Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Grain Storage and Drying Calculators

A lot of the grain harvested this fall was wet. Immediate sale of this grain resulted in dockage at the elevator. On-farm storage and artificial drying of the grain also has costs. Now that farmers have most of their grain out of the field, they can pay closer attention to how much on-farm storage is costing compared with the expected dockages at the elevators.

An excellent website on Grain Storage was has several calculators to help producers estimate the costs of drying grain, grain shrinkage, grain bin capacity, and related topics. Dr. Sam McNeill, Extension Agricultural Engineer, was the author of most of these calculators.

A related website for Proper Grain Storage and Handling includes additional relevant topics.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Over the last few years, commodity marketing has been incredibly challenging for producers, largely due to a major increase in price volatility. This increase in price volatility signals a changing marketplace and has affected how many producers feel about using the futures’ market to manage price risk. One factor that has changed is the addition of new futures’ market participants. The purpose of this article is to define and describe one of these new participants – the commodity index trader. Commodity index traders take long positions (i.e., they buy futures) and purchase an index, or a basket of different commodities. Commodity index traders are more important today than ever, as they represent traditional stock market investors who are now diversifying their portfolio in the commodity market. Currently commodity index traders represent about 22% of open interest for corn and 24% of open interest for soybeans, which means they have a significant impact on market direction.

Commodity index traders view the return to commodities as negatively correlated with stock market and bond returns, and positively correlated with inflation. Therefore, the investment portfolio is viewed as being better balanced if it includes exposure to commodities in addition to stocks and bonds. The commodity index trader enters the futures market for exposure to commodities for the long-term. Positions are rolled from one contract month to the next, using a predetermined methodology. As a result, their actions are not based on reacting to fundamental supply and demand signals, but rather are a function of this predetermined method.

A commodity index trader can be classified as being either commercial (i.e., a hedger) or noncommercial (i.e., a speculator). A commercial commodity index trader manages hedges of cash transactions – private transactions that are not traded on an exchange. A non-commercial commodity index trader represents pension funds, endowment funds, and other institutional investors. A non-commercial commodity index fund is both passively managed and unleveraged.

Figure 1 shows the percent of open interest (i.e., the number of futures and options contracts that have not been settled) held by commodity index funds for corn. Commodity index traders, as a percent of open interest, ranged from almost 30% in April 2006, to just fewer than 15% in December 2008. For the last week of October 2009, commodity index traders represented almost 25% of open interest. Figure 2 illustrates the percent of open interest held by commodity index traders of soybeans; interest ranged from 30% in July 2006, to just less than 20% in October 2008.

During the commodity price run up in spring/summer of 2008 the percentage of open interest did not increase relative to other positions. In fact for corn, the percent of open interest by commodity index traders decreased overall during 2008. For soybeans a slight overall increase in percent of open interest occurred during 2008. Understanding their purpose and how they work will help the producer in making better hedging decisions in the future. (Cory Walters,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Soybean Reports Now Available

The Kentucky Soybean Performance Test is available online.

The report is linked to the Grain Crops Extension home page and the University of Kentucky Variety Testing website.

The soybean varieties are divided by maturity and compared in one of four studies:
1) relative maturities 2.7-3.0
2) relative maturities 4.0-4.5
3) relative maturities 4.6-4.9
4) Maturity Group V

Table 5 reports the all location average and is the recommended table for making variety selections.

Printed reports likely will be available at your county extension office in three to four weeks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Corn Hybrid Performance Report

The 2009 Kentucky Corn Hybrid Performance Report is now available online. You can access the publication at the Variety Testing Website or at the Grain Crops Extension home page site.

There were six locations for the tests this year with early (112 days or less), medium (113 to 117 days) and late (118 days or more) maturity tests. In addition to those tests, white corn hybrids and hybrids for ethanol production were evaluated in separate tests.

 A hybrid that performs well across multiple envrionments has the best chance of performing well next year on your farm. Use the data from the tables with yields averaged across locations. Compare the data from this test with data from local tests and select hybrids that have done well in both.

If you have questions about hybrids in the test, please contact your county extension agent. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Soybean Purple Seed Stain Widespread in Kentucky

A month or so ago I blogged about the prevalence in KY of Cercospora leaf blight, a fungal disease caused by Cercospora kikuchii. I mentioned that a phase of the disease - purple seed stain - was also likely to be prevalent once harvest got underway. Well this is now the case and many questions are being raised about purple seed. First of all, the purple coloration is caused by a plant toxin called cercosporin. Cercosporin is red-purple so any tissue it is produced in has a purple-tinted color. But the degree of infection is not always related to the extent of the purple coloration. Actual infected tissue may be considerably less than would be suggested by the purple color.

Typically, purple seed stain is a minor production problem. Yields are reduced by the foliar phase of the disease, Cercospora leaf blight, but purple seed stain is strictly a seed quality issue. Rarely, planting heavily infected seed can produce diseased seedlings, and reduce stands, in subsequent crops. More commonly, purple seed may be discounted at the point of sale in some, but not all, markets.

Other than that, I think the purple seed is kind of pretty. But you have to be a plant pathologist to see any redeeming qualities in a plant disease. All in all, I do not think anyone should get too worked up over purple seed stain.

Photo: Dr. Anne Dorrance, The Ohio State University, Wooster, OH.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Harvest Information at One Location

Crop harvest is going slow if and when it is going at all. The latest USDA estimates have the Kentucky corn crop at about 70 percent harvested and the soybeans at about 35 percent harvested. As you sip on some coffee, check the markets and wonder what this weather is doing to your crop, be sure to take a look at an excellent compilation of the latest information about the harvest:

R.L. (Bob) Nielsen at Purdue compiled this list and plans to update it as new information becomes available.

If the thought of more rain makes your tempted to drink something stronger than black coffee, then consider getting your mind off of harvest and consider the following websites. Any listing of a website is not an endorsement of that site by the university.

Get your mind away from harvest:
Kentucky Sports (Herald-Leader)
Kentucky Sports (Courier-Journal)
Useless Information (no relation to this website whatsoever)
How Stuff Works what the title wife says it's closer to the previous website
Prairie Home Companion the storytelling, humor and songs are enough to put you into a relaxing mood
google maps (type in a location, take a look at the satellite images and go to the next spot; if you want to download a 3-D program, then try google earth)
bing maps similar to google maps. Sometimes includes pictures in the "bird's eye" view.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Frost Damage and Corn Silage Options

The recent freezing temperatures essentially stopped corn growth for most of Kentucky. Farmers that had corn planted late for silage are wondering if the corn crop is still suitable for silage. The following is a brief summary, mostly from AGR-183: Late Season Frost-Damage to Corn for Silage.

Corn will ensile well at moisture levels less  than 70% for upright silos and less than 75% moisture for horizontal silos. Corn harvested at 62% to 68% moisture (late-dent stage) is ideal for ensiling.

Watch for Gibberella Ear Rot in Corn

Paul Vincelli, Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky

Last month, I wrote an article about Diplodia ear rot, our most common corn ear rot in Kentucky. Diplodia has no known associations with mycotoxins in corn. Gibberella ear rot is associated with mycotoxins and in some cases may look very similar to Diplodia. Normally, Gibberella ear rot is not a widespread problem in Kentucky, but this is not a normal year.

Gibberella ear rot is caused by Fusarium graminearum, the very same fungus that causes head scab of wheat. Normally Gibberella ear rot can be a problem in northern state, but in Kentucky, we generally see very little of this disease. I am hearing of reports of epidemics of Gibberella ear rot in central and even southern areas of neighboring states to our north. Again, that doesn’t seem surprising, given the cool, wet weather generally experienced post-silking in many fields.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Yield Penalty" in Corn after Corn: Could Root-Attacking Organisms be the Cause?

