Archived Posts

News Flash: May 29, 2014

INDUSTRY

Global mapping can help reduce El Nino crop losses

New global mapping techniques will help to better track and predict the effects of El Nino and La Nina on crop yields, say Japanese researchers. El Nino and La Nina weather anomalies have adversely affected global yields of many major crops, including corn. Food Navigator

CORN

Planting Corn at Warp Speed Using High-Tech Tools

Planting 310 acres of corn in 16 hours was not possible a decade ago. Today though, such plantings are occurring across the Midwest, as growers invest in more-sophisticated machinery to quickly plant crops in narrow windows of favorable weather. Global Positioning Systems are employed, where satellites steer tractors automatically, monitor seed rates and gather and store planting data. The new high-tech tools have helped corn farmers sow 30% of this year’s U.S. crop in a single week. Heavy rains and unusually cold temperatures in April and May have delayed the planting season in much of the Farm Belt this year and last, narrowing the window of opportunity and emphasizing the importance of this new technology. Wall Street Journal

Corn Rebounds From 12-Week Low on Bets Demand Will Climb

Corn futures rose on speculation that demand will improve for supplies from the U.S. Corn inspected for export in the week ended May 22 rose to the highest level for the week since 2010, the USDA reported this

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week. Futures earlier traded at a 12-week low, and fell 9 percent in May. “Demand will improve with the lower prices,” Joe Vaclavik, the president of Standard Grain Inc. in Chicago, said in an interview. “Exports in particular will be excellent.” Corn futures for July delivery rose 0.6 percent to close at $4.725 a bushel at 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, after touching $4.665, the lowest for a most-active contract since March 4. Prices are heading for the first monthly decline this year. Soybean futures for delivery in July rose 0.6 percent to $14.9775 a bushel in Chicago. On May 22, prices reached an 11-month high of $15.3675. U.S. inventories before the start of the 2014 harvest will fall to the lowest as a percent of use and exports since before 1965, the government estimates. Bloomberg

 

Researchers alter ethylene production in corn to combat drought stress

Scientists from DuPont Pioneer have used a gene-silencing approach to modulate the levels of ethylene biosynthesis in corn and study its effect on grain yield under drought conditions. The results of the study were released in Plant Biotechnology Journal. Commercially relevant transgenic events were created with down-regulated ACC synthases (ACSs), enzymes that catalyze the rate-limiting step in ethylene biosynthesis. These events exhibit decreased release of ethylene to approximately half compared with non-transgenic nulls. Field tests of the transgenic hybrids and controls were conducted in drought-stress and rain-fed areas in the U.S. Results of the data revealed that transgenic events had significantly increased grain yield compared with the controls, with the best event having a 0.58 Mg/ha (9.3 bushel/acre) increase after a flowering period drought stress. Furthermore, secondary traits analysis showed that there was a consistent decrease in the anthesis-silking interval and a concomitant increase in kernel number/ear in transgene-positive events versus controls. Selected events were also field tested under a low-nitrogen treatment, and the best event was found to have a significant 0.44 Mg/ha (7.1 bushel/acre) yield increase. Based on the results, it was concluded that down-regulating the ethylene biosynthetic pathway can improve the grain yield of maize under abiotic stress conditions. Seed
quest

PALM

Malaysia Palm Oil Exports Seen by Oil World at 4-Year Low

Oil World has predicted that Malaysia’s Palm Oil exports will drop to a four-year low in 2014 due to dry weather and a shortage of labor. Exports will be 17.2 million metric tons, down 1 million tons from last year. Yields will decline to 4.26 tons a hectare (2.47 acres), the lowest since 2010. “It is quite alarming that palm oil yields are set to decline for the third consecutive year,” the report read. “Weather conditions can only partly be blamed for this development. It is also indicated that there is an increasing problem with the growing share of old trees having surpassed the optimal age as a result of insufficient replanting.” Malaysia’s palm oil production will climb 0.9 percent to 19.4 million tons this year. The first effect of reduced rain in January to April will probably show up in September-December, when crude palm oil production is seen falling below year-ago levels. Bloomberg

