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Articles from 2009 In October

Wet Weather Continues To Hinder Iowa Harvest

Wet Weather Continues To Hinder Iowa Harvest

The soggy, delayed harvest of 2009 is causing serious grain quality problems. And as the calendar flips into November, farmers in Iowa are becoming more concerned about not being able to get all of the big 2009 corn and soybean crop harvested and dried down this fall. This is the latest harvest in 42 years in Iowa, according to Harry Hillaker, state climatologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

"We have carry in the market, as the deferred prices are higher, making it worthwhile to store grain this fall and sell it later," says Scott Schmidt, who farms near Grinnell in east central Iowa. "But stored grain doesn't keep very well if it's wet and this fall both corn and beans are quite wet. It's going to cost a lot to get the grain dry enough to store. Of course, you have to get it out of the field first."

Soybeans especially vulnerable to bad weather

In Iowa, October 2009 rainfall is totaling to around four times greater than normal for the month.

Farmer Scott Schmidt (right) of Grinnell and Travis Juhl of New Century FS discuss grain drying options. Iowa's 2009 corn crop is yielding well, but it is quite wet and is requiring extra drying

On Tuesday this week, Schmidt was able to get back into the field—after a five day break due to wet weather. Before Tuesday Schmidt had only been able to harvest 40 acres of his 600 acre corn crop. He's only been able to harvest 250 acres of beans—about half of his soybean acres.

Rains returned Thursday to bring the combine to a halt again. "You worry about harvest delays because the longer the crop stays in the field, the more vulnerable it becomes—especially soybeans," says Schmidt. "Our corn is standing really well, so far. I'm getting more worried about the beans."

High yields, high moisture, lower test weights

The yield monitor in his combine on Tuesday showed corn hitting 210 to 250 bushels per acre. Some places in the field were up to 270 to 280 bushels, at only 22% moisture. "Our yields are good on both corn and soybeans," he says. "It's frustrating not being able to get them harvested."

Schmidt has also harvested some higher moisture corn at 25% to 27% moisture content—which is fairly common in Iowa this fall. Elevators want corn at 15% so they're charging more for drying wet corn and the shrink discount has gone up.

Ethanol plants generally aren't taking corn that's more than 15% to 17% moisture content. Also, like other farmers in Iowa, Schmidt has test weights that are running lower than normal. Some corn in eastern Iowa was killed by frost before it was completely mature and the test weight on that corn is only 50 lbs. or less in some cases. Normally, corn has a test weight of 54 to 56 pounds per bushel. This fall, elevators and ethanol plants are docking the price on corn that's coming in at less than 54 lbs. per bushel.

What would snow do to beans still in the field?

Moving into November the concern now is the possibility of snow. "How much damage snow does to soybeans at harvest would depend on how long you have snow on the crop," says Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension soybean agronomist. "Lucky for us today, I don't see any snow in the immediate weather forecast for Iowa. And it looks like there's no more precipitation coming into Iowa for another week, hopefully."

"I know it seems horrible out there right now and I'm very frustrated about it as well. But I think we will be ok—I think Iowa farmers can get the soybean crop harvested. I still have some soybean plots to harvest," says Pedersen.

If farmers can get dry weather next week when they go back to harvesting soybeans, will they find that the beans are more likely to shatter during harvesting?

Corn can stand - make bean harvest top priority

"Beans have been standing in the field for so long now that they are close to shattering," says Pedersen. "As soon as you can get into the field and harvest your beans—do it! Beans should be your top priority, particularly with your early planted beans and the shorter maturity groups. Those are the fields you need to harvest first."

Will beans dry down on their own in the field? Will they get drier if Iowa has a week of good weather? Or should you harvest them wet and dry them in a bin with air, or run them through a high temperature grain dryer?

Pedersen says there's no doubt beans would dry down in the field, but he is cautious. "If you are waiting for beans to get down to a normal 13% moisture content in the field, I think it will be tough to get that--because of the short days we have now, and the temperature isn't going to be high enough during the day to do much drying. Also, we have so much moisture in the ground. Moisture is coming up into the beans every night in the fields."

Beans can be stored at 14% to 15% moisture

Pedersen adds, "The weather will have to get drier before we see beans down to 13% and that's hard to do this late in the year—once you're in late October and into November. But with dry weather and sun, we can get beans back down to 14% to 15% again. While 13% moisture content or below is preferred, you can store beans at 14% to 15% safely through winter—if you cool them down with aeration immediately when they go into the bin and keep a close eye on them by checking the stored grain at least once every two weeks."

