May 20, 2018

Projected Cutting Dates for Black Cutworm in Corn

Farmers should be on the lookout for black cutworm in their corn fields.

The earliest projected cutting dates were late last week in Montgomery County. University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Nick Seiter says fields, especially at risk to having plants cut by the black cutworm, include those with later planted corn and those sown into grassy weeds or a late terminated cover crop. Seiter explains, “What you are going to want to do is to scout your field. Look for plants lying on the ground that appears to have been cut with scissors. This is different looking than damage from a bird digging up the plant looking for the seed. These corn plants will be cut off. When you start finding that, scrape around in the residue looking for the larvae. The black cutworm larva is dark colored, with a greasy appearance. It is not slimy, but it looks like it has been coated with Crisco. If you find the worms and about three percent of the plants have been cut throughout the field it is the time to initiate a treatment.”

Seiter says there are several pyrethroid insecticides that can be successfully used as a rescue treatment. He offers these black cutworm management pain on the University of Illinois the Bulletin website.

  • Infestations are more likely in later planted corn, as delayed planting means larger cutworm larvae are present at earlier stages of corn development.
  • Black cutworm moths prefer to lay their eggs on grasses, not bare ground. Therefore, fields with grassy weeds present at or shortly before planting are more likely to experience damaging populations. Similarly, monitor fields closely if a grass cover crop (e.g., cereal rye) is terminated while corn is susceptible to cutworm damage (emergence to ~V5).
  • The economic threshold for black cutworm is 3% of plants cut with black cutworms still present in the field. Look for plants that look like they have been cut roughly with scissors close to the base; plants with intact roots were most likely dug up by birds and do not represent cutworm damage. Remember, larvae do their feeding at night and hide in residue or just below the soil surface during the day, so you will have to do a little bit of digging near the base of the plant to find them.
  • Several Bt corn trait packages offer suppression of black cutworm, but these might be less effective under heavy infestations or against later stage larvae. Most pyrethroid insecticides labeled for use in corn will do an excellent job of controlling larvae as a rescue treatment; just remember that they only pay off when an economic threshold has been reached.

Kelly Estes at the Illinois Natural History Survey coordinates an insect trapping network throughout the state and those results, including the black cutworm cutting dates, are posted online at The Bulletin website - that’s and on Twitter using the handles @ILPestBulletin or @ILPestSurvey.

May 16, 2018

Market Outlook for Corn and Soybeans

Farmers, as we enter the last half of May, are nearing the end of the spring planting season and they are turning their attention again to the marketplace. Todd Gleason has more on how one agricultural economist sees prices playing out for the year.

We’ll start with the last numbers USDA publishes in the Supply and Demand tables for each commodity, the season’s average price. For corn, that number - at the midpoint - is $3.80. University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Todd Hubbs is a bit more optimistic. He has it at $4.05. His soybean price, however, is less than USDA’s. The agency has it at $10.00 a bushel. Hubbs puts it at $9.45. The difference in viewpoint says Hubbs lands squarely on soybean exports, “When we look forward to 18/19 the 2.29 billion bushel USDA projection seems a bit high especially when you consider the size of the Brazilian soybean crop and China’s aspiration to increase domestic soybean production while cutting back on imports for the first time in over a decade. It is unclear if China can pull this off, but I’ve got exports at 2.20 billion bushels in 18/19 and that may be generous considering whats going on currently in the market.”

So, Todd Hubbs soybean export figure is 90 million bushels lower than USDA’s for the coming marketing season. It’s lower for the current marketing year, too. All-in-all his soybean supply & demand table puts the new crop ending stocks at 562 million bushels. That’s a far cry from the much more optimistic USDA 415 million bushels projection and the reason his price projection is 55 cents a bushel lower than USDA’s. Again USDA is $10.00, Hubbs is at $9.45. His corn number swings in the opposite direction.

USDA, in the May reports, projected the price of new crop corn at $3.80. Hubbs is at $4.05. The reason why is pretty simple. Hubbs says he uses a lower yield trend line yield, "The main difference between my projections and USDA is the trend yield number. We sit at 171.4 whereas USDA has it a 174 bushels to the acre and the final yield makes a big difference in the consumption pattern and the final price.

