Crop Tech Corner

Fri. Apr 29, 2016 2:05 PM


By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

A BETTER BT?

A new technique that rapidly produces new Bt proteins is making waves in the entomology world. The technique, called Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution (PACE), was developed by scientists from Harvard, Cornell and Monsanto. In their abstract, the researchers claim the technique will allow scientists to overcome Bt resistance in insects.

Bt resistance is a growing problem in the U.S., particularly in the Western corn rootworm, where several populations of the pest can survive a number of Bt proteins on the market. According to a news release from Harvard, the PACE technique will combat this problem by allowing scientists to quickly produce and deploy new, altered Bt proteins that attack resistant insects in slightly different ways.

Bt proteins work by binding to a specific protein in an insect's gut. To combat insect resistance in the past, researchers have had the time-consuming task of finding new Bt proteins that target new parts of the insect's gut. The PACE technique could speed that search up dramatically, according to its developer, Harvard chemistry professor David Liu. "... We evolved new Bt toxins containing dozens of amino acid changes over 500 generations in 22 days of PACE," he said in the Harvard news release. "To do that many generations of protein evolution with traditional stepwise methods, at the rate of about one generation per week, might take a decade."

Liu and his graduate student co-authored the study with graduate student Ahmed H. Badran. To test the effectiveness of their new Bt-generating technique, they fed some of their newly evolved Bt toxins to cabbage loopers that had shown resistance to currently available Bt toxins. The insects, which could tolerate enormous amounts of traditional Bt toxins, were much more susceptible to the new PACE-generated proteins, the scientists reported.

While promising, the new PACE technique probably doesn't make Bt technology bulletproof, Liu conceded in the press release. Insects could likely develop resistance to the new PACE-produced Bt proteins. However, the method should help researchers find new and effective Bt proteins and perhaps even find ones that target multiple proteins in an insect's gut, which would make it harder for an insect population to quickly evolve resistance.

More research will be needed to determine the future of Liu and Badran's PACE technique, and questions remain. Will it work against insects beyond the cabbage looper? How will the regulatory system evaluate and test the new PACE-evolved proteins? Even if Bt production is sped up, how quickly can industry actually move the technology through the time-consuming regulatory process?

The PACE technique holds great promise beyond agriculture, the Harvard release noted. Much of the initial research on the technique has actually targeted the healthcare industry, where the need for new therapeutic proteins is equally valuable. "In an ideal world, all of it should end up benefitting people somehow," Liu said in the release, before singling out the agricultural benefits: "This collaboration is a great example of a project that is not aimed at the development of new therapeutics, but instead at another important goal, namely trying to protect and improve our ability to feed people."

Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Harvard Chemical Biology Program, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and Monsanto, which has an "ongoing research collaboration" with Liu's laboratory.

For more information, see the Harvard release here: http://bit.ly/…, and the study abstract here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com.

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee.

(PS/CZ)

Micronutrients On A Diet

Fri. Apr 29, 2016 11:34 AM


By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Little things can mean a lot when it comes to crop production. Andy Barta believes micronutrients are one of the more cost-efficient inputs farmers can invest in these days -- even in the face of lower crop prices.

Micronutrients such as boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni) and chloride (Cl) are essential for plant growth and play an important role in balanced crop nutrition. Plants may not require much of them, but a lack of any one of the ingredients can limit plant growth.

Still, low crop margins have farmers weighing even the smallest inputs. The challenge this year is to determine which ingredients can be trimmed and which are necessary to avoid an economic drop in yield. When micronutrients become a limiting factor, other production inputs such as water and fertilizer can also be wasted.

Foliar Applications Drop

Barta is the assistant general manager of Rio Creek Feed Mill, an Algoma, Wisconsin, ag supply business. He told DTN that micronutrients can be applied either as a dry surface application or go on in foliar applications at the time plants need the nutrients. About 80% of the micros his company applies in northwestern Wisconsin area are in the dry form, he said.

He estimated 60% to 80% of their customers used foliar applications of micronutrients during high commodity prices. Lower crop prices have dropped that usage to 5% to 10%, he said.

"We had a customer apply half his oats with (dry) micronutrients and the other half without it," he said. "The half with micros yielded 15 bushels (per acre) more and had 1-2 lbs. more in test weight. He now applies micronutrients to all his acres."

Dry micronutrients comes in packages containing 6 to 10 micronutrients mixed specific to corn, soybean and grasses, according to Barta. Different crops have different needs. Micronutrients generally cost about $6 to $8 an acre. The way to prove micronutrients are working is to tissue test the crop, he said.

