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Peas—the new rotation crop? PDF Print E-mail

By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican

Could peas be the next rotation crop for dryland in Chase County?
The Meeske brothers—Lloyd, Galen and Karl—have committed to find out if it’s right for their operation, Triple Diamond Farms.
Karl said he first heard about growing peas in this region several years ago and the idea piqued his interest. As a result, they learned more about the crop and decided to try some last year.
They planted 140 acres behind their dryland corn with measured success. Based on that experience, they went all in this year, planting 1,000 acres of the legume as part of their dryland rotation.
Ground that would have normally been summer-tilled this year is instead producing another crop.
Peas not a common sight
At first glance to the untrained eye, a field of peas might be mistaken for weeds. But on closer inspection, pea plants standing two feet tall hold pods full of maturing peas.
Galen said peas are more of a cool-season crop and are planted in late March or early April. They plant a population of about three bushels to the acre, or about 350,000 seeds.
They don’t require a lot of water. Experts say peas can be grown with just two to four  inches of moisture. But this year’s crop has taken a liking to all the rain this spring.
Karl said the peas have really come on in the last several weeks. Every time the plant blooms, it forms a pod that will eventually fill with four to five peas. Some pods fill with as many as seven peas.
Based on last year’s stand and yield of around 45 bushels to the acre, Karl said this year’s crop looks much better. He’s anxious to see just how well they do.
Last year, when it was drier, the pods formed closer to the ground, Lloyd said, making cutting them tough.
With all this moisture this year, the pods are higher up on the plant. This should make harvesting them a little easier this year.
They make only minor changes to the combine,  setting it up much like they would if they were harvesting dry beans.
Karl said they use a draper head, equipped with an auger, to pull the plants into the combine’s feeder house during harvest.
Karl said they had to add the auger option to the head, otherwise the plants just balled up around the reel.
One of the unique characteristics of the pea plants is that they shoot off small vines that intertwine with the vines from the other plants.
It makes walking through them a challenge, Karl said. Shake one plant and the other intertwined plants in a five- to 10-foot radius shake as well.
The Meeskes guessed the peas will be ready for harvest in about two weeks. The crop dries out quickly and once that happens, harvest needs to begin right away.
With this year’s late wheat harvest, which isn’t expected to start until next week sometime, it’s possible the peas could need harvested about the same time as the wheat.
Weighing benefits
Karl said they will have around a $100 per acre in seed, pre-emergent herbicide and fungicide. Add in land and equipment costs and that figure goes to about $180 per acre, he said.
At a 40-bushel yield, with peas selling for around $6 per bushel, Meeske said they can make money growing the peas.
But there are other factors and benefits that one can’t put a price on that make the crop a good rotational crop.
Lloyd said the peas also help build the soil and will put 20-30 pounds of nitrogen back into the soil.
In addition, the plant helps lower the pH of the soil. This allows the release of phosphorus and zinc that otherwise would be tied up in the soil.
Pea growers in South Dakota said their wheat yields showed an increase of about 25 percent when planted behind the peas.
The brothers did their own test, planting wheat on corn stalks and the other half on last year’s pea ground.
Right now, the wheat on the pea ground looks much better. Harvest will provide the true test.
Karl said another benefit of the crop comes with its early harvest date.
That allows the ground to rest for two to three months before the wheat is planted in the fall.
Right now, the Meeskes are on a three-crop dryland rotation: wheat, corn and now peas. Some northern farmers add millet as a fourth crop in the rotation.
Karl said they have committed to growing the peas in their rotation for four to five years. That should give them enough data to decide whether the crop is a good fit for their rotation.
Demand on rise
The Meeskes said the demand for peas is increasing, in part because it’s a non-genetically modified crop.
In addition to health food markets, peas are also being used in pet food because of its high protein content ranging from 23-28 percent.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a big buyer of peas which are used for food aid in third world countries in the form of split pea soup.
By splitting the pea, it can cook in five to seven minutes, compared to a whole pea.
When the crop is harvested, the peas turn golden, much like a soybean. Karl said dry peas could easily be mistaken for soybeans.
Some of the peas being grown by the Meeskes this year are for seed.     
The rest will be marketed through several other outlets.
They had to get an exemption from USDA to be able to buy crop insurance. Perkins County is approved for pea coverage but Chase and Dundy are not.
Karl said a number of acres of peas have been planted in Perkins County the last several years, as well.
Peas are a northern crop and have migrated south from Canada into the Dakotas and now into Nebraska. The seed planted by the Meeskes this year came from the Dakotas.

More sites providing hot dogs for Chamber event PDF Print E-mail

Local gardeners getting

ready for first Farmer’s Market later this month

By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican

Temperatures are increasing and so has the number of businesses participating in next week’s Hot Dog Days.
The Chamber of Commerce event provides a free hot dog lunch each summer to thank people who do business in Imperial and support the community.
The event is set for next Thursday, July 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. along the sidewalks or parking areas in front of eight businesses. That’s up from four business sites last summer.
Business locations for this year’s event include Adams Bank & Trust, First Bank & Trust, Owens True Value Hardware, 21st Century Equipment, Prairie States Communications, Viaero, Broken Arrow Cellars and Adams Drug.
Farmer’s Market soon
Another Chamber-sponsored event, Farmer’s Market, will set up for the first time this summer on Saturday, July 18.
All local vendors can bring locally-grown produce or homemade items and set up on the east side of the block between 5th and 6th Streets on Broadway.
Start time is set for 8 a.m. and will continue until 12 noon or until produce is sold. There is no charge to participate. Sign-up is not required.
Most participants sell from the back of their trucks or set up tables along the sidewalks.
Farmer’s Market will continue each Saturday through summer and early fall as long as vendors have produce.

