Technology…it seems that we, as consumers, are constantly hearing about the latest and greatest gadgets and apps for smartphone devices to make our lives simple.  According to commercials and advertisements I have observed, the media stereotype smartphone and mobile device users to be between the ages of 15-27, or business-attired individuals living in the larger cities with a busy lifestyle.  What is often left out are the farmers and ranchers in the less populated areas who are also using smart mobile devices to simplify their way of living.

Farming is not an easy task, but with apps created especially for the farmer, the job can be completed more efficiently.  There are hundreds of agriculture related apps available in the iTunes store and Android marketplace, but I have chosen only 10 in which I feel are the most useful to the farmer.

10. Farm Manager App assists the farmers to manage the farm overall, as well as keeping track of detailed records for equipment and crops. This app can be linked to an account online for the user to easily access records at any time.

9. Corn Planting Calculator allows the user to calculate planting information resulting in valuable information such as row spacing, seed count, cost per acre, and much more.

8. Corn yield can be determined using Optimizer 2.0.  This app uses information based on products used and geographic location to determine an approximate yield.  It also sends daily reminders to the phone allowing users to be up-to-date on the projected yields.

7. What type of soil are you standing on?  With SoilWeb that information is available to you anytime.  Simply allow your phone to use your location as of GPS, and information and type of soil can be easily accessed.

6. PureSense is a way for users to get information on the moisture near the roots of crops.

5. Staying on top of the agriculture news is important, but not always available.  AGWired allows users access to news releases and happening within the agriculture world.

4. CropNAtion allows farmers to connect with other farmers by communicating through message boards and posting photos.

3. TankMix from Dupont assists in calculating how much mixture is needed in a volume-to-volume ration for a specific area of the field.

2. PrecisionEarth uses the GPS locator to provide any and all information regarding farmland.

1.  …and if you’re not quite sure how farming works, download Farmville where the user learns all about planting, harvesting, and managing every day activities on a farm.

Smartphones aren’t just for the younger generation or city slickers.  They are a valuable resource that are sometimes overlooked as being too complicated, when in reality using the right app just might make your life a little easier.

Abby Coers
St. Joseph, IL


Originally Posted on Prairie Farmer by Josh Flint

This had me screaming at the television last night. Our local news picked up the story and just ran a blanket summary.

It went something like this: “High-fructose corn syrup has been linked to a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes. According to a new study, type 2 diabetes is 20% more common in countries that use high-fructose corn syrup, such as the U.S.” And, on to the next story.

Before even digging into the matter, I yelled, “Correlation does not equal causation!” This is a basic scientific principle. Yet, the folks at the University of Southern California seem to be pretty good at ignoring it.

After a little news search, I see the New York Times dug a little deeper than the fine folks at St. Louis’ KSDK. Here’s a quote from the initial rote coverage of the release.

“HFCS appears to pose a serious public health problem on a global scale,” says principal study author Michael I. Goran, MD, professor of preventive medicine, director of the Childhood Obesity Research Center, and co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at USC in a release. “The study adds to a growing body of scientific literature that indicates HFCS consumption may result in negative health consequences distinct from and more deleterious than natural sugar.”

The Times actually looked at the corn industry’s side of the thing. And, oh, what! There’s a feud going on between the Corn Refiners Association and The Sugar Association? This topic is highly political? Crazy!

The Times article notes in the lead that the study was “under attack” before it was even released. Even more impressive is the quote they received from Goran.

“We’re not saying that high-fructose corn syrup causes diabetes or that it is the only factor or even the only dietary factor with a relation to diabetes,” says Goran. “But it does support a growing body of evidence linking high-fructose corn syrup and diabetes.”

Sounds like someone is back peddling a bit. The Times also notes this isn’t the first HFCS-critical “research” published by Goran. He and the Corn Refiners have traded barbs previously.

