Agriculture news from week 45

USA and Canada


North American Grain and Oilseed Review: More contract highs for canola

WINNIPEG (MarketsFarm) – Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) canola futures were stronger on Friday as gains back away from another round of new contract highs.

At one point the January contract topped off at C$1,028.90 per tonne, with the March hitting C$997.10.

A trader noted that new crop contracts have pushed well past C$800 per tonne, which he called “phenomenal.” The trader pointed to spec funds as pushing contracts higher.

Support came from increases in European rapeseed and Malaysian palm oil, along with Chicago soybeans and soymeal.

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     Producers might farm-out robotic agricultural tools

Agricultural robots have opened the door for more farm operations to be contracted out to service companies. 

The pace of new robotic-based agricultural platforms being developed and tested on North American fields is accelerating, and many of these companies are targeting a service model for their business plan. 

Traditional ag retailers plan to get a piece of this robotic action.

A precision dealer survey by Purdue University that was published this summer found dealers see a big promise for UAVs in the future, both for data gathering and for applications.

In 2021, 14 percent of dealers in the United States offered a service that uses a drone to apply crop inputs, but by 2024, 29 percent of respondents expect to offer this service.

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Alan Blaylock, a senior agronomist at Nutrien, says soils with excessive total salts and those with high exchangeable sodium present the most difficult problems to manage. | Thom Weir photo

Salinity: don’t try to fix it until you understand it

In severe situations, saline soils can cause in-soil working tools to rust. It’s not the biggest salinity cost, but it demonstrates the impact salt has on roots.

That’s how Alan Blaylock began his presentation Soil Salinity and Sodicity during the Nutrien eKonomics event Oct. 15.

Blaylock pointed out that soils with excessive total salts and those with high exchangeable sodium present the most difficult problems to manage.

Sodicity is the presence of a high proportion of sodium ions. Sodicity occurs when sodium salts leach through the soil and some sodium remains bound to clay particles, thus displacing other cations. Soils are considered sodic when the amount of sodium impacts soil structure.

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shipping grain

Weekly grain movement: Soy prices rise on bullish export data

Soybean export shipments were the star of this week’s Export Sales report from USDA, rising 10% above last week’s marketing year high to 97.4 million bushels for the week ending November 4. It marked the highest weekly shipping volume on record for the 2021/22 marketing year and was the largest weekly soybean export shipment volume since the week ending Dec. 3, 2020.

Chicago soybean futures had been trading at a $0.01-$0.03/bushel loss in the moments leading up to the report’s release. In the aftermath, soybean futures rose $0.02-$0.03/bushel on the prospect of improving shipping volumes.

China was the top destination for U.S. soybeans last week, with nearly 85.9 million bushels, or 63% of the weekly total, shipped to the world’s second largest economy. Germany (11.4M bu.) and Egypt (5.2M bu.) rounded out the top three for the week.

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weed crops

Weed Wars: Laser Beam Technology May Fundamentally Change Farming

A raised rectangular vehicle, slightly smaller than a compact sedan, rolls across farmland and shoots concentrated bursts of infrared light into the rows. Audible crackles and pops rise above the furrows, followed by the distinct smell of burning vegetation as weeds smolder beside unscathed crops.

Technology enabling farmers to blast weeds with pinpoint lasers would be a fundamental, transformative moment of change for agriculture, akin to the advent of the gin, tractor, or combine. Paul Mikesell believes the moment has arrived, carried into fields by the Autonomous LaserWeeder.

According to Mikesell, founder and CEO of Carbon Robotics, the unmanned Autonomous LaserWeeder covers 15-20 acres per day and kills 100,000 weeds per hour, delivered from eight lasers beneath its undercarriage. 

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New Zealand


Farming must adapt says Leaderbrand chief after crops damaged in flood

Farming practices have to change to adapt to increasingly volatile weather, says Leaderbrand chief executive Richard Burke​​.

The Gisborne flood last week damaged Leaderbrand crops, that were due to soon be covered by a mega-greenhouse. The unfortunate timing has left the company mopping up and assessing damage to its spinach, rocket and corn crops. Burke said there could be supply gaps early next year for corn.

Some areas around Tairāwhiti Gisborne received more than 200 millimetres of rain on Thursday – almost three times the average for November.

“This was not the worst storm we’ve seen but weather events such as last week’s deluge of rain are becoming more frequent as the country’s climate continues to be impacted.

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NZ cheese

South Taranaki cheeses please judges at international awards

Taranaki-made cheeses have helped Fonterra scoop a swathe of medals and trophies at a prestigious international cheese competition.

The co-op picked up a total of eight gold medals, eight silvers and eight bronzes at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards, in Staffordshire in the United Kingdom, in late October, communications manager Grant Elliott said.

Of the awards, 14 were for cheeses made at Eltham and one at Whareroa.

The standout wins were five trophies, two of them going to Kāpiti’s Kahurangi Creamy Blue (the Reserve Supreme Champion Overseas Cheese and the Capital H Challenge Cup for the Best Soft, Semi Soft or Cream Cheese).

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kiwi NZ

New data tool allows kiwifruit growers to harvest at exactly the right time

A new automated system for testing the quality and maturity of kiwifruit will tell growers the optimal time to harvest.

If fruit was harvested at the right moment, it would better survive shipping and get to market looking and tasting great, Zespri chief digital officer Dave Scullin​ said.

Zespri worked with the data, analytics and AI arm of Spark, called Qrious, to develop the system.

Kiwifruit matured at different rates, depending on the soil it was grown in, ground aspect and wind and frost exposure. Zespri had a process in place to assess fruit readiness in particular areas of an orchard, but had outgrown the system and needed to develop a replacement for the upcoming season, he said.

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Livestock farmers may get a good boost in income and improve environmental outcomes by integrating some horticulture into their operations

This week I have an interview I did a while back with Brent Clothier who is the principal scientist at Plant and Food Research. He fills me in on some of the work he has done around integrating horticulture into sheep and beef farming systems in the North Canterbury region.

Plant & Food Research carried out a desktop study assessing the suitability of different horticultural and plant-based foods in response to land and weather characteristics in selected areas of North Canterbury. The Suitability Assessment was undertaken for the Post Quake Farming Project, a programme to support the recovery of farming businesses and future land use decisions in the area affected by the Kaikoura Earthquakes.

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Compostable apple sticker deadline could mean more fruit sold in plastic bags – packaging company

For 10 years, Jenkins Freshpac Systems has been working to create a compostable fruit sticker that ticks all the certification boxes, but it’s yet to find a viable solution.

“That’s the million dollar question,” said general manager Jamie Lunam​ when asked when a home compostable solution might be ready. “We’re not looking for the quick fix, we’re looking for the right fix.”

It wasn’t just about making the label compostable, but the ink, adhesive and backing material also had to fit the bill.

“Those are all the pieces that need to be developed, all of which need to be home compostable in order to get the certification,” Lunam explained. “It has to be effectively edible, and then it has to be home compostable.”  

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Australian grain

Local grain keeps rolling out the door

The Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the country’s September international trade data last week.

This completed the national grain export picture for the 2020-21 marketing year, which finished on September 30.

A feature of the 2020-21 grain export program was robust sales in the final three months of the marketing year due to production issues in Russia, Canada and the United States – and quality issues in the European Union.

Exports of wheat, barley, sorghum and canola totaled 36.336 million tonnes for the 12-month period.

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Crops Argentina

Harvest off to a slow start across zones

SLOW – that is the word that farmers around Western Australia are using to describe their harvest progress so far this season.

With two million tonnes having now been delivered into the CBH network, receivals have been ramping up since harvest officially began on September 23.

However ongoing rainfall has been a nuisance for those who have started, while for those who haven’t, it’s further delayed them even getting into a header.

CBH chief operations officer Mick Daw said it had been a relatively early, but slow start to harvest, but that receivals significantly picked up last week.

“While recent rainfall events slowed most growers down, we have started to see the pace of deliveries ramp back up, with about 1,423,000t delivered throughout the last week (until Monday morning),” Mr Daw said.

