Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Monday February 10 Ag News

Nebraska Farm Bureau Asks Legislative Committee to Balance Property Tax Burden

Nebraska Farm Bureau offered its support for a pair of legislative proposals that would help alleviate the growing property tax burden on Nebraska’s farm and ranch families. Nebraska farmers and ranchers pay the third highest property tax bill in the nation and pay roughly 30 percent of Nebraska’s total property taxes statewide despite accounting for less than three percent of the state’s population. The figures were shared with members of the Nebraska Legislature’s Revenue Committee Feb. 7 during Farm Bureau testimony in support of bills that would lower the valuation of agricultural land for tax purposes.

“Farmers are more than willing to help fund schools, roads and other local infrastructure, but we have reached a point where the bulk majority of that responsibility and the associated tax burden have shifted heavily onto the backs of agriculture landowners,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson.

Since 2006 agricultural land values have skyrocketed in comparison to other property types including an 80 percent increase in agricultural valuations since 2008 alone.

“The benefit associated with valuation growth on agricultural land is rarely recognized by active farmers because you only realize the increase in land value if you sell it, which is a rarity for those using the land to raise agriculture commodities. Growth in valuations generally only translates into higher property tax bills,” said Nelson.

Legislative Bills 670 and 813 would both lower the value of agricultural land for taxation purposes from the current rate of 75 percent of market value to 65 percent of market value. Farmers would continue to pay property taxes on their farm machinery and equipment and pay 100 percent of market values on residential property.

“Nebraska taxes agricultural land at one of the highest rates in the Midwest putting Nebraskans at a distinct competitive disadvantage with neighboring farmers across state lines. We have a major issue of inequity right now that can be addressed by lowering the value of agricultural land,” said Nelson.

In October, Nebraska Farm Bureau shared a three-year plan with the Legislature’s Tax Modernization Committee to reduce statewide property taxes by $405 million annually for all Nebraskans. Part of the proposal included lowering the value of agricultural land.


Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist

Recent snow storms left at least some snow just about everywhere.  Sure it created some problems, but snow is good – for alfalfa.

Alfalfa loves snow.  In fact, nothing can increase the chance of alfalfa surviving winter better than a nice, thick blanket of snow.  Let's see how this works.

Last fall’s moderate weather allowed alfalfa plants to harden well for winter, leaving them with a high concentration of nutrients and a low concentration of water in their roots.  This winterized condition enables alfalfa crowns and roots to withstand temperatures down as low as 5 degrees above zero.

Now I know this doesn't sound all that cold.  After all, air temperatures have gotten much colder than that.  Fortunately, the soil doesn't get as cold as the air above it.  And when soil is covered with a blanket of snow, this snow acts like a layer of insulation protecting the ground from bitter cold temperatures.  Plus, it reduces the rate that soils and alfalfa roots dry out.  This is why winters with little snow cover can cause more injury to alfalfa stands, especially if soils also are dry.

Of course, management practices in the fall influence the affect of snow on your alfalfa.  Tall stubble provides some insulation value itself and it will catch more snow.  Also, avoiding alfalfa harvest during the so-called risk period from mid-September through mid-October helps alfalfa roots winterize well by building up nutrients and reducing water content.

You may not like the way snow disrupts your daily routine, but remember how valuable it can be for your alfalfa.  Then, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

2014 Crop Budgets Reflect Changes in Input, Land, Machinery Prices

Roger Wilson, UNL Extension Farm Management / Enterprise Budget Analyst

The 2014 Nebraska Crop Budgets have been expanded from previous editions and are now available in both a printer-friendly PDF format and customizable Excel spreadsheets. See the Economics section of CropWatch or EC872 on the Extension Publications website.

This year's package includes 66 budgets, up from 53 in 2013. The additional budgets are for Roundup Ready® alfalfa, additional corn systems, field peas, and no-till millet.

Prices of inputs were generally higher in this year's budgets with some notable exceptions including for nitrogen and glyphosate herbicides. Production costs for crops that use a lot of nitrogen and/or Roundup Ready® technologies were moderated by these price reductions.

At the same time, increased land prices put upward pressure on production costs for all crops.

Real estate costs are calculated by multiplying the price of land as determined by the annual Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Developments survey times four percent. Another one percent is added for real estate taxes.

