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 August, 2015

By: Kyle Imwalle

It’s that time of the year again to start checking and possibly cut your silage corn. Proper harvest timing is critical because it ensures the proper dry matter content required for high quality preservation, which in turn results in good animal performance and lower feed costs. If you harvest corn too wet it will result in souring, seepage, and storage losses of the silage. Harvesting too dry will promote mold development due to the silage not being able to be packed adequately.

It is better to err on chopping a little early rather than a little late if you are not sure of the moisture content. Corn chopped between 62-70% moisture generally makes an excellent silage.  The preferred moisture percent varies depending on the type of storage structure.

Optimal moisture for different storage structures.
Type of Structure Optimal % moisture
Horizontal bunkers 65 to 70
Bags 62 to 70
Upright, top unloading 62 to 67
Upright, bottom unloading 60 to 65

Using the kernel to stage your silage harvest is not a reliable guide. The dry matter of the whole plant varies with maturity. Research from Ohio State University has shown that the position of the kernel milk-line is not a reliable indicator. Geographic location, planting date, hybrid selection, and weather conditions affect the relationship between kernel milk-line position and whole plant dry matter content. In one study, 82% of the hybrids tested exhibited a poor relationship between kernel milk-line stage and whole-plant % dry matter.

We know that kernel milk stage is NOT reliable for determining the actual harvest date, but its appearance is a useful indicator of when to begin sampling fields to measure plant dry matter content. Corn should be first sampled to measure dry matter at full dent stage (100% milk, no kernel milk-line) for conventional tower or bunker silos. For silos begin sampling when the milk-line is one-fourth down the kernel (75% milk remaining).

Once whole-plant % dry matter is determined, use an average dry down rate of 0.5% unit per day to estimate days until the optimal harvest moisture is reached. For example, if a given field measures 30% dry matter at the first sampling date, and the target dry matter is 35% for harvest, then the field must gain an additional 5% units of dry matter, thus requiring an estimated 10 days (5% units divided by 0.5 unit change per day).

This procedure provides only a rough estimate for the harvest date. Many factors affect dry down rate, such as hybrid, planting date, general health of the crop, landscape position, soil type, and weather conditions. Early planted fields and hot and dry conditions can accelerate dry down rates to 0.8 to 1.0 % unit per day. As mentioned above, corn silage that is slightly too dry is usually worse than corn silage that is slightly too wet.  So harvesting a little early is usually better than waiting too long.

If you have any questions about your fields or would like help determining dry matter in your silage please contact your local Mercer Landmark Agronomy Sales Representative.

By: Amy Hayes (Battles)

Last week I started noticing a few soybean aphids starting to show up in several fields in Van Wert County. The two photos attached below were taken near our Mercer Landmark Middle Point facility.

Ironically this is the 3rd year in a row where aphids have begun to make their presence later in the growing season. Normally we spray an insecticide such as Grizzly Z or Leverage 360 when we are faced with a rising population once the threshold of 250 aphids per plant is reached, prior to the R5 growth stage. Currently a majority of the soybean fields in this area are entering into the R6 growth stage, where a treatment is only warranted if:
1. The number of aphids/plant is continuing to rise
2. We are under drought stress.

An important fact to keep in mind is that the economic injury level at which a soybean aphid will cause yield loss is actually 500-600 aphids per plant, and as we enter into later growth stages this level continues to rise to over 1,000 aphids per plant.

As for the time being, I would continue to scout soybean fields every 3-4 days, while paying especially close attention to later planted fields that have not reached the R5 growth stage yet. If you have any questions regarding the severity of soybean aphids in your fields, please contact your local Mercer Landmark Agronomist.

Pro Farmer pegs 2015 U.S. corn crop at 13.323 billion bu.; Average yield of 164.3 bu. per acre
/- 1% = 13.456 billion bu. to 13.190 billion bu.; 165.9 bu. to 162.7 bu. per acre

Pro Farmer pegs 2015 U.S. soybean crop at 3.887 billion bu.; Average yield of 46.5 bu. per acre
Soybeans /- 2% = 3.965 billion bu. to 3.809 billion bu.; 47.4 bu. to 45.6 bu. per acre

Note: These estimates are based on assumptions for normal weather through September. Even with a normal end to the growing season, we have concerns about the corn crop’s ability to hold yield potential given nitrogen deficiency across the eastern Corn Belt. The soybean crop has potential to add bushels into harvest if late-season weather is favorable. The rains that fell last week will help soybeans fill pods and even allow some late-planted soybeans to add pods. We made no adjustments to harvested corn or soybean acres.

