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 June, 2015

By: Ben Stoller

We’ve all seen the miserable plight of soybean fields in the area this spring: yellow and stunted plants resulting from too much soil moisture and cold temperatures.

One thing growers can do to mitigate in- season stress is to ensure soybeans do not exhaust their nutrient supplies; soybeans cannot store nutrients as well as corn, and require special consideration.  Growers need to provide adequate macro and micro nutrients to allow for full potential of soybeans, especially in a season where they’ve already been ‘beat up’ early in their life cycle.

Manganese levels

Glyphosate applications, typically made round V3, can tie up manganese within the soybean plant.  Adding MAX-IN® Ultra Manganese to the tank mix can supply ample manganese and can prevent plant yellowing.  Manganese is also vital at the R1 to R3 stages, where the plants are flowering and creating pods.

Sulfur and Nitrogen levels

Perhaps we often overlook sulfur in soybean production.  Maintaining adequate sulfur levels at V3-V5 is important in good nodulation and nitrogen production.  MAX-IN® Ultra Manganese and MAX-IN ZMB are good sources of sources of sulfur and other micronutrients suitable for optimum soybean production.

Adding Gradual-N® may be considered where water-stressed plants have had poor nodulation (the nitrogen producing factory for the plant) and need a nitrogen boost to compensate for the decreased nodulation activity early in the plants’ development.

Tissue Testing

Taking tissue samples from V3-V5 is the most accurate method of determining the plants’ nutritional needs.  Where deficiencies are found, high quality MAX-IN® plant nutrients can supplement needs before yield potential is compromised.

Source: WinField® Expertise® Volume 8 Issue 6

Please contact your Mercer Landmark agronomy representative to help you maximize the potential of your soybeans.

By: Ryan Stucke

With the commodity prices where they are today and the amount of money it takes to raise a corn crop, it is very vital that you are doing everything possible to give your corn crop everything it needs to produce.  It all starts with scouting your fields.  Whether it’s looking for a corn disease that will affect your yields or a pest out there, you want to be ahead of the game and take care of those issues before they affect your yield and bottom line.

This year is very similar to last year, cooler temperatures and a lot of moisture.  The two diseases that we saw the most were Northern Corn Leaf Blight and Gray Leaf Spot.  The best way to figure out if the variety you have planted will be affected by those disease’s, or any disease for that matter is to look at the trait scores in your seed catalog that your local rep supplied you with.  Below is a chart that you can use to scout your corn through the various stages and the “watch outs” that come with the different stages.  A majority of these diseases can be prevented or suppressed by applying a fungicide at V5-V8 or at tassel time.  Discuss these two options with your local Mercer Landmark sales professional to decipher which option is the best for your farming operation.

It’s been a wet, wet, wet, wet week across much of the Corn Belt. And as of mid-June, a significant portion of the 2015 crop is still not in the ground.

According to recent analysis by University of Illinois ag economist John Newton (available on farmdoc daily titled “Crop Progress and Implications for 2015 Prevented Planting in Corn and Soybeans”), as of June 7, there were still 1.9 million unplanted corn acres and 18 million unplanted soybean acres.

The unplanted corn acres are tend to be concentrated around the Southwest and Western Plains. State “leaders” include:

  1. Missouri – 350,000 acres
  2. Kansas – 284,000 acres
  3. Nebraska – 279,000 acres
  4. Texas – 161,000 acres
  5. North Dakota – 108,000 acres
  6. Ohio – 105,000 acres
  7. South Dakota – 104,000 acres

Unplanted soybean acres also have a bull’s-eye centered around the Show-Me State.

  1. Missouri – 3.955 million acres
  2. Kansas – 2.622 million acres
  3. Iowa – 1.212 million acres
  4. Illinois – 1.188 million acres
  5. Arkansas – 1.035 million acres

“The areas with significant amounts of unplanted corn and soybeans correspond to parts of the U.S. receiving abnormally large amounts of rainfall this planting season,” Newton says. “In parts of Kansas and Missouri, for example, precipitation has been as much as 600% above average, and as a result, soybean planting progress stands at only 31% and 30%, respectively. As of June 7, [those two states] account for 6.6 million soybean acres unplanted.”

But those acres will be planted eventually … right?

Not necessarily, Newton notes. From 1996 to 2014, the number of prevented planted acres have ranged from 1 million acres (1997) to 9.8 million acres (2011), with an average of 3.6 million acres in a given year.

How will 2015 rank? Newton says weather conditions at least imply prevented plantings will be above average in areas of the Southwest and western Corn Belt. But overall, he doesn’t anticipate a big departure from normal.

“With corn acreage mostly in the ground for 2015, and less than 2 million acres unplanted, there is no evidence that prevented planted acreage for corn will differ significantly from the historical average of 1.2 million acres,” he says. “Expectations are for some of the unplanted corn acreage to be planted late or allocated to other crops with later planting windows.”

Soybean prevent plant acres range from 0.44% in 1996 to 2.22% in 2013. That range, as applied to the 2015 crop, would mean prevented planting acres between 372,000 to 1.9 million (which would be a record high). The high number of unplanted acres in Kansas and Missouri lend support to this expectation, Newton says.

The USDA acreage report on June 30 will provide updates to planted corn and soybean acres, as well as a chance to revise prevented planting estimates, he adds.

By Bob Nielsen, Purdue University

Recent intense rainfall events (technically referred to as “toad stranglers” or “goose drownders”) have caused flooding of low-lying corn fields or ponding (standing water) in poorly drained swales within fields. Other areas within fields, while not technically flooded or ponded, may remain saturated for lengthy periods of time.

What are the prospects for recently submerged corn fields or plants simply enduring days and days of saturated soils? The flippant answer is that such suffering crops will survive until they die.

No one can tell you with certainty the day after the storm whether a ponded area of a corn field will survive or whether there will be long-term yield consequences until enough time has gone by such that you can assess the actual recovery of the damaged plants. We can, however, talk about the factors that increase or decrease the risks of severe damage or death to flooded soils.

  • Plants that are completely submerged are at higher risk than those that are partially submerged.

Plants that are only partially submerged may continue to photosynthesize, albeit at limited rates.

  • The longer an area remains ponded, the higher the risk of plant death.

Most agronomists believe that young corn can survive up to about 4 days of outright ponding if temperatures are relatively cool (mid-60′s F or cooler); fewer days if temperatures are warm (mid-70′s F or warmer).
Soil oxygen is depleted within about 48 hours of soil saturation. Without oxygen, the plants cannot perform critical life sustaining functions; e.g. nutrient and water uptake is impaired and root growth is inhibited.

  • Even if surface water subsides quickly, the likelihood of dense surface crusts forming as the soil dries increases the risk of emergence failure for recently planted crops.

Be prepared with a rotary hoe to break up the crust and aid emergence.

  • The greater the deposition of mud or old crop residues on plants as the water subsides, the greater the stress on the plants due to reduced photosynthesis.

Ironically, such situations would benefit from another rainfall event to wash the mud deposits from the leaves.

  • Mud and crud that cakes the leaves and stalks encourage subsequent development of fungal and bacterial diseases in damaged plant tissue. In particular, bacterial ear rot can develop when flood waters rise up to or above the developing ears of corn plants.
  • Corn younger than about V6 (six fully exposed leaf collars) is more susceptible to ponding damage than is corn older than V6.

This is partly because young plants are more easily submerged than older taller plants and partly because the corn plant’s growing point remains below ground until about V6. The health of the growing point can be assessed initially by splitting stalks and visually examining the lower portion of the stem. Within 3 to 5 days after water drains from the ponded area, look for the appearance of fresh leaves from the whorls of the plants.

  • Extended periods of saturated soils AFTER the surface water subsides will take their toll on the overall vigor of the crop.

Some root death will occur and new root growth will be stunted until the soil dries to acceptable moisture contents. As a result, plants may be subject to greater injury during a subsequently dry summer due to their restricted root systems.

Nutrients like nitrogen are rapidly remobilized from lower leaves to upper, newer leaves; resulting in a rapid development of orange or yellow lower leaves.

Because root function in saturated soils deteriorates, less photosynthate is utilized by the root system and more accumulates in the upper plant parts. The higher concentration of photosynthate in the stems and leaves often results in dramatic purpling of those above-ground plant parts.

Damage to the root system today will predispose the crop to the development of root and stalk rots later by virtue of the photosynthetic stress imposed by the limited root system during the important grain filling period following pollination. Monitor affected fields later in August and early September for the possible development of stalk rots and modify harvest-timing strategies accordingly.

