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China’s exports of U.S. soybeans are expected to plummet over the next marketing year, according to the latest forecast.
A soybean crushing industry executive told Reuters this week that China will almost entirely replace its soybean imports from the United States with Brazilian beans and other origins in the upcoming season.
The latest forecast from China predicts Imports from the United States will plunge to just 700,000 metric tons, down from 27.8 million metric tons in the most recent marketing year.
The drop in imports of U.S. soy by China stems from the tit-for-tat trade war between the U.S. and China. In July, China imposed a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybeans, sending purchases lower. The U.S. and China met last month in Washington, DC, but no formal talks are expected to take place soon, prolonging the trade war.
OMAHA — U.S. corn and soybean conditions held mostly steady last week as both crops continued to mature ahead of their normal pace, according to the USDA National Ag Statistics Service’s weekly Crop Progress report released Tuesday. The report is normally released on Mondays but was delayed this week due to the Labor Day holiday.
Listen to the report here: https://post.futurimedia.com/krvnam/playlist/9-4-futures-one-crop-progress-report-5022.html
Nationwide, corn condition dropped just 1 percentage point from 68% good to excellent the previous week to 67% last week, close to what the crop’s good-to-excellent rating was at the same time in 2015, according to NASS. Soybean condition was unchanged at 66% good to excellent.
NASS estimated that 96% of corn was in the dough stage as of Sunday, Sept. 2, 5 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 91%. Seventy-five percent of corn was dented, 15 percentage points ahead of the five-year average of 60%. Corn mature nationwide was estimated at 22%, 11 percentage points ahead of the average pace of 11%. North Carolina, Texas and Kentucky look closest to being harvest-ready, noted DTN Analyst Todd Hultman.
Meanwhile, 16% of soybeans nationwide were dropping leaves, 7 percentage points ahead of the average of 9%. Louisiana had the highest percentage of soybeans dropping leaves, Hultman noted.
Spring wheat harvest was 87% complete as of Sunday, equal to last year but ahead of the five-year average of 75%. Harvest was nearly finished in both South Dakota and Minnesota.
Sorghum was 96% headed as of Sunday, near the five-year average of 95%. Sorghum coloring was 69%, ahead of the five-year average of 62%. Sorghum mature was estimated at 30%, near 31% at the same time last year but behind the five-year average of 33%. Twenty-two percent of the sorghum crop was harvested as of Sunday, near the average pace of 23%.
Barley was 84% harvested as of Sunday, behind 91% last year but near the average of 83%. Oats were 94% harvested as of Sunday, ahead of 90% last year and also ahead of the five-year average of 91%.
Thirty-one percent of rice was harvested as of Sunday, ahead of last year’s 28% and also ahead of the five-year average of 26%. Cotton was 96% setting bolls, equal to both last year and the average pace. Twenty-nine percent of cotton had bolls opening, ahead of the average of 26%.
To view weekly crop progress reports issued by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states, visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/…. Look for the U.S. map in the “Find Data and Reports by” section and choose the state you wish to view in the drop-down menu. Then look for that state’s “Crop Progress & Condition” report.
|National Crop Progress Summary|
|Soybeans Dropping Leaves||16||7||10||9|
|Cotton Setting Bolls||96||91||96||96|
|Cotton Bolls Opening||29||21||24||26|
|Spring Wheat Harvested||87||77||87||75|
|National Crop Condition Summary|
|(VP=Very Poor; P=Poor; F=Fair; G=Good; E=Excellent)|
|This Week||Last Week||Last Year|
OMAHA — A shutdown in soybean exports from the Pacific Northwest is sounding some alarms in North Dakota as farmers who typically sell soybeans at harvest directly for export likely face the prospects of storing those beans for several months.
“Storage space both on-farm and in commercial storage is really going to be at a premium this harvest,” said Frayne Olson, an Extension crops economist and marketing specialist at North Dakota State University. “Because of the tariffs, in particular on soybeans, moving into China, the flow of soybeans has essentially been halted, especially from this region.”
North Dakota State University held a press conference Thursday to highlight how the current trade dispute largely between the U.S. and China will end up disrupting normal harvest, rail shipping and storage for farmers in the Northern Plains.
Farmers are going to have to change the way they store, as well as their marketing plans moving through the winter months. Historically, North Dakota farmers store corn and wheat, and sell their soybeans at harvest for cash flow. This year they will have to shift their plans because elevators are going to be more likely to move corn through the system.
