AgFax Grain Review: U.S. Imports Organic Corn, Soybeans; “Accidentally” Improving Corn Roots

Markets/Trade

  • Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg reports on St. Louis Today that growing consumer demand for organic foods has the U.S. importing more of the 2 things it grows the most: corn and soybeans. Romanian corn and Indian soybeans are being shipped to the U.S. to fill organic market demand due to the predominance of GMO crops in the States. The plus side is this is effectively a “Help Wanted” sign for growers willing to take the organic challenge with ready demand from organic feed operations.
  • Reuters reports that China is considering increasing state subsidies to corn processors in an attempt to bolster the industry and stimulate consumption. The government’s corn stockpiling program raised domestic prices to levels that made processing facilities unable to run without losses, shutting down many facilities and causing a 5% drop in domestic consumption. Without government aid, more processing facilities will shut down.
  • Tshepiso Mokhema and Andre Janse Van Vuuren report for Bloomberg that despite the nation’s worst drought in 22 years and possible transportation constraints, South Africa is seeking to expand its corn exports. The country is looking to increase its share in the global market, particularly to the Middle East and Asia after signing a supply agreement with China in December. Following a crop surplus in 2010, the country increased market sourcing to Italy, Mexico, and South Korea.

Production

  • Chuck Gill of Penn State University reports on Futurity.org that while corn breeding has always focused on increasing yields, “A lot of research has focused on the shoots of maize plants, such as the direction of the leaves and how they capture light, or how the plants divide matter into ears and kernels.” What breeding programs haven’t paid much attention to is root development and how changes in root structures can affect yields. A new study has shown that breeding for increased plant populations and the increase in nitrogen use has “accidentally” developed hardier, more complex and more efficient root systems. Further research could help breeders select for root traits to better improve new varieties to cope with climate change and other environmental issues.

On the Lighter Side

  • Liz Core writes for Grist.org that although Iowa seems to have been engineered into a corn and soybean production facility, the number of actual farmers has dropped from over 200,000 in 1950 to just over 80,000 in 2012. Many people outside the ag industry demonize large scale commodity farmers as evil, but Liz took some time to talk to and get to know a number of the farm families behind those massive fields and share their stories. As she says, “Monocultures and ethanol aren’t exactly healthy for the planet. But all of the farming families I talked to expressed a deep respect for the land and the desire to take good care of it for the next generation.”

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