JenREES 3/1/21

March is here and it sounds like we’re in for a beautiful week temperature-wise! The following website may be helpful for those wondering about frost layer depth:  https://www.weather.gov/mbrfc/frost. It’s updated on Thursday’s and is saying about 4” now. The snow greatly insulated the soil with the cold temps!

UNL Nitrogen Equation: There’s several ways nitrogen recommendations are figured. Often nitrogen removal from the grain is factored and varies by the entity figuring it from 1.0-1.3 lbs N per bushel of grain. One difference between the UNL equation and soil test labs is that the UNL one takes into account organic matter. Some don’t like this and feel the equation mines nitrogen while the UNL soil scientists feel they’re conservative with the way the remainder of the equation is built.

The UNL N recommendation for corn grain (lb/ac) = [35 + (1.2 × EY) – (8 × NO3-N ppm) – (0.14 × EY × OM) – other N credits] × Priceadj × Timingadj where:

EY = expected yield (bu/ac) which should be about 105% of the five-year yield average
NO3-N ppm = average nitrate-N concentration in the root zone (2–4 foot depth) in parts per million
OM = percent soil organic matter (with a minimum of 0.5 and a 3 percent maximum)
Other N credits include N from previous legume crop, manure and other organic material applied, and irrigation water N.
Priceadj = adjustment factor for prices of corn
N Timingadj = adjustment factor for fall, spring, and split applications

The UNL nitrogen equation uses a weighted average soil nitrate test for the ppm Nitrate. A minimum depth of 2 feet is required. Thus, with a 0-8” soil sample, one needs to account for a weighted average. If ones doesn’t, the equation will overestimate the amount of soil nitrate and result in a lower requirement than what may be needed. If one doesn’t have a deep sample, use a default of 3 ppm for silt loam/silty clay loam soils or 1.5 ppm for sandy soils in the 2 foot depth. The Extension circular “Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn” (http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec117.pdf) explains this in detail with an example. There is also an excel spreadsheet that does this when the depth of soil samples taken is inputted. A more visual excel spreadsheet is also available at the following website by scrolling to “Corn Nitrogen Recommendations Calculator” https://cropwatch.unl.edu/soils.

Other nitrogen credits include N from previous legume crops, manure applied, and irrigation water. The UNL equation credits soybean as the previous crop for 45 lbs of N due to nitrogen scavenging abilities and the increased mineralization from their low carbon to nitrogen ratio. On-farm research studies in this part of the State found, in irrigated soybean, we could credit more: 1 lb of nitrogen for every bushel of soybean raised up to 60 bushels (so up to 60 lb N ‘credit’ from soybean).

Irrigation water often contains a significant amount of nitrate-N (and other nutrients including sulfur) that is readily available to corn. Dr. Charlie Wortmann shared, for every 10 acre-inches of water applied, one can take ppm in the sample X 2.265 to determine lbs of the nutrient applied via irrigation. Irrigation amounts vary from year to year, so one could take a three-year average for irrigation amount.

I use the equation without the price and timing adjustment. Higher corn prices will show that one can apply more nitrogen economically. However, the research curve will show little to no yield increase for that additional nitrogen. The timing adjustment assumes nitrogen loss in the fall, building in N for that, and assigns a small reduction if applying nitrogen in-season. You can look at this in more detail for your own operation and the spreadsheet makes it more visual to look at these effects.

Crop Science Investigation 2021-2022

Are you a youth interested in science, agriculture, plants, crops, insects, or diseases?

If so, you may be interested in joining us for CSI (Crop Science Investigation)!!! You don’t have to be a 4-H member to join and there’s no cost. Each meeting will have different topics for you to become a detective to solve a problem and learn about science, crops, and plants in the process!

 Learn about the importance of agriculture and how crops are used!
 Conduct cool, hands-on science experiments-like extracting plant DNA!
 Become a CSI investigator and detect plant problems!

For questions or to RSVP, please contact: Jenny Rees, York Co. Extension: 402-362-5508, jrees2@unl.edu

JenREES 2-21-21

On-Farm Research Updates: This week brings my favorite winter meetings, the on-farm research updates on Feb. 25 and 26! I’m passionate about on-farm research as it’s such a practical, inexpensive way to address the research questions growers have! These meetings are more meaningful to me because we get to hear from the farmers themselves who conducted the studies and have more discussion around the topics. They do look different this year with a huge number of people registered virtually vs. in-person. They’re also only a half day and we won’t cover the entire book of studies that were conducted. However, whether you participate virtually or in-person, you will hopefully hear from farmers who conducted on-farm research studies. And, this ‘in-person’ meeting does have people at most local sites also presenting in person. I realize that’s been a point of confusion/frustration as we’ve hosted many zoom meetings as ‘in-person’ watch events where no one presented live at the location. Register for virtual or in-person at: https://go.unl.edu/h83j.

I enjoy hearing from the farmers themselves regarding why they conduct on-farm research. The following YouTube video produced in 2020 highlights area farmers David and Doug Cast of Beaver Crossing and Ken Herz of Lawrence: https://youtu.be/tEy-I43CT0E.

Succession/Estate Planning opportunities are upcoming with a two-part webinar event held Feb. 25 and Mar. 4 at Noon. You can register for those at: https://farm.unl.edu/webinars . There’s also an in-person event at Central City at the Fairgrounds on March 2 at 9:30 a.m. and please RSVP to 308-946-3843 if you’d like to attend.

Tree and Houseplant Webinars: A webinar focused on trees will be Feb. 26 from 9 a.m.-Noon with registration here: Go.unl.edu/ProHort. A houseplant webinar series will occur on Feb. 27 and Mar. 6 from 10-noon with registration here: https://go.unl.edu/houseplants101.

