Planting Delays & Replant Decisions

With corn planting only 50% to 70% complete across much of the corn belt, many growers are beginning to question whether or not a switch to a shorter season hybrid would be warranted. The fear is that with a full season hybrid, the plant would not mature in time to avoid an early frost at the end of the growing season. This is a valid concern because an early frost on a hybrid that has not reached maturity will ultimately result in a reduction in yield.

So now, the question becomes: at what point/date should a person make the switch? Leave it to Bob Nielson at Purdue University to come up with some timely information on this very subject!

I would highly recommend everyone read Bob’s excellent article. He not only looks at average frost dates, but he also discusses a not entirely well known phenomena of a hybrids ability to adjust it’s GDU’s downward the later it is planted.

Be sure to check out Bob’s article.

Late Planting/Replanting & Relative Hybrid Maturity

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Delayed Posts & Planting Update

With crop planting here in Central Illinois in full swing, I’ve been unable to update this blog with any new posts. As soon as the mad rush of corn planting is over with, I should be back to a schedule that will allow enough time to post on a more frequent basis. In the coming weeks look for further posts on the ethanol biofuel issue as well as posts dealing with various agronomic issue’s.

Just a quick note on planting progress…

Corn planting is nearly finished in this area. I would expect by Wednesday, most farmers will be done with corn and starting on bean planting. I’m sure this comes as a disappointment to the ethanol doomsayers who have been predicting a lower yielding corn crop because of planting delays, but the fact is, the corn crop will be just fine. We generally see little to no yield penalty if the crop is planted before May 15.

For the most part, the wheat in this area is mostly good to excellent. I’ve been out in a few fields and at present, there is no disease to speak of. This could change quickly if warmer temps are accompanied by additional rainfall, but for now, diseases are being held in check. It looks like those who chose to make an early fungicide application did so needlessly. If you are considering applying a fungicide at flowering, please use the Wheat Disease Prediction Tool I posted about earlier. This will help to avoid further unneeded applications.

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Why are Food Prices Going Up?

The media and the environmentalists say the high food prices are a result of ethanol biofuel production. The agriculture industry says it’s because of soaring fuel prices (among other things).

So who’s right and who’s wrong?

I was going to make a long post detailing the answer to this question, but instead, I’ll let you decide for yourself.


 Sources: Historical Crude Oil Prices & Historical Grain Prices

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Food vs. Biofuels: The Real Facts

I’m sure everyone has heard the news by now, rising food prices are “threatening the poor worldwide” and causing riots around the globe. The cause of these high food prices? Well, biofuels of course, and ethanol in particular. Recent news articles have lambasted the ethanol industry. 

Time magazine calls ethanol “The Clean Energy Scam”.  A recent article titled The Great Biofuel Famine said: “biofuel policies will significantly contribute to the early, avoidable deaths of between 10 and 20 million people in the year 2008 alone.” Former president Bill Clinton, at the Progressive Governance Summit in England, made this terribly misguided statement:

“What’s really hurting the food markets is America moving into ethanol. People there are moving into corn and you have pasta riots in Italy related to what some people are doing in farming in America.”

A recent editorial in the New York Times titled, The World Food Crisis, chastised the “rich world” for “exacerbating” the rise in food prices by “supporting the production of biofuels.” In this same editorial, it’s interesting to note that the Times Editorial Board characterizes food prices as “controllable” and fuel prices as “uncontrollable”. In reality, fuel prices are just as controllable as food prices – all you have to do is produce more oil. But the Times does not support drilling for oil because it causes more global warming, so higher fuel prices are fine by them. After all,  higher fuel prices force people to use less, and less use means saving the planet. What they won’t admit though, and as I’ll demonstrate in just a little bit, the increased cost of fuel is the primary driver of soaring food prices. Ethanol biofuel is just a bit player in the whole scheme of things.

So is all this criticism warranted? Is the diversion of corn into ethanol production actually what’s driving the increases in food prices? In part, yes. But it’s only a small role, as we shall see.

Continue reading

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Wheat Disease Prediction Tool

Thanks to the researchers at Penn State University, Ohio State University, Kansas State University, Purdue University, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University, we have a new wheat disease prediction tool available to wheat producers East of the Rocky Mountains. This new tool comes in the form of predictive models which are designed to forecast an outbreak of Fusarium head blight (FHB)(head scab) in wheat.

According to the University of Kentucky, economic losses resulting from head scab were in excess of 3 billion dollars in the 1990’s. It’s a devastating disease, and a considerable amount of effort has been put forth in an attempt to minimize it’s impact. The FHB prediction tool is a direct result of that effort. 

The main benefit to those who grow wheat is the ability to predict a disease outbreak before it happens. This is especially welcomed in the case of FHB because you can not scout for this disease. If you find that you have the disease, it’s too late – the disease has already done it’s damage and caused a yield loss. This has caused many growers to move to a planned fungicide application across every acre every year – regardless of whether or not environmental conditions are favorable for disease development. The problem with this approach is that it results in a lot of fungicides being applied when they are not needed. Now however, we have a viable alternative.

Continue reading

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A Recipe for Crappy Stands of Corn

Bob Nielson, Purdue University, offers this tongue-in-cheek recipe on how to get as poor of a stand of corn as possible. Of course he’s not serious, but it does serve as an important reminder that stand establishement is a very important part in raising a good crop. Here’s Bob’s recipe:


  • One (1) field, level and poorly drained.
  • One (1) or more hybrids of your choice, but preferably ones with poor seed quality and low vigor.
  • Do NOT add any starter fertilizer to the recipe.
  • Add a dash of seed rot or seedling blight organisms.
  • Add a pinch of wireworms or seedcorn maggots.
  • Plenty of spring tillage to maximize soil compaction, though one pass with a disc will suffice if the soil is “on the wet side” when worked.
  • Flavor with amide or growth regulator herbicides as desired.
  • Add minimum of 0.5 to 1.0 inch of rain per week after planting to maintain saturated soil condition.

Mix well and plant early or any time before soils have consistently warmed to more than 50oF. Maintain average daily soil temperatures at 50oF or less for three weeks or more after planting. Plant “on the wet side” to ensure good sidewall compaction. Plant either excessively deep or excessively shallow. Plant as fast as you possibly can to ensure uneven seed drop. For best results, follow corn with corn, especially with minimal fall tillage. Top off with a thick soil crust and serve cold.

Will serve 6 people (farmer, fertilizer & ag chemical dealer, industry tech rep, seed dealer, county agent, university specialist) and amuse the entire neighborhood.

 Be sure to read the rest of Bob’s article here:


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Price of Corn Forever Linked to Crude Oil Price

Forever is a long time, I know, but according to this study: Policy Options for Integrated Energy and Agricultural Markets by Wallace E. Tyner and Farzad Taheripour at Purdue University – as long as we have ethanol, the price of corn will rise and fall in direct relation to world crude oil prices. Good, bad, or indifferent, this is the face of reality for today’s ag industry.

With the potential of up to 40% of the U.S. corn crop being devoted to the production of ethanol, the authors point out that agricultural and energy markets will be closely linked.  The theory is that as the price of oil goes up, the ethanol industry becomes more profitable which leads to more ethanol production. When the industry produces more it increases the demand for corn, which in turn drives up the price of the commodity. It’s essentially a chain reaction with the price of oil as the catalyst. Continue reading

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