ILLINOIS Extension Agronomist Emerson Nafziger discusses the August 10 wind storm and the potential impact on corn yield.
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by Todd Hubbs, ILLINOIS Extension
The Acreage and Grain Stocks reports, released on June 30, produced some surprises for the corn market. The drop in acreage spurred a rally in corn prices and injected some optimism into the corn outlook moving into the 2020 marketing year. The market turns to weather forecasts and the upcoming WASDE report for price formation over the short term.
Corn producers reported they planted or intended to plant 92.01 million acres of corn this year, 2.31 million more than planted in 2019. Corn planted acres came in 3.2 million acres lower than the average trade guess and 4.98 million acres smaller than March planting intentions. Compared to March planting intentions in major producing states, the June survey revealed lower corn acres in all states. In particular, the western Corn Belt saw substantial acreage reductions with North Dakota (800,000 acres), South Dakota (600,000), and Nebraska (700,000) leading the way. The eastern Corn Belt saw one million acres of corn dropped from March intentions with Illinois and Indiana at 400 thousand acres each. The five million acres drop in corn acres did not move into other principal crops and hints at expanded prevent plant acreage for corn this year.
Producer intentions to plant principal crop acreage show a 9.3 million acre increase from 2019. The USDA estimates that acreage planted to principal crops will total 311.9 million acres. The planned increase in total planted acreage from a year ago came from increases in feed grains and soybeans. Sorghum acreage came in 355,000 acres higher than a year ago at 5.62 million acres. Barley and oats increased by 76,000 and 324,000 acres, respectively. Soybean planting intentions indicated farmers plan to plant 83.8 million acres of soybeans, up 7.7 million acres from 2019. The soybean acreage came in at the low end of market expectations. An additional 2.24 million acres of corn remain unplanted at the time of the survey and brings into question whether those acres may end up in alternative crops or unplanted. The surprise in corn planted acreage led to a strong rally in corn prices. The market’s focus now turns to demand and weather.
While the Acreage report revealed a positive surprise for corn prices, the June 1 stocks report came in much higher than expected. June 1 corn stocks came in at 5.224 billion bushels, slightly higher than last year and about 273 million bushels larger than the average trade guess. The higher than expected stocks total revealed a lower level of feed use in the third quarter of the marketing year. Feed and residual use during the first three quarters of the marketing year sits at 4.729 billion bushels. To reach the projected 5.7 billion bushels of corn, the USDA projects for feed and residual during this marketing year, feed and residual use in the fourth quarter must equal 971 million bushels. Fourth quarter feed and residual use has not equaled that level since the 2005–06 marketing year. Based on current stocks estimate, it appears feed and residual use this year may not reach the projection of 5.7 billion bushels and may see the USDA lower the estimate in the next WASDE report on July 10.
A lower feed and residual amount points toward a larger carry out into the next marketing year. The potential for the current marketing year ending stocks eclipsing 2.2 billion bushels, while not sure, looks high. Ethanol production continues to recover from the weakness seen in April and May. Corn use for ethanol in the third quarter totaled 955 million bushels, down 387 million bushels from the third quarter of the last marketing year. For the week ending June 26, ethanol production came in at 900 thousand barrels a day, up almost 18 percent from a month ago. The recent uptick in Covid–19 cases and subsequent policies enacted around the country to fight the spread insert a considerable level of uncertainty into ethanol use projections. Corn use for ethanol may flatten out as the virus’s resurgence mitigates economic activity during the peak driving season and may carry over into the next marketing year. An expectation of USDA lowering corn use for ethanol by 50 million bushels in the next WASDE report seems reasonable.
Corn exports appear on track to hit the USDA estimate of 1.775 billion bushels for the current marketing year. Outstanding sales as of June 25 sit at 332 million bushels. Exports through June 25 for the marketing year total near 1.38 billion bushels. While the export pace sits slightly below the USDA estimate, some light Chinese buying and strong domestic prices in Brazil hold positives for corn exports. Higher corn prices and the potential for slow global growth may prevent an acceleration of exports as the calendar moves into the next marketing year.
A higher carry out, despite lower acreage, places an added emphasis on yield potential. Some dryness in major corn-producing areas looks feasible over the near term. The recent drought monitor showed areas in North Dakota, Illinois, and Indiana poised to come under stress if dryness continues. The overall impact on the crop is challenging to predict now. An extended dry period as the early-planted crop moves into pollination will push corn yields lower. The projection for harvested corn acres sits at 84 million acres, 2.7 million more than harvested in 2019. If USDA’s yield projection of 178.5 comes to fruition, corn production comes in near 15.0 billion bushels with the present acreage intentions, up around 1.37 billion bushels from 2019.
Corn prices already reflect lower acreage and weaker demand. Subsequent rallies in corn prices rely on the weather. The prospect of the market building a weather premium seems high over the next week given the current weather forecast.
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Ryan Sirolli, Global Row Crop Sustainability Director - Cargill
Companies along the food and fiber supply chain are thinking through how to incentivize clean water and conservation practices while providing for consumers’ wants and demands.
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The farmdoc team at the University of Illinois has created a model projecting the average fall price for corn and soybean futures in October. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey says, at USDA’s current projected yields, it puts December corn futures at $3.10 and November Soybean futures at $8.36.
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University of Illinois ag policy specialist Jonathan Coppess and ILLINOIS Extension Farm Broadcaster Todd Gleason discuss the USDA CFAP coronavirus direct payment announcement.
CFAP payments for corn and soybeans max out at 1/2 of total production and are subject to other payment limitations. The calculation compares 1/2-of-total-production to 100% of total-unpriced-inventory on January 15th. The smaller of those two numbers is multiplied by the payment rate to attain the full CFAP payment. FSA will provide a spreadsheet for the calculation and other related paperwork starting May 26, 2020.
$0.33.5 for corn
$0.47.5 for soybeans
CFAP funds will be distributed in two checks. The first will be 80% of the full amount. The second will be up-to-the remaining 20% depending on available funding. It could be prorated to a smaller amount.
This payment rate schedule was developed by University of Illinois Ag Economist Gary Schnitkey. The payment schedule is not Illinois specific or an all-inclusive commodities list. See farmers.gov for USDA CFAP details.
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This University of Illinois cover crop research is funded in part by Illinois NREC. The Nutrient Research Education Council was created by state statute in 2012 and funded by a 75-cent per ton assessment on bulk fertilizer.
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That eight billion is a decline of nine percent across the nation and ILLINOIS Extension Ag Economist Gary Schnitkey says it does not include losses that have already piled up for corn and soybeans still in the bin from last year, "If you look at the 2019 crop, obviously there are losses on the 2019 crop from the sales value, we were looking forward at the 2020 crop and getting a feel for the losses on the 2020 crop."
That loss Gary Schnitkey is talking about is the difference between what farmers were expecting to make pre-COVID–19 and what they are likely to make post-COVID–19 on the 2020 corn and soybean harvest, "So we took the futures prices on that date to reflect what harvest prices would look like, projected forward the market-year-average based on that harvest price, and came up with estimates of losses given those futures prices today (May 5, 2020). We kept the trend-line yields the same, so the calculations would only show the (COVID–19) price decline as what’s happened to revenue."
The farmdoc Daily article shows these projected lost revenues by crop, but notes that, conceptually, this does not work in practice because commodity programs make payments on base acres combined not actual planted acres. Still, it provides an important guidepost. The per acre revenue difference for corn from February to May is $107 per acre. Again these are national averages and do not include any government payments. For soybeans, it is $36 per acre.
