Wheat faces winter challenges

The downpours from Hurricane Isaac and subsequent rains in the Midwest brought green back to the land and put hope in the minds of wheat planters. We had no acreage statistics at the time of this writing, but the crop bears watching. We’re not out of the drought yet. A bulletin from the University of Missouri reminds us that wheat will face challenges over the winter:

Unfortunately, crop roots will not extend into dry soil, so rooting depth may be shallow. A shallow root system means that wheat plants will be highly affected by fluctuating dry and wet periods. Most of the tillers necessary for high yield are initiated during the fall. Roots need to supply enough water to the plant for the plant to remain healthy and capable of producing tillers. A shallow root system combined with intermittent dry periods may reduce tiller numbers.

Wheat plants also need to acclimate during cool fall weather, so that they can survive winter temperatures. Young wheat seedlings can be harmed by temperatures slightly less than 32°F, but acclimated plants can survive temperatures as cold as 0°F. Plants suffering from even minor drought stress may not be able to prepare for winter, increasing the likelihood of winter kill.

Given a general lack of forage base in the region, close evaluation of early-spring wheat will determine the path between forage and grain crop.

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Quickly up, slowly down

Land brought into production by high prices tends to stay in production

For a row cropper, the sad tale of a drought is high grain prices without much grain to sell. That’s the short term reality. But, University of Tennessee economists Daryll Ray and Harwood Schaffer remind us that high prices tend to take care of themselves in the long term. Short crops send price signals to the market to increase production. Economics 101 tells us that the increase in supply dampens price down the road. Throw in a major drought and price signals get all the louder.

“It is another thing altogether if the high-price spike is amplified by a one-year weather aberration. The planted corn acreage this year was large enough to send prices downward before the rains shut off at the beginning of summer while the increase in the price of corn did nothing to increase rainfall.

“However, the price increase did send a signal to farmers around the world who want to cash in on today’s lucrative corn and soybean prices. To a person, they are hoping that they can get a crop in the bin while the prices remain high.

“…Recent news stories out of South America suggest that the scenario we just discussed is anything but theoretical. With the timely arrival of late winter rains in Brazil, the 2012-13 soybean crop could allow farmers there to eclipse the U.S. as the world’s largest soybean producer.”

With everyone after the grain-price prize, world expanded acreage might just bring relief to beleaguered livestock producers who have been operating with equity-bleeding input costs—and for some time.

Ray and Schaffer point out that acreage in cropland tends to stay that way.
“While high prices can bring fairly rapid increases in acreage, those acres wring out exceedingly slowly when prices fall, even to prices well below the full cost of production.”

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MFA's Jason Paris elected president of Mid America CropLife Association

altMFA Incorporated’s manager of crop protection-northern markets, Jason Paris, was recently elected president of the Mid America CropLife Association. The Mid America CropLife Association is a non-profit association of manufacturers, distributors/formulators and allied industry of crop protection products in 13 Midwestern states. The association works to inform its members about on-going issues in the industry to improve the crop life cycle through education on the latest crop protection technology, public policy and health and safety. MACA also engages in public education through its well-known CropLife Ambassador Network, which matches agriculture professionals with fourth- through sixth-grade classrooms throughout the Midwest.

Learn more about the Mid America CropLife Association.

Learn more about The CropLife Ambassador Network here, and on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

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