Brittany Bolte, an agronomist with Rock County Agronomy Services in Bassett, Nebraska, said diverse soils in her region of northern Nebraska limit the use of micronutrients.

"We have so many issues with phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and pH in our soils here, micronutrients like zinc, boron, etc. wouldn't probably work," Bolte said.

Bolte said she knows when corn was $6 to $7 there was big push for foliar applications of micros, but she is not sure there is a consensus within the industry from both growers and agronomists if foliar micros pay. This might explain why foliar applications of micronutrients have dropped with lower commodity prices, she said.

"My guess is it still comes back to the basic need to be addressed before going with 'fancy' micros," she said. "At least that is my position and what I push with my growers - get the foundation fixed on the house before we put pretty windows and gutters on."

Apply or Not to Apply?

Wayne Martin, who farms near Shelby, Iowa, decided to stop applying micronutrients after using them in recent years. Simple math of dividing total cost by $7 corn, and now $3.50 corn, showed he was not sure it would pay back even though it makes agronomic sense to him.

"It's like walking into a casino with $1,000 or $10, you can't play if you don't have as much," Martin said. "I'm guessing my yields may take a small hit but now we need to look at top economic yield, this is what will pull us through this slump."

Martin also believes a La Nina could be in effect this summer and his western Iowa farm could see dry growing conditions as a result. He would hate to throw extra money at a crop, he said.

Trying to produce "gravy" bushels this year will be hard to do with these grain prices. Extra bushels at $7 corn adds up much quicker compared to $3.50 corn, he said.

Not all farmers have decided to pull the pull completely though. Austin Henderson, who farms near Sharpsville, Indiana, said he uses quite a bit of ammonium sulfate (AMS) as a source of sulfur as well as some nitrogen. He said he plans on sticking with AMS because he feels like it is beneficial to him as his soils are deficient in sulfur.

"Sulfur consistently shows up as deficient here, therefore we spread AMS," Henderson said. "It also releases nitrogen a little slower so I feel it helps spread out our nitrogen program."

Henderson said they test their central Indiana soils for micronutrient levels. For the most part, most his soils are at adequate levels when it comes to micronutrients.

A practice he would be willing to incorporate into his operation someday would be using thiosulfate, which would be mixed in with nitrogen during side dress applications. He is willing to try new things if there is a chance of added profit, he said.

Read more on micronutrients: http://bit.ly/… and http://bit.ly/…

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow Russ Quinn on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(PS\SK)

Farmer Battles Over Covers

Fri. Apr 29, 2016 10:01 AM


By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Kevin Glanz doesn't believe his crop insurance policy should be put in jeopardy because he's following a cover-cropping practice approved by USDA's Risk Management Agency.

Yet Glanz has already been told his corn crop will face a quality control audit this growing season by Des Moines-based Rain and Hail LLC after Glanz informed his insurance agent that he plans to interseed a cover-crop mix into his standing corn crop this year.

Glanz, who farms just over 600 acres near Manchester, Iowa, got cross with his insurer after Glanz heard that farmers in Minnesota had begun interseeding cover crops into standing corn. The practice allows a cover crop to become established, but then largely go dormant as the corn gets taller and smothers out the sunlight during the summer. As the corn matures and dries in the early fall, the cover-crop stand begins to take off.

"As you go farther north, the more important this practice is because then you get a better cover crop in the fall," Glanz said.

The objection by insurance companies is that cover crops inhibit growth of the primary crop.

This is Glanz' fourth year growing cover crops. Typically he has planted cereal rye in the fall mixed in with his phosphorus and potassium application. His farm in northeast Iowa has a lot of lighter, sandier soil, but he's starting to see more organic mulch build up in the topsoil. He's also seen a renaissance of biological activity in the soil.

"I've seen the soil health improve," Glanz said. "The earthworms have just exploded. I'm proud to say I have earthworms."

As both a cover-crop seed dealer and equipment seller, Glanz also talks to a lot of farmers about covers and he heard about Minnesota farmers interseeding mixes. Glanz thought that interseeding a mix of tillage radishes, clover, rape and annual rye grass would work well for him because the covers would die over the winter and set up his fields to ideally boost his soybean yield next year.

"I've heard this could add eight to 10 bushels to your soybean yield and really wanted to try it," he said.

Trouble began when Glanz notified his insurance agent in late March. His agency called back later that same afternoon and told him he could not interseed his cover crops or there was a high probability that company would cancel his crop insurance. Glanz reached out to Albert Lea Seed whose staff had visited with the regional Risk Management Agency director for Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The seed company also noted more farmers in Minnesota were already doing interseeding practices.