Combined the total nationwide loss from February to May is about $12 billion for the 2020 corn and soybean growing season. A projected PLC payment for corn covers about one-third of that loss says one of the articles co-authors, Ohio State University Ag Economist emeritus Carl Zulauf, "The eight-billion-dollar estimate in the article is after we’ve taken out our estimate of the PLC payment. The PLC payment right now is only for corn at the average. We do two estimates. One for a low price and one for an average price relationship. But the PLC payment at the average price relationship is covering about one-third of the total cost. So, in other words, it is around twelve-billion, but if you net it out you get to the eight-billion-dollars."
The eight-billion-dollar loss uses a basis calculation related directly to crop insurance. Stay with me here. It is the Market-Year-Average Cash Price minus the Crop Insurance Harvest Price. That’s 8 under for corn and 2 under for soybeans. If you use a wider basis under a low price scenario, say where there is a burdensome ending stocks number, those are 28 under for corn and 43 under for soybeans. In that case revenue loss is over $10 billion.
You may read the article summarizing the impact of COVID–19 on a corn and soybean farm on the farmDOC daily website.
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link to farmdoc Daily article
Wide-spread concern exists over the large decline in US share of world corn, soybean, and wheat exports (see Figure 1). Moreover, quantity of corn and wheat exports have never consistently exceeded their early 1980 levels (see Figure 2). Tariff wars have heightened the concern. Long term impact of the tariff wars is a concern, but this article argues that graphs such as Figures 1 and 2 exaggerate the decline in US agriculture’s international standing and mask key relationships that frame private and public decisions. Data cited in this article come from PSD (Production, Supply, and Demand website).
Reasons for Exaggeration Growth in domestic US use is ignored. US consumption of meat, livestock products, and especially biofuels has grown, displacing exports, everything else remaining the same. Zulauf estimates US corn exports are 1.4 billion bushels smaller than if US corn market trends of 1984–2004 had continued to hold (farmdoc daily, 11/20/2019).
US policy changes are ignored. In particular, CRP (Conservation Reserve Program, which was authorized in 1985, pays for taking environmentally sensitive cropland out of production. Fewer cropped acres mean prices are higher than they would otherwise be. Higher prices reduce demand for exports more than domestic demand, resulting in fewer exports or slower growth in exports.
Broader markets in which a crop exists are ignored. Corn is a feed grain, soybean is an oilseed, and wheat is a food grain. Corn and soybeans are preferred among these crops around the world. However, their share of harvested feed grain-food grain-oilseed acres has increased more in the US (from 50% in 1972–1976 to 71% in 2015–2019 vs. 15% to 29% for rest of the world). Faster growth in preferred crops imparts an advantage to the US.
A more encompassing and likely more accurate measure of US agriculture’s international role is its share of aggregate world feed grain-food grain-oilseed production.
US share of world feed grain-food grain-oilseed production has declined, but by much less: from 19.3% in 1972–1976 to 16.2% in 2015–2019 (see Figure 3 and Data Note). This conclusion also holds for relative share decline. Relative decline in US share of world corn exports is –52%. It is calculated as percent change in 2015–2019 share from the 1972–1976 share, specifically [1 – (34.9% / 72.8%)] (percent values from Figure 1). Relative decline in US export share is –62% for soybeans and –69% for wheat. In contrast, relative decline in US share of world feed grain-food grain-oilseed production is only –16% (1 – (16.2% / 19.3%).
Because magnitude of a share matters, it is important to examine a share over its range of values (0% to 100%), as Figure 3 does. But, such a graph can mask important smaller, shorter-run changes. Figure 4, a smaller magnitude picture, clearly reveals 2 periods of decline. The first peak-to-trough is from 1982 (20.9%) to 1991 (16.3%). It closely follows the 1973–1980 crop prosperity period. The second peak-to-trough is from 2007 (17.6%) to 2015 (15.9%). It largely overlaps the 2007–2013 crop prosperity period. However, declines in 2018 and 2019 beg a question, “Have the tariff wars undone a possible stabilization in US share following large price declines since 2012?” Between the two declines, US share partially recovered, likely due in part to the large reduction in US prices due to policy changes enacted in the 1985 farm bill.
Role of US Acres Since the early 1980s, all growth in cumulative US production of feed grains, food grains, and oilseeds has come from yield as harvested acres declined by 26 million (see Figure 5). Since 2000, harvested acres have essentially not changed in the US while increasing by 301 million in the rest of the world. The constraint on US acres reflects both bioclimatic factors and public policy. It seems unlikely to change in the near future. The constraint means, if US domestic consumption grows faster than US yield, prices will increase, giving rest of the world an incentive to bring acres into production. This scenario played out as the US expanded its biofuel markets since 2000.
A widely-expressed concern is the decline in US share of world corn, soybean, and wheat exports.
This decline however exaggerates the decline in US agriculture’s international standing. It also masks key relationships that frame private and public decisions.
A more accurate perspective is US share of world feed grain-food grain-oilseed production. This share has declined but by much less than US share of world corn, soybean, or wheat exports.
The decline occurred in two periods: 1982–1991 and 2007–2013. The second decline has, so far, been much less than the first. But, declines in 2018 and 2019 prompt the question, “Is the second decline resuming, especially in light of the tariff wars?”
A key feature of contemporary US agriculture is a constraint on cropped acres. Given this constraint, growing US demand faster than yield means most of the benefits accrue to the rest of the world as they bring more acres into production. Such has occurred since 2000 as the US expanded its biofuels markets.
The US cropland constraint prompts the following policy questions / issues. Given this constraint,
- What is the appropriate role and funding for export promotion programs?
- What should US biofuels policy be, in particular the size of mandated markets?
- What should be the size and goal of US conservation land retirement programs?
- What is the appropriate role and funding for public agricultural research?
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by Emerson Nafziger, ILLINOIS Extension Agronomist
March rainfall in Illinois ranged from normal to a couple of inches above normal, but the last week of March and first week of April have been relatively dry, and field operations are getting underway. The April 6 NASS report indicates that there were 3.1 days suitable for fieldwork in Illinois during the week ending on April 5, but no planting was recorded. As is often the case in early April, soils are wet over most of the state.
The 4-inch soil temperatures at 10 AM have been close to 50 degrees in southern Illinois, and over the past week they have increased from the low 40s to the mid–40s in central and northern Illinois. The forecast is for a return to cooler weather later this week, and possibly to wetter conditions as well. Such “yo-yoing” is normal for April, and it often brings up questions about what to do when the weather forecast is for conditions to deteriorate as planting approaches. Do we plant or do we wait?
There is no question that the ideal is for seed of both corn and soybean to be planted into soils that are relatively dry, and that are warm (and warming) enough to allow germination and emergence to get started quickly, and plants to grow steadily after emergence. The most recent example of the benefits of this was in 2018, when planting was delayed until May, then May weather was very warm, and the crops “never looked back” on their way to new yield records. In 2017, early corn planting was followed by a week of cool, wet weather, which led to a lot of replanting. The replanted crop often yielded more than the first crop, almost certainly because it had warmer conditions under which to germinate and begin to grow.
Having soils stay dry after early planting into cool soils is much better than having them turn wet: the germination process is very slow at low temperatures, so seeds will bide their time until soils warm up, and dry soils are a safer place to do that. If it turns wet, seeds will last longer in cool soils than in warm ones, both because low temperatures delay the germination process (and the demand for oxygen), and because colder water contains more oxygen than warmer water. Still, seeds that spend a week or more in wet soils at temperatures in the low 40s are subject to “imbibitional chilling injury” that can mean abnormal growth and poor emergence even if seeds survive. This is considered more of a problem in corn than in soybean, in part because more soybean seeds than corn seeds tend to die under such conditions and so don’t show those symptoms.
