April 22, 2017

Choosing Nitrogen Rates

Most corn producers have made plans on how to supply the 2017 Illinois corn crop with nitrogen. However, the stakes are high says University of Illinois Extension Agronomist Emerson Nafziger and this might have some rethinking plans as the season gets underway.

  • unusually early N application this past winter and early spring
  • the delay in fieldwork due to rainfall over the past week
  • ongoing pressure to “get nitrogen right”

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link to N Rate Calculator


April 21, 2017

Cattle | Increase Conception Rates after Lush Spring Turnout

During the winter most cattle are supplemented with dry forages, grains, and co-products. This ration is balanced and delivered to cattle. Then spring comes along and cattle are put out to grass. While green grass solves a lot of problems associated with winter feeding (manure, pen maintenance, calf health, and labor demands), it can pose nutritional challenges, especially for newly bred cows.

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That lush green grass forage has three major challenges when it comes to meeting cattle nutrition requirements.

  • it can lack enough dry matter
  • it is high in protein, but the excess can become a problem without the dry matter
  • and it is low in fiber


The beef cattle specialists at the University of Illinois wondered if this combination of problems has taken a hand in some of the lower artificial insemination conception rates they’ve seen in one of the three campus herds. Animal Scientist Dan Shike and Extension Beef Educator Travis Meteer set up an experiment to find out. Low dry matter and excess protein has been well documented by the dairy industry as a detriment to reproductive performance. The two wanted to know if a supplemental dry matter feed stock would make a difference. Shike says it did, “We did a synchronized timed A.I. At the first pregnancy check about 58% of the supplemented cows were pregnant to A.I. and 46% of the non-supplemented cows were pregnant to A.I.”

A twelve percent increase is significant. However, Shike cautions he has just two years worth of data to support the findings. Shike and Meteer did a Facebook live video discussing lush spring grasses and the impact on cattle going to pasture that includes more details on conception rate work. Search Facebook for “University of Illinois Beef Cattle Extension”.


April 20, 2017

Working to Create New Illini Brand Soybean Varieties

Troy Cary & Lauran Widman are working to create twelve-thousand 2017 University of Illinois soybean breeding program plots. Todd Gleason caught up with them on Tuesday morning and put together this look at some of the pre-planting season work.

YouTube Link


April 19, 2017

Too Early to Worry About Late Planting

Farmers have been a bit worried about getting into the field because of rains throughout the Midwest. It looks like those will clear out for the week, mostly, and even if they don’t, there isn’t much to worry about, yet. Todd Gleason has more on when the ag economist at the University of Illinois think late planting impacts the markets and yields.


April 11, 2017

Pork Industry Favored by Strong Demand

Chris Hurt - This is basically a forecast for a breakeven year with all costs being covered, including labor costs and equity investors receiving a normal rate of return.

by Chris Hurt, Purdue University Extension
farmdocDaily article

Hog prices are expected to increase in 2017 even with three percent more pork production. Prices will be supported by stronger demand because of a growing U.S. economy and by a robust eight percent growth in exports as projected by USDA. New packer capacity is also expected to contribute to stronger bids for hogs. Feed costs will be the lowest in a decade and total production costs are expected to be at decade lows.

The recently updated USDA inventory report found that the nation’s breeding herd was one percent larger than the herd of a year-ago. This continues a rebuilding of the herd that began in 2014 as feed prices began to move sharply lower and the industry began to recover from pig losses due to PED. The national breeding herd has increased by four percent since 2014. Notable expansions of the breeding herd in the past three years have occurred in Missouri 25 percent; Ohio 9 percent; Illinois 8 percent; and Indiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma each up 4 percent. Farrowing intentions are up one percent for this spring and slightly below year previous levels for this coming summer.

Producers indicated to USDA that they had four percent more animals in the market herd, reflecting four percent higher farrowings last fall, a three percent increase in winter farrowings and a one percent increase in the number of pigs per litter. Given these numbers, pork supplies are expected to rise by five percent in April and May and then drop to a four percent increase for June through August. Three percent more pork can be expected for September through November of 2017 with supplies up one percent this coming winter compared to year-previous levels.

Live hog prices averaged about $46 last year with losses estimated at $11 per head. Prices are expected to be $3 to $4 higher this year. Live hog prices averaged about $50 per hundredweight in the first quarter of 2017. Prices for the second and third quarters are expected to average in the very low $50s. Prices will likely be seasonally lower in the fourth quarter and average in the mid-$40s. If so, prices would average near $49 for the year and be slightly under projected total costs of production with $1 of loss per head. This is basically a forecast for a breakeven year with all costs being covered, including labor costs and equity investors receiving a normal rate of return.

Current expectations are for feed prices to remain low in 2017, but with corn prices increasing into 2018. On a calendar year basis, U.S. corn prices received by farmers averaged $6.67 per bushel in 2012 (unweighted by marketings). Those prices fell to $3.48 per bushel in calendar 2016 and are expected to be only a few cents higher in calendar 2017. Current prospects are for corn to be $.20 to $.30 per bushel higher in calendar year 2018 due to sharp reductions in 2017 U.S. acreage.

