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 December, 2013

By: Amy Battles: Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Back in 2011 Iowa State University identified that western corn rootworm could break through the efficacy of the Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. Aaron Gassmann, an entomologist for Iowa State University Extension discovered the mCry3A Bt toxin is also showing rootworm resistance. He stated, “The practice of continuous corn and the repeated use of hybrids with the single toxin in fields likely contributed to the control breakdown in all cases.”

So where does this leave us when it comes to Bt rootworm toxins that are not resistant? There are still two western corn rootworm Bt proteins that do not have confirmed resistance, the most common is Cry34/35Ab1, which can be found in SmartStax hybrids, as well as in the Herculex Trait family, and the Optimum Trait Family. This toxin however has shown some weakness in the field according to Gassman. The other Bt protein is new to the market this year, eCry3.1Ab, which is offered in the Agrisure Duracade trait stack from Syngenta. As I stated in my last blog post, Agrisure Duracde is “the only CRW trait on the market that was launched with the idea of insect resistance management in mind; it is only available stacked with a second corn rootworm trait.”

Although resistance has not been confirmed in Ohio, it is important to take preventative measures when it comes to managing corn rootworms. Below are a few recommendations from Aaron Gassmann and Janet Knodel, an entomologist at North Dakota State University Extension:

  1. Avoid planting continuous corn, rotate to a non-host crop such as soybeans.
  2. Control volunteer corn and grassy weed hosts.
  3. Rotate different Bt corn hybrids, preferably with more than one Cry protein (such as Duracade or SmartStax hybrids).
  4. Consider using a granular soil insecticide at planting.
  5. Monitor the efficacy of control on YOUR farm. Dig up some plants and evaluate your corn roots.

If you have questions on how aggressive your current seed and insecticide plan is in regards to keeping rootworm resistance out of your fields talk with your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist today. Don’t let our traits wear out their welcome!

Western Corn Rootworm Beetle           Western Corn Rootworm Larvae

By: Ben Stoller – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Purdue University and Ohio State University Extension have an updated fact sheet Marestail control.  As most populations Marestail populations have been found to be glyphosate resistant, special consideration and action must be taken for effective control.

Dr. Mark Loux from Ohio State and Dr. Bill Johnson from Purdue have partnered to create a comprehensive guide to help identify and control this threat.

Early identification and herbicide application, as well as herbicide selection is critical to realizing good control.

In addition to the updated marestail control information, one can download the following (and other) forms for free:

  1. Herbicide Classification Chart: classified herbicides by premixes and site of action
  2. Ohio Pigweed/Amaranth Identification: helpful tool in differentiating pigweeds
  3. POST Management of giant ragweed in RR soybeans: field summary of field research comparing OSU and grower practices.
  4. 2014 Herbicide Update for Corn, Soybeans and Wheat: practical explanation of herbicides’ performance.

Growers can download several fact sheets for free from the OSU Extension Weed Science department at the following link  You and your Mercer Landmark Agronomist can also order some articles free from OSU extension.

Please contact your Mercer Landmark Agronomist for assistance in controlling these troublesome resistant weeds.

In case you did not receive a postcard in the mail or saw it advertised on the website, mark your calendar for January 14th, 2014. We will once again be hosting our winter marketing meeting. This article that was posted an Ag Web today is a great pre cursor to this year’s meeting topic which is “Grain marketing is simple”. “It’s just not easy.”  We hope that you all will be able to join us for a very informative and exciting meeting on January 14th.

5 Grain Market Lessons Learned in 2013

DECEMBER 18, 2013

By: Sara Schafer, Business and Crops Online Editor

As the last few days of December 2013 fly by, it’s a great time to reflect on the past 12 months. Farmers had an interesting year, one that provided some key learning opportunities.

Before we put this year to bed, let’s think about what lessons 2013 provided that will be useful in the coming years. To do so, we polled four market analysts. Here is what they learned.

Lesson #1: In 2013, the best time to sell your grain was yesterday.

Kevin Van Trump, president of Farm Direction, says 2013 was the year of “Could of, Should of, Would of…”

“This will go down as one of those years when the markets have caused many producers to kick themselves,” he says. “We were lucky enough to make some fantastic early sales up above $6 but in hindsight should’ve done more and would’ve done more. But we were a little uncertain about our overall production when we had the opportunity.”