“It can also mean a big difference in the way they manage the flow of grain on their farm. They are going to have to store their soybeans and maybe take their corn to town,” Olson said. He added, “What I don’t think they are prepared for is how long they are going to have to store the soybeans.”
In a typical year, about 75% of North Dakota’s soybeans move on rail to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) and its eight soybean export terminals, but local grain elevators have not had bids since June to export soybeans out of the PNW.
“Based on the current bid sheets, there’s no bids for soybeans to the PNW through February 2019,” Olson said.
As a result, Olson said grain elevators are trying to allocate space for grain and soybeans that farmers have already presold for harvest delivery. North Dakota farmers are expected to harvest 6.5 million acres and draw in nearly 249 million bushels of soybeans, according to USDA.
At the same time, elevators are trying to maintain space for all the other fall-harvested crops, including an estimated corn crop of nearly 459 mb and a spring wheat crop projected at 312 mb that is about 80% harvested already.
While it might seem rationale for North Dakotans to move their soybeans east, Olson said that’s still going to be difficult to do, because grain and oilseeds in the state are set up to move west. The Dakotas in general have limited soybean crushing capacity. AGP is building a new facility in Aberdeen, S.D., but it will not come on-line in time to make much of a difference with the fall crop.
DTN’s Soybean Index for North Dakota shows the average spot cash price is $6.72 a bushel, compared to the National Soybean Index price, which is $7.42 a bushel. In May, the regional index price in North Dakota was running around $9.35 a bushel.
“The local elevators have dramatically dropped their prices to try to provide an incentive for farmers to store it on farm,” Olson said. “Some of these elevators have gone to no-bids, meaning they are literally not offering a bid for harvest delivery. Others have dramatically lowered their prices. They are going to be able to accept some grain at harvest, but it’s really going to be very, very minimal.”
All of this changes the set of tools North Dakota farmers have to cash-flow their bills, but also what to store and what to sell. And the real kicker is that even if the tariffs were eliminated tomorrow, it could take several months for grain and oilseed logistics to ramp back up. Olson said farmers need to be prepared to store soybeans not just for a few months, but possibly as far as into next summer.
“As we look at this, you need to start to adjust your system or adjust your handling and grain storage, as well as your marketing plans to compensate for the fact soybeans likely will not flow at all at this harvest,” Olson said. “And it will take quite a bit of time to move even when the tariffs come off.”
The problem also filters into soybean production in South Dakota as well, but Olson said South Dakota does have more soybean processing capacity and eastern South Dakota farmers can take their beans to some Minnesota facilities as well.
Storage is going to be a problem throughout major corn and soybean production areas because of both ending stocks and projected bumper crops. “One of the things we have heard this year is farmers are looking more to buy bags and baggers versus rather than wanting to buy steel and put it up,” Stephen Nicholson, a grain and oilseed analyst for RaboResearch, told DTN at the Farm Progress Show this week.
DTN’s View from the Cab farmers this week in Ohio and Kansas also both raised concerns about harvest storage capacity. https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Nicholson reiterated some of Olson’s concerns. “The PNW hasn’t been bidding for soybeans for the past two months,” Nicholson said. “If there’s no bid out there and nobody wants it, then what do you do with the beans?”
The Dakotas, in general, do not have the processing capacity locally to take up most of the soybeans. “So they have been depending on the rail and the PNW to take their beans, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I am concerned you are going to have a lot of beans sitting in places people don’t want them, just in the wrong spot.”
Ken Hellevang, an agricultural engineer professor and NDSU Extension specialist, said North Dakota farmers are going to need to get more up to speed on some soybean storage issues they may not have worried about in the past. Seed coating breakage increases dramatically below 11% moisture. Ideally, soybeans should be harvested at 11% to 12% moisture, Hellevang said.
Oil also is very sensitive to temperature. Whatever storage option is used, the temperature needs to be cooled with some kind of aeration system. A lot more people are looking at options such as bags, but they need some ventilation as well. Then ensure the bags are pointed north-to-south instead of east-to-west because the lack of sunshine would be uneven and create moisture accumulation on the north side of a bag.
Storing on the ground would require a prepared surface, some type of aeration, a cover and a way to handle water runoff from the pile, Hellevang said.