Ohio: 151 bu. per acre. We wondered whether Ohio was as bad as billed — results lived up to the reports. Crops are yellow and uneven, with poor grain length. The crop will likely struggle to hold onto yield potential.

Indiana: 145 bu. per acre. We found an extremely uneven and nitrogen-deficient corn crop in the Hoosier state. Given the nitrogen issues, it will likely struggle to finish.

Illinois: 169 bu. per acre. This was easily the best state of the eastern Corn Belt, but the crop was not without its challenges. Nitrogen deficiency and leaf disease likely took the top end off yields, but rains last week could help the crop build ear weight, if it gets some heat.

Iowa: 181 bu. per acre. Yields were disappointing in southwest Iowa due to wet weather this spring, but conditions improved drastically as scouts moved north. Soil moisture is there, but the crop needs heat and sunshine to build yields into harvest.

Minnesota: 178 bu. per acre. The highest sample in Tour history was pulled here, but overall yields weren’t as attention-grabbing as we anticipated. Ponded and drowned out acres were notably absent.

Nebraska: 178 bu. per acre. There’s no doubt about it… Nebraska has a strong crop in the works. Dryland yields were impressive, but we didn’t find the kind of irrigated yields to get to USDA’s August estimate.

South Dakota: 160 bu. per acre. Corn is even and largely free of disease/insect pressure. So long as the growing season does not end early, yields could notch a record.

Ohio: 46.4 bu. per acre. We found our shortest beans in Ohio — much of the crop had not even canopied and it showed via sharply lower pod counts than usual. Short plants limit the crop’s potential for a late rebound.

Indiana: 47.6 bu. per acre. Indiana faces many of the same problems Ohio does, as beans in the state are short, variable and pod counts were down notably from year-ago.

Illinois: 50.5 bu. per acre. Soybeans have fared better than corn in the state. Pod counts were down from year-ago, but rains during Tour could help the crop build yield potential. Insect and disease pressure was limited.

Iowa: 54 bu. per acre. Soybeans have outstanding yield potential based on pod counts — these were just marginally behind Nebraska. But the crop is not made, and SDS is a concern in southern areas. The crop needs energy to build a big bean, and the moisture is already there for it to do so. The risk for this crop is underestimating its potential.

Minnesota: 46.0 bu. per acre. We found a lot of beans in Minnesota, but pods will need a long fall to reach their full potential.

Nebraska: 55.5 bu. per acre. We’ve said it time and time again… Nebraska knows how to grow soybeans. It had the highest pod counts of Tour. But high pod counts do not necessarily translate to big yields­ — late-season weather will be key.

South Dakota: 47.0 bu. per acre. The crop is consistent and well advanced. There were some weed issues and aphids in some areas, but the state is working on a good bean crop.

Record Crop Potential In South Dakota

The Western Leg is off to an interesting start. Monday, we spent time traveling through Southeastern South Dakota. That state has really experienced ideal weather conditions throughout the growing season that’s similar if not better than last year. That is the perfect receipe to produce a possible bumper crop.

It’s a small crack of sound, Southeastern South Dakota farmer, Mike Slack welcomes.

“Of course we like to see these rains for the beans. They really need rain but overall things are looking good,” said Lincoln County, South Dakota farmer, Mike Slack.

That’s because Slack says this week’s rains were the first in his area since late July. It’s August rains like this that have help move along what’s already considered a big crop.

“I think with my little corner here, we may have a bumper crop in corn. I’m predicting the corn will be up this year. Like I said with the beans, it could be about the same,” said Slack.

Those are predictions that aren’t a surprise to scouts on the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour.

When it comes to soybeans, scouts say not to aim too low on the state’s bean yield.

“When you get muddy boots in South Dakota the third week in August and you have good plant health, some of the plants are loaded with pods better than I’ve seen in South Dakota and we’ve been doing this since ’98,” said Pro Farmer’s Chip Flory.

Flory says some corn has started to dent, a good sign the season is going well.

“I would guess yield is at 140 to 200 bushel range and congregated at 150 to 160 bushels per acre,” said Flory.

