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Agriculture News

John Deere unveils latest all-electric tractor prototype for zero-emission agriculture

electrek | Posted on December 8, 2016

At Electrek, we firmly believe that all forms of ground transport will start to transition to electric propulsion relatively soon. That includes large tractors for agriculture, as demonstrated by John Deere’s latest all-electric tractor concept. Where you would normally find a large diesel engine under the hood, there are stacks of battery packs adding up to 130 kWh of capacity. That’s more energy than in Tesla’s highest capacity battery pack (100 kWh). SESAM needs it to tow large tools and to perform other tasks, which it can do while in “off mode” without having a large diesel engine running as highlighted by the company in a video released last week. As for power, the vehicle is equipped with two 150 kW electric motors for a total power output of up to 300kW (402hp).


Hog Prices Join Corn and Wheat at Ten-Year Lows

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on December 8, 2016

Focusing on lean hog futures prices, the low this fall was on the October 2016 contract at $40.70. The previous time lean hog futures had been this low was in October of 2002. This means lean hog futures in the fall of 2016 were the lowest lead contract price in 14 years. Lean hog futures have recovered somewhat since October, with the lead contract currently trading around $50, a level that is at the lower end of the ten-year range. Cash prices also reflect these multi-year lows. Live prices of hogs for 51 percent to 52 percent carcasses are expected to average about $36.25 in the final quarter of this year. This will be the lowest fourth quarter price since 2002, the lowest cash prices in 14 years, the same as lean hog futures. The current quarter is shaping up to have the worst losses since the first quarter of 2008 when cash corn prices moved above $4 per bushel after many years around $2.A three percent increase in this quarter's pork production is one of the forces keeping prices low, but shortages of packer capacity seems to be another factor that is an additional downward force on low farm prices. Over time, the pork industry growth has reached a point where more packer capacity is needed. In addition, the largest hog supplies of the year tend to be in the final quarter, which puts added seasonal pressure on capacity. It is generally thought that 2.5 million head per week is near federal inspection capacity. In four of the past seven weeks, the number of head processed at federal inspected plants has been above 2.5 million head.When there is a shortage of capacity in any industry there tends to be high returns to those who own that capacity. That seems to be the case this fall as the farm-to-wholesale margin is at record high levels. Looking at the most recent USDA data, the farm-to-wholesale margin for January through October has averaged $0.68 per retail pound this year compared to $0.56 per retail pound for the same period in 2015. If all of this higher margin were bid into the farm level price it would increase live hog prices by $5 to $7 per live hundredweight.After prices average about $36 for the final quarter of 2016, prices are expected to improve to about $40 for the first quarter of 2017 with head counts that are a little smaller. Then, seasonally smaller supplies in the second and third quarters could support live hog prices around $50.


The Adoption of Genetically Engineered Alfalfa, Canola and Sugarbeets in the United States

USDA | Posted on December 8, 2016

Genetically engineered (GE) varieties of corn, soybeans, and cotton with herbicide-tolerant and/or insect-resistant traits were commercially introduced in the United States in 1996. Twenty years later, most corn, cotton, and soybean farmers use these varieties, and the impacts of adoption have been widely documented. By contrast, relatively little is known about the adoption of GE alfalfa, canola, and sugarbeets, crops that add substantial value to the U.S. agricultural sector. For instance, alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the United States in terms of acreage and production value. It was also the first widely grown GE perennial to be commercialized. GE alfalfa and GE sugarbeets have been subjects of recent legal controversies. Approximately 18 million acres of alfalfa, with a production value of $10.7 billion, were harvested in the United States in 2013. Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop in the United States (in terms of acreage and production value). South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, and Wisconsin account for 42 percent of national acreage devoted to alfalfa. Approximately 1.3 million acres of canola (an edible version of rapeseed), with a production value of $456 million, were harvested in the United States in 2013. North Dakota, Oklahoma, Montana, Idaho, and Washington accounted for 96 percent of U.S. canola production. Approximately 1.2 million acres of sugarbeets, with a production value of $1.6 billion, were harvested in 2013. Minnesota, North Dakota, Idaho, and Michigan accounted for over 80 percent of sugarbeet production in 2013.


Ohio legislature punts on CAUV farm tax reform

Farm and Dairy | Posted on December 8, 2016

Farmers and landowners who called on the state legislature to improve the formula for calculating the Current Agricultural Use Value for property taxes are on track for a setback. Miller said House and caucus members discussed the bill various times, but members still need more time to review the complexities of the bill and how it would affect funding for all parties.Rep. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, and the sponsor of the House bill, said it looks like the House will try to finish up its other bills, and revisit the CAUV issue in January. He said he was disappointed it didn’t get done this year, because he felt it was justified, and would have helped farmers who face a declining ag economy.


