Crop updates

Revisions to Corn Field Guide

Identifying pests, diseases, disorders and developmental stages in Midwestern corn crops just became easier. New and larger color photographs, updated information on plant diseases and crop production, and additional topics are included in the second edition of Iowa State University’s popular Corn Field Guide, now available for purchase online here. With the first edition released in ’09, we have had a few years to gather feedback on improvements and additional info to add. The new one looks great, get some on hand for your clients ASAP!

Fertilizer (and other inputs) for 2014

It is a good news, bad news sort of market for fertilizer. The good news is that N, P and K are all down from last year. The bad news is that as many of you well know, the fertilizer market somewhat mirrors the grain markets traditionally, and the grains are getting beat up in conjunction with the fertilizers. In general, N, P and K are all down around 15-20% on the global market, and local retail markets started to move downward recently as well; reports are that prices have stabilized and as a result we have seen a lot of fall NH3 and dry fertilizer go on. Long term, there are a lot of unknowns in the fertilizer markets, especially K. Another major driver of the softening of the K market was the breakup of one of the world’s largest potash producers, Russia’s Urakali. There had been in a long time partnership with Belarus producer Belaruskali, and together they accounted for upwards of 40% of the world’s potash (K) production. Like most of the world’s producers, they had favored a “price over volume” strategy, and had limited their output to maintain margins. Urakali recently ended the partnership last summer and reportedly is now working the “volume over price” angle; some experts tell us this company will increase K supplies as much as 2.5 million tons over the next year. More recently there have been some developments that may lead to the former partners rejoining forces and exerting more control over volume. It is sort of a “wait and see” situation now. Anyway, conventional wisdom (and recommendations from many farm economists) is to get fertilizer locked in if you haven’t yet.

On the N front, we may see more long term softening of the markets. Rabobank mentioned in some recent articles that there are 65 new planned N projects around the world, either new facilities or expansions. While they mentioned that not all are likely to come to fruition, if they did it would increase world production capacity by 30% by 2020. So, you can extrapolate from there, even if half the projects make it — should be good news for consumers.

Seed — it looks like it was a good production year so availability should be better than the last couple seasons. While some genetics are seeing pricing similar to last year, others are reportedly up 3-5% (mostly new genetics and stacked trait products).

— While herbicide (and insecticide and fungicide) prices are reportedly flat to up maybe 1-2%, keep in mind that per acre costs may rise simply due to increased rates and diversity of herbicides used in our weed management programs. The proliferation of problem weeds (marestail, giant ragweed, waterhemp and a potential future battle with palmer amaranth) means that we’ll be likely stepping things up a notch or two again this year to keep ahead of hard to control and outright herbicide resistant weeds.

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