  • Concomitant with the direct stress of saturated soils on a corn crop, flooding and ponding can cause significant losses of soil nitrogen due to denitrification and leaching of nitrate N.

Significant loss of soil N will cause nitrogen deficiencies and possible additional yield loss.

On the other hand, if the corn dies in the ponded areas it probably does not matter how much nitrogen you’ve lost.

  • Lengthy periods of wet soil conditions favor the development of seedling blight diseases in young corn seedlings, especially those caused by Pythium fungi.

Poorly drained areas of fields are most at risk for the development of these diseases and so will also be risky for potential replant operations.

  • Certain diseases, such as common smut and crazy top, may also become greater risks due to flooding and cool temperatures.

The fungus that causes crazy top depends on saturated soil conditions to infect corn seedlings.

The common smut fungal organism is ubiquitous in soils and can infect young corn plants through tissue damaged by floodwaters. There is limited hybrid resistance to either of these two diseases and predicting damage is difficult until later in the growing season.

  • Wind damage to corn occurs either as stalk breakage (aka “green snap”) or root lodging (plants uprooted and laying nearly flat to the ground). The yield effect of “green snap” damage depends on the percentage of field affected and whether the stalk breakage occurs above or below the ear, but is usually serious regardless. Obviously, stalk breakage below the ear results in zero yield for that plant. Stalk breakage above the ear results in significant yield loss due to the loss of upper canopy photosynthesis capacity for that plant. Root lodged corn will recover or straighten up to varying degrees depending on the growth stage of the crop. Generally, younger corn has a greater ability to straighten up with minimal “goose-necking” than older corn. Yield effects of root lodging depend on whether soil moisture remains adequate for root regeneration, the severity of root damage due to the uprooting nature of root lodging, and the degree of “goose-necking” that develops and its effect on the harvestability of the crop.

By: Brad Miller

We still have some beans to plant yet. We also have wet conditions and more rain in the forecast.  I get asked, “Should I up my population and plant a later maturity bean when it is dry enough to plant?” A good rule of thumb is to plant the latest –maturing variety that will reach maturity before the first killing frost.  Late maturing varieties are recommended for late planting to maximize vegetative growth before flowering begins.   The following chart from the Ohio agronomy guide gives the recommended maturity based on planting date.

Planting date Suitable Relative Maturity
Northern Ohio June 1-15 3.2-3.8
June 15-30 3.1-3.5

When planting in June your seeding rate should also increase.  According to the Ohio agronomy guide a seeding rate of 200,000 to 225,000 seeds per acre is recommended.  A final stand of 155,000 plants at harvest is needed to maximize yield when planting in June.  For more information or questions please contact your local Mercer Landmark representative.

After reading the title of this post, you may be thinking that $8 corn didn’t teach us any lessons. Believe it or not, it did. Some of which were probably hidden to the naked eye, but they were good lessons at that. This article below was posted on Pro Farmers website and the author does a great job pointing out some of these lessons.

By: Angie Setzer

The 11 years I have been trading cash grain have been perhaps some of the most tumultuous years in the grain trade overall. Looking at the chart hanging on the wall in my office dating back to 1950 it is easy to see the years where selling grain was a much easier task. Throughout that period of time rallies were well defined, as was the relative supply and demand outlook each crop year. Aside from those wild years where weather played a limiting factor in production, volatility was somewhat limited and pricing opportunities were easy to spot.

Then came the ethanol boom, the Chinese import boom and the 2012 drought all in one decade. The soaring levels of demand were the first to drive prices into levels we had only dreamed of, and in the year supply was anticipated to catch up with the hefty demand the worst drought in nearly 70 years dropped the national average yield to levels not seen in over 20 years. Couple the general supply and demand headaches with a boom in all commodities, a low valued dollar and failing outside economic factors and it appeared as though we would never see $3 corn, $4 wheat and $8 beans again.

Fast forward a couple years and here we sit. The market is flat, trade sentiment is negative and daily I have growers coming to me asking if there’s any way to get some lipstick on this pig. Time after time I find many growers suffer from the same struggles when it comes to approaching their marketing strategies. Marketing psychology, understanding what the market is telling you and taking lessons from both the good and the bad that came from $8 corn are what we’re going to discuss today.