Lesson #2: Crops can take a lot more stress than we think.

Late planting plagued much of the Corn Belt, especially in Iowa. Back in July, only 12% of the state’s corn crop was ranked excellent. Yet, many were shocked with the markets didn’t react to the poor crop seen in Iowa.

But as the season progressed, the crops made a big turnaround. “The 2013 growing season will be remembered for how well crops did despite cool temperatures in July and a hot and dry August,” says Ted Seifried, vice president of Zaner Ag Hedge. “Genetics have really come a long way.”

Rich Nelson, chief strategist at Allendale, agrees. “The corn and soybean crops fared much better than expected,” he says. As always, it never pays to count your chickens before they are hatched.

Lesson #3: Don’t underestimate the hungry dragon.

China continues to be a major player in global grain consumption, says Tim Hannagan, grain analyst at Walsh Trading.

“Their massive needs for high-protein crops challenged the world’s record bean production to keep pace with their demand,” he says. “2014 will be the same challenge.”

Lesson #4: Markets can change fast.

“The most interesting feature for us was how quickly the market was able to price ration corn demand at record highs in a down economy and how slowly demand has been to come back at lower corn prices,” Seifried says.

“2013 has been a lesson in how the strength or weakness of the world economy affects the elasticity of grain demand,” he says.

Lesson #5: Easy money in grain production may be over.

For the past few years, farmers who forward contracted their grain missed the major price rallies. It was literally better to do nothing when it came to marketing. But Nelson doesn’t think that will be the case in the future.

“Unless you are in the middle of a 30-year drought,” he says, “you must market your crops and take advantage of high prices while they last. 2013 will also be remembered as the transition period back to normal prices from the 2010 – 2012 production years.”

Dairy Herd Network  |  Updated: 11/14/2013

The health of dairy cows after giving birth plays a big factor in the quantity and quality of the milk the cows produce. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that subclinical hypocalcemia, which is the condition of having low levels of calcium in the blood and occurs in many cows after giving birth, is related to higher levels of fat in the liver.

John Middleton, a professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, says these higher levels of fat are often precursors to future health problems in cows.

“We found that about 50 percent of dairy cows suffered subclinical hypocalcemia and subsequent higher levels of fat in the liver after giving birth to their calves,” Middleton said. “These higher levels of fat in the liver are often tied to health problems in dairy cows, including increased risk for uterus and mammary infections as well as ketosis, which is a condition that results in the cows expending more energy than they are taking in through their diet. All of these conditions can decrease the amount of milk these dairy cows will produce.”

Middleton, along with Jim Spain, professor of dairy nutrition at the University of Missouri, studied 100 dairy cows over two years to determine how subclinical hypocalcemia affected the health of the cows after they gave birth. Previous research done at MU has found that these issues also have a negative impact on cow fertility and reproduction.

While the researchers did not find any direct links to health problems, they say correlations with higher levels of fat in the liver call for further research into the health implications of low blood calcium levels. To maximize the health of the cows and the amount of quality milk dairy cows produce, Middleton recommends paying close attention to dietary management in the late dry/early lactating period as well as providing supplemental sources of calcium during early lactation for cows at risk for subclinical hypocalcemia.

By: Clint Muhlenkamp – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

Most would say that a bountiful harvest was due to a great string of weather.  While that might be true to an extent, we all know there’s much more to that equation.  Prosperous farmers of today know they cannot get by on luck alone – there has to be a plan.

Pre-plan time is among us and there has never been a better time to assess last season’s successes.  To do this, ask yourself the following questions:  What worked well?  What didn’t work well?  What could I do better?  What is something new I want to try? And what products gave me the best value?

A Mercer Landmark rep will gladly work with you to sketch out next season’s plan.  If you are unsure on what route to take, Mercer Landmark has collected lots of yield data from numerous products to make your purchasing decisions easier.   We all know farming can be unpredictable; allow us to minimize the unpredictability by equipping you with a plan.

Mercer Landmark wants this spring to be smooth sailing and I know we have the people, tools and expertise to accomplish just that – success.

So remember: With a great plan, comes great success.  Plan your success now!

Note: Prices should be released sometime this week.  Contact your local Mercer Landmark today!

