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How will the Dec. 1 corn stocks estimate be interpreted?

Published December 8, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – It is always a challenge to anticipate the USDA’s quarterly estimate of corn stocks, but the estimate of the Dec. 1 inventory, to be released on Jan. 12, 2015, is a special challenge, according to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.  Not only is there the usual uncertainty about the magnitude of feed and residual use of corn during the first quarter of the marketing year, there is uncertainty about the potential change in the corn production estimate that is released on the same day.

“The production estimate will reflect a final yield estimate based on the December Agricultural Survey and a final harvested acreage estimate based on that same survey in combination with other administrative acreage data, primarily planted acreage reported to the Farm Service Agency (FSA),” Good said.  “There has been a consistent relationship between planted acreage reported to FSA and the final estimate of planted acreage reported by the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) in recent years. That relationship has meant that the NASS final estimate of planted acreage could be reasonably well anticipated based on acreage reported to FSA by October or November. This year, however, the difference between FSA acreage reported in November and the current NASS planted acreage estimate was about five million acres, compared to the average difference in final estimates of about 2.8 million acres for the period 2007 through 2013. FSA will release an updated acreage report on Dec. 15. Unless acreage in that report is about two million acres more than reported in November, some reduction in the NASS acreage estimate in the Jan. 12 report will be anticipated,” he said.

Good said that the estimate of Dec. I stocks will reveal the magnitude of corn consumption in the first quarter of the marketing year. Along with the final production estimate, that revealed pace of consumption may allow for a more accurate forecast of the magnitude of year-ending stocks. The USDA currently projects those stocks at 2.008 billion bushels. The magnitude of both exports and domestic processing use of corn during the first quarter of the marketing year can be estimated fairly closely based on weekly and monthly estimates of use.  As indicated earlier, feed and residual use of corn to be revealed in the stocks estimate is difficult to anticipate.

According to Good, corn export inspections during the first quarter of the 2014-15 marketing year were reported at 367 million bushels. However, Census Bureau export estimates for the first two months of the quarter exceeded inspections by 31 million bushels.

“If that margin persisted through November, exports during the first quarter of the marketing year would have been 398 million bushels, 48 million more than during the same period last year,” Good said.

Good added that the domestic processing use of corn is dominated by use for ethanol production. Based on estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, ethanol production during the first quarter of the 2014-15 corn marketing exceeded that of a year ago by 5 percent.  About half of that increase reflected an increase in net exports while the other half resulted in an increase in stocks. Last year, the USDA reported that 1.216 billion bushels of corn were used for ethanol production during the first quarter of the marketing year. Use was likely near 1.28 billion bushels this year. The USDA has projected that corn used for other domestic processing this year will total 1.385 billion bushels. If use was on that pace during the first quarter of the marketing year, about 340 million bushels of corn would have been consumed, bringing total domestic processing use to 1.62 billion bushels.

The USDA has projected feed and residual use of corn during the 2014-15 marketing year at 5.375 billion bushels, 243 million bushels (4.7 percent) more than used last year.

So what should use during the first quarter have been if use is on track to reach 5.375 billion bushels for the year?

“This is where the analysis becomes tricky,” Good said. “A 4.7 percent year-over-year increase would put first-quarter use this year at 2.525 billion bushels. However, use during the first quarter of the marketing year was especially large the past two years, 47.0 and 47.7 percent, respectively, of the marketing-year total. In the previous six years, use during the first quarter ranged from 38.8 to 42.9 percent of the marketing year total, averaging 39.7 percent. A return to that pattern then would point to first-quarter consumption this year of only 2.085 to 2.305 billion bushels if use is on track with the USDA projection.

“With export and domestic corn consumption during the first quarter of the marketing year at 2.023 billion bushels and an unchanged production estimate, the estimate of Dec. 1 stocks as large as 11.55 billion bushels could still be consistent with marketing-year feed and residual use of 5.375 billion bushels,” Good said. “Similarly, a stocks estimate as low as 11.15 billion bushels, with an unchanged production estimate, might also be consistent with marketing-year feed and residual use of 5.375 billion bushels. Given that the quarterly distribution of feed and residual use this year is not known, an ‘extreme’ Dec. 1 stocks estimate (after adjusting for any change in the production estimate) may be required to change expectations about marketing-year feed and residual use.  It will be interesting to see how the market interprets the stocks estimate,” Good said.



