Argentina's soybean crop could set a record this year, according to USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). The agency projects that 9.3 million hectares (about 3.7 million acres) will be harvested in that country, up 9% from last year's figure. Production is projected at 22.6 million tons, a 5% gain.

"Planting prospects are very high due mainly to reductions in sunflower and corn areas," says FAS. "A weak demand for other oilseeds has prompted year-to-year declines in sunflower seed and peanut areas in favor of soybeans. Soybeans are also favored over corn based on the soy-corn price ratio of recent months."

Brazilian Production Up, Too. Soybean acreage in Brazil's western and northern states will offset contraction farther south, says USDA.

"A shift of soybean area toward the higher-yielding states in the west and north is likely to enhance the national average yield," according to the agency. "In addition, the rally in soybean prices from January through May considerably improved the financing of Brazilian farms from a year ago."

USDA raised its forecast for the 2000-01 Brazilian crop to a record 24.5 million tons.

Garst Tests For StarLink. Garst Seed Company officials say they're taking extra steps in testing their hybrids for presence of the StarLink Bt gene. "We're in the process of testing every Garst corn hybrid that will be sold for the 2001 planting season," says David Witherspoon, company president.

"Thus far, we have not confirmed any StarLink. We are making this commitment to our customers - we will not sell any hybrid seed that shows a positive test for StarLink based on our testing procedures."

Earlier, StarLink protein was found in a Garst hybrid grown in 1999.

StarLink Doesn't Change Eating Habits. The StarLink-in-taco shells controversy has had no impact on Americans' food consumption.

That's according to Tom Hoban, North Carolina State University sociologist. Hoban surveyed 500 adults to find out if their attitudes on biotechnology and food had changed after the StarLink episode last September.

Fifty-three percent said they were aware of the recall of food products containing StarLink corn. But no one interviewed had avoided any foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Only 5% had taken any action as a result of concerns over genetically modified foods. And many of those who acted simply sought more information.

Don't Plant Unapproved Crops. Two big grain processors, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and A.E. Staley Manufacturing, are advising growers to avoid planting varieties not approved for export.

ADM has been airing radio ads in Illinois and Iowa that say its processing plants will only accept crops that have full feed and food approval worldwide. A.E. Staley sent letters to 1,200 of its corn suppliers, warning them against planting hybrids not approved in the European Union.

USDA Heats With Biodiesel. USDA is using biodiesel to help alleviate a projected shortage of heating oil this winter. Its Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Beltsville, MD, is using a blend of 5% biodiesel in its heating oil.

"Our goal is to demonstrate that it can work as home heating oil, and to raise awareness ... that it's an option to stretch our heating oil supply," says John Van de Vaarst, ARS deputy area director.

New Seed Treatment Debuts. Syngenta is introducing Adage, a new insecticide seed treatment for cotton, grain sorghum and wheat. It's said to be effective against thrips and aphids in cotton; chinch bugs, aphids, greenbugs and wireworms in sorghum; and aphids and wireworms in wheat.

"Adage has been found to provide outstanding control of soil and foliar insects, as well as providing margins of crop and environmental safety that are superior to that of other seed and many in-furrow and foliar treatments," says Mark Jsirak, Syngenta's seed treatment product manager.

Checkoff Funds Health Study. The soybean checkoff is funding a study aimed at providing additional evidence that eating soy may help prevent osteoporosis.

The study, "Soy Isoflavones and Bone Resorption in Post-Menopausal Women," is being led by Connie Weaver, a Purdue University nutritionist. It was chosen as one of 10 research proposals to receive a $10,000 award from the United Soybean Board's Health Research Program. To be eligible, researchers had to meet specific soy research criteria and submit their proposals to the National Institutes of Health for consideration.

Agriliance Starts Feb. 3. Effective Feb. 3, Agriliance, LLC will be the name of a marketing venture between Cenex Harvest States Cooperatives, Farmland Industries and Land O'Lakes.

Agriliance will market fertilizers, pesticides, seed, information management and crop technical services to farmers through a co-op system and independent retail dealers in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico.

Don't Miss Uncle Sam's Deadlines. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman reminds crop farmers that deadlines for three emergency assistance programs are approaching. Programs, deadline dates and amounts of money available are:

2000 Oilseeds Program - Jan. 12, $500 million; Flood Compensation Program - Jan. 19, $24 million; 2000 Crop Year Peanut Market Loss Assistance Program - Feb. 1, $61 million.

"I urge farmers to call or visit their local USDA offices to ensure that they know about all the help they may be eligible for and to sign up before the deadlines," says Glickman.

Mexican Soy Beverage Expands. Production of AdeS, a soy isolate and fruit juice-based beverage sold in Mexico and Central America, is expected to increase by 40% this year.

Launched in 1997 by Productos de Maiz, a Unilever-Best Foods Mexican company, the beverage currently has sales of over 9 million quarts per year. A plant for processing raw soybeans is being established in Mexico.

"This is a very significant utilization of U.S. soybeans for human consumption," says Vic Braverman, the American Soybean Association's deputy director for Mexico and Central America.

Effective last month, ASA's quality seal is displayed on all AdeS packaging and promotional materials.