There are some ear development and disease problems, but from what he’s seen, it’s not a big concern for South Dakota.

And as the season moves on, Slack hopes for more August rains like this to finish out what could be an ideal season.

“Our June and July this year was perfect. We got timely rains and the temperatures have been warm,” said Slack.

Now Slack says there are some minor problems with aphids and weeds. Chip also mentioned some hail damage and disease pressure as well.

Ohio Yields Take a Tumble

People tend to be happy when something meets their expectations. But what about when those expectations are low?

That was the case for Pro Farmer Crop Tour scouts when they descended upon western Ohio Aug. 17. No one, including retired Minnesota farmer and veteran Crop Tour scout Dick Overby, expected to see bin-busting yields. And for the most part, those predictions came true.

“We’ve heard so many bad things already about Ohio and Indiana that it’s hard to get overly passionate about what we saw today,” Overby says.

That’s not to say there weren’t some pleasant surprises, he adds, noting a 193 bu. per acre sample he pulled in western Ohio. But statewide, too many samples of severely stressed corn expected to yield less than 100 bu. per acre dragged down those highlights.

Pro Farmer has estimated Ohio’s 2015 corn yields at 148.37 bu. per acre. That’s a steep decline of 18.5% from the 2014 estimate of 182.11 bu. per acre. This number is also well below the USDA 2015 estimate of 168.0 bu. per acre. Earlier in August, USDA predicted a national corn average of 168.8 bu. per acre.

Time and time again, Crop Tour scouts brought up their struggles with accurately measuring Ohio’s highly variable fields.

“It was very variable in Ohio, even in the good areas,” says Indiana farmer Joe Wise. “It was very hard to find a representative sample in a lot of fields.”

That’s why taking numerous samples in each state is paramount to the tour’s success, according to Pro Farmer editor Brian Grete. Scouts pulled 92 samples in Ohio alone and are expected to take more than 1,300 total samples across seven Midwestern states.

“We don’t read into what one individual result says,” he says. “It’s what these 1,300 total fields tell us collectively.”

The 2015 Ohio results showed that ear counts were only slightly down 1.7% from 2014, while grain length saw a more moderate 13.7% decline.

Ohio planted 3.7 million acres of corn in 2014, producing 611 million bushels with an average yield of 176 bu. per acre, according to the USDA.

Pro Farmer states it does not estimate soybean yields due to two important variables – number of seeds per pod and seed weight – being virtually impossible to calculate on a tour of this type. However, the tour does calculate the number of pods in a 3’ x 3’ square to see how much of the “bean-making factory” is in production. This year’s 3’ x 3’ pod count was 1,125, a 16.2% decline from 2014.

Indiana Fields in Rough Shape, Crop Tour Scouts Report

Scouts on the eastern leg of the 2015 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour saw a lot of variability this morning in Ohio crops, and that story remained true into Indiana.

Scouts reported yield estimates as low as 46.4 bu. per acre in Allen County; 84 bu. per acre in Wells County; and 96 bu. per acre in Adams County. Many saw evidence of lack of maturity, with one scout finding corn that wasn’t even waist high.

However, further into the state, the crops started looking a bit stronger.

“We drove through three Indiana counties this afternoon before turning south a Marion. And we didn’t just turn a corner directionally,” said Ben Potter, AgWeb social media editor. “Our fourth Indiana sample today took a turn for the better.”

On Twitter, scouts documented the less-than-stellar yields. To see more from-the-field reports, follow #pftour15 on Twitter.

By: Chip Flory

It’s going to be a soggy first day on the western leg of the 2015 Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour as scouts make their way from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Grand Island, Nebraska. Heavy rains diverted a few Sioux Falls-bound flights to Sioux City, Iowa, but most of the scouts have arrived and are ready to roll. More than 50 scouts will be with us on the western leg of the tour.

We’re running 10 routes again on the western leg of the Tour, but we’ve got 16 drivers moving scouts to Grand Island. These are the same 10 routes we’ve run for several years – that’s part of the consistency of the Tour. We do not, however, preselect fields to sample. Field and plot selection is left up to the scout teams that stop every 15 to 20 miles on their route – that’s part of the randomness of the Tour.

