Tag Archives: crops

In comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Renewable Fuels Association Monday said it “strongly supports” the year-round E15 proposal.

The proposal would extend the Reid Vapor Pressure waiver for fuels blended with 15 percent ethanol year-round. The waiver currently applies to E10 only during the summer months. According to RFA, the EPA proposal would allow year-round sales of E15 in conventional gasoline markets for the first time, opening the marketplace more broadly to a fuel that provides consumers higher octane, lower cost, and reduced tailpipe emissions. RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper says, “President Trump was correct when he called the summertime prohibition on E15 unnecessary and ridiculous.”

However, just 32 days remain before the start of the summer driving season. Cooper says to honor the President’s commitment, EPA must act quickly to complete the rule. RFA’s comments also discouraged EPA from finalizing any of the four proposed Renewable Identification Number market reforms. RFA is concerned that changes may be counterproductive, undermine the efficient operation of the RIN market mechanism.

The Department of Agriculture Monday extended the deadline to May 17 from May 1 for producers to certify 2018 crop production for payments through the Market Facilitation Program.

The trade relief program payments will be issued only if eligible producers certify acres before the updated May 17 deadline. Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce says the deadline was moved because rainfall and snowfall have delayed harvests in many parts of the country, preventing producers from certifying acres.

The program helps producers who have been significantly affected by foreign tariffs, resulting in the loss of traditional exports, according to USDA. MFP provides payments to producers of corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, dairy, hogs, fresh sweet cherries and shelled almonds. To date, more than $8.3 billion has been paid to nearly 600,000 applicants. Producers can certify production by contacting their local FSA office or through farmers.gov.

Three countries committed to purchase U.S. sorghum this week. China committed to purchase 2.4 million bushels, Spain followed with a commitment of 2.2 million bushels, and South Africa committed to buy as well. An additional 2.1 million bushels were also committed to unknown destinations, bringing the total to roughly 6.7 million for the week.

The U.S. sorghum industry is encouraged by these purchases as we move toward the 2019 planting season. Team sorghum supports fairer and open trade and will continue to work with international buyers and officials to achieve long-term trade relationships.

For the past three years, researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Wisconsin-Madison collected survey data from producer soybean fields planted in four growing seasons (2014-2017) in Nebraska and nine other states in the North Central region (WI, MI, IN, IL, IA, ND, OH, KS, and MN). The work was led by Associate Professor of Agronomy and Cropping System Specialist Patricio Grassini (UNL) and Professor of Agronomy and State Soybean and Small Grain Specialist Shawn Conley (UW) and supported by the North-Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP), the Nebraska Soybean Board, and the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

The goal of the project was to identify key management practices explaining the gap between current yield and yield potential as determined by climate, soil, and genetics. This information can help producers understand what factors are preventing them from fully realizing the potential of their soybean fields and fine-tune their current management to increase yield and profit.

The UNL-WU team collected data on soybean yield and management practices from 9,133 fields across the north-central US (Figure 1), including 2,447 Nebraska fields (irrigated and dryland). UNL researchers partnered with Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) to reach out to producers to take the surveys. We especially want to thank the many Nebraska farmers for the time they devoted to taking our surveys.


Chart showing soybean yield resposne to planting date in dryland and irrigated fields in Nebraska.
Figure 2. Soybean yield response to planting date in dryland and irrigated fields in Nebraska. The line represents the yield potential along the range of planting dates.


Major Findings

First, we found that the average yield gap (the difference between potential and current yield) in Nebraska ranged from 11% in irrigated fields in south-central Nebraska to 21% in dryland fields in eastern Nebraska.


Second, we found that planting date is the most consistent management factor explaining the current yield gap. Delay in planting date after late April leads to a yield penalty of about 1/4 bushel per acre per day in both dryland and irrigated fields (Figure 2). Foliar fungicide application and tillage were other practices explaining the yield gap.

Planting season is here and many fields are very wet. As producers watch the calendar, they’ll be headed to fields that may be less than ideal for planting. Wet soils are easily compacted and sidewall compaction during planting can be a problem, especially if the crop is “mudded in” and a dry spell occurs after planting. Patience is required for waiting for the soil to dry, but if the next rain is coming or the yield penalty for late planting is growing, it’s hard to wait.

Contributing Factors

Shallow Planting

Shallow planting can cause roots to horizontally
Figure 1. These roots had difficulty penetrating the soil as the seeds were planted too shallow, only about 1 inch deep. The angled press wheels, designed for 2- to 3-inch planting depths, packed below the shallow planted seed, forcing the roots to grow laterally down the seed-vee. (Photos by Paul Jasa)

Many factors contribute to sidewall compaction. While opening a seed-vee in wet soil is often given as the main reason, planting too shallow is the primary problem. In most conditions, corn seed should be planted 2 to 3 inches deep for proper root development. Most corn planters were designed for this planting depth, especially those with angled closing wheels. When the seed-vee is properly closed, the sidewalls of the furrow will be fractured as the soil closes around the seed, eliminating the sidewall compaction and providing seed-to-soil contact.

