Crop Tour Day 4 Midday Update

Thu. Aug 25, 2016 12:16 PM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Pam Smith
DTN/Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

By Chris Clayton

DTN Ag Policy Editor


Pam Smith

DTN/The Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

AMES, Iowa, and GAYLORD, Minn. (DTN) -- Scout teams from the eastern leg of the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour fanned out Thursday morning on the last jaunt of the tour with mild weather conditions to pull samples.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton was on one of the longer tour routes on Thursday as his scout team moved southwest from Coralville, Iowa, through Iowa, Keokuk, Mahaska, Marion and Warren counties before turning north to get around Des Moines.

After six stops in south-central Iowa, the scout team's corn samples were averaging 196 bushels per acre. While the scout team crossed over multiple crop districts, the sampled fields generally were hitting higher yields than sample averages last year on the tour.

Pod counts in the six soybean fields in south-central Iowa sampled early Thursday were averaging more than 1,500 pods in a 3-foot-by-3-foot area, which was about 300 pods higher than the tour reported last year on those same crop districts. Still, soybean fields along the route also frequently showed signs of sudden death syndrome.

Meanwhile, scouts on the western leg of the tour headed into Minnesota Thursday morning to find a lush crop that had received recent rainfall. However, the green crop often looks different inside the field than from the road.

That's been the case on DTN/The Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor Pam Smith's route through southwest Minnesota Thursday morning where scouts sampled multiple fields that had hail damage that will take the top end off the yield in those fields. The eight fields sampled so far Thursday morning averaged 177.5 bpa for corn.

Soybean fields showed lots of potential on this route, with one field planted in 10-inch rows with a pod count of 2,362.9 in a 3-foot-by-3-foot square with several four-bean pods observed. The average for this tour so far was about 1,300 pods. Node spacing was good in many fields and beans were not quite as tall as scouts found in Iowa. There was also evidence of sudden death syndrome starting to show up.

Waterhemp remains to appear troublesome. However, nasty clogged fields were found next to clean fields.

The tour ends Thursday night in Rochester, Minnesota. Pro Farmer will then release its forecast for national corn and soybean production on Friday afternoon.

Pam Smith can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


Looking Beyond Bt

Thu. Aug 25, 2016 7:36 AM

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- A handful of scientists believe better corn rootworm control is closer than we think -- specifically, just under our feet.

Your average cornfield hosts an impressive array of life. Microbes, bacteria, fungi, nematodes and insect predators like spiders, mites and beetles can lurk in every square foot of soil. There's growing evidence they could be deployed against corn rootworm larvae.

"We need to fight fire with fire," said Jonathan Lundgren, an independent agroecologist and entomologist, who has been studying the natural predators of corn rootworm for more than a decade. "Corn rootworm is a very plastic and dynamic critter and we need to use something equally plastic and dynamic to fight it. Why not use what Mother Nature made a long time ago?"

While Lundgren has been studying how to encourage insect predator communities, Cornell University entomologist Elson Shields has spent the better part of his career successfully deploying local nematodes against the devastating alfalfa snout beetle in New York. He's now found that a combination of two nematode species may decimate rootworm populations.

Out west, University of Nebraska entomologist Julie Peterson, is helping her graduate student, Camila Oliveira Hofman, hunt down fungal diseases of insects (called entomopathogenic fungi) that infect and destroy rootworm larvae.

Success from these scientists would be a boon to corn growers. Western corn rootworm has evolved resistance to nearly every chemical and biotech tool deployed against it in the past few decades. Biological control options could supplement both Bt and the next generation of RNAi rootworm traits, and perhaps supplant some of them.


Shield's beetle-eating nematodes are the ideal farm investment. Alfalfa farmers in New York inoculated their soil with them once, using an evening field surface spray that cost $26 an acre. Now more than a decade later, those nematodes are still completely suppressing alfalfa snout beetle populations in alfalfa fields.

Their taste for rootworm larvae was discovered when Shields turned his attention to how well the nematodes survived if farmers rotated out of alfalfa to another crop, such as corn. To his surprise, the nematodes not only survived the corn rotation, but their numbers increased. "Their increases appear to coincide with when we see rootworm move in," Shields said.

Two years ago, he inoculated a continuous corn field and a corn-soybean rotation field with the nematodes and set up some untreated and Bt-corn fields nearby. The 2015 season proved too light a rootworm year to collect data. But in 2016, rootworms gnawed away at corn roots in the untreated control, causing up to 1.9 nodes of damage, Shields said.

Fields with his nematodes performed exactly as well as the Bt fields, which were planted to Yieldgard, Herculex, and Smartstax hybrids. "The key is that the nematodes were applied two years ago," Shields marveled. "We've worked really hard at keeping those persistent characteristics in these populations."