Paul Vincelli, Extension Plant Pathologist, University of Kentucky
John Grove, Research Agronomist, University of Kentucky
Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky

For decades, mono-cropping without rotation has been known to often result in reduced yield. Indeed, long-term studies at the University of Kentucky show that first-year corn-after-corn commonly experiences a "yield penalty" that growers should factor into their economic analysis (Figure 1). One of the interesting things about this yield penalty is that it appears to be greater as corn yield increases. This suggests that, in the future, the "rotation effect" will be not diminished (rather, will be enhanced) in the presence of better varieties, better management, and excellent corn growing conditions.

Figure 1. Comparison of yields first-year corn-after-corn vs. a one-year rotation for the 1989 to 2006 production seasons.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cercospora Leaf Blight More Extensive than Usual

Don Hershman, Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky

Considering the cool, wet, and late year we have just experienced, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that certain late-season soybean fungal diseases are more extensive than usual. In a more typical year, crops that mature in late summer, especially early maturing varieties planted early, tend to experience the most intense foliar, stem and pod fungal disease pressure. This is because those crops are filling pods and maturing at a time when conditions tend to favor disease development (hot and wet). Normally, doublecrop and other late-planted crops are less susceptible to late-season fungal diseases because they mature in September-mid-October when conditions tend to be dry. Not this year!

Corn and Soybean Supply and Demand and Harvest Progress Update

On October ninth the United States Department of Agriculture released their monthly crop report and latest supply and demand figures. In the October report USDA slightly increased both corn and soybean production over last month.

The October ninth crop report pegs corn production at 13 billion bushels, about 8 percent more than 2008-2009 crop. The USDA is expecting yields to be a record at 164.2 bushels per acre, up 10.3 bushels per acre over last year and up 2.3 bushels from the September report. For Kentucky, the USDA increased average yield by 2 bushels per acre from the September estimate for an average yield of 157 bushels per acre. If realized this would be a record corn yield for Kentucky.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Frost and Potential Yield Losses

According the October 4, 2009 edition of the Crop and Weather Report, about 86% of the corn crop was mature. The first occurrence of a fall freeze is normally mid to late October in Kentucky. A freeze event on corn that is not mature can reduce yields, depending on the stage of kernel fill.

Corn Kernels Sprouting on the Ear

Kernels are sprouting in the ear in many fields around the state. Normally, these sprouts are occurring from the lower portion of the ear. The ears typically are upright, the husks are open, and water collected at the base. The kernels are at blacklayer (35% moisture or less) and the water in the husk allows these kernels to imbibe water and germinate.

Sprouting kernels are not a direct hazard to livestock. However, molds are sometimes associated with sprouting and some molds can produce mycotoxins. If corn is being used for livestock feed, have it checked for mycotoxins.

Sprouting kernels will reduce test weight and yield, slightly.

This is just a symptom of the cool, wet fall.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Armyworm Flights Increase --- Again!

Fall armyworm (FAW) moth counts are again increasing in the UK-IPM pheromone baited trap at Princeton. This is not completely unexpected. We see some sort of flight increase about this time every year. As to whether or not it is important is really a matter of when the caterpillars appear in relationship to your crops.

At present FAW counts remain lower than the numbers associated with the known outbreak of 2007 and if they continue to a similar number, the peak will be a week or so later. The caterpillars from that peak could be a threat to early planted wheat.

In 2007 several individuals reported large FAW populations in wheat fields. However on the whole these populations were feeding on the volunteer corn and not the wheat. If you find large numbers of caterpillars be sure to distinguish on what they are feeding. Even though the numbers are large they may be (and likely are) doing no harm at all.

The crop most threatened by the fall occurrence of FAW is newly seeded grasses. This could be wheat but are generally, hay fields, lawns and cover for roadsides, construction sites etc. In the very early stages of these seedling grasses FAW can kill the plants. Once a good root system is established plant death is unlikely.

FAW will be present until the first hard frost. These are not cold tolerant insects; they migrate in annually from the gulf coast states. So, once cold weather becomes the standard this insect will disappear.

If insecticidal control were to be needed FAW will not be hard to kill in these seedling systems. Any product labeled for FAW and the crop of interest will provide sufficient control. One really only needs to reduce the population until cold weather arrives. BE very, very wary of replanting. It is often the case that damaged plants will survive and replanting often results in a double stand.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Corn Yields may be Hurt by Fungi

Sam McNeill, Extension Agricultural Engineer and Paul Vincelli, Extension Plant Pathologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service

USDA’s mid-September crop report predicted record level corn yields for Kentucky of 155 bushels per acre. Coupled with increased acreage, the state’s production could top 175 million bushels, which is also a record. However, a potential ‘fly in the ointment’ with this year’s crop is the delayed harvest coupled with damp weather which has led to stalk, ear and kernel rots. As noted in previous news stories, potential problems with field fungi (Diplodia, Gibberella, Fusarium, etc.) have lead to concerns about subsequent storage. While not all fungi produce mycotoxins, mold-damaged kernels are more susceptible to those that do. So it is best to err on the side of caution and check corn lots with field mold for mycotoxins before feeding to livestock.
When harvesting mold-damaged corn, adjust combines to minimize mechanical damage so that sound kernels are protected and to maximize cleaning, so that lightweight kernels are removed. Harvest, handle and store damaged corn separately when feasible and market early to reduce demands on storage management.

Grain moistures above 18-20% favor the growth of field fungi and the longer corn remains in the field the greater the chance of mycotoxin production. Thus, damaged corn should not be allowed to dry in the field to avoid drying costs. Corn with light damage should be dried to 15% within 24 hours after harvest and cooled to 40 degrees as soon as weather permits, in order to control mold growth during storage. This will create a storage environment within the grain mass that is below 65% humidity, which is dry enough to control mold growth and development (see values in the equilibrium moisture table). Corn with heavy to moderate damage should be dried to 13 to 14%, respectively, cooled as quickly as possible and moved before March.

The table below presents the equilibrium moisture contents for shelled yellow corn at different temperature and relative humidity conditions. Example: Corn that is 40 degrees and 13.7% moisture will create a relative humidity of 55% within the grain mass, which is safe for storage.

Relative Humidity
Corn Moisture, %

If mycotoxin problems are suspected, check with crop insurance providers to see if adjustments may be needed and how to account for the areas that are impacted. Insurance adjustments generally need to be made on standing corn at or before harvest.

The following publications provide more information on vomitoxin, aflatoxin and grain testing labs:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Corn Drydown in the Field

The cool, cloudy and wet weather has not helped with drydown of corn in Kentucky. We have been fielding (pun intended) many questions about how much longer to let the corn stand versus getting it out of the field.

An excellent article, Field Drydown of Mature Corn Grain was just updated on this very subject by Bob Nielsen at Purdue.

Dr. Nielsen says:
    "Simply put, warmer temperatures and lower humidity encourage rapid field drying of corn grain."

    Also:"Average daily drydown rates will range from about 0.8 percentage point per day for grain that nears maturity in late August to about 0.4 percentage point per day for grain that nears maturity in mid- to late September... "
If the weather is cool, cloudy and/or wet, there may be very little to no drydown. So, in a normal year, you might expect corn grain to dry down by 5.6 percentage points in a week. For this season, with the current weather, expecting corn to dry down by 2 percentage points in one week could be optomistic. For what it's worth, the 10-day forecast for much of Kentucky calls for rain in four of ten days.

If corn has reached 25% grain moisture, the risks with leaving corn in the field with the current weather conditions are: 1) increased chances for sprouting in the ear, 2) increased chances for Diplodia, etc. to spread on infected ears, 3) increased chances for ear loss from wind, 4) increased chances for lodging, and 5) increased chances for another rainstorm to come in and do more damage.

The negatives of harvesting corn grain wet (between 25 and 16%) are: 1) increased demand and wear on drying equipment, 2) increased drying costs, 3) increased dockage if sold directly off the farm, 4) increased weight per bushel of grain for hauling (i.e. more hauling costs), and 5) increased chance for spoilage if dryers are not working properly.

In addition to these negatives, soil compaction is at a greater risk in some of these fields. Soil is most susceptible to compaction when the soil is just a little too wet to plant (ie. just below field capacity). Conditions favorable for field-drying of corn are also favorable for drying soil.