"The regional director for RMA said you could do this," Glanz said.

So Glanz sent that information back to his insurance agent. Rain and Hail came back and stated that a farmer could not interseed until the insured crop reached "physiological maturity." Yet RMA removed that specific language from its rules in September 2014. Glanz said he contacted the acting regional RMA director, Mark Gutierrez, who then reached out to Rain and Hail on his own to discuss the matter.

As Glanz explains, Gutierrez was finally able to talk to staff at Rain and Hail in Des Moines on April 12. Two days later Glanz received a letter from Rain and Hail postmarked April 12 notifying Glanz he's been chosen for a quality-control audit for the 2016 corn crop year. "I found it very remarkable that the postmark date was April 12, the same day they got a call from the regional director," Glanz said.

After pushing the insurance company's buttons about the interseeding issue over the prior two weeks, Glanz is pretty certain it wasn't a coincidence that Rain and Hail decided to audit him, even before he's planted a crop this year. He's concerned that auditors will go over his field with a fine-tooth comb looking for any reason to cancel his policy. As Glanz characterized it, he understands a quality-control audit is akin to "a colonoscopy exam done with a crowbar." Whatever that is, it doesn't sound good.

"This is just pure, blatant bullying. I was singled out and I'm now being bullied into not planting these covers," Glanz said. "It's wrong that they're allowed to do this."

DTN contacted Gutierrez about the situation, but Gutierrez referred our call to RMA's press office in Washington, D.C., for comment.

In a statement, RMA cited the 2014 change in cover crop termination guidelines and noted that interseeding or overseeding into a standing cash crop won't affect insurance "as long as the cover crop is seeded at a time that will not impact the yield or harvest of the insured crop." RMA also added that a farmer has a specific allegation against a crop-insurance company, also known as an Approved Insurance Provider, the farmer should contact his regional RMA compliance office.

A national claims manager for Rain and Hail in Des Moines told DTN in a phone interview last Thursday that the company follows all RMA policies and rules regarding cover crops. Additionally, Rain and Hail would not single out an individual farmer for following RMA rules on cover crops. The claims manager also said the company does not have any particular season or time for deciding when to randomly select a farmer for a quality control audit. The claims manager maintained DTN could not quote him in any article.

"I'm not aware of anybody that's being audited strictly for the reasons of cover crops," the national claims manager told DTN. "There are several reasons why we would do some sort of review. Without any specifics I can't speak to this at all, but there are several reasons to be audited or reviewed for practices."

Rain and Hail doesn't have a specific rule for farmers regarding the interseeding of cover crops and complies with all RMA rules.

A potential policy cancellation would put Glanz in a situation of battling with Rain and Hail in arbitration and appeals that can take months, if not years, to reach a final ruling. In the meantime, Glanz' bank would be calling in his operating loan, which would be in jeopardy if he actually had a legitimate policy claim on this year's corn crop.

"This thing is just going to go from bad to worse all because I want to do a practice that is being done in Minnesota," Glanz said.

Glanz noted it's a little ironic that a federally-subsidized Des Moines-based insurer is fighting a cover-crop practice approved by its federal regulator while Iowa officials are championing cover crops as a way to avoid potential water-quality regulations and litigation coming from the city of Des Moines water utility.

"A federally-subsidized program should be the same in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Iowa if they are all in the same region," Glanz said. "How can we be in Iowa where water quality is a big issue but we can't be doing something to deal with it?"

RMA Cover Crop Termination guidelines can be found here http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/….

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com.

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

(CZ/SK)

US Creditors to Abide by Stay

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:47 PM


By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Creditors in the U.S. will have to recognize Abengoa SA's standstill agreement struck in Spain with creditors and bondholders giving the company until Oct. 28, 2016, to reorganize its debts, according to a ruling handed down Wednesday by a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The judge approved Abengoa's motion to file Chapter 15 bankruptcy, which is a unique section of the U.S. bankruptcy code created in 2005. Chapter 15 allows for the recognition by U.S. courts of bankruptcy filed in foreign countries. In this case the Delaware court ruled the ongoing proceedings in Spain are the main proceedings.

Chapter 15 comes with an automatic protection of the parent company's assets in the U.S. while court proceedings are ongoing elsewhere.