Much more than one year of data is needed to confirm the nematodes' efficacy against rootworm, but the results are so promising others are jumping on board. Monsanto has funded a project with USDA scientists in Columbia, Missouri, to find strains of nematodes in the Midwest that target the rootworm.

Some of these soil nematodes are attracted to rootworm-damaged corn roots, so the goal of the funded proposal is to help control Bt-resistant rootworm populations by targeting damaged Bt-corn roots with them.

"We need two things," said USDA-ARS entomologist Bruce Hibbard, an advisor on the Missouri project. "We need strains that overwinter here in the Midwest, and we need to figure out how to maintain them for as long as possible. That might require some alternate sources of food, such as cover crops."


Lundgren has long promoted winter cover crops to suppress rootworm populations, though not specifically for nematodes. His research is focused on larger, more visible field warriors -- spiders, ants, centipedes, beetles and other insects.

Lundgren's work revealed that rootworm blood has a repellent quality that keeps many biting insects at bay. However, sucking insects like spiders and ants appear to feast on the rootworm quite happily.

Cover crops can lure these predators to your field, Lundgren says. His work in South Dakota showed that cornfields planted after a winter cover crop of slender wheatgrass had higher insect predator populations and less rootworm damage than fields that lay bare over the winter.

Researchers found populations of ants, beetles and other insects, many of them with bits of rootworm DNA in their tiny tummies. "Overall, we've identified dozens of predator species as being important consumers of corn rootworm," Lundgren said.


Like Shields, Peterson and Hofman have been looking to the soil for rootworm solutions. For two years, Hofman dug up hundreds of soil cores from five irrigated cornfields in southwest Nebraska. She used a common fishbait insect called the waxworm to lure the fungi. When they infected her bait, she collected the fungi, grew them out in petri dishes and identified them. Now, armed with a library of local Nebraska fungal insect diseases, Hofman will see which ones attack rootworm larvae. The project is funded by the Nebraska Corn Board.

Peterson and Hofman also will test any promising fungal candidates against non-target insects to protect beneficial insect populations.

The biological organisms these researchers are working on may be rootworm solutions in and of themselves, but they are most likely to be supplements to the system in place, Peterson said.

"The great thing about biological options is they can be completely compatible with Bt traits," she said. "We can get less broad-spectrum insecticide use, which will help conserve these natural enemies."

Lundgren has even more ambitious hopes for biological rootworm control. He wants growers to stop seeing corn rootworm as a target for insecticides and other controls, but rather a warning sign.

"Corn rootworm isn't the problem, it's a symptom telling you something in the field is out of whack," he said. He believes corn monocultures planted year after year into tilled fields have banished the valuable inhabitants of fields and soils, and with them, the rootworm's natural enemies.

"We are creating our own rootworm problems by reducing biodiversity in our cornfields," he said. "When you have a diverse insect community, then rootworms aren't an issue anymore."

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.


Kansas Cellulosic Plant to Sell

Wed. Aug 24, 2016 2:29 PM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Abengoa Bioenergy's cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas, could have a new owner by the end of October, an official with the company hired by Abengoa to sell the plant told DTN Wednesday in an exclusive interview.

Mark Fisler, managing director of Los Angeles-based Ocean Park Advisers, the company hired by Abengoa to sell the biomass-based ethanol plant that shut down as part of Abengoa's ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, said there will be an auction for the plant sometime in October and that he's "100% confident" the plant will sell.

"Hugoton has never been a part of the same schedule as the gen-one assets," Fisler told DTN.

"We're going to get out a bid seeking institutional letter to interested parties this week. The activity and interest level at the site are reasonably high. We expect to get a number of letters of interest. There has been more than 15 entities doing site tours, doing engineering work, studying how they would use the asset. It's been very robust. We've been pleased with the opportunities."

The plant, which was built at an estimated cost of $400 million, remains in "cold status at this point," Fisler said. The plant was in the middle of start-up when Abengoa's financial problems surfaced.

Fisler said he expects to receive letters of intent to bid by the first week of September. "We will negotiate and finalize a stalking-horse bidder and will have an auction the latter part of October," he said.

A stalking-horse bidder is the first bid in an auction and more or less sets a floor price for the auction.

"So they get to set the draft of the purchase agreement everyone else has to be subject to," Fisler said. "They get the preliminary inside track."

The interested buyers come from all around the world and from three main camps, Fisler said.

That includes from existing cellulosic ethanol development companies and from first-generation corn ethanol companies looking to produce "generation 1.5" ethanol and maybe use some of the cellulosic aspects of the plant for corn fiber.

The third camp includes advanced biofuels/bio-based chemical companies that may retrofit some of their existing technologies to the plant.

Fisler said the cellulosic ethanol plant still has a "very small number" of employees who remain connected to the site and would be employees with "sound institutional knowledge" about the technology.

