Blogging by the Bushel
With numerous challenges over the past several years for producers, we at Mercer Landmark understand the need for a comprehensive risk management solution. We seek to provide our customers with unparalleled service to ensure maximum results.

Archive for September, 2013

CORN ILLUSTRATED: Dryer shrinkage takes out bushels. Make sure you’re talking 15.5% corn on bushels per acre.

Tom Bechman

Published: Sep 17, 2013

If you want to win bragging rights at the coffee shop, weigh your 28% corn you harvest in the next few days or weeks and divide by 56. You’ll get a much bigger number than if you dry the corn first, then weigh it. Always make sure that when someone begins talking yields, especially if it’s a seed salesman trying to show you how well his hybrids performed in a plot, that he’s talking dry bushels.

The Purdue University Corn & Soybean Field Guide, now available as an app for the iPad, explains how shrinkage works. As moisture is removed, weight is removed. It’s a simple concept, and most people honor reporting as dry bushels, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

How much dry corn? The yield monitor takes the guess work out if it’s calibrated right. Without a yield monitor, you may not have as much corn per acre as you think while combining if you’re just guessing by volume on wet corn.

Here’s an example. Suppose you have 56,000 pounds of grain on a semi at 26% moisture. You typically can carry 1,000 bushels of corn out of the bin in the semi, so you assume you’ve got a pretty good thing going on yield in that field. So what if moisture knocks off a little bit.

It’s more than ‘a little bit.’

Divide 56,000 by 56 and you’ve got 1,000 wet bushels. However, when you dry to 15%, you must include a shrink factor. Grain specialists have worked out the formulas that tell you what factor to use to know how much weight of corn you will have left after you dry it to 15%.

In this case, multiply the wet weight by 0.01176. You get 129.6 bushels. That’s how much of that load was water, not real corn. Subtract that from the original weight, then divide by 56. You’ve got 870.6 bushels left. That’s a pretty hefty drop. Figure field yields using 870 bushels, say off 5 acres, instead of 1,000 bushels. Your wet yield was 200 bushel per acre. The dry yield is 174 bushels per acre.

That’s why elevators either dock you, factor in shrinkage, or some combination of both when you deliver grain. And that was at 26% moisture. If you start shelling this week, some of you will be harvesting at higher moisture content.

By: Kelsey Berger – Mercer Landmark agronomist

Harvest is quickly approaching and some guys have even been able to get run some acres. Timely drydown in corn is key to a timely harvest. Many people take quickness of drydown into consideration when they choose a hybrid. Grain moisture content is used to assign a relative maturity based on moisture content at harvest. Two hybrids that differ by one “day” of relative maturity will typically vary by about one half percentage point of grain moisture content if planted and harvested on the same days. Also, relative maturities are comparable only within seed companies not among seed companies.

Drydown characteristics come into play when weather conditions are not favorable to dry down (cool, wet, heavy dews, etc.). Most moisture loss is actually lost through the kernel itself.

Well have you ever thought what traits of a corn hybrid actually contribute to quick drydown?

Kernel Pericarp Characteristics. The pericarp is the outermost layer of a corn kernel (botanically; the ovary wall). Thinner or simply more permeable pericarp layers have been associated with faster drying rates in the field.

Husk Leaf Number. The fewer the number of husk leaves, the more rapid the grain moisture loss. In fact, modern hybrids have fewer husk leaves than those commonly grown years ago.

Husk Leaf Thickness. The thinner the husk leaves, the more rapid the grain moisture loss.

Husk Leaf Senescence. The sooner the husk leaves senesce (die), the more rapid the grain moisture loss.

Husk Coverage of the Ear. The less the husk covers the tip of the ear, the more rapid the grain moisture loss.

Husk Tightness. The looser the husk covers the ear, the more rapid the grain moisture loss.

Ear Declination. The sooner the ears drop from an upright position after grain maturation to a downward position, the more rapid the grain moisture loss. In particular, husks of upright ears can “capture” rainfall.

*(Sept 13 Pest & Crop Newsletter)

Your local Mercer Landmark branch can help you with choosing a hybrid with timely drydown or any other factor that is important to you. Contact them today to talk more about seed corn and beans available through Mercer Landmark. Early season discounts are still available!

