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Articles from 2017 In March

Names in the News: April 2017

Names in the News

KG MARKETSENSE, Des Moines, Iowa — Greg Roggenkamp has joined the company as key account manager for AMIS Panels. Roggenkamp will direct syndicated studies for crop, seed and crop protection chemicals and will serve agricultural clients throughout North America. He was previously with GfK.

Kyle Staley has joined the company as key account manager for ad hoc research. Staley will be responsible for ad hoc research for clients in the crop protection, seed and agricultural machinery markets throughout North America. He was previously with Grant Thorton LLP.


ZINPRO CORP., Eden Prairie, Minn. — Dane Schoenbaum has joined the company as account manager — dairy specialist Northeast. Schoenbaum will be responsible for growth and management of product sales in the northeastern U.S. and will provide on-farm technical support for the region.


AB VISTA, Marlborough, U.K. — Fernando Garcilopez has been appointed business manager for Spain, Portugal and Italy. Garcilopez will provide technical support and advice to distributors and customers in the area.


ROCK RIVER LABORATORY, Watertown, Wis. — Megan Kelly has joined the company as nutrition analytic consultant and manager of Rock River Laboratory-Ohio. Kelly will manage the day-to-day quality analysis of all samples moving through the Ohio facility while building relationships and sharing insights with nutritionists in the Northeast and Midwest U.S.


CANTRELL, Gainesville, Ga. — Jeff Saunders has been promoted to general manager for engineering/service/parts sales. Cantrell was most recently manager of the parts department.


NUTRIAD, Dendermonde, Belgium — Dr. Wei Wang has been appointed technical manager for China. Wang will provide technical support for applications in mycotoxin management and gut health.


VAN BEEK NUTRITION, Schoolcraft, Mich. — Rebecca Steiger has joined the company as nutritional consultant. Steiger will work with dairy and beef operations in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio to provide proactive nutrition solutions.


ZINPRO CORP., Eden Prairie, Minn. — Pedro Ferro has joined the company as account manager — beef. Ferro will provide key technical support to beef customers and cultivate new business opportunities for Performance Minerals throughout Brazil.


EW NUTRITION USA, Des Moines, Iowa — Joseph Bruce has joined the company as senior key account manager. Bruce will be responsible for product sales to the U.S. poultry and swine industries. He was previously with Miller Poultry.

Mark Johnson has joined the company as senior swine key account manager. Johnson will be responsible for product sales to the U.S. swine industry, focusing on swine integrators and feed manufacturers. He was previously with Kent Feeds.


IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, Ames, Iowa — Hongwei Xin has been named assistant dean for research in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Xin will direct and support research activities, focusing on the promotion of animal-related research, facilitating linkages with the Agriculture Experiment Station's research and economic development efforts and promoting international research partnerships. He will continue to direct the Egg Industry Center and will serve as interim director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.


KG MARKETSENSE, Des Moines, Iowa — Kevin Ryan has joined the organization as key account manager serving animal health clients in Europe as well as animal health and other agricultural clients in Canada. Ryan will assist in developing new information products for the animal health market. He was previously with Merck Animal Health.


LAND O’LAKES INC., Arden Hills, Minn. — Bill Pieper has been promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer, effective May 1. Pieper will be responsible for corporate finance, accounting, audit and treasury. He was most recently vice president, chief accounting officer and treasurer.


SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY EXTENSION, Brookings, S.D. — Ryan Samuel has joined the team as Extension swine specialist. Samuel will develop and share research-based information with South Dakota pork producers to help them improve their management practices and profits. He was previously with Alltech.


U.S. POULTRY & EGG ASSN., Tucker, Ga. — Matthew Spencer has been appointed director of human resources and safety programs. Spencer will be responsible for strategic management of certain technical services provided to or on behalf of members, including worker safety, human resources and employment law programs. He was previously with Smithfield Foods.


CHS FOUNDATION, St. Paul, Minn. — Nanci Lilja has been appointed president. Lilja will lead the work to develop the next generation of agricultural leaders, champion national agricultural safety and advance rural vitality in hometown communities. She most recently had roles in the foundation's legal and compliance areas.


FAST GENETICS, Saskatoon, Sask. — Brad Hennen has joined the company as account manager. Hennen will be responsible for growing and maintaining accounts in Minnesota and surrounding states.


ZINPRO CORP., Eden Prairie, Minn. — Jose Elizondo has joined the company as beef account manager — Mexico. Elizondo will be responsible for expanding the Performance Minerals beef nutrition sales and technical support offerings to feed and premix companies, nutritionists and feedlot operators throughout Mexico, with a focus on feedlot cattle as well as cow/calf accounts.


AMERICAN HUMANE, Washington, D.C. — Sarah Wilbourn has joined the organization as strategic alliances manager. Wilbourn will focus on outreach to farms, ranches and retailers for the farm animal certification programs. She was previously with the United Egg Producers.


ANPARIO, Nottinghamshire, U.K. — Juan Larrain has been appointed technical manager of aquaculture. Larrain will be responsible for developing the aquaculture products globally, with a focus on the Americas and Asia.


CHRISTENSEN FARMS & FEEDLOTS INC., Sleepy Eye, Minn. — Matthew Bremer has been named vice president and chief financial officer. Bremer was previously with Gold'n Plump Co.


ALLTECH, Nicholasville, Ky. — Jeff Johnson has joined the company as on-farm dairy specialist for the South Dakota team. Johnson will work with dairy operations in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa to help manage and prevent health challenges, in addition to conducting audits and educating producers on milk quality and procedures. He was previously with Land O Lakes.


OHIO BUSINESS ASSN., Columbus, Ohio — Janice Welsheimer has joined the association as director of educational programs. Welsheimer will provide leadership and direction for the educational programs, including workshops, seminars and conferences. She will also serve as executive director of the Ohio Certified Crop Adviser program and the Ohio coordinator for the Nutrients for Life Foