Signals in the ag economy

Written by TF Staff on .

According to the Kansas City Federal Reserve, trends in non-real estate lending activity at commercial banks have been driven by changes in the short term financing needs associated with agricultural production. The share of non-real estate loans for operating expenses gradually has drifted higher since the 1990s, but especially over the past five years. In the first two quarters of 2016, operating expenses accounted for 62 percent of total non-real estate loan volumes, according to the KC Feds survey of ag lenders.

Since the survey began in 1978, operating expenses as a share of the total have eclipsed 60 percent in the first half of the year just once (2009) before 2015, but have remained above 60 percent each of the past two years. The gradual increase over the past five years highlights the persistently weak cash flow that has driven demand for agricultural credit.

Meanwhile, the same conditions that have pushed operating higher have generally softened the ag economy, including land values. The value of nonirrigated, good-quality cropland declined modestly in almost all states in the western Corn Belt, which includes just the northwest of Missouri. However, major corn-producing states, including the rest of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana, also posted modest declines in the first quarter of 2016.

Water quality and corn

Written by TF Staff on .

Water quality in areas of intensive farming has been carefully studied in Iowa. In the past few years as corn acres increased, water quality models predicted that nitrate levels in field runoff would increase, too. However, that hasn’t been the case. Research results from the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation show that nitrate discharges have decreased even as corn acres increased.

Data from more than 7,000 water samples collected over 15 years in the Raccoon River watershed of Central Iowa matched with fertilizer application data from 700 fields in the watershed led researchers to believe that nitrate levels are less dependent on corn production acres than previously thought.

According to the IIHR, as more acres were planted in corn (and fewer in soybeans), fertilizer application increased some 24 percent in the watershed. Interestingly, river nitrate did not increase and may have even decreased slightly at most watershed locations.

“One might conclude from these data that fertilizer use efficiency improved,” said IHRR research Chris Jones. “But we believe that was not the case. The amount of nitrogen leaving the watershed in the harvested grain actually declined a little bit during our study.”

Jones added that plant biology and chemical reactions in the soil are probably at play.

Nitrate-nitrogen can accumulate and be immobilized in the soil under corn. On the other hand, dead and decomposing soybean plants can increase the amount of nitrate in the soil vulnerable to loss (more so than cornstalks), especially if accompanied by fall tillage. Also, there is evidence that tile discharge may increase under soybean fields as a result of reduced plant evapotranspiration compared to corn. Therefore, because tile nitrate concentrations are similar under both corn and soybeans, more tile flow under soybeans can mean more nitrate delivered to streams. As a result, Jones says he and his colleagues believe that declining soybean acres may have reduced the cropped areas most vulnerable to nitrate loss, more than compensating for the increased fertilizer inputs on corn acreage.

Further research by IIHR scientists shows that Raccoon River nitrate is dependent upon the previous year’s soybean area.

“Understanding this process could prove important as we try to reduce the loss of nutrients to Iowa streams as part of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” Jones says. “We know we can’t just focus on fertilization of corn. We need a systems approach to improve water quality. It also demonstrates the power of monitoring water quality. Without this data, we could easily have missed this important and counterintuitive conclusion.”

Letter to the Editor: Forever 4-H

Written by TF Staff on .

The May 2016 issue of Today’s Farmer really hit a lot of memories for me through the story about 4-H and Riley Tade. 4-H is the greatest youth training organization going, and it is great to know it is alive and going strong.

I first joined 4-H in 1934 with a grade Shorthorn heifer. In 1935 I had a roan Shorthorn that took me to the Minnesota State Fair—only to learn that I couldn’t show her. It turned out she needed to be registered. She wasn’t.

In 1936, I showed a registered Chester White gilt and for 1937, I wanted to raise a ton litter of fat pigs, but she only had five piglets, so it was impossible to get them to 2,000 pounds by fair time.

The records I kept took me to Farm Boy’s Camp at the Minnesota State fair in 1938. We did the ushering in the grandstand at the fair. In 1939, I was a Junior Leader for the Bruno, Minn. 4-H. Then, in 1942, I was a Junior Leader in Miami County, Ohio before I left for the army.

I was in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946 serving in the South Pacific.

After the army, I went to Colorado and was the 4-H club leader in Weld County from 1959 to 1971.

In all, I experienced more than 20 years of activity in 4-H. To me, it’s the greatest youth training available. When you read of young men like Corbin Bell or like Creighton Sapp helping a competitor such as Riley Tade, that is what a true education for real life is all about. God bless 4-H and all who make it possible.

Blair F. Karges, Ava, Mo.

USDA crops forecast

Written by stevefairchild on .

Markets see a lump coming at harvest.

  • Corn Production Up 11 Percent from 2015
  • Soybean Production Up 3 Percent from 2015
  • Cotton Production Up 23 Percent from 2015
  • Winter Wheat Production Up 2 Percent from July Forecast

Straight from USDA's release: 

Both U.S. corn and soybean growers are expected to harvest record-high crops this year, according to the Crop Production report issued today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). U.S. corn production is forecast at 15.2 billion bushels, while soybean growers are expected to harvest 4.06 billion bushels in 2016.

Aided by excellent field conditions, corn growers are expected to increase their production by 11 percent from the 2015 harvest. Average corn yield is forecast at 175.1 bushels per acre, setting a new record-high. NASS forecasts record-high yields in 10 of the largest corn-producing states, including Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska. Acres planted to corn, at 94.1 million, remain unchanged from the NASS’ previous estimate. As of July 31, crop progress report showed 76 percent of this year’s corn crop was rated in good or excellent condition.

