Seedling diseases and seed rot accounted for more than 20% of soybean establishment problems in the past five years, and farmers had to replant almost 20% of affected acres. (This comes from a March 2012 survey of Midwestern and Southeastern certified crop advisors in 12 major soybean-producing states as part of a soybean seedling disease study.)
“It’s 75% true – we dodged a major bullet and were able to carry commodities through the winter on the Mississippi,” says Ann McCulloch, vice president of public affairs for the American Waterways Operators (AWO). “But we are still very concerned. That was a major concern from November when the Corps of Engineers (USACE) reduced Missouri River flow into the Mississippi.”
From Kuala Lumpur, in the heart of Southeast Asia, it’s almost 10,000 miles to Julius Schaaf’s corn and soybean farm in Randolph, Iowa, but Schaaf is quick to point out the region’s growing importance as a market for U.S. farmers.
A new iPad/Android tablet app offers a comprehensive approach to corn and soybean crop scouting, management and recordkeeping. So says Michael Koenig, who co-founded ScoutPro with Stuart McCulloh and Holden Nyhus through Iowa State University’s (ISU) Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. Tap into university Extension photo references like ISU’s Weed Identification Field Guide to identify weeds, insects and diseases in the field.
A self-pollinating crop like soybeans shouldn’t have a need for bees. But recent research into the little-understood relationships between the two indicates there could be big bean yield benefits from bees. Creating more bee-friendly habitats could prove to be a worthwhile goal for soybean growers.
Weed resistance is increasing “at an alarming rate,” and with no new herbicide sites of action becoming available in the immediate future, “we need to follow stewardship programs to the letter to preserve the herbicide products we have,” warns Michael Owen, Iowa State University Extension weed specialist. Common waterhemp, marestail (horseweed) and giant ragweed are likely to be the biggest weed challenges for Corn Belt farmers in 2013, and Palmer amaranth will be the next big weed threat, Owen says.
As corn stocks ballooned and prices tanked during the 1980s farm crisis, one gleam of good news came from a new corn product – high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). In 1984, major soft drink companies replaced colas’ sugar with 100% HFCS, and corn use for the sweetener hit 310 million bu. By 1999, HFCS use was above 550 million bu. and almost even with corn use for fuel ethanol. Since then, however, corn use for HFCS has contracted by 16%. This year, USDA ERS forecasts use at just 485 million bushels.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) continues to keep honeybees in the headlines as beekeepers lose on average one-third of their hives annually. But CCD is not the only problem that affects bees. Bee populations in general, including bumblebees and ground-nesting solitary bees, are declining.
Steve Bemis has a bridge problem that is all too common for rural areas: He has to drive “the long way around” to move equipment or haul crops in DeKalb County, Ill., because a local bridge is closed. “It’s been four years and the bridge is still out,” he says. “There’s not a crossroad handy so it takes us up to four miles out of the way, depending on where we’re going.
Argentina and Brazil now supply export markets that traditionally bought American. The U.S. is no longer the dominant corn supplier for countries like Colombia, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic. Millions of untapped arable acres and low production costs make Brazil a formidable competitor. But the story is different in Argentina, where most cropland is already under cultivation and corn competes with wheat and soybeans for acres.
Ukraine’s black soil is what everyone talks about. “It looks like Iowa,” says Cary Sifferath, a Midwesterner who monitors Ukraine for the U.S. Grains Council. Tim Burrack, an Arlington, Iowa, farmer, is almost poetic about it: “It’s a black, deep, beautiful soil with good drainage, and after perestroika and the breakup of the Soviet Union, it was just lying there idle.”
A soybean powerhouse, Brazil is also a growing force in corn, as demonstrated last year when it increased corn production by 31% to almost 2.9 billion bushels. With that record crop, Brazil’s exports also jumped. Now the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service expects Brazilian farmers to set another planting record for both corn and soybeans this year.
A growing wave of soybean imports appears to make China increasingly dependent on U.S. supplies. Last market year, one out of every four rows harvested was bound for China. In the new market year, nearly two out of every three bushels of soybeans sold by U.S. exporters has a Chinese destination.
EGT’s brand-new export terminal at Longview, Wash., sets new standards for efficiency, according to CEO Larry Clarke: “With grain so valuable, no one wants to leave it sitting in the field at risk, so the speed with which you can move it from field, to storage, to its destination is important.
The power of teamwork is at the heart of Jim Sutter’s approach as CEO of the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC). Teamwork is evident, too, in his personal style, which can quickly make you feel you’re working with him on a project.