Most sidewall compaction problems occur when the press wheels are set with too much downpressure, overpacking the seeds into the wet soil. When planting shallow, this press wheel compaction is below the seeding depth, making it difficult for the seedling roots to penetrate the soil (Figure 1). If you look at the angled press wheels from the rear, they intersect at an imaginary point about 2 inches below the soil surface. This provides seed-to-soil contact at seeding depth while closing the seed-vee. As such, downpressure on the press wheels should be checked at seeding depth, not at the top of the seed-vee. If the seed-to-soil contact is adequate, don’t tighten the downpressure springs trying to close the top of the seed-vee. Make sure that the planter is properly leveled, or even slightly tail down, for the angled closing wheels to have a pinching action to close the seed-vee.

Seed-vee Closing Wheels

A planter setting with spiked and solid closing wheels
Figure 2. By replacing one solid closing wheel with a spiked one, closing the seed-vee becomes easier in a variety of conditions. The spiked wheel fractures the sidewall and provides some loose soil while the solid one provides some seed firming and depth control. (If the closing wheels can be staggered, mount the spiked one in front.)

A variety of attachments are available to help close the seed-vee if the standard closing wheels cannot. Some producers use coulters or intermeshing row cleaners to till the soil in front of the planting unit to provide loose soil for closing the seed-vee. However, this loosened soil often sticks to the depth gauge wheels in wet conditions or the tillage dries out the seed zone in dry weather. A better way to provide loose soil for closing the seed-vee is to do it after the seed has been placed in the furrow. There are several brands of spiked closing wheels available to replace the standard press wheels with ones that till in the sidewall around the seed.

The less aggressive spoked wheels provide some seed-to-soil contact while closing the seed-vee and reducing air pockets around the seed. The more aggressive spoked wheels tend to dry the soil more and typically require a seed firmer to provide seed-to-soil contact and a drag chain behind them to level the soil. As the soils become drier and more seed-to-soil contact is needed, some producers remove the spiked wheels and put the standard closing wheels back on to reduce overdrying the seed zone. If the downpressure is set too high on some of these spiked wheels, they may “till” the seed out of the seed-vee, especially when planting on curves or contours. To reduce the aggressiveness of the tillage and to provide some soil firming and depth control, some producers run one spoked closing wheel and one standard wheel (Figure 2). This combination works well in a wide variety of conditions.

Too Much Downpressure

Smeared sidewall to planting seed-vee
Figure 3. The seed furrow opener may smear the soil in wet planting conditions, but the closing devices should fracture the sidewall when closing the seed-vee. If not, the smeared soil may harden when it drys, making root penetration difficult.

While the seed furrow closing devices are important, too much downpressure on the depth gauge wheels will also create sidewall compaction as the disk openers form the seed furrow. The disk openers may create some sidewall smearing while pushing the soil outward to form the seed-vee. If there is too much downpressure on the depth gauge wheels, they will pack the soil downward at the same time, causing compaction that may be too dense for the closing devices to fracture (Figure 3). When this occurs, producers typically put more pressure on the press wheels trying to close the seed-vee, making the compaction around the seed worse yet. Downpressure on both the row unit (depth gauge wheels) and the press wheels should be reduced in wet soil conditions.

Soil Structure

Seed-vees in heavy clay soils can dry out, creating an open trench
Figure 4. While the seedvee was closed at planting time when the soil was wet, it dried out where there was no residue to conserve moisture. As it dried, the heavy clay soil shrunk and the seedvee opened back up. Staggering the closing wheels, one in front of the other if possible, will help reduce the seedvee from opening back up.

Another contributor to sidewall compaction is the lack of soil structure in many tilled fields. Producers may put extra pressure on the closing devices to close the seed-vee when in wet conditions. Without soil structure, the standard closing wheels “pinch” the sidewalls closed over the seed, particularly in heavier soils. However, as the soil dries, it shrinks and the seed-vee may open back up, exposing the seeds. This often occurs when there is a hot, windy period after planting, drying out the seed zone and reducing the stand (Figure 4). This is less of a problem in higher organic matter soils and in continuous no-till soils with improved soil structure.

If the angled closing wheels can be remounted, one in front of the other, this will reduce the pinching effect and compaction over the seed. If there is a dry layer on top of the soil at planting time and good soil moisture at planting depth, don’t use residue movers to remove the dry soil because it has already shrunk. Also, when possible, leave residue over the row to reduce drying of the soil and to protect the seed zone from raindrop impact.

