Consider Corn Challenge shines a light on corn’s growing potential in bio-economy

Six new technologies, that are poised to change the way the public perceives our country’s most abundant crop, were highlighted today in Anaheim, Calif. as winners of the inaugural Consider Corn Challenge, an open innovation contest hosted by the National Corn Growers Association. The diverse range of science unveiled shows that corn is squarely situated on the cutting-edge of technology, ready to support a wave of growth sweeping through the renewable products industry.

More than 30 scientists and start-up companies answered the global call to bring forth their best ideas focused on the conversion of corn into bio-renewable chemicals. Contest entries reinforced that corn can improve the environmental footprint of many products used by consumers, including plastic bottles, acrylics, solvents, fibers, packaging, and coolants.  Many of the submissions included bio-advantaged molecules, with the ability to deliver performance and value that exceeds petrochemicals.

The six winners of the competition are:

  • Lygos — The Berkley, CA company is producing Bio-Malonic acid (Bio-MA) from renewable sugars using cutting edge biotechnology.
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BASF moving forward with new pesticide technology

BASF’s insecticide portfolio is expanding with two new compounds on the horizon for release in the near future to increase the number of tools for insect control and resistance management.

The active ingredient broflanilide brings a new mode of action that has demonstrated excellent levels of control for chewing pests — the biggest insecticide market segment — for use in row and specialty crops as well as the professional pest management market. The other novel active ingredient, afidopyropen, with the trade name Inscalis, is effective against piercing-sucking insects, providing long-lasting control of aphids, whiteflies, and certain leafhoppers, psyllids and scales for use in specialty crops, soybeans and other row crops, and ornamentals. Both products will be launched soon in several markets across the globe.

At Commodity Classic, the focus from BASF was on the expected commercial release of Inscalis in the next year.

“It has fast onset of action that quickly stops the feeding of key target insects. … Continue reading

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A look at acid rain and the farm phosphorus conundrum with water quality

Farmers understand that Lake Erie turns green in the summer and that part of the blame is rightfully being directed at agriculture due to issues related to nutrient management, specifically phosphorus. What is less understood is why this is happening.

In a time period where on-farm phosphorus application levels have decreased substantially and recommended conservation practices have increased in the agricultural landscape, the troubling harmful algal blooms again started showing up in the Western Basin of Lake Erie after many thought the water quality issues had been corrected decades earlier.

Even more confusing are the smaller lakes in more remote parts of the state and country where algal blooms are showing up in lakes surrounded with little to no agriculture to blame on the issue. There are numerous theories as to why this could be happening. One of them was a topic in a study published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation last summer: “A possible trade-off between clean air and clean water.”… Continue reading

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Bin run seed — some lessons from the past

With lower prices and higher input costs in today’s soybean farming operations, some farmers are looking where to shave a few dollars off their costs of farming. Based on the calls directly from farmers on which seed treatments to use, it is not too hard to figure out where some of those savings might be coming from. This used to be general practice but there are ways to do this to be sure it really is saving farmer’s money.

1. Make absolutely sure that this seed is a candidate to use again. The harsh reality of the new generation of technologies that go into the new soybean varieties is that it probably takes the total profit of the U.S. soybean crop to go from discovery, development, U.S. and European government approvals, and producing that seed. Companies are forced to protect that investment and in reality — part of how we have raised the state yield average from 30 bushels per acre to 52 bushels per acre is because of these improved varieties.… Continue reading

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DowDupont announces new name for ag-focused company

The Agriculture Division of DowDuPont announced the name of the intended company once it is spun-off, which is expected to happen by June 1, 2019. The intended Agriculture company will become Corteva Agriscience, which is derived from a combination of words meaning “heart” and “nature.”
“This is the start of an exciting journey,” said James C. Collins, Jr., chief operating officer, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont. “Corteva Agriscience is bringing together three businesses with deep connections and dedication to generations of farmers. Our new name acknowledges our history while looking forward to our commitment to enhancing farmer productivity as well Cortevaas the health and well-being of the consumers they serve. With the most balanced portfolio of products in the industry, nearly a century of agronomic expertise and an unparalleled innovation engine, Corteva Agriscience will become a leading Agriculture company, focused on working together with the entire food system to produce a secure supply of healthy food.”
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Long-awaited, Northey confirmed as Undersecretary at USDA

By voice vote, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey to the position of USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.

