Blogging by the Bushel
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Archive for April, 2014

By: Kyle Imwalle – Mercer Landmark agronomist

A few people around the area are starting to notice a grass in their fields year after year that just won’t go away.  The first instinct is that it’s either annual rye or Italian rye. Typically glyphosate takes care of grass, right? What is this new grass popping up in the early spring? Bluegrass, mainly annual bluegrass and Canada bluegrass.

Though bluegrass species are sought after for lawns, it can cause quite the hassle in the field. Grass weeds are much harder to identify than broadleaf weeds.  Canada bluegrass is an introduced, perennial, rhizomatous grass. Culms are 15-20 cm tall, hollow, flattened and glabrous to scaberulous. Sheaths are open, glabrous, smooth, or faintly scaberulous, flattened, and keeled. Leaves are 1-4 mm wide and 2-10 cm long, flat, folded or loosely involute, boat tipped, glabrous to scabrous and have two grooves down the middle of the upper blade surface. Collars are yellow, auricles absent and ligules are membranous, 0.5-1.5 mm long, obtuse, ciliolate, and puberulent abaxially. The inflorescence is a narrow panicle 3-8 cm long. Spikelets are 3to 8 flowered, 4-6 mm (0.16-0.24 in) long and crowded at the end of the branches.  Seeds are usually produced in late spring early summer and then again in early winter.

Both Canada and annual bluegrass are both winter perennials that have adopted to cool well watered sites but thrive in moderately acidic and droughty soils.  Bluegrasses are most noticeable in corn fields with no cover crops planted.  There are a few subspecies of Canada bluegrass that is a cool-season grass weed that starts germinating in late summer or fall as soil temperatures fall below 70°F. It continues to germinate throughout the winter, allowing several flushes of germination at any one site throughout the season. Annual bluegrass grows 6 to 8 inches high.  According to Ohio State a few subspecies for Canada and annual bluegrass have become glyphosate resistant.

If you have any questions about your fields or would like help in a burn-down program please contact your local Mercer Landmark Agronomy Sales Representative.

By: Gary Prill- Mercer Landmark Agronomist

April 25, 2014- I just got done checking some soil temperatures in our area.  My thermometer showed a range of 50oF in no-till cornstalks up to 58oF in strip-tilled ridges where residue had been removed.  These temperatures were measured at a 2” depth.  This is telling us the soil is just now getting warm enough to allow seed that is planted to grow (experts tell us the soil needs to be above 50oF for germination and growth).   So even though this past week provided good weather for drying out the ground and allowing us to get started doing some field work, if you didn’t start planting yet that probably is not a bad thing.  Especially with the weather forecast for the coming week.

On the other hand, if you have started planting chances are pretty good that barring a return back to colder early spring like temperatures for an extended period, your seed shouldn’t lay in the ground long without germinating.  In talking with a couple farmers who have started planting this week, they indicated the soil conditions for trench closure and good soil to seed contact were excellent.  This will go a long way towards helping with good germination and emergence.

We will know this fall who made the best decision, to plant or to wait.  As long as we don’t get too much precipitation this coming week keeping us out of the fields for an extended period, probably neither decision will hurt us too much.  In the end Mother Nature will tell us if we did the right thing, not the calendar.

APRIL 24, 2014

By: Tyne Morgan, Ag Day TV National Reporter

All across the east, winter storms popped up in the news almost weekly. With excess snow, not a lot of field work got done. Now, farmers in northwest Ohio are thawing out and rushing to get fields prepped before seed can even go into the ground this year.

“We had the worst year on snowfall that I can ever remember,” says Dick Snyder, a farmer in Delta, Ohio.

Watch the full AgDay report:

“We had over 84 inches of snow total this winter,” adds Jake Heilmann, a Whitehouse, Ohio, farmer. “We had snow cover from New Year’s Day up until April 3. So, we’ve really only started to thaw out the last two weeks.”