"There are a variety of employees (a new owner) would have access to, whether the employees would be interested is a personal choice," he said.

The Abengoa plant is designed to use a variety of feedstocks, including wheat straw, switchgrass and even municipal solid waste. It was expected to provide an annual $17-million, 300-million-ton feedstock market for area farmers.

The 25-million-gallon Hugoton plant is designed to process about 1,000 tons a day of corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass and other biomass feedstocks, all within a 50-mile range of the plant. The plant also is designed to produce electricity.

Earlier this week, Abengoa sold three of its ethanol plants to Omaha-based Green Plains Inc. during a recent auction. Green Plains bid $237 million to purchase plants in Madison, Illinois, Mount Vernon, Indiana, and York, Nebraska. The plants have an annual combined production capacity of 236 million gallons.

KE Holdings LLC made a successful $115 million bid to buy the Abengoa plant in Ravenna, Nebraska, while Kansas-based ethanol plant builder ICM Inc. was the high bidder at $3.15 million for the Abengoa plant in Colwich, Kansas. ACE Ethanol, LLC, was the successful back-up bidder on the Kansas plant, with a bid of $3 million. The Abengoa corn ethanol plant in Portales, New Mexico, so far has not sold.

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Wed. Aug 24, 2016 11:45 AM

By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the third week of August 2016 show price declines accelerating in recent weeks. All eight major fertilizers headed lower compared to a month earlier and all but one fertilizer has seen significant price drops.

UAN28 is now 11% lower compared to the month previous; the liquid nitrogen fertilizer averaged $238 per ton. Potash, urea and UAN32 were all down 7%, with potash averaging $333/ton, urea $337/ton and UAN32 $285/ton.

Anhydrous is 6% less expensive compared to last month, and both MAP and 10-34-0 were down 5%. Anhydrous averaged $516/ton while MAP was at $471/ton and 10-34-0 was at $513/ton.

The only fertilizer without a significant move lower was DAP. The phosphorus fertilizer averaged $452/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, urea averaged $0.37/lb.N, anhydrous $0.31/lb.N, UAN28 $0.43/lb.N and UAN32 $0.45/lb.N.

In a new report from Rabobank titled "Urea's 'New Normal,'" author Brenda Jiang, farm inputs analyst, wrote about China's efforts to build highly efficient and cost-competitive urea capacity, which is replacing marginal producers. Rabobank estimates that nearly 25% of Chinese urea capacity will be upgraded by 2020 and this cheaper product will secure the country's position in the global urea trade as well as put pressure on the world urea price.

China's urea production is structurally changing, Jiang wrote. Manufacturers are realizing cost reductions by putting facilities in areas with abundant coal or utilizing lower-grade, cheaper coal to produce urea.

"First, large-scale facilities are being developed in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang, as production facilities are consolidating with large integrated coal-based chemical projects," Jiang wrote. "Second, thanks to improved coal gasification technology, facilities that have started operating in the past few years are able to use low-grade, cheaper coal to produce urea, thereby cutting costs."

Another reason for the changes in urea production in China is advances in urea production efficiency, due to improved manufacturing processes, facilities and technologies. Companies in 2015 are now able to produce ammonia (and thus urea) by using 40% less coal stocks, compared to a company in 2008, the report states.

Jiang wrote these changes will have an effect on the global urea market. China has placed a cap on growth, producing 81.5 million metric tons (mmt) of total urea capacity in the next five years. Rabobank estimates 21.5 mmt of new, low-cost capacities will replace old, high-cost capacities from 2014 to 2020.

"China's urea exports have accounted for 30% of global trade, while the country's export price remains at the low end of the global market," she wrote. "An improved cost structure enables China to export urea at consistently low prices, hence place a cap on a global price rebound."

DTN's survey of retail fertilizers show all are double-digits lower compared to a year earlier.

10-34-0 is now down 16%, UAN32 is 18% less expensive and both DAP and MAP are 20% lower. Both anhydrous and UAN28 are 23% less expensive, urea is 25% lower and potash is now 30% less expensive. After months of floating around 25% lower, this marks the first time potash has pushed 30% lower compared to a year prior.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to November 2008 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

DTN's average of retail fertilizer prices from a month earlier ($ per ton):