Sandra Jimenez
My program has not only prepared me with necessary knowledge about numerous animals, but it has also provided many hands-on experiences in both class labs and internships.
Urbana, Illinois

Working with farm animals is something animal sciences major Sandra Jimenez loves getting to do through the College of ACES. Her experiences, which span exotic and small animals, began with high school internships she took through the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine.

“My program has not only prepared me with necessary knowledge about numerous animals, but it has also provided many hands-on experiences in both class labs and internships,” Sandra says. “All this has improved my connections with various veterinarians and animal scientists and helped me step out of my comfort zone to gain expertise with animals.”

One uncommon opportunity for which Sandra was chosen was being an undergraduate research and mentoring new biology fellow for the National Science Foundation. She conducted research comparing brand-name equine semen extenders.

“I loved having the opportunity to research a topic of my interest, present my own research in symposiums, and meet other NSF fellows,” Sandra says.

As a medical intern for the Champaign County Humane Society, Sandra administered vaccinations and medications, performed physical exams on ill or injured animals, and examined ear microbial flora. She also did walk-throughs to monitor the shelter animals for disease.

“I valued the hands-on medical experience of shelter medicine,” Sandra says. “Some of the best moments were helping perform final physical exams for animals who had been adopted and were being taken to new homes.”

Sandra went on to become a research assistant in the vet school, helping study the role of colostrum in the maturation of a healthy gastrointestinal tract in young dairy calves.

“My favorite moments there were helping bottle-feed the calves. After the first day, they associated us with milk and were excited whenever they saw us,” Sandra says.

The family environment in the College of ACES has helped Sandra get involved, but more importantly to feel welcome at U of I.

“Feeling comfortable with the faculty and staff in ACES has helped me along the way,” Sandra says. “I am able to ask for guidance and have been given the opportunity to work with numerous kinds of animals.”


Gina Vinsand
Solving problems in class taught me to evaluate a problem from all sides and always look for the simplest solution.
Wheaton, Illinois

Spending time during class solving problems was one of the most influential experiences Gina Vinsand, an agricultural and biological engineering graduate, had in the College of ACES.

“Solving problems in class taught me to evaluate a problem from all sides and always look for the simplest solution,” Gina says. “It can be easy to address a problem with the same technique that’s always been used, but the big rewards come from finding the most efficient solution. In terms of process improvement, the ability to analyze many options has given me confidence that my final recommendations are correct.”

In Gina’s work as an enterprise product delivery process coordinator for John Deere Des Moines Works and John Deere Seeding Group, seeing the bigger picture is valuable.

“The skill that helps me the most in my job is seeing the big picture, understanding where every process and tool fits, and determining what each job is supposed to be doing,” Gina says. “Once I figure that out, I can determine if the process or tool needs to be modified, if we need to change the behavior of those using the process or tool, or if the status quo is running well.”

Gina likes having a key part in making sure that processes run smooth and efficiently.

“I enjoy ensuring that each step or tool in a process is necessary and requires the least amount of work for maximum value,” Gina says. “Unfortunately, in a big corporation a lot of red tape and process ‘fluff’ can build up over the years. I work to remove that so only the beneficial portion remains.”


Making the most of your compost

Published December 8, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – After the fall, many homeowners wonder what to do with the leaves that have accumulated on the ground.

“Composting can be a beneficial process to manage yard waste,” said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Andrew Holsinger. “Proper planning and effort can provide the opportunity to generate organic matter beneficial to the soil.”

Composting is defined as the transformation of raw organic materials into biologically stable humus-like substances suitable for growing plants. “Organic matter improves soil quality in a number of way,s including, soil moisture retention, nutrient-holding capacity, and nutrient cycling,” Holsinger explained.

Nutrient-holding capacity is the ability for soil to hold nutrients that would otherwise leach away, and nutrient cycling is basically recycling nutrients that were previously taken up by plants.  The cycling of nutrients balances the availability of nutrients from the plant material back into the soil.

What are the keys to success when it comes to composting? 

Compost materials are made up of a proportion of carbon to nitrogen in an organic material.  When these materials are combined in proper proportion and in combination with air, water and warmth, it creates a proper environment for decomposition.

Decomposition is what is desired when it comes to composting, Holsinger explained.

“Unfortunately, during the winter months, some of these key components may be lacking to achieve the success desired in decomposing your organic waste,” he added.

The key components are:

Temperature: Compost piles should be covered in the winter.  Covering the compost pile in the winter excludes excess rain or snow, which can make the pile too wet.  Insulating the pile in the winter has the benefit of reducing cold air, which can decrease microbial activity.

