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In this November 2023 Issue of TF

FEATURES401799961 858384619623824 5414994999678916380 nCLICK FOR Six Secrets for Top Soybean Yields
No way a boring day (Cover Story)
Raising meat goats brings both challenges and rewards

by Jessica Ekern 

New era in service
Automation, speed and precision bring unmatched efficiencies to MFA’s Four Rivers Agronomy Center

by Allison Jenkins

Public-private partnerships — a winning combination
Two MDC programs offer landowners incentives while increasing public access, hunting opportunities and improving wildlife habitats

by Jessica Ekern

Secrets to share
Crop scientist outlines top six factors that impact soybean yield

by Allison Jenkins

Sweet tradition
Mailes family preserves the old-fashioned art of making sorghum syrup

by Allison Jenkins

Don’t let field edges drag you down
Nutri-Track can help maximize profit by increasing yield, lowering production costs

by Davin Harm

Possum poop may be problematic to horses
Contaminated hay, feed or water can put equine at risk of serious disease

by Dr. Jim White

Country Corner
Keep cultural heritage from fading away

by Allison Jenkins

More production,  same infrastructure

by Ernie Verslues

Notice of Annual Meeting

Markets - - Flipbook Link
Crops: Is another soybean rally in 2023 possible?
Cattle: Cattle prices continue onward and upward

Blog / UpFront
Automation arrives at MU
Watch for weeds in hay-feeding sites
High interest rates, strong dollar take a toll on agriculture

Recipes - - Flipbook Link
Holiday hits

Marketplace - - Flipbook Link
BUY, sell, trade

Closing Thought - Click for image
- video short is currently in production -

Poem by Walter Bargen
Photo by Jessica Ekern

November 2023 Today' Farmer FlipBook
Click on the cover below to view the issue as a flip book.


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In this October 2023 Today's Farmer

Limitlessness (Cover Story)
Kansas rancher Rex Buchman enjoys the cowboy life while making his mark on the cattle and equine industries 

by Jessica Ekern

Drones reach new heights in agriculture
Farmers are embracing unmanned aerial technology for input delivery and more

by Allison Jenkins

Q&A with MFA
Learn more about your cooperative leaders

by Dwayne schad

Adjuvant selection guide
What is an Adjuvant (video)

From SAE to CEO
Ambitious FFA member has big business plans for the future

by Allison Jenkins

MFA Charitable Foundation & FFA SAE's
by Allison Jenkins

Lights cast a shadow over conservation
Studies show night glow contributes to decline of nocturnal birds and pollinators

by Emily Beck

Cash crop or cover crop?
New rotational option may offer growers the benefits of both

by Allison Jenkins

Hindsight gives us better vision for future crops
Lessons learned from 2023 can improve management strategies for 2024

by Kevin Moore

Eat, drink and be healthy
Study shows preconditioning calves improves feedlot behavior

by Dr. Jim White

Country Corner
Remembering the Great Flood of 1993

by Allison Jenkins

We’re still a team built for farmers

by Ernie Verslues

WOTUS revision still murky, ag groups say
Missouri Governor’s Conference on Agriculture turns 50 years old
Missouri agriculture raises more than 1.2 million meals in 2023 Drive to Feed Kids

Crops: Acreage increase, weak demand offset corn yield impact
Cattle: High cattle prices will eventually drive herd growth

Pop culture

BUY, sell, trade

Closing Thought
Photography & poem.

Video version coming soon.

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View this October issue of Today's Farmer magazine via a flip book as originally printed on paper.

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MFA grants help FFA members

With support from the MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation, at least 25 Missouri FFA members will receive a financial boost for their new or existing Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects in 2024. The $25,000 donation made by the foundation in August will provide selected students grants of up to $1,000 for their SAE.

MFA Incorporated General Counsel Stefan Knudsen, front left, presents this year’s $25,000 donation for Supervised Agricultural Experience grants to Missouri FFA Foundation Executive Director Heather Dimitt-Fletcher. Joining them are Missouri FFA state officers, in back from left, Kiley Mattson of Stanberry, vice president; Sam Tummons of Columbia, president; Lynn Dyer of Higginsville and Isabella Hamner of Camdenton, both vice presidents.MFA Incorporated General Counsel Stefan Knudsen, front left, presents this year’s $25,000 donation for Supervised Agricultural Experience grants to Missouri FFA Foundation Executive Director Heather Dimitt-Fletcher. Joining them are Missouri FFA state officers, in back from left, Kiley Mattson of Stanberry, vice president; Sam Tummons of Columbia, president; Lynn Dyer of Higginsville and Isabella Hamner of Camdenton, both vice presidents.Participation in an SAE involves practical agricultural activities performed by FFA members outside of scheduled classroom and laboratory time. The program allows students to consider multiple careers and occupations, learn expected workplace behavior and develop specific skills within an industry.

