URBANA, Ill. – Grand romantic gestures are the stuff of Hollywood movies, but romance is only one small part of how we should be working to maintain our relationships, says University of Illinois assistant professor of human development and family studies Brian Ogolsky. The researcher recently sat down to share the science of relationship maintenance during a Twitter chat in the #AskACES series, hosted by U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
Ogolsky started the chat off by defining relationship maintenance as “the thoughts and behaviors you use to keep your relationship in the state you want it to be in.”
A1. The thoughts and behaviors you use to keep your relationship in the state you want it to be in. #askaces— College of ACES (@ACESIllinois) February 16, 2017
Because 140 characters leaves a lot of room for interpretation, follow-up questions quickly poured in. Followers wanted strategies they could put into practice and Ogolsky obliged, with recommendations to engage in positive and open communication, to be responsive and supportive, to participate in joint leisure activity, and to be generous and thankful.
Q7: What are some of those relationship strategies to put in to practice? #askaces— College of ACES (@ACESIllinois) February 16, 2017
A7: Positive and open communication, responsiveness and support, joint leisure activity, being generous and thankful #askaces— College of ACES (@ACESIllinois) February 16, 2017
Ogolsky also explained the ways couples should think about adjusting their relationship maintenance strategies over time. Early on, he says, the emphasis is on mitigation of threats, such as alternative partners, while more established couples should put in time to “do the good,” rather than simply avoiding problems.
Chat participants wanted to know about the role of technology in relationships, how parenting affects relationship maintenance, and whether there is truth to the old adage that opposites attract.
Surprisingly, when it comes to avoiding break ups, Ogolsky says it’s not about being similar or putting down the phone during date night. The very best predictor of staying together, he explains, is feeling that you, your partner, and your relationship are better than everyone else’s. “In other words, be delusional,” he quips.
Search for #AskACES on Twitter to view the entire chat, and listen to Ogolsky delve a little deeper into his answers in an interview with #AskACES podcast host Jennifer Shike.
Drones are what’s next for plant breeders
- Crop breeders grow thousands of potential varieties at a time; until now, observations of key traits were made by hand.
- In a new study, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, were used successfully to remotely evaluate and predict soybean maturity timing in tests of potential varieties.
- The use of drones for this purpose could substantially reduce the man-hours needed to evaluate new crops.
URBANA, Ill. – When plant breeders develop new crop varieties, they grow up a lot of plants and they all need to be checked. Repeatedly.
“Farmers might have a 100-acre field planted with one soybean variety, whereas breeders may have 10,000 potential varieties planted on one 10-acre field. The farmer can fairly quickly determine whether the single variety in a field is ready to be harvested. However, breeders have to walk through research fields several times in the fall to determine the date when each potential variety matures,” explains University of Illinois soybean breeder Brian Diers.
“We have to check every three days,” masters student Nathan Schmitz adds. “It takes a good amount of time during a busy part of the year. Sometimes it’s really hot, sometimes really muddy.”
To make things easier, an interdisciplinary team including breeders, computer scientists, engineers, and geographic information specialists turned to unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly known as UAVs or drones.
“When drones became available, we asked ourselves how we could apply this new technology to breeding. For this first attempt, we tried to do a couple simple things,” Diers says.
One goal was to predict the timing of pod maturity using images from a camera attached to the drone, along with sophisticated data and image analysis techniques. “We used multi-spectral images,” Schmitz explains. “We set up an equation in the program to pick up changes in the light frequency reflected off the plant. That color change is how we differentiate a mature plant from an immature one.”
The researchers developed an algorithm to compare images from the drone with pod maturity data measured the old-fashioned way, by walking the fields. “Our maturity predictions with the drone were very close to what we recorded while walking through the fields,” Diers notes.
Predictions made by the model achieved 93 percent accuracy, but Diers says they might have done even better without some of the inherent limitations of flying drones. For example, they could only fly it and obtain good images on sunny days with little wind.
