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Articles from 2020 In September


fireworks

A rarity: USDA report sparks broad rallies

USDA released its quarterly stocks report Wednesday, sparking a rally in soybeans, corn and wheat (full story here).

There was something good for everyone in this report, which rarely seems to happen.  Perhaps most surprisingly, corn stocks were pegged at 1.995 billion bushels, well below the trade average. This caught many traders by surprise because it came in roughly 125 million bushels below the lowest trade estimate.  This was 10% below where we were last year at this time. 

This was what farmers needed, although it would have been better to have this information six months ago. When stocks fall below 2 billion bushels, we can no longer say that corn inventories are burdensome. We couldn’t say that just a couple months ago. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean stocks are low, but it does give bullish traders more ammunition. 

Futures prices now have a strong case for getting back above $4 per bu. The slightest hiccup in this season’s yield results could continue to excite the market. December corn has broken above its recent high of $3.79. The last time we were at these levels was mid-March so it has been a long time coming.

Soybeans lead rally

The soybeans led the rally today, trading up 40 cents at one point. 

USDA pegged soybean stocks at 523 million bushels, roughly 50 million bushels less than the trade average but still within the average trade range.  That 500 million bushels isn’t exactly low when taking the last decade into context. However, we were over 900 million bushels at this time last year, so we have almost cut them in half in a short amount of time. 

This should help solidify $10 bean futures for a while. 

Our beans are still priced competitively right now as they are approaching $12 per bushel in Brazil, although China has bought up almost all of their remaining inventory. It would be nice if they would now do the same for us now, regardless of any trade agreements. 

If you didn’t get any sales made on the rally earlier this month, it appears you will now get another chance.

Wheat prices soar

Wheat stocks took a similar approach as overall inventories reached 2.159 billion bushels.  This was at the bottom of the range of estimates and over 80 million bushels under what the trade had expected. This was enough to send wheat prices soaring.  The high so far for this year in December wheat was $5.99 set back in January. In fact, we are trading at the top end of the range for the last 5 years. 

The market has clawed its way back roughly a dollar before reaching its low of $4.75 from only a couple of months ago.  

What about basis?

We have known for a while that old crop stocks were tight enough to improve basis levels ahead of harvest. Today’s report should continue to keep basis levels firm. Since last month we have been saying how our perception of this year’s crop production has shifted, making us want to store as much as possible looking for continued market rallies. 

Today’s report further solidifies that approach as we will look for winter rallies before we price remaining 2020 crop.

Matthew Kruse is President of Commstock Investments.  He can be reached at 712-227-1110 or by email at matthewdk@commstock.com.
 
Futures trading involves risk. The risk of loss in trading futures and/or options is substantial and each investor and/or trader must consider whether this is a suitable investment. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Trading advice is based on information taken from trades and statistical services and other sources that CommStock Investments believes to be reliable. We do not guarantee that such information is accurate or complete and it should not be relied upon as such. Trading advice reflects our good faith judgment at a specific time and is subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that the advice we give will result in profitable trades. 
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
Corn plants Purdue University

Is Fall a Good Time to Apply Nitrogen?

Applying anhydrous ammonia in the fall to provide N to the corn crop the following year has a long history in Illinois and in other parts of the Corn Belt where rotation, tillage, and manure management practices allow it.  Fall application means getting a major field operation done when soil conditions are generally more favorable than they are in the spring, and it helps to spread the work load across more months. Historically, the cost of ammonia has also been lower in the fall than in the following spring, which has provided an extra incentive for fall application.

Although fall application remains a common practice in Illinois, it has come under increasing scrutiny in recent decades. Fall application means having N in the soil about six months before the crop will begin to take it up, and soil conditions during these months are not predictable. Ammonia converts to ammonium in the soil after application, and as long as soil temperatures remain low, the microbial conversion of ammonium to nitrate is slow. Once N is in the nitrate form, however, it can move downward with water moving though the soil, and, in tile-drained fields, can leave the soil and move into surface water. Fall-applied ammonia usually has a nitrification inhibitor added to slow this conversion process, but if soils warm up and there’s substantial rainfall by May, some of the ammonium will convert to nitrate, and some this nitrate may be lost. Spikes in river and surface water nitrate usually come in the spring, and while much of this N is from residual left after the previous fall’s harvest, fall-applied N undoubtedly contributes some to this.

As we might expect, the amount of fall-applied N that is lost (moved out of the field, denitrified, or moved below the rooting zone) before plants can take it up varies widely over years and soils. Measured and modeled estimates of loss show this variability, but as long as guidelines are followed, we do not believe that losses reach the high levels that some models have shown. These guidelines include: 1) no fall application on light or very heavy-textured soil; 2) no application at soil temperatures above 50 degrees; and 3) no fall application in regions without cold winters, including southern Illinois. There can of course be loss of spring-applied N as well, especially if N fertilizer used in the spring contains nitrate (for example, UAN) which can move in the soil without delay. Surface-applied, urea-based N sources can also volatilize (lose N as ammonia gas), dissolve and run off the field with heavy rain, or convert to nitrate rapidly when soil temperatures are warm; such N can be lost to downward movement or to denitrification if water stands in the field.

