The “Pick” Of A Lifetime

My wife and I always want to believe we are going to attend a sale or auction and find that hidden gem, well it looks like Nancy Lee Carlson, from her Chicago suburb has donejust that! From what I understand Nancy is a 62-year old geology buff. And about two years ago she stumbled across an online auction in Texas that was offering a supposed bag of “moon dust”. Like most Nancy was skeptical, especially as the moon dust was bundled in a group with a launch key for the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-14 and a black padded headrest from an Apollo command module. She thought the items might be fun conversation pieces, then bid once and won all three items in the lot. Once she received the items she couldn’t believe how “real” they looked, so she started to do some investigating. Nancy contacted friends as well as her local rock club, and actually went as far as to contact NASA, who told her she could send the items in for testing. What happened next is unbelievable. The NASA scientist realized Nancy had actually purchased the first ever bit of “moon dust” scooped up by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong right after he took “one giant leap for mankind” in 1969. They say the first thing Armstrong did after he stepped on the moon was to unzip a bag the size of a dinner plate and fill it with a scoop of lunar dust and rocks. He then shoved the bag into a pocket of his spacesuit and turned it over to scientists at a Houston lab. Somehow it disappeared and was eventually forgotten, even by NASA. Although the bag was labeled “Lunar Sample Return,” somehow it wasn’t among the 350-plus Apollo 11-related objects Johnson Space Center eventually sent to the Smithsonian. The story gets even crazier as NASA refused to give back the historic items. So last December Nancy sued the agency and actually won. Now, she’s planning to resell the bag of “moon dust” for at least $2 million in Sotheby’s first space-exploration sale in New York on July 20. My bet is it goes for much higher! I also thought it was kind of cool that NASA decided not to appeal the case. NASA did say they would love for the bag to be on public display somewhere because it “represents the culmination of a massive national effort involving a generation of Americans, including the astronauts who risked their lives in an effort to accomplish the most significant act humankind has ever achieved.” (Source: The Wall Street Journal; The Chicago Tribune; Sotheby’s) 

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Should We Be Using a Starter Fertilizer on Soybeans?

With so many folks switching to soybeans this year, I continue to hear lots of questions about whether producers should spend time and money applying a starter fertilizer to soybeans. I came across some great information on this topic from K-State Research and Extension that I would like to share. Typically, corn shows a greater response to starter fertilizer than soybeans. Part of the reason is that soils are generally warmer when soybeans are planted than when corn is planted. Usually, response in early growth observed in corn is not observed in soybeans. However, yield response to direct soybean fertilization with phosphorus and other nutrients can be expected in low-testing soils. As for testing, K-State issues guidelines for measuring phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and boron (B). If fertilizer is recommended by soil test results, then fertilizer should either be applied directly to the soybeans or indirectly by increasing fertilizer rates to another crop in the rotation by the amount needed for the soybeans. The most consistent response to starter fertilizer with soybeans would be on soils that test low on one of the nutrients listed above. As for application, banding fertilizer to the side and below the seed at planting is an efficient application method for soybeans. In narrow row soybeans, it may not be possible to band fertilizer, so producers can surface-apply fertilizer. However, be sure to not place fertilizer in-furrow in direct seed contact with soybeans because the soybean seed is very sensitive to salt injury. Soybean seldom responds to nitrogen (N) in the starter fertilizer. However, some research under irrigated, high-yield environments suggests a potential benefit of small amounts of N in starter fertilizer. For more information on soybean fertilizer and other fantastic articles on agronomy, check out K-State’s Agronomy eUpdates. (Source:KSU Research and Extension)

Below is a picture showing the visual difference in soybeans using starter P fertilizer on the left and nothing applied on the right. Picture by Nathan Mueller.

What You Need To Know About Brazil’s Latest Political Scandal

Brazil has recently found itself in the midst of another political scandal that has given rise to violent protests and calls for the President’s impeachment. The latest dust up revolves around recordings of President Michel Temer discussing hush money pay-offs to a jailed associate. The secretly recorded conversations were given to prosecutors by Joesley and Wesley Batista, brothers who run meat-packing giant JBS. Apparently, handing over the tapes was part of a plea bargain that arose from the graft investigation into Petrobras, the state-run oil company. Apparently, Temer was recorded discussing with Joesley cash payments to Eduardo Cunha, the former speaker of the House who has been jailed for his role in the Petrobras corruption scandal. Cunha was a member of the same political party as Temer and played the leading role in calling for former president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. That action led directly to Temer taking over the presidency. On the recordings handed over, Joesley is heard saying he’s paying Cunha hush money. Allegedly. Temer replies “You have to keep it going, OK?” Temer has admitted he met with Joesley, but is denying he discussed paying Cunha for his silence. According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, police also have audio and video evidence that Temer’s aide Rocha Loures negotiated bribes worth 500,000 reais (US$160,000) a week for 20 years in return for helping JBS overcome a problem with the fair trade office. Keep in mind, Temer has only held the presidency since last August. This new bombshell and the calls for his impeachment obviously just compound the level of uncertainty for Brazil, both politically and fiscally. Temer’s political opponents in congress are calling for his impeachment and the whole issue has basically brought the government to a standstill and much needed reforms have been shoved to the backburner. All of this comes as the country’s Election Court (TSE) is looking into the 2014 campaign. Temer and Dilma are being investigated by the TSE for allegedly taking undocumented money from the major Petrobras contractors, primarily a company called Odebrecht. Executives at Odebrecht have been cutting plea deals with prosecutors in an effort to lighten their own legal punishments. If the TSE finds that the 2014 campaign took illegal funds, the results of that election could be nullified. Meaning Temer’s presidency would become invalid and the House Speaker would become yet another unelected president. (Sources: The Guardian, Forbes)