By: Sara Schafer, Business and Crops Online Editor

In the first of four segments, AgDay flies high above some key crop districts in Iowa to see how the crop has progressed since the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour.

Knowing that this year’s fields contain enormous variability that is difficult to spot from ground, Farm Journal Media launches Eye in the Sky to help track progress through harvest.

Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory went high into the air this week to take an aerial view of the crops in several key crop districts in Iowa. He flew from Waterloo, Iowa, diagonally toward Mason City.

“The most evident thing out there was stress on the crop,” he says. “Time does not heal all wounds. The problems we had in the spring are still very evident out there in the field.”

Flory says he saw many areas in fields that have prematurely died. “The stress wasn’t just on the sandy soils,” he says. “A lot of the prematurely dying spots were next to ponded out areas, which suggests that it was heavier soils that were holding water earlier in the year. I think it comes down to delayed emergence. The stuff that emerged last was most vulnerable to the stress we saw on the crop earlier this summer.”  

Chip Flory took this photo during his flight. He says there were plenty of dead spots out there in corn fields of north-central Iowa.

On the up side, Flory says he did see some healthy crops – the cover crops. “The cover crops on those prevent plant acres are by far the greenest crops we saw,” he says. “At least the cover crops are doing well because of the September rains we’ve been receiving.”

In addition to the flyover videos, GEOSYS is providing satellite maps and information to Farm Journal to demonstrate new tools available to track crop progress and field variability. Using NDVI, GEOSYS creates in-season crop health maps. Crop health has a high correlation to final yield, particularly after Aug. 15 for corn.

A dark green color equals strong plant health, yellow to light green is average and dark red is the worst.

After the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, which wrapped up Aug. 22, Pro Farmer editors had this to say about the crop in Iowa:

Expected corn yield: 163 bu. per acre. Iowa is a prime example of why perspective must be applied to raw Crop Tour data. Samples indicated Iowa has the potential for big yields, but problems with late maturity and major uniformity issues means we don’t expect this to be realized.

No shadows flying under clouds today. Calico-colored fields all over northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

Some Minnesota corn and soybean fields still have great color and a ways to go to maturity

Even if corn is holding on, you can’t erase the early season problems

Bean sample from first field to shut down. Not representative of entire area, but shows what might be in dead spots.

This morning it’s all about the latest FSA acreage dump and the acreage data cast a spell on the trade once again overnight. The FSA prevent plant, and failed acres report gave the market a shock last month, but the trade was on the lookout this month. The numbers can look a little shocking, but you have to remember that the FSA is a component of the USDA, but typically there is no historical correlation to the final NASS numbers that the market uses to get your final production, carry-outs etc. The only real rule of thumb seems to be that NASS is typically 3% inflated from the FSA numbers. Not all farmers enroll in the program and are timely and totally efficient in reporting acres. But the FSA still does their monthly data dump to give the market a look at what has been compiled.

FSA published the corn prevent plant acres at 3.572 million, which was slightly higher than 3.411 million in the August dump.  “Certified” Planted Acreage under the FSA data moved up sharply as more farmer acres were tallied, seen at 91.4 million vs. 88.8 million.  Analysts estimate roughly 3% of US acreage is not certified; bulls take this to mean there were roughly 94.0-94.5 million planted corn acres, which would be lower than the 97.4 million used in the Sept NASS crop production report.  Bears will point to the potential for more certified acres to surface in the October update due to the late planted crop, as well as the ample carryout expectations still seen even assuming a drastic reduction in planted acreage

Monday evenings Crop Progress data after the close offered no major surprises. The USDA reported a 1% decline in corn conditions, though this is no longer the highlight with 97% of the crop seen in the dough stage.  Instead, traders focused on the harvested tally – the USDA published a 4% national yield vs. 10% average, but state-by-state tabulations in the delta and south uncover about 620 million bushels have been harvested to date, helping to refill depleted cash corn pipelines.  There were reports of further basis declines in the east as harvest slowly marches north, and basis still generally has a defensive feel.  Yield reports generally remain in-line with or better than expected.

The soybean market continues to be on the defensive as traders interpret the FSA acreage data and worry about new crop supplies. The FSA pegged planted and failed acres as reported to them at 74.659 million acres up 2.599 from August for Soybeans. Prevent plant acres on soybeans were 1.687 million acres up 68,434 from August.

