U.S. corn and soybean condition ratings declined last week as hot, dry weather in many key growing areas impacted crops. Temperatures in most of the region have been mild to start the week, but could turn hot again ahead of July 4th weekend, and some areas need rain.
The USDA says 67% of corn is rated good to excellent, 3% less than a week ago, and 4% of the crop is in good to excellent condition, matching the five-year average.
65% of soybeans are in good to excellent shape, down 3%, with 98% of the crop planted, compared to 97% on average, 91% emerged, in-line with the normal pace, and 7% blooming, compared to 11% on average.
30% of U.S. winter wheat is in good to excellent condition, unchanged, while 95% of the crop has headed, compared to the five-year average of 98%, and 41% has been harvested, compared to 35% normally in late June.
59% of spring wheat is called good to excellent, steady with a week ago, and 98% has emerged, compared to 99% on average, with 8% of the crop headed, compared to the usual rate of 34%.
37% of cotton is reported as good to excellent, down 3% on the week, with 33% of the crop squaring, compared to 33% on average, and 8% setting bolls, compared to the five-year average of 7%.
73% of the rice crop is called good to excellent, 1% higher, and 10% has headed, compared to 9% on average.
31% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent condition, unchanged from the week before.
Farmland prices continue to soar, as a new record Iowa land sale occurred in Dubuque County, Iowa last week with High Point Land Company auctioning off 60 acres for $30,000 per acre.
With the financial stakes so high, who can afford to make these big money moves?
Amassed with a newly purchased 2,100-acre farm in North Dakota, Bill Gates' Red River Trust now holds the title of a cool 270,000 acres of land across the U.S.
By Jenna Hoffman, AgWeb.com
It's no secret owning a farm is more than a full-time job. In my experience, when there are young kids on the operation, elders can put some of the most grueling farm chores on the "young and able-bodied" to-do list.
Whatever your rose and thorn are when it comes to childhood farm chores, your least favorite task likely relates to chopping weeds in bean fields or picking up rocks.
That's according to our recent AgWeb.com poll that asked: What is one childhood farm chore you do NOT miss?
Here are the top results from more than 1,250 votes:
• Chopping weeds in soybean fields: 25%
• Picking up rocks: 20%
• Hauling in square straw/hay bales: 16%
Lower-ranking chores might surprise you:
• Cleaning grain bins: 8%
• Weeding the family garden: 7%
• Fixing fence: 5%
• Power washing the barn: 3%
Crow's Seed is being re-launched in the Eastern Corn Belt, by Outward Ag, LLC. Driven by a team of agricultural entrepreneurs, this follows the re-establishment of Midwest Seed Genetics in the Central and Northern Corn Belt and NC+ in the West. Over the past four years, Midwest, and NC+ have been two of the fastest growing seed brands in U.S. row crop agriculture.
Crow's Hybrids, originally from Milford, IL, was one of the pioneering hybrid seed brands, launched in 1935. Over six decades, it provided strong performing seed through strong local relationships. In the late 1990s, Don Funk acquired Crow's and turned this local company into a regional powerhouse. Crow's became a key foundational brand that spurred the record-setting growth of Channel, subsequently acquired by Monsanto, now Bayer.
Roughly 70 percent of public agricultural research and development (R&D) in the United States is performed by universities and other nonfederal cooperating institutions. Land-grant universities alone account for about half of all public agricultural R&D spending. State forestry schools, veterinary schools, and historically black colleges and universities account for most of the remaining agricultural R&D conducted at nonfederal institutions.
State land-grant universities and agricultural experiment stations primarily perform research on topics of interest to their State or region, though this research has a national impact in the form of training scientists and generating basic scientific insights. USDA agencies such as the Agricultural Research Service and Forest Service perform the other 30 percent of public agricultural research, focusing on national and regional topics.
FDA APPROVES BIOTECH WHEAT WHICH IS DROUGHT RESISTANT, GOES TO USDA AND EPA
The Food and Drug Administration has given its green light to a genetically modified wheat from Argentine-based Bioceres Crop Solutions to be drought resistant, but the controversial biotech grain still needs to go through lengthy approvals by USDA and EPA before it can be commercialized, says a spokesman for U.S. Wheat Associates.
"The finding by the FDA is not an approval for this or any other transgenic wheat to be planted for commercial sale in the United States," USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers said in a statement. "Bioceres recently announced it will seek approval to plant HB4 wheat in Australia, but it has not announced plans to commercialize the trait in the United States."
Brazil last year approved imports of flour made from HB4 wheat that is being grown and harvested in Argentina.
The U.S. wheat sector is heavily dependent on the ability to export and remains concerned that the commercialization of biotech wheat could result in the loss of foreign markets in countries like Japan and South Korea.
To read U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Wheat Growers Association's joint statement click here
STUDY REPORTS HOW CONSUMERS WOULD INVEST USDA'S BUDGET, MUCH DIFFERENT THAN THE REALITY
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes and Jonathan Coppess, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics,, University of Illinois and Brenna Ellison, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University
The public's suggested allocations differ considerably from actual allocations of the USDA budget. In particular, the public allocated much less to food assistance than is spent on the category, as mandated by Congress. The USDA currently spends 65% of its total budget on food assistance (USDA, 2021). Other categories differ considerably as well. For example, research and education makes up about 2.3% of the 2021 USDA budget while food safety and inspection comprises less than 1% (USDA, 2021).
