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Friday, June 12, 2015

Lawn & Garden Care | Bag Worms

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Lawn & Garden Care | Bag Worms
Phil Nixon, Extension Entomologist - University of Illinois

Depending on exactly where you live in Illinois it may be time to treat for bag worms on your trees and shrubs. Todd Gleason has more from University of Illinois Extension.

Bag worms are caterpillars that commonly live in groups…
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Bag worms are caterpillars that commonly live in groups. These groups are not colonies, the worms just live near each other. Honestly, bag worms live in little silk tents. They haul these tents, bags, around with them. The tents are camouflaged with pieces of leaves says University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Phil Nixon.

Nixon :31 …but also will get on deciduous trees.

Quote Summary - Being detached pieces of foliage these will dry up and turn brown. Bag worms are problem primarily on needled evergreen trees; junipers including eastern red cedar, arborvitae, and eastern white pine. Bag worms are found almost exclusively on the white pine in the northern half of the state. In the southern half of Illinois it lives on those plants and deciduous trees.

It is very common to find bag worms on oak trees, maple trees and crabapples in the southern half of Illinois. Bag worms are easy to spot.

Nixon :26 …in a controllable state with an insecticide.

Quote Summary - What you see is a spindle shaped bag up to an inch-and-a-half long that is dark in color. An actively feeding bag worm is always getting large and is always putting new foliage at the top of the bag. So, if it is actively feeding the caterpillar will always have green foliage at the top of the bag. This one way to tell if it is in a controllable state with an insecticide.

Bag worms start at the top of the trees and work done. They strip the leaves as they go. Normally this kills the parts of the tree that have had the leaves, the needles, eaten away. It is best to treat for bag worms in June and July says Nixon.

Nixon :23 … all brown after about a week.

Quote Summary - We look at controlling these insects through applications of Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki sold as Dipel, Thuricide and other brand names. When ingested by the caterpillar is will kill the caterpillar. You’ll know they are all dead because the tops of the bags will be all brown after about a week.

The older the caterpillar is the harder it will be to kill. Bag worms stop feeding in August and essentially their tent becomes a cocoon. Treating then won’t do any good. The bag will already be all brown because the caterpillar has stopped feeding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

EPA's RFS Puts Biodiesel in the Drivers Seat

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EPA’s RFS Puts Biodiesel in the Drivers Seat
Scott Irwin, Ag Economist - University of Illinois

The nation could be running on a lot more biodiesel in future. Todd Gleason reports the latest U.S. EPA proposal would firmly set a path to create a second biofuels industry in the United States.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency…
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The United States Environmental Protection Agency, by the authority of congress, sets mandates - within some congressional parameters - for the amount of renewable energy the nation should consume. Part of this energy plan has allowed U.S. farmers to build and deploy corn based ethanol as a gasoline additive. Phase two, as set out by congress and proposed by EPA in May, may do the same thing for biodiesel made from oilseeds says University of Illinois ag economist Scott Irwin.

Irwin :18 …driver’s seat rather than corn based ethanol.

Quote Summary - If one takes the EPA policy as given and projects for the remaining life of the RFS through 2022, essentially going forward biodiesel is in the driver’s seat rather than corn based ethanol.

Biodiesel is made mostly from vegetable. Essentially the same cooking oils found on store shelves… mostly this oil is pressed from the soybean. The new proposed rules, which again follow the direction of congress to make the United States less dependent on foreign oil for its energy supply, would push U.S. vegetable oil crushing capacity to its limit.

Irwin :17 …we would go past that number.

Quote Summary - U.S. EIA estimates current production capacity for biodiesel in the United States is around two-point-three-billion gallons. There is a good chance by 2016 or 2017 demand would surpass that number.