If we knew exactly what the weather forecast was for the next two weeks, we all could make some really smart decisions. Aside from an accurate weather forecast, I would suggest trying to get into fields between the wet weather. If possible, target fields that are drier and/or fields at greater risk for lodging. Also, if you haven't done so already, make sure your drying equipment is working at its best.

We have some very large yields currently in the fields across the state. Hopefully, we can get most of that into the bins.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bt Corn Refuge Requirement Confusion

Ric Bessin, Entomology

There may be considerable confusion regarding refuge requirements in 2010 for Bt corn. In the past in Kentucky all we need to understand was that the minimum refuge size needed to 20% of the total corn acreage. If there was a Bt toxin to control corn rootworm, then the refuge needed to be within the same field or immediately adjacent to the Bt field. Immediately adjacent to means that a fence, ditch, or road is all that separates the refuge from the Bt field. Bt corn that only had toxins to control corn borers and other Lepidoptera must have the refuge within ½ mile, but a ¼ is preferred.

This has become a bit more complicated with the approval of SmartStax corn. The minimum refuge size for SmartStax is different, it is only 5% of total corn acrage (in cotton producing areas it increases to 20%). Where the possible confusion lies is that the refuge size for all other Bt corn technologies stays the same, only the SmartStax will have the reduced refuge size of 5%. The table below outlines the refuge requirements for the various Bt technologies on the market, corn grown in Kentucky would use the corn belt minimum refuge sizes. The reason why there is a reduced refuge with SmartStax is that we use multiple independent toxins to control the key insect pests. This is a new strategy for resistance management that the other Bt technologies don’t have.

Order of details:
Product Name, Min. Refuge (Corn Belt), Min. Refuge (Cotton Areas), Proximity to Bt Field

YieldGard CB, 20%, 50%, Within 1/4 to 1/2 mile
YieldGard RW, 20%, 20%, Within or adjacent to
YieldGard Plus, 20%, 50%, Within or adjacent to
YieldGard VT, 20%, 20%, Within or adjacent to
YieldGard VT3, 20%, 50%, Within or adjacent to
YieldGard VT3 Pro, 20%, 20% Within or adjacent to
SmartStax, 5%, 20%, Within or adjacent to
Herculex I, 20%, 50%, Within 1/4 to 1/2 mile
Herculex RW, 20%, 20%, Within or adjacent to
Herculex Xtra, 20%, 50%, Within or adjacent to
Agrisure CB, 20%, 50%, Within 1/4 to 1/2 mile
Agrisure RW, 20%, 20%, Within or adjacent to
Agrisure CB/RW, 20%, 50%, Within or adjacent to

There are two other types of Bt corn that are still in the regulatory process with approvals pending. This includes AcreMax and Viptera. These again may have different refuge requirements, particularly the AcreMax.

While the reason for planting a refuge is to maintain a population of Bt- susceptible corn borers, growers should still manage those refuges to avoid serious losses. When using a 20 or 5 % (Smartstax only) refuge with Bt corn plantings, growers may consider spraying for corn borers if scouting indicates it is an economic problem.

Storing Diplodia Ear Rot-Affected Corn

Paul Vincelli, Plant Pathology

Diplodia ear rot (DER) is being reported rather widely this year. Questions have arisen about storage of DER-affected corn. The fungus that causes DER won’t develop further if moisture content is below the normal target of 15.5%. However, rotted kernels are damaged kernels, and since the grain integrity is compromised, other fungi more tolerant of low moisture will have an easier time growing. Our agricultural engineers recommend drying damaged corn an extra 0.5 to 1.0 point of moisture for better storability and cooling it as quickly as possible. Producers should make sure to keep that grain well aerated and dry, and market it sooner rather than later.

Fortunately, there are no known mycotoxins produced by the strains of the DER fungus found in North America. In addition to several recent Kentucky Pest News articles on this subject, more information on this disease is available in a UK Extension publication available at

Stalk Strength Reminder

Paul Vincelli, Plant Pathology

Corn fields in the many areas that experienced wet, overcast, soggy weather since the last issue of Kentucky Pest News for the most part remain unharvested. Weather conditions generally, and the widespread occurrence of southern corn rust, conspire to make this a season with increased risk for stalk rots.

Be sure to scout fields for stalk strength. Scouting will help you select fields for harvest based on how strong the stalks are. Harvest those with the weakest stalks first, before they blow down from a strong gust.

The easiest way to check for lodging potential is to walk through the field and, at about chest height, push the plants about 8-12 inches from vertical. A stalk that bends and fails to spring back is prone to lodging. If 10-15% of the stalks in a field exhibit lodging potential, the field should be scheduled for early harvest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Soybean Maturity and Fall Freeze Dates

Dr. Don Hershman released a Soybean Rust Spray Advisory for the western half of Kentucky (I-65 and west) this morning. If soybeans are at R4 (full pod) to R5 (beginning seed) then they are at risk of losing yield from soybean rust. Soybeans at R4 or R5 are also at risk to lose yield from another factor - freeze.

The median first freeze dates (32 degrees Farhenheit) for most of western Kentucky are near October 22 (about 30 days from this posting). Of course, October 22 is an average, meaning that the first freeze date can occur before or after the average. In one out of 10 years, the earliest freeze date is around October 6 (about 15 days from this posting). On the other side of the spectrum, the earliest frost freeze date can occur as late as around November 6 (about 45 days from this posting).

Generally, soybeans in Kentucky require about 30 days for seed fill (R6 growth stage). So, soybeans currently at R5 would require about 35 days to reach physiological maturity. The cool, cloudy weather might delay maturity a couple of days.

So, if you are considering spraying a fungicide to prevent yield losses from soybean rust, also consider your chances for a freeze event.

Soybean Rust Update and Spray Advisory for Selected Fields

NOTE: This SBR update is directed to KENTUCKY SOYBEAN PRODUCERS. If you live in another state, read what I say, below, with the extreme sensitivity that what I am writing may not (and probably does not) apply to you. I encourage you to find out what is being said by the Extension Plant Pathologist your state by going to

On Friday of last week we found soybean rust in Ballard County in far west KY. The level of disease was as low as it could possibly be (one leaf out of 100 that had one lesion, with one pustule!). This was the third SBR find in KY, the other two finds being in Warren County and Henderson County.

I have been pretty open about my belief that the vast majority of soybeans in Kentucky are well beyond the point where they could possibly be damaged by soybean rust. However, I also know that some fields in the state were planted very late and that development in July may have been hindered by wet and cool conditions. The bottom line is that there may be the rare field that needs all of October to completely fill pods. When I say, rare field, I am talking about fields planted in July to a group 5 soybean. By way of comparison, our Grains Crop Specialist, Dr. Jim Herbek is conducting a planting date study here at the UKREC where he planted a mid-group 4 variety on July 7th. That field was at the beginning flowering stage (R1) on August 10 and currently is at the full seed (R6) stage. The fields I am referring too would probably be at the full pod (R4) stage or barely into beginning seed (R5) at the present time.

My guess is that we could have considerable soybean rust in west Kentucky by the middle of October. By then, most soybean fields in the state will be at the R6 stage or later, and some will have been harvested. But, I am aware of the possibility that a few soybean fields may still be filling pods during the second part of October (assuming we do not have a hard frost before then). So, while most of you will not be impacted, if you have a field that may still be filling pods by mid-October, it would be wise to consider the prospect of applying a triazole fungicide (like Folicur or a generic, all of which are fairly inexpensive) soon if a highly specific set of conditions exist.

If you believe you have fields that may still be filling pods the last two weeks of October, please contact your local county Extension office. I have given them a soybean rust "Yield Loss Calculator", developed by UK's Dr. Saratha Kumudini, that will help you decide if spraying is to your economic advantage or not.