Soybean meal averaged $478 per ton in 2014 (high-protein, Decatur, Illinois), but is expected to average only $315 per ton in 2017, the lowest calendar year price since 2010. Total feed costs per hundredweight are expected to be the lowest in a decade dating back to 2007.Total costs of production may reach 10-year lows. Estimated total costs of production reached $67 per live hundredweight in 2012 driven by high feed prices. For calendar year 2017 that may drop to $49.50, which is the lowest estimated total costs of production since 2007 and would represent 10-year lows.

What are the potential shadows for the industry this year? The first is that meat and poultry competition will be high. In addition to three percent more pork, beef production is expected to be up four percent and poultry production up two percent. There is simply a lot of competition for the consumers’ food dollars.

Secondly, the optimism for the U.S. economy that has been present in early 2017 could falter. This optimism is related to a stronger job market, low unemployment, and record seeking stock market indexes. The anticipated stimulus package of the new administration has likely been a contributor. Time will tell if Congress can agree on this legislation and move it from anticipation to reality. In addition, the FED is likely to continue a series of interest rate increases to slow growing inflation pressures.

Decade low feed cost is important reason pork producers are expected to almost cover all of their costs this year. Weather in the U.S. and in the Northern Hemisphere will be important in the final determination of yields and feed prices.

The industry needs to keep expansion of the breeding herd to near one percent each year. This one percent increase along with about one percent higher weaning rates means the industry can increase pork production about two percent a year. That is sufficient to cover a one percent growth in domestic population and about one percent annual growth needed to expand exports. Growth of the breeding herd at more than one percent could shift the industry back into losses.


April 10, 2017

Birds, Bees, & Wild Things

by Jason Haupt, Extension Natural Resources - University of Illinois
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Attracting wildlife to your yard is something in which everyone seems to be interested. But knowing how to do this is what many people lack. As you think about attracting wildlife to your yard, the first step is to start looking at your yard as a habitat. All habitats have four elements: water, shelter, food, and space.


When you are looking to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your yard, you need to think about providing for all stages in the life of the insects that you want to attract. Insects have multiple life stages, and each stage has a different food requirement. Milkweed is one of the most common plants chosen to attract butterflies, Monarchs specifically, but Milkweed only provides for one of the life stages of the Monarch’s life cycle. To attract and keep the butterflies coming to your yard, you need to provide food for the larval stage (caterpillar), the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult (butterfly) stages. Each stage has specific requirements.


Pollinators play a significant role in keeping habitats healthy and diverse. They are important to agriculture pollinating crops and help in ensuring a good healthy yield. When most people think of pollinators, their first thought is honeybees. However, there are so many more bees than just honey- bees (which are non-native) and more than 3,500 species of native bees in the United States with 228 of them found in Illinois. Without bees, much of the produce that you love to have in the summer would not be available in the quantities or the quality that you love. Peppers, tomatoes, many root vegetables, and many fruits need bees to pollinate and produce healthy produce. Bees ensure that the flowers properly pollinate and produce healthy and abundant fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Research has also shown that an increased native bee population also makes honeybees produce more honey increasing the yield of local honey.


April 10, 2017

How to Boil, Color, and use Easter Eggs

...with Mary Liz Wright, Extension Nutrition & Wellness - University of Illinois
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If you haven’t made Easter Eggs for the weekend, you’re in luck. There is still time and Todd Gleason has the how-to details with University of Illinois Extension’s Mary Liz Wright.


April 04, 2017

farmdocDaily Webinar | USDA March Grain Stocks & Acreage


Darrel Good, Todd Hubbs, Scott Irwin - University of Illinois ACES



by Todd Hubbs, Agricultural Economist - University of Illinois

The high March 1 stock numbers provide some bearish sentiment for old crop corn and soybean prices in 2017. The larger than expected soybean stock number may have some implications for the size of the 2016 soybean crop, but the final estimate will not be known until September. The large corn stocks number impact the consumption of corn in the feed and residual category directly during the current marketing year and an expectation of reduced feed and residual use is prudent moving forward. Planting intentions confirmed the belief that farmers would switch to soybean production in 2017.

The large Brazilian soybean crop this year combined with stable demand over the next marketing year gives an indication of lower prices for soybeans next marketing year. The lower corn planting intentions provide some support for corn prices despite the large March 1 stock estimate. If consumption maintains its current pace, the 2017–18 marketing year should see stable to higher corn prices.




April 01, 2017

Corn & Soybean Planting Date Recommendations

by Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois
see The Bulletin article

Relatively dry weather in recent weeks throughout much of Illinois and an early start to fieldwork might provide the unusual opportunity this year of letting us choose corn and soybean planting dates instead of having to wait until it’s dry enough.

