Soil Whisperers

White Hall, Ill., farmer Maria Cox, left, and her crop advisor Kyle Lake were named 2018 4R Advocates by The Fertilizer Institute. Photo by Erin Williams, CHS.

Adapted from C magazine article by Peg Zenk

READ MORE: Find the entire C magazine article here.

Not all risk is bad. While farmers work hard to reduce financial risk, innovators take calculated risks when it comes to new when it comes to new agronomic approaches.

Illinois farmer Maria Cox is one of those innovators. She and her crop advisor, Kyle Lake, with CHS in Carrollton, Ill., were named 2018 4R Advocates by The Fertilizer Institute. Each year, the award recognizes five farmer-retail agronomist teams who are dedicated to implementing the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship: using the right nutrient source, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place.

In conversations with Cox and others who have actively embraced the 4Rs, common management challenges and strategies emerge. Among all the technologies and tactics they’ve tried, these growers point to strategies that are producing the biggest benefits in terms of soil health and the bottom line.

Shift application timing

Returning to the family farm outside White Hall, Ill., after working in agribusiness for four years meant Cox brought a fresh perspective to the row crop side of the business. Her father, Ethan, gradually began turning over management of the 3,000-acre corn-soybean-corn- silage operation to Maria, the sixth generation to manage it. This allowed him to focus on their 100-head cow-calf herd and backgrounding enterprise.

“I looked at the things we had been doing well, including building grass waterways and buffer strips and using no-till systems on highly erodible fields,” she says. “But I also began looking for things we could be doing better. My education and work experiences taught me to question everything.”

She started by looking at when and how fertilizer was applied. Historically, most of the nutrients had been applied via commercial fertilizer and manure in the fall at a flat rate, based on crop removal levels. Working with Lake, Cox began implementing the 4R principles to improve nutrient efficiency and minimize waste. They shifted much of the farm’s commercial fertilizer application to the spring — a major decision, since many growers in Greene County on the state’s west side still apply most of their fertilizer in the fall, says Lake.

“The Cox farm now fall-applies nitrogen on only the first fields to be planted to corn in the spring, and they use split nitrogen applications, including a side-dress pass, on most corn fields,” he adds. Those changes have improved nitrogen use efficiency from 1.5 to 1.2 pounds per bushel on many fields and to 0.9 pound per bushel on the most productive fields.

Variable-rate Value

For Minnesota farmer Tony Rossman, grid soil-sampling and variable-rate fertilizer application have become his most important tools for maximizing efficiency and minimizing environmental nutrient loss in his corn-soybean rotation. Topography in his fields north of Rochester transitions from flat prairie to rolling hills, which requires a customized approach for each field and sometimes each acre.

“Spoon-feeding the crop when it needs nutrients is not always the most convenient management approach, since it often requires another pass across the field,” he says, “but that’s part of delivering nutrients at the right time for maximum plant uptake.”

Despite variability from one growing season to the next, Rossman has seen yields climb consistently over the last five years since he began working with agronomists at CHS in Rochester, Minn., to put his 1,600 acres into CHS YieldPoint® services.

Question every pass

Fall tillage is still fairly common in many parts of Illinois, but as she returned to the operation, Cox says she was quick to question whether deep tillage was necessary.

“My dad had been successfully no-tilling soybeans for years and it just seemed logical to build on that approach on our corn acres,” she says. “By eliminating tillage passes, we’re not only saving money but saving soil.”

Aiming for a mostly no-till system, Cox decided to try strip tillage with ammonia application on several fields last fall. “It should deliver the best of both worlds, disturbing only one-third of the soil surface while creating a nice bed for corn to be planted into in the spring,” she says.

“The fields had been planted to an oat cover crop and the row cleaners did an excellent job ahead of the anhydrous knives,” recalls Lake. “There hasn’t been much strip tillage done in our area, but it looks very promising.”

Evaluate cover crops

In just a few years of working with cover crops, Rossman says he’s seen benefits including improved water infiltration and less runoff, especially during heavy rainfalls; increased organic matter levels; and less weed pressure from waterhemp and other species.

