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Friday, April 03, 2009

Extension Update


Extension Update is a weekly summary of news from Extension, government, and other attributable sources, focused on marketing, farm management, and other issues that are of interest to Midwestern farm owners and operators.

The Prospective Plantings Report was the headline this week, indicating 7.8 mil. fewer crop acres would be planted this year. The largest cutback was a 4.5 mil. acre drop in wheat, 75% of that in winter wheat. Other reductions were nearly 660,000 fewer cotton acres, nearly 450,000 fewer sunflower acres, and a 1.3 mil. acre cut in sorghum.

USDA projected corn acreage at 84.986 mil. which is about 1 mil. acres less than last year, with the bulk of the cutback in marginal corn ground on the fringe of the Cornbelt. IL marketing specialist Darrel Good says that will mean 77.786 mil. harvested acres, and with a 152.8 bu. trend yield, 2009 corn production should reach 11.862 bil. bu. He says that will sharply reduce stocks because ethanol production and exports should increase.

USDA projected soybean acreage at 76.024 mil. acres, which is 306,000 more acres than 2008, and points to 75 mil. harvested acres. Paired with a 41.6 bu. trend yield, the 2009 soybean production should be 3.12 bil. bu., up 160 mil. bu. from last year. Read Good’s analysis.

USDA also released the Quarterly Stocks report, which projected corn stocks at 6.958 bil. bu. Good says exports for the quarter were off 262 mil. bu., domestic use dropped only 31 mil. bu., since ethanol use was larger, and feed use of corn was down slightly. Soybean stocks were 1.302 bil., with crush down 47 mil., and exports up 50 mil. bu.

On-farm stocks of corn climbed 8% compared to last year and off-farm stocks dropped 7% observes IA St. marketing specialist Chad Hart. He said farmers are also holding more soybean stocks which are up 11% compared to year ago levels, and off-farm bean stocks are down 23% versus 2008. On-farm wheat stocks are up 205% from 2008.

Corn and bean acres have been on the increase in recent years, says IA Extension’s Hart, “In fact, the amount of “other” crop acreage, not including corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay, has dropped from 50 million acres in 2002 to less than 40 million acres projected for 2009. Much of that decline has hit the cotton industry. So while the overall crop base has been in decline, corn and soybean area has been able to increase.”

The large cut in crop acres was attributed by Hart to result from higher input costs, “Some can be attributed to weather events, such as lingering drought impacts in Texas and late harvesting of fall crops in the northern Great Plains. Double crop acreage is also likely to decline in 2009. But if weather conditions cooperate, and crop prices look attractive, then some of this lost acreage could be planted in 2009.” He says the trade is now pointing to season average prices of $4.10 for corn and $8.50 for soybeans. Read Chad Hart’s newsletter.

“Soybean surprise” is what Mike Woolverton at Kansas St. called the USDA planting intentions report, since the market was expecting 79.25 mil. acres, and he wonders if enough beans will be produced. He says stocks are 9% under last year, and with exports better than expected, ending stocks will be 6% of usage, below the pipeline supply.

Woolverton says South America will not make up the shortfall. “Southern Hemisphere harvest is just now reaching the drought-damaged areas of Southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina where reported yields are running 40% below last year,” Woolverton says. He expects USDA’s next report to show projected global supply low relative to global demand, even though demand has been weakened by the global economic downturn.

Kansas State’s Woolverton was also surprised with the “triple-digit declines in spring wheat planting intentions. Farmers in ND, MT, MN, and SD; the 4 largest spring wheat producing states, expect to plant about 700,000 fewer acres of wheat; and that was before the recent flooding that may prevent spring wheat planting in some areas.” Read his newsletter.

Purdue’s Chris Hurt says we are returning to a normal grain marketing situation, with aggressive bids for the new crop and with basis levels closer to historical levels. But while he says stability is returning, he says grain prices have probably hit bottom.