Relative price changes among the different forms of nitrogen resulted in major changes in the budgets for pivot-irrigated corn. The application of anhydrous ammonia in the spring was replaced with urea ammonium nitrate applied through the pivot system, saving the cost for applying anhydrous.

Another change reducing corn production costs was how seed was priced. In past years these budgets have used the listed price for corn seed even though most producers were getting discounts. The 2014 budgets use lower seed prices reflecting these discounts.

Increased machinery prices were another input contributing to increased production costs.
Finally, the 2014 budgets estimate the cost for removing 2 points of moisture rather than 4 points.

Even with all the savings in the corn budgets noted here, the estimated cost for producing a bushel of corn only declined from $4.04 per bushel for pivot-irrigated no-till corn in 2013 to $3.98 in 2014.

Since nitrogen is generally not applied to soybeans, the cost savings from lower nitrogen prices had no effect. Even though some prices used for soybean inputs such as glyphosate were lower, higher land and machinery prices increased production costs for no-till soybeans grown in rotation with corn from $9.32 per bushel to $10.07 per bushel.

Decreased prices for herbicides and nitrogen drove down production costs for no-till wheat. The increase in real estate prices for dryland in western Nebraska were generally more modest than farm land price increases in the east so the effect of higher land prices was not as pronounced for the wheat budgets. The result is a decrease in the estimated production cost for no-till wheat in a fallow system from $5.86 per bushel to $5.25 per bushel.

State Trichomoniasis Standards Focus of One-Day Forum, April 3

Trichomoniasis—a sexually transmitted disease in cattle that leads to early embryonic losses and infertility—is spreading across the country and is an economic threat to the beef industry. Trich is tricky because, although bulls and cows are carriers of the disease, they show no outward signs of infection. Thus, herds can be infected and their owners not know it. Because seedstock and cow-calf producers only know that more cows are open and calving late, infected breeding animals might unwittingly be sold to others.

While 23 states require mandatory testing for bulls to prevent the spread of trich—and more states have trich regulations in the making, there is inconsistency in individual state requirements. Additional inconsistencies among states occur in other areas such as the collection of samples, shipping and handling of samples and laboratory procedures.

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture and the U.S. Animal Health Association are partnering to provide the beef industry with a one-day “Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards” on Thursday, April 3, in Omaha, NE. The Forum will give state veterinarians, animal health officials, laboratory personnel, beef industry leaders and other interested individuals the opportunity to interact and discuss challenges and identify solutions regarding more standardization of rules and testing procedures intended to prevent the introduction of trich into beef herds.

“Trichomoniasis results in significant economic impact to the cattle industry, and right now there is a wide variation between states in regulations and testing,” states Dr. Carl Heckendorf, Colorado Dept. of Agriculture, and co-chair of the “Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards.” “These varying and ever-changing rules between states make compliance difficult and confusing.

“Now is the time to standardize—or at least harmonize—state regulations, collection of samples prior to shipping, shipping and handling of samples and laboratory procedures. To achieve this harmonization, industry leaders, diagnostic laboratory veterinarians, animal health officials and others would need to meet, talk openly and candidly and hammer out what will work and is best for the industry.”

Dr. Bud Dinges, clinical assistant professor at Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine, and co-chair of the April 3 Forum, agrees with Heckendorf.

“We have a lot to learn from each state, and I look forward to this opportunity to learn what’s working and not working in various states and progress from there,” Dinges states.

The “Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards” is a one-day event, starting at approximately 8 a.m. and ending by 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 3. The hotel headquarters is the DoubleTree by Hilton in Omaha, 1616 Dodge St., Omaha, Neb.

Registration for the one-day “Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards” is $100/person if registered by March 1 and $125/person for those registering after March 1. Registration for those wishing to attend the “Joint Forum on Trichomoniasis Standards” as well as the National Institute for Animal Agriculture Annual Conference, “The Precautionary Principle: How Animal Agriculture Will Thrive,” April 1-2 in Omaha, Neb., at the same facility is $450/person. Registration is available by calling NIAA at 719-538-8843 or registering online at animalagriculture.org

Dicamba-Resistant Kochia Confirmed in Nebraska

Robert Wilson, UNL Extension Weeds Specialist

Kochia is a troublesome weed in crop production in the semiarid region of the Great Plains, made more troublesome by its growing resistance to common herbicides such as triazine, ALS-inhibitors, glyphosate, and now dicamba.