The MFA Charitable Foundation established its annual contribution to Missouri FFA in 2021, with the first grants awarded 2022.

“We’re extremely thankful for MFA’s ongoing support of our SAE Grant Program,” said Heather Dimitt-Fletcher, executive director of the Missouri FFA Foundation.

“Consistently, when I ask recipients how the grant impacts their SAE, they say they would not have been able to start or expand their project without it. Ultimately, these grants provide students opportunities to learn life skills, obtain business experience and start down a path of financial stability.”

Missouri’s SAE grants piggyback on the national program, Dimitt-Fletcher explained, so interested students can apply for both Missouri FFA and National FFA grants online at The application portal typically opens in early October. For more information, students should visit with their FFA advisor.

The MFA Incorporated Charitable Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to education, youth, solving community problems and improving quality of life. To learn more, visit

See related FFA story in this issue here: From SAE to CEO.

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Cash crop or cover crop?

New rotational option may offer growers the benefits of both

There’s a new cash crop growing in MFA territory this fall, one that not only gives farmers a different rotational option but also doubles as a cover crop to provide soil health and conservation benefits.

And it was once considered a weed.

This novel crop is CoverCress™, derived from the winter annual pennycress, a Brassica related to mustards and cabbages. The plant’s transformation into CoverCress occurred over nearly a decade of advanced breeding, gene editing and field testing to develop a crop that is valued for both its oil and grain.

CoverCress fits into existing corn and soybean rotations in the Midwest, allowing farmers to grow three crops in two seasons, said Dale Sorensen, chief commercial officer for the company, which was founded in 2013 by three former Monsanto employees. With a high oil content—about 50% higher than a soybean—pennycress was an ideal candidate to be cultivated into a cash crop aimed at the renewable fuels market, Sorensen explained.

“For agriculture to become more sustainable and produce more food, farmers are going to need another set of options,” he said. “We can only grow so many soybeans and so much corn on the acres we have. How do we capture more oil that has the ability to go into biofuels without taking away from the food supply? That question is what got me into this.”

Sorensen is also a former employee of Monsanto, where he worked with DeKalb, Asgrow and regional seed lines for many years and helped the company integrate tech brands such as Precision Planting and FieldView. He retired from Monsanto in 2016 prior to its acquisition by Bayer and joined CoverCress Inc. (CCI) in 2021.

“After spending 25 years at Monsanto, I know about being on the bleeding edge,” Sorensen said. “That experience prepared me well for working with CoverCress, which is one of the most exciting products I’ve ever been involved with.”

CoverCressCoverCress is ready to harvest when the plants turn this distinctive golden-tan color. The resulting grain has a high oil content—30%—making it attractive to the biofuel market.The first CoverCress fields were planted in 2019, and four years later, the product is on the cusp of full commercialization, Sorensen said. More than 8,000 acres are in production this fall, mainly in eastern Missouri and southern Illinois, with plans to expand into Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Currently, CCI provides farmers seed, agronomic support and marketing services. Growers are responsible for planting and caring for the crop.

“This year, we contracted about 3,200 acres of grain production with about 30 or so farmers, and we’ll have right at 5,000 acres of demonstration fields with another 50 to 60 farmers,” Sorensen said.

Among those growers is Alan Weber, who farms part time with his father, Jerry, in Pettis County near Nelson, Mo. In addition to its dual-purpose as cash crop and cover crop, the promise of CoverCress as a source of renewable fuel was attractive to Weber, who works full time as a founding partner of MARC-IV, a consulting company that fosters the development of bio-based innovations.

In late September, Weber planted 33 acres of CoverCress into corn stubble to serve as a demo plot. It’s the second time he’s had CoverCress on the farm, having hosted another trial two years ago to help CCI evaluate different varieties and seed treatments.

“My father and I have used cover crops for a number of years to reduce erosion, provide grazing potential for our cows and increase water-holding capacity in our soils,” Weber said. “With CoverCress, we can now incorporate a cash crop between corn and soybeans that essentially fills most of the ecosystem benefits of a cover crop plus the opportunity to diversify our rotation and harvest the crop for an additional revenue stream.”