The other day Pedersen was combining before the rain came. "We started out at 18% moisture beans at mid-day and by night the moisture content of the beans was down to 13%," he says. "Bean moisture can move down very fast. But the big thing now is the wetness of the ground. Can we get it to dry up enough so we can get into the fields with the harvesting equipment?"

Check With Crop Insurance People If You See Mold On Your Corn

Check With Crop Insurance People If You See Mold On Your Corn

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is urging growers who suspect they may have grain quality problems caused by this fall's adverse weather conditions to consult now with their crop insurance providers. Some farmers are filing claims already based on the amount of mold they are seeing on ears in their cornfields.

In addition to a delayed harvest, extremely high moisture corn and wet weather are encouraging the growth of molds which can seriously affect grain quality, leading to price penalties and additional storage and handling concerns.

"Crop quality losses due to excessive moisture may be covered under your crop insurance agreement in certain circumstances," says Don Mason, director of grower services for ICGA. "But growers are encouraged to talk to their crop insurance representatives prior to harvesting any damaged grain to determine if there is indeed coverage, and if so, what harvest and reporting procedures need to be followed."

Iowa farmers facing very difficult harvest conditions

While recognizing that localized grain quality issues can indeed cause serious losses for the farmers affected, Mason says ICGA and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board are continuing to work on the behalf of growers to assure the users and buyers of Iowa corn that Iowa farmers will this year once again harvest an adequate supply of good quality corn to meet users' needs.

Tim Recker farms near Arlington in northeast Iowa, one of the most challenging areas affected by this fall's delayed harvest. "We're doing our best to keep the attitude positive. We're going to get this crop harvested eventually," says the Fayette County farmer, and past president of ICGA.

This year is especially difficult because it's one of the largest crops Iowa has ever had. "It's a year of firsts for us," he says. "It's the first year I've ever combined 16% to 18% moisture soybeans, and the first year I've combined such high moisture corn. So far, all the corn I've harvested is running between 26% and 30% moisture. The higher moisture and the quality issues require a different approach to drying and grain management. It's challenging."

Mold showing up on ears in many northeast Iowa fields

Another "interesting thing" Recker found a few days ago in his fields is there is quite a bit of mold growing on the kernels when you open the ears. "That has me a little concerned," says Recker.

"We always get the corn harvested--but I'm really worried about soybeans now. There are a lot of beans in the field yet here in northeast Iowa," he adds. "When we get snow it usually hangs around for awhile. I'm concerned about being able to harvest our soybeans and get them in the bin."

The morning of Thursday October 29 Recker harvested corn for two hours before rain shut him down. "The attitude of farmers around here a week ago was to concentrate on harvesting soybeans and try to make sure we get those in the bin," he says. "Beans are the crop you run a greater risk of losing in the field if it snows."

Work on whatever crop you can get in to harvest

He adds, "I don't think we'd be lucky enough to have snow melt so that we could go out a week later and harvest the beans. Usually when we get snow here in northeast Iowa it'll flatten the beans. Or pods will pop open and we get a lot of yield loss from shattering. There are several things that could happen with this year's bean crop."

Now the attitude among farmers is "Go." When you can get in the field, take whatever crop you can get out, he says. If you can get into a corn field and your bean fields are still too muddy—then harvest some corn. Make sure your operation—is ready to go. Whether you need bigger augers or if you make some improvements on combines with the bubble up auger or slow down kits on the accelerator—these are things Recker sees farmers trying this fall. Grain carts are selling like hotcakes. You can save valuable time by unloading the combine on- the-go in the field—and not stopping to unload.

"We haven't had to worry much about some of these things in the past, such as grain quality," he says. "We're concerned about taking this very wet crop out of the field and putting it in bins. Corn is 25% moisture this fall versus 15% last fall. This wet crop means 10% more weight to haul. That's water weight we're hauling and we're not used to dumping so much water into our grain drying system."

Heavy price discounts by grain buyers this fall

Elevators and ethanol plants are slapping on big discounts for high moisture, low test weight grain. Increased charges for shrink are also being subtracted from the price farmers are receiving for corn and beans.

"We're seeing big discounts for low test weight corn by the ethanol plants," says Recker. "We haven't had any problem with that in previous years."

Farmers are incurring discounts on soybeans, by 50 cents per bushel for beans over 14% or 15% moisture content. Some elevators and processors won't even take beans over 14% or 15% moisture. Complicating the wet soybean situation is the fact that the corn crop is also big and wet.

