Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Research in Oklahoma

So I was back in Oklahoma last week.  By chance, there was a farmer tour that I was able to attend at a place that helped to steer me down the road of crop research.  It was at the Caddo Research Station near Ft. Cobb in SW OK.  As an undergraduate college student at Oklahoma State University, I got a job at the OSU Agronomy Farm in the Weed Science department helping with field plots.  One of the farms where we established replicated plots for herbicide evaluations in peanuts was this one right here.  It's a couple of hours drive here from OSU in Stillwater, but I was down here frequently back in the day. So it was fun to be back on the farm for the first time in....well, many years.
One memory I have of the place is the time I was driving here and turned on the radio and they were playing all of these Elvis Presley songs.  I remember thinking "did Elvis die or something?"  And sure enough as I drove down this lane to the station, the announcer said that Elvis had in fact, died that day.  It was August 16, 1977.  So I remember that moment 37 years ago, but admittedly this morning is a little fuzzy.  
Actually, AgroLiquid was one of the sponsors of this tour, being the farming community boosters that we are.  I was accompanied by Area Sales Manager Ed Granger who lives nearby, and field agronomist Reid.  Here we see Ed and Reid pulling each other's leg, although don't pull Reid's too hard right now.  (You know, that's another one of those odd sayings.  I like to joke around, but really have no desire to actually pull someone's leg. Who knows where it's been?  There's probably some strange origin of that. I'll let you know if there is.)
One stop was to see some of the new genetics in cotton for dicamba tolerance, which is the XtendFlex trait.  Dicamba is the active ingredient in the herbicide Banvel, or Clarity as it is now.  Well dicamba can drift and even small amounts are pretty harsh on cotton.  But they have incorporated dicamba tolerance now to go along with glyphosate (Roundup) and glufosinate (Liberty) tolerance.  So this gives other options for weed control where resistance could be an issue.  These were from Deltapine and Americot seeds, and it will be several years till wide-spread sales.  But I wonder how smooth the transition will be.  Everyone probably has a dicamba story, but I remember spraying Banvel on corn at the NCRS years ago.  We had poly (polyethylene) tanks on the sprayer then.  We then cleaned the tank, thoroughly we thought, to spray something else. Well we sprayed two tanks of something else on corn, and then loaded up a tank of Roundup to spray some soybeans, and later saw some dicamba injury on those beans! After that we converted to stainless steel sprayer tanks.  So we will see how the transition goes. I forgot to say that since this is still under development, they had it all roped off and you had to sign your name in order to view the plots. It was similar to the Enlist trait in soybeans for 2,4-D tolerance that I reported on from the Ag Ph.D field day in July.
Another stop was to look at different peanut varieties being tested, both established and experimental. They also had some stops for cotton and peanut weed control.  But sadly nothing being researched on fertility.  Hmmm.
We also stopped to see our replicated plot research  at a facility in Hinton.  That's Area Sales Manager Parker Christian on the right with Reid.  (He proudly wears his Aggie hat everywhere. Nice to see that in Oklahoma.  Not.)  It looks like something has caught Reid's eye.
Yikes. On the underside of a milo leaf there is an explosion of what looks like aphids.  Well Parker and Reid informed me that they are Sugarcane Aphids.  Well I had never heard of these and they are new this year to Oklahoma.  I did a little reading and it seems that they blew up from Texas this year, having moved over from Sugarcane in Louisiana over a decade ago.  But they haven't really been much of a problem in Texas sorghum until last year.  And now here they are in OK.  Although you can't see it from here, they are all female, and produce asexually (what?).  They actually give live birth to 8 to 20 baby aphids.  That's why you see different sizes in the pic.  And so many.  Well they aren't babies for long as they reproduce again in only 2 to 7 days after they are born themselves.  So no boys, no prom....no fun.  See those black things?  Those are Ladybug larvae eating them.  But they are definitely not keeping up.  If you see 40% of plants infested, then it suggested to spray. Dimethoate is effective.  But infested plants decline in growth and grain production, especially with early infestation.  These were likely recently attacked.
Here is another problem.  The leaves underneath the infested leaves become all wet with aphid Honeydew. (Can't believe in ancient times they drank this stuff.)  Well this can clog up a combine at harvest if there are too many infested plants.
Fortunately our plants were below threshold and harvest isn't that far off anyway.  But if they are able to overwinter up here, then look out next year.  (Note: the lighter leaves on the right half are that way in the pic due to the sun angle, not from aphids or treatment differences.  Now some underhanded researchers may say it's a treatment difference, but we're too honest.  No, really.)
Well I learned some things on this trip, although I could have done without the aphid education. Farming is tough enough already.  Tomorrow I will show some more Oklahoma adventures in real farmer fields.  Tune in again.  You'll be glad you did, and no pests will be mentioned.  Well besides Reid that is.