Former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue

Photo by REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue is U.S. Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s leading candidate to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a senior Trump transition team official said on Monday.

Perdue, a Democrat-turned-Republican who founded a grain and fertilizer business, served on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee during his presidential campaign.

The official gave no other details about Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary, one of the few remaining posts Trump has to fill as he assumes the White House on Jan. 20.

The appointment must be approved by the Republican-led U.S. Senate.

Perdue, 70, led the southern U.S. state for two terms as governor from 2003 to 2011 after previously representing a rural swath of central Georgia about 100 miles south of Atlanta in the state Senate.

Elected in 2002, he became the state’s first Republican since 1871, according to the National Governors Association.

After finishing his second term as governor, Perdue founded Perdue Partners, a global trading firm that consults and provides services for companies looking to export products.

Trump had been meeting with a number of other possible candidates for U.S. agriculture secretary, including Elsa Murano, undersecretary of agriculture for food safety under President George W. Bush, and Chuck Conner, head of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

He has also met with Abel Maldonado, former lieutenant governor of California and co-owner of Runway Vineyards; Tim Huelskamp, Republican U.S. representative from Kansas; and Sid Miller, Texas agriculture commissioner.

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Polar Vortex Redux? U.S. Forecasters say it Could Hit Next Week

image001Forecasters are sending chills down some spines with a prediction that much of the northern half of the United States could see frigid weather next week similar to life-threatening lows the polar vortex brought to parts of the country in 2014.

Anticipation of a freezing blast began to build this week when weather maps and forecast models showed similarities between next week’s system and one that developed in January 2014.

“Upper-level atmosphere configuration very similar in scale & magnitude as infamous Jan 2014 #PolarVortex popularized by me and @afreedma,” meteorologist Ryan Maue said on Twitter on Tuesday alongside maps comparing the two weather systems.

The southward shift in the polar vortex in 2014 brought the Midwest some of its coldest weather in two decades. Icy conditions snarled travel and thousands of flights were canceled or delayed.

Frigid temperatures combined with gusting winds to create life-threatening wind chills as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (minus 51 Celsius) that killed at least nine people.

The coldest weather next week is expected in the Midwest and Northeastern starting around Tuesday, according to forecasts that show temperatures in the single digits in some cities.

“The air mass on the way for the middle of December is likely to be substantially colder when compared to that of this past week and this weekend,” AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok wrote on Thursday.

Temperatures from the Northern and Central plains to wide swathes of the Midwest are likely to drop by between 5 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit compared to temperatures this week, according to AccuWeather.

It is unclear how far south the cold air will be felt, according to Pastelok.

Chicago, the largest city in the Midwest, is bracing for temperatures in the teens next week, according to an AccuWeather forecast, which showed a low of 17 Fahrenheit (minus 8 Celsius) for Wednesday and Thursday.

Further north in Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul NBC affiliate KARE forecasted temperatures dropping to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 Celsius) on Tuesday of next week, then 8 degrees (minus 13 Celsius) on Wednesday.

By Reuters December 09, 2016 | 8:24 am EST
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What’s to Come?

According to the political Monday morning quarterbacks, Donald Trump’s victory was fueled in part by strong support from rural America. Look at the cornfields of Iowa to illustrate the importance of flyover states. No doubt Trump garnered a bumper crop of support from those in agriculture.

The obvious questions now are what does Trump’s election mean for the agricultural sector and how might it steer technology adoption in the near future? Much of Trump’s support was garnered because of his “get the government off our backs” message. Specifically, Trump cited EPA overreach initiatives like the Waters of the United States ruling. Meanwhile, his inclusion of ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Act toward the goal of domestic energy independence was not missed by food, fiber and fuel producers.

Issues in focus. There are two other issues that may prove to be wildcards in impacting ag. Those are a more nationalistic trade agenda and a massive national infrastructure overhaul.

Trade policy under Trump could be the biggest prickly pear. The concern is whether ag exports would be caught in the middle of friendly fire of any trade war with major importers such as China and Mexico. Farmers who lived through Carter’s Russian grain embargo of 1980 certainly didn’t like seeing their fruits of labor being used as a political weapon. It’s a slippery slope, indeed.

In any such spat, there are some interesting ways U.S. producers could protect themselves from such collateral damage. Even as positive as U.S. ag exports are for the country as a whole, even most producers would be shocked at just how much food is imported. Are our land, resources and knowledge growing the foods and ultimately delivering the products the consumer craves? Bottom line: Should and could we be growing something different on millions of acres instead of corn and soybeans?  And could technology make that happen?

A sidebar to its trade stance–that may be more of a real-and-now issue–is how a Trump administration will view global mergers with companies based outside the U.S., for example, ChemChina/Syngenta or Bayer/Monsanto. The oversight by a Trump Federal Trade Commission could change the direction of Big Ag and Big Data. Would a Monsanto-owned Precision Planting sale to John Deere have a better or worse chance of going through? It’s certainly food for thought.

If there is to be a massive infrastructure push in this country it is imperative that rural America have equal seating at the table. It has to be real, unlike the hollow promises of the previous administration to cover small towns and farms with affordable high-speed Internet. This time such investment needs to be real and tangible. If done the right way it will transform rural America like the rural electric coops did in the 1930s, empowering an entire nation not just its big cities.

Technology investments like high-speed Internet and moving high-tech companies from out-of-touch addresses in San Francisco to the Silicon Prairie (Kansas City, Omaha and Sioux Falls) can and will transform rural America. Only time will tell if it’ll happen. Regardless, the course of agriculture and its related technologies have been changed forever.

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Agronomy Update



As harvest is in full swing in Indiana, growers are coming across a number of issues as they are shelling corn. These issues are unsettling in a year that many growers are calling a disappointing corn harvest. Coffee shop talk has yields ranging from below whole farm averages where the growing season, in particular grain fill, was too wet or too dry, to just above whole farm averages where the growing season was seemingly perfect. Across Indiana though, most growers are experiencing some of the same challenges as the harvest season ensues. Many are claiming this to be “The Year of the Molds” while some are claiming it to be “The Year of the Worms,” and some unfortunate growers are calling it both.

Regardless of what you’re calling it on your farm, these agronomic issues should be noted. A change in harvest schedule and crop planning for the following years may need a changeup. Given varying environmental conditions, some of the common challenges that farmers are reporting have included ear rots, stalk rots, sprouting ears, or weak shanks. Wet conditions occurring during drydown has created an environment favorable for various diseases. Fields damaged by insect pressure such as corn ear worm and western bean cutworm can also increase the potential for ear rots to set in. All of the above issues can cause yield loss, and in some cases, cause significant grain quality loss. Below are some management tips on dealing with potential ear or stalk issues during harvest.

Correctly identifying the ear mold is important in order to understand your risk potential for grain marketing and/or livestock feeding. Some ear molds are capable of producing mycotoxins. To help identify the disease, consider the conditions the crop was planted into, the field history, and the environmental conditions at tasseling, silking, and pollination. Please see the table below (Table 1) for assistance in identifying ear molds.

Table 1. Common Ear Molds in Corn
Disease Diplodia Gibberella Cladosporium Fusarium Aspergillus
Ideal Environment Warm, moist conditions during silking Cool, moist conditions during silking Cool, moist conditions and damaged ear Hot, dry conditions and damaged ear Hot, dry conditions and damaged ear, especially during pollination
Husk Type Most Susceptible Loose Tight Loose Loose N/A
Mycotoxin Potential No Yes No Yes Yes
For more in-depth information on specific ear rots and management visit:
U.S Corn Pathologists Ear Rot Fact Sheet or Agronomy Bulletin 4- Ear Molds in Corn

Once you have determined ear rot exists, and you have diagnosed which ear rot you have, it is time to develop an action plan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established the levels of mycotoxins allowed in corn, so grain elevators actively test for mycotoxins. Minimizing mycotoxins at harvest time is important. If you are seeing 30 percent or more ears showing signs of being infected with rots that have the ability to produce mycotoxins likeGibberella and Fusarium, grain testing for mycotoxins is advised.

Harvest infected fields as soon as possible and dry the corn to 15 percent moisture. Store infected grain in temperatures less than 55 degrees to reduce the spread and growth of the fungus. Once harvested, it is advised to keep the infected grain separate from non-infected grain to avoid contamination. Avoid long term grain storage if possible, and move the grain through the appropriate channels immediately.

If long term storage is necessary, it is advised to dry the grain to 13 percent moisture or less. If the grain will be feed to livestock, test for mycotoxin levels before feeding.

For more information on mycotoxins and sampling visit these links: Mycotoxin Fact Sheet or Mycotoxin Sampling 

As harvest is progressing and many growers have switched to harvesting soybeans, those corn fields still standing are at further risk of lodging due to stalk rots. Stalk rots such as Anthranose are very prevalent across the corn belt and can cause significant yield loss if infected fields aren’t harvested in a timely fashion. Make sure to scout fields and assess which fields have the highest, or potential, of stalk rot infection. Plan to harvest those fields first to minimize yield loss.

For more information on specific stalk rots visit this link: Stalk Rots or Agronomy Bulletin 52 – Stalk Rots.

Ear drop is an issue that can take place during harvest that is usually caused by a combination of various factors, with weather stress as the biggest reason for ear drop issues. When high temperatures occur while the corn plant is silking, there is a high chance for a weak shank to develop. Most high-yielding hybrids will still make every effort to produce as much grain as possible, filling out the whole ear. This puts more weight on the already weakened shank.

Disease, drought stress, premature death, and insect pressure can also hinder shank strength. Ear drop can vary drastically by planting date, environment, genetics, and other agronomic factors. Ear drop typically won’t happen with specific genetics year-over-year due to the variations in the above factors.

To minimize the risk of ear drop, harvest fields with the highest probability of drop first. Where ear drop is a problem, running the combine head as high as possible and adjusting the combine ground and header speed can help minimize harvest lost by increasing ear retention. With any sort of harvest loss, be sure to have a plan for the next growing season for potential volunteer corn issues.

For more information on ear drop visit this link: Ear Drop 

Ear sprout, also referred to a vivipary, is the premature germination of corn kernels on the ear before harvest.

This is a rare occurrence, but usually takes place when the ear has dried down to 20 percent moisture or less and the ear takes on water while temperatures are still warm. Typically sprouted ears occur when the ears are still upright on the stalk and excess moisture is collected in the husk leaves.

Highly infected fields can have yield loss and extremely poor grain quality. Harvest infected field first, and dry the grain at a higher temperature to prevent further growth of the seedlings. Screening the grain before storage is also encouraged to reduce the amount of damaged grain in the storage bin.

For more information on ear sprouting visit this link: Vivipary 

No two growing season are alike. Each year Mother Nature provides different weather, and each grower farms differently on different soil types in different geographies.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues at harvest, environmental factors played a large hand in affecting the genetics you planted.

Work with your local Mycogen Representative and Commercial Agronomist to help select specific genetics and create a management plan to reduce the risks of the above occurrences in years to come, while at the same time choosing genetics that will give you the best chance of success for optimal yields.

The information and recommendations in this document are presented in good faith and for general information only. The information is believed to be correct as of the date presented. However, neither Dow AgroSciences LLC nor any of its related companies makes any representation or warranty as to the completeness or accuracy of any of the information. The reader assumes the entire risk of relying on the information.

®™Mycogen, the Mycogen Logo, and the Dow Diamond are trademarks of The Dow Chemical Company (“Dow”) or an affiliated company of Dow.
©2016 Dow AgroSciences LLC.

