Acres of Knowledge All issues concerning Small Farms, Agriculture, Local Food Systems, and the Natural Resources. Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Zero Tolerance - Pigweed Weed Species Sat, 20 Jul 2019 13:44:00 +0000 Two particularly troublesome pigweeds are Tall Waterhemp and Palmer Amaranth, which have and are continuing to develop resistance to herbicides. In Illinois, Tall Waterhemp is resistant to 6 different classes of herbicides and Palmer Amaranth is resistant to 3. If that is not bad enough, members of the pigweed or amaranth family can cross pollinate between species which aids in the rapid spread of resistance as well.
Weed scientists across the Corn Belt, including Dr. Hager, are recommending a "zero" tolerance for palmer amaranth escapes. This is due to the fact that one female plant will produce 460,000 Seeds and if you control 95% of those seeds, there is still the potential for 23,000 plants to survive.

A weed free field is the key starting point. Tillage or a herbicide burndown plus a residual herbicides are essential when Palmer is present. This must be followed by vigilant scouting and herbicide applications combining post-emergence and residual products when new seedlings are identified.

If Palmer is identified after it is too big for herbicide control, hand removal is the best option. Any field in which Palmer reaches maturity should be harvested last and left untilled. Leaving any seed on the surface will allow for natural forces to reduce the viability of seed are enhance germination the following spring when tillage or burndown herbicides can reduce the population potential. Deeply burying the seed may lead to a decade of Palmer problems as future tillage brings old seed up to the surface. Research shows that viable seed left near the surface will "burn out" in about 4 years if no future seeds are added to the seed bank.

Zero tolerance for pigweed escapes is the key to successfully keeping these weeds in check.]]>
Too Wet to Plant, Be Patient Wed, 17 Apr 2019 16:40:00 +0000 It has been a wet April across parts of Illinois, and farmers are anxious about getting their crops planted.  Recent history since 2000, shows that late planting does not always lead to lower yields. Take for instance last year, when planting did not start till the very end of April and we had record corn and soybean yields or 2008 when planting did not start till May. The key to high crop yield is selecting high yielding varieties, and planting them into a good seedbed with as near perfect seed to soil contact as possible.
Tilling the soil when it is too wet leads to soil compaction layers. One compaction layer at the depth of the tillage equipment, and the second layer is deeper in the soil profile where the soil moisture is at the field saturation level. Tilling in wet soil leads to poor seed bed conditions, cloddy soils, that result in poor crop emergence reduced plant populations. Lastly, Any compaction placed in the soil in the spring may lead to restricting root growth to the shallow layers of the soil. This could be a really problem if we experience any prolonged periods of dry weather during the summer. All this can lead to the potential for reduced yields.
Check your field soil moisture level before tilling. Not getting the tractor stuck in the middle of the field is not the way to determine whether the field is fit for tillage. Get a handful of soil and push it between your thumb and index finger. If the ribbon of soil breaks before 5 inches in length, then the soil is dry enough to be tilled.
Remember, putting your seed into a seedbed that insures excellent see to soil contact is the best way to get your crops off to a good start.
Cutting Crop Costs, Not Profits Wed, 20 Feb 2019 13:10:00 +0000 According to university farm economists across the Midwest, 2019 is the year where farmers need to scrutinize their crop expenses, and see where they can cut costs to improve their net return per acre. Currently, the projected fall prices for corn and soybeans are mid-$3's and mid-$8's, respectively, is very close to the cost of production. In order to achieve profitability, production costs will need to be reduced.

A recent University of Illinois analysis of three years of Precision Conservation Management (PCM) data showed practices that reduced costs and increased profitability. According to Dale Lattz and his team at Farmdoc, their analysis of data from 783 corn and 952 soybean fields showed that additional tillage did not increase yields or profits.

It showed the more profitable "tillage" systems for corn were either strip-till or one-pass systems. Systems that had two or more passes did not increase corn yields or profits. On average for soybean, a one-pass tillage system had higher returns than did tillage systems with more than one pass.

Another place to reduce crop costs is nitrogen rates and timing. "From 2015 to 2017, there was no statistical relationship between nitrogen rates and yields when applications exceed Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN) rates recommended by Universities. Profits were lower for farms that applied much more nitrogen than MRTN rates." Applications where the largest amount of nitrogen was applied in the fall had the lowest profit per acre compared to applications where the amount was mostly applied pre-plant, side-dress or a 50/50 combination with pre-plant.

These study results are available at the farmdoc daily website, "IFES 2018: Management and Conservation in the Face of Lower Returns".

New, New Era of Grain Prices Fri, 21 Dec 2018 10:36:00 +0000 I recently attended one of the 2018 Farm Economic Summit meeting and heard a presentation given by Dr. Scott Irwin, Dept. of Agricultural & Consumer Economics at University of Illinois. In this talk, we were shown the similarities between the price trends of the past 70 years.

During this period, Scott showed when new demand for grain caused prices to rise to higher levels and that occurred three times in the past 70 years – the late 1940's, the mid-1970's and then recently 2007-2013. These high demand, high grain price periods were then followed by periods of stagnant to declining prices as world grain supply outgrew demand growth. During these periods of lower world demand, there were still spikes to higher prices due to supply disruptions from weather problems, but they were short-lived, as in 1980, 1983, and 1996.

