The bottom line, as affected by the federal "farm bill" legislation and farmers' production practices, was the focus at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's July 19 Southeast Research and Extension Center (SEREC) field day at theRohwer Research Station.

Jeffery Hall, associate director of national affairs for the Arkansas Farm Bureau, discussed the possible effects of the farm bill on the profitability ofthe state's agricultural sector. Division of Agriculture researchers discussed management practices in soybeans, corn, rice and cotton.

Video of Hall's talk and other field day presentations is available here.

Hall said the Arkansas Farm Bureau accepts that Congress will reduce funding for agriculture and other programs, but it favors an across-the-board reduction rather than deep cuts in some programs and smaller cuts in others. The 2008 farm bill expires this year, but it may be temporarily extended as Congress works on reconciling differences in Senate and House of Representatives versions recently passed.

Hall said the Senate bill has a "one-size-fits-all" approach to safety-net programs for farmers, which would favor producers in the Midwest and other regions, but not the Mid-South. The House bill better addresses needs of producers in all regions, including the Mid-South.

An update on the farm bill debate and its potential impact on Arkansas agriculture will be provided at the Arkansas Rice Expo at 10 a.m., Aug. 3, in the Grand Prairie Center at Phillips Community College near Stuttgart. Hall said Division of Agriculture economists, who will present the update, have provided timely analysis to assist lawmakers and lobbyists working on the legislation.

Ken Smith, an Extension weed specialistbased at the Southeast Research and Extension Center inMonticello, said soybean and cotton producers in southeast Arkansas are doing a good job of managing herbicide resistant pigweed. He said pre-plant and pre-emergent herbicides are essential to kill pigweed plants that would otherwise survive a post-emergent application of Roundup or Liberty Link herbicides.

Careful timing of overlapping residual herbicides, and manual removal of pigweed plants that survive, are needed, Smith said. One pigweed plant will produce thousands of seeds that will produce future generations of herbicide resistant plants.

Jason Meier, a weed science program associate at SEREC, said research at Rohwer confirms that rice producers should be aggressive in following a management programfor herbicide-resistant weeds. Overlapping application of multiple herbicides is necessary to prevent escapes of resistant weeds. Herbicide-resistant barnyardgrass is common in rice fields, and other resistant species have also become a problem.

The Division of Agriculture's new NSTAR (Nitrogen Soil Test for Rice) system that helps rice farmers apply the amount of nitrogen needed for optimum yield is undergoing its first year of wide-scale use, said Trent Roberts, a research assistant professor who helped develop the award-winning program. The program is being expanded to meet demand for analyzing a growingnumber of soil samples.

Roberts and other soil scientists are also developing guidelines for using a GreenSeeker program to determine if a mid-season nitrogen application would be justified. The program is used in other crops in several states, and must be calibrated for use in rice under local conditions. A mid-season nitrogen application is rarely justified if an initial application based on NSTAR analysis is made at the correct time.

Extension entomologist Gus Lorenz said stinkbug populations have built up in soybeans, especially those planted in March or early April. Producers should use sweep nets to scout fields. Nine insects per 25 sweeps is the threshold to trigger an insecticide application to protect the crop.

Paul Francis, a plant and soil science professor at SEREC, said irrigation research in soybeans has helped document the impact of delaying irrigation, based on the irrigation scheduling program that is available on the Division of Agriculture website. When field monitoring sensors indicate that water is needed, a delay of two weeks will reduce yields. Plants can usually recover from a delay of one week with little impact on yield, he added.

Tom Barber, Extension cotton agronomist, said irrigation research in cotton has found that once cotton plants emerge they do not need a lot of water until squares, or flower buds, begin to appear. At squaring, adequate water is needed to prevent a loss of yield potential. Research at Rohwer includes testing new sensors that measure canopy temperature and other vital signs to determine when a field needs watering.