“What we don’t want to do is just pile beans on the ground,” Hellevang said.
NDSU officials also are worried about farmers dealing with more stress because of this storage and marketing situation that is largely out of their control. Farmers need to take time to deal with their own wellness and manage their stress levels.
Every farmer knows that his or her soybeans have a good possibility of ending up in China, but there are many other strong export markets on the Asian continent for U.S. soy products.
Asia offers a range of differing markets.
In the 2016/17 marketing year, U.S. soybean farmers exported 70.442 million metric tons of whole soybeans, soybean meal, and soybean oil to markets around the world. A little over 14.645 MMT or just over 20 percent of these exports went to Asian countries, not including China. These exports were valued at $5.944 billion.
Tony Stafford, director of business development for the Missouri Soybean Association, says Asia is a very important market for soybean farmers in Missouri and across the United States. Stafford represented Missouri at the 2017 Grain Transportation Conference in Vietnam and has traveled to Cambodia and Myanmar on behalf of the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) program. Stafford says that developing personal relationships helps to create an even closer connection between U.S. growers and their destination markets.
Diverse Markets Require Varying Approaches
Soybeans are the largest agricultural commodity exported from the United States, representing more than $28 billion in export value in 2017, making export markets hugely important to U.S. soybean farmers’ profitability. Last year marked the second year in a row that exports exceeded 60 percent of U.S. soybean production.
The U.S. Soy industry is keenly aware of the importance of export markets. In 2017, a study through the United Soybean Board (USB) helped determine the most impactful global soy markets and assessed markets into different categories. Most of the markets in Asia are categorized as expansion or mature. In fact, 93 percent ofU.S. Soy-related trade value lies in expansion and mature markets.
In expansion or growth markets, the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), the international marketing arm of the U.S. Soy industry, works to continue to develop relationships and demonstrate the value of U.S. Soy, creating a preference for U.S. soybean products. In Asia, there are four expansion markets: the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In mature markets, work focuses on policy issues such as biotechnology. In these countries, the U.S. Soy industry works to maintain a good, respected relationship and provide support when asked. Three Asian markets are categorized as mature: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
WISHH focuses on trade and long-term market development for U.S. soybean farmers, while fueling economic growth and value chain development. WISHH helps to enhance countries’ protein intake through market development, education, and research, recognizing that the developing nations of today are tomorrow’s customers for U.S. Soy and soy protein. Currently, WISHH works in two Asian countries: Cambodia and Myanmar. The Missouri Soybean Association and other qualified state soybean boards (QSSBs) support the ASA/WISHH program to develop new markets for U.S. Soy products.
Let’s take a deeper dive into these markets.
The Philippines has a close and longstanding relationship with the U.S.
Last year, the Philippines overtook Mexico to become the number one importer of U.S. soybean meal for the first time. In 2017, U.S. soybean meal held a solid 70 percent market share, and the country is the world’s sixth largest pork producer. While the majority of its soybean meal is destined for swine feed, U.S. Soy is also used for poultry and aquaculture.
Thanks to its sound economy and competitive expatriate workforce, the Philippines is one of Asia’s most dynamic emerging markets.
This country is the third largest importer of U.S. whole soybeans in the world. Over 92 percent of those soybeans are used to produce tempeh, a traditional native dish that binds soybeans into a cake-like form.
Indonesia is the 15th largest feed producer in the world. With the vast majority of its population of the Islamic faith, 80 percent of the total animal feed produced is for poultry.
With over 255 million people and a low per capita consumption of meat protein, the Indonesian market is expected to continue to grow.
Thailand has made tremendous progress in social and economic issues despite facing a number of political challenges. In 2011, the World Bank upgraded Thailand’s income categorization from a lower-middle income economy to an upper-middle income economy. Poverty has declined substantially over the last 30 years from 67 percent in 1986 to 11 percent in 2014 as incomes have risen.
Several highlights make Thailand a rising star for increasing U.S. Soy imports.
A major exporter of poultry products, the country is also home to a thriving aquaculture and shrimp industry and is the region’s largest shrimp producer. Thailand is ranked 14th in global feed production and boasts the largest domestic soy crushing industry in Southeast Asia. Finally, Thailand’s soy food and beverage industry is the largest and most sophisticated in the region.
The 35thlargest global economy is also the world’s 17thlargest feed producer. Vietnam’s primary food sectors include swine, poultry, and aquaculture, and the country’s commercial feed production has more than doubled since 2005. Per capita meat consumption is relatively low, compared to countries with higher incomes, but its middle and upper classes are on track to double by 2020.
Although Vietnam is led by a communist government, it is a relatively open and market-driven country.
“Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest growing markets for soy because of rapid economic growth and rising population,” says analyst John Baize. He recounts giving a presentation on global soy supply and demand and moderated a panel discussion of U.S. farmers attending the 2017 Asia Grain Transportation Conference in Ho Chi Minh City. “I [was] very impressed with those attending and with the positives happening in this country. Vietnam ostensibly remains a communist country, but you would not realize it because of all of the capitalism happening [there]. Great, growing market for U.S. Soy.”
Despite its status as a mature and small market, South Korea became the second largest export market for U.S. soybean oil in the 2016/17 marketing year, thanks to the Korea – U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Technical and trade seminars and visits to the U.S., hosted by USSEC, also have helped this market to remain relevant. In fact, USSEC forecasts that U.S. soybean oil exports will grow to more than $150 million in 2018, making Korea the largest market for U.S. soybean oil exports.
The U.S. also has an 80 percent market share in soybeans used for food here.
The country is home to 50 million soy consumers, with the bulk of its soy used for swine, beef, poultry, and dairy. The South Korean crushing sector depends 100 percent on imports.
Korea also will soon become an opportunity for food grade soybeans and high oleic soybean oil.
Japan has experienced two decades of flat-to-negative economic growth. The country has a stable birth rate but a higher death rate associated with a rapidly aging population. This impacts potential growth of consumption of animal protein and vegetable oil.
Declines in soybean crush have plateaued and there have been increases in the soybean crush at the expense of canola. Despite the shrinking soybean crush, the U.S. enjoys a 70 percent market share in Japan.
Japan is the largest market for U.S. identity preserved (IP) food-grade soybeans. The U.S. Soy industry has been active in the Japan market for more than 60 years, and USSEC continues to nurture long-term relationships with customers there.
This country of 23 million imports all of its soybean needs. 70 percent of its food-grade soybeans are GMO soybeans grown in U.S. fields. Currently, Taiwan’s animal production is struggling to compete with imported meat products.
Three Taiwanese companies have added the Sustainable U.S. Soy (SUSS) logo to their products, which USSEC rolled out in 2016 as a pilot program in North Asia.
Taiwan’s economic growth is increasingly tied to trade and tourism with China and it continues to be a strong destination for containerized soybeans.
WISHH’s work in Myanmar is with human foods, focusing on food grade soybeans for soymilk and tofu processors. USSEC works in the aquaculture and animal feed sectors.
In Cambodia, WISSH works with both human foods and animal feeds. There is a heavy focus on feed mills producing for the swine and poultry sectors, along with work with soymilk and tofu producers.
WISHH Asia Division Director Alan Poock says that the Missouri Soybean Association will help fund an aquaculture feeding trial in Cambodia starting this July.
Transporting soybeans quickly and efficiently is top of mind for farmers in Missouri, says Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition.
“One of the reasons Missouri soybean farmers are so well positioned to benefit from the growth in soybean demand in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Asian countries is the efficient access to the Mississippi River – our nation’s chief maritime highway. Other soybean producing nations have navigable waterways, but the Mississippi River is unique in that it penetrates into some of the most productive farm ground in the world, “Steenhoek explains.
“As a result, Missouri soybean farmers can access international demand due to their proximity to cost effective river transportation. Making sure the Mississippi River is properly maintained and continuing to explore how to better utilize the Missouri River – an asset with unrealized potential – are essential to ensuring Missouri soybean farmers remain profitable in the future.”
Clearly, says Stafford, there are many reasons for Missouri farmers to be optimistic about U.S. Soy exports to Asia.
“We are very excited about the opportunities in Asia. With one of the youngest work forces in the region and a real appetite for U.S. products, the Missouri Soybean Association is concentrating our effort in Vietnam. We’re also starting to expand some efforts to Cambodia and Myanmar as WISHH continues to develop those markets.
“I feel like we have a lot to look forward to.”
Soybeans were one of the first major casualties in the ever-escalating trade war between the U.S. and China. Russia is hoping to take advantage of the situation and cut deals with Chinese agribusinesses to make up for lost supply.
