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Articles from 2014 In October

Shasta Lake fell to nearrecord lake levels in the summer of 2014
<p>Earlier this summer a marina at Shasta Lake when the water level was down about 150 feet in elevation.</p>

Is urban water district prematurely counting rain drops?

We know from last year’s winter weather in California not to get cocky and expect miracles.

The lens of history is clear: Mother Nature is fickle.

Halloween was just days away and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) was asking in a perceived hopeful tone on Twitter: “Has winter arrived in NorCal?”

The question came ahead of a forecasted winter storm and reports from a week earlier of rain, snow and chain controls on trans-Sierra highways.

Memo to MWD: We’re a long way off from thinking this drought thing is behind us, so let’s not start counting our chickens just yet.

MWD certainly has reason to hope, as do the rest of us that water year 2014-15 is not a repeat of the previous water year, and that ample rain and snow returns to California.

According to MWD’s website, reserve water levels in southern California are abysmally low. Welcome to the club! It’s not any better in the rest of the state.

Official figures show that Shasta Lake, the kingpin of the federal Central Valley Project, saw its first bump in storage in a very long time. After falling to within a breath of one million acre feet of total storage on Oct. 23, it appears a little runoff found the pond and bumped total storage to 1.1 million acre feet two days later.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, which runs Shasta Dam and controls outflow into the Sacramento River, a little over 12,000 acre feet of storage was added in the late October storms.

While we’ll take it, the next two days saw reservoir levels give up almost half those gains.

For those of you who may not know, MWD is the gatekeeper of southern California’s water. It’s a consortium of 26 cities and water districts that provide drinking water to nearly 19 million people in six counties.

Their thirst for water is relentless though to their credit, the district not only made significant strides in the past 20 years to update infrastructure and find new ways to reuse water, but they did what Sacramento lawmakers have failed to do for decades: build more surface storage.

Some of MWD’s water comes from northern California via the State Water Project, so there’s little wonder in their interest in northern California storms.

While Shasta Lake may escape its all-time low of about 587,000 acre feet of storage that happened in the summer of 1977, it’s way too early to tell. Two storms do not a winter make.

Water conditions throughout the rest of the West are abysmal as well.

The big western lakes of Shasta, Oroville, Mead and Powell are shadows of their former self. All the water remaining in the first three would be sufficient to top off the fourth under current conditions.

That’s not good.

While hope is not a bad thing I’d encourage California’s southern residents not to bank on their northern California water supplies just yet.

Execute in the soybean market; reduce additional risk on the rally

Execute in the soybean market; reduce additional risk on the rally

Soybeans continue their mysterious ways and are once again trading higher. Technical traders seem to believe the JAN15 contract has nearby support in the $9.95-10.00 range, while nearby resistance now appears to be in the $10.60-10.75 range. Obviously, the South American weather remains a wild card, but from everything I've been hearing, the conditions (moisture) have certainly improved. Keep in mind however, this doesn't change the fact planting has been backed up in several key Brazilian locations and will place more (late-season) demand on U.S. exporters.

In addition to the potential increase in U.S. exports (1-2MMTs), there is also talk that U.S. domestic demand may need to be raised higher. Net-net we now have thoughts that demand is moving higher and increasing questions being raised about U.S. logistics. As for U.S. production, the harvest should move closer to 90% complete by next week and there will remain little doubt in regards to supply. I just think the trade is already assuming an additional jump in yield, closer to 48 or 49  bushels per acre, so it doesn't seem as if we are trading production headlines any longer.

There does however continue to be talk of quality concerns in U.S. soybeans. Meaning, there might be a bit of a protein shortfall because of the heavy moisture (creating more oil than meal). An even bigger question then seems to be if, where, and when will we be importing meal from South America?  I continue to hear rumors there might be a few cargoes currently headed to the southeastern part of the U.S., but I still have no confirmation. 

As a producer I continue to believe "best-of-practice" is to reduce additional risk on the rally.  I now have 100% of our 2014 production priced and will be exclusively looking for ways to improve my basis levels or re-own existing sales in the weeks ahead. This is when we have to remember it's ALL about EXECUTION.  All of your reading, studying of the markets, planning and strategizing is for not if you can't execute. 

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Execution tips

Execute (ex·e·cute): carry out or put into effect (plan, order, or course of action).