There are reports that some corn and possibly some soybeans were planted as early as February this year. The main motivation for such plantings is often the excitement that comes (or doesn’t) from having the crop survive “against all odds.” While that may be satisfying, it doesn’t offer much profit potential. If the crop survives it hardly ever produces yields as high as those from planting at the normal time, and planting very early affects insurability and can also increase the cost of replant seed.

In the warm, dry March of 2012, we planted one date of our planting date study at Urbana on March 16. The crop emerged uniformly and grew well until frost on April 11–12 killed the tops of the plants to the ground. About 75% of the plants survived and grew back, though, and to our surprise this planting also yielded about 75% as much as the April plantings. Most corn planted in mid-March in 2012 (about 5% of the state’s corn was planted by April 1 that year) had to be replanted.

Most people avoid taking insurance coverage risks by planting before earliest allowable planting dates under the federal crop insurance program. Those dates for corn are April 10, April 5, and April 1 for northern, central, and southern Illinois, and for soybean are April 24, April 20, and April 15 in northern, central, and southern Illinois.

Having the earliest insurable dates for soybean about two weeks later than for corn reflects what until recently we considered to be the greater danger from planting soybeans very early compared to planting corn very early. In fact, with better seed handling and treating today, soybean seed produces acceptable stands with mid-April planting about as often as corn does.

Contrary to what many believe, soybean is no more vulnerable to frost than corn after emergence. The only time we’ve seen soybean seedlings killed by frost is when it gets near freezing at the time the hypocotyl hook is exposed to the cold sky, before the cotyledons are pulled from the soil. This period of vulnerability typically lasts no more than a day or two; after the hypocotyl straightens and the cotyledons open, soybean plants are fairly cold-hardy. While corn plants have been considered safe from frost until the growing point is near the soil surface, we have seen corn plants killed by low temperatures (often below 30 degrees) even if they have only two or three leaves exposed.

The primary cause of stand loss in both crops is having heavy rainfall soon after planting. Stand loss from wet soils before or during germination is greater for corn when soil temperatures are low. For soybean, having warm soil under wet conditions speeds up the germination process and mean that seedlings run out of oxygen before emergence. But chances of having heavy rainfall soon after planting are not higher with early planting, and stand problems due to wet soils are as common with May planting as with April planting.

Between 2007 and 2016, we ran planting date studies for corn at a total of 22 Illinois site-years, and between 2010 and 2016, at a total of 26 site-years for soybean. There were four planting dates in each trial, ranging from early April through late May for corn and mid-April through early June for soybean. Data are expressed as percentage of the yield at the highest-yielding date within each site-year.

As shown in Figure 1, planting date responses expressed as percent of maximum yield within each site-year are surprisingly similar for corn and soybean across recent trials. Both crops showed near-maximum yields when planted in mid-April to early May, and yields dropped to 95, 91, and 86% as planting was delayed to May 10, May 20, and May 30, respectively.

Figure 1. Planting date responses over 22 corn and 26 soybean site-years in Illinois.

What should we take from the fact that yields of both crops declined at about the same percentage rates as planting was delayed through May? The main message is that we need to give similar priority both crops in terms of getting them planted on time. For those with more than one planter, that may mean planting both crops simultaneously, as fields get ready to plant. Our long-held idea of planting corn first them starting to plant soybean requires rethinking and possible adjustment. At the same time, the penalty for late planting of corn is a little lower once we get to late May and into June compared to that for soybean, so in fields that stay wet longer, soybeans may still be a slightly better choice.

We also see from the data in Figure 1 that neither crop is likely to yield more when planted in early April than when planted in mid- or late April. If fields for both crops are ready to plant in central Illinois on April 6, there are two reasons to plant corn first: 1) it’s insurable; and 2) corn seed is somewhat better able to emerge at high percentage when planted early than is soybean seed.

On the other hand, we generally expect about 85% of soybean seeds and 95% of corn seed to establish plants, so corn can be a little more vulnerable to less-than-desired stands if conditions turn bad after planting. In neither crop, however, would dropping desired stands by 5 percentage points cost much yield.

Finally, we should take care not to be overly influenced by what happened in 2016, a season when growers reported much higher yields from early- compared to late-planted soybeans. Statewide, over the past 20 years or so, the average date by which we get 50% of the crop planted is about May 1 for corn and May 22 for soybean. It would be good if we could move both of those dates up some, and even better if we could move the two dates closer together. Still, with years like 2012 when planting was very early but lack of rain lowered yields by a lot, there’s little relationship between average statewide planting date and average statewide yield.

Most planting delays are due to wet soils, and so are more or less beyond our control. Mudding in either crop, especially in April, is usually a mistake, given the slow rate at which yields for both crops fall as planting is delayed into May, and given the prevent-plant provisions of crop insurance in effect. We should be diligent at starting to plant when all (not just soil) conditions are right, but there’s little reason to panic when planting isn’t as early as we’d like


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