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Soybeans and the June 30 USDA reports

Published June 26, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – The USDA will release the quarterly Grain Stocks report with estimates of crop inventories as of June 1 and the annual Acreage report on June 30. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, for soybeans, the stocks estimate is typically overshadowed by the estimate of planted acreage.

“The recent drop in soybean prices indicates the large South American crops may finally have impacted prices despite the difficult start to the planting season in the United States,” says Todd Hubbs. “The June 1 soybean stocks estimate this year may not provide much new information but the implications for soybean prices contained in the Acreage report could make for a long summer of depressed prices.”

In March, the USDA reported producer intentions to plant 89.996 million acres of corn and 89.482 million acres of soybeans. “A general expectation that corn acres will fall short and soybean acres will exceed the March planting intentions exist due to the rough start to the planting season,” Hubbs says. “Some estimates by market observers indicate a 1-million-acre switch into soybean acreage and away from corn acreage.

“Although these estimates may be too high, they are not out of the realm of possibility. June soybean acreage deviated from March planting intentions by at least 1 million acres one-third of the time in the last 21 years. If the June Acreage report comes in at these levels, the outlook for soybean production in 2017 on top of the current stocks in the United States and South America could keep soybean prices under pressure through the summer,” Hubbs says.

Anticipating the size of the June 1 soybean stocks estimate begins with the USDA estimate of stocks held on March 1. The estimates of soybean stocks on March 1 was 1,755 million bushels. By including an estimate of soybean imports during the quarter, an estimate of the total supply available during the quarter can be calculated. Census Bureau estimates of imports in March and April totaled 3.8 million bushels, so the total for the quarter may be around 5.8 million bushels, resulting in a total supply of 1,741 million bushels.

The expected level of soybean crush during the third quarter is calculated based on available estimates of the domestic crush. The USDA's Oilseed Crushings, Production, Consumption and Stocks report provides estimates of the domestic crush for March and April. The estimate for May will be released on July 5. The National Oilseed Processors Association estimate of the May soybean crush can be used to estimate the total May crush. For the current marketing year, the USDA monthly crush estimates exceeded the NOPA crush estimates by 6.4 percent.

“A continuation of the margin for USDA monthly crush estimates above the NOPA May crush estimate indicates a third-quarter crush of 468.5 million bushels of soybeans,” Hubbs says. “The total crush for the first three quarters of the marketing year sums to 1,444 million bushels.”

Soybean export calculations for the third quarter are inferred from USDA weekly export inspection reports and Census Bureau export estimates. The USDA's weekly export inspections report shows that cumulative 2016-17 marketing-year inspections attained 1,876 million bushels by the end of the third quarter. Through the first five months of the year, cumulative Census export estimates exceeded inspections by 40 million bushels. If that margin persisted through May, cumulative exports reached 1,916 million bushels by June. Exports during the first half of the marketing year totaled 1,659 million bushels, putting third-quarter exports at 257 million bushels.

“Seed and residual use in the first half of this year was estimated at 144.7 million bushels with a surprising -48.4-million-bushel use in the second quarter of the marketing year,” Hubbs says. “In the last five incidences of negative second-quarter disappearance, seed and residual use for the third quarter tended to show a significant increase in consumption for the quarter. If the pattern continues this year and the USDA's projection of 128 million bushels for the year is correct, second-quarter disappearance would be 55 million bushels.”

Total consumption of soybeans during the third quarter of the marketing year is calculated to be near 780.5 million bushels. With supply during the quarter estimated at the 1,741 million bushels, June 1 stocks are calculated to total about 960.5 million bushels.

“Given the uncertainty of the magnitude of seed and residual use during the quarter, the stocks estimate is expected to be within a relatively narrow range,” Hubbs says. 

If marketing year ending stocks remain at the current USDA projection of 450 million bushels, a June 1 stocks at the level point to a final quarter US soybean consumption level of 510.5 million bushels,” Hubbs adds.

“Information in the Acreage report is expected to overwhelm the stocks report by increasing the production possibilities for the 2017-18 marketing year,” he says. “Despite soybean planting being behind schedule in many areas of the United States, it is too early to speculate on yield loss or increased prevent planting acreage for this year’s crop. A large increase in planted acreage will hang over soybean prices for the rest of the summer and turn attention to soybean crop conditions and the weather’s impact on yields.”






Agronomy Day 2017 field tour topics announced

Published June 26, 2017
Researchers talking to farmers

URBANA, Ill. – Are you curious about how bioreactors can reduce nitrogen loss, or concerned about herbicide resistance in those pesky weeds? Plan to hear about these and other crop science topics on August 17 at the 60th annual Agronomy Day, hosted by the Department of Crop Sciences and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.

Field tour topics and speakers for Agronomy Day 2017 are now available. The full lineup is below.