A consistent flow of information combined with more than three decades of relationship building are bolstering market opportunities in Saudi Arabia. As part of these efforts, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) staff traveled to the Kingdom in late March to promote U.S. corn, sorghum and co-products during meetings with key buyers and end-users.

The trade servicing mission augments the connections made last fall during the Council’s largest biennial buyers conference, Export Exchange, held in Minneapolis in October 2018. The Council organized an eight-member team from Saudi Arabia to attend the meeting, providing opportunities for participants to develop closer business relationships with members of the U.S. grains industry and gain additional insights into the U.S. grain export value chain.

“Saudi Arabia is considered a growing, but competitive, market for the Council,” said Ramy Taieb, USGC regional director for the Middle East and Africa. “Follow-up visits and meetings with major importers are essential for the growth of U.S. grain exports to this market.”

Saudi Arabia is a large and expanding market with highly concentrated dairy and poultry industries. Fifteen farms control 80 percent of the poultry market, and nine farms control 85 percent of the dairy market. Imports represent an increasing portion of the feed rations for these animals. Last marketing year, Saudi Arabia ranked as the tenth largest overall buyer of U.S. corn, importing 1.49 million metric tons (58.7 million bushels) in addition to 280,000 tons (11 million bushels) of U.S. sorghum and 13,000 tons of U.S. dried distiller’s grains with solubles (DDGS). Saudi Arabia also imported 16.5 million gallons of U.S. ethanol.

Potential opportunities are also being created for U.S. feed grains and co-products as the Saudi government shifts policies to reduce subsidized barley imports and domestic wheat production as part of water conservation initiatives. In Saudi Arabia, the government’s feed subsidy structure is the major driving force behind what grains, co-products and forages are imported by the Saudi feed, livestock and poultry industries. The Council worked to obtain inclusion of DDGS, corn gluten feed and other U.S. commodities on this import subsidy list. As the government continues to revise these subsidy rates, more imported corn or sorghum could replace other feed ingredients in animal feed rations.

“This policy change bodes well for an already growing market,” Taieb said. “The Council will continue to monitor these developments and adjust marketing programs as these policy changes begin to re-shape traditional feed grain import patterns.”

The Council will continue to work with buyers and end-users in Saudi Arabia to provide a consistent flow of information about the U.S. grain trade, supply and demand factors, quality and more to create a long and strong relationship between major feed grain importing companies and U.S. producers.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program is helping expand this engagement, by adding promotions of sorghum and DDGS in Saudi Arabia; bringing large importers and end-users to a buyers conference in Europe this summer; and organizing a team of Saudi buyers and end-users to travel to the United States this fall.

“The Council is very active in responding to market promotion opportunities in Saudi Arabia,” Taieb said. “Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S. corn buyer in the region, and we need to continue building on this success.”

Washington, D.C. April 19, 2019.  While the International Trade Commission (ITC) report on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) demonstrated marginal increases in agricultural exports, the value of USMCA to soybean producers goes beyond the pages released yesterday. The report is a good tool, yet it does not account for valuable non-tariff provisions in the “new NAFTA” –or look back historically on the myriad benefits to agriculture since NAFTA’s inception.

Davie Stephens, soy grower from Clinton, Kentucky, and American Soybean Association (ASA) president said, “USMCA builds upon the strong foundation set by the original NAFTA. Under NAFTA, the value of agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico increased to roughly $43 billion each year. Soybean exports to Mexico quadrupled under NAFTA, making Mexico the number two market for U.S. soybeans, meal and oil. We also saw a doubling of soybean exports to Canada, making it the number four market for soybean meal and the number seven market for soybean oil.”

Stephens continued, “We know that the modernizations included in USMCA will make trade with our North American neighbors even smoother. These non-tariff enhancements include the highest enforceable sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards of any trade deal to date, an enforceable biotechnology chapter that supports 21st century innovations, and create a rapid response mechanism to address trade challenges. These provisions not only serve to update the North American agreement but set a paradigm for future free trade agreements.”

While continuing to review and assess the ITC, the American Soybean Association reaffirms its support for USMCA and urges Congress to pass the agreement once the bill arrives. Passage of USMCA is vital to ensuring continued trade with two of U.S. soybeans’ top trading partners, Canada and Mexico.

The National Sorghum Producers Nominating Committee is now accepting applications from members for the 2020 board of directors.

Each director can serve two consecutive three-year terms and is charged with representing, leading, advising and supporting NSP goals and objectives. Information is available online that provides requirements, responsibilities and deadlines. NSP board members represent the organization by improving the sorghum industry through advocacy and leadership.

