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 February, 2016

By: Steve Heckler

With commodity prices making some decisions for our inputs, we need to think about what will bring our operation the biggest benefit for us. At Mercer Landmark our agronomy sales people have been doing on- farm testing of different products to see if the return on investment is worth looking at. Stabilizers have been one of those products that we have looked at on wheat and corn that the return on investment is well worth the cost. Wheat needs the nitrogen the most between jointing and harvest. If conditions are unfavorable you could lose 20% to 30% of nitrogen after top dressing wheat. When watching our cost, most of the time spending a little more on certain products could benefit you in the end.

In corn using a stabilizer at side dressing will help keep the nitrogen there for the plant to use when it needs it. V10 through dough stage is when corn needs nitrogen the most to produce yield. Weather and soil conditions play a big role in nitrogen loss but if we can add a stabilizer and keep the nitrogen there, we will see results by having better yields at harvest. Talk to an agronomy sales person at your local branch for more information on stabilizers. There are different stabilizers in the market place that can confuse you on what they do, so please ask or go to your local branch for answers.

As published on Ag

Whether you’re wondering what to plant or how to adjust your marketing plan for the year ahead, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the latest numbers from USDA. Released at the agency’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va., these figures provide the framework for USDA’s regular data releases and the market’s assumptions about ag commodities in the months and years ahead.

Here’s what you need to know right now:

90 million: The number of corn acres in 2016, according to USDA’s initial estimates. The agency also forecasts 82.5 million acres of soybeans and 51 million acres of wheat. Total planted acreage for top U.S. commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton is expected to fall slightly to 249.1 million acres.  How can corn acreage be growing? It’s all about the falling cost of inputs, according to USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson–with predictable pressure on prices. “Corn area is expected to increase by 2 million acres to 90.0 million in 2016 with lower fuel and fertilizer making corn more attractive relative to other crops,” he said. “With higher production and larger beginning stocks, corn supplies are projected to be record high. Strong competition from South America will likely limit any increase in exports, and as a result, U.S. corn ending stocks are expected to reach a 12-year high at the close of the 2016/17 marketing year, pushing prices lower.”

$3.45: Price for corn in 2016, according to USDA’s initial forecasts. Other price forecasts for 2016 are $8.50 for soybeans and $4.20 for wheat. Such trends are forcing farmers to trim costs wherever they possibly can. “We would expect to see farmers renegotiate cash rental agreements, which will, in turn, contribute to a softening of land values,” Johansson predicted.

97.4 billion: Pounds of meat (chicken, beef and pork) that will be produced in 2016, which will be a new record, according to USDA’s forecast.

211.9 billion: Pounds of milk expected to be produced in 2016, which also represents a record level for U.S. dairy producers.

$1.29 billion: Value of U.S. ag exports in 2014 to the Dominican Republic, a country with a comparable population and economy to Cuba, which had just $286 million in U.S. ag exports that year. “We should be dominating the Cuban market. They import 80% of what they need to feed their people,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “We are now stymied by an embargo that have certainly outlived its purpose.”

5.3%: Annual average economic growth for China over the next 10 years, which is a significant drop from the country’s recent highs of almost 10% per year. “This adjustment implies significant economic challenges in the short term,” according to USDA’s Long-Term Projections report released Thursday, noting that China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans and cotton.

$125 billion: Value of U.S. ag exports for fiscal year 2016. While exports are expected to continue to grow, according to USDA economists, this year’s forecast marks a $27.3 billion drop from the historically high level of $152.3 billion in fiscal 2014, according to Johansson. “In general, strong competition and reduced demand have contributed to falling U.S. export sales,” he said Thursday. “However, much of the reduction in value this year compared to FY2015 is due to lower prices for grain and feed exports. Export volumes are also down for most commodities and groupings, including coarse grains, rice, soybeans, soybean meal, and cotton. However, export volumes of wheat, beef, pork, and broilers are expected to hold their own and could be slightly higher compared to last year.”

$51 billion: Amount of net farm income projected in 2016, which represents a 44% drop since 2014. As brutal as that sounds, it could certainly be worse, at least according to Johansson. “High net farm income levels from several years ago helped U.S. producers strengthen their financial base and that is still reflected in the financial outlook, he said. “Heading into spring planting this year, USDA projects a slightly higher debt mostly from operating loans and lower assets from some erosion in land values, resulting in a slight increase in the debt-to-asset level in 2016. While such an increase indicates rising financial pressures, those ratios remain near historic lows.”

By: Brian Mitchem

Many farmers in this area have adopted foliar fungicide programs as part of a management plan to increase crop yield and plant health. Mercer Landmark has developed an extensive database of fungicide product performance in both corn and soy with data collected from this area. I would encourage all interested farms to request a copy of the Mercer Landmark Yield Books to review the data.