I tell my kids all the time, "it's all about execution." I've heard many famous coaches and players say, "our plan was perfect...but we simply failed to execute." Remember, Google didn’t invent search; Facebook didn’t invent social networking; and Apple didn’t invent the portable music player, they simple took these concepts improved the process, then executed better than everyone else. Here are a few more things I've learned about the subject: 

  • Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything. Its tiring to hear people say they had a great "idea."  I tell my kids, everybody has great ideas, but it takes a special person to follow through, commit and execute. In fact, often times there are many people with the same great idea, but generally only one takes action and executes. 
  • "Show me." I'm from the state of Missouri. In other words, talk is cheap. Success is clearly defined by those who can implement their plans. I struggle with this myself. I can't stick to a diet plan to save my life. I've had several successful plans. Obviously it is extremely poor execution.   
  • Execution is hard work and very few want to do the heavy lifting. Too many people want others to do the hard work for them. They revel in their seats as they pontificate about the great things that can be achieved with their ideas or second-hand arm chair quarterbacking.
  • Passion is insanely important. I've always told the kids that passion is one of the most important secrets of life. Even if we follow all our desires and our passions, we still need to have deep passion with incredible follow-through to execute. I know it's not easy, but we have to execute! 
Corn+Soybean Digest
Guided cornstalk nitrate testing told Art Gudas Kewanna Ind that his present nitrogen rate of 175 lbsacre was right on the money Aerial imagery identifies key sampling spots for meaningful results
<p>Guided cornstalk nitrate testing told Art Gudas, Kewanna, Ind., that his present nitrogen rate of 175 lbs./acre was right on the money. Aerial imagery identifies key sampling spots for <span style="font-size: 13px;">meaningful results.</span></p>

Cornstalk nitrate test reveals nitrogen application accuracy

Guided cornstalk nitrate testing has been peace of mind, and wallet, for Art Gudas. It told the Indiana grower that his 175 pounds per acre nitrogen (N) rate was right on the money these past two years. He’d considered bumping up his nitrogen rate before two years’ tests told him otherwise.

How many farmers feel that nitrogen application rates are a guessing game, since you don’t know the season’s rainfall forecast? Cornstalk nitrate testing tells you whether you applied enough nitrogen this year, based on cornstalk samples’ nitrate levels at black layer stage. Aerial imagery (NDVI and IR) identifies three typical areas and one area that appears to be nitrogen-deficient.

75% N as sidedress

Gudas applied 15% of his nitrogen as spring preplant, 10% as 10-34-0 starter in-furrow, and 75% as June sidedress.

The Indiana State Department of Agriculture offered this guided cornstalk nitrate test in 2013 for no cost through his county soil and water conservation district. He tested stalks from two fields side by side, comparing conventionally tilled fields with no-till fields and cover crops. “I learned they were both just fine at present nitrogen levels,” Gudas says. (The cover cropped fields yielded 15-20 bushels more, but received identical nitrogen levels.)

Winter grower meetings show farmers’ results anonymously so they can compare their rate with others and consult experts to fine tune test interpretations. Gudas used a lower rate (but sufficient for his crop) than most last year.


Context is everything

Most of his nitrate-N levels were in the optimal range (450-2,000 ppm), ranging from 862 to 1950 ppm. In Pulaski County, one farmer had a high of 6,480 ppm, and the lowest was 51 ppm. The group setting (an Indiana On-Farm Network meeting) provides farmers context for their score. And, agronomists have context for that particular growing season, so that they can tailor future nitrogen recommendations by weather and precipitation based on what they saw this particular year under these particular conditions.

Gudas is one of 265 Indiana growers in the Indiana On-Farm Network’s adaptive nutrient management program, enabling farmers to assess or upgrade their nutrient practices voluntarily. The group aims to reduce its environmental footprint cost-effectively and sustainably with research on their own farms. They receive technical support to evaluate different agronomic practices.

Each test has its role

The cornstalk nitrate test is a snapshot of how close you came to applying the most cost-effective N rate, and no more. The sample sites are guided by aerial imagery, to include three representative areas and one nitrogen-deficient one.

Because weather largely defines a given year’s corn N needs, guided stalk sampling results vary with a season’s weather, but several years’ results are the best way to find your ideal nitrogen rate, says James Camberato, Purdue agronomy professor and Extension specialist.

Several years’ testing reflect various precipitation scenarios--a general idea of whether you’re close to the right nitrogen amount, says 

James Camberato, Purdue agronomy professor and Extension specialist. “The test is especially useful if you fall-apply manure or anhydrous ammonia, and/or spring-apply manure.” By contrast, “in-season tissue testing is good for identifying/confirming deficiency, but not for better defining the optimum application rate.

“The pre-sidedress nitrogen test is used when manure or perennial legumes are your nitrogen source. Unfortunately, it’s been shown to recommend nitrogen when it's not needed 33% of the time,” Camberato says.

Test details

Aerial imagery identifies nitrogen-deficient areas to test, along with three “typical” field areas that represent your farm for cornstalk nitrate testing. Tissue testing corn stalks at the end of the growing season measures what the plants actually used, rather than what was available in the soil. After a few years of these checkups, patterns emerge to guide future nitrogen-rate decisions.

For the stalk tests to be standardized year to year, stalk samples should be 8 inches long, taken 6-14 inches above ground. Cut 10 individual stalks per selected sampling area. 

Grains Council: EU Biotech Approvals Will Continue to be Delayed

Grains Council: EU Biotech Approvals Will Continue to be Delayed

Eight long-delayed biotech traits awaiting approval by the European Commission will likely have to continue to wait as a new set of commissioners takes the reins starting Nov. 1, the U.S. Grains Council said last week.

Related: International Corn Groups Meet with EU Representatives on Biotech

The Oct. 21 and Oct. 29 meetings of the College of Commissioners were the last scheduled opportunities to take action on biotech approvals before the transition, USGC said. The issue now moves to the incoming commissioners.

New European Commission representatives took office over the weekend, also taking on issue of biotech approvals

"This is, once again, a disappointing failure of the European Union to live up to its own statutory requirements, World Trade Organization commitments and policy guidelines," said Floyd Gaibler, USGC director of trade policy.

"On paper, the EU is committed to a science based process with transparent standards and a reasonable timetable. In practice, the EU process is politically driven. This hurts U.S. farmers and traders, European livestock producers and of course European consumers, who are the biggest losers."

European feed and livestock producers have estimated that consumers in the EU may pay as much as 5 billion euros annually in higher costs because of EU's continual delays on biotech approvals, USGC said. Those costs come in the forms of imported feeds and higher meat imports, which are necessary because the European livestock industry is currently denied full access to imported feed grains.

The traits at issue are corn, soy, canola and cotton varieties that have already been found to be safe by the European Food Safety Authority, USGC said. Their approval is also supported by a coalition of EU livestock and farm groups.

Despite having passed scientific and safety reviews, some advocacy groups have generated political pressure to block approval, which the USGC says is on non-scientific grounds.

Related: Soybean Farmer Testifies for Streamlined Biotech Trade Policies

"The EU continues to let politics overrule the science," Gaibler said. "This is a key issue for the WTO, which found as long ago as 2006 that the EU's slow walking of approvals is a violation of existing WTO commitments. This is also an issue as we work to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Agreements on paper aren't worth much if contracting parties ignore their commitments, and if there is no enforcement."

While the new College of Commissioners could act on the approvals immediately, incoming President Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a review of biotechnology approval policies during his first six months in office.

It remains to be seen whether this review will become the excuse for further politically driven delays, USGC said.

Conservation Tillage Conference is in December

Conservation Tillage Conference is in December

The 10th annual Conservation Tillage Conference is Dec. 16-17, 2014, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo, ND.

This conference emphasizes proven farmer experience and applied science in conservation tillage. Learn how heavier, colder soils aren’t necessarily the challenge they’re made out to be. And, what have long-time no-tillers and reduced-tillage farmers learned that could spare you the same lessons?

Besides saving valuable soil resources, conservation tillage has been proven to save $25-45/acre in tillage costs. And that’s not including your time.

There will be sessions on a full range of topics, presented by several top-rated specialists.  There is also an experienced line-up of producers for the farmer’s panel, a favorite of past participants.

For more information about attending this event, please visit the NDSU Soil Health webpage. Eight CEU credits will be offered at the conference, as well.