Kochia is usually found in western and southwest Nebraska, but also can be found in central and eastern Nebraska along railroads and highways.

It has a high tolerance to drought and can be very competitive with crops. It typically emerges early in the season and begins maturing in mid-August. Kochia has an ovoid shape and when senesced, a strong wind can break the stem at the soil surface, allowing the plant to roll (tumble) across the landscape and spread seed over long distances.

Kochia flowers are wind-pollinated by flowers on the same plant or cross-pollinated by neighboring plants. Its seed is short-lived in the soil and remains viable for about 12 months. When the same herbicide mode of action is used widely and resistance develops, these characteristics (tumble dispersal, wind pollination, and short seed life) can result in the rapid spread of resistant populations.

In Nebraska, populations of kochia resistant to PSII-inhibiting (triazine) herbicides and ALS-inhibiting (sulfonylurea and imidazilinone) herbicides occur in many fields and glyphosate-resistant kochia has recently been confirmed in western Nebraska. In addition, there have been periodic reports of poor control of kochia by dicamba since the late 1990s.

Testing for Resistance to Dicamba

In 2009, UNL researchers surveyed experts to evaluate the potential for various weeds to evolve resistance to dicamba after commercialization of dicamba-resistant soybean. More than 80% of surveyed experts rated kochia as having a medium or high risk of evolving resistance to dicamba. In fall 2009 and again in 2010 kochia seed was collected from fields and roadsides in 59 Nebraska counties.

Greenhouse experiments were conducted beginning in 2011 to determine the most and least susceptible populations to a dicamba dose of 0.5 lb ae/ac (16 fl oz/ac Clarity). From this initial screening four kochia populations representing the extremes in sensitivity to dicamba were selected for additional characterization in a dose-response study. The populations were treated with 12 dicamba doses (0, 0.03, 0.06, 0.13, 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 lb/ac) and allowed to grow for 28 days after treatment. They were then evaluated for control.

Results from the dose-response study indicated a 19-fold difference between a population collected from Box Butte County and the three more susceptible populations (collected in Morrill and Kimball counties). The resistant population required 22 lb/ac of dicamba (22 qt/ac Clarity) to achieve 80% control. Although dicamba-resistant kochia has been suspected in areas of western Nebraska for many years, the magnitude of resistance we observed was surprising. In fact, this level of resistance had previously only been reported in a kochia population that was developed using selective inbreeding in greenhouse studies at Colorado State University.

The owner of the Nebraska field exhibiting high dicamba resistance reported that the field had been in irrigated continuous corn for the previous 10 years and that dicamba had been frequently applied in tank-mixtures with glyphosate or atrazine to 1-inch tall kochia. In addition, glyphosate plus dicamba or 2,4-D had been applied on wheat stubble in the pivot corners to suppress weed growth during the fallow period.


Soybean with resistance to dicamba has been developed and its commercialization is expected in 2015 or 2016, pending USDA approval. This new technology will permit dicamba use for postemergence weed control in soybean. Farmers or advisors who plan to use dicamba to manage kochia populations that are already resistant to glyphosate or to triazine- and ALS-inhibiting herbicides should exercise extreme caution to avoid selecting populations that are resistant to dicamba.

Dicamba should only be used in tank-mixtures or in sequence with a herbicide(s) with a different mechanism(s) of action that is effective at controlling kochia. Non-chemical weed management practices such as tillage and crop rotation also should be incorporated into the weed management program to help prevent kochia seed production. Finally, producers should monitor fields for plants that escape dicamba applications and remove them before they produce seed.

Three New ISU Extension Beef-Health Publications Available

Three new beef-health publications are now available through the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach online store. Grant Dewell, extension beef veterinarian, authored the publications and said each addresses a specific concern.

“The one on vitamin A deficiency in beef calves is perhaps the most timely because of the upcoming calving season, but the others also offer current and valuable information for beef operations,” Dewell said. “The other two publications on ergot poisoning and trichomoniasis provide details on recognizing specific signs and symptoms of those concerns.”

