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Articles from 1999 In July

Corn+Soybean Digest

August 1, 1999

Wheat's up

Companies focus research efforts on developing new varieties, hybrids.

The introduction of new wheat products signals a regrowth in research and development for the small grain. For many seed companies, wheat sat on the back burner while research focused on corn and soybeans. But attention is shifting as companies look to sell products worldwide. Wheat is grown on more acres in the world than any other crop.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International just announced a new, scab-resistant winter wheat, representing one of the first disease-resistant wheat plants to be developed. A winter wheat variety with resistance to fusarium head blight, commonly known as head scab, will be available in limited quantities for planting this fall.

Monsanto has beefed up its wheat research. It recently announced that wheat technology research will reach $50 million globally this year. This represents one-sixth of Monsanto's annual $300 million agricultural research budget. Before, wheat research's share was behind corn and soybean projects.

"Wheat has lagged in investment," reports Maurice Foresman, Monsanto Plains research business director. Part of the problem has been the difficulty in genetically modifying the wheat plant. New techniques make this process easier, though. And wheat growers will be the beneficiaries of it.

Scab-resistant wheat. Pioneer's new scab-resistant wheat is a soft red winter variety named Pioneer 25R18. It was developed through traditional plant breeding methods. The resistance gene is incorporated in the company's high-yield potential lines. Pioneer only produces lines for the winter wheat market and will not have a spring variety available.

During the past 10 years, winter wheat growers have faced increased head scab problems, particularly growers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, according to Pioneer. More reduced and no-till acres are credited for the increase in scab problems. Crop residue left on the soil in these tillage methods provides a good medium for the fungus that causes scab to flourish. Pioneer reports that scab can cause a 20-50% yield loss and up to 25% loss in test weight.

Until now, few options existed for growers to halt the disease. One was not to plant wheat in reduced and no-till fields previously planted to corn. Another was to stagger flowering by planting several varieties of different maturities to reduce the spread of the disease.

Research targets. Monsanto is targeting several projects with its increased research budget. One project is wheat seed, with continued expansion of its hybrid wheat line, Quantum. No other company offers a hybrid wheat line, according to Brad Castanho, Monsanto wheat marketing manager.

Castanho says Monsanto released the first hard white winter wheat hybrid in the Pacific Northwest last year. During the past several years, the company has sold hard red winter wheat hybrids in the Great Plains and soft red winter wheat hybrids in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. The company has added hard white winter and soft red winter wheat hybrids with improved yield, agronomic and quality characteristics.

Looking to future development in seed, Monsanto is focusing on herbicide-tolerance, disease-protection and quality characteristics. Castanho says the company hopes to offer a Roundup Ready spring wheat line by 2004, with winter wheat to follow.

Monsanto also is working on a disease-protected line to head scab in both winter and spring wheat, with particular interest in the spring wheat market where the most chronic scab problems occur. Castanho reports the company also anticipates developing several traits such as a wheat that produces reduced-calorie flour.

Monsanto also beefed up its research in chemistries for wheat. As a result the company introduced its first wheat herbicide in the U.S. for more than a decade, called Maverick. (For more information, see story following.)

Danish lessons

New equipment from Northern Europe's largest farm show demonstrates differences in Danish farming.

his year marked the 25th anniversary of Agromek, Northern Europe's largest exhibition of farm machinery. More than 83,000 people from 64 countries attended the show to learn about new technology.

The show, held in Herning, Denmark, featured more than 1,100 brands of machinery and production aids from 600 exhibitors. Of those products, 189 were considered "new" (that's "nyhed" in Danish).

The products underscored some basic differences in the way Danes farm compared with the methods used by American farmers. First, farmers there are held to strict environmental and animal welfare laws, and many of the new products on display were designed to help them comply.

Second, costs in Denmark are much higher than in many other countries. As a result, its products encompass technologies that make production more efficient.

Here's a look at the latest equipment from across the Atlantic designed to meet those dual demands.

Livestock. In Denmark, there are four times as many pigs as people. About 21 million hogs are produced annually in this island country whose total area is about twice the size of Massachusetts. In comparison, Iowa produces 25 million hogs. Because of Denmark's high hog concentration, many of the new Danish products were geared to this market.

A new farrowing crate by Agro Products ApS is designed with animal welfare and efficiency in mind. It is built slightly wider than a conventional farrowing crate so the sow has room to walk around for better health. But a panel is placed in the middle of the pen to limit movement to one direction and prevent the sow from crushing the pigs. The design also limits where the sow eats and excretes for ease of management. Cost is 20% higher than the cost of a conventional crate. Contact Agro Products ApS, Dept. FIN, Brund Strandvej 7, DK-8700 Horsens, 45 75 68 25 22.

Unlike in the U.S., liquid feeding is common in Denmark. A new automatic feeder called the Tube-O-Mat 3-in-1 combines liquid and dry feeding through a unique trough that has three different compartments: one for dry feed, one for soaked feed and a third for clean water. "It gives pigs a choice in what they want to eat," says the manufacturer's sales consultant Peder Villadsen. The result is significantly higher growth rates during the first 14 days after weaning compared with rates achieved with a standard dry trough with drinkers at the side, according to tests conducted on 27,000 piglets. It was one of three "new item" exhibits to receive this year's Agromek Award for having the greatest practical importance for farmers. Suggested list price: approximately $240. Contact Faaborg, A/S L. Frandsen, Dept. FIN, L. Frandsensvej 4, DK-5600 Faaborg, 45 62 61 83 33.

Seeding. In Denmark, 63% of the land is devoted to crop production, predominately winter wheat and spring barley. Many of the drills used for planting these crops are equipped with cultivation equipment so you can seed and till in a single pass. This ability has recently become especially important because low grain prices have motivated farmers to reduce the number of field passes to cut costs.

A recent example is the Vaderstad Rapid-30 cultivator drill, owned by Kverneland. Its disc seeding system lets you drill in either plowed or unplowed ground, explains product manager Arne Skott-Christensen. "Discs cut into the soil and the depth wheel sets depth of the discs," he says. "So even when going from uneven to flat ground or from clay to sand, you still get the same depth."

