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Friday, June 26, 2009

Cornbelt Update


Cornbelt 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.

Buckle your seatbelt and mark your calendar for June 30 when USDA will release its best estimation of how many acres of corn and soybeans have been really planted. But in the words of Illinois Marketing Specialist Darrel Good, “The June estimates this year may contain more than the usual amount of producer intentions since considerable unplanted acreage still remains in the wettest areas of the eastern Cornbelt.”

Darrel Good says the USDA estimation in past years has changed over time. “For corn, actual planted acreage in the previous 5 years has varied by as little as 40,000 acres to as much as 1.35 mil. acres from the June estimate. For soybeans the difference has ranged from 400,000 to 1.185 mil. acres.” The June 30 report will be released at 7:30 am CDT.

Purdue economist Chris Hurt is concerned about a large loss of corn acres in the eastern Cornbelt. He says 1.5 mil. unplanted acres and a 152 bu. yield provide only 11.6 bil. bu. of corn and that would push Aug. 2010 stocks down to 800 mil. bu. Hurt says that scenario would put Dec futures in the range of $4.60 to $4.80 per bu.

Corn demand remains an uncertainty to Hurt who notes large financial losses in pork and dairy have trimmed herds. He says ethanol demand should increase, not only with the higher target from fuel mandate, but EPA raising the ethanol content above 10%. Read more.

$14 soybeans are still a possibility, believes Purdue’s Chris Hurt. He says the current carryover on Aug. 31 will be a 15 day supply, and new beans will not be yet available. He also says only 7 mil. more bu. have to be sold to overseas buyers in the next 11 weeks to meet USDA’s export projections. Hurt is anticipating beans will retest the $13 high, and if reached, he says $14 becomes more likely. The triggers for such a move include the June 30 stocks report, export sales, and late beans aggravated by summer weather. Read more.

What is your soybean pricing strategy? Hurt says one sales point is if July futures retest $13, then any weather concerns. But for an overall strategy “one might consider pricing more beans in the early part of the marketing year because South American acreage will rise and a return to normal yields there could result in lower priced beans in the last-half of the marketing year from March to September 2009.”

Also on Tuesday, USDA will be issuing its Quarterly Grain Stocks report for the third quarter of the year. Darrel Good’s numbers point to USDA overestimating feed use and underestimating processing use, but total corn use appearing reasonable. He also says the soybean crush might be underestimated and stocks could be smaller than expected. Read his ">newsletter.

The ACRE sign-up deadline is Aug. 14 and Purdue’s Chris Hurt believes the odds now favor positive returns to elect ACRE. He says there is still some time to make that evaluation as USDA will release its estimates on 2009 state yields and US average price on Aug. 12. Hurt says both of those forecasts are important in the formula to determine whether ACRE payments will be made for the 2009 corn crop.

Corn is growing loudly with the help of ample moisture and heat across the Cornbelt, and in some cases, it is growing faster than herbicides can be applied, which could turn out to be a problem. IL weed specialist Aaron Hager says atrazine should not be applied to corn over 12” and glyphosate to corn over 30” tall. Hager says other post-emergent herbicide labels have maturity or corn height restrictions to protect against injury to the corn. Find those here.

Corn lesson #1. After July 1 average summer temperatures will provide 1,900 growing degree days across the northern Cornbelt, 2,100 GDD across the central Cornbelt, and 2,450 GDD across the southern Cornbelt says IL agronomist Emerson Nafziger. Read his latest corn newsletter.

Corn lesson #2. Daytime temperatures have been in the 90ºF range, but remember corn is a tropical plant and its photosynthetic rate will remain steady as long as there is enough water. The photosynthetic rate will not taper off until the temperature approaches 100 ºF.

Corn lesson #3. Heat and moisture have contributed to the corn growth rate, and rapid stem growth is putting out leaves quicker than the typical 50 GDD rate implies. Late planted corn may end up with typical height, but likely smaller stalk diameters.

Corn lesson #4. Current corn growth rates point to lower plant dry weight, lighter weight leaves and perhaps less surface area, and perhaps one to two fewer leaves. That means an incomplete canopy during and after pollination, and possibly lower yields.

Corn lesson #5. A good canopy color in high temperatures means a good N supply, with good root development. Normal temperatures, sufficient sunlight, and a continuation of a good green color indicate good leaf function going into the pollination period.

Hail can make corn look bad, but the serious damage occurs after the 6-leaf stage when the growing point is up and out of the ground, says Roger Elmore at Iowa State, who adds that hail adjusters use different growth stages than corn researchers. Elmore says the V6 or 6 leaf stage is equivalent to the 7 leaf stage used by the hail industry.

Patience is needed in letting corn recover from hail, and it takes 3-5 days after a hail storm to obtain an accurate damage appraisal. Cut the corn plant stem lengthwise and if it has a healthy growing point it will survive. Elmore says a reduction in leaf area less than 50% will not reduce yield if the damage occurs before the V13 stage of growth. Read more.

What if your nitrogen applicator is shorter than your corn? With rapid growth, many cornfields may be beyond conventional application. IL fertility specialist Fabian Fernandez says the best application time is prior to the V8 stage because that begins the heaviest N uptake by the corn plant. Read more.