This advisory applies to the area west of I-65. If you are east of I-65, I would say you are “good to go” for 2009.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soybean Aphid Remain Active, Mexican Bean Beetle Appears

I continue to receive reports of Soybean Aphid (SA) populations at or near threshold level. In Addition, there are larger populations being reported but on more mature beans. Those interested in soybean production are reminded that historically SA populations reach their greatest size in September. This is not new. What may be different in 2009 is a larger proportion of later planted soybeans (due to a rainy spring) which results in more numerous soybean plants maturing to the R6 stage later in the year. Simply put this places more fields at greater risk than we normally see. It may also be the case in 2009 that SA populations are larger in size because we have experienced a cooler summer. In many KY summers, temperatures over 90 F predominate. These higher temperatures reduce the population growth rate.

Regardless of the reason, soybean plants less mature than R6 will remain at risk of SA populations. There are still fields of soybeans at the R4 stage (seems unbelievable, doesn’t it?!), which will take several weeks to mature to R6.

The threshold remains the same 250 aphids / plant, on 80% of plants with an increasing population. In addition this threshold accounts only for the aphid damage on the plants. As KY producers most always plant narrow row soybeans you will need to consider the losses associated with running down your beans. A very rough guess is about 9%, but this depends upon your row width,the width of the tires on your spray rig and the width of each pass (boom width).

On a final note; a population of Mexican bean beetle (MBB) has been reported from Pickett Co. TN. This is a TN/KY border county just south of the Kentucky Co.’s of Cumberland & Clinton. It has been many years since we have seen problems with MBB in KY, but it may be worth a look in the eastern region of our soybean production area. My thanks to Mr. Richard Daniel, Extension Agent,Pickett County, TN. for the photo of the MBB damage.

MBB Damaged plants

Harvest Wet and Dry the Grain

Harvest corn wet and plan to dry it in the bin. The delayed maturity, cooler temperatures and wet weather will make field-drying very difficult this season. In addition, ears are heavy (a good thing) but waiting a long time for field-drying increases the chances for those heavy ears to pull stalks over. The wet conditions also provide a favorable envrionment for stalk rots and progession of ear diseases. With all of these things going against field-drying, the better option is to plan to harvest the corn wet.

Corn harvest can begin when grain moisture approaches 25 percent. Corn grain should be dried to market moistures (usually 15.5% for field corn and 14.0 % for food grade corn) or to 13 percent if corn will be stored throughout the summer.

For excellent resources on grain bins, drying grain, storing grain, etc. visit the University of Kentucky Grain Storage website operated by Dr. Sam McNeill.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Price of Food

We will not use this site for opinions on a regular basis. However, the issue addressed herein seems to be picking up steam, and I thought it was time to venture away from "planting dates and seeding rates" and respond to the issue. The following are the opinions of Chad Lee and not necessarily those of the University of Kentucky or the Cooperative Extension Service. We will get back to "planting dates and seeding rates" in future postings.

Is a highly efficient agriculture and cheap food necessarily a bad thing? A recent article by Brian Walsh for Time Magazine (Getting Real about the High price of Food, Aug. 21, 2009) suggests that it is and that our cheap food is an illusion and is really costing much, much more. This is the latest in a series of articles, books and films questioning modern agriculture and its methods.

Mr. Walsh ties pork production to pigs grown in extreme confinement, doped on antibiotics and fed with cheap corn grown with “millions of tons of chemical fertilizer.” The events of pork production are grossly distorted. To describe pork production that way is akin to suggesting that mountains of forests were clear-cut, tons of timber were milled and barrels of poisonous ink were used to print the very magazine in which the article appears.

Both statements above have a shade of the truth, but the truth is heavily draped in exaggeration and fear. The argument strikes at emotions, first, by telling people that they should be afraid of their food and then speckles in a few facts, distorted as they are, as an attempt to appeal to logic. The double-pronged approach is extremely effective.

The very tone of the article is indicative of people who worry very little about having enough to eat, a luxury not shared by many people around the world. In some ways, U.S. farmers and agriculture are victims of their own successes. In the United States, we now have the smallest percentage of the population producing the largest supply of food ever. By having a very small proportion of the people producing food, a very large proportion are free to pursue other interests, develop new technologies, advance new policies and to even become journalists.

As people move away from the farm and lose their connection with their distant ancestors, they tend to romanticize agriculture. Farming is often depicted as a “simpler lifestyle” as many urban dwellers remember summer visits to grandparents or cousins in the country. Memories of the old family farm mingle with songs like “Old McDonald’s Farm”, and television shows like “Little House on the Prairie” where all the animals live peacefully together in a single barn and the family spends more time singing or playing than actually working.

The reality is that agriculture always has been challenging. If it were not so, more people would live and work on the farm. Agriculture is inherently risky. It requires huge investments up front with only the potential for profits several months to years away. A drought or a flood or an outbreak of disease or insects can destroy crops and months of hard labor and investment. The goal of farmers, ranchers and researchers is to improve efficiency, quality and consistency of the food supply and the facts demonstrate our shared success. The result is a food supply that is the cheaper, safer and more abundant than ever . . . and unfortunately an urban population completely disconnected from the realities and challenges of agriculture.

This disconnection is clearly on display with what Mr. Walsh deems an acceptable farm. Mr. Walsh decries the modern large farms as being “factory farms” because they sell large quantities of cattle or crops. His alternative is Niman Ranch, which markets large amounts of “all-natural” beef, pork and poultry from many farms, has its own CEO and was founded by a former attorney for Earthjustice. So, Mr. Walsh complains about a modern feedlot operation who buys cattle from many smaller farmers across the country, finishes those cattle, and then sells those cattle at a price that is affordable by most households in the U.S. However, Mr. Walsh favors a farm corporation with a CEO who markets and sells cattle for many farms at a price that only the wealthy can afford. Bashing the large family farm in favor of another large corporation with projected 2008 revenues of $75million (according to Wikipeda) seems highly illogical.

Mr. Walsh says that the recent recalls and outbreaks are examples of a dangerous food supply that is getting more dangerous. The recalls are examples that the regulatory agencies are doing their jobs. Food contamination is as old as agriculture, itself . . . actually, it probably predates agriculture when people first killed animals and didn’t fully cook the meat, or when they used unsanitary methods to handle and consume fruits and vegetables. Mr. Walsh would likely suggest that we didn’t have recalls 100 years ago. He’s right. No one was checking; people just got sick and died!

Mr. Walsh says that farmers are eroding soils with modern agriculture. Erosion has and still does occur in the United States. In fact, erosion has always been a challenge in agriculture. The U.S. farmer in conjunction with researchers at Land Grant universities and the USDA Agricultural Research Service have worked very diligently over the last 100 years to develop production techniques that greatly reduced erosion. By comparison, the largest loss of soil from erosion from farming occurred in ancient Africa with primitive farming techniques. Mr. Walsh praises today’s ‘organic farmer’ as being sustainable. The irony is that organic farming uses practices very similar to those used by ancient Africans as they destroyed their soil resources.

The disconnect between those who consume food and those who produce it likely will widen as agriculture continues to improve production practices. Many modern farms are large farms, and many large farms are family farms. These family farms are intent on producing food safely, efficiently and sustainably. They think long term and are planning to pass on the farm and its natural resources to the next generation. The American consumer should thank the American farmer for producing such a safe, abundant and relatively inexpensive food supply…and for not having to produce it themselves.

The disconnect between people consuming food and the efforts of producing it are fertile ground for seeds of fear and distrust. Those of us who work in Cooperative Extension at Land Grant Universities constantly field questions from well-intentioned citizens who are genuinely concerned about their food. They are not exactly sure where and how their food is produced. Those who adamantly despise modern agriculture, or perhaps the consumption of animal proteins, are prolific at writing and communicating. They are very effective at delivering their message. Those engaged in producing food are much better at …well, at producing food. In general, we are great at talking shop with our counterparts, but we are terrible about explaining to our neighbors what we do. Those of us remaining in agriculture must defend the successes of modern farming.