Once a field has been selected, scouts will walk past the end rows, and then go 35 paces into the main rows of the field before laying out two 30-foot plots. Scouts will count all the ears that will make grain in the two rows, and record the tally. Scouts will also pull three ears from each field; the 5th, 8th and 11th ear from one of the 30-foot rows. That’s consistency and randomness in one step of the sampling process. By selecting the 5th, 8th and 11th ear from one row of the plot, we could end up with the three best ears in the row, the three worst ears or three very average ears from the row. That’s an important part of the process because it removes any bias the scout might have.

On the sample ears, we measure the length of grain on each ear in inches… we don’t measure bare cob or aborted kernels, just the length of viable kernels. We also count the number of kernel rows around each ear. Along with the row width in the field, the data driving the yield calculation is the ear population, the average grain length and the average number of kernel rows around the ear. The yield calculation we use: Average ear population in 30-foot of row TIMES the average grain length TIMES the average number of kernel rows DIVIDED BY the row width in the field.

In soybean fields, scouts go to a “representative” spot in the field without cutting a path through the field. We then measure a 3-foot plot and count all the plants in the 3-foot plot. Three plants are then selected at random and we count all the pods that measure at least 1/4 inch on the three plants and calculate the average number of pods per plant. We then calculate the number of pods in the 3-foot plot by multiplying the average number of pods per plant by the number of plants in the 3-foot plot. To calculate the number of pods in a 3′X3′ square, it’s the number of pods in 3-foot TIMES 36 and DIVIDED BY the row space. This gives us the ability to compare soybean fields regardless of row width.

As tweets, reports and conversations start to flow from the Crop Tour, please keep in mind you’re reading reports from 1 of the 10 western routes or 1 of the 12 eastern routes. What the other routes are seeing might, and very likely will, be different than what other routes are seeing. We will do our best to get the information out as soon as we can each evening, and waiting for the full results from each state is the safest way to get perspective from the Tour. If you’re following the Tour on Twitter, just search for #pftour15.

Also, the Tour results should not be compared to USDA yield estimates in each state. We do things differently than does USDA, so the results should be expected to be different. Each night, Brian Grete, leader of the eastern leg of the Tour, and I will provide the perspective to allow you to compare this year’s Tour results to last year’s results and to the three-year average for each state. If you must compare it to the USDA data, do it on a percentage basis.

I’ll check in with you guys tomorrow night from Grand Island. We’ll have the final results from South Dakota and will give you some perspectives on corn and soybean yield potential in northeastern Nebraska.

By: Ben Stoller

With significant ‘preventative planted’ acres in our geography, consideration should be given to herbicide carryover into cover crops species.

Below is a link to a chart (a portion of which is shown below) Penn State University has developed showing commonly used corn and soybean herbicides and their potential effects upon fall seeded cover crops.

Please contact your Mercer Landmark agronomy representative for advice on burndown options ahead of cover crop seeding.

By: Brad Miller

Even though we have settled into a drier period,  all of the rain during May, June, & July has caused a large disease presence in the field this year.   The diseases I have seen the most are Septoria Brown Spot and Frog Eye Leaf spot.   Septoria Brown Spot we see in the field every year, but this year it is worse and is traveling up the canopy faster.  The photo below shows Septoria Brown Spot.

The second disease I am seeing is Frogeye Leaf Spot which is showing up on more varieties than expected.

Frog Eye Leaf Spot

Both Septoria and Frog Eye Leaf spot can be controlled by spraying a fungicide before the R5 stage which is when flowering stops.  There are other diseases present, such as Sudden Death Syndrome and Brown Stem Rot.  To have your field scouted for diseases or to get more information, contact your Local Mercer Landmark representative.

Need to catch up? Here are some food, agriculture and farm stories you might have missed this week.

1. Big vote. Election 2016 is more than a year away, but farmers are sharing their front runner pick.

2. Drone highway. Amazon proposes a special “drone highway” for delivering packages to customers. Forbes

3. We’re lucky. Don’t take the three-week shelf life of milk for granted – some countries barely have a few hours. NPR

4. Russian sanction rewind. Remember the ag and food import sanctions of 2014 in Russia? The country is destroying those “leftovers” as people go hungry. Reuters

5. Turkey vaccine. A bird flu vaccine being developed is effective in chickens, USDA’s Tom Vilsack said last month, but now Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says a turkey version is expected soon. Grand Forks Herald

6. What’s the prognosis for harvest 2015? What might USDA say in its Aug. 12 reports?

7. Investment opportunity. As land prices soften, pension plans, funds and everyday investors are looking to make a deal. Wall Street Journal

And your bonus:

Avoid the ‘thunderous din.’ Last month, we learned that dairy farmers would work with satirical news site The Onion to develop content speaking the ‘Udder Truth.’ They’ve delivered.