The Washington Post says the Kremlin will offer roughly 2.5 million acres of arable land to foreign investors. Analysts are describing it as a bid to replace the U.S. as China’s most reliable soybean supplier. China is short on filling its soybean needs after the high stakes trade war got going with the U.S. through the summer. Beijing dramatically cut purchases of U.S. soybeans in response to the tariffs imposed on Chinese products by the Trump Administration.
The Post article says Chinese officials are making plans to trim around seven million soybean tons off of the nearly 33 million tons it’s been buying annually from U.S. farms. Soybeans represent U.S. farmers’ single largest agricultural export to China, which takes approximately 60 percent of the world’s supply every year. Beijing’s cut in American purchases as sent U.S. bean future prices tumbling.
As the soybean crop continues to grow and get closer to harvest there are a few crop diseases to keep an eye out for.
Stem Canker: Stem canker is a disease in soybeans that can commonly be confused with Phytophthora if not properly identified. Symptoms are typically present during early reproductive stages with small red-brown lesions forming at the base of branches or leaf petioles. Lesions may elongate, become sunken, and girdle the stem. A diagnostic symptom of this disease is that green stem tissue will typically be present both above and below the canker on the stem, and these symptoms will develop higher on the stem compared to Phytophthora lesions. Leaves may become yellow and brown in between the leaf veins, termed interveinal chlorosis and necrosis. Leaves wilt but will remain attached to the leaf petioles and stem. Top dieback may also occur where the upper leaves curl into a “shepherd’s crook.” Plant death is usually imminent once symptoms appear as water and nutrients are cut off from stem canker. This disease can overwinter in infected stems or in infected seed. At this time of year, options are quite limited. After harvest, tillage may help in managing infected residue. Next year if you plan to plant soybeans, talk with your seed dealer to determine which soybean cultivars carry resistance to stem canker. Seed treatments may help in reducing infection, but will not eliminate it in the field. Crop rotation may help in rotating to a cereal crop, such as corn or small grains, but this also will not eliminate the disease. If you decide to implement crop rotation, do not rotate to alfalfa next year, as alfalfa is a host for the stem canker pathogen and could increase inoculum levels in the field.
Soybean Stem Borer Larvae: Several plants coming into the clinic late this summer have been shown to have soybean stem borer damage. The adults are typically active in June, but they can continue to lay eggs well into August. Once their eggs are laid, larvae hatch and start tunneling down through the stem towards the base of the plant, near the soil line. Infested plants are detected by wilting or dying leaf tissue above this point. By splitting the stem open, you may be able to find the larvae tunneling its way down the plant. Larvae are ½–5/8 inch long, cream colored, without legs, have a very wide head, segmented bodies, and a narrow tail end. The larvae cause the inside of the stem to girdle, making a protective cell for them to overwinter in the field. Tunneling and girdling from larvae feeding cause stems to weaken, break, or lodge as plants get closer to harvest. Research has shown that girdling is more of an issue in earlier maturing varieties whereas lodging is most severe in soybeans that were planted earlier in the season. If you see plants wilting in the field and their symptoms don’t align with Phytophthora or stem canker, you may want to split the stems and look for tunneling. Fields with high pest pressure and stem tunneling are at higher risk of lodging and yield loss at harvest. Try to harvest those fields first, if possible, to minimize harvest loss.
NEBRASKA: Based on August 1 conditions, Nebraska’s 2018 corn production is forecast at 1.83 billion bushels, up 9 percent from last year’s production, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Acreage harvested for grain is estimated at 9.35 million acres, up 1 percent from a year ago. Average yield is forecast at 196 bushels per acre, up 15 bushels from last year. Both yield and production are new record highs if realized.
Soybean production in Nebraska is forecast at 332 million bushels, up 2 percent from last year, and a new record high if realized. Area for harvest, at 5.45 million acres, is down 4 percent from 2017. Yield is forecast at 61 bushels per acre, up 4 bushels from last year, and a record high if realized.
Nebraska’s 2018 winter wheat crop is forecast at 48.0 million bushels, up 2 percent from last year. Harvested area for grain, at 1.00 million acres, is down 2 percent from last year and a new record low if realized. Average yield is forecast at 48 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels per acre from 2017.