Other studies have also investigated the public's perceptions of and preferences for USDA spending. Ellison and Lusk (2011) asked consumers the same budget allocation question in 2009; consumers in our 2022 survey preferred to allocate about $10 less, on average, to food safety and inspection and re-allocated those funds across the other budget categories. The categories that received the largest gains were farm support and rural development. Ellison and Lusk (2011) also found that informing consumers of the actual USDA budget allocations altered their allocations slightly, yet the public's allocations remained far from actual spending. More recently, Lusk and Polzin (2022) asked consumers whether they would like to see more, less, or the same amount of funding for each USDA budget category. In general, over 1/3 of consumers wanted to see more spending for each category, with food safety and inspection receiving the largest share of support for increased spending (53%).
Raquel Chan: Discovering the gene behind GM wheat
By Luis Ventura in Alliance for Science
Argentina’s genetically modified, drought-tolerant wheat is making headlines around the world. Though it’s been ready for a couple of years now, the global grain crisis and resulting food shortages caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine have brought it into prominence.
The Alliance for Science had a chance to talk with Dr. Raquel Chan, the Argentinian lead scientist who launched the GM wheat journey 16 years ago. A biochemist who specializes in plant biotechnology, Chan is director of the Agrobiotechnology Institute of Santa Fe (IAL) and senior researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council CONICET.
She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been recognized by the BBC
as one of the 10 outstanding scientists in Latin American.
The GM wheat journey started with Chan studying and analyzing sunflowers, which resulted in the discovery of the HB4 gene. Its patent was licensed to Bioceres Crop Solutions
, the Argentinian company seeking to bring GM wheat to international markets.
“We found that sunflower plants are very adaptable to variable external conditions. We decided to use it as a scientific model because, in addition to its performance in the initial research, we found that one, its ‘no-watering’ period is longer than other plants; two, there was a chance to receive funds to support the research due to its economic importance; and three, we already had access to the library of sunflower cDNA, thanks to IBMP-Strasbourg,” Chan recalls.
Once Chan and her team secured funding to continue their investigation, they started to study the sunflower’s DNA and identified the function of fundamental genes.
“One of the experimental strategies we used was to isolate the genes one at a time and introduce them into plant species that do not have them. In this case, we used Arabidopsis thaliana, which is a model of dicotyledons without agronomic utility. Once the gene was introduced, we observed and reported the behavior of the recipient plant in the face of the stress that is induced in the research — in this case, drought-tolerance. We saw that of several introduced genes, HaHB4 (Helianthus annuus Homeobox 4) conferred a lot of drought tolerance.”
At this point in their research, Chan’s team realized the HB4 gene was the reason why the sunflower’s “no-watering period” was longer than other plants. After successfully transferring the drought-resistant trait to the model organism, they started to analyze its application in agriculture and the transformation of various crops.
“The potential of using the HB4 gene in crops is huge,” Chan said. “It is already developed in wheat and soybeans, which are very important crops for the world’s food. I think it could be applied to other crops with expectations of good results and further expand the potential at the national and international level.”
In the development of any GM product, the laboratory research is just the beginning. In addition to facing scientific challenges, the GM variety must go through the biosafety regulatory process to achieve the environmental release needed for commercial cultivation.
“The regulatory process is long, requiring many trials and demonstrations in different locations and during several campaigns,” Chan explained. “It must be shown that the GMO in question does not impact the environment or animal or human health in comparison to the crop from which it comes.”
Once the GM wheat was approved by Argentina, several countries recognized as world leaders in the grain market, such as Brazil and China, expressed interest in the novel crop. It is currently being considered for cultivation in the United States and Australia.
If these agricultural giants approve GM wheat, it may join cotton, corn and soybean as the most cultivated GM crops in the world.
GM wheat also offers an example of how national research centers and small companies with adequate funding can enter the global GM market by discovering genes of agronomic importance and applying them to crops.
Due to an adequate regulatory framework in most territories, Latin America is emerging as a biotechnology leader. Is it likely that climate-resilient gene-edited crops will soon find their way into farmers’ fields?
“In the case of edited crops, there are still no field-proven developments, that I know of, that improve productivity or stress response,” Chan said. “There is a lot of literature on developments, but there is still nothing repeated in the field with great advantages. It is one thing to do it in the laboratory or greenhouse tests and another to repeat tests in the field in different environments.”
In other words, she said, it will take some more research time before gene editing technology can confer the traits that improve climate resiliency. Chan also anticipates that gene editing will be used to develop crops with other useful traits.
“It is difficult to predict discoveries and developments, but I believe that gene editing will allow obtaining crops with nutritional or organoleptic [affecting or relating to qualities such as a food’s taste, color, odor and feel] improvements by manipulating known metabolic pathways,” Chan noted.
