Archive | April 2012

Bontrager Journal – April 29, 1935

A while back, Servi-Tech Director of Education Orvin Bontrager came across some diaries from his mother and father written in the 1930s. We will post them here. 

‎”Had a very nice wash day. In the forenoon, Stella, Mabel and Paul Bitikofer came down from Greensburg, sure did surprise us. 3 cows, 1 heifer calf died, bloated on alfalfa, stuck 6 more. Bitikofer went home at 5:00 PM.” Opal Selzer Bontrager, Protection, KS, 4.29.1935.

Proposed Rule About Kids Working on Farms Withdrawn

Good morning!

We woke up this morning to some buzz on social media. It was just announced that the Department of Labor is backing off a rule that would have limited how much farm work kids can do.


The U.S. Department of Labor announced April 26 that it is withdrawing its proposed rule dealing with children who work in the agriculture sector.

The department issued the following statement:

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations. The Obama administration is also deeply committed to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.

“As a result, the Department of Labor is announcing today the withdrawal of the proposed rule dealing with children under the age of 16 who work in agricultural vocations.

“The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms. To be clear, this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.

To read more, click here.

There’s also a good story on Minnesota Public Radio, which you can find here.

From K-State: Correctly Identifying if Fungicides Needed – or Not – is Important

Good morning and happy Friday!

To get your morning started here’s an article from Kansas Agland about fungicide options. The story can also be found here.

By Mary Lou Peter
Kansas State University

MANHATTAN – The wheat crop in Kansas is generally considered to be ahead of schedule thanks to warmer than normal temperatures in March. The return of cooler weather in early April slowed the crop’s development and has also favored the development of diseases, with many reports of stripe rust, leaf rust, Septoria tritici blotch and tan spot from central and eastern Kansas.

The elevated disease activity has many farmers thinking about possibly using a fungicide to help protect the crop.

“Producers have a lot of excellent fungicide options,” said Kansas State University plant pathologist, Erick De Wolf. “In my experience, based on all the data I have seen in research trials in Kansas and other states, the importance of correctly identifying situations where fungicides are needed or not needed is far greater than the choice of fungicide product.”

Most reports indicate that low levels of rust diseases can be found on the top three leaves but is probably most common on the second and third leaf down into the canopy, said De Wolf, who is a wheat disease specialist with K-State Research and Extension. Infection of the flag leaf by stripe rust has been reported in southeast and south central regions this past week. Recent reports indicate the disease is increasing rapidly in central and north central regions of the state. Tan spot and Septoria tritici blotch are at moderate levels in many fields, with infections commonly occurring on the lower leaves and mid canopy.

“The excellent yield potential of many fields and emerging risk of disease has many farmers thinking about fungicide applications,” he said. “Based on the information I have to date, it appears that most areas of central Kansas are at a moderate risk for disease-related yield loss this year. I suggest that farmers scout their fields for disease and carefully evaluate the need for fungicides.”

The residual life of a fungicide is influenced by many factors, including the rate at which the product is applied, the targeted disease and the level of disease pressure, De Wolf said. Fungicides applied at the full-labeled rate will generally have longer residual life. Fungicides will generally provide longer residual life against rust diseases (often more than 21 days) than leaf spot diseases. Some products may provide additional residual life but this extra residual does not always translate into more grain yield.

“The research I have reviewed indicates that fungicides listed in the publication Foliar Fungicide Efficacy Ratings for Wheat Disease Management 2012, EP130, will generally provide 21 days of solid protection against fungal diseases,” he said. “This includes products with the active ingredient tebuconazole that is listed in the table as the product Folicur, but is also marketed in generic formulations. These products are generally the least cost product option.” The publication is online at:

Based on questions he’s received so far in April, De Wolf believes there is confusion about the preventative and curative activity various fungicides.

“All of the fungicides listed in the Foliar Fungicide Efficacy Ratings for Wheat Disease Management publication are best applied when the disease is at low levels,” the plant pathologist said. “The triazole fungicides are generally considered to provide some limited curative activity, which means they can stop the development of fungi already inside the plant. The triazole-only fungicides include products such as Prosaro, Carmaba, Tilt and Folicur. Triazole fungicides are also included in mixed mode-of-action products such as Quilt Xcel, Stratego YLD, and TwinLine. Both the triazole and the mixed mode-of-action fungicides provide excellent protection against new infections that is often considered ‘preventive’ activity.”

It would be an error to think that a triazole fungicide does not provide preventive activity simply because it also has curative activity, De Wolf added. The curative activity is good thing, especially with a disease such as stripe rust where the fungus grows within the plant to cause additional expansion of the stripes.

Servi-Tech in the News

Good afternoon!