The carbon to nitrogen ratio: There are two main components of organic waste that are transformed to compost: the green materials (nitrogen or N) and brown materials (carbon or C). 

Nitrogen is used to build proteins (amino acids).  The microorganisms need nitrogen in order to survive. There is a shortage of nitrogen in the soil because everything living wants to consume it and it can be leached away by rainwater. The green materials are sources of nitrogen and protein. Usually they consist of fresh green plant materials, including fresh grass clippings and organic food waste. Never use dog, cat, raw hog manure, or human waste because these can contain potential biohazards that can be harmful to family members.

Carbon is used for energy by microorganisms.  Sources of carbon differ in their chemical structure and some can be challenging for microorganisms to digest.  The brown materials are also absorbers of excess moisture.  Usually they consist of dried brown plant materials, including ground-up leaves and straw.

“It is important to have an optimal ratio of carbon to nitrogen which is typically 30:1,” Holsinger pointed out. “If there is too much nitrogen in the mix, the compost pile can become too hot, which may kill the compost microorganism, or it may go anaerobic, resulting in a stinky mess.”

He added that with too little nitrogen in the mix (high C), the compost will not heat up properly, which could result in a longer waiting time for finished compost. This ratio is most important in the breakdown of the compost materials to feed the microorganisms the proper diet of carbon and nitrogen.

Air:  Composting materials are broken down by aerobic organisms, which require air for their survival.  In high-temperature situations, it can help reduce odor. The initial moisture content of composting materials tends to be high and can be reduced with aeration. Turning of the compost pile is the most common method for aeration. Other methods of aeration include passive aeration with a network of perforated tubes or using an aerated static pile.

Water:  While moisture is a requirement for composting, high moisture results in a reduction in the pore spaces for air.  Low moisture deprives organisms of needed water for metabolism and inhibits their activity.  Ideally, home compost piles should contain 45 to 65 percent moisture.  The ideal moisture for most materials is 55 percent. You can check your moisture level with a simple squeeze test. Squeeze a handful of composting material, forcefully, and check for drips.  The compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge.

To make the most of your compost, follow these helpful tips.

  • Mix the pile as needed to reduce moisture and odors.
  • If the pile is too dry, add water until there is the feel of a dampened sponge.
  • Keep meat products out of the pile to reduce animal and insect pests.
  • Cut or chop organic materials to increase surface area for quicker breakdown (optional).
  • Cover compost pile with a tarp to retain heat in winter.
  • Increase volume from the ideal size of 1 cubic yard to 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet if pile is located near windy area (optional).

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Gift ideas for gardeners

Published December 5, 2014

URBANA, Ill. - Looking for a gift for the gardener on your list? A short list of items most gardeners will appreciate might come in handy this holiday season, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. 

“There are hundreds of gift ideas for the gardener, and this list will focus on items that are kind to our bodies,” said Jennifer Fishburn.

“Many gardeners find that they spend more time outside performing garden chores than they anticipate, often forgetting to protect their skin from the sun’s rays,” she said. “When possible, gardeners should avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. Sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher is a must-have item for the gardeners toolkit.” 

Fishburn added that in addition to sunscreen, gardeners should wear clothing with a tight weave or consider clothing containing Sun Protection Factor (SPF) or Ultraviolet Protection Factor (SPF).

“Other items for protecting skin from the sun are a hat and sunglasses,” she said. “A wide brim hat with overhangs in the front and back is a great choice for blocking the sun from the face, ears and neck.  Consider hats made with natural fibers that are breathable. Some hats also have SPF labeling.”

Because many garden chores, such as digging with a trowel or hand weeding, involve kneeling, Fishburn recommends that gardeners use foam kneeling pads at least an inch thick with a washable surface for knee relief. “Kneeling benches with side handles are another alternative,” she said. “Many kneeling benches can be flipped over and used as a garden seat.

“Look for benches with sturdy construction. Knee pads found in most home improvement stores can also be used to provide cushion for knees. For better comfort, look for kneepads with gel that are ergonomically designed,” she added.

Ergonomically designed tools are also designed to minimize stress and strain on the body. “Gardening can be a strenuous activity resulting in aches and pains. Ergonomic tools are designed for better grip, including features such as large, soft handles, textured handles, or curved handles. Some are also made of lighter-weight materials,” Fishburn explained.