The best way to measure the actual effect of fall versus spring N application is to compare timings in side-by-side N rate strips in field trials. We are fortunate in Illinois to have a set of such trials, managed by Dan Schaefer of IFCA and conducted, with funding support from the fertilizer tonnage fee through the Illinois Nutrient Research & Education Council, in farm fields from 2014 through 2018. To our considerable surprise, we found that in nearly every case, corn responded to N rate almost the same for fall-applied as for spring-applied N. Figure 1 below shows N responses in one of these trials in which both the optimum N rate and the yield at the optimum N rate were slightly higher for fall-applied N.

9.30 nitrogen.png

Figure 1. Comparison of fall- versus spring-applied ammonia in an on-farm N rate trial in 2018.

The results found in fifteen other trials were similar to those shown in Figure 1. Most of these trials were with corn following soybeans, and most were in central Illinois. Averaged over these 16 trials, the optimum N rate, using a corn price of $3.75/bushel and an N cost of $0.30/lb ($492 per ton of ammonia) was 186 lb N per acre with fall-applied ammonia and 176 lb N per acre with spring-applied ammonia. The yield at the optimum N rate averaged 235 bushels per acre for fall-applied N and 236 bushels per acre for spring-applied N. We can also use these responses to calculate a “return to N” (bushels added by N × corn price minus N rate × N price); the RTN averaged across these 16 sites was $406 per acre for fall-applied N and $414 per acre for spring-applied N.

We elected to drop one trial from this set of data due to its unusual response. This trial was in the river bottoms near the bluff, and it’s possible that the lighter-textured soil there received extra water that moved off the bluff. At that site in 2017, it took 193 lb of N as fall-applied ammonia to produce 227 bushels, while it took only 125 lb of N as spring-applied ammonia to produce 245 bushels. There was a considerable amount of variability in the trial, and using the MRTN rate of 180 lb N/acre for both would have produced yields only 12 bushels higher for spring-applied N. But this does show that when conditions for N loss are high, fall-applied N losses can be substantial. At the same time, these results show that the crop has nearly the same access to fall-applied N as to spring-applied N, and that applying N in the fall is not as economically or environmentally problematic as some have suggested.

So why not continue to apply N in the fall, or even move more application to the fall? In some areas this option has become limited by the fact that some fertilizer dealers no longer offer anhydrous ammonia, but instead offer other forms, typically UAN solution. Reasons for this often include safety—anhydrous ammonia is more hazardous to transport and apply than other forms of N. Ammonia needs to be injected into the soil, and this requires toolbars, large tractors, and labor when harvest and tillage may still be underway. Soil conditions also need to be dry enough, but not too dry, to allow application and proper sealing. Wet fall weather, the need to wait until about November 1 for soils to be cool enough for safe application, then having a short window to apply before soils freeze are all factors that have acted to nudge N application towards spring. We have found, in recent years when fall application has been limited, that moving a lot of N application to the spring is possible with existing equipment. Although this pushes a lot of extra work into the spring months, dealers and producers have been creative in finding ways to make application and very wet spring weather and late planting, producers managed to get N applied on the crop that got planted.

Despite its limitations, anhydrous ammonia typically remains the lowest-cost source per unit of N, although application costs and safety concerns may decrease that advantage some. More importantly, ammonia is the form of N most likely to stay in the soil and remain available to the plant. Uniformity of application has improved with development of better equipment, and at 82% N, using ammonia means transporting less weight. As I’ve written many times before, there needs to be some N fertilizer applied near the row at or very soon after planting; UAN is probably a better source than ammonia to place N in this way. A nitrogen management program that includes perhaps a third of the N as preplant or planting-time UAN, then the rest as sidedressed ammonia, may be worth considering.

Going into the fall, the main challenge with ammonia application is to wait until soil temperatures are low enough to keep the nitrification process to a minimum. In a typical fall that means waiting until the end of October. While going a few days early may not seem like a big deal, remember that soil microbial activity doesn’t stop completely until temperatures near freezing, and with soil temperatures continuing to fluctuate, soils will usually spend some time at temperatures above 50 even if they’re at or below 50 on the day of application.

Source: University of Illinois Extensionwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. 

grain bins on a background of blue sky yanik88/ThinkstockPhotos

2019 crop revisions tighten quarterly grain stocks

Updated

USDA’s September 1 Quarterly Stocks report bucked historical norms, finding fewer than expected grain bushels and sparking rallies in the corn, soy, and wheat complexes. The report came as a surprise as many were expecting higher ending stocks based on reduced demand due in large part to the pandemic. But the ag economy appears to be weathering coronavirus conditions better than expected, as usage rates soared in the third quarter.

Winter wheat production also dipped in 2020, underpinning additional support to the wheat rally.