Rare ‘triple’ La Niña climate event looks likely — what does the future hold?
Meteorologists are forecasting a third consecutive year of La Niña. Some researchers say similar conditions could become more common as the planet warms.
Editor's Note: Continuing La Niña conditions are largely responsible for the current drought conditions across most of Texas. Looks like relief may be a bit farther away than we'd hoped.
An ongoing La Niña event that has contributed to flooding in eastern Australia and exacerbated droughts in the United States and East Africa could persist into 2023, according to the latest forecasts. The occurrence of two consecutive La Niña winters in the Northern Hemisphere is common, but having three in a row is relatively rare. A ‘triple dip’ La Niña — lasting three years in a row — has happened only twice since 1950.
This particularly long La Niña is probably just a random blip in the climate, scientists say. But some researchers are warning that climate change could make La Niña-like conditions more likely in future. “We are stacking the odds higher for these triple events coming along,” says Matthew England, a physical oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. England and others are now working to reconcile discrepancies between climate data and the output of major climate models — efforts that could clarify what is in store for the planet.
More La Niña events would increase the chance of flooding in southeast Asia, boost the risk of droughts and wildfires in the southwestern United States, and create a different pattern of hurricanes, cyclones and monsoons across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as give rise to other regional changes.
La Niña and its counterpart, El Niño, are phases of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) that occur every two to seven years, with neutral years in between. During El Niño events, the usual Pacific winds that blow east to west along the Equator weaken or reverse, causing warm water to gush into the eastern Pacific Ocean, increasing the amount of rain in the region. During La Niña, those winds strengthen, warm water shifts west and the eastern Pacific becomes cooler and drier.
The impacts are far reaching. “The tropical Pacific is huge. If you shift its rainfall, it has a ripple effect on the rest of the world,” says Michelle L’Heureux, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Centre in College Park, Maryland. During La Niña years, the ocean absorbs heat into its depths, so global air temperatures tend to be cooler.
The current La Niña started around September 2020 and has been mild-to-moderate most of the time since then. As of April 2022, it intensified, leading to a cold snap over the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean not seen at that time of year since 1950. “That’s pretty impressive,” says England.
The latest forecast from the World Meteorological Organization, issued on 10 June, gives a 50–60% chance of La Niña persisting until July or September. This will probably increase Atlantic hurricane activity, which buffets eastern North America until November, and decrease the Pacific hurricane season, which mainly affects Mexico. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre has forecast a 51% chance of La Niña in early 2023.
The weird thing about it, says L’Heureux, is that this prolonged La Niña, unlike previous triple dips, hasn’t come after a strong El Niño, which tends to build up a lot of ocean heat that takes a year or two to dissipate1
. “I keep wondering, where’s the dynamics for this?” says L’Heureux.
The big questions that remain are whether climate change is altering the ENSO, and whether La Niña conditions will become more common in future.
Researchers have noticed a shift in the ENSO in recent decades: the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
shows that strong El Niño and La Niña events have been more frequent and stronger since 1950 than they were in the centuries before that, but the panel couldn’t tell whether this was caused by natural variability or by climate change. Overall, the IPCC models indicate a shift to more El Niño-like states as climate change warms the oceans, says climate modeller Richard Seager at the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. Puzzlingly, Seager says, observations have shown the opposite over the past half-century: as the climate has warmed, a tongue of upwelling waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean has stayed cold, creating more La Niña-like conditions2
Some researchers argue that the record is simply too sparse to show clearly what is going on, or that there is too much natural variability in the system for researchers to spot long-term trends. But it could also be that the IPCC models are missing something big, says L’Heureux, “which is a more serious issue”.
Seager thinks the models are indeed wrong, and that the planet will experience more La Niña-like patterns in future3
. “More and more people are taking this a bit seriously that maybe the models are biased,” because they don’t capture this cold eastern Pacific water, says Seager.
England has another possible explanation for why the IPCC models could be getting future La Niña-like conditions wrong. As the world warms and the Greenland ice sheet melts, its fresh cold water is expected to slow down a dominant conveyor belt of ocean currents: the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Scientists mostly agree that the AMOC current has slowed down in recent decades4
, but don’t agree on why, or how much it will slow in future.
In a study published in Nature Climate Change
on 6 June5
, England and his colleagues model how an AMOC collapse would leave an excess of heat in the tropical South Atlantic, which would trigger a series of air-pressure changes that ultimately strengthen the Pacific trade winds. These winds push warm water to the west, thus creating more La Niña-like conditions. But England says that the current IPCC models don’t reflect this trend because they don’t include the complex interactions between ice-sheet melt, freshwater injections, ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. “We keep adding bells and whistles to these models. But we need to add in the ice sheets,” he says.
Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University in State College, has also argued2
that climate change will both slow the AMOC and create more La Niña-like conditions. He says the study shows how these two factors can reinforce each other. Getting the models to better reflect what’s going on in the ocean, says Seager, “remains a very active research topic”.
“We need to better understand what’s going on,” agrees L’Heureux. For now, she adds, whether, how and why the ENSO might change “is a very interesting mystery”.