Thursday, November 18, 2010

U.S. Ethanol Policy

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University just released a policy brief titled "Impact on Ethanol, Corn, and Livestock from Imminent U.S. Ethanol Policy Decisions". The policy brief highlights and analyzes important aspects of the U.S. ethanol policy decisions. You can find the article by clicking on the following link -
Posted by Cory Walters, University of Kentucky

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One of the Driest Years Ever in Kentucky

Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky Ag Weather Center

According to preliminary data, since August 1st through November 9, the state has only received 6.10 inches of rain, which is over 5 inches below normal. Some west and west-central locations are 9 to 10 inches below normal for that time period.

Here's the latest map of US Drought Monitor for Kentucky:,MW

Unless Kentucky receives some rain before the end of the month, this August 1 through November 9 is the second driest on record (over 110 years)...surpassed only by 1953 with 5.17 inches. (See driest Aug-Nov 10 years below). Notice some very important dry years in the list, such as 1930 (the granddaddy of droughts) and recently 2008, 1998 & 1999 in the top ten list.

1 5.17 1953
2 6.62 1904
3 7.11 1908
4 7.24 2008
5 7.28 1963
6 7.29 1939
7 7.54 1943
8 7.93 1998
9 7.95 1930
10 8.43 1999
* Value is total rainfall (inches) between August and November.

Two rainfall events are in the forecast...Saturday, November 13, 2010 and again late Monday/Tuesday. The latest models indicate the Saturday event is weak and falling apart. Tuesday's event looks very promising. Also, the winter outlook is calling for above normal rainfall for Kentucky:

The Bt Maze

Refuge-in-a-bag, refuge in 2 bags, reduced refuge are all terms being used this fall about different Bt corn hybrids. If you are confused by all of the information, like me, there is an excellent resource that breaks down the latest information, and refuge requirements for the various Bt events.

Dr. Ric Bessin, Extension Entomologist, has updated Bt-corn for Corn Borer Control (ENTFACT 118), which is available online in the html version and in the pdf version.

He includes a table that breaks down all of the Bt events, the companies, the trade names (i.e. YieldGard, Herculex, Viptera, etc.), the pests controlled and the refuge required. This table will be a tremendous help as you try to sort through the Bt "maze".

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010 Soybean Variety Trials now Online

Chad Lee, Grain Crops Extension, University of Kentucky

The 2010 University of Kentucky Soybean Variety Performance Report is now available online directly at: Soybean varieties are submitted by companies for testing. The varieties are tested at five locations across Kentucky. Each test is broken into different maturity groups. Variety performance should be compared only to other varieties in the same maturity test.

Variety performance across multiple locations is the best predictor of variety performance for next season. Variety performance across multiple locations over multiple years is a better predictor than single-year data.

The current report and archives of previous reports are available at the Soybean Variety Testing website.

Print copies should be available at county extension offices in a couple weeks.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Request for Help Evaluating the Wheat Fusarium Head Blight Prediction System

The web-based prediction tools at
( provide daily estimates of disease risk for 25 states east of the Rocky Mountains. This multi-state effort requires considerable resources to maintain, and scientists involved in the project would like to gather some input to justify continued investment of time, computing resources and funds needed to sustain the effort.

If you viewed or used these tools during the 2009 - 2010 growing season, we would like to hear from you. Please take a few minutes to complete a very brief on-line survey that will help us evaluate, improve, and maintain the system.

The link to the survey is:

Kentucky Corn Hybrid Trials now Online

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, University of Kentucky

The 2010 Kentucky Corn Hybrid trial is now available online at: Print copies will be out in about two weeks.

The 2010 season began with heavy rains in the spring followed by little to no rain during pollination and seed fill. The corn hybrid test normally has six locations across the states. Yields were so low and so variable at one location that only five locations are reported in this test.

The goal of the test is to identify hybrids with very good performance relative to other hybrids and to predict which hybrids will perform well next year. The best predictor of hybrid performance for next year is the cross-location average, where all environments examined are evaluated together.

Hybrids that ranked very well on the cross-location average have the best chance of performing well next season. Hybrids that have performance very well for two years have an even better chance of performing well next season.

Only hybrids in the same maturity test (Early, Medium or Late) should be compared with other hybrids in the same maturity test. Hybrids should not be compared with each other across tests.

For more on the hybrid corn test, contact you local county extension agent.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Early Bird Meetings, 2010

Three Early Bird: Crop Management Series meetings have been scheduled in November to help farmers make decisions on early purchases and pre-purchases.

The meetings will be at the following sites:
  1. Henderson, KY on Nov. 9, Expo 9:00 am - 2:15 pm (includes lunch), Henderson County Expo Center
  2. Sedalia, KY on Nov. 11, 8:00 am - 1:00 pm (includes lunch), Sedalia Restaurant
  3. Hopkinsville, KY, Nov. 11, 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm (includes dinner), Christian County Extension Office
The meals are sponsored by the Kentucky Corn Growers, Kentucky Soybean Board and the Kentucky Small Grain Growers.

Topics at the meetings include Glyphosate-Resistant Weeds, Refuge in a Bag, Kitchen Sink Soybeans, Narrow Row Corn, Marketing and ACRE options. For more details on the Early Bird Meetings, go to:

Sampling corn fields in autumn for nematodes

Paul Vincelli, Extension Plant Pathology, University of Kentucky

Nematodes are microscopic roundworms that attack roots of corn and other plants (Fig 1.). In corn, nematodes affect yield by damaging the root system. They become more important when there are other root-related stresses in the same field, such as moisture shortage, root damage from insects, or compaction.

There is increasing interest in nematodes that attack corn, for several reasons:
  1. In the past, soil-directed organophosphate and carbamate insecticides gave some secondary suppression of nematodes. Currently, more selective insecticides, and Bt corn for corn rootworm control, don’t provide secondary suppression of nematodes. 
  2.  The increase of no-till production can favor certain nematodes that are sensitive to tillage (needle and dagger nematodes). 
  3. More corn-following-corn also favors the needle and dagger nematodes. 

Figure 1. "Head" of nematode, showing the spear-like stylet (arrow) that it uses to puncture plant cells. 

The threat nematodes pose varies greatly from one field to the next. The best way to determine whether nematodes may be hurting yield is to sample for nematodes. While winter temperatures will cause some nematode mortality, sampling in the autumn after crop maturity gives a producer time to react to findings, by obtaining seed treated with Avicta® seed treatment or considering an alternative crop.

Figure 2. Range of populations of lance nematode in 33 Kentucky corn fields sampled in 2009. 

For sampling in the autumn, use a soil probe and sample within the row—that’s right, within the row. This is different from sampling for soil fertility. Sampling within the row allows you to get a count of destructive endoparasitic nematodes (lesion and lance nematodes), because many of those adults leave the root as the crop dries down and the roots die. Sample when the soil is moist but not wet. Walk a zig-zag pattern, and take 20 cores to a depth of 12 inches. Gently mix these cores in a container. Don’t let them dry out nor be subject to temperature extremes before mailing as soon as feasible to a nematode laboratory.

Laboratories that can analyze nematodes in soil samples collected at this time of year include: 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aflatoxins in Corn

Paul Vincelli, Extension Plant Pathologist, University of Kentucky
Sam McNeill, Extension Agricultural Engineer, University of Kentucky

Aflatoxins are showing up in occasional lots of harvested corn from this season’s crop. Aflatoxins metabolites of the fungus Aspergillus flavus, are potent toxins and carcinogens in animals, and may also be human carcinogens. Aflatoxins are probably the most well-known mycotoxins, because they have long been regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration.