“USDA’s unexpected bullish revisions to the 2019 crop were a breath of fresh air after depressed futures prices for nearly half of the 2020 calendar year,” says Farm Futures grain market analyst Jacquie Holland. “Today’s rallies provide plenty of uncharacteristic – but warmly welcomed – upwards price potential during harvest season. Farmers typically see lower prices this time of year, but. today's rallies are a welcome deviation from historical trends.”

Farmers who may have been holding out for more profitable marketing opportunities for their 2019 corn and soybean crops are finally going to be rewarded for their wait, Holland adds.

Old crop soybean stocks tumbled 42% lower year-over-year, to 523 million bushels. Analysts were expecting a moderately higher tally, with an average trade guess of 576 million bushels. Of the total, on-farm storage was 141 million bushels, with the remaining 382 million bushels stored off the farm. Disappearance between June and August totaled 858 million bushels, which was 2% lower compared to the same period last year.

USDA downgraded its 2019 soybean production estimates by 333 million bushels, based on estimates of 74.9 million harvested acres with average yields at 47.4 bushels per acre.

“Soybean stocks also tightened compared to 2018/19’s 909-million-bushel carryout but remain at relatively high levels,” Holland says. “At 523 million bushels, 2019/20 ending stocks will be the sixth largest on record. But the tightening supplies paired with increased demand from China will make for higher farmgate prices for U.S. soy growers currently combining the 2020 crop.”

Sept. 1 U.S. Soybean Stocks

Old crop corn stocks were 10% lower than September 2019, according to USDA, dropping to 1.995 billion bushels. As with soybeans, analysts were expecting bigger numbers, with an average trade guess of 2.250 billion bushels. Of that total, 751 million bushels are being stored on the farm, with off-farm stocks at 1.24 billion bushels. Disappearance is 3.02 billion bushels between June and August, which is slightly higher year-over-year.

“Ending corn stocks dropped to their lowest level in four years despite a 3% marketing-year reduction in demand due to the pandemic,” Holland notes.

Sept. 1 U.S. Corn Stocks

USDA made small upward revisions to its 2019 corn production estimates, adding 2.67 million bushels and pegging average yields slightly higher, at 167.5 bushels per acre across 81.3 million harvested acres.

All-wheat stocks fell 8% year-over-year to 2.16 billion bushels. Of that, 705 million bushels are stored on the farm, with off-farm stocks at 1.45 billion bushels, according to USDA. Disappearance between June and August was 695 million bushels, trending 4% higher compared to the same period last year.

Third-quarter wheat stocks also came in on the lower end of trade estimates. But Holland says that is not as surprising, considering that at-home food consumption and cooking is on the rise during the pandemic. The third quarter typically finds wheat processors increasing flour milling activity in advance of the holiday baking season. Based on today’s usage rates, that means higher milling rates in the third quarter – as well as more baked goods at home – can be reasonably expected.

“More surprising was the drop in 2020 wheat production,” Holland says. “A dry growing season for hard red winter wheat and a delayed and wet start to last year’s soft red winter wheat took their toll on yields. Despite a cool and soggy planting season in the Northern U.S., favorable growing conditions this summer sent spring wheat and durum yields soaring.”

093020USQuarterlyStocks2.jpg

093020US20-21WheatProduction2.jpg

RFD-TV's Market Day Report Tim Hearden
"The Market Day Report" on RFD-TV is streamed on a Roku device.

The new RFD-TV, Cowboy Channel apps are great

In a column a little over a year ago, I made a friendly suggestion to the folks at RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel regarding distribution – that they would be better off in the long run focusing on streaming rather than trying to retain a presence within a cable-television model that has seen declining subscribership for a decade or longer.

As I wrote then, I’ve been a fan of RFD-TV since long before I started in agriculture journalism in late 2008. Even as the Redding Record Searchlight’s county government reporter, I found the network’s rural-oriented programming informative, as they covered topics important to many of my readers.

RFD has long been a home to Farm Progress’ own Max Armstrong, whose show, “This Week in Agribusiness,” includes newsmaker interviews with guests about trade, weather pressures and a host of other issues on the farm.

RFD and cable TV were a perfect fit when the channel was launched in December 2000 as the first to entirely focus on agribusiness, equine and the rural lifestyle, including shows with traditional country music and entertainment. Cable subscriptions were at their peak that year, with 68.5 million total U.S. subscriptions, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Back then our idea of cord-cutting was to switch from our local city- or county-sanctioned cable company to satellite, which was cheaper, had way more offerings and in many rural areas provided a higher-quality picture and sound. The seemingly vast bandwidth of satellite made it easier for niche offerings like RFD-TV to find a home. As the network gained popularity, cable systems began to include it.

By the end of 2020, however, eMarketer is projecting that the total number of U.S. cable cord-cutting households will have risen to 31.2 million, and that another 6.6 million will have cancelled all their pay-TV subscriptions. As the subscriber base has tumbled, it has put more pressure on providers to stack their lineups with subsidiaries of major networks that market their channels as a bundle, and independent broadcasters like RFD are sometimes squeezed out.

