College of ACES
College News

Anticipating the March 1 soybean stocks estimate

Published March 17, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – On March 31, the USDA will release an estimate of soybean stocks as of March 1. Typically, the most interest in the quarterly stocks estimates is focused on corn because these reports reveal the apparent pace of feed and residual use during the previous quarter and that use is a very large component of total corn consumption. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, while seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans is a smaller component of total consumption, there has been enough variation in revealed consumption to provide market surprises from time to time. The March 1 soybean stocks estimate this year may be more important than is normally the case due to the rapid pace of U.S. exports, concerns about the size of the South American harvest, and prospects for generally tight stocks at the end of the marketing year.

“Anticipating the size of the March 1 stocks estimate starts with the USDA estimate of stocks held on Dec. 1, 2013, plus imports during the quarter,” said Darrel Good. “An estimate of consumption during December, January, and February is subtracted from that total in order to estimate stocks as of March 1. Consumption occurs in three categories: exports; domestic crush; and domestic seed, feed, and residual use. Stocks on Dec.1 were estimated at 2.148 billion bushels. Census Bureau estimates of imports in December and January totaled 5 million bushels, so the total for the quarter may have been near 8 million bushels, resulting in a total supply of 2.156 billion bushels. The Census Bureau also provides the export estimates used in the USDA’s supply-and-demand balance sheets. However, those estimates are currently only available through January 2014. An estimate of exports for the entire quarter is based on a combination of Census Bureau estimates through January and USDA estimates, which are available for the entire quarter. USDA export inspection estimates for the December-February quarter totaled 703 million bushels. However, Census Bureau estimates for December and January exceeded the inspection estimates by 16 million bushels. Assuming that margin persisted through February, exports for the quarter were near 719 million bushels,” he said.

Good explained that historically the estimate of the size of the domestic crush was also based on monthly Census Bureau estimates. Those estimates were discontinued in July 2011. Monthly and quarterly estimates of the crush are now based on National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) monthly estimates of crush by its member firms and the historical relationship between those estimates and the Census Bureau estimates. That procedure results in an estimate of 486 million bushels for the crush during the December-February quarter.

According to Good, during the previous 10 marketing years, the magnitude of apparent seed, feed, and residual use of soybeans during the second quarter of the year (December-February) ranged from -42.4 million bushels to 88.3 million bushels. However, that estimate is not independent of the magnitude of apparent use in the first quarter of the marketing year. That is, unusually large (small) estimates of use during the first quarter have tended to be at least partially offset by unusually small (large) estimates in the second quarter. Making an estimate of use during the second quarter of the year then is conditioned on the magnitude of apparent use in the first quarter. Still, the total for the two quarters over the past 10 years was in a very wide range, from 124 million to 195 million bushels. The average was near 165 million bushels.

“Our calculation of use in this category during the first quarter of the 2013-14 marketing year was a record large 187 million bushels,” Good said. “That estimate points to a small forecast for the second quarter. If the total for the two quarters was near the 10-year average of 165 million bushels, second-quarter use would have been near -22 million bushels. 

“The estimates of exports and domestic crush presented here along with average feed, seed, and residual use during the first half of the 2013-14 marketing year would point to March 1 soybean stocks of 973 million bushels,” Good said. “However, an estimate that differs by as much as 25 million bushels in either direction from that estimate probably should not be considered a surprise given the historic variation in feed, seed, and residual use during the first half of the marketing year.”

Good concluded by saying that the magnitude of feed, seed, and residual use of soybeans during the first half of the marketing year is sometimes used to anticipate whether the USDA will ultimately alter the estimated size of the previous year’s harvest. A large (small) level of use, for example, might suggest that the crop was over (under) estimated. 

“While use during the first half of the year has varied considerably, it is not a good predictor of use during the last half of the year,” Good said. “That use has ranged from -99 million to 40 million bushels and is not highly correlated to use during the first half of the year.  As a result, the magnitude of use during the first half of the marketing year provides very little information about the likelihood of a change in the production estimate.”


Recent herbicides labeled for edamame could mean more U.S. production of the crop

Published March 17, 2014
Photo courtesy of Marty Williams

URBANA, Ill – Two herbicides recently labeled for use on edamame are welcome additions to the battle against weeds in production of the crop, which is growing in popularity in the United States, said a University of Illinois crop sciences researcher and USDA-ARS ecologist.

With the help of the IR-4 Project, the herbicides imazamox (Raptor, BASF) and fomesafen (Reflex, Syngenta), both used in soybean for years, were recently registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use on edamame (vegetable soybean). Marty Williams said this is good news for producers because not only do these herbicides add two new modes of action in edamame-approved products, but they are also the first post-emergence herbicides with activity on broadleaf weeds.