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A crop of hard red spring wheat seeded to achieve a 34 plant stand, near Milestone, Sask.  |  Michael Raine photo

Red wheat proves its worth against frost

A WHEAT type that appears to be less prone to stem frost.

It sounds too good to be true, but that’s what Cordering farmer Ray Harrington has found after growing red wheat for the past four years.

Mr Harrington, along with his nephew Tim Harrington who has overseen the day-to-day running of the farm for almost a decade, had not grown any type of wheat for many years.

But after being approached by Bunge to give a couple of red varieties a try, the pair decided to have a punt and seeded 40 hectares in 2018 to RGT Accroc (winter wheat) and LRPB Beaufort (spring wheat).

“My first reaction was absolutely not as I had grown white wheat for many years and could never get it to yield within at least half a tonne of barley,” Mr Harrington said.

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Links between grain and meat industries grow closer

RESEARCH commissioned by Agribusiness Australia has found the links between the grains and meat sectors have grown closer in recent years.

The research found Australia’s burgeoning domestic market for grain was largely spurred by demand from the meat sector.

“Domestic demand for grain grew 38 per cent between 2015 and 2019, with the beef and pork industries leading the way in terms of buying more grain,” said Agribusiness Australia chairman Mark Allison.

“Some of this growth was due to the drought and more animals being on feed but this trend has continued since and we’re seeing no let-up in the numbers of animals on feed,” Mr Allison said.

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Wheat prices surge on quality concerns

Milling wheat values surged higher on torrential rain forecast to fall on unharvested wheat crops across southern Queensland and northern NSW in the coming days.

Weather models are forecasting areas around Goondiwindi and along the NSW border could receive upwards of 100mm of rain by the end of the week.

Timing on the forecast rain is jeopardising wheat quality. A week of wet weather could see wheat crops normally used for bread wheat production in Australia and throughout Asia reduced to feed quality, only suitable to feed livestock.

ASX wheat surged higher on the forecast wet weather. ASX east coast milling wheat futures, which are based on APW1 quality, finished the week $22 higher at $352 a tonne as exporters chased sound milling wheat to fulfil existing commitments to overseas buyers.

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South America

GM corn, soybeans and canola are widely grown and consumed, but GM wheat has always been seen in a different light. | File photo

Argentine exporters vow safeguards to keep GM wheat out of shipments

BUENOS AIRES, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Argentine grains exporters have asked the government to identify farmers who are growing drought-resistant genetically modified (GM) wheat, so they can halt sales from those areas until top importer Brazil approves the technology.

Exporters say if any GM wheat is shipped from Argentina, all international sales of the grain may be shunned due to concern about possible cross-contamination from GM to non-GM cargos, given some consumers’ aversion to bread made with GM flour.

Argentine biotech firm Bioceres said in September that 55,000 hectares of its GM drought-resistant HB4 wheat had been planted by farmers in Argentina in what it called “an inventory ramp-up” ahead of “expected pending regulatory approval from Brazil”.

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Chilean cherry exports

Official Projections: Chilean Cherry Exports To Rise in 2021/22

Chile’s exports of fresh cherries for the 2021/22 season are forecast to rise by 9.8% compared to last season, reaching 387,268 tons, according to official projections released on Nov. 10 by the Chilean Cherry Committee of the Chilean Fruit Exporters Association (ASOEX), the member companies of which represent more than 82% of Chile’s cherry exports. Amid this overall rise in export volume, ASOEX expects a modest year-on-year decline in the proportion of cherry exports destined for the China market.

The cherry harvest is already underway in Chile, with exporters having shipped 44,162 boxes of cherries to the world as of Nov. 10, according to ASOEX figures.

“We have started a new cherry export season,” said Ronald Bown, president of ASOEX. “We have prepared ourselves to deliver high-quality and safe fruit to consumers around the world.


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SAO PAULO, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Soybean planting for the 2021/22 season is proceeding at such a fast pace that futures prices for Brazilian soy are falling and making it more competitive against its main rival, the United States, according to experts consulted by Reuters.

