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Volume 11, Number 12 - December 2005

This Month in Ag Connection

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Windbreak Planning

This summer I traveled through the prairies of Saskatchewan and noticed extensive use of windbreaks. The winters there are much more harsh than ours, but we still can benefit from use of windbreaks. Heat energy savings of as much as 40 percent are possible from the proper use of a windbreak. Windbreaks also can provide a snow barrier and make it much more comfortable doing your winter chores.

Windbreaks can improve feed efficiency and decrease death loss of cattle in a feedlot. Other benefits can be improvement of landscapes, noise and dust reduction if you are near a road, and wildlife are often attracted to windbreaks.

In advance of planting a windbreak, landowners need to consider what kinds of trees grow well in the area. A mix of deciduous and evergreen trees is needed to make windbreaks effective. Consider the growth rate of the trees and how large they will be at maturity and keep them spaced far enough apart. Some of the windbreaks I saw in Canada last summer had grown together and appeared to almost crowd out the buildings they were protecting. They can become more of a wall and lose their effectiveness. Some silos appeared to be growing out of the trees.

Another consideration is where you need protection. Then, carefully plan the windbreak to give that protection. The effective area of influence is six times the height of the trees. For snow control, windbreaks need to be about one hundred feet from the buildings to keep snow from drifting around the buildings.

Windbreaks are usually U or L shaped. Wind will whip around the ends of the windbreaks so they need to extend past the area to be protected.

Tree windbreak

MU Guide G5900 gives details on planning windbreaks. It can be obtained at your local University of Missouri Extension Center or online at:

(Author: Don Day, Natural Resource Engineer)

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Acceptable Tolerances of Aflatoxin in Corn for Food and Feed Uses

Normally interstate shipment does not allow blended corn. This no-blending policy may be relaxed by the FDA in response to specific state requests in years when drought damaged corn is testing high in aflatoxin. See section immediately following for further information on this.

Present acceptable levels of aflatoxin in corn used for food and feed as established by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are as follows:

  1. Corn containing no more than 20 ppb of aflatoxins when destined for food use by humans, for feed use by immature animals (including immature poultry) and by dairy animals, or its destination is not known.
  2. Corn containing no more than 100 ppb aflatoxins when destined for breeding beef cattle, breeding swine or mature poultry (e.g. laying hens).
  3. Corn containing no more than 200 ppb aflatoxins when destined for finishing swine (e.g. 100 lbs. or greater).
  4. Corn containing no more than 300 ppb aflatoxins when destined for finishing (i.e. feedlot) beef cattle.

Methods of Reducing Aflatoxin in Corn

Several states, including Texas, have implemented state policies that allow ammoniation of corn as well as cottonseed. Corn ammoniated under these specific state policies is prohibited from being distributed in interstate commerce and is subject to labeling and feeding restrictions. This policy is not approved in Missouri.

Another approach to detoxifying aflatoxin contaminated corn is the use of dietary additives which bind aflatoxins and prevent their absorption from the gut. These dietary additives include various clay minerals such as bentonites and hydrated sodium calcium aluminosilicates (HSCA). Research has shown that at a concentration of 0.5% of the diet, the aluminosilicates are very effective at binding aflatoxins and preventing their absorption in both ruminants and nonruminants. These dietary additives are sold as anti-caking agents and their use in detoxifying mycotoxins has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Management Practice to Minimize Aflatoxin Problems in Field Corn

  1. Plant regionally adapted hybrids.
  2. Use a balanced fertility program designed for optimum yields.
  3. Select planting dates appropriate for your area.
  4. Follow recommended management practices to limit damage by ear feeding insects.

  5. Attempt to best utilize your irrigation practices to deliver optimum water from silking stage to late dough stage.
  6. Make adjustments in combine ground speed and cylinder speed to minimize trash and broken kernels in hopper. Aflatoxin is often associated with broken or light weight kernels.
  7. If drought has occurred during the season, consider harvesting irrigated or high yielding fields separately from dryland or poor yielding fields.
  8. Begin corn harvest when grain moisture is about 24% and dry the grain to 15% moisture within 24 hours or as soon as possible.
  9. Corn which collects in auger wells and pits around dump stations frequently contains the mold or aflatoxin. Thoroughly clean all such areas before and after use. Remove leftover grain from trucks, trailers, holding bins, drying facilities and storage bins before beginning a new lot of grain.

Management Practices to Minimize Aflatoxin Problems in Stored Corn

  1. Thoroughly clean bins, areas around bins and all grain handling equipment before putting any grain in storage.
  2. Clean grain going into storage to remove light weight and broken kernels as well as foreign material and fines.
  3. Moisture content is by far the most important factor affecting the growth of microorganism in stored corn. After harvest, corn should be dried to 15% moisture content within 24 hours. Grain going into long term storage should be dried to 13% moisture.
  4. Aerate grain to safe and equalized temperatures through the grain mass.
  5. Protect grain from insects.
  6. Check stored grain on regular basis and aerate as needed to maintain low moisture and proper temperature.

(Author: K. C. Olson, Commercial Ag. Program)

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Bio-Diesel Plant Promises Increased Soybean Demand

The ground breaking in October for a soy-diesel plant at Mexico was the next logical step in bringing bio-diesel to Mid-Missouri. The University of Missouri-Columbia has been an integral part in many of the first studies conducted on soybean mixed bio-diesel since the early 1990's. The studies have shown that bio-diesel burns cleaner, has higher lubricity than regular diesel fuel, and can be used without any engine modifications. Several Missouri producers have used soy-diesel in their farm equipment and have been very happy with how the product has performed.