Drones are increasingly recognized for their potential to improve efficiency and precision in agriculture—especially after new FAA rules went into effect in August 2016—but this is one of the first studies to use drones to optimize breeding practices. Diers notes that the application could be particularly useful to large breeding companies, which test hundreds of thousands of potential varieties annually. If breeders can save time and effort using this technology, new varieties could potentially be developed and made available to farmers on a faster timeline—a welcome improvement.
The article, “Development of methods to improve soybean yield estimation and predict plant maturity with an unmanned aerial vehicle based platform,” is published in Remote Sensing of Environment. In addition to Diers and Schmitz, Neil Yu, Liujun Li, Lei Tian, and Jonathan Greenberg, all from the University of Illinois, are co-authors.
Illinois Cattle Feeders meeting set for March 7, Dixon
URBANA, Ill. – Illinois cattlemen and cattlewomen will have the opportunity to hear from several experts at the 2017 Illinois Cattle Feeders meeting. The meeting will be held March 7 at Sauk Valley Community College just outside of Dixon, Illinois. The seminar will be begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 3:30 p.m.
“This meeting is a must-attend for Illinois cattle producers. First-hand access to this kind of knowledge in the cattle industry is rare.” says University of Illinois beef extension educator Travis Meteer.
Speakers at the meeting include Ted Funk, U of I professor emeritus, who will discuss safety recommendations when handling manure. Funk will also answer questions regarding building citing and environmental regulations.
Illinois doctor of veterinary medicine Jim Lowe will discuss identifying bovine respiratory disease and some new technologies that can aid in this process. Lowe will also discuss the Veterinary Feed Directive.
Josh McCann will share some new research from U of I concerning transitioning diets for cattle.
U of I animal scientist Dan Shike will give an update on rubber matting over concrete slats and offer a new data set that compares new mats, old mats, and no mats.
Larry Berger, U of I professor emeritus, will discuss the changes in the cattle feeding sector.
A market update and outlook will be given by Michael Langemeier, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University. Langemeier will give producers insight into current and future market dynamics.
There is no fee to attend, however pre-registration for the meeting is requested to ensure an adequate number of meals. To register, contact Travis Meteer (email@example.com) or visit go.illinois.edu/cattlefeeders to register online.
Complete meeting details are available at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/oardc.
2017 corn prospects
URBANA, Ill. – The time of year to develop corn balance sheet projections for the upcoming crop year is upon us. As the halfway point of the 2016-17 marketing year draws closer, decision-making regarding planting and new-crop marketing are determined. In a new analysis, a University of Illinois agricultural economist predicts lower corn production in 2017, leading to decreased ending stocks in 2017-18 The magnitude of reduced ending stocks provides important implications for corn prices moving through 2017-18.
“Current market consensus projects farmers to plant fewer corn acres in 2017 than the 94 million acres planted in 2016,” says Todd Hubbs. “Numerous factors point toward greater soybean acreage and lower corn acreage in 2017. These include lower winter wheat seedings, a lower cost of production for soybeans, and the current perceived price advantage for soybeans over corn.”
Congressional Budget Office projections for baseline farm programs released last month set planted acreage at 91.5 million acres. Current USDA long-term baseline projections to 2026 have 2017 planted acreage for corn at 90.0 million acres. A reduction of 3.5 million acres from 2016, which places planted acreage at 91.5 million acres, is used in this analysis. Planted acreage at 91.5 million acres would lead to around 83.2 million acres harvested for grain in 2017.
“Yield expectations typically use trend yield analysis to generate yield projections for the next crop year,” Hubbs says. “National average corn yield came in above trend for the last three growing seasons and culminated in an estimated 174.6 bushels per acre in 2016. CBO projections place 2017 corn yield at 170 bushels per acre. USDA long-term baseline projections set 2017 yield at 170.8 bushels per acre. We find a linear trend of actual U.S. corn average yields from 1960 forward to be the best fit. The trend explains 89 percent of the annual variation in corn yields from 1960-2016.
“Weather conditions, as one would expect, impact yields,” Hubbs says. “Bad weather reduces yield to a greater extent than good weather increases yield. Because this is the case, trend estimations can understate yield expectations in an average weather year. The trend estimate for 2017 is 166.8 bushels per acre. By adjusting the trend estimation for weather influences, we generate a national corn yield expectation of 169 bushels to use in this analysis.”
