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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cornbelt Update (Special Weekend Edition)


• August 1 is on the calendar and that means USDA crop enumerators have been in your fields for the past week, measuring yields and confirming acreage.  Then state reports will be sent to Washington for reconciliation.  Mark your calendar for Aug. 11 for the report, which is the first one with objective yield surveys.  It will also update Northern Plains wheat acreage and adjustments of acreage loss due to flooding.

• High temperatures day and night have caused corn to “speed-grow.”  Many recent days have contributed 30 or more growing degree days, and IL agronomist Emerson Nafziger says at that rate a 2700 GDD hybrid planted June 1 could be mature by Aug 31.  While sufficient water can overcome high temperatures, Nafziger says corn is beginning to show lack of N, and that will appear most critical in corn following corn.  Signs include death of leaf tips and edges and that reduces photosynthesis.  Patches of sunlight on the soil means lower yields.

• Count your kernels, says Nafziger, since yield is more related to number than size.  Depending when your corn pollinated in relation to the mid-July heat will determine amount of tip kernel abortion.  “We expect fewer aborted kernels in the earlier fields now, but if leaf area has been lost, kernel numbers can still go down, as far as the R3 or roasting ear stage.”

• Here’s how to calculate your potential yield, based on Nafziger’s kernel number process:
1) Based on 70,000 kernels in a bushel, 15 million kernels would be 214 bu. per acre.
2) Count the number of ears in 1/1000th of an acre, and count the kernels on 3 random ears.
3) Multiply the average kernel number by the ears in your sample to get kernels per acre.
4) For example, 30 ears with an average of 500 kernels would be 15 million kernels per acre.

• Kernel size will be reduced by lack of sufficient moisture.  Nafziger says, “Under these temperatures the crop is using as much as 2 in. of water per week, so even with the rain we face the possibility of water deficits. Each day that has photosynthetic rates lowered by water deficits will reduce yields some. This would be through loss of kernels to abortion over the next week or two, and in late-planted fields it could still come as failure to fertilize kernels.”

• Rapunzel-like corn silks is not a good sign.  IA St. agronomist Roger Elmore reports that some corn fields have silks growing four inches or more beyond the tip of the ear, and that means lack of pollination.  When the kernel is pollinated the silk dies and turns brown, but if it remains growing, it is looking for pollen, and he says yield potential will be compromised.

• The heat has helped keep gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight in check in cornfields, says OH St. agronomist Pierce Paul.  He says at temperatures above 85 F, several processes important for infection and disease development, including spore production and growth, stop.

• Holes in soybean leaves mean lower yields because of lack of photosynthetic activity, so IL entomologist Mike Gray says identify the problem and pick your poison.  He says 16+ bean leaf beetles per foot of row and 20%+ defoliation is the threshold for treatment.  But ensure you know what bug causes the defoliation, whether densities are increasing or decreasing, if the problem is throughout the field or only on edges, and whether pods are being damaged.

• Mike Gray says select an insecticide known to be effective against the primary target insect. Factors including cost, residual effectiveness, and preharvest interval need to be taken into account. Under the recent extremely hot conditions, pyrethroid insecticides may not prove as effective. Also, the defoliation thresholds used for many years were based on much lower commodity prices. Because the value of soybeans has increased significantly in recent times, lower levels of defoliation could translate into yield losses of economic importance.

• Dry weather enhances the potential for damage by spidermites in soybeans and corn, says IA St. entomologist Erin Hodgson.  Spider mite injury can cut soybean yields 40 to 60%, and cause pod shattering, wrinkled seed, and early maturity.  In corn heavy infestations can cause premature drying, which results in the loss of leaf tissue, stalk breakage, and kernel shrinkage.

• Dry weather also enhances the potential for grasshopper damage which chew through green soybean pods (which bean leaf beetles will not do) and destroy the seeds within. They also can feed on developing corn ears and destroy kernels. Reducing grasses and other weeds within and around fields will discourage adults from feeding and mating in that area.

• If waterhemp is taller than your soybeans, not every herbicide will control it, says IL weed specialist Aaron Hager.  Flexstar, Cobra, Ultra Blazer, and other diphenylethers can provide good to excellent control of small waterhemp, but control is often poor with plants exceeding 5 to 6 inches.  He says leaf burn varies, the herbicide is not translocated to the root, and soybean injury can be severe.  He says your only choice may be physical removal. (Sorry!)

• Late season herbicide application in beans may also create problems with your date of harvest and how soon you can plant corn next year. Hager says, “These intervals are established to reduce the likelihood that herbicide residues will persist in sufficient quantities to adversely affect the rotational crop. Though some restrictions are based solely on time, other factors, such as soil pH and the amount of precipitation received after herbicide application, can influence the length of the crop rotational intervals.

• Another problem with late season herbicide application is manifest by dry soil.  Many herbicides are degraded in soil by the activity of soil microorganisms, and populations of these microorganisms can be greatly depressed when soil moisture is limited. Dry soils also can enhance herbicide adsorption to soil colloids, thus rendering the herbicide unavailable for plant uptake and degradation by soil microbial populations.  Check the label for rain requirements.

