Field & Feedlot

Field & Feedlot is a monthly newsletter of current educational topics written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach specialists in Northwest Iowa.

April 2020

Pesticide Certification Update by Joel DeJong

Days Suitable for Fieldwork? by Joel DeJong

Safety for Dairy Producers During COVID-19 by Fred Hall

2020 Pre-Plating Thoughts and Land Valuation Survey by Gary Wright

New Swine Research to Watch by Kris Kohl

Archived Issues


Pesticide Certification Update

Joel DeJong, Field Agronomist

Not all private pesticide applicators attended a continuing education session this winter because we had to cancel several meetings at the end of March and early April. Some wanting to test did not get that done due to IDALS cancellations in late March, too. We originally postponed the March 17 Private Pesticide Continuing Education meetings for George and Sibley into the week of April 6 and had another scheduled for Sheldon that same that week. Those are now cancelled.

For Private Applicators who did NOT get a meeting attended yet.

  • According to IDALS, “Iowans who were certified through Dec. 31, 2019, can retain their status and now have until Dec. 31, 2020, to submit the testing or training required to renew a pesticide applicator certification.”
  • If your license expired the end of 2019, it is now valid through 2020. However, you will still have to attend a session to get credit for this year. IDALS just announced that those have to be completed before September 30. I plan to offer at least a couple of live sessions so you can get this done, but as of now I have no idea when. In addition, many county offices will be offering a chance to view a video to complete requirements in their office, by appointment.
  • Those needing to recertify by testing (private and commercial) and you have not accomplished that yet: IDALS cancelled testing through the end of March. We will see if they continue with their schedule in April. Watch this website ( for an update of testing opportunities. So far, the April dates have not been cancelled, but that might happen. Again, if your certification expired at the end of 2019, it has been extended through 2020.
  • If you are not certified but have to test to be certified: You will have to wait for a time when the test is being offered. Again, watch this web page.

Some details are still being worked out at this time. Keep reading this newsletter for changes, check the IDALS Pesticide Bureau website, or contact IDALS, or even me, with your questions. 

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Days Suitable for Fieldwork?

Joel DeJong, Field Agronomist

For many in Northwest Iowa, the spring of 2019 did not offer nearly as many fieldwork days as we wanted. I believe we all hope that 2020 is much better! We know that the soil moisture profile is quite full in this area, which also means we have less storage space for rainfall we will receive during the spring. Entering spring with a full moisture profile has become more common.

Recently, Dr. William Edwards published an article on the ISU Ag Decision Maker website titled “The Number of Days Suitable for Fieldwork in Iowa is Shrinking.” Although this article cannot predict what will happen during planting 2020, it is good to look at the longer-term trends. Dr. Edwards used numbers from the NASS local observers collected from 1964 through 2019. When looking at the number of field days from April 2 to June 17, the trend line showed a reduction of almost one day every four years for available fieldwork during that spring timeframe. In 1962 there were, on average, 48 days available. The trend line number by 2019 is down to 35 days statewide. The Northwest Iowa crop reporting district has had the sharpest downward trend, giving up about 1 day every three years. The 2019 statewide average for field days in that window was 26 suitable days, the fifth lowest during that reported period. Of course, these are negatively correlated with rainfall received. The decline of fall fieldwork days has averaged a slower drop. The trend line drop there, for the September 10 to October 28 time period, is about one day every 15 years. It now averages about 39 days.

Dr. Edwards suggests the following to help adjust for fewer expected days:

  1. Reduce the number of operations performed to cut down on the total hours of field time needed.
  2. Invest in larger machinery, which can cover more acres per day.
  3. Outsource some operations to a custom operator or input supplier.
  4. Improve the efficiency of field operations by using grain carts, seed tenders, auto-steer and other technologies that keep key machines running.
  5. Use multiple operators to increase the number of hours per day machinery can be utilized.
  6. Install artificial drainage to extend the days for which fieldwork can be completed.
  7. Diversify into crops that have different peak periods for fieldwork.

A page on Ag Decision Maker, can help you estimate the number of field days you need each year. It includes worksheets and spreadsheets for that analysis. View it at

In a different article titled “Days Suitable for Fieldwork in Iowa,” you can see weekly breakdowns of fieldwork expectations by crop reporting district. You can find it at or search for this title on the ISU Ag Decision Maker webpage,

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Safety for Dairy Producers During COVID-19

Fred Hall, Dairy Program Specialist

If you are wondering how to protect your farm, below are some ideas. (These ideas are written for dairy producers, but many of them are applicable to all livestock producers and individuals, in general.)