During grain fill, many Kentucky corn fields experienced high temperatures (highs above 90°F, with warm nights) and drought conditions, which favor Aspergillus infection and aflatoxin contamination of the kernels. Kernel injury caused by insects, mechanical damage during harvest or handling, or other causes can lead to an increase in aflatoxin levels (Figure 1), though infection and contamination can occur even in undamaged kernels if conditions are highly favorable for the fungus.

Figure 1. Yellow-brown sporulation of Aspergillus flavus in an insect-injured corn kernel. 

Grain Storage
Mycotoxins such as aflatoxin can accumulate in corn in storage.Table 1 below provides recommended conditions that will suppress mold growth in storage. Corn with evidence of mold or mechanical damage or excess trash should be held at 0.5 to 1% lower moisture content than recommended here. Monitor stored corn regularly for mustiness and grain heating.

Permissible levels Aflatoxins are regulated at the parts-per-billion level, an extremely low level. To put this in perspective, one part-per-billion is equivalent to one second in 32 years, or one kernel in a 10,000 bushel bin.

For many uses, grain must have less than 20 parts-per-billion (ppb) of aflatoxin. However, there are some permissible uses for corn with higher levels. For example, mature cattle can be fed corn with up to 300 ppb aflatoxin. Details on the permissible levels of aflatoxins in livestock feeds and human foods are available in the UK Extension publication, Aflatoxins in Corn, ID-59,

Blacklight testing
Examining the kernels for yellow-green fluorescence under a blacklight is commonly used as a quick preliminary test. The entire sample should be cracked or coarse-ground for blacklight testing. However, yellow-green fluorescence under a blacklight does not indicate the presence of aflatoxins. Fluorescence simply indicates that aflatoxins may be present in the kernel. A blacklight test can often give a "false positive"; that is, a positive result from a clean load of corn. A similar glow under blacklight may be produced by tips of corn kernels, corn beeswings (glumes), soybean hulls, certain weed seeds, and strains of A. flavus that do not produce aflatoxins. Plus, it is also possible to get a negative blacklight result from a contaminated sample. Thus, blacklight testing is not considered to be a reliable method for detecting aflatoxin.

Sampling Corn for Testing
Aflatoxin testing is notoriously variable. Sampling for any contaminant in grains at the parts-per-billion level is highly variable. See Table 2 below for an illustration of this variability.

 Table 2. Aflatoxin test results (parts-per-billion, ppb) in ten properly collected samples obtained each of three peanut lots (arranged in ascending order for ease of interpretation). 

One can’t prevent this sort of variability when testing for aflatoxin, but one can make it worse by not sampling correctly. The recommended sampling procedure for corn is as follows: Take at least ten probefuls and collect at least 10 lb of corn. The corn must be below 16% moisture unless the test is being performed immediately. Test results from high-moisture corn may not be accurate if the test is delayed, as the fungus can continue to grow and produce aflatoxins. The 10-lb sample must be ground and mixed well before drawing a small subsample for testing. The AOAC International (formerly the Association of Official Analytical Chemists) requires that the entire 10-lb sample be coarsely ground to pass through a No. 14 sieve and mixed, and that a 2- to 4-lb subsample be ground to pass through a No. 20 sieve (about the consistency of fine instant coffee), before aflatoxin testing.

Test kits are available from several manufacturers. Some of these test only for the presence or absence of aflatoxins. Other, more sophisticated kits estimate the concentration of aflatoxin. If using one of these, grain should be ground and mixed as described above, and operators should be well-trained in the use of the particular test kit being employed.

Analytical laboratories provide the best estimates of aflatoxin concentration. Drawbacks of laboratory testing include expense and time delays while waiting for results.

Management for 2011
Stored corn should be managed as described above, so as not to allow aflatoxin accumulation in storage. As far as planning for the 2011 crop, any fields with aflatoxin this year have only a very, very modest increase in aflatoxin risk next year. Of course, most of those will be rotated as normal, and aflatoxin is only a concern in corn. Even for those that are sown to corn in 2011, aflatoxin contamination is driven much more by environmental conditions than by cropping history and agronomic practices. Of course, since aflatoxin contamination is commonly associated with drought and grain damage, it is advisable to use good agronomic practices such as: sowing adapted hybrids, avoiding excessive plant populations, reducing soil compaction (if present), and managing kernel-feeding insects.

Additional Resources Details on many aspects of aflatoxins are available in the UK Extension publication, Aflatoxins in Corn, ID-59, 

Grain storage recommendations are available in the UK Extension publication, A Comprehensive Guide to Corn Management in Kentucky, ID-139,

A multi-state Extension publication entitled Moldy Grains, Mycotoxins, and Feeding Problems is available at

Friday, October 15, 2010

Missouri Soybean Yield Record Broken Again

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, University of Kentucky

The Missouri Soybean Association announced that Kip Cullers has broken the record again with a soybean yield of 160.6 bu/acre in the 2010 Missouri Soybean Yield and Quality Contest. To make this valid entry, Kip had to harvest at least two (2) acres and then harvest a re-check of at least (2) acres. This contest field had to be in a field of at least 10 acres in size. A person approved by the Missouri Soybean Association monitored both the check and re-check.

Kip is no stranger to winning the Missouri Soybean Yield and Quality Contest, having recorded yields near 155 and 139 bu/acre in 2006 and 2008, respectively. He is a very intelligent producer and really works hard at finding ways to boost yields.

There is no doubt that each producer reading this is curious as to just how Kip is doing this. What are his production secrets? There is no doubt that if I worked for a company with a product that was used in Kip's fields, I would advertise it like crazy this fall and winter. Since I work for the university, let me caution against getting extremely excited about any one product by itself. As Kip says, there is no silver bullet to high yields.

Kip is employing a very unique system in his operation. It is that overall system that is generating phenomenal yields. Weather is a major player as well. Kip isn't getting these record-breaking yields every year and weather is a major factor in that.

So, as you look at some of the products used on Kip's fields, remember that these products are being used in a very unique system. . . your challenge and mine is to determine what components of his management system might apply to a non-irrigated Huntington, Pembroke or Crider soil in Kentucky.

I am sure there will be more to come on this topic as the fall and winter sales season unfolds.

Click here to see the original press release from the Missouri Soybean Board.

Click here to see the Missouri Soybean Yield and Quality Contest rules.

Bt Corn Benefits Farmers, Including non-Bt Corn Farmers

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist

Researchers just published an article on the impact of Bt-corn in the corn belt in the October 8, 2010 edition of Science. They specifically examined Bt-corn with resistance to European (and Southwestern) corn borer. By examining insect counts in Bt and non-Bt fields along with production statistics, etc. the authors concluded that the benefits for using the Bt-corn was $6.9 billion to growers in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa over 14 years. Of that total, they estimated that $4.3 billion was for growers with non-Bt corn hybrids.

The benefits come with reduced European corn borer populations in Bt corn fields as well as nearby non-Bt corn fields. For example, in Minnesota, when only 40% of the corn acres were planted to Bt corn, European corn borer larvae declined by 73% over all corn acres. After calculating the estimated reductions in European corn borer larva, the authors also included the estimated yield losses from corn borer damage and the resulting yield increases from reducing the corn borer populations. The authors also included the difference in seed costs between Bt and non-Bt corn hybrids. A larger share of the economic benefit goes to growers of non-Bt corn because they are paying less for seed, but reaping similar benefits to their neighbors who raise Bt corn.

The authors did not include the cost of spraying an insecticide on non-Bt corn when corn borer populations warrant such an application. Once the cost of spraying an insecticide is considered, the economic benefits of Bt corn with corn borer resistance might be even higher to the producer.

The original article in Science is titled: Areawide Suppression of European Corn Borer with Bt Maize Reaps Savings to Non-Bt Maize Growers.

Another summary of the article can be found at:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Commodity Price Update. Monday October 11, 2010

Commodity prices have soared since Friday morning when the USDA released their October Crop Production report. From Friday morning to the end of the trading on Monday October 11, 2010 Corn price has climbed over 11 %, soybeans are up over 8%, and wheat is up over 7%. Price increases were being driven by the significantly lower than expected US average corn production number of 12.6 billion bushels, which was almost 500 million bushels smaller than the September report. Corn acreage was increased while yield was significantly reduced. Additionally, US average soybean production was reduced by 75 million bushels from the September report to 3.4 billion bushels.
News of the USDA report shocked commodity prices, pushing corn and soybeans to daily price limits ($.30 per bushel for corn and $.70 for soybeans). This type of price volatility will get (and keep) everyone in commodity markets uneasy. Producers are faced with increased pressure to sell since prices have moved limit up. Purchasers are meeting in board rooms attempting to figure out strategies to minimize the effect of an 11% price increase. Lots of uncertainty remains in the market. This leaves room for additional significant price movement (this doesn’t mean always up) over the coming months. Significant price increases will eventually show up on the demand size as reductions in use. This will bring back some ending stocks and likely bring prices down. When this will happen? – Don’t know.
Profit is the objective for the producer. Producers have to decide whether the current profit levels are acceptable, knowing lots of uncertainty exists in both prices and yields (if you’re considering selling 2011 crop). The 2011 acreage battle has just begun. Expect high price volatility over the coming months as the market attempts to figure out the size of the U.S. corn crop, corn consumption levels, South American crop size and condition, the state of the U.S. economy, and the state of the U.S. ethanol industry. Questions and comments can be directed to Cory Walters, University of Kentucky Extension Grain Economist. Email:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wheat Planting: Two Options and Neither is Great

Chad Lee and Jim Herbek, University of Kentucky

Getting wheat into the ground right now is a real challenge because of the dry, hard soils. Since many producers have locked in high market prices for next summer, we are assuming that all producers reading this fully intend to plant wheat. So, in the discussion that follows, we are removing the option of “not planting wheat”. With this in mind, producers have two options for planting wheat: 1) plant now and hope for rain, or 2) wait for rain and then plant. Both options have their risks.

Option 1. Plant now, and hope for rain

Positives: You get the wheat planted, perhaps a little early, but it is in the ground. Getting seed at the proper depth will be a challenge (see action item below).

Risk 1: Hessian fly. The recommended first dates to plant wheat in Kentucky are October 10 in northern Kentucky and October 15 in southern Kentucky. These dates are based on historical Hessian fly free dates and also coincide with first fall frosts. These dates are earlier than the first frost, recognizing that wheat germination is normally several days after seeding.  The soil is so dry right now that any wheat planted is not going to germinate until we get rain. So, the risk of planting a few days early is minimized some this year because of the lack of soil moisture.
Risk 2: Just a little rain. The wheat will not germinate until we get rain. One of the worst things that can happen is to get a little rain (maybe half an inch), which is enough to let the seeds germinate but not enough for the young seedlings to survive without additional precipitation.
Risk 3. Varmints. The longer seed stays in the ground before germination, the greater chance there is for mice, voles, etc. to dig up and eat seeds.
Risk 4. Soil Erosion. Seeding now may require some tillage to allow the grain drill to get through the soil surface (see Action Items below). If you do tillage, you increase the chances for soil erosion from wind and water. If you have fields that are rolling and you use tillage on those fields, a heavy rain could do severe damage to your fields.

Action Items.
1. If you decide to plant now and hope for rain, get the seed about 1- to 1.5-inches deep. In a year like this, there is no “seeding to moisture” unless you plan to use a backhoe in place of a grain drill. With soils that are very hard, you may need to run a disk over the field to break up the soil and allow a drill to get through. If you decide to do this, then try to do as little tillage as possible while breaking up the soil. Set your disk blades to run straight so the implement is not throwing dirt into the air, but simply slicing through the soil.

2. Calibrate the drill so that you are delivering the correct rate of seed. Perhaps increase your seeding rate a little since you have some slightly higher risks of seed loss.

3. Monitor fields once the rains come to determine the quality of your stands.

Option 2. Wait for Rain and Then Plant

Positives:  By waiting for rains, the soils will be softer, getting proper seed depth is easier, and tillage is not necessary. 

Risk 1. Later planting date. If you wait for rain, it could rain and rain and rain. This could push back the planting date, leaving you to scramble to get wheat planted. The later planting dates could result in lower yields, as research indicates.
Risk 2. Soil Compaction. This sounds crazy given the current soil condition, but if it rains a lot, you could find yourself trying to plant into wet conditions, which can lead to soil compaction.

Action Items
1. Calibrate your drill with all seed lots. Since you are not going to plant right away, you might as well make sure that your equipment and seed are ready to go as soon as possible. Once the rain comes and the soils soften, you don’t want to waste a day getting machinery ready. Do it now, while you have the time.

2. As soon as the rains come, get to the field and get the wheat planted. Since many fields have several soils types, you may have areas of a field with more soil moisture than others… or different fields with different moistures. You will want to double-check seeding depth when entering new fields and you may want to check it when entering different soil types in the same field.

3. Put blinders on and develop nerves of steel. The blinders are to prevent you from seeing your neighbors trying to plant wheat before the rains. The nerves of steel are needed when the blinders don’t work. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drought Expands Across Kentucky

Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky Ag Weather Center

Drought conditions continued to expand and deepen this past week across the
Bluegrass state. Get the latest update and webcast concerning these dry
in the state at the below listed UKAWC link:

Kentucky Climate Update:

And, expanded drought info on UKAWC's Drought page, at:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

X-Large Fall Armyworm Caterpillar Population Should Be Past.

The X-large population of fall armyworm (FAW) caterpillars generated by the X-Large population of FAW moths in late August (as indexed by UK-IPM trap counts, See: KPN 1245 Aug 31, 2010) should be past. This does NOT mean that the threat from FAW is over. It simply means that the large pulse of caterpillars generated by the extraordinary number of moths have completed the damaging stage of their life cycle. We do have evidence (especially forage fields having to be treated a second time) that this pulse did cause some producers x-tra trouble.

My best guess is that the FAW caterpillars produced from the X-large moth flight are now in the pupal (resting) stage, from which adult moths will emerge. So it is possible that another large flight could occur this fall, depending upon temperature. The only other recent, large, fall occurring, FAW population for which we have record, occurred on Oct. 5, 2007. This led to large numbers of FAW mostly feeding on volunteer corn (fortunately) in area wheat fields.

Regardless of whether or not we see another large surge of moths, FAW caterpillars will be present until at least the first killing frost and one should continue to monitor crops at risk. By now corn and most soybeans and sorghum are no longer in danger. Grass and alfalfa forages, especially newly established stands are at greatest risk. Additionally, any newly established grass stands including wheat, lawns and grass covers for construction and reclamation should be watched.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Commodity Price Update

Corn, soybeans, and wheat prices continue to be volatile due to market uncertainty. The most unknown factor is the size of this year’s crop. The USDA has helped paint some of the picture by reducing the U.S. corn crop by more than 200 million bushels between August and September to 13.1 billion bushels. For soybeans the U.S. crop was increased by 50 million bushels between August and September to 3.48 billion bushels.
Exports represent another factor influencing prices. In the September USDA report, corn exports were increased by 50 million bushels and soybean exports were increased by 50 million bushels. With a decrease in the size of the corn crop and an increase in exports (plus a decrease in corn for feed) between the August and September USDA report, ending stocks were reduced by 196 million bushels to 1,116 billion bushels. For soybeans, ending stocks were slightly reduced by 10 million bushels to 350 million bushels.
Corn prices continue to advance higher on 9 month highs. December 2010 corn has broken through $5.00 and is approaching $5.25. Are these profitable prices? Given your yields, are they? – This is the question that needs to be answered. If they are profitable, then selling in small percentages during this rally should happen. Additionally, the corn market is offering a reward for storing (a sign that the traders don’t think we are running out of corn). $0.12 is being offered in the futures market for holding corn from the December contract to the March contract. Taking this plus some strengthening in basis there will likely be a positive return to storage. I recommend locking in the futures side some time over the next few weeks and leaving basis float. Do not ignore 2011 prices, December corn is trading around $4.80.
Soybean prices also continue to advance higher on 9 month highs. November 2010 soybeans are trading around $10.80. Given your yield potential, are these prices profitable? The soybean market is not offering much of a return to storage because the difference between the January and November contract is only $.10 and basis is moderately strong. Keep in mind November 2011 soybeans; they are trading around $10.70.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Strange Things in Corn

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, Plant and Soil Sciences

More strange things are being reported in the corn crop this year. Last week, a producer called to say he was checking ears and the kernels were falling off of the cob. Even stranger, the kernels looked deep, the cob appeared to be of decent quality, but when he pulled back the husks, many of the kernels simply fell off the cob. When these ears hit the snout of the corn head, the kernels simply shattered off of the cob and onto the ground. In a year when high heat and low rains late reduced yield, loosing kernels to the soil is adding insult to injury.

We suspect this to be a late-season stress occurring at or close to blacklayer (physiological maturity). The shattering kernels may be a result of both environment and genetics.

So, if you have seen shattering kernels this year, please send me an email letting me know the name of the hybrid, the field location (nearest town), soil type and as much management information as you know. My email address is Thanks.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fertilizer Use in Argentina

Note: The following is an update on fertilizer practices in Argentina over the past 20 years. The changes in fertilizer practices over time in Argentina are impacting fertilizer demands in a global fertilizer economy.

Martin Navarro, Graduate Student, Plant and Soil Sciences
John Grove, Agronomic Soil Science, Plant and Soil Sciences

It will soon be spring in Argentina, and fertilizer purchase decisions are being made. Unlike the U.S., where fertilizer use has been a common practice for many years, Argentina’s linear growth in fertilizer use began only 20 years ago (Figure 1). This increased use of fertilizers has been associated with a continued increase in crop yield (Figure 2). It should be noted that the severe drop in fertilizer use in 2008 and 2009 was due to a reduction in the area of corn and wheat,with a corresponding increase in the area of soybean.

Figure 1: Fertilizer consumption in Argentina, from 1990 to 2009.
Figure 2: Annual grain (corn, soybean and wheat, averaged together) yield in Argentina, from 1990 to 2009.
The nutrients most commonly purchased in Argentina are, in declining importance, nitrogen (N),phosphorus (P), sulfur (S), and potassium (K). Most soils found in the more productive region of Argentina (the Pampas) have high levels of bioavailable P because the soil parent material is rich in this nutrient. The use of S is increasingly common, as deficiencies of this nutrient are being increasingly detected. The soils of the Pampas are richer in bioavailable P, in comparison with soils found in other agricultural regions in Argentina. However, Darwich (1999) has reported significant declines in bioavailable P in these soils, relative to original levels, relative even to levels existing in the early 1980’s.
Despite the large increase in fertilizer use in the past 20 years, nutrient replenishment (replacement of nutrients removed in grain) is still very low and a topic of long-term concern.The fraction of total nutrient uptake that is recycled back to the soil averages about 34%, and replenishment of nutrient stocks with fertilizer averages about 41% for N, 61% for P, 6% for K,and 35% for S. This suggests that these soils will be progressively poorer in their fertility. This problem was also evaluated by Ciampitti and Garcia (2008), for soils of the Pampas region, and they concluded that only 31, 53, 1 and 27 % of the N, P, K and S, respectively, exported by crop harvest was replaced by fertilizer addition.

The situation has been improving with time, though only slightly (Figure 3). Phosphorus and sulfur replacement have made slow but steady progress, in part because fertilizers containing these nutrients are now being more routinely applied to soybean, the crop with the largest production area in Argentina. The Argentine fertilizer industry, as well as various Argentine governmental institutions, expects increased fertilizer consumption and greater nutrient replenishment, especially for nitrogen. This expectation is based on anticipated increases in the production areas of both wheat and maize. In Argentina, these cereal crops are generally better fertilized than soybean. Current wheat and maize production areas are now at their lowest levels in 30 years.

In conclusion, Argentine nutrient management is generally characterized by a negative soil nutrient balance, due to rates of replacement/fertilization that are lower than rates of removal. This has resulted in declines in bioavailable N, P, K, and S levels in Argentine soils. Given this context, appropriate fertilizer rates and sources are important to crop production in Argentina, slowing/preventing nutrient export and depletion of soil fertility. Diagnosis of the fertility needs for a field is based in knowledge of the field’s soil and soil testing is important to that knowledge base. Soil chemical analysis and good nutrient management practices are tools indispensable to sustainable Argentine agriculture.

Figure 3: Nutrient application/removal ratios in Argentina from 1993 to 2007.


Darwich N. 1999. Niveles de P disponible en suelos pampeanos. (Levels of bioavailable P in soils of the Pampas). IDIA 409-412: 1-5. INTA. Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ciampitti I., F. Garcia. 2008. Fosforo en rotaciones agrícolas de la región pampeana central: II. Balance de P. (Phosphorus in agricultural rotations in the central Pampas region: II. P balance). Actas CD XXI Congreso Argentino de la Ciencia del Suelo. AACS. Potrero de los Funes, San Luis.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Moth Flights of Important Field Crops Pests Increase Dramatically

Fall armyworm moth counts have sky rocketed!

Capture of fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith) moths has sky rocketed as indexed by the UK-IPM pheromone baited traps at the UK-REC in Princeton, KY.(Fortunately this does not seem to be the situation in Lexington.) Last week (20 Aug 2010) our capture was a normal, 52 moths/trapweek; today’s count (27 Aug 2010) is 1,038 moths/trapweek! Please view the graphs at: Because our trapping network captures the adult moths, we have a heads up on the caterpillar (damaging stage) population that will occur in several weeks. This is the largest capture of FAW in ca. 15 years of trapping and is almost three times larger than the second largest single capture. See more information in Kentucky Pest News of Aug 31, 2010.

Corn earworm (aka soybean podworm) moth flight increases dramatically.

Capture of adult corn earworm (CEW) moths in the UK-IPM pheromone baited traps at Princeton, KY has increased dramatically. The total capture of CEW moths for the week ending 27 August 2010 was 484, up from 82 on Aug 20th. This is the second largest capture of CEW moths in the ca. 18 years of monitoring, with the largest being 525 moths / trapweek in August 2001. This is not as dramatic an increase as we are experiencing with fall armyworm, nevertheless it is pretty unusual. (See: Fall armyworm moth counts have sky rocketed! in Kentucky Pest News 31 Aug 2010).

It is too late in the season for corn earworm to be of any importance on corn, but this pest also feeds on the pods of soybean, especially late maturing varieties. Caterpillars (the damaging stage) resulting from these moths will begin to appear in 1-2 weeks. Those individuals involved in soybean production should scout their fields for the presence of this insect. Corn earworm can be especially damaging because it feeds directly on the pods and seeds. Additionally, it is difficult to scout as it does not feed to any great extent on soybean leaves. One has to get into the plants and look directly at the pods to find this pest.