Labor shortage is real in Midwest feedlots

MIdwest Producer | Posted on December 8, 2016

More and more sectors in production agriculture are having a hard time finding help and the problem runs from coast to coast. Reports abound of crops left rotting in the fields because of a shortage of available labor to get out and harvest. The labor shortages aren’t just limited to crops, either. Feedlots across the country are having a hard time finding people to work with their livestock. The labor pains have gotten progressively worse in feedlots during the past decade.


Gene editing is just advanced plant breeding

Agri-Pulse | Posted on December 8, 2016

Gene editing is simply the latest development in the evolution of plant breeding, the head of the American Seed Trade Association said at ASTA's annual meeting today in Chicago, seeking to reassure consumers about the safety and efficacy of the new technique. “The farmer's constantly looking to grow more using less,” LaVigne said. “Farmers need that variety of seed choices to solve their local needs, to manage changing weather, to fight plant disease and pests and wisely use crop inputs and those natural resources.”He cautioned, however, that regulatory barriers that have effectively prevented land grant universities from conducting biotech research could be applied to gene editing, which he said “would be a shame.”Juliet Marshall, a professor of cereals agronomy and plant pathology at the University of Idaho, said gene editing could be used to control, or at least reduce the impacts of, fusarium head blight (FSM), known more commonly as head scab.


Vandals set hundreds of cows loose at Maine dairy farm and 1 dies

Central Maine | Posted on December 8, 2016

A cow broke its neck and died last week after vandals let it and hundreds of other cows out of their pens at the Misty Meadow Farm and also vandalized the Wright Place Farm. Sometime between 2 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., about 500 milking cows were released from their pens. Roy said those cows were discovered by the next shift of workers arriving at the farm. All told there are 1,500 cows on the farm, Roy said. One of the cows that was released fell into a drainage hole and broke its neck. Workers at the farm also discovered that stainless steel cooling tanks for milk and cream had been turned off.  It was also discovered that two headlights from a farm truck in the garage had been stolen, as had some meat from a freezer in the garage. A pellet or BB gun was also stolen, which probably was used to shoot out a window from a nearby tractor.


Crspr gene editing yields tomatoes that flower and ripen weeks earlier

EurekAlert | Posted on December 7, 2016

Using a simple and powerful genetic method to tweak genes native to two popular varieties of tomato plants, a team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has devised a rapid method to make them flower and produce ripe fruit more than 2 weeks faster than commercial breeders are currently able to do. This means more plantings per growing season and thus higher yield. In this case, it also means that the plant can be grown in latitudes more northerly than currently possible - an important attribute as the earth's climate warms.


Monsanto Says Next Breakthrough for Farmers Is a Friendly Fungus

Bloomberg | Posted on December 7, 2016

 Monsanto is introducing a new feature for its geneticall modified corn seeds that it says will not only boost yileds but cut down on fertilizer use and carbon dioxide emissions.  They have developed a coating for seeds made from a friendly fungus that helps corn plants in their earliest growth stages.  Corn crops treated with the new Monsanto-Novozymes microbial -- officially known as Acceleron B-300 SAT -- had better yields than those without the treatment, the companies said in a statement Monday. The product stays on seeds longer and is compatible with other chemical treatments, unlike previous versions. It could be applied to more than 90 million acres (36 million hectares) by 2025.


Hog Prices Join Corn and Wheat at Ten-Year Lows

Farm Doc Daily | Posted on December 7, 2016

It is interesting to be an observer of agricultural price movements. However, for many producers of agricultural commodities, prices are a key driver of their financial wellbeing. Wide ranging price movements over time can vastly alter their financial conditions. It is clear that the financial impacts of price movements affect many agricultural input businesses as well. What can happen to prices of agricultural commodities in a decade, and why look at the last decade? It is because it was 10 years ago in the fall of 2006 that agricultural commodity prices began to head upward in what can be described as a boom/moderation price cycle. Nearby futures prices are used to compare prices over time. Measured this way, prices for wheat, corn and lean hogs in the fall of this year fell to 10-year lows, dating back to 2006 or earlier. Unfortunately, costs of production are not at 10-year lows and this means narrow margins or losses are likely for many producing these commodities.Focusing on lean hog futures prices, the low this fall was on the October 2016 contract at $40.70. The previous time lean hog futures had been this low was in October of 2002. This means lean hog futures in the fall of 2016 were the lowest lead contract price in 14 years. Lean hog futures have recovered somewhat since October, with the lead contract currently trading around $50, a level that is at the lower end of the ten-year range.Cash prices also reflect these multi-year lows. Live prices of hogs for 51 percent to 52 percent carcasses are expected to average about $36.25 in the final quarter of this year. This will be the lowest fourth quarter price since 2002, the lowest cash prices in 14 years, the same as lean hog futures. The current quarter is shaping up to have the worst losses since the first quarter of 2008 when cash corn prices moved above $4 per bushel after many years around $2.


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