George Delgado overlooks 800 acres of fallowed farmland
<p>Westside farmer George Delgado looks over 800 acres of fallowed farmland west of Firebaugh that used to grow melons and other crops. It sat idle in 2014 due in part to drought and because federal regulators failed to deliver irrigation water to Central Valley growers.</p>

Media mischaracterize Westside farmers over water

A recent L.A. Times article on Westlands Water District misses the full story and instead portrays Westside farmers as bad actors in their struggle to grow food.

The article begins by repeating the myth that agriculture uses three-quarters of the water in our state. A recent example of this by The Hamilton Project titled “Nine Economic Facts About Water in the United States” displayed a large graphic showing agriculture consuming 80 percent of California’s water.

In fact, the report included a footnote that echoed long-published information by the Department of Water Resources that on-farm use of developed water is only 41 percent when environmental water is taken into account. Why is it so hard for writers to admit that reality?

New technology pioneered on the San Joaquin Valley’s Westside proved that crops are able to flourish in soils where salinity levels might spell doom in other areas. The grasslands area encompasses about 100,000 acres that is flourishing with high value crops because farmers, government agencies and environmental organizations worked together to reduce problem drainage into the San Joaquin River. Even the EPA called the project “a success story.”

Surface water has been delivered through the federal Central Valley Project for decades and until the early 1990s it also served to halt the subsidence of lands due to groundwater overdraft. Government officials and the public recognized the importance of continuing farming in an area that produces a bounty of food.

Federal regulations that restrict water deliveries to Westside farms, when combined with drought conditions have forced farmers to increase groundwater pumping. The result is a return to periodic land subsidence in areas affected by the surface water restrictions.

In 1992 an Act of Congress (CVPIA) removed a million acre-feet of water from farmers each year and redirected it to environmental purposes. What Congress didn’t do at the time was find a solution to Westside drainage problems and the problem continues.

The failure of federal agencies to provide a statutorily mandated drainage service to the lands along the Westside is compromising valuable farmland. This obligation has multiple solutions. Some are more expensive than others and taxpayers deserve a cost effective solution to the problem. After all, they have a vested interest in their pocketbooks and the ability of the land to continue to produce food.


Monsanto Pledges $20 Million for Technology Center Advancements

Monsanto Pledges $20 Million for Technology Center Advancements

Monsanto this week reinforced its commitment to further improve the genetic potential of seeds by announcing a $20 million investment in integrated technology centers as part of its global breeding program.

These technology centers will utilize continuing advancements in data science, genomic breeding methods and predictive analytics to further enhance seeds, Monsanto said. This work will help farmers unlock untapped yield potential, the company added.

Related: Plant Breeding Has Been Critical To Soybean Yield Increases

Investment in integrated technology centers will improve plant breeding, Monsanto says

"We are at a unique inflection point in the evolution of plant breeding where data science and predictive analytics will help to unlock previously untapped potential of plant genetics," said Sam Eathington, Monsanto vice president of global plant breeding. "Monsanto is committed to continue to deliver new agricultural solutions through plant breeding so that farmers can keep up with the growing demands of food production in the face of population growth and climate change."

Related: Corn Breeders Search for New Inbreds to Make Improved Hybrids

The $20 million pledge will accelerate plant breeding research across integrated technology centers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota and Nebraska. These integrated technology centers will enable the company to combine some local operations, utilize new advancements and discoveries, as well as share best practices across crop research, Monsanto said.

"Advanced plant breeding techniques and the application of data science are key elements working together to contribute to a food-secure future. And we're scaling our breeding engine to develop products that help farmers around the world meet this challenge," Eathington said.

Source: Monsanto

Less than half of Californias delivered water goes to agriculture
<p>Millions of acres of irrigated farmland in California rely upon ample supplies of surface water delivered through various sources. California officials report that about 40 percent of the state&#39;s water demand comes from agriculture.</p>

California farmers use 40 percent of state's water

California farmers are often mischaracterized as using 80 percent of the state’s water supply, but that’s simply not true, based on numbers published by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

According to the DWR figures, farms account for 40.8 percent of California’s water demand according to the California Water Plan (Bulletin 160-13). The largest water user in California is the environment, using 50 percent of developed supply.

The amount of water dedicated to environmental purposes is on the rise and continues to be the largest water user in the state. At the same time, water going to farms and to meet domestic needs has declined over the past decade.

DWR lists amounts for both applied water and depletion. According to DWR depletion is water use that is not recoverable, such as water consumed through evapotranspiration, water flowing to salt sinks (saline aquifers or the ocean), or water otherwise not available as a source of supply for other uses.