Kentucky Pest News can be viewed at:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Corn stands looking weak from stress

Chad Lee, University of Kentucky

In the the Aug 17, 2010 edition of Kentucky Pest News, Dr. Vincelli warns of aflatoxins and diplodia in corn. Another concern is final stand of the corn crop. Much of the corn crop was under stress from heat and a lack of water. Those conditions usually cause the each plant to pull photosynthate from the stalks and put them in the ear in an attempt to produce seed. While this helps each overcome some yield losses, it also causes stalks to become weak.

As you prepare for this early harvest, check fields for stalk strength and, if possible, harvest weak stands first. The easiest way to check for stand strength is to grab the stalk at about your shoulder height and pull the stalk toward you. Release the stalk and if it returns to its normal upright position, the stalk strength is still good. If the stalk does not return to the upright position, the stalks are weak.

In addition to weak stalks, I have had reports and I have visited some fields where ear attachment to the plant is very weak.  In the worst situations, ears have been found on the ground. . . typically, heavier ears. There may be an interaction between environment and hybrid. So, if you have a field like this, please email me at and let me know the hybrid and field conditions. Obviously, such fields need to be harvested sooner rather than later.

Those of you who have farmed for a while know that a summer of stress often brings challenges at harvest. This year appears to be no different.

Wheat planting when futures are high and seed might be short

Chad Lee and Jim Herbek, University of Kentucky

Many producers locked in wheat contracts for 2011 at or over $7 per bushel and some are growing wheat for the first time in five years. There are rumors that seed supply is tight. If these rumors are accurate, there may be some temptation to skimp on seeding rates in order to cover more acres.  If you are one of those producers, just know what your risks are by cutting back and proceed with caution.
Maximum wheat yields normally require a final stand of 30 to 35 plants per square feet, but under the right conditions, stands as low as 20 plants per square foot will yield well. Getting a successful stand requires several things, including timely seeding, an accurate seeding rate, correct seed depth (1.0 to 1.5 inches), adequate soil moisture, and no seedling diseases.

Wheat should be planted from about October 10 to October 30 for most of Kentucky. This window is normally provides the best opportunity for getting a good stand and good growth before the cold winter months. Seed rates can be 30 to 35 seeds per square feet, but if you are considering dropping back a little, this is the time to try it. If planting occurs after October 30, then the seed rate should be 35 to 40 seeds per square foot. These seed rates assume a standard germination of 90%. For seed lots with lower standard germinations, a higher seeding rate is needed.

Drill calibration is absolutely necessary to dropping the correct amount of seeds. This process takes time and should be conducted with each seed lot you receive. If you do not have the time and/or patience for this procedure, then hire someone to calibrate your drill. This procedure will benefit your wheat production system.  Guidelines on calibrating wheat drills is available in the ID:125 Comprehensive Guide to Wheat Management, Chapter 4 “Planting and Drill Calibration”

Adjusting the drill for planting depth also takes time but will result in better stands. These adjustments need to be made in the field on the day of planting. Field conditions change from day to day and the pressure needed to get the desired depth may change day to day as well.

So, if you decide you are short on wheat and you want to skimp on seed, be sure you know the conditions in which you are planting. If possible, try to skimp in situations that will still provide a chance for good stand establishment. In a year when a large part of the 2011 crop may already be sold, skimping on seeding rates should only be used as a last resort.

Wheat in 15-inch rows will work but might cost yield

Chad Lee and Jim Herbek, University of Kentucky

With the increased interest in wheat from futures prices and the anticipated increased acres planted this fall, many farmers are asking if they can use their 15-inch soybean planter to plant wheat. The quick answer is yes, but you might loose some yield.

We have investigated three varieties of wheat at Princeton and Lexington in 15-inch and 7.5-inch rows at Princeton and Lexington for the past two years, giving us four environments. We tested varieties that were known to be prolific, meaning that they produce a lot of tillers. Yields were excellent, ranging from 70 to just over 120 bushels per acre. In two of the environments, there were no differences in yield between 15-inch and 7.5-inch rows. In the other two environments, yields in 15-inch rows were about 8.5% less than yields in 7.5-inch rows.

Based simply on this research, if yields in 15-inch rows are 8.5% less than yields in 7.5-inch rows and futures prices are $7 per bushel, a field of 500 acres will net about $30,000 more with 7.5-inch rows. Trucking and storage have not been included in these returns. However, If we assume the $30,000 over 500 acres, that is a difference of $60 per acre.

So, instead of converting your 15-inch planter to wheat, you might want to consider contracting with someone who has no-till drill and drilling the wheat in 7.5-inch rows. If contracting is not an option and you are not in the market to buy a grain drill, a 15-inch planter can work… it just might yield a little less.  If you do use a 15-inch planter, try to find a variety that produces a lot of tillers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Check Corn for Pollination and Seed Set

Cory Walters just posted an article about how good prices look right now for corn. In addition, the corn crop looks great from the road. But before you decide to contract that rest of your expected yields, get into the fields and make sure pollination went well.

We have received several reports from county agents of fields with poor pollination. Perhaps the most unsettling report came from Tom Miller, Extension agent in Ballard County, who said that pockets of a field had poor pollination. Plants in the same row had good pollination while others had terrible pollination. (One of his images is attached to this article.) At this point, hot dry weather and slight variations as to when pollen drop occurred appears to be the best explanation. This is unsettling, because the whole field looks excellent from the road.

So, if the silks are dry, then pull back the husks and look at the developing "blisters" or seeds. You know how a good ear of corn should look... even number of rows, pollination from the base to the tip of the ear.

If the silks are still wet, but pollen drop appears to be complete, then you can gently remove the husks and get an estimate of pollination. To do this, make a cut through the husks with a sharp pocket knife along the ear. Start at the base of the ear and slice up to the tip. Make a second slice on the other side of the ear. If you have done a good job making the slices, you should be able to gently pull off the husks without removing the silks. If silks come off with the husks, then get a new ear and start over.

Once you have successfully removed the husks and kept the silks on the ear, hold the ear at the base and gently shake it. You may want to point the top of the ear towards the ground. As you gently shake, silks will fall from the ear if pollination has occurred. Again, you are hoping for all of the silks to fall from the ear. Pollination normally occurs from the base of the ear and then moves toward the top. If you happen to get an ear where the silks near the base fall off, but the silks near the top do not, then pollination may not be complete in the field.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Grain Market Update, July 18, 2010.