Stumpf Wheat Center near Grant officially open PDF Print E-mail

By Tim Linscott
The Grant Tribune Sentinel

Let the work begin...
The Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Center just outside of Grant officially opened on June 23 with a ribbon cutting ceremony and hosted a West Central Water and Crops Field Day to begin the process of becoming a hub for agriculture science.
According to University of Nebraska extension officials, approximately 230 people attended the event, which included discussion panels, research presentations and field tours.
A solid number of students and young professionals attended the sessions to learn more about the ground-breaking research being done at the wheat center.
“It was very encouraging seeing all the young interested in all of the information provided,” Strahinja Stepanovic, extension educator for Perkins and Chase Counties, said.
Informational sessions included talks from John Holman of Kansas State, discussing the effects of cover crops on the water budget, and Roric Paulman of the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance (NEWBA) discussing new ways of preserving and using water resources.
Tours included a wheat variety tour, a mobile pesticide application technology overview and a look at soil biodiversity for managing insect pests and plant pathogens.
Provided by a donation of land and over $1 million, the Marvin J. Stumpf International Wheat Center was made possible by Grant resident Marvin Stumpf.
The center will do international research, demonstrations and teach wheat-based system practices. According to university officials, the practices done at the wheat center will be “applicable to wheat production worldwide.”

Sharing a garden, its produce PDF Print E-mail

By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican

USDA employees in Imperial have again planted two box gardens as part of the People’s Garden Initiative, a nation-wide effort to create gardens through collaborative efforts.
The gardens are located in front of the USDA building on East 5th Street. They’re brimming with tomato, jalapeno and sweet pepper, cucumber, spaghetti squash, sweet potato and kohlrabi plants.
This is the second year for the project. It’s a joint one, in that Holiday Farms and Northside Greenhouse supplied the plants, the Upper Republican NRD provided the weed barrier, True Value donated the topsoil and Brophy Electric provided the space and the water.
When the produce is ready for harvesting, it will be donated to the Chase County Food Pantry, as it was last year.
Since 2009, the program has seen 2,116 gardens planted by 1,300 organizations. A total of 222,116 volunteer hours have produced 3.9 million pounds of produce for donation.
In 2014, the Imperial USDA gardens produced 25.43 pounds of vegetables for the pantry.
The People’s Gardens must benefit the community, must be collaborative and must incorporate sustainable practices.
In Grant, the USDA Service Center is offering classes on landscaping and gardening, as well as healthy recipes from the garden.
Sarah Walker and Sarah Winslow of the Imperial Natural Resources Conservation Service said they would be happy to provide classes or programs for the public. They may be reached at 308-882-4263 Ext. 3.

Area habitat tour reveals importance of pollinators PDF Print E-mail

Pheasants Forever, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska Environmental Trust hosted a local pollinator habitat tour last Thursday.          Thirteen people attended the tour which consisted of brief presentations at the USDA Service Center and field site visits at several locations between Imperial and Champion.
Andrew Keep, NRCS District Conservationist, gave a brief USDA programs update.  
Keep explained there is funding available for several programs in which NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners and operators.  
Linda Fegler, FSA County Executive Director for Chase and Dundy Counties, discussed the upcoming Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) sign-up to begin Dec. 1 running through the end of February 2016.  
In prior CRP sign-ups, the time frame was approximately 30 days. This longer time frame will have a different process for landowners to complete.
Heather Francis, Farm Bill Biologist, presented different photos of native forbs and grasses found in the area including common milkweed, upright coneflower and Sand Bluestem.   
Francis discussed the importance of adding native forbs to wildlife habitat projects by enhancing them with the inclusion of pollinator habitat areas.
Facts provided to participants included:  
Pollinators are defined as an animal that moves pollen and can affect pollination.  
About 75 percent of all flowering plants rely on animal pollinators and over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators.  
Of those, about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats and small mammals.  The rest are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths.          Pollinator habitat acres are decreasing at an alarming rate across Nebraska and the United States. With these acres in decline, numbers of honey bees and Monarch butterflies have also declined.  
Why is that important to you?  
One out of every three bites of food you eat every day required pollination to occur by animal or insect. Last week’s tour helped to showcase how pollinator plantings can be included on CRP acres, small acre areas and urban settings.  
The tour concluded with site visits to the Chase County Schools Youth Pollinator Habitat planting located just west of Imperial and a pollinator planting on CRP acres located west of Champion.              Plant identification was done at each site, with every participant learning a new grass or forb species before the end of the tour.       
Supper was served at the Southwestern Nebraska Pheasants Forever Youth Memorial Park.  
More information about USDA programs or pollinators is available at the local FSA office, NRCS office or from Farm Bill Biologist Francis. She can be contacted at the Imperial NRCS at 308-882-4263, ext. 3.


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