Corn maze time. We shared a pretty cool corn maze tribute to the Blackhawks’ winning season not too long ago – but here’s a few more maze designs any sports fan would enjoy. Fansided

At times, words in the German language appear excessively long, almost like they are trying to cram a full sentence into a single word but often they are really quite literal.  Take Mittwoch. That is the word for Wednesday, or mid-week, which is of course where we stand today.  That actually sounds so much better than hump-day but regardless, it is that transitional point in the week when many begin to think forward to the weekend and time off and enthusiasm for work can begin to wane as well.  This somewhat appear to be the case in the markets overnight as volume of trade seems to be slowing but unlike last week at this time, bears have not reemerged to take prices lower.  We have corn and wheat steady to higher, beans strong.  Energies are firmer this morning as well, with metals soft and the dollar a smidge lower.  While this could be the calm before the next storm, we would like to believe prices have reached a point of value and we can begin tracking sideways until we see what Uncle Sam holds in store next week.

The latest crop estimate comes courtesy of FC Stone.  They have estimated the corn yield at 165 bpa with a total crop size of 13.381 billion.  This would be 1.8 bpa lower on yield from the July USDA estimate equating to 149 million bushels less.  While that does not sound like much of a cut in production, if usage was left unchanged, that would equate to a 9% drop in ending stocks.  For soybeans they came up with a yield of 45 bpa and production of 3.797 billion.  Compared with the July USDA estimates this would be down 1 bushel in yield and 88 million in total production.  Informa is set to release their estimates later this morning and we should be hearing survey averages by the end of the week.

Outside of this it would appear market has little else to focus on.  There is moisture forecast to move across Missouri and then up the Ohio Valley over the next 24 to 48 hours with several other small rain systems in the cards in the Midwest over the next week to 10 days.  Temperatures are expected to remain at normal to below normal readings.

There is nothing so literal in the German words for Thursday and Friday so for now we will just have to remain patient for another “woche” to find out what the USDA believes our crop size is currently.

By: Ryan Stucke

With all of the moisture that we have experienced this summer a lot of crops have suffered, and none more than the alfalfa fields.  There will be a lot of fields, young and old, that will be torn up this year and next spring.  Here are a few guidelines you will want to follow when trying to establish that new stand whether it be this fall or next spring.

Stand Establishment:

  • 20 to 25 plants per square foot surviving after first winter is ideal
  • 55 stems per square foot are needed to maintain full yield potential

Soil Fertility:

  • Soil test to determine fertility needs before ground preparation
  • Phosphorus is critical for healthy root development
  • Potassium is needed for high yields
  • Soil pH levels of 6.2 to 7.0 provide best environment for nodule bacteria to fix nitrogen

Field Preparation:

  • A firm seedbed is critical for successful alfalfa establishment
  • No-till seeding can be a viable option
    • Seedbed is already firm
    • Top soil moisture is generally good
  • Clods can cause uneven seeding depth, impede emerging seedlings and cause soil surface to dry rapidly

Planting Depth:

  • ¼” to ½” deep on clay or loam soils
  • ½” to ¾” deep on sandy soils

Seeding Rate:

  • 15-18 lbs.
  • 250,000 seeds per pound = about 80 to 90 seeds per square foot

Planting Dates:

  • April 1 to May 15 for spring seeding
    • Alfalfa seed will begin to germinate when soil temperatures are above 37 deg. F
  • August 1 to August 15 for late summer seeding
    • Less weed competition in late summer
  • Alfalfa seedlings need at least six weeks of growth prior to killing frost

Using a Nurse Crop:

  • Oats are the primary nurse crop, but spring wheat or barley can also be used
  • 30 pounds per acre of oats is adequate
  • Advantages include erosion and weed control
  • Disadvantages include increased competition for moisture and nutrients
  • Remove nurse crop in the boot stage to prevent competition

For any questions regarding starting your new stand of alfalfa or how to maintain your older stands, contact your Mercer Landmark sales professional.