Since the first week of July Corn, Soybeans, and wheat futures prices have all significantly increased. December 2010 corn futures reached contract lows before rebounding $0.62 (or 18%) to close around $4.07 on Friday, July 16, 2010. Corn futures have not been this high since the beginning of March. November 2010 soybean futures gained about $0.85 (or 9.4%) to close around $9.85 on Friday, July 16, 2010. It was the end of April when soybean futures last closed at these levels. September 2010 CMEGroup wheat futures have gained about $1.07 (or 22.3%) to close around $5.87 on Friday, July 16, 2010. Seven months have passed since wheat futures last reached current levels.
For corn, the USDA crop progress report for the week ending July 12, 2010 indicates that 73% of the nation’s crop is rated good to excellent. This is up slightly from the previous week and about the same this time last year. For Kentucky, the USDA crop progress report indicates that 65% is rated good to excellent.
For soybeans, the USDA crop progress report for the week ending July 12, 2010 indicates that 65% of the nation’s crop is rated good to excellent. This is down slightly from the previous week and about the same as this time last year. For Kentucky, the USDA crop progress report indicates that 68% is rated good to excellent.
Even though we are in the middle of the growing season, and yields to this point are uncertain, price changes are not all supply driven. Since the end of the first week in June, the nominal U.S. broad dollar index, which measures the value of the U.S. dollar relative to major trading partners, has fallen over 3%. Commodity index funds for both corn and soybeans have been in a sideways position for the past few months. For corn, speculators are net long, meaning there are more longs or purchases than shorts or sales of futures contracts, indicating a slight sense of bullishness. For soybeans, speculators are net short, indicating some bearishness.
Prices will continue to be volatile given unknowns in U.S. yields (i.e., weather), global economy, and size of crops from competing nations. Price expectations should not be based upon speculation but upon profit expectations. For questions and comments please contact Cory Walters at

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hot, Dry Weather at the Worst Time for Corn

Chad Lee, Extension Agronomist, Plant and Soil Sciences

Much of Kentucky has turned hot and dry at the worst possible time for corn. About half of the corn crop was silking or complete with silking as of July 5, 2010, according to the USDA Crop and Weather Report.  Corn is most sensitive to stress around silking and blister development. In addition, corn uses the most water at silking, as much as 0.35 inches per day

Pollen shed and pollination is improved when temperatures are mild. The majority of pollen is shed in the morning after the dew has dried. A second release of pollen may occur in the late afternoon or early evening as temperatures cool again. The hot, dry weather we are currently experiencing does not favor good pollination. The hot weather will tend to dry out both the pollen and the silks. Temperatures above 100 F can kill pollen

The good news is that most corn fields will pollinate for about 14 days and most pollen shed occurs when temperatures are a little cooler. So, even when conditions are hot and dry, the corn plant will attempt to work around those poor conditions. The bad news is that high temperatures seem to quicken pollen shed. Taking the good with the bad: each field still has a chance for successful pollination.

For corn that was through pollination before things turned dry, abortion of kernels is a possibility. The corn plant will recognize that water reserves are low and abort kernels near the tip of the ear, first. Very high plant populations can increase the water stress and increase kernel abortion.

What can you do about it? Unless you have irrigation, not much can be done on the agronomics. If you are marketing the current crop on the futures, you might want to be more cautious with your yield targets. Of course, a good rain in the next couple days will solve most of our problems.


R.L. Nielsen, Tassel Emergence and Pollen Shed, July 2010. Purdue.

R. Elmore. Corn Development from R1 to R6. Iowa State.

Kentucky Weekly Crop and Weather Update. July 5, 2010. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) 2010 Payment Simulation Results

By Cory G. Walters and Greg Halich

The deadline for deciding whether to enroll in the optional ACRE program over Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program (DCP) is fast approaching, June 1, 2010. The purpose of this short article is to identify the likelihood of ACRE payments for both the 2010 crop year and the entire life of the farm bill, 2010-12 crop years.

ACRE program provides revenue protection similar to crop insurance. There are four primary differences between ACRE and crop insurance. First, the revenue guarantee incorporates historical revenue instead of expected revenue found in crop insurance. This takes revenue experienced in the past and extends it out into the future. If price were to drop from one year to the next an ACRE payment may be made. Second, ACRE uses state yields to compute the revenue guarantee instead of farm yields found in crop insurance (not including group insurance products). ACRE payments are based on what happens to state yield. When state yield drops but prices remain constant ACRE payments may be available. Third, ACRE uses U.S. season average prices instead of futures. ACRE payments are made when revenue falls from one crop year to another, unlike crop insurance where revenue products pay when futures prices drop from planting (base price) to harvest (harvest price). Fourth, the ACRE insurable “unit” is the farm number where in crop insurance the insurable “unit” is categorized as optional, basic, enterprise, whole farm. With the insurable unit being farm number, producers interested in signing up can pick and choose which farm numbers to enroll.

Price protection found in ACRE is significantly higher than that found in the DCP. In corn, the ACRE trigger price (holding yields constant since it is a revenue program) is $3.45 where in DCP the trigger price is $2.35. Meaning that if payments were to be made in either program ACRE would start paying well in advance of DCP. For soybeans, the ACRE trigger price is $8.74 where the DCP trigger price is $5.36. For wheat, ACRE starts paying when price drops below $5.26 (holding yields constant) and DCP starts paying when price drops below $3.40.

To help determine if ACRE is the best program for KY farmers we ran many revenue simulations using current market information. In this process we had to come up with reasonable expectations for a range of prices and yields, accounting for correlation between these variables in the process. The mean price estimates are noted in the table below (titled Mean Price Estimates). However, each price has a range built around this mean price. For example, the 2010 corn price has a 10% chance of falling below $2.98/bu and has a 10% chance of rising above $4.02/bu in the distribution we used.

Mean Price Estimates
2010 2011 2012
Corn $3.50 $3.76 $3.80
Soybeans $8.86 $9.03 $9.20
Note: Prices based on CME fall contract futures for the week of 5/10/10 and adjusted for $0.30 and $0.40 per bu basis for corn and soybeans respectively.

The base scenario evaluated was for a 1000 acre farm (collection of farm numbers summing to 1000 acres) that is in a 50-50 rotation of corn and soybeans. This base scenario resulted in a +$3.50/acre per year net benefit for the ACRE program in 2010-2012 over DCP. This means that on average, the ACRE payment exceeded the loss in direct payments by $3.50/acre per year. For 2010 only, the net benefit to ACRE rose to +$11.50 over DCP. This means that 2010 looks to be the most likely year for an ACRE payment for the remainder of the farm bill with current market conditions. In other words, if you are considering signing up in the next three years, 2010 is the time to do it.

Farm size will have an impact on the expected ACRE payout. As farm size increases, the likelihood of reaching the yearly payment limitation increases. The practical implication of this is that as you go above 1000 acres, the expected ACRE payments will decrease. With a 2500 acre farm, the net benefit to ACRE decreased from +$3.50 to +$0.50 for 2010-2012. Two points to note about this:
1) You do not have to enroll all of your farms in ACRE and thus you could put roughly 1000 acres in the program.
2) The $0.50 net benefit does not account for the risk management benefit of ACRE (it is providing a type of insurance).

For questions and comments please contact either Cory Walters at or Greg Halich at

Monday, May 10, 2010

ACRE meetings scheduled across Kentucky

ACRE meetings scheduled across Kentucky
By Katie Pratt
LEXINGTON , Ky., (May 10, 2010) – With the June 1 sign-up deadline fast approaching, University of Kentucky agricultural economists Cory Walters and Greg Halich will host meetings across the state to explain Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) and help producers determine whether it fits their operation.
ACRE is an optional risk protection program created by the 2008 Farm Bill and offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Producers eligible for ACRE include those who grow corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, barley, rice, upland cotton, oats, peanuts, pulse crops and other oilseeds.
Unlike the traditional farm support programs that offer direct payments, counter-cyclical payments and marketing assistance loans if a price of a particular crop falls below a certain level, ACRE pays if crop revenue falls below a revenue guarantee. Revenue includes price and yields.
Those who enroll in ACRE forgo any counter-cyclical program payments, forfeit 20 percent of direct payments and have loan rates reduced by 30 percent.
Walters and Halich will discuss how the program works, the probability of payments, and its relationship to crop insurance at the following times and locations.
• 1 p.m. EDT May 17- Hardin County extension office
• 6:30 p.m. CDT May 17- Daviess County extension office
• May 18- during the UK Wheat Field Day at the UK Research and Education Center Farm in Princeton
• 7 p.m. CDT May 18- Union County extension office
• 8 a.m. CDT May 19- Sedalia Restaurant in Graves County
• 1 p.m. CDT May 19 – Christian County extension office
• 12 p.m. CDT May 20- Butler County extension office
• 7 p.m. EDT May 20- Marion County extension office
For more details on a specific meeting, contact the county’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.
Contact: Cory Walters, 859-257-2996
Greg Halich, 859-257-8841