RFD in 2010 launched its Country Club streaming service, but it was initially only accessed through a web browser and was fraught with dropped signals and buffering. The Roku TV app the network launched a few years later was a welcome addition, if a little cumbersome to navigate.

Earlier this year, however, RFD and its sister channel, the Cowboy Channel, took a major step in the streaming world with new apps for subscribers’ phones, tablets and connected and smart TVs that carry the networks’ live feed as well as on-demand content. The Cowboy Channel inked a deal with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to carry the pro rodeo tour, and on any given weekend this summer you could find multiple rodeos on the app as well as whiparound coverage on the main channel.

The apps are awesome, in my opinion. They’re easy to navigate and their signal quality is crisp. And as always, the channels’ programming is an oasis in a sea of TV mediocrity.

Coronavirus
Karen Mills selling peaches Tim Hearden
Karen Mills of R&K Orchards in Corning, Calif., sorts peaches at a farmers' market in Redding, Calif.

Farmers appreciated for work during pandemic

Those who till the earth don’t do so for kudos. They don't seek praise, but it’s nice when the accolades do appear. In California, the month of October was designated California Farmer and Farmworker Month.

A proclamation from Gov. Gavin Newsom reads: “As a thank you for the tireless work the farming community performs to feed families all over the world, (we) celebrate their hard work and dedication to provide a safe food supply. Their efforts are worthy of our gratitude every day -- especially during the pandemic.”

In Arizona, a similar honorific came in the form of a virtual event called “Feeding Arizona: How Dairy Farms, Food Banks, and Schools Work Together in Response to COVID”.

Sitting at her farm office desk with a message board sign reading “Thou Shalt Not Whine”, Stephanie Smallhouse, director of the Arizona Farm Bureau and panel moderator, noted: “What we saw as the coronavirus played out was an anomaly in our food system -- plenty of product being produced, but empty grocery shelves. It’s given us some insight about what can be done to prevent that from happening again in the future.”

An immediate need

Panelist Angie Rodgers of the Arizona Food Bank Network told of an immediate and nearly overwhelming need as coronavirus changed all of our lives. “We feed over 7 million people a year, over 450,000 a month, and we saw something we hadn’t seen before as 55% of those showing up in the food box line were first-timers who had never been here before.

“We call ourselves the last mile of distribution as part of the business solution between agriculture, retail, and the federal government and in some instances, we were stretched thin with more people showing up for distribution than we had planned for,” she said. “But thanks to the Farm-to-Foodbox program and other suppliers, we were able to meet that unanticipated need.”

Before the impact of the virus really hit, the Arizona Food Bank Network was distributing an average of 17 million pounds of food per month. Within a short time, that figure rose to $19.1 million pounds monthly.

“While need increased, our volunteer numbers dwindled and we relied on volunteers in fatigues, members of the National Guard, to help in packing and distributing food boxes,” she said.

Meat sales jumped

While grocery store shelves were quickly depleted -- and not just of toilet paper and hand sanitizer -- grocery store meat sales jumped 78% in a single week (as Easter approached, sales of spiral hams surged 413%) and retailers experienced a 75% increase in online grocery sales.

“We served 33,500 million grab-and-go or drive-up meals from March to July,” said Ashley Schimke, Farm-to-School Specialist with Arizona’s Health Nutrition Services Division.

That’s on the distribution side. On the production side, Keith Murfield, CEO of United Dairymen of Arizona -- the 9th largest dairy co-op in the U.S. -- said the impact of the coronavirus came at the worst possible time.

“We were in peak season, bringing in about 13 million pounds of milk per day, and traditional food service needs just stopped,” Murfield said. “We ran out of storage space in a hurry and there was no place to go, we couldn’t run any more through our dryers and we ended up dumping about 13 million pounds of milk.

“We asked our producers to cut back by culling cows (but the meat packing industry was having its own set of problems),” he said. “We suggested changing rations and going from 3 to 2 milkings per day. The pandemic hit hard and fast and with cows still giving ten gallons per day, the milk just kept coming because it was difficult for the industry to respond quickly.”

Backup plans are being made as a contingency against future such occurrences. “There’s a limit to what you can do in the way of plant capacity because we’re already one of the largest plants in the U.S.,” he said. “For us to increase another 3 or 4 million pounds per day would cost in the neighborhood of $400 million and that larger plant would just sit empty most of the time.”

As dairy economist Bob Cropp noted in a recent Western Farm Press story: “There remains a lot of uncertainty as to where milk prices are headed for the remainder of the year and for next year. Until the coronavirus comes more under control and things return to more normal, demand for dairy products will be depressed.”

Elanco logo

Elanco restructures to save $100M

Elanco Animal Health is eliminating more than 900 positions across nearly 40 countries, NASDAQ reported. The eliminated positions will be primarily in sales and marketing, and also in research and development, manufacturing and quality, and back office support.

The company expects to realize at least $100 million of annual compensation and benefits savings with the job cuts.