“Over the past four years, we’ve been fairly aggressive about using cover crops, including cereal rye, brassicas and turnips,” he says. “We started by seeding after harvest on the 200 acres of sweet corn and peas we raise annually for a local canning plant, but have also begun flying cover crop seed onto corn stubble, hoping to get about 4 inches of growth in the fall. Ryegrass typically regrows 10 to 12 inches in the spring before we apply a burndown treatment.”

His cattle graze cover crops in late fall. “They eat the grass and spread manure naturally. It’s very sustainable and one more way our cattle enterprise brings value to the crop side,” says Rossman.

Water quality results

Monitoring water quality is another means of measuring nutrient management success. With a river running through part of his Oronoco, Minn., farm, and as a cattle-and-hog producer who regularly applies manure to fields, Rossman says he has always been responsible about fertilizer use.

Along with using a nitrogen stabilizer and knifing in manure to avoid odor issues and volatilization, he helped organize a small group of local producers who share information about sustainable best practices, including tillage strategies and cover crop use. The group’s research led Rossman to enroll in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program, a voluntary program of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. He is working toward certification through the program, which requires taking regular water samples to monitor contaminant levels.

LEARN MORE: Find more information at nutrientstewardship.org

Watch a video of about fertilizer best management practices.

Start the New Season with a New Grease

cenex grease

Using the right grease is one of the most important decisions you can make as you prepare equipment for the high-pressure planting season. But recent updates in grease formulations might make you do a double take as you get ready for spring.

“When you put the grease into your grease gun and on bearings, you’re going to notice it looks different,” says Andrew Hamilton, director of technical services and quality for Cenex® lubricants and refined fuels. “That is on purpose. You’re getting a better grease.” (more…)

Anatomy of a grain trade

anatomy of a grain trade infographic

The global grain trading business is risky. Avalanches and mudslides can stop trains in their tracks. Striking union workers can halt grain loading at port. Freezing sea spray and high swells can delay ocean vessels for days. Commodity prices and costs shift constantly.

While those situations may be beyond a grain company’s control, there are countless other factors that a team of CHS experts successfully manages 365 days a year – always focused on efficiency, safety and profitability. (more…)

CHS reports a net income of $346.7 million for the first half of fiscal 2018

CHS income fiscal 2018

 

CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, today reported net income of $346.7 million for the first half of its 2018 fiscal year (six-month period ended Feb. 28, 2018), compared to net income of $223.7 million for the same time period a year ago.

Consolidated revenues for the first half of fiscal 2018 were $14.9 billion, down from $15.4 billion for the first half of fiscal 2017. Pretax income was $185.0 million and $249.1 million for the first half of fiscal 2018 and 2017, respectively. (more…)

Sisseton School 6th Graders Learn About Agriculture During Ag Day

Students and volunteers of the 2018 Ag Day at the Sisseton Sale Barn

 

With the average American three generations removed from the farm, it’s tough for individuals not involved in the industry to understand all aspects of agriculture.  However, the 6th grade students at Sisseton School now have a good understanding of what it takes to get food on the table, thanks to the Ag Day field trip held Tuesday, March 27th.

Roughly sixty students participated in the Ag Day Tour, where they had the opportunity to experience all aspects of agriculture through demonstrations and sessions put on by area agriculture organizations.  CHS Border States played a big part in the day by hosting students for a 30 minute tour of our agronomy facility.  While here, students were able to see the ‘big rigs’ (AKA our application equipment) tour the fertilizer facility, learn about the seed we plant and the chemistry used to keep them healthy, along with basic fire extinguisher safety training.  Our staff also helped with lunch for the event, filling everyone up on delicious burgers!

Students on the tour visited CHS Border States Board Chairman Dana Stapleton’s farm, where they learned about planting and harvesting equipment from the Stapletons, as well as more about calves and cattle nutrition from the team at Riverview, LLP.  Students also toured the Sisseton Livestock Auction facility.  Back at the school, students participated in sessions where they made their own butter, played Ag Jeopardy and Bingo, identified a balanced diet, and more.

A big thanks to the coordinating committee for providing us the opportunity to participate in this event!  It was a fun day sharing our passion for agriculture with the next generation.

More photos from the day can be found on our Facebook page.

