Friday, November 26, 2010

Agronomic success: How to evaluate yield data from trials

Written by: Robert Mullen, Ohio State University

Now that crop harvest is winding down, many companies that conduct field experimentation will be getting out and sharing their success stories, so how can you weed through the information to find the truth?

The first thing I often say as it relates to fertilizer products (but this likely extends to other agronomic products/practices) is “if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.”

The first thing to look for when evaluating yield data from field trials is to look for some information regarding how field experimentation was done.

This does not require you to have a statistical background.

Simple questions like - “Was the study replicated?”, “How many locations were utilized?”, “Were there any locations that did not respond positively (environmental interactions)?”

To my knowledge, no agronomic practice (within reason) results in a yield increase every time it is evaluated. So if someone states, “we conducted field research on 50 fields, and we saw a yield increase every time,” be suspicious.

View split field research data cautiously. Back in 2006 we prepared a CORN Newsletter article that shared our concerns regarding the use of split field experiments to direct agronomic decisions (2006-37). Split field comparisons can reveal yield differences, but our ability to determine how confident we are that the differences are due to an actual treatment effect and not just shear random chance (or due to some other underlying factor) is negligible.

Inquire why a specific treatment resulted in a supposed yield difference. This can be critical. If the explanation does not make sound agronomic sense, then you have your answer as to whether or not it would be beneficial on your farm.

Along this line, determine if the salesperson is marketing something specific to your situation (soil test level, agronomic practice, insect pest, disease pressure, etc.) or just selling something that everyone should use. Many non-traditional approaches to nutrient supplementation can be beneficial, but they are only beneficial in specific instances. Are they telling you it works everywhere, or just under a certain set of circumstances?

Ag marketers/salespersons are important to the introduction of new products that you as a producer benefit from annually. Our goal at Ohio State Uni-versity is to provide you tools that allow you to make better decisions. Your ability to separate good information from a marketing ploy is simply another tool in your arsenal.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Forecast Trends Mixed For Wheat

DTN's Bryce Anderson looks at weather trends and how its impacting wheat. The U.S. winter wheat crop is off to its weakest start in 20 years with a good-to-excellent rating in the mid-40-percent range.

Eastern Midwest wheat areas have a good chance for winter precipitation, but Plains wheat country has a less-favorable outlook. (DTN photo by Katie Micik)That's a far cry from the 64 percent good-to-excellent total put on by the crop a year ago. Ratings also indicate 17 percent of the winter wheat crop is rated as "poor" or "very poor" -- almost triple the 6 percent total of those two categories in November 2009.

While the wheat crop still has a long season to go, traders will look at the condition of the crop and upcoming weather trends as they evaluate what they think will happen to the world wheat supply.

DTN Analyst John Sanow noted that short-term fundamentals for world wheat supply and demand are bearish for immediate needs, but pose a question looking ahead to the second, third and fourth quarters of 2011. That places the overall wheat market weather factor at neutral.

Smaller world supplies than a year ago, due to drought in Russia and West Australia, along with flooding in Canada, bring an increased sense of urgency to the market's view of weather in U.S. wheat areas going into next year.

"Near-term fundamentals remain bearish for wheat, but traders will watch continued dryness in the Southern Plains closely along with other parts of the globe," Sanow said. "The market can ill-afford a large drop in world production for a second straight year. The situation grows less bearish longer-term, as indicated by the weaker carry in deferred futures spreads. This points to concern by the commercial side over future supply."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

AgResource sees 2011 global wheat output rebound

Reuters reported today that global wheat output could recover to 661.5 million tonnes in 2011/12, up from 639.8 million tonnes this year, mainly boosted by a rebound in production in the former Soviet Union, analyst AgResource said on Wednesday.

In its first estimate for next year's crops given to Reuters on the sidelines of a global grain conference, the analyst pegged the 2011 harvest for the 12 so-called "FSU" countries at 96.80 million tonnes versus 82.70 million in 2010. Of this, Russia would produce 52.3 million tonnes, up from 41.0 million tonnes this year after drought ravaged its crop, which prompted the country to close its door on exports. Despite the rise in output, global wheat stocks would fall to 156.29 million tonnes by June 30, 2012, against 169.88 million tonnes estimated at the end of the current campaign, AgResource President Dan Basse said.

The analyst pegged the 2011 corn production at an all-time record of 848.99 million tonnes, versus 818.52 million tonnes this year, due to a larger area sown in the United States and hopes that China would also expand production. He did not have
regional forecasts for corn output. World corn stocks were expected to fall next season, to 112.07 million tonnes versus 129.16 million tonnes in 2010/2011,
due to an expected spike in demand notably in China and Russia.