Maybe or maybe not depending on how much soybean oil crushing capacity currently idled can be brought back online and or how much biodiesel can be imported to meet the mandate. Either way it is clear more biodiesel made from soybeans, and some other crops, is now coming into play. The big difference may be that there is already an existing infrastructure to handle most of the increase. The ethanol industry had to be built and deployed. Farmers took on that burden. The oilseed crushing industry already exists and simply needs to be targeted.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Assessing Corn Demand for Domestic Ethanol Blending

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Assessing Corn Demand for Domestic Ethanol Blending
Darrel Good, Ag Economist - University of Illinois

This week University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good has explored just how corn demand could be affected by U.S. EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standards. Todd Gleason has more…

Since the fall of 2005 the number of bushels…
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Since the fall of 2005 the number of bushels of corn used by the ethanol industry has jumped sharply. Back then it was about two billion bushels. It topped out at around five billion bushels with the 2011 corn harvest and this year is on track to hit five-point-two-billion. This demand driven almost exclusively by ethanol… and not by the co products. University of Illinois Ag Economist Darrel Good says going forward there are few different directions the industry might take depending on a series of factors.

Those factors include the EPA’s annual Renewable Fuels Standards (RFS) and the methods for implementing those standards, the magnitude of domestic motor fuel consumption, the economics of ethanol blending, the quantity of domestic ethanol produced from feed stocks other than corn, and the magnitude of ethanol imports and exports.

Cutting to the chase… here’s how Good sees US EPA’s proposal.

Good :35 …a set back is certainly not expected.
Quote Summary - At this juncture, it appears that domestic consumption of conventional ethanol in 2015 and 2016 will likely not decline from the 13.254 gallons consumed in 2014 if domestic gasoline consumption remains robust. Additionally, export demand for ethanol is expected to remain at or above the 850 million gallons of 2014. Exports during the first four months of 2015 pointed to annual exports over 900 million gallons. The demand for corn for ethanol production appears to be on solid footing for the next 18 months. While growth may be limited, a set-back is not expected.
The RFS for 2014 is obviously being proposed after the fact and reflects production, consumption, and trade conditions that actually unfolded in 2014 writes Darrel Good on the Farm Doc Daily website in support of this view. He says the EPA estimates that 13.43 billion gallons of ethanol were used domestically in 2014. The proposed RFS for conventional ethanol was set at 13.25 billion gallons

For 2015 the EPA has proposed a conventional ethanol mandate of 13.4 billion gallons, only 146 million gallons higher than actual consumption in 2014. The modest increase reflects expectations that total gasoline consumption will increase by about 1.4 percent, but the ethanol inclusion rate will decline from 9.84 percent in 2014 to 9.66 percent in 2015 so that the effective blend wall declines from 13.43 billion gallons in 2014 to 13.36 billion gallons in 2015. If cellulosic and other advanced ethanol consumption reaches 282 million gallons, the effective blend wall would limit consumption of conventional ethanol to only 13.078 billion gallons. The difference between the proposed standard of 13.4 billion gallons and the effective blend wall for conventional ethanol of 322 million gallons would represent a gap that would have to be met by a combination of consumption of gasoline with higher ethanol blends (E15 or E85), consumption of additional advanced biofuels (biodiesel), and use of some RINs stocks.

For 2016 the EPA projects the effective ethanol blend wall at 13.46 billion gallons. If consumption of cellulosic and other advanced ethanol reaches 406 million gallons, the effective blend wall would limit consumption of conventional ethanol to only 13.054 billion gallons. The difference between the proposed standard of 14 billion gallons and the effective blend wall for conventional ethanol would leave a gap of 946 million gallons to be met with higher ethanol blends, advanced biofuels, or RINs stocks. The EPA projections for 2015 and 2016 suggest that increases in domestic consumption of conventional ethanol above that of 2014 will depend on the ability of higher ethanol blends to compete with alternatives for meeting the gap between the mandated levels of consumption and the lower effective 10 percent blend wall for conventional ethanol.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Crop Insurance Loss Performance in 2014

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Crop Insurance Loss Performance in 2014
Gary Schnitkey, Ag Economist - University of Illinois

Last year federal crop insurance performed really well. Todd Gleason reports this means it covered losses in the way it was designed to do the job.

Over time crop insurance is meant to even...
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Over time crop insurance is meant to even out the ups and downs in annual income experienced by commodity farmers. It does this by paying out one dollar for every dollar of premium a farmer pays in to the system to purchase the insurance. The farmer can expect there will be many years when a payment is not made, but when the income from crops drop, a crop insurance payment will help alleviate the gap. Here’s another explanation from University of Illinois Extension Ag Economist Gary Schnitkey.