Northey has been serving as Secretary of Agriculture for Iowa and the confirmation is generally viewed as a big win for agriculture and renewable fuels.

“After a needless four-month delay, farmers across the country will be well-served with Bill Northey finally on the job at USDA,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

The confirmation came at a very critical time for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the ongoing debate over Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). Renewable fuel opponents have been pushing for capped RIN values, claiming the costs are too high for refineries.  

“Today in Washington President Trump, officials from USDA and EPA, and Senators met to discuss issues affecting the RFS. There was no deal cut at this meeting.… Continue reading

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NCGA emphasizes RFS importance to the Trump Administration

The National Corn Growers Association, along with other agricultural organizations, sent a letter to President Trump on Monday, calling on the President to maintain the integrity of the RFS.

“We appreciate the President’s support of the RFS since the early days of his campaign,” said NCGA President Kevin Skunes. “Rural America supported President Trump last year, now we need the President to support rural America.  Supporting policy changes that undermine the RFS will hurt farmers, renewable fuel plant workers, and rural America.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects 2018 net farm income will decline an additional $4.3 billion this year, a 6.7 percent reduction from 2017 levels. This represents the lowest net farm income, in nominal dollars, since 2006 and is a 50-percent decline in net farm income since 2013.

The letter to the President disputes the recent claims made by an East Coast refinery that the RFS is to blame for their recent bankruptcy. … Continue reading

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Nutrient management and cover crops meeting

Applying crop nutrients when they are not needed is costly, especially in the current farm economy and harmful to the environment. Conversely, not applying enough fertilizer will cause a reduction in crop yield causing a decrease in profitability.

Cover crops are important to soil health, but how do you make them work? There are many options, what is the best option for your operation? Is soil health important? These questions along with nutrient management will be addressed at the upcoming meeting entitled: “Improving Your Bottom Line With Nutrients and Cover Crops”.

The meeting will be held March 13, 2018 from 9:15 AM to 3:40 PM at the Eagles in Wapakoneta (25 E. Auglaize St.).

Topics that will be discussed include: Basics of Cover Crops, Cover Crops for Forages, Making Cover Crops Work, Nitrogen and Gypsum Research Results, Nitrogen and Phosphorus Management and Management of Micronutrients. Speakers include: Alan Sundermeier, Allen Gahler, Mike Dailey, Joe Nester, Greg LaBarge, and Harold Watters.… Continue reading

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Commodity Classic kicks off in the California sun

Farmers from around the nation are gathering in Anaheim, Calif. this week for the 2018 Commodity Classic to find the answers, ideas, innovation, technology, equipment and expertise that can make a powerful difference on their farms while also setting policy for their national commodity organizations for 2018.

Established in 1996, Commodity Classic is America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show, produced by the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and Association of Equipment Manufacturers. Visitors to this year’s Commodity Classic get to enjoy the event’s massive trade show and hear from speakers including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Hefty Brothers, the nation’s highest yielding farmers, and many other industry experts.

Last night events kicked off with some committee meetings, state caucuses, issues briefings, and the National Corn Growers Association Corn PAC.