The opinions of Chad Lee were expressed above and not necessarily those of the University of Kentucky or the Cooperative Extension Service.

Soybean Aphid & Other Insects in Double-Crop Soybeans

I have received several reports and questions from Extension agents, consultants and company reps concerning near economic threshold populations of Soybean Aphid (SA). Fortunately, all of these fields so far are in R6 or later stages. However, in addition a number of these reports included the observation that there are many other fields that are still in the R3 to R5 stages. These earlier stage plants will remain at risk to SA until they reach the R6 growth stage. These are the fields in which you should spend your scouting time.

The SA economic threshold is 250 aphids per plant, on 80% of the plants, with an increasing population. This threshold holds through plant stage R5. For more mature plants a great many more aphids per plant would be required to provide a benefit for an insecticide application. The exact number is currently under investigation but it is likely at least 500 aphids per plant and may well be 1000 aphids per plant.

In addition there have been scattered questions concerning stinkbugs and bean leaf beetles. Both of these insects are still present and will be feeding directly on the pods. At least one report I have seen, contains stinkbug numbers much greater than the threshold and bean leaf beetle populations very near thresholds. Both of these insects bear close observation as beans progress to maturity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yield Contests for Corn and Soybean

The corn and soybean yield contest forms are now available online at the Grain Crops Extension website and the Kentucky Yield Contest Site.

Both of these contests are opereated through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and funded by the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, the Kentucky Soybean Board and agricultural industry.

Rules and guidelines are very similar to the 2008 contest. For the 2009 contest, we are asking for soil series (Huntington, Crider, Pembroke, etc.).

The National Corn Growers Association also has the NCGA Corn Contest, which has state and national winners. The rules and regulations are more restrictive than the Kentucky Corn Yield Contest. A farmer may submit a copy of the NCGA entry form to the Kentucky Yield Contest.

For more information about these contests, please contact your extension agent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Observations on Corn Diseases

Observations of Paul Vincelli, Extension Plant Pathologist, University of Kentucky as of August 21, 2009.

I (Paul Vincelli) just returned from a trip inspecting corn diseases through western Kentucky as far west as the Mississippi River, and here is a quick summary and comments.

1. Southern rust is prevalent in Kentucky, having been found in Fayette County and every western Kentucky field inspected. See most recent article in Kentucky Pest News, This disease can progress very rapidly on corn, since almost all corn hybrids vary from moderately susceptible to highly susceptible. However, incidence and severity vary widely from field to field. In some fields, it is hard to find; in others, many plants show leaf reddening and desiccation in the lower canopy and the upper canopy has a few pustules. It is a little difficult to decide when to pull the trigger on spraying fungicide, if for no other reason than to protect stalk health. Most fields I inspected were at early dent, which in my opinion is too late to treat with fungicides. The very few fields I saw that were in early dough might be candidates for treatment, but only if rust was present, easy to find, and producing abundant reddish sporulation in at least some spots in the field. Cool weather expected over the next few days will slow it down, which is good news. I think the main thing is that growers should scout all fields for stalk health as they mature, and schedule early harvests on those fields with weak stalks. In at least some cases, spending money on propane for grain drying probably makes more sense than a fungicide application.

2. Northern leaf blight is widespread but generally occurring at levels that will not hurt yields. There is also another look-alike out there: Diplodia leaf streak. This disease has lesions that look somewhat like Northern leaf blight, but the edges of the lesions are wavy like Stewart’s wilt. Also, the lesions might follow the secondary views like Stewart’s wilt. Lab diagnosis is the way to confirm this disease. The fungus that causes Diplodia leaf streak (Diplodia macrospora) is distinct from the common one that causes Diplodia ear rot and stalk rot (Diplodia maydis), but Diplodia macrospora will also cause ear rot and stalk rot. Diplodia macrospora may be increasing in occurrence in Kentucky; seed companies will want to keep an eye on this.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Late Season Pests in Corn and Soybean

Many late season pests are showing up in corn and soybean fields. The latest Kentucky Pest News contains articles on the following topics:



Click here to see the August 18, 2009 version of the Kentucky Pest News.

Wheat Head Scab and Options for the Next Crop

Head scab (or Fusarium head blight) was a major problem across Kentucky in 2009. As farmers prepare for the 2009-2010 wheat crop, there are some things they can do.

The latest Wheat Science newsletter addresses some of the lessons about wheat and head scab in 2009. Options for seed wheat are also considered.

The pdf file is available at:

The newsletter archives is available at:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Late Breaking--- Fall armyworm on soybean making impressive appearance in nearby southern states!

Reports from Extension Entomologists in Tennessee and Arkansas indicate that fall armyworm (FAW) populations in soybean are building up earlier and in larger numbers than normal. In Arkansas fields are being treated for a combination of FAWs and Corn earworm (CEW). In Tennessee the populations do not appear to be as widespread but some fields were in need of treatment. We can have this combination of insects in Kentucky soybeans. It is unusual, but it does occasionally happen. Likely places to check are late planted beans and fields in which the canopy has never closed. Historically, when this problem has occurred it is usually found in the Purchase area and the southern tier of counties in the Pennyrile area. No problems have yet been reported in Kentucky. Nevertheless, producers, consultants and scouts should be scouting regularly for these pests. They are in Kentucky; that is not the question. The question remains as always; are populations large enough to warrant a control?
See Kentucky Pest News at: for more detail on late season soybean insect pests.

SDS Severe in Many Soybean Fields and Rare Occurrence of White Mold

Probably due to the excessive soil moisture and cool July temperatures, soybean sudden death syndrome (SDS) is as widespread and severe as it has been in 20 years. The disease is actually caused by a Fusarium fungus that infects and rots the roots. The fungus then produces as plant toxin that results in foliar symptoms, especially interveinal yellowing and death, and severe defoliation and pod drop in severe instances. Typically a plant needs to be defoliating before the pods reach the R6 (full seed) stage in order for the disease to seriously damage crop yield. Normally, SDS comes in too little and too late to do much damage. However, the additional soil moisture early in the season probably supported additional root infection, which normally occurs during the early vegetative stages. There are tremendous differences in varietal susceptibility, and many producers have been lulled into a false sense of security with the limited SDS development over the past 10 years. As a result, I doubt that many soybean producers in the state have made SDS resistance a "must have" characteristic when selecting a variety. I don't blame them with SDS being such a limited problem overthe past decade. However, planting a highly susceptible variety is one way to encourage serious SDS if the weather and soil conditions favor SDS development.

Dr. Chad Lee was recently called to a field in Boone County in northeast Kentucky to look at a problem field. What he found was a disease I had never seen in Kentucky at damaging levels: white mold. The disease is aptly named in that a white mold forms on the outside of stem lesions. In these lesions, mixed in with the white mold, you will also commonly see black structures, called sclerotia, which are the survival stuctures of the causal fungus. The disease was quite severe in at least one field. White mold is mainly a disease problem in northern soybeans. We have lots of the fungus that causes white mold in Kentucky, but the timing of key aspects of the disease cycle are normally out of sync here. However, the additional early season moisture coupled with the coolest July in 100 years apparently changed all that. Hopefully we won't see another serious outbreak of the disease here until the next coolest July occurs in 100 years!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Making the final decision on which farms to enroll in the optional ACRE program