  • Access to the dairy farm by non-essential persons should be limited.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Wash your hands before you eat and after working in the milking parlor or other areas of the dairy.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, both on and off the dairy.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Ask the dairy manager or owner to keep the restrooms stocked with soap and disinfectants.
  • Always wear milking gloves.
  • Constantly change milking gloves.
  • When you get home after working in the dairy, always take a shower and was your work clothes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Keep the bathrooms and kitchen area in your workplace clean and disinfected.
  • Social distancing should be practiced such as when there is a need to get supplies from a farm and feed store.

Jorge Delgado, Alltech’s dairy employee training expert, put together fact sheets in Spanish and English that can help all employees understand the virus and what they can do to help prevent it on the farm. You can access both versions online at

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2020 Pre-Planting Thoughts and Land Valuation Survey

Gary Wright, Farm Management Specialist 

As we know all too well, 2019 offered many challenges, e.g. weather, yields and prices. Even final USDA crop size reports are pending harvest completion to the north, though Northwest Iowa results are finalized, and can be viewed online at Remarkably, though lower-than-trendline, Northwest Iowa producers continue to show incredible productivity.

Generally, a favorable relative dollar value on the world exchange continues to support exports. Much has been said about the approximately-24-month trade war between the two largest economies in the world. Chinese purchases showed stronger increases, especially soybeans, even before the finalized new trade agreement. Then, further optimism comes from new trade agreements with Mexico, Canada, China and others. Right now, what is hopefully a shorter adversity known as the coronavirus, may be a dampening factor on the world economies demand for US ag production. 

Just short of twenty 2018 Farm Bill Education Workshops were held in Northwest Iowa. The important ARC v. PLC decisions for 2019-20 are behind us. Five years ago, it was that farm bill’s opportunity to adjust corn base acres. For the 2018 Farm Bill, informed owners are remembering to complete their 2018 enrollment by analyzing yields toward a possible PLC Yield Adjustment (analysis to impact the 2020 crop year) by September 2020.

Present old crop market prices leave margins at or below most operating breakeven cash flows. Complicating this decision is a wetter-than-normal harvest moisture that demands close scrutiny of corn in the bin to ensure quality is maintained once the Spring temperatures increase. Historically, 2020 prices will gain some momentum until about July 4, when forward contracting will slowly lose its luster. The astute marketer is monitoring market outlook, making marketing decisions, and carefully considering using available market risk tools, e.g. forward selling, options, etc. Typically, the 2020 production plan is already nearly complete; however, the just-as-important 2020 marketing plan should begin with the by-enterprise analysis. ISU Extension and Outreach resources can help decision-making, or call me at 712-223-1574: Ag Decision Maker (; Production and Custom Costs (;; and Suitable Field Days (

Land Valuation Survey: The Iowa State University Farmland Value Survey has been completed since 1941. This survey is intended to provide information on general land value trends, geographical land price relationships and the factors influencing the land market. The compilation is based upon expert opinions from selected professional/individuals who are knowledgeable of land market conditionsThe November 2019 survey for the State of Iowa showed an average of $7432/acre value, a $168/acre (2.3 percent) increase for the prior year. In light of the earlier section’s remarks, you should be asking why? Positive influences were: historically low interest rates; limited land sales supply; and despite 2019, strong trendline yields. Readers are encouraged to visit the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development where the ISU survey results are graphically shown in comparison to three other surveys (USDA, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and Realtor Land Institute), available online at and

As always, if you have any questions about this report or want assistance with using any ISU Extension and Outreach decision tools, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or 712-223-1574. Be safe!

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New Swine Research to Watch

Kris Kohl, Ag Engineering Specialist

Spring is here and while the rest of the world worries about the virus, I will focus on new research that gives us hope.

Many swine farmers have fields near their building(s) that test very high for phosphorus, while distant fields have low testing phosphorus. I have two farmers that have very low testing fields that we will try to improve. The idea is to first apply the manure without agitation to the high testing field. We will calculate when to start agitation, so we can cover the low testing field with the high solids and higher testing phosphorus. We will be testing the manure to see how much it will change with and without agitation. If we are successful, this should provide a way to even out fields without an increase in cost.

Another project involves Spring versus Fall application of swine manure to preserve nitrogen. Most of the nitrogen in swine manure is ammonia, which, when added to soil, is held tight to the clay exchange sites, which have a negative charge. When the soil is warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, soil bacteria consume the manure and convert the ammonia to nitrate, which now also has a negative charge and is repelled off the clay exchange sites into the water spore space between. When excess Spring rain leaches through the soil, it takes with it the nitrate, causing two problems. First, the loss of nitrogen for the crop, and second, high nitrate in tile water. This research will be done on 10 sites across the state for 2 years to show how much risk we have in waiting for Spring application. In 2018, many of my producers who applied manure in the Spring saw a 10-to-30-bushel per acre advantage because of the loss from excess rainfall.

Spring and planting are coming with the hope for future and better ways of farming. 

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