Corn University draws 100 growers
A brand new event - Corn University - drew 100 growers on Monday (Aug. 5) at the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Agricultural Research Station.
Nancy Kavazanjian, who organized the program for the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association, said the one-day program was designed to add a benefit to members in the corn growers' group and draw in new members. It did both.
"It's also an opportunity to do things you can't do at the Corn/Soy Expo. That's in the middle of winter and you can't go out in a corn field and see what's happening.
"This is designed as a hands-on learning experience. Field demonstrations include nitrogen sensing, nitrification, cover crops and tillage practices."
In addition to several classroom presentations, growers had the opportunity to go into the fields and hear from University of Wisconsin experts about various tillage programs as well.
Bob Oleson, executive director of the WCGA, said they would "throw things at their members to see what works and what doesn't" then they would evaluate the program.
The summertime gathering was also an opportunity for farmers from around the state to talk about how their corn crop was looking.
Oleson, a Palmyra farmer, said Wisconsin's corn crop this year is the opposite of last year. "I think quality will be the big question this year. Nearly every field is uneven. Last year we were concerned about quantity.
"There are reasonably good areas but even where that's the case there are areas where corn is very uneven. It doesn't have to make sense this year."
The large amount of rain that fell early in the season, he said, means that the roots didn't penetrate very far down this year, which is the opposite of what they did last year, drilling down into the soil profile looking for water.
That may mean that some nutrients are not getting into the corn plants this year, he added. "It affects the ability of roots to get to the nutrients."
In visiting with his members, Oleson said in general the southwestern and northwestern parts of the state are seeing development of good corn crops. "The northeast has some real issues and the southeast has a little bit of everything from exceptional crops to fields that are uneven and those that are looking pretty bad."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still pretty optimistic in its corn yield projections, said Oleson. "I always look at whether or not farmland is selling and are farmers buying it."
Mike North of First Capital Ag had an optimistic look at corn yields that made the growers groan. "In a word it's negative (for price)," he told Wisconsin State Farmer.
Generally good conditions throughout the Midwest have boosted yield estimates, meaning the market feels there's a pretty good corn crop out there.
"Frost is an outside factor of course, but the crop continues to improve and improving supply weighs heavily on price. The market's view is negative on price."
The crop and its condition are a different world completely from last year, said North. Last year prices were over $8 a bushel for corn and this year they are struggling to get above $4.50, he said, noting that he saw a number of "less than excited faces" among the growers.
Some observers have commented that the USDA may be overly optimistic in its forecast of the coming corn harvest, but North said there are three highly regarded private surveys that are out - Doane, F.C. Stone and Landworth - and all are predicting corn harvests even higher than the government's estimate.
"This is news that end users of corn, like ethanol producers and dairy farmers, have been waiting for for years. The end user side will appreciate lower corn prices."
Even a small gain in per-acre harvest, over the number of acres planted this year, means a huge boost in supply. "A 2 ½ bushel gain adds 200 million bushels to balance sheets," he said.
On his own travels, North said that corn fields in Illinois look beautiful; in Iowa he saw some of the unevenness that's been talked about. "But it's not bad."
The next questions for the corn harvest are whether or not frost will have an impact and whether the wet planting conditions will affect test weight. "Wet years generally bring lighter test weights and if growers had to 'mud the crop in' that will have an impact," North said.
STILL SEASON LEFT
Joe Lauer, the University's corn expert, said where Wisconsin corn fields look good they are very good but "it's really quite variable."
He put in his last planting of corn at the Marshfield station on July 5. "We've had to change our objectives on some of our plots," he said with a smile.
That area of the state in the counties of Clark and Wood and points east had tremendous pressure this spring. "I think 54 hours was the longest time between rain events this spring in that area," he said.
In his hybrid trials, emergence was bad, just as it was in farm fields and all those fields will have issues in the next month. "Farmers will have to decide if they leave them for grain or harvest them for silage."
One of the magic numbers in the creation of good silage is 55-60 days; that's how long it takes from the corn plant silking and pollinating to the formation of the black layer in the kernels. That's what makes decent silage, he explained.
"Heat drives that process. Day length and temperature are the drivers. We might make it. There's a lot of season left.
"We have a good one-third to two-fifths of the season left. But the key thing is when a killing frost comes in."