Agriculture news from week 30

USA and Canada

South Dakota State University research station manager eyes temps for cereal crops

SOUTH SHORE, S.D. — Cereal crops are looking good for now in northeast South Dakota, but researchers and farmers are crossing their fingers that they won’t be harmed by hot spells that have been coming during critical head-filling weeks.

Al Heuer, station manager at the Northeast Research Farm at South Shore, South Dakota, stopped his work on July 20, 2022, for a visit with the Agweek Cereal Crop Tour. The experiment station held its annual field day on July 14, 2022, said that was a general trend for several counties around.

The Northeast Experiment Station is northeast South Dakota’s primary cereal development station, where new varieties are for yield, protein, test weight and protein. Heuer said the farm has about 130 acres of crop research, of which about two-thirds is cereal grains. The primary work is in breeding and crop performance for oats and wheat — primarily spring wheat. (About one-third is in corn and soybean work.)

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On-time planting and timely rains give central North Dakota wheat ‘best potentials we’ve ever seen’

WILTON, N.D. — It wouldn’t have taken much for 2022 spring wheat in central North Dakota to beat the 2021 crop.

“Well, last year’s crop — there wasn’t one, right?” said Jamie Schurhamer, agronomy manager at Hefty Seeds in Wilton, said. Most of the wheat and corn in the area was hayed rather than combined as drought stress limited growth and yield.

Schurhamer, speaking on the Agweek Cereals Crop Tour on July 21, said there were early concerns that 2022 could shape up to be like 2021. But widespread snow in the area eased some concerns.

Then, farmers in central North Dakota generally got their wheat planted on time rather than late as was the case in many parts of the region. Timely rains followed and Schurhamer thinks the crops have “probably the best potentials we’ve ever seen.”

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The heat is on at a key time in soybean development, and that’s pushing the markets up

Forecasts in important soybean growing areas are for hot, dry conditions in August — right as pollination in soybeans hits its stride. That’s trimming yield potential and driving the markets higher, Don Wick of Red River Farm Network and Randy Martinson of Martinson Ag Risk Management said on this week’s Agweek Market Wrap.

Soybeans were up more than $2 for August contract this week, Martinson said. And that support spilled over into other commodities, namely corn. He explained that tight supplies mean any concerns are going to push the markets higher.

“World supplies are tight for all of the commodities and it just enhances the need to get a good crop in the U.S.,” he said.

The Wheat Quality Council’s spring wheat tour went through North Dakota and into surrounding states this week, and Martinson summed up the reactions to the potential yields as, “Wow!”

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Sprayer shot with Close Up Photo
Texas Grower Puts John Deere’s See and Spray Technology to the Test

Like most growers, Sam Sparks has dealt with high input costs and herbicide shortages when weed control is critical to his row crop operation. That’s why he’s not afraid to trust artificial intelligence (AI) to cut herbicide usage and improve post-emerge weed management on his Mercedes, Texas farm.

In test trials on his 2021 cotton crop, Sparks says he was able to cut herbicide treatments by up to 80% using John Deere’s See & Spray Ultimate AI technology. He saw similar results this summer and enjoyed huge savings in herbicide costs and better weed control. He also feels there is a reduced chance for weed resistance, less labor required and an opportunity to improve soil health.

John Deere intends to have See & Spray Ultimate commercially available this year. Sparks plans to continue to use the system’s targeted in-crop-spraying technology on his 10,000-acre operation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

About 5,000 of his acres are in cotton this year with the remainder in corn, sorghum and soybeans. Most crops depend on supplemental water using furrow irrigation fed from wells and the Rio Grande.

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Australi grain
Canadian Market Holding Gains, Headed For Firm Close

New Zealand

Labour shortages continue on North Canterbury farms

North Canterbury dairy farms and agricultural contractors continue to face labour shortages as the new season gets under way.

Changes to the Visa application process and the opening of the border in recent months have been welcomed, but Covid is still having an impact, Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Caroline Aymes said.

‘‘The talent is still there, but we don’t have the students coming into the country for working holidays.

‘‘It’s still really challenging and I know of quite a few farms who have roles open.’’

She said the higher level roles were being filled, but there were still vacancies for farm assistants and machinery operators.