Grain Markets Update

By Kevin Saxton, Grain Manager


Spring Wheat

Since last writing, the spring wheat market for New Crop Sept contract has dropped $0.28.  The winter wheat crop condition has been improving which is also weighing on the market.


Corn

Crop report to be out on March 29th has a little bullish trend toward the market so corn has held fairly even.  If acres are cut back too far we may see a stronger corn market.  If in short term the report is bearish, wheat and beans corn may very well follow.


Soybeans

The Argentine crop is getting a little smaller but the Brazil crop seems to more than offsetting it.  The stock/acreage report on Thursday is guessed to be bearish soybeans.  The funds are heavily long beans which also is a negative offset the market.  Since the last writing soybeans are down about $0.12.  You may want to get some coverage in place.

Unlock More Potential with CHS Unlocked™

By Byron Fischer, CHS Key Agronomy Specialist

There are many growth regulators on the market.  Why choose CHS Unlocked?  CHS Unlocked contains naturally derived Cytokinin, Auxins, and Gibberellins in the right balance to improve growth and development of many crops.  Having the right balance is actually of more importance than having greater amounts when it comes to plant growth regulators (PGRs).  PGRs are important because they induce cell division, stimulate cell enlargement, delay senescence (loss of cell division and growth), overcome stress and improve nutrient mobilization.

One feature that causes CHS Unlocked to stand out when compared to other products on the market is that it is naturally derived.  This enables CHS Unlocked to be in a formulation that “fits” into the plant receptors, due to its natural derivation.  This enables quicker uptake and thus increased activity.  Bottom line is increased ROI.

Below is a photo of CHS Unlocked compared to a competitive product, which was taken during the 2017 growing season at a trial in Staples, MN.  You can easily see the difference CHS Unlocked makes in the plant!

Interested in learning more about CHS Unlocked?  Contact a member of our agronomy staff for more information about this product and what else CHS can do to support your farm in 2018!

Demonstrating safety in the communities where we work

ResponsibleAg

CHS now has more than 100 ResponsibleAg certified facilities from its CHS Country Operations and CHS Agronomy divisions. Out of all U.S. fertilizer facilities receiving this certification, CHS represents 12 percent of the total.

ResponsibleAg was started in 2014 to assist agribusinesses as they sought to comply with federal environmental, health, safety and security rules regarding the safe handling and storage of fertilizer products. The rigorous application process includes a checklist of more than 320 questions about federal regulatory requirements. To be certified as a ResponsibleAg facility, locations must be 100 percent compliant with the entire checklist. (more…)

Students storm the Hill with fresh perspectives and CHS support

When people ask CHS Government Affairs staff what it’s like to work as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., they’re always curious about how the political landscape has changed in recent years. Sarah Gallo, director, CHS Government Affairs, is happy to share anecdotes, but she’d rather discuss how the conversation about agriculture has evolved. Students, farmers and the ag industry will carry that message to Capitol Hill on National Ag Day, to be celebrated March 20 in Washington, D.C., and across the country. (more…)

February 28 Grain Market Update

By Kevin Saxton, CHS Border States Grain Manager

Corn Market

The corn market has been putting in higher closes.  New crop as of tonight (2/27/18) is at $4.00.  Corn is not gaining real fast but is trending higher.  There is a strong demand base under the market.  We do have a large carryout of corn to get through, which may keep any rallies in check.  Managed money has a kind of neutral position, so we could see some buying interest that would give us a small gain yet.

Soybean Market

The soybean market has had some great gains.  New crop today (2/27/18) closed at $10.32;  last year’s high was in July and it was at $10.28 for new crop.  Mostly trading the drought in Argentina,  and managed money is packing in a long position.  If the funds decide to quit buying, I believe this market won’t be around long.  I would consider making some sales if you haven’t already.

Wheat Market

Wheat has held up fairly well also.  New crop Minneapolis is $6.25 for the Sept futures.  USDA crop ratings for Winter wheat have fallen to levels that have not been that low since 2009 at 12% good to excellent, compared to 43% last year.   Global supply is a big concern with wheat.  If the weather stays favorable we may see a drop from here.

For more on the current state of the markets and what contracting opportunities are available, give me a call!

© 2018 CHS Inc.