Agriculture and Harvest Public Media

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media


After dueling reviews of research studies, scientific panels from the U.S. government and the World Health Organization are having a hard time agreeing whether glyphosate, the most common weed killer in the United States, can cause cancer. Known by the brand name RoundUp, glyphosate is sprayed on farm fields and lawns all across the country.

Michael Leland/IPR

Farmers in northeast Iowa are destroying several thousand acres of corn and soybeans in fields flooded by torrential September rains. Most of the corn and soybeans in those fields will be destroyed this fall to prevent the seeds from sprouting next spring.

Brian Lang, a Decorah-based Iowa State University Extension Agronomist, estimates ten-thousand crop acres were under water a month ago.

Frank Morris/Harvest Public Media

Nestled among acres of wheat fields and rows of corn, the Land Institute of Salina, Kansas, may seem an unlikely Mecca for environmental activists. After decades of leading the charge to develop alternative ways of raising grain, however, the facility still attracts crowds hunting for sustainable agricultural solutions.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The annual Borlaug Dialogue, a week-long celebration of global food and agriculture in conjunction with the World Food Prize, is underway in Des Moines.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who grew up in Muscatine, said today when he first went to the World Bank, economists there were reluctant to give cash assistance to help people out of poverty. But he said that has changed. Now, they see that offering both money and services, like education and healthcare, can lift children out of poverty.

Michael Leland/IPR

Muddy fields are slowing Iowa’s corn and soybean harvest. The U-S-D-A’s weekly crop update says 94-percent of the corn acreage is mature.  That’s three days head of average for this date.

Corn harvest is a week behind average, with only 19-percent out of the field.

In Winnebago County, where rain during this crop year is nearly double the normal amount, rivers and drainage ditches are overflowing and not allowing field tile to drain cropland.

The Feathered Fauna of Fall

Oct 11, 2016
Gary Halvorsen / Wikimedia Commons

As the Iowa landscape turns gold, brown and all those other colors of autumn, we also start seeing some of Iowa’s game bird species a little more often. Familiar game birds include wild turkeys, partridges, doves, grouse, quail, and pheasants, but according to ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist Adam Jahnke, there is now one species you should expect to see less frequently.

“The greater prairie chicken was historically really abundant in Iowa, but due to the pressures of habitat change, [they] are no longer a game species in Iowa.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has ruled that the American Egg Board acted inappropriately when it carried out a two-year media campaign against Hampton Creek, the maker of an egg-free mayonnaise.

In a controversy lightly labeled "mayo-gate," the USDA also concluded in a memo posted Thursday that AEB officials and former CEO Joanne Ivy tried to cover up their conduct by deleting emails.

File: Courtesy Stephen Carmody/Michigan Radio

The next Congress may take up the farm bill a year ahead of schedule.

Michael Leland/IPR

Warmer and drier weather during the past week is allowing grain harvesting equipment back in Iowa’s corn and soybean fields. But today’s USDA progress update says many farmers are encountering muddy fields and some standing water.

Ten percent of Iowa’s corn acreage has been harvested.  That’s about the same as last year, but nine days behind the five-year average for the first week in October.

In Linn County, Brad Stoner is among those just beginning today at his farm near Marion.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A lawsuit farmers have filed against seed giant Syngenta will proceed as a class action, potentially involving hundreds of thousands of corn growers nationwide.

U.S. District Court Judge John Lungstrum approved the motion to certify the Syngenta AG MIR 162 Corn Litigation as a class action Monday in Kansas City, Kansas.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Farming in the fertile Midwest is tied to an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But scientists are studying new ways to lessen the Midwest's environmental impact and improve water quality.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts the so-called "dead zone," an area of sea without enough oxygen to support most marine life, to grow larger than the size of Connecticut, or roughly 6,000 square miles.  

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

Standing on a platform above the eastern bank of the Missouri River at the Kansas City, Missouri, Water Services intake plant is like being on the deck of a large ship.

Electric turbines create a vibration along the blue railing, where David Greene, laboratory manager for Kansas City Water Services, looks out across the river. Water the color of chocolate milk is sucked up and forced through screens below, picking up all the debris the river carries downstream.  

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Supporters and opponents of several proposed mergers among agricultural seed and chemical companies are making their case to lawmakers in Washington.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday to, as committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grasley (R-Iowa) put it, get everything out on the table. Grassley says public testimony can raise concerns the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission may need to consider as they evaluate the proposed new pairings.

Amy Mayer/IPR

On a gray day, just as the rain begins to fall, Roger Zylstra stops his red GMC Sierra pick-up truck on the side of the road and hops down into a ditch in Jasper County, Iowa. It takes two such stops before he unearths amid the tall weeds and grasses what he’s looking for.

"Here is one of the tiles," he says, pointing to a pipe about six or eight inches in diameter. Water trickles from it into a culvert that runs under the road after flowing through a network of underground drainage lines below his farm field. "That's where it outlets."