Nitrogen Studies: With spring nitrogen applications around the corner, perhaps you are interested in testing different rates, timing, or inhibitors on your farm? On-farm research is a great option to consider! For some specific precision nitrogen studies (including inhibitors), there are stipends of $1300 available to producers interested in those studies. More info: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/precision-nitrogen-management-farm-research-project. There’s also a partnership with the Upper Big Blue NRD where those interested in conducting nutrient management or cover crop studies may receive $300 in reimbursement costs. If you’re interested in a study like this, please let me know. Next week I’ll share on nitrogen rate and timing results.

Farm Bill: Another tool that may be more visual in helping you make these decisions is the K-State tool at: https://www.agmanager.info/ag-policy/2018-farm-bill/tradeoff-between-20212022-arc-and-plc and I added it to my Farm Bill Decision Tools blog post. It shows you in one chart what happens with potential ARC-CO or PLC triggers by crop depending on what market year average price does or what county yield does. It doesn’t allow you to put in a historical irrigated percentage (HIP), so you need to consider that when selecting ‘irrigated’ or ‘nonirrigated’ in the tool. With it being in one chart, visually, perhaps that would help some of you more? It honestly doesn’t change what I’ve shared with you before, but it seems people are really struggling with this decision, so if you need another way to visualize what to do, it may help. Ultimately, no matter what tool is used, PLC is favored most often in corn, milo, and wheat. Soybeans often could go either way, and likely there may be no payment for soy or corn unless something substantial happens with MYA price or county yields. If you’re really on the fence, it may be helpful/wise to just split decisions between the two programs for different farms? For counties where there’s split irrigated/non-irrigated payments, particularly in areas that are drought-prone, look at what county average yield will trigger ARC-CO for your specific county using the tool. Crop insurance and marketing are ultimately a huge chunk of risk management too. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and no one can predict prices/yields. This information is just shared as a way to hopefully help with your decision making.

I still haven’t heard/seen that 2020 county average yields have been released for me to help anyone with looking at ARC-IC. From the past, we needed around 20% farm level yield loss compared to county average yield for ARC-IC to trigger. So, for those with significant yield loss from wind events, depending on how your farms are grouped, it still may be something to look at. Hopefully county average yields will be available soon.


Quick way to view how county average yields and MYA price can impact ARC-CO or PLC decisions. With Olympic average county corn yield of 234.24 for York County, for this irrigated farm, at the PLC reference price of $3.70 for a MYA price, it would take county average yields falling to 190 before ARC-CO could trigger. The MYA price (based at this county yield of 234.24) would need to be $3.18 before ARC-CO would trigger.
For this Seward county non-irrigated corn field example, it shows Olympic county-average yield is 175.07 bu/ac. At the $3.70 PLC reference price as the MYA price, it would take a county average yield loss of around 30 bu/ac in order for ARC-CO to trigger. It would take a MYA price of $3.18 (based on county-average yield of 175.07 bu/ac) for ARC-CO to trigger.
For this York Co. irrigated soybean example, the decision can go either way. Olympic county average yield is 72.33 bu/ac. At PLC reference price of $8.40, county average yields would have to drop to around 65 bu/ac for ARC-CO to trigger. MYA price would have to drop to $7.70 for ARC-CO to trigger. Reality is that most likely, barring no major yield or price changes, neither program may trigger for soybeans.

JenREES 2/14/21

Cold Weather and Livestock: This week I found gratitude time and again for a warm home. Thinking of those who haven’t been as fortunate. Have also thought about our livestock producers taking care of animals. In the unfortunate event of livestock losses, please document/take photos in the event of any disaster declarations for livestock indemnity payments (LIP).

Crop/Livestock Systems On-Farm Research Study: At last week’s cover crop and soil health conference, Ken Herz shared on his family’s on-farm research study. I’m so proud of and grateful to the entire Herz family for their partnership in this study and for the focus on the economics of an entire system! This study was designed with a system’s perspective incorporating crops, cattle, cover crops in a way that fit many operations in a non-irrigated setting. Their goals were to increase soil organic matter and ultimately determine yield and economics of the entire system. The crop rotation is Wheat (with cover crop planted into stubble after harvest), Corn, Soybean. Cattle graze the cover crop in the winter and also graze the corn residue. No-till wheat prior to corn for increased moisture saving and yield is common in this part of the State as is planting a cover crop into wheat stubble for grazing. The questions I hear include:

1-What moisture and potential yield am I giving up to the successive corn crop if I plant a cover crop into my wheat stubble?
2-If there’s a yield loss in the successive corn crop, do the economics of grazing the cover crop offset that loss?

We had three treatments and two locations (Location 1 had a cool-season cover crop and Location 2 had a warm-season one). The treatments are: ungrazed wheat stubble, ungrazed cover crop, and grazed cover crop. We’ve collected soil property, moisture, nutrient, and health data; yield and moisture of each crop; cover crop biomass; grazing days; and economics.

Location 1 in Nuckolls county began in 2016 with a cool season cover crop planted after wheat was harvested and manure applied. Three-year analysis showed no difference in soil physical properties (bulk density and compaction) amongst treatments. There was greater total microbial and fungal biomass in the grazed cover crop treatment (indicators of improved soil health). Interestingly, the ungrazed wheat stubble is the most economical treatment at this location. Reasons: cost of hauling water for grazing, numerically higher yields in the ungrazed wheat stubble, variable biomass in cool season cover, and a large yield hit to the 2018 soybeans in the grazed cover crop treatment during a dry year. In 2018, to the line there was a stress difference in the soybeans and that treatment read drier via soil moisture sensors. They’ve been conservative with grazing so at the time we couldn’t explain it. In taking soil health tests in year 3, we realized how greatly the microbial biomass had increased where cattle grazed. Our hypothesis is microbes broke down the remaining residue exposing soil to more evaporative losses resulting in less soil moisture and less yield for soybeans in the grazed treatment during a dry year. It’s now on our radar when grazing occurs to get cattle off even sooner to account for feeding the microbes too.