“After our early view of the combined business, we have full confidence in delivering $275 million to $300 million in synergies, with the first two-thirds coming in the first 30 months," said Jeff Simmons, president and CEO of Elanco. "Today’s actions will reduce duplication and increase efficiency within our global footprint, while the team builds longer term plans around procurement savings, SKU optimization and streamlining manufacturing processes. While decisions that affect our employees are always difficult, we remain committed to treating affected employees with our guiding value of respect and following all local consultation processes.”

This is the first restructuring action since the closing of the $6.89 billion acquisition of Bayer's veterinary drugs unit, U.S. News & World Report reported. The acquisition closed in August 2020.

The cost of the proposed actions is expected to be between $190 million and $210 million with approximately $170 million to $190 million in severance and approximately $20 million in asset impairments and other charges, according to Elanco Animal Health. As part of the transaction with Bayer A.G., $35 million was reflected in the purchase price attributable to Elanco’s restructuring costs. Cash severance payments will be distributed over the next two years. Elanco expects to incur a restructuring charge of $130 million to $145 million in Q3 2020 along with $40 million to $45 million in Q4 2020. The remaining estimated $20 million will be incurred in 2021.

“Our team is focused on making the tough decisions that drive value quickly while enabling our innovation and growth strategies," Simmons said. The acquisition strengthens Elanco’s Innovation, Portfolio, Productivity (IPP) strategy. The transaction also adds new R&D capabilities, including innovative dosing and delivery technology platforms, and provides access rights to Bayer’s Crop Science R&D pipeline and de-prioritized clinical pharma assets.

Elanco Animal Health is eliminating more than 900 positions across nearly 40 countries, NASDAQ reported. The eliminated positions will be primarily in sales and marketing, and also in research and development, manufacturing and quality, and back office support.

The company expects to realize at least $100 million of annual compensation and benefits savings with the job cuts.

“After our early view of the combined business, we have full confidence in delivering $275 million to $300 million in synergies, with the first two-thirds coming in the first 30 months," said Jeff Simmons, president and CEO of Elanco. "Today’s actions will reduce duplication and increase efficiency within our global footprint, while the team builds longer term plans around procurement savings, SKU optimization and streamlining manufacturing processes. While decisions that affect our employees are always difficult, we remain committed to treating affected employees with our guiding value of respect and following all local consultation processes.”

This is the first restructuring action since the closing of the $6.89 billion acquisition of Bayer's veterinary drugs unit, U.S. News & World Report reported. The acquisition closed in August 2020.

The cost of the proposed actions is expected to be between $190 million and $210 million with approximately $170 million to $190 million in severance and approximately $20 million in asset impairments and other charges, according to Elanco Animal Health. As part of the transaction with Bayer A.G., $35 million was reflected in the purchase price attributable to Elanco’s restructuring costs. Cash severance payments will be distributed over the next two years. Elanco expects to incur a restructuring charge of $130 million to $145 million in Q3 2020 along with $40 million to $45 million in Q4 2020. The remaining estimated $20 million will be incurred in 2021.

“Our team is focused on making the tough decisions that drive value quickly while enabling our innovation and growth strategies," Simmons said. The acquisition strengthens Elanco’s Innovation, Portfolio, Productivity (IPP) strategy. The transaction also adds new R&D capabilities, including innovative dosing and delivery technology platforms, and provides access rights to Bayer’s Crop Science R&D pipeline and de-prioritized clinical pharma assets.

SWFP-SHELLEY-HUGULEY-17-peanuts-brownfield.jpg Shelley E. Huguley

Peanut acres up, harvest timeliness important

Texas peanut harvest is underway, and producers are expecting lower per-acre yields than last season due to drought conditions, says Agronomist and State Peanut Specialist Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Vernon.

Crop surveys by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show Texas producers planted 165,000 acres in 2019 and estimate that 190,000 acres were planted in 2020, up 25,000 acres.

Texas producers dig several different peanut types including Spanish, Valencia and Virginia varieties, she said. Most Texas acres are planted as runners, the most widely consumed type.

Digging will begin next week in the Rolling Plains and West Texas and ramp up over the next few weeks, Kimura said. Producers will be busy through mid-October.

The season began with planting in the northern Rolling Plains and West Texas in the first week of May and a little later for Central and South Texas, she said.

Cold snaps in April slowed germination in the Rolling Plains but followed with plenty of heat units. But there was not enough rain to keep up with plants’ water demands despite irrigation, Kimura said.

Peanuts in Central, South and especially West Texas faced worse conditions early, but rains helped Central and South Texas fields. 

“It was so dry in West Texas in July and August that irrigation couldn’t keep up with plants’ demand,” Kimura said. “Conditions in Central and South Texas and the Rolling Plains were not as dry as the west, and the overall effects of drought are difficult to estimate at this point.”

Temperatures were cooler than normal during September, which also likely slowed the crop’s progress some, Kimura said. Frost in the windrows before late October could be trouble.

Peanut yields down

Last year, the average yield in Texas was 3,100 pounds per acre. The September forecast estimated yields to be 2,900 pounds per acre.