Today, August 12, 2009, the USDA released its Crop Production report. The report indicates increased corn and soybean production over last year, mainly due to production increases caused by good growing conditions.
According to the Crop Production report, corn yields are expected to average 159.5 bushels per acre, the second highest yield on record. The USDA also revised planted acreage in this report from the June report, in which they slightly decreased corn acreage by 100,000 acres from the June report. Producers are expected t o harvest 80.0 million acres, up 2 percent from last year. Coupling good yields with a small decrease in acreage corn production is expected to increase by 5 percent from last year to 12.8 billion bushels. This would mark the second largest corn crop on record.
The U.S. soybean crop is also looking good. According the Crop Production report, soybean yields are expected to average 41.7 bushels per acre, an increase of 2.1 bushels per acre over 2008 but .9 bushels lower than the July Crop Production report. Revised planted soybean acreage came in slightly higher than the June report. Producers are expected to harvest 76.8 million acres, up 3 percent from last year. Additional acres and good yield prospects pushes soybean production into a record tie with 2006 of 3.2 billion bushels, 8 percent more than last year.
Kentucky corn and soybean producers are also looking at good yields, while wheat yields were lower than expected. According to the USDA, expected corn yields are up 14 bushels per acre over last year to 150 bushels per acre. This would be the second highest corn yield in Kentucky. For soybeans, the USDA increased expected yields by 6 bushels per acre over last year to 40.0 bushels per acre. For wheat, the USDA decreased yields by 14 bushels per acre over last year to 57 bushels per acre.
Using Kentucky yields and the average World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) average farm price received (report is available at: ), we can determine which crop(s) have the highest probability of receiving an ACRE payment. This helps in identifying what farms to sign up based upon their planted crops. Using the University of Kentucky ACRE calculator, found at:, we can predict potential ACRE payments by crop. State yields (prices) used in the calculator are 150 ($3.5/bushel), 40 ($9.4/bushel)), and 57 ($5.2/bushel) for corn, soybeans, and wheat, respectively. This combination of state yields and national prices results in an ACRE payment at the state yield for only wheat. Moving corn and soybean price to the WASDE lower bound drops the national corn price to $3.1/bushel and national soybean price to $8.4/bushel. This combination of state yields and national prices results in an ACRE payment for both Corn and Soybeans. At this point in time it is possible for corn, soybean, and wheat to all receive ACRE payments. There is a higher probability of receiving a wheat payment than corn or beans. After wheat, corn looks to have the next highest probability of receiving an ACRE payment. Soybeans have the smallest probability of receiving an ACRE payment. This example assumes that the farm level trigger was met so the producer qualifies for the state ACRE payment. Keep in mind that if your proven farm level yields are significantly lower than the expected yield of the currently growing crop it becomes harder to trigger at the farm, even if an ACRE payment exists at the state level. Cory Walters can be reached at

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Corn and Soybeans Slightly Ahead of 2008

The latest USDA Crop and Weather Report for Kentucky indicates that the corn and soybean crop is progressing even with the cooler temperatures experienced in July. With the late plantings and cool July temperatures, most of us think that the corn and soybean crops are behind.

However, the report says that for corn, 20% is at dent compared with only 16% a year ago and 34% for the 5-year average. Corn in the milk and dough stages is behind the pace of 2008, however.

Soybean blooming is slightly ahead of 2008 and on pace with the 5-year average. About 48% of the soybean crop is in the pod stage compared to 39% for 2008 and 54% for the 5-year average.

We still need timely rains to get these crops to yield and the warmer temperatures in the forecast will help them continue with development.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chances of an ACRE Payment for Corn, Soybeans, and Wheat

2009/2010 ACRE payments will depend highly upon prices during the upcomming corn and soybean crop year - September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2010 and during current wheat crop year June 1, 2009 to May 31, 2010. Using current price and yield information it looks like the chances of receiving ACRE payments are highest for wheat, then corn, and lowest for soybeans. A short article using different price and yield scenarios to determine the chances of a corn or soybean ACRE payment can be found at: and clicking on "The ACRE Program for Corn and Soybeans in 2009/2010"

Friday, July 31, 2009

The enrollment deadline for the optional Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program is fast approaching. The Pennyroyal Farm Analysis Group and the University of Kentucky have released a newsletter updating producers on how the optional ACRE program works and the 09 wheat situation relationship with ACRE. You can view the newsletter at: and clicking on "ACRE Program, Pennyroyal Farm Analysis Group and UK"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yellow Soybeans and Soil Compaction

Image 1: Yellow soybeans in this field are the result of sidewall compaction.

The spring rush of planting is catching up to the soybean crop in some fields. Surface compaction and sidewall compaction was most likely caused by planting when fields were a little too wet. The compacted soil has restricted root growth on soybeans. Until now, there has been enough water to keep most nutrients within the root zone and the soybeans looked fine. As the soybeans reach full pod development (R4) the plants are rapidly accumulating nitrogen and potassium. The restricted roots are not taking up enough nutrients to sustain plant growth. Plants turn yellow.

Planting all fields in perfect conditions is impossible most springs and especially this one. Timely rainfall now will help move nutrients into the root zone. Yield losses from compaction could be very minor or very sever, depending on rainfall, soil fertility within the root zone and severity of compaction.

Fertilizers at this point will likely have little impact on yields. The soil scientists will address this in more detail.

As more soybeans across Kentucky get closer to full pod and beginning seed development, I expect we will see more yellow soybeans.

Image 2: Soybean roots restricted by sidewall compaction. Root growth is limited mostly to the furrow created during planting.

Image 3: Soybean roots restricted by compaction just beneath the soil surface. Root growth is bending to curve around the compaction. The overall root mass is reduced from the compaction.

Image 4: Soybean roots with little to no restriction. The whole plants are greener and larger. Root mass is greater and there are more nodules per plant.

Image 5: Yellow soybeans have roots with restricted growth while the greener soybeans have little to no restriction on root growth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Soybean Aphid: Numbers are on the rise in Central Kentucky… At least a little!

Over the previous week we have seen an increase in the number of locations reporting the presence of soybean aphid (SA), and in one case a substantial increase in the number of reported aphids per plant. Neither of these finds is unexpected, nor do they indicate an immediate problem but they do illustrate that pest numbers are increasing slowly.

This is typical for SA in Kentucky. Experience has shown me that when soybean aphid populations are detected they will most likely be found in the counties between I-65 and I-75. Also, this area generally has larger populations than found in the western production area. In addition the only SA populations that have approached threshold levels have occurred in these counties. Nevertheless, we do know that this pest is active state wide so no one should dismiss it out of hand.

Our history with this insect tells us that we are unlikely to need a treatment but insects are very adaptive, and local populations can vary from the norm. Keep an eye on them!

See Kentucky Pest News at: for the complete story.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Worrying about Small Soybeans

Some farmers are concerned that the smaller growth of soybeans could result in reduced yields. Some are questioning the use of foliar fertilizers and/or fungicides to help make up the difference.

Soybeans were planted late across most of the state. According to the latest Crop and Weather Report from NASS, soybean flowering is at 35%, behind the five-year average of 47%. Most farmers' "internal clock" says that soybeans should be larger by now. Most years, that is correct. This is not most years.

Some soybeans are getting to flowering (growth stage R1) and may be a little smaller than in previous years. The cooler temperatures combined with later planting dates will cause smaller plants. The smaller plants could be a concern if rows are not closed in shortly after flowering. If the soybean rows are closed, then height is less of an issue. As long as the rows are closed, tall plants do not automatically equal high soybean yields.

If the rows are not closed and the soybeans begin to flower, then yield potential is likely lost. As the soybeans move into pod development and the rows are not closed, yield potential is likely lost. If the soybeans get to seed fill and the rows are not closed, yield potential is lost. This brings us to the main question: will a foliar fertilizer or a foliar fungicide help? The short answer...probably not.

Fungicides will not improve the speed at which soybeans grow and will not help with canopy closure, in the absence of a disease. Fungicides will help soybeans retain leaves, if a disease is present in the field. However, the cooler night temperatures and the smaller soybean plants both contribute to less of a threat from diseases this season.

Foliar fertilizers will not compensate for lower temperatures. They will not increase the speed of growth, assuming P2O5 and K2O levels are adequate in the field. They will make the plants greener and that might make someone feel better.
If your, or your neighbor, is absolutely set on spraying something, then consider the foliar fertilizer. It will likely make the plants greener and it should cost a little less than the fungicide. Or, take that money you would have spent on the foliar product(s) and take a trip someplace warm. Someplace where you don't have to see the soybeans for a couple weeks. It just might make everyone happier, including your friends! For others, keeping that money in the bank may be the best stress reliever right now.

