Cornbelt Update

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Cornbelt Update is a weekly summary of news from Extension, government, and other attributable sources, focused on marketing, farm management, and other issues that are of interest to Midwestern farm owners and operators.

Compared to the last two years this growing season has different supply and demand dynamics influencing prices, says IL marketing specialist Darrel Good. Read his latest newsletter.

For corn, Good says stocks are more abundant at 1.9 billion, and the most in four years. He says acreage is projected at 88.8 million, 2.3 million more than last year, with expectations that number may increase if favorable weather conditions continue.

For beans, Good says the USDA’s acreage projections continue to grow year after year. However, the modest US soybean stocks will be overshadowed by the projected 4.842 bil. bu. crop being forecast in South America, 1.3 bil. larger than the 2009 crop.

Darrel Good says
keep in mind that yields will be determined by summer weather, not spring weather, and consumption will be influenced by world economic conditions, energy prices, crop production outside the US, and the Chinese import policies.

The stocks to use ratios
are rising for corn, both domestically and globally says Dan O’Brien at KS St., whose recent newsletter reports world corn ending stocks at 17.8%, and for coarse grains the ratio is 17.2%. He says that is nearly 40% higher than in 2007, and the trend toward larger ending stocks is a primary indicator of the “larger supply, lower price” situation that now exists in world coarse grain markets.

Domestically, corn stocks are rising as well, says O’Brien. He says the USDA cut in estimated corn use for feed pushed up stocks, and the stocks to use ratio is now 14.7%, up from 13.8% in March and 13% in December. O’Brien says that is why the midpoint of the price range is $3.60, compared to $4.06 last year and $4.20 in 2007/2008. Read more of his newsletter.

How fast will the Cornbelt be planted? The Palmer Drought Index shows the Dakotas and Nebraska to be very moist. However, if the drying progress continues in the eastern Cornbelt, it is likely the corn crop will be planted in a timely manner in those states.

Corn may germinate faster this year than last, based on the accumulation of growing degree days, which are increasing faster this year than they did last year. OH agronomists report GDD accumulation at nearly three times what it was last year. Corn needs 90 to 150 GDD to emerge. If the average is 100 GDD for emergence, divide 100 by the number of GDDs per day, and that indicates how many days the corn will take.

What did you pay for cash rent in 2009? If you were in Central Illinois, it may have been among the highest, according to averages computed by USDA’s statisticians. It may have just been who was asked, but IL economist Gary Schnitkey says 41% of IL counties saw increases and 37% had decreases. Anecdotal reports indicated some county averages fell as much as 18% and some rose as much as 24% compared to 2008.

What determines cash rent? Schnitkey says local factors influence rent levels, and what may be occurring in one county may not occur in another. He also says rents vary considerably between farms of similar productivity, within a single county. He says it is difficult to determine an average, with some farms $100 above or below the average. Read more.

Will you be signing up for the ACRE program in 2010? The deadline is June 1 and there are some decision aids if you are interested. FAPRI offers an excel spreadsheet-based tool. KS St. has a similar tool.

Weed control #1. Winter annuals have been enjoying the great weather and abundant moisture and IL weed specialist Aaron Hager says their growth is robust. He says tillage may help control them, but if the soil is wet and clods form, then weeds are damaged and not killed. A damaged weed can be difficult to control with an herbicide application.

Weed control #2. Hager says the best control of existing vegetation is herbicides, but if you have glyphosate resistant horseweeds, it will take a tank mix with alternatives. He says, “Products containing saflufenacil, 2,4-D, dicamba, glufosinate, or paraquat are other herbicides that can be used to control horseweed prior to corn or soybean planting.”

Weed control #3.
If weeds are large before any management operation is implemented, Hager says spraying a burn-down herbicide a few days before the tillage operation may work best. "If aggressive pre-plant tillage is planned to alleviate field ruts, it's probably better to till before applying a soil-residual herbicide.” And he recommends placing that soil-residual herbicide into the top inch of the soil profile.

Weed control #4. Contact herbicides may not be as slow to act as translocated herbicides under cool conditions. Hager suggests when the forecast calls for several days or nights of cool air temperatures, symptoms of activity on existing vegetation may develop sooner with a contact herbicide than a translocated herbicide, such as glyphosate.

Weed control #5. Aaron Hager says if weeds are large before any management operation is implemented it might be advisable to spray a burndown herbicide a few days before the tillage operation. If aggressive preplant tillage is planned to alleviate field ruts, it's probably better to till before applying a soil-residual herbicide.

Weed control #6.
MO weed specialist Kevin Bradley says he’s checked corn yields against weed management programs and found the highest corn yields were in a two pass program 67% of the time, featuring a pre-emergent application, and a one-pass post emergent program that also contained a residual herbicide. The highest yields were in a one-pass application with a residual herbicide in 29% of the trials, and the best yields were in a one past pre-emergent program at planting time in 4% of the trials.

What seeding rate should be used to end up with the corn population that you want? Peter Thomison at OH St. says consider seeding rate = plant population at harvest/ (seed germination X expected survival rate.) Read more.