You’ve heard it said countless times, so many times in fact you can finish the sentence before it starts even, but honestly-the trend is your friend.

Markets trapped in a bearish trend will find any reason they can to trade lower, while the opposite holds true in a bullish market structure. You can try to fight market trends, you can argue against them until you’re blue in the face, but that will not change sentiment. It’s almost as though you’re trying to turn the titanic when it comes to shifting market feel. The inability to shift gears is especially and most painfully evident in bearish market structures like we’re in now. And while market feel is cyclical and will change eventually refusing to acknowledge a market structure can be very dangerous for your margin health. Being aware of market sentiment will help you take a realistic approach to target orders and selling opportunities.

Use incremental sales when marketing your crop. Too many times I find growers are afraid to commit bushels out of fear they will miss out if the market were to take off. While other times growers give up, or get overly aggressive on sales because they’re sick of waiting. Taking an incremental approach to your marketing helps you keep an even head, while also capturing any upside potential the market offers.

Many times I work with my growers on making sure a certain amount of bushels are sold by a certain point in the growing season. I like to see growers set realistic price orders in a reverse pyramid type incremental sale approach. For instance 5% of production at price levels A, B and C, 10% at price levels D, E and F, and 20% at levels G, H and I or something similar. Of course having an understanding of your production history, production potential and market outlook is necessary when putting these types of plans in place, but I’ve found those that approach the market this way are much more comfortable marketers.

An additional benefit to scale selling can be seen in years where price rallies just don’t show up as expected. Starting with incremental sales allows you to at least get something locked in; even at a time you may not particularly be excited about the price. I always tell my growers I hope every sale is their worst sale, but there are times when those starting sales are the ones that end up propping up their selling average. You can’t go broke making money-remember this when looking at starting pricing levels.

When selling don’t forget your new crop. So many times we get bogged down focusing on what is coming out of the bin, or what is coming off the combine this fall we forget about the other years of production we have coming our way. The good news about the recent swoon in grain prices is the likelihood of seeing a stagnation or possible decline in input prices going forward. The potential of limited pricing increases on the input side of things means you can look at contracting much further ahead than some would have recommended even a year ago.

For many of you if the price of beans is good for this November it is also likely to be very good for the following. In Chicago Wheat July 2016 is trading 50 cents better than July 2015, while in corn December 16 is still hanging above $4 and trading nearly 30 cents better. When pricing opportunities in the nearby are presenting themselves, it’s likely even better opportunities are lurking out on the horizon. And while extraordinarily wide basis levels may eat into most of the deferred gains on the cash side, having a good understanding of HTA’s allows you to capture solid futures values and keep flexibility in spreads, delivery and basis.

When looking at making sales make sure to keep historical pricing levels in mind. Having a general understanding of what domestic and global carryout numbers may mean when it comes to pricing opportunities will help you approach the market from a more sound direction as well. Realize where we are compared to where we have been. In soybeans for instance, knowing that the amount of stocks leftover worldwide at the end of the new crop year could be over a billion bushels larger than we had in the 2013-14 crop year is all one really needs to know when it comes to wondering why we are no longer trading in the teens.

In the end, keep an even head. When you’re winning it is easy to feel as though you will never lose again. So many times when corn was trading $8 I remember hearing it would never trade to $4 again. While at the same time, when losing it’s easy to feel as though you’ll never win again-and of course those calling for low prices forever will have their time when the cycle changes. Shutting out the noise and focusing on what you’re trying to accomplish is key in determining the right marketing approach for you and your operation.

Writing down goals, pricing targets and being aware of your struggles when it comes to making marketing decisions will make you a better marketer and someone who is more comfortable with the day to day ebb and flows in price. Do everything you can to remove the emotion from your business and you will find improvements not only in margins, but quality of life as well.Next week we will look ahead to the month-end acreage report and what it could mean for cash prices in both old and new crop as we move ahead. In the meantime don’t hesitate to call with any questions, we’re here to help!

By: Jeff Keller

Can I add nitrogen on soybeans to boost my yields? There has been a lot of talk over the years about supplementing nitrogen to soybeans to grab a few more bushels, but are those bushels really worth it? With $9- 10 beans per bushel it may be tough to make this happen.

