College of ACES
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Illinois Wheat Association hosting winter wheat tour

Published April 16, 2014

URBANA, Ill. - Illinois wheat growers will have an opportunity this May to tour winter wheat fields in order to make observations that will factor into yield estimates of the 2014 winter wheat crop.

The Illinois Wheat Association (IWA) is hosting the Southern Illinois Winter Wheat Tour on Wednesday, May 28. The tour will include field checks during the day with an evening report session at Brownstown Agronomy Research Center. Prior to the evening meal, yield estimates will be calculated and attendees will have an opportunity to view wheat variety and seed treatment trials. Fred Kolb, University of Illinois professor of small grain breeding; Emerson Nafziger, U of I professor and Extension agronomist; and Robert Bellm, U of I Extension educator in commercial agriculture  and crops, will be on hand to discuss wheat development and wheat diseases. 

Tour participants will meet at 9 a.m. at one of four locations: Siemer Milling Co., 111 W. Main St., Teutopolis (217-857-3131); Mennel Milling Co. of Illinois, 415 E. Main St., Mt. Olive (217-999-2161); Wehmeyer Seed Co., 7167 Highbanks Rd., Mascoutah (618-615-9037); and Wabash Valley Services Co., 1562 Illinois 1, Carmi (812-483-2966). Participants are asked to call in advance with the location from which they would like to depart.

Reservations for dinner must be made by May 23 and can be done by contacting the IWA office at 309-557-3619 or by email at

Those wishing to take samples on their own and join the group for the dinner and wrap-up are also asked to contact the IWA by May 23. IWA will provide the tour instructions to those taking independent samples. Sampling procedures can be found on the wheat website at

Award winners recognized at College of ACES banquet

Published April 15, 2014
ACES Library and Alumni Center

URBANA -- The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) honored outstanding faculty and staff at the annual Paul A. Funk Recognition Award Banquet held Monday, April 14, at Pear Tree Estate in rural Champaign, Ill.

The Paul A. Funk Recognition Award is the College of ACES' highest honor. It is presented annually to faculty for outstanding achievement and major contributions to the betterment of agriculture, natural resources, and human systems, said ACES Dean Robert Hauser, host of the evening's award ceremony.

The awards program was established in 1970 by the Paul A. Funk Foundation of Bloomington, Ill., as a memorial to the late Paul A. Funk, who attended the college as a member of the class of 1929 and devoted his life to agriculture.

The two recipients of the Funk Awards—Isaac K.O. Cann of Animal Sciences and Bruce J. Sherrick of Agricultural and Consumer Economics—headlined this year's ceremony.

The Spitze Land-Grant Professorial Career Excellence Award went to Sharon M. Donovan of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Paul E. McNamara of Agricultural and Consumer Economics received the Faculty Award for Global Impact.

The five recipients of the ACES Alumni Association Award of Merit were: M. Margaret (Meg) Barth, ’91, Ph.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition, Riverside, Calif.; Jerry R. Brookhart, ’63, B.S., Agricultural Science, Macomb, Ill.; Kenneth L. Dalenberg, ’71, B.S., Agronomy, ’04 M.S., Crop Sciences, Mansfield, Ill.; Larry H. Hageman, ’78, B.S., Agricultural Science, Rochelle, Ill.; and Barbara P. Klein, ’74, Ph.D., Home Economics, Champaign, Ill.

The Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Nicki J. Engeseth of Food Science and Human Nutrition, while the College Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Michael J. Miller of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Stephen P. Moose, Crop Sciences, and Cory D. Suski, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, received the Senior Faculty Award and College Faculty Award, respectively, for Excellence in Research.

The Senior Faculty Award for Excellence in Extension went to Robert V. Knox of Animal Sciences.

Patrick J. Tranel of Crop Sciences took home the Karl E. Gardner Outstanding Undergraduate Adviser Award.

The Teaching Associate Teaching Award was given to Paul B. Stoddard of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.

The Team Award for Excellence went to the members of the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services team: Andrea B. Bohn, Rolin O. Ferguson, Paul E. McNamara, Benjamin C. Mueller, Burton E. Swanson, and Joyous Tata, all of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, and Brent M. Simpson, Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University.