According to Hubbs, at this yield level, the 2017 crop projection is 14.1 billion bushels. By including the current projections for ending stocks by the USDA of 2.32 billion bushels with 50 million bushels of imported corn, the 2017 corn supply comes in at 16.4 billion bushels. The 2017 corn supply estimate is approximately 509 million bushels less than the current marketing year supply estimation.
Expectations for consumption in the 2017-18 marketing year exceed projected production, which leads to a lower level of ending stocks by the end of the marketing year, Hubbs says. “The size of the decline is important for determining price as we move through the next marketing year.”
Hubbs says exports, ethanol production, feed and residual, and other domestic uses determine the consumption of corn. U.S. corn exports vary considerably from year to year. In the last decade, corn exports ranged from a low of 730 million bushels in the 2012-13 marketing year to 2.44 billion bushels in 2007-08. Corn exports are influenced by trade policy, world corn production, economic growth, and exchange rates. Current 2016-17 marketing year corn export projections sit at 2.225 billion bushels, which were helped by lower corn production in South America in 2016. Current corn production projections for Brazil (3.41 billion bushels) and Argentina (1.44 billion bushels) are up 29 percent and 26 percent respectively in 2017. World production projections come in 8 percent higher for 2017. Although U.S. corn exports will continue to be strong, 2017-18 projections reduce corn exports in this analysis to 1.95 billion bushels on larger foreign corn production.
“Corn used for ethanol production will be impacted by EPA rulemaking related to implementing RFS mandates, gasoline consumption, and ethanol exports,” Hubbs says. “An expectation of increased fuel ethanol requirements and slight increases in gasoline consumption with a positive ethanol trade balance provide support to the continued increase in corn used for ethanol. Corn used for ethanol expectations will increase to 5.4 billion bushels in the 2017-18 marketing year. Other domestic uses for corn do not vary significantly from year to year. With a slight increase, other domestic use expectations provide 1.45 billion bushels of corn use.”
The pace of corn consumption for feed likely will continue to show strength in the 2017-18 marketing year, Hubbs says. Livestock production growth in many sectors provides support for corn feed use during this marketing year.
“Despite strong livestock production, several factors may limit corn feed use moving forward,” Hubbs says. “The increase in ethanol production increases distillers grain availability. Increased availability of feed grains across the board may suppress some corn feed use. Residual use of corn could be reduced if the 2017 crop is smaller than the 2016 level. Feed and residual use might be near 5.5 billion bushels.”
Hubbs concludes that current expectations for corn consumption in the 2017-18 marketing year are 14.3 billion bushels. Ending stocks would be 2.131 billion bushels, which is 189 million bushels lower than the current 2016-17 marketing year projections. Based on the analysis of corn production and consumption expectations, season average market price comes in at the $3.65 - $3.75 range for the 2017-18 marketing year.
Snap beans hard to grow in cover crop residue
- Vegetable farmers have been slow to adopt no-till practices with cover crops in part because of the difficulty of managing surface residues.
- A new study evaluated cover crop mortality and snap bean yield when planted in rye and vetch cover crops, controlled mechanically both with and without herbicides.
- Roller-crimping was not completely effective at terminating cover crops and snap bean yields often were lower when planted in cover crops than in bare-soil plots.
URBANA, Ill. – More no-till farmers are using cover crops to conserve soil and suppress weeds, but many vegetable producers are reluctant to get on board. That’s because many small-seeded vegetable crops struggle to emerge through thick cover crop residues. However, the potential benefits of no-till cover crop systems compelled researchers to give it a try with snap bean.
“There’s interest in both cover crops and no-till vegetable production, but adoption has been slow,” says University of Illinois and USDA-ARS ecologist Marty Williams. “We designed a study to look at a scenario that had a better chance of success. We used snap bean, which is relatively large-seeded, and planted later to allow sufficient time to grow and then kill a cover crop.”