The drill measures 10 ft. wide with three-point linkage and is part of the Rapid series, which also includes 13- and 26-ft. pull-type models. All are available with a new grass seed hopper to allow for the simultaneous seeding of grass and cereals. This feature is designed to help farmers comply wi th a recent law requiring 65% of farmland to be covered by green crops in winter to minimize nitrogen loss. Suggested list price: about $26,075.

Tractors. Tractors in Europe are typically equipped with front lifts with a PTO shaft in addition to the rear hitch and PTO typical in the states to allow the operation of two implements at once. Perhaps the ultimate example of this is the new Hydrema 900 Multipurpose Vehicle (MPV) with pivot steering. "You can have different tools in front and back of the machine and you can turn the seat and steer with the joystick and drive in the back position," explains Bruno Winther, Hydrema sales and marketing director.

Front and rear tool frames are designed as a hydraulic quick hitch on which farm implements and tools, including a telescopic loader, backhoe, crane, bucket or bale fork, can be interchanged in under 2 min., the company claims. The chassis pivots in the middle to keep the front and rear axles in contact with the ground during operation. A 121-hp, Perkins 4-cyl. turbo diesel engine powers the machine. A hydrostatic transmission lets you drive smoothly from 0 to 40 km/hr. List price without tools: around $100,920. Contact Hydrema A/S, Dept. FIN, GL. Kirkevej 16, DK-9530 Stovring, 45 98 37 13 33.

Spreaders. In Denmark and other countries, farmers are limited to how much fertilizer they can apply, whether natural or synthetic. Those who exceed their quota are subject to fines or penalties. Because of these restrictions, equipment is designed for precision application to ensure optimum use of fertilizer.

Kverneland's Rotaflow RS-EDW double disc spreader for granular fertilizer lets you electronically vary rates based on your field location. "It lets you use every drop of nitrogen to the maximum because not all areas of the field yield the same," says Kverneland's Skott-Christensen. "For example, you could put a higher rate on light soils or heavier rates on dark." Rates can be preprogrammed based on past yield or soil type. When you reach the maximum amount allowed for a field, a warning will appear on your monitor. The spreader is pre-fitted to accept a GPS system. Price is about $11,260, not including GPS system.

Another rule in Denmark is that fertilizers cannot be spread across field boundaries or over roads or waterways. That rule led Denmark-based Bogballe to develop a new system called Trend for its granular fertilizer spreaders that allows you to reverse the rotation of the spreading discs on the headlands. "It makes a sharp cut at the edge of a field," says Bogballe sales manager Per Thomassen. Once past the headland, you can switch back to normal spreading. The spreader was awarded this year's Agromek Award for best new fieldwork product. It can be hooked up to GPS to vary rates according to field location. Contact Bogballe, A.P. Laursen A/S, Dept. FIN, DK-7171 Uldum, 45 7589 3266.

Weed control. The government also places restrictions on the amount of chemicals farmers can use. To help growers stay within their legal limits and still control the weeds, Kverneland introduces a mechanical way to control weeds. The Einbock Weeder, made in Austria, consists of flimsy fingers that uproot weeds yet pass through the crop without disturbance. The tool can be used two to three times throughout a growing season, and on your last pass you can also seed grass through incorporated seed tubes. Price: around $9,510. Contact Kverneland (DK) A/S, Dept. FIN, Taarupstrandvej 25, 5300 Kerteminde, 45 65 32 49 32.

Finally, Hardi International offered a sneak peak of its new Commander S trailer sprayer scheduled to hit the North American market this year. It is a model upgrade of the high-clearance, single-axle Commander introduced last year. The added "S" stands for higher speed, made possible by spring suspension on the axle's center section. "We're bringing some of the single-axle design known in Europe to the U.S. and, in turn, bringing the high speeds of the U.S. to Europe," says Hardi sales andmarketing director Sten Kjelstrup. He says the typical operating speeds are 5 to 6 mph in Europe versus 10 to 12 mph in the U.S. The new suspension will provide more comfort and durability at those higher speeds. Contact Hardi Inc., Dept. FIN, 1500 W. 76th St., Davenport, IA 52806, 319/386-1730. (To view more products, visit

Hog association leader and producer offers inside look at farming in Denmark.

Jorgen Mark is the Danish chairman of the European Pig Producers, a club of 250 owners of large-scale pig operations in Northern Europe that represent the interests of European farmers. Mark also runs a 300-sow farrow-to-finish operation in Faarup, Denmark. He took time out from shopping for new milling equipment to talk with us about Danish farming.

"Americans pursue a low-cost strategy in pig production, whereas Europeans pursue high efficiency and must pay a premium, which means high costs," Mark says. "Our challenge is to keep higher efficiency but at a low cost."

Mark's farrow-to-finish operation produces about 7,500 pigs for slaughter each year. They are raised in climate-controlled buildings, and are finished to a weight of a little more than 200 lbs. Hogs are sold to the Danish Crown, one of the biggest slaughterhouses in Denmark. "We get 6 Kroner/kilo. Americans get half of that," Mark states.

Like most farmers in Denmark, Mark belongs to a farmer-owned co-op. The co-op is responsible for marketing the hogs for the best possible price.

Mark also farms 550 acres of cropland - above the 93-acre average in Denmark. His main crops are wheat and winter barley, used for feed. He also grows rapeseed, grass seed and peas, which he sells as cash crops.

Mark owns his own farm buildings, land and machinery and makes his own purchasing decisions. He has three full-time employees, which is more than most farmers in Denmark. "We pay good pig men a high salary." Minimum wage in Denmark is $14.50/hr.

Mark owns three tractors: a 76 series John Deere, an 11-year-old Fendt and an older tractor for small jobs. Straw is used to heat all buildings, including his house, which is common in Denmark.

The growing season runs from April to September/October. Mark plows and drills in September/October with a combination drill/harrow that can both prepare the soil and drill the seed. He recently bought a new Danish-built 2260 John Deere combine to harvest his crop.

"Americans will think we have more machinery than is needed because of the weather," Mark says. "We can have rain in a week during harvest, and then it is dry a few days, and then rain again. So we need more capacity."