“Right now hand-weeding costs can exceed $500 per acre, so more cost-effective weed management tools are critical,” he said. “More diverse weed management systems in edamame ultimately will reduce the cost of hand weeding, potentially allowing it to be grown on more acres.”

In 2010, the United States imported an estimated 100,000 tons of edamame, mostly from China, with some imported from Taiwan.

“Although not everyone is the U.S. is familiar with edamame, demand is growing strongly,” Williams said. “We are the number one soybean producer in the world, so why don’t we grow more edamame here?”

Edamame is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids, which is unique to a vegetable crop. It also contains “good fats” that are largely unsaturated fats. Often marketed as a healthy snack food, edamame requires minimal processing and preparation.

The federal labeling of these herbicides could mean that, in time, more of what you buy in the grocery store was grown in the U.S. and not imported. “Part of the motivation for growing edamame here is so that there is a complete understanding of how it’s actually being produced,” he said.

Before registration of imazamox in late 2013 and fomesafen in March 2014 for use on edamame, the EPA had approved the use of only a few other products since July 2011.

“In a relatively short amount of time, just three years, the number of herbicides we now have for managing weeds in the crop has increased dramatically. More work remains but this achievement has lowered the height of one barrier to domestic edamame production,” Williams said.

Unlike soybean, which is harvested after a long season and senescence has occurred, edamame is harvested at the full-seed stage (R6) while the plant is entirely green and the seeds are large in the pod. Because of this contrast, the EPA treats edamame as a different crop regarding pesticide use.

While previous herbicides have been helpful in addressing certain weed species, current issues of herbicide resistance make the need for new modes of action even more important.

“We don’t want to rely on just one herbicide. Each herbicide can be useful, but none of them is a stand-alone product. Those days are long gone, even in corn and soybean. We continue to relearn the consequences of overuse of individual products, specifically, herbicide-resistant weeds,” Williams said.

Pigweed species, including palmer amaranth and waterhemp, are reported in edamame. “But the complete list of problematic broadleaf weeds may be long,” he said.

While labeling of the two herbicides is helpful, Williams said weed management has not been the only factor limiting growth of this crop in the U.S. Barriers such as limited seed availability and improved cultivars appear to have prevented larger acreage of edamame production in the U.S., the researcher explained.

“Because edamame is a relatively small crop, not all seed companies may be in a position to produce large amounts of seed. However, my understanding is that the vegetable industry struggles to get adequate amounts of seed to plant. Moreover, the growing environment influences crop development and the cultivars that can be used successfully,” Williams said.

There are issues of adaptation, disease resistance, taste, harvestability, seed size, seedling emergence, and vigor in developing new cultivars as well. “There appears to be room for improvement on all fronts,” Williams said.

“The vegetable industry recognizes the growing consumer demand in the U.S., but until more of these hurdles to domestic production of the crop are lowered or removed, I think they’re going into it cautiously as they should,” he added.

Study looks at calcium in canola meal as part of pig diet

Published March 17, 2014
pigs dirt

URBANA, Ill. – When formulating diets for pigs, it is more accurate to use values for standardized or true nutrient digestibility than values for apparent nutrient digestibility because the former are additive in mixed diets. Research at the University of Illinois is helping to determine the true digestibility of calcium in swine diets.

Hans H. Stein, a professor of animal sciences at the U of I, led the team that conducted the study. "We know that there are endogenous losses of calcium in cattle and chickens, and our hypothesis was that the same is true for pigs," Stein said. "We also wanted to determine if adding microbial phytase to the diets would affect endogenous losses of calcium."

Stein's team set out to determine the apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) and true total tract digestibility (TTTD) of calcium in canola meal without and with microbial phytase. They fed growing pigs four diets containing 0.08, 0.16, 0.24, or 0.32 percent calcium. All of the calcium in the diets came from canola meal, which is one of the few ingredients that contain both phytate and appreciable amounts of calcium. In addition, they fed four diets that were identical to the first four except that they also contained 1,500 units per kilogram of microbial phytase.

In diets both with and without added phytase, the ATTD of calcium increased as the calcium level in the diets increased. This indicated that there was endogenous loss of calcium. Using regression equations, the researchers estimated that the total endogenous loss of calcium was 0.160 g/kg dry matter intake (DMI) for pigs fed diets with no added phytase, and 0.189 g/kg DMI for pigs fed diets containing microbial phytase. These values were not statistically different, demonstrating that phytase doesn't affect endogenous loss of calcium, Stein said.

Next, values for the TTTD of calcium were calculated by correcting the ATTD for total endogenous losses. Unlike ATTD, the TTTD of calcium was not affected by the level of calcium in the diet. The ATTD and TTTD of calcium were both greater in diets containing added phytase than in diets with no phytase added.

