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Study shows response to phytase varies among canola meal varieties

Published August 16, 2017
canola meal

URBANA, Ill. — Canola meal, which is included in diets fed to pigs as a protein source, is also relatively high in phosphorus. However, most of the phosphorus in canola meal is bound to phytic acid, and microbial phytase is often added to diets to help make more phosphorus available to pigs. New research from the University of Illinois shows that not all kinds of canola meal respond equally to the addition of phytase.

Hans H. Stein, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at U of I, led a project to evaluate phosphorus digestibility in canola meal processed in different ways. Stein's team fed growing barrows diets containing conventional canola meal (CM-CV), canola meal processed at a high temperature (CM-HT), canola meal processed at a low temperature (CM-LT), high-protein canola meal (CM-HP), or soybean meal as the sole source of amino acids and phosphorus. For each test ingredient, diets were formulated that contained either 0, 500, 1500, or 2500 phytase units (FTU) of microbial phytase, for a total of 20 diets.

Results indicated that if 0, 500, or 1500 FTU of phytase was added, there was no difference in phosphorus digestibility among the different canola meals. However, phosphorus digestibility was less in CM-LT than in the other canola meals when 2500 FTU of phytase was added.

Phosphorus digestibility was greater in soybean meal than in any of the canola meals when 0, 500, or 1500 FTU of phytase was added. Stein says that’s because a greater percentage of the phosphorus in canola meal is bound to phytic acid, and therefore unavailable to the pig.

"However, if more than 2000 FTU of phytase was added to the diets, the digestibility of phosphorus in all canola meal sources except CM-LT was equal to that in soybean meal," Stein explains. "This indicates that with sufficient phytase in the diets, the phosphorus in canola meal can be made available to pigs."

Stein's team developed regression equations from the results of this experiment, which he says will make it possible to predict how much phosphorus will be released from canola meal or soybean meal for a given amount of phytase.

The paper, "Effects of graded levels of microbial phytase on apparent total tract digestibility of calcium and phosphorus and standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus in four sources of canola meal and in soybean meal fed to growing pigs," was published in the May 2017 issue of the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Yue She of China Agricultural University and Yanhong Liu of the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I.

News Source:

Hans Stein, 217-333-0013

News Writer:

Jennifer Roth, 217-202-5105

Harnessing rich satellite data to estimate crop yield

Published August 16, 2017
NASA satellite graphic with titles
Credit: NASA

URBANA, Ill. – Without advanced sensing technology, humans see only a small portion of the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Satellites see the full range—from high-energy gamma rays, to visible, infrared, and low-energy microwaves. The images and data they collect can be used to solve complex problems. For example, satellite data is being harnessed by researchers at the University of Illinois for a more complete picture of cropland and to estimate crop yield in the U.S. Corn Belt.

“In places where we may see just the color green in crops, electromagnetic imaging from satellites reveals much more information about what’s actually happening in the leaves of plants and even inside the canopy. How to leverage this information is the challenge,” says Kaiyu Guan, an environmental scientist at the U of I and the lead author on the research. “Using various spectral bands and looking at them in an integrated way, reveals rich information for improving crop yield.”

Guan says this work is the first time that so many spectral bands, including visible, infrared, thermal, and passive and active microwave, and canopy fluorescence measurements have been brought together to look at crops.

“We used an integrated framework called Partial Least-Square Regression to analyze all of the data together. This specific approach can identify commonly shared information across the different data sets. When we pull the shared information out from each data set, what’s left is the unique information relevant to vegetation conditions and crop yield.”

The study uncovers that the many satellite data sets share common information related to crop biomass grown aboveground. However, the researchers also discover that different satellite data can reveal environmental stresses that crops experience related to drought and heat. Guan says the challenging aspect of crop observation is that the grain, which is what crop yield is all about, grows inside the canopy, where it isn’t visible from above. “Visible or near-infrared bands typically used for crop monitoring are mainly sensitive to the upper canopy, but provide little information about deeper vegetation and soil conditions affecting crop water status and yield,” says John Kimball from University of Montana, a long-term collaborator with Guan and a coauthor of the paper. 

“Our study suggests that the microwave radar data at the Ku-band contains uniquely useful information on crop growth,” Guan says. “Besides the biomass information, it also contains additional information associated with crop water stress because of the higher microwave sensitivity to canopy water content, and microwave can also penetrate the canopy and see through part or all the canopy. We also find that thermal bands provide water and heat stress information,” Guan says. “This information tells us when leaves open or close their pores to breathe and absorb carbon for growth.”