The Professional Staff Awards for Excellence were given to Debra J. Hagstrom, Animal Sciences, for Sustained Excellence in Advising, Teaching, and Outreach; Ronald E. Estes, Crop Sciences, for Sustained Excellence in Research; and Charles R. Stites, Animal Sciences, for Innovation and Creativity.

Patricia A. Sarver of Crop Sciences received the Staff Award for Excellence. Jamie R. Evans, Academic Programs, was awarded the Marcella M. Nance Staff Award.

The Graduate Student Research Awards went to Kang Mo Ku, Crop Sciences, and Eric J. Sedivy, Crop Sciences, for Ph.D. work and M.S. work, respectively.

Louis V. Logeman Graduate Student Teaching Awards were given to Sarah K. Scholl, Food Science and Human Nutrition, and Daniel E. Weber, Crop Sciences.

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Corn consumption continues to exceed projections

Published April 14, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – The USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates Report  (WADSE) released on April 9 projected corn stocks at the end of the current marketing year at 1.331 billion bushels. The projection of year-ending stocks has declined for five consecutive months and is now 556 million bushels smaller than the November 2013 projection.  Compared to consumption projections made in November, current projections are 100 million bushels larger for corn used for ethanol production, 350 million bushels larger for exports, and 100 million bushels larger for feed and residual use. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, there have been minor changes in the estimate of stocks at the beginning of the marketing year, the projection of imports, and the projection of other domestic consumption.

“With about 4.5 months left in the marketing year, there is opportunity for the consumption projections to change again,” said Darrel Good. “In the case of ethanol use of corn, the USDA projects consumption during the current marketing year at 5 billion bushels. That projection is 352 million bushels, or 7.6 percent, larger than consumption in the previous year and equal to consumption in the 2011-12 marketing year.”

Good said that, based on monthly U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates of ethanol production for September 2013 through January 2014 and weekly estimates for February and March, ethanol production in the first seven months of the marketing year was 11.7 percent larger than production during the same period last year.

“That comparison is a little misleading because year-over-year production was down sharply in the first half of the 2012-13 marketing year and near the previous year’s level in the last half,” Good said. “Still, to reach the USDA projection of corn used for ethanol production this year, ethanol production during the last five months of the corn marketing year needs to be only 2 percent larger than production in the same period last year. With a slight increase in domestic ethanol consumption, an improvement in domestic rail logistics, and a continued positive trade balance, it appears that ethanol production (and therefore corn consumption) could exceed the current projection,” he said.

Corn exports during the current marketing year are projected at 1.75 billion bushels. The USDA reported cumulative export inspections through the first 31.7 weeks of the year at 991 million bushels. Official Census Bureau estimates of exports through the first six months of the year exceeded export inspection estimates by 28 million bushels. 

“If that margin has persisted, exports during the remaining 20.4 weeks of the year will need to total 731 million bushels in order to reach the USDA projection for the year, an average of 35.8 million bushels per week,” Good said. “Exports have averaged 32.1 million bushels per week so far this year, and inspections averaged 46.2 million bushels per week for the seven weeks that ended April 10. As of April 3, the USDA reported that 707 million bushels of corn had been sold for export but not yet shipped. Those sales represent almost 97 percent of the exports needed to reach the USDA projection. While some sales may be canceled or rolled over to next year, it appears there is room for exports to exceed even the most recent USDA projection.”

Good said that the most uncertainty about corn consumption centers on the feed and residual category. 

“Uncertainty is fostered by a number of factors,” Good said. “First, there is no ongoing measurement of corn used in the feed and residual category. Implied use is revealed quarterly based on the USDA’s quarterly Grain Stocks report. Second, feed use of corn is influenced by the rate of feeding of other feed ingredients, and the use of many of those ingredients is also not measured. Third, there is not a strong correlation between the number of grain-consuming animal units estimated by the USDA and the magnitude of feed and residual use, which implies a varying level of residual use from year to year. In general, residual use appears to be positively correlated to crop size. For the current year, the USDA projects feed and residual use of corn at a six-year high of 5.3 billion bushels, 22.3 percent larger than last year’s use.”