Friday, May 7, 2010

Herbicide Issues in Flood Damaged Corn Fields

Jim Martin and J. D. Green

The following are herbicide related issues involving flood damage corn fields:

1)    Previous Herbicides Applied May Affect What Crop to Plant:  The specific herbicide(s) used in the initial planting may determine what crop can be planted in flood damaged fields. See Corn & Soybean News April 2007, Vol 7 Issue 5

2)    Adding More Herbicide to Replant Corn: The need to add more herbicide will depend on specific field situations.  In some cases, where a previous soil-residual herbicide had been applied, relying on postemergence treatments following corn replanting may be the best option for weed control throughout the remainder of the season.  If additional soil-residual herbicide is desired the maximum amount that can be reapplied depends on the products used.  For example, if the previous amount of atrazine applied was 1.5 lb ai/A, then an additional amount of 1.0 lb ai/A can be applied up to a maximum total of 2.5 lb ai/A of atrazine per season.  For other herbicide active ingredients consult the label for maximum use rate guidelines. 

3)    Controlling Surviving Corn Plants to Replant: If there are surviving corn plants, it may be necessary to use a burndown herbicide program.  It will be more challenging to control surviving corn plants if the field is planted back to corn than if it is planted to soybeans.  For specific options for controlling corn prior to replanting back to corn see page 29 in the Corn Section of the Extension publication “Weed Control Recommendations for Kentucky Grain Crops 2010” AGR-6 

There are several foliar-applied herbicides available to control corn in soybeans.  If corn plants have the Roundup Ready (glyphosate – tolerant) trait, consider such options as Asure II, Fusilade DX, Fusion, Poast,  Select and Select MAX. If corn plants do not have the glyhosate tolerant trait then glyphosate is an effective and economical option as a burndown treatment or as an “in crop” treatment in Roundup Ready soybean.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Estimating N Losses in Wet Soils

Greg Schwab and Lloyd Murdock

Wet soils cause nitrogen losses. In cases where high intensity rain results in high runoff, leaching losses will probably be low. The primary nitrogen loss mechanism in saturated soils is denitrification, which occurs when soil nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) is converted to nitrogen gas by soil bacteria. Two to three days of soil saturation is required for bacteria to begin the denitrification process.

Well-drained upland soils that have been wet from a series of rains probably have not experienced much denitrification. Soils in lower landscape positions that stay saturated longer will likely lose more N. Losses can be calculated by estimating 3 to 4 percent loss of fertilizer NO3-N for each day of saturation. Use the Table below to determine how much fertilizer NO3-N was in the soil.

EXAMPLE: Determining the Amount of N Loss
A farmer applied 175 lb nitrogen (N)/A as urea to corn grown on poorly drained soil. Three weeks after application the field became saturated for seven days. How much N was lost?

Step 1. Determine the amount of applied N that was in the nitrate (NO3‐N) form.
According to the table, 50% of the urea will be in the NO3‐N form three weeks after application. 175 lb N x 50% = 88 lb N.

Step 2. Determine the amount of N lost.
Remember that two days are needed for the bacteria to begin the denitrification process. Therefore, denitrification occurred for five days (seven days total saturation minus two days to start the process). With 4% lost each day for five days, 20% would have been lost. 88 lb N x 20% = 18 lb N lost and 157  lb N remaining. The N loss calculated in this example is not as high as most people would assume. A soil N test can verify this estimation.

Nitrogen Soil Test
An additional tool for determining NO3‐N in the soil after flooding is a NO3‐N test. The soil sample should be taken down to 12 inches deep, and several samples should be taken in each field of both the low and higher ground. The samples should be mixed well and a subsample sent for nitrate analysis.

If the nitrate‐N is less than 11 ppm, there is a low amount of plant‐available N in the soil. Therefore, there is a good chance corn will respond to a sidedress application of N ranging from 100 to 150 lbs N/acre.

If the nitrate‐N is between 11 and 25 ppm, there is a greater amount of plant‐available N in the soil, indicating corn may or may not respond to sidedress N. The recommended sidedress N application at this soil test level is 0 to 100 lbs N/acre. If the soil test nitrate‐N is close to 11 ppm, then higher sidedress N rates would be used. Lower rates would be used as nitrate‐N approaches 25 ppm. The test is least accurate in this range, so the test results can only be used as a broad guide.

If soil test nitrate‐N is greater than 25 ppm, there is adequate plant‐available N in the soil, which indicates corn will probably not respond to sidedress N application.

Nitrogen Broadcast Prior to Rain
Farmers sometimes broadcast fertilizer nitrogen on a field within 24 hours of a heavy rain. In most cases, very little nitrogen is lost to runoff, especially if the field was under no‐till soil management. The nitrogen fertilizer begins to dissolve almost immediately after being applied to the soil surface and will dissolve completely in a short period of time. As rain begins, the first water that falls moves into the soil, taking most of the fertilizer nitrogen with it. Once in the soil, most of the fertilizer nitrogen is protected from runoff. The only exception is a very intense rain soon after application that also erodes topsoil from sloping areas. Even in this situation, the loss would probably be less than one third of the fertilizer applied.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Flood Damage to Corn

The heavy rainfalls over the past weekend has many fields under water. According to the latest USDA Crop Progress & Condition report, about 80% of the corn crop in Kentucky is planted and almost 60% is emerged.

Two resources on assessing damaged corn include AGR-193: Assessing Flood Damage to Corn and AGR-195: Replanting Options for Corn.

The impact of flooding on corn depends on the depth of flooding, the soil temperature and the duration of flooding. When soil temperatures are 70 degrees F or higher, corn can withstand complete submersion for about 24 hours. Higher soil temperatures reduce that time. Corn that is not fully submerged can withstand longer periods of standing water. 

While you may want to walk through a field (or in some cases, take a boat through a field), assessment of corn can not occur until two or three days after the water has subsided. Plants will most likely look yellow, but if the growing point is white and turgid, the plants are alive. 

Nitrogen losses occur with submerged fields and they type of nitrogen and the duration of flooding affects how much N is lost. 

While losing corn and nitrogen are very frustrating, they don't compare to the loss of lives from this flooding. We hope that you and yours are staying safe. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grain Market Update