Bottom Line:
Small soybeans or late-planted soybeans that do not reach full canopy by flowering probably have lost some yield potential. Cooler temperatures also reduce the chances of soybeans reaching full canopy by flowering. In hindsight, the best management practice would have been to plant in 7.5-inch rows. The narrow rows would have improved the chances of getting complete canopy closure by flowering. Foliar fertilizers and fungicides will not make up the difference in temperatures, planting date or row spacing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

New Wheat Publications

The Small Grains Variety Trials for 2009 is available at:

The Wheat Guide (ID-125) has been completely updated with new content, photos and format and is available at:

The Kentucky Small Grain Growers sponsored the updated version and is partly funding the printing of copies.

Printed copies of both publications should be available within several weeks. Both of these publications are linked to the Grain Crops Extension Website at:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Current Status of Soybean Rust

The current soybean rust distribution in the US has changed very little in the last month. Currently, the disease is found in a very small number of soybean sentinel plots in Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. It is also found on kudzu in those states plus Georgia and Texas. The main difference between the present SBR distribution compared to the same date a year ago is the presence of SBR in Georgia, greater activity in Alabama and Louisiana, and less activity in Florida. There has been little spread of the disease in recent weeks, presumably due to hot, mostly dry weather. So for now, the soybean rust risk for Kentucky continues to be very low. This status could change quickly, so I encourage you not to let your guard down. Hopefully, this will be another dud year for SBR.

First Soybean Aphid for 2009 Collected

The first soybean aphid (presumed) for the 2009 season in Kentucky has been collected. A singe juvenile aphid was found on a leaflet from our “100 leaf” sample from the Henderson Co. sentinel site. Not much of a find perhaps, but it does let us know that the Soybean aphid is in Kentucky. The aphid is presumed to be a soybean aphid because only a single very young juvenile was collected and these cannot be identified with complete surety . The aphid has been isolate on a soybean plant in the lab. If it forms a colony or lives to an age that can be identified then, we will know for sure the correct identification. But given the location of the collection and the look of the aphid it is very likely soybean aphid. At this time there are still no reports of soybean aphid in Kentucky suction traps, in whole plant samples from sentinel plots, nor reports from consultants or producers. It is still early in the season for Kentucky. We have many early stage beans that will continue to grow right up until frost. Continue to scout regularly for this and other soybean pests. Posted by Cory Walters for Doug Johnson.

How ACRE will Calculate the Average State Yield Per Planted Acre.

I had a question on how the ACRE program will calculate the average yield per planted acre for Kentucky. The ACRE program will use yields provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). However, the calculation for yield per planted acre used by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be a little different than how NASS defines yield per planted acre. The FSA defined yield per planted acre as harvested acres plus failed acres. Failed acres are intended for harvest but not harvested. To then calculate yield, divide the state’s production by the harvested acres plus failed acres. With few failed acres in Kentucky this approach will not make much of a difference but a difference may be seen in the FSA calculated yield per planted acre and the published NASS yield per planted acre. The FSA yield per planted data will use come from both published and unpublished NASS data. You can reach Cory Walters at

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30 NASS-USDA Acreage and Grain Stocks Reports

Today, June 30, 2009, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Acreage and Grain Stocks reports. These reports provide useful information about planted acreage and amounts of grain in inventory.

The acreage report indicates planted corn acreage is up one percent from 2008 to an estimated 87 million acres. Besides 2007 this is the largest planted acreage since 1946. Traders were expected either for corn acreage to stay the same or decrease, therefore, we may see an initial decrease in corn price. For Kentucky, planted corn acreage is up 10,000 acres to 1.22 million acres from 2008. Corn stocks are estimated to be up 6 percent from last year to 4.27 billion bushels.
For soybeans, U.S. producers have planted an estimated 77.5 million acres – a record and up 2 percent from 2008. This amount of planted acreage is less than trader expectations, which may positively affect prices. For Kentucky, planted soybean acreage is up 60,000 acres to 1.45 million acres from 2008. Soybean stocks are estimated to be down 12 percent from last year t o 597 million bushels.
For winter wheat, NASS estimates planted acreage at 43.4 million acres, six percent lower than 2008. Of which 8.4 million acres are Soft Red Winter. For Kentucky, planted winter wheat acreage was down 50,000 acres to 530,000 acres from 2008. All wheat stocks are estimated to be up 118 percent from last year to 667 million bushels.
Even with this information, corn, soybean, and wheat prices can still be influenced by a number of factors, especially yields. There is still a lot of the growing season left to put downward pressure on yields. You can reach Cory Walters at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Update on Soybean Aphid

Soybean aphid has been showing up in the upper mid-west for several weeks. This pest can be a big problem in soybean production, but has not historically been so in Kentucky. We hope, and in the short run expect, that this will remain the same, at least for 2009. It is however, important to remember that this pest can and does infest Kentucky grown soybeans. If its' biology and/or short term weather patterns change then we may see more of this pest than we wish.

As of this writing we have not found any soybean aphids in our sentinel plot system. The aphid suction traps in Lexington and Princeton have not caught any soybean aphids. Additionally, I have not received any reports from agents or consultants (who often find the first aphids).

So, at present wer are in good shape with reference to soybean aphid. I see no reason, except late plantings, to assume that anything other than the norm will occur this season. However, you should keep your eyes open! You are encouraged to report soybean aphid finds to I will use your information to keep us all informed.

For more complete stories see Kentucky Pest news at:

You may follow the natioinal soybean aphid activity through the SoybeanPIPE at:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nutrient Deficiencies

Last week, I posted an image of a corn plant and said that it was possibly deficient in Mn. Dr. John Grove quickly met me with some corn plants with similar symptoms: yellow or chlorosis between the veins and green along the veins. Image of those plants are below.

0 lbs of N/acre
67 lbs of N/acre applied preplant
133 lbs of N/acre applied preplant
200 lbs of N/acre applied preplant
Corn plants from four N rates (0, 67, 133 and 200 lbs/acre, respectively).

In each case, the interveinal chlorosis is N deficiency. The symptoms are much more evident as N rates get lower, but observing this chlorosis does not mean that yields are limited. Even in corn from 200 lbs N/acre, slight interveinal chlorosis is evident.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Corn, Late Planting and Management

Photo: Possible Mn defiency in corn, which is most likely due to weather and not lack of Mn in the soil.

Believe it or not, corn has emerged on 96% of the acres in Kentucky which is right in line with the five-year average, according to the Kentucky Crop and Weather Report. While emergence is on track, planting was not, and management decisions need to be adjusted.

Preplant nitrogen fertilizer and preplant herbicides may have been lost to the heavy rainfalls. Farmers may need to sidedress additional N and apply postemegernce herbicides. Because of the late planting, farmers will have a smaller window to make these postemergence applications.

Corn planted April 1 will likely reach V6 growth stage in 35 days, while the same hybrid planted May 15 will reach V6 in about 22 days. Corn planted even later will reach V6 earlier.

Many postemergence herbicide labels have restrictions for V6 corn. Corn will need about 20 to 40 lbs of N/acre through about V6. If additional N has not been applied by V6, then yield losses can be expected.

Determining how much N fertilizer or herbicide was lost from the heavy rains is not easy. A calculation for N fertilizer lost is available in the Corn and Soybean Newsletter from April. Assessment of herbicide losses are more of a case-by-case assessment.

In addition, the rapid growth and wet weather can result in some transient nutrient deficiency symptoms...symptoms where weather has more to do with nutrient deficiency that availability of the nutrient. Normally in these cases, the best cure is sunshine and warm weather. Often farmers will spray a foliar fertilizer over the top and a couple days later the crop turns greener, but it may not yield any more. We always suggest to leave a test strip, and take both the treated and non-treated areas to yield.

As always, consult your county agents for more information.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wheat and Barley Yield Contests

Harvest forms and rules for the Wheat and Barley yield contests are available at:

The barley contest is new this year and is being administered by the University of Kentucky, but is fully sponsored through Osage BioEnergy, a company interested in turning barley into fuel ethanol.