Mycogen Seeds
9330 Zionsville Road
Indianapolis, IN  46268
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How one farmer achieved world-record soybean yields

image001Dowdy at a recent press conference concerning his 171 bu. per acre soybean achievement. Photo by Sonja Begemann

Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy gained a new title last week. In addition to being a former world record winner for corn yield, last week he won highest soybean yield on record with a 171 bu. average.

In Georgia, soybean yield typically tops out at 80 bu. per acre, but three years ago Dowdy started on a mission reach 100 bu. per acre and after hitting it the first year wanted to see “how high they’d go.”

“[This year] we saw as high as 227 bushels per acre,” Dowdy says. He practiced careful management and made sure his soybeans never saw stress to achieve his record yield.

The work started before his seeds hit the ground. “We pulled soil samples preseason, looked at our goals and put down the recommended amount,” he says.

In addition to the standard N-P-K fertilizers he added micronutrients to maximize what the plant could take up and use. He started the season by applying poultry litter, planted cover crops [after they were killed, the nutrients in the residue mineralized to be used by the soybeans] and put out potash and other essential macro and micro nutrients preplant. Throughout the season he also pulled tissue samples to make sure the plants stayed within a comfortable range and applied nutrients throughout the season through fertigation or foliar application as needed.

Dowdy plants as early as he can and uses 15” row spacing and 130,000 to 150,000 plants per acre. In year one he used 30” row spacing but after learning he could gain 7 bu. per acre by switching to narrower rows he quickly made the switch.

Throughout the season he carefully managed environmental stress applying herbicides, insecticides and fungicides as needed. “One of the biggest stress times we saw was after spraying herbicide [post application],” Dowdy says. “We applied a fungicide as it [soybean crop] started to recover.”

Throughout the season he used irrigation to help alleviate stress from the extreme heat that often plagues Georgia. He says he used what he’s learned in corn and applied it to irrigating soybeans and found running pivot irrigation at night was the most beneficial method.

All and all he is excited about the accomplishment and grateful for everyone involved. “This has been a collaborative effort,” Dowdy says. He worked closely with fertilizer, chemical, seed and other input providers to minimize stress and maximize yield on each acre.

What are the highest yields you’ve seen in your area? Do you think 171 bu. per acre is attainable in a cost-efficient way?

By Sonja Begemann September 13, 2016 | 7:13 am EDT
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Bloomberg News!

image001Negotiations between Bayer AG and Monsanto Co. are advancing toward a deal after the companies made progress on issues including the purchase price and termination fee, people familiar with the matter said.

Bayer Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann and his U.S. counterpart Hugh Grant have had a series of constructive meetings in recent weeks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The companies, in talks to create the world’s largest producer of seeds and pesticides, could reach an agreement in the next two weeks, said the people, who cautioned that negotiations could still fall apart or be delayed.

Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer has been examining Monsanto’s financial accounts as it weighs a new offer, people familiar with the matter said earlier this month. Monsanto in July rejected Bayer’s improved $55 billion bid, describing the $125-a-share proposal as “financially inadequate.” An agreement would end months of back-and-forth that followed Bayer’s initial offer in May.

Representatives for Bayer and St. Louis-based Monsanto declined to comment.

Shares of Monsanto, which has a market value of about $46 billion, rose 4.1 percent to $108.75 in pre-market trading in New York. Bayer shares gained 0.3 percent to 96.13 euros as of 1:06 p.m. in Frankfurt, valuing the company at about $90 billion.

Antitrust Race

The global agricultural industry is being reshaped as farmers, hurt by lower commodity prices, spend less, pushing seed and chemical makers to consolidate. Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. announced a plan in December to merge and then break into three entities, including a Monsanto-sized agriculture company. China National Chemical Corp. on Monday received approval from U.S. national security officials for its takeover of Swiss agrochemical and seeds company Syngenta AG, seen as the biggest regulatory hurdle that the $43 billion acquisition faces.

Approval for ChemChina’s purchase of Syngenta from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. has given fresh impetus to Bayer’s pursuit of Monsanto. Given that all three agricultural deals will need antitrust approval, there’s an incentive not to be the last one seeking clearance as the market will already have been consolidated by the other deals.

Dow and DuPont face months of haggling with European Union regulators who opened an in-depth probe to check whether the combination may reduce competition in areas such as crop protection, seeds and certain petrochemicals. Syngenta said yesterday it’s working closely with “numerous regulators around the world,” and discussions remain “constructive.”

Offer Price

Baumann, who became CEO in May after more than 20 years with Bayer, remains convinced of the rationale of the combination and is intent on getting the deal done despite initial disagreements with Monsanto over the price, people familiar with the matter had said.

Monsanto may be willing to come to the table for $130 a share, Argus Research analyst Bill Selesky said in June. Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein said the company may decide to sell if Bayer raises its offer to $135 a share.

The German company’s promise to pay Monsanto $1.5 billion if the deal doesn’t pass muster with regulators may also not be enough, analysts, including Jeffrey Zekauskas of JPMorgan Chase & Co., have said.

By Bloomberg
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Xtend Soybeans Finally Gain EU Import Approval

image002Farmers using Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans have more options for selling at the end of the year. On Friday, Xtend soybeans gained final approval in the European Union for food/feed use.

Xtend includes dicamba and glyphosate tolerance, which will eventually allow for over-the-top use of both herbicides in soybeans.

“It’s important to remind growers that, at this time, there are still no dicamba formulations registered for in-crop use in the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans or Bollgard II XtendFlex in the U.S.,” says Miriam Paris, U.S. soybean marketing manager. “The approvals for in-crop use of dicamba are in late stages of review by the EPA and are tracking for a late summer, early fall approval.”

Farmers planning to use Xtend need to wait for final EPA approval before post-spraying dicamba.

Monsanto is preparing to launch the product on about 15 million acres in 2017. The company has also licensed the trait to Pioneer, Syngenta and others.

By Sonja Begemann July 22, 2016 | 10:22 am EDT
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Twospotted spider mite on soybean

image001Figure 1. Twospotted spider mites.

Adult twospotted spider mites (TSSM) are very small (ca. 1/60 inch in length), eight-legged arthropods (nymphs have 6 legs) with a black spot on each side of their bodies (fig. 1). Color of the mites is variable ranging from white to light red. The eggs of the mites appear like small, clear or pale marbles when viewed through a good hand lens. The twospotted spider mite is widely distributed and a common pest of orchards and nursery plants. When environmental conditions are hot and dry, spider mites multiply rapidly and can become a major pest of soybeans. Problems on soybean have been increasing over the past 10 years.

Dispersal over a wide area occurs when spider mites are carried on a balloon of their webbing by the wind. If weather conditions are favorable for mite development and population increase in late spring during the growing season, TSSM are often found causing problems throughout the field. However, when environmental conditions do not become favorable for the mite until midsummer to late summer, we usually see infestations only along field perimeters and corners (fig. 2). However, these are only general rules, and growers should monitor the entire field for identification of infestations.


Figure 2. Mite injury on soybean field edge.


TSSM feed on the underside of the foliage with sucking moth parts and may be very destructive when abundant. Under hot and dry field conditions favorable to mites, the TSSM thrives on plants that are under stress. The juices that the mites obtain from stressed plants are rich in nutrients and the mites multiply rapidly.

Soybean foliage infested with spider mites initially exhibits a speckled appearance (fig. 3). As plants become heavily infested, foliage turns yellow (fig. 4), then bronze (fig. 5), and finally the leaves drop off the plants as the effect of heavy feeding leads to dehydration and death of the plant.

In a year of a spider mite outbreak, when mite populations are widespread and rapidly multiplying, a field warranting rescue treatment may appear relatively green and healthy. Severely infested fields appear discolored and a potential yield loss may have already occurred due to a loss in vigor of plant growth. Heavily infested stands will exhibit a loss in plant stand.


Figure 3. Soybean leaves showing speckling








Figure 4. Soybean leaves showing yellowing.


Economic thresholds based on the number of mites per plant have not been established for spider mites on soybeans. However, a scheme for evaluating an infested field based on observations of the presence of mite and feeding injury has been developed. In making an assessment of a spider mite infested field, it is important that one recognize the early signs of mite feeding, which is the stippling or speckled effect that initially appears on the foliage when foliage is still green. In addition, it is essential that one use a good hand lens to view relative abundance of mites in egg, nymph, and adult stages (fig. 6). The following is a system that can be used to assess a field and determine the need for taking action.

  1. Mites are barely detected on underside of leaves in dry locations or on edges of fields. Injury is barely detected. Non-economic population; do nothing.
  2. Easily detected on underside of leaves along edges of fields or perhaps on leaves in dry areas throughout field. Most foliage is still green, but yellow stippling caused by mite feeding is becoming detectable on upper side of leaves with the underside showing mite feeding. Still non-economic; warrants close monitoring.
  3. Many plants are infested when examined closely, with plants showing varying degrees of stippling. Possibly some speckling and discoloration of some of the leaves. These plants may be limited to field edges, but also might be found throughout field. Field edges might be showing signs of injury. Economic population developing; rescue treatment warranted. Consider entire field spray if mites are common throughout field.
  4. All plants in area, whether along field edge or within field, are heavily infested. Plants are discolored with wilted leaves, usually obvious from a distance. Severe injury occurring. Economic population; rescue treatment will save field.
  5. Extremely high TSSM densities, with much of the field discolored, stunted, with many plants dying down or already dead. Economic population; rescue treatment wil only be beneficial if new growth occurs following late summer rain.


Figure 5. Soybean leaves showing bronzing and dying







Figure 6. Underside of soybean leaf showing mites


When conditions are optimal for spider mite outbreaks, that is, hot and dry conditions, early detection facilitates timely and effective rescue treatment. If an infestation is detected early and is only along the field edge, growers can often obtain effective management of TSSM by making a field edge miticide treatment, spraying along the edge one or two passes with the spray boom into the field beyond noticeable mite infestation. If a grower determines that the mite infestation is throughout the field, the best course of action is a whole field miticide application. When rescue treatment is required for control of spider mites, the efficacy of a control treatment is improved significantly if the treatment is applied by ground rigs with sufficient carrier applied at high pressure in a manner to penetrate the foliage.

Since mite development is linked to host plant stress, cultural practices and varieties that limit plant stress in times of drought will also minimize the development of spider mites. Spider mite activity may be adversely affected by the onset of rains depending on the level of mite infestation established. Rains may have a negative effect on a minor infestation. However, well-established mite populations may tolerate significant rains, especially if host plants are already in a condition of stress.

Currently, there are only a few insecticides that are also miticides that are able to effectively control mites—two that are familiar, with a third being relatively new to soybean. The more common ones are dimethoate and chlorpyrifos; the latter being sold under different trade names, the most well known being Lorsban. Another miticide recently labeled on soybean is bifenthrin, which is available alone or in combination with other insecticides. Although a few of the pyrethroids are labeled for TSSM, they are listed as “suppression only”; because of this, we do not recommend them. When using a chlorpyrifos formulation, the label states that when large numbers of eggs are present, fields should be scouting again within 3 to 5 days. If newly hatched nymphs are present, a grower should make a follow-up application of a non-chlorpyrifos product that is effective against mite. The primary reason for using a non-chlorpyrifos product is that the label also states a specific use restriction of not making a second application of chlorpyrifos within 10 days of the first application.

