The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2001
outlook 2001


Ag tech changes farming
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Better seed, eyes in the sky aid work

By Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer

Farmers now have a variety of technological advances to aid them in crop growing and planting, ranging from genes that keep insects out of crops to different types of plowing and tilling.

Tom Zundel, extension agent with Mercer County Cooperative Extension, said some of the newest farming technology includes a genetically modified organism that puts different types of genes into crops.

These genes help create herbicide tolerant crops, which enables farmers to kill the weeds growing around the crops without damaging the crops. Soybean plants with the gene are available now, and corn plants with the gene were recently released, Zundel said. Alfalfa will be the next crop the get the gene.

Zundel said the genes will enable farmers to produce cleaner crops.

A gene in corn plants will also be available to control and destroy insects before they can do damage to the plant.

One problem in corn plants is the corn root worm, which lays its eggs in a corn field. Eggs from the previous summer hatch, and the worms eat the corn roots, Zundel said. One way to control the root worm is to apply insecticide, but with the genetically enhanced corn, farmers will not need to apply insecticides to the plants, Zundel said.

Another insect that invades corn plants is the European corn bore. These tiny worms attack ears of corn and are sometimes visible when you peel back the husk on an ear of corn.

Zundel said some co-ops in the west use precision agriculture, or grid farming, that involves using global positioning units to determine where in the field to apply fertilizer.

Zundel said no-till farming has also become increasingly popular. No-till farming has become popular with soybeans and alfalfa and also works very well on small grains such as wheat or oats.

With conventional tillage, a disc is run through the soil, which was dug up three or four times. With no-till, or strip-till farming, one small slit is made in the ground, and the seed is placed in the slit.

Zundel said no-till farming not only reduces the amount of fuel needed to plant a crop but also reduces soil erosion.

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