As in the U.S., Denmark farmers are facing low hog and crop prices. Mark has cut down on pesticide and fertilizer to compete at lower grain prices. He also has diversified in businesses outside of agriculture. "I could not make it on hogs alone," Mark says. "But the market will recover, and we will be in business again. The profit will be less than it used to be because competition will be stronger."

Mastering a Master

Team FIN farmer test drives an Italion-made Hurlimann tractor.

Hurlimann tractors are not just for European farmers anymore. The Hurlimann line - born in Switzerland in 1929 and now manufactured in Italy - is being distributed in North America by Amatex, based in Milwaukee, WI. It will be sold by franchised Hurlimann dealers.

The line is made by the Same Deutz-Fahr Group, which purchased the Hurlimann company in 1977. Hurlimann tractors should look familiar to American farmers because AGCO imported tractors built by Same Deutz-Fahr during most of the 90s to fill its small and midsize lines.

Top of the line. I recently tested a Hurlimann Master 6165 for Farm Industry News. The Master series is presently the top of the Hurlimann line with two models: the 6165 with 159 PTO hp and the 6190 with 183 PTO hp. Both tractors are basically the same, except that the higher horsepower model has a modified air intake manifold that allows for more air to be compressed into the cylinders. Also the internal drivetrain on that model has been beefed up.

After driving the tractor for about 40 hrs., I agree with the company's claim that it is a leader in high-technology electronics. The joystick-controlled transmission has 27 speeds - in both forward and reverse - available with a touch of a button. The tractor shifts without jerking thanks to computer-controlled engagement that senses crankshaft and ground speeds, fuel consumption, power demand and wheel slip.

The front wheel assist, when activated, also engages both front and rear differential locks. An electronic control system automatically disengages front-wheel drive above 10 mph.

The transmission, when set in automatic mode, shifts down when power demands increase to 98% when hillsides or heavy ground patches are encountered. When power demand has fallen to 78%, the unit will automatically shift up to a preset speed or the maximum speed possible. The transmission also can be set in economy mode, in which the tractor automatically shifts up, thereby saving fuel, or manual mode, where all shifting is done by the push of a button.

The engine is electronically fuel injected. Using a keypad in the cab, the driver can preset high, low and idle rpm. A cruise control holds preselected speeds by controlling the amount of fuel injected into the engine. The 6-liter engine lacks the torque rise of the bigger Deere, Cummins and Genesis engines used in other new tractors with similar horsepower.

Cab comfort. LED bar graph gauges in the cab instantly and constantly read out percentage of engine output utilized, as well as fuel consumption per hour. A cluster of nearly two dozen dash lights warn the driver of any malfunction.

I liked the cab's Grammer air seat, but I wish the cab were wider (and more "Americanized"). The cab can be quickly tilted backwards for easy servicing and major overhauls.

More power. Another feature of this tractor is that it has more 3-pt. lift power than any MFWD made on this side of the pond. Lift capacity without assister rams is 15,432 lbs.; with the assister rams, it is 18,960 lbs.

At present, 98-in. bar axles are standard, and Unverferth has available hub extenders to mount duals. The tractor will straddle two 30-in. rows using rims from Unverferth. However, in the near future, SDF also will have 118-in. bar axles available.

List prices are approximately $95,000 for the 6165 model and $104,000 for the 6190. Amatex also has low-rate financing programs available and is developing lease plans. Contact Amatex Inc., Dept. FIN, 7075 W. Parkland Ct., Milwaukee, WI 53223, 888/988-4453.

Remodeling ATVs

Polaris reworks three models to complete its new lineup. The biggest surprise at Polaris' recent media day was from a vehicle not technically an ATV. The company unveiled a revamped 6-wd machine that plays like a recreational ATV and works like a utility model. The Sportsman 6x6 replaces Polaris' previous 6-wd model called the Big Boss.

In addition to the 6-wd makeover, the company announced two new, moderately priced ATVs: the Xplorer 4x4 and the Scrambler 400 2x4 .

The new, year-2000 ATV models were shown to the media near the company's headquarters in Roseau, MN. Celebrating 45 years of business, Polaris makes no secrets about its future. It intends to become the dominant brand in ATVs and personal watercraft while maintaining its number one position in snowmobiles.

General manager and son of a Polaris founder, Mitchell Johnson says the Minnesota-grown snowmobile company plans to increase sales from $1.2 billion in 1998 to $2 billion by 2002 and $3 billion by 2007. Johnson says they will achieve this hefty growth through several new approaches. For example, the company is hiring a new sales force to handle parts, garments and accessories. New effort will go into developing international markets for their products and alliances or acquisitions of other companies are possible. Also adding to the bottom line is a customer financial service rolled out to dealers last winter.

The most recent new models and ATV upgrades were tested in a northern Minnesota state forest. These models as well as several of Polaris' models introduced last winter were available to run over miles of trails.

Six-wheel-drive revisited. Polaris first introduced the 6x6 model several years ago. Now the company made it better, improving performance and changing ergonomics. The new model, Sportsman 6x6, showed no signs of sluggish performance. It easily kept up with the 4-wd ATVs and sport models during the 12-mile runs in the forest. The Sportsman model also provided a smoother ride than the other ATVs.

Polaris engineer Scott Ostroski is proud of the reworked Sportsman 6x6. "We wanted to make it more recreational while keeping the work aspects," he explains.

So the engineers changed the drive system to concentric drive that allows more power delivery to the wheels. The rear suspension is not affected by engine torque and the new drive maintains consistent chain tension.

The engineers also changed the ergonomics, including the seat and handlebar positions. The gas tank increased from 31/2 to 41/4 gal. on the new model. The result is a comfortable, easy-to-handle vehicle.

The Sportsman 6x6 features a 500-cc, 4-valve, 4-stroke engine with automatic shifting. Polaris provides true 6-wd, which senses when the rear wheels lose traction and then engages the front wheels with full torque. A thumb switch changes the vehicle from 4-wd to 6-wd.

The rear cargo box is made of a resilient, molded plastic to eliminate rust or chipped paint problems. The box holds 800 lbs. of cargo. A tow hitch can handle 1,225-lbs. capacity. Price: $7,499.