See Ohio State University Extension Bulletin 545, Control of Insect Pests of Field Crops, for those miticides labeled for twospotted spider mites, or for all materials labeled on soybean. Bulletin 545 can be ac

By Ronald Hammond, Andy Michel, and James Eisley, Department of Entomology, Ohio State University July 05, 2016 | 12:45 pm EDT
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What is causing yellow soybeans?

image001Figure 1. Nitrogen deficiency in soybeans.

Photo by Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension

When soybeans turn yellow at an early stage of growth, there are several possible explanations.

Nitrogen (N) deficiency. In fields that have been extremely wet or extremely dry, or under severe early heat stress, rhizobial nodule development can be delayed, resulting in N deficiency. As soil moisture levels return to more normal conditions (if a short-term stress), the nodule-forming bacteria will go to work and the deficiency symptoms will quickly disappear. With N deficiency, it is usually the lower leaves that are chlorotic or pale green. Within the plant, any available N from the soil or from N fixation within nodules on the roots goes to the new growth first.

Soybeans doublecropped after wheat can be N deficient for a short period of time shortly after emergence until the beans become well nodulated. As the wheat straw decomposes, some of the soil available N will be immobilized, making it unavailable to the young soybean plants. Applying a small amount of N (no more than 30 lbs acre) at planting time to soybeans planted into wheat residue is the best way to avoid early-season N deficiency.

Hail damage can also cause N deficiency in soybeans at times. If the foliage is damaged enough so that the plant can’t provide enough food for the rhizobia on the roots, the rhizobia will slough off the roots or become temporarily inactive. If this happens, the plants may temporarily become N deficient. Plants normally recover from this as regrowth progresses and photosynthates are translocated to the nodules.

Nitrogen deficiency due to a failure of soybeans to nodulate properly has also been a problem at times where soybeans are planted into new acres with no history of soybean production. In recent years, there have been reports of inoculated soybeans planted on “virgin” fields that have failed to produce nodules, resulting in N deficiency. An examination of the root systems showed very few or no nodules. Previous studies show that a rescue application of 90 to 120 pounds of N per acre gave good returns in these situations. A rescue application should be considered only if N deficiency symptoms are confirmed, and applications should be made as soon as possible to increase N uptake.

Iron (Fe) chlorosis. Soils that are too wet can also induce temporary symptoms of Fe chlorosis. With Fe chlorosis, the top most leaves will turn yellow, but the veins remain green. This problem is usually more serious in soils with highly alkaline pH. Additionally, soybean varieties have varying tolerance to Fe chlorosis so certain varieties may show more of the symptom than others.


Figure 2. Iron chlorosis on soybeans. The upper leaves become chlorotic.

Photo by Doug Jardine, K-State Research and Extension.

Excess nitrate in the soil can exacerbate problems of Fe chlorosis in fields with high soil pH and prone to causing Fe chlorosis problems. This can be particularly noticeable during early soybean growth.

An interesting phenomenon that occasionally has been observed is that soybean plants in slightly more compacted soil (for example in the wheel tracks associated with the last tillage pass) will be greener and display less yellowing from Fe chlorosis than the rest of the field. Recent studies have shown that soil nitrate concentrations in these wheel tracks are typically lower, so Fe chlorosis symptoms are alleviated compared to the rest of the field. The areas of compacted soil have less oxygen, likely resulting in more denitrification. Areas of higher soybean population in the field can also show greener conditions. Higher plant populations and greater root density can reduce the negative effect of higher soil nitrate concentrations on Fe chlorosis in the volume of soil.


Figure 3. Field of soybeans with iron chlorosis, showing greener areas in the wheel tracks.

Photo by Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension

Potassium (K) deficiency. Another cause of yellowing could be K deficiency. Contrary to Fe deficiency, K deficiency is typically more common later in the season. Deficiency symptoms include an irregular yellow mottling around leaflet margins. The yellow areas coalesce to form a more or less continuous, irregular yellow border. Again, as with N, you can see symptoms both in fields that are too wet or too dry. Most of the time, the symptoms will fade with improved soil conditions that allow good root growth, unless the field is truly deficient in K. Potassium deficiency can also be caused by soil compaction, which limits root growth and development.


Figure 4. Yellowing around leaflet margins from potassium deficiency.

Photo by Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, K-State Research and Extension.





Figure 5. Chlorosis of the lower leaves from potassium deficiency shows up first on lower leaves.

Photo by Dave Mengel, K-State Research and Extension.

Rooting restrictions. Anything that restricts expansion of the root system (e.g. extremely wet or dry soil, compaction layers, sidewall compaction, root insects and disease etc.) can lead to reduced growth (Fig. 6) and potential leaf yellowing. With a restricted root system, the growing plant can’t access the nutrients it needs to make more leaves. As a result, many of the nutrient deficiencies described above can show up in fields where you might not expect them based on a typical soil test.

image007Figure 6. Rooting restrictions during early growth for soybeans.

Photos by Ignacio Ciampitti, K-State Research and Extension.



Ignacio Ciampitti, Crop Production and Cropping Systems Specialist and Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Nutrient Management Specialist, Kansas State University June 20, 2016 | 12:45 pm EDT
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Senate hopes to stop WOTUS (again)

image001The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, totaling $32.03 billion.

Among its highlights is a rider to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its controversial Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, referred in the bill as “executive overreach.”

As said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said, “This bill makes responsible recommendations on where to invest taxpayer funds for stewardship of federal lands.  It improves environmental policy by emphasizing infrastructure improvements over new EPA regulations.”

Funding is instead focused on returning the EPA to its core mission of environmental cleanup rather than writing and enforcing “costly rules that will harm the economy.”

Click here to read more from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Similar efforts to block WOTUS failed in the Senate earlier this year.

In April, the Senate voted against an amendment, introduced by Sen. Jon Hoeven, R-N.D., that would have blocked the rule.Read more here.

The bottom line: Here is why WOTUS matters to you
WOTUS was issued under the Clean Water Act and intended to clarify the authority of EPA and the Corp of Engineers over various waters. The jurisdiction, based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, include “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connect to navigable waters.

The rule was broadened to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams – the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. Click here for more.

As the National Pork Producers Council President Dr. Ron Prestage said last year, it’s a rule that is “vague and fails to let regulated parties know when their conduct violates the law.”

“We all want clean water, but this regulation isn’t about clean water,” Prestage said in a statement. “This massive land grab is about federal control of private property, growing the size of government and allowing activists to extort and micromanage all kinds of farming and business activities.”

By Angela Bowman June 22, 2016 | 8:22 am EDT
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Bayer defies critics with $62 billion Monsanto offer

German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, defying criticism from some of its own shareholders in a bid to grab the top spot in a fast-consolidating farm supplies industry.

The unsolicited proposal, which includes debt, would be the largest foreign takeover by a German company if accepted.

The move, which would eclipse a planned combination of Dow Chemical and DuPont’s agriculture units, comes just three weeks after Werner Baumann took over as Bayer CEO, and was condemned by a major shareholder as “arrogant empire-building” when news of the proposal emerged last week.

Giving details for the first time, Bayer said on Monday it would offer $122 per share, a 37 percent premium to Monsanto’s stock price before rumors of a bid surfaced.

“We fully expect a positive answer of the Monsanto board of directors,” Baumann told reporters on a conference call, describing criticism from some investors as “an uneducated reaction in the media” when deal terms were not yet known, and driven by an element of surprise.

Monsanto, which said last week it had a received an approach from Bayer but gave no details, has yet to comment on the offer. The U.S. company’s shares jumped 9.5 percent to $111.17 in pre-market trading.

“Upper Limit”

Global agrochemicals companies are racing to consolidate, partly in response to a drop in commodity prices that has hit farm incomes and also due to the growing convergence between seeds and pesticides markets.

ChemChina is buying Switzerland’s Syngenta for $43 billion after Syngenta rejected a bid from Monsanto, while Dow and DuPont are forging a $130 billion business.

With German rival BASF also looking into a possible tie-up with Monsanto, Bayer has moved to avoid being left behind.

Baumann rejected suggestions from some investors that Bayer should instead try to forge a joint venture with Monsanto, saying this would have tax disadvantages.

Sources close to the matter have said BASF is unlikely to start a bidding war with Bayer. BASF declined to comment on Monday. But analysts say Bayer might still have to pay more to persuade Monsanto and its shareholders to sell up.

That could be a problem, with some saying Bayer’s proposal, at 15.8 times its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization for the year ended Feb. 29, is already a stretch for the German company.

“The price that has now been disclosed is at the upper limit and it is just about economical. Should it rise further, which is to be assumed, the takeover will become increasingly unattractive,” said Markus Manns, a fund manager at Union Investment, Bayer’s 14th biggest investor.

Shares in Bayer, which had already fallen 14 percent since rumors of a bid emerged last week, dropped as much as 3.6 percent on Monday to a new 2-1/2 year low of 86.3 euros.

“Very Ambitious”

Bayer said it would finance the bid with a combination of debt and equity, primarily a share sale to existing investors. Equity would account for about a quarter of the deal value.

Equinet analyst Marietta Miemietz, who has a ‘buy’ rating on Bayer stock, said the extra debt appeared manageable but could limit Bayer’s ability to invest in its healthcare business, which some analysts think needs a boost to its drugs pipeline.

Baumann said Bayer would continue to develop its healthcare arm, which includes stroke prevention pill Xarelto and aspirin, the painkiller it invented more than a century ago.

“We are not feeding Peter by starving Paul here,” he said, adding no asset sales were planned to help pay for the deal.

Bayer also forecast synergies from a deal with Monsanto would boost annual earnings by around $1.5 billion after three years, plus additional future benefits from integrated product offerings – a reference to its push to combine the development and sale of seeds and crop protection chemicals.

Berenberg analysts, who have a ‘buy’ rating on Bayer shares, described the synergies estimate as “very ambitious.”

By Ludwig Burger and Georgina Prodhan, Reuters May 23, 2016 | 8:56 am EDT
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Congress questions EPA on glyphosate, atrazine

EPA is under fire from the House of Representatives, this time for agency decisions on two common herbicides.

In a May 11 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the House Agriculture Committee questioned why EPA posted and then quickly removed a “final report” on glyphosate’s cancer risk. The committee had similar questions for EPA regarding a preliminary report on the environmental effects of atrazine, another popular weed-killer.

“We are troubled that EPA mistakenly posted and later removed documents related to assessments of two different chemicals within one week,” the letter said. “These mistakes indicate systemic problems with EPA’s management of its chemical review and publication processes.”

Members are also frustrated by the pace of EPA’s process. “We are concerned that EPA has continually delayed its review of glyphosate,” the letter said.

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology also wants answers from EPA about the glyphosate report slip-up.

“EPA’s removal of this report and subsequent backtracking on its finality raises questions about the agency’s motivation in providing a fair assessment of glyphosate,” the committee said in a May 4 letter to EPA’s McCarthy.

Both agencies have requested EPA to respond to their questions by May 18.

By Alison Rice, Markets and News Editor, May 16, 2016 | 7:53 am EDT
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Bayer may be mulling bid for Monsanto

A year after Monsanto Co sparked a massive consolidation race in the agrochemical industry by bidding for a rival, the world’s largest seed company now finds itself in the uncomfortable role of takeover target.

New reports surfaced Thursday that Bayer AG and BASF SE were interested in the St. Louis-based company, highlighting the drive for more marriages in the sector.

Bloomberg News reported Bayer was exploring a bid for Monsanto, while financial news website Street Insider reported that BASF was looking at a Monsanto acquisition.

Monsanto, Bayer and BASF all declined to comment.

Talk of such deals has swirled for months as Monsanto faced mounting corporate woes and rivals met with advisers to weigh various deal combinations.