That’s twice the amount of their average snowfall all winter. With patches of fresh snow on the ground a week ago, they say it has felt more like March than April. The fields are wet, but aren’t drowning in water like many thought.

“This will dry out,” says Heilmann. “It’s amazing how well the ground tolerated it without seeing ponding. So, I don’t think it’s going to be an issue, but we just have to do our best to be patient.”

Not rushing into the field too soon is Heilmann’s biggest challenge right now. As of last week, many farmers were three weeks behind in spring field work. Thanks to sunny weather and missing a rain last weekend, the Heilmann’s caught up on their fertilizer applications in about a week. While the ground may be ready to plant, patience is a battle, as temperatures still need to shoot higher before any seed goes in the ground in northwest Ohio.

“Last year we started planting corn May 1st,” says Heilmann. “And we planted it all in seven days. Then, tucked the beans in May 10 through the 13th. So, as far as planting goes, we’re not behind yet.”

As of Monday, April 21, 2013, the USDA showed none of Ohio’s corn crop had been planted, which is 10 points behind the five-year average. Like Heilmann, Snyder isn’t concerned about not being in the field yet, either. Thanks to sandy soils, the dirt in the area is very forgiving, and planting can happen quickly when needed.

“When it warms up, we could have three-quarters inch of rain one day and be planting corn in two days again,” he says.

The sandy soil may be good for rainy years, but it also causes heavy pest pressure.

“We don’t know what the winter did for us or didn’t do,” says Snyder.

The brutal winter also could create other challenges during the growing season in some areas.

By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor

Even if the calendar says it should be time to plant, make sure your fields and soil temperatures are optimal.

Sure, you have cabin fever. Your shop is probably cleaner than it’s ever been. You’ve organized, re-organized and organized again your tool and bolt collection. You’ve changed the oil on every machine and the planter has been ready for weeks.

But, don’t be too anxious about hitting the fields just yet. “We are not late by any means,” says Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal Agronomist. “During the last few years, farmers have learned that May-planted corn can out yield April-planted corn.”

Ferrie says farmers must wait to do tillage, spring fieldwork and planting when the fields are fit and not pay as much attention to the calendar.

Jason Franck, agronomist for Carson and Barron Farms in Rowley, Iowa, agrees. “If you get out there with a tillage machine you just won’t know when to stop,” he says. His advice is to put a game plan together for fieldwork and planting so you are ready to go when it does warm up.

Reduce Hurtful Soil Compaction

“The danger of causing soil compaction is very high right now,” says Sjoerd Duiker, professor of soil management at Penn State University. “The effects of soil compaction caused now may haunt us the rest of the season, and even in years to come.”

Before taking your machinery to the field, Duiker suggests doing the “ball test.” Grab a handful of soil and mold it in your hand. If it sticks together as a ball, the soil is too wet for field operations. Don’t only take soil from the surface; also take some soil from a foot deep or so.

“It may be impractical to wait until the entire field is fit, but at least check that 80-90% of the field is ready before starting field work,” he says. Read more about how to avoid the dangers of soil compaction.

Franck says he knows some farmers are behind in tillage efforts due to last year’s late harvest. But overdoing tillage in the spring can be detrimental, especially in dry areas. “Moisture is a big concern for a lot of areas this year,” he says. “I wouldn’t go much deeper than 6 inches in case we don’t get much rain this spring.”

Aim for a Strong Crop Start

“Mistakes made during crop establishment are usually irreversible, and can put a ceiling on a crop’s yield potential before the plants have even emerged,” says Peter Thomison, an Ohio State University Extension agronomist. “Avoid early planting on poorly drained soils or those prone to ponding. Yield reductions resulting from ‘mudding the seed in’ are often much greater than those resulting from a slight planting delay.”

Yesterday the CME Group approved a new daily price limit mechanism on all grain & oilseed contracts. The system works to expand that daily limit when prices inflate and retracts the limit when prices decline. See the changes effective May 1st below.