"No person or entity may commence or continue any legal proceeding or action against the foreign debtors, their assets located in the United States, or the proceeds thereof," according to the ruling by the Delaware court, "enforce any judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative or regulatory judgment, assessment or order or arbitration award against the foreign debtors.

"The foreign debtors are entrusted with the right to operate the foreign debtors' business, exercise the rights and power of a trustee, and they are entitled to administer and realize all or part of the foreign debtors' assets within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."

A number of insurance companies in the U.S. that are Abengoa creditors had objected to Chapter 15. Some creditors have objected because Chapter 15 gives U.S. courts limited power to control Abengoa assets.

Chapter 11 proceedings are underway in the U.S. and a number of grain companies are listed as creditors to ethanol plants in Nebraska. Abengoa also has ethanol plants in Kansas, Illinois and New Mexico. Chapter 15 could make it more difficult for creditors to be paid until legal proceedings in Spain are resolved.

By DTN's count, there are more than 225 agriculture businesses, farmers and ethanol companies listed as creditors by Abengoa in its Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis.

A number of farmer cooperatives and other grain providers to the company's ethanol plants in Nebraska attempted in March to force Abengoa into Chapter 7 liquidation after reporting $10 million in losses for unpaid grain delivered to the company's plants in York and Ravenna.

Creditors who were not paid for grain deliveries made to plants in York and Ravenna include Gavilon Grain LLC; Farmers Cooperative Association in Ravenna; Farmers Cooperative in Dorchester, Nebraska; the Anderson's Inc. and Central Valley Ag Cooperative.

All told, the company reports more than $16 billion of debt.

Abengoa announced in the past several months it intends to sell its ethanol assets in the U.S. and other countries.

For more information on Chapter 15, see http://bit.ly/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at Todd.Neeley@DTN.com

Follow him on Twitter @ToddNeeleyDTN

(CZ/ES)

Cutworm Alert

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:44 PM


By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

ROCKVILLE, MD. (DTN) -- A nighttime vandal is sneaking through Midwestern fields.

Black cutworms -- nocturnal corn cutting pests -- are already being spotted in fields this spring. Growers are being urged to scout carefully; particularly those who opted to plant conventional corn this year.

Cutworm moths have been winging their way into the Midwest since late March and worm damage will soon follow, entomologists warn. In Illinois, corn cutting could begin as early as May 13 for growers in central counties, according to Kelly Estes, the agricultural pest survey coordinator for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Farther north, University of Minnesota entomologist Bruce Potter expects damage to surface in the state's southwestern cornfields by the third week of May.

Black cutworm moths may have been flying north earlier than agronomists were setting traps, so damage could come even earlier than expected, Syngenta agronomist Todd Thumma warned in an email to DTN. First instar larvae have already been found on winter annuals in central Illinois, he reported.

Cutworm damage predictions are made possible by the cutworm's predictable seasonal migration, which starts along the Gulf Coast in February and ends in the northern Midwest in April and May. Female moths lay their eggs in crop residue or weedy and grassy fields.

"While Black Cutworm can be found in any field, I would pay special attention to corn fields that have had cover crops, weeds growing, soybeans as a previous crop, no-tilled/strip-tilled and fields with heavy residue," Thumma wrote.

Cutworm damage starts small. Often a "shot-hole" pattern is detected on leaves of seedlings, formed by young larvae munching through in a straight line. As they grow, they become capable of "cutting" young corn plants off above and below ground, resulting in wilted or dead plants.

Because this cutting action is so damaging, most Midwestern scouting guides recommend that growers scout for cutworm immediately after corn emergence and continue through the 4- to 5-leaf stage, when corn is capable of withstanding more damage.

"Fields at greatest risk to cutting and economic damage are in the 1-to-4 leaf stage of plant development," Estes wrote in a University of Illinois pest Bulletin article. "Producers are encouraged to look for early signs of leaf feeding as a potential indicator of cutting, rather than waiting for cutting to take place."

Thumma's Syngenta scouting guide recommends growers check 20 to 25 plants in five locations for every 25-30 acres of corn.

Proper cutworm scouting often involves a backache and a flashlight. Like little vampires, cutworms emerge and do their feeding after sunset throughout the night and bury themselves in the soil and debris during the day.

Estes recommends an overall treatment threshold of 3% damage. If your stand has dropped 15% below its optimum level, the Syngenta guide suggests dropping that threshold to 2%.

Growers who have opted for Bt-free, conventional corn will need to be especially vigilant in scouting. Bt proteins are among the first line of defense against black cutworm.