National good/excellent rating was down 2% to 50%; this is the 2nd worst conditions rating in the last 10 years. Both Illinois and Iowa showed a small improvement, with larger losses seen in Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota. USDA said the percentage of fields dropping leaves was 26%, down from 35% on average, with maturity especially slow in Illinois and Minnesota at just 7%. General consensus on early yields continue to be average to above average as it starts to pick up steam and move north.

However, that said, arguably the most surprising numbers in the dump this month were not the corn and bean numbers, but the wheat acres. Failed acres in wheat jumped from 667k in August to 2.06 million this month. Failed acres were acres that were planted, but then reported to the FSA as failed. Prevent plant acres jumped from 585k in August to 1.97 million acres this month. These acres, are what were reported to insurance company’s as un-plantable before the prevent plant date. 1.66 of those acres came out of North Dakota.

Meanwhile any rallies continue to be capped from huge amounts of wheat starting to move north across the border from Canada. The crop up north is shaping up to be a record. The USDA pegged winter wheat planting at 12% this afternoon, up from 5% last week and in line with the long term average. Meanwhile in the northern plains, spring wheat was pegged at 90% harvested up from 80% last week. The general consensus is that yields remain strong, but test weights and proteins remain somewhat disappointing. Rains are continuing to move across areas of HRW country this morning with more of the same expected over the next week to 10 days. This will give winter wheat farmers great incentive to plant this fall, and should increase acres yr/yr.

BY: Amy Battles – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Prohibit: 1) To forbid by law or authority
2) To hinder or prevent

“It’s arguably the worst weed problem to hit agronomic crops in the southern United States. We’ve watched cotton fields being mowed down before harvest because of Palmer amaranth.”
–Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension Weed Scientist

A few quick facts based on recent publications put out by Ohio State and Purdue University:

  1. According to Ohio State University, “There appears to be somewhat of an epicenter of new Palmer amaranth infestations in an area southwest of Columbus, bordered roughly by Midway on the north and Washington CH on the south.” There is a local dairy in the area that has been feeding products that contain cottonseed hulls that have been transported to the dairy from somewhere in the South.
  2. Mercer Landmark agronomists and Mark Loux, OSU Weed Scientist, have identified 2 fields containing palmer amaranth in the Mercer Landmark sales area. The plants have been removed from the fields.
  3. Palmer Amaranth has been confirmed in 20 counties in Indiana, mainly in the top 1/3 portion of the state. The closest counties with confirmed cases of palmer amaranth are Adams, Noble, and Huntington Counties.

Below are a few pictures of Palmer amaranth taken in St. Joseph County, Indiana in July of this year.


Purdue Extension recently published an updated bulletin called, “Palmer Amaranth Biology, Identification, and Management” which can be found by clicking HERE.

Words cannot express how important it is that we take preventative action against what scientists are calling, “the most serious agronomic weed challenge that we have had.” If you see any suspicious or unfamiliar weeds in your fields please talk with your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist before it is too late.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2013

By: Nate Birt, Farm Journal Social Media and News Editor

More acreage and yield reductions are likely for soybeans on the horizon given USDA figures reported Sept. 12, says Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale, Inc.

“We have a very tough supply situation laid out in front of us that USDA will have to recognize in the next month or two,” Nelson says.

USDA made minor changes to old-crop numbers but still has to realize that exports beat estimates, he says. The soybean yield estimate of 41.2 bushels per acre aligned with the average market guess. In October, USDA is expected to lower soybean acreage, and an Allendale survey of farmers indicates another yield decline is coming.

Meanwhile for corn, the 0.9 bushel-per-acre yield increase to 155.3 might have surprised some in the trade, Nelson says. Importantly, though, that increase didn’t come from the eastern Corn Belt offsetting the western Corn Belt. Rather, it came from southern states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

A decline in acreage is expected in October as crop insurance data are reconciled, and a slight decline in yield also is projected.

“They will trim production a little bit, but this will still be a very burdensome supply, and prices will probably fall from here,” Nelson says.

Marketing outlook

Expect corn prices to make “one last little push” before basis return to traditional negative numbers for the Midwest in the next few weeks, Nelson says. Farmers will need to go back to old-fashioned marketing strategies, paying attention to the spread. The March-to-December spread will probably get back to a storage premium. Holding onto a little bit of corn might make sense.