All three new publications are two pages in length in pdf format and can be downloaded at no cost:
-    Vitamin A Deficiency in Beef Calves (PMR 1014)  https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Vitamin-A-Deficiency-in-Beef-Calves
-    Trichomoniasis in Beef Cattle (PMR 1012)  https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Trichomoniasis-in-Beef-Cattle
-    Ergot Poisoning in Cattle (PMR 1013)  https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/Ergot-Poisoning-in-Cattle

Producers with additional questions about these or any beef health issues are encouraged to contact their Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef program specialist or their veterinarian for more information.

Iowa Corn Checkoff Working on Biotech Issues

A key focus for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is building export markets. Currently, the top markets for Iowa's corn crop are Japan, Mexico and China. Today, China's growing population and middle class, along with excellent business relationships between China and Iowa have created a demand market for Iowa commodities like corn, soybeans, and pork.

"Last year, China was the 3rd largest export market for US corn and up until the recent issue they were on track to meet or exceed that position," said Northeast Iowa farmer Bob Hemesath who returned from China in December.

The 2013 Iowa Corn Strategic Plan developed by farmer leaders puts priority on exports with an emphasis on the China market as well as a focus on a new biotech acceptance program called MAIZALL. Through partnerships with US Grains Council and the US Meat Export Federation the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is also able to leverage checkoff funds to build international markets that will likely have a farmgate impact.

Recently traveling to China on a trade mission with the Iowa Corn I-LEAD leadership class, Hemesath noted that with any trade agreement and marketing opportunity, there will be challenges. Current challenges include a recently discovered unapproved trait (MIR162). The trait in question has been planted on only about 3% of U.S. corn acres for the last two seasons and is not confined to any region.

"Today, our corn checkoff dollars are at work with the US Grain Council to build market security in China," said Hemesath, "I saw the discussions first hand and they are working. China is an important market, we want to make sure we build relationships for quality, reliable corn that we as US farmers can provide."

Farmers are encouraged to discuss planting options with their local seed dealer. For more information visit www.iowacorn.org/MIR162 or www.grains.org. A full list of biotech approvals can be found at www.ncga.com.

Zoetis Announces Research Partnership with Iowa State University to Help Control Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus in the United States

Collaboration focuses on developing and testing vaccine candidate for swine

Zoetis Inc. today announced a research partnership with Iowa State University (ISU) to identify and test a vaccine candidate to help control porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in the United States.

“Establishing this partnership further affirms our commitment to fighting this devastating virus,” said Gloria Basse, vice president, U.S. Pork Business Unit, Zoetis. “We look forward to working with the top researchers at Iowa State University to share knowledge and expertise as we make every effort, together, to help veterinarians and producers fight PEDv.”

New cases of PEDv continue to mount. Since the beginning of December, more than 100 new cases have been reported each week.1 PEDv now has spread to swine farms in 23 states since April 2013, with documented farm cases in the thousands. Losses from PEDv are significant and have been measured on some farms at 100% mortality for infected piglets up to 3 weeks old.

“We know how devastating this virus has been to the swine industry,” said Jianqiang Zhang, MD, PhD, assistant professor, ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. “We are eager to work with Zoetis and advance the research we’ve begun to find a solution.”

The development of a vaccine candidate is one element of Zoetis’ ongoing efforts to support swine veterinarians and pork producers control PEDv. In 2013, Zoetis began a collaboration with the University of Minnesota to develop a diagnostic test for the disease.

While research and development of solutions continue, it’s important for producers to remain vigilant with their biosecurity practices to deter the spread of PEDv. Follow these practices recommended by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians:
·         Label and use chutes for loading and unloading. Use the loading chute only for animals that are leaving your farm. Healthy animals unloaded into the loading chute could be exposed to the virus.
·         Wash and disinfect all unloading chutes and driver areas as often as possible. Use a 2% phenol-based disinfectant in the areas where drivers walk to enter the chute, from point of entry to the top and all areas where the chute contacts the truck.
·         Require all trailers used for picking up animals to be cleaned and disinfected before arrival. Be sure to allow enough time for the disinfectant to dry completely before use.
·         Provide coveralls and boots for employees to wear while on the farm. These materials should stay on-site and be washed routinely.
·         If your farm allows guests, provide clear direction for where they should report upon arrival. Also, provide them with coveralls and boots before they enter any facilities.