However, not all Bt proteins in corn hybrids will keep cutworms at bay, Estes warned. You can use this Bt trait table guide from Michigan State to determine if the proteins in your hybrids work against black cutworm: http://bit.ly/….

Even if your Bt hybrids do target black cutworm, they aren't bulletproof, Potter added. "The Herculex and Viptera above-ground Bt traits provide protection against black cutworm attack," he wrote in a university newsletter. "However, very large populations of large cutworm larvae might still damage small corn."

Finally, insecticide-treated seed can deter feeding cutworms, but only if the plant is actively growing and taking up nitrogen. Cutworms might feed past the seed treatment if early planted corn plants have stalled in cool, wet conditions, according to Purdue entomologist John Obermeyer.

Although rare, cutworms can attack soybeans, too, when populations are high in corn fields. They feed on the seedling plant, below the cotyledon.

You can find the Illinois pest Bulletin here: http://bulletin.ipm.illinois.edu/….

Potter's university newsletter on cutworm can be found here: http://swroc.cfans.umn.edu/….

See a standard Black Cutworm management guide from Missouri here: http://bit.ly/….

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

(PS/CZ)

Dr. Dan Talks Agronomy

Thu. Apr 28, 2016 2:40 PM


By Daniel Davidson
DTN Contributing Agronomist

Sidedressing nitrogen became a lost art for a few years in our history. Many farmers abandoned the practice as farms grew larger and application windows grew tighter.

This isn't the first practice to make a comeback, but it may be one of the most important. The current input cost crunch, the necessity to manage spring nitrogen loss and new application technology are driving the resurgence. The good news is there are other benefits to spoon-feeding nitrogen and providing a fresh supply of nitrogen that includes ammonia.

When you apply N either as ammonia, urea ammonia nitrate (UAN) or urea most of the N is in the ammonia form. When soils warm above 50 degrees, much of that ammonia naturally converts to nitrate. It's the nitrate that is vulnerable to loss from leaching and denitrification. That is why most N management strategies include tactics to keep it in the ammonium form as long as possible.

Charles Shapiro, University of Nebraska agronomist, said there is evidence that today's corn hybrids respond to having N available as ammonia. "Applications of nitrate containing fertilizers provide a source of ammonium for 2 to 3 weeks after application," Shapiro said. "Some agronomists consider ammonium important along with nitrate and some racehorse varieties respond to having ammonium present in addition to nitrate."

Nitrogen is still applied alone in the fall as ammonia or in spring as ammonia, UAN or urea. In the spring, UAN is often added with herbicides as a weed and feed. Growers can be putting down 150 to 200 pounds of N up front before the crop is planted.

Shapiro pointed out that applying too much N that early can drive organic matter decomposition too quickly in the spring instead of letting organic matter decompose more naturally and mineralize N more slowly, like a slow-release fertilizer.

We are often told that adding N helps break down residue that has a high carbon to nitrogen ratio. Growers sometimes apply 30 to 50 pounds per acre of N on cornstalks or wheat stubble to drive decomposition or compensate for the corn-on-corn N penalty.

However, over-applying too much N early can mineralize N more quickly and put that additional N at risk of loss. "Decomposing organic matter too early can dump too much N in the system and lead to more environmental loss," Shapiro said.

Spoon-feeding N in doses -- in the fall, spring, at planting and sidedressing in-season -- may be an important element in soil health. Soil microbes need four things: 1) Good soil structure; 2) Good aeration; 3) Labile (active) soil carbon; and 4) A pool of nitrogen. If the soil is moist and well-aerated, the microbes will feed and break down residue and mineralize a supply of nutrients as long as there is some nitrogen and labile carbon (the preferred source of carbon for energy) present.

The benefit of healthy soil with a high level of microbial activity is its ability to recycle and mineralize nutrients. So having a fresh supply of nitrogen available longer through the summer may maintain higher levels of microbial activity. Unfortunately, as we move into July and then August these supplies naturally diminish and so does microbial activity.

In addition to the economic benefits of higher yields with spoon-feeding, this practice has positive environmental implications. The less nitrogen fertilizer applied and the closer to time of usage by plants, the less chance there is of unused nutrients finding their way into water supplies. Along the way microbes are being fed, enhancing microbial activity and nutrient recycling.

Yes, sidedressing puts additional trips across the field on our already crowded list of summer chores. However, spoon feeding goes down easier when you consider that more N is being kept for the crop, it protects the environment and feeds the microbes critical to soil health.

