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Articles from 2014 In August

Corn+Soybean Digest

New-crop corn prices still slumping

As heavy rain hit Iowa this week, a cloud also remained over corn prices – which could see a dreary $2.70 per bushel cash price, warns Dan Basse, president of AgResource Co. in Chicago.

After a slight rally of a few cents on Thursday, December 2014 corn futures closed at $3.66. March 2015 futures closed at $3.79, not a big number for those planning to store their corn for higher prices next year. But despite that sub-$4 price, Basse said it may be close to a price to consider when making some ’14 or even early ’15 sales.

“If we get March or December corn up to $3.85-$3.90, you have to be a seller there,” he told Corn+Soybean Digest. “Longer term, the corn market is caught between $2.70 and $3.70 for a long time.”

Prices are being pushed down mainly because of the huge crop that’s forecast. And USDA’s most recent corn yield projection of about 167 bushels per acre may not be high enough.

Its latest crop progress report showed that 73% of the nation’s crop is either good or excellent. In the Midwest, Illinois corn was 80% good or excellent; Indiana, 73%; Iowa, 75%; Kansas, 54%; Michigan, 70%; Minnesota, 71%; Missouri, 83%; Nebraska, 71%; Ohio, 75%; South Dakota, 72% and Wisconsin, 68%.

Basse said with the weak market, farmers must become better risk managers, especially since input costs will be slow in coming down. “There is a lag affect,” he says. Everybody (input providers) will hold the profitability line until the farmer says uncle. ”

He added that good use of the new farm program is vital. “The county ALC and PLC programs look like good options,” he said. “For PLC, $3.70 will be the minimum price on your county yield.” Depending on the percentage of coverage taken, growers may then feel more comfortable in making sales during potential price rallies, Basse said.

“It’s time to look at strategies and determine ‘where can I survive?’ There’s a much different landscape in the corn market today. Think forward to ’15 and ’16 – and hope your neighbor has a drought,” he added sarcastically.

5 Agriculture stories to read, Aug. 29, 2014

Five ag stories to read this week reminds growers to scout soybean fields for diseases, including sudden death syndrome and brown stem rot. Watch a video update on crop conditions in August across the Midwest, and read about yields and their impact on crop returns for 2014. Also watch a video with practical tips for using UAVs on your farm. And as harvest creeps up on us, check out one of our favorite photo galleries: A day in the life of corn harvest.

NCBA Opposes Proposal to Allow Importation of Fresh Beef from Region of Argentina

NCBA Opposes Proposal to Allow Importation of Fresh Beef from Region of Argentina

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's proposed rule to allow the importation of beef from a region in Argentina is concerning for beef producers, says National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Bob McCan.

Thursday, USDA announced it is considering adding the Patagonia areas of Argentina to the list of regions considered free of Foot-and-Mouth disease and subsequently allowing the importation of live cattle and fresh or frozen beef into the United States from this region.

An associated proposed rule would allow chilled or frozen beef to be imported from the region of Northern Argentina, a region that is not recognized as being free of Foot-and-Mouth Disease by APHIS.

Risk is too great for foot and mouth disease contamination, group says

"We strongly believe that these recent actions by APHIS present a significant risk to the health and well-being of the nation's cattle herd through the possible introduction of FMD virus," an NCBA statement noted.

FMD is a contagious viral disease of cloven-hooved animals and many wildlife species, considered to be one of the most economically devastating livestock diseases in the world, NCBA said. An outbreak of FMD could ultimately threaten the entire U.S. economy as well jeopardize national food security, the group adds.

Related: APHIS Makes Two Announcements Regarding FMD and Argentina

"APHIS conducted their risk analysis based on a series of site visits to Argentina to determine the FMD risk status of these regions. NCBA's repeated requests for written reports for these APHIS site visits to Argentina have gone unanswered. Finally, we were informed by APHIS that written reports are not required for APHIS site reviews.

"This lack of documentation and an obvious lack of management controls for the site review process calls into question the integrity and quality assurance for the entire risk analysis. Valid science-based decisions are not possible in this flawed system," the NCBA statement said.

NCBA charges that APHIS ignored findings of a third-party scientific review that identified weaknesses in the methodology of the risk analysis that formed the foundation for the APHIS decision-making process.

The third-party scientific review uncovered deficiencies in the APHIS hazard analysis and the exposure assessment, as well as an overly subjective qualitative format for the risk analysis, NCBA said.

"NCBA remains committed to supporting open trade markets, level playing fields, and utilizing science-based standards to facilitate international trade. At the same time, no amount of trade is worth sacrificing the health and safety of the United States cattle herd. Strict transparency for the adherence to sound science must be the basis for all animal health decisions of this magnitude."

A similar proposal earlier this year to import fresh beef from some Brazilian states was also opposed by NCBA and the National Farmers Union on grounds that it, too, could result in FMD contamination.