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Butter, steak and lamb now cheaper in NZ than UK 

Kiwi expats love to grumble about how much cheaper it is to fill a trolley in the UK.

While once their grizzling was firmly rooted in truth, lately the price differences have become much less stark and, in the case of some favourite foods, New Zealand now offers a better deal.

Until recently, the UK had relatively low food prices, thanks to fierce competition in the grocery sector, easy access to European produce, and government subsidies paid to farmers.

But inflation has skyrocketed post-Brexit, -pandemic and -Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Food prices rose almost 10% in the 12 months to June and experts have warned the UK’s “golden era” of cheap food is over.

According to retail research firm Assosia, a basket of staples including instant coffee, pasta, baked beans and eggs now costs 13% more than a year ago.

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Less meat, fewer veges: How the cost of living is changing our diet 

New Zealanders are spending much more on food than a year ago but what they are buying and eating has changed.

A survey by Rabobank and food rescue organisation KiwiHarvest found significant changes in New Zealanders’ food habits, including fewer people getting their “five-plus a day” of fruit and vegetables and less meat making its way on to plates.

Rabobank head of sustainable business development Blake Holgate said 40% of households said they were spending more than $200 per week on food, up from 35% last year.

“At the top end, the number of Kiwi households saying they spend more than $300 per week jumped to 15%, from 12% last year, while at the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of households spending less than $100 per week has dropped to just 11% from 14%.

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Dairy farm effluent compliance tops 93% in Tasman district 

Inspections of all 121 active dairy farms in Tasman district have found 93% were fully compliant for effluent management.

It’s the eighth season in a row full compliance has topped 90% in the district. The 93% result in 2021-22 follows a finding that all but two of the then 124 farms were fully compliant in 2020-21a near-perfect result in 2019-20 and a 95 per cent compliance rate in 2018-19.

“They are very pleasing results,” said councillor Chris Hill, chairperson of the Tasman District Council regulatory committee, which received a staff report on the matter.

Farmers were clearly putting a lot of investment into infrastructure and a lot of work into “getting it right” to achieve such consistently high results.

“That’s a nod to them,” Hill said.

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Seven new varieties of wheat classified for 2022-23

SEVEN new varieties of wheat have been classified as part of the 2022-23 Wheat Variety Master List, including six Premium Hard milling varieties and one Durum variety. In addition, two new feed varieties have been introduced.

Grains Australia general manager, classification Megan Sheehy said the release of the 2023-23 Wheat Variety Master List was the continuation of crucial work to improve the competitiveness of Australian wheat worldwide and ensure its quality.

“Maintaining a market-driven variety classification system for wheat that delivers for customers and producers is a core focus for Grains Australia following our integration with Wheat Quality Australia earlier this year,” Dr Sheehy said.

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AOF pegs canola crop at 5.5Mt from record area

EXPECTATIONS remain for Australian canola production to exceed the five-year average of 3.7 million tonnes (Mt) with its second-biggest crop on record of 5.5Mt, according to the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) July Crop Report.

At 3.425 million hectares (Mha) sown, this season represents the largest area sown to canola on record, up 455,000ha on the 2020-21 area which produced a record 6.3Mt.

Above-average rainfall has continued across large parts of New South Wales in the four months to June, impacting planting and establishment in some areas, while more average rainfall has been recorded in Victoria, South Australia  and Western Australia.

Wetter-than-average conditions are expected to continue throughout winter and into spring for much of south-eastern Australia and patches of south-east WA, creating a strong outlook for regions with good plant populations.

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Sunflower appeal grows despite crushing void

SUNFLOWERS are defying the handicap of a domestic market devoid of a large-scale crusher to attract renewed interest from growers looking for a summer-cropping option with agronomic benefits.

While domestic sunflower demand is currently confined to use for birdseed, horse feed and specialist human-consumption markets, signs are afoot that monounsaturated sunflower oil will again be produced in volume in eastern Australia in the next two years.

Industry sources say price and supply-chain shocks delivered by first COVID, then the drought-reduced Canadian canola crop, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine war have sparked an interest from Australia’s sunflower-oil users and wholesalers in switching into a domestic supply.