2013 Farm Poll: Farmers Concerned about Bt-Resistant Corn Rootworm

Iowa farmers are well aware that populations of Bt-resistant corn rootworm have been found in the state, and more than half are concerned that the pest will become a major problem here, according to the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

“We wanted to better understand farmers’ perspectives on the threat of Bt-resistant corn rootworms and various management practices,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Arbuckle co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension and Outreach sociologist.

The questions were developed in partnership with the ISU Department of Entomology. Only farmers who planted corn, soybeans or other row crops in 2012 were asked these questions, Arbuckle said. The survey data were collected in February and March of 2013.

“Corn rootworm is becoming a more prominent issue for Iowa corn growers. We’ve seen performance problems with Bt traits in continuous cornfields since 2009,” said Erin Hodgson, an associate professor and extension entomologist who was part of the research team.

Bt corn has been genetically modified to express genes from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Farmers plant this type of corn to prevent injury by larvae of the western corn rootworm in the Midwest. However, western corn rootworm populations that have evolved resistance to these transgenic technologies have been found in Iowa and other Corn Belt states.

Sixty-nine percent of farmers responding to the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll indicated that they were aware that populations of Bt-resistant corn rootworm had been found in Iowa. Fifty-three percent were concerned that Bt-resistant corn rootworm would become a major problem in the state, Arbuckle said.

Thirty-eight percent of farmers said they had changed their approach to rootworm management during the past five years, and 77 percent of those who planned to plant corn in 2013 reported that they would use a rootworm-resistant variety, Arbuckle said.

One method for maintaining rootworm susceptibility to Bt toxins is to establish “refuge” areas of corn plants that do not express Bt genes. If farmers do not follow the refuge recommendations, rootworms can rapidly evolve resistance to Bt.

“We asked farmers whether other farmers in their area generally comply with refuge requirements. Sixty-three percent reported that farmers in their area comply, seven percent indicated that they don’t comply, and 31 percent indicated they didn’t know,” Arbuckle said.

“We also asked farmers whether they had used particular practices to reduce the risk of corn rootworm larvae damage to corn plants, and how effective the practices were,” Arbuckle said.

Ninety-three percent of farmers said they rotated corn and soybeans, and 86 percent planted rootworm-resistant corn. These two most commonly used strategies for preventing injury to corn by rootworm larvae were also rated as either effective or very effective by more than 80 percent of farmers, Arbuckle said.

“The single most effective thing farmers can do to manage corn rootworm is to rotate away from corn. Planting soybeans, alfalfa or any other crop will starve corn rootworm larvae,” entomologist Erin Hodgson said. “We strongly encourage farmers to assess root injury in every cornfield, every year. Looking for rootworm feeding is an important step in evaluating Bt efficacy.”
About the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

Arbuckle said 1,209 farmers participated in the 2013 Farm Poll and on average they were 65 years old. Because the Farm Poll is a panel survey, in which the same farmers participate in multiple years, participants are somewhat older on average than the general farmer population. Fifty-two percent earned more than half of their income from farming, while an additional 17 percent earned between 26 and 50 percent of their household income from the farm operation.

In addition to Bt-resistant corn rootworm, the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll asked for farmers’ opinions on climate change, rented land, herbicide resistant weeds, and soil health and compaction.

The 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary report (PM 3061) and previous Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll summary and topical reports are available to download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/, and Extension Sociology, http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/ifrlp/about.html. 

Iowa Pork Producers introducing Cyclone Swine Spectacular youth event

An all-new swine educational event is being held for Iowa youth later this month in Ames.

It’s the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s Cyclone Swine Spectacular and it’s being paired with the Iowa State University Block and Bridle Club’s annual Spring Market Hog Show.

The event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the brand new Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center on the south side of the Iowa State University campus and all young swine enthusiasts age eight to 18 are invited to participate at no charge.

The morning’s activities will consist of photo and essay contests, a knowledge bowl, swine judging and pork fabrication workshops and showmanship. Contestants will be divided into junior, intermediate and senior divisions.

The hog show begins at 1 p.m. and exhibitors of any age are invited to show either market weight crossbred or purebred hogs. There is a $20 per-head fee to be paid at check-in to participate in the hog show.

“We wanted to create more opportunity for youth who are interested in the swine industry to get involved and grow their interest,” said IPPA Marketing and Programs Director Kelsey Sutter. “This will be a unique event where youth will have the opportunity to exhibit hogs, practice their showmanship skills, learn about pork cuts and gain a deeper understanding of the pork industry all at once.”