“Money that we raise for the PAC will be used to promote agriculture and to get our word out as we educate legislators about the importance of agriculture and the importance of corn growers to help ensure the status of our industry in the United States,” said Gene Baumgardner, chairman of the NCGA CornPAC Committee and a farmer from Jeffersonville, Ohio.… Continue reading

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Crop production cost analysis

Which number is closest to your total direct and overhead cost of production per bushel of corn: $3.08, $4.17, or $6.21? Do you know? Forty-two farms completed their 2016 farm business and crop enterprise analysis in 2017. Farm size ranged from 40 to more than 1,900 acres.The four lowest cost producers averaged $3.08 per bushel, the median COP was $4.17, and the four highest cost producers averaged $6.21 per bushel.

Only the high 20% of these corn enterprises generated a positive net return for corn. For the other 80%, the personalized benchmark reports they receive helped them identify strengths and areas of opportunity in each crop enterprise.

The highest cost producers will know if their costs were high compared to previous years due to weather or other yield-depressing event or if these numbers are “normal” and are waving a big red flag. Combining the real-numbers information from enterprise and benchmark reports with production information gives each farm manager powerful information to make positive changes.… Continue reading

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Increased rainfall for Ohio has ag implications

Ohio receives 10% more rain per year, on average, than in the 20th century.

“You can think of it as the ‘new normal,’ ” said Aaron Wilson, climate specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University.

Ohio’s current annual average is 42 inches, up 3 inches from the 39-inch average in the 20th century, Wilson said. Three inches may sound like just a drop in the, well, bucket, but “the problem is the intensity at which the rain is falling,” Wilson said.

The additional 3 inches aren’t spread across the entire year. Instead the bulk of Ohio’s rain is falling in intense rain events, followed by an increase in consecutive dry days, Wilson said. In July 2017, a rainfall dumped 5.5 inches of rain in two hours within Darke County, in the west central part of the state.… Continue reading

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Sluggish soybean seed orders for 2018

The dicamba issues from 2017 continue to loom large for 2018 soybean seed orders. As training sessions have continued on the label changes and application requirements for the dicamba products in 2018, farmers have been waiting to make their soybean seed purchase decisions in what seems to be a generally sluggish soybean-ordering season.

For those still holding off on making soybean orders because of unanswered dicamba questions, tight budgets, market uncertainty, or the tough agricultural economy, placing orders sooner is probably more beneficial than closer to the quickly approaching planting season.

“Seed companies are packaging and treating what has been ordered. If you wait too long you may be limited on seed treatment options and your first choice of varieties may not be what you get. You may have to get something different or go up or down on maturity. We are starting to sell out of things. Plus you miss all of the early order discounts,” said Stuart Yensel, with Seed Consultants, Inc.… Continue reading

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What are wheat tillers and how do they contribute to yield

In the coming weeks as the weather warms, up winter wheat will break dormancy and will begin to green up. After a period of about 2 weeks producers should evaluate their stand in order to make management decisions for their wheat crop. Part of this evaluation includes counting tillers to determine if there is an adequate stand for achieving high yields. According an article in a 2014 C.O.R.N. Newsletter written by Laura Lindsey, Ed Lentz, Pierce Paul, “Yield potential is reduced if tiller numbers fall below 25 per square foot after green up.”

So, what is a tiller? And how should they be counted? Tillers are additional stems that develop off of the main shoot of the plant. Primary tillers form in the axils of the first four or more true leaves of the main stem. Secondary tillers may develop from the base of primary tillers if conditions favor tiller development.… Continue reading

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New virtual reality video tells soil health story from every angle

As interest grows in soil health and its potential to optimize farming, the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) has developed a new tool to immerse the inquisitive. Partnering with StoryUP, the nonprofit ag group has produced a “virtual reality” video that will allow viewers to visit a farm enrolled in SHP and experience a Virtual Field Day.