According to Good, some have questioned how use can actually increase by over 20 percent year over year. However, estimated use last year was at a 24-year low and likely reflected an abnormally small residual use associated with the very small crop of 2012. The large crop of 2013 would point to much larger residual use this year. In addition, there will likely be considerably less wheat fed this summer than was fed last summer. Most important, implied feed and residual use during the first half of the current marketing year was at a six-year high and exceeded that of a year ago by nearly 22 percent. The June 1 corn stocks estimate to be released on June 30 will reveal the level of consumption during the third quarter of the year.  For now, the USDA projection of 5.3 billion bushels appears attainable.

“Based on current and expected consumption rates, it appears that corn consumption during the current marketing year could exceed the most recent USDA projection,” Good concluded. “Even if higher rates are confirmed over the next four months, the magnitude of year-ending stocks will remain a mystery until the Sept.1 Grain Stocks report is released on Sept. 30. The magnitude of those stocks will take on a little more importance due to the projected decline in corn acreage this year and what appears will be a slow start to the planting season.”


Western corn rootworm resistance to Bt corn confirmed in more Illinois counties

Published April 7, 2014
bt hybrid injury
Bt hybrid corn rootworm injury. Photo courtesy of Mike Gray

URBANA, Ill. – With the addition of three more counties, a total of five Illinois counties have now reported confirmed cases of field-evolved resistance to Bt corn (Cry3Bb1 protein) by western corn rootworm, and a University of Illinois entomologist said now is the time to move forward aggressively with integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.

In August 2012, in cooperation with an Iowa State University lab, Mike Gray said he confirmed resistance in Henry and Whiteside counties in northwestern Illinois. Working with Joe Spencer of the Illinois Natural History Survey and utilizing single-plant bioassays with larvae collected last summer, Gray said resistance to the Cry3Bb1 protein has now also been confirmed in McDonough, Mercer, and Sangamon counties.

The suspected Bt-resistant larvae collected last summer were exposed to a hybrid expressing the Cry3Bb1 protein as well as its corresponding isoline (not expressing the Cry3Bb1 protein), Gray said. Larvae obtained from three control colonies of western corn rootworms also were used in the bioassays. The control larvae had never been exposed to corn rootworm Bt protein and were provided by the USDA North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, S.D.

Gray said there continues to be some controversy regarding the most appropriate procedures (plant-based vs. diet-based bioassays) that should be used to confirm whether or not resistance to a Bt protein has developed by an insect population. Citing a University of Arizona study that defines key terms regarding resistance to Bt crops and pesticides, Gray offered the following definitions that are useful in communicating with producers who have experienced greater than expected levels of damage to rootworm Bt hybrids in their fields. They include:

  • “Resistance: genetically based decrease in susceptibility to a pesticide”
  • “Field-evolved resistance (= field-selected resistance): genetically based decrease in susceptibility to a pesticide in a population caused by exposure to the pesticide in the field”
  • “Practical resistance (= field resistance): field-evolved resistance that reduces pesticide efficacy and has practical consequences for pest control”

“It has become increasingly evident that some producers have experienced a loss of efficacy with some Bt hybrids in their fields in recent years,” Gray said. “To date, most of those fields have been in continuous corn production, and producers have not rotated traits. It’s also clear that ‘practical consequences’ have resulted due to the loss of efficacy associated with some Bt hybrids in problem fields.

“The primary consequence so far has been an escalation in the use of planting-time soil insecticides with Bt rootworm hybrids. This practice may hasten the onset of resistance evolution to Bt proteins as outlined in a paper published last year,” he added.

Other consequences of the evolution of practical resistance by the western corn rootworm has been the increased use of pyramided Bt hybrids, the use of seed blends as a primary refuge strategy, and a reduction in the size of the required refuge — from 20 percent to 5 percent for some products.

“The reduction in the refuge size remains troubling for many entomologists, especially in areas of the Corn Belt where resistance has been confirmed to one of the rootworm Bt proteins. Although a seed blend offers many advantages, including ensured compliance as well as improving the chances that Bt-susceptible and resistant adults will mate, increased selection pressure on the one effective Bt protein within a compromised pyramid, may be a primary consequence of a 5 percent refuge,” he said.

