Doc’s Blog


I see where the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is offering cost share programs to replant windbreaks on agricultural land. Once a hallmark of good farming practices, many windbreaks have been removed possibly to accommodate larger farming equipment and/or the mistaken idea that windbreaks lower crop yields.

Windbreaks have multiple benefits in most areas where windbreaks were previously planted.  While yields were somewhat hampered out to 1 to 1-1/2 times the height of the trees, that loss was more than offset by increased yields in the remainder of the field.  The study found that, within the protected zone of the windbreak, spring wheat yields increased an average of 8%, corn by 12%, soybeans by 13%, and winter wheat by 23%. 

For more information on this topic check out:   or

Organic Standards

While recently visiting with a neighbor he related a story of an incident when he was a youngster - back when herbicides first were available to farmers.  His dad, who farmed 400+ acres,   was mixing herbicide in a spray tank sitting in his yard.  The tank ran over and large amount of the herbicide mix inundated part of the yard.  He said that it was at least 15 years before anything would grow on that plot.  

This illustrates one of the pitfalls of organic certification - which only requires 3 years of freedom from herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizer to be certified. Organic products are not guaranteed to be free of all biocides but only guaranteed to have been grown or processed in accordance with USDA/NOP regulations.  

The integrity of organic products is only as good as the integrity of the members of the National Organic Standards Board.

Copper Toxicosis in Sheep

  I had a question come up today about copper toxicity in sheep.  Of all our domestic animals sheep are the most susceptible to copper toxicosis.  

  Copper is a required mineral in all species, but sheep have a narrow range between how much copper is adequate and how much is toxic. Most cases of copper poisoning in sheep occur when they are fed rations or minerals designed for other species that are more tolerant of copper.  

  When sheep are fed such diets over a period of time copper builds up in the liver because sheep do not excrete copper as efficiently as other animals. When the liver becomes saturated with copper, massive amounts of copper are released into the bloodstream resulting in tissue damage. This sudden onset is often triggered by some stressful event, 

  Note on the Mineral Wheel, that both molybdenum and sulfur act as antagonists to copper and have a protective effect if there is excess copper, The presence of these compounds bind with copper and prevent gut absorption and increase excretion of copper.

  Sheep do well on ABC’’s cafeteria-style mineral program and I have never encountered copper toxicosis in sheep on this program even though it does provide a free-choice source of copper.  Animals will balance their own mineral needs if given the choice.

An  Imponderable

Along with robins and greening up trees, another harbinger of spring in many rural areas is the appearance of anhydrous ammonia (AA) tanks being pulled by pick-ups on the roads and by tractors in the fields. AA is a source of nitrogen necessary for plant growth, as is phosphorus and potassium - the big 3 in Von Liebig’s NPK concept of agricultural fertilization. Prior to its common use as a fertilizer beginning in the 1940’s and 50’s it was used during World War II in the construction of airport runways in war zones. AA burns the organic matter out of soils thus hardening them up enough to support landing aircraft without the need for cement runways. Today as we use it on prime agricultural soils we wonder why our soils are becoming more compacted as years go by.

We live at the bottom of an ocean of air that is composed of approximately  78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, water vapor at an average of 0.4% plus small amounts of other gases. At sea level the weight of all these gases over each 1 square inch of the earth’s surface is 14.7 lbs. known as Atmospheric or Barometric pressure. Doing a little math here gives us a little over a ton of air over every square foot of the earth’s surface and of that ton 78% or 1650 lbs. is nitrogen.  There are 43560 square feet per acres times 1650 equals over 70 million pounds of nitrogen over every acre. I don’t know the capacity of the AA tanks that deliver nitrogen to the fields but I do know it is infinitesimal when compared to the amount available in the air above us.

Rain and snow carry some atmospheric nitrogen to earth. High organic matter soil absorbs and preserves this water and nitrogen for future plant growth. Legumes, with suitable inoculates, grown in a good crop rotation fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil.

Ponder this: Why do we pay big bucks for a little bit of nitrogen when that use destroys the natural fixation of free nitrogen in the soil?

Way to go, Rick Brattin

Having been born, raised and educated in the great state of Missouri, I am pleased - and often surprised - when I see Missouri lawmakers reacting positively to current problems.  Case in point. I am pleased to see that  Representative Rick Brattin has introduced a bill in the Missouri House that will go a long way to restore the health, self-respect and productivity of the 930,000 food stamp recipients residing in the state. This law (which has yet to be voted on) would bar these folks from using redistributed taxpayer money to buy expensive food items like seafood and steak, as well as junk foods like energy drinks, soda pop, cookies and chips.
Way to go, Rick!

