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, 2015

By: Brad Miller

Here are some quick reminders as wheat planting is getting underway.

Wheat should be planted 1.5 in deep

Make sure you treat your seed with a seed treatment containing a fungicide to control seed borne diseases like fusarium, common Bunt and Glume Blotch.  The optimum seeding rate is 1.2 to 1.6 million seeds per acre.  The following chart breaks down the lbs. needed to obtain that goal.

Row spacing (inches) Feet of row/acre Wheat seeds/lb.
12,000 13,000 14,000 15,000 16,000 17,000 18,000

lb./ac of seed

6 87,120 131 12 112 105 98 92 87
8 65,340 98 90 84 78 76 69 65
10 52,272 78 72 67 63 59 55 52
12 43,560 65 60 56 52 49 46 44
14 37,337 56 52 48 45 42 39 37

You should Apply 15 to 30 Lbs. of Nitrogen at planting in some form.  Contact your local Mercer Landmark representative for more recommendations or questions.

By: Tony Dreibus

Updated: 09/28/2015

Soybeans Drop as Demand Picture Unflattering

Soybeans dropped and will likely stay lower today while corn was steady overnight on signs of weak demand for U.S. supplies from overseas buyers.

Soybean exporters sold 1.32 million metric tons of soybeans to overseas buyers in the week that ended on Sept. 17. While that was a decent amount, sales to China still are lagging behind the prior five years thanks to ample global supplies and the prospect for a monster crop out of Brazil.

Growers in the South American country could potentially produce upwards of 100 million metric tons, which would lead to a glut of soybeans in the world. With a weak Brazilian real, global buyers likely will shun U.S. inventories in favor of soybeans from South America.

November soybean futures declined 3 ¾ to $8.85 ½ a bushel overnight on the Chicago Board of Trade. December soymeal futures fell 70 cents to $307.50 per short ton. December soyoil futures declined 0.01 cent to $27.92.

Corn was little changed as investors wait to see how much of the crop was harvested in a report later today. Rain may have kept farmers in the Midwest out of fields last week.

Yields have thus far been disappointing, but most industry experts believe they will improve as the harvest moves north into Iowa and northern Illinois and Indiana. Some are indicating that some combines are rolling in parts of Iowa already.

At the open Monday, the Dec. corn futures are trading 3/4 of a cent lower at $3.88.  Nov. soybean futures are trading 5 cents lower at $8.84.

Dec. wheat futures are 4 cents higher at $5.12.

Dec. soymeal futures are trading $0.50 per short ton lower at $307.70. Dec. soyoil futures are trading $0.20 lower at $27.71.

In the outside markets, the Brent Crude oil market is $0.85 lower per barrel, the U.S. dollar is higher, and the Dow Jones Industrials are 115 points lower.

Large Harvest, Weak Real Could Mean Slack Demand For U.S. Soybeans

So exactly how did the Brazilians get to a point where they could potentially harvest 100 million metric tons of soybeans next year? And why would world buyers turn to the South American country for their beans?

First, the caveat: growers in the country haven’t yet even planted the crop so there’s a lot of time between now and harvest. But looking at planting intentions, it’s not hard to fathom Brazilian farmers collecting their biggest-ever crop.

Growers are expected to increase planted acreage by about 3%, the International Grains Council said earlier this year. Production is expected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reach 97 million metric tons, but if all goes well, that number could easily top 100 million metric tons.

Even at the current estimate of 97 million metric tons from Brazil, global production would reach a record, as would ending stockpiles, according to the USDA.

With a glut of soybeans floating around, buyers could pick and choose from whom they make purchases, and likely would choose the lowest-priced seller. Good news for the Brazilians as their currency has tanked, making their products more attractive to overseas buyers.

Isolated Rainfall Expected in U.S. Midwest Today

Speculation also continues about the size of the U.S. soybean and corn crops.

Many industry insiders are saying yields, which have thus far been disappointing, will improve as the harvest moves north into Iowa and northern Illinois and Indiana, but the blockbuster numbers have yet to materialize.

The good news is we should begin to see some hard evidence in the near future.

That is, if Mother Nature cooperates. Rain last week likely slowed collection of grains in parts of the Midwest.

Precipitation likely will continue in parts of Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. The thunderstorms expected in the next 24 hours could further delay the harvest, but any rainfall will be extremely isolated.

Parts of northern Nebraska are also expected to receive rain, the NWS said in a daily report, but that will impact what little spring wheat hasn’t yet been collected more so than the corn and soybean harvest.