Now that we’ve passed the first week of April, plantings of this year’s corn or soybean crops from now on can’t be considered “very early”, but the message from some agronomists about the need to plant soybeans as early as March continues, and more producers are choosing to begin planting soybeans before they begin planting corn. With planting date responses for the two crops essentially identical on a percentage basis, which crop to start with is more or less a tossup. The deciding factor in that case should often be which fields are ready first. Fields where soybeans grew last year will often be in good shape to plant earlier than those where corn grew, and that may mean planting some corn first. It certainly makes little sense to plant soybeans when it’s too wet just to plant them earlier than corn.
I have mentioned before the possibility that soybeans planted very early—in March or early April—might occasionally yield less than those planted in late April or early May. I dug up some data from a study that we did back in 2001–2003 in which we started planting as soon as we could (without planting in mud) using different seeding rates and varieties with different maturities. Figure 1 shows yields from this study, with planting date averaged over sites. Yields were not as high as we’d expect today, but the earliest planting yielded the least of all the planting dates. This was not due to low stands, with the exception of the Urbana site in 2001, when it froze (temperatures in the upper 20s) just as the crop was emerging, and about half of the plants from the first planting date were killed. We had five sites in southern Illinois, where average yields were even lower, but the earliest planting there (average of April 15) yielded less than either the early May or late May planting.
Figure 1. Soybean planting date responses over nine trials in central/northern Illinois, 2001–2003.
While changes in seed quality, spring weather, and perhaps genetics have lowered the threat of such losses from very early planting, we can’t rule out the possibility that planting soybeans in March or early April may not always maximize yield. That’s not necessarily because of stand loss from frost or wet soils. Frost can typically kill soybean plants only in a one- or two-day window as the plants are breaking through the soil surface. Frost that occurs after the first two leaves unroll can kill the growing point, but then buds will break and form (usually two) new stems. Most low stands in soybeans follow heavy rainfall soon after planting, and chances of that happening are not closely tied to when the crop is planted. Instead, the evidence is that low temperature stress during early growth may limit node and seed number per plant, therefore limiting yield potential. The fact that the earliest planting in northern Illinois responded so much to seeding rate reflects the fact that these plants did not have as many seeds as those planted later.
One of the incentives to plant soybeans very early is that some seed companies provide free replant seed. I do not know if “free” includes the cost of seed treatments (for replant seed) that are commonly applied to soybean seed at the point of sale. Soybean seed meant for early planting is often treated with several plant protectants, including ILeVO® for decreasing the incidence of SDS. That disease is generally considered more likely to be a problem when soybeans are planted into cold soils.
The debate among agronomists regarding the merits of planting soybeans in March or early April—before the start of corn planting—is still alive, but focusing on “corn versus soybean” as if it’s a contest mostly misses the point. Both corn and soybean benefit from early planting most of the time, and both face similar risks when conditions deteriorate after we plant early. We shouldn’t decide when to start planting or which crop gets priority based on how “tough” each crop is or on trying to prove someone wrong. The goal instead is to minimize risk and to maximize yield potential. The 2019 growing season was such that that penalty from late planting was relatively less for soybeans than for corn. That doesn’t mean that corn should get first planting priority this year. Both crops should get priority, with actual planting order determined by factors such as logistics, how fast fields dry, and crop insurance.
Recent research on how both corn and soybeans respond to planting date in Illinois is summarized below in Figure 2. I’ve shown both lines on the same figure before, but here I’m including the actual data for both crops along with the curves in order to show how variability changes as planting is delayed. While we did not try to plant soybeans before mid-April in this study, note that hardly any of the April soybean plantings produced less than maximum yields in these trials. With mid-April plantings yielding the same as late-April plantings, it seems unlikely that yields from planting in March would have been higher than those from planting in April.
Figure 2. Corn and soybean planting date responses in Illinois trials. Each trial included four planting dates, and yields were converted to percent of the maximum yield in that trial.
Unlike soybean, the earliest planting dates for corn did not consistently produce the highest yields in the trials shown in Figure 2. This was not due to poor stands or frost damage, but was the result of growing conditions later in the season, and was more common when yields levels were lower. It’s difficult to untangle what happened in each of these, but in a few cases the early-planted crop experienced cool temperatures in May that might have lowered yield potential. The growing season was relatively dry in some of these sites as well, and small differences in rainfall timing could have favored the crop that was planted a little later. We added an additional planting date in mid-March in the very dry spring of 2012, and lost about half of the stand to frost during the second week of April.
Recent developments in automated depth and down-pressure controls on planters have brought new attention to the issues of planting depth and seed placement. While research done over a few sites often identifies a “best” depth, such results don’t very well predict what the best depth will be in a given field the next time. We can guess the best planting depth about as well as we can guess the weather, although the depth decision is easier in some soils than in others. Most studies include planting both too shallow and too deep, with a few depths in the middle, and results typically show, to no one’s surprise, that it is better to avoid planting too shallow or too deep.
An additional feature available on some planters is a sensor for soil moisture coupled with the ability to vary planting depth based on where in the soil there’s enough moisture to get germination started. This has potential for dry areas where soil moisture frequently is low during the planting season. But I think we need to be cautious with this in the eastern Corn Belt, where soils are heavier and where heavy rainfall after planting and before emergence is a much serious threat to stand establishment than dry soil at planting. Planting deeper means that emergence almost always takes longer, and that means more chances of having problems related to wet soils and surface compaction (crusting) as soils dry out after they get wet. In practice, I think this means that planting 3 inches deep or deeper in most Illinois soils (sandy soil is an exception), even if that’s where soil moisture is adequate, has a better chance of lowering stand counts than it does of increasing them. Most corn seed has the ability to emerge from 3 inches deep if soil conditions are good, but when soil conditions deteriorate after planting, those three inches can turn onto an obstacle course for seedlings. That can compromise stands and stand uniformity, both of which are needed for getting the highest yields.
Today’s planters do a good job of pressing soil against seeds for the sides and above, resulting in good seed-soil contact without compacting the soil above the seed. Good seed-soil contact forms a conduit by which water can move through the soil into the seed as germination begins. That effectively enlarges the soil volume from which seeds can draw water, which means that even soils with lower moisture content often have enough water to allow germination, especially in silt loam and silty clay loam soils without clods. Clods form when soil that was tilled when it was wet dries out. With less tillage and less time between tillage and planting today, soils often do not to dry out very much before planting. As a result, uneven stands due to uneven soil moisture is relatively rare in most Illinois fields. Those who can’t remember when they last saw uneven stands due to uneven soil moisture at planting—that is, times when some seeds had to wait for rain before they emerged—might have reason to question the advisability of having soil moisture determine how deep seeds are planted.
So where, between too shallow (let’s say one inch) and too deep (3 inches in most soils) should we plant? Soybeans planted in the first half of April with soil temperatures (2 inches deep measured at 7 or 8 AM) less than 50 should probably be planted 1.25 to 1.5 inches deep, and corn at least 1.5 inches deep. When planting into warmer soils later in April or in May, 1.5 inches is good for soybeans and 1.75 inches for corn. Manually changing planting depth on a 24-row planter is good exercise, but may not always be worth the time it takes. As long as we’re planting between 1.5 and 2 inches deep, it’s not clear that trying to fine-tune depth based on current and future soil conditions has much potential to improve stands.
Especially when planters move at speeds of 6 mph or faster and when the soil surface is not very smooth, some seeds end up shallower and some deeper than the nominal setting. Equipment and seed companies have looked at the effect of planting depth on stands and yields, and have in some cases managed to produce large yield differences by employing “mistake” settings. Measuring the uniformity of seeding depth by digging up seeds is difficult, but high-speed cameras can estimate depth as seeds drop and settle in place. One study done by digging up corn roots at maturity reported a standard deviation of about an eighth of an inch, which would mean that about 5 percent of seeds would be at least a quarter of an inch shallower or deeper than the average. That’s probably acceptable at normal planing depths. More weight and more uniform down-pressure have improved planting depth uniformity, and if 75 percent or more of plants emerge over a period of about 15 growing degree days (24 hours at average temperature, longer than that if it’s cool) and the rest within one more day, it’s unlikely that any yield has been lost due to non-uniformity of planting depth.