Drought contributed most to yield reduction as there was below average pest and disease pressure this year, Kimura said.

There were reports of crown rot and leaf spot, but damages were not significant, likely due to proactive spraying. There were also reports of pod rot, but the extent of damage won’t be known until peanuts are harvested.

To maximize pound-per-acre yields, harvest timeliness is important. She suggests producers check peanut maturity by digging samples in several locations around their field to determine when to harvest.

“They need to target the right timing to have the pods intact and attached to the vine and minimize immature pods,” she said. “It’s one of the hardest decisions to make as a producer.”

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

1-district-map-HR

The 12 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Districts

CENTRAL

Conditions were good, and temperatures were cooler. Rainfall amounts were 1-3 inches. Some producers were spraying for fall armyworms. Pastures rebounded very well with rainfall, and livestock looked good. Producers were planting winter grazing crops and cutting hay, but rainfall caused some delays. Soil moisture levels were generally adequate with a good recharge of subsoil moisture levels. Fieldwork continued to clean up the heavy volunteer crop and weed growth. All corn, sorghum and cotton were harvested. One more cutting of hay was expected in October.

ROLLING PLAINS

The district reported cooler temperatures. Cotton fields were fair to good condition and some had reached boll opening. Wheat producers continued planting. Pasture and rangelands were in fair to good condition and continued to improve.

COASTAL BEND

Tropical Storm Beta brought rain to much of the reporting area. Wharton County reported 5-7 inches of rainfall. Most farming operations were put on hold due to wet conditions. The remaining 1,000 acres of soybeans that were defoliated prior to tropical storm have developed some mold and shattering. There was still a very small amount of cotton acres yet to be harvested, and acres needed stalk destruction. The ratoon rice crop was still in a reproductive stage. Winter pastures were being planted. Rangelands and pastures were improving daily. Ponds were still low in most areas and continued to be a concern for producers. Livestock were in good condition, with supplemental feeding slowing drastically.

EAST

Rain from the recent tropical storm swept through the district. Some areas received as much as 7 inches. Sabine County reported bottomlands were too wet for hay harvesting, but many upland areas were well drained and being cut. Panola County reported producers were looking forward to a late October hay cutting for an already above-average production season. Many other areas reported warm-season grass growth was slowed due to cooler temperatures. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Livestock were in good condition. Fly numbers were still high. Producers were monitoring for armyworms. Feral hogs were active and caused a lot of damage.

SOUTH PLAINS

Subsoil and topsoil moisture levels remained poor due to the lack of moisture and moderate temperatures. Crops were in the last stretch of growth. Producers continued to monitor watering conditions. Cattle were in good condition. 

PANHANDLE

Weather conditions were mild. Northern parts of the Panhandle reported adequate subsoil and topsoil moisture. Central areas reported short subsoil and topsoil moisture, and southern areas reported very short subsoil and topsoil moisture. Pasture and rangeland conditions were very poor to good. Corn was mature, and harvest was underway. Cotton was in poor to good condition. Sorghum condition was poor to fair. 

NORTH

Soil moisture was mostly adequate across the district. Cooler weather continued with some light precipitation totaling 0.5-3 inches, which maintained adequate soil moisture levels. Producers were taking advantage of the good weather to get another cutting of hay and prepare for planting winter pastures. Bermuda grass growth started to slow due to cooler temperatures. Wet weather delayed cotton and soybean harvests and wheat planting. Feral hogs were active. 

FAR WEST

Temperatures were above 100 degrees with nighttime lows in the low 50s. No rainfall was reported. Cotton harvest was about to begin. Quite a few fields were defoliated already with many more ready to be sprayed as soon as the weather cooperates. Cotton yields were not expected to be great. A little more wheat was planted, but the majority was expected to be planted after cotton harvest. Alfalfa farmers were making the last cutting, but some may get a clipping in October. Pecans were finishing up, but yields were not expected to be great. Pastures were still very dry with no forages, and producers continued to feed livestock.

WEST CENTRAL

Conditions were warm and dry, which allowed for excellent growth in wheat and oat fields. Armyworms and grasshoppers continued to emerge, and producers were actively scouting and spraying fields as needed. An abundance of cool-season annual weeds and forages emerged due to the abundant soil moisture levels. Stock tanks were full and in good shape. Pastures greened up. Livestock were in mostly good condition due to the rapid growth occurring over the last month.

SOUTHEAST

There were heavy rains with some flooding and standing water in some areas. Fall armyworms were reported in Brazos County. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to poor with fair ratings being the most common. Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus with adequate levels being the most common.

SOUTHWEST

Some areas received up to a quarter-inch of rain while others remained dry. Rangeland and pasture conditions were looking good. The last hay cuttings were underway. Small grain planting was wrapping up, and cool-season vegetation was greening up. There were reports of armyworms. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Livestock markets were steady. Sheep producers were currently lambing while weather conditions were favorable.