Finally, Fishburn said that every gardener needs a good durable set of hand pruners. “A good pair of pruners should fit your hand,” she noted. “Look for pruners with replaceable parts. Scissor-type pruners (bypass pruners) are recommended over the anvil type. Anvil pruners (those with a blade on one side and a flat surface on the other) tend to crush the stem rather than provide a sharp cut. 

Include a holster with the pruners for easy access, she added.

“A gift from the heart that costs only time is a coupon for weeding, mowing, or raking leaves,” Fishburn said.

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension
Zack Deery
Being part of a college and university that are sought after by the agricultural industry made my experience very enjoyable.
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Beecher, Illinois

Zack Deery has taken a career path different from most environmental economics and policy (EEP) graduates. An alumnus of the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACE), Zack says the College of ACES put him in contact with the industry he wanted to be in.

“Taking all of the ACE and upper-level markets and management classes helped me when I was placed in a job where I used what I had learned every day,” Zack says. “Displaying leadership abilities at an early stage in my career has definitely helped me excel in my profession.”

Working in a high-intensity, ever-changing market is what Zack enjoys most about his job. He says that CGB’s unique position lets him see the flow of commodities from field to export.

“I spend a great amount of time buying grain directly from farmers and local commercial dealers of agricultural commodities,” Zack says. “We are on both sides of the industry, as we also act as the seller to the Gulf of Mexico, where we then export the grain internationally for both direct food consumption and animal feed.”

Zack says that the U of I’s depth of involvement with the outside ag industry sets it apart from other academic institutions. Now that he’s on the other side of the recruiting table, he appreciates the university’s involvement in students’ career success even more.

“Being part of a college and university that are sought after by the agricultural industry made my experience very enjoyable,” Zack says. “Being able to hear from industry professionals, take advantage of career shadowing opportunities, and get exposure to real-world applications were unique opportunities. I would urge students to take the needed time to show interest in companies that spend the time to be in front of them.”


Tyler Scott
Your degree is worth a lot because employers know that you have one of the best educations in the world.
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Big Rock, Illinois

Tyler Scott, an agricultural and consumer economics (ACE) alumnus, could never have predicted a career working with ingredients like fish meal and carrot pumice. Tyler comes from a livestock, corn, and soybean operation, so most of the specialty ingredients he’s working with at The Scoular Company were new to him, he says, and offer an enjoyable challenge.

“It has been interesting to learn about what goes into pet food and in talking with customers to understand more about their businesses,” Tyler says. “Simply put, we help our customers put the puzzle together that ensures a quality product at a fair price.”

 Tyler considers himself outgoing, and he says that trait has helped him feel comfortable doing new things and living in different places. He says that his career has shown him the importance of being curious and asking questions when things don’t make sense. His job provides new challenges each day, and he enjoys the learning experiences.

“I think the most important things I learned from the U of I were time management and networking,” Tyler says. “Being organized and managing your time well is important because you’ll be expected to do your job no matter how busy you are. Also, the U of I does an excellent job with providing avenues to becoming employed with the best companies out there.”

While on campus, Tyler was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and ACE Club. He says he enjoyed the community that the College of ACES provided—it took a gigantic university down to a size where everyone knew each other. The smaller size also helped him get engaged in the college. Three internships gave him experience in a variety of areas, including operations, production, and merchandising.

“University of Illinois attracts the best companies in the industry,” Tyler says. “Your degree is worth a lot because employers know that you have one of the best educations in the world. I found all of the jobs I’ve ever had at the college’s career fairs. ACES is a great community that gives the U of I that small-town feel many of us are accustomed to.”


Interesting Christmas tree facts

Published December 4, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – What do you really know about Christmas trees and their history?

Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, offers the following list of interesting Christmas tree facts.

  • The tradition of an official Chicago Christmas tree was initiated in 1913 when one was first lit by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park.
  • From 1887 to 1933, a fishing schooner called the "Christmas Ship" would tie up at the Clark Street Bridge in Chicago and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.
  • In the 1930s, the Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes, but they were dyed green.
  • In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22 because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004, the tree has been topped with a 550-pound Swarovski Crystal star. And, since 2007, the tree has been lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LEDs that are powered by solar panels.
  • Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states.
  • Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are the top five Christmas tree-producing states.
  • It takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail, and drought to grow a mature tree.
  • More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On average 1,000 to 1,500 of these trees will survive. In the northern part of the country, perhaps 750 trees will remain.
  • An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.
  • Artificial trees will last for six years in your home, but for centuries in a landfill.
  • Nearly 33 million farm-grown Christmas trees were purchased in the United States in 2013 with a real market value of $1.16 billion.
  • Live Christmas trees are involved in less than one-tenth of 1 percent of residential fires, and mostly when ignited by some external ignition sources. The major factors involved in Christmas tree fires are electrical problems, decorative lights, candles, or a heat source too close to the tree.