You can still achieve decent prices for just-harvested crops, but you’ll have to work at it. Here’s some advice.

The word across farm country is that most corn left the field and went straight to the bin. Marketing experts agree that you need a plan for that grain.

These comments are experts from a recent Top Producer article that features analysis and commentary from 15 ag market analysts. Read the full article: They Say It’s a Bear Market

Jeff Beal, Gulke Group

For just-harvested corn, farmers should focus on selling for the carry and padding their income by selling call options. Soybeans also face lower price pressure, but demand from China might continue to provide price support, at least in the near term. The inverted soybean market says farmers should sell now.

Without an unforeseen demand catalyst, we’ll have to rely on a weather-induced supply shock somewhere to get back to $6 corn and $15 soybeans.

Naomi Blohm, Stewart-Peterson

Global ending stocks for corn are the highest in 10 years, and this keeps prices on the defensive, allowing futures to test $4 per bushel. When we’re in a doom and gloom scenario, typically fundamental news emerges and turns the market around.

At this time, farmers should view any rally as a selling opportunity. Prepare for both bullish and bearish scenarios. Make incremental sales as prices go to the high end of ranges. If prices break through technical resistance, plan to re-own the crop. Finally, establish price levels for making cash sales.

Richard Brock, Brock Associates

Commodity prices are cyclical, and the current downside price cycle is not yet complete. It will likely run through January. Once a bottom is discovered, both corn and soybeans will enter a base-building phase that could take anywhere from a few months to three years to achieve.

For corn, we have been heavily priced in short futures for months and will be looking to take profits soon. To price remaining corn, we will look for basis improvements between now and March. Soybeans will feel negative price pressure from sharp production increases in South America.

Alan Brugler, Brugler Marketing

Huge ending stocks for corn will cap rallies, but most producers are well financed and can wait for those rallies.

When price targets are hit, farmers should scale up sales. Options spreads and cash market equivalents are probably the best ways to ride out market volatility. There will be decent returns to on-farm corn storage, but you have to set a price to earn the carry. Simultaneous gains in both basis and price are rare, making cash-grain-only marketing difficult to do well.

Mark Gold, Top Third Ag Marketing

Since 1983 corn has not made lows in October, and it is more likely to make the lows in November or December. The government shutdown delayed USDA’s crop production estimates and opened the door for a bearish report.

I suggest selling the bushels above your average production history and maintaining corn put options for any unsold grain. If you are trying to capture the carry, you must sell the deferred contract to lock it in. With no carry in the market, farmers should sell soybeans at harvest and re-own the crop with call options when technical indicators turn friendly.

Dustin Johnson, EHedger

In order to prevent a 2.5 billion bushel carry-out, the price of corn needs to drop to boost demand. Additionally, crop insurance has incentivized growers to hold off on marketing their crop. This has created a record amount of un priced grain, but the market will keep prices on the defensive.

Cash corn will likely hit $3.50 in the first half of 2014, barring major weather or geopolitical concerns. The biggest mistake growers can make is to store grain without price protection. One way to protect yourself is to be 100% sold and re-own grain with call options.

Randy Martinson, Progressive Ag

Corn has been trading close to major support due to strong yields and poor demand, but it might be near its bottom. Farmers should look at selling the carry and lock in basis levels when they become attractive. If a post-harvest rally materializes, consider setting a floor with put options.

Mike North, First Capital Ag

Producers are heavily exposed with less grain forward sold and will rely on access to storage and strong working capital to carry them. Come late winter/early spring, producers will need cash, adding pressure to the market.

Don’t get caught in this trap. Storage should only be used on bushels forward sold. Capture the carry and move on. Buyers will have little motivation to chase markets. Corn in 2014 should be sold on coming rallies, with put options used on unsold bushels. This combines downside protection with upside opportunity.

Bob Utterback, Utterback Marketing

Production costs are set to remain high for all of 2014. Unless Mother Nature causes a drought in a major global production area, I expect prices next fall well below break-even.

My solution calls for a strategy of selling the carry in the market and managing spreads. Farmers should consider selling out-of-the-money puts to raise the net selling price and roll short futures into long puts next spring if there are any solid signs of a major yield reduction event. I would rather try this approach than take out loans, put your money in the ground, raise and store the crops and hope to get back to profitability by the spring of 2015.