The two most widely used forms of soy-diesel, include B-2 (2% blend) and B-20 (20% blend). Users of bio-diesel need to get used to the smell of french fries cooking because this is what the soy-diesel blended fuels (particularly B-20) smell like when they are burning. However, this is much better than the regular stench of diesel fuel that folks complain about, plus, there isn't any nasty black smoke coming out from the engines exhaust pipes. Soy-diesel is a much cleaner burning fuel and doesn't have the pollution and black soot normally associated with using regular diesel fuel.

Soy-diesel is priced higher than regular diesel, and in these times of increased fuel prices it might turn some folks away from purchasing soy-diesel. However, diesel consumers need to look at the bigger picture, which is that the more people use soy-diesel, the less dependence we have on foreign oil.

MFA Oil and Ray/Carroll Coop will offer soy-diesel in more widespread locations in the coming months. Partners for the soy-diesel plant include ADM, MFA Oil, Ray/Carroll Coop, Growmark, University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Producers and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

For more information or questions regarding the use of soy-diesel, contact MU Extension Natural Resource Engineer Specialist, Don Day in the Boone County Extension Office at (573) 445-9792.

See UMC Guide G1990, Biodiesel Fuel:

(Author: Wendy Flatt, Livestock Specialist)

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Crop Insurance Considerations for 2006

Crop insurance is a tool that can be used to manage the risk of growing crops in Missouri. We have seen wide variations in yields caused by weather this past growing season in Central Missouri. This winter is an opportunity to study the different crop insurance alternatives and decide which best fits your own farm situation. The types of insurance varies by county. For a complete listing by county see:

There are basically two types of insurance: Those based upon yields and those based upon revenue.

Yield insurance makes payments when yield falls below a yield guarantee. The types available in Central Missouri include:

  1. Group Risk Plan (GRP) - pays farmers when the county yield falls below a chosen percentage of historical county yields. This allows a farmer to get an indemnity when county yields are poor, even if his/her own yield was good. Conversely, it does not pay an indemnity for poor production if the county average was above the guarantee. GRP is a plan that is dependent on an individual's yield being highly correlated with the county average yield. The trigger yield can be selected as 70% to 90% of the county average, in 5% increments.

  2. Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) - pays when an individual's yield falls below a yield guarantee. MPCI allows farmers to insure a certain percentage of actual production history (APH) at a certain price. APH is the average of the last 10 years of production. Farmers can choose to insure from 50% to 85% of their APH. At the time of purchase, farmers also choose a price in the range of 55% to 100% of the USDA established price. The USDA sets the established price in the spring.

    For example, if a farmer has an APH of 120 bushels of corn and chose 70% coverage, he would be paid by the insurance company for any yield less than 84 bushels per acre. The price received for the shortfall is the price selected at the time the insurance was purchased.

    Catastrophic coverage is the minimum MPCI available. It covers 50% of APH and 55% of the established price. For this coverage the farmer pays only an administration fee of $100 per crop per county and the federal government pays the entire premium.

Revenue insurance pays when revenue falls below a guarantee. The alternatives for Central Missouri include:

  1. Crop Revenue Coverage (CRC) - pays when gross revenue falls below a revenue guarantee. When purchasing CRC the farmer first selects a coverage level for the crop to be insured. Farmers can choose coverage levels from 50% to 85% in 5% increments.

    Futures market prices are used in calculating the farmer's revenue and indemnity. The base market price for corn is the monthly average of the Chicago Board of Trade December new-crop corn futures prices during the month of February. For soybeans, the average monthly futures price of the November contract sets the base market price. The harvest market price for corn is the average December futures contract price during November; for soybeans it is the average November futures contract price during October.

    The revenue guarantee is calculated as the APH times the coverage level chosen times the higher of either the base market price or the harvest market price. An indemnity payment from the insurance company is triggered when the farmer's revenue (actual yield times harvest market price or base market price) falls below the guarantee. Because the higher of either the base or harvest price is used, an indemnity can be paid with normal yields if the harvest market price decreases sufficiently.

  2. Revenue Assurance (RA) - pays when gross revenue falls below a revenue guarantee.

    Revenue Assurance policies are similar to Crop Revenue Coverage policies except that the producer must choose a base price option or a harvest price option. The harvest price option is more expensive than the base price option. With a base price option, the producer's price guarantee is determined by the February futures price. Regardless of what the market does, the price is fixed. With a harvest price option, the producer can get a higher price if the market price moves up from February to harvest time. RA and CRC differ in the units that they can insure and the maximum increase in the revenue guarantee (RA does not have a maximum while CRC does).

  3. Group Risk Income Protection Plan (GRIP) - pays when county revenue falls below a county revenue guarantee. The revenue guarantee equals expected county revenue times a farmer-chosen coverage level.

    The Group Risk Income Protection Plan is somewhat similar to GRP, but it is based upon expected county revenue rather than expected county yield.

    Both GRP and GRIP provide "reasonable" protection for drought, freeze, and excess moisture. However, GRP and GRIP do not provide reasonable protection for hail, flood, prevented planting, replant, quality loss adjustment, or any other spot losses.

    The simplest description of GRP is that it is a "put option" on expected county yield. The GRIP contract is a "put option" on expected county revenue. Like a price option the grower carries the basis risk, which is the difference between the percent county yield loss and the percent farm level yield loss.

All the options mentioned above are not available for all crops. It varies by county and crop. Risk Management Agency is still making minor changes to the 2006 offerings. For more details contact your local insurance agent.

(Author: Mary Sobba, Ag Business Specialist)

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Publishing Information

Ag Connection is published monthly for Central Missouri Region producers and is supported by University of Missouri Extension, the Commercial Agriculture program, the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. Managing Editor: Kent Shannon.