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Illinois FFA convention news
As the 74th state FFA
convention got under way last week, Section 14 members gained
recognition for their outstanding achievements from the past year.
At the second session three Section 14
members were recognized for winning their respective proficiency
areas. Kent Leesman of Hartsburg-Emden won in the Grain Production
Entrepreneurship area for his work on the family farm. Chelsea Frost
of Porta won in the Safety area for her work as a lifeguard, and
John Sullivan of Porta won in Wildife Production and Management
Also, Kate Wrage of Hartsburg-Emden was
recognized for being a Section 14 American FFA Degree candidate.
Robin Niehaus, the national FFA
secretary, gave the keynote address entitled "Full Speed Ahead."
She challenged FFA members and guests to sing in the car, put the
pedal to the metal and turn on their headlights for a journey of a
We wish all
the members who received awards the best of luck in national
Coers, Section 14 FFA reporter]
Bt corn doesnít
URBANA ó Creatures in the
soil, such as earthworms and mites, have a positive effect on soil
quality and, in the long run, farmers may want to manage their soils
to protect and nurture these creatures. This is the focus of a new
study at the University of Illinois and the Illinois Natural History
"We know soil invertebrates are
beneficial," said Ed Zaborski, a soil invertebrate ecologist with
the Illinois Natural History Survey. "They have a positive impact on
the soil system and, ideally, we would like to manage farmland to
produce the best possible benefits from them."
Zaborskiís study looks at earthworms
and mites as possible indicators of soil condition and how they
respond to insect control strategies. He makes up bags of crop
residues and buries them in field plots consisting of three
different corn hybrids, each with a Bt line and a non-Bt line. Half
of the plots are treated with insecticides. Every few weeks, some of
the bags are collected and the invertebrates extracted. Through the
process, he can discover the numbers and species of invertebrates
that are decomposing the residue.
"We can determine the impact of
insecticides, the growing crop and the quality of the residues.
After analyzing the residues, weíll know the rate of decomposition
for several points in time. So, we can look at the effect of insect
control strategies on the soil process and decomposition."
Zaborski says there doesn't seem to be
any negative effect to earthworms caused by the Bt endotoxin.
"For the lines of corn used in our
study, it looks like the impact of genetically engineering corn to
produce the Bt toxin was no greater than the genetic differences
between various corn hybrids."
He has also discovered that certain
soil mites might respond to a particular residue based partially on
their reproductive strategy. Invertebrates that reproduce quickly
and in large numbers when food is plentiful are known as "r"
strategists. In one corn variety, mites with these characteristics
were more abundant on residue containing the Bt gene than on the
[to top of second column in this
"One reason could be that, if the plant
could not break down the Bt toxin, some residues would be slightly
higher in nitrogen. That means thereís a greater amount of protein
available there to support a rush of microbial activity, and mites
would benefit from feeding on these microbes."
Zaborskiís approach is a unique way to
study the effect of Bt crops on the soil.
"Often, researchers test a very small
set of animals. Iím looking at a couple hundred different species.
Itís a whole interacting, functioning community. And Iím measuring
the community, instead of individual species, which offers a much
better chance of finding any risk associated with the technology,"
Initial results also show that, in
crops treated with insecticides, juvenile night crawlers were more
abundant than in crops not sprayed with insecticides.
sure why this happened," he said. "One hypothesis is that the
insecticides killed spiders and beetles that would be predators of
earthworms. So the spraying improves the reproductive success of
earthworms. Unfortunately, those predators can also help control
University of Illinois College of ACES]
Not out of the woods yet?
Farmers know that you donít count your yield until it is
in the bin. This year makes it especially tough to even think about
yield prospects. Most of the corn that went in late has popped right
out of the ground and has a good stand. Same goes for the soybeans.
One potential problem now is some late-season insects showing up.
Normally we think of
black cutworms as early-season insects. Cutworms are working in
cornfields now, with some corn as tall as 12 inches being cut. Corn
cut above the growing point will regrow and be fine, while corn cut
below ground or below the growing point will be a loss for the plant
cut. In addition to cutting corn, cutworms can spot feed and damage
the growing point causing a loss.
Rescue treatments for
cutworms should be applied when 3 percent of the plants are cut and
there are larvae present. Several insecticides provide good control
of cutworms when moisture is adequate, so that cutworms arenít just
cutting below the soil surface. Also, you need to know what type of
cutworm is causing damage. Variegated cutworms cut leaves and plant
tops but donít completely cut plants off. Black, sandhill, and
clayback cutworms usually cut entire plants.