Aug 17-21 2015 568 587 477 448
Sept 14-18 2015 563 579 462 432
Oct 12-16 2015 547 564 440 418
Nov 9-13 2015 547 561 426 405
Dec 7-11 2015 534 555 417 397
Jan 4-8 2016 495 521 392 381
Feb 1-5 2016 488 502 381 370
Feb 29-Mar 4 2016 476 492 373 374
Mar 28-Apr 1 2016 478 501 370 386
Apr 25-29 2016 476 502 366 386
May 23-27 2016 476 501 365 381
June 20-24 2016 470 495 358 366
July 18-22 2016 464 493 357 357
Aug 15-19 2016 452 471 333 337
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Aug 17-21 2015 611 667 309 349
Sept 14-18 2015 593 653 300 345
Oct 12-16 2015 584 640 295 338
Nov 9-13 2015 581 631 289 332
Dec 7-11 2015 575 625 284 330
Jan 4-8 2016 572 582 273 316
Feb 1-5 2016 549 555 263 305
Feb 29-Mar 4 2016 566 537 260 309
Mar 28-Apr 1 2016 561 580 268 315
Apr 25-29 2016 560 587 274 321
May 23-27 2016 560 587 274 321
June 20-24 2016 554 567 265 305
July 18-22 2016 546 546 260 304
Aug 15-19 2016 513 516 238 285

Russ Quinn can be reached at

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN


Midwest Crop Tour Day 2 Wrap

Wed. Aug 24, 2016 11:27 AM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
Pam Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

BLOOMINGTON, Illinois and NEBRASKA CITY, Nebraska (DTN) -- Crop scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour came into the week wondering if USDA's August estimates could be right. The second day of tour made that question even more pertinent as variable yields ruled the day in Nebraska. Conditions looked much better in Indiana than the previous year, but were still below USDA estimates.

Yield projections for Nebraska came in at a surprising 158.60 bushels per acre, down 4% from last year; USDA's August projection was 187 bpa. The tour measures the eastern half of the state and drew 258 samples total. The soybean crop was thought to have more potential. The tour found an average of 1,223.07 pods in a three-foot-by-three-foot square, which is almost exactly the estimate from 2015 and only a smidgen higher than the tour's three-year average.

While the western scouts might have been disappointed, scouts on eastern leg of the tour found a much bigger crop in Indiana than last year and much better yield forecasts than scouts sampled in Ohio.

Totals released Tuesday evening showed the 163 fields sampled by scouts in Indiana calculated an average yield of 173.42 bpa, up 21.3% from last year. Ear counts were 3.2% greater than the 2015 tour, grain length on the ears was up 12.8% and kernel rows on those ears were up 6.2% as well. However, Pro Farmer analysts pointed out that Indiana had a very poor year overall in 2015.

Indiana's estimated 173.42 bpa from the random samples this week also tops the three-year tour average of 165.11 bpa. Still, the tour's sample yield from Indiana remains below USDA's estimated 187-bpa yield for the state.

Crop sampling in Indiana began on Monday and carried into Tuesday for the 12 scout teams on the eastern leg. For soybeans, pod counts averaged 1,178.41 per field in Indiana, which is 7.2% higher than last year.


While pod counts were high, fields also were wet. Brian Grete, a Pro Farmer analyst and tour organizer, noted soil moisture was higher than on last year's tour. "We had a lot of muddy fields we sampled over the last two days in Indiana," he said.

Scouts on the tour headed into Illinois for the second half of their day. They described overall better conditions for crops in both Indiana and Illinois than they saw in Ohio on Monday. Yet the ground-truthing from the scouts also found corn borer damage and diplodia (corn ear rot) in spots, as well as sudden death syndrome and stem rot affecting soybean fields.

However, despite those problems, scouts noted overall they saw solid corn and soybean crops across Indiana. "We saw some pretty decent crops on our route," said Dick Overby, a veteran scout from Kenyon, Minnesota. "We saw 184 bushel average and a 1,400 pod bean count, which was respectable."

Daniel Periera, a market analyst from Geosys International in Sao Paulo, Brazil, said sampled yields from his route were above the three-year average in Indiana. Samples were also pulled from Illinois. Illinois data will be released Wednesday evening.

There was some 200 bushel-plus yield potential recorded. A field sampled in Cass County, Indiana, calculated out at nearly 223 bpa. Another scout team pulled a corn sample from Vermillion County, Illinois, that calculated out at 235 bpa.


Roger Cerven, a Stanton, Iowa, farmer and one of the volunteers participating in the tour, put his Tuesday discoveries into perspective. "What did we see? All of the above," said Cerven. "Those fields look great from the road, but farmers might be surprised if they get out into that field to take a look."

Chip Flory, western tour director and Pro Farmer editorial director, said the tour typically measures Nebraska 15 bpa light since the state is 60% irrigated. The tour sample was 44% irrigated acres. Add that to the estimated yield and it still only brings Nebraska's total to 173.6 bpa. "I feel as though USDA went too far with that 187-bpa estimate," Flory said.

"I was severely disappointed with irrigated corn [in Nebraska] this year," Flory added. Dryland yield averages were above irrigated in some areas. Flory said he sees a lot of potential in the soybean crop. However, he said the beans still widen out between nodes more than is preferred. "I love to see irrigated Nebraska beans just over knee high with nodes just under two inches apart and loaded with pods.