Australia’s sunseed-crushing capacity has fallen from more than 100,000 tonnes to almost nothing since 1990, but the big seed looks like it is on the comeback trail as growers, agronomists and potentially crushers show it more love than it has so far seen this century.

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Gene for deeper roots a plus for wheat, barley

RESEARCHERS have discovered a new gene in barley and wheat that controls the angle of root growth in soil, opening the door to new cereal varieties with deeper roots that are less susceptible to drought and nutrient stress, thus mitigating the effects of climate change.

University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine researcher Dr Haoyu (Mia) Lou was joint first author on the study.

Working alongside scientists from the UK, Italy, Germany and the US,  the team identified a new gene called Enhanced Gravitropism 1 (EGT1) in barley.

“We have found that mutants lacking function of the EGT1 gene exhibit a steeper growth angle in all classes of roots,” Dr Lou said.

“Remarkably, the roots behave as if they are overly sensitive to gravity – they are unable to grow outwards from the plant, and instead grow straight down.”

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South America

Argentine wheat crops
Despite the political upheaval, Argentine farmers are expecting plentiful corn and wheat crops

Despite the political upheaval in Argentina, which seems to have temporarily quietened, whether preparing for an even worse storm, or heading for a reasonable path of rationality yet to be seen, the country one of the world’s most efficient breadbasket, is again managing extraordinary crops of corn and wheat.

In effect according to the Rosario Stock Exchange’s Strategic Guide for Agriculture, foreign sales of the coming 2022/23 corn season already reached a record six million tons, the largest in recent grains history.

This even when the next season has been imposed a marketing limit of ten million tons to ensure domestic demand supply and prices.

Meantime the 2021/22 corn harvest has totaled exports of 28,5 million tons, out of a production plus stocks estimated at 53 million tons. This volume exceeds the 53,7% of last year and the 43,2% average of the last five seasons.

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brazil fertilizer
“Brazil needs fertilizers to help feed the world, we can’t condemn Russia” admits Bolsonaro

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro reiterated his opposition to economic sanctions against Russia and described the Brazilian government’s position in the Ukrainian conflict as one of “equilibrium” since Brazil needs a steady supply of Russian fertilizers for its powerful agribusiness sector.

 “We are not going to adhere to sanctions against Russia. We will continue with our equilibrium position because without that delicate equilibrium, in this issue today we would not have fertilizers for are agriculture,” underscored Bolsonaro.

This was the position made public by the Brazilian leader during his participation and speech at the “Global Agribusiness Forum 2022” held in Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro insisted on the decision to have trade links with Russia to ensure the production of cereals, oilseeds and other food commodities, “without fertilizers the food production guarantee would be threatened, and likewise the lives of a billion people in our world”.

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Argentine Central Bank creates “agrodollar” to boost export liquidations

Argentina’s monetary authorities Tuesday announced the creation of the “agrodollar,” a special exchange rate for agrifood exporters to liquidate their revenues through formal channels at an exchange rate closer to the parallel (“blue”) quotation.

The new scheme will become available until August 31 to cover the foreign exchange gap, Central Bank (BCRA) CEO Miguel Pesce explained.

The new financial instrument seeks to persuade agricultural producers to sell their soybean harvest, and be eligible for benefits similar to those granted to the manufacturing, energy, and knowledge industries.

According to the BCRA, the new mechanism “will allow producers to make a demand deposit in financial entities with a daily variable remuneration depending on the evolution of the A3500 exchange rate, known as Dólar Link, for up to 70% of the value of the sale of grains.”

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Chilean Kiwifruit Exports Down 12% This Season

According to the latest report from the Chilean Kiwifruit Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX), overall kiwifruit production in the Southern Hemisphere is expected to decrease this season. In the case of Chile, production is forecast to drop by 10%, with exports estimated to total 140,000 metric tons.

So far this season, Chile has exported just over 88,000 metric tons of kiwifruit, a decrease of 12% with respect to the same period of last year. Europe (33%) has been the largest market for these exports to date, followed by Latin America (20%), North America (20%) and Asia (17%). The United States continues to be the largest single importer of Chilean kiwifruit at 14,100 metric tons, followed by the Netherlands (12,700 metric tons) and India (10,100 metric tons). Compared with 2021, imports by major importing countries have declined across the board.