Soybeans are a legume, which create their own nitrogen. However research has proven that soybeans can only produce 300 lb. of N per acre and that is what a 60 bushel bean crop needs. And that is if conditions are right. At this point if the beans are in the ground and are up and growing they tend to look a little pale sometimes. That is when the question usually arises with feeding nutrients to the crop.

The problem with this is, if too much is added to the ground ( over 20 N) the beans may get “lazy” with their own natural production and the nodules of nitrogen don’t form. A few options include foliar feeding some types of products that release nitrogen slowly through the leaves, such as Winfield’s Gradual N. This can be applied at any time there is some foliage for uptake. Also this is a good time to get any micronutrients into the mix. Some experiments have been done with the application of poultry manure preplant. This is a form of organic nitrogen that may break down and release over time.

It is best to consult with your local Mercer Landmark agronomist to take a look at your fields and see which option make work best for you.

Shhh. Don’t look now but grain prices are higher today.  If we can hold, it will be the first time since the middle of May that corn and wheat would be able to post consecutive higher closes and like a skittish animal emerging from their nests, we do not want to do anything to scare them into retreat.  The reason for the rally are few and far in between and about the only thing that I see today that would be construed as positive is a break in the dollar but when combined with the heavily oversold position of these markets, that may be all that was needed to begin making a few of the bears uncomfortable.

By no means does this mean a runaway advance right now but if the market can hold the gains, it could be a tip-off that the bear is beginning to lose its grip and could even open the door for a bounce into the June 10th supply/demand reports.  That said, baring an unforeseen weather event, which looks unlikely for the next few weeks, I expect to see prices remain in more of a range bound pattern at least until 30th when the acreage and grain stocks estimates will be revealed.

The calendar has flipped from May to June, but it would appear that markets are singing the same old song. Corn and beans both are continue to sing the blues. It appears that just about everything east of the Rocky Mountains saw rain over the weekend and while that has been excessive in the south and there were some abnormally chilly temperature north, the general attitude appears to be “rain makes grain.”  Once again the speculative funds seem rather content to play the bear card. Late last week they added to their already sizeable short positions in corn, beans and wheat.

In the southern hemisphere, the crushers union in Argentina agreed to a 27.5% hike in pay so we can look for that nation to become a force in the export trade again quickly, which would appear to be the stimulus for the pressure in beans today.  Safras updated their projection for Brazilian bean production bumping it up 1 MMT to 95.4 MMT and AgRural estimates that Brazilian farmers have sold 68% of old crop beans and 6% of new crop, which compares with 75% and 2% respectively a year ago.

As you undoubtedly have seen, the EPA finally released bio-fuel guidelines (under court order) last Friday and while it eliminates the uncertainty of it all, mandates for ethanol were at the lower end expectation and I suspect were responsible for deflating the strength in corn last Friday.  Bean oil in turn caught a boost.  For 2015 the fuel industry is mandated to blend 13.4 billion gallons of ethanol and then 14 billion in 2016.

As far as fresh news to concentrate on this week, it is relatively sparse.  The dollar is firmer and metal and energies are soft.  This afternoon we will see the updated planting and condition updates.  The trade is expecting to see corn planting north of 95% with good to excellent condition possibly improving 1 to 2% keeping it in line with a year ago.  Bean planting should be around 75% complete and with the excessive water in the Southern Plains, winter wheat conditions will likely show little change.

For now, bears appear to hold all the face cards but as we know, the real test for crop lays out in the months ahead.  I would not be surprised to see the month of June provide us with rather stagnant sideways overall trade.

By: Mike Niederman

Through my travels at the end of last week and throughout this week I have noticed that there are a lot of soybean fields in my area that have emerged and have some nice stands in the field.  Another thing I have been noticing though is how much weed pressure some of the fields have.  The reason all of these fields are having problems is because the farmer was unable to get a pre-emerge herbicide down before the soybeans came up.  In some instances I have seen weeds that are over a foot tall already.  I understand that sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate with all the things that need to be done during the busy spring season. However, if you are not able to get a residual herbicide down early then make sure to keep an eye on your fields and don’t let the weeds take over before the soybeans even get a chance to grow.  Every situation is different but there are many different herbicide options and programs available to solve any problem.  The most important thing is to be proactive and don’t wait for weeds to be visible while drive 50 mph down the road.  Ask your local Mercer Landmark representative if you have questions about what herbicides you should be using for post emergence treatment in soybeans.