Students can win a variety of valuable prizes at the event. Points will be awarded for each activity and the more a student participates, the more points he or she will earn toward the Sweepstakes! A Sweepstakes winner will be selected in each age division with the prize being a custom belt buckle! Other event prizes include director’s chairs, duffle bags, gift cards, boot bags, jackets and more! Every participant will receive a free T-shirt, too!

Online registration will continue through noon on Feb. 21. Other students who want to attend the event can register at the door on Feb. 22 from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

For more information, visit iowapork.org and click on the Cyclone Swine Spectacular logo.

Action Team Meets to Discuss Membership, Leadership, Communications

NCGA's Grower Services Action Team met last week in New Orleans for updates on NCGA programs dealing with membership, leadership and communications. The meeting came directly after the biennial Membership Symposium.

"NCGA's many programs to support membership, build new leaders and communicate our work have seen great growth and success lately," said team Chair Tom Haag, a Minnesota corn grower. "In the past several months, we've seen record membership, kicked off a new program for young leaders and seen our communications programs reach high levels of engagement with the non-farming public. Our team is excited about the future for our organization in these three areas."

At the meeting, the team reviewed this year's winners of the ongoing scholarship program, who will be announced at Commodity Classic, received an update on coming changes to Commodity Classic with the addition of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, brainstormed on a new award program to recognize outstanding work by state affiliates, and were briefed on the kickoff of the NCGA DuPont New Leaders Program the previous week.

When the meeting ended, the team toured a nearby ADM grain port facility in Ama, La., to see how grain is handled before shipped to other ports around the world. This particular operation is one of several in the area along the lower Mississippi River, and has a silo capacity of 5 million bushels. Overall, the facility moves up to 400 million bushels a year, shipping 20 different grains and processed products to more than 50 countries overseas.

Members of this year's Grower Services Action Team include Tom Haag, chairman, of Minnesota; Kent Kleinschmidt, vice chairman, of Illinois; Kevin Ross, Corn Board liaison, of Iowa; Justin Durdan of Illinois; Roscoe Eggers of Iowa; Lori Feltis of Minnesota; Les Imboden of Ohio; Patty Mann of Ohio; Larry Mason of Texas; David Merrell of Nebraska; Ted Mottaz of Illinois, Danny Nerud of Nebraska; Mark Scott of Missouri; and Katie Glick, state staff representative, of Indiana. NCGA staff serving the team and present for the meeting were Tim Brackman, director of development; Ken Colombini, director of communications; Mike Shelby, association and member services specialist; and Vickie Darland, administrative assistant.

A Regional Look at Cattle Herd Trends...

Glynn T. Tonsor, Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Kansas State University

On January 31st USDA released the much anticipated January Cattle Inventory Report.[1] Last week's In The Cattle Markets article provides a national overview of the main points including additional confirmation of shrinking cattle supplies and initiated (albeit lower than many expected) herd expansion via heifer retention.

A targeted regional assessment of multi-year adjustments can shed additional light on transitions underway in the industry. Tables 1 and 2 were derived to present estimates of herd size statistics individually for the 10 states currently with the largest beef cow herds as well as regionally and nationally. Values are presented to enable easy comparison not to last year but rather to the pre-drought period, 10 years ago, and 20 years ago. This reveals broader trends that can easily be missed by looking solely at year-over-year adjustments. While the recent drought experienced in several key cow-calf production areas certainly has important ongoing implications, further comparing the current situation to that of 10 and 20 years ago reveals additional industry adjustments underway.

A review of table 1 reveals how remarkably stable the geographic dispersion of the beef cow herd was over the 1995-2010 period. Adding the recent drought and heifer retention patterns (table 2) enriches current understanding. In total head the Great Plains followed the national trend of downsizing over the 1995-2010 period, yet its relative role as home to beef cows and heifers being retained was growing prior to the drought and remains higher than 2010. This suggests the Great Plains is a "growth area" in terms of its role in the national industry. Conversely while the share of the country's beef cows has been stable in the Southeast, this region has a longer history of a decreasing role in retaining heifers. Coupling this with recognition of this region being the main area with sizeable cow inventories containing pastures that broadly avoided drought conditions over recent years casts doubt on the likelihood of the Southeast leading national herd expansion. Between the patterns of these two regions is the Southern Plains. Prior to the recent drought, the herd in Texas was contracting while the herd in Oklahoma was expanding leading to limited net change in the region's collective role in the industry. However, since 2010 the portion of both beef cows and retained heifers residing in the Southern Plains has fallen notably.