Commodity          Current Initial        New Intial Price Limit       New Expanded Price Limit

Corn                         $.40/bushel                  $.35/bushel                             $.55/bushel

Beans                       $.70/bushel                  $1.00/bushel                          $1.50/bushel

CBOT Wheat            $.60/bushel                   $.45/bushel                             $.70/bushel

By: Brad Miller – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

With the Recent Freezing temps I have had some questions on whether the Wheat will be damaged since it is now out of dormancy.  According to Ohio State when the wheat is in the Tillering stage –Feekes 1-5 The temp would have to get down to 12 F for 2 hours  for it to do serious injury.  The primary Symptoms would be Leaf Chlorosis, Burning of leaf tips, Silage odor and a Blue cast to fields.  If the wheat is at Jointing Stage then a temp of 24 F for 2 hours would do serious injury.    Usually a week to ten days of good warm temperatures and adequate sunlight are required before damage from freeze event becomes visible.  Contact your Mercer Landmark representative for more information or to have them check your fields for damage.

Soybeans fell for a second day on speculation that importers in China, the world’s biggest buyer of the oilseed, will cancel more cargoes as crush margins near break-even are prompting banks to withhold financing.

Chinese soybean importers may default on as much as 2 million metric tons of shipments, according to the U.S. Soybean Export Council’s Beijing office. Buyers defaulted on at least 500,000 metric tons of U.S. and Brazilian soybeans due to negative crush margins and difficulty getting credit, Reuters reported yesterday, citing two people it didn’t identify.

“The news of China backing away from several cargoes of soybeans due to a line of credit has pressured prices,” Paul Georgy, the president of Allendale Inc., wrote in a market comment. Traders will watch the U.S. Department of Agriculture export announcements “very closely” today, he said.

Soybeans for May delivery fell 0.3 percent to $14.7725 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade by 5:20 a.m. local time, trimming this week’s advance to 0.3 percent.

Crushing soybeans in China became unprofitable in March and was near break-even today, according to data compiled by Shanghai JC Intelligence Co. That’s made banks withhold letters of credit to some purchasers and may cut monthly imports to about 5.5 million tons in June, July and August, said Zhang Xiaoping, the soybean council’s chief representative in China.

Wheat Trend

Wheat for July delivery was unchanged at $6.70 a bushel in Chicago after earlier dropping as much as 0.6 percent, with prices down 1 percent this week. Milling wheat for November delivery traded on NYSE Liffe in Paris slipped 0.6 percent to 199 euros ($276.47) a metric ton.

Rain this week eased dryness in parts of South Australia and Victoria, and moisture is adequate in northern New South Wales and Queensland for wheat germination as farmers being planting, according to MDA Information Systems LLC.

Showers are boosting moisture in central and northeast Ukraine and further improvements are expected in west-central and southwest regions this weekend, the Gaithersburg, Maryland- based forecaster said in a report dated yesterday.

Corn for July delivery added 0.5 percent to $5.10 a bushel, set to advance 0.5 percent this week.

By: Jeff Keller – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

A lot less free sulfur is given away these days with the tightening of the belt of emissions controlled in our exhaust systems. The cleaner fuel and emissions from fossil fuels being burnt is putting less sulfur into the air. This in turn puts less back into the soil from the rainfall having less pollutants in it.

What does this all mean? Research and test plots are showing supplemental sulfur being a benefit to high yielding corn. Corn may need 10- 15 units of Sulfur depending on yield for adequate formation of proteins in the plant. To feed the crop, growers are utilizing fertilizers such as liquid Thio Sul (12-0-0-26), or using granular Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0-24s).

Signs of deficient sulfur in corn tends to be in sandy and low organic matter soils. It is often confused with nitrogen deficiency since it is not easily trans -located in the plant. The younger leaves show the symptoms first with light yellow streaked in the leaves. It is difficult to test for sulfur in soil because it is similar to Nitrogen. Look into tissue testing your crop to consider foliar feeding with some sulfur nutrients to help with sulfur levels in the plant. This can be done during your glyphosate and fungicide application.