"If you give soybeans water at the right time soybeans can still make [more yield]," Flory said. "A lot of the South Dakota soybean crop needs another drink if it's going to finish," he added.

Most of the Nebraska farmers coming to listen to the daily tour announcements said they think their soybean crops are potentially better than a year ago.

Jarod Creed, a scout and Gavilon grain analyst, said Nebraska stood out this year compared to last year in two main areas. "Green snap and no mud," Creed said. "The only water we saw standing was in the irrigation wheel track." Some fields had severe amounts of green snap.

Scouts noted that waterhemp was thick in many fields and western bean cutworms were feeding and causing damage on ear tips and sometimes deep in the ear. Scouts also noticed ear set height was erratic in many fields, signaling there had been early emergence problems.

On Wednesday the eastern leg of the tour continues through Illinois and into eastern Iowa, ending in the Iowa City area. The western leg moves into western Iowa and finishes in Spencer.

The results from Illinois will be released on Wednesday evening and are highly anticipated because USDA estimated Illinois could have a 200-bpa corn crop growing in the field.

Check here later for photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from day 2 of the tour.

To see photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from day 1 of the crop tour, go to:

Day 1 (West):…

Day 1 (East):…

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Pamela Smith can be reached at

Follow Pam on Twitter @PamSmithDTN


Some Viptera Claims Tossed

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:24 PM

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- A federal judge last week dismissed claims made by a group of farmers in a class action lawsuit against Syngenta that the company should have done something to inspect and keep harvested Viptera and Duracade GMO MIR162 corn from being shipped to China.

The action was at least a partial victory for Syngenta. However, multiple lawsuits challenging the company on its handling of the GMO corn will continue, according to a legal expert who has been following the cases.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas ruled negligence claims involving inspections are pre-empted by the Grain Standards Act. The 1916 act requires all grain sold in foreign commerce to be inspected and graded.

Donald L. Swanson, an attorney with Omaha-based Koley Jessen PC, LLO, who has followed and written about the case for Iowa State's Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, told DTN the court's ruling removes one of numerous claims still to be adjudicated.

"They're moving this case along rapidly," Swanson said. "The ruling limits the claims. It does not terminate the lawsuit. This kind of legal wrangling is very typical. It is limiting the scope and focus of the case."

At present, the lawyers and judge in the case are taking part in the pleadings and discovery phases simultaneously, he said. The plaintiffs in the case have made numerous allegations of facts claiming multiple legal standards have been breached, Swanson said.

"Let's just say hypothetically there are a dozen claims made," he said. "The defendant is saying we want to limit the number of claims that go to trial. We're going to try to knock out one at a time. In this case, they were successful. This is for Syngenta, a partial victory."

The latest ruling also dismisses the separate claims of a group of farmers called the "Phipps plaintiffs" represented by Phipps Anderson Deacon, LLP based in San Antonio, Texas, who had their claims consolidated in the Kansas federal court. A number of other agribusinesses including Gavilon Grain, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bunge North America, Cargill, Inc. and Louis Dreyfus Company, also had filed motions to dismiss the claims made by the same plaintiffs.

DTN's attempts to reach attorneys for the Phipps farmers were unsuccessful.

Syngenta faces an ongoing legal battle after developing MIR162 genetic traits marketed under the brand name Viptera and in Viptera/Duracade stacks. USDA deregulated the products in 2013 and Syngenta moved ahead to commercially sell the seeds even though MIR162 had not been approved in China. In November 2013, China began rejecting any U.S. corn exports that tested positive for MIR162. That went on until China eventually approved the trait in December 2014.

The official lawsuits filed on behalf of corn producers include cases in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Plaintiffs have claimed Syngenta misled the public and made misrepresentations to the public and USDA concerning the status and likelihood of Chinese approval and their effects on export markets. Plaintiffs also claimed Syngenta's actions increased the risks of contamination and commingling of corn.

In a statement to DTN, Syngenta hailed last week's ruling as a victory.

"The Aug. 17 ruling in the Viptera China lawsuits significantly narrows the case against Syngenta," the company said. "For example, the ruling confirms that federal law bars 'any claim against Syngenta based on a duty to make sure that Viptera corn is segregated from other corn.' The court also agreed with Syngenta that 'there is no basis for Syngenta's liability based in false representations or omissions of fact in communications with plaintiffs,' and, therefore, rejected plaintiffs' claim for negligent misrepresentation.

"Although the litigation will continue to proceed, this is an important step forward as we continue to defend the rights of American farmers to have access to safe, effective, U.S.-approved agricultural technologies like Agrisure Viptera."

The goal for Syngenta in the legal proceedings, Swanson said, is to essentially eliminate all of the legal claims in the case, while the plaintiffs are working to put at least one claim before a jury.