Value priced Xplorer 4x4. A 250-cc, air-cooled engine makes the new Xplorer 4x4 an economy version of the Polaris model Xplorer 400. The full-sized, 4-wd ATV comes equipped with all the features of the 400 model, including the Polarison-demand, true 4-wd system, a long-travel rear suspension, MacPherson strut 6.7-in. front suspension, automatic transmission and concentric drive system.

The Xplorer 4x4 works well for light work, trail riding and hunting. Price: $4,399.

Polaris engineers also changed some features of the Scrambler 400 2x4 model in their sports line. They increased the rear suspension to a full 101/2 in. to improve the vehicle's speed and handling ability. Two adjustable, separate springs also were added to the rear suspension. Price: $4,949.

For more information, contact Polaris Sales Inc., Dept. FIN, 1225 Hwy. 169, Minneapolis, MN 55441, 612/542-0500.

Only 30,000 needed?

Only 30,000 farmers needed? eep your eye on the mergers and alliances among large food companies. Someday, you will probably need one for a partner.

At a recent seminar on biotechnology, a University of Missouri sociologist reports that by the next decade, the world's food production will be controlled by a handful of companies. Grain farmers will contract directly with these companies, becoming the first in a seamless chain of food production. Farmers will provide labor, land and equipment. "Farmers will slide right into these systems," reports William Heffernan, part-time farmer and rural sociologist. "Farmers will become growers and won't make major decisions. These systems will control the products from genes to the retail stores.

"In the seamless system, there will be no markets, no prices," he adds. "The first time the price of any input in the system will be public information is the supermarket. Even the price of animal feed like corn will not be known to the public because, like today's broilers, the products will not be (openly) sold."

Heffernan says he sees three global food clusters already emerging. They are Monsanto-Cargill, ConAgra and the ADM-Novartis-IBP alliance. Another three companies are on the verge of developing into food systems. Heffernan believes Zeneca, Aventis and DuPont could enter the realm of global clusters. However, DuPont may join on with ConAgra, he speculates. Another possible food system may occur with Dow AgroSciences and Mycogen.

The three global food systems already exert substantial control over the food industry, Heffernan adds. For example, market share of four grain industries are controlled by a few companies, which include some of the emerging global food systems like ADM, Cargill and ConAgra (see table).

Signs of these major food companies moving to the farm level are seen in contracts now being offered to farmers for grain production, Heffernan says. These contracts are similar to those in the hog and poultry industries. The grower provides labor, land and equipment. The contractor provides seed, chemicals and management.

Fewer farms. Following a trend from the 1950s, farms will switch from family operations to industrialized organizations and drop in numbers, Heffernan says. Poultry switched to this system first and livestock production followed.

Crop farms are next. "We hear more and more about needing only 20,000-30,000 farmers in this country to produce a globalized, industrialized food system," Heffernan says. "Right now, we have about 300,000-500,000 commercial farms."

This scenario may make you shudder, but agriculture is not alone. "The food system is not any different from other economic systems of the global economy," Heffernan says. In fact, it is becoming more like the banking, computer, automobile and mass media industries.

Farmers may not like this system, but some are actually part of the fuel driving it. These firms are in the business to make money for stockholders, Heffernan explains. "We need to realize most of us have pension plans and we're personally invested in a variety of funds. We expect a high rate of return on our investment." These corporations use acquisitions and alliances to obtain those profits.

Carbon crops

Farmers may reap payments from no-till conservation practices.

A hidden crop exists in the rich fields being no-tilled across the Midwest. And unknown to many farmers, a concerted effort is underway to harness that crop.

The crop is carbon, and it holds very big potential. The most modest estimate of the carbon value to a farmer using no-till is $5 to $7.50/acre while the most optimistic estimates run $50/acre. Proponents of the new crop envision carbon being traded on the Chicago Board of Trade alongside corn and soybeans.

A lot must happen before the carbon crop becomes reality. But the wheels are turning and a program may reach the farm in a few years.

Decreasing greenhouse gases. The carbon program relates to the global issue of greenhouse gases. Many countries, including the U. S., have agreed to reduce greenhouse gases sometime in the next decade.

Carbon dioxide is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally and by humans through the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and conventional plowing. However, reduced-till practices can prevent the production of more carbon dioxide than it produces. The soil's ability to store or sequester carbon and start carbon dioxide from developing has captured people's attention.

"This represents an enormous opportunity for American agriculture," reports Richard Sandor, chairman of Environmental Financial Products, Chicago, IL. "I think the trading of carbon allowances provides the farmer the ability to grow one crop on top of the soil and another crop below the soil. And they will get paid to do something with positive social benefits."

Sandor, recently named senior adviser for Price Waterhouse Cooper on greenhouse gas trading, is helping design a carbon trading system to buy and sell carbon. Farmers who store carbon would sell their carbon sequestering abilities to industries or companies not in compliance with carbon dioxide standards.

The carbon trading system is being patterned after the sulfur dioxide market created four years ago, which Sandor helped develop. Basically, the sulfur market involves companies like public utilities that are unable to comply with sulfur dioxide emission standards. The non-complying utilities purchase emissions rights from other utilities with emissions levels below the standard.

Last year, $3 billion in sulfur allowances were traded on the market. "This is more than 50% of the value of the U.S. wheat crop," Sandor says. "Carbon would be the largest of all. Our estimate is for $4 to $6 billion additional net-farm income nationally from carbon."

Circle of life. Carbon is stored or sequestered in the soil through no-till and minimum-till farm methods. Converting cropland to grass or trees, restoring wetlands, and conservation buffer practices also promote carbon sequestration.

Trite as it sounds, carbon is part of the circle of life. Plants extract carbon dioxide from the air and change it to oxygen and carbon through photosynthesis. The carbon is incorporated into plant tissues and oxygen released into the air.

When plants die, decomposition releases carbon dioxide again, unless decay is delayed or the carbon stored in the soil. No-till planting and crop residues delay decomposition and leave more carbon for soil storage. In the meantime, carbon builds soil quality.

Farm conservation groups support carbon sequestering as a way to increase conservation practices. Adoption of conservation practices like no-till has stalled over the last few years at about 37% of U.S. crop acres. Carbon sequestering could provide an additional incentive to encourage more farmers to adopt no-till methods.