Both Bayer and BASF have been exploring tie-ups with Monsanto for several months, but valuation concerns have made a deal elusive, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The sources said both were concerned about the price Monsanto shareholders would want, emboldened by recent deals.

Consolidation has been spurred by high inventories and low prices for agricultural commodities.

ChemChina agreed in February to acquire Switzerland’s Syngenta AG for $43 billion after Dow Chemical Co and DuPont inked a deal to combine into a $130 billion company in December.

Still, some analysts were skeptical such a deal involving Monsanto would go through, or were even necessary for Bayer or BASF even though combining businesses would be complementary.

“This is a rumor of a speculation of a company talking to an investment bank doing M&A,” said Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard said. “It doesn’t get any more vague than that.”

Annus Horribilis

As recently as a month ago Monsanto’s management denied the likelihood of any near-term deals. Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said on an analyst call the company no longer saw large-scale M&A as an opportunity. Smaller research and development or commercial partnerships were more likely.

That was just the latest headline in an annus horribilis.

Before Thursday’s merger talk boosted its stock, Monsanto’s market cap had fallen 28 percent in the past 12 months as its four largest rivals announced bids to merge.

On top of that, U.S. regulators delayed approval of a key new weed killer, dicamba, and glyphosate, the herbicide key to its Roundup weedkiller, was labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

U.S. securities regulators said in February the company would pay $80 million in a settlement over accounting violations.

Overseas, Monsanto is embroiled in a royalty fight over cotton seed pricing in top grower India, and a similar battle over soybean royalties in No. 3 soybean grower Argentina. And the lack of timely import approval from the European Union derailed the launch of its next-generation GMO soybean seeds in the United States and Canada this spring, as major grain companies said they would not accept the crops.

Amid the setbacks and challenges, the Monsanto management team has remained largely intact, leading analysts to conclude it performed adequately during boom times, but may have been overmatched by the wave of change.

‘Definitely An Opportunity’

“The difficult headlines along with their significant slowdown in growth, which has impacted the valuation more than the headlines, is definitely an opportunity (for an acquiring company),” said Brett Wong, senior research analyst for agriculture at Piper Jaffray.

In recent years Monsanto has taken on a substantial debt load, in part for a $10 billion share buyback program, which could make it unappetizing to potential bidders.

Over the last two years its debt-to-equity ratio has jumped to 2.17 from 0.23, according to Reuters data. Monsanto stock is down nearly 30 percent and it has sold a large amount of bonds, putting debt at more than twice the value of its equity.

Any deal between Bayer and Monsanto would raise U.S. antitrust concerns because of the overlap in the seeds business, particularly in soybeans, cotton and canola, two antitrust experts said.

Bayer is No. 2 in crop chemicals, with an 18 percent market share, according to industry data. The largest, Syngenta, has a 19 percent share. Monsanto is the leader in seeds, with a 26 percent market share, followed by DuPont, with 21 percent.

Still, a U.S. antitrust review involving any combination could include a product-by-product analysis or a broad look at a suite of products, similar to the Justice Department review of the now-scuttled merger of oil services giants Halliburton and Baker Hughes, said Seth Bloom a veteran of the Justice Department now at Bloom Strategic Counsel.

By Ludwig Burger and Arno Schuetze, Reuters May 13, 2016 | 7:55 am EDT
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University of Illinois research finds declining sulfur levels

Power plants burned coal that released sulfur into the atmosphere, but coal use has declined. Today, coal plants use scrubbers to remove sulfur, or burn low-sulfur western coal. This has led to a large decrease in sulfur emissions, and less atmospheric deposition of sulfate to agricultural fields. This has led to declining sulfate concentrations in rivers. Groundwater can be another source of sulfur in rivers when it comes in contact with underground coal or pyrite seams. In this sample from an Illinois mine, pyrite is visible as gold flecks in the center of the coal.

Air pollution legislation to control fossil fuel emissions and the associated acid rain has worked – perhaps leading to the need for sulfur fertilizers for crop production. A University of Illinois study drawing from more than 20 years of data shows that sulfur levels in Midwest watersheds and rivers have steadily declined, so much so that farmers may need to consider applying sulfur in the not too distant future.

“We don’t think there are actual sulfur deficiencies yet, but clearly more sulfur is coming out of the soil and water than what is going in,” says U of I biogeochemist Mark David. “As the Clean Air Act and amendments have taken effect there has been a reduction in sulfur emissions from coal combustion, so that the amount of atmospheric sulfur deposited each year is only 25 percent of what it used to be. At some point, farmers are going to have to fertilize with sulfur.”
David says farmers whose fields have fine-textured soils that are high in organic matter have less of a concern. “For many, it could be 10 or 20 years from now, but for some, particularly those farming on poorer soils, it’ll be sooner. Farmers whose fields have poorer soil or notice a yield reduction may want to have their soil tested for sulfate. If it registers low, they can consider applying fertilizer.”

David explains that sulfur in soil comes from two main sources. It’s in the air from fossil fuel combustion and in groundwater where water has come in contact with coal or pyrite seams. It comes out of the soil through tile-drained fields and it is taken up into plants as they grow and are then harvested. Most fields in Illinois do not receive fertilizers containing sulfur. Some in the Embarras and Kaskaskia watersheds apply ammonium sulfate, which adds not just nitrogen, but also sulfur.

In their study, David and his team analyzed data from three rivers in east-central Illinois at times when the flow was high and low from the field drainage tiles and the rivers. Sulfate concentrations were greatest in the Salt Fork River, followed by the Embarras, and then the Kaskaskia Rivers.

“As we go from northeast to southwest across this part of Illinois, the sulfate that we think is from groundwater near coal seams, decreases. In the Tuscola and Atwood areas, we don’t think there are any groundwater sulfate inputs.

“When we looked at a whole variety of fields with tile drainage systems, we found that some had very low sulfate concentrations – just a few milligrams per liter. One farm in our study had applied bed ash from a power plant. We saw high concentrations of sulfate in that field. There’s no doubt that it boosted the level of sulfur. But over the next three or four years most of it had washed out through the tile system,” co-author and U of I agronomist Lowell Gentry says.

The long-term nature of the study allowed the team to do watershed balances and look at the inputs and outputs of the sulfur “budget” for the area.

“That balance is negative, with greater outputs from harvest and leaching, than inputs from atmospheric deposition and fertilizers, so what is missing is coming from the soil. There is a lot of sulfur in soil in organic forms and that’s being slowly depleted. At some point, there won’t be enough to keep up with what the crop needs. That’s when farmers will need to add fertilizer,” Gentry says.

David began his career in the 1980s studying the effects of acid rain – a main ingredient of which is sulfur. “Back then no one ever thought about fertilizing with sulfur because there was always plenty of atmospheric sulfur available from burning coal.”

The samples David collected over the past two decades were primarily used to track nitrates that enter the rivers via drainage tiles in agricultural fields, and eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico. He says that unlike nitrate, “sulfate is not a problem in Midwestern streams and rivers. It’s not like other chemicals that cause problems downstream and in the Gulf.”

David believes that this is the first study looking at long-term trends in sulfur in agricultural areas. “Most of the studies about atmospheric deposition in sulfur have been in forested watersheds in the northeast where lakes were acidified, such as in the Adirondack Mountains in New York and in streams in the Appalachian Mountains, areas that were sensitive to acid rain. Sulfate is more of a problem in the northeast in forest soils,” he says.

“Riverine response of sulfate to declining atmospheric sulfur deposition in agricultural watersheds” is published in the Journal of Environmental Quality and is available online through open access. It was written by Mark B. David, Lowell E. Gentry, and Corey A. Mitchell.

The work is based on research partially supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, under Agreement No. 2011-039568-31127, the National Atmospheric Deposition Program through HATCH Project ILLU-875-935, and the Energy Biosciences Institute.

By University of Illinois May 11, 2016 | 8:08 am EDT
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Soybeans hit multi-year highs

Soybean futures rallied to their highest level since the summer of 2014 following USDA’s May 10 Supply & Demand Report that featured sharper-than-expected cuts to U.S. and global carryovers for 2015-16 and 2016-17. Profit-taking and spread unwinding with the corn market trimmed gains the second half of the week, but soybeans still posted strong weekly gains. USDA’s report data was friendlier than expected for corn, which, along with the spreading action with soybeans, allowed the market to post weekly gains. Wheat futures were mixed for the week, with SRW contracts slightly higher, HRW near unchanged and spring wheat contracts slightly lower. Cattle futures gapped higher to start the week, but filled those gaps by week’s end in most contracts despite sharply higher cash cattle prices in the Plains. Price action was highly choppy in the lean hog market and futures showed little net change for the week.

Soybean trading margins raised again. 
For a third time in less than three weeks, CME Group raised margins required to trade soybean futures at the exchange. Meal trading margins were also raised May 11. Soybean margins are now 53.3% higher than they were on April 21.

Winter wheat crop: 1.427 billion bu. USDA’s first survey-based winter wheat crop estimate is 57 million bu. bigger than last year’s crop. The winter wheat yield is estimated at 47.8 bu. per acre. The HRW crop peg at 862.5 million bu. is up 35.5 million bu. from last year. The SRW crop estimate at 356.6 million bu. is down 2.4 million bu. from 2015. The white winter wheat crop forecast at 208 million bu. is 24 million bu. above year-ago. USDA’s all-wheat estimate of 1.998 billion bu. implies a spring wheat and durum crop of 571 million bushels. The all-wheat national average yield is projected at 46.7 bu. per acre.

Slower week of planting progress. Cool, wet conditions across a good portion of the Corn Belt limited planting progress last week. We anticipate around three-quarters of the corn crop and just over one-third of the soybean crop will be reported planted as of May 15. That would be in line with the average pace for corn planting and slightly ahead of normal for soybeans. With the corn planting pace slowed by excessive wetness in the far eastern and far western Corn Belt, some intended corn acres are likely to be switched to soybeans. We project corn acres will be down around 800,000 acres and soybean plantings up around one million acres from March intentions.

Cold air mass hits Upper Midwest. Frost and freeze advisories were in effect across the Upper Midwest late last week, as overnight lows dropped into the upper 20s to mid-30s across the region Friday and were expected again Saturday morning. Some areas in the Dakotas and western Minnesota were expected to see temps drop into the mid-20s. Corn, soybean and spring wheat crop damage was likely minimal. The crop most at risk of damage is winter wheat.

Odds now favor La Niña by summer. El Niño is coming to an end and a “brief” ENSO-neutral period will be followed by the expected onset of La Niña, likely by sometime this summer, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center (CPC). While La Niña seems inevitable, CPC says, there is “uncertainty over the timing and intensity” of the event. The U.S. forecast center now puts 52% odds La Niña will be established by the June through August timeframe and 65% odds it will arrive by July through September.

Argy port strike a ‘temporary disruption’ Workers at Argentina’s Rosario port, which handles more than three-quarters of the country’s grain exports, went on strike Friday, demanding higher wages. Pro Farmer South American Consultant Dr. Michael Cordonnier says this should be only a temporary disruption to exports, though it comes at a time when Argentine soy shipments have already been slowed by harvest delays.

Corn export sales stay strong. Foreign buyers bought 1.105 million metric tons of U.S. old-crop corn and 150,400 metric tons (MT) of 2016-17 corn during the week ended May 5. Weekly soybean exports sales were disappointing at just 212,400 MT for 2015-16 and 6,900 MT for 2016-17. But USDA announced daily sales Friday morning of 280,000 MT of old-crop beans and 140,000 MT of new-crop beans to unknown destinations.

