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Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

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A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

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Farmers Cautious Of Drought-Resistant Seeds

Oct 17, 2012
Originally published on October 17, 2012 8:31 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here in the United States, the corn harvest is nearly complete. It was earlier and much smaller than in recent years, which means stockpiles are lower and prices will likely be higher. Now, while this summer's drought is largely to blame, the dry weather did offer perfect conditions to test drought-resistant corn. As Iowa Public Radio's Amy Mayer reports, seed companies and farmers are now crunching the yield numbers to see what these new varieties could mean in coming years.

AMY MAYER, BYLINE: Gary Plunkett feels giddy with anticipation. The farmer and seed dealer is harvesting corn today near Maxwell, Iowa, and he's about to bring in his first-ever sample of a so-called drought-resistant corn, a Syngenta seed called Artesian.

GARY PLUNKETT: So, I'm real anxious to get into combine and see what it does. You know, because, right or wrong, Mother Nature gave us a perfect year to test out this Artesian corn.

MAYER: As he drives his huge red Case International combine, he watches the computer, which is calculating real-time yield numbers - that is, how much grain per acre is landing in the tank.

PLUNKETT: Well, it looks like the yield's going to be up there very well. Stock quality looks great, standing very well.

MAYER: Like many Iowa farmers, Plunkett's corn harvest numbers have gyrated to disappointing to thrilling. The average corn yield here is about 140 bushels per acre this year, down from 172 last year. After a few minutes, Plunkett turns the combine around.

PLUNKETT: We'll head back to the lay wagon and see what Mitch tells us.

MAYER: Mitch is Mitch Lobeck, a Syngenta sales rep who is weighing the corn and calculating the final yield by hand. Then he and Plunkett consider the numbers.

MITCH LOBECK: If you look at a truck hybrid side-by-side, you can tell where the Artesian was. It was definitely a lower yield environment, and it still did 188 bushel. So, overall, I'd say it's a success story. But...

PLUNKETT: I think it's very successful. He's going through it...

MAYER: Plunkett says he'll plant some Artesian seed again next year, and he'll recommend it to his seed customers.

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MAYER: That computer's inside Brad Moeckly's John Deere combine near Boone. Moeckly sports a Monsanto cap and says he's been following that company's Drought Guard seed.

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MAYER: It wasn't grown in Iowa this year, but he heard farmers who grew it farther west, where it was even dryer, got six more bushels per acre. With corn close to $8 a bushel, that's another $50 or so to the acre, enough that Moeckly says he'll consider it, but probably not next year.

BRAD MOECKLY: I'd like to get another year under our belt and kind of see, you know, so we could more consistency and, I mean, how much that's going to cost us per bag. It's got to be economically viable.

MAYER: Monsanto hasn't revealed Drought Guard prices yet. Planting Syngenta Artesian costs about $10 more per acre. While seed companies are understandably eager to recoup their investment, many farmers worry that these drought-resistant seeds won't perform as well in regular or wet years. And farmers are a pragmatic bunch. Most want more than one year's data before trying something new. Plus, as Bill Couser in nearby Nevada, Iowa says, even without these new seeds, a drought is not as troubling as it once was.

BILL COUSER: I know when I had my first drought in 1977 that we actually had three bushel to the acre. If I would have had the hybrids today back then, we would have never had that kind of a drought, because with the hybrids today, it's just amazing what they're pulling through.

MAYER: It'll likely to take a few more years for seed sales to reveal what farmers really think of drought-resistant corn, and that will probably frustrate seed company executives who spent the long, hot summer pushing drought-resistant seed. For NPR News, I'm Amy Mayer in Ames, Iowa.

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INSKEEP: That story came to us from Harvest Public Media, a public radio reporting project that focuses on agriculture and food production issues.

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INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.