To date, four Bt rootworm proteins have been registered for use in the United States: Cry3Bb1, Cry34/35Ab1, mCry3A, and most recently eCry3.1Ab. Gray said that Aaron Gassmann (Iowa State University) and his colleagues recently published a paper in which they confirmed the field evolution of resistance to the mCry3A protein. In the same journal article, they also confirmed cross-resistance between Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A proteins.

“These findings are troubling from many perspectives. For instance, pyramided Bt hybrids that are used in areas of the Corn Belt where practical resistance to the Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A proteins is a reality, may in fact be relying to a great extent upon the efficacy of Cry34/35Ab1 or eCry3.1Ab to ensure adequate root protection — again, at reduced refuge size requirements (5 percent),” he said.

Last summer, Gray reported on the failure of some Bt hybrids (Cry3Bb1) to provide adequate root protection in rotated corn in Kankakee and Livingston counties. Spencer will conduct plant-based bioassays on the offspring reared from the adults collected from these fields. Results from these bioassays will be in later this year.

“If the results confirm resistance to the Cry3Bb1 protein, it seems clear that a segment of the western corn rootworm population can now overcome rotation and this protein. With cross-resistance within this population to the mCry3A protein a possibility, we begin to see how diminished our IPM tool box is for this insect pest,” Gray explained.

“As I have done in the past, I urge producers to implement a long-term integrated pest management approach for corn rootworms. This includes the use of multiple tactics (over time, not all in the same season), such as: use of a more diverse crop rotation system, use of a non-Bt hybrid in conjunction with a planting-time soil insecticide, rotation of pyramided Bt hybrids, and consideration of an adult suppression program in heavily infested fields,” he said.

News Source:

Mike Gray, 217-333-6652

Pork PEDv losses not as large as expected

Published April 7, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – According to Purdue University Extension economist Chris Hurt, the headline for the last USDA Hogs and Pigs report could have been PEDv Losses Not as Large as Expected. “A week later, spring and summer lean futures are down nearly $10 per hundredweight, or about 8 percent,” Hurt said. “For the pork industry, the USDA’s March Hogs and Pigs report was the most anticipated in decades. It was the first national comprehensive measure of baby pig losses over the past six months due to the PED virus and the harsh winter.”

 USDA received data from 6,100 pork operations across the country that were randomly surveyed in early March. As such, it is the broadest measure of the losses from an unbiased source.

“Analysis of the report numbers suggests the nation’s baby pig death loss over the past six months was about 5 percent,” Hurt said. “In contrast, one widely circulated report from an investment firm had predicted an 11 percent loss for pigs coming to market in 2014, with peak losses exceeding 20 percent for late summer marketings. 

“To gauge the magnitude of losses implied in the report, the actual number of pigs per litter can be compared with the trend-adjusted pigs per litter that would have been expected,” Hurt said. “During the September to November 2013 quarter, baby pig losses were about 2 percent. Producers reported 10.17 pigs per litter to USDA compared to an expected trend-adjusted rate of 10.4 pigs for the fall quarter. PEDv is thought to have had its biggest impact during cold-weather months, and as expected, the losses were greater in the winter quarter, which spans from December 2013 through February 2014. The national pigs-per-litter rate dropped to 9.53 compared to an expected trend rate of 10.3, a decline of over 7 percent. Using this method of analysis suggests baby pig losses over the six months from September to February 2014 were about 2.7 million head, a number approaching 5 percent,” Hurt said.

Hurt said that data provided by USDA in the Hogs and Pigs report also allow an evaluation of the number of pigs per litter by month. This enables a comparison of the monthly pigs per liter relative to the expected trend-adjusted rate. These results are consistent with the quarterly data but provide more detail regarding the timing of the losses. While PEDv was in some hog herds last summer, the national data does not pick up any impact on pigs per litter during the warm weather. The losses begin to show up in September 2013 with a pigs-per-litter reduction of 1/2 percent from trend rates. Then as the weather cooled, the baby pig losses became greater: October -2 percent; November -3 percent; December -5 percent; January -8 percent; and February -8 percent. The large losses experienced in February probably mean that losses will continue to be large into March but may lighten as the weather warms into April and the rest of spring. The USDA report only contained data through February 2014.

