Tag Archives: crops

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.

Though fertilizer applications have begun to ramp up in some areas of the Corn Belt, average retail prices saw only small moves in either direction the second week of April 2019, according to retailers surveyed by DTN.

Prices for five of the eight major fertilizers were slightly higher than a month ago. Potash had an average price of $387 per ton, urea $404/ton, 10-34-0 $481/ton, UAN28 $271/ton and UAN32 $317/ton.

Average prices for the other three fertilizers were slightly lower. DAP had an average price of $505/ton, MAP $532/ton and anhydrous $592/ton.

On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.44/lb.N, anhydrous $0.36/lb.N, UAN28 $0.48/lb.N and UAN32 $0.50/lb.N.

With some drier weather, fertilizer application is underway in areas of the Midwest, especially in the Western Corn Belt, after very little fertilizer was applied last fall. There have been some reports of retailers having anhydrous supply issues. But the issue hasn’t been widespread enough to affect the price, though regional shortages could create some price spikes.

John Oehlerking, a farmer from near Elmwood, Nebraska, told DTN that farmers in his area of southeastern Nebraska are finally seeing cooperative weather, and “everyone” is trying to beat the rain predicted to fall on Wednesday. He posted a video on Twitter Tuesday of long lines as area farmers attempted to weigh and pull anhydrous tanks to their fields.

“Everyone has been nervously watching the calendar, as our local co-op, Midwest Farmers Coop, has been very proactive and warning of the challenges that we were facing this spring with the logistics of nitrogen application and has been working diligently to minimize any impact that may occur,” Oehlerking said.

Some years, soils would dry from south to north. This would allow anhydrous to be put on in smaller areas, and transport trucks would follow the application season northward. To some extent, that didn’t happen this spring, as the weather is conducive for application now and everyone is trying to apply fertilizer at the same time, he said.

Oehlerking said his retailer has not run out of anhydrous, but there have been some long lines to get the product.

The predicted rain at midweek could help with replenishing fertilizer supplies, as local retailers will be able to reload their facilities while farmers take a break from fieldwork, Oehlerking said. However, considering the number of acres that still need to be covered this spring, the rush will be back on and the lines will return after the soils dry.

Some farmers may switch acres to UAN or urea, which might help with supply issues, but the logistics and cost difference might keep some from doing this, Oehlerking said. As spring progresses and some farmers finish their fertilizer applications that will free up more supplies. But that is still a little ways off, he said.

“We will make it through this,” Oehlerking said.

All eight of the major fertilizers are now higher compared to last year with prices shifting higher. MAP is 5% more expensive, DAP is 6% higher, both urea and potash are 10% more expensive, both 10-34-0 and UAN28 are 13% higher and anhydrous and UAN32 are now both 16% more expensive compared to last year.

DTN collects roughly 1,700 retail fertilizer bids from 310 retailer locations weekly. Not all fertilizer prices change each week. Prices are subject to change at any time.

DTN Pro Grains subscribers can find current retail fertilizer price in the DTN Fertilizer Index on the Fertilizer page under Farm Business.

Retail fertilizer charts dating back to 2010 are available in the DTN fertilizer segment. The charts included cost of N/lb., DAP, MAP, potash, urea, 10-34-0, anhydrous, UAN28 and UAN32.

Apr 9-13 2018 482 504 353 369
May 7-11 2018 483 505 354 366
Jun 4-8 2018 484 505 354 364
Jul 2-6 2018 485 504 354 366
Jul 30- Aug 3 2018 488 505 355 366
Aug 27-31 2018 487 513 357 365
Sep 24-28 2018 494 520 361 385
Oct 22-26 2018 499 518 366 406
Nov 19-23 2018 501 530 368 407
Dec 17-21 2018 508 532 377 407
Jan 14-18 2019 512 534 383 407
Feb 11-15 2019 512 537 385 405
Mar 11-15 2019 510 534 386 402
Apr 8-12 2019 505 532 387 404
Date Range 10-34-0 ANHYD UAN28 UAN32
Apr 9-13 2018 427 510 241 275
May 7-11 2018 431 512 241 276
Jun 4-8 2018 440 503 241 276
Jul 2-6 2018 443 505 242 279
Jul 30- Aug 3 2018 443 498 242 279
Aug 27-31 2018 446 480 233 271
Sep 24-28 2018 449 493 236 278
Oct 22-26 2018 457 499 243 284
Nov 19-23 2018 457 520 246 287
Dec 17-21 2018 457 565 265 304
Jan 14-18 2019 462 580 270 305
Feb 11-15 2019 470 596 271 318
Mar 11-15 2019 469 596 269 318
Apr 8-12 2019 481 592 271 317

TOPEKA, Kan. — At its 123rd annual meeting in Wichita, Kansas Grain and Feed Association (KGFA) chose Deb Miller, general manager of Stockton Farmers Union Mercantile and Shipping Association, as its first-ever chairwoman. Miller was chosen by the association’s 16-member board of directors to serve her two-year term leading the association through April of 2021.

“It’s such an honor to be chosen as the first chairwoman of this storied association,” Miller said. “As an industry, we’ve had many trials and tribulations, but we’ve always persevered, adapted and succeeded. We’ve done pretty well in the last 123 years, and we’re just getting started.”

Miller is the 90th industry leader to be picked into KGFA’s pinnacle role after previously serving three terms on the board of directors beginning in 2011.

“Throughout her career, Deb Miller has been an unmatched leader and innovator in the grain industry,” KGFA president and CEO Ron Seeber said. “We are honored to have her at the helm.”

KGFA members also picked Bob Tempel (WindRiver Grain LLC, Garden City) as vice chairman, Brent Emch (Cargill, Inc., Olathe) as second vice chairman and Troy Presley (CoMark Equity Alliance, Cheney), Devin Schierling (Team Marketing Alliance, Moundridge) and Allen Williams (ADM Grain Co., Overland Park) as board members.

During its 123rd annual gathering at the DoubleTree Airport hotel on Monday and Tuesday, nearly 230 KGFA members enjoyed networking and educational activities. Members heard a keynote address from Dan Oblinger, a hostage negotiator on how improved listening techniques and skills will enhance leadership qualities in the workplace and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle provided an update on the Kansas political landscape after the legislature’s first adjournment last week.

WASHINGTON— In response to Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper issued the following statement:
“We are grateful to Senator Grassley for asking the Department of Energy for clarity around DOE’s process on RFS hardship exemptions submitted by small refineries. The simple fact is that the criteria for evaluating small refinery exemptions hasn’t changed, but the number of exemptions granted has skyrocketed. The situation demands transparency. Senator Grassley is right to ask DOE for these details and he continues to be a tireless and effective advocate for renewable fuels.”

The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development made the decision to ban the importation of glyphosate.

U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says he’s extremely disappointed in the decision. “It’s a move that will have a devastating impact on global agricultural production,” he says. “As I’ve said before, if we’re going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, farmers around the world need all the tools and technologies at their disposal.” Perdue says the USDA has shared scientific studies on the safety of glyphosate with the Vietnamese Ag Ministry on numerous occasions.

The studies come from the Environmental Protection Agency and other internationally-recognized regulatory bodies and they all show glyphosate as unlikely to be a carcinogenic threat to humans. He says the decision by Vietnam flies in the face of all the available scientific evidence. Vietnam has sidestepped its obligation to notify the World Trade Organization of the regulatory change. “Vietnam also needs to look at the potential ramifications for its own farmers,”

Perdue adds. “Not only will it slow the development of Vietnamese agricultural production, but there’s also a real risk that the country’s farmers will turn to unregulated, illegal chemicals in place of glyphosate.”