Dan Davidson can be reached at AskDrDan@dtn.com

Follow Dan Davidson on Twitter @dandavidsondtn

(PS/SK/CZ)

Plant 2016 Progresses

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:24 PM


By Pam Smith
DTN Progressive Farmer Crops Technology Editor

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Cory Ritter finished planting corn this week with one eye on the row and the other on the rain clouds approaching in the distance. The corn portion of the planting season lasted only 10 days start to finish for the Blue Mound, Illinois, farmer -- that includes the three days he sat out idled by rain. A week to plant 900 acres isn't bad, especially when it was put in during the golden window of opportunity to obtain the best possible yields.

The magic planting date to drive corn yield is April 17 in Illinois, said University of Illinois agronomist Emerson Nafziger in a news release this week. He bases that on 35 planting-date trials in central and northern Illinois over the past nine years. Yields in Nafziger's studies didn't differ substantially as long as corn is planted sometime in April. Corn yields were within 1% (about 2 bushel per acre) of the maximum when planted between April 5 and April 30.

"Beyond April, we predict yield losses of about 4% (8 bushels per acre) by May 10, 8% (17 bushels) by May 20, and 14% (29 bushels) if planting is delayed until May 30," Nafziger stated. "We don't have a lot of data for June planting, but the yield loss going into June is at about 2 bushels per day of delay, and it's accelerating."

Ritter said his corn planted one week ago has already emerged. "I haven't had time to take stand counts, but it appears to have all come up at once and looks great," he told DTN. "It's been a good year for emergence." He expects corn planted this week to pop through the ground in five days given soil temperatures and moisture conditions.

Rain showers moved in late Tuesday afternoon and more rain is forecast for his area off and on this week. Ritter still has all his soybeans to plant.

As of April 24, 30% of the corn was planted nationwide, compared to 16% on average. Missouri farmers may have struggled to get a crop in last year, but they lead Midwest farmers this year with 81% planted. According to the most recent Crop Progress report, corn planting for Illinois was 42% completed; Indiana 11%; Iowa 40%; Nebraska 16%, Minnesota 45%, Kentucky 50% and Tennessee 65%.

Soybeans were 3% planted compared to 2% average nationwide with Illinois at 2%; Indiana 2%; Iowa 3%; Missouri 5%, Minnesota 34%, Kentucky 22% and Tennessee 22%.

SOY WHAT?

Nafziger's research team also gathered 23 site-years of planting-date data for soybeans in the same sites as their corn studies. The earliest planting date for soybeans was in the second week in April, with the latest dates in mid-June.

The data for soybeans showed that the maximum yield was obtained in mid-April, and that yield loss by the end of April was about 4 percentage points, or about 2.5 bushels. After April, losses totaled 7% (4 bushels per acre) by May 10; 10% (7 bushels) by May 20; 16% (11 bushels) by May 30; 21% (14 bushels) by June 10; and 29% (19 bushels) if planting was delayed to June 20.

"On a percentage basis, these loss numbers are slightly greater than those from planting delays in corn, but some of this is due to planting soybeans a little later in April than we started planting corn. Both crops lost yield at about the same rate if planting was delayed into late May," Nafziger noted in his release. "That runs counter to the earlier findings that corn loses yield faster when planting is delayed, and therefore needs to be planted earlier."

Given that neither crop suffers dramatically from planting through early May, farmers might assume that planting priorities for both crops are similar. However, corn seedlings tend to emerge better than soybeans under soil conditions typical of early spring, so Nafziger still suggests starting with corn, at least until soils warm up to allow faster soybean emergence.

"While getting both crops planted on time is beneficial, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that yield losses for delays into and even past mid-May are not so large that we need to give up hopes for a good crop if we aren't done planting by the end of April," Nafziger said.

Ritter remains optimistic, but he'll feel better when the soybeans are tucked into the ground. Then he'll welcome nice gentle showers.

More details and data from Nafziger's field studies are available at: http://bulletin.ipm.illinois.edu/…

Pam Smith can be reached at pam.smith@dtn.com

(CZ/)

DTN Retail Fertilizer Trends

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:12 PM


By Russ Quinn
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- Fertilizer prices continued to hold fairly steady for the second week in a row, according to retailers contacted by DTN during the third week of April.

As was the case last week, four fertilizers were higher priced while the other four fertilizers were lower priced compared to last month.

None of the fertilizer prices changed by any consequence. DAP averaged $477/ton, MAP $502/ton, anhydrous $588/ton and UAN32 $322/ton.