We often think of N-P-K being our limiting nutrients to receive high yield, but the micronutrients are needed also, just in smaller quantities. We may start seeing sulfur deficiency showing up in corn with the higher yields and less being received from atmosphere. In conclusion, consider supplying sulfur to your corn crop this growing season by contacting your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist to find the right resources to get that record yield this year.

By: Fran Howard, Contributing Writer

USDA’s April World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, released April 9, will likely not hold any large surprises due to how quickly the report follows the release of March 31’s Prospective Plantings and quarterly Grain Stocks reports.

Analysts anticipate USDA will lower both U.S. and world ending stocks on corn and soybeans due to strong world demand.

Looking at corn first, analysts expect a carryout of 1.403 billion bushels, down 3.5 percent from March’s 1.456 billion but more than 70 percent higher than last year’s 821 million bushels.

“For this report, we see higher revisions for exports and ethanol,” Allendale, a brokerage firm in McHenry, Ill., says in a recent press release.

Others aren’t so sure.

“Traders will be looking for support for the recent rallies,” says Chad Hart, grain economist with Iowa State University. May corn futures have increased about 40 cents per bushel since the beginning of March due to strong feed demand, exports, and ethanol production.

“If there is a weak spot, it will probably be in the ethanol numbers,” says Hart. Recent logistics problems experienced by the ethanol industry could leave more corn in the carryout number.

The average estimate for the world carryout of corn is 157.72 million metric tons, down slightly from last month’s 158.47 million but 17 percent higher than last year’s 134.67 million metric tons.

Analysts expect USDA to lower corn production in Argentina to 23.95 million metric tons from last month’s 24 million. Brazil production is also expected to drop to 69.66 million pounds from March’s estimate of 70 million tons.


Soybean import and export numbers will also be front and center in April’s WASDE report.

“We are so tight on beans,” says Dan O’Brien, economist with Kansas State University. “I’ll be curious to see whether USDA adjusts the import numbers on beans to confirm whether soybean shipments have been coming into the United States to help fill our export commitments.”

Analysts are looking for a soybean carryout of 139 million bushels, down from last month’s 145 million and last year’s 141 million. The average forecast for the world carryout is 70.14 million metric tons, down from March’s 70.64 million but substantially higher than last year’s 57.79 million metric tons.

Allendale anticipates USDA to increase both soybean exports and imports.

The average trade estimate for Argentina’s soybean crop is 54.15 million metric tons, up from last month’s 54 million. Brazil’s crop is pegged at 87.43 million metric tons, down more than 1 million metric tons from last month’s estimate. Still, Brazil and Argentina combined are expected to produce 141.58 million metric tons of soybeans, a nearly 8 percent increase from last year’s 131.3 million.

By: Mike Niederman – Mercer Landmark Agronomist

It’s looking like this brutal winter may finally be behind us.  Seed is being delivered, some topdressing is getting done, and every once in a while the sun will even shine.

I understand we’re all worrying about when the weather will allow us to get in the fields to get planting done.  However, we can’t forget about how the harsh weather these past few months may have affected alfalfa stands.

From the road everything may look just fine, but you will want to take a closer look to determine if any plant injury occurred.  These evaluations will allow you to make informed decisions as we move into the growing season.  Multiple factors affect the likelihood of winter injury including stand age, variety, soil pH, and cutting management.  The greatest potential for winter injury or kill comes when the temperature near the crown falls below 15° F.

It is difficult to predict winter injury because it usually comes from a combination of environmental and plant stress factors including lack of snow cover, cold soil temperatures, and alternating warm and freezing temperatures.  Typically, newer stands that are well fertilized and have superior winter hardiness will be less susceptible.

Before we have to give all our time and attention to the planting season, let’s make sure we take a close look at the health of our alfalfa.

If you have any questions or would like any help assessing your alfalfa stand please contact your local Mercer Landmark Agronomy Sales Representative.