Coauthor David Lobell from Stanford University, who crafted the idea with Guan, says leveraging all of this satellite data together greatly increases the capacity to monitor crops and crop yield.

“This is an age of big data. How to make sense of all of the data available, to generate useful information for farmers, economists, and others who need to know the crop yield, is an important challenge,” Guan says. “This will be an important tool. And, although we started with the U.S. Corn Belt, this framework can be used to analyze cropland anywhere on the planet.”

The study, “The shared and unique values of optical, fluorescence, thermal and microwave satellite data for estimating large-scale crop yields,” is published in Remote Sensing of Environment. The work was initiated and designed by Kaiyu Guan from U of I and David Lobell from Stanford University. It is coauthored by a multi-institute team of Jin Wu (Brookhaven National Lab), John S. Kimball (University of Montana), Martha C. Anderson (USDA ARS), Steve Frolking (University of New Hampshire), Bo Li (University of Illinois), and Christopher R. Hain (NOAA).

Funding was provided by the NASA New Investigator Award (NNX16AI56G), U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF-SES-1048946), a Terman Fellowship from Stanford University, the University of Illinois, NSF grant NSF-EF1065074, and NASA (NNX14AI50G).

All the data used in this study are available by request (

In addition to being an assistant professor in ecohydrology and geoinformatics in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I, Guan has a joint appointment as a Blue Waters professor affiliated with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).



News Source:

Kaiyu Guan
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Paper examines links between parents’ earnings, gender roles, mental health

Published August 15, 2017
Human Development and Family Studies professor Karen Kramer and doctoral researcher Sunjin Pak. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

URBANA, Ill. — The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s suggested that women and men would have equal shots at happiness – whether they were their families’ primary breadwinners or stay-at-home parents.

However, the reality has been far more nuanced for many families in the U.S. And new research out of the University of Illinois suggests that some mothers’ and fathers’ psychological well-being may suffer when their work and family identities – and the amount of financial support they provide – conflict with conventional gender roles.

Researchers Karen Kramer and Sunjin Pak found that when women’s paychecks increased to compose the majority of their families’ income, these women reported more symptoms of depression.

However, Kramer and Pak found the opposite effect in men:  Dads’ psychological well-being improved over time when they became the primary wage-earners for their families.

The data sample comprised more than 1,463 men and 1,769 women who participated in the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth. A majority of the individuals in the study, all born between 1957 and 1965, were members of the baby-boom generation. Participants’ psychological well-being was measured in 1991 and 1994 using a seven-item scale that assessed their levels of depressive symptoms.

Kramer and Pak found that although women’s psychological well-being was not affected by exiting the workforce to become stay-at-home moms, men’s mental health declined when they stayed home to care for the kids.

 “We observed a statistically significant and substantial difference in depressive symptoms between men and women in our study,” said Kramer, who is a professor of human development and family studies. “The results supported the overarching hypothesis:  Well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations.”

While women’s educational and career opportunities have multiplied in recent decades, societal norms and expectations about gendered divisions of labor in the workplace and the home have been slower to evolve, according to the researchers.

Mothers and fathers who deviate from conventional gender roles – such as dads who leave the workforce to care for their children full time – may be perceived negatively, potentially impacting their mental health, Kramer and Pak wrote.

The researchers also explored whether parents who held more egalitarian ideas about men’s and women’s responsibilities as wage earners and caretakers for their families fared better – and Kramer and Pak found gender differences there as well.

Women in the study who viewed themselves and their spouses as equally responsible for financially supporting their families and caring for their homes and offspring experienced better mental health when their wages and share of the family’s income increased.

However, regardless of their beliefs, men’s mental health took a hit when their earnings as a proportion of the family income shrank – suggesting perhaps that “work identity and (the) traditional role of primary earner are still critical for men, even when they have more egalitarian gender ideology,” the researchers wrote.

Kramer is to present the paper at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 12-15 in Montreal.

Pak is a doctoral student at Illinois.

The paper “Depression and Relative Earnings in Families” is available from the News Bureau.