AgResource did not provide 2011 production estimates for other crops such as soybeans.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wheat Condition Improves Slightly

Eighty-seven percent of the nation's winter wheat crop had emerged as of Sunday, Nov. 14, according to USDA's weekly crop progress report. That's 9 percentage points ahead of last year and 2 percentage points ahead of the five-year average.

The condition of the wheat improved slightly from last week, with the amount of the crop rated good to excellent increasing by 1 percentage point. Keep in mind, though, there is no statistical correlation between fall ratings and final yield.

The following are highlights from weekly crop progress reports issued Monday by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states. To view the full reports from each state, visit

Monday, November 15, 2010

Industry, Growers Push Seed Companies to Ramp up Wheat Research, Development

Progressive Farmer Editor Kurt Lawton writes that wheat growers have pleaded for years for greater investment in public and private breeding programs and genetic improvements. Yet there has been little incentive to do so.

Growers are reluctant to buy certified seed and wheat continues to lose ground, literally, to corn and oilseeds in the United States.

Planted acres in 2010 dropped by 4.8 million acres from last year, bringing the total to 54.3 million acres -- the lowest total since 1971.

But it appears wheat farmers' pleas are finally being heard. "The good news is we've seen some major wheat research investments made last year and this year, and we're very excited," says Jim Bair, vice president of the North American Millers' Association (NAMA).

"For the first time in a long time, major private companies are working to develop both conventional and biotech varieties."


The biggest efforts regarding improved wheat research have come from Monsanto. The biotech giant acquired Montana-based WestBred wheat breeding business in 2009.

In June 2010, they announced a partnership with Kansas State University, allowing both entities to share germplasm and technology.

In July, Monsanto and BASF announced they have nearly doubled their investment in an already established joint venture to develop biotech crops -- and have now included a focused effort in wheat.

And in August, Monsanto purchased a 19.9 percent share of Australia's leading wheat breeder and germplasm developer, InterGrain.

"We're obviously still concerned about wheat acres, as research doesn't bring immediate results. It'll be several years before we see yield improvement, with biotech wheat varieties probably not available for quite some time," Bair says.

"With the introduction of drought-resistant corn coming in the next few years into the drier areas of the High Plains where wheat has been best suited, we'll probably see acreage losses get worse before it gets better," he adds.


Monsanto's purchase of WestBred gives the company well-established and successful breeding programs in key geographic areas and in key classes of wheat, says Sean Gardner, global commercial wheat lead for Monsanto.

"While the introduction of biotech traits such as drought tolerance, nitrogen-use efficiency and higher yields will eventually be incorporated into the WestBred germplasm platform in the next decade, our short-term emphasis is to produce better varieties.

"We want to give growers more and better choices to improve their wheat profitability."

Monsanto will also explore herbicide-tolerant and disease-resistant biotech traits, but does not plan to further develop its first-generation Roundup Ready trait in wheat.

Gardner says a combination of factors led Monsanto back into the wheat business. "Much of the U.S. wheat industry value chain -- from growers to processors -- desire seed companies such as ourselves to invest in wheat.

"As we looked at the potential synergy between wheat and the biotech efforts we have going in corn ... we're confident we can provide products of increasing value to growers," he says.

The company has been busy working with WestBred to achieve better varieties more quickly using technologies that Monsanto currently uses in corn and other crops.

"We're getting very serious about adopting doubled haploid technology to dramatically shorten the variety development time. In fact, we plan to open a new doubled haploid wheat research facility in Wichita, Kan., over the next few months."

(Doubled haploids are genetically pure inbred plants, which can now be achieved in one year through special techniques, but which used to take five to eight generations to develop in the field. This cuts variety development time significantly.)

Along with doubled haploid technology, wheat breeders at Monsanto will expand their use of molecular marker-assisted selection to find and flag beneficial traits.

This also allows scientists to screen millions of data points with high throughput analysis technology -- like they are using in other crops. And their partnership with BASF will further improve their biotech work.


The next big step coming within five years will be a complete mapping of the wheat genome -- which will usher in a new era of wheat improvement.

Recent announcements by a British research team who claim to have sequenced the genome of Chinese spring wheat as a reference variety is incomplete.

The International Wheat Genome Sequence Consortium says the claim is premature as the sequences have yet to be ordered, annotated and aligned so the position of the genes along the chromosomes is known.

Bayer CropSciences, Syngenta, Pioneer, Limagrain and others are focusing varied efforts in wheat. The industry is also seeing advanced plant breeding service companies start up.

One such company is Heartland Plant Innovations in Manhattan, Kan. -- a for-profit venture that will conduct contract research to help discover and commercialize new products for public and private research clients.

"Initially we're collaborating on research with Kansas State University and the University of Kansas to develop biotech solutions for wheat and sorghum, along with finding novel new products from native plants," says Forrest Chumley, president and CEO of the company. "We also plan to help private seed companies with specific biotech research services."


