Field & Feedlot

Field & Feedlot is a monthly newsletter of current educational topics written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach specialists in Northwest Iowa.
July 2018

Exports, Trade Disputes and Decision Making by Gary Wright

Is this the Year to Spray Fungicides? by Joel DeJong

Corn Silage Clinic to be August 28 by Beth Doran & Fred Hall

Archived Issues


Exports, Trade Disputes and Decision Making

Gary Wright, Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist

Almost each day we are updated on the status of US trade negotiations, whether relationships with China, Mexico, Canada or other world trading partners. Because of the fast-paced nature of these discussions, this report is not well-suited to report an update, as it would likely be outdated, almost as fast as it penned. But, let’s review the current status of our Ag Exports to more fully understand the significance to these ongoing trade treaty negotiations; and then offer a better decision-making plan.

American Ag has been incredibly efficient, and US producers need to receive a hearty thank you! This robust work has been the recipient of a strong Ag trade balance for several years. For 2016 (reference: USDA Foreign Agricultural Service) this represented the following:

  • Overall – greater than 20 percent of total US agricultural production is annually exported;
  • Soybeans – nearly one of every two acres (50%) is exported;
  • Corn – 15 percent is exported;
  • Pork – 20 percent is exported, leading the way among proteins, e.g. poultry and dairy (15%) and beef (10%)
  • Outside of generally considered NW Iowa Ag some enterprises are even stronger overall, e.g. tree nuts and cotton (> 70%), wheat and rice (>50%), etc.

As world standards of living improve, value-added Ag from American producers will benefit. It is important to note that among the top five in projected income growth are China and Mexico, two countries that are commonly mentioned in trade negotiations. Overall pork and beef export percentage shifts are both led by import increases to South Korea, a fairly recent gain for US trade negotiations (KORUS). As with proteins, corn and soybean percentage shifts show Mexico and Canada on the short list of gains. Finally, in light of all the E15 ethanol blending domestic discussions, total ethanol exports since 2010 have increased from near-zero to just short of 240 million gallons (conversion assumption: 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn).

As I have reviewed in the past, to be most effective, requires spending more time in our “circle of influence,” as outlined more fully by the late Stephen Covey. These earlier trade facts are offered to better understand what we hear and read; however it is best to NOT rest in this “circle of concern,” waiting and worrying about the unknowns. Proactive better management results will have us focus on marketing. Research shows better marketing happens from (a) first, a thorough understanding of your operations’ breakeven, based upon accurate, and updated records; followed by (b) a well-defined marketing plan, first prepared, and then followed. Please contact me, if you would like to discuss further operating break-evens or marketing. In the meantime, always remember the support of Ag Decision Maker ( when analyzing your operation.  

We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming August 1-15 offerings of the Annual Farmland Leasing and Value sessions in Northwest Iowa. Please call me or your local ISU Extension and Outreach county office to register in advance (and, save you $5!). Be safe!

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Is this the Year to Spray Fungicide?

Joel DeJong, Field Agronomist

“Should we apply a fungicide?” We get that question every year, and it isn’t an easy one to answer. As of this writing, the crop is doing well and the moisture availability is good. By the time you read it, the conditions might have changed. Fungicide application decisions are tough to make, and even with the best information for each acre, results will vary widely.

Iowa State University (and many other universities across the Midwest), agribusinesses and growers have all been conducting hundreds of replicated plots, strip trials and side-by-side comparisons in attempts to determine the profitability of fungicide applications to corn and soybeans. What do field trials show? Interestingly, the results mirror what growers see--a wide range of yield responses. On-farm projects in Northwest Iowa show a pretty typical positive response to using fungicides, but a majority don’t return enough yield to pay for the application cost – while others show a nice return to investment. If you would like to read some additional ISU information on responses, go to the ISU ICM News website,, and search for “corn fungicides.” You will find many articles over the years about this topic. So rather than share a bunch of yield data from past trials, it might be more helpful to share some “guidelines” that all this work has helped to fine-tune for when we can expect the best return from fungicides. I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but field experience blended with many conversations with agronomists, researchers and growers have given me some perspective.

Most everyone agrees the number-one factor affecting the odds of fungicide application profitability is management of common diseases. If crop diseases are present, yield responses to applications are typically higher on hybrids/varieties that have low disease resistance scores. If disease levels are high enough, genetics with solid disease resistance may respond well, too.