Fungicide use has been more popular in soy as we have seen more consistent economic return to use in beans and all applications can be made by ground.

Some considerations for fungicide use in beans:

Research has proven that the R3 growth stage has resulted in the most consistent yield response. R3 stage is defined as a pod in the upper 1/3 of the canopy with a length of 3/16”.

Most farmers choose to include a labeled pyretherin based insecticide with the application. These are low cost and highly effective products for control of insects like aphids, Bean Leaf Beetle and others.

Frogeye Leaf Spot is the most yield impacting foliar disease in soy. Some populations of this disease have expressed resistance to the strobiluron family of fungicides. While the overall incidence of Frogeye this far north is limited, it is wise to include a triazole family fungicide in all bean applications as well. Most products that are sold are a mix of both strobiluron and triazole chemistries.

Considerations for fungicide use in corn:

Northern Corn Leaf Blight has been our most impactful foliar corn disease recently. The past two years we have experience very heavy disease levels with Northern.

Cool and wet conditions have maximized the occurrence of Northern.

University pathologists have confirmed that the disease is also becoming more virulent as well so we are seeing the intensity of infections becoming more pronounced.

Also, several race specific genes exist that have brought some form of tolerance to corn hybrids. However, several of the Northern races have shifted and the gene resistance is limited in effectiveness.

Applications in corn at early growth stages V5 –V8 can be combined with labeled herbicides and/or foliar nutritional products.

Tassel applications have been the most effective at yield protection in the presence of foliar disease. The critical zone of disease protection in corn is in the early reproductive stages.

Aerial or ground applications are both effective methods of application at tassel. However, university studies have demonstrated a yield advantage to ground applications. In my personal work with extensive applications on inbred corn for seed production ground applications consistently delivered 1/3 longer residual of both fungicide and insecticide vs aerial applications.

These is no disease resistance to fungicides in corn. The N143A gene mutation that brings strobiluron resistance in plants also acts as a lethal gene to the disease spores that mutate and express themselves on corn plants. Therefore, if any disease spore mutates with strobiluron resistance in a corn disease the corn plant itself kills the mutated disease spore.

In wheat, we heavily use triazole based fungicides for head scab suppression. Resistance to triazole fungicides has been identified in several growing areas particularly east of Ohio.

By: Alex Fullenkamp

Thinking back to last fall, some of the wheat struggled to get out of the ground a little bit.  Eventually it rained, and from what I’ve saw most of it emerged.  Then it stayed very mild and the wheat continued to grow.

Spring is right around the corner and some of the first equipment in the field is usually to apply nitrogen to wheat.  Due to the mild fall, much of the wheat grew or tillered a lot more than it does on a typical year.  Prior to applying nitrogen this Spring I would strongly encourage everyone to scout their wheat and do some tiller counts.

I suspect much of the wheat has tillered much more than normal and there is a good chance we may need to delay nitrogen applications to essentially starve or kill some of the tillers.  If anyone would happen to have a thin wheat stand they would want to apply nitrogen earlier.

When scouting wheat I typically look for approximately 600 good tillers in one square yard or about 65 in one square foot.  If tiller counts are too high, we can use a growth regulator to shorten up the wheat and make the stems stronger so they can stand throughout the growing season.  If a product like this is used, we need to remember to feed it accordingly.  We need to remember to make nitrogen, herbicide, fungicide, and insecticide applications at the proper time rather than when it is convenient. Please contact your Mercer Landmark agronomy consultant for more information.

Corn seed thief pleads, Syngenta sold, cotton is no oilseed and news from the campaign trail.

Need a quick rundown on the week’s news? We’ve rounded up a few things you may find of interest.

1. Mo Hailong plead guilty Jan. 27 in federal court in Iowa on charges of conspiracy to steal U.S. corn seeds from DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. – Farm Futures

2. ChemChina, based in Beijing, made a $43 billion bid for Switzerland-based Syngenta. The all cash deal appears to be a done deal, but now goes to regulators around the world for approval. – Farm Futures

3. Seaboard Foods is purchasing a portion of Christensen Farms’ hog inventory, a feed mill and truck washes for a cash purchase price equal to $71.1 million. – Feedstuffs

4. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he doesn’t have the authority to declare cottonseed an oilseed. Cotton farmers wanted access to the same farm programs as other oilseeds. – Reuters

5. From the campaign trail: Two more Republican candidates dropped out of the race Wednesday, after Iowa caucus results started sorting winners from non-winners. – USA Today

6. Food imported from countries with lower GDP poses higher risks, according to a study done by researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. – Farm Futures

7. WTF happened to golden rice? Golden rice is an idea that looms just beyond reality. Here’s a kind of ‘where is it now’ look at the technology. Mother Jones

And your bonus:

USDA renewed its Agricultural Air Quality Task Force, which promotes research and finds cost-effective air quality improvement methods. Experts from 20 states serve on the task force – USDA

With the calendar turning to February, the focus sharpens on South American soybean production. Greg Johnson from the Anderson’s does a great job presenting some facts to keep in mind when talking about South America.