Start selecting 2018 Illinois performance-tested bulls

Published August 15, 2017
Bull sale

URBANA, Ill. – Seedstock breeders should be identifying bulls they plan to consign to the 2018 Illinois Performance-Tested (IPT) Bull Sale. The IPT Bull Sale is the leadoff event for the annual Illinois Beef Expo. The sale is scheduled for Thursday, February 22nd at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. The sale accepts older as well as younger bulls, with a birth date range from January 1, 2016 through March 2017.

A successful 2017 sale included some of the best bulls yet, according to Travis Meteer, IPT Bull Sale manager and University of Illinois Extension beef cattle educator. “The bulls in the 2017 sale were extremely high-quality bulls with good performance pedigrees. Bull buyers seek out cattle that look the part and have EPDs that will yield profitable progeny…that is what the IPT Bull Sale provides,” he says.

The sale continues to expand its market through the use of an online bidding service, which Meteer says will help the sale build upon an already distinguished reputation in the state of Illinois and the Midwest.

Multi-trait economic selection indexes will be the foundation for determining qualification and sale order. The sale order will be based on the “percent rank” for a maternal and a terminal Dollar Value Index in each breed. The two indexes used have been included in the IPT Bull Sale catalog for several years and for the respective breeds are: Angus-$Wean ($W), $Beef ($B); Simmental-All Purpose Index (API), Terminal Index (TI); Hereford-Baldy Maternal Index (BMI), and Certified Hereford Beef index (CHB).

“These indexes are the most reliable predictor of improving profit if calves are marketed at weaning or as fed cattle,” Meteer says. “Bulls will also be required to have a calving ease EPD in the top 85th percentile.”

Meteer says the sale policy regarding genetic conditions is the same as last year. All Angus and Simmental bulls will be required to be tested free or free by pedigree of AM, NH, and CA. Simmentals will also be required to be tested free of OS, PHA, and TH. Hereford bulls will be required to be free of IE and hypotrichosis. In regards to DD, bulls will be allowed to sell as long as they have been tested within the requirements of the breed association to determine carrier status.

Health requirements continue to be a focus of the sale. Requirements remaining the same as the previous sale include the testing of all bulls for Bovine Viral Diarrhea (BVD) using the Persistently Infected (PI) ear notch screening system. Johne’s testing must occur on the bull’s dam or recipient dam or come from a herd that is Level 1 or higher for the Voluntary Johne’s Certification Program. All breeding soundness exams must be conducted by a veterinarian. All bulls over 24 months of age and bulls that have been exposed to cows will be required to be tested for trich. Virgin bulls under 24 months of age will need a certificate or written statement endorsed by the bull owner indicating he has not been exposed.

Breeders are eligible to sell eight bulls in the 2018 sale, with two of these bulls not requiring the nomination fee. However, consignors selling more than six bulls will require that they index above the average for their breed at cataloging. Also, first-time consignors are limited to nominating two bulls.

All bulls consigned to the 2018 sale will be required to have genomic-enhanced EPDs. This is easily accomplished by sending a blood or hair sample into the breed-approved genetic testing lab. The sale will accept both low and high density tests to meet the requirement. The IPT Bull Sale is known for giving the bull buyer all necessary information to make positive herd progress. Genomic-enhanced EPDs are more accurate and predictable EPDs.  

“We are reducing the risk on these bulls. The bulls selling can be trusted more now than ever to sire true to their values,” Meteer says.

Nomination deadline and fees are three-tiered, with the following dates and costs: November 15, $75; December 1, $100; and December 15, $125. A copy of the rules and regulations and nomination form, along with past sale information is posted on the web at Rules and regulation information can also be obtained by contacting Travis Meteer at 217-430-7030 or

News Source:

Travis Meteer, 217-236-4961

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Corn and soybean yield forecasts larger than expected

Published August 14, 2017

URBANA, Ill. - The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels per acre and 49.4 bushels per acre respectively, the corn and soybean yields came in above trade expectations, says a University of Illinois agricultural economist.

The corn crop is 298 million bushels larger than the average trade guess at 14.153 billion bushels. Similarly, the soybean crop forecast of 4.381 billion bushels is 169 million bushels larger than the average trade guess. “The larger-than-expected production levels for both crops sent harvest futures prices to lows not seen since late in June,” says Todd Hubbs.

For corn, the USDA made no changes to the 83.496 million harvested acres from the June Acreage report. The U.S. average corn yield forecast of 169.5 was 3.3 bushels larger than trade expectations. “One of the larger surprises for forecasted yield came from Indiana. Despite poor crop condition ratings, Indiana corn yield came in at 173 bushels per acre, which is no change from last year,” Hubbs says. Iowa and Illinois corn yield forecasts were down 15 and 9 bushels per acre from last year respectively. As expected, corn yield forecasts for North Dakota and South Dakota are down 37 and 21 bushels per acre. 

