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Friday, May 29, 2009

Cornbelt 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’s projection of 85 mil. corn acres is in doubt because of planting delays, says Mike Woolverton at Kansas State, and that increases the chances of carryover stocks going low enough to initiate price rationing. He says a one mil. acre decline would cut the surplus to 8%, well below the 10-12% of the past 10 years. Read his latest newsletter.

Woolverton says if there is a two mil. acre decline in corn acreage, that would cut the carryover to only 5%, if delayed planting also caused a 3 bu. drop in the national yield. He says the last time that happened was in 1995, when corn futures spiked upward.

With delayed corn planting and delayed wheat planting, how many acres will shift to beans, wonders Woolverton at Kansas St.? He says the market is anticipating anywhere from 2 to 4 mil. more soybean acres than the USDA’s projection of 76 mil. Beans are still the strength of the market, attributed to the short crop in South America, US exports to China, and the prospect for ending stocks to be at critically low levels this year.

Soybean acreage is an uncertainty because of delays in planting corn, says Melvin Brees at Missouri, but delays in planting soybeans could result in lower yields and production. Currently the USDA projected soybean price range is $8.45 to $10.45, and Brees says, “If the uptrend from the early March price low continues, following the trend higher with “trailing stops” is another alternative. However, if prices falter, current new crop bids offer profitable prices within the projected price range and the potential to avoid lower prices.”

Pork producers know the score, and currently they are on the losing end with the game in late innings for some producers, says Purdue livestock economist Chris Hurt. He expects some nearly ready to forfeit the rest of the game, unable to wait for the world to return to its 2008 healthy taste for pork, when 20% of US production was exported. Read his newsletter.

Five weeks ago “swine flu” dominated the headlines until the pork industry convinced the media to label it H1N1 virus, but carcass values had lost $10 within a week and farmgate hog prices lost 17%. Hurt says the lower market prices were exacerbated by climbing costs of corn and soybean meal, with current losses around $25 per head.

Purdue’s Chris Hurt expects June to bring prices in the high $40 and low $50 range, not enough to cancel out high production costs that may cause $7 per head losses in the latter half of the year. The 2009 losses are expected to average about $12 per head. That should mean the breeding herd will continue to diminish for the rest of the year.

The US wheat crop is having serious issues. Winter wheat acreage is down 7%. Spring wheat acres were supposed to be down 6%, but two mil. acres remain unplanted in MN and ND. Drought and freeze damage have hurt the Great Plains wheat crop. In OK where drought was a problem, early harvested fields have yields less than forecast.

By the time you see wheat scab, it may be too late to do anything about it says IL Extension’s Jim Morrison. But he’s warning that current moisture and temperatures are perfect for its development. Morrison suggests wheat growers use an early warning system for managing wheat scab at . In addition to seed variety resistance, management includes use of a fungicide in the triazole family.

Got weeds? They are an equal opportunity commodity, but sometimes you just don’t know what one is, and without a name, it is not easy to find an herbicide to control all of your unwanted visitors. Find the weed names with their pictures at these resources.
1) Pest bulletin
2) Spring weeds

Glyphosate guide #1. With at least 30 different formulations on the market, users need to compare alternatives by the number of pounds of acid equivalent per gallon of product. The concentration of the acid is what kills the weed, so compare before buying.

Glyphosate guide #2. Some glyphosate products have surfactants, such as Roundup PowerMax and Touchdown Total. Others do not have a built in adjuvant system, and may perform less satisfactory under extreme conditions. When a surfactant is missing, add a high quality, non-ionic surfactant at 0.25 to 1.0% v/v.

Glyphosate guide #3. Michigan St. weed specialists recommend the addition of ammonium sulfate to all glyphosate products, at the rate of 17 lbs per 100 gallons. AMS minimizes the impact of hard water on glyphosate and helps with velvetleaf control.

Glyphosate guide #4. The optimum time for glyphosate applications is when weeds are 4 inches tall in narrow row beans and 6 inches tall in soybeans planted in 30 inch rows.

You have made the decision to replant, but how do you eliminate the old corn crop?
1) IL Extension’s Aaron Hager is not facetious when he suggests tillage.
2) Glyphosate is effective at controlling corn that is susceptible to glyphosate.
3) Glyphosate resistant corn can be controlled with Poast, Poast-Plus, Fusion,
Fusilade, Select, and Assure II, but there are delays before replanting corn.

No one is certain, but if the weather is “normal” for the balance of the growing season, late planted corn could still perform well, and perform much better than in 1995 when late planting contributed to a 113 bu. average IL corn crop. That is the contention of IL Extension’s Emerson Nafziger, who says corn is now more resistant to bugs and stress.
1) Corn may have loss several hundred GDD, but sufficient temperatures should remain.
2) The longest days and most light will arrive before full canopy, so grain will be less.
3) Pollination is moved back, so rainfall will be more critical than normal.
4) Damp soils mean compaction, so corn may have fewer roots and need more rainfall.
5) Stalks will be more spindly and less able to hold larger ears.
6) Grain development will be delayed to a time when leaves may be hurt by fungus.