Again, USDA is at 174 bushels to the acre and Todd Hubbs is using 171.4. Both numbers are calculated from the same USDA yield data set. USDA uses a smaller subset starting at about the time Bt corn was introduced. Hubbs’ set goes back a couple more decades, and consequently, his yield number is lower. The resulting price difference in the supply & demand tables for new crop corn is $3.80 for USDA and $4.05 for Hubbs.

May 10, 2018

WASDE | New Crop Supply & Demand

The monthly WASDE report for May 2018 introduced the first look at the new crop corn and soybean supply & demand tables. Todd Gleason has more with University of Illinois commodity markets specialist Todd Hubbs.

May 07, 2018

Soybean Crush Continues Strength

by Todd Hubbs, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois
read farmdocDaily article

Soybean crush levels picked up substantially over the last few months due to strong crush margins. Driven by production issues in Argentina, the increase in crush margin recently is attributed to rapid growth in soybean meal prices. For the 2017–08 marketing year, the USDA currently projects the domestic crush at 1.97 billion bushels, up 3.6 percent from last marketing year. Soybean meal use needs to build on recent progress to meet or exceed the current crush projection.

Soybean crush during the first half of the marketing year from September 2017 through February 2018 equaled 1010.6 million bushels, 3.5 percent greater than the total of the previous year. The USDA’s current projection indicates a 3.6 percent increase for the year and implies that the crush during the last half of the year will be 3.7 percent larger than the crush during the previous marketing year. The Census Bureau estimated the March 2018 crush level at 182.2 million bushels, 13 percent larger than the crush during March 2017. The March estimate implies that the crush during the last five months of the year must total 776.8 million bushels, 1.7 percent higher than the crush of a year ago, to reach the USDA projection of 1.97 billion bushels.

The pace of domestic crush accelerated in February and March on a substantial uptick in crush margin. The strengthening of the crush margin coincided with changing expectations regarding Argentinian soybean production. Current forecasts of Argentine production reflect the poor growing season and sit at 1.47 billion bushels for the 2018 crop year, down 654 million bushels from last year’s production. The potential for an additional 80 million bushel decline in production is a distinct possibility. Soybean crush projections for Argentina fell 1.95 million tons to 45.4 million tons and continued issues associated with soybean crushing in the region may lower this number over the next few months.

The growth in soybean meal prices associated with potential shortfalls saw crush margins in Decatur move from an average of $1.63 during September through February 7 to the current level of $2.63. Soybean meal prices in Decatur expanded from $327 per ton in early February to an average of $390 per ton over the last month. Soybean oil prices continue to show weakness with soy oil stocks growing to 2.44 billion pounds in March, up 0.8 percent from last year. Lower projections in the April WASDE report for biodiesel use of soybean oil and the growth in production increased marketing year ending stock projections. Soybean oil prices declined from 31.6 cents per pound in early February to an average of 29.5 cents per pound over the last month in Decatur. The continuation of crush strength in 2018 is dependent on solid soybean meal markets.

The April WASDE report increased domestic consumption of soybean meal by 250 thousand tons and expanded exports by 100 thousand tons. Total use is forecast at 47.05 million tons in April, up 4.5 percent from last year.

Domestically, large livestock supply indicates continued consumption of soybean meal throughout the spring and summer as beef, pork, and broiler production look to expand over last year’s levels on recent positive feeder and packer margins. Red meat and poultry production came in 2 percent higher during the first quarter of 2018. USDA projections set second quarter production increases at 4.4 percent. Despite the recent rise in soybean meal price, a continuation of strong domestic consumption appears feasible for 2018.

While domestic consumption of soybean meal gives added weight to continued strong crush margins, soybean meal export markets need to provide support as well. Through the first half of the soybean meal marketing year (October 2017 – March 2018), soybean meal exports increased 3.2 percent over last year, to 6.92 million short tons. The USDA’s current projection indicates a 7.8 percent increase for the year and implies that the exports during the last half of the year will be 14 percent larger than second half exports during the previous marketing year. Census Bureau estimated the March 2018 export level at 1.414 million short tons, 3 percent lower than during March 2017. Soybean meal exports during the last six months of the year must total 5.577 million tons to reach USDA projections.

While soybean exports continue to disappoint, soybean crush levels maintain a pace to set record levels of use associated with crush this marketing year. Domestic use of soybean meal appears set to maintain support for strong crush margins. The progression of soybean meal exports through the remainder of the spring and summer will provide insight into the potential for crush levels as we move into next marketing year and merit monitoring.

Discussion and graphs associated with this article available here.

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