Tour A

1. Managing nitrogen for corn – Emerson Nafziger

2. Nitrogen on soybeans: Have we made progress yet? – Joshua Vonk

3. Illinois broomcorn: Breeding nature’s Swiffer – Jessica Bubert

4. What causes profitability differences across farms? – Gary Schnitkey

5. Searching for white mold resistance in soybeans’ wild relatives – Leslie Domier

Tour B

1. Corn and soybean pests: What’s #trending in 2017? – Kelly Estes

2. Patterns of Bt resistance in Illinois western corn rootworm populations – Joe Spencer

3. Pre-emergence herbicides in a POST resistance world – Dean Riechers

4. Do nematodes on corn matter? – Nate Schroeder

5. Soybean cyst nematode: Pest or pestilence – Kris Lambert

Tour C

1. How to turn a cone penetrometer into a soil eavesdropper – Tony Grift

2. Waste not, want not: Strategies for producing a water-use efficient line of corn – Tony Studer

3. Woodchip bioreactors: Chippin’ away at nitrate loss – Laura Christianson

4. Drone data – Dennis Bowman

Tour D

1. The seven wonders of corn yield, revisited – Fred Below

2. How critical are soil phosphorus test values – Tryston Beyrer

3. Knocking out the continuous corn yield penalty – Alison Vogel

4. Can narrow row spacings be used to manage more corn plants? – Brad Bernhard

Each year, Agronomy Day attracts more than 1,000 people seeking the latest information on technology and techniques to improve food and fuel production. This year’s Agronomy Day will be held in its new location (as of 2016), at 4202 South 1st Street in Savoy, Illinois. For up-to-the-minute information on speakers, displays, and location, join Agronomy Day 2017 on Facebook or visit the Agronomy Day website.

News Source:

Bob Dunker, 217-244-5444

New 3D model predicts best planting practices for farmers

Published June 23, 2017
row spacing
Double row spacing is better for sugarcane plants and soil, but sacrifices up to 10% yield.

URBANA, Ill. – As farmers survey their fields this summer, several questions come to mind: How many plants germinated per acre? How does altering row spacing affect my yields? Does it make a difference if I plant my rows north to south or east to west? Now a computer model can answer these questions by comparing billions of virtual fields with different planting densities, row spacings, and orientations.

The University of Illinois and the Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai developed this computer model to predict the yield of different crop cultivars in a multitude of planting conditions. Published in BioEnergy Research, the model depicts the growth of 3D plants, incorporating models of the biochemical and biophysical processes that underlie productivity.

Teaming up with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, they used the model to address a question for sugarcane producers: How much yield might be sacrificed to take advantage of a possible conservation planting technique?

“Current sugarcane harvesters cut a single row at a time, which is time-consuming and leads to damage of the crop stands,” said author Steve Long, Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at U of I. “This could be solved if the crop was planted in double rows with gaps between the double rows. But plants in double rows will shade each other more, causing a potential loss of profitability.”

The model found that double-row spacing costs about 10% of productivity compared to traditional row spacing; however, this loss can be reduced to just 2% by choosing cultivars with more horizontal leaves planted in a north-south orientation.

“This model could be applied to other crops to predict optimal planting designs for specific environments,” said Yu Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at U of I who led the study. “It could also be used in reverse to predict the potential outcome for a field."

The authors predict this model will be especially useful when robotic planting becomes more commonplace, which will allow for many more planting permutations.

The paper, “Development of a Three-Dimensional Ray-Tracing Model of Sugarcane Canopy Photosynthesis and Its Application in Assessing Impacts of Varied Row Spacing,” is published by BioEnergy Research (DOI: 10.1007/s12155-017-9823-x). Co-authors include: Yu Wang, Qingfeng Song, Deepak Jaiswal, Amanda P. de Souza, and Xin-Guang Zhu. This research was supported by the IGB, Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project, Energy Biosciences Institute, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. RIPE is an international research project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to engineer plants to more efficiently turn the sun’s energy into food to sustainably increase worldwide food productivity.


Construction on U of I building to shut down (again) on July 1

Published June 22, 2017
IBRL exterior

URBANA, Ill. – Plagued by the state’s budget impasse, the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois will shut down for the second time on July 1. Contractors have received written notifications from the Capital Development Board to prepare the site for demobilization. 

Officials at U of I report that the budget for IBRL increased by nearly 30 percent after the previous yearlong stoppage. They are concerned that an extended delay at the present state of construction will result in much more extensive rework with unknown cost escalation to the $32-million project.

According to IBRL Director Vijay Singh, the building was scheduled to open for business in spring 2018.

“We’ve made great progress after recovering from the first shutdown. That momentum will be lost, as attention shifts to protecting the building rather than foundational project scoping,” Singh says. “Relationships that we’ve built with industrial partners will undoubtedly suffer major setbacks and exciting prospects for economic development related to bioprocessing and bio-products in Illinois and along the I-72 biocorridor will be delayed.”