Exactly how persistent these patterns are in coming years will be instructive to monitor. There currently are several indications that the beef cow herd may be moving north and west compared to how it has traditionally been dispersed within the country. Broadly speaking, the geographic adjustments at play are consistent with many of the characteristics depicting representative situations across regions.[2] Moreover, these changes are generally in line with estimated net present values of potential replacements faced by representative producers in each region.[3]

The characteristics not only of where cows reside in the U.S. but the managerial traits and situations of host operations are important to appreciate. If you are a stocker, feedlot, or packing firm seeking to source from a limited supply of cattle, recognition of these adjustments is critical.

Brazil's Late Soy Suffers During Dry Feb

Hot, dry conditions during February in Brazil's south, southeast and beyond are hurting late-planted soybeans, which are in reproductive stages, said AgRural, a local farm consultancy, on Monday.

If temperatures don't drop and rains don't return before Feb. 15, the consultancy said it will lower its Brazilian crop forecast of 88.8 million metric tons.

Concerns are counterbalanced by reports of good early yields in the center-west, which hasn't been greatly affected by the dry spell, with Mato Grosso, the No. 1 soy state, performing particularly well.

Brazil's soybean harvest is picking up pace. As of Friday, farmers had harvested 12% of the crop, up from 6% last week and 12% last year.

The main concerns center around Rio Grande do Sul, southern Parana and the northeastern state of Bahia, AgRural said.

Corn Residue Management Makes Dramatic Impact on Emergence

Corn growers know the satisfaction of seeing newly emerged, uniform rows of green corn plants set against the backdrop of dark, rich soils. By contrast, it can be painful to see an uneven stand from the truck window when driving past a field.

The cause of an uneven stand could be excess crop residue in the planter row.

“Corn residue will delay and outright interrupt plant establishment, and suppress the resulting plant population,” says Andy Heggenstaller, DuPont Pioneer agronomy research manager. “Corn residue is always a management issue, and high-yield production systems increase residue levels.”

Stand establishment is more of a challenge for corn than it is for soybeans, because corn is typically planted earlier, into cooler and wetter soils. Also, soybeans can accommodate reduced emergence by adding additional pods to make up for yield that could be lost from lower plant populations. That’s why hitting optimum corn plant population levels is so important.

Heggenstaller says the key is in-row residue management.

“Residue not moved out of the row has several negative impacts: preventing the planter from putting the seed in the ground, and interfering with plant emergence,” says Heggenstaller. “Residue is also a repository for bacteria, disease and insects that overwinter in stover.”

Another consideration is nitrogen (N) availability to the plants. As corn residues break down, N becomes less available in the soil — a temporary situation called nitrogen immobilization, or tie-up — reducing the amount of available N during a critical time in the growing season. Eventually, the immobilized N is released back into the soil, but often later than when it is needed most by the corn crop.

“As soil warms up, bacteria in the soil begin to consume crop residues from the previous year,” Heggenstaller says. “These bacteria require nitrogen to grow and live and break stover down. Bacteria only release nitrogen into the soil as they die off. Research shows that the longer you grow continuous corn, the bigger the nitrogen problem becomes, because stover builds up over time and takes longer to break down, requiring more nitrogen-consuming bacteria.”

An N deficit has the greatest potential for impact during the period between V8 and silking. This is when corn takes up the most N, and when residue really begins to break down quickly in the soil.

Growers have three opportunities to manage crop residues:

    At or after harvest with a chopping header or stalk chopper. Growers should size residue immediately so it begins to break down as soon as possible. Stover harvest is also an option for managing corn residues in the fall.
    During tillage in fall or spring. Tillage practices mix residue with soil, which allows the bacteria to go to work faster.
    At planting, when planter attachments should be used to move residue away from the planter row. This allows the soil to warm and dry, and the crop to emerge more rapidly and more uniformly.

Growers should also consider emergence during hybrid selection. All Pioneer® brand corn products have a high residue suitability rating that can point growers to the best hybrids for heavy residue conditions.

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