most outstanding creative component. It is available to a student who has distinguished themselves academically, creatively and professionally. 

Rebecca presented “Comparing the effect of cropping sequences, planting date, and seed treatment on seedling diseases of corn caused by Phythium species.” Her major professors are Dr. Alison Robertson and Dr. Mark Westgate. Her committee included Dr. Daren Mueller and Dr. Andy Lenssen.

On Monday, July 29 the youth Crop Scouting Competition was held at the Field Extension Education Laboratory in Boone. The winning team consisted of Macie Weigand, Lane Orr and Cassidy Penrod who will be joining agronomy as a freshman this fall.

Crop scouting and IPM are tools farmers use to increase economic returns while reducing unintended environmental impacts. Equipping future farmers and agronomists with crop scouting skills and basic IPM concepts helps the next generation of farm decision makers with crop production and land stewardship.

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