Big, wet crops competing for space at grain dryer

Both of the big wet crops are competing for space in grain dryers. "Many farmers don't have the drying equipment or drying system capacity to put beans in a bin and put air on them until they're dry enough for safe storage--or to run wet beans through a high temperature grain dryer," he says. "So these farmers have had to move beans from the field to the elevator and take a hit on the price discounts."

"We have to get the crop off the field as quick as we can this fall, get it on a truck and either dry it on-farm or get it to a processor as soon as we can—price dock or not," says Recker. "I'm also concerned about the quality of this year's crops, and what it's going to be like after we store them for any amount of time."

New Cellulosic Ethanol Projects = New Jobs

My small town has lost a few businesses recently. I’m sure you’ve seen the same in your towns. The picture has been pretty bleak in many rural areas around the country in recent years. That’s why it’s encouraging to learn that some of the new cellulosic ethanol projects being planned could create new jobs in areas where new jobs are sorely needed.

The December edition of Farm Industry News will publish an update on where some of the leading cellulosic ethanol projects are at in the demonstration and commercialization stage.

By the end of this year, DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) expects to begin producing cellulosic ethanol at a 250,000-gallon demonstration biorefinery in Vonore, TN. DDCE is a 50/50 joint venture that was formed in 2008 by DuPont and Danisco A/S.

DDCE will take what it learns from the Vonore plant and apply it to a commercial size facility, which it plans to build in the Midwest and start production in 2012. It is currently evaluating five or six different sites and expects to select the site by the end of this year. This facility will be co-located with a corn ethanol plant.

DDCE also plans to build a commercial plant in Tennessee, which would produce 15 million gallons of ethanol per year from switchgrass. This would create new markets for area farmers since the plant would require delivery from about 25,000 to 30,000 acres of switchgrass. Such a new industry would create new jobs in a state that needs them. Tennessee currently suffers from a nearly 11 percent unemployment rate.

Just how many jobs could be created? One company projects that a plant producing 15 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from dedicated energy crop feedstocks could create 190 permanent jobs and 200 temporary jobs (e.g., construction jobs). A plant that produced 50 million gallons per year could create nearly 400 permanent jobs and 500 temporary positions. The numbers increase as capacity grows, and these numbers don’t even take into account local businesses (e.g., retail stores, restaurants) that would greatly benefit from having a large employer near town

Range Fuels is another example of what could become a large employer in a rural area. It is building a cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Ga. Construction of this central Georgia biorefinery is currently 50 percent complete and production is expected to begin by the second quarter of 2010.

The plant will begin by producing less than 10 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels per year, but it could be scaled up to produce as much as 100 million gallons per year. Between construction jobs, biorefinery jobs, biomass handling, distribution, logistics, maintenance and more, the new biorefinery could employ more than 500 people.

The Range Fuels plant will begin by using woody biomass. But, its process could also utilize corn stover, switchgrass, municipal solid waste and other feedstocks—providing producers new market opportunities in the future.

I’ve written about the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in this blog before, and just wanted to draw your attention to a new listing of qualified biomass conversion facilities. If you have biomass to sell or are thinking about the possibility, you might want to contact the firms on this list. They are located all over the country. Visit and click on the Facility Listing #14. Many of the facilities are power companies, lumber companies and so on, but I imagine we will see more cellulosic ethanol facilities as time goes on.

Cellulosic ethanol still has some hurdles to clear to bring production costs in line with gasoline. But, several companies have been working very hard to do this and are making good progress. I’m optimistic that this progress will translate into new jobs in communities that really need it.

One More Time: Relying on Foreign Supplies Is Not Good

As the H1N1 pandemic spreads and health care providers wait for shipments of vaccine, America is getting yet another wake up call that relying on foreign suppliers just isn't the best idea.

Here we sit embroiled in debate on reforming health care while a wide swath of the public succumbs to pandemic flu. The vaccine that was supposed to be in plentiful supply early enough to ward off the worst is delayed in France, where it appears there just aren't enough hen eggs to go around.

Never mind the pitiful lameness of the excuse. The bottom line is that someday this country has to wake up and realize that when it comes to making sure that America has the products America needs, we need to do it ourselves.

That means energy. And food. And technology. And weapons. And medical supplies.

It doesn't do any good to put out a year's worth of warnings about a coming deadly contagion if you hand over your ability to manage the crisis to a third party over whom you have no jurisdiction.