Ten years ago urban water accounted for 10.3 percent of the state’s water use, or depletion. By 2010 urban use had declined to 8.9 percent.

Farms in 2004 used 43.2 percent, which declined to about 41 percent by 2010. Environmental water use (depletion) in 2004 was 46.5 percent of the supply. That’s water that was unavailable for other uses.

By 2010 environmental water use actually increased to just over 50 percent of the state’s supply. That’s not surprising considering the environmental regulations, such as the salmon and Delta smelt biological opinions that came to be in the middle of this time period.

Environmental water is often mischaracterized as simply being part of California’s natural system and therefore should not be counted. That is incorrect.

The state rightly accounts for all water uses including developed water set aside by laws and regulations for environmental uses. It is there because of the decisions we made to set it aside for environmental purposes.

No one can argue against sound environmental water policies. It is just a matter of fact that we account for environmental water as part of the state’s overall supply.


Kids Against Hunger, Indiana FFA and Colts Help Pack Meals

Kids Against Hunger, Indiana FFA and Colts Help Pack Meals

Indianapolis Colts player Cory Redding, Kids Against Hunger, and Indiana FFA all will team up on Nov. 18 to tackle hunger in local Indiana communities. Last year was a huge success and they are expecting nothing less this year.

Kids Against Hunger is a nonprofit food aid organization with the goal to reduce the number of starving children in the U.S. and throughout the world. Millions of highly nutritious, life-saving meals for hungry children and their families in the U.S. and developing countries are packaged and distributed annually.

While Kids Against Hunger is a global program, this time around the meals will stay in Indiana.

#farmsmatter: Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Soybean Alliance, Indiana FFA Chapters and the Colts will all work together to help more kids have at least one more nutritious meal.

Last season this program fed enough Indiana children to fill Lucas Oil Stadium. Sixty-five thousand Indiana children received a nutritious meal they might not have received otherwise.

The chapters that will be participating include: Franklin, Whiteland, Beech Grove, Twin Lakes, Benton Central, Shakamak, Crothersville, West Noble, Southwestern Shelby, Hoosier Hills, and Lewis Cass.

The FFA members will put together meals that contain long grain white rice, crushed soy, vegetables, and vitamin and mineral powder for a meal that is nutritious, high in protein, fills the stomach, and provides essential vitamins for life.

The meals offer all nine essential amino acids and only require boiling water to prepare.

What a great way to give back to their community!

The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

Indiana Farmers Harvesting Big Corn Crop in 2014

Indiana Farmers Harvesting Big Corn Crop in 2014

The signs of big corn yields are showing up across Indiana as farmers get deeper into corn harvest. Piles of grain are showing up, and elevator lines are reportedly the longest in some time. In fact, one farmer joked that he could sit in the combine cab and read two books, plus watch a movie while he was waiting on the next truck to get back so that he could unload.

Related: Mountains Don't Belong in the Grain Bin!

It's no wonder. Yield reports of field averages above 200 bushels per acre are common. Seeing 300 bushel and higher spikes on calibrated yield monitors is apparently quite common as well.

High moisture corn: Corn coming out of the field is still carrying reasonably high moisture levels.

One farmer with long rows says his biggest problem is making it across the field without running out of room. It's a problem if you're opening a field. It's also a challenge if you're running strip trials or test plots and don't want to unload onto an auger cart before you reach the end of the field.

One concern is that some corn still coming out of the field isn't all that dry. Moisture levels reported for corn coming out of the field in the past few days range from 18 to 28%.

If corn is coming out wet, be sure to dry it as quick as you can, says Klein Ileleji, Purdue University Extension grain handling specialist. He's concerned that farmers and elevator people who are searching for space don't take shortcuts in storage.

Related: Time to Prevent a Disaster in the Grain Bin

Make sure you have the ability to aerate grain wherever you're putting it, even if it's an outside pile of corn. Otherwise you may be disappointed with spoilage levels and frustrated at trying to remove large amounts of damaged corn when you unload the bin or empty the pile sometime later.

Aeration and drying corn to safe levels before you place it on a pile or in the bin will help prevent problems, he says.

Proper grain handling and storage can help you put more corn in the bin and more money in your pocket. Learn the best Grain Handling and Storage Tips in our new free report.