• Frogeye leafspot, and the fungus that causes it, seem to be developing resistance to the main fungicides used to control it.  Researchers in IL, KY & TN report resistant strains of the pathogen are immune to the strobilurin class of fungicides.  Those include:  Quadris, Quilt, Quilt Xcel, Evito, Evito T, Headline, Stratego, Stratego YLD, and Gem.

• Before farmland prices decline either expectations of farmland returns will fall or interest rates will increase, says IL ag economist Gary Schnitkey. But he says “Neither seems likely in the short term. Commodity prices are high with futures prices pointing toward high prices for the next several years. The Federal Reserve appears intent on keeping interest rates at low levels for the foreseeable future. Hence, strong farmland price likely will continue until the fundamental factors impacting farmland change.” Given the current low interest rates, farmland prices are in line with historical relationships with current farmland returns.

• Do not be surprised with cuts in agricultural spending when the negotiations end on the debt ceiling issue.  The House plan would have the Ag Committee determine where cuts would come.  The Senate plan is more specific and would reduce Direct Payments by 30%, based on eligible acreage.  However, anything could happen by Tuesday night’s witching hour.

• Farm Bill issues are also getting aired on Capitol Hill, while debt issues are in the headlines.  But at the same time USDA economists told Congress that unless more money is appropriated to ag research, the US will fall behind in food production, and it will take more land, capital, labor, and other inputs than currently to meet food demands by 2050.  ERS economists said to keep up with demand ag spending will have to increase 1% more than the rate of inflation.

• Ag research spending was front and center in the House Ag Research Subcommittee this week, when Chairman Tim Johnson (D-IL) noted the scarcity of money that could be appropriated.  “These dollars go to not only developing the next generation of farm practices, but also to future generations of farmers through agriculture study programs offered through extension offices and land-grant institutions.”  Several agency administrators testified.
1) Edward Knipling, Administrator of the Ag Research Service.
2) Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Dir. of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
3) Cynthia Clark, Administrator of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
4) Laurian Unnevehr, Acting Administrator of the Economics Research Service.

• Also testifying at the House Ag Committee was Bruce Nelson, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency, about FSA programs in the Farm Bill.  The keystone was the ACRE program that had less than stellar acceptance in the country.  He said, “Because of market uncertainties and without a clear understanding of this new program, most producers hesitated to commit their farms to a multi-year ACRE agreement. Basically, producers found themselves trading off the certainty of existing direct payments with the uncertainty of ACRE payouts.”

• EPA approval has been granted to Agrisure 3122 for 2012 Cornbelt planting. It has two modes of action against both corn borer and corn rootworm, with a structured refuge of only 5%. The Agrisure 3122 trait stack includes the Agrisure CB/LL trait for European corn borer; the Herculex I trait for corn borer; the Agrisure RW trait, which protects against rootworm; the Herculex RW trait for corn rootworm; and the Agrisure GT trait for glyphosate tolerance.

• 54.5 miles per gallon is the fuel economy goal for 2025, agreed upon by the government and automakers which make 90% of the US autos sold.  The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut the demand for oil by half.  Will the demand for ethanol also be cut in half? 

• Problems continue to pile up for Chinese pork producers, with an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Guizhou province. Chinese hog producers have been battling PRRS and pork prices there are already high. MO livestock economist Ron Plain says he believes this increases the likelihood that China will be importing even more pork in coming months.

• Ag economists expect higher pork prices. An annual survey forecasts pork production to be up 0.8% in the second half of 2011 and up 0.5% in 2012. This slow rate of growth will lead to more hog price records. The consensus forecast is for barrow and gilt prices, on a live weight basis, to average $69.30/cwt in the current quarter and $62.98/cwt in the fourth quarter of 2011. For 2012, the consensus prices:  1Q-$64.64/cwt, 2Q-$69.23/cwt, 3Q-$68.97/cwt, and 4Q-$62.99/cwt. They expect 2012 prices to average $1/cwt higher than 2011.

• USDA’s July cattle inventory report said the midyear cattle inventory was down 1.1% compared to July 1, 2010 and predicted the 2011 calf crop would total 35.5 million head, down 0.5% from last year, down for the 16th consecutive year, and the smallest calf crop since 1950. The inventory of feeder cattle was 1.3% lower than a year ago. The number of beef replacement heifers was down 4.5% on July 1 while the number of dairy replacement heifers was up 3.7%. The total number of cows and replacement heifers was down 0.7% on the first of July implying the 2012 calf crop will be smaller than this year.

Cornbelt Update is a weekly publication by S2LS Ag Communications and Consulting.  Republication or distribution is prohibited without prior permission.  Subscription fee is $65 per year.  Address subscription requests to: or © 2011

Posted by Stu Ellis on 08/06 at 01:17 PM | Permalink

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