SOUTH

No rainfall was reported, but weather was mild to cool with short to surplus soil moisture levels. Temperatures cooled in most areas. Jim Hogg reported temperature highs in the 80s and 90s and a low of 53 degrees. Producers were busy on a range of fieldwork where soil moisture levels would allow. Cotton harvest continued and was almost complete in some areas. Peanut harvest should begin soon. Most strawberry producers will start planting soon. Forage producers were working between rain showers. Wheat and cool-season forage plantings started. Bermuda grass and Sudan hay fields and silage sorghum were being cut and baled. Pasture and rangeland conditions continued to improve in areas that received recent rainfall. Good grazing reduced supplemental feeding in some areas. Heavy morning dew helped maintain soil moisture levels. Stock tanks were mostly full. Most watermelon and cantaloupe harvesting were complete, and farmers were preparing for next season. Pecan orchards were in good condition and were expected to be harvested soon. Preparations for fall vegetable plantings continued. Most harvested spring croplands were cleared of plant debris.

Source: is AgriLife TODAY, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Timing just right for Pence visit to Pennsylvania dairy

All that’s left of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Andy Bollinger’s farm Sept. 29 are the ruts in the fields from heavy rain and cars mucking through mud.

But it was all worth it. After all, the vice president was visiting.

“It was a nice night. A neat experience to be able to meet with the vice president,” says Bollinger, who co-owns Meadow Spring Farm outside Lititz, Pa., a 650-acre, 400-cow dairy.

Hundreds gathered on the farm in the afternoon and evening for a pre-debate rally featuring Pence and other local politicians and ag leaders. It was a chance of a lifetime for Bollinger and his family, but he had no idea why his farm was chosen over the hundreds of other local farms the vice president could have gone to.

In fact, he only found out on the day of the visit who suggested his farm. It was his local ag lender, who also is politically active.

“I didn’t know that I was on the list,” he says.

It was only 12 days ago that Bollinger and his wife received a call from the White House asking him to host the vice president on the same night of the first presidential debate. Bollinger says his wife couldn’t believe it; she thought she was being scammed. So, she hung up the phone.

Thankfully, White House staffers called back, and after convincing Bollinger that the request was legitimate, he said yes.

“We’re enjoying telling the story now,” he says. “I believe they wanted this area, and they wanted a family farm, so we felt honored to be picked.”

Getting farm ready

Thankfully, silage chopping was already wrapped up by the time he and his family got the call to host the rally. A week earlier, he says, and they probably would have turned the offer down, but the timing turned out right.

But farm work, especially during harvest, never ends. Bollinger and his employees pushed to get all their manure hauled and spread on local fields, and they made their fifth cutting of alfalfa Sept. 24. The only thing left was to plant winter rye. They used their own drill and rented another drill from a nearby implement dealer and planted 250 acres on Sept. 26 and Sept. 28. They finished at around 10 a.m. on the day of the rally.

He and his employees also helped line up local vendors for equipment needs for the event. And the Secret Service did a lot of vetting of Bollinger and everyone involved in the farm.

“I knew it was going to be intense, and it was,” he says. “It was two or three of the most intense days leading up to it, but it was fun.”

‘It’s Mike and Karen’

Just before Pence took the stage, Bollinger says he got the chance to meet with the vice president for about 10 minutes. They talked a little about farming, although much of their conservation was about their families.

“He was very personable. He told me, ‘It’s Mike and Karen,’” he says.

“I don’t know if I would’ve done it for someone not holding office,” he adds. “I thought from the perspective of having the vice president here on my farm … was too good of a thing to pass up.”

 

 

 

 

 

flying-drone-over-green-wheat-GettyImages-537635746 (003).jpg valio84sl / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Young farmer combines technologies to boost yields, lower costs

As both a young farmer and software engineer, Andrew Nelson of Farmington, Wash., is well suited to bring new technology such as drones and sensors to his family farm to reduce input costs and improve efficiency.

In fact, Nelson, a fifth-generation farmer who produces wheat, beans, peas and lentils on 8,500 acres in the Palouse region of eastern Washington, close to the Idaho border, is convinced this new technology is the key to precision agriculture and profitability.

In a virtual forum presented by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center Sept. 16 on using technology to improve plant health, Nelson stressed the key to success for farmers is to combine all of the technology from drones to sensors, to computer software to satellite imagery into one package to boost yields and lower production costs.

Nelson is a first adapter of the new technology and stresses that it does help him improve efficiency and make better management decisions. He says he combines the technology to get a better, holistic view of the entire farm.

Drone sprayer

“I am able to do a drone flight of my field and identify where there are grassy weed issues, and I’m able to send my drone sprayer and spray just those areas where there are issues,” Nelson said in the virtual forum.

In the past, he had to broadcast spray an entire 200-acre field, but with drones he is able to cut sprays down to 18 to 25-acre spots where there actually are grassy weeds. “That’s one of the things I think we are going to get better and better at is being able to take those scenarios and have the feedback loop coming to farmers much, much faster. I think that’s going to help us in improving yields and making us more sustainable, using less chemicals and managing  our farm in a very precision ag way,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the biggest economic gain of the drone and sensor technology is cost savings from reduced chemical usage because it allows you to see where the weeds are and spray only where the weeds are. Still, Nelson says there will be a need for residual herbicides to control weeds across an entire field.