University of Wisconsin researchers are taking issue with the federal approval of an expanded label for Headline fungicide, and refuting some of the claims made by BASF. The WI staff says Headline was tested at its lab and, “To date, the results from our trials have not shown a consistent response for use of foliar fungicides, except when the level of disease has warranted the application of a fungicide.” Read their response to the Plant Health Label.

Headline fungicide is a multi crop fungicide, but promotional claims were questioned by 46 WI researchers who said they were concerned about the broad statements about the perceived benefits of the product. Those statements included:
1) Increased tolerance to environmental stresses.
2) Improved plant utilization of nitrogen
3) Increased tolerance to bacterial and viral infections
4) Improved straw strength of small grains
5) Improved stalk strength in corn, better hail tolerance, and more uniform seed size.

Congratulations are due, if your soybean seedlings are healthy, but you won’t really know without scouting. Pythium and phytophthora will attack the seedlings under the soil and cause rot, which are seen most frequently in fields with a hard crusty soil. IA State plant pathologist X. B. Yang says identification of those and other fungi are important steps for your 2010 seed selection and choice of fungicidal seed treatments.

Ohio has a “perfect storm” for black cutworms, and some corn fields have densities that exceed recommended thresholds for rescue treatments. Entomologists are advising corn growers to scout for potential problems, and take a break from planting to do that and save what little corn has emerged. The economic threshold is 3-5% cutting. Get a refresher.

Balance the cost of cutworm control with the value of the crop, say Iowa State entomologists. Compared to this year, 2008 corn was more valuable and the treatment thresholds were lower. They have developed a decision aid based on crop values:

Poor growing conditions have been prevalent, and they have aided grubs, wireworms, seedcorn maggots, and cutworms in doing their dirty work. Purdue entomologists have found those larvae are not being controlled by low rates of Cruiser and Poncho applied to the seed, particular when populations are high. The upshot is when the seedling is not growing vigorously, such as this year, then the systemic insecticides work poorly.

Relatively cool spring temperatures have minimized nitrogen losses in the mind of Purdue fertility specialist Jim Camberato. At least he does not believe there has been any more this year than normal. Based on fall application of anhydrous ammonia, he says the average loss would be about 30%, if a nitrification inhibitor was not applied also. Cut that number to 15% if the anhydrous ammonia was applied early this spring.

You’ve probably lost some nitrogen, but it is difficult to say how much is lost. IL fertility specialist Fabian Fernandez say the conversion of ammonium to nitrate depends on temperature, and recently it would take 1-2 weeks for nitrogen to be lost to leaching or nitrate if it was applied after May 1. Read more.

If you have switched to shorter season corn, how should your fertility program change? Fernandez says that means a reduced yield potential and less need for the N that you typically apply. “For each week that planting is delayed from the optimum for your area, it is recommended that you reduce N rate by 20 pounds per acre down to a minimum of 80 pounds per acre (for very late planting).” Plant first, apply N later.

If your fertility program needs to be more cost-conscious, the reduced rate is a good start, says Fernandez. But he says get the N to where it can be used by the corn roots.
1) Surface applications require rain or irrigation to move N into the root zone.
2) Injected N needs to be between rows to reduce root injury. Roots grow toward it.
3) Apply N to every other row, giving corn some N on at least one side.
4) Aerial application should be under 125 lbs/A and not applied when corn is wet.

Concerns about the carbon footprint of ethanol are addressed by Kurt Thelen of Michigan State, who says the effort to discredit ethanol because it will cause changes in other countries is misleading. He says the bottom line is the fact that burning gasoline emits 19.4 lbs of carbon dioxide per gal., but it takes 1.4 gal. of ethanol to do that.

By growing corn to refine into ethanol, Thelen at Michigan State says all of the crop inputs for an acre would represent 1,250 lbs of carbon dioxide per acre, or 2.9 lbs per gallon of ethanol produced. He says that is a 78% reduction from the process of refining gasoline, and it will be 94% less than gasoline when perennial grasses are used.

June Dairy Month will not be a high point of the year for many dairymen because of huge financial losses resulting from milk dropping from $18 to $12 per cwt in the past 6 months. IL dairy specialist Mike Hutjens says $16 to $18 is the current breakeven price for milk, and a 105 cow operation is losing $10,000 per month. He says much of the problem is due to the stronger dollar that has eliminated the dairy export business.

So what is a dairyman to do? Hutjens says with a new forage year underway, look for any means of improving forage quality and quantity in dairy rations. Grain by-products such as corn gluten feed, wet brewers grain, and DDGS are good ways to replace soy meal and corn when trying to cut the cost of rations, which are 60% of expenses.

Other opportunities in dairy profitability, according to IL Extension’s Hutjens:
1) Target feed costs under 9¢/lb dry matter & raise milk to feed efficiency to 1.6.
2) Silage inoculants, monensin, buffers, yeast products & trace minerals are good.
3) Ration reduction only will reduce milk yield and decrease health and immunity.
4) USDA’s MILC program will provide relief for farms with less than 150 cows.
5) CME milk futures are at $15 for fall prices, but still below production costs.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 05/29 at 02:48 AM | Permalink


If late planting leads to late tasseling there should be some frost concerns coming into the market, if we follow last year's action. Watch for percentage tasseled after August 15 for indication of level of concern for eastern corn belt.

Posted by: Freeport, IL at May 29, 2009 11:11AM

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