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By Staff | Feb 8, 2013

It is now early February and the Iowa Farming Power Show is history. Looking at the calendar we have survived the coldest weather month of January without any major problems and having receive very little snow.

Thus the drought continues, but snowfall and snow melt contributes very little to subsoil moisture due to the soils typically being frozen. If the rain forecast for this weekend materializes we have to hope that the temps are warm enough to thaw out the top foot so a portion of what falls soaks in.

The date also signifies the fact that the typical start to the planting season, April 15 to 20, is now only about nine weeks away. If a few forecasters are correct we could be seeing very unseasonably warm weather beginning in about five to six weeks.

Their warning is to not get drawn into doing any very early planting, instead to wait until early May as cold temps will return. We saw in 2012 that the mid-May corn was some of the best yielding and that it can happen in drought years.

Black snow, disease control

Driving home from Carroll on Tuesday, it was easy to see that the snow in most of the ditches has turned dirt black. We have not seen that in a number of years as more conservation tillage has become the rule and most of the soil stays home when compared to the early 1980s.

But with the poor crop and most guys feeling that tillage had to be done, and the need to fight Goss’ wilt in the recommended manner, having a bit of dirt moving in the strong winds of last week wasn’t surprising. We have to hope that there are no more strong winds that would cause a greater loss in the area fields.

Back a few years ago when a few agronomists sounded the warning that Goss’ wilt was now here at high infestation levels, they noted that from that point on the No. 1 varietal characteristic they were going to ask about before they bought seed from any company was tolerance to that disease.

It sure sounded like a wild prediction didn’t it? But look what happened in the years since as we have seen the crops brown and dry up weeks early if precautions are not taken.

Seed supply

The weather conditions of last summer were generally tough on seed producers and production in many areas of the Midwest. In the future we will see as many acres as possible moved under irrigation if that is even possible. That is only sound thinking, but finding those acres is a problem for many based on where the conditioning plants are located.

And as one moves west the incidence of damaging hail generally increases.

Of course the expected happy talk by a number of companies was that seed supply was not going to be an issue for the 2013 season. Keep your ears open and be sure to stay current on any breaking news from your seed dealers.

Early word and rumors are that at least three big players are finding out that the germs on bags of this year’s seed has dropped since it was put in the bag. As to the cause, heat and dry weather has to stand out.

Based on the findings with a good researcher in Canada when the parent plants are browning and dying early, the vigor in those lots suffers. Those seed producers may have to actually do testing to see if obtaining better control of Goss’ in seed fields and maintaining higher mineral levels could help the situation.

For those who have raised livestock how often do you get great-producing feeder pigs or calves when the sows or cows are malnourished? It makes too much sense.

Down south

Anyone paying attention to the grain markets has been trying to assemble as much information from South America as possible. Knowing which of the widely varied reports are accurate can be maddening.

From what I know many of the acres of beans got a later-than-desired start due to wet conditions. Now most of those areas have gotten drier. While that should not hurt too much the delayed planning of the first crop, mostly soybeans, it signifies a delay in getting the second crop planted.

They will push the grain fill later into the fall or even early winter. If the rains shut off in early February, as they have in recent years, it has the potential to subtract from the second crop’s yields.

In their four winter months they seldom get any rain and temps can be very hot, especially north of 22 degrees south latitude


Most people who displayed or attended last week’s Iowa Farming Power Show would have to call it a success. The aisles were crowded with people at the opening bell on Jan. 29 through Jan. 31 and after about 11 a.m. on Jan. 30, which is when the mini-blizzard hit. Now that the show grounds have been expanded by about 150 percent with the Vets renovation, things are not as crowded as they used to be. We had a ton of guests stop by our booths with a ton of question.

It’s bad when we can’t get to every person, but visitors are constantly under a time gun to cover as much ground as possible.

The major questions that seemed to come out of many mouths were: 1. What were we expecting for weather this coming season and were there any management steps or products we would recommend they apply to combat drought? 2. How are the micronutrient mixes performing and how much of a boost in yield or increase in plant health were we seeing as a result?

Those that stopped by had a chance to visit with John Marler, the executive officer with Perfect Blend Fertilizer. With PBF’s positive results in rhizotron studies at the former Soil Tilth Lab, (now the Lab for Ag and the Environment) it looks like it might be what many farmers with some lighter or eroded ground might be looking for as a means of restoring productivity.

Grain testing

There have been results from a grain analysis performed on a series of samples from southwest Iowa. What was found was something totally unexpected and a compound that could cause serious problems for the consuming animal or human.

The company turning in the sample has to be concerned. I may get into that next week.

In the meanwhile, have a good week and make sure any rain that falls this weekend stays on your fields.

It could be a very precious commodity this summer.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.

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By Staff | Feb 8, 2013

Now that the calendar has turned to February we will start to see more positioning ahead of the USDA outlook forum data.

The data released at this forum contains the government’s first official look at new crop balance sheets on commodities.

Trade is fully expecting a bearish round of numbers from this group, but the real question is how much of the news has already factored into commodity values.

While the February outlook forum can influence trade, what is more interesting for trade is the March stocks and planting intentions reports.

These numbers will help verify the usage data that was released in January. The most interest will be on soybean inventory, as we have not seen demand slow on soybeans at all since the end of harvest.

It is quite possible a bullish number in the March stocks report could initiate panic rationing in the soy complex.

Global corn demand is becoming a concern, mainly from Japan. Japan is the world’s largest corn importer, but in the first 11 months of 2012, Japan’s corn imports were down 2.3 percent from 2011.

This is especially alarming for the United States, where corn trade is down 91 percent from the previous year. Japan has increased its use of alternative feed grains products, cutting down on its corn usage.

Even though harvest is just getting underway in South America, concerns are already building over potential logistic issues. South America is expected to see its largest demand ever for newly harvested soybeans this year as inventory begins to tighten in the United States.

In fact, we are already starting to see vessels line up for exports once Brazil’s soybeans make it to port. Brazil is currently forecast to export 2 million metric tons of soybeans in February, and then see loadings jump to 5 million tons in March.

Today’s trade continues to be heavily influenced by weather. This is more from current conditions in South America as those crops are entering some of their most critical time periods, especially Argentine corn.

Argentina’s corn is pollinating, and any stress now could further reduce an already shrinking crop projection.

Worries also remain over the United States as well, as drought is lingering in the Plains with the spring planting season rapidly approaching.

We continue to see mixed demand on U.S. corn and soybeans.

For the marketing year, the United States has already sold 908 million bushels of soybeans for export. This is running well ahead of last year, and close to the total volume of soybean sales expected for the entire marketing year.

Corn sales remain very poor though, with yearly bookings a mere 283 million bushels. At this rate, U.S. yearly corn sales could be some of the lowest in decades.

The unknown on corn demand remains whether poor exports can be negated by increased domestic usage. Ethanol demand has plateaued, but so far, the industry is consuming all of the corn it was expectedto.

The big unknown on corn use is feed though, as the livestock industry is consuming much more corn than expected this year. These uses may be just enough to off-set slow exports, but even that may not be accurate given the onset of South America’s harvest, and the cheaper grain it will provide the global market.

Karl Setzer is a commodity trading advisor and market analyst at MaxYield Cooperative. He can contacted at ksetzer@maxyieldcooperative.com.

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