The remaining four fertilizers were down a small amount compared to the month earlier. Potash averaged $366/ton, urea $388/ton, 10-34-0 $561/ton and UAN28 $274/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, urea averaged $0.42/lb.N, anhydrous $0.36/lb.N, UAN28 $0.49/lb.N and UAN32 $0.50/lb.N.

In the northern Corn Belt, spring planting has not fully begun. Andy Barta, assistant general manager for Rio Creek Feed Mill located in Algoma, Wisconsin, said some wheat had been top dressed and oats seeded in his northeast Wisconsin area but no corn has been planted yet.

Barta said it has been a relatively quiet season in terms of farmers pre-ordering fertilizer. Normally about three-quarters of his customers lock in some fertilizer during the end of the year and into winter months.

"This year we only had maybe 40% to 50% of our customers lock in fertilizer," Barta told DTN. "It was a combination of low grain and milk prices as well as farmers thinking fertilizer prices were going to fall."

As far as which direction retail prices could be heading, Barta said he believes there could be some in-season jumps with fertilizer this spring. These increases could be in the range of $10 to $30/ton and if there were some supply concerns these increases could be even more, he said.

Longer term, Barta said retail prices could drop some after the spring application season and after side dressing is completed.

"My gut says prices could sag some, especially if more soybeans are planted around here," he said. "Less corn acres would certain lower nitrogen prices."

Fertilizer prices tracked by DTN appear to have bottomed in late February. For example, average anhydrous prices have climbed more than $50/ton since then. But at the moment, all fertilizers remain double-digits lower in price compared to a year earlier.

UAN32 is 13% lower while both urea and 10-34-0 are 14% less expensive from a year ago. In addition, DAP and MAP are both 16% lower, anhydrous and UAN28 are 17% less expensive and potash is 26% lower.

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):

DRY
Date Range DAP MAP POTASH UREA
Apr 20-24 2015 570 598 491 453
May 18-22 2015 570 597 492 459
June 15-19 2015 571 597 490 467
July 13-17 2015 569 593 488 470
Aug 10-14 2015 568 591 479 457
Sep 7-11 2015 563 580 467 433
Oct 5-9 2015 548 564 446 418
Nov 2-6 2015 546 560 430 405
Nov 30-Dec 4 2015 541 559 421 400
Dec 28-Jan 1 2016 494 531 398 383
Jan 25-29 2016 495 515 391 380
Feb 22-26 2016 477 492 373 371
Mar 21-25 2016 475 501 371 390
Apr 18-22 2016 477 502 366 388
Liquid
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Apr 20-24 2015 650 711 329 371
May 18-22 2015 650 710 332 372
June 15-19 2015 642 706 330 369
July 13-17 2015 639 691 323 359
Aug 10-14 2015 631 677 315 356
Sep 7-11 2015 594 656 301 346
Oct 5-9 2015 584 639 294 338
Nov 2-6 2015 583 633 291 332
Nov 30-Dec 4 2015 578 627 286 332
Dec 28-Jan 1 2016 570 590 273 317
Jan 25-29 2016 571 569 271 317
Feb 22-26 2016 566 536 260 309
Mar 21-25 2016 561 569 276 312
Apr 18-22 2016 561 588 274 322

Russ Quinn can be reached at russ.quinn@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @RussQuinnDTN

(MZT/CZ)

Kub's Den

Wed. Apr 27, 2016 3:08 PM


By Elaine Kub
DTN Contributing Analyst

Let's say you've been asked to teach 500 farmers, in groups of 50, how to be better grain marketers and get higher prices for their corn. What would your presentations include? Futures and options strategies? The importance of pre-harvest hedging during the new-crop market's spring highs?

Now let's say your audience of farmers has no access to hedging, via options, futures, or even forward grain contracts with their local buyers. Their only local buyers are rather underhanded small-scale traders who've never heard of a forward contract, nor would they trust a farmer to deliver on such a contract, nor could they be trusted to pay the agreed-upon price. There's no local price history to even analyze seasonal highs throughout the year. So, what are you left teaching?

I'll tell you. The only marketing strategies available to many of the world's farmers are: 1) Attempting good storage that keeps weevils and rats out of their 100-kg bags of grain; and 2) Planning to stagger sales in multiple increments throughout the year, averaging prices higher than the harvest lows. Also, without available lending or crop insurance, it's extremely important to budget one's costs of production and consider the profitability of the market prices.

While I was in Uganda this month on a USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer project administered by Catholic Relief Services, I pared my usual grain market presentation down to those three topics, but I had even more constraints -- no PowerPoint slides, no electricity, and frequent rain showers sending me and my flipchart and my audience scurrying for the nearest empty mosque or church or school.