Ever Seen Three-eared Corn?

Ever Seen Three-eared Corn?

It's kinda dumb. I still get excited when I go into a corn field and spot stands with a lot of plants feeding two ears of corn. It's just the farm kid in me.

But this year, I've spotted plants with three full ears, either on one stalk or on plants with multiple stalks. So you know, I don't count sucker years.

And it points to the awesome genetic potential of corn plants to go where no corn grower has gone before with a perfect or near-perfect growing season. And that's what much of New York and Pennsylvania have had this year. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for most of New England's corn crop, which suffered in cold, wet fields in early summer.

EARS THE PROOF: Yep, there are three ears with corn kernels, plus a sucker – all on one plant.

USDA's National Ag Statistics Service's August crop report confirmed it with substantial per-acre yield increases (compared to 2013). In fact, New York's reported average yield will jump from 138 bushels per acre in 2013 to 150 bushels per acre this year.

Ears more proof

NAAS's August 1 objective yield data indicate the greatest number of ears on record for the combined 10 objective yield states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. So it's not just my imagination!

And NASS is also predicting record soybean yields If realized, the forecasted yield will be a record high in Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What's just as important for Northeast livestock producers is that hay crops are coming in on the high side, too. With average yields projected to be up nearly a half-ton per acre, Pennsylvania and New York will be rolling in bales.

EARS THE PROOF: Yep, there are three ears with corn kernels, plus a sucker – all on one plant.

Acres of corn stover soon to become cellulosic ethanol

The October edition of Farm Industry News will feature an article with insights from custom harvesters and corn growers who have been working with DuPont Industrial Biosciences and POET-DSM over the last few years to harvest corn stover for the production of cellulosic ethanol. With these biorefineries coming online in Iowa this fall, there are some good market opportunities ahead for Iowa corn growers. Here are a few highlights from the upcoming article.

Plunkett Farms, Maxwell, Iowa

“Custom harvesting has enabled me to continue farming,” says Brad Plunkett, Plunkett Farms, Maxwell, Iowa, who established a custom harvesting business two years ago as a result of the new DuPont biorefinery. Diversifying has enabled Plunkett, who has been farming for 25 years, to bring his son into the farming business. Over the last two years, Plunkett has harvested stover on 35 farms participating in the DuPont project. His crew will harvest approximately 7,500 acres this fall. Supplying stover for the cellulosic ethanol market is a great opportunity for corn growers, custom harvesters, truckers and equipment dealers to name a few, Plunkett says.

Tim Fevold, accredited farm manager, Hertz Farm Management, Nevada, Iowa, oversees the management of approximately 70 farms in north central Iowa, a dozen of which have been involved in the DuPont project. “I would encourage anyone who has the right soils, topography and fertility to take a look at harvesting stover,” Fevold says. Never more than 50 percent of the residue is taken off these fields which have an average yield of 175 bushels per acre and up.

POET-DSM commissioned a soil research study, which was conducted by Douglas Karlen, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Stuart Birrell, Iowa State University BioSystems and Agricultural Engineering Department; and Adam Wirt, POET-DSM. Over the last five years, they studied soil quality under different biomass harvest scenarios at the site. Their data have been aggregated with 500+ years of additional soil data from four separate sites. Stover harvest can be sustainable on fields with slopes of less than three percent with consistent grain yields of at least 175 bushels per acre, they found. Nitrogen and phosphorus applications should not need to change when harvesting stover at one ton per acre, but the researchers did recommend that farmers monitor potassium.The upcoming article will also address equipment being used to harvest stover sustainably.

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Recalling the days before map apps

As I was riffling through desk drawers, bins, camera bags and various and sundry other containers just a few minutes ago—looking for a battery charger for an old and seldom-used digital video camera—I  decided to check inside my duck box.

It’s a wooden container with a finely carved mallard resting on the lid. It’s colorful—green head, yellow beak, orange breast and various hues of brown, gray, blue and black running from the neck to the tail feathers. I’ve had it for years and seem to recall that it was a thank-you gift at some meeting I attended.

I can’t remember the last time I pulled the lid off to check contents, so I was not surprised to discover that no battery charger was secreted inside.

Other treasure was, however. I found a playing card, the two of hearts—all by itself. Well, there was a complete deck of miniature playing cards, slightly smaller than business cards and about impossible to shuffle.  I have no idea where either of these mementos came from or why I stuck them in my duck. Maybe I didn’t; perhaps Pat was looking for a place to get them out of her way. Not likely; that sounds more like something I’d do.

For the latest on southwest agriculture, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

I found a handful of Confederate money. I don’t know where that came from either, but I seem to recall an aunt giving it to me many years ago. It’s not real Confederate currency, by the way, but photocopies of Confederate bills, mostly $20. They may represent real bills that my aunt Trudy found somewhere in the attic of my grandparents’ farmhouse in Anderson County, S.C. I don’t think they’ll stir up much interest on the Antiques Road Show.