Applications are due Friday, May 10.

WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works towards allowing year-round use of E15 gasoline, National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned EPA’s proposed rule will make it harder for retailers to sell higher level blends of ethanol.


In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, NFU President Roger Johnson urged EPA to rewrite a provision contained within the rule that could amount to a cap on ethanol. It is viewed within the farm community as yet another barrier to family farmers and ranchers being able to sell farm products for biofuel production.


“Farmers Union is eager for EPA to follow through on its promises to get an E15 waiver out of the door by June 1,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “But we are concerned that certain provisions within EPA’s rulemaking unnecessarily work against expanded use of higher level blends of ethanol.”


NFU’s concerns stem from EPA’s interpretation of the “substantially similar” clause of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits the sale of any fuel or fuel additive that is “not substantially similar” to fuels or fuel additives used in the certification of new vehicles. In 2017, E10 gasoline—gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol—became the nation’s certification fuel, making higher level blends of ethanol, like E15 and E30, substantially similar. Yet in its proposal, EPA has limited its “substantially similar” interpretation to only an E15 blend, making the prospects of using higher level blends of ethanol harder to achieve.


“Unfortunately, EPA’s substantially similar determination is limited to E15,” said Johnson. “While we do not necessarily disagree with EPA’s interpretations that would allow for E15 year-round, we believe the statute clearly allows for higher ethanol blends as part of the substantially similar determination based on E10 certification fuel.”


“Indeed, higher ethanol blends would further reduce emissions and provide similar or better engine and vehicle performance,” he added.


Johnson noted EPA should continue to consider the needed changes to facilitate and promote use of mid-level ethanol blends. “These fuels provide enormous societal benefits and represent a win-win-win for automakers, consumers, the environment, and farmers,” he said.


“For that reason, we respectfully request that EPA clarify that the Clean Air Act’s “substantially similar” provisions for gasoline do not cap ethanol at 15 percent.”

Wheat buyers from Morocco and Tunisia got an up close look at the intricacies and reliability of the U.S. grain infrastructure during the April 12-19 Cochran Fellowship Program’s experience in Kansas and Texas. Morocco and Tunisia are part of the Middle East-East and North Africa (MEENA) region which has the largest volume of wheat imports from all origins. While market share in the MEENA region has fallen, there are several expanding end use market segments that hold promise for U.S. wheat. These niche products include specialty artisan and frozen doughs and pre-mixes, pasta from non-durum flour, and growing biscuit, cracker and confectionary products. These products need the high or low protein (depending on the product) wheat with the high quality traits that American wheat is known for.

“While it’s unfortunate that U.S. market share in the MEENA region has dropped due to increased competition, there are some real opportunities for us in those specialty products,” said Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations for Kansas Wheat. “The U.S. wheat industry has to remain visible to those buyers in order to capitalize on these emerging opportunities, and bringing the Cochran Fellows to Kansas is a great way to do that.”


Kansas was the first leg for the Cochran Fellows team. During their first day in the state, the participants visited the research space at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, received an overview of the U.S. grain handling infrastructure and grain quality assessment at the IGP Institute, toured the Kansas State University Hal Ross Flour Mill and the OH Kruse Feed Mill and ended their day at the Anderes farm near Junction City. The next day participants visited the Cargill Shuttle Train Loader near Topeka and the Federal Grain Inspection Service Technical Center in Kansas City, Missouri.


Morocco and Tunisia’s sub-region relies heavily on grain imports with bread and durum wheat as the most prominent imported cereals. These countries imported 17.35 MMT wheat of all origins in MY16/17, and 1.6 MMT of US wheat in MY16/17, 85% of which was HRW and 14.3% was durum. Morocco does buy smaller quantities of hard red spring, but mostly relies on hard red winter wheat to fill the shortage of domestic or EU production. Tunisia mostly buys U.S. durum.


Team participants also visited Houston, Texas. While there, the Cochran fellows experienced Port Houston up close and personal with a Sam Houston Boat Tour along the Houston Ship Channel. This unique opportunity helped buyers to visualize international cargo vessels and operation at the port’s Turning Basin Terminal. Next the Cochran fellows visited the Lansing Terminal to get a full-fledged field-to-vessel look at the country’s wheat industry.


“The members of this group of Cochran Fellows were engaged and excited about the U.S. wheat industry,” said Harries. “It’s experiences like these that help to build, or solidify, trading relationships with our export markets.”


The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets, and emerging democracies. Approximately 600 Cochran fellows come to the United States each year to work with U.S. universities, government agencies, and private companies. They receive hands-on training to enhance their technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing. Since the program’s inception there have been more than 18,000 total fellows from 126 participating countries.