Another major agribusiness merger? Bayer and BASF are each reportedly looking into a possible takeover of Monsanto. Any deal would face global antitrust scrutiny. A merger of Bayer and Monsanto would control nearly one-third of the global crop-chemicals market. A joining of BASF and Monsanto would control roughly 27% of that market.

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Rain delays corn planting in the U.S. Delta, Midwest could be next

site-c-behind-scheduleThe U.S. 2016 spring crop sowing campaign is officially underway and corn is already behind schedule, with recent heavy rains being the likely culprit.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that corn planting progress is significantly lagging average pace in the southern Mississippi Delta states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

In Arkansas, 8 percent of the corn crop has been seeded thus far against a 5-year average of 20 percent. Louisiana’s 36 percent falls far short of the 61 percent average and Mississippi has only been able to plant 5 percent of the corn crop compared to an average of 29 percent by this week.

Although the Delta states account for less than 3 percent of U.S. corn production, the start of the spring sowing campaign is always important because it sets the tone for the growing season for the world’s biggest producer of corn and soybeans.

Planting pace is crucial every year because it dictates both planted area of each crop and the expected timeframe of yield formation. If corn seeding is delayed sufficiently, farmers may decide to plant soybeans or something else instead, since the growing season for corn is very specifically timed.

Late-planted crops also put a lot of pressure on the harvest because if crops are late to develop, then harvest time will also be pushed further into the autumn, during which the risks of frost or freeze are much higher.

The delay to corn progress in the Delta will be a bigger problem if it translates into their soybean planting window, as Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi account for 9 percent of U.S. soybean production.

The U.S. growing season will be in even further trouble if planting delays begin to surface across the primary corn and soybean states, which at this point in time, is a very real possibility given current conditions and the weather outlook.

When Are the Crops Planted?

Both the pace and timing of U.S. spring planting is mostly dictated by the weather, so progress varies year by year. Of the two primary crops, corn is planted first as it has a shorter planting window.

Typically, corn planting begins in early March in the minor-producing southern states, including Texas and the Delta. The heavy-hitting corn states in the Midwest usually begin in the second or third week of April, and the last week in April is a common start for the northernmost states such as the Dakotas. For the most part, corn planting concludes at the close of May (

image001Soybean planting can proceed as soon as corn is wrapped up. Southern states tend to begin their efforts in April, while planting tends to ramp up in the major states during May. Soybean planting is usually finished by end-June with the wheat-to-soybean double-cropping states in the eastern belt bringing up the rear (

Between now and the end of November, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will report planting, growth, and harvest progress every Monday by state. We will not get a gauge on corn progress in major states until that begins, which is likely to be the second or third week in April.

When sowing is delayed, sometimes that means that reporting on the crop is delayed, too. So there is a chance that we will not have a solid national picture of corn planting progress for another month if planting is significantly pushed back in the primary corn growing states, such as Illinois and Iowa.

Active April Could Spell Delays

More spring crop sowing disruptions could be in store across the Midwestern crop belt as April is shaping up to be quite active weather-wise.

Earlier this month, the atmosphere was thrown out of balance by a polar vortex collapse. As a result, storm-inducing low pressure systems will track across the United States more frequently than normal through at least the first half of April.

This could mean that a lot of rain is on the way, but whether it will hamper planting depends on frequency and intensity. Advanced technology and machinery permit farmers to seed cropland quickly, usually allowing them to successfully shoot the gaps of springtime rainstorms.

But even the biggest, fastest planter is no match for a waterlogged field. And given the current state of the soils in part of the Midwest, it would not take an extraordinary amount of rainfall for fields to reach swamp status.

Record or near-record December precipitation ensued across the Midwest, and even though it has been less wet since then, soil moisture still stands near the highest levels in over 30 years in lead corn- and soybean-producing state Iowa and surrounding areas.

Moisture levels are not as extreme in Illinois and points east, but since there are hardly dry soils to be found anywhere in corn and soybean growing states, any amount of persistent spring rainfall could quickly escalate the situation (

Delta region soils will be soggy again at the end of this week as a storm system is scheduled to sweep across the eastern United States, bringing moderate rainfall to most states east of the Mississippi (

Although corn planting will not be in full swing across the United States for another couple of weeks, if a wetter pattern sticks around until then, the primary growing states could run into the same issues that are already present in the south.

By Karen Braun, Reuters March 30, 2016 | 8:33 am EDT
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Learn About 12 New Soybean Herbicides

3024373c046e45d08e9271a5b8ca85091Several new herbicides were recently registered for weed control in soybean. These herbicides do not have an active ingredient with a new mode of action; but rather are pre-mixes of existing herbicides that can provide excellent weed control if applied according to label directions. A season-long weed management plan should include herbicides with multiple modes of action. (See Classification of Herbicides by Mode and Site of Action and Chemical Family, excerpted from the 2016 Guide for Weed, Disease and Insect Management in Nebraska, available at

The following soybean herbicides should be available for the 2016 growing season.

Afforia™ [flumioxazin (40.8%) thifensulfuron methyl (5%) tribenuron-methyl (5%)]. This is for burndown and preplant residual control of broadleaf weeds and partial control of annual grasses in soybean. It has two modes of action and rapidly inhibits the growth of susceptible weeds. It can be applied at 2.5 oz/ac a day before planting soybean or 2.5 to 3.75 oz/ac if applied at least 7 days before planting soybean. Crop injury may occur from applications to poorly drained soils under cool, wet conditions. EPA Reg. No. 352-889. Modes of action: 14, 2.

Authority®Elite [sulfentrazone (7.55) S-metolachlor (68.25)]. It is a soil-applied herbicide for control of broadleaf, grass, and sedge weeds in soybeans. The crop rotation restriction for corn and sorghum is 10 months. A maximum of 38.7 fl oz/ac can be applied per year. EPA Reg. No. 279-3442. BroadAxe XC EPA Reg. No. 279-3442-100. Modes of action: 14, 15.

Authority®Maxx [sulfentrazone (62.12) clorimuron-ethyl (3.88)]. It can be applied pre-plant or pre-emergence in soybean for broadleaf and partial grass weed control. The application rate is 6 to 9 oz/ac depending on soil texture and organic matter content. EPA Reg. No. 279-9560. Modes of action: 14, 2.

Fierce™ [flumioxazin (33.5%) pyroxasulfone (42.5%)]. Fierce is a new premix for pre-emergence control of broadleaf and grass weeds. The use of residual herbicides can help manage or prevent the development of glyphosate-resistant weed biotypes and reduce early season weed competition. Flumioxazin is a PPO inhibitor and pyroxasulfone is a seedling growth inhibitor. EPA Reg. No. 63588-93-59639. Modes of action: 14, 15.

Fierce XLT [flumioxazin (24.57%) pyroxasulfone (31.17%) chlorimuron (6.67%)]. Fierce XLT in Nebraska can only be used in fields south of US Route 30 and east of US Route 281. This herbicide provides residual control of broadleaf and grass weeds in soybean. It also provides additional burndown activity when used as part of a burndown program. Moisture is necessary to activate this herbicide in soil for residual weed control. Do not apply more than 5.25 oz/ac per growing season. Do not apply additional herbicides containing chlorimuron to fields treated with Fierce XLT. Modes of action: 14, 15, 2.

Marvel™ [fluthiacet-methyl (1.2%) fomesafen (30.08%)]. It is a new premix herbicide from FMC for post-emergence weed control in soybean. It can be applied at 5 to 7.25 fl oz/ac from pre-plant through full flowering stage (prior to R3). It is a contact herbicide and therefore, thorough coverage is essential for optimum weed control. Do not apply more than 7.25 fl oz/ac per application and 9.75 fl oz/ac per year. EPA Reg. No. 279-3455. Mode of action: 14.

Ransom™ [flumioxazin (12.92%) metribuzin (56%)]. It is a selective herbicide for pre-emergence control or suppression of susceptible broadleaf weeds and certain annual grass weeds in soybeans. It also offers control of certain emerged broadleaf weeds when applied as part of a burndown treatment. EPA Reg. No. 66222-260. Modes of action: 14, 5.

Rovel™ [flumioxazin (51%)]. It can be applied to soybeans prior to planting or pre-emergence application must be made within three days of planting soybean. Application after soybeans have begun to crack, or are emerged, will result in severe crop injury. Do NOT apply more than 3 oz/ac per growing season. EPA Reg. No. 59639-99-524. Mode of action: 14.

Rovel™ FX [flumioxazin (30%) chlorimuron (10.3%)]. It is a selective herbicide for pre-emergence control of broadleaf weeds and suppression of certain annual grasses in soybeans. Do NOT apply more than 5 oz/ac during a single growing season. EPA Reg. No. 59639-117-524. Modes of action: 2, 14.

Surveil® herbicide [Surveil V (flumioxazin 51%); Surveil® FR (cloransulam-methyl 84%)]. This is a new premix formulation for pre-emergence control of certain weeds in soybeans. Read herbicide label for complete directions to use. EPA Reg. No. 62719-689. Modes of action: 14, 2.

Trivence™ [chlorimuron ethyl (3.9%) flumioxazin (12.8%) metribuzin (44.6%)]. Trivence is a burndown as well as a residual herbicide that may be applied preplant or pre-emergence to soybean. It has three modes of action and rapidly inhibits the growth of susceptible weed species. It can be applied at 6 to 9 oz/ac depending on soil texture and soil pH. EPA Reg. No. 352-887. Modes of action: 2, 5, 14.

Warrant Ultra [acetochlor (30.2%) fomesafen (7.1%)]. It can be applied as a preplant surface, pre-emergence, or post-emergence treatment in soybean. It can provide residual as well as burndown activity.  It can be applied only once per growing season and is limited to a maximum of 48 fl oz/ac applied in alternate years in Nebraska. Modes of action: 15, 14.

Always refer to herbicide product label for complete details and directions for use.

More information about the efficacy of these herbicides is available in the 2016 Guide for Weed, Disease, and Insect Management in Nebraska (EC130) available online to purchase at Cost is $15.

By Amit Jhala, Nebraska Extension Weed Management Specialist
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ChemChina’s Bid for Syngenta Needs Scrutiny, Senators Say

A bipartisan group of farm-state senators called on the Treasury Department Thursday to review a state-owned Chinese company’s proposed acquisition of Syngenta AG over concerns that Chinese control could impact U.S. food security and farm interests.

The senators asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to include representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States when it reviews the acquisition by the China National Chemical Corp., or ChemChina. The letter to Lew was signed by Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, and three other members of the committee: Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa.

“While this committee has not reached any conclusions regarding the proposed purchase of Syngenta by ChemChina, we believe that any foreign acquisition of an important U.S. agricultural asset should be reviewed closely for potential risks to our food system,” they wrote.

1eac6642b3d5418796c52f2162cd21881“It is not unreasonable to suggest that shifts in company governance; operational strategy; or financial health — particularly in light of the magnitude of this leveraged transaction — could have consequences for food security, food safety, biosecurity, and the highly competitive U.S. farm sector as a whole,” the lawmakers wrote.

’Negative Outcomes’

The fear is that China could use its power to hurt U.S. farm interests, given that Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta is a major producer of pesticides and seeds.

“The risk of negative outcomes is heightened to the extent that an acquired U.S. agricultural asset becomes in some part governed by a foreign government with clear strategic interests,” they wrote. “Non-market behavior due to state ownership could lead to inconsistent or seemingly arbitrary treatment of U.S. farm products in key export markets, particularly when company governance includes governments of countries with which the United States exchanges a high volume of trade.”