But the real treasure was the maps. No, not treasure maps, road maps. You remember those, relics from the last century, back when any trip more than two hours away from home required  some guide to show you which road to take. I know, primitive. One of them—a freebie that I picked up at a Texaco station years ago, includes maps of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.  Near the top are two numbers—81,358 and 81,506—obviously mileage notations for an expense report. Another map, this one from an Esso station—which certainly dates it back a few years—covers Kentucky and Tennessee. It also has a mileage number—81,915, so it was probably from a trip I made shortly after the one noted above. Oddly, it has only the one number so I apparently didn’t come back.

A map of Nashville, Tenn., had no mileage notations, so I probably never went there.

A more recent map covers the Dallas metro area, and I must have bought this one since it has a price tag on it—$3.95. No mileage notations. We probably picked this one up about 15 years ago, when we moved here and before we bought phones with map apps.

I used to keep a large road atlas in my vehicle and recall many occasions when I’d pull off the road to find out how to get from places like Cairo, Ga., to Possum Kingdom, S.C., or Slap Out, Ala., to Two-Egg, Fla. (You can’t make this up).

Now I just punch in the state, city, street and address into my GPS unit and a sultry female voice tells me each road to take and what time I’ll arrive. If she could just tell me where I put that battery charger I’d be set.




Full, Deep Kernels Could Increase Corn Yield

Full, Deep Kernels Could Increase Corn Yield

Corn fields that haven't suffered from reduced stands or nitrogen losses due to too much rain could be set up for big yields. Agronomists say that in areas where timely rains have continued through the grain fill period, the yields may be even bigger than anticipated.

You can get an idea of yield by counting the number of ears per one/one thousandth acre. That's 17 feet, five inches in 30-inch wide rows. Do it at several locations to get a truer picture of what a good yield estimate might be. Realize that your estimate may be only 80 to 90% accurate.

Crop Watch 2014: How to estimate corn yields more accurately this year.

Count rings of kernels on five ears selected at random. Often it's advisable to count ears and kernels on both sides of the 17 feet, 5 inch tape to get a better yield estimate at that spot. Then count number of kernels per row on each ear and average the five together to get an average number.

Crop Watch 8/29: Time to Guess Corn Yield and Enter Crop Watch '14 Contest

Divide by a factor that varies depending upon how many kernels it takes to make up a bushel of corn. The standard used for years was to divide by 90, based on 90,000 kernels per bushel. Many believe that with modern hybrids, that may be too high, and produce a conservative yield estimate. They suggest 80 as a better number. Then in years like this when grain fill in fields that continued receiving timely rains may be exceptional, 75 or even less may be a better factor to use. This is verified in the 2014 Purdue University Corn & Soybean Field Guide.

Kernel size matters: Plump kernels will add to yield, and should be factored into your yield estimate.

How much difference can the factor make? Suppose you check the field and find an average of 30,000 ears per acre, with 18 rows of kernels and 40 kernels per row. The math works out to 21,600 divided by a factor. First divide by 90, the standard for many years. Your yield estimate would be 240 bushels per acre.

Next divide by 80, a number many agronomists believe is more accurate today. Yield would be 270 bushels per acre. Finally, divide by 75 for a field that has received timely rains during grain fill. The yield estimate is 288 bushels per acre. That's a range of 48 bushels per acre depending upon which factor you choose.

Crop Watch 8/25: Corn Ears at 45 Degrees or More During Grain Fill - Good or Bad?

Suppose you're 20% too high in each case. New yields are 192, 216 and 230, respectively. That would still be a lot of corn!

And just in case you're chasing 300 bushels per acre, if grain fill is exceptional and the right factor is 70, reserved for excellent grain fill, you just reached 209 bushels per acre, which is still just under 250 bushels per acre if you're 20% too high.

Seventh Generation Indiana Dairy Farmer Also a Disney Kid

Seventh Generation Indiana Dairy Farmer Also a Disney Kid

For the last two years, Jenna Kelsay has been working alongside her Mom to educate other kids about the source of their food and the importance of dairy. Now that commitment has made her a 'Disney Kid'!

Jenna comes from a long line of dairy farmers – more than six generations – and is committed to making a difference in her community by sharing that tradition. Jenna's parents, Joe and Amy Kelsay, work on Kelsay Farms alongside Joe's parents, his brother and sister-in-law and grandmother.

Where your milk comes from: Kelsay Farms is open during the month of October. Fun family activities, food and tours of the milking parlor are all going on. Maybe if you're lucky Jenna will lead your tour.