Nitrogen is best sidedressed by injection or dribbling to avoid volatilization and prevent foliar damage. Urea needs rain in 3-4 days to avoid loss. Dry formulations can be broadcast over the top, but Fernandez says the plant will display small lesions where the N has burned the tissue in the whorl or on leaves, but rarely results in any yield reduction.

Are foliar fungicides of value if there is no evidence of disease? WI researchers say in the trials where disease severity has been at least 5% on the ear leaf, the response has been higher; but they say problems are usually less than 5%. With fungicides and applicator costs about $25-30/A and the lack of consistent research results from using foliar fungicides, foliar fungicides should not be used on corn unless the hybrid was susceptible. Read the research.

If your soils are wet, phytophthora spores may be swimming through your soil to reach soybean plants. That means phytophthora may be more common this year in fields where soybeans do not have resistance to the root and stem rot fungus. IL plant pathologist Carl Bradley says there is no rescue treatment, but be sure to select resistant seed next year:
1) Race resistance prevents outbreaks, but only to the phytophthora races in your field.
2) Field tolerance defends against all races, but does not provide complete control.
3) Mefenoxam and metalaxyl fungicides will provide partial growing season control.

Corn rootworm larvae should be feasting lavishly on corn that was either non transgenic, or untreated with insecticides. But Purdue entomologists also say that some insecticide efficacy is in question. They recommend digging rootballs, break through the soil and look for quarter to half inch long slender larvae, along with root pruning. They say that two larvae per plant signals the need for a rescue cultivation application.

A rescue cultivation application directs the insecticide toward the base of the plant and mounds up the soil around the plant to incorporate the insecticide and promote the establishment of brace roots, since the corn plant’s standability may be compromised. They say application of an insecticide atop the soil in a no-till field will not be of value unless it is watered in by irrigation or a rain of one-half inch or more.

If you are planting single crop soybeans by the double-crop soybean calendar, IL agronomist Vince Davis recommends finding the field with the best planting conditions.
1) Use a full to mid-season variety, since heat and night length will promote flowering.
2) Plant in 7-10 in. rows with a no-till drill to get the highest yields when planted late.
3) Plant at a rate that will target a final stand of 150,000 to 200,000 plants per acre.
4) Schedule timely rains, and hold off any killing frost until as late as possible.

PI567102B. Remember that genetic code number because it may soon be a key to your survival from Asian soybean rust. Soybean researchers report the genes came from a Paraguayan soybean variety that had resistance to soybean rust in the US research labs. They have also identified several soybean cultivars that are “less rusting” and “slow rusting” which may also work their way into commercial soybean varieties. Read more.

Avoiding problems with spray drift may boil down to a trio of precautions:
1) Spray drift increases by 700% 90 ft. downwind when wind speeds double.
2) Spray drift increases 350% 90 ft. downwind when the boom is raised from 18 to 36 in.
3) When the distance downwind is doubled, spray drift decreases five-fold.

File away for future reference a report from an Ohio State University entomologist that lady beetle populations are declining, with some varieties considered rare. The species diminishing do not include the Asian multi-colored lady beetles that are voracious predators of soybean aphids. However, if one specie goes down, what about the others?

Acidic spots can develop in fields with otherwise good pH readings because of issues with the underlying subsoil. Plants growing in spots with a low pH might indicate they were low in phosphorus and magnesium, but high in iron and aluminum. Soils with a pH under 5.5 make aluminum and manganese more available, which become toxic to root systems, and that prevents phosphorus uptake by the plant. Microbial activity is reduced and that causes nitrogen issues. It can all be solved with strategic lime applications.

The June Hogs & Pigs Report to be released later today must show massive cutbacks to provide any financial relief says Michigan St. economist Jim Hilker, “The USDA showed another 1.8% drop in pork production in 2010, I suspect the cut will be larger, but we might not see it until the September Quarterly Hogs and Pigs Report. The June numbers were collected around June 1, and we have seen a $10.00 drop /cwt since then.”

Hurting the price of pork is the reduction in exports, say MO economists Glenn Grimes and Ron Plain. They say April exports were 21% below April of 2008, and exports were down 11% for the first 4 months of the year compared last year. Exports still contribute $32.51 to the value of every hog slaughtered, even though that is less than in 2008.

Grimes and Plain say don’t blame demand for low pork prices. May hog slaughter was the same as May of 2008, but weight has added 2% to the supply of pork, “When one considers we have had seven to eight percent more pork recently this year domestically than last year, it indicates our problem as to prices has been supply and not demand.”

Employee turnover costs $2,000 when someone is replaced and a 25% turnover rate is not out of the question for farming operations. But there are ways to reduce that, offered by Ohio St.
1) Take time to hire better qualified employees, you get what you pay for.
2) Establish a training protocol for news employees, manuals and job descriptions.
3) Hold regular meetings to discuss farm issues, goals, and operational strategies.
4) Several farmers could share one or more employees or seasonal labor.
5) Conduct exit interviews to determine why employees seek work elsewhere.

Create incentive and reward programs that cost very little, but show appreciation to employees. A basic “thanks” for a job well done goes a long ways. So do: home cooked meals, extra time off, use of fuel or farm commodities, and training seminars. Staff members will also appreciate being asked for their advice about equipment, safety, personnel conflicts, and unreasonable farm policies or work rules.

Posted by Stu Ellis on 06/26 at 02:31 AM | Permalink

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