Biotech Tools Receive Approval

Biotech Tools Receive Approval

Every step toward biotech approval in the tough European market is good news, and Monsanto announced positive information Friday.

The company's YieldGard VT Pro and YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 have received European authorization. The decision covers the import, processing and food and feed use of these products. The final step in this process comes with publication of the decision by the European Commission.

The approvals follow the European Food Safety Authority's positive comments on the safety of the products, released in December 2008 for YieldGard VT Pro and in April 2009 for YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2.

These approvals will allow North American farmers market access for these products. In a press statement, Jerry Hjelle, Monsanto's vice president global regulatory, welcomed "the Commission's decision to follow the independent scientific advice of the European Food Safety Authority...We hope for timely EU approvals for other existing and pipeline products.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Molds and Mycotoxins Show Up In Corn

Record October rainfall plus cool weather has increased risk for mold development in corn, and telephone calls to the University of Illinois (U of I) have increased with questions from producers on how to best deal with this risk.

Moldy corn reduces bushel weight, corn quality and nutrient content and increases the risk of mycotoxin formation.

“Mycotoxins are toxic substances produced by fungi or molds that grow on grain or feed in the field or in storage. Mycotoxins associated with cool and wet conditions are zearalenone, T-2 toxin, umonisin and deoxynivalenol, also called DON or vomitoxin,” says Mike Hutjens, U of I Extension dairy specialist.

Aflatoxin is another toxin but is associated with hot weather and drought stress conditions, so it has not been a problem this year.

“Signs of mycotoxin in dairy cattle include rumen disorders and reduced microbial digestion, loose fecal discharges, reduced dry matter intake, decline in fertility, hormonal-like changes such as udder development and fertility, and immune suppression where cattle do not respond to disease challenges,” Hutjens said.

The following are mycotoxin risk levels for dairy cattle, expressed on a total ration, dry-matter basis.

DON (vomitoxin); less than 5-6 parts per million (ppm)
Fumonisin; less than 25 ppm
T-2 toxin; less than 100-200 parts per billion (ppb)
Zearfalenone; less than 300 ppb
Aflatoxin; less than 20 ppb

“Dilution of contaminated feed with clean feed can reduce mycotoxins to acceptable levels, but be forewarned: contaminated feed can vary greatly in concentration,” Hutjens says.

If you are concerned that mold risks could be a problem, the first recommendation is to test the feed. Tests can be expensive and sampling and feed variation can reduce the usefulness of the results.

“Adding a mycotoxin binder can reduce the impact of toxins by reducing their impact in the digestive tract and/or not absorbed. Binders include yeast cell wall extracts or MOS products and clay binders,” Hutjens said.

High-moisture corn could increase the risk of addition mold grow until the pH of the fermented corn drops. But drying corn below 15% moisture stops further toxin development.

“Adding a grain inoculant to speed up fermentation and stabilize the wet corn is recommended. And steers can tolerate higher levels of problematic feed than young animals and pregnant cattle,” Hutjens says.

Removing fines, damaged seeds and cracked corn kernels can reduce toxin risk. And the reverse is that, if you purchase corn screenings, you can expect higher levels of mycotoxins.

“Also, distillers’ grain produced from ethanol production can concentrate the level of toxins in the feed,” Hutjens says.

Finally, adding propionic acid at the time of ensiling can reduce mold development in wet corn.
Unprecedented Rainfall Continues

Unprecedented Rainfall Continues

Farm Futures Market Analyst Arlan Suderman says that the 200-400% above normal rainfall in many areas is causing some problems with mycotoxin in corn. Coupling that with yield loss and test weight could decrease the crop by six to eight bushels an acre, which would tighten the balance sheets significantly.

Heavy-duty grapple rake from Precision Manufacturing

Heavy-duty grapple rake from Precision Manufacturing

Shawnee, Kansas, October 29, 2009 – The new Heavy Duty Grapple Rake from Precision Manufacturing is available in 72” and 85” widths. It has the following features:

* Subsoil points
* 6” spacing of tines
* Extra-wide 70” opening
* Single or double grapples

For more information, contact Precision Manufacturing, 5734 Barton Ave., Shawnee, KS 66203, 913/362-9244, ext. 101,

Markets Give up Gains in End-of-the-Month Moves

Markets Give up Gains in End-of-the-Month Moves

Talk about two-steps forward and a bunch of steps back, that's how the market feels today and John Jenkinsen and Arlan Suderman talk about what's going on in today's audio conversation. Just click on the "play" button in the audio tool and listen in on today's conversation.