SOYBEAN

Argentina’s Soybean Harvest Seen Delayed on Rainfall

The soybean harvest in Argentina, the world’s third-biggest producer, is currently being delayed by large amounts of rain, threatening the quality of the crop, according to an Oil World report. About 6.2 million hectares (15.3 million acres) of soybeans and 3.4 million hectares of corn still hadn’t been harvested as of May 22, an “unprecedented” level that compares with 2.6 million hectares of soybeans and 1.4 million hectares of corn that were uncollected at the same time last year. Despite the unfavorable weather, Argentina’s crop may still be about 55 million metric tons, 15 percent bigger than last season. “There is now an increasing risk of quality deterioration and quantitative losses,” Oil World said. “Spreading of diseases is being reported in several areas. Acreage abandonment may approach or exceed 1 million hectares in soybeans alone.”Soybean futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, have climbed 16 percent this year amid increasing demand from China and tightening stockpiles in the U.S., the biggest producer, followed by Brazil. Recent weakening of the Argentine peso and speculation that the government may devalue the currency means farmers have been “more reserved sellers,” and they may hold their crops as a hedge against inflation. Argentina devalued the peso 19 percent in January and China boosted oilseed imports to 7.17 million tons in April, up 61 percent from a year earlier. That brought the total since the 2013-14 marketing year began in October to a record 42.9 million tons, up from 32.1 million at the same time the previous season. The April total included 6.5 million tons of soybeans and 544,000 tons of rapeseed and canola, mostly from Canada and Australia. China’s imports of soybean oil may total as much as 280,000 tons in the April-June quarter, compared with 235,000 tons a year earlier, with most supplies coming from Argentina and Brazil, Oil World said. China’s imports of palm oil were below last year’s level in April at 494,000 tons, and purchases of rapeseed oil and sunflower seed oil also declined last month from the year-earlier level, according to the report. In the European Union, consumption of 17 major oils and fats was estimated at a four-year high of 30.9 million tons in the 2013-14 season. The increase “was exclusively on account of the energy sector,” according to the report. EU biodiesel production rose to a record 10.2 million tons in 2013. About 5.6 million tons of rapeseed, 2.5 million tons of palm oil and 1.2 million tons of used oils were used to make the biofuel last year, the report stated. Bloomberg

BIOFUEL

EPA mulls ethanol change as industry profits soar

Just as ethanol producers have experienced the industry’s most-profitable months ever, the Federal government is considering whether to lower the amount of the fuel that must be blended into gasoline. That could be a serious blow to a biofuels industry that experienced booms and busts connected to corn and petroleum prices before a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) approved by Congress in 2007 acted as a stabilizing factor. The law, designed to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil and cut automobile emissions, increased the amount of ethanol required to be used each year, setting the standard at 14.4 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol for this year. In November, however, the EPA proposed the first rollback since the standard was enacted, to 13 billion gallons. EPA officials say fewer gallons of ethanol are necessary because the fuel efficiency of cars has improved faster than expected, helping lower

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fuel demand. The U.S. consumed about 134 billion gallons of gasoline last year, about 6 percent less than the record high of about 142 billion gallons in 2007, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EPA, plans to release a final decision in June. It has been frustrating for the ethanol industry because the EPA’s recommendation came just as ethanol was hitting its stride in profitability. Scott Irwin, an agricultural marketing professor at the University of Illinois, estimated a model plant in Iowa would have earned a weekly profit of $2.55 per bushel of corn processed in the first week of December, before a run-up that peaked at the highest weekly ethanol profit ever of $4.50/bu. for the last week of March. Profits have since dropped to $1.45/bu. for the first week of May, according to Irwin’s figures. By comparison, the average ethanol plant profit from 2007 to 2013 was 20 cents/bu. The model used to compute the profit was designed at Iowa State University to represent the average ethanol plant built in the past five years based on production capacity, construction costs, debt, fixed costs and other factors. Ethanol-plant profitability is driven largely by the cost of each bushel of corn, the amount the plant gets paid for each gallon of ethanol made, and income from dried distillers grain, a high-protein livestock feed. The rapid rise in profitability occurred as ethanol prices jumped 63 percent between the end of January and the end of March while corn prices rose just 8 percent over the same period. Feeding the ethanol price increase were low supplies, rail transportation issues, and strong demand from Canada and the Philippines. The petroleum industry continues to fight the expansion of ethanol, arguing many vehicles aren’t certified to run on higher-ethanol blends. Officials in corn-growing states are lobbying hard to convince the EPA to restore the RFS. “We think they’ve made a terrible mistake and they’ve relied on inaccurate and out-of-date information,” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad said in an interview. “We’ve done a lot — Iowa State University and others — to supply them with updated and accurate information.” Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production with 42 ethanol plants and two under construction in addition to 12 biodiesel facilities. Other top ethanol producers are Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota. Iowa Farmer Today