EPA promotes crop rotation ? ? ? 

I see that the EPA’s new proposal to curtail the spread of resistant corn root worms would stipulate that GMO bT corn could only be planted for 2 years in a row and then the field would have to be planted to a different crop for a year. 

Hey, wait a minute!   Isn’t that what Grandpa did years ago - rotate crops to contain weeds, worms and insects?  I guess continuous mono-cropping with herbicides made things ‘easier” but at what cost.  Rotating crops and mechanical cultivation was cheaper in the long run and provided food that was safe to feed to man and beast alike.  Nowadays we must eat the ‘fankenfood’ foisted upon us by corporations like Monsanto and Dow Chemical.

If approved, the final ruling would affect areas of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and surrounding states. 

Does anyone else see the irony in the EPA finally doing something to actually protect the environment?

The grass is always greener.

   I really like this fine cartoon and I’m sure the  author  wanted to humorously illustrate the old ‘grass is greener” adage and also possibly comment on the pure cussedness of some cows in their distain for fences, 

   However, upon further reflection, this drawing illustrates 2 very importnt principles of animal nutrition.   1.  No two animals have the same nutritional needs.   2.   All soils, crops and feeds differ in their mineral content. 

    The feeding activity of these two cows demonstrates the above principles in that each cow is satisfying it’s own specific needs by seeking out what it needs no matter which side of the fence it is on.

    This concept was explained in the 1950’s by Dr. Wm Albrecht’s film- aptly named “The Other Side of the Fence”.

"No, I'm not stupid."

   Patrick Moore, who actively tours the world promoting GMOs was being interviewed byFrench documentary filmmaker Paul Moreira.  Claiming that gl yphosate is no more harmful than a glass of orange juice, Moore said,  "You can drink a whole quart of [glyphosate] and it won't hurt you."

   "You want to drink some?" responded Moreira, adding that "We have some here."

   Moore quickly retorted "I'd be happy to," before proceeding to say "Not, not really, but… I know it wouldn't hurt me.”

   Moreira responded once again, "If you say so, I have some glyphosate."

   "No, I'm not stupid," was Moore's response.

Scientific Truth

I read an article today in Dairy Herd Management in which the author bemoaned the fact that so many seemingly intelligent people no longer believed in science.  I could name several good reasons why I have very little faith in what is sometimes called “Good Science”.  Here are a couple that come to mind.

1. In many areas, scientific research and the promulgation of the results are profit driven.  For example, Monsanto funds the research, releases only the results that support sales, pays off government officials to look the other way and they tries to foist off its toxic products on to the consumers.  They safety tested glyphosate on 10 rats for 90 days and deemed it safe.  Then the French researcher Serelini did the same research for 2 years and found an alarmingly high incidence of cancer.  He was labeled as a naysayer and brutalized in the press. Monsanto is not alone in this.  Good science today seems to be anything that supports corporate profitability.

2. I think a good definition of science is .. “the orderly arrangement of what is currently considers to be true”.  What we consider to be true changes from day to day.  Eggs are bad for you and then suddenly eggs are good for you. Same with meat, milk, vaccinations and many drugs.  Note how many ‘wonder drugs‘ are suddenly removed from the market after years of popularity when the previously hidden side effects begin to surface.

I could go on and on with this - and probably will in a future blog entry.

“The scientific “truth” of today becomes the discarded error of tomorrow.”    From: “On growing Up Tough” by Taylor Caldwell

Two news items - WHO & EPA

Two news items stand out today. 

!.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide as a ‘probable carcinogen’.  

2.  The EPA is set to put new restrictions on the world's most widely used herbicide to help contain the rapid expansion of resistant weeds.  14 weeds are now resistant to glyphosate (Monsanto’s RoundUp) affecting over 60 million acres of farmland, In the US 280 million+ pounds of glyphosate were used last year and 90% of the corn and soybeans planted are GMO.  Last year Monsanto's glyphosate sales totaled $5 billion.

COMMENT: Does it seem to any one else that our government is more concerned about resistant weeds than it is about the effects of glyphosate on human health?