Last week Servi-Tech agronomists Joey Kuehler and Bryan Boroughs talked with The Wichita Eagle about the moisture western Kansas is receiving.

From the story:

Last summer, Joey Kuehler was on the roof of his house in Satanta, spraying shingles with a garden hose and watching a large grass fire march toward the small western Kansas town.

Last week, the crop consultant and agronomist for Servi-Tech was marveling at how green the countryside was.

“Anywhere we got a crop up, it just looks phenomenal,” Kuehler said of the winter wheat.

Two storms in the past month brought nearly 3 inches of rain to the area, he said.

To read the story, click here.

Warmest March on Record

Good morning, readers!

A quick scan of the weather forecast this morning confirms what many already assumed: The month of March is the warmest on record, according to The Weather Channel.

From their story:

“Now we have the official word from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that March 2012 was the warmest March on record in the contiguous United States.In addition, the January through March period of 2012 was the warmest first quarter of the year on record. Records date back to 1895 in both cases.

“1910 was the year of the previous record warmest March. William Howard Taft was President of the United States that year. Since then, seventeen other Presidents have occupied the Oval Office.

“March 2012 beat the 1910 record by a half degree with an average temperature of 51.1 degrees, which is 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average.”

On a local level, three southwest Kansas towns either tied or broke the record for the warmest temperatures in March, according to the National Weather Service in Dodge City.

They include:

  • Cimarron, a high of 84 on March 15; previous high 84 in 2003
  • Elkhart, a high of 83 on March 15; previous high 82 in 2003
  • Larned, high of 85 on March 15, previous high 85 in 1935

Wheat in Haskell County, Kansas

Now that March is in the record books, let’s talk about April. There is a chance for rain every day this week in southwest Kansas. The National Weather Service in Dodge City says storms could be severe tonight south of U.S. 54, with hail up to golfball size possible.

Stay safe (and warm), everyone!

Alfalfa Response to Low and High pH Levels

Good afternoon!

Several new articles, including the one below, are posted on the Servi-Tech’s Laboratories website, To view them, click on the ‘Resources’ tab, then click on articles.

Alfalfa Response to Low and High pH Levels

By Doug Shoup, Southeast Area Crops and Soils Specialist, after Kansas State Extension eUpdate No. 234

For optimum alfalfa production, soils should have a pH in the range of 6.5-7.5. If soil pH levels are either below or above those levels, stand establishment and production can be reduced. In Kansas, soil pH changes dramatically from east to west. Generally, soil pH is relatively low in the east and excessively high in the west.

The following case is from Osage County in the summer of 2009, and was in consultation with Rod Schaub, Osage County Agent. The field was planted in the fall of 2008 and fertilized with 100 lbs of 18-46-0. Two adjacent fields, separated by a grass waterway, were planted and have been managed the same for at least the last 10 years (Figure 1).

However, one field had a good stand of alfalfa while the other field had a large portion that was weak and dying. After visiting with the producer, it was  determined that there were no herbicide, disease, or insect issues that would have caused a difference between the fields.

The field with the poor stand was not uniformly poor. There was a range of plant conditions in this field, from healthy to weak. Along the edge of the waterway in the poor alfalfa field, plants were noticeably healthier. After examining the roots, we found that nodulation was reduced severely in the weak alfalfa while the healthy alfalfa had fair nodulation (Figure 1).

Using a hand-held pH meter, measurements were taken across both fields. In the field with poor stands, we measured the pH level starting with the strip of relatively well-established alfalfa adjacent to the waterway and then 50 and 100 feet away from the waterway (Figure 2). Where the alfalfa was in better condition, the pH was 6.1. In the weaker alfalfa 50 and 100 feet away from the waterway, the pH was 5.9 and 5.7, respectively. In the small adjacent alfalfa field with good overall establishment, the soil pH was 6.4.

While taking the pH reading in the good field, we noticed a large amount of gravel in the soil. The producer remembered that the small field was the storage site for a large gravel pile when road construction had been done more than 20 years ago. We concluded that the differences in pH on these fields was caused by the gravel, and windblown dust from the gravel.

This field problem is a good reminder that it is very important to take a soil sample and correct any pH or fertility problems prior to establishing a new stand of alfalfa. Alfalfa is one of the more sensitive legumes to lower pH levels, as well as phosphorus and potassium deficiencies. The hand-held pH meter did a good job of showing the sensitivity of alfalfa to a gradient of lower pH levels.

Although the alfalfa was able to establish and produce nodules in the marginal pH soil of 6.1, the nodules were generally fewer, larger, and more malformed, as shown in the photos in Figure 1.

The field conditions above illustrate the impact of low pH on alfalfa production. In these conditions, lime application is required for proper growth and production.