Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seed Treatment Training

Thursday, I completed my continuing education hours for my Commercial Seed Treatment license.  My Joe and I have a Pioneer HiBred Seed dealership and to go along with this we started a soybean seed treating business six years ago. What I mean by seed treating is to apply certain crop protection products to the soybean seed after it arrives at our seed warehouse from Pioneer's seed conditioning plant and before our seed customers pick up the seed to plant it.

So why do we plant treated soybeans?  Research from Iowa State University (the agricultural land grant university in Iowa) shows that the earlier soybeans are planted in the spring the greater the yields are in the fall.  Twentyfive years ago, soybeans in northeast Iowa were planted around Memorial Day.  Typically by Memorial Day soils are starting to warm up and soybean seed will germinate relatively quickly.  Today, we are planting soybeans by the end of April beginning of May - as soon as the soil conditions are fit.  However, at this earlier planting date the soils are cooler and wetter than late May and the potential for disease and insect infestations is much higher as it will take longer for the soybeans to germinate.  So the products we apply help protect the seeds and early seedlings from several diseases and insects.  I compare this to giving children a whooping cough vacination.

Is seed treatment cost effective?  It costs about $13.50 to treat 50 pounds of soybean seed.  An average seeding rate is about 50 pounds of seed per acre. Iowa State Research shows a 1.5 to 4.4 bushel per acre yield increase when using treated soybeans.  There is more yield increase potential the earlier the seeds are planted and the more disease potential a soil has. 

The market for soybeans for fall delivery is about $12.75 per bushel.    Let's say we realize an increase in yield from 58 bushels per acre to 61 bushels per acre.  That is a 3 bushel per acre increase.

                                                      3 bu/acre Increase X $12.75/Acre = $38.25 Increase per Acre

                                                      $38.25 Gross Increase
                                                   - $13.50  Investment Cost
                                                      $24.75  Net Increase per Acre

So there is definately potential for a soybean farmer to harvest increased margins with seed treatments.

Are seed treatments safe?   Seed treatments have come a long ways from Roman times when heavy metals were used and could render soils sterile for years or the arsenic used in the mid 1800's.  Todays seed treatments are safe.  We are basically applying less that 5 ounces of product per acre of land.  An acre is 43,560 square feet or about the size of a football field.  Todays products begin to biologically degrade as soon as the seed is planted and last between 15 and 21 days in soil.
The Department of Agriculture regulates of the use of agricultural pesticides.  Every time I treat any amount of seed I make a record of the date, time, amount of seed treated, what products were applied to the seed, as well as the weather conditions at the time of treatment and who received the treated seed.  I must also keep these records for several years.  Below is a picture of treated soybeans.  You will notice that the beans are bright green.  Soybeans are tan, however, by law if a seed is treated with any type of crop protection product it must be colored to signal to a handler that the seed has been treated.  Treated seed can never be used for animal feed or human consumption.  By law treated seed must be planted or destroyed.  There are major fines and penalties if treated seed would ever show up in a feed situation.
Treated soybean seeds

In our operation we treat soybean seed when the customer is ready to plant that way there isn't any extra treated seed.  The customer buys only what he needs.  This makes economic, agronomic, and environmental sense to any farmer. 

I hope this gives you a little insight into the thought process a farmer goes through when planning for the coming growing season.  Once I get started treating soybeans this spring I hope to put up pictures of the seed treating process.


This week since our icestorm I have noticed that our neighborhood bald eagles are not roosting in the tree tops or on grain legs like they usually do.  They have been hanging out in the fields in groups.   So, is this their reaction to icey conditions?

There were 10 eagles in this group - the rest are around the contour of the hill.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Glass World

For a brief two hours this morning the sun came out!  It's the first time seeing the sun in over a week.  Ahh, simple pleasures.  On the way to the bus this morning son #2 said everything looked like glass this morning.  We all agreed. 

The icestorm hit Sunday and Monday, February 19th & 20th, the weather models predicted warm temps for melting a few days ago but that never materialized.  Now we are to get more snow and winds this weekend.  The joys of living in northeast Iowa!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ice Day

After at week of February thawing we had an icestorm yesterday and last night.  The electricity comes and goes on a whim - welcome to Iowa.  There is no school today - again.  Actually the school district designated Presidents Day as a vacation day, however, because of all the snow days we had in January and February the decision was made to make today a makeup day.  So, today was to be a vacation day but then it was to be a snow day makeup day and now we are not having school because of an icestorm.  You tell me - how many days do we need to make up for missing today?

Joe and the guys are digging out the power generator so the carpenters can keep working on the house.  It's tough for the carpenters to keep going when the electricity comes and goes without notice.

Oh, by the way, I am the World's Meanest Mom.  This is a title I hold proudly and I was reminded of it again this morning.  The boys had visions of heading outside never to be found until they were hungry, however, I had other plans.  They have enough on going homework, piano lessons and cleaning to do to keep them busy most of the day. 

Joe is concerned about falling ice and really, really heavy powerlines coming down so it is just better to have the boys in the house until we get some melting going on.  But, it's hard for kids to understand so I will maintain the mean mom title for another day.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Winter Is All About

Today the neighbor boys (I use this term lightly as Nicholas is 33 and has three kids of his own, Phillip is a 25 year old newly wed and Tyler is 22 and has a great girl friend and should be getting married soon - in my opinion.) invited our boys to a neighborhood sledding party.  As Phillip said it was a good reason to get our boys out of the scene so my Joe could get some rest and continue to recoup from knee surgery.  It was a great day for a sledding party - sunny and in the 30's with some melting going on. 