Check out the University of Illinois Extension website Christmas Trees & More for more information:

News Source:

Ron Wolford, 773-233-2900

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Duckweed a good potential protein source for swine, according to study

Published December 3, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – Lemnaceae, commonly known as duckweed, is a small, free-floating aquatic plant with great potential for environmentally friendly applications. It can be used for the production of ethanol, biodiesel, and plastics. Research at the University of Illinois indicates that duckweed may also be a good protein source for swine diets.

"Duckweed yields more protein per acre than soybeans," said Hans H. Stein, a U of I professor of animal sciences. "It is easy to harvest, and because it grows in water, it doesn't compete with food crops for land. This makes it a very exciting crop for a variety of uses, including animal feed."

Parabel’s Lemna protein concentrate is produced by extracting protein from de-oiled and dehydrated Lemnaceae biomass. "Lemna protein concentrate contains approximately 68 percent crude protein, so it has the potential to be a very good protein source," Stein said. "Lemna meal is already fed to cattle and poultry. However, there are no published data on the nutritional value of lemna protein concentrate fed to pigs."

Stein's team conducted three experiments to determine the energy concentration and the digestibility of energy, phosphorus, and amino acids in lemna protein concentrate fed to growing pigs. Results indicated that the apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of gross energy was less in lemna protein concentrate than in soybean meal or fish meal, but the greater concentration of gross energy in lemna protein concentrate resulted in lemna protein concentrate having concentrations of digestible and metabolizable energy (4,076 and 3,571 kcal/kg) that were close to values for soybean meal (4,044 and 3,743 kcal/kg) and fish meal (3,878 and 3,510 kcal/kg).

The concentration of phosphorus in lemna protein concentrate was 0.51 percent, which was slightly less than that in soybean meal (0.62 percent) and much less than that in fish meal (3.09 percent). There was, however, a tendency for a greater standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus in lemna protein concentrate (72.8 percent) than in fish meal (65.6 percent) or soybean meal (62.8 percent).

The standardized ileal digestibility of most indispensable amino acids was greater in fish meal than in lemna protein concentrate, but the overall digestibility of amino acids was the same in fish meal and lemna protein concentrate. The mean digestibility of all amino acids in lemna protein concentrate was 80.25 percent, and digestibility values were 75 percent or greater for all indispensable amino acids.

"The amino acids in lemna protein concentrate are well digested by pigs," Stein said. "Our results indicate that if lemna protein concentrate is included in diets for pigs, amino acid digestibility and the energy value of the diets will not be compromised."

The study, "Concentration of metabolizable energy and digestibility of energy, phosphorus, and amino acids in lemna protein concentrate fed to growing pigs," was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Animal Science. Co-authors include Oscar Rojas and Yanhong Liu of the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The research was funded by Parabel, Melbourne, Fla. The full text of the paper is available online at

Ten facts about Christmas’s most popular plant

Published December 3, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – For many years, the poinsettia has been the traditional Christmas flower.

Ron Wolford, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, offers a few facts about this traditional Christmas plant.

Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia pulcherrima.

In nature, poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that were once considered weeds. Joel Roberts Poinsett introduced the poinsettia plant to the United States from Mexico. Poinsett was a botanist, physician, and the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching the leaves. “For pets, especially puppies and kittens, the poinsettia sap may cause mild irritation or nausea. It is probably best to keep pets away from the plant,” Wolford said.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Wolford noted that poinsettias are not poisonous. “A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more than 1 1/4 pounds of poinsettia leaves (500 to 600 leaves) to have any side effects,” he said.

The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. For the longest-lasting poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.

There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available. Though they were once only available in red, there are now poinsettias in pink, white, yellow, purple, salmon, and multi-colors. They have names like 'Premium Picasso', 'Monet Twilight', 'Shimmer', and 'Surprise.’

The red poinsettia still dominates over other color options. 'Prestige Red’—one of many poinsettias patented by Ecke—ranks among the best-selling hybrids.

“Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas plant,” Wolford said. “Most poinsettias are sold within a six-week period leading up to that holiday, representing some $60 million worth.”

Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day, which marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.

For more information about poinsettias, check out the University of Illinois Extension web site Poinsettia Pages at

News Source:

Ron Wolford, 773-233-2900

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension