Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ag Hot Five No. 4

1. According to NOAA, the U.S. Recorded the Warmest March on Record since 1895. More than 15,000 Warm Temperature Records Were Broken.

We just experienced the warmest March in U.S. recorded history. Temperatures for the month averaged 8.6F degrees above normal over the entire country in 118 years of weather record keeping. Over 15,000 high temperature records were set, with 7,755 record high day temps and 7,517 record high overnight lows at 21 weather stations. High temperature records for the entire country outnumbered lows for the month 35 to 1. Only January 2006 had a greater departure from normal and only the three west coast states did not experience a warmer than normal March, with Washington alone recording below normal temperatures. The 3-month period ending March was by far the warmest 1st quarter in history at 6F above normal for the quarter. If you take out the March heat, even then, the December through February period came in as the 4th warmest winter on record, which followed on the heels of a 2011 summer which was the second warmest on record.

(h/t rjs @globalglassonion)

2. Today's Most Fuel Efficient/Powerful Tractor

In latest tests, the University of Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory reports that Case IH Steiger tractors, the Steiger 600, Steiger 500, Steiger 450 and Steiger 350, have set new industry records for fuel-efficient power. Winning models utilize the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology. This series is built to pull the largest implements available while reducing fuel costs. The Steiger 600 proved 10.5 percent more fuel efficient than its competitor, the Deere 9630, at 75 percent drawbar ull maximum power. This tractor series meets the 2014 Tier 4B (Tier 4 Final) engine emissions standards. There are currently more than 10,000 Case IH tractors powered by Case IH SCR technology in North American farm fields.

Prices for the Case IH Steiger 600 base unit start at $492,203.00 according to the Case IH website. I called a dealer in Eastern Nebraska and he said they never deal this tractor which begs the question who is using this tractor? Perhaps the rice farmers of California and Arkansas. Readers, help me out.

Racine, Wisconsin is the home of the Case IH plant for assembly of Case IH Magnum tractors. Case IH is a brand of CNH (NYSE: CNH), a majority-owned subsidiary of Fiat Industrial S.p.A. (FI.MI).

The University of Nebraska Tractor Test Laboratory is the officially designated tractor testing station for the United States and tests tractors according to the codes of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

3. Mycorrhiza, Nature's Magical Symbiotic Plant Booster. Does Your Garden Soil Need More of it?

Douglas-fir seedlings with and without mycorrhiza inoculation. Oregon State studies have shown that inoculation of tree seedlings with appropriate fungus species to stimulate development of mycorrhiza is critical for reforestation.
Photo credit: Oregon State

Some of the best gardeners add it to their soil and claim that it's the reason that their vegetable (and flower) production is the best around. Nature couldn't have designed a better symbiotic fungi. Mycorrhiza, which means "rootfungus" attaches to plant roots to stimulate their nutrient and water uptake, increasing fruit and flower yields. Monrovia Nursery adds twelve different types of Mycorrhiza to its soil mix to "make their plants flourish". Paul Stamets of "Six Ways Mushrooms can save the World" fame, tells us that they are the key to life itself.

The fungus increases the root surface area which comes in contact with the soil, it excretes enzymes which allow it to dissolve soil nutrients, and extends the life of the root. It supplies the plant with nutrients and helps with phosphorus and water uptake. It protects the roots against disease pathogens. In return, the plant supplies the fungus with carbohydrates.

Though healthy garden soils contain Mycorrhizae, adding them to sterile greenhouse soils or nutrient poor soils is definitely advised. They are useful for drought resistance and can help resist toxicity in contaminated soils. Certain types are a major avenue for storing carbon in the soil.

To promote the growth of your own garden soil network of Mycorrhiza, add compost, don't use synthetic chemicals, do minimum tillage, rotate your crops, and grow cover crops. By cold composting, or mulching your garden with shredded leaves each fall, you can promote optimal Mycorrhizal fungi growth.

4. Global Soybean Stocks are Tight

Global soybean production for 2011/12 is forecast to be 240.2 million metric tons for the largest year-to-year decline ever. U.S. planted soybean acres are expected to decrease by 1.4 percent this year, which could leave soybean supplies extremely tight by August of 2013. A lot hinges upon this year's U.S. harvest since the U.S. is still the world's number one soybean exporter. Soybean prices have gone up 19 percent since January.

With some areas of South America soybean cropland seeing 40 percent lower rainfall than normal, and others experiencing an unusually high number of days with extreme heat, the severe droughts in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay have drastically lowered this year's soybean production. (Note that currently Paraguay is experiencing severe flooding.) Brazil and Argentina are the worlds second and third largest soybean exporters. This past year's La Nina weather pattern is known to cause drier conditions in South America. This year was not as bad as the 2009 drought in Argentina which was its worst in 50 years. Soybean rust also decreased production in Mato Grosso. The smaller harvests are expected to cut global soybean stocks by 20 percent to a 3-year low of 55.5 million tons, down 13.6 million tons from last year. Edible oils are at a three decade low. The latest USDA estimates world soybean stocks-to-use ratio at 21.9%, down from 25% and 27% the past two years.

The Mato Grosso region of Brazil continues to expand its soybean growing area through clearing of the northeastern Cerrado pastureland. This will add another 2.47 million acres, for a total of 64.7 million soybean production acres in 2012-13. The soybean planting area increased by 3.7% in 2011-12, and is forecast to increase by 4.4% in 2012-13. Brazil doubled its soybean production from 2000 to 2010. Progress is being made on infrastructure of roads, rail, and ports to aid exports from remote regions of the Cerrado, giving farm producers the confidence to plant crops in these new regions. Additionally, they are increasing irrigation, fertilizer use, and advanced seeds.

5. The USDA Forecasts that Agricultural Trade Will Lose Ground in 2012 with Imports Up and Exports Down

The agricultural trade balance is expected to decline in 2012. Fiscal 2012 agricultural exports are forecast at $131 billion, $6.4 billion below fiscal 2011. The fiscal 2012 import projection is $106.5 billion. This represents a 13-percent increase from 2011. Given that the forecast for exports is down while imports are rising, the trade balance for 2012 is a surplus of $24.5 billion, down from the $43 billion for 2011.

Compared to last year, grain and feed exports are forecast down with wheat, corn, rice, and feeds all lowered, due to competition especially from the Black Sea region. The estimated gains for the various import sectors include sugar and tropical products, horticulture products, livestock and dairy products, and grains and feeds.

Import volumes and values for bulk grains, feeds, oilseeds, and oilseed products, including vegetable oils, registered double digit growth in the first quarter. Combined with falling world prices for tropical products and the weak dollar, total U.S. agricultural import value for the rest of fiscal 2012 is not expected to keep pace with the first quarter’s large initial shipments. Note that recent news of lowered global soybean stocks may increase U.S. soybean exports from the time this report was written.

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