In both Illinois and Washington, Williams and USDA-ARS agronomist Rick Boydston grew vetch, rye, and a combination of the two cover crops before killing them with a roller-crimper—a machine that evenly flattens and crimps standing plant biomass—or with a combination of the roller-crimper and a burndown herbicide.
“The roller-crimper weighs about 2 tons. As it bends the stalks over, metal fins crimp the stalks in multiple places so that, in theory, the cover crop lays flat and dies,” Williams explains. For organic growers, the roller-crimper offers a way to kill the cover crop without herbicides or tillage.
The researchers tracked cover crop mortality, weed biomass, and snap bean yields during the experiment. Unfortunately, the roller-crimper did not effectively kill the vetch, even with an application of herbicide. Instead, vetch became weedy and caused yield losses in snap bean. Rye was easier to kill, but heavy plant residues complicated planting.
“Timing of roller-crimping is very important,” Williams notes. “In general, grass cover crops like rye need to be fully flowering when roller-crimped, or else the cover crop may not die. Vetch needs to be rolled a bit later, after pod development. A problem encountered with the cover crop mixture in this study was that rye reached the correct growth stage for roller-crimping before vetch.
“Another issue was adequate seed-to-soil contact, which can become a challenge with excessive plant residues on the soil surface. Closing the seed furrow becomes difficult with increasing soil moisture, which isn’t uncommon in central Illinois soils, especially during typical spring rainfall events, or with moderate to high levels of surface residues,” Williams says.
Ultimately, none of the cover crops or control methods offered any consistent yield advantages for snap bean. In fact, some of the greatest yields occurred in bare-soil treatments. When asked if he would tell farmers to avoid this method, Williams laughs and admits the results of this particular study do not look particularly promising in central Illinois. He points out that other researchers were successful with soybean in a similar system, but thinks different cover crops or management techniques may be more suitable for snap bean.
Williams emphasizes the importance of balancing key elements to maximize the chances of success.
“One needs sufficient cover crop biomass to aid weed suppression, yet it’s important to avoid excessive surface residue, which can be detrimental to the crop. Using the roller-crimper certainly adds an additional challenge because the cover crop needs to be at an advanced growth stage to be successfully terminated,” Williams says.
The article, “No-till snap bean performance and weed response following rye and vetch cover crops,” is published in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
U of I food science and human nutrition students ‘school’ PreK-8th grade students on nutrition
URBANA, Ill. - Dietetics and human nutrition students from the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois are teaming up with the Holy Cross School in Champaign to bring a fun and nutritious afternoon to students in grades PreK-8.
The nutrition event will be held on Feb. 15 from 1-2:20 p.m. in each grade level at the Holy Cross School. U of I students have designed interactive and educational nutrition activities tailored to each grade level. This year, preschool classrooms have been added to the fun so that every student at Holy Cross School will be able to learn something new about healthy eating. Students will enjoy tasting new foods, playing games, and participating in fun activities while learning about the importance of healthy eating and regular physical activity.
Preschool and kindergarten students will explore how to color their plates with a variety of fruits and veggies. They will also match veggies with the body parts they benefit. Water does wonders for the body! First and second graders will discover the secrets of water and just how much they need to drink per day. Like kabobs? How about fruit kabobs? Third and fourth grade students will discover the difference between naturally occurring versus added sugars and will create their very own fruit kabobs. They will also test their memories of kid-size portion sizes with My Plate Bingo. Don’t jeopardize your health! Fifth graders will review all the food groups needed for a healthy diet and then play a friendly game of jeopardy to see which student group are the nutrition masters. Sixth graders will have a snack attack, finding the most nutrient-dense snacks to take on the run. Seventh and eighth graders will become sugar finders, comparing sugars in their favorite drinks, and then learning how to create their very own sweet drinks from fruits, veggies, and herbs. Activities for all ages will keep the students moving and learning.
Holy Cross students will be celebrating National Nutrition Month (March) on Feb. 15. This will be a great opportunity for the students to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise in a fun and interactive way.
2016 ACES faculty awards and recognitions
The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois has award-winning faculty in all of its departments. These faculty are recognized for their excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and service at the university level as well as on the national and international stages.