All this leads to Dr. Irwin's premise that grain prices are currently in a period of oversupply and lower demand, which leads to the need for grain producers to readjust their price expectations for financial planning and budgeting. The forecasted new normal range for corn prices is $2.75 to 5.50 with the average in the upper $3 range. For soybeans, the new price range is $7 to $13 with the $9 being the average. As mentioned before, the higher prices of these ranges will be due to weather problems causing short-term supply shortages.

With the likelihood of grain prices averaging less than what we have seen during the 6-year period of 2007 to 2013, grain farmers need to know their cost of production to the penny. The efficient and lowest-cost producers will make money in this lower price environment.

For more information on this and other farm business and management topics, visit the farmdoc DAILY website: .]]>
Tips for Temporary Corn Storage in Grain (Silo) Bags Mon, 15 Oct 2018 13:11:00 +0000 A lot of this year's harvested corn is going into big grain bags on the ground for temporary storage till more permanent storage is available. Here are some helpful tips from Dr. Klein Ileleji at Purdue University on how to manage grain stored in the field in grain storage bags.
  1. Locate the bags on firm, well-drained ground that is smooth and level, that has plenty of room for loading and unloading equipment to maneuver. You do not want any debris to be present that could puncture the bag.
  2. Orient the bags in a north-south direction to minimize temperature variation along the length of the bag.
  3. Avoid grain spills near the bags, since these will attract vermin to the bags. Rodents and vermin increase the likelihood of bag damage by chewing or clawing.
  4. Keep folds at the base of the plastic bag to a minimum when filling, since folds are easy places for rodents to chew on the plastic grain bags.
  5. Inform your insurance company that grain is being stored temporarily in grain bags.
  6. Dry grain stored in grain bags is NOT hermetically sealed. Insects and molds can grow in these storage bags.
  7. Corn and soybeans stored in bags should be at or below 15% and 13%, respectively.
  8. Inspect bags frequently for tears and holes. Repairs should be made with sealants and tapes available from the bag's manufacturer.
  9. Grain should not be stored in bags past the spring warm up. It is highly recommended to not store in bags longer than 4 months and never past the spring thaw.
For more information, read Dr. Klein Ileleji's article, "Use of Silo Bags for Commodity Grain Storage in Indiana".
Market Facilitation Program: Impacts and Initial Analysis Wed, 05 Sep 2018 13:22:00 +0000 This is the title of an article authored by agricultural economists from the University of Illinois and the Ohio State University. The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) is an effort by the USDA to provide aid to farmers because of trade disputes with our major foreign grain buyers. It has been estimated that the escalating trade issues in the May to August 2018 period have led to an 11 percent ($1.10) decline in soybean prices and a 5 percent decline ($0.20) in corn prices (farmdoc Daily, Aug. 16, 2018).

The payment rates for the two major crops, here in central Illinois, will be $0.01 per bushel of corn and $1.65 per bushel of soybeans. The initial payments will be make on 50 percent of the reported 2018 production. The effective payment on proven 2018 production is $0.005 per bushel of corn and $0.825 per bushel of soybean. There is a possibility of further MFP payments, but it is not guaranteed.

Using these numbers, the economists are estimating initial MFP payments of about $1 per acre for 200 bushels per acre corn and $53 per acre on 64 bushels per acre soybean. As the article points out, if a farm is 50:50 corn and soybean, then the average per acre payment will be $27 for this initial payment.

The application process for MFP began on September 4. However, the USDA suggests that farmers have "verifiable and relative production record by crop, type, practice, intended use, and acres if not already on file". The application process ends on January 15, 2019. More information on MFP is available at: .

To access this article, visit farmdoc Daily at: and click on "Market Facilitation Program: Impacts and Initial Analysis"; Schnitkey, G., J. Coppess, N. Paulson, K. Swanson and C. Zulauf.]]>
What about a Flexible Cash Rent Lease Fri, 17 Aug 2018 13:07:00 +0000 It must be August, because my office phone has been lighting up with calls from farmland owners wanting to know about the direction of cash rent values for lands here in east-central Illinois. This is never easy to answer, because no one can accurately forecast the future. Currently at this moment with the projected above average harvest of field corn and soybean, and the continuing trade disputes with our major foreign grain buyers, the outlook for cash grain income is not as "rosy" as it was 4 months ago.

With all this uncertainty in the marketplace, farmland owners and operators may want to shift from the more traditional cash rent farmland lease to either a flexible cash rent lease or a hybrid of these two, the "base rent + bonus" cash rent type of lease. These types of leases allow for increasing cash rent if cash grain incomes rise.

The Iowa State University has two good publications that describe the basics of these leases as well as giving examples. "Flexible Farm Lease Agreements -- -- C2-21" and "Flexible Cash Rent Lease Examples -- C2-22" are both available from their website and include a "flexible cash rent" analyzer where you can analyze different yield and price scenarios to come up with an equitable lease for both parties.

The University of Illinois "farmdoc" has fillable cash rent lease forms that can be used for either straight cash rent or a flexible type of rent. Short fact sheets on the each of the various farmland lease types can be found on the "farmdoc" Management page under "Farm Leasing Fact Sheets". Additionally, "farmdoc" in its FAST Tools section under the Farm Management heading has a Farmland Lease Analysis and Cash Rent with Bonus calculators that are available.