“The poor crop condition reports and significant weather issues in many areas lead many market observers to conclude the yield to be too high,” Hubbs explains. “One should keep in mind that USDA August corn yield forecasts have been within a bushel of the final corn yield estimate in the last two years. As we move through the rest of the crop year, an expectation of any adjustment to national corn yield should consider a movement lower than the current estimate.”

Old crop year-ending stocks estimates came in at 2.37 billion bushels, which is unchanged from the July estimate. USDA forecasts for corn consumption categories during the 2016-17 marketing year reported no change from July. Corn exports continue to show stronger-than-expected levels and may be around 20 million bushels larger than the current 2.225 billion bushel projection,” Hubbs says. “If corn exports exceed the current projections, ending stocks would be lower but the carryout into the 2017-18 marketing year would still be around 2.35 billion bushels.”

For the 2017-18 marketing year, the USDA lowered corn feed and residual use and exports by 25 million bushels each. Projection of corn used for ethanol remained at 5.5 billion bushels. Stocks on Sept. 1, 2018 are projected at 2.273 billion bushels and the average farm price for the year ahead is forecast in a range of $2.90 to $3.70, the same as the July report. “Given the current yield forecast, an expectation of increased feed and residual use and export levels are reasonable for the 2017-18 marketing year,” Hubbs says. “Despite continued strength in ethanol production, the potential for slightly lower corn use in ethanol exists due to weakening ethanol exports in 2017-18. Overall, the potential for greater consumption of corn than the current 14.3 billion bushel forecast in 2017-18 exists. A realization of higher consumption levels would place prices at the higher end of the current USDA price range.”

The USDA made no changes to the 88.731 million harvested acres from the June Acreage report for soybeans. The U.S. average soybean yield forecast of 49.4 was 1.9 bushels larger than trade expectations. Yield forecasts in the Northern Plains and many states in the Corn Belt reflected the poor crop condition ratings. Soybean yield forecasts in North Dakota and South Dakota are down 8.5 bushels per acre from last year. Iowa and Illinois yield forecasts are down 4.5 and 1 bushels per acre from last year respectively. Southern states recorded soybean yield increases from last year with Mississippi and Kentucky both reporting record yields of 52 bushels per acre. Since 2011, the USDA August yield forecast has been lower than the final national soybean yield. “While it is tempting to discount the current yield forecast, the USDA has not produced an August soybean yield forecast greater than one bushel above the final soybean yield since 2003,” Hubbs says.

For old crop soybeans, the USDA lowered the soybean crush projection by 10 million bushels to 1.89 billion bushels and increased exports by 50 million bushels to 2.15 billion bushels. The pace of domestic crush and exports currently suggests these projections will hold for this marketing year. The projection of ending stocks for the 2016-17 marketing year decreased to 370 million bushels from the 410 million bushels projected in July and continued the decline in soybean ending stock forecasts that began in June at 450 million bushels. 

Forecasts for the 2017-18 U.S. marketing year increased ending stocks by 15 million bushels to 475 million bushels on the larger-than-expected production levels and lower crush and higher export projections from July. The forecast for domestic soybean crush decreased 10 million bushels to 1.94 billion bushels. Soybean export forecasts increased 75 million bushels on larger supply. The forecast of the 2017-18 marketing-year average price increased the lower range by 5 cents and decreased the upper range by 25 cents from July to a range of $8.45 - $10.15.

“The potential for lower soybean consumption than current USDA forecasts for 2017-18 is dependent on continued weakness in soybean crush numbers and lower exports,” Hubbs says. “Soybean exports will depend on continued growth in Chinese soybean imports and a competitive pricing position relative to South American exporters. Under the current production scenario, ending stocks for soybeans will continue to build in the 2017-18 marketing year and places average farm prices at the lower end of the current USDA price range.”

The USDA corn and soybean production forecasts will be updated on Sept. 12. “There appears to be a possibility of U.S. average corn and soybean yield forecasts to decrease. For soybeans, in particular, August weather will be a deciding factor. Prices will reflect crop production potential as we move through the harvest period,” Hubbs says.

News Source:

Todd Hubbs, 217-300-4688