What follows is an incomplete list of the awards and recognitions received by ACES faculty in 2016.
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Robert Aherin Practitioner Achievement Award, International Society of Agricultural Safety and Health
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Mark Althouse, Ryan Batts, Farm Policy Decision Aid Group Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Jonathan Coppess, Stu Ellis,
Andy Goers, Scott Irwin, Nick
Paulson, Gary Schnitkey, Bruce
Philip Garcia Distinguished Graduate Teaching Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Quality of Research Discovery Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Scott Irwin Quality of Research Discovery Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Madhu Khanna Fellowship, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Bruce Sherrick Service to Agriculture Award, Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers
Yilan Xu Fellowship, University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study
David Rosch NACTA Educator Award, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
Phil Cardoso Midwest Outstanding Young Extension Specialist Award, American Dairy Science Association
Foundation Scholar Award in Dairy Production, American Dairy Science Association
Ryan Dilger Campus Distinguished Promotion Award, University of Illinois
NACTA Educator Award, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
Outstanding Young Researcher Award, American Society of Animal Sciences
Bio-Serv Award in Experimental Animal Nutrition, American Society of Nutrition
George Fahey Morrison Award, American Society of Animal Science
Fellowship, American Society of Nutrition
Mentor Award, Mexican-Brazilian Societies of Animal Science
Rex Gaskins Distinguished Scientists Award, Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
Mike Hutjens Distinguished Service Award, American Dairy Science Association
Juan Loor Elanco Award for Excellence in Dairy Science, American Dairy Science Association
Kelly Swanson Outstanding Alumni Award, University of Minnesota-Crookston
Human Nutrition Endowed Professorship, Kraft Heinz Company
Matthew Wheeler Campus Outstanding Faculty Leadership Award, University of Illinois
Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award, University of Illinois
Mentor of the Year, International Embryo Technology Society
Fred Below Fellowship, Agronomy Society of America
Kim Kidwell Fellowship, Crop Science Society of America
Andrew Leakey Calvin-Benson Award for Early Career Research, International Society for Photosynthesis
Steve Long Fellowship, University of Oxford, Lincoln College
Food Science and Human Nutrition
Karen Chapman-Novakofski Excellence in Practice Award, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Jill Craft NACTA Educator Award, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture
Justine Karduck Outstanding Abstract Award, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Elizabeth Jeffery Dannon Institute Mentorship Award, American Society of Nutrition
Zeynep Madak-Erdogan Mary Swartz Rose Young Investigator Award, American Society of Nutrition and the Council for Responsible Nutrition
Elvira de Mejia Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award for International Achievement, Illinois International Program
Shelly Schmidt Campus Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching, University of Illinois
Human Development and Family Studies
Gail Ferguson Early Career Psychologist Award for International Psychology, American Psychological Association
Barbara Fiese Distinguished Career Contributions to Family Psychology, American Psychological Association
Reed Larson John P. Hill Memorial Award, Society of Research on Adolescence
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Yuji Arai Marian L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Award, Soil Science Society of America
Richard Brazee Publication of Enduring Significance Award, Marine Resource Economics
Kaiyu Guan New Investigator Award, NASA
Career Award, Early Career Investigator Program, NASA
Kenneth Olson Society’s Fellow Award, Soil and Water Conservation Society
Robert Schooley Alumni Award of Professional Excellence, University of Maine
2017 soybean prospects
URBANA, Ill. – As we approach the midway point of the 2016-17 marketing year, planting and new crop marketing decisions are being made for the next marketing year. This is the time of year to discuss 2017-18 soybean marketing-year prospects. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, the development of soybean prices over the next year depends on the prospective size of the 2017 U.S. crop and the prospects for stocks at the end of the 2016-17 marketing year.