The wheat yield contest is administered by the University of Kentucky and is sponsored by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Kentucky Small Grain Growers and several agribusinesses.

While the entry forms are different, the rules are very similar for the two contests. Contact your county extension agent if you have questions/comments about either contest.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Planting Soybeans Late and Target Populations

The USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report for June 7, 2009 indicates that soybeans planting is 48% completed, well below the 5-year average of 71%. About 32% of the soybean plants had emerged.

Normally, for full season soybeans, we suggest that a final stand of 100,000 plants per acre is sufficient for maximum yield. However, we are getting later into the season. For full season soybeans planted today or later, farmers may want to increase the goal of a final stand to 140,000 plants per acre. Double-crop soybeans (soybeans planted into wheat stubble) should attempt to get a final stand near 160,000 plants per acre. In addition, any soybeans being planted today or later should be in row widths of 15 inches or less.

The recommendation for the higher target population and narrow rows, is because a fundamental principle for higer yields is getting full canopy closure when the soybeans flower. These later planting dates require more soybean plants per acre and narrow rows to get to full canopy closure by the time the soybeans flower.

Head Scab Newsletter

The Wheat Science IPM Group Newsletter was released on June 4, 2009 with the latest information for mangaing wheat with Fusarium head blight (or head scab) this season.

The newsletter is available as a pdf at:

First Find of Soybean Rust on Soybean for 2009

Hello Everyone,

A recent report from Dr. Clayton Hollier with Louisiana State University (LSU) documented the first find of soybean rust (SBR) on soybean in Louisiana and the U.S. for 2009. The find was in a soybean sentinel plot at the R4 (mid-pod) stage. That is a fairly early stage for a first find of SBR and it is cause for some concern (but NOT alarm). Usually, the first find of SBR in soybean for the year is made in beans that are at a later stage of development (late R5 or later).

According to a crop consultant I spoke with in southern Louisiana, this is the first time that SBR has been found in soybean BEFORE his growers had a chance to make fungicide applications. His point was not that they have “missed the boat”, but rather to indicate the earliness of this find relative to what they are used to seeing in southern Louisiana. To back up his statement, he told me about a rather large kudzu patch near an local apartment complex that LSU scientists regularly monitor, and that historically has developed massive SBR infections later in the summer. He said that patch is now heavily infected and is showing profuse sporulation. The weather conditions in much of Louisiana have been favorable for SBR for quite some time. So, this earlier than usual find does not come as a great surprise.

The US, from south to north, has a great many acres planted later than normal this year. This could increase the crop risk for SBR, but not necessarily so. We could have a late season dry period that shuts the disease down; or not. Time will tell, and I cannot rule anything in or out at this time. Thus, I encourage you to stay tapped into trusted sources of SBR information. As I learn more details, I will be certain to pass them along.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Marketing Winter Wheat

Wheat producers may be asking themselves if they should store or deliver wheat and if they store should they forward price or not. Currently, the wheat futures contract at the Chicago Board of Trade is offering a large positive carry (the difference in price between two futures contracts) for storing wheat from now into the fall. The gross return between July and December futures is 53 cents per bushel (6.23 for July and 6.76 for December) as of June 5, 2009. The July to September carry is 28 cents per bushel. The forward price benefit of 53 cents per bushel offers positive returns to storage, thereby making storage with a futures contract (a storage hedge) for fall delivery appealing since net return to storage is positive. To calculate net returns you should subtract variable costs to storage (this includes the interest cost of capital in the wheat), cost of insurance on wheat, and cost of shrinkage from the gross return of 53 cents. Also, any basis improvement between now and delivery would add to storage hedge returns. By Cory G. Walters,

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Storing Wheat

Proper prior planning! This is the essence. Let there be no doubt that preventing a problem in stored wheat is by far more effective and economically sound than solving a problem that could have been prevented.

Prepare bins two weeks ahead of time.

Insure your bins are in good repair. Even small holes will allow insect entry. Be sure the roof does not leak!

Do not store with carryover grain.

Thoroughly clean all equipment from the combine to the bin to avoid seeding the newly harvested grain with insect pests.

Consider fumigation of areas below perforated floors and in aeration ducts. Get a professional fumigator to do this dangerous task, correctly. Save your life and money in that order.

Treat the insides and around the outsides of bins with an approved insecticide.

Bin dry wheat if possible at 12 to 12 ½ % moisture.

Move air through the grain to reduce temperature any time that is possible until the grain temperature is below 50 F. Consider installing automatic fan controllers.

If you use an insecticide applied to the grain, make sure it is labeled for that purpose. If you use a grain dryer do not apply insecticide before the grain moves through the dryer and until the grain has cooled after exiting the dryer.

Check your grain regularly. At a minimum look in the hatch and use your nose to perform a “sniff test” to detect out of condition grain. Insect traps can be a good indicator of problems if you will learn to use them. Do not wait until delivery time to look for insects. That is often too late for any remediation.

For the full story check Kentucky Pest News #1198 at:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wheat Crop Condition Declining Due to Disease

Considerably more head scab (FHB) has appeared this week across KY. The wet May we have just experienced has apparently provided for multiple infection periods and an extended window for symptom expression. A properly timed and sprayed fungicide application appears to have made a significant difference in FHB compared to where fields were not sprayed. But it would be unreasonable to think the benefit exceeds 50% control in any field. Modern fungicides simply are not that good against FHB, even when application and timing are ideal. Hopefully the benefit associated with spraying will carry over into DON levels at harvest. Control in fields that were sprayed too late (post infection) is poor (as expected).

Stagonospora leaf and glume blotch are also getting quite severe in many fields and I am starting to see a lot of leaf rust, even in fields that were sprayed (fungicide protection is wearing off). In some cases, leaf and glume blotch are quite severe in treated fields. While modern fungicides do an excellent job in managing leaf and glume blotch, fungicide must be applied before infection occurs. In many fields, applications timed properly for FHB control (early flowering), were probably too late to achieve good leaf and glume blotch control. The fact is, the main infection period for both diseases can be the same, but many times is not. This year, fields treated while the heads were emerging seem to show the best control of leaf and glume blotch.

Many (most?) years it is hot and dry by the time we get to the end of May. Not this year. Our wheat crop is steadily declining and will probably continue to do so until harvest maturity is reached.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Soybean Market

Since the first week of March new-crop soybeans (November 2009 futures) have gained about $2.40 per bushel. There are a number of factors pushing soybeans higher. First, the value of the U.S. dollar relative to foreign currencies has been steadily declining since March, thereby making U.S. products more appealing to foreign nations. China has shown strong interest in purchasing U.S. old-crop soybeans. Second, production in South America has been shrinking, leaving fewer tons of available soybeans for export. This pushes importing countries to the U.S. to purchase soybeans. And third, soybean meal has had good export numbers, thereby increasing demand for soybean crushing. These three effects have taken previously average ending stocks and made them tight. Currently, the USDA has ending stocks at 130 million bushels or 80 million bushels fewer than the February report. Ending stocks are the lowest since the 2003-2004 crop year.
As for marketing new-crop soybeans producers should be selling in small increments into this price rally. However, the amount of grain prices should not exceed 30 to 40 percent of expected production. As of 5/22/09 November soybean futures are trading around $10.29 per bushel, a value that should exceed production costs. The carry between November and January is only 2 cents. This indicates to me that traders are expecting a small crop because they are not paying much to store. The carry between November and March is -6 cents. This negative carry indicates to me again that traders are expecting a small crop and want soybeans delivered in November. Food for thought; if traders are expecting a small crop and want soybeans delivered in November and they do not get all the want...then what do you think they will be willing to pay for soybeans in January or March? –probably a lot more. However, as we progress into the growing season and more information about the condition of the crop is revealed traders’ expectations can quickly change. If you have already sold up to 40 percent of your expected production I would hold tight on the other 60 percent. By Cory G. Walters, UK Ag Economist.