Here’s my gripe: a good number of St. Louisans probably now believe HFCS will cause type 2 diabetes. Unless they realized this is highly controversial, they’re probably in the grocery stores now looking for “natural sugar” on labels. KSDK did us a real disservice. With Monsanto’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis, you would have thought they’d researched this a bit more.

Now, how many cities across the U.S. saw the same one-sided news coverage?

Josh Flint
Prairie Farmer


Thanksgiving is a time to remember what we are thankful for and be grateful for the opportunities we have had that make us who we are. As I remember what I am thankful for I think about what has impacted my life the most. I am thankful for the opportunity to grow up on a farm. Although the farm was not big I learned working hard was the key to being successful.

My grandparents (who were originally from Chicago) decided to buy a small farm in Northern Illinois and start a dairy operation. Although they did not know the hard work they were going to face, they hit the challenge head on. Dairy farms raise female dairy breed cattle that produce milk for ice cream, cheese, and other dairy products. Dairy farming was not financially feasible for my family which made my farm switch from dairy to grain.

Thankfully, my family decided and were able to keep up with farming rather than give up on it all. Sadly, many farmers have had to stop farming because of financial issues and the younger generations not wanting or able to take over the farming operation. Luckily, my family was able to start a corn and soybean farm and my dad was willing to it take over.

When I was young I can remember how hard my dad worked to create a successful farming operation; but it was not until I was older when I had to get down and dirty learning it the hard way. Although not all times of the year are always busy and stressful, the busiest time of the year is where I learned the most about hard work. And that time of the year is both spring when planting and the fall when harvesting (picking the corn and soybeans). During spring and fall time the most physical labor is done as well as the longest hours. Of course if the weather is accommodating planting and harvest would go a lot smoother. Nevertheless, as we all know, the weather is unpredictable this makes planning for these two seasons almost impossible. But no matter what Mother Nature has in store, the job has to get done and patience was important to be able to keep working hard through long hours day and night.

This is only one example out of many others of how I have learned hard work from being on the farm. I am thankful for having the opportunity to live and work on my family’s farm. Through my experiences, I learned the importance of patience and the rewards of hard work. Qualities like this many farm kids acquire at a young age and use throughout their life, whether they decide to stay on the farm or pursue other careers.

Remember to be thankful for your experiences because they shape who you are.

Bronwyn Burgweger
Illinois State University


When we asked some non-farmers what they always wanted to know about the farm, here’s the first thing they came up with: “What is urea and why is it poisonous to horses?”  Makes sense, I guess, since many urban people’s only experience with the farm is owning or riding a horse.

Urea is a common substance found in Nitrogen fertilizers. It also has toxins that can affect horses.  It is most widely used as a solid Nitrogen fertilizer throughout the world. Urea is also often found naturally in nature since it is a compound in animal urine. As a fertilizer it is commonly used on farms, and in application to crop fields.  In crops, especially corn, Nitrogen fertilizer is essential for crop germination and growth. Nitrogen fertilizer is commonly applied to fields after harvest, in the fall. Urea is another form of Nitrogen fertilizer that also helps the crops to grow. Failure to add Nitrogen to field soils can result in stunting of crops, which is when the crop develops at a shorter than normal length.

The most common way Urea is used in fertilizer is when it is mixed with soil, or it can be applied to the soil surface. Urea is also a highly soluble substance and can be dissolved in water and applied to the soil as a solution, and therefore may be sprayed onto the crop leaves.  When the Urea makes contact with either the soil or the plants, a naturally occurring enzyme called urease begins to quickly convert the Urea to a gas through a process called hydrolysis. This process will generally take place within several days after being applied to a field.

Urea is a non-protein nitrogen source that is commonly used in diets for ruminant animals, most commonly cows. The purpose of Urea is for use in the synthesis of microbial protein which is then used to meet a great portion of the cows’ protein requirements for their diet. The arrangement of a horse’s gastrointestinal tract makes the use of Urea questionable for their nitrogen requirement for their diets.  It has been found that small amounts of the protein intake may be beneficial, especially for mature horses that receive a large amount of a forage diet. Recently it has been found that Urea may also be toxic to horses.