[Photo provided by John Fulton]
We have also seen
delayed damage from wireworms, grubs and grape colaspis. Many of
these insects developed slower due to the very cool soil conditions
this year during the spring months. By now, most of the grubs and
colaspis have pupated ó meaning they will soon change to adult
stages, if they havenít already.
[to top of second column in this
There are many weeks
before the reproductive stages begin for corn, and then months
before the combines roll. When crop reports are seen at this time,
you have to take them with a grain of salt since a lot of things can
happen. Just ask the Freeport area with 7 inches of water in a
weekend. As for our prospects, they look OK at this point, but time
research in the county
Each year the
Extension office coordinates many demonstration and research plots
in the county. This year these would include: "Nitrogen and Manure
Rate Study on Corn," "Amino Sugar Soil Analysis and Nitrogen
Application on Corn," "Value-Added Traits Yield Plot ó Corn,"
"Perennial Weed Control Programs For Corn and Soybeans," and the
"Commercial Corn Variety Yield Plot."
Information from many of these plots goes
into the University of Illinois Research System and is distributed
in many ways. The commercial variety corn plot will have local
information as well as a fall field day. If you would like more
information on any of these demonstration and research efforts,
please feel free to e-mail
U of I launches new center for
studying soybean pathogens
URBANA ó Although considerable research money has been
spent to combat a wide range of soybean diseases, there has not been
any systematic effort over the years to preserve and collect samples
of the various pathogens that cause those diseases. As researchers
retire or move on to other projects, there is a real danger of
losing isolates of the pathogens that could be used to help control
major soybean diseases ranging from cyst nematode to sudden death
extensive and genetically diverse collection of soybean pathogens in
one location would provide an invaluable resource for identifying
new genes for resistance in soybeans and understanding the genetics
of the pathogens that cause major soybean diseases," said Glen
Hartman, USDA plant pathologist at the University of Illinois. "In
recent years, it has become abundantly clear that such a collection
is essential if we are to protect the long-term productivity of the
soybean in the U.S."
To meet this need,
Hartman and other collaborators across the country have recently
begun assembling just such a collection at the U of Iís National
Soybean Research Laboratory. The National Soybean Pathogen Center
will focus on collecting, maintaining and studying a wide range of
bacterial, fungal, nematode and viral pathogens.
Initial support for
the project came from the United Soybean Board, the American Seed
Trade Association and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Recent
funding includes a grant from the USDA-IFASF Program.
"The main function of
the center is to provide soybean pathogens to researchers who are
working on host resistance as a means of reducing yield losses
caused by disease," Hartman said. "The center also will widely
disseminate information about the accessions in the collection and
present workshops so that researchers can work more efficiently with
The center is
committed to maintaining the soybean pathogens in a viable and
stable state, while maintaining all original properties. The
collection will serve as a reference collection for researchers in
both the public and private sectors.
"We will describe and
document the variations in the soybean pathogens from our
collection," Hartman said. "All that information will be made
readily available to other interested researchers. We also will
assist other scientists in identifying soybean pathogens and
studying variations among the samples in the collection as they
relate to understanding pathogen biology and the interactions with
[to top of second column in this
Hartman notes that
the collection will include living pathogens, representing the range
of genetic diversity within bacteria, fungi, nematodes and viruses
that are considered important for improving soybean germplasm. Other
programs at the center will focus on training in germplasm screening
and developing research strategies for better understanding pathogen
"An accession number
will be allocated to each incoming strain," he said. "Those that are
further purified or selected will be assigned a new accession
number. A top priority will be to maintain the identity and
viability of the strains in the collection. Some pathogens will be
maintained as frozen stock, while others may be kept on living plant
Accessions in the
collection will be distributed through an online catalogue without
any charge. The collection will housed at the National Soybean
Research Center at the U of I. Other cooperators on the project will
maintain duplicate collections at several different locations.
He further points out
that the location of the center at the NSRC provides ready access to
the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection at the U of I.
"This unique collection contains more
than 16,000 soybean accessions and more than 1,000 accessions of the
progenitor of the soybean," Hartman said. "The germplasm collection
also has about 1,000 accessions of the wild perennial Glycine
species. We expect to have strong collaboration between the curator
of the germplasm collection and the scientists working with the
pathogen collection, all of which should prove of great benefit for
soybean producers as new resistant soybean varieties are developed