“Soybean prices have remained relatively high despite large U.S. and world soybean supplies,” says Todd Hubbs. “On Feb. 9, the latest release of USDA projections for the 2016-17 marketing year maintained the balance sheet numbers from the previous month. At 420 million bushels, forecast stocks of U.S. soybeans at the end of the current marketing year represent the highest ending-stocks estimation since the 2006-07 marketing year. Additionally, the current projection for South American soybean production is at 6.374 billion bushels. The prospect of 2016-17 marketing-year-ending stocks decreasing over the remainder of the marketing year is dependent on strong export numbers. Increased export potential is contingent on the soybean crops currently produced in Brazil and Argentina. Although the possibility of surpassing the 2.05 billion bushel USDA export projection for soybeans exists, the caution exhibited by the USDA in maintaining the export number at its current level is warranted.”
According to Hubbs, building expectations about the 2017 U.S. soybean production prospects begin with planted acreage. Current expectations for soybean planted acreage encompass a wide range of possibilities. Some observers place planted acreage levels at 89 million acres or greater. U.S. soybean plantings in 2016 came in at a record 83.4 million acres, which were a 700-thousand-acre increase over 2015 and slightly above the 83.3 million acres planted in 2014.
Congressional Budget Office projections for baseline farm programs released last month set planted acreage at 86.5 million acres. Current USDA long-term baseline projections have 2017 planted acreage at 85.5 million acres. Multiple factors currently drive the expectation of a large increase in soybean acreage. Hard red winter wheat seedings are down 3.7 million acres. A reduction in soft spring wheat acreage is also possible, and that releases additional acreage for spring-planted crops. Hubbs says the lower cost of producing soybeans relative to corn and the perceived price advantage of soybeans over corn drive expectations of an acreage shift from corn to soybeans. The price advantage of soybeans relative to corn maintains a strong soybean position as the current ratio of November soybean futures to December corn futures above 2.5.
“Given the number of factors pointing toward greater soybean planted acreage in 2017, planted acreage near 87.4 million is a reasonable expectation,” Hubbs says. “Since 1996, an increase in soybean planted acreage exceeded 4 million acres three times. Although the possibility exists for a 6- to 7-million-acre increase in soybean acreage this year, it would be one of the largest shifts in soybean planted acreage on the historical record.”
The USDA will survey producer’s planting intentions next month and release an estimate of those intentions in the March 31 Prospective Plantings report. Further clarification on the planted acreage in soybeans will be provided by the June USDA Acreage report.
Since the start of the freedom to farm era in 1996, Hubbs says the difference between planted and harvested acreage of soybeans ranged between 595 thousand to 1.858 million acres and averaged 1.03 million acres. Years of drought accounted for large differences. Under a normal weather scenario, the record level of planted acreage may see the abandonment of approximately 700 thousand acres in 2017. Planted acreage of 87.4 million acres leads to a harvested acreage of about 84.7 million acres.
“Yield expectations for the next crop year normally rely on trend yield analysis,” Hubbs says. “Three successive years of soybean yields well above trend culminated with 52.1 bushels per acre in 2016. It is difficult to determine if the recent increase in soybean yields is the beginning of a new production era. For now, we will continue with the basic trend expectations. Current USDA baseline projections place 2017 soybean yields at 47.9 bushels per acre. CBO projections come in at 47 bushels per acre. Based on the growth in soybean yields in the last three years, normal weather during 2017 could provide an average U.S. soybean yield near 48 bushels per acre. Yield at that level would create a 2017 soybean crop of 4.162 billion bushels, 145 million bushels smaller than the 2016 crop.”
A 2017 soybean crop of 4.162 billion bushels combined with the current USDA soybean stock projection of 420 million bushels and imports of 25 million bushels leads to a marketing-year supply of 4.601 billion bushels, 73 million bushels larger than the supply for the current year. To prevent 2017-18 ending stocks from increasing under this scenario, soybean consumption needs to be greater than 4.181 billion bushels, 73 million bushels greater than current 2016-17 marketing-year projections. Hubbs says increased soybean consumption at this level does not seem likely under current demand scenarios.
“Expectations for the 2017-18 marketing year include increased acreage, an increase in ending stocks, and lower prices when compared to the current marketing year,” Hubbs says. “The mitigation of a major price decline requires a reduction in 2016-17 ending stocks from the current 420 million bushels or lower production in 2017. The scenario discussed places average farm prices for soybeans in a range of $8.90 - $9.10 for the 2017-18 marketing year.”