Syngenta said it welcomed a full review and that the deal is good for farmers and customers in the U.S.

“We do not believe the proposed transaction raises any food safety or significant national security issues,” Paul Minehart, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Syngenta will remain Syngenta. It will retain its broad portfolio of businesses and geographic presence. In the U.S., nothing will change for farmers or customers.”

CFIUS Reviews

Food security has not traditionally been a big consideration when it comes to reviews by CFIUS, which takes into account a range of national security concerns when it scrutinizes foreign acquisitions.

But the committee did review and approve the 2013 purchase of Smithfield Foods Inc., a major hog and pork producer, by China’s Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.

The committee, led by the Treasury Department, is made up of representatives from the Justice, Homeland Security and Defense departments, as well as five other agencies.
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How Might an El Nino Transition to La Nina Affect Yields?

In spring, weather concerns are top of mind for farmers and analysts alike as they try to guess how the growing season will pan out.

A major factor this year:  the current record-strong El Nino and when that weather pattern will transition to La Nina. That matters, because La Nina is associated with hot, dry weather that typically lowers yields.

That could boost crop prices, much to growers’ likely gratitude—but there are still plenty of unknowns, according to the team at farmdoc Daily.

drought_corn2First, such weather pattern shifts take time. The transition to La Nina can take months and might not occur until fall 2016, according to some forecasts. If the El Nino pattern persists through the summer, farmers—and the market—should expect higher than average yields.

Second, timing matters. Depending on when El Nino turns into La Nina, the effects on the growing season—and crop yields—will vary. “History suggests that a transition to La Niña by June, July, or August may measurably raise the risk of corn and soybean yields falling below trend,” wrote Scott Irwin and Darrel Good, both at the University of Illinois, adding that “yield risk was generally larger the earlier that La Niña conditions emerged.”

For example, a June transition to La Nina resulted in corn yields almost 10 bushels below trendline, compared to July or August transitions, which reduced yield by roughly 5 bushels, according to their analysis.

Soybeans also lost more yield based on when La Nina arrived. A June transition trimmed 2.4 bushels of soybean trendline yields, compared to approximately 1 bushel for a July or August La Nina shift.

What can farmers do? Continue paying close attention to the weather and the arrival of La Nina, so you and your advisers can respond quickly to changes in your agronomic and marketing plans.
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What Might a Spring Rally Look Like?

Is a spring rally already pushing back a bearish market? Some analysts think so, with prices rising for corn, soybeans and wheat. Others believe a rally is coming.

Their advice for farmers is to be ready to sell instead of waiting for a better price.

“We’re seeing a spring rally right now. We’re going through short covering, and we’re at the mercy of speculative positioning,” said Mike North, senior risk management advisor of the Commodity Risk Management Group, in Chicago.

North points to an upswing of 20 cents to 30 cents for corn, 40 cents to 60 cents for soybeans, and 40 cents to 50 cents for wheat.

“Farmers have to respect the fact that the rally is much more compressed,” cautioned North, pointing out that “if a drought is coming, a buy call option is the same as the cost of storage.”

Another trader who sees a spring rally is DuWayne Bosse, owner of Bolt Marketing in Britton, S.D. “We’re seeing a rally right here, right now,” said Bolt. The market movers are mainly large funds getting out of short positions ahead of the March 31 USDA plantings report, according to Bosse.

markets-upThe rally for corn has it just one cent off a bullish range of $3.90 to $4.20; while soybeans, at $9.14, are closing in on a $9.15 to $9.30 range and Chicago wheat, at $4.75, is within hitting a $4.90 to $5.10 range, in Bosse’s view.

The market has been under pressure from huge bearish bets by funds, weather concerns, strong competition from South America and Ukraine for China, and a worldwide oversupply of old crops. A strong U.S. dollar and cheap crude even has had East Coast farmers buying Argentine grain for feed.

Other analysts, like Ted Seifried, vice president and chief market strategist for Zaner Ag Hedge in Chicago, believe a spring rally will depend on the weather and funds.

“The great commodity funds are short. A powder keg could go off with a really nice rally. The question is, if it gets set up,” Seifried said.

In Seifried’s view, a rally would mean corn at $4.44, soybeans holding steady and July wheat at $5.50.

“The bigger concern is whether El Nino becomes La Nina for the growing season,” said Seifried, A significant rise in temperatures could mean too much rain in April or May and too much heat in June and July.
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Planting Preview 2016: Corn Remains King in I-States

planting5Warmer than typical February and March temperatures has many farmers across Illinois, Iowa and Indiana itching to get into their fields. With uncertain weather, markets and moisture, though, experts urge farmers to remain patient until the time is right for planting.

“We’ve had a couple late frosts in late April and early May,” warns Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension agronomist. He says corn, particularly, is more resilient than soybeans when it frosts. V4 corn’s growing point is below ground, he explains, and even if everything above ground dies, the plant can still put on new leaves.

Corn is expected to be the dominant choice again in the I states of Illinois, Iowa and Indiana. In 2015, farmers planted 30.85 million acres of corn compared to 24.2 million acres of soybeans in the region, and this year looks like it will follow the same trend.

“Until crops are planted, there will be some uncertainty about acres,” says Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Extension agronomist. “From what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t expect big changes from 2015, given the price concerns with both crops.”

What change does exist will be small in these major row-crop states, but right now, that tiny shift could favor soybeans in 2016. “I would estimate 2% higher soybean planting and 1% to 2% lower corn planting,” says Christopher Hurt, Purdue University professor of agricultural economics. “We have substantially better returns on soybeans over corn.”

Corn returns above variable costs are estimated at $186 per acre while soybeans are at $230 per acre, creating a $44 per acre advantage in soybeans, according to Hurt.

Some farmers are considering additional alternatives to earn premiums or to lower their costs per bushel. “There is more interest in non-GMO this year than there was last year,” says Licht, who works with Iowa farmers. “There is an approximate 40% savings in seed costs.”

Illinois farmers also see benefits to choosing non-GMO seed this year. “With insect resistance on the rise, the cost advantage of the rootworm Bt trait is diminished,” Nafziger says. “Some farmers use soil applied insecticide even with the trait, though it’s not clear that this is always needed.” Using a soil applied insecticide and an effective trait means a grower is essentially paying for the same thing twice and that’s not a smart financial move in a slumping farm economy.

Another option farmers are considering this spring to mitigate risk and potentially increase revenue is adding a third crop into rotation or double cropping.

“One rotation that does well is wheat double-cropped with soybeans,” Hurt says. He adds that this option isn’t available in all areas, although it’s not uncommon in southern Indiana.  Depending the farm, it might be worthwhile for growers to add a cereal or another cash crop for additional cash flow.

It’s important to remember, however, third crops are not the best option for all geographies. “We have a study in western Illinois comparing corn-soybean and corn-soy-wheat rotations,” Nafziger says. “Neither site is good for double-cropping.  It only works in the southern third of Illinois, and none of Iowa.”

While cost and return on investment is critical to any operation, weather concerns such as rain, drought, frosts, and more, might force a farmer’s hand at planting. “Our biggest issue coming into spring is weather,” Licht says. “We have full soil moisture levels now, and even normal rainfall in April and May could present delays because we have no additional water-holding capacity.”

Each expert recommends farmers understand what weather might indicate and be able to adjust planting, stand and yield expectations throughout the season based on weather events.

“I don’t think farmers with experience will let weather dictate what they grow,” Nafziger says. He explained one exception could be delays that push planting back into late May and June. At that point, it might be necessary to switch to soybeans to have enough season left to grow a good crop, even though weather risks increase with late planting.

Planting season, much like the rest of the growing season, is unpredictable. Farmers across the I-states should do their research, understand their breakeven points and find ways to maximize their potential returns before seeds go in the ground.


Spring Planting 2015: I-States

States: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana

Top contender: Corn

Sleepers: Non-GMO corn and soybeans, cereal third crops

Factors to watch: A wet spring or other delays could force farmers to change crops last minute based on growing-degree units.


AgWeb will be publishing additional planting preview stories in advance of USDA’s Prospective Plantings report, which will be released March 31. 

Planting Preview 2016: Corn Remains King in I-States

Planting Preview 2016: Crop Confusion in Delta as Planting Nears

Planting Preview 2016: Upper Midwest

Planting Preview 2016: Great Plains

Planting Preview 2016: Northeast

Planting Preview 2016: Southeast
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The 4 Rs of Topdressing Wheat

Scout your wheat crop to monitor for yellowing on the lower, oldest leaves. If it looks like the younger, newer leaves are stealing nitrogen, it’s time for a boost.

Maximize yield by mastering nitrogen timing, source, method and rate

c71a029c91e343899c185e542c7226a11Whether you’re preserving winter wheat yields or thinking ahead to your spring wheat crop, take into account nitrogen needs. Topdressing with nitrogen midseason can give your wheat the extra boost it needs for top-end yields.

The keys to nitrogen efficiency include the right timing, right source, right method and right rate.

“Consider topdressing this year because a lot of the region had fall rain and any nitrogen applied preplant [winter wheat] could have leeched and might not be enough to get through the season,” says Brian Arnall, Oklahoma State Extension precision nutrient management specialist. “If you’ve lost enough nitrogen you could get protein deductions and lose test weight at the end of the season.”

The optimal time to topdress winter wheat is right around the corner. It’s important to apply nitrogen before jointing. “After jointing, when you drive over wheat you kill the growing point,” Arnall explains. “Prior to the flag leaf any nitrogen applied goes into grain yield.”

The nitrogen source often plays a role in application method. Urea and liquid UAN are the two most common forms of nitrogen used for topdressing. “Both will get nitrogen to the roots with rain,” says Romulo Lollato, Kansas State Extension wheat and forages specialist. Urea is typically applied broadcast, and UAN can be tank mixed and applied with herbicide.

While UAN might be more appealing because it can potentially cut down trips across the field, it might not be as effective in no-till. Unless you change your application method, “when UAN hits residue it can be counted as a loss,” Arnall says. He advises using streamers to concentrate UAN down into the residue.

Right rate is more difficult to advise in general terms because it depends on several factors, such as yield potential, how much nitrogen was leeched, if the field is showing signs of deficiency, field history and year.

“Optimal nitrogen rate varies year to year,” Lollato explains. “For the past few years, it’s been 66 lb. per acre. But one year it might be 90 lb. and another year 30 lb.”

“Ideally you’ll know what the nutrient profile looked like at planting if you had a soil test. You can base your rate on that,” he adds. “At $10 per soil sample and 15 to 20 minutes dedicated to pulling, a good sample is worth it.”

On average, each bushel takes 2 lb. of available nitrogen, so you can estimate what you need to finish the season strong based on your yield goal.

If you didn’t get a soil sample, scout your fields for areas with nitrogen deficiencies. “Wheat can be more challenging to scout since the leaves are smaller,” Arnall says. “Look for yellowing or chlorosis on the lowest, oldest leaves where the young leaves rob nitrogen from the older leaves.”

Yellowing on the lower leaves from tip to inner leaf indicates a nitrogen deficiency. If you see yellowing on the top new leaves, it likely indicates a sulfur deficiency. When you find large spots, it might be time for a boost of nitrogen (or sulfur), or pull a soil sample for a more precise reading.