How much carbon. Before a carbon market can begin, scientists must determine how much carbon is sequestered in soils by different conservation methods. Several conservation groups are trying to do this in a program called the Iowa Carbon Storage Project. Currently, historical conservation data from all Iowa counties is being analyzed by a computer simulation model at Colorado State University. The university's Natural Resources Ecology Lab designed the special computer model called Century. The model was tested a year ago with conservation data from five Iowa counties.

Once the carbon analysis is complete, the results will be used to show agriculture's potential for carbon sequestration. Right now, agricultural soils are not included as a solution to carbon dioxide emissions in the global greenhouse gas discussions, according to Tim Kautza, National Resources Conservation Service. This winter, the U.S. and other countries involved in the greenhouse gas talks will meet again. The U.S. plans to provide the Iowa carbon information in hopes that ag soils will be included as a carbon sequestering option.

Some of the groups involved in the Iowa project are the National Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Energy, EPA, Conservation Districts of Iowa, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

A carbon market. Meanwhile, Sandor and his company are working for clients to develop a protocol for carbon trading. "All the work we've done is aimed towards creating a commodity in just the same way that the Board of Trade defines USDA grain standards," he says. "I can easily foresee carbon sitting side-by-side with corn futures and the hedging of this commodity along with traditional commodities.

"A utility, instead of reducing its own emissions, may find it profitable to offset its emissions by buying rights from farmers," he adds. "The farm soils would be the oxygen factories or carbon sinks."

The details of trading carbon are still being worked out. These include who has rights to the carbon sequestration value, length of the contract, how the tillage practices are verified, and how the program is monitored.

Another question yet to be answered is who will represent farmers when selling the carbon allowances. Sandor says he expects farmers will work with groups like a cooperative to sell carbon rights. "The co-op would certify that the carbon was sequestered in the same way it buys beans or corn," he explains. "It will take years. But we're beginning to see lots of local groups interested." Some of those interested include state Farm Bureau groups.

Worldwide, several carbon markets are being set up, including the United Kingdom and Australia. Major global companies like Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum anticipate carbon trading and are remodeling to reduce carbon emissions, according to Sandor.

No doubt, the groundwork being conducted for U.S. agricultural soils could help farmers capture some monetary values while cleaning up the air.

ConAgra accepts GM corn

Concern over what corn varieties are approved for the European Union (EU) have quieted, at least for now.

ConAgra, in a joint marketing agreement with Monsanto, recently announced it will identity preserve and accept corn not approved for EU export for no additional fee. The corn will be used elsewhere, including the domestic market that consumes 80% of U.S. corn production.

Unfortunately, the EU now purchases very little corn from the U.S. USDA figures show U.S. corn exports to the EU went from 3.1 million metric tons in 1994-1995 to a current 137,000 metric tons for 10 months in 1998-1999. EU exports dropped from 5% of U.S. total exports to just 0.36% of the current year's total corn exports.

Soybean growers dodged the EU approval concerns because seed companies withheld sales of soybean varieties not approved for EU export.

Combine buying: can you justify?

Consider these factors when deciding whether to trade combines this year Buying a combine this year, whether new or used, may seem to fly in the face of good judgment.

Corn and soybean prices are at historical lows. And government payments to date have not made up the gap in revenue. Strapped for cash, many farmers are putting off replacing machinery until conditions improve.

This trend is reflected in the 471/2% drop in new combine sales, year-to-date reported in July by the Equipment Manufacturers Institute.

However, there are factors that may justify a combine purchase in these unlikely times. And they are based on economic principle.

So, what are those factors? Size. Dr. Howard Doster, agricultural economist at Purdue University, says the biggest reason farmers trade combines is that they can use a bigger size. You need one large enough to harvest your entire crop in a certain number of days. Otherwise you run the risk of crop losses.

This factor caused Elmer Rahn to purchase a '94 model 9600 John Deere at an auction this year. He had recently acquired an additional 600 acres and knew he would need a second combine as back up to his current 9510 to get his crop harvested on time.

"No matter if corn is $2 or $4 a bushel, you have to get it harvested in a timely manner or all you're doing is adding to your problems," says Rahn, who farms 3,600 acres of corn and soybeans outside of Chadwick, IL.

The allowable harvest window varies by region and crop. For corn in eastern Illinois it is 30 days, Doster says. For wheat in Kansas, it is more like 10 days, 14 days at the outside, according to Dr. Terry Kastens, agricultural economist at Kansas State University. If you go beyond that, you can generally afford to move up to the next larger size.

Age. Age of your combine is another factor that may justify a trade. The older the combine, the higher the risk of breakdowns.

"Thus, at some point you get worried about the cost of losing two to three days or 10% of your suitable harvest time, and you decide you just can't afford that kind of risk and so you make the trade," Doster says. "It may be you just can't fix it one more time."

At what age breakdowns start to occur varies depending on the part, the combine make and model and how the machine is cared for. Agricultural engineers use a figure of 4,000 hrs. for the life of a combine when calculating repairs and point out that there are tendencies for breakdowns of some major components at various places along that age range.

Both age and size played into Keith Brown's decision to trade his 4-row 6620 John Deere Sidehill for an 8-row 9500 this year. "My older combine was undersized and getting old," says Brown, who farms 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans in the rolling hills of western Iowa.

His older machine had 3,500 hrs. on it, and repair and upkeep costs had hit $3/acre. In addition, Brown was putting 325 hrs. on it in a season. He knew he needed to be at 225 hrs. for a timely harvest. The lag cost him field loss and grain quality last year.

"We got a snowstorm on November 6th and still had a lot of corn in the field," Brown recalls. "So the morning of November 7th, I said 'that's the end of this. I have to get something bigger and better.'"

Brad Wade of McLean, IL, used the same factors to justify trading for a brand new 2388 Case IH this year. "We try to get about 5,000 acres through two machines a year, and we just can't afford downtime," says Wade, who grows corn, soybeans and specialty crops with his dad and a hired hand.

Wade trades every year regardless of economic cycles. He says this strategy keeps their combine costs per acre relatively stable other than an annual 3 to 4% price increase for the new model. In addition, they have no repair bills because the machines are under warranty. "So that's one way we justify it," he says. "We also do quite a bit of custom combining, which helps make our payments."