Warm, humid conditions around the time of grain fill favor the development of diseases. Crop history and crop residue levels can contribute, too; several pathogens that survive in corn and/or soybean residue, corn-on-corn and other high-residue systems can increase disease levels. Geography can also influence disease. For example, southeast Iowa tends to be warmer and more humid than much of the state and historically has had higher levels of many diseases. While sometimes we see fungicide applications increase yields in fields with low disease pressure, increasing disease pressure is a better indicator to the potential profitability of treating.

Application timing can influence the odds of a positive return. Combining label recommendations and field observations is critical. If applied too early, the residual effects of the product may be gone as diseases set in. If applied too late, it may not effectively control the diseases already established.

Most agronomists agree that the full tassel stage (VT) through blister stage (R2) for corn, and around R2 to R4 in soybeans are the optimum windows if a fungicide is needed.

Key factors to consider

Fungicide applications can do a great job of disease control. The tough part is factoring in weather conditions, genetics, your cropping system and potential disease pressure. Here are recommendations based on what we’ve seen the last several seasons:

  • In corn, consider treating if disease is present on the third leaf below the ear leaf (or higher) on 50% of plants prior to tasseling. In soybeans, we typically pull the trigger on diseases when they move above the bottom third of the canopy.
  • Scout genetics with moderate to low disease resistance more intensively. Also, scout more often if the weather’s warm and humid and if rainy weather is present or predicted for July and August.
  • Watch corn-on-corn, beans-on-beans and any high-residue fields closely. Keep a close eye on any fields with a history of disease issues. Late-planted crops are often more susceptible to foliar diseases. Narrow rows can limit air movement, retain moisture and potentially harbor more disease pressure.
  • Confirm that the fungicide is labeled to control the diseases present--remember that bacterial diseases (like Goss’s Wilt in corn) are not controlled by fungicides, and some fungal pathogens (such as Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans) are beyond the reach of our foliar applied fungicides.
  • Use proper application timing and additives. We occasionally see crop injury stemming from mistakes in these areas. Apply labeled rates--we already have confirmed disease resistance to strobilurins in the Midwest; cutting rates can only make the problem worse.
  • Results tend to be better in wetter years than in dry years. If we remain on the wet side of things, watch your fields closely.

“Should we apply a fungicide?” You are right--I still didn’t give a direct answer to that question. But with your field information, the criteria above and some discussions with your local agronomists--you can make great decisions for your operation.

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Corn Silage Clinic to be August 28

Beth Doran, Beef Program Specialist

Fred Hall, Dairy Program Specialist

Northwest Iowa beef and dairy producers depend on quality corn silage to build profitable rations. But, quality corn silage doesn’t just happen. It involves planning and management – from the seed to the bunk. 

This is the focus of a Northwest Iowa Corn Silage Clinic on August 28 at the Northwest Iowa Research and Demonstration Farm near Sutherland. The clinic will be from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and includes a trade show featuring silage equipment and new products used in putting up quality silage. Participants will also be able to walk through corn silage variety plots and visit with seed company technicians.

Top experts from the upper Midwest will present new information on topics affecting corn silage and earlage quality and economics. 

Topics and speakers include:

  • Agronomic practices impacting corn silage digestion – Dr. Fred Owens, Feedlot Nutrition Specialist
  • Silage and kernel processing equipment – Aaron Ostrander, John Deere Silage Specialist
  • Silage additives and inoculants – Dr. Scott Dennis, Pioneer
  • Evaluating corn silage and earlage: What’s typical – Dr. Dan Loy, ISU Beef Center Director
  • Quality corn silage going in  and coming out – Dr. Hugo Ramirez, ISU State Dairy Specialist
  • Pricing corn silage – Dr. William Edwards, Retired ISU Ag Economist
  • Concurrent sessions – Using corn silage and earlage in beef rations – Dr. Owens or Feeding corn silage and earlage to the dairy cow – Dr. Ramirez

Preregistration is required by August 22 for the meal count and may be made by calling the ISU Extension and Outreach - Sioux County Office at 712-737-4230. Payment ($25 per person) may be made ahead or at the door. 

A flier may be accessed at

For more information, contact Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program specialists, Beth Doran (beef) at or Fred Hall (dairy) at Both may also be reached at 712-737-4230.

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