For soybeans, farmers can expect a good two- to three-month period of potentially higher prices before the South American crop really takes hold and revokes the market, Nelson says. There might be a little basis push going into December and January, and farmers might consider selling cash around the first of 2014.

BY: Clint Muhlenkamp

In an earlier blog, I wrote about Septoria Brown Spot and the effect it has on soybean yields. I also wrote about a way to minimize the disease using a double application of fungicide.

I have already shared in my previous blog the results of two trials last year in Van Wert and Ashland County which was a staggering 18 bushel per acre increase.  Now I am going to share with everyone the progress of a field trial we have in Mercer Landmark’s backyard – Celina, Ohio.

Last week I made a visit to the trial where we split a field into three sections.  The first section had two passes using Stratego YLD® fungicide and a Max-IN® foliar.  The first pass was applied at the early V3 timing (the approximate time when Septoria Brown Spot develops) and the second pass was applied at the regular R3 timing.  Section two had a single shot of Stratego YLD® and Max-IN® at the early V3 timing.  Section three was untreated.  The difference between each section was amazing.

The untreated section lacked fullness, had lost a majority of its lower leaves, and pod formation didn’t start until 9 to 10 inches up the stem.  The one pass had more pods per node and formation started lower on the stem.  What impressed me most though, was the two-pass system.

For my sample, I selected four soybean plants (all right next to each other) in the untreated and four plants in the double applied soybeans.  I then counted the total number of pods on each section.  Here’s what I came up with:

Untreated: 86 pods total (21.5 pods per plant)  

Double Treated: 171 pods total (42.75 pods per plant)

After counting the pods, all I could say was wow!  I definitely feel comfortable saying that this grower’s payout will outweigh the investment, and outweigh it by a lot!

After harvesting, I have a feeling the grower will be saying – cha-ching!  Stay tuned for the post-harvest results.

Talk with your local Mercer Landmark rep today on how to add a double fungicide application to your plan.

Timing of the last alfalfa cut

Written by the forage specialists at DuPont Pioneer

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Deciding your fall alfalfa harvest schedule is like a juggling act – you need to think about your forage inventory and needs, potential yield, risk of winterkill and even harvest cost.

Robin Newell, DuPont Pioneer forage business manager, offers tips to help plan your final 2013 alfalfa harvest.

Last-cut timing
The tried-and-true practice for best winter survival is to wrap up the final harvest by early September.

“The thumb-rule is that alfalfa fields in the upper Midwest and Northeast should not be harvested between September 1 and October 15,” Newell shares.

This period allows build-up of carbohydrate reserves in the roots. This helps maintain the stand’s health and productivity into the following spring.

Alfalfa stands that are mowed during this critical period during the fall often lack vigorous regrowth next spring. The next year’s first-cut yields can be impacted adversely by mowing in this September to mid-October timeframe.

To mow or not to mow?
It’s best to avoid mowing during early fall, but what if your alfalfa is ready to cut in mid-September to late September? Consider your overall forage needs versus the risk of winter damage to the alfalfa stand.

If you really need the forage, consider waiting until after mid-October to harvest. Alfalfa quality does not decline as rapidly in the cooler weather typical of autumn.

Also, the amount of regrowth after mid-October is generally limited, so root reserves will not be significantly depleted following a late-October harvest.

Secondly, the amount of winter injury risk that can occur from harvesting during September or early October will depend on how much stress the alfalfa stand experienced during the year.

The number one stress factor that weighs into this decision is how many times you harvested the field this year. Fields cut three or four times prior to September 1 will be more susceptible to winter injury than fields cut twice. Also, fields that had uncontrolled potato leafhoppers during the summer will be at greater risk.

Third, it helps to maintain some alfalfa ‘straw’ for its snow-retention abilities. Snow is a great soil insulator. Soil temperatures at the four-inch depth stay in the low 20s with just a few inches of snow cover, despite air temperatures that get much colder.

Alfalfa crowns of winterhardy varieties can withstand soil temperatures of 17ºF, but lower soil temperatures will cause winter-damage. How confident are you of maintaining snow cover? Any lack of alfalfa straw to catch and hold snow increases the risk of winter-damage.

Waiting for Jack Frost
If you need to harvest the alfalfa one more time, consider waiting until after the first killing frost, when the temperature remains at 26ºF or less for at least six to eight hours. Waiting for this frost allows the plant to get as much energy into the roots as the growing conditions allow while still producing a crop for additional forage inventory.