Singh adds that federal and industrial research projects that were expected to begin in 2018 will be postponed or cancelled. Companies, which had set aside monies for projects, will likely look elsewhere for scale-up work.

The remaining days of June will be unproductive toward completion of the building as the work focus becomes securing it against weather and vandalism. Singh also notes that delays like this are compounded because contractors move on to other projects, disrupting the restart of the project.

IRBL is a part of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. ACES Dean Kim Kidwell says this second halt on construction could have serious long-term consequences.

“It’s not just about a building,” Kidwell says. “Obviously, we’ll need to postpone hiring staff to operate the facility, but there is also the potential for the loss of very talented faculty and scientists as they consider other opportunities. Illinois will be challenged to retain and recruit talent working in the industrial biotech space. Enrollment in the Professional Science Masters (PSM) program in bioprocessing and other related majors may suffer from the lack of available facilities and faculty.”

Kidwell adds, “It is an ironic twist that the construction on this building, which is to be a catalyst for innovation, is stalled not once, but twice. It’s disappointing, not just for the College of ACES, but also for the state of Illinois’ efforts to be a leader in renewable bioprocessing technologies.”


Behavior study shows piglets prefer new toys

Published June 21, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – We can’t help but be tempted by new things. We see it in a child’s eyes when she opens a new toy, and feel it every time a new version of the iPhone is released. It turns out our preference for shiny, new things is pretty universal throughout the animal kingdom. Yes, even piglets prefer new toys.

In a recent study from the Piglet Nutrition and Cognition Lab at the University of Illinois, 3- and 4-week-old piglets were given dog toys to play with. Then, after a certain delay, they were given that toy again, along with a new one. Researchers wanted to see if the delay diminished the piglets’ memory of the first object.

Females and 4-week-old piglets of both sexes were a little better than males and 3-week-olds at remembering the first object, even after a two-day delay. But, for the most part, piglets made a beeline for the new toy.

The study wasn’t really about proving that piglets are capable of learning and remembering – that’s already well known. “You could ask any farmer how smart pigs are and they’ll tell you they’re smarter than dogs. That piece isn’t new,” says Stephen Fleming, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Animal Sciences and the neuroscience program at U of I.   

The study wasn’t about designing a new way of testing animal behavior, either; the same test has been used in rodents. The real utility of the study was the fact that the test worked for pigs. Pig brains are remarkably similar to human brains, so they are often used as model systems by neuroscientists.  

“With humans, when we want to know if something’s affecting how they learn or behave, we can ask them a question; with animals, we can’t. Historically, researchers have had animals complete a maze or press a lever every time a light comes on. But if you try to translate that to people, it becomes difficult. We don’t usually put people through mazes,” Fleming explains.

The study measured object recognition behavior in two ways, each of which reflects activity in a different part of the brain. Novel object recognition, already described, is thought to be controlled by a brain region called the perirhinal cortex. Novel location recognition, or piglets’ ability to remember where a familiar object is located, is likely controlled by the hippocampus.

It turns out 3- and 4-week-old piglets, whose brain development is roughly equivalent to 3- to 4-month-old infants, have a bad spatial memory: when familiar toys were in a different spot, the piglets played with them as if they were new.

The test will be used primarily as the foundation for additional research. For example, scientists could use it to determine if there are any behavioral or neurological effects of dietary additives or nutritional deficiencies.

“We wanted to prove that piglets are able to remember objects and that the test is sensitive. Are we actually measuring memory or is it something else? Now that we’ve proven they can recognize that objects are new, we can go in with a nutrient and see how they perform,” Fleming says.

The article, “Young pigs exhibit differential exploratory behavior during novelty preference tasks in response to age, sex, and delay,” is published in Behavioural Brain Research. The study was co-authored by Fleming’s Ph.D. advisor, Ryan Dilger, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I. Support for the research was provided by Mead Johnson Nutrition and the American Egg Board.

Dr. Lulu Rodriguez Receives Research Award

Published June 20, 2017
Lulu Rodriguez with award
Dr. Lulu Rodriguez

Prof. Lulu Rodriguez, NRES associate professor and director of the Agricultural Communications Program at the University of Illinois, received an Excellence in Research Award on June 15. It was presented by the international organization, Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), at an annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

She was recognized for being among the most active and productive communications researchers in the subject areas of food, natural resources, renewable energy, rural development, and others related to agriculture. Through her research she is contributing to understanding of the effects of science and risk communication interventions on public knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. A companion research stream involves evaluating and improving media performance in communicating science and risk.

Her studies address questions central to some of today’s most vigorous debates, domestically and globally. For example, rural women throughout the world are benefitting from her research, which is helping lay the groundwork for empowering these vital agricultural producers and improving the lives of rural families.

She was also recognized for strengthening the research base of the Agricultural Communications Program while enhancing student participation in research. The Program she leads has been offered jointly by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and College of Media since 1962.

News Source:

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, 217-333-2770