Trading annually also keeps them current with the latest technology, such as yield monitors and global positioning. "We map everything with combines, so that is another piece of the puzzle," he adds. "You could upgrade the older machines, but it comes with the new ones."

New feature. Maybe a new combine offers a benefit you can't get with your current combine. For example, maybe it provides better fuel economy, higher capacities or better threshing for a cleaner grain sample.

Whatever the new feature, it may justify a trade, Doster says. However, the benefits must more than cover the costs for the trade to be worthwhile.

For Kent Ott, the feature that warranted a trade for him this year was tracks. His current 1688 Case IH didn't have them, so he traded it for a brand new 465 Caterpillar in the middle of wheat harvest this past June.

"We have faced a terrible wet situation here in south central Kansas with not being able to get our wheat harvested," says Ott, who farms a total of 4,000 acres. "So this is giving us the ability to get our crop in."

His local dealer financed the purchase and deferred interest for two years.

Ott says the new combine will help him combat similar situations this fall on his corn, soybean and grain sorghum acres. He also expects it will provide higher harvesting capacities and will do a better job of threshing than his previous combine for a cleaner grain sample.

"We are looking at the purchase in the long-term, not just this one year," Ott says. "Farming has gone in cycles, and we think we will cycle out of this one."

Combine values. A final factor that cannot be ignored is the market for used combines this year. Used combines are in good supply and in good condition due to a flurry of trading that took place in the past two years.

Indiana auctioneer Ted Everett says the quality on the market now is the best he has seen because trade-in values have been higher in the past two years, and farmers were able to trade for a lesser amount more often.

"A lot of them have been trading every year for new ones and lower hour ones, and they keep the hours down on them," Everett says. "They just don't run them as long."

In June, Everett called at one of the largest combine auctions in U.S. history in Monrovia, IN. Nine John Deere dealers from two states had pooled their used inventories and moved close to 100 combines at prices 10 to 15% less than what dealers were offering.

Everett believes prices have pretty much bottomed out, and says now is the time to buy if you're in themarket for a used combine.

Rahn bought his John Deere at Everett's auction for $51,500. It had 1,200 separator hours on it. The auction price was $20,000 to $25,000 less than what two local dealers quoted him for similar combines with similar hours.

"I went to the auction thinking that if I could buy one around $50,000, I would take the chance because I've got $20,000 in gambling money there," Rahn says. "I could buy parts and still not be any higher than the local dealer."

Many dealers, desperate to cut the glut in used inventories, have slashed prices and are offering low-interest or deferred-interest financing and warranties on used combines.

"Dealers are dealing," says Brown, who bought his used combine with 1,200 separator hours on it from his local John Deere dealer. He paid a boot price of $60,000 and was able to lock in on a low-interest loan for four years. "And even with a five-year-old machine, I got a full one-year warranty."

Decide you can't afford a trade this year? Here are some alternative ways to get your crop harvested on time with the combine you own now.

Maintain good rapport with your dealer. Know where combines are so you can line up a replacement if you need one. "If something breaks, you want to have that choice of replacing it versus fixing it," Purdue's Doster says.

Carry a parts replacement kit. Most dealers sell them. Stock it with high-wear items and carry it on the combine so you can fix problems in the field. Get your combine thoroughly inspected first and have technicians note which parts are about to go. Either replace those parts or include them in your kit.

Replace worn parts. Bearings, belts, pulleys and other high-wear items all should be replaced if badly worn to lower the chance of breakdowns.

Share your neighbor's combine. Maybe you can buy a new combine with your neighbor or trade labor for use of theirs.

Hire a custom harvester. If your combine lacks the capacity you need, harvest what you can yourself and hire out the rest.

Buying a used combine can be considerably less than a new one, because you are not paying initial depreciation, according to Dr. John Siemens, agricultural engineer, University of Illinois.

"It's similar to buying a used automobile," he says. "Someone else is paying that initial depreciation when it is new."

But there are risks. "You need to be a pretty good judge of used equipment as far as evaluating its worth," Siemens adds. "Particularly, reliability. What will the repair costs be for the combine during the next several years?"

Because of those risks, Siemens recommends used combines for smaller farmers who put on fewer than 175 hrs./yr. For larger farmers who put on more than 200 hrs., a new combine may the better choice because the risk of repairs begins to get too high and the fixed costs can be spread over more acres.

Kansas State's Kastens quotes similar thresholds. "Farmers can often justify buying new if they put more than 250 hours a year on a combine, 300 for sure," he says. "You can buy a pretty good used, like a one year old, if you go a few hours less than that."

However, you have to own a new combine longer than you would if you bought a used one to get a comparable return. "If you are putting on 250 to 300 hours and buy a one-year-old machine, you can trade that every two to three years without any problem," Kastens explains. "In other words, run it up to 1,000 hours in three years and trade it. That is a very good scenario for a used machine.

"With new, you would have to own it a little longer to come out on it."

Show me the rotaries

Not since Nissan's Infiniti has a single silhouette generated so much speculation about a machine and its maker. The automobile manufacturer broadcast only glimpses of a car for months before revealing its identity.

Recently, Deere has attempted to rouse similar intrigue in farm machinery through its advertising. The ad, published in the May/June issue of Farm Industry News, shows simply the back end of a concept machine in the shadows and the tag line, "a new era of harvesting is taking shape."

Barry Nelson, Deere's manager of public relations, says a new family of combines will be unveiled in Moline, IL, in August at its dealer meeting and will replace the current Ten series. Nelson claims the new family "will offer customers the broadest and best choices of combine configuration in the industry." Production will begin in August.

Rotary rumors. Speculation is that the new combine uses rotary technology in addition to or in place of cylinder-and-concave threshing.

Some observers believe it incorporates components used in the "bi-rotor" combine invented by Kansas farmer Mark Underwood and his cousin Ralph Lagergren. Deere purchased the patent in 1995, but has never commented on its plans to manufacture the unique rotor-within-a-rotor design.

Others guess the new combine has something to do with Deere's CTS II combine made for rice and small grains. CTS stands for cylinder tine separator. The machine uses rotary technology as far as the separating aspect of it and a cylinder and concave in the front end for threshing.