Lifting the cutter bar 6 to 8 inches off the ground helps to leave enough stubble to trap some snow, providing insulation for the crop and increasing its chance for surviving the winter. But if the alfalfa stand will be retired this fall, you can take a fourth cutting prior to the killing frost.

“If you decide to take a last cutting after the frost, then make that last cutting as soon as practical after the frost to avoid leaf tissue loss, preserving most of the forage quality,” Newell reports.

“Leaves will begin to drop and stems will droop in a few days following the first freeze. The sooner you can harvest after the freeze, the better.”

Other strategies
As you reflect on your last alfalfa harvest of the season, here is a list of factors that can help minimize late-fall harvest problems and encourage healthy, productive stands for better winter survival:

• Don’t cut alfalfa during September through mid-October (four to six weeks before a killing frost)
• Harvest only well-established stands, not new seedings
• Maintain a high level of soil fertility with annual fertilization
• Apply a late-summer or fall application of potassium fertilizer
• Cut alfalfa at 6 to 8 inches high for snow retention and insulation against winter damage
• Avoid fall cutting fields that experienced stress from potato leafhoppers, drought or excessive soil moisture

While you weigh your options about your final alfalfa harvest, make sure to remember these few guidelines to help ensure winter survival of stands.

The grain markets have been digesting a lot of information lately, following last week’s Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, some recent USDA reports, as well as harvest kicking off in the South. As a result soybeans remain the hot market, with everyone in the trade waiting to see if we can take out the $14.09^6 high. Bulls continue to fear poor soil moisture levels and lack of rainfall in August and into September could ultimately devastate production in parts of IA, IL, MN, ND, WI, and MO. Their belief is the cooler than normal temps early on helped mask the dry conditions that were taking hold. Now all of a sudden we have the driest July and August on record for some areas and the trade is somewhat surprised by the reports of short plants, limited pods, plants already turning yellow, and major dead spots out in the fields. While there is starting to be talk of the US corn yield falling to sub-150 levels, there is more talk that the soybean yield could ultimately be sub-40 bushels per acre, a number that simply will NOT pencil! This is obviously giving the soybean market stronger rally legs than corn which will enjoy substantial gains in yield when compared to last year. For those producers who are waiting on prices like last year, just remember, the trade was talking about a 32 to 33 bushel yield for the US crop during the height of the run up to $17.94^6… that’s not anywhere near the case this year.  Moral of the story, don’t be afraid to book profits and reduce risk with prices above $14.00 a bushel. Also keep your eye on the 2014 prices, a move back above $12.50 will once again insure profitable farming.

BY: Kelsey Berger – Mercer Landmark agronomist

Lime has always been used to raise pH but it also offers many other benefits. Also a key point to remember is not all lime is created equal. But first, how exactly does lime raise pH? The chemical compound of lime (calcium carbonate) is CaCO3. Low pH is caused by soils having too much hydrogen. When lime is applied, it forms with those excess hydrogen molecules to form water. Once those molecules bond, that leaves calcium and carbon dioxide, which is what ultimately results in a higher pH level.

Calcium in your field is another beneficial purpose of adding lime. With more calcium, soil structure changes. Calcium molecules are large in comparison to other molecules. With large molecules, more air space is available for root growth and root penetration deeper through the soil profile. More calcium in your field also decreases high magnesium levels. Soils high in magnesium are usually tighter and poorly drained. And ultimately more calcium in your soil means more calcium available to your crop. Calcium helps strengthen cell walls and improve nitrogen efficiency.

Make sure you know what is in your lime before you apply it. Some lime can carry heavy metals, which can damage your crops in the long run. Another thing to consider in choosing lime is the ECCE (Effective Calcium Carbonate Equivalent) is high. The higher the ECCE, the more similar that lime is to straight calcium carbonate. Also, ECCE lime is smaller in particle size to aid in lime break down and a quicker result from the application.

Soil pH is crucial in determining availability of key nutrients your crop needs to produce. Below is a chart showing effective pH ranges for the availability of certain nutrients important for agricultural crop production.

Overall, Lime is an important part of your fall routine as it offers necessary benefits to help you optimize your yield. Contact your local Mercer Landmark branch to talk about lime application.