Stein said that the results bore out his team's hypothesis.

"There is a measurable loss of endogenous calcium from the gastrointestinal tract of pigs," he said. "The fact that TTTD values are unaffected by dietary calcium levels indicates that the only reason ATTD increases as dietary calcium increases is because of the reduced contribution of endogenous calcium to the total output.

"Because TTTD values for calcium were not influenced by the level of calcium in the diets, we expect these values to be additive in mixed diets,” he added. “It is, therefore, necessary to take endogenous losses of calcium into account when formulating diets for pigs.”

Future work will focus on determining the digestibility of calcium in additional feed ingredients.

The study, "Endogenous intestinal losses of calcium and true total tract digestibility of calcium in canola meal fed to growing pigs", was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Caroline González-Vega and Yanhong Liu of the University of Illinois and Carrie Walk of AB Vista Feed Ingredients (Marlborough, UK). The full paper is available at

AB Vista provided financial support for the research.

Soil microbes shift as shrubs invade remnant hill prairies

Published March 11, 2014
Prairie hill remnant

URBANA, Ill. – Perched high on the bluffs of the big river valleys in the Midwest are some of the last remnants of never-farmed prairie grasslands. These patches, edged by forest, are slowly being taken over by shrubs. A recent University of Illinois study examined the soil microbes on nine patches, also called “balds,” that had varying degrees of shrub invasion and found an interesting shift in the composition of the microbial community.

“When we looked at the soil samples from a lightly encroached hill prairie remnant, it was very clear that there was a set of fungi that look like grassland fungi, a set of fungi that look like tree fungi, and the shrubs between the two have some features of both,” said U of I microbial ecologist Tony Yannarell. “As the degree of shrub encroachment increased, the amount of change in the fungal communities also increased, and as the degree of shrub encroachment increased, that shrub fungi joined the forest group to become one big woody community.”

Yannarell said that on the balds that were completely encroached, the soil samples across the entire remnant were the same. “You get this shift toward woody fungal communities that mirror how much shrub density you have in the hill prairie,” he said.

Yannarell said that forest and prairie microbial communities are always very different from each other even in this case where they are only a couple of meters apart. And because of the close proximity, with the same overall climate conditions and soil origin, they could rule out a lot of factors that would normally affect a change in microbial community structure.

The microbes in the shrub soil tend to be different, but different parts of the microbial community change in relationship to the shrub, to the forest, to the prairie. The shrub bacteria are more like what they found in open prairie than in the forest. But the shrub fungi looked a lot more like the forest fungi.

“We think what we found is the signature of these early changes, these early shifts of microbial communities toward a woody fungal community,” Yannarell said. “This first study only reveals one side of the change. We think we can firmly conclude that there are some woody, plant-liking fungi. But we don’t know if they are enhancing the invasion of it. They could be holding it back if there are shrub diseases.

“We’re also interested in knowing if the shrubs have changed these microbes because that could have an effect on a landowner’s ability to restore a heavily encroached hill prairie,” Yannarell said. “If you cut down all of the shrubs, you haven’t changed the microbial communities that live in the soil that the shrubs created. We want to know if those shrubby communities can be invaded by grasses or have they changed something fundamentally so that it will be harder to restore the prairie,” he said.

Yannarell explained that the remnant hill prairies are on portions of the bluffs where the soil is erodible, and because it is facing the sun for more of the year, it’s slightly warmer and slightly drier. More frequent fires would tip the balance toward grassland, but fires have been suppressed for many decades in the area because people live and farm nearby. The hill prairies are shrinking as the forest, and now native shrubs, such as dogwood, sumac, shrubby black locust, and eventually red cedar move in.

“We don’t know yet what kind of long-term impact this could have on the environment,” Yannarell said. “As the environment becomes unfavorable for certain microbes, those microbes will die off,” he said. “The shrubs could be driving out grass-loving fungi in favor of shrub-loving fungi. It’s yet another example of a monoculture taking over.”

Yannarell said that this research will be the foundation for a lot of work they’ll do in the future.

“Influence of Shrub Encroachment on the Soil Microbial Community Composition of Remnant Hill Prairies” was published in the February 2014 issue of Microbial Ecology. Contributing authors were Sarah E. Menning and Alyssa M. Beck.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Great Rivers Research and Educational Center.


NRES Teachers Ranked as Excellent for Fall 2013 Semester

Published March 10, 2014

NRES congratulates the following teachers ranked as Excellent for Fall Semester 2013!