Gentlemen, place your bets. What will the next USDA estimation be of the 2009 corn crop in the Dakotas? NASS statisticians may have updated of corn stocks, yields, and production in the May 11 Crop Production report. Snow has recently left some fields and harvest is underway where feasible. Any changes from what had been estimated will be used in the updated production numbers and the grain stocks will change as well.

To limit soil compaction, MN soils specialist Jodi DeJong-Hughes advises keeping axle loads under 10 tons and properly maintain tire air pressure. That will help the soil and reduce slippage. She also says to use the lightest tractor possible to get the job done.

Hold up on your plans to spray fungicide on hail-damaged corn. IL plant pathologist Carl Bradley reports it only costs extra and does not protect your yield. He says the trend began in 2007 when corn prices were high and chemical companies marketed the concept as a yield enhancer. He simulated damage for two years with a string weed trimmer, tested fungicides against control plots, and found no significant yield improvement. He said during 2007, 10 to 14 mil. of the 76 mil. acre crop was sprayed with fungicide.

Bean pod mottle virus
reduces soybean quality and seems to be more prevalent the more southern a field is in the Cornbelt. Researchers at Iowa St. have been predicting BPMV in Iowa, based on infection of seed, overwintering of bean leaf beetles and alternative weed hosts that were infected with the virus. They also report that earlier planted fields had a higher risk of BPMV incidence, especially if many beetles survived the winter.

If you are concerned about high populations of bean leaf beetles in your bean fields, your treatment decisions should be based on the cost of the treatment versus the market value of your beans. Former IA St. entomologist Marlin Rice provides a decision aid to consider.

So far the new wheat rust has been a no show says KY wheat specialist Don Hershman. UG99 was supposed to decimate wheat around the world because current genetics are not resistant to it. Many other types of wheat rust have been found, but so far not UG99. Hershman says when it arrives, it will not come on a hurricane, but come from human activity, such as in commerce, from researchers, tourists, hobbyists, or terrorists.

What is the viability of your wheat? IL agronomist Jim Morrison says a stand of 25 to 30 plants per square foot is optimum and 15 to 20 is the minimum to keep, however tillers will bolster a low plant count and 60 of those per square foot are needed to compensate. He says take your counts at several locations in a given field.

When assessing your wheat stand, Morrison says check the crown to ensure it is firm and white and new roots are developing from it. He says if that is the case the plant is in good condition. He also suggests digging some plugs of soil and wheat, keeping them a week in a sunny cool area and checking the crowns for any new growth.

With cleaner air, because of EPA regulations, there is less sulfur in the air, and Purdue agronomists are warning about sulfur deficiencies being more common in crops. Check your wheat.

Those “dollar menus” at your local fast food restaurant have been contributing to the demand for slaughter cows, and livestock economist Tim Petry at ND St. says cow prices are $10/cwt higher than last year and above the 2008 record year. He says an early start to the grilling season and higher prices for pork and chicken have helped hamburger.

Cow slaughter is paralleling the high levels of 2009 and is 20% above the 2004-2008 average. Petry says it should soon slow down because of seasonal trends. His bottom line is that cull cow prices should remain strong until the seasonal decline in September.

The fast food demand for hamburger defines about 60% of the value says UT St. economist Dillon Feuz, and the other 40% comes from the consumer who has had to lower the quality of meat they purchase to be able to afford steak on a lesser budget. He says the demand for high quality has declined, but the demand for lower priced beef cuts may have actually increased. Read more.

Add $25 per head to the selling price if you put a tag on a calf that tells when and where he was born. That satisfies consumers, say IL livestock researchers, who are willing to pay premium prices for age and source verification, although few producers are doing it. The tags are attractive to the high end US market, as well as export buyers.

Dairymen and other livestock operations are being urged by MN animal scientist Marcia Endres to join the National Dairy FARM program, Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. She says it is a proactive approach to demonstrate to consumers that producers are dedicated to providing the best possible care to their livestock. There are self assessments, second party evaluations, and third party verification of practices. Endres says more information is available at www.nationaldairyfarm.com .

The planned April 8 closure of the Morrell packing plant at Sioux City, IA reduces the US slaughter capacity by 14,000 head per day, 3% of national capacity. MO economist Glenn Grimes believes the closure may narrow the east-west price spread, which was $7.27/cwt more in the western Cornbelt than in the eastern Cornbelt.

Illinois is the latest state to rework its Extension system. After radical changes in states like Iowa and Minnesota, Illinois will be eliminating 15 regional offices over time and regional educators will shift to county offices. However, 76 county offices will be cut to only 30, with each office serving multiple counties. Staff members will be reduced also, which results from a reduction in state financial support for Extension and 4-H.

Cornbelt Update observes its 12th anniversary with this issue, 624 consecutive weekly issues designed to inform Cornbelt farmers about marketing, farm management, new research, and current agronomic issues that are important in maintaining profitability in grain and livestock. It is also the last issue that will appear on the farm gate blog. Cornbelt Update will be available every week to paid subscribers, beginning with the April 23 issue. Request subscription details by e-mailing StuAgNews@aol.com .

Source: Stu Ellis, University of Illinois



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