Her passion for sharing her family's farm with the public was likely inherited from her Mom. Amy, a former extension educator, devotes her time now to not only her family but educating as many people as possible on agriculture and the importance of knowing from where your food comes.

Related: Hoosier Family Cultivates Ag Tourism

For the last two years, Jenna has worked alongside her family to educate other kids and families. Kelsay Farms welcome 20,000 visitors annually to learn about life on the farm.

Jenna was nominated over the summer by the American Dairy Association of Indiana. Filming was done on the Kelsay Farm in Whiteland. The 21-episode original web series celebrates the potential in all kids, and the extraordinary things they accomplish when they embrace their interests and talents.

This story and the stories of other Citizen Kids, is part of a larger partnership with Milk Life. Just as Disney's Citizen Kid is focused on inspiring kids to reach their fullest potential, "Milk Life" is dedicated to wringing every last drop out of every single moment and represents a way of living where milk helps power your potential to do your best.

The video also highlights the commitment Jenna and other dairy farmers have made to fighting hunger with the Great American Milk Drive, an effort to provide milk to those families who need it most.

To see Jenna's video visit

One Person's Experience Flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

One Person's Experience Flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

All eyes were on Jim Love at Becknology Days recently when he carried a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle, known as a drone in some common terms, outside the tent and prepared to launch it. Love has worked with UAVs of various descriptions for a long time. He's with Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, Ind.

Love launched the aircraft. I had a set mission to fly that he had devised on his computer screen. The plane wasn't taking pictures for this demonstration, but it is equipped with a camera so that it can.

"We're finding more usefulness with fixed wing aircraft as UAVs vs. the helicopter approach right now," he says. "They tend to fly longer and you can cover more acres."

Flight prep: Jim Love prepares to demonstrate a fixed-wing UAV.

Related: Farmers, Government and Industry Will Take Time to Sort Out UAV's Future

He says they can typically get about 300 acres covered in about 40 minutes with a fixed-wing UAV. So far they typically get about 80 acres covered with a helicopter-type craft.

The difference is how long the batteries last that power the craft, he notes. While some companies selling UAVs of the copter design claim 20 minute battery life, that includes time to get to the field and back. "We've found the actual time you can use some of them to be about 10 minutes," Love notes.

The fixed wing craft tend to be more costly, but it all depends on what you're buying in either type, he says. So you want it just for scouting, or do you want to make "stitched" images for analysis? The stitched images require software that can put the photos shot in the air on coordinates together to make one big field image. The software tends to be expensive.

Related: UAV Show Draws Interested Visitors

Right now you can spend anywhere from $300 to $50,000 and have a UAV that will carry a camera. For $300 you may only get 600 feet of range, but the product is on the market and was displayed at the Farm Progress Show. For $50,000 you get a state-of-the-art fixed wing craft from Trimble, the only product they currently offer in the UAV market.

Most are somewhere in between. Love says they're trying out different models in different situations to learn what they might be able to do with this new technology. Beck's Hybrids also offers customers the option of images of their field taken through conventional channels.

Bill Frietag, also with Beck's Hybrids, says that the first question to answer today is this. What do you want to do with a UAV? If you just want to scout crops for yield information, that will lead you in a different direction that if you want to put together images.

What Big Data Could Mean on Your Farm

What Big Data Could Mean on Your Farm

The first time you hear 'Big Data' you might think you are in a science fiction movie. Someone tries to explain it and winds up saying someone can learn almost limitless information about you. It sounds scary. Used in the wrong way, it could be. Used correctly, tons of people who work with farmers and crunch data believe it could put us on the tip of the iceberg of new, innovative ways of farming efficiently.

"We're going to see value in yield data," says Troy Walker with Ceres Solutions in west-central Indiana. "If it's just lying in your desk drawer in your office it's useless. But you need to collect and store it. Methods of using it aren't perfect yet, but they are getting better."

Data and more data: Troy Walker says data collection will be wave of the future.

Walker sees big changes in this field within the next 24 months, with some advances coming more quickly than others. The first step is more tools that capture data. Two notable ones already in place which continue to evolve and improve are Field View from Precision Planting and My John Deere, which introduced updates to the system just before the recent Farm Progress Show.

Related: Is 'Big Data' Worth Your Privacy Loss?

"They're capturing data and will let you send it to other people. It will be stored in the cloud," Walker says.

The other big advance coming in data collection and management are data dashboards. The first signs of activity in this area are already visible. "These systems will allow you to collect all kinds of data and bring it together so it has value for decision making," he says.

A third change coming within the next two years is single-source reporting to government agencies. Instead of reporting the same information to multiple government agencies, you will report one time, and the agencies will all receive the information. Walker says it was mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill, reaffirmed in the 2014 Farm Bill, but yet to be implemented. His sources tell him the Farm Service Agency has been given a hard deadline to have it ready for the 2016 cropping season.