Uniformity of distance between seeds is good enough to maximize yield potential in most fields, and needs no further mention. Despite what yield contest winners say they do, there is no reason for most people to plant slower than they do now. If the monitor says enough seeds are being dropped, and either the monitor or previous experience (by seeing how stands look after emergence) say they’re spaced uniformly enough, they probably are.
Most people have decreased the number of soybean seeds dropped per acre over the past decade or so, but seed quality has also improved, and so the number of plants needed to maximize yield has probably not decreased as much as the seeding rate. We know that seeding rate responses are highly variable: in a series of 25 seeding rate studies in Illinois between 2015 and 2018, we found that the stand (not seed) numbers needed to maximum dollar return to seed ranged from 50 to 200 thousand, and there was no correlation between yield and plant stand needed to produce that yield. That means that the best way to set seeding rates is to average over seeding rate trials to get a best-guess prediction.
Averaged over the 25 responses, the plant stand needed to maximize the net return to seed was about 107,000 plants. At 80% stand establishment, that would require planting 134,000 seeds per acre. While that seems like a reasonable seeding rate, the “best” seeding rate was higher than that in about half of the trials and less than that in the others. Responses were fairly flat in most of the trials, though, which says that moving around within a range of 125,000 to 145,000 seeds per acre won’t miss the mark by much. If you expect emergence to be higher than 80%, seeding rates can be decreased. If you’ve gotten good yields planting only 100,000 or 110,000 seeds in the past, feel free to do that again. Keep in mind, though, that yield responses to seeding rate may not be very visible. So while 100,000 seeds might produce a good yield of 75 bushels, using 130,000 seeds might increase that by 2 bushels, which won’t look like much but would increase profits by $12–13 per acre.
The response of corn to plant population is much more consistent that for soybeans. Figure 3 below shows the response to corn plant population over 44 trials in Illinois between 2012 and 2018. Each trial included four to six hybrids, with planted populations ranging from 18,000 to 50,000 per acre. Final stand closely matched seeding rate, so they’re used interchangeably. The average yield at the 100% (of maximum) yield level was 237 bushels per acre. We used a wide range of seeding rates in order to produce visible responses, even though we know that this range extends far outside the range that producers might consider. Yields at 48–50,000 plants were lower than those at 34–36,000. So what we chose as the high end of the range ending up “bending” the curve, which changed where it reaches a maximum. The curve fitted to yields from the populations up to and including 42,000 shows that the maximum yield was produced at 36,900 plants per acre, and the optimum population—where the last seeds added were paid for by the increase in yield—was 33,400 plants per acre.
Figure 3. Corn plant population response over 44 trials in Illinois, 2012–2018.
It’s also worth noting that, although we find best returns from plant populations in the 32,000 to 35,000 per acre, having them a few thousand higher or lower is not going to change yields or net returns by very much. Yield level doesn’t make much difference: yields in 2012 were about 50 bushels lower than in the highest-yielding years of this study, but the population response was about the same as in other years. Going up to 40,000 isn’t very likely to increase yields, but it won’t increase costs much, either, so it won’t do much harm in productive soils. Marlin Jeschke of Pioneer recently reported that harvest populations for non-irrigated entries in the NCGA Corn Yield Contest over the past five years was 36,700, so it’s clear that current hybrids don’t don’t require unusually high populations to produce high yields.
If planting is delayed in 2020
Should management of corn or soybean change if planting is delayed in 2020 like it was in 2019? We’re certainly hoping that any delays are not on the scale that we saw in 2019, but we did not see many signs last year of things we should change if planting is late in 2020. That may have been because of good weather and good yields even after the late planting. About the only thing we might want to consider if corn planting is delayed into June is to move to earlier–maturing hybrids in the northern part of Illinois. Hybrid strip trials planted in that region in early June last year showed lower yield for hybrids later than 107–108 days RM. We did not see this with late-planted soybeans there, nor for either corn or soybeans in central and southern Illinois.
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The price of crude oil has reached a new contract low below $20 a barrel.
The ethanol industry is struggling under the weight of #COVID19 and the crude oil price war. I spoke with Geoff Cooper, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association about the situation. With crude in the $20s, #corn is too high for ethanol.
The estimated reductions in #ethanol use are 143 million gallons in March, 391 mln in April, and 207 mln in May, for a total reduction of 741 million gallons or 256 mln bushels of read-reduction-estimate-with-caution #corn write @ScottIrwinUI & @jt_hubbs.
link to @farmdocDaily article
Lincolnland Agri-Energy’s Eric Mosbey explains how #COVID19 and the low price of #crudeoil is affecting #ethanol plants like the one he runs. He also discusses what it means for #corn and feed coproducts.
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link to farmdocdaily article
At its recent Agricultural Outlook Forum, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released estimates of 2020 planted acres in the United States, with both corn and soybean acres increasing from 2019 levels (see Grain and Oilseed Outlook, February 21, 2020). When compared to 2018 plantings, USDA is projecting a 2020 shift to more corn acres and fewer soybean acres across the United States. Projecting this shift across the U.S. seems reasonable. However, most of those shifts likely will occur outside of the corn belt. Estimated 2020 profitability in Illinois suggests relatively even acres of corn and soybeans in Illinois.
A University of Illinois agricultural economist says corn is likely to be more profitable than soybeans this year across the state. However, as Todd Gleason reports, historical relationships do not suggest large acreage shifts in the state.
Projected Acreage Shifts in the U.S. For corn and soybeans, USDA is projecting higher acreages in 2020, partly because 2019 acres were reduced because of prevented plantings (see Figure 1). Corn acres are expected to increase 4 million acres from 90 million acres in 2019 to 94 million acres in 2020. Soybean acres are projected to increase by 9 million acres from 76 million in 2019 to 85 million in 2020. Wheat acres are projected to remain the same in 2019 and 2020 at 45 million acres.
Given the prevalence of prevented planting acres in 2019, comparing acreage shifts from 2018 to 2020 provide a better illustration of recent trade difficulties impacts on expected acreage. These trade difficulties lowered soybean prices while corn prices remained roughly the same. National Market Year Average (MYA) prices for soybeans reported by the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) were $9.47 per bushel in 2016 and $9.33 per bushel in 2017, the two years immediately preceding trade difficulties. Soybean prices are not projected to average above $9.00 from 2018 through 2020: $8.66 per bushel in 2018, a projected $8.70 in 2019, and a projected $8.80 in 2020.
While soybean prices decreased, corn prices increased. MYA prices for corn were $3.36 per bushel in both 2016 and 2017. MYA price averaged $3.55 in 2018 and are projected at $3.80 in 2019 and $3.60 in 2020. These price changes caused corn returns to increase relative to soybean, leading to incentives to plant more corn acres. Between 2018 and 2020, corn acres are projected to grow 5 million from 89 million in 2018 to 94 million in 2020. Soybean acres are projected to decrease 4 million from 89 million acres in 2018 to 85 million acres in 2020.
Illinois Corn and Soybean Acres Because of prevented plantings, both corn and soybean plantings in Illinois were down in 2019 from 2018 levels. Corn plantings were 10.5 million acres in 2019, down from 11.0 million in 2018. Soybean planted were 10.0 million acres in 2019, down from 10.8 million acres in 2018.
Except for 2019, total acres in corn and soybeans in Illinois have remained about the same since 1990 at about 21.7 million acres. Prevented plant acres reduced this total in 2019 by 1.2 million acres. While total acres in corn and soybeans have remained the same, shifts in corn and soybean acres have occurred over time.