U.S. soybean growers also took advantage of the favorable weather conditions and are forecast to increase their production by 3 percent from 2015. Soybean yields are expected to average 48.9 bushels per acre, reaching another record-high mark. Just as with corn, the acres planted to soybeans remain unchanged from the June estimate. Record soybean yields are expected in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Growers are forecast to harvest 83.0 million acres of soybeans this year.

Wheat production is forecast at 2.32 billion bushels, up 13 percent from 2015. The increase is especially due primarily to winter wheat. Growers are expected to harvest 1.66 billion bushels of winter wheat this year, up 21 percent from 2015. Durum wheat production is forecast at 91.7 million bushels, up 11 percent from last year. All other spring wheat production is forecast at 571 million bushels, down 5 percent from 2015. Based on August 1 conditions, the U.S. all wheat yield is forecast at 52.6 bushels per acre, up 9 bushels from last year. Yields for winter wheat, Durum, and other spring wheat, are all forecast to set record-high yields at 54.9 bushels per acre, 44.1 bushels per acre, and 48.3 bushels per acre, respectively.

Today’s report also included the first production forecast for U.S. cotton. NASS forecasts all cotton production at 15.9 million 480-pound bales, up 23 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average 800 pounds per harvested acre, up 34 pounds from last year.

NASS interviewed more than 22,000 producers across the country in preparation for this report. The agency also conducted field and lab measurements on corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton in the major producing states, which usually account for about 75 percent of the U.S. production. NASS is also gearing up to conduct its September Agricultural Survey, which will focus on wheat, barley, oats and rye growers. That survey will take place during the first two weeks of September.

The Crop Production report is published monthly and is available online at


MFA Crop-Trak finds probable extended-diapause northern corn rootworm

Written by stevefairchild on .

MFA’s Crop-Trak consultants have been finding an alarming number of northern corn rootworm beetles in northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa. Kevin Moore with MFA’s Crop-Trak first noticed high numbers of adult northern corn rootworm in a cornfield rotated from soybean near Fairfax July 18. Since then large populations of NCRW beetles have been discovered in multiple fields in Atchison, Nodaway, Holt, and Worth counties in Missouri as well as Page County, Iowa. The presence of a small amount of rootworm beetles moving from corn-on-corn fields into later planted rotated cornfields is not uncommon because rootworm beetles feed on corn pollen and will seek out a food source. The alarm comes from the fact that so many beetles are being found in areas where acres are dominated by corn/soybean rotations.

Rootworm species of economic importance include the northern corn rootworm first discovered in 1824 in the north central US and the western corn rootworm first discovered in Kansas in 1868. In North America, corn rootworms are the most devastating insect pest to corn. Agronomists estimate that before the development and release of Bt corn traits to control corn rootworm larvae in 2003, 50 million acres were infested accounting for over $1 billion in lost revenue. Before the adoption of Bt corn traits, the USDA estimated growers spent an estimated $200 million in control measures and suffered $800 million in lost yield. Yield loss and standability issues are a result of diminished root systems when rootworm larvae feeding is severe enough. Missouri growers have seen a much less significant loss from rootworm. While Missouri has populations of both northern and western corn rootworm, both species, typically lay eggs in cornfields with the eggs hatching the following season. This makes corn-on-corn fields vulnerable to larvae feeding on corn roots. However, when fields are rotated to soybean, the hatched larvae starve without a host such as corn. Most of Missouri’s corn is grown in a corn/soybean or corn/soybean/wheat rotation.

In other areas of the Midwest, rootworm populations have adapted to crop rotation control measures. A soybean variant of western corn rootworm was discovered in Illinois in 1995. The western soybean variant seeks out soybean fields to lay its eggs, which makes crop rotation an ineffective method of control. Northern corn rootworm populations have also adapted to crop rotation by developing populations with an extended diapause. Extended-diapause rootworm beetles still lay eggs in cornfields, but the eggs can wait two seasons or more to hatch—allowing the larval pest to find corn roots to feed upon.

With high levels of northern corn rootworm beetles being documented in areas of northwest Missouri and southwest Iowa where corn on corn rotations are somewhat rare, the likelihood of extended diapause northern corn rootworm finally reaching Missouri is high. To confirm that beetles are emerging from rotated cornfields and not migrating into the fields, Crop-Trak consultants have searched for and found evidence of larval root feeding in rotated corn. Larvae and adults were also discovered by the float method in which corn roots are submerged in water causing underground larvae, pupae, or adults to float to the surface. Further confirmation of extended-diapause rootworm in Missouri is still needed. MFA’s Crop-Trak is working with the USDA, Kansas State University and the University of Minnesota for the necessary laboratory and field-testing needed to verify the cause of increased northern corn rootworm populations.

The possibility of extended-diapause northern corn rootworms in Missouri will greatly impact growers in Missouri. The two most effective methods of rootworm control, if crop rotation is not effective, is the use of Bt-rootworm hybrid traits such as SmartStax from Monsanto or Syngenta’s Duracade; or soil applied granular insecticides such as Aztec or Force. MFA highly encourages growers to engage with their MFA location or Crop-Trak consultant to assess their rootworm threat level and to discuss Integrated Pest Management strategies.



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