Location 2 in Webster county began in 2018 with a warm season cover crop. Over 4 tons of biomass allowing for 91 grazing days, not hauling water, and no successive crop yield differences all led to the grazed cover crop being the most economical treatment at this location.

Take home points: it’s important to add all the components when looking at economics. Grazed cover crop treatment at Location 1 would look better if we didn’t include the large cost of hauling water and if there was more cool season biomass allowing for more grazing days. The differing results at the two locations showed the influence of cover crop biomass and importance of including value of grazing; fencing/water/labor costs for livestock; cover crop costs; and successive crop yields in system economics. It’s easy to make assumptions that a certain practice is profitable! Location 1 will hopefully continue another 6 years switching the cool season cover crop to a warm season one to compare economics on the same field. We’re curious if the warm season cover will increase biomass and grazing days enough to outweigh the water hauling costs and show a benefit to the grazed cover crop treatment, or if the ungrazed wheat stubble will remain the most economical for this field location.

Regarding cover crop economics, it could be helpful to determine a consistent way for assessing a dollar value for potential benefits such as aiding in weed and erosion control, nutrient uptake, etc. This may aid conversations with landlords and lenders for those desirous to try them. Without livestock value, currently on paper, there’s really only costs.

(End of news column. Photos below are additional information.)


2016 Cover Crop: Cost for spraying wheat stubble was $18/ac. Costs for the non-grazed cover crop treatments were $46.64/ac ($28.64/ac for seed and $18/ac for drilling). Costs for grazed cover crop treatments were $61.94/ac ($46.64/ac for the cover crop seed and planting, $5/ac for fencing, and $10.30/ac for water). Water cost was calculated assuming hauling water (1,000 gal) 15 miles every two days at $2 per loaded mile and $6 per $1,000 gal. Costs for the grazed cover crop treatments equaled $30.97/AUM (animal unit months). Value of the forage is estimated to be $84.80/ac (based on rental rates of $53/pair/month [1.25 AUMs] or $42.40 AUM).
2017 Corn: The economic analysis had no input differences for any of the treatments for corn production. UNL Corn Budget 21 (EC872, 2017 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2016) was the closest that fit this operation, so a total cost/ac of $459.60/ac and a market year average price of $3.15/bu was used. In the previously established grazed cover crop treatment, cattle grazed on the corn stalks. A $5/ac cornstalk rental rate value was assessed to this 9.6 acre area. This rate assumes water, fencing, and the care of the animals.
2018 Soybean: The inputs were the same for the soybeans planted into all the previous treatments. UNL Budget 56 (EC872, 2018 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2017) was used, which stated a $315.82/ac total cost. A market year average price of $7.40/bu was used.
2019 Wheat: The inputs were the same for the wheat planted into all the previous treatments. UNL Budget 70 (EC872, 2019 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2018) was used which stated a $247.04/ac total cost. A market year average price of $3.65/bu was used. 2019 Cover Crop: Cost for spraying the wheat stubble was $18 ($9/ac application and $9/ac herbicide cost). Costs for the non-grazed cover crop treatments were $49.42/ac ($31.42/ac for seed and $18/ac for drilling). Costs for grazed cover crop treatments were $64.00/ac ($49.42/ac for the cover crop seed and planting, $5/ac for fencing, and $9.58/ac for water). Water cost was calculated based on hauling water (5.75 water trips at $16/trip which included cost of water). Costs for the grazed cover crop treatments equaled $54.78/AUM (49.42*9.6=474.43/8.66AUM from what was grazed=54.78). Value of the forage is estimated to be $84.80/ac (based on rental rates of $53/pair/month (1.25 AUMs) or $42.40 AUM). Forage production was limited in fall of 2019 compared to 2016 due to wet summer that delayed wheat harvest which delayed cover crop planting. Cool fall led to less growth. Only 8.66 AUM was achieved with the 2019 cover crop compared to 19.03 AUM with the 2016 cover crop.
2020 Corn: The economic analysis had no input differences for any of the treatments for corn production. UNL Corn Budget 23 (EC872, 2020 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2019) was the closest that fit this operation, so a total cost/ac of $452.10 and a market year average price of $3.51 was used. In the previously established grazed cover crop treatment, cattle grazed on the corn stalks. A $5/ac cornstalk rental rate value was assessed to this 9.6 acre area. This rate assumes water, fencing, and the care of the animals.
2018 Cover Crop: Costs to spray the wheat stubble for weed control were $18/ac. Costs for the non-grazed
cover crop treatments were $41.82/ac for cover crop seed and drilling. Costs for the grazed cover crop
treatments were $47.74 ($41.82/ac for cover crop seed and drilling, $5/ac for fencing, and $0.92/ac water).
Grazing benefit is $6370 (using a value of $2.00/head/day) for the 52.3 acres grazed. The resulting net
benefit is $74.06/acre.
2019 Corn: The economic analysis had no input differences for any of the treatments for corn production.
UNL Corn Budget 23 (EC872, 2019 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2018) was the closest that fit this
operation, so a total cost/ac of $438.08/ac and a market year average price of $3.83/bu was used. In the
previously established grazed cover crop treatment, cattle grazed on the corn stalks. A $5/ac cornstalk
rental rate value was assessed to this 52.3 acre area. This rate assumes water, fencing, and the care of the
animals.
2020 Soybean: The economic analysis had no input differences for any of the treatments for soybean
production. UNL Soybean Budget 58 (EC872, 2020 Nebraska Crop Budgets, revised Nov. 2019) was used
which states a $392.90/ac total cost. A market year average price of $9.50 was used.

