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Friday, May 15, 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.

USDA nibbled away at the corn surplus, cutting it to 1.6 bil. bu. by transferring 50 bil. bu. each to export and ethanol estimates. IL Extension’s Darrel Good says the 12.09 bil. bu. production estimate parallels 2008, while the expected yield rose 1.5 bu. and harvested acreage fell by 800 thousand. Good says the projected 155.4 bu. average yield is a function of the trend line, adjusted for a slight decline due to planting delays.

Corn consumption will climb over 400 mil. bu. going into next year, which USDA estimates will be 12.56 bil. 350 mil. additional bu. will be used for ethanol and 150 mil. for exports, while 100 mil. fewer bu. will be fed, leaving only 1.145 bil. in ending stocks. Read more.

Darrel Good expects a modest shift from corn to beans in the Eastern Cornbelt due to planting delays, which can also reduce yield. That is one reason for USDA’s 1.5 bu. cut in the expected 2009 corn yield. He says without favorable weather like 2008, the slow planting will contribute to additional advances in corn prices.

Weather and planting progress will remain the major driver for crop prices over the short term, says IA Extension’s Chad Hart. “Longer term, the markets will continue to watch the development of biofuel regulations. The recent releases by the California Air Resources Board and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, incorporating indirect land use change and greenhouse gas emissions, were seen as negatives to the biofuel industry. But these policies are being phased in over a few years and are subject to additional review, so biofuel policy uncertainty remains,” according to Hart.

The soybean carryout for the current marketing year already was low, and USDA cut it further to 130 mil. bu. by increasing the crush and exports. Darrel Good says harvested acreage will climb 400 thousand and if the trend line yield of 42.6 bu. is reached, production will be 3.195 bil. bu. 2010 consumption is estimated at 3.107 bil. bu.

USDA may have overestimated grain supplies in the May report says KS Extension’s Mike Woolverton.
1) The 41.4 bu. wheat yield may be too high, given adverse weather and late planting.
2) Unplanted wheat acres will shift to soybeans or other alternative crops.
3) Global crop estimates were cut 4%, but major producers have production problems.
4) Don’t count on good weather to rescue US crops a second year from late planting.
5) An inverse in the bean market indicates price rationing is already occurring.
6) Global bean stocks can’t increase with the poor South American yields.

With oil prices pushing towards $60, gas prices have caught up with ethanol prices, says Jim Hilker at Michigan State. “If oil prices continue up, I would expect gas prices to over take ethanol prices. Up to this point the higher gas prices haven't affected the ethanol price a lot, just like the ethanol prices quit dropping, due to the mandates and blender credits, at prices not way below where they are now. If oil prices continue up, it will help corn prices, if they stay where they are at, it will put a better support under corn prices.”

Soybeans have been in an up trend since the end of February, and recently they have caught up with corn. Or in Hilker’s words, “returns per acre are a tossup for the average farm.” He suspects soybean prices will now move more consistently with corn, if corn plantings are on target, if not, relative corn prices may pull back ahead. Hilker says, “Strongly consider pricing remaining old crop soybeans on this rally.”

Dec corn futures have a price risk premium, says IA Extension’s Steven Johnson, due to the fact much of the Cornbelt is not planted, and that provides a pricing opportunity. He says based on the past 18 years, there is a 79% chance the May corn price will be higher than the October price for Dec corn futures. His newsletter details that logic.

Consider new crop pricing, says Johnson if you have revenue crop insurance that guarantees a $4.04 corn price, the current price exceeds that level by 45¢. He says don’t commit too many pre-harvest bushels, and use forward contracts or hedge-to-arrive. He says hedges or options can complement your cash contracts to manage your futures risk.

Even with a US wheat crop that is 366 mil. bu. less than last year, USDA projects average prices to decline from the $6.85 this year to a range of $4.70 to $5.70 for the new crop. Darrel Good at Illinois says one of the reasons is the larger foreign wheat stocks.

Failed wheat may earn a SURE disaster payment, but the temptation to plant an alternative crop may be a financial disaster. OK Extension’s Rodney Jones says any replacement crop that jeopardizes a SURE payment, must not only make a profit itself, but cover the loss of the SURE payment, and that is not guaranteed. Read more.

Benchmark Farm Yield is the term FSA will be using to determine whether your farm will be eligible for an ACRE payment, should you decide to enroll. OH Extension’s Mike Gastier says BFY may be the only effective way to prove yields in the Farm Bill. He adds, “It's in a producer's best interest to establish a strong Benchmark Farm Yield because the higher the Benchmark Farm Yield the more likely it is that the farm trigger is met and the higher the payment per acre will be should both triggers be met.”

How do you establish a Benchmark Farm Yield? Gastier says it is computed from your 2004-2008 yields, with the high and low years eliminated. Acceptable yield proof will include actual settlements or weight tickets through a commercial grain facility or crop insurance data including NAP or the APH database, but yield monitors will not be acceptable. If the data is not available, the default is 95% of the county average yield.

Corn lesson #1. IL Extension’s Emerson Nafziger says wet soils restrict the availability of oxygen to the corn seedlings that have germinated. He says the warmer the soil, the more oxygen that is needed because the growth rate is higher than with cooler soils.