Pesticides have value says the CropLife Foundation in a report funded by crop protection firms:
1) Each year, approximately 45 mil. acres of US crops are treated with insecticides
2) Farmers annually spend $1.2 bil. on insecticides to prevent crop loss to insects.
3) If untreated, 31 of 50 primary crops would suffer production loss of 40% or more.
4) Seven of the crops would suffer nationwide production losses over 70%.
5) For every $1 spent on insecticides, US farmers gain $19 in production value.

We won’t tattle on you, but your pesticide storage may not be up to standards. IL Extension’s Jim Morrison says, “Pesticides on the farm should also be kept locked and the pesticide storage building should be labeled with a sign stating "Danger – Pesticides – Keep Out". Keep inventory records of pesticides up to date and easily accessible. Have a complete label and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for every product on the farm.”

Alfalfa analysis #1. Evaluate your stand by plants in 1 square foot, and you should find: 1) Greater than 12 in the spring of the first production year, 2) Greater than 8 in the spring of the second year, and 3) Greater than 5 in the spring of the third year. Before tearing up the stand, consider forage inventory, cash flow, and available land.

Alfalfa analysis #2. The preferred method of stand evaluation is a stem count per square foot. This approach is a good indicator of potential yield. Stem counts can be taken when the plants are 4 to 6 inches or taller. Count any stem that would be cut at harvest. If there are fewer than 39 robust stems per square foot, consider tearing up the stand.

Wheat analysis. Evaluate your wheat as the soil dries out, particularly if you had little snow cover. Count wheat plants over a 20-foot span in five areas of your field for a period of several weeks to decide whether plants will outgrow injury and to assess any damage that may have occurred. One general guideline is 70 tillers per square foot are considered adequate for optimal yield, says IL Extension’s Loretta Ortiz-Ribbing.

Except for those being caught in traps, black cutworm moths are spreading across the Cornbelt, with females seeking suitable sites to lay eggs. IL Extension entomologists say fields with the greatest risk of black cutworm injury this spring include first-year corn infested with common chickweed and other winter annuals, especially where conservation tillage (including no-till) has been practiced. The annual threat from black cutworms has been reduced by the use of Bt corn, seed treatments and soil insecticides.

Yoo-hoo. Any soybean aphids out there? The every other year schedule no longer is any good, and specialists say the number of aphids they find in the fall no longer gives a good indication of the population the following year. IL Entomologist David Voegtlin says few eggs were found on buckthorn, but they will have overwintered somewhere in the Midwest and will likely expand into treatable populations in those areas. Read his observations.

Your soil type may dictate how you approach spring fieldwork, say IA State ag engineers. Managing corn stubble in continuous corn, which was not worked last fall, depends on soil moisture. They say avoid conventional tillage this spring.
1) Loess soils that are wet in the top 2-3 in. should be no-tilled using row cleaners.
2) In Glacial-till soils, run an empty planter with row cleaners to push residue aside, then
let the soil dry for 2-3 days prior to planting, which will improve corn germination.
3) Strip-till or disking to “dry” the soil will only result in compacted clods at planting.
4) If planting into wet soil, increase seeding rate 2-3,000 to compensate for stand loss.

If you are still juggling corn prices and the cost of anhydrous ammonia, consult the updated version of the corn nitrogen rate calculator, which helps your decision on how much to apply, taking corn prices and nitrogen costs into consideration. Find the calculator.

Increase your corn yield with 10 ideas from Ohio St. agronomist Peter Thomison:
1) Know the yield potential of the field, its yield history, and soil productivity.
2) Use hybrids with high ratings over many trials, using Bt if you have rootworms.
3) Use pest management practices that provide effective, timely pest control.
4) Begin planting before the optimum date if dry, and aim to finish by May 10.
5) Plant 1.5-2 in. deep, at 4.5 to 5 mph, and monitor to prevent uneven emergence.
6) Adjust seeding rate by field, and plant up to 32,000 on highly productive soils.
7) Use the most economical N rate, avoid N loss, and consider using stabilizers.
8) Use soil testing to adjust pH and guide P & K fertilization at optimum rates.
9) Till only when necessary and when soil conditions are right.
10) Take advantage of crop rotation to boost corn yield 10-15% after soybeans.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 04/03 at 01:34 AM | Permalink

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