Swanson said there remains a class of farmers in Minnesota pursuing a class action suit likely to play out in state court in Minnesota.

According to court documents there are about 2,375 cases involving more than 20,000 plaintiffs pending in the Fourth Judicial District of Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Although the case is "convoluted, complex and difficult," Swanson said, chances are there will be a number of trials before it is resolved.

"My sense is they're working at this hard," he said. "They have to work through pleadings and discovery then through some bellwether trials, actual jury trials- maybe a dozen of them - then there will be a resolution to the case."

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


Todd's Take

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:21 PM

By Todd Hultman
DTN Analyst

As scouts hit the road for this year's Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, everyone wants to know what they will find and, more specifically, whether or not they will agree with USDA's national corn yield estimate of 175.1 bushels per acre. With as much effort and discussion as we put into estimating the 2016 crops, I had to pause and wonder about the wisdom of the whole approach. Beyond understanding that the U.S. is going to harvest a lot of corn this fall, does it really matter if the yield is 173 bpa or 175? I doubt it.

On one hand, USDA test plots and private crop tours make sense. We can sit in an office all summer with weather maps and make guesses, but that will never be a good substitute for getting out in the fields and taking a good look.

On the other hand, even USDA's methodical field observations are only so accurate. According to USDA's August 2016 Crop Production Report, the Aug. 1 corn production estimate has a 90% confidence interval of plus or minus 6.5%. This means USDA's 15.153 billion bushel estimate is likely to end up somewhere between 14.2 billion and 16.1 billion bushels.

The whole reason we try to predict the size of the corn crop in the first place is to try to understand prices, but prices appear to have already anticipated most -- if not all -- of this year's big crop. Instead of wondering if a big crop will get bigger, the better question is: Will this year's low corn prices get lower?

Going back to 1999-00, I was able to find seven similar seasons to 2016 when final corn production was larger than USDA's original crop estimate in late February. I then wanted to see how Dec corn prices performed from the end of August to the end of November. Did low corn prices get lower as more harvest information became available?

On average, no. In these years of bigger-than-expected harvests, Dec corn traded slightly higher on average from the end of August to the end of November and also finished higher in four of the seven seasons. The biggest drop was 19% in 2004-05 and the biggest gain was 22% in 2009-10. So yes, Dec corn could go either way from the current level, but the notion that there is a tendency for August's prices to get lower (implied in the saying, "big crops get bigger") is not supported by the data.

Instead of getting carried away with the latest crop estimates, I suggest keeping a focus on the market's own clues and the relation of corn prices to their cost of production -- a method that I re-visit at the start of each year.

In 2016, the likely range for Dec corn based on production cost was $2.95 to $4.42 a bushel. Because corn's demand environment is better in the U.S. this year than it was in 2015 when Brazil's real was cheap, I don't expect Dec corn to reach $2.95, but prices in the low $3s are reasonable, considering the good weather that most of the Corn Belt has enjoyed.

The other clue that corn prices are getting close to support came from Friday's Commitment of Traders report. CFTC data showed that commercials were net long in corn for the third consecutive week, holding 43,478 contracts as of Aug. 16. Commercial buying in response to low prices is a good sign that corn's value is appreciating -- even as a record crop is anticipated.

USDA's crop estimate may or may not increase in the days ahead, but we would be wise not to become overly-influenced by those numbers. As far as corn prices go, it seems likely that the bulk of this year's big crop has already been accounted for.

Todd Hultman can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ToddHultman1


Crop Tour Day 2 Midday Update

Tue. Aug 23, 2016 12:18 PM

By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (DTN) -- A scout team moving north from Fishers, Indiana, through north-central and western Indiana counties Tuesday morning found better averages for corn and soybeans on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour than scouts saw farther east on Monday.

Samples collected in central Indiana averaged 162.5 bushels per acre in Howard and Miami counties, but the estimated yield from a field in Tipton County, Indiana, was 193 bpa.

A field sampled in Cass County had a larger average ear length of 7.7 inches, which calculated out to a potential yield of nearly 223 bpa.

Another eastern-leg scout team reported an average yield of 182 bpa from Indiana stops and pulled a corn sample from Vermillion County, Illinois, that calculated out at 235 bpa.

Still, not every sample looked like a field of dreams. A cornfield in White County, Indiana, had corn borer infestations attacking ears, and the soybean field across the road was facing problems with sudden death syndrome.

Overall, scouts on multiple routes in Indiana were measuring higher soybean plant populations and pod counts than what scouts found in Ohio Monday. Pod counts in a 3-foot-by-3-foot span were topping 1,500 pods, about 300-400 pods higher than samples measured Monday.

Crop tour veteran Bill Bayless, a farmer from West Mansfield, Ohio, said the early samples in central and west-central Indiana looked like solid potential crops.