Still, no one knows for sure what the new combine will be. Or, those who do know have been sworn to secrecy and asked to sign confidence agreements.

But if rumors are correct, adding a combine with rotary technology to its lineup would represent a fundamental shift in philosophy for Deere, who has stayed with the cylinder/walker design to thresh corn and beans even when its competitors switched to rotaries in the mid-1970s. (AGCO and Caterpillar make both types.) It also would mean that all major combine makers - AGCO, Case, Caterpillar, Deere, and New Holland - would have a rotary-based combine in their lineups.

The question for combine buyers is why rotary, why now? And, is one company's rotary better than the next?

Two schools of threshing. There are basically two types of combines - conventional (cylinder/concave and straw walkers) and rotary. "Both force an ear of corn through a space that is too small," says Steve Webb, Indiana farmer and Team FIN product tester. "And the only way to get it through is to take the kernels off."

Both types run the crop between a rotating cylinder and concave to rub the grain off. But in the conventional machine, the cylinder is mounted crossways on the combine or perpendicular to the direction of combine travel. The crop is fed into the cylinder "tangentially" and has one chance - about a third of a rotation of the cylinder - to be threshed. Straw walkers and sieves then separate the grain from the chaff.

In a rotary combine, by comparison, the cylinder is larger and typically is mounted lengthwise in the direction of combine travel. The crop is fed "axially" and spins between the cylinder (or rotor) and concave until the grain is both threshed and separated.

"Imagine a spinning squirrel cage," explains Dr. Jonathon Chaplin, agricultural engineer at the University of Minnesota. "If you were to push a piece of paper into the edge of that cage along a tangent, that is how a conventional combine is fed. If you feed the paper in from the end of that cage, around the circumference, that's how an axial is fed. So really, a major difference is how the crop is fed into thecylinder."

Because the direction of flow is more aligned with the cylinder of the axial rotary combine, it can be gentler on grain than a conventional combine, Chaplin says. What's more, the clearance between the cylinder and concave doesn't have to be set as tight because the spiraling grain can travel a greater distance in the threshing area. The result can be gentler threshing and a better quality grain sample.

"When rotary combines first came out, our department did some tests on the rotary and the conventional," says Dr. John Siemens, agricultural engineer with the University of Illinois. "At that time, the rotary combine resulted in less kernel damage to the corn crop. I should say, it was easier to adjust, resulting in less damage than with the conventional combine. So that would be the advantage."

Grain quality has become increasingly important lately as more farmers are growing specialty crops like food-grade corn or soybeans under contract. These contracts specify a certain level of quality. Grain that has too many cracks or chips can be rejected at the elevator.

"In the past, grain quality was kind of acknowledged. Now it is demanded," says Kelly Kravig, marketing manager with Case Corporation, maker of the Axial-Flow combine. "And that has been a significant change over the last 22 years."

That may account for any recent interest in rotary technology. A major reason all manufacturers (except Deere) went to rotary in the first place was a combination of grain quality and capacity, according to Verlin Tinder, product marketing manager for AGCO's Massey Ferguson (MF) combine. "Axial rotary technology allows you to increase capacity without being totally restricted by the overall width of the combine," Tinder says. You can simply make the rotor longer to increase combine capacity.

With a conventional combine, in comparison, in order to widen the cylinder you would have to widen the machine, he explains. You can go only so wide before interfering with road transport.

Rotary roundup. Not all rotary combines are made the same. Some combines have one rotor. Others have two. And, while most rotors are mounted lengthwise, AGCO's Gleaner R series are mounted widthwise. What's more, some rotors are considered part of the threshing system, some are considered part of the separating system, and some are part of both.

So which one is best? We asked the manufacturers of rotary combines what makes their rotary better than the next for corn and beans. Here's what they said: Case: It claims to have built and sold more rotary combines than any other company since it started building them in 1977. Its current series is the 2300 Axial-Flow made up of three models: the 174-hp 2344, 240-hp 2366, and 280-hp 2388.

"The biggest difference is that Case uses a single rotor that provides fewer moving parts," says Case's Kravig. "A lot of competitive designs use multiple rotors or a rotor that is positioned sideways versus lengthwise. That makes for a more complex material flow in the machine or will add more parts, which create more opportunity for grain damage."

Other rotor features include a 3-speed rotor drive in the 2388 for a greater speed range; and a cross-flow fan that delivers uniform airflow across the sieve to increase cleaning capacity. Suggested list for base machine: $130,600 to $166,880 plus grain header.

AGCO: It makes two kinds of rotary combines: the 260-hp MF 8780 and the Gleaner R series consisting of the 185-hp R42, 230-hp R52, 260-hp R62 and 330-hp R72.

The MF 8780, like Case's Axial-Flow, has one rotor. But AGCO claims its rotor is longer. "As it stands now, we use the longest rotor of anybody in the industry so consequently it has more threshing and separating area," says AGCO's Tinder. "As a result, you get a much cleaner grain sample and less chance of grain loss compared to the competition."

Other rotor features include: a hydrostatic rotor drive, allowing the rotor to be hydraulically driven or hydraulically reversed in the event of plugging; and rotor speed control, a new feature that automatically adjusts the output of the hydrostatic pump to maintain a constant rotor speed for the crop being harvested. Suggested list for base machine: $140,000 to $160,000 plus header.

AGCO's Gleaner R series has a single rotor, too. But, unlike other rotors, its rotor is mounted across the combine - perpendicular to the direction of travel - and is transversely fed. This orientation "allows the crop to flow through in a more natural motion rather than being twisted through the cylinder," according to Tom Draper, Gleaner's general marketing manager.

"Another unique feature is accelerator rolls in our cleaning system," Draper adds. "That is the key to both capacity and quality of the sample. The rolls drive grain down onto the grain pan at four times the speed of free fall. That way, we can use more air and increase cleaning capacity." Suggested list for base machine: $117,000 to $178,000 plus header.

New Holland: "We were the first to introduce rotary combines in 1975," claims Steve Geick, New Holland's combine marketing manager. "Since then, we have been working to perfect the rotor technology." For example, its new 9 series - made up of the 240-hp TR89 and 280-hp TR99 - incorporate 33 product improvements over the previous series.