Nelson noted that his most expensive chemicals don’t have residuals and that’s where he’s achieving the biggest savings with the technology. He uses mapping data and historical drone images from multiple years to help guide his decisions in where to apply herbicides in a more precise way.

“Last year, I can say for certain the reason I had profit is because I was able to selectively apply some of my chemicals. The amount of money I saved on that is nearly exactly the same amount of my profit that year,” Nelson said.

Information to knowledge

Ron Heiniger, Extension cropping systems specialist at North Carolina State University, says a challenge of the new technology has been turning sensor-based information into knowledge that farmers can actually use. He says progress is being made in using drones or unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs and sensors to track disease development and making spray decisions.

“I do think in the next five years it’s going to be that integration and return of knowledge for the grower that will make the biggest progress,” Heiniger said.

Doug Farrington, regional digital officer for BASF Agricultural Products, North America based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., said the new technology has created a world of specialists, ranging from software engineers to data architects to data scientists. Farrington said add in machine learning and artificial intelligence plus precision ag specialists as well as pathologists specializing in a specific crop and diseases, and you often have information overload.

“We’ve created all these specialists, but who’s going to connect all the dots? Where did the idea of the generalist go? No doubt there’s going to be a need for these specialty areas, but there’s also going to be a need for somebody who can put it all together and understand the impact of some of the solutions,” Farrington said in the forum.

Plants Talk

Ralph Dean, William Neal Reynolds professor of plant pathology and director of Center for Integrated Fungal Research, emphasized that the plant will tell you everything you need to know.

“If you can get inside the head of that plant, so to speak, you’re going to have a pretty good idea of what is going on for ag production. We’re going to have self-reporting plants. We’re going to have plants that are going to be able to tell you what ails them, what their problems are. Using that information, we can hopefully intervene to be able to solve that problem,” Dean said at the forum.

“Plants do talk. They do have a language. They have words. Those words are metabolites. We can detect those different chemicals in different ways. We use drones. We use aerial imaging to actually look at the spectral changes. We can detect other biochemical pathways through various molecular approaches,” he said.

Dean said there are already sensors that can be applied to plant surfaces to read physiological and chemical signals. He said there are electrical physiology signals coming from the plant that can be monitored.

“I think it’s not science fiction that within 20 years we will have self-reporting plants that will actually tell us what is going on in the field: Information about drought tolerance, stress, even potentially the type of pathogen that’s being infected,” he said.

9swfp-shelley-huguley-tppa-19-ron-smith.JPG Shelley Huguley
Ron Smith takes notes during a Texas Plant Protection Association meeting. Ron and his retired colleagues set a good example for ag journalism.

Stepping into some very large shoes

A bit before the Covid crisis hit, I was asked if I might consider taking over as editor for Delta Farm Press when Ron Smith retired. I said I would have to think about it.

It really didn’t take much longer than three seconds to decide, but I had to make sure I really wanted to do it. My biggest barrier was coming in behind some of the guys in ag journalism I had really come to respect the most.

It’s nice to believe one can fall into the footsteps of those you respect, but often the successors fall short of expectations. Somewhere in the back of my head was the voice of Lloyd Bentsen saying, “Boy, you’re no Hembree Brandon (reference the 1988 vice presidential debates)."

One of my biggest career disappointments was not being able to have Hembree walk me through taking over his position as content director for Farm Press. He passed away unexpectedly within days of coming on board, before I could glean from his years of experience. It was supposed to be a transition that took several months.

For years I watched him take notes and pictures as he interviewed subjects when I worked for the cotton industry. I was fascinated by his low-key approach. He was unobtrusive but got every word. His prose was fluid and smart. He seemed to write with ease.

I read, observed and respected Ron Smith — who ultimately brought me on board with Farm Press — and Forrest Laws. I worked for cotton and had the opportunity to push cotton growers in their direction if there was a story to tell. I would watch unobserved as Brandon, Smith or Laws asked them questions and eventually put together great articles.

None of them feared asking the hard questions yet seemed to enjoy the encounter. You could tell each of them loved their jobs.

One of my greatest memories has been spending time with former Western Farm Press editor, Harry Cline, while he talked about his days writing for an Arizona daily. As I listened, I shook my head wishing I could have lived his adventure, writing stories on Arizona mafia and illegal border crossings. He brought that aesthetic to his Farm Press work. Cary Blake was another Farm Press guy from the West who I loved to read — even-toned and always a good article.

It was with all this in mind that I questioned whether I even wanted to try to fill those shoes. I don’t intend to fill them. I only hope to bring a perspective to the position that I believe is helpful.

I have a true interest in telling the story of agriculture. It needs to be told now more than ever. With help from writers Alaina Dismukes, Ginger Rowsey, and our current freelancers, Ron Smith and Forrest Laws, I intend to keep that going.