Corn lesson #2. Mid-May brings the threshold for yield loss of 1.5 bu. per day that corn is not planted. While some may want to “mud it in” the resulting soil compaction from working soil that is too wet can have a detrimental impact later in the summer if the weather turns hot and dry. Compacted soil will restrict moisture availability to the corn.

Corn lesson #3. Nafziger says poor emergence could be the result of crusted soils:
1) A healthy, but thickened coleoptile means a crust or clod physically interfered.
2) A discolored and mushy seed indicates disease has set in and it will die.
3) Insect larvae may have eaten parts of the seed or seedling, which stopped its growth.
4) Reduced oxygen supply will allow roots to grow, but not the leaf shoot.
5) A seedling that is growing slowly is subject to invasion by soil-borne diseases.

Replanting is a decision some farmers will have to make, based on poor stands from the initial planting. IA State agronomists offer a guide to making that decision easier, comparing the potential yield from the first stand, versus the potential yield from any replanting, but they say actual losses could be greater or less. Find the chart.

Northern Cornbelt farmers who need to plant or replant, face critical decisions on dates, says MN Extension’s Jeff Coulter. He says MN corn planted after mid-May faces a 9% yield loss at a minimum. And he says stick with original hybrid choices until the last week in May before switching to an earlier maturing hybrid. Review his charts and calculations.

Your corn is emerging in a weed field. Now what? IL Extension’s Aaron Hager says:
1) If you planted in wet soil and the seed furrow did not close, the corn seedlings can be exposed to a soil residual herbicide applied after planting, with severe injury resulting.
2) If your corn is within a day or two of emerging, don’t consider applying a pre-emergent herbicide that is not supposed to be applied to post emergent corn.
3) Many, but not all, soil residual herbicide can be applied after corn emergence. However not all of them will control weeds that have emerged along with the corn.
4) Consult his newsletter.

Corn pests #1. Corn planted into pasture or CRP may attract wireworms which can remain in the larval stage for 6 years before becoming an adult beetle. They prefer cool soils, so earlier corn will be at a higher risk. With no rescue treatment for wireworms, the only preventative measure is the use of seed treatments, but they are becoming so commonly used, NE researchers detect that insect resistance is a possibility.

Corn pests #2. White grubs prefer to feed on grasses, which includes corn. Annual grubs will not be a problem, but heavy damage can occur from three-year grubs in the last two years of their larval stage. Damage to corn will not show up until after they are done feeding. There is no rescue treatment, but some fields will require replanting.

Corn pests #3. Cutworms will be at work within 7 days after emergence of corn, and may not be affected by any seed treatments or Bt traits. Cutworms will be heaviest in fields that had a high weed infestation prior to corn planting. Use a rescue treatment if 5% or more of the corn has been cut and worms are one inch or under. If soil is dry or crusted, rotary hoeing immediately before or after Lorsban (chlorpyrifos) application may enhance control. Any insecticides that are Pyrethroids should not be incorporated.

Think ahead about weed control in soybeans with an insecticide strategy. NE Extension’s Stevan Knezevic reports that weeds are more successful in soybeans that have suffered some insect defoliation because the canopy is reduced. He says, “Soybeans with 30%-60% insect damage have a shorter weed control window and potentially fewer weed control options. Early season bean leaf beetle feeding and defoliation can reduce yield two ways: directly, through soybean plant damage, and indirectly, by moving the critical period of weed control forward -- from 20 days after emergence to 10 days.”

As you plant soybeans, think about soybean rust, since it has been found on kudzu in FL, GA, AL & LA. So far it has not been found on soybeans, but this is the earliest it has been found in some locations. The problem this year is the delayed planting of beans will keep them at risk of rust for a longer period of the growing season. Rust has been showing up throughout the Cornbelt, but usually too late to do any serious damage. Keep track of soybean rust.

Most farmers who investigated organic production were concerned about their income in the required transition period. USDA will provide up to $20,000 per farm to ease the conversion process. Program sign-up is underway at local NRCS offices through 5/29. Producers may also qualify under the EQIP program, which has larger funding limits.

Another cropping alternative is switchgrass production for biofuel, grazing, or wildlife/conservation. But how do you grow it? Drill or broadcast the seed, but do not cut or graze it during the establishment year, so its roots can develop. Weed management is an issue, and WI Extension has a factsheet on switchgrass cultivation along with a weed control guide.

The price went down and the weight went up on hogs while the “swine” flu was underway. MO Extension’s Glenn Grimes says producers held hogs back from the market and they gained 3.4 pounds in late April and 5.9 pounds in early May, compared to prior years. He says the ailment cut about a half billion dollars out of the hog market.

Expect more regulations on farming and food processing as the result of increasing globalization of agriculture. That is the forecast of IL Extension economist Bob Spitze who says our food supply now can originate from any field or processor on the planet, and carelessness at a peanut processor affected the whole world almost immediately. The Emeritus professor says those interconnections focus attention on quality and safety.

Farmers who were unpaid after delivering corn to VeraSun Energy, can file a proof of claim, says IA State ag law specialist Roger McEowen. He says the deadline is May 25, or 30 days after a contract has been rejected. Follow his instructions, download the forms, and get the address.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 05/15 at 02:42 AM | Permalink

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