Over the past few weeks, new crop corn and soybean prices have shown some gains. December 2010 corn is trading in the $3.75 to $3.95 per bushel range and November 2010 soybeans are trading in the $9.20 to $9.60 per bushel range. Price movements have been a function of outside price pressure stemming from both the financial industry and energy market. Now that we are entering the growing season, market prices will begin to be a function of crop size.
Producers throughout the corn belt are making significant strides in planting this year’s corn crop. From the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Prospective Plantings report, corn producer’s plan on an additional 3% more acreage over last year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reports through the week of April 18th that 19 % of the corn crop has been planted. This is significantly higher than the previous week where only 3% of the corn crop had been planted. When compared to a year ago, only 5% had been planted. Producers are well ahead on corn planting and look to continue to make significant strides over the next few weeks.
The USDA will release their supply and use estimates for 2009/2010 on May 11th. This report will include the first projections of supply and use for the 2010/2011. For the current crop year, 2009/2010 corn ending stocks were increased 100 million bushels from March to April. This increase was driven by a 100 million bushel decrease in feed and residual. Corn ending stocks continue to slowly increase and are projected at 226 million bushels over 2008/2009 crop year.
On the soybean side, plantings have not yet started. The USDA planting intentions report indicates less than 1% more acreage than last year. Soybean supply and use estimates for 2009/2010 were not changed between the March and April report. Ending stocks are about 75% of their ten year average and have been increasing since 2008. However, foreign ending stocks were increased by a little over 4% from the March report.
For wheat, crop condition is rated at 69% good to excellent. This is well above last year at this time where 43% was rated at good to excellent. Fundamentally, wheat is very bearish due to the very large carry over ( around 950 million bushels, up 46% from last year) . This can be seen in the level of the carry offered in the CMEGroup wheat contract. A storage hedge from the July contract to the December would return $0.44 per bushel. Going from July to March of 2011 would return $0.71 per bushel. To determine net cost, one would take the benefit less interest on money, shrinkage, in-out costs, and any other costs associated with storage.
As we move through the planting season and into the growing season, expect prices to continue to be influenced by growing conditions and economic events. Price volatility makes it difficult to determine when one should be making sales. I recommend a pricing plan that includes, but is not limited to, knowing what your break-even price is, making harvest sales in small percentages when prices rise above the break-even, monitoring basis to take advantage of favorable moves, and leaving around 30% of expected production to be priced during the primary growing season, around July. (Cory Walters, email:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ACRE Program Could Pay Big for Kentucky Wheat Farmers in 2009

Contact: Cory Walters, 859-257-2996
Greg Halich, 859-257-8841

LEXINGTON , Ky., (April 7, 2010) – Kentucky wheat growers who signed up for the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s optional Average Crop Revenue Election Program , or ACRE, will likely see big payments this year, said Cory Walters and Greg Halich, agricultural economists in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.
“In Kentucky, a perfect storm hit the 2009 wheat crop,” Walters said. “State yields were below average, and the national average marketing price is significantly below the commodity guarantee. For both corn and soybeans, Kentucky yields were well above average and marketing year prices were not far from their respective program guarantees. Therefore, right now it looks like no payments for corn or soybeans will be made.”
The economists were able to estimate ACRE payments for this year by using USDA estimates of the state yield and marketing year average prices. Projected Kentucky ACRE payments are $95 per acre for wheat. These projected payments are estimates, and final payments will likely change based on final marketing year prices once the marketing year ends on Aug. 31.
ACRE is a risk protection program added under the 2008 Farm Bill. Unlike the traditional farm support programs that offer direct payments, counter-cyclical payments and marketing assistance loans if a price of a particular crop falls below a certain level, ACRE pays if crop revenue falls below a revenue guarantee. Revenue includes price and yields.
ACRE payments are determined by taking the state revenue guarantee and subtracting the product of state average yield and the national average marketing price. When this value is positive, a potential payment is available, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee payment for every producer in the state. Individual growers must show that their 2009 farm revenue, which is their actual yield multiplied by the national average price, was less than their farm revenue benchmark, which is calculated by their yields from the past five years, minus highest and lowest yielding years, multiplied by the previous two years’ national average marketing prices plus crop insurance premium. Crop insurance payments do not count against ACRE.
Producers eligible for ACRE include those who grow corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, barley, rice, upland cotton, oats, peanuts, pulse crops and other oilseeds. Those who enroll in ACRE forgo any counter-cyclical program payments, forfeit 20 percent of direct payments and have loan rates reduced by 30 percent.
“On average, the 20 percent reduction in direct payments costs Kentucky producers $5 per base acre for corn, $2 per base acre for soybeans and $4 per base acre for wheat,” Halich said. “Also, producers using Commodity Credit Corporation loans will have to put up more bushels to get the same amount of money under ACRE, since loan rates are reduced by 30 percent.”
Since it is based on revenue, price protection with ACRE currently is significantly higher than that found in the counter-cyclical program. ACRE payments for 2009 would be triggered if corn falls below $3.72 a bushel, soybeans drop below $9.04 a bushel, and wheat falls below $5.97 a bushel by the end of the marketing year. In the counter-cyclical program, payments would occur if prices fall below $2.35 a bushel for corn, $5.36 for soybeans and $3.40 for wheat.
The implied ACRE floor price can only go up or down by 10 percent each year. So it would take five consecutive years of significantly reduced revenue, with each year worse than the previous year, for the ACRE price floor to reach the counter-cyclical level for corn, soybeans and wheat.
“Thus, the price protections for ACRE are clearly better then the counter-cyclical program, even in the worst-case scenario, for the next five years,” Halich said.
The deadline to enroll into the ACRE program for the 2010-2011 crop year is June 1. To help producers understand and decide if they should sign up for the ACRE program, Halich and Walters will conduct workshops in late April and May at various locations across the state. In addition to describing ACRE, they will also show how the program works in conjunction with crop insurance. For more information on ACRE or the upcoming workshops, contact the local office of the UK Cooperative Extension Service.

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Editor: Katie Pratt, 859-257-8774
UK College of Agriculture, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Corn Seeding Rates

Choosing the proper population on corn will help you maximize yields and protect your bottom line. Our old recommendation was to plant a maximum of 30,000 seeds/acre on better soils. We will increase that recommendation to about 33,000 seeds/acre for better soils. But, as our own data shows, picking the ideal seeding rate can be a bit of challenge. Available water has a huge impact on the ideal seeding rate.

In 2008, a year that was very dry, the ideal population for corn was less than 20,000 seeds/acre, well below our current recommendations. Our yields barely reached 120 bu/acre and we felt really stupid about growing corn. In 2009, a year with timely rains, the ideal population for corn was at least 45,000 seeds/acre, well above our recommendations. Our yields rose above 300 bu/acre and we felt really smart. However, the only major difference between the two years was the amount and timeliness of rain. In both years, we used the same four hybrids, the same soil type and the same fertility. (If I told you that we got 300 bu/acre of corn with 160 lbs N/acre, no one would believe me. So, I'm not going to say it.) When you "average" the two years together, yield was maximized at about 35,000 seeds/acre. Both of these years were extremes and we rarely advise farmers to make decisions based on the extremes.

Even more evidence about the influence of water on seeding rate comes from a study we conducted in 2007 at the Woodford County Farm. The rainfed corn reached a maximum yield at about 30,000 seeds/acre where the irrigated corn reached maximum yields above 40,000 seeds/acre (Figure 2). The irrigated corn received water at rates that were probably too high for most traditional sprinkler irrigation units to deliver. Five years of research on a Maury silt loam suggests that maximum yields are reached at about 30,000 to 33,000 seeds/acre (data not shown).

So, if water is not limiting, then much higher seeding rates may be suitable. However, most years in Kentucky, water is our limiting yield factor. Our soils are relatively shallow and can hold just a few inches of water at a time. Almost every year, we go through a period of two to three weeks with no water and high temperatures during seed fill. It is this period that probably does more to limit yields than most other factors each year.

As we see more and more center pivots come into Kentucky, I think we need to do some more investigation in this area. Again, the center pivots will not irrigate as well as our small-plot system. But, these center pivots can help farmers avoid extremely dry weather. If farmers have an interest in running some strips as high as 40,000 seeds/acre, I would be interested in talking with them.

For the vast majority of acres without irrigation, a maximum seeding rate of 33,000 seeds/acre on better soils does a good job of avoiding the extremes.

Figure 1. Yield response of four hybrids on a Loradale silt loam soil, Lexington, KY.

Figure 2. Seeding rate study on a Maury silt loam, Woodford County, KY, 2007.