The Chilean Kiwifruit Committee noted that early-season demand for kiwifruit is currently low owing to high levels of supply available on the market. Coupled with global logistical issues and extended transit times, the availability and proper storage of high-quality fruit has become even more critical.

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Food Updates

Why do humans drink animal milk?

Milk and dairy products are so ubiquitous in our industry, it’s easy to forget that humans are in fact the only species that drink the milk of another.

So, why do we enjoy literally billions of litres of milk each year? Until now, it was widely assumed that lactose tolerance emerged because it allowed people to consume more milk and dairy products. But new research, led by scientists from the University of Bristol and University College London (UCL) alongside collaborators from 20 other countries, shows that famine and exposure to infectious disease best explains the evolution of our ability to consume milk and other non-fermented dairy products.

While most European adults today can drink milk without discomfort, two thirds of adults in the world today, and almost all adults 5,000 years ago, can face problems if they drink too much milk. This is because milk contains lactose, and if we don’t digest this unique sugar, it will travel to our large intestine where it can cause cramps, diarrhoea, and flatulence; known as lactose intolerance. However, this new research suggests that in the UK today these effects are rare.

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Twitter analysis suggests diets improved during pandemic

Interesting research from Boston University suggests that diets improved in most US states during the pandmeic, and has identified a link between neighbourhood and the healthiness of diet.

More salad and apples, less fast food and sweet treats. 

Those are just a couple of the dietary changes that people appeared to make during the first year of the pandemic, according to a new study led by Boston University’s School of Public Health researchers.

The widespread lockdowns and restaurant closures of 2020 drastically altered daily routines and changed how people accessed food and alcohol, but an analysis of tweets during the COVID-19 pandemic suggest that some people may have chosen to forego the baking frenzy and embrace healthier eating habits—depending on their neighbourhood environment.

Read more here

food consumption
USDA announces scheme to aid Californian consumers and producers

The USDA has revealed the scope of the new scheme, which will award up to $400 million worth of non-competitive contracts to local producers to help ease food insecurity in California.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a new scheme in California, which it hopes will provide more affordable food to those who need while also providing stability and consistency for some farmers in the state.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) with California during a visit to a food bank in the city of Woodland. The LFPA is a programme authorised through the President’s American Rescue Plan, which the USDA claims has invested $400 million to make food more affordable for more Americans and help stabilise agricultural supply chains.

Through LFPA, the California Department of Social Services will purchase and distribute locally grown, produced, and processed food from underserved producers.

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innovation in food
Cargill and partners launch LATAM innovation hub in Brazil

The new innovation hub will give the chance for manufacturers to use the very latest technology to develop sustainable solutions for a world which will be more and more in need for them in the future.

Three leading global manufacturing companies, Givaudan, Bühler, and Cargill, have formed a consortium in collaboration with the Food Tech Hub LATAM and the Food Technology Institute (ITAL), to build a food innovation centre in the city of Campinas, a city nicknamed Brazil’s Silicon Valley on account of the technology firms based in the Sao Paulo state city.

The “Tropical Food Innovation Lab” will be located at ITAL in a fully refurbished, 1,300 square meter area. The parties involved hope the lab will become the go-to place in Latin America to connect and develop sustainable, future food and beverage products. Start-ups, companies, investors, universities and research institutions will have direct access to high-end technologies for rapid prototyping and plugging into the global food tech ecosystem that will foster fast paced innovation in the food and beverage sector.

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tik tok food brand
Children could be unknowingly marketing unhealthy brands on TikTok

Are TikTok users, especially children, unwittingly becoming brand ambassadors for unhealthy food and beverage products? Researchers behind a new BMJ study think so.

Could unhealthy food and beverage brands be encouraging TikTok users to market their products for them—effectively turning them into ‘brand ambassadors’? That’s the findings of new research published in BMJ Global Health, which has pointed to holes in proposed UK legislation which might allow brands to use individuals to market their products, potentially putting children at risk.

TikTok users create, post, watch and engage with short videos. Since its global release, TikTok’s popularity has rapidly increased: its global monthly active users reportedly rose from 55 million in January 2018 to one billion in September 2021.

It is also very popular with children: more than a third of its daily users in the US are reportedly aged 14 or younger.