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Make manure safety a priority

Published October 27, 2016
Custom application of manure after harvest
  • Recent deaths of cattle in the Illinois-Iowa-Wisconsin region point to pit gases as the culprit.
  • Hydrogen sulfide and methane gasses from liquid/slurry stores can be lethal to animals and people.
  • Remember key safety rules before agitating and emptying manure stores.
  • Make sure new or inexperienced workers are trained in safety.

URBANA, Ill. - With harvest winding down and manure application underway, it's a good time to remember manure safety, says Rich Gates, professor and Extension specialist at the University of Illinois. "Any liquid/slurry stores, when agitated, will release toxic hydrogen sulfide and methane gasses that can be lethal. Last summer, during agitation of a large manure storage tank in Wisconsin, a young farmer was killed from manure gas, along with 16 cows. This past weekend in mid-October there were three more incidents, with at least 61 cattle reported to have been killed in four incidents in the tri-state area.”

It is important to remember the key safety rules when agitating and emptying manure stores. These rules include taking steps to promote ventilation, removing workers and if possible animals, from buildings or nearby downwind structures, starting the agitation slowly, and watching for any harmful effects. Never enter an enclosed manure store without appropriate precautions, and be mindful that you can be overcome with a single breath if concentrations are high.

Facts surrounding the most recent incidents are sketchy, but custom applicators reported high to dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide on the ground near tankers and in the cab of tractors during filling, according to a news release from Kevin Erb, University of Wisconsin Extension.

“Levels of hydrogen sulfide over 10 parts per million (ppm) should be considered dangerous, with most personal alarms set at 10 to 20 ppm,” says University of Illinois Extension educator Jay Solomon. “Levels of 1-10 ppm cause irritation, 10-50 ppm cause more serious problems with eyes and respiratory tract, and above 50 ppm can be lethal quickly.” He also noted that this latest set of mortalities occurred in naturally ventilated deep-pit beef operations.

Two fact sheets, "Safe Manure Removal Policies" and "Manure Storage Entering Procedures" are available free online from the National Pork Board and U of I Extension's ag safety website.

"Don't forget the importance of ensuring that new or inexperienced workers are also trained in safety," Gates concludes.

News Source:

Richard Gates, 217-244-2791

News Writer:

Leanne Lucas, 217-244-9085

New soy protein concentrate can be used in weanling pig diets

Published October 26, 2016


  • The digestibility of crude protein and most amino acids does not differ between soybean meal and a new source of soy protein concentrate.
  • Soy protein concentrate contained more digestible and metabolizable energy than soybean meal.
  • Phosphorus digestibility in soy protein concentrate was not different from that in soybean meal.

URBANA, Ill. – A new source of soy protein concentrate can be used in diets fed to weanling pigs without negatively affecting digestibility of energy or nutrients, according to research conducted at the University of Illinois.

“Soy protein concentrate is typically produced by using an alcohol extraction process to remove soluble carbohydrates from soybean meal," says Hans H Stein, professor of animal sciences at the University of Illinois. "However, a new soy protein concentrate has been developed which combines a non-alcohol extraction process with enzymatic treatment of soybean meal."

Stein, along with visiting scholar Maryane S. Oliveira, conducted three experiments to evaluate the nutritional value of this new soy protein concentrate product.

The soy protein concentrate contained 61.2 percent crude protein compared with approximately 47.7 percent for dehulled soybean meal. The standardized ileal digestibility (SID) of isoleucine and leucine and some dispensable amino acids was greater in soy protein concentrate compared with soybean meal, but for crude protein and most amino acids, no difference between soy protein concentrate and soybean meal was observed.

Soy protein concentrate contained 3,479 kcal/kg digestible energy (DE) and 3,299 kcal/kg metabolizable energy, compared with 3,319 and 3,093, respectively, in soybean meal. Removal of oligosaccharides, which weanling pigs cannot digest, and other soluble carbohydrates from soybean meal resulted in greater concentration of crude protein, which is likely the reason for the greater concentration of digestible energy in the soy protein concentrate.

There was no difference in the standardized total tract digestibility (STTD) of phosphorus between soy protein concentrate and soybean meal, but for both ingredients, addition of microbial phytase increased phosphorus digestibility by about 35 percent.

"Soy protein concentrate is one way of feeding high-quality soy protein to weanling pigs," says Stein. "This new technology produces soy protein concentrate that is high in digestible amino acids and energy."

Funding for this research was provided by Midwest Ag Enterprises Inc., of Marshall, MN.

The paper, "Digestibility of energy, amino acids, and phosphorus in a novel source of soy protein concentrate and in soybean meal fed to growing pigs," was published in the August issue of the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Maryane Sespere Oliveira. The full text can be found online at


OIP announces seed grant recipients for Fall 2016

Published October 25, 2016

The Office of International Programs (OIP) congratulates its International Seed Grant recipients for Fall 2016. The goal of the Seed Grant program is to support awardees in establishing a strong international relationship that will continue to expand and flourish into a larger and substantial international collaborative effort that will ultimately benefit departments, programs, the College of ACES, and the University of Illinois.

The funding of the International Seed Grants program is made possible through support provided by the Arlys Conrad Endowment Fund, and the applications are reviewed by the College of ACES International Programs and Policy Committee. OIP issues requests for seed grant proposals once a semester.

This semester’s recipients are:

Benjamin Crost, Agricultural and Consumer Economics: “Using Microcredit to Facilitate the Adoption of Postharvest Technologies: A Randomized Control Trial” (Partnering with International Rice Research Institute in The Philippines)

Erik Sacks, Crop Sciences: “Identifying genes that confer flowering‐stage heat‐tolerance in rice” (Partnering with International Rice Research Institute in The Philippines)

Matthew Wheeler & Marcello Rubessa, Animal Sciences: “New strategy for embroyo freezing” (Partnering with University of Naples, Federico II, Italy)


Soybean Innovation Lab urges farmers to adopt improved soy seeds

Published October 25, 2016

At the second-annual soybean kick-off event in Ghana, the Principal Investigator for the USAID-Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Laboratory Value Chain Research, Dr. Peter Goldsmith, urged farmers to adopt improved soy seeds to improve plant population.

The Oct. 18 event brought together small-holder farmers, the private sector, researchers, development organizers, extension and government agencies to learn about the innovation, knowledge and technologies underway to support soy production in Ghana.

A story appeared on NEWS1 in Ghana:

From the video:

"Goldsmith revealed that high soybean plant population on ridges has proven to suppress weed population and minimize the use of chemicals for weed control in soybean fields. The event served as a platform that engaged soybean farming communities and other stakeholders in the value chain on SMART research fields. It is a platform to learn and share ideas on the season's production outlook and critical intervention needed to build best practices to improve soybean yields under Soybean Innovation Laboratory Value Chain Research. The event is aimed at improving the soybean agronomic and production interventions in the three regions of the north among more than 23,000 women smallholder farmers. Dr. Goldsmith, who spoke about the various research findings on the SMART Farm revealed that plant population, has played a key role in reducing the weed and amount of chemical application on most soybean fields."

The event was hosted by the Soybean Innovation Lab, the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute, Catholic Relief Services, and the Mennonite Economic Development Associates. Attendees enjoyed a delicious soy lunch, toured the soybean SMART farm, saw new high-yielding, locally adapted soybean varieties, tasted locally produced soy products and watched demonstrations of the latest innovations in small scale mechanization. 

The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and based at the University of Illinois. Keep up with the latest news from SIL at:

Soybean prices remain strong

Published October 24, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – December 2016 corn and wheat futures have recovered about 12 percent and 7 percent, respectively, from the early September lows, but remain at relatively low levels. November soybean futures have recovered about 7 percent from the late September low and remain higher than expected based on the record large U.S. harvest, prospects for larger stocks by the end of the marketing year, and expectations of increased acreage in 2017.

According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good, the recent recovery in soybean prices has been led by soybean oil prices, with December 2016 futures now 22 percent above the late July low and above the previous high price established in April. December soybean meal futures are about 6 percent above the late September low and 25 percent below the June peak.

“Soybean oil prices have been supported by expanding world vegetable oil trade and consumption and higher prices of competing vegetable oils,” Good says. “Both soybean oil futures and palm oil prices have reached the highest level in more than two years. Soybean prices have also received support from strong nearby export demand for U.S. soybeans stemming from the shortfall in South American production this year and from continued large purchases by China.”

Export inspections during the first seven weeks of the marketing year are estimated at 384 million bushels, 37 million above the total inspections a year ago. Unshipped export sales as of Oct. 13 were reported at 884 million bushels compared to 703 million a year earlier. China accounted for about 41 percent of the unshipped sales and unknown destinations, which may also be dominated by China, accounted for 44 percent of the unshipped sales.

“Soybean prices may have also received some support from the September domestic soybean crush that was larger than expected,” Good says. “The National Oilseed Processors Association reported that its members crushed 129.4 million bushels of soybeans in September, 2 percent more than crushed in September 2015. The USDA’s Oilseed Crushings, Production, Consumption and Stocks report to be released on Nov. 3 is expected to confirm that the September crush was the largest since 2007.

As U of I economist Todd Hubbs pointed out in last week’s Weekly Outlook, soybean prices for the remainder of the marketing year will be heavily influenced by the strength of export demand, particularly from China, and prospects for South American production. Production prospects will be influenced by the unfolding estimates of planted acreage and by weather and yield prospects.  Some are expecting Brazilian soybean acreage to exceed the current USDA projection, but there is also increasing chatter about the prospects for a strengthening La Niña episode and the potential for unfavorable growing season weather in South America.

Good says in the near term, soybean prices will also be influenced by the USDA’s U.S. soybean production forecast to be released on Nov. 9. The October forecast was for a crop of 4.269 billion bushels, 68 million bushels larger than the September forecast and 209 million bushels larger than the August forecast. The U.S. average yield forecast increased from 48.9 bushels in August to 50.6 bushels in September and 51.4 bushels in October.

“Based on widespread yield reports, there is a general expectation that the yield forecast will increase again in November,” Good says. “History supports that expectation as well. In the previous 40 years, the U.S. average yield forecast increased in September and again in October, as was the case this year, in 12 years. In 11 of those 12 years, the November yield forecast exceeded the October forecast. The increase ranged from 0.2 to 1.1 bushels and averaged 0.7 bushels. The lone exception was in 1981, when the November yield forecast was 0.5 bushel below the October forecast.”

According to Good, in those 11 years when the yield forecast increased in November, the yield estimate released in January after harvest exceeded the November forecast in seven years, was unchanged once, and declined in three years. The January increase ranged from 0.3 to 0.7 bushel and the decline ranged from 0.1 to 0.3 bushel.  In 1981, when the November forecast was below the October forecast, the January yield estimate was 0.4 bushel above the November forecast.  

“History points to a November U.S soybean production forecast that is 20 to 90 million bushels above the October forecast,” Good says. “If soybean production in South America rebounds as forecast, any increase in the U.S production estimate is likely to result in a forecast of year-ending stocks to exceed the current projection of 395 million bushels. The impact of larger year-ending stocks would be compounded by an increase in soybean acreage in the U.S. next year. 

“There will continue to be a lot of moving parts to the soybean price picture with the potential for a wide trading range over the next several months,” Good says. “From a risk management standpoint, current prices offer a relatively good return for producers who benefitted from above average yields this year. November 2017 futures approaching $10 per bushel also deserve a look, particularly by those intending to increase soybean acreage in 2017.”



Report provides options for organic soybean growers

Published October 20, 2016
edamame pods
Edamame pods
  • Although soybeans are one of the most widely grown crops in the U.S., few soybean farmers are using organic practices.
  • A new University of Illinois report details organic products and practices to combat pathogens and insect pests.
  • New growers may be motivated by a strong profit margin for organically produced soybeans.

URBANA, Ill. – Soybeans were planted on nearly 84 million acres in the U.S. in 2016, but only a tiny fraction—less than 1 percent—were grown organically. This number has been increasing in recent years, and a group of University of Illinois researchers wants to give organic growers the tools they need to combat pathogens and insect pests.

“We wanted to give organic growers some opportunities. We summarized some practices to fight diseases and pests organically. It’s not an easy task, but it can be done,” says U of I and USDA ARS crop pathologist Glen Hartman.  

Hartman, along with colleagues in the Department of Crop Sciences, produced a comprehensive report summarizing the disease and pest problems faced by soybean growers in the United States. For the first time, the report compiles specific organic management practices and products tailored for each scenario. By detailing the tools needed to successfully grow organic soybeans, the researchers hope more growers will give it a try.  

“There is a movement for organic agriculture, but so far, soybeans haven’t been a major player,” Hartman notes.

The researchers want to encourage small-scale vegetable farmers that are already using organic practices to add soybeans to the mix. The expansion of the organic meat and dairy markets, combined with strong consumer interest in organic soy-based foods like tofu and edamame, are increasing the demand for organically grown soybeans. Over half of organic soybeans are imported, but several companies and entrepreneurs are working to increase the domestic supply.

Those who are selling organic soybeans today are getting almost twice as much per bushel compared to conventional soybeans. “Organic meat is probably double or triple the price compared with conventionally raised meat. And that’s partly from the cost of organic feed. Whoever’s producing this is going to make some money,” Hartman says. “Bags of frozen edamame sell for about $3 at the grocery store, and there might be 40-50 pods per bag. That’s equivalent to one or two plants. You can grow maybe 100,000 plants in an acre. You can do the math, and that’s a rough calculation, but there could be a lot of profit involved.”

Graduate student Theresa Herman also sees the potential for increased edamame production in the United States. “I have talked to school food service companies about incorporating edamame in school lunch programs. It’s a good source of protein, and kids eat the beans voraciously. They’re crazy about edamame,” she notes.

Soybeans grown for edamame appear to be more prone to insect and disease problems than grain soybean, and non-GMO grain varieties available to organic growers may not have the disease and pest resistance that is present in many elite conventional cultivars. However, there are organic solutions for both. In the report, the researchers lay out strategies in a number of categories, including biological control, cultural practices, breeding priorities, and organic pesticide products.

“Rotations to different crops are commonly used by organic growers,” Hartman says. “Organic producers have cover crops and alternative crops that are not used in most corn and soybean systems. They might have a four- to six- to eight-year rotation, which is one of the best ways to reduce diseases.”

Although the researchers point to the promise of longer rotations and cover crops, they would like to know more about the effectiveness of organic products and practices in real-world settings.

“We want to be able to experimentally test some of the products growers are using in organic soybean systems. We want to learn what their constraints are, and how we can help them,” Hartman says.  

Herman adds, “A lot of people are happy with the way they do things, but they want to know more about why and how their system is working.”

Current and potential organic soybean growers can contact Hartman directly, and can read the new report, “Organically grown soybean production in the USA: Constraints and management of pathogens and insect pests,” published in Agronomy.