Because horses are non-ruminants, opposite cows, they do not have multiple stomach compartments, as cows have 4.  This has a great impact on how we should feed our horses in comparison to cows and why they differ in their nutritional needs. The problem with Urea and horses is that commonly horses and cattle are fed together, and since cows require a supplement such as Urea, horses also consume it, and a specific amount turns toxic in the horses’ intestines, and results in death to the horse.

Urea is one feed additive that horses are less susceptible to than ruminants. Urea is usually lethal at 1-1.15 g/kg body weight, but 0.3-0.5 g/kg may be toxic; in horses, 4 g/kg body weight is lethal. Ideally, a urea level in the feed which is safe for cattle should also be safe for horses. However, the horse’s digestive system is not constructed to efficiently utilize NPN, so they are not used in horse feed.”

Jessica Kozak
University of Illinois student


It is a common misconception, thinking that farmers are big money-makers. Did you know that in 2011, the average total farm household income was $57,067, with the farm income alone being NEGATIVE $2,250? Still think farmers are rich?

Commodity prices are publicly broadcasted, but the input prices are not. It has become more expensive than ever to put seed corn and soybeans in the ground. It cost farmers just at $500 per acre to put the crop in the ground. So, figure they get lucky and sell their corn for $7.00 per bushel. With a yield of 150 bushels to the acre, that would be about $1,000. Take out the $500 for the seed, fertilizers, crop insurance, storage, hired labor, and all things necessary to keep the crop healthy, and the farmer is left with $500 per acre. With that money they have to buy their big pieces of machinery, such as a tractor, planter, or combine. Still think they are rich?

For most farmers, their crop production is their only source of income. So after all the business operations are complete, they have to support their family. With all of that, they do not have the leisure of having the opportunity of calling in sick or just taking the day off. Each day is crucial in their operation so they can be as productive as possible. There is always that possibility that they could lose everything in a matter of days, weeks, or months by wind, fire, or other disaster. Farming is an unbelievably uncertain profession to go into.

Farm subsidies are a very important part of a farmer’s business. What happens if there is a really bad drought? Or a new insect or disease introduced to their area? What if commodity prices are down? The farmer still paid that initial money up front to put the crop in the ground. When the yield is below normal, the government steps in and helps the farmer out. Private companies do not have the means of accommodating the riskiness associated with farming.

The subsidies are not free money, either. The farmers have to put forth a lot of work in order to show that their yields are down. For most programs, there is an average bushel per acre that they have as a standard. Another stipulation is that the farmer cannot enroll in multiple programs. They choose what best fits their needs.

The government is helping out its producers, but that gives a lot of help to the consumers too. Farmers are our source of food, fuel, clothing, basically anything you can think of. Would you rather support the government and our farmers, or rely of the Middle Eastern countries to provide us with our gasoline? The government has to guarantee food security for its citizens. Also, to make sure we can sustain our country and not have to rely on others to support our needs.

Do you still think that farmers are rich? Maybe the farm subsidies are not such a bad deal after all.

Katlyn Pieper
Illinois State University


What comes to mind when you think of a farmer? Is it someone who grows food for us and hogs up the road with their tractors in the fall? Or maybe someone who works for the government, providing specifically what they are told. If you are not involved in the agriculture world, you may not know what really goes in to farming, and in return, what comes out of it.

Agriculture is all around us, we sometimes just don’t realize. Think about what you ate today, a good percentage of that food was most likely grown by a farmer. It was planted, harvested, and sent to the store for your consumption. But do you ever wonder where all of that food comes from? And what the decision-making process is behind growing the product was? The answer links back to our American farmers.  

A common misconception among today’s society is that the government tells farmers what to plant and how to plant it. This is in fact false. Farmers do have their own voice on their farm. It is ultimately their decision what type of crop they want to grow, as well as what brand of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, etc. they desire to use once it is planted. Whether its corn, beans, wheat, grass, or another type of plant, farmers make the decision on their own with limited help from outside influences.