JenREES 2-7-21

Nitrification Inhibitors: For the next several weeks I will share data from on-farm research studies. Nitrification Inhibitors are best thought of as an insurance policy against loss of applied ammonium-based fertilizer due to excess rain in the first month or so after fertilization. For spring applications, some active ingredients have been proven by research to slow the conversion of ammonium to nitrate for at least two weeks, with a range of 1-6 weeks, depending on soil temperature. They are one tool (not a silver bullet), when used at right place and time, for aiding in nitrogen management. To summarize the research below, nitrification inhibitors are less likely to have a significant impact on increasing yield and reducing nitrate leaching in silt loam and silty clay loam soils as compared to sandy soils.

An ongoing study at UNL’s South Central Ag Lab (SCAL) near Clay Center is conducted on silt loam soils, common in the UBBNRD. The majority of the study at SCAL compared Spring pre-plant anhydrous vs. side-dress application with and without the use of nitrification inhibitor N-Serve® (nitrapyrin). A yield increase due to nitrapyrin applied pre-plant was observed in 6 of 28 years with a mean yield change of 2 bu/ac/year. Only 1 of 28 years was a yield increase observed when nitrapyrin was applied in season during side-dress application with a mean yield change of 0 bu/ac/year. In this study, they found delayed side-dress N with nitrapyrin could reduce plant N uptake and release N too late, thus it is not recommended to add an inhibitor to nitrogen applied in-season.

In 2019, two York Co. farmers compared spring anhydrous ammonia applications with and without the nitrification inhibitor (N-Serve®). At York location 1, 180 lbs N as anhydrous was applied on April 10, 2019 in ridge-till, silt-loam soil. At York location 2, 160 lbs N as anhydrous was applied on April 8, 2019 in no-till, silt-loam soil. These locations were around 4 miles apart and the previous crop in both was soybean. Soil samples were taken 2” off the anhydrous band down to three feet for both ammonium and nitrate concentrations at V7 growth stage. The results showed the nitrification inhibitor was still slowing the conversion of ammonium to nitrate in 1st foot at York 1 location (longer than would be anticipated for a spring-applied inhibitor treatment), but not at York 2. At both study locations, no yield difference occurred between the check and inhibitor treatments respectively (250 vs. 251 bu/ac at York 1 and 264 vs. 264 bu/ac at York 2).

In 2020, four farmers (3 in York Co. and one in Fillmore Co.) conducted on-farm research inhibitor studies. These studies were in partnership with the UBBNRD. Soil samples for ammonium and nitrate concentration were taken around 6 and 9 weeks post-application based on the protocol provided. Note: with these being inhibitor focused studies, future protocols will have soil tests taken closer to application. With farmers interested in what nitrogen distribution in the profile looks like in the late season, we will also sample then.

At York location 1, 150 lbs N as anhydrous was applied in the fall and spring with and without Centuro®. Soil tests in early May showed less total nitrogen in the third foot for the Spring anhydrous with Centuro® compared to Fall anhydrous with no inhibitor. There were no yield differences between treatments in 2020 (Fall and Spring check yielded 269 bu/ac, Fall with Centuro® 267 bu/ac, Spring with Centuro® 270 bu/ac). This study will continue. The other three locations had yields impacted by the July 9, 2020 wind event. At the Fillmore Co. location, 115 lbs spring applied 32% UAN with and without Instinct® II was compared. There was less nitrate and total nitrogen in the Instinct® II treatment at 2nd and 3rd foot vs. the check and there were no yield differences (both yielded 213 bu/ac). At the York 2 location, four products were compared (44 gal. spring applied 32% UAN as a check compared to the check plus either ammonium thiosulfate (ATS), Biovante™, or Instinct® II. The UAN+ Instinct® II had less nitrate and total nitrogen in the 3rd foot than the UAN+ Biovante™. The UAN+ATS treatment yielded significantly more than the check (215 bu/ac vs. 209 bu/ac) with no differences amongst the other treatments (212 bu/ac each). At the York 3 location, 45 gal spring applied 32% UAN was compared to a producer-developed concoction containing humic acid, sugar, and ATS. There was more nitrate, ammonium, and total nitrate in the inhibitor concoction than the check at the 3rd foot with no yield differences (220 bu/ac check vs. 221 bu/ac inhibitor concoction). These and other Nebraska on-farm research studies will be presented Feb. 25-26 both virtually and in-person. You can learn more and register here: https://go.unl.edu/h83j.


JenREES 1-31-21

It seems like January flew by! This week sharing on some upcoming programs in February.

Hamilton County Ag Day on February 4th at the Fairgrounds in Aurora at 1 p.m. is focused on nitrogen management. Pre-registration is required at go.unl.edu/merrickhamiltonag. Your attendance counts toward Upper Big Blue NRD Nitrogen Recertification and there’s no fee to attend. The educational program includes the following presentations: “Project SENSE Results & Update (active sensors in irrigated fields)”, “Precision Ag Equipment for Managing Nitrogen”, “Fertigation Equipment and Procedures for In-Season N Application”, “Project SENSE Fertigation Trials”, “A Farmer’s Perspective after Participating in the N Trials”, “Commercially available cloud-based tools for N management”, “Other N Management Results from On-Farm Research”, and “Collaborative On-Farm Research Opportunities, Some with Stipends”.

Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference will provide information to growers who are just getting started with cover crops and to those who are already making cover crops part of their operation. The program will take place on Thursday, Feb. 11 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST. Attendees have the opportunity to attend either virtually or in-person at a number of sites throughout Nebraska. In-person sites (limited attendance) include: Beatrice (30), Central City (50), Hastings (100), Holdrege (50), North Platte (28), Syracuse (50), and York (25). There’s no fee to attend and pre-registration is required at: https://go.unl.edu/tmj5 . CCA credits are pending.