Data from consultancy Safras & Mercado show soybean port premiums at Paranagua are 130 cents per bushel for January and 50 cents per bushel for February. Last year, when the start of the harvest was delayed due to lack of rain, the port premium for February soy was 125 cents a bushel.

“Premiums for early 2022 are well in line with a market that will have a harvest in January and will have carryover stocks,” said Safras analyst Luiz Fernando Roque.

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Food Updates

The future of dairy

The dairy industry and market have seen a transformation in recent years, with new plant-based dairy alternative products emerging to cater to consumer tastes. However, rather than having a detrimental effect on the category, milk-based dairy products experienced an increase in sales from €439,239 million in 2019 to €455,939 million in 2021. Sales are expected to continue rising to reach €473,850 million by the end of 2022 worldwide.1

The growth of this market segment presents food and beverage manufacturers with an opportunity to expand their offering or diversify their portfolio, to tap into growing demand for dairy‑based products.

Here, Tara Bane, EMEA Marketing Manager at Glanbia Nutritionals, discusses dairy trends and considers the key buoyant sectors of the market alongside new products that are rising to prominence.


The promise of pea and fava

Although the ‘Green Revolution’ of the ‘60s significantly boosted the food supply and provided millions of people with calorie-rich foods, billions of people, even today, suffer from malnutrition in its two poles: obesity and hunger. There is thus a wide scientific consensus that a dietary shift is crucial to drive our food systems towards being healthier, fairer and more respectful with our planet.1 In this article, we explain why pulses can be part of the solution.

The term pulse refers specifically to any dry legume seed used as human or animal food. Interesting examples include peas and fava beans, which are increasingly receiving attention because of their high nutritional value, affordability, agronomic adaptability and culinary versatility. These benefits therefore make them very attractive food products and also a promising source of nutritious and functional food ingredients.

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Plant based alternative consumption doubled in UK, says survey

The rise in plant-based food consumption was largest amongst younger generations, and women were also more likely to go plant-based than men.

The proportion of UK people reporting eating and drinking plant-based alternative foods such as plant-based milk, vegan sausages and vegetable burgers nearly doubled between 2008–2011 and 2017–2019, according to a new study in Science of the Total Environment.

The study was led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), with partners the University of Oxford. It is believed to be the first analysis of plant-based alternative foods (PBAF) consumption trends in the UK.

Trends from more than 15,000 individuals aged 1.5 years and over were analysed using consumption data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008–20191. 

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UK attitudes towards healthy and sustainable diets

Michelle Patel outlines the results of the Food Standards Agency’s survey around Britain’s stance on health, environmentally friendly food and who should be taking the reins.

People tend not to distinguish between different parts of the machinery of government, they see the world of food more holistically. We strive to understand the consumer interest in food – you can’t do that without considering the consumer interest in sustainability.

When people are confronted with the challenges, they start to interrogate their own consumption patterns and whether these are sustainable in the global context. They begin at home, considering the changes they can make; buying less and wasting less, eating less meat, or re-thinking their purchasing habits (eg, buying out of season). Others prefer not to change and would rather steps be taken to allow them to maintain their current lifestyles.

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plant based dairy

Dairy vs. dairy alternative spreads

There are currently 7.2 million people following a meat-free diet in the UK. This represents a growth of 40 percent over the last 12 months and is predicted to increase to 13 million1 people by the end of 2021, as Brits look to follow vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets.

This growth in plant-based eating has resulted in a 23 percent rise in plant-based dairy alternative sales, with three quarters of those who have tried plant-based dairy alternatives saying they would repurchase.2 In 2020, a report by Mintel supported this finding, revealing that nearly a quarter of Brits were consuming plant-based dairy products, including plant-based spreads. As a result, plant‑based spreads are expected to grow a further three percent across all BSM (butters, spreads and margarines) products.Despite dairy sales also growing by seven percent,4 dairy alternatives are attracting new customers across all subcategories. For example, plant-based dairy milk alternatives have achieved a 10 percent share of its parent category, which in turn has created a decline in milk sales.5

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