Much of their decision on what to plant each year relies on personal preference. Many farmers follow a field rotation of planting corn one year, and then beans the next.  Although, sometimes this pattern can be disrupted if the farmer feels they will receive more money from planting a certain crop back-to-back years, or if other incentives arise that persuade them in a different direction.

When to plant, and when to harvest are determined by the farmer as well. Depending on the crop and the weather conditions throughout the growing season, farmers can assume the best time to take action in their fields. Farmers are their own boss, and can make the decisions on what is best for themselves and their business on their own. (Insert image 2 here).

However, the government does have a say on a certain type of land. This exception is called Highly Erodible Land, or HEL. HEL is land that is steeper sloping and has a higher possibility of eroding, or washing away. Government regulations on this type of land state that you must do a no-till process on the field. No-till means, that after harvesting the crops in the fall, farmers will not do any tilling work to loosen up the ground to prepare for planting the following spring. This process will leave the ground firmer, and thus make it more difficult to wash away, therefore slowing down the erosion process in the future.

Most farms are independently ran operations. Hard work and sweat are the things we notice about farmers from a distance, but behind the scenes is another story. Not only do they work hard to feed America, but farmers tackle a major decision-making process every day. They have their own voice, and success on their farms can be measured by their decisions.

Amy Erlandson
Illinois State University


Did you know that today is Guinness World Records Day? The annual event, which commemorates the day in 2004 when Guinness World Records became the world’s bestselling copyright book, sees thousands of people all over the world attempt to secure a prestigious world records title during the 24 hour period. People from all walks of life and every corner of the earth are celebrating the weird, wacky and downright astonishing.

How is agriculture represented? Let’s take a look at some of the records held:

• As of July 7, 2006, the record for the smallest living horse is Thumbelina, a miniature sorrel brown mare who measures 44.5 cm (17.5 in) to the withers and is owned by Kay and Paul Goessling who live on the Goose Creek Farm Inc, St Louis, Missouri.

• The most people husking corn is 351 and was achieved at an event organized by Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California, on July 14, 2011. The record attempt acknowledged Knott’s Berry Farm founders Walter and Cordelia Knott’s 1920’s era corn farming heritage. The record was attempted as part of the Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and Guinness World Records summer 2011 partnership.

• The most spring barley seed planted in 24 hours is 163,907 lb covering an area of 1,431 acres by an unmodified AGCO Challenger MT865 tractor pulling a 60 ft wide Horsch seeder at the Agro-Soyuz farm in Ukraine from April 23-24, 2003. At 500 horse power, the Challenger MT865 tractor is considered the world’s largest production tractor. The record was set on just two fields, one having runs up to 2.8 miles long and the other up to 1.55 miles long. The average work rate was 57.8 acres/hr.

• The largest egg on record weighed 5 lb 11.36 oz and was laid by an ostrich at a farm owned by Kerstin and Gunnar Sahlin in Borlänge, Sweden, on May 17, 2008.

• The largest recorded number of livestock killed by a single bolt of lightning is 68. The Jersey cows were sheltering under a tree at Warwick Marks’ dairy farm near Dorrigo, New South Wales, Australia, on October 31, 2005. A further three were paralyzed for a few hours, but later recovered.

• The most people transplanting seedlings is 1,215 achieved by Council of Agriculture Executive Yuan on an event organized by Taoyuan County Farmers’ Association in Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei, on August 18, 2012. The record was broken by 1,215 participants aged from 16 to 96. They used 16 minutes 20 seconds to transplant more than 300,000 rice seedlings into 2 hectares of rice paddy.

• The largest horn circumference on a steer measured 37.5 inches on May 6, 2003 and belonged to Lurch, an African watusi steer owned by Janice Wolf of Gassville, Arkansas. Sadly, Lurch died at 3 p.m. on 22 May 2010 of a cancer at the base of one of the horns. The body has been released to a local taxidermist, who will produce a full-sized taxidermy of the steer.