What makes CoverCress fit so well into Midwest crop rotations is its winter growth cycle and earlier harvest, Sorensen explained. It is planted in the fall, goes dormant over the winter, flowers and sets seed in the spring, and is harvested from mid-May to early June. This allows growers to get double-crop soybeans—or even corn—planted earlier than if they were following winter wheat.

“We haven’t planted winter wheat on our ground for quite a few years because there’s a lot of risk in having a profitable soybean crop planted in late June, at least on our soils,” Weber said. “Getting CoverCress harvested the third week of May would allow me to plant a soybean crop with full yield potential. That’s what really excites me about incorporating this into the rotation.”

Sorensen said there is demand for the crop, and major companies are getting on board. In April 2022, Bunge and Chevron formed a joint venture to take CoverCress grain for processing into renewable diesel and aviation fuel. In August 2022, CCI announced that Bayer had expanded its investment to 65% ownership in the company, with Bunge and Chevron owning the other 35%.

“Long term, they want us growing a million tons a year,” Sorensen said. “And they’d like us to be there by 2030.”
With an energy-dense nutritional profile similar to canola, CoverCress also has potential as livestock feed in both whole-grain and meal form. CCI is working with a large-scale chicken producer to develop those markets, with a commitment to deliver 1,000 tons of grain to feed broilers in the summer of 2024.

To help meet the market demand, Sorensen said he expects to have 300 to 350 farmers growing CoverCress by next fall. New producers will enter under CCI’s “farm adoption program,” which allows them to plant the crop at no cost to see how it works in their operation before making a commitment.
“Right now, our business model is to give away the seed and let farmers experiment on their farm to learn how to grow it before they ever sign a contract with us,” Sorensen explained. “This is a new crop, so farmers need to learn how to manage it. There’s a lot of hand-holding the first couple of seasons.”

While CoverCress is a fairly low-input, low-maintenance crop, stand establishment is critical, Sorensen said. CCI recommends planting as soon as possible after harvest of the preceding corn or soybean crop—ideally early September to mid-October—to take advantage of heat, light and moisture needed to ensure good emergence. Planting depth should be shallow, less than 0.25 inch, on lightly disturbed soil.

“We need a minimum of four plants per square foot,” Sorensen said. “Getting the stand established is the biggest learning curve for farmers. After that, the rest is pretty easy.”

On his farm, Weber said he planted CoverCress with the same methods he uses to sow cover crops. “We worked the corn stalks with a vertical tillage tool and spread the seed on top,” he said. “Then we firmed it up with some rolling baskets.”

After planting, crop maintenance is minimal until it comes out of dormancy the following spring. If the crop is economically viable, CCI recommends side-dressing with nitrogen.

“Most of the rapid growth occurs in the first half of spring, so we want to apply 40-50 pounds of nitrogen per acre before or when the plants begin to bolt,” Sorensen said. “We prefer not to put on any nitrogen in the fall. Typically, behind corn or beans, there’s enough nitrate there to carry the crop through winter.”
The harvest window opens when 95% of the pods have turned to bright tan, with the rest being some shade of yellow, typically May 20-30. Sorensen said a combine draper head is recommended to reduce shatter loss compared to a conventional grain head.

In this startup phase, CCI provides transportation of the grain to market. Eventually, as demand and production grow, Sorensen said he envisions a larger network of handling facilities for CoverCress every 50 to 60 miles so growers can haul their own grain.

“There are three things growers usually want to know before they get on board,” Sorensen said. “How do I grow the crop? What am I going to make for the crop? And where do I haul it? Until we get a full-scale grain-handling process in place, I don’t want our farmers to worry about where it’s going. We’ll pick it up and take it from there.”

As for what a farmer can make by growing CoverCress, CCI estimates potential revenue ranging from $150 to $200 per acre, based on Chicago Board of Trade prices for soybeans. The final value will be included in a grower’s contract before fall seeding.

“For example, with $13 beans, at 1,300-pound yields of CoverCress, that’s about $155 in revenue per acre,” Sorensen explained. “I think we’ll get better as we get farther along. We know the varieties can surpass 1,500 pounds per acre when managed well. If we get up to 2,000 pounds, that starts to push beyond the $200-per-acre range.”

Even with tough growing conditions over the past two years, Sorensen said farmers have shown tremendous interest in CoverCress, and CCI plans to open signups for grain production and demo programs in January for the fall of 2024. The company is also seeking new “authorized agents” to help recruit farmers and provide customer support.

“You have to think about whole-farm economics—how do you maximize revenue across the farm rather than just looking at how to maximize yields,” Sorensen said. “With its unique opportunity as both cash crop and cover crop, CoverCress can be an important piece of that picture.”

For more information, visit

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