Sorghum production of 15.8 million bushels, is up 32 percent from a year ago. Area for grain harvest, at 155,000 acres, is up 15 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 102 bushels per acre, up 13 bushels from last year, and a record high if realized.
Oat production is forecast at 2.43 million bushels, up 42 percent from last year. Harvested area for grain, at 45,000 acres, is up 10,000 acres from last year. Yield is forecast at 54 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from 2017.
Dry edible bean production is forecast at 2.96 million hundredweight, down 24 percent from last year. The average yield is forecast at 2,410 pounds per acre, down 110 pounds from last year. Acres planted by class are as follows: Pinto, 61,800; Great Northern, 41,800; Light Red Kidney, 8,800; Chickpeas, 12,000.
Sugarbeet production is forecast at 1.51 million tons, up 5 percent from 2017. Area for harvest, at 45,500 acres is down 600 acres from last year. Yield is estimated at 33.9 tons per acre, up 2.1 tons from a year ago, and a new record high if realized.
Alfalfa hay production is forecast at 3.78 million tons, up 15 percent from last year. Expected yield, at 4.30 tons per acre, is up 0.35 ton from last year, and a new record high if realized. All other hay production is forecast at 3.33 million tons, up 16 percent from last year. Forecasted yield, at 1.80 tons per acre, is up 0.2 ton from last year. Both yield and production for all other hay are new record highs if realized.
KANSAS: Based on August 1 conditions, Kansas’s 2018 corn production is forecast at 658 million bushels, 4 percent below last year’s production, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Area to be harvested for grain, at 5.10 million acres, is down 2 percent from a year ago. Yield is forecast at 129 bushels per acre, down 3 bushels from last year.
Sorghum for grain production in Kansas is forecast at 231 million bushels, up 15 percent from last year. Area for harvest, at 2.65 million acres, is up 8 percent from 2017. Yield is forecast at 87 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from last year.
Kansas’s soybean production is forecast at 173 million bushels, down 8 percent from last year. Area for harvest, at 4.81 million acres, is 6 percent below 2017. Yield is forecast at 36 bushels per acre, down 1 bushel from last year.
Winter wheat production is forecast at 277 million bushels, down 17 percent from last year’s crop. Area for grain, at 7.30 million acres, is up 5 percent from last year. Yield is forecast at 38 bushels per acre, 10 bushels below last year.
Cotton production is forecast at 250,000 bales, up 27 percent from last year, and a new record high if realized. Acreage for harvest, at 116,000 acres, is up 26,000 acres from 2017, and a new record high. Yield is forecasted at 1,034 pounds per acre, down 17 pounds from last year.
Oat production is forecast to be 2.40 million bushels, up 78 percent from last year. Harvested area for grain of 50,000 acres is up 25,000 acres from a year earlier. Yield per acre, at 48 bushels, is down 6 bushels from a year ago.
Potato production is forecast to be 1.36 million hundredweight, down 13 percent from last year. Yield of 400 hundredweight per acre is 20 hundredweight above 2017 and is a record high if realized.
Alfalfa hay production of 1.52 million tons is forecast to be 26 percent below last year. Expected yield, at 3.10 tons per acre, is down 0.5 ton from last year. All other hay production of 3.20 million tons is forecast to be down 20 percent from a year ago. Expected yield, at 1.60 tons per acre, is down 0.3 ton from last year.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Proof that dicamba remains a complex and emotional topic was evident at a recent public meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Last week, EPA officials and a handful of other agency representatives traveled to farm country to gather views on whether the three low-volatility dicamba formulations available for use with Xtend crops should be re-registered.
The conversation, attended by DTN, represented a cross-section of voices. Vocal were farmers who insist the technology is needed to control resistant weed populations, industry and those that have experienced injury in sensitive crops, trees and nursery settings.
The deadline to make a decision regarding Engenia, XtendiMax and FeXapan herbicides looms for the agency. Dicamba is a 60-year-old herbicide with a known ability to volatilize and move beyond its spray target. Although the three products in question were reformulated to be lower in volatility, the EPA initially issued conditional labels, which expire in November and December, depending on the product.
“We made the registration decision and set it up so it had two-year time-limited registration so that we could evaluate it and see what additional changes to the registration are needed,” said Mike Goodis, U.S. EPA director of the registration division.
Goodis confirmed that the agency plans to make a decision in August on the registrations, which DTN has previously reported. “We have been pretty open that we really want to make some type of decision this month on whether to continue, and if so, how the product would still be used,” he said.