Grain Market Commentary
Monday, February 1, 2015
by Greg Johnson, Executive Account Representative

The top 5 soybean producing countries in South America are: (Map # 1)
1) Brazil – 99 million tons (or 3.90 billion bushels)
2) Argentina – 60 million tons (or 2.36 billion bushels)
3) Paraguay – 9 million tons (or 0.35 billion bushels)
4) Uruguay – 3.5 million tons (or 0.14 billion bushels)
5) Bolivia – 3 million tons (or 0.12 billion bushels)

The top 5 soybean producing states in Brazil are: (Map # 2)
1) Matto Grosso (21% of Brazil’s production)
2) Parana (16% of Brazil’s production)
3) Rio Grande Do Sol (13% of Brazil’s production)
4) Goias (12% of Brazil’s production)
5) Matto Grosso do Sol (7% of Brazil’s production)

Brazil planted 33 million hectares (81.5 million acres) of soybeans in 2015, up 3% from last year.

Argentina planted 21 million hectares (51.9 million acres) of beans in 2015, up 2% from last year.

Brazil planted/will plant 16 million hectares (39.5 million acres) of corn for the 2015/2016 crop, unchanged from last year.

Argentina planted/will plant 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of corn for the 2015/2016 crop, down 10% from last year.

Brazil’s Production Cycle

Planting (and harvesting) occur first in northern Brazil (which is closer to the equator), then spreads to the south over time.

February – Early maturing beans in northern Brazil are harvested. The safrinha (double-crop) corn and cotton is planted.

March – The majority of the beans are harvested. The weather in Brazil transitions from their “rainy season” to their “dry season.”

April – Early season corn pollinates.

May – Safrinha (double-crop) corn pollinates.

Argentina’s Production Cycle

February – Full season soybeans are setting pods. First phase corn is harvested. Second phase corn pollinates.

March – Soybeans are filling pods. Harvest is in full swing for first phase corn.

April – Soybean harvest is in full swing.

May – Harvesting of second phase corn is in full swing.

Remember: Brazil is a big country, so when you hear that “it rained in Brazil over the weekend” or that “it is dry in Brazil”, that is similar to saying that it rained in the United States over the weekend.

By~Amy Hayes

“The most expensive spray program is the one that doesn’t work.” Joe Rickard, WinField Agronomist

Did you know there are over 40 different companies selling various types of adjuvants, and over 700 different adjuvants on the market today? How do we even begin to sort out the good and the bad?

First of all, let’s look at the back story. Adjuvants are not regulated, however they can be certified through the Council of Producers & Distributors of Agrotechnology. Gaining certification of an adjuvant not only helps ensure product stewardship, establish a level of consistency in agricultural adjuvants, but also encourages the responsible manufacturing of adjuvants. Currently, WinField has 7 adjuvants that are CPDA certified, while several others are in the process of certification.

Adjuvants are classified into four different categories:
1. Activator Adjuvants
Enhance pesticide performance
-Surfactants, crop oil concentrates, methylated seed oils
2. Spray Modifier Adjuvants
Affects physical properties of spray solutions
-Stickers, deposition aids, drift retardants, evaporation aids
3. Utility Modifier Adjuvants
Minimize handling and application problems
-Compatibility agents, buffering agents, defoamers, anti-foamers
4. Utility Products
Minimize application problems
-Foam makers, tank cleaners

For this article I am going to focus on the Class Act Brands, the largest selling water conditioner in the US. Currently the Class Act Brands consist of Class Act Flex and Class Act NG, with Class Act Ridion coming to market in correlation to the deregulation of Roundup Ready Xtend. The Class Act Brands are classified as an Activator Adjuvant, made up of nitrogen, a blend of surfactants, and an antifoam agent. Surfactants are extremely important because they form a bridge between unlike chemicals that don’t readily mix such as oil and water, or water on a waxy leaf surface.

Along with simplifying your tank mixing procedure Class Act Brands have also proven to provide improved weed control vs AMS alone. Below you will find a chart summarizing the results of a study done by Kansas State University testing AMS replacement products.

Weed Class Act NG % Control Liquid AMS 2.5% v/v % Control
Large Crabgrass 28 DAT 57% 37%
Velvetleaf 28 DAT 30% 23%
Volunteer Corn 28 DAT 68% 57%

*DAT= Days after treatment

If you are interested in learning more about the Class Act Brands talk with your Mercer Landmark Agronomist today. Along with walking you through the adjuvant selection process, some branches will be hosting Spray Clinics this winter where growers are invited to watch live demonstrations showing the differences between adjuvants on a spray table, as well as have their spray nozzles tested.