TR stands for Twin Rotor, meaning it uses two rotors instead of one. "That's the secret to providing the highest capacity combines for their size on the market today with the best sample in the business," Geick says. These side-by-side, smaller-diameter rotors generate up to 40% more centrifugal force than larger rotors so that more of the grain gets threshed and separated right up front, he says.

"They use the example of driving a car to explain the centrifugal separating forces," offers Team FIN's Webb, who recently replaced his 20-year-old combine with a '95 New Holland with 800 hrs on it. "You drive a car at 40 mph around a gentle curve and you're alright. You drive the same car at 40 mph around a lot shorter curve, and it tries to go off the road. Well, the car is the kernel of corn."

Suggested list for base machine: $130,000 to $170,000 plus header.

Caterpillar: Cat has two rotary models - the Lexion 480 and 485, both 365-hp - and will unveil a third, smaller rotary this fall for market in 2000.

The Lexion features two rotors, which use centrifugal force to separate the grain from the straw. In addition, an Accelerated Pre-Separation System (APS)-located directly behind a 67-in. feeder house-uses an initial cylinder to separate up to 30% of the grain and feeds the crop to the main threshing cylinder. Between these two cylinders, up to 90% of the grain is separated before the impeller feeds the crop mat to the two separation rotors, according to Ron Havekost, commercial manager for Caterpillar combine group. This design gives the Lexion the highest harvesting capacity in the industry, the company claims.

You can adjust for better grain quality by slowing down the main threshing cylinder and increasing the concave clearance so that more of the threshing can be done with the rotors. Suggested list for base machine: $211,000 to $265,000 plus header.

Matter of adjustment. Manufacturers of convetional combines say both types of combines can hurt the rain. And both can be equally gentle.

The key to grain quality is getting the right concave speed and concave clearance setting, according to Ron Moron, Deere's senior marketing representative for combines. "When the combine is threshing properly is when you are going to see a good job in overall quality of grain," Moron says. Either type can be adjusted too tight and result in poor quality, cracked grain.

With that in mind, Deere has worked to make it easier to make those adjustments on its latest Ten series, which includes the 190-hp 9410, 220 to 240-hp 9510 and 275-hp 9610. For example, a digital cylinder/concave clearance indicator replaces a mechanical one in the previous 9000 series so that you can fine-tune adjustments to the exact number rather than a notch on the dial. Deere also changed the geometry of its concave, nowcalled Generation II, to get more complete threshing at slower cylinder speeds. Suggested list for base machine: $118,096 to $153,724 (header $24,656 to $50,087).

These changes help ensure proper adjustments that result in grain quality that is just as good as any rotary design, Moron says. What's more, its conventional configuration provides consistent performance in a variety of crops and conditions without extensive changeover or loss of horsepower, he adds.

"When you ask 'why buy a conventional versus a rotary,' we will sell it on the all-crops, all-conditions capability," Moron says. "Today, we believe our Ten series delivers a more consistent level of performance in all of the varieties of crops and conditions you can get into, with less tradeoff than what you have to do with competitive rotary combines currently on the market." In support, he cites that Deere's cylinder/straw walker combine has a larger share of the market than any other combine does in North America.

Moron attributes the combine's performance to everything from a wide feeder house that makes for a wide, thin crop mat that can be more easily threshed, to its transverse or "ribbon-flow" feeding that is more natural than typical rotary designs and results in less twisting. Less twisting means less horsepower is required to do the job, Moron adds. And because the crop isn't so tightly confined in a restrictive space, there is less plugging and fewer material handling problems than in a typical rotary machine.

For those reasons, Deere stands by its current design. And, when asked whether conventional models will continue to be manufactured, Moron responded, "Absolutely yes."

Other makers of both types agreed that there will always be conventional combines because certain conditions may demand them. For example, some experts say a conventional machine may be better if you get into tough conditions like weedy wheat or if you want to bale wheat or oat straw because it is able to leave longer stems.

"If you're baling long-stem straw and you have the best quality of straw to work with, then you'd be wise to stay with a straw walker," says Caterpillar's Havekost. "But, if you're working with specialty crops and grain quality is what you really want, then you'd probably want to look at rotary separation."

Soon, we'll know for sure which way Deere decides to go.

Six future features that will change the way you harvest. Although Deere will not give details about its new combine until September, Bob Malcolm, Deere's manager of product planning for harvesting products, did agree to talk about technology being worked on for incorporation in the next five to 10 years. Malcom gives us this look:

1. Grain quality monitors. Today's combine yield monitors measure yield (mass) and moisture only. Monitors coming in the next five to 10 years will be able to measure grain "quality," such as cleanliness, kernel damage and chemical content, Malcolm says. Growers of specialty crops will need such capabilities.

"Crops will move from being what I call a commodity to being a product, and farmers will be operating on a contract to deliver high oil or low phytate corn or a certain kind of soybean," he says. "This contract will say it must have a certain characteristic of chemicals to meet this contract."

2. Ease and convenience of adjustments from the cab. Future designs will allow you to take readings and make combine adjustments - like fine-tuning the sieve and chaffer to the proper opening - from inside the cab.

3. More monitors and controls. Future control systems will cut down on the number of adjustments the operator has to make. "For example, right now farmers have to shut off the machine, get out of the cab, make some checks and change the chaffer or sieve," Malcolm explains. "But as our technology improves because of different sensors on those future machines, those things will be done automatically. Or, it will provide information so the operator can make those checks in the cab versus getting out of the machine."4. Better residue management. The company is looking at crop residue as it relates to combines from two standpoints: Provide a combine and residue disposal system that will allow farmers to collect and sell the residue for alternative uses; and How to handle residue better in the field to eliminate a tillage pass.

5. Grain logistics. "We are looking at ways to make the handling of grain both on board and to and from the storage site more efficient." he says.

6. Increased combine uptime. Uptime refers to the time the combine is employed in the task of harvesting. The industry is researching ways to increase that time to reduce owner's overall operating costs. This area includes everything from product support to faster road speeds.

Technologies to increase a combine's efficiency in the field will also play a role. But that will not mean bigger combines, Malcolm says. "The package size cannot grow. We will try to improve the performance in existing package sizes."