Topics and presenters include:  Soil Sensing and Soil Health – Kristen Veum, Research Soil Scientist at USDA-ARS Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit, University of Missouri-Columbia; Optimizing Your Cover Crop ROI – Rebecca Clay, Strategic Initiatives Agronomy Coordinator at Practical Farmers of Iowa; Using Aerial Imagery to Determine Cover Crop Impacts on Cash Crop Growth and Development – Dr. Andrea Basche, Assistant Professor, Agronomy & Horticulture University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Experiences and Economics Using Cereal Rye as a Cover Crop – Chad Bell, Farmer; Pathway toward a Healthy and Resilient Soil to Achieve Optimum Productivity and Environmental Quality: Cover Crops are Key! – Jerry Hatfield, Retired Director, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment; On-farm Research of Incorporating Cover Crop into a 3 Crop Dryland Rotation, Ken Herz, Owner/Operator of Herz Land and Cattle, and Cover Crop Panel – discussion with growers, landowners, and consultants.

Soils School: This is a great opportunity for those needing CEUs for soil and water credits and for anyone wanting to learn more about soils. Co-sponsored by the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska Agri-Business Association, this virtual course has been specifically designed for new employees and a refresher course for all employees to give them the basics in soils. Watch it live on February 17-18, 2021 or earn credits by accessing the recordings and self-reporting your CEUs. A total of 9 Soil & Water (SW) and 7 Nutrient Management (NM) CEUs are being made available through this course. More info here: https://na-ba.com/member-resources/calendar/.

Nebraska On-Farm Research Updates will be held both virtually and in-person on Feb. 25 and 26. Nebraska farmers conducted over 100 on-farm research studies in 2020! There were 20 studies locally where farmers worked with me. These updates are an incredible opportunity to learn from these farmers and network with other innovative producers! There is no cost to attend, but pre-registration is required. Seating is limited, so register early. Visit https://go.unl.edu/2021onfarmresearch for registration, details, and program updates.




2021 ARC-CO Calculation

Background: Ultimately, PLC offers price protection. If your MYA price is less than the reference price ($3.70 for corn; $8.40 for soy; $3.95 for sorghum; $5.50 for wheat), a PLC payment is triggered. ARC-CO is a revenue safety net with price and yield protection, and it takes into account a 5-year Olympic average of prices and yields (for this 2021 decision it looks at 2015-2019).

We’ve had good market prices recently. However, remember ARC-CO is based on a 5-year Olympic average where the high and low are thrown out. This average is based on 2015-2019 (2020 doesn’t come into the picture until the 2022 decision. And, if it’s the high, it gets thrown out then…so it may take a couple years of high prices). And, the reality is that PLC corn price of $3.70 may also not trigger depending on the MYA price. Another consideration for the 2021 election is county yields for ARC-CO payments (looking at years 2015-2019 where the high and low are thrown out).

So as things set today, it’s possible there will be no ARC-CO nor PLC payment for corn or soybean for 2021. Corn tends to favor a PLC decision. Wheat favors PLC. Sorghum traditionally has favored PLC. Soybean could be selected either way, particularly depending on if the county has irrigated/non-irrigated split or not. What can impact this is if we see major yield or price losses from current expectations. Because different weather events hit portions of counties, and because some counties have separate payments for irrigated and non-irrigated acres, it’s important to look at your individual county data to make decisions.

Calculation: One way to look at ARC-CO vs. PLC decision for your county based on crop is to do a simple calculation. Take your 2021 County Guaranteed Revenue for a specific crop and divide that by 2021 County Benchmark Yield for that crop. I’ve provided screenshots from several counties where I’ve helped individuals with farm bill decisions in the past. If your county isn’t listed, you can find your county information here: link to download a USDA excel spreadsheet

How to Use the Calculation: Essentially, the calculation shows similar triggers for all crops. The ARC-CO trigger for corn is essentially 86% of the Reference Price (except this isn’t the case for soybean when considering individual years where MYA was higher than the Reference Price). Thus, what these numbers currently say is that prices have to drop much lower than the reference prices in order to trigger ARC-CO payments. This makes PLC elections more favorable for all the crops. What can change the ARC-CO trigger would be if there’s a change in the 2021 benchmark yield for that specific county.

CropARC-CO Trigger (prior to final yields)PLC Reference Price
Corn$3.18$3.70
Soybean$7.70$8.40
Sorghum$3.40$3.95
Wheat$4.73$5.50

For the screenshots below, I’ve added a column to the right (yellow) where I’ve done the calculation. As you will see, the ARC-CO price trigger is similar for counties for each crop. However, that assumes no fluctuation in yield from the 2021 Benchmark Yield, which should approximate a county trend yield projection. If the actual yield is higher or lower than the benchmark, then the effective trigger price goes down or up. If the trendline yield ends up changing, it will impact the ARC-CO price trigger. Thus, you can adjust by increasing and decreasing the guaranteed yield in the calculation to determine how that could impact your ARC-CO trigger.

Example that can be applied to the other County screenshots (please click on images to enlarge):

For example, York County irrigated corn (irrigated and non-irrigated are combined) shows a 2021 Guaranteed Revenue of $745.35. The 2021 Benchmark Yield (which is an Olympic average yield from 2015-2019) is 234.24. Taking 745.35/234.24=$3.18. Based on these numbers, an ARC-CO payment would not be triggered for corn in York County unless the price went down to $3.18. This is in comparison to PLC in which the trigger is $3.70 for the corn price. This helps with decision making as it leans towards enrolling in PLC for corn. (Again, no guarantee of a payment even with PLC depending on the MYA price). The Trigger will adjust depending on what the final guaranteed yields end up being. So, trying other figures (such as 240 bu or 220 bu vs. the 234.24) can show you how the ARC-CO price trigger adjusts based on final yields. You can use this same calculation for other crops and compare the prices obtained vs. the PLC reference price for that crop. In this case, even sorghum and soybeans would be favored by PLC.


Additional Resources:


JenREES 1-24-21

Farm Bill: In my desire to share what I’ve learned with you all, I realized I threw too much information into the decision tool blog post, and what I was seeking to share didn’t come across clearly. So, I revised it and you will need to refresh your web browser to view the most updated version.