Brian Seifferlein/Harvest Public Media

Living in the Platte River Valley in central Nebraska means understanding that the water in your well may contain high levels of nitrates and may not be safe to drink.

"When our first son was born in 1980, we actually put a distiller in for our drinking water here in the house," says Ken Seim, who lives in the Platte Valley near the town of Chapman, Nebraska. "And at that time our water level was 12 parts per million."

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Contaminated drinking water isn't just a problem for Flint, Michigan. Many towns and cities across the Midwest and Great Plains face pollution seeping into their water supplies. A big part of the problem: farming and ranching.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

St. Louis-based Monsanto, a world agribusiness leader, has agreed to be acquired by the German company Bayer. Bayer will pay $57 billion dollars, or $128 per share, in a deal that has been in the works since last spring.

Two other mergers are underway in the industry, with Dow set to combine with DuPont (already the owner of Iowa-based DuPont Pioneer) and ChemChina planning to buy the Swiss company Syngenta.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media


In an effort to turn away from chemical pesticides, which have the potential to damage the environment, some farmers are looking in a new direction in the age-old, quiet struggle on farm fields of farmers versus pests. They're warding off intruding insects and noxious weeds with bugs and chickens.

Amy Mayer/IPR

As driverless cars begin to roam the streets, autonomous farm machinery is not far behind. The same fundamental technology that allows a vehicle to maneuver through city traffic may someday let a farmer send his tractor off to work on its own.

New Holland, the Pennsylvania-based equipment maker, demonstrated one of its large tractors outfitted to run autonomously during the recent Farm Progress Show in Boone.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State Extension's Women in Agriculture Program is recognizing several Iowans as Women Impacting the Land. The awards celebrate farm work ranging from traditional row crops to livestock to perennial trees and nuts. Madeline Schultz, the director of the Women in Agriculture program, says the increased awareness of women's contributions to farming inspired the awards.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A group of agricultural companies, food manufacturers, retailers and environmental groups plant to raise money to further conservation practices in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

The Midwest Row Crop Collaborative announced its launch at the Farm Progress Show in Boone Wednesday. Founding partners include Cargill, the Environmental Defense Fund, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Monsanto, PepsiCo, The Nature Conservancy, Walmart and the World Wildlife Fund.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Larry Gerdes is having his barn taken down and disassembled in Malta Bend, Mo. It's about the size of a three-car garage but stands much taller in a clearing surrounded by six-foot stalks of corn.

The barn's exterior is graying, part of its roof is missing and there's a gaping hole looking out from the hayloft. It's about 100 years old and it's not really useful.

"It's deteriorated and it would cost a lot of money to repair it," Gerdes says. "And it doesn't fit into the modern farming. Unless you got two cows to let them loaf inside, nothing fits and it's just obsolete."

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee plans to examine proposed mergers among agricultural chemical and seed companies in a September hearing.


Amy Mayer/IPR

On a trip to the Midwest last week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack offered some advice to the next presidential administration. As the candidates tour the country and remain largely silent on agriculture and food issues, the Agriculture Department’s purview remains important.


Amy Mayer/IPR

On a hot, July day in Boone County, farmer Brett Heineman shuttled a semi from one of his family's fields to the local co-op. He and his uncle were harvesting the first crop of oats on this farm in decades.

Before, corn and soybeans almost completely covered the landscape -- today, they account for 95 percent of crop acres in Iowa -- most Corn Belt farmers also grew oats or alfalfa. Now, the Heinemans are among the farmers taking a closer look at re-integrating the small grain into their operations.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it is expanding its support of new farmers and ranchers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with more than a dozen young, beginning and military veteran farmers at Iowa State University in Ames. He listened to their start-up stories and announced another $18 million in grants to help new farmers get going. Vilsack says he has tried to connect government policy with on-the-ground needs for farmers.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa's senior US senator says the proposed mergers of major agricultural seed and chemical companies should get coordinated review from multiple federal agencies.

Chuck Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and often presses government agencies to make sure proposed mergers will not stymie competition. Right now, he says the Department of Justice is looking at the proposed Dow-DuPont merger. The Federal Trade Commission is reviewing ChemChina's bid to take over Syngenta.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa’s corn and soybean crops are moving into final maturity with most of the acreage listed in good-to-excellent condition. Today’s report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has both crops listed as 83 percent good to excellent.

In North Iowa’s Winnebago County, farmer Riley Lewis is anticipating a big harvest.

Suzanne Hogan for Harvest Public Media


Urban farms and gardens are popping up in cities all over the country, often touted as the key to a sustainable lifestyle, as creating healthy vibrant communities and promoting economic development. A new study by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, however, says urban agriculture advocates need to be careful about overselling the benefits.

Cultural Impact

Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media


Rural towns need psychologists, social workers and substance abuse counselors, but there is a chronic shortage. The U.S. needs about 2,700 more clinicians to catch up to demand, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Outside of metropolitan areas there just aren't enough providers to go around.