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  • Mike Wilson

    Is Farmland in a Bubble – and Does it Matter?

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on January 8, 2013

    Two reality checks came from a 2012 Purdue survey of potential and actual land buyers. First, expectations for returns drive asset values; second, today's go-go land price surge looks a lot like the go-go surge of the late 70s and early 80s. Land prices actually went up even more in the '70s to '80s, partly due to inflation, says Brent Gloy, Purdue ag economist. When adjusted for inflation, from '71 to '80 prices rouse 122%, which is still dramatic. That's a real…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Mississippi's Battle to Keep Nutrients in Place

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on May 31, 2012

    Chasing down farmers leads me to some fascinating places. This week I got to visit the place where Muddy Waters, one of God's gifts to music and a cherished American blues icon, cut his teeth. Stovall Plantation, near Clarksdale, Mississippi, happens to be where Waters grew up.Two of his recordings, "Burr Clover Farm Blues" and "Burr Clover Blues," were recorded here. The songs paid tribute to plantation owner Colonel William Howard Stovall (1895-1970) and his crop. Stovall plantation was…

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  • Mike Wilson

    South America’s No-till Pioneer

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on April 18, 2012

    No-till was an unheard of concept in Brazil in 1970. Some four decades later, 75% of the nation's cropland is grown under no-till systems, and it's all thanks to one farmer – Herbert Bartz - who dared to think outside the box. It all might not have happened had a devastating tropical rainstorm in October, 1971 not come along and washed away his soil and wiped out half his crop. "The impact of a drop of water at 90 mm/second on uncovered soil is terrible," says the 75-year-old Bartz…

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  • Mike Wilson

    No-till: An Answer for Climate Change?

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on April 16, 2012

    The ultra mild winter and equally strange spring has me thinking - again - about no-till. Specifically, why more American farmers still feel the need to till ground before planting. Seeing dust clouds following planters these past few weeks would normally be a good thing. Hey, dodging frost for the sake of a fast start seems like a good bet, although we already have heard of folks who were dinged by frost and had to replant. Even so, this week – despite a nice rain - the U.S. Drought…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Tour Proves Why Conservation is Still Cool

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on August 9, 2011

    In a day filled with unforgettable farm stops and innovative producers, one moment stood out at today’s CTIC (Conservation Technology Information Center) annual tour. Mark Scarpitti, state agronomist for the Ohio NRCS, held a clod of dirt in each hand: One from a field that had been tilled 52 years, the other from a field - no more than 20 feet away - that had been no-tilled 52 years.  Worth a thousand words: Soil in right beaker is from no-till field The darker no-till soil…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Illinois Farmland Tops $11,000 Per Acre

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on June 27, 2011

    The bull market for Midwestern farmland showed no signs of abating Friday, as bidders paid well over $11,000 per acre for tillable land in Mason County, Ill. A capacity crowd of bidders and spectators jammed into the Mason City American Legion hall for the auction by Murray Wise Associates. In all, the land sold to three bidders for $4.46 million, according to Joe Bubon, executive vice president at Murray Wise Associates. "Four tracts making up 364 acres of the most productive land sold…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Is This the Moon? No, it’s Missouri Farmland

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on June 15, 2011

    Last month the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blasted a hole through the Birds Point Levee in Missouri to save the town of Cairo, Ill., population 2,800. The blast blew a two-mile hole in the levee and instantly turned 130,000 acres of farmland into a muddy lake. The Mississippi River dropped by three to four feet. Update as of June 27:  University of Missouri economists estimate about $85 million in potential crop value lost from blowing out the Birds Point levee on the Mississippi…

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  • Mike Wilson

    The Trouble with CSP

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on April 18, 2011

    I should have seen this coming. When the current issue of Farm Futures came out with my suggestions for turning direct payments into more consumer-friendly eco, or sustainability payments, more than a few readers responded. This is what I get for making suggestions that may be, in hindsight, a bit naïve. That's why it's good to have readers who know what's going on and can set me straight. One of those calls came from Jim Brown, a no-tiller near Oto, Iowa. This region of northwestern…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Farmland: Still Red Hot

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on February 25, 2011

    Farmland continues to be the Cinderella of the ball as recent prices topped $8,000 per acre over a 14-county region of Central Illinois, says Bruce Huber, Vice President, Hickory Point Bank, Decatur, Ill. Huber spoke about land trends to a group of farmers gathered Thursday at a seminar. "High commodity prices, due to record demand for corn and soybeans, should result in high land rents, and, in turn, high land values," he says. "Farmland is now attracting investors ranging from farmers to…

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  • Mike Wilson

    Are We Running Out of Phosphorus?

    This Business of Farming

     by Mike Wilson
     on February 15, 2011

     Some people think we are running out of phosphorus, a key ingredient in the plant nutrient mix.  That was one of the more disturbing bits of information I ran across in my research for a story on global fertilizer last year.  After a little more research, it turns out phosphorus reserves may be just fine. It's where they are located that has everyone worried.  The fertilizer industry – particularly potash and phosphate – is a classic oligopoly, with very…

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