Schnitkey :33 …then the loss ratio is greater than one.
Quote Summary - The crop insurance program was designed to have a loss ration of about one. The loss ratio equals payments-made divided by premium-paid. Over time the federal crop insurance program is supposed to pay out roughly the same amount it collects in premium. A loss ratio of one is about the target. A loss ratio of less than one means payments were less than the premium collected and if the payments made are more than the premium paid, then the loss ratio is greater than one.
Last year, for all covered crops harvested in 2014, the loss ratio was point-nine. This is slightly above the annual yearly average of the last decade. The long run average is point-eight-two.

Schnitkey :14 …low year is point-five-three which happened in 2007.
Quote Summary - Overall you would say 2014 was an average year. The high happened in 2012. That year the loss ratio was one-point-six-two. The low year is point-five-three which happened in 2007.
Last year the loss ratio for corn was one-point-zero-five. Wheat losses nearly topped that chart at one-point-one-three. Rice had a bad income year. Its loss ratio was one-point-four-nine. By contrast the soybean loss ratio was just point-five-four.

Schnitkey :13 …in the last four or five years.
Quote Summary - Soybeans over the last several years have had loss ratios consistently near point-five. Consequently there have been relatively few payments compared to the premiums made over the last four or five years.
Last year Gary Schnitkey says the data shows most of the corn belt state payments were made in Iowa and Minnesota.

Schnitkey :24 …not as good as the rest of the corn belt.
Quote Summary - Many of the counties in the northern two-thirds of Iowa and in Minnesota had loss ratios above two. Losses in those parts of the country were quite high. The reason is because we had price declines on both corn and soybeans and those areas last year were not as good as the rest of the corn belt.
The remainder of the corn belt had very low loss ratios. The loss ratios were below one in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and the Dakota’s.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Pork Industry Continues to Adjust from PED

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Pork Industry Continues to Adjust from PED
Chris Hurt, Ag Economist - Purdue University Extension

The price of hogs is on the rebound. Todd Gleason reports it appears to be the economic remnants of a widespread disease outbreak in 2014.

The pork industry continues to adjust from the supply shock…
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The pork industry continues to adjust from the supply shock created by the PED virus last year. Live hog prices peaked in the summer of 2014 as Porcine Epidemic Virus losses mounted and then fell into the late winter of this season. Looking back it seems prices overshot on the high side due to PED, thinks Purdue University Ag Economist Chris Hurt, and then undershot early this year as market supplies were restored. He says the third phase of this cycle now seems to be the recent recovery in prices - up from the $45 low made in March.

Hurt :23 …by ten percent or more into the spring.

Quote Summary - Now, they have recovered to the low $60s. The low prices in March were clearly related to 14 percent higher production for that month compared to year previous levels and market concerns that pork supplies were going to remain higher by ten percent or more into the spring.

The recent recovery in hog prices, apparently, is related to the fact supplies have not been that high. April pork production was up eight percent. May was about six percent higher. Both are in alignment with the last inventory count from USDA. If those inventory counts continue to hold, then second quarter pork production will be up by six percent, the third quarter up by seven percent, and the final quarter of the year up only four percent says Chris Hurt. He says not only are fewer hogs coming to market, but that they weigh less, too.

Hurt :06 …for most of the rest of this year.

Quote Summary - I would guess we’ll average one percent lower weights for most of the rest of this year.

Fewer hogs at lower weights are causing a mid year bump in prices. Live hog prices in the first quarter of the year were $48.47 according to USDA. Prices are expected to average near $58 in the second and third quarters. Hurt thinks it will drop to about $51 in the last quarter of the year, and decline to the high$40 level for the first quarter of 2016. These numbers mean hog producers will make money this year, but lose money starting in 2016 unless the price of corn stays on the bottom of its trading range.

The next important benchmark for the pork industry is USDA’s June Hogs and Pigs report due the 26th. It will show how the industry has grown or contracted since March.

Hurt :33 …at least starting in 2016.

Quote Summary - Producers reported in the March update that they intended to reduce this summer’s farrowings by two percent. This was a surprise given the generally profitable industry since mid–2013. If farrowings should actually expand, this would increase pork production early next year and keep a bearish cast over the industry to start 2016.

If you’d like to learn more about the livestock sector, in particular the pork industry, from Chris Hurt, you may read his thoughts on the Farm Doc Daily website.