"The beans are looking really great in this area," Bayless said. "The corn looks good, but not maybe as great as the bean crop is. Overall, both of them together, the farmers will be really happy with their yields this fall."

Yield calculations on the crop tour take a total ear count from 30 feet of adjacent rows. Three ears are pulled from one row from stalks five, eight and 11. Those ears are measured for grain length and the number of kernels are averaged in each ear. Then, the calculations are divided by row space.

For instance, the field with 223 bpa yield had an ear count of 104 ears in two rows. The average ear length from the samples was 7.7 inches and the average kernel rows came to 16.7 (two ears had 16 kernels and one with 18 kernels). The math came to 104 x 0.5 = 52 x 7.7 grain length = 400.4 x 16.7 average kernels = 6,686/30-inch row width = 222.87 estimated bushels per acre.

Chris Clayton can be reached at


Editor's note: You can follow the tour's progress by following @ChrisClaytonDTN for eastern leg updates, @PamSmithDTN for western leg updates or the hashtag #pftour16. Please remember that each tweet represents only what's seen on that particular car's route and doesn't necessarily represent the big picture.

Watch DTN Ag News this evening when the state average yields are updated.

To see photo albums by DTN staff on Facebook from the crop tour, go to:

Day 1 (West):…

Day 1 (East):…


Calving Prep

Mon. Aug 22, 2016 2:35 PM

By Victoria G. Myers
Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Once a beef calf hits the ground, the clock is ticking. What happens -- or doesn't happen -- as each hour passes will determine to a large extent whether that calf thrives. It all starts with colostrum.

Sometimes called "first milk," colostrum is more similar to nutrient-rich cream than milk. It is high in immunoglobulins (Ig) to help prevent infection, fat, energy, vitamins A and D, and white blood cells.

Studies have shown calves that do not get enough colostrum or a high-enough quality colostrum by the time they reach the 24-hour mark are 3.2 to 9.5 times more likely to become sick and 5.4 times more likely to die before weaning.

Especially concerning are situations where a calf had a difficult birth, it is a first calf for a heifer, the cow has a bad temperament and won't allow its calf to nurse, or the cow has mastitis. Healthy cows with adequate body condition (5.5 to 6) precalving should have no trouble providing enough colostrum to their newborns. Heifers should be in a higher body condition (6.5 to 7) to avoid potential problems.


The first sign of a problem comes early. Calves should be up and nursing within one hour. If there's any reason to doubt that this has taken place, consider tube-feeding the calf at least two quarts of colostrum or colostrum replacer before the six-hour mark. Another two quarts by the 12-hour mark is often recommended.

W. Mark Hilton, DVM, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, said producers have to be ready to respond when they believe a calf is not getting colostrum. He recommends always having a bag or two of colostrum replacer on hand.

"It doesn't go bad if stored properly. So at 2 in the morning when you see there is a problem, you don't have to go to the clinic. I look at it as cheap insurance," Hilton said, adding that it's key to buy a well-researched, good product.

Some producers go to dairies in their area to buy colostrum, which they then freeze for future use. While it is fine to save colostrum this way for up to a year, Hilton emphasizes the source should be your own herd. Going to someone else for colostrum is risky.

"Never do that. Never go buy colostrum from some other herd owner. You may be buying a new disease. It's not worth the risk. Only use colostrum you've collected from your own herd or colostrum replacer," he cautioned.


Hilton explained a colostrum replacer is exactly that, a replacement. He specified that producers should use a replacer, not a supplement, and that it should be made specifically for cattle.

He recommended asking your veterinarian for specific product recommendations and stressed this is not a place to save money. The higher-quality products on the market have a minimum of 60 grams of IgG (immunoglobulins, antibody type G) per liter.

Tom Earleywine, director of nutritional services with Land O'Lakes, said the use of colostrum replacers among beef producers is widespread today. He recommended products made from real cow colostrum that are USDA approved.

"We quarantine the colostrum we buy for our replacer. Our product goes to the USDA facility at Ames, Iowa, where they test it to see if there is a good passive transfer in one dose. If there is, we release it," he said of the company's Bovine IgG Land O'Lakes Colostrum Replacement.

Earleywine said the company's colostrum comes from dairy herds across Canada. It is dried and then selected, based on quality, for use as a replacer, a supplement or an additive. Only replacers made from real colostrum can have USDA approval.

For the best absorption, Earleywine said it's a good idea to administer a colostrum replacer in a one-time oral dose. If it is given in two doses, hours apart, the absorption of the second dose is lower and doesn't do the calf as much good. The first six hours of life are when the best colostrum absorption takes place; after that, it drops substantially. Research shows the amount of antibodies in the calf going from about 66% at six hours after birth to less than 10% at 24 hours.