Shake your head, sure, but also take this as an invitation to do an intellectual exercise for your own farming operation. Think of some hypothetical constraints that could happen to you. What if you had to farm without certain key personnel? What if your main road washed out or was otherwise impassable? What if your best grain buyer goes out of business? What if a certain chemical becomes unavailable? What's Plan B? Determining that answer can build resiliency on your farm.

The following is a conversation I had with a woman during the Q&A portion of a recent presentation.

Me: "And that's why I encourage you to store the grain and sell it maybe three or four months after harvest."

Farmer: "Last season I had a great yield -- 12 bags from my 1 acre -- and I would have been profitable except that weevils ate the grain."

Me: "Your local farmers' cooperative can sell you better bags, with triple layers to keep out the weevils."

Farmer: "Okay, but the rats eat the bags."

Me: "Keep your warehouse clean all year and fumigate to keep out the rats."

Farmer: "Okay, but the grain still went bad in the bags."

Me: "Was it dry?"

Farmer: "No I didn't have a tarp to dry the grain in the sun."

Me: "Well, buy a tarp. It's really important to store the grain dry."

Farmer: "I know, but I can't afford to buy a tarp."

Me: "Um, okay, can you borrow some money to buy a tarp, maybe from your Village Savings Loan Association?"

Farmer: "No, we don't have a VSLA in my village."

Me: "Um, okay, maybe this Rural Producers Organization here today could start a village savings club?"

Farmer: "Yeah, but still, what if I borrow the money but then the crop fails because of drought and I can't pay back the money?"

Me: "Um, I don't suppose you can buy crop insurance around here?"

Farmer: "Nope."

Throughout many millennia of human existence, farming has been a terrible, perilous, unpleasant occupation done only by peasants. The weather risk alone, to say nothing of the dirt and heat and hard work, made it unattractive. Anyone with a shred of education or ambition or opportunity left their family farm and never looked back. (Except for the crazy ones, cursed with some kind of romantic attachment to the land or the profession.)

In 2016, people with a sense of justice may wish that good, hard-working farmers everywhere shouldn't have to face lives of poverty and anxiety due to market price risk.

Even for today's very small-scale farmers using relatively ancient technologies, grain market price risk should be the one easy problem to solve. Putting a known price on unharvested grain isn't a radical concept. Ancient Egyptian farmers fed a great civilization *only because* they could pre-arrange a profitable price from urban grain buyers, then confidently buy inputs and expend labor. Formal forward grain contracts have been around since 15th century feudal Japan. But both of those civilizations succeeded in hedging their farmers' price risk only because those farmers could put their trust in a critical degree of societal order.

When we think of North American farming compared to subsistence farming in Africa, maybe we feel grateful for our air-conditioned tractor cabs and effective chemical herbicides. But I have learned our real blessing is our confidence in a society that functions properly, our confidence that our business counterparts will provide what we need and do what they say.

The elevator says it will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Then we can rely on it to receive its first truck at roughly 8 a.m., give or take, and to shut down its leg at 5 p.m. or thereabouts. A salesperson says this chemical will kill that category of weed? Then indeed those weeds will die, generally speaking. Need to drive a grain truck from Point A to Point B? Probably, the roads between A and B will be open and driveable-ish. A piece of equipment breaks? Buy the thingamajig to fix it. Don't have money to buy the thingamajig? Borrow the money. Crop fails and you can't pay back your loan with grain proceeds? Collect on crop insurance. In the very worst case, if a counterparty reneges on a contract, there are lawyers and judges who can sort it out.

So, yes, we are lucky, and not just in the usual ways that come to mind. They say Americans should thank a farmer three times a day for the meals they eat. I say American farmers should thank their bankers, their crop insurance folks, the ag economists and senators and lobbyists and farm organizations that designed legislation supportive to food security, plus the centuries' worth of businesspeople who built corporations and credit systems that operate efficiently, plus all the people who keep the U.S. judicial system ticking along, plus anyone who designs or builds or maintains passable roads and other infrastructure, plus ... anyone who's involved in any pursuit that perpetuates our modern, trustworthy, societal order. They are the reason we have come to confidently hope, that if in April we lock in a $3.50 price for our October corn, we will truly get that price at the appointed time.

Happy planting/hedging season!

Elaine Kub is the author of "Mastering the Grain Markets: How Profits Are Really Made" and can be reached at elaine@masteringthegrainmarkets.com or on Twitter @elainekub.

(CZ\SK)

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