Is that feed dust or snow?

 It was a typical northeast Iowa sledding party with sleds, Gators, a Ranger, snowmobiles, a Skidsteer for good measure, and lots of laughs.  I chauffeured my Joe over after about three hours as he is one never to miss a good time.  Everyone was tired, soaked to the bone and ready for a good nights rest.  A good time was had by all!

Tyler, I think you're stuck!

Thank goodness, you're back on level ground
Looking tired.


Last man standing

Friday, February 11, 2011

Iowa Farmer Today Article

Here is an article about CommonGround that appeared in Iowa Farmer Today this week.  Thanks Tim!

Farm Wives Share Experiences

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 1:04 PM CST

Jill Vander Veen, a farmer from Hartley, talks to customers at a Hy-Vee store in West Des Moines as part of a promotion. IFT photo by Gene Lucht  

Three Iowa farm wives officially kicked off their effort to talk to consumers.

The kickoff event was held at a HyVee grocery store in Des Moines on Feb. 5.
Sara Ross of Minden, Jill Vander Veen of Hartley and Suzanne Shirbroun of Farmersburg say the Common Ground program is way they can share their experiences about farm life and modern production agriculture directly with consumers.

Common Ground is an effort by the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Corn, the National Corn Growers Association, and the United Soybean Board to spearhead a grassroots campaign to showcase the common values and expectations between farmers and consumers.

Iowa is one of five states to participate in the program. The other states include South Dakota, Nebraska, Indiana and Kentucky.

Even though she grew up in a small community, Ross concedes she did not know the details of production agriculture.


However, after marrying farmer Kevin Ross (see story page 3), she has learned a lot about agriculture in the past five years.

Sara Ross says they are trying to put a face on modern production agriculture and connect with consumers.

“We eat the same food consumers eat,” she says.

With the recent blizzard across the Midwest, Shirbroun notes the media coverage showing people stocking up and having snow days off of work.

However, she adds most livestock farmers were getting prepared for the blizzard by taking care of their livestock.

“There is never a snow day for a farmer,” Ross says.

With a recent Oprah television show talking about beef production, Vander Veen says she would invite the talk show host to visit their farm to watch how they raise beef.

Vander Veen has a 9-year old son. She farms with her husband, Roger. They raise beef cattle, grow mostly corn and a seed dealer.

The couple is the second generation on the same farm, and the fourth generation of farmers in the family. She also is a grain buyer at the Valero Renewable Fuels ethanol plant.

Ross and her husband have a son who was born in this past March. They have a cow-calf operation, grow corn, soybeans and some hay.

Ross works as the marketing manager for The Home Agency, an independent insurance agency owned by her father that specializes in crop insurance.

Shirbroun and her husband, Joe, have three sons: 12, 10 and 6. She is the sixth generation of her family to live and work her home farm.

They grow corn and soybeans and have a seed dealership. She worked an agronomist before farming.

Shirbroun said the group met to brainstorm ideas of what they could do in their areas. Some of the ideas include talking with various groups about agriculture.

Not all the efforts will be in person. Each has a blog to share their experiences.

Before getting involved, Ross said she rarely read a blog. Now, she is reading other blogs as well writing on her own.

She says reading the other blogs is interesting to get a prospective on issues.

The blogs can be found at:


=Vander Veen: and


In addition, the group will be posting videos on You Tube.

The main web site for the group is at:

Shirbroun notes the overall effort is to reconnect with consumers about where their food comes from.

By 1950, she says 75 percent of the world’s population lived in rural areas. By 2050, 75 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Here is my attempt at Wordless Wednesday.

The kitchen cabinets arrived this morning!

Yep, Joe is still on crutches.

Monday, February 7, 2011


On Saturday morning, the Iowa CommonGround ladies setup our booth at the Hy-Vee in West DesMoines, with the intentions of meeting urban consumers and putting a face to the term "farmer".  I think we had success.  We were right inside the main entrance of Hy-Vee so shoppers had to either talk to us or walk around us and avoid eye contact :-).  Most of the shoppers were very receptive to us being there.  I received a variety of questions such as - Why do you only grow corn and soybeans?  Why don't you grow carrots stringbeans, or peas?  Answer:  We are very fortunate to live in Iowa, where we have the best soils in the world to grow corn and soybeans.  There are very few places in the world where corn and beans can be grown with such consistancy as in Iowa.  So on my farm we grow what we grow well.  If there was a market for peas or carrots close to where we farm I would consider growing those crops.  Approximately 65% of the corn we produce goes into livestock feed and balance goes to a couple of ethanol plants close to our farm. So it is an agronomic and economic decision to grow corn and soybeans.  Question:  How old are you?  You don't look old enough to be a farmer.  Answer:  Can I give you a hug?  That is the nicest thing anyone has said to me today!

Today, the carpenters are sanding down the drywall taping!  Priming tomorrow and painting on Wednesday - we hope.  Is the end in sight for this house remodel?  No.  But I do love progress!    

CommonGround ladies Sara, Jill and Yours Truly at Hy-Vee

Friday, February 4, 2011

Our House Remodel

Right now my husband and I are in the middle of a major house remodel.  I shot this video to show you what it looks like.

CommonGround Kick-Off

Today and Saturday are exciting days for the Iowa ladies involved in the CommonGround initiative.   We are kicking off CommonGround Iowa style tomorrow at the Hy-Vee in West DesMoines.  We are all a little nervous but also excited with the opportunity to share our agricultural stories with our consumers.  I will let you know how it turns out!