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient that can make or break yield. “Nitrogen increases tillering, influences head size—it’s like gas to a car, you need it,” Lollato says. “Cutting back on nitrogen cuts back on yield potential. We need to make sure we use the four Rs to maximize results.”
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Need Cash Now? 3 Ways to Get it From Old-Crop Grains

With cash rent payments looming in March, many farmers are finding themselves needing an infusion of cash themselves. Unfortunately, in a downturn, that can be hard to come by.

But Ryan Bristle, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer and farm business consultant for Russell Consulting Group, says there’s one place you can look on the farm to generate cash quickly: your grain bin.

“There’s still a lot of crop owned by farmers (and it’s) sitting in bins or in commercial storage,” Bristle says. “If you’ve still got old crop, there are three ways to use it to quickly generate cash.”

Here’s what you can do:

1. Sell it. The easiest way to generate cash right now is to sell off old-crop grains, Bristle says, as unappealing as that may sound with December corn futures at $3.76 on midday Friday. “Farmers are still thinking about a couple of years ago when we were selling $5 to $6 corn, and now the cash price is in the low $3 range,” Bristle says. But if you need cash, you’re doing to have to get over it, he says. “It is just a tough business decision you’re going to have to make to stay afloat.”

2. Enter into a basis contract. If you’ve got old crop stored commercially at a co-op or elsewhere, you can set the basis and enter into a basis contract to get some cash fast. Bristle says many co-ops will stop the storage charge on your grain and you can take up to 80% of its value up front as cash. “You’re setting the basis part of the price today,” he explains. “You can set the price later. For example, they would take whatever today’s Board of Trade price is and forward you 80% of that as cash.” Bristle says this is a good option for farmers who think prices might rally, because you can get cash now while retaining ownership of your grain.

3. Sell grain and buy it back. The third way you can generate cash from your old crop is to sell it and then look for opportunities to re-own it. “Opportunities for ownership could include buying it on the Board of Trade or using options contracts,” Bristle says

Whatever your situation might be, Bristle encourages farmers do their best to remove the emotions from this decision, especially when it involves generating cash to pay bills. “I think it becomes a mental thing,” he says. “You don’t want to sell $3.50 corn because it used to be worth more, but that’s just the reality right now.”

What are you doing to generate cash right now?
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9 Success Stories For Today’s Market Environment

Are your business strategies on target?

how-much-1568720-1280x960Today’s market environment has its share of challenges and opportunities.

For instance, Neil Bentley, Director of Marketing for BASF’s U.S. crop business, says some of the headwinds farmers are facing include:

  • Stronger U.S. dollar
  • Higher interest rates
  • Increased competition from the Black Sea and Latin America

On the flip side, Bentley says a few tailwinds are also in place:

  • Stable U.S. economy
  • Historically low debt-to-equity levels
  • Strong domestic market for grains

Farmers must focus on good and purposeful business planning to be successful in this environment, says Bentley who spoke at the 2016 Commodity Classic, which is taking place this week in New Orleans.

Now more than ever, farmers need to manage risk to survive these trying times, says Bret Gloy, Purdue University ag economist and Nebraska farmer.

He offers these strategies:

  1. Stay laser-focused on costs. Gloy suggests looking at your big-ticket variable expenses, such as equipment, land and rents. A small reduction in any of those equals major savings.
  2. Manage working capital. Understand how quickly your assets can be converted to cash and how that affects your bottom line. Gloy encourages farmers to realistically calculate the risk of having unpriced grain in storage. You may need to make sales this spring to cover input costs.
  3. Pay attention to debt repayment capacity. Look at how much of your income generation is relative to your repayment capacity. “In this environment, it makes sense to finance a little longer,” Gloy says.
  4. Pursue “good deals” with discipline. Have clear priorities for your operation, Gloy says and then use discipline to only take good deals on land, equipment or other opportunities.
  5. Scout and crunch. Don’t go dark on your crop and market plans after planting—get out in the fields and crunch your numbers. “An extra hour to managing your crop is a good investment in this environment,” he says.
  6. Manage relationships. To spread out costs during tight margins, consider investing in technology and other systems with other farmers.
  7. Don’t forget about price risk. “It’s not fun watching the grain markets as they crank lower every day,” Gloy says. “A lot of people just shut off.” Instead of making that mistake, pay attention and be ready to pull the trigger when prices are close to your breakeven costs.
  8. Manage risk beyond crop insurance. Succession and estate planning help reduce risk as much or more than crop insurance, Gloy says. If somebody left your operation today, do you have someone who could fill in? Fix any gaps with training and backup plans.
  9. Consider alternatives. Today’s times call for creative thinking when it comes to leases, equipment, crop rotations and business structure. Think outside of the box for ways that could help your bottom line.
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Think No-Till or Continuous Corn Systems Through–Or Yields Can Crash

No-till and strip-till can be very successful, but they require an understanding of the entire system, says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie.

p30-One-Change-Begets-Another-1When local yields range widely, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie suspects farmers made big changes to their crop practices without thinking the system through.

“The biggest yield crashes I see usually involve a transition from one production system to another,” Ferrie says.

Examples include switching from a corn-soybean rotation to continuous corn or from horizontal tillage (disk, moldboard plow or field cultivator) to vertical tillage (or, as Ferrie says, “farming in a vertical format”).

Farming vertically is more than just tillage, Ferrie says: It’s a system designed to keep water and nutrients moving up and down, as needed, through the profile.

Failure often results from not removing dense soil layers before transitioning into no-till or strip-till.

“If you have a sudden change in soil density under the surface, preventing water from percolating down, and residue on top, preventing it from evaporating, you may have to wait for the field to dry out for planting,” Ferrie says.

He recommends spending up to three years to prepare soil for no-till planting. The first step is to remove dense layers with vertical tillage tools, such as in-line rippers. “Forget the myth that freezing and thawing will take out a sudden density change. It can’t remove a layer from a soil finisher or moldboard plow,” Ferrie says.

Shallow sudden density changes are one reason why farmers who are successful with conventional horizontal tillage, run into problems with no-till.

The way to identify dense layers is to dig in your field and examine soil structure and root growth. “If you are already no-tilling and experiencing problems, you may have to get out of no-till for a while and do some vertical tillage,” Ferrie says. “Once you have removed dense layers, and improved drainage if necessary, no-till can be very successful.”

Some farmers slip up by not understanding that vertical tillage may require two steps: breaking up dense layers in the fall, with vertical primary tillage, and then leveling the field in the spring—without putting in another layer. That requires a vertical-till harrow in the spring, rather than a field cultivator or soil finisher. “The last pass before converting to no-till must be vertical,” Ferrie says.

p32 One Change Begets Another 2

Transitioning to vertical tillage may be a two-step process. The first step may require deep tillage in the fall to remove dense layers.

p32 One Change Begets Another 3

The second step is leveling with a vertical-till harrow in the spring. Using horizontal tillage in the spring puts in a new dense layer.

Nutrient preparation. Removing dense layers allows you to work through other aspects of your new system, so problems don’t emerge later. If you plan to no-till or strip-till (as opposed to using vertical tillage tools every year), you must balance pH and fertility in the soil profile. Acidity or low fertility levels lower in the soil profile may not hurt yields when there is adequate moisture and normal temperatures. “But if surface temperatures get too hot and the roots in the top 3″ die, the plant will be forced to feed deeper,” Ferrie says.

“If soil pH is low, incorporate lime through the top 6″ of the profile,” he says. “Trying to correct acidity in the top 6″ of soil with surface applications could take 12 years, because lime moves down only 1⁄2” per year.

“After you correct the pH in the profile, you can lime from the top. I know no-till growers who have maintained pH that way for 25 years. But if you start out with an acid soil profile, lime applied on the surface can’t move down fast enough to correct it,” Ferrie adds.

Follow the same procedure with phosphorus (P) and potassium (K), incorporating it into the top 6″. After you move into your no-till or strip-till system, you can feed from the surface.

“Where no-till growers have removed sudden density changes and built up subsurface fertility during the transition period, their P and K levels at the 3″ to 6″ depth have remained the same for 20 years,” Ferrie says.

Stratification. “After you begin no-tilling, you will get some stratification at the surface, but that usually is not a bad thing,” Ferrie adds. “Stratification is really a form of banding—it can be beneficial if you are fighting K availability problems.”

Failing to understand that a new system requires equipment and management changes has left more than one farmer disappointed at harvest.

Plan what kind of planter attachments you will need. “In a high-clay soil, that will be something that will do tillage ahead of the double-disk openers,” Ferrie says. “This could be a wavy coulter, a row cleaner or a combination of both. They do a little tillage, so the disk opener on your planter won’t create sidewall compaction. You also need a row cleaner to sweep away residue.

“On very sandy soil, if your goal is to leave residue on the surface to conserve moisture and prevent erosion, use a sharp coulter, bubble or slightly fluted, without a row cleaner. You want to place seed beneath the residue, without hairpinning residue in the furrow.”

You may need to change attachments from field to field. “Coulters are only for no-till,” Ferrie says. “If you have fields in horizontal tillage—or if you are moving from no-till to a vertical-tillage program to correct problems—a coulter will work against you. In tilled soil, the coulter has no cutting platform, so it will push residue into the seed furrow.”

Before you abandon horizontal tillage, plan a herbicide program to control winter annual and perennial weeds. “A carpet of weeds in a wet spring prevents soil from drying,” Ferrie says. “And it can be almost impossible to plant into.”–or-yields-can-crash-NAA-darrell-smith/
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What a Dice Roll After El Nino Looks Like

Are the odds in favor of better or worse yields following a strong El Nino? The range of possible outcomes may be larger than you think.

dice_paul_preacher_free_imagesCrop production feels more like a gamble than a guarantee sometimes – especially when Mother Nature is setting the odds. That’s especially true in 2016, coming off a the biggest El Niño on record. Surely such anomalous weather will in turn cause big advantages – or disadvantages – for this year’s crops?

“There is particular interest in whether the current El Niño episode should influence expectations about 2016 growing season weather and any resulting deviation from trend yield,” note University of Illinois ag economists Scott Irwin and Darrel Good in farmdoc daily.

So the ag economists set out to look at historical precedents to see if they could determine the odds of this year’s corn crop going boom or bust. Here’s what they found.

First, Irwin and Good note that the 1960-2015 yield trend line is quite stable, with yield increases of 1.82 bu. per acre during this period. That hasn’t stopped substantial deviations from trend, however. Yields landed above trend 61% of the time during this period and below trend 39% of the time.

How does throwing El Niño in the mix affect those odds? They winnowed down the data set and found three prior years where El Niño’s temperature anomaly was similar to 2015-16, when temperatures flared 2.3 ˚C above normal. Those years were 1972-73 ( 2.0 ˚C), 1982-83 ( 2.1 ˚C) and 1997-98 ( 2.3 ˚C).

The following corn crop from these three years averaged -4.8 bu. per acre lower than trend. But break this data set into the individual years and it really gets interesting: 1973 was 5.5 bu., 1983 was -23.0 bu. and 1998 was 3.0 bu.

“This suggests, in conditional terms, about a two-thirds chance of a normal crop in 2016 and a one-third chance of a very poor crop,” Irwin and Good note.

Therefore, based on the 2016 corn yield trend estimate of 166.2 bu. per acre, the range of historically probable yield outcomes swing from 143.2 bu. per acre all the way up to 171.7 bu. per acre.

The ag economists point out another historical weather trend. Extremely wet Midwest conditions in the preceding November and December have a tendency to lead to below-trend yields the following year. November and December precipitation in 2015 were at record levels.

“In sum, we believe it is prudent to give serious consideration to managing the elevated risk of below-trend corn yields in 2016, despite the current market structure of prices,” they conclude.