“An additional contributor to fewer pigs per litter could have been the harsh winter weather,” Hurt continued. “It is not possible to sort out how much of the lower rate is due to PEDv and how much is due to unusual weather.

“There are also some clues regarding where the virus was most destructive in the winter,” Hurt said. “Early indications are that the disease was very destructive in some states, others were moderately impacted, and others had little impact. This again is derived by examining state-level pigs per litter this past winter relative to the trend-adjusted expected pigs-per-litter rate,” he said.

USDA reports for only 16 of the major production states. States that had heavy losses this past winter by this analysis were: Ohio -21 percent, Missouri -16 percent, Colorado -14 percent, North Carolina -14 percent; Oklahoma -13 percent, and Michigan -10 percent. Those states that seemed to experience a moderate impact were: Iowa -6 percent; Kansas -6 percent, Indiana -4 percent; Illinois -2 percent; and Nebraska -2 percent. Those states that showed little to no impact on pigs per litter were Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and South Dakota. Hurt added a note of caution that this analysis may be providing misleading implications because the USDA survey was not designed to answer the specific question of pig loss by state.

What about the impact of pig losses on spring and summer slaughter numbers?

Hurt said that April and May hog supplies would be down 3 percent and summer supplies down about 4 percent. One reason these supplies are not even lower is that pork producers were already into an expansion phase in which the winter’s farrowings were up 3 percent. So a 3 percent increase in winter farrowings with a 7 percent decline in pigs per litter provides about a 4 percent lower summer slaughter. These more modest reductions in hog slaughter numbers will be further offset by higher marketing weights this spring and summer. Thus, pork supplies will not be dramatically reduced. Weights will run nearly 3 percent higher this spring and summer so pork supplies may only be down 1 to 2 percent if the USDA inventory count is close.

“Hog and pork prices are still so high that they seem unjustified by current USDA inventory numbers,” Hurt said. “Wholesale pork prices shot to record highs on anticipation of large baby- pig death loss, but producers told USDA those losses are not so large. The average pork cut price is about 50 cents per pound, or 60 percent higher than at the same time last year while pork loins are up 38 cents, hams are up 55 cents, and pork bellies used to make bacon are up 66 cents per pound. These are extraordinarily high prices, especially if pork supplies are only down marginally this spring and summer as the USDA inventory count suggests. To maintain these lofty prices, some market participants will have to hold to the belief that the death loss was actually much higher than USDA captured in this survey,” Hurt said. 

Hurt added that hog prices and lean futures are expected to remain unsettled and potentially very volatile over the spring and summer.

“No one knows for sure what the death losses have been or what they will be in the future,” Hurt said. “Market participants will watch daily and weekly slaughter rates for signals of what the true death loss was. Even with the nearly $10 drop in summer lean futures in the week after the report, they are still suggesting $89 per hundredweight live prices for the second quarter and $82 for the third quarter. These provide record-high profits for those not heavily affected by PEDv. Live prices for the last quarter of the year are expected to be in the mid-$60s with winter prices in the very low $60s. These would make 2014 a record profit year for the industry, which should stimulate further expansion of farrowings.”

Hurt advised that producers using lean futures to hedge spring and summer contracts will want to make sure they have a hedging line of credit with their lender as volatile markets could imply substantial margin calls.


NRES Bronze Tablet Recipients Announced

Published April 7, 2014
Bronze Tablet image from 2009
Two NRES students will receive Bronze Tablet honors for 2014

Congratulations to NRES students Scott Cinel and Zu Dienle Tan, recipients of 2014 Bronze Tablet honors!

The University of Illinois began the tradition of inscribing the Bronze Tablets with the names of students receiving University Honors in 1925. A new tablet is hung in the Main Library each year. Inscription on the Bronze Tablets recognizes sustained academic achievement by undergraduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to the Student Code, students must have at least a 3.5 cumulative grade point-average through the academic term prior to graduation, and rank in the top three percent of the students in their graduating class.