An initiative of the National Corn Growers Association, the Soil Health Partnership is a data-driven program working to quantify the benefits of practices that support soil health from an economic as well as environmental standpoint. The Soil Health Partnership is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health, benefiting both farmer profitability and the environment. With more than 100 working farms enrolled in 12 states, the SHP tests, measures and advances progressive farm management practices that will enhance sustainability and farm economics for generations to come. SHP brings together diverse partners to work towards common goals.… Continue reading

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New dicamba label means extra steps for success

It takes time, focus and attention to learn to use new technologies. That, along with some early adoption woes in 2017, is why Monsanto, BASF and Dow/DuPont decided to schedule hundreds of dicamba training sessions around the country before the 2018 growing season gets into full swing.

“Of the issues we saw last year with dicamba use, over 91% of the off-target movement that we saw was frankly a function of not following certain important aspects of the label,” said Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s Vice President of Global Strategy. “That’s the reason we proposed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a new restricted use label that requires training and education.”

A well-attended dicamba training meeting in Celina recently is proof that farmers are willing to learn how to better use the new weed fighting tool in 2018. Monsanto is also helping farmers acquire the right tools for successful dicamba application.

“We are making sure producers have access to the right nozzles because having the proper equipment is absolutely critical,” Partridge said.… Continue reading

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An update on nitrogen recommendations for wheat


Do we have any wheat left in Ohio? I would like to see more acres. It makes our other two crops better and reduces weed, insect and disease problems for them, too. The new Ohio Agronomy Guide has just a bit of an update on spring nitrogen (N) recommendations for wheat in Ohio.

We still suggest following the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for N rates in wheat, with an update on the discussion of why. We do rely on yield potential of a field to make the recommendation. Once you have set a realistic yield goal, the recommendation may be based on the following table. These recommendations are for mineral soils with adequate drainage and 1% to 5% organic matter.

Nitrogen rate for wheat by yield potential.

Yield potential

Total N rate














We do not give any credit for the previous soybean or cover crop, since we do not know if that organic N source will be mineralized for the wheat crop.… Continue reading

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Do not give marestail the chance to determine postemergence herbicide selection in soybeans

Soybean herbicide systems have evolved back to a fairly high level of complexity to deal with the herbicide resistance we have in various broadleaf weeds. By the time we use a comprehensive mix of burndown and residual herbicides, we tend to be coming back with postemergence herbicides primarily for marestail, ragweeds, and waterhemp (and grasses). Postemergence tools available for control of these broadleaf weeds vary with the type of soybean trait being used, but can include glyphosate, PPO inhibitors (fomesafen, Cobra), glufosinate, dicamba, and soon 2,4-D choline. ALS inhibitors have become somewhat irrelevant on these weeds due to widespread ALS resistance, although they may have activity on some ragweed populations still sensitive to ALS inhibitors. Resistance to various sites of action can further limit the number of options.

The following generalizations about resistance seem appropriate at this time:

• Marestail — almost all populations are resistant to glyphosate and ALS inhibitors

• Common ragweed — populations in some areas/fields are resistant to glyphosate and ALS inhibitors, and in some cases also PPO inhibitors.… Continue reading

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National Ag Coalition taking California to court over Prop 65 listing

As the state of California attempts to implement a policy that would cause massive damage to American farmers, a national agriculture coalition went to court with a request: halt California’s extreme action until the judge can consider all of the facts. At issue is California’s Prop 65 listing of glyphosate, one of modern agriculture’s most valuable tools and an industry standard across the world.

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known by its original name of Proposition 65, requires the State of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list must be updated at least once a year and has grown to include approximately 800 chemicals.

Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment.… Continue reading

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Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and capture CO2 from the atmosphere, a new study has found.

The pioneering research by scientists at the University of Illinois, together with U.S. and international colleagues, suggests that adding fast-reacting silicate rocks to croplands could capture CO2 and give increased protection from pests and diseases while restoring soil structure and fertility.

Stephen Long, Gutgsell Endowed University Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at U of I and co-author of the study, provides context: “Scientists generally have done a poor job of getting across the point that the world must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels and combine this with strategies for extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to avoid a climate catastrophe.”

David Beerling, Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the research, explains the project: “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects, but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.… Continue reading

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