© Free Images / Paul Preacher
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Some recent decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, have led some of agriculture’s most impactful companies to question the agency’s understanding of farmers’ needs and acceptance of modern farming practices.

After Bayer in February rejected EPA’s request to voluntarily pull its Belt insecticide off the market, the agency on Tuesday issued a notice of intent to cancel the product’s registration. Belt was approved in 2008.

Bayer, however, stands by the product, which it says is backed by sound science. “We believe it is an important tool for farmers and can be used safely and effectively,” says Dana Sargent, Bayer’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

EPA is moving to cancel the product’s registration. In a recent email response to Farm Journal questions, EPA says Belt was issued a time limited registration so Bayer could quickly take the product off the market if environmental concerns arose. During the time-limited registration EPA tracked Belt’s environmental impact and concluded it needs to be canceled.
Bayer isn’t the only company with chemicals under review. Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist Duo herbicide and sulfoxafl or insecticide have both been under increased scrutiny from EPA despite prior approvals. Dow declined to comment. Monsanto Company’s dicamba formulation (Roundup Xtend herbicide) has been under U.S. Series of recent decisions makes some question agency’s commitment to modern regulatory review for six years, even though the active ingredient has been sprayed on U.S. crops for 40 years.

“EPA is like any organization, some people understand farmer issues like herbicide resistance, while there are others that might not be as supportive,” says John Foresman, Syngenta’s production lead for herbicides. “We’re watching those situations closely to understand the implications they have on our products.”

Monsanto offered a different take on EPA’s recent decisions. “I think it can stifle innovation,” says Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice president of global regulatory affairs and sciences.

Companies invest nearly $250 million and typically perform more than 200 studies for each new active ingredient they bring to market, according to Bayer. Consistency in the U.S. regulatory environment is important for companies to have confidence products will make it to market.

“The key thing is, regulatory systems should encourage, not restrict, innovation and being timely and science-based helps society maintain confidence in the process,” Miller says. “It shouldn’t take a decade to get something approved.”

The science-based approach is what makes the U.S. system efficient, or it used to, according to many in the industry. “Denying a product’s registration and ignoring its safe-use history based on unrealistic theoretical calculations calls into question EPA’s commitment to innovation and sustainable agriculture,” Sargent says.

“It makes it a lot harder to bring innovation forward,” she adds. “We spend $1 billion each year toward innovation. We need to know EPA will rely on a sound-science system” and not allow other considerations to interfere.

“EPA takes very seriously our duty to ensure pesticides can be used according to the label directions with a reasonable certainty of no harm to human health and without posing unreasonable risks to the environment,” EPA says in an email response. “The specific (testing) data requirements vary depending on the characteristics of the product, the use, etc.”

If you’re concerned about the regulatory approach, speak up. “You have the right and opportunity to share your story with EPA,” Miller says. “Help society understand the benefits of technology on your farm and how it translates to them.”

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Problematic Weeds

Although all weeds are problematic, some are worse than others. The five worst? Waterhemp, marestail, palmer amaranth, giant ragweed and Italian ryegrass, because they are resistant to multiple herbicide groups, makes these yield-robbers difficult to control.

And, in addition to being resistant to many herbicide, these four notorious plants have a natural ability to evade herbicide control methods.

  1. Waterhemp

What it is: Summer annual in the eastern and central U.S.

What it looks like: Grows up to 9′ tall; stems are bright red or green, oar-shaped cotyledon leaves; first true leaves are oval with a notch at the tip; true leaves are alternate, oval, hairless and waxy with green to dark pink flowers with spikes.


What it’s resistant to: ALS (Group 2), T1R1 Auxin Receptors (Group 4), Photosystem II inhibitors (Group 5), PPO Inhibitors (Group 14), EPSP synthase inhibitors (Group 9, glyphosate), HPPD Inhibitors (Group 27)​​.


  1. Marestail

What it is: Winter or summer annual all over U.S.

What it looks like: 
 Grows up to 6.5’ tall; hairy; tiny,
oval cotyledons; egg-shaped and hairy young leaves with toothed edges; 4” narrow and toothed true leaves that crowd the step and get smaller near the top with small white or yellow flowers.

What it’s resistant to: PSI Electron Diverter (Group 22), EPSP synthase inhibitor (Group 9, glyphosate), ALS inhibitors (Group 2), Photosystem II inhibitors (Group 5), PSII inhibitors (Group 7).


  1. Palmer Amaranth

What it is: Summer annual in southern U.S. moving north; up to 6.5’ tall; green to red cotyledons with red and hairless hypocotyls; 2” to 8” long lance- or egg-shaped hairless true leaves with white veins on lower side and small, green, spiked flower clusters long a 6” to 18” panicle.

What it’s resistant to: Microtubule inhibitors (Group 3), ALS inhibitors (Group 2), Photosystem II inhibitors (Group 5), EPSP synthase inhibitors (Group 9, glyphosate), HPPD inhibitors (Group 27), PPO inhibitors (Group 14).


  1. Giant Ragweed

What it is: Summer annual throughout U.S. (with the exception of the Pacific coast, parts of Southwest, Florida and Maine).

What it looks like:  Grows up to 16’ tall. hairy; round, thick and large cotyledons with a hypocotyl that’s usually purple; true leaves are opposite, hairy, three- or five-lobed with toothed edges and 4″ to 8″ wide by 6″ long with small and green flowers at the end of branches or bases of upper leaves.

What it’s resistant to: ALS inhibitors (Group 2), EPSP synthase inhibitors (Group 9, glyphosate).


  1. Italian Ryegrass

What it is: Winter annual or biennial (depending on conditions) throughout the U.S.

What it looks like:  About 3′ tall; stems can be single or in clumps and are round to slightly flat; ligules are membranous and up to 1⁄10″; auricles are up to 1⁄12″ or not present and the flowerhead is 3″ to 12″ with stalkless spikelets that alternate along the main flowering stem.

What it’s resistant to: ACCase inhibitors (Group 1), ALS inhibitors (Group 2), EPSP synthase inhibitors (Group 9, glyphosate), Long chain fatty acid inhibitors (Group 15), Glutamine synthase inhibitor (Group 10, glufosinate).

“Weed resistance is something you ought to respect, it’s going to keep happening if we do the same thing over and over,” says Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri Extension weed scientist. “Figure out what’s your most problematic weed and target some of its weaknesses.”


What can you do if you find these weeds in your fields? Contact your local CFS for more information!


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U.S. farmers seen betting on corn amid weak price outlook

As low prices render corn and soybeans unprofitable in the United States, farmers are nonetheless expected to grow more of the country’s top two crops this year as they scramble to stay solvent, a Reuters poll of analysts indicated.

“With the coming year, you can’t make money growing anything. You might be able to eke out a little income in corn, if you can get your costs down,” said Roy Huckabay, an analyst with the Linn Group, a Chicago brokerage.

Chicago Board of Trade new-crop December corn futures settled on Tuesday at $3.86 per bushel and November soybeans at $8.82-1/4 a bushel, both below the cost of production for some growers.

The average estimate of U.S. 2016 corn seedings in a survey of 20 analysts, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) own early projection, was 89.6 million acres, up 1.9 percent from 2015.

For soybeans, the average seedings estimate was 83.3 million acres, up 0.8 percent.

The USDA will release revised forecasts this week at its annual two-day Outlook Forum.

Part of the increase in both crops reflects an expected return to production on more than 6 million acres where excessive rains prevented planting in 2015.

Some acres are likely to be switched to corn and soy from crops like wheat and cotton, whose projected returns are even worse.

Dale Durchholz, senior market analyst with AgriVisor in Bloomington, Illinois, who like the USDA expects a drop in overall acreage, says farmers will be more selective about planting.

“You might take a chance on your higher-quality land. But if I farm 1,000 acres and I’ve got 100 that are not great, I let those go,” Durchholz said.

No Obvious Winners

Nearly all the analysts expect a drop in total wheat plantings, reflecting poor projected returns. The average forecast was for 52.4 million acres, down from 54.6 million in 2015. The USDA has already pegged plantings of winter wheat, which was seeded last autumn for the 2016 harvest, at 36.6 million acres, a six-year low.

Spring weather will play a big role in determining the final acreage mix. But on paper at least, none of the major U.S. crops looks like a winning ticket this year, even with tumbling energy costs giving farmers a break on fuel and fertilizer expenses.

In North Dakota, the top U.S. wheat state where the cool and dry climate also allows growers to plant a variety of specialty crops such as canola and flaxseed, projected returns in some areas are negative for nearly everything.

“(Farmers) are really scrambling, trying to figure how they can make a dime,” said Andy Swenson, a farm management specialist with North Dakota State University.

The USDA this month projected net farm income for 2016 at $54.8 billion, the lowest since 2002.

“If folks had a pretty risky balance sheet going into last year, and got an operating loan, it’s going to be that much tougher going into 2016. And it could be the end of the line for some guys,” Swenson said.

Globally, markets are amply supplied with grain, a factor that has depressed CBOT prices.

“The market keeps trying to go lower to tell them, ‘don’t plant,'” said Arlan Suderman, chief commodities economist for INTL FCStone. “But the farmer is going to plant, because how he survives over the centuries is to be an optimist.”

By Julie Ingwersen, Reuters February 24, 2016 | 8:23 am EST
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Learn more about the 7 newest corn herbicides

Curtis Thompson, weed management specialist, has compiled information about seven corn herbicides newly available for the 2016 growing season. Visit for additional details.


1. Acuron. This herbicide from Syngenta contains atrazine and three other active ingredients. It can be applied from 28 days prior to planting until corn is less than 12” tall to control broadleaf weeds such as Palmer amaranth, waterhemp, kochia and more. For use on grain or silage corn.

2. Armezon PRO. This herbicide from BASF controls postemergence weeds. It is similar to Armezon, but by adding dimethenamide-P, farmers also gain residual activity on pigweeds and annual grasses. This herbicide can be tankmixed with other corn herbicides and is synergistic with atrazine.

3. DiFlexx. This herbicide from Bayer controls a similar weed spectrum as other dicamba products, and has a safener with soil and foliar activity. Tankmix with other products to control kochia, palmer amaranth, marestail, ragweed species and Palmer amaranth.

4. DiFlexx Duo. “This is not registered as of Feb. 1, 2016, but registration is expected prior to corn planting,” Thompson notes. This herbicide adds tembrotrione, the active ingredient in Laudis. The combination of active ingredients can provide excellent of control of most annual broadleaf weeds, Thompson notes.

5. Enlist Duo. This herbicide is a combination of glyphosate plus 2,4-D acid as choline salt. Thompson says the recent history of this herbicide is a bit complex. In November 2014, Enlist Duo received a full federal label. The EPA later motioned to vacate the registration, but Dow AgroSciences reported on Jan. 27 that a court case denied this motion. According to Thompson, some foreign export approvals for Enlist corn hybrids, including to China, are still pending.

6. Resicore. This herbicide from Dow AgroSciences contains three active ingredients. Use pre with atrazine for control of pigweeds and most other broadleaf weeds, and use post with atrizine for control of most broadleaf weeds, Thompson says. It will provide adequate control of most annual grasses in post if tankmixed with a herbicide that has activity on grass species, he adds.

7. Revulin Q. This herbicide from DuPont has activity on both grass and broadleaf weed species. “Best control will be attained if tankmixed with glyphosate, which enhances grass control, and/or atrazine, [which] synergizes mesotrione and enhances broadleaf control,” Thompson notes.

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