By: Ryan Stucke

Everybody is anxious to get to the field and get this year’s crop off whether it is because they are excited to see how it yields, or they have had constant rain over the summer and are just plain sick of looking at bad crops.  But no matter what side of the fence you are on there are some key tips to remember when going to the field to harvest those crops.

  • Soybean harvest delays can knock bushels per acre off your yields. Know which combine adjustments to make to limit losses, which can rise to 10% of your yield potential in some cases.
  • Identifying stalk rot issues and managing harvest timing of at-risk fields can help you reduce lodging losses and get more ears into the combine.
  • Learn more about the differences in management needs of different grain drying systems.
  • Monitor fields to understand the effect of this year’s growing environment: Learn to balance stalk-quality concerns with moisture targets to hit the sweet spot.
  • Also a few health tips: make sure you have plenty of food and something to drink, also make sure plenty of sleep is involved.

With walking fields this fall and helping farmers determine what yield potential they could possibly have, what moisture the grain is at, and if there are any environmental issues going on.  We have noticed especially in a lot of conventional fields that the stalk quality is going away very quickly and even some that are starting to drop ears.  A large part of this is due to corn borer getting into the ear shank and working the way up and down the stalk (seen in the picture below).  A good way to check for these pests is by pulling the leaves off and checking for small holes and also looking for eggs on the back side of the leaves.  A good way to test you stalk quality would be to do the push test.  Push the stalk 12 inches either way and if they start to break off anywhere up and down the stalk it’s time to start thinking about getting it out of the field.

By: Jeff Keller

The rainfall has slowed down as we come to the end of summer and the crops are making their cycle to maturity. Most of us are looking at the corn crop and are thinking, “Well, it is what it is.” However, damage is still going on after looking at a corn field in Darke county. In that area there was pressure of European corn borer earlier in the season.

Corn borer this time of year is most probably on its 2nd or 3rd generation. They cycle every 25- 30 days hatching new eggs. The pictures below represent how the corn borer gets into the ear shank, chewing it’s fair share, to cause the ear to get weak which then may fall off the stalk in the next month

or two before getting in the combine head. This could mean anywhere up to 10% yield loss or more in cases of a high infestation.  Looking back, a BT corn would have been helpful to keep this pest out. So for this year, harvesting early is a good choice to avoid ears falling on the ground. It may benefit to dry the corn versus letting it out in the field for wind to beat it around and fall to the ground.

Before you get too busy this fall season take some time to walk your fields and take along your Mercer Landmark agronomist to get a strategy as harvest begins if you have some stand issues.

Ag web article

There’s no question emotions can seep into your marketing plan and throw it entirely off course. What sounded logical on paper this past winter can seem invalid as heavy spring rains suffocate emerging crops or China routes back ships of grain.

All of these headlines and resulting knee-jerk reactions can cause spikes in the markets, but they also can create major distractions.

“Emotion and common sense are usually dead opposites,” says Chip Flory, Pro Farmer editorial director and host of “Market Rally” radio program. “Marketing emotions are driven by greed and fear; common sense is driven by reason.”

How do you decide what information to factor into your plan and what information to ignore?

“It’s really difficult,” says Angie Setzer, vice president of grain, Citizens LLC. “More information does not equate to better marketing, and there’s a fine line between too much information and making sure you are aware of what is going on.”

When events such as avian flu or a Brazilian drought consume headlines and Twitter feeds, Setzer suggests evaluating the staying power of that news item. Ask yourself: Will this be important in six months? Three months? Next month? Next week?

“This process will help you get a feel for what’s important and what isn’t,” she says. “Otherwise, you will get bogged down with tiny specks of information that aren’t really drivers. The guy who knows the corn production number for all the South American countries has a hard time marketing.”

“Facts and psychology affect trading, but mostly the latter,” explains Alan Brugler, president, Brugler Marketing & Management. Logic traps in grain and livestock marketing include everything from backyarditis to Twitter panic to coffee shop syndrome.

“People generalize what they are seeing around them and assume that’s what is happening in the rest of the world,” Brugler says. “But you can’t see even one millionth of the nation’s crop from your back door.”

Avoid Traps. To dodge pitfalls, Brugler says, you must develop a flexible but controlled marketing plan. “If you don’t have a marketing plan, you are planning to fail,” he says. “Disciplined traders have a plan based on analysis, with alternative outcomes and check points.”

Start your marketing plan with your cost of operating, Setzer suggests. “You need to have a baseline of what you need to get out of each crop,” she says. “Then you can think about what you’re looking for from an upside perspective versus downside in terms of price.”

Include both price and time components in your strategy. “Determine that you want a certain number of bushels out by a specific date,” she says. “This allows you to sell grain when you want to, not when you have to.”

This strategy also helps you stay active in the market. “Otherwise you can get out of touch if you aren’t making regular sales,” Setzer says. Although emotions are always at play in the market, you can curb them.

“You should minimize all feelings before trading,” Brugler says. “Strong feelings about a market will blind a trader to any realistic evaluation of it. The best trading emotion is the least.”

Be Objective. You also need to manage the unknowns in marketing. “With uncertainty, you either become overconfident or go into denial,” Brugler says. “Doing nothing is a legitimate marketing tool—it’s just way overused. Markets can remain illogical far longer than we can remain solvent.”

To overcome these obstacles, Brugler says, you must set goals. Then, you should mentally rehearse your plan to overcome performance anxiety. “Assume negative outcomes and detail how you can counter those,” he says. Also, find a way to manage the stress associated with trading. “If you can get it down to only money and you’re playing the game, you’ll be a lot better off,” Brugler points out.

Be aware of current market moves, regardless of whether you are actively marketing grain or not, Setzer says. “You need to find validated and curated sources of information to track,” she says.

Follow at least one information source. “That doesn’t mean you should follow all their advice, but you should at least consider it when making your decisions,” Flory says. “Commodity advisers can get wrapped up in the emotion of a market, but that risk is much lower than trying to do it alone.”

Most corn hybrids planted in the U.S. now contain one or more transgenic traits for weed or insect management.

These traits are meant to increase flexibility and profitability for producers, but sometimes also lead to questions or cause confusion about their spectrum of control or refuge requirements to delay resistance. This bulletin provides a handy one-stop-guide to understand sales materials, bag tags, and the hybrids you purchase.

Table 1 lists the names of the important ‘events’ (transformations of one or more genes) in corn, their more familiar Trade Names, the protein(s) expressed, and their pest targets. Table 2 lists specific trait packages (combinations of events) sold by various seed companies, with their spectrum of control and refuge requirements. In recent years, the pyramiding of Bt traits allowed for the reduction of some refuges from 20% to 10% or 5%, depending on the trait package. Some hybrids still require a structured refuge planted as a block or series of rows, but many hybrids are now  

sold as a convenient refuge-in-the-bag (RIB). But it is still important to take the following steps:

*Understand the biology of each trait, the expected level of control, and refuge requirements;

*Confirm that the seed you ordered the previous year is the seed delivered in the spring;

*Keep good planting records and save a representative sample of bag tags;

*For herbicide applications, Ask Twice-Spray Once, especially if you hire a custom applicator;

*Most important, if you see unexpected damage or poor performance of a trait (especially damage from corn rootworm), contact your seed dealer and extension educator immediately so that the field can be visited while the problem is still fresh and samples can be taken.

This is critical to identify and manage cases of rootworm Bt resistance.

This bulletin strives for completeness, but keeping track of Bt traits isn’t easy. For a searchable, easy-to-use database of GM crop approvals, see the ISAAA web site at http://www.isaaa.org/gmapprovaldatabase

Table 1: Event names for proteins expressed in BT corn plants

Abbreviations used in table 2 on page 2

Herbicide activity

GT    glyphosate tolerant

LL      Liberty Link, glufosinate-tolerant

RR2  Roundup Ready 2, glyphosate-tolerant

Insect Targets FAW   Black cutworm

BCW    Black cutworm              RW     Corn rootworm

CEW     Corn earworm               SB        Stalk borer

ECB      European corn borer    WBC  Western bean cutworm

Table 2: BT corn trait pacakges, with spectrum of control and refuge requirements. (Update August 2015)




By: Alex Fullenkamp

Many brands of seed have released pricing or will be in the next few weeks.  This brings up a question I like to ask guys, what traits are you getting?  Surprisingly, many guys don’t know.

In our area many of the insect and disease pressures can vary for guys due to different management practices.  Some guys get every acre rotated every year, other guys may be limited on acres and have a bunch of corn back to corn due to feed needs.  A dairy farmer for example with corn back to corn and a lot of manure may want to consider a different trait package than say a grain farmer who is rotating.  Such things as an insecticide being ran through the planter can also influence what may be needed.  Ultimately, it comes down to what the farmer feels he needs on his farm.

Below is a link to a great chart I like to use.  It includes nearly every brand of seed and what each trait package is giving you from them.  This makes it easy to see what you’re getting and can help explain price variations sometimes.

http://corn.agronomy.wisc.edu/Management/pdfs/Handy_Bt_Trait_Table.pdf