Ultimately, PLC offers price protection. If your MYA price is less than the reference price ($3.70 for corn; $8.40 for soy; $3.95 for sorghum; $5.50 for wheat), a PLC payment is triggered. ARC-CO is a revenue safety net with price and yield protection, and it takes into account a 5-year Olympic average of prices and yields (for this 2021 decision it looks at 2015-2019).

So as things set today, it’s possible there won’t be either an ARC-CO nor PLC payment for corn or soybean for 2021. Corn tends to favor a PLC election. Wheat favors PLC. Sorghum traditionally has favored PLC. Soybean could be selected either way, particularly depending on if the county has irrigated/non-irrigated split or not. What can impact this is if we see major yield or price losses from current expectations.

What I don’t know yet is if ARC-IC is an option as a result of the significant windstorm in several counties. Once we get the 2020 county yields (most likely in February), I will start looking at that.

Sometimes looking at the probabilities in the decision tools can be confusing, but they can also provide direction if you’re unsure. Thus, why I provide the blog post on how to use the decision tools.

The calculation I shared with you last week may be the easiest thing you can do. So, I put that into a separate blog post and placed screen shots of county by crop in Nebraska so you can see which way things are favored by county. The best way to find all this info. is go to the “Farm Bill” category on my blog: https://jenreesources.com/category/farm-bill-2/ (but only look at the 2021 info.).

This is a slide from the 2021 CPC Farm Bill presentation (Please click to enlarge). The solid lines are the PLC Reference prices. The green triangle shows the current soybean market year average price is higher than the soybean reference price. The red square shows the 2021 wheat price is lower than the PLC reference price (solid red/brown line), which is likely to trigger a PLC payment for wheat. The gold diamond shows the current market year average price for corn is right around the PLC trigger for corn (solid gold line). Everything I’ve looked at favors a PLC election for corn in 2021. Just be aware that depending on what happens with price and yields, there may not be any payments for either a PLC nor ARC-CO election for corn and soy in 2021 in Nebraska.

Fungus Gnats: Kelly Feehan shares, “If you have small gnats flying around your home or windows, these may be fungusgnats. These nuisance pests are small fly-like insects mainly noticed around houseplants. They cause no harm to people, pets and rarely to plants. Fungus gnats develop in overwatered houseplant soil or poorly drained potting mixes. The larvae, which is a tiny maggot, lives and matures in the potting medium, mainly feeding on fungal or algal growth in overwatered soil. If the potting mix is harboring fungus gnats, cut back on watering frequency so the mix dries out briefly between watering. If needed, repot plants using a well-drained potting mix and containers with drainage holes. Pour excess water out of catch basins after watering. Reduced moisture limits fungal growth, hence fungus gnat larvae food. The upper two inches of the potting mix can also be treated with a labeled houseplant insecticide or insecticidal soap.”

York-Hamilton Cattlemen January Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26, 2021 at Chances ‘R’ in York. The meeting will open the doors at 6:30 p.m. with meal at 7:00 p.m. Gerald Peterson, Secretary, said this meeting is scheduled in place of the Cattlemen’s Banquet that is usually held this time of year but has been canceled for 2021 on recommendations of area health departments. Kim Siebert, Cattlemen’s President said the evening will feature a presentation from Max McLean of McLean Beef who are in the process of opening a new animal processing and retail meat business in south York. McLean Beef is a longtime cattle feeder farmer in the Benedict area of northern York County. Bill Rhea, President of the Nebraska Cattlemen has been invited to attend the meeting along with Nebraska Cattlemen staff to update the Cattlemen on bills in the Nebraska Legislature. Please RSVP to Gerald Peterson by email at gpeterson808@gmail.com or by phone at 308-991-0817 if you plan to attend.

2021 Farm Bill Decision Tools

*Thank you to Dr. Brad Lubben, Randy Pryor, and Austin Duerfeldt for their review of this information*


This blog post shares screenshots to help you work through the Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Illinois farm bill decision tools. If you’re not interested in running the decision tools, consider using this ARC-CO calculation instead. Crop insurance and marketing are ultimately a huge chunk of risk management too. Ultimately, the decision is up to you and no one can predict prices/yields. This information is just shared as a way to hopefully help with your decision making.

Background: Ultimately, PLC offers price protection. If your MYA price is less than the reference price ($3.70 for corn; $8.40 for soy; $3.95 for sorghum; $5.50 for wheat), a PLC payment is triggered. ARC-CO is a revenue safety net with price and yield protection, and it takes into account a 5-year Olympic average of prices and yields (for this 2021 decision it looks at 2015-2019).

We’ve had good market prices recently. However, remember ARC-CO is based on a 5-year Olympic average where the high and low are thrown out. This average is based on 2015-2019 (2020 doesn’t come into the picture until the 2022 decision. And, if it’s the high, it gets thrown out then…so it may take a couple years of high prices). And, the reality is that PLC corn price of $3.70 may also not trigger depending on the MYA price. Another consideration for the 2021 election is county yields for ARC-CO payments (looking at years 2015-2019 where the high and low are thrown out).

So as things set today, it’s possible there will be no ARC-CO nor PLC payment for corn or soybean for 2021. Corn tends to favor a PLC decision. Wheat favors PLC. Sorghum traditionally has favored PLC. Soybean could be selected either way, particularly depending on if the county has irrigated/non-irrigated split or not. What can impact this is if we see major yield or price losses from current expectations. Because different weather events hit portions of counties, and because some counties have separate payments for irrigated and non-irrigated acres, it’s important to look at your individual county data to make decisions.


You will need your FSA156EZ form (or your Notification of your 2020 program election, shown above) which can be obtained from your local FSA Office. It will show you farm numbers, base acres, PLC yields for each of your farms. A Historical Irrigated Percentage (HIP) is listed for counties that have split irrigated and non-irrigated yields for specific crops, if ARC-CO had been selected in a recent election. For counties that had combined irrigated and non-irrigated yields, or if PLC was elected in the recent past, there will be no HIP (as shown on this form). You will need to add a HIP for the Texas A&M Farm Bill Decision Aid. If one isn’t listed on your FSA156EZ or if your HIP has changed the past 5 years, use your best estimate.

Farm Bill Tools:

Kansas State Spreadsheet: https://www.agmanager.info/ag-policy/2018-farm-bill/tradeoff-between-20212022-arc-and-plc. This tool is one that more farmers and I appreciate using as it is very visual. It provides a quick glance at which program is favored when MYA prices change and county yields change.
Texas A&M: https://www.afpc.tamu.edu/tools/farm/farmbill/2018/
Illinois “What If” Tool: https://farmdoc.illinois.edu/policy-toolbox (I use the ‘What If’ tool in the right column of the page. I just downloaded the spreadsheet). There is another tool, on the left-hand side and also at https://fd-tools.ncsa.illinois.edu/, but be aware it shows results for the 5 year life of the farm bill (so only look at the 2021 results).

The Texas A&M tool uses a default price of $3.91 for corn and $10.40 for soybean and runs 500 possible scenarios using the data inputted. The Illinois “What If” tool uses a default price of $4.00 for corn and $11.00 for soybean and provides one potential payment based on the data inputted. Both tools provide input into the ARC-CO and PLC decision. The Illinois tool also provides input into ARC-IC if you are considering that option.


Kansas State Spreadsheet

This spreadsheet can be found at: https://www.agmanager.info/ag-policy/2018-farm-bill/tradeoff-between-20212022-arc-and-plc. I’m not going to share additional details on this one as they have done a great job of explaining this spreadsheet already at the link above. You will see a video when you go to this website that explains the tool and then a link to a spreadsheet is found below the video. Personally, I’m finding this tool to be a lot easier for growers to understand as it’s so visual. It clearly shows what has to happen with county average yields and market year average prices for ARC-CO to trigger.

Quick way to view how county average yields and MYA price can impact ARC-CO or PLC decisions. With Olympic average county corn yield of 234.24 for York County, for this irrigated farm, at the PLC reference price of $3.70 for a MYA price, it would take county average yields falling to 190 before ARC-CO could trigger. The MYA price (based at this county yield of 234.24) would need to be $3.18 before ARC-CO would trigger.
For this Seward county non-irrigated corn field example, it shows Olympic county-average yield is 175.07 bu/ac. At the $3.70 PLC reference price as the MYA price, it would take a county average yield loss of around 30 bu/ac in order for ARC-CO to trigger. It would take a MYA price of $3.18 (based on county-average yield of 175.07 bu/ac) for ARC-CO to trigger.
For this York Co. irrigated soybean example, the decision can go either way. Olympic county average yield is 72.33 bu/ac. At PLC reference price of $8.40, county average yields would have to drop to around 65 bu/ac for ARC-CO to trigger. MYA price would have to drop to $7.70 for ARC-CO to trigger. Reality is that most likely, barring no major yield or price changes, neither program may trigger for soybeans.

Texas A&M Tool

For the Texas A&M decision tool, go to: https://www.afpc.tamu.edu/tools/farm/farmbill/2018/. You will need to login using the username/password you’ve used in the past. If you’ve never used one before, you can create one on the login page. If you forgot your login info., please email info@afpc.tamu.edu or call 979-845-5913. It’s a good idea to keep your login with your farm bill paperwork. Upon logging in, I found some of my data was here from the past, so hopefully yours was saved too. If it’s not there (or if you have new farm numbers), you will need to click on “new farm”.
Upon clicking “new farm”, the above screen will appear. Enter your FSA Farm Number, State, County, and one crop for that farm number. Then click “Save”.
If you have more than one crop associated with that farm number, click on “add another crop” and repeat the steps until all crops are added for the farm number.
Once all your crops are entered for the farm number, click on “expected payments tool”.
You will then see a screen which allows you to enter the base acres, PLC yield, and HIP from your FSA156EZ form. If the form didn’t list a HIP, you need to enter your best estimation of % irrigated acres on the field. If you put a “0”, it assumes completely non-irrigated. You can then put in an expected price. To begin with, I just click the “Use These” button to get a feel where the calculations start. Then click “Calculate”. The tool will provide numbers that you can click on to obtain additional information. You can continue to recalculate playing with price if you wish. At this time, I’m not using the “Advanced Settings” option.
Explanation on payment numbers from the website, “This decision aid characterizes probabilities of different levels of expected FSA payments. These characterizations are based on 500 possible future realizations of market prices and county yields. The expected payments are an average across these many possibilities. Values displayed in the results will not match the payments you might calculate using single specific price and yield realizations. To see the likelihoods of different levels of payments, click on an individual expected payment in the results table.” So when you click on a payment number, for example PLC, each percentile shows the maximum potential payment based on the numbers inputted into the tool. In this example, there’s a 75% chance of a payment $11,200 or less and a 90% chance of a payment $21,442 or less. (NOTE: please don’t get too excited about this as they clearly state the values displayed won’t match payments calculated using single specific price and yield realizations). You can then go back to “Home” at the top of your screen and repeat by inputting the base acres, PLC yield, and HIP for other crops within the same farm number. (NOTE: always be sure to check the crop on the upper part of the screen, as for some reason, it seems to default to soybean). You can then repeat all of this for every farm number you have.
This example gives you an idea what soybean looks like using the Texas A&M tool. It’s favoring PLC for soybean as well. Again, explanation on payment numbers from the website, “This decision aid characterizes probabilities of different levels of expected FSA payments. These characterizations are based on 500 possible future realizations of market prices and county yields. The expected payments are an average across these many possibilities. Values displayed in the results will not match the payments you might calculate using single specific price and yield realizations. To see the likelihoods of different levels of payments, click on an individual expected payment in the results table.”
Upon clicking on PLC in the soybean example, you can see it’s showing a mean potential payment of $531. (NOTE: please don’t get too excited about this as they clearly state the values displayed won’t match payments calculated using single specific price and yield realizations). The reality is if the MYA price is above $8.40, no PLC payment will be triggered. It’s very possible there will be no PLC nor ARC-CO payment for soybeans in 2021.

Illinois “What If” Tool

When you go to https://farmdoc.illinois.edu/policy-toolbox, you will see two tools are available. I recommend using the option on the right called “What If” as it allows you to look at yearly elections. My computers haven’t allowed me to download the tool, but they have accepted the spreadsheet option, so I choose to download the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet was just updated this past week, so it’s up to date.
Once the excel spreadsheet is downloaded, open it up. At the top of the screen you will see a yellow bar with a button that says “Enable Macros”. Go ahead and do that. You may have to do this once more until it allows you to input numbers. You then input state, county, crop, base acres, PLC yields into the yellow boxes. The election year is 2021. The default price is $4.00 in this tool. For comparison to the Texas A&M tool in this blog, I inputted $3.91. This tool shows results based on single calculations. So, with these specific numbers, it shows no potential payment for either PLC or ARC-CO for York Co. Irrigated Corn.
It also does a really nice job of explaining the payment equations (PLC shown in this picture…although it doesn’t look like this specific explanation was updated for years). Because we’re assuming a higher MYA price than the reference price of $3.70, a PLC payment wasn’t triggered in this example.
The ARC-CO info. is often confusing, so the tool does a great job visually showing how the numbers are determined. In this case, you can see the 2015 and 2016 yields were removed as the highest and lowest with 2017-2019 used for the Benchmark Yield of 234.24. The Olympic average will differ based on county. Some counties also have separate irrigated and non-irrigated yields for various crops, which can provide separate triggers.
The tool does the same in showing the calculation for ARC-CO Benchmark Prices. It uses the higher of the MYA price or Effective Reference price. With lower corn prices for several years, the Effective Reference Price has been higher and that’s what is used to calculate revenues.
This is an example looking at soybeans using the Illinois tool. I used the same yield and price as Texas A&M tool for comparison. Notice with these prices and yields, it shows no PLC nor ARC-CO payment for York County soybeans. For counties like York that have combined irrigated and non-irrigated yields, you will need to default to ‘irrigated’ for your PLC yield that is inputted.

Additional Resources:


JenREES 1/17/20

Winter in-person meetings are ‘a go’ for this week for this part of the State. Also, the online pesticide training is available for those who would rather not attend in person. It’s found at: https://web.cvent.com/event/4efa4d41-c770-4a78-99d7-4c4ea75d45ae/summary

Dicamba Training will be conducted by the companies, not UNL. Most have an online training option. Some also have live webinars and in-person meetings. Please see each company’s info:

Bayer (Xtendimax): https://www.cvent.com/c/calendar/7829eb5d-ddef-4c2f-ac2c-a67626018ece
BASF (Engenia): https://www.engeniaherbicide.com/training.html
Syngenta (Tavium): https://www.syngenta-us.com/herbicides/tavium-application-stewardship

Farm Bill: Because the tools are the same as in the past, I’ve updated a blog post (go to the “Farm Bill” category) at jenreesources.com. It shows step by step instructions on how to enter data into the Texas A&M and Illinois decision making tools. Your election this year is for one year only (2021). Some of my data was saved in the Texas A&M tool, so hopefully that’s the case for you individually as well.

After looking at data, here’s some things that may be helpful for consideration. Yes, we’ve had good market prices recently. However, remember ARC-CO is based on a 5-year Olympic average where the high and low are thrown out. This average is based on 2015-2019 (2020 doesn’t come into the picture until the 2022 decision. And, if it’s the high, it gets thrown out then…so it may take a couple years of high prices). And, the reality is that PLC corn price of $3.70 may also not trigger depending on the MYA price.

Another consideration for the 2021 election is county yields for ARC-CO payments (looking at years 2015-2019 where the high and low are thrown out). Because different weather events hit portions of counties, and because some counties have separate payments for irrigated and non-irrigated acres, it’s important to look at your individual county data to make decisions.

If you don’t want to use the decision tools from Texas A&M and Illinois, another option is a simple calculation. On my blog, you can click on a link to download a USDA excel spreadsheet which shows data for figuring ARC-CO triggers and payments. I’ve hidden the cells for the rest of the U.S. and only have Nebraska shown; once downloaded, you can unhide cells if you want to look at other states. For the calculation: 

Take your 2021 County Guaranteed Revenue for a specific crop and divide that by 2021 County Benchmark Yield for that crop. For example, York County irrigated corn (irrigated and non-irrigated are combined) shows a 2021 Guaranteed Revenue of $745.35. The 2021 Benchmark Yield (which is an Olympic average yield from 2015-2019) is 234.24. Taking 745.35/234.24=$3.18. Based on these numbers, an ARC-CO payment would not be triggered for corn in York County unless the price went down to $3.18. This is in comparison to PLC in which the trigger is $3.70 for the corn price. This helps with decision making as it leans towards enrolling in PLC for corn. (Again, no guarantee of a payment even with PLC depending on the MYA price). You can also try other figures (ex. trying 240 and 220 bu/ac) if you think the trendline yields may be higher or lower than the current estimate to see other potential ARC Co price triggers. You can use this same calculation for other crops such as soybean, wheat, sorghum, etc. and compare the prices obtained vs. the PLC price for that crop.

The windstorm, fairly widespread in this part of the state, impacted many individual corn yields. I don’t know how that compares to average county yields for 2020. In the past, we had those at some point in February, so it will be interesting to look at this later.

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