  • Kingsley Allan              454
  • Matthew Carter           TA 454
  • Morgan Davis               TA 201
  • Jody Endres                 426
  • Jennifer Fraterrigo       465
  • Heather Grant             TA 415
  • Tyler Groh                    TA 102
  • *Jeffrey Matthews       285,512
  • Ronald Salemme          TA 201
  • *Cory Suski                 285,409
  • John Taft                     415
  • Anthony Yannarell       219

* -The instructor ratings were outstanding.

TA –teaching assistant

News Source:

Lezli Cline, 244-6254

Calculations for March 1 corn stocks estimate

Published March 10, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – The USDA will release an estimate of March 1, 2014, corn stocks on March 31 with potentially important implications for old-crop corn prices.  According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, it has been difficult to correctly anticipate quarterly stocks estimates in recent years, with large surprises reflected in some estimates.

“The estimate of Dec. 1, 2013, stocks was surprisingly small and implied a record 2.426 billion bushels of feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the 2013-14 marketing year,” said Darrel Good. “That estimate started a price rally that was subsequently augmented by surprisingly large export sales of corn. March 2014 corn futures increased about 70 cents from Jan. 9 through March 7.

“While it has become difficult to anticipate the quarterly stocks estimate, it is useful to calculate the magnitude of stocks that might be considered neutral for corn prices,” Good said. “A large deviation from that calculation would be expected to trigger a price response. A stocks estimate that would be neutral for corn prices is one that implied that feed and residual use of corn during the first half of the marketing year supported the USDA’s forecast of 5.3 billion bushels of feed and residual use for the entire marketing year. Even that calculation is difficult to make, however. The difficulty stems from the change in the seasonal pattern of feed and residual use that has occurred over the past seven years. For the 10 years from 1996-97 through 2005-06, feed and residual use of corn during the first half of the marketing year averaged 64 percent of the marketing-year total use, in a range of 62 to 66 percent. For the four-year period from 2006-07 through 2009-10, use during the first half of the marketing year averaged 68 percent of the total, in a range of 66 to 70 percent. During the three-year period from 2010-11 through 2012-13, use during the first half of the year averaged 74 percent of the marketing-year total, in a range of 73 to 76 percent.”

Good continued, saying that the increase in feed and residual use of corn during the first half of the marketing year and the sharp decline in use during the last half of the year are difficult to explain. Most of the shift has been from the fourth (summer) quarter to the first (fall) quarter. From 1996-97 through 2006-07, first-quarter use ranged from 35 to 39 percent of the marketing-year total, and fourth-quarter use ranged from 11 to 17 percent. From 2007-08 through 2012-13, first-quarter use ranged from 38 to 48 percent, and fourth-quarter use ranged from 6 to 13 percent. For the four most recent years, fourth-quarter use averaged only 8 percent of the marketing-year total and declined to 6 percent in 2012-13.

“Some of the seasonal shift in feed and residual use of corn may be associated with high corn prices and increased feeding of other grains, particularly wheat, during the summer quarter,” Good said. “The shift in some years, particularly 2011-12, may also be associated with early harvest and the resulting shift in calculated feed and residual use from the summer quarter into the fall quarter. If those factors do explain some of the shift, feed and residual use during the fourth quarter of the current marketing year might be larger than in recent years. Corn prices are low relative to other feed ingredients, particularly wheat, and it appears that the 2014 crop will not be planted and harvested particularly early in the Midwest. The percentage of feed and residual use of corn during the first half of the current marketing year might be expected to be smaller than the 74 percent in recent years. The impact of PED-V (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus) on the number of hogs fed during the last half of the year, however, could also impact the seasonal pattern of corn feeding,” he said.

Good said that if the USDA’s 5.3-billion-bushel projection of feed and residual use of corn for the year is correct, and 70 percent was used during the first half of the year, use during the second quarter of the year would have totaled 1.284 billion bushels. Based on Census Bureau estimates for December 2013 and January 2014 and USDA export inspection estimates through February 2014, corn exports during the quarter were likely near 396 million bushels. Based on estimates of ethanol production during the quarter, corn used for ethanol production was likely near 1.265 billion bushels. Corn used in other domestic food and industrial processing should have been near 340 million bushels, resulting in a total use of 3.285 billion bushels. With Dec. 1 stocks of 10.426 billion bushels and imports during the quarter of about 6 million bushels, these calculations point to March 1 stocks of 7.147 billion bushels.

“Given the large amount of uncertainty about the potential seasonal pattern of feed and residual use of corn, a stocks estimate that varied from the calculation presented here could still support the USDA projection of 5.3 billion bushels of use for the year,” Good said. “The market will have to decide if the magnitude of use during the first half of the year is a reasonable percentage of the USDA projection for the year or if the projection will need to be changed.”