Newest Study Finds Barges Are Superior in Freight Transportation

I’ve been asked several times during my career which mode of transportation I believe is better… barge, truck or train? Up to this point I never felt I had enough factual data to make a strong argument either way. Now the picture seems very clear. I want to share with you a recently released national study from the National Waterways Foundation which attempts to compare societal, environmental and safety impacts of utilizing river barge transportation to highway and rail transportation. The study was originally conducted and peer reviewed in 2009, updated in 2014 and again updated in 2017. The most recent 2017 update addresses cargo capacity, congestion, emissions, energy efficiency, safety impacts and infrastructure impacts. The study was conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute’s Center for Port & Waterways at Texas A&M University. Needless to say, the study is quite comprehensive and — hands down — declares the best performer when it comes to freight transportation is inland waterways via river barges. While we live in a truly intermodal society, this study’s comparison of rail, truck and inland waterways underscores the many benefits of moving cargo by water. Below are some of the more interesting highlights from the study:

Cargo Capacity

  • Common 15-barge river tow has the same capacity as 1,050 trucks and 216 railcars pulled by six locomotives.

  • A loaded, covered hopper barge transporting wheat carries enough product to make almost 2.5 million loaves of bread, or the equivalent of one loaf of bread for almost every person in the state of Kansas.

  • A loaded tank barge transporting gasoline carries enough product to satisfy the current annual gasoline demand of approximately 2,500 people.

  • The amount of cargo currently transported on major rivers is equivalent to more than 49 million truck trips annually that would have to travel on the nation’s roadways in lieu of water transportation.

Fuel Efficiency

  • Barges are superior in terms of fuel efficiency. Barges are able to move a ton of cargo 647 miles with a single gallon of fuel, up from 616 miles in the last study. Trains move a ton of cargo 477 miles per gallon, while trucks move a ton of cargo 145 miles per gallon.

Safety

  • The study determined that, after adjusting for differences in cargo quantity moved by each mode, for every one member of the public injured in a barge accident, 80.4 are injured in rail accidents and 824 are injured in truck accidents. For fatalities, there are 79 trucking-related deaths and 21.9 rail-related deaths for every one barge-related deaths.

Environment

  • In regard to environmental impacts, the study noted that spills of more than 1,000 gal. are at a very low rate for barges, at 2.12 gal. per million ton-miles, while rail came in at a rate of 5.95 and trucks at 6.04.

  • Inland towing mode is significantly improving and inland waterway transport generates far fewer emissions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide than rail or truck per million ton miles. Trucks alone generate 154.2 tons, or 10 times more emissions than barges per ton-mile of cargo moved.

Infrastructure

  • Significant infrastructure impacts could occur if waterborne freight had to be diverted to highways. Approximately 2 inches of asphalt would have to be added to the pavement of 118,688 lane miles of rural interstate given the higher levels of expected 20 year truck loadings, assuming an even truck traffic distribution over the national highway system.

Should We Be Using a Starter Fertilizer on Soybeans?

With so many folks switching to soybeans this year, I continue to hear lots of questions about whether producers should spend time and money applying a starter fertilizer to soybeans. I came across some great information on this topic from K-State Research and Extension that I would like to share. Typically, corn shows a greater response to starter fertilizer than soybeans. Part of the reason is that soils are generally warmer when soybeans are planted than when corn is planted. Usually, response in early growth observed in corn is not observed in soybeans. However, yield response to direct soybean fertilization with phosphorus and other nutrients can be expected in low-testing soils. As for testing, K-State issues guidelines for measuring phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and boron (B). If fertilizer is recommended by soil test results, then fertilizer should either be applied directly to the soybeans or indirectly by increasing fertilizer rates to another crop in the rotation by the amount needed for the soybeans. The most consistent response to starter fertilizer with soybeans would be on soils that test low on one of the nutrients listed above. As for application, banding fertilizer to the side and below the seed at planting is an efficient application method for soybeans. In narrow row soybeans, it may not be possible to band fertilizer, so producers can surface-apply fertilizer. However, be sure to not place fertilizer in-furrow in direct seed contact with soybeans because the soybean seed is very sensitive to salt injury. Soybean seldom responds to nitrogen (N) in the starter fertilizer. However, some research under irrigated, high-yield environments suggests a potential benefit of small amounts of N in starter fertilizer. For more information on soybean fertilizer and other fantastic articles on agronomy, check out K-State’s Agronomy eUpdates. (Source:KSU Research and Extension)

Below is a picture showing the visual difference in soybeans using starter P fertilizer on the left and nothing applied on the right. Picture by Nathan Mueller.

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