Once past the crucial time for colostrum, the next hurdle calves may face generally hits before they are a month old. Calf diarrhea, often called scours, is a common problem, treatment for which will most often include the use of oral electrolytes.

Geof Smith, DVM and North Carolina State University ruminant health and production medicine professor, said there is a wide range of quality for these products.

"An oral electrolyte should have three things," he explained. "First, there should be sufficient sodium. The reason you're giving the electrolyte is to rehydrate the calf, and the key is to replace the sodium.

"Next, you need to have an alkalinizing agent, either bicarbonate or acetate. This helps correct acidosis, which is a low pH and is common when calves suffer from diarrhea."

Smith stressed there is a tremendous variation in quality of electrolytes and strongly recommended producers talk to their veterinarian or nutritionist to be sure they choose a good product. He said it's difficult to read some of the labels and determine how much sodium they contain or other key indicators.

Products Smith said he sometimes recommends to producers include Hydra-Lyte, Diaque, Land O'Lakes Electrolyte System and, recently released, Replenish.


A common question Smith gets is whether producers can feed electrolytes at the same time a calf is drinking milk.

"There is a school of thought that a bicarbonate alkalinizing agent interferes with milk digestion, and so you should separate consumption of the two by a couple of hours. The label will even say not to feed with milk.

"We know, though, that an acetate alkalinizing agent does not interfere with milk digestion. So we can feed those products with milk."

He added this can be a critical consideration in beef-calf care because these calves don't need to be held off their dams for any prolonged period of time.


Along with scours, there are other times an electrolyte may be of benefit to the herd, according to Land O'Lakes' Earleywine. Any time there is concern that cattle may be dehydrated, during shipping or heat stress, for example, offering an electrolyte can be a boost for the health of calves as well as older animals.

Earleywine stressed, however, that an animal receiving electrolytes must stay hydrated. The sodium in an electrolyte solution can make an animal more dehydrated -- not less -- if the animal is otherwise healthy and not scouring.

"Taking an electrolyte without enough water creates a situation where the gut recognizes there is an imbalance, so it tries to flush that out," he said. "This removes more moisture from the animal, making him scour and become more dehydrated."

To avoid this, mix electrolytes with water, and make sure there is plenty of free-choice, high-quality water available all the time. In addition, Earleywine cautioned, it's important to avoid the use of soft water when mixing electrolyte solutions because soft water has a higher sodium content.


Severely dehydrated calves are often easy to spot. They will typically have no suckle response, eyes will be sunken and pinched skin will not go back immediately. Along with water, calves with scours lose electrolytes, essential to bodily functions. This can lead to metabolic acidosis, which can kill a calf quickly.

Once a decision has been made to give electrolytes, improvement should be fairly fast. Continue to feed the calves until there is a strong recovery, and they are thriving. This means no more sunken eyes or signs of malaise. This typically takes one to three days, depending on the quality of the electrolyte and how dehydrated the calf was when electrolytes were first offered.

Earleywine said in cases of severe dehydration, it can take four to five days to see improvement. If calves are to this point, giving injectable electrolytes with veterinarian supervision via intravenous (IV) or subcutaneous (SQ) injections can revive the animal. Oral electrolytes are not the same as those made to be given using IV or SQ methods. These products are sterile, premixed and electrolyte-balanced.


While it's important to be prepared for any scenario come calving season, Purdue's Hilton believes that for most well-managed beef operations, problems are more the exception than the rule.

"I constantly preach that beef cattle should be low maintenance," he said, adding that heterosis in a herd can go a long way toward minimizing problems and increasing productivity.

"Cows should calve unassisted. Calves should jump up and nurse aggressively. All the owner should have to do is tag the calves and cut the bulls. Calving season should really be a joy."


Collecting colostrum from dams in your own herd is the cheapest and, many agree best, way to nourish newborn calves that don't get what they need from mom.

The collection of colostrum each year is a good habit to get into. Choose cows you know to be tame and have a history of producing plentiful, high-quality colostrum. It should be more of a golden color than milk with no blood. Consistency should be thick and smooth.

After the newborn calf has nursed well, veterinarian Mark Hilton said one milliliter of oxytocin will enhance letdown of additional colostrum. Milk this out and freeze it. Frozen colostrum lasts about a year and needs to be thawed carefully, using warm water or a microwave on low power.

"In most well-managed herds, the heifers will calve first, and the chances that a heifer will have excess colostrum are not very high. So plan ahead," Hilton said. "When your cows calve, collect some colostrum and keep that in the freezer. Then next year when the heifers calve, you'll be prepared for any problems."

He added: "It's important to know that colostrum quality can change with every pregnancy. So do some visual checks as to whether the udder looks full, and try to know the history of the cow. Older cows typically produce more and better colostrum than heifers, but it's all quite variable."


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