“It is an extremely difficult decision. I can tell you that the senior management in the EPA all the way up to the administrator — now acting administrator — will be involved in the decision making,” he added.
The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has facilitated similar crop tours in past years. University of Nebraska weed scientist Greg Kruger, WSSA’s current liaison to EPA, organized the public forum. “The session was really meant for the EPA to listen to the concerns and comments from the industry as it relates to herbicides,” Kruger said. Officials spent most of the week in Nebraska and also toured some Iowa farms. Several of the group had spent part of the previous week in Arkansas and Tennessee.
While the floor was open to all herbicide discussions, dicamba dominated the Nebraska conversation. Off-target movement of dicamba in 2017 caused EPA to tighten labeled application requirements for the three dicamba products approved for in-season use. The agency also made the three herbicides restricted use pesticides (RUP) and training became a mandatory requirement for every applicator.
Acreage of Xtend crops doubled in 2018, according to Monsanto. Soybeans are extremely sensitive to dicamba, and some farmers planted dicamba-tolerant soybeans as defensive measures, but did not spray the herbicides. A few individual states took additional measures to limit dicamba spray by calendar date.
However, pesticide misuse complaints are still being filed with state agencies. As of Aug. 6, Illinois, for example, had reported 389 cases of agricultural drift with 275 of the cases tied to over-the-top dicamba applications compared to 150 dicamba complaints during the same period in 2017, according to the Association of American Pest Control Officials (AAPCO). Nebraska has reported 128 drift cases to AAPCO — 93 of them auxin related and 91 of them associated with over-the-top dicamba applications, compared to 79 dicamba cases as of this date in 2017. For a complete list filed with states, go to www.aapco.org.
This week, the Missouri Department of Agriculture reported 251 total complaints with 186 of them alleged dicamba complaints with injury recorded on 24,626 acres of soybeans, 526 acres of peaches, 75 acres of watermelons, 10 greenhouses with vegetables, 503-plus acres of residential trees, 15 acres of fruit trees (excluding peaches), 29 personal gardens, two commercial gardens, two acres of grapes, two acres of blackberries, two acres of strawberries, 24 acres of alfalfa, personal shrubs and flowers.
VOICES FROM THE CROWD
For Bruce Hoffman, who owns a greenhouse nursery with his wife in southwest Nebraska, two years of back-to-back dicamba injury have been costly, he reported.
“I am 66 years old. We thought we had our business sold,” Hoffman said. “I’ve told the [insurance] adjusters: Do you think I want to be 70 before I have my next crop of trees to sell?”
Jeff Kennedy, a certified arborist from Gothenburg, Nebraska, wanted EPA to understand what losing a 30-year-old tree means in a state where it is “really, really difficult to get trees to grow.”
Weed resistance issues associated with potential overuse of dicamba were discussed. So were early season applications of older, more volatile dicamba and 2,4-D and the belief by some that dicamba sprayed in corn causes more injury than applications made in soybean. There was concern about dicamba carryover in non-GMO seed production. There were complaints about farmers not being adequately insured when injury does occur.
Terry Sorensen, a farmer from Minden, Nebraska, talked about the extreme weed pressure growers face today in a tough economic climate. The danger and cost of letting Palmer amaranth and waterhemp get established was top of mind for him and other farmers in attendance. Sorensen described his positive experiences with the Xtend technology and emphasized the importance of following the label. In one case, where he was lined up next to a sensitive field, he said he had the patience to wait five days before spraying in the conditions.
BIG DECISION AHEAD
Goodis said the agency has heard similar thoughts while traveling around the countryside. He stressed the importance of hearing and listening to the voices from the field.
Balancing all of these concerns with the need for technology to try to control weeds is a big challenge, he said. He recognized the importance of other sensitive crops such as greenhouses and nurseries and the growing question between restricted-use and general-use products.
Another concern is the herbicide trait would still be in seed planted in 2019 even if EPA does not extend the registration for the three products. That leaves fears that more volatile compounds might be used instead.
“I can tell you this is a very complex issue. It’s getting a lot of attention and is a very high-visibility issue,” Goodis added.
“Right now we’re in the information-gathering and evaluation process. We’re getting information from states and other organizations such as USDA and WSSA to try to figure out what really is the best path forward,” he said.