Buying certified wheat seed every year is one hurdle the industry must overcome. "Our job is to provide varieties that add value to a wheat grower, in order to make our case for certified seed," Monsanto's Gardner says.

"Consistent use of certified seed tends to correlate with yield and profitability, which is why we see higher certified seed use in the Pacific Northwest and East wheat markets compared to lower use in the High Plains," he adds.

"Growers are not ideologically opposed to using certified seed. The decision is a reflection of best choices for each operation's business model. So we're optimistic that we will provide increased value."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

U.S. 2011 Wheat Carryover Reduced

Wheat carryover on June 1, 2011, was projected at 848 million bushels, down 5 million bushels from 853 million bushels forecast in October and down 128 million bushels, or 13%, from 976 million bushels in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in its Nov. 9 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

USDA projected 2010-11 carryover numbers were below trade expectations of 869 million bushels for wheat.

U.S. all-wheat production was estimated at 2.208 billion bushels in 2010, down 16 million bushels, or 1%, from October and down 10 million bushels from 2.218 billion bushels a year earlier. U.S. 2010-11 wheat imports were projected at 110 million bushels, up 10 million bushels from October but down 9 million bushels from last year. Total wheat supply was projected at 3.294 billion bushels, down 5 million bushels from October but up 301 million bushels, or 10%, from 2.993 billion bushels in 2009-10, the USDA said.

Exports of U.S. wheat for 2010-11 were projected at 1.250 billion bushels, unchanged from October but up 369 million bushels, or 42%,from 881 million bushels in 2009-10.

The USDA projected domestic food use of U.S. wheat in 2010-11 at 940 million bushels, unchanged from October but up 23 million bushels, or 3%, from 917 million bushels in 2009-10, and seed use at 76 million bushels, also unchanged from October but up 7 million bushels from 69 million bushels last year. Feed and residual use was projected at 180 million bushels, unchanged from October and up 30 million bushels, or 20%, from 150 million bushels in 2009-10.

Total use was projected at 2.446 billion bushels, unchanged from October but up 428 million bushels, or 21%, from 2.018 billion bushels in 2009-10.

The average farm price of U.S. wheat in 2010-11 was projected to range from $5.25-$5.75 a bushel, compared with $5.20-$5.80 projected in October and with $4.87 a bushel in 2009-10 and $6.78 a bushel in 2008-09.

On a by-class basis, the USDA projected June 1, 2011, carryover of hard winter wheat at 323 million bushels, down 15 million bushels from October and down 62 million bushels from 385 million bushels in 2010. Soft red winter wheat carryover was projected at 183 million bushels, up 25 million bushels from October but down 59 million bushels from 242 million bushels in 2010.

Hard spring wheat carryover on June 1, 2011, was projected at 211 million bushels, down 21 million bushels from October and down 23 million bushels from 234 million bushels in 2010.

White wheat carryover was projected at 88 million bushels in 2011, unchanged from October but up 8 million bushels from 2010.

Durum carryover on June 1, 2011, was projected at 43 million bushels, up 6 million bushels from October and up 8 million bushels from 35 million bushels in 2010.

World wheat ending stocks for 2010-11 were projected at 172.51 million tonnes, down 2.51 million tonnes from October and down 22.89 million tonnes, or 12%, from 195.4 million tonnes in 2009-10. Global 2010-11 wheat production was projected at 642.89 million tonnes, up 1.45 million tonnes from October but down 39.81 million tonnes, or 6%, from 682.7 million tonnes the previous year. Global wheat use was projected at 665.79 million tonnes, up 2.48 million tonnes from October and up 13.16 million tonnes from 652.63 million tonnes in 2009-10. World exports were projected at 127.23 million tonnes, up 1 million tonnes from October but down 8.09 million tonnes,or 6%, from 135.32 million tonnes in the prior year.

“Global wheat supplies are projected slightly higher for 2010-11 as higher world production offsets lower carryin, mostly reflecting higher 2009-10 wheat feeding in China,” the USDA said.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wheat Prices Go Up

KTVB's Nisha Gupta covers the recent increase of wheat prices which have benefited Idaho wheat growers and Idaho's economy. In an interview with Farm Bureau's Jake Putnum, viewers learn how Russia's drought impacts wheat prices across the globe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

October U.S. wheat prices surge above $6 reports the preliminary national average price received by farmers for all wheat in October was $6.08 per bushel, up 25¢ from $5.83 in September and up $1.61 from $4.47 in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in its latest Agricultural Prices report.

The average price paid for winter wheat in October was $5.98 a bushel, up 18¢ from $5.80 in September and up $1.71 from $4.27 in October 2009. The average price paid for durum was $5.54 a bushel, up 84¢ from $4.70 in September and up 68¢ from $4.86 in October 2009. Spring wheat other than durum averaged $6.35 a bushel, up 35¢ from $6 in September and up $1.35 from $5 in October 2009.