From 1998 to 2003, corn and soybean acres were relatively near one another, with corn acres exceeding soybean acres by less than 1 million acres (see Figure 2). During the 2007–2014 period, corn use in ethanol increased, resulting in higher corn prices relative to soybean prices, increasing the profitability of corn relative to soybeans, leading to more corn acres and fewer soybean acres. From 2007 to 2012, corn acres exceeded soybean acres by at least 2.0 million acres, with the largest difference of 4.9 million acres occurring in 2007. The build of ethanol capacity ended in the mid–2010s, while Chinese demand for soybeans continued to grow until 2018. Corn profitability fell relative to soybeans, and farmers switched acres from corn to soybeans. In 2018, 11.0 million corn acres were planted in Illinois, only 200,000 acres more than 10.8 million acres of soybean plantings. In 2019, corn acres were 10.5 million, 500,000 more than the 10.0 million of soybean planting. USDA has not projected state levels of corn and soybean production for 2020.
Profitability of Corn and Soybean in Illinois Historical shifts in corn and soybean acres in Illinois have been related to the relative profitability of corn and soybeans. Figure 3 shows corn returns minus soybean returns from Central Illinois farms having high-productivity farmland enrolled in Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM). Positive values indicate that corn was more profitable than soybeans. Conversely, negative values indicate that soybeans are more profitable than corn.
From 2000 to 2002, corn and soybean returns were roughly the same (see Figure 3). Corn-minus-soybean returns were $30 per acre in 2000, $13 in 2001, and -$6 in 2002. During this period, corn and soybean acres were relatively near one another.
From 2003 to 2012, corn returns exceeded soybean returns in all years, except 2009 (see Figure 3). Corn returns were over $50 higher than soybean returns in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2012. During this period, corn acres in Illinois grew while soybean acres declined.
From 2013 to 2018, soybeans were more profitable than corn (see Figure 3). Soybean returns exceeded corn returns by more than $50 per acre in 2016, 2017, and 2018. During these years, farmers switched acres back to soybeans.
In 2019, corn was more profitable than soybeans by $34 per acre. Responses to 2019 profitability differences are somewhat clouded because of late and prevented planting. Both corn and soybean acres were down in 2019. In a late planting year, one expects soybean acres to increase relative to corn acres because soybeans traditionally have lower yield declines than corn in a late planting year. In 2019, corn acres may have declined more had not there been expectations of higher corn prices in June.
In 2020, corn is projected to be $21 per acre higher than soybeans. This difference between corn and soybean profitability is not large, suggesting that large acreage shifts will not occur. The $20 per acre projected difference in 2020 is roughly the same as realized differences from 2000 to 2002. During those years, corn acres exceeded soybean acres by only a small margin. Given 21.7 million acres of corn and soybean plantings in Illinois, having 11.0 million acres of corn and 10.7 acres of soybeans seems reasonable.
Summary At this point, corn is projected to be more profitable than soybeans in Illinois. However, historical relationships do not suggest large acreage shifts in Illinois. Corn and soybean acres in Illinois likely will be near one another. Major shifts in acres to corn from soybeans across the United States likely will come from outside the corn belt.
References U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Grains and Oilseeds Outlook.” Agricultural Outlook Forum 2020. Released February 21, 2020. https://www.usda.gov/oce/forum/2020/outlooks/Grains_and_Oilseeds.pdf
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The highly anticipated release of USDA’s crop production and ending stocks reports last Friday created a somewhat negative tone in corn and soybean markets. Despite the slightly bearish tilt, prices for both commodities closed higher on Friday. The pending phase one trade agreement and South American production prospects look to set the tone for prices over the near term. - Todd Hubbs, ILLINOIS Extension
by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois
link to original farmdocDaily article
Corn production for the U.S. in 2019 came in at 13.69 billion bushels, up 31 million bushels from the previous forecast on higher national average yields. Average corn yield of 168 bushels per acre is one bushel higher than the previous forecast. The harvested acreage estimate of 81.5 million acres is down from the November forecast of 81.8 million acres. Current production estimates for corn show eight percent of the crop still in the field and open the estimate to possible revision in the future.
December 1 corn stocks came in at 11.39 billion bushels. The estimate is 122 million bushels below trade expectations and indicates a total disappearance of 4.53 billion bushels in the first quarter of the marketing year. The USDA’s revision of the September 1 corn stocks higher by 107 million bushels along with greater production indicates a massive feed and residual use component in the first quarter.
At 5.525 billion bushels, the WASDE forecast for corn feed use and residual moved up by 250 million bushels from the previous forecast for the 2019–20 marketing year. Despite the significant boost in consumption from feed and residual, projected ending stocks fell only 18 million bushels from the previous forecast. Consumption projection for categories other than feed and residual fell 95 million bushels. While the corn use for ethanol forecast stayed steady at 5.375 billion bushels, the forecast for other industrial purposes decreased by 20 million bushels to 1.395 billion bushels. The forecast for corn exports dropped 75 million bushels to 1.775 billion bushels due to the continuation of weak export numbers through the first four months of the marketing year. The pending trade deal with China holds the promise for change in some of the consumption totals.
The phase one trade deal due to be signed sometime this week still lacks specificity. While the administration continues to tout agricultural export increases near $16 billion over 2017 totals of $24 billion, very little confirmation from the Chinese side has come forth thus far. The Chinese indicated that they would not exceed their global quota on corn imports for any individual country in 2020. The quota for corn stands at 7.2 million metric tons (near 283 million bushels). Through November of 2019, Census data indicates China imported 12.3 million bushels of corn from the U.S. during the calendar year. There remains plenty of room for increased Chinese imports of U.S. corn and corn-related products in 2020 despite the quota. Details surrounding the trade deal matter and look to help shape price prospects for corn over the next few months.
Foreign production projections for corn in the 2019–20 marketing year moved up slightly due to an increase in the European Union and Russian production. Brazil’s corn production forecast stayed at 3.98 billion bushels. Concerns about production losses for first crop corn in southern Brazil due to dry conditions continue to evolve. Strong domestic corn prices in Brazil point to producers planting the safrinha crop even if planting is later than ideal in many areas. Argentinian production forecasts stayed at 1.97 billion bushels. The forecast for Argentina and Brazil corn exports sit at 2.73 billion bushels, 335 million bushels lower than last marketing year. Given the current forecast for South American exports, the evolution of crop conditions in the region, particularly on the Brazilian safrinha crop, hold important implications for corn exports during the coming year.
Soybean production for the U.S. in 2019 totaled 3.558 billion bushels, up 8 million bushels from the previous forecast on higher national average yields. The national average soybean yield of 47.4 bushels per acre is 0.5 bushels higher than the previous forecast. The harvested acreage estimate of 75 million acres is down from the prior forecast of 75.6 million acres. Current production estimates for soybeans indicate two percent of the crop remains in the field. December 1 soybean stocks came in at 3.252 billion bushels, 66 million bushels above trade expectations.
The WASDE report maintained consumption and ending stock projections at the same levels seen in the last forecast. The crush forecast stayed at 2.105 billion bushels, reflecting the pace of soybean crush in the first quarter of the marketing year. Soybean export forecast levels of 1.775 billion bushels remained steady and mirrored the current pace of exports without the possible trade deal impacts. Unlike corn, soybeans do not face a quota scenario in China. A trade deal with specificity on soybean exports could provide support for prices.
A Brazilian crop at 4.519 billion bushels portends tough competition in world markets for U.S. exports. The Argentinian soybean production forecast stayed steady at 1.95 billion bushels. Forecasts for Brazil and Argentina soybean exports are set at 3.09 billion bushels over the marketing year, up 15 million bushels from last marketing year’s estimate. Increased U.S. soybean exports to China under the trade deal may see strong substitution buying of South American soybeans by other major buyers that may limit U.S. exports upside potential despite a trade agreement.
Additional discussion and graphs associated with this article available here.
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Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments in 2019 of $50 per acre will reduce financial erosion on farms. Still, incomes for 2019 are projected to be over $100,000 lower than 2018 incomes.
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by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois Extension
link to farmdocDaily article and video
On June 28, the USDA released the Acreage and Grain Stocks reports. While the Grain Stocks report provided support for both corn and soybeans, the Acreage report indicated higher than expected corn acres and lower than expected soybean acres. The acreage numbers injected a substantial amount of uncertainty into both markets that appears set to stay in place throughout the summer.
The 2019 June USDA Acreage Report rocked the corn market. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs explores those numbers in this interview with ILLINOIS Extension Farm Broadcaster Todd Gleason.
A dramatic drop in principal crop acreage provided one of the many surprises in the Acreage report released on Friday. Driven by much lower soybean and wheat acreage, total principal crop acreage came in at 309.3 million acres, down 6.1 million acres from the March Prospective Planting report. Principal crop acreage estimates decreased by 10.3 million acres from 2018 totals. Significant increases over last year’s acreage occurred in corn (2.57 million acres) and barley acreage (314,000 acres). The vast majority of crops witnessed acreage decreases from last year. Soybean acreage led the way with a 9.2 million acre decrease. Wheat acreage came in down 2.19 million acres.
An extraordinary year for corn production took another unexpected turn on Friday. Corn producers reported they intended to plant 91.7 million acres of corn this year. Corn planted acres came in 1.1 million acres lower than March planting intentions, but well above expectations due to delayed planting. When compared to March planting intentions in major producing states, the June survey revealed higher corn acres in Kentucky (220,000 acres), Kansas (200,000 acres), and Nebraska (300,000 acres). Acreage lower than March intentions in South Dakota (1.2 million acres) and North Dakota (350,000 acres) offset gains seen in other areas of the western Corn Belt. Surprisingly, the major producing states in the eastern Corn Belt saw slight to no changes from the March intentions.
The USDA reported 16.7 percent of the corn acreage (15.3 million acres) remained unplanted as of the survey period and indicated an intention to re-interview 13 of the 18 major corn-producing states in July for the August production report. The prospect of considerable prevented planting acreage in the eastern Corn Belt places the 91.7 million acres reported in the June report in question. The shift out of soybeans and most feed grains may indicate an expansion of the base corn acreage intended for planting in 2019. A lack of clarity about prevented planting acreage reported in the June survey window remains a concern and points toward further downward revisions in the August Crop Production report.
The corn stocks report provided some positive news for corn use. June 1 corn stocks came in at 5.2 billion bushels, nearly 103 million bushels lower than last year and 130 million bushels smaller than the average trade guess. Estimation of total disappearance during the quarter is 3.41 billion bushels. Estimated third quarter feed and residual use come in at 1.13 million bushels. Estimates of feed and residual use during the first three quarters of the marketing year sits at 4.615 billion bushels. To reach the projected 5.3 billion bushels of corn projected for feed and residual this marketing year, feed and residual use in the fourth quarter must equal 685 million bushels. Based on current stocks estimate, it appears feed and residual use this year is on track to hit the current USDA projection.
Soybean producers intended to plant 80 million acres of soybeans. The soybean acreage intentions came in below market expectations. Soybean planted acres fell by 4.6 million acres from the March planting intentions. At the time of the survey in early June, producers indicated that 41.2 percent of the intended soybean acreage (33 million acres) remained unplanted. Soybean acreage came in lower than last year’s totals in every state that reported in the June survey. The most substantial adjustments came in South Dakota (1.25 million acres), North Dakota (1 million acres), Iowa (900,000 acres), and Minnesota (900,000 acres). The substantial drop in soybean acreage may indicate issues with planting, but the large totals left to plant place the soybean acreage estimate in question as well. USDA plans to re-interview 14 of the 18 major soybean-producing states in July.
The June 1 soybean stocks estimate indicated a record 1.79 billion bushels, up 571 million bushels from last year. The stocks estimate came in 71 million bushels below market expectations. To meet the current USDA projection for soybean ending stocks, 720 million bushels of use is necessary for the fourth quarter. Despite the continued uncertainty in trade negotiations and record stocks, June 1 soybean stocks are neutral for soybean prices as soybean consumption maintains a pace to meet USDA projections for the marketing year.
Corn futures prices saw a dramatic drop with the release of the Acreage report. Soybean prices drove higher on the lower supply expected under reduced acreage. Uncertainty regarding corn and soybean acreage looks to continue through the August production report. If the corn acreage total ends up at the reported level in the June Acreage report, the prospect for corn yield moves to the forefront of supply expectations this year. By re-interviewing many major producing states for both corn and soybean acreage, USDA may be signaling revisions to come.
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by Emerson Nafziger, Extension Agronomist - University of Illinois
link to The Bulletin post
With a lot of acres of corn and soybeans still unplanted as we move into the second half of June, prevented planting (PP) is unfortunately going to be a major part of the story of the 2019 cropping season in Illinois. Here we’ll look at goals and options for managing acres on which the intended crop—corn or soybean—does not get planted.
Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois Extension Agronomist, on how to manage Prevented Planting acreage this summer.
The main goals of managing PP acres will be: 1) providing a vegetative cover in order to keep the soil in place and to prevent “fallow syndrome”; 2) to prevent or manage weeds so they don’t reseed the field; and 3) to take up nitrogen, including that from any N-containing fertilizer (including DAP/MAP), and any N that will be released from soil organic matter during the growing season. We also need to find ways to keep costs down, given that the PP insurance payments leave little room for adding expenses to these acres. This may not be the best time to invest in expensive cover crop seeding mixes. With high demand this year, such seed—and seed of some less exotic cover crops as well—will be expensive, and some may not be available.
We have not seen “fallow syndrome” very often in Illinois, but there was some in 1994 in fields that were flooded for most of the season in 1993 and did not produce crops or even weeds that year. The symptoms include stunting and purpling that indicate phosphorus deficiency. Plants growing in fields host a type of beneficial fungus (VA mycorrhiza) that assists in the uptake of P; these fungi seem to die off when there aren’t any plants, and they come back slowly the next year. We don’t expect to see this in every field, and it’s more likely to show up where water stood for a long period of time this year. The best prevention is to have plants present sometime during this season to help maintain these fungi. Just about any plant with roots will work, including weeds, but a cover crop species we choose to plant will be preferable to weeds.
Having plants present to take up N is more to keep the N from leaving the field this year than it is to make it available for next year’s crop; it’s not clear how much N captured in crop biomass this season will become available to next year’s crop. But mineralization takes place in every field once soils are aerated, regardless of whether the previous crop was corn or soybean. Grasses with deep roots are the best way extract N from deeper in the soil, and to keep this N out of tile drainage water.
We won’t try to reiterate here the complex rules regarding PP certification, but will only deal with managing these fields to provide cover. It appears that any species will work as cover, as long as the rules regarding what’s done with the cover after the season are followed. That means no harvest of grain (or silage) at all, and harvest by grazing or by making hay only after November 1. Every decision on what to plant should be tested with your crop insurance agent beforehand.
Where corn was the intended crop in 2019 and soybean is planned for 2020, using a small grain as a cover crop this summer is an option. Winterhardy cereal rye and wheat won’t form heads until after a period of temperatures in the 30s, so probably not until next spring. They should emerge and provide quick cover, but these are cool-season crops, and when they remain low-growing and don’t send up stems with heads, they likely won’t stay very healthy or grow vigorously through a normal summer season.
Spring oats or spring wheat might do a little better than winterhardy wheat or rye. These tend not to tiller much at high temperature, but they will set seed. It can’t be harvested as grain; check the rules on whether it can simply be left to have the seed shatter out in the fall once it’s ripe. That may reseed the cover crop, but these plants won’t survive the winter. None of these are likely to grow roots as deep as when they grow in cool weather, but they should provide decent cover. With the 2019 oats crop in Illinois planted late and not exactly thriving, it will be difficult to find seed locally. Spring wheat seed will have to come from states north and west of Illinois.
Grain from a bin or an elevator, including from this year’s harvest, might work as seed for small grains, since this is not a “crop” in the usual sense. With wet weather this spring, we anticipate that some harvested grain will have diseased kernels that lower its market price, which may provide an incentive for using it as cover crop seed. Test germination, and if germination is low, increase the seeding rate to plant about at least 15 viable seeds per square foot, using a drill. While drilling will usually produce better stands and require less seed, broadcasting 20–25 live seeds per square foot might work. Shallow tillage with a vertical-tillage implement before or after broadcast seeding will probably improve stands.
Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids and forage sorghum produce a lot of residue and are good at taking up soil N. These species grow well in high temperatures, and they tolerate dry soils. If they won’t be grazed (after November 1), it’s probably better to limit their growth to lower the amount of residue present next spring. Lack of adequate N will limit growth in most fields, and delaying planting until mid-July or so can also help. If there is still a lot of growth, plants can be mowed in September so the residue can start to break down this fall. Some sorghum-sudangrass hybrids are male-sterile, and these species don’t produce much seed in any case. There is no danger of having plants of these species overwinter.
In fields that haven’t had herbicides applied that would prevent their growth, species such as radish, turnip, rapeseed, buckwheat, and forage grasses and legumes could be used on PP corn acres. None of these will be as effective as a well-rooted grass crop at taking up N, and those that grow slowly after emergence will generally not provide good cover early, and they won’t compete with weeds very well. Their seed tends to be expensive, and those with very small seed (such as clovers) can be difficult to establish in mid-summer without specialized equipment.
It may be possible to plant corn on PP corn acres, as long as care is taken not to produce corn grain. Ways to assure this include planting it later than July 15, drilling or planting it in rows no more than 15 inches apart, and planting at least 70,000–80,000 seeds (roughly a bushel) per acre. Lack of N will also help keep seeds from forming or filling, as will very late (September) pollination, which should mean failure of the crop to mature. Some seed companies may offer treated seed that they won’t be keeping over at a price low enough to make this an option. It may also be possible to take seed out of a bin of non-GMO corn grain to use for this. Make sure such seed will germinate, and check to make sure the planter is dropping enough seeds. By the time frost kills them, corn plants should not have formed seed that is mature enough to germinate the next spring. If grain begins to form and seeds begin to fill despite these measures, the corn can be mowed with a stalk chopper to prevent formation of viable seeds.
Management of PP soybean acres has the same goals as those for PP corn acres, but management changes some if these fields will go back to corn again in 2020. Undisturbed corn stalks have by now broken down to some extent, but they still provide some cover, and keeping some of the stalk material on the soil surface will help preserve moisture and to keep soil in place as a cover crop gets started. The presence of high-C residue from the previous corn crop means that there will be less net mineralization in these acres because some mineralized N will be tied up as microbes break down residues. Even so, good root growth from a cover crop will help to take up N and to keep it from leaving the field.
It is possible to use the growing season that remains in 2019 to produce a leguminous crop that can fix N to supplement the N supply for next year’s corn crop. Such a crop should provide good early growth in order to take up N present as the over crop is getting established. Clovers are small-seeded forage legumes that can work, although seed costs might be high and these species may be incompatible with any herbicides that were applied before planting was prevented. Planting them into corn residue will also be challenging, although no-till drilling may work if seed can be placed well. Broadcasting into corn stalks without tillage is not likely to result in good stands. Red clover is more widely available than more exotic clovers, but supplies of all of these might be limited this year. Sweet clover has larger seed and will grow aggressively once it’s established. It will usually provide more dry matter by spring, and will also be more difficult to control before planting the next crop, compared to other clovers. Hairy vetch also grows vigorously, but its seed is expensive and it may not overwinter very well; this species will work in southern Illinois but is probably not a good choice in central and northern Illinois.
Another legume that can provide fairly rapid cover and that is widely available is soybean. As with corn used as a cover crop, soybean should be planted late, in narrow rows and at a high seeding rate (80 to 90 lb of seed per acre, if germination is at least 80%), to provide fast cover and to keep seed production to a minimum. It is not clear that GMO soybean seed can be used to plant for any purpose except commercial grain production. In cases where treated soybean seed cannot be returned to the dealer, the seed company might be asked if use as cover crop seed this year is allowable. There is no other good use for this seed, and it will probably not remain viable if stored until next year.
Using bin-run non-GMO soybeans as cover crop seed for this should be possible; check with your seed dealer to make sure. Non-GMO soybeans are typically marketed as such, and so are likely to be limited in supply now, unless producers have them in their own bin. Later-maturing varieties would make more vegetative growth and be less likely to set and fill viable seeds than normal-maturing ones, but that would add the expense of finding and transporting such seed. All told, soybeans may not be as obvious a choice as they appear to be at first glance, especially if leftover seed can’t be used for this purpose.
Soybeans used as cover should not be allowed to set and fill viable seed. That’s both to avoid complications from planting a crop following prevented planting of the same crop, and also because the maturing crop may have more residue than desired. Mowing plants off at about stage R5 (beginning seedfill) should work to control growth and prevent seed formation while still allowing capture of some fixed N. A crimper-roller might also work. Soybean plants this size can be difficult to control with herbicides, and mechanical control that leaves the residue on or near the soil surface is probably a better option.
A small grain such as wheat or oats can also be used as a cover for PP soybean acres, although that means foregoing the fixation of nitrogen. These will probably be quite N-deficient when planted into corn stalks, and while this will limit the amount of cover they produce, they should make enough growth to provide fair cover by late fall. If winter wheat or rye is used, they should be terminated in the early spring so they don’t interfere with early growth of the corn crop that follows.
If P and K fertilizers were applied in preparation for this year’s crop that didn’t get planted, their availability for next year’s crop should not be affected as long as the soil stays in place. If MAP or DAP will be applied this fall, a green cover crop present at the time of application should take up some of the N in these P-fertilizer materials, and to preserve it from loss if application is made while soils are still warm. If P and K couldn’t be applied for this year’s crop, PP provides an opportunity to sample soils if needed, and to get these nutrients applied this fall. Late planting will mean late harvest of corn and soybeans this year, which will allow for timely fall work on PP acres.
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by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois
link to farmdocDaily post
Corn futures prices rallied about $0.90 per bushel since the beginning of May. The rally reflects expectations that planted acreage will fall well short of March intentions and on yield concerns associated with wide-ranging late planting. Demand weakness continues to emerge in the export market, but supply issues look to overwhelm any decrease in demand. The release of USDA’s Grain Stocks and Acreage reports on June 28 looks to set the tone for summer corn prices.
The end of the month USDA Grain Stocks and Acreage reports are less than two weeks away. Todd Gleason talks with University of Illinois ag economist and commodity marketing specialist about the projected numbers and how farmers should set this self up for marketing this year’s corn and soybean crops.
The reduction in corn planted acreage by three million acres and corn yield by 10 bushels per acre in the June WASDE appears to be a harbinger of things to come this year. The June estimate of planted acreage of corn is generally expected to be far less than intentions of 92.8 million acres reported in March. The only question remaining is the scale of acreage loss. The magnitude of prevented planting acres this year looks to eclipse the previous record of 3.6 million acres in 2013 by a wide margin. As of June 9, 14.5 million acres remained unplanted in the 18 states reported in the Crop Progress report. The amount of prevented planted acreage in those estimates remains uncertain, but the prospect of planting more than 14 million acres of corn after June 10 seems daunting.
Additionally, some acreage may have been switched to soybeans due to delayed corn planting over large areas of the Corn Belt. Recent wet weather brings soybean acreage planting into question as well. However, the prospect of a new round of Market Facilitation Payments provides a strong incentive to plant soybeans in the second half of June if weather permits. The June acreage estimate will probably not be changed until FSA certified acreage data becomes available in October. The final acreage estimate released in January tends to be less than the June estimate. Since 1996, the final estimate averaged 626 thousand acres less than the June acreage report in years when prevented planting acreage exceeded one million acres. This year may see a substantial drop from the June acreage estimate due to the uncertainty about planting during the survey period.
While the supply situation looks increasingly supportive of corn prices, current levels of corn use show weakness; particularly in the export market. The estimate of June 1corn stocks will reflect the recent decrease in consumption and reveal the pace of feed and residual use during the third quarter of the marketing year. The expected size of June 1 stocks can be calculated based on consumption data that are currently available and on the assumption that feed and residual use is on pace with the USDA projection of 5.3 billion bushels for the year. Based on the USDA’s Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production reports for March and April and on the EIA weekly estimates of ethanol production during May, corn used for ethanol production during the third quarter of the marketing year is estimated at 1.347 billion bushels. Corn used for other domestic industrial products is estimated at 362 million bushels.
Cumulative export inspections during the first three quarters of the marketing year totaled 1.549 billion bushels. Through April, Census export estimates exceeded export inspections by 149 million bushels. If that margin continued through May, exports during the first three quarters of the year totaled 1.698 billion bushels and indicated exports during the third quarter at 566 million bushels.
For the marketing year, the USDA projects feed and residual use of corn at 5.3 billion bushels. Feed and residual use during the first half of the year totaled 3.487 billion bushels. Use during the last half of the year needs to equal 1.813 billion bushels for total use to reach the USDA projection. Third and fourth quarter feed and residual use vary substantially over time. Feed and residual use near 954 million bushels during the third quarter this year sits close to the center of the range based on the historical data. With March 1 stocks of 8.605 billion bushels and imports during the quarter of 8 million bushels, the estimates of consumption during the quarter point to June 1 stocks of 5.384 billion bushels, 79 million larger than stocks of a year ago. A deviation from June 1 stocks less than 100 million bushels from the current estimate will not engender much price movement. The Acreage report on June 28 should overwhelm any information in the stocks report.
Uncertainty about corn acreage looks to remain in place through the summer. Weakening demand should not be a hindrance to a continued price rally since the supply situation is quite dismal. Strengthening corn basis and futures prices point to marketing strategies involving delayed pricing of the new crop. Price objectives need to be set to take advantage of current corn market dynamics. Managing crop price risk can be accomplished with a variety of marketing strategies. It is essential to have a marketing strategy since supply shocks provide a limited time frame to take advantage of pricing opportunities. The strategy probably should include plans for pricing some of the 2020 crop.
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University of Illinois Extension Agronomist Emerson Nafziger discusses the impact of late corn planting and how farmers should set about nitrogen applications this spring. He was interviewed May 1, 2019 by Todd Gleason.
The following summary is taken from a May 1, 2019 University of Illinois farmdocDaily article written by agricultural economists Scott Irwin and Todd Hubbs.
“The impact of late planting on projections of the U.S. average corn yield is an important question right now due to the very wet conditions so far this spring through much of the Corn Belt. We estimate that the relationship of late planting with corn yield trend deviations is highly non-linear, with a largely flat segment up to 10 percent above average late planting and then a steeply sloped segment for late planting that is 10 percent or more above average. This nicely matches the curvature of planting date effects on corn yield estimated in agronomic field trials (e.g., farmdoc daily, May 20, 2015; Nafziger, 2017). The key then for 2019 is whether late corn planting will be 10 percent or more above average, where the negative impact on corn yield is relatively large. Specifically, when late planting is 10 percent or more above average the chance of corn yield being below trend is 83 percent and the average deviation from trend yield is –6.1 bushels per acre. We analyze topsoil surplus moisture patterns in analog years to 2019 and the analysis suggests late planting this year is likely to be at least 10 percent. The implication is that there is a significantly elevated probability of a below-trend corn yield in 2019 and that present projections of U.S. average corn yield should likely be reduced to 170 bushels per acre or less. It is important to recognize that good summer weather conditions can offset the projected negative impact of late planting on the national average corn yield, but history indicates the probability of this happening is not very high if wet conditions in the Corn Belt persist through mid-May.” - Irwin and Hubbs, University of Illinois
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Gary Schnitkey from the University of Illinois discusses crop insurance loss ratios for 2018, the current outlook for payments in 2019, and the strategic economic models he’ll be developing for soybeans.
by Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois
link to farmdocDaily article
Most 2018 payments on Federal crop insurance products have now been entered into the Risk Management Agency’s (RMA’s) record system and losses for 2018 can be stated accurately. Similar to 2016 and 2017, low losses again occurred in 2018. Losses were particularly low in Illinois and, more generally, the eastern Corn Belt.
Background on Loss Ratios
This article presents loss ratios, which equal payments on crop insurance policies divided by total premium paid on crop insurance policies. A loss ratio of 1.0 means that crop insurance payments are equal to total premium. Ratios above 1.0 indicate that payments exceed premium, which occurs with some regularity. On the other hand, loss ratios below 1.0 indicate that payments are less than premium. Given the way RMA sets premiums, loss ratios should average slightly below 1.0 over time. Given the high correlation of losses across policies in a year, variability in aggregate loss ratios will occur from year to year.
Data reported in this article come from the Summary of Business which is available from the RMA website. Data were downloaded in late April of 2019. Some changes to loss ratios will occur over time as more loss data become available. However, 2018 loss performance will not materially vary from loss ratios presented here.
Loss Ratios in 2018
For all insurance products, the 2018 loss ratio was .69, indicating that crop insurance payments were less than total premium. Overall, 2018 was a low loss year, continuing a string of low loss years that have occurred since 2013 (see Figure 1). Loss ratios exceeded 1.0 in the drought year of 2012 when the overall loss ratio was 1.57. Payments also exceeded premium in 2013 when the loss ratio was 1.03. Since 2013, loss ratios have been below 1.0 in each year: .91 in 2014, .65 in 2015, .42 in 2016, .54 in 2017, and .69 in 2018. These low loss years correspond to relatively high yielding years in corn and soybeans (farmdoc daily, April 16, 2019).
The overall loss ratio is highly influenced by the performance of corn and soybeans, as these two crops account for 56% of total premium. In 2018, corn policies had 32% of total premium while soybeans had 23%. In 2018, loss ratios were .43 on corn and .56 on soybeans. Since 2014, both crops have had low loss ratios. Corn loss ratios were .46 in 2015, .27 in 2016, .37 in 2017, and .43 in 2018. Soybean loss ratios were .55 in 2015, .21 in 2016, .30 in 2017, and .56 in 2018.
2018 Loss Ratios by County
Many counties in the Corn Belt had very low loss ratios, as would be expected given that corn and soybeans have very low loss ratios. Figure 2 shows loss ratios by county for all policies in that county. Loss ratios below .4 predominated in a stretch of counties beginning in eastern Iowa, going through Illinois, Indiana, and ending in Ohio. Low loss ratios also were in western Corn Belt counties including Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. In contrast, there was a concentration of counties along the Iowa-Minnesota border that had higher loss ratios above 1.0.
Other sections of the country had higher loss ratios. Loss ratios above 1.2 predominated in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, northwest Missouri and eastern Kansa, and western Texas.
Overall, loss ratios were low in 2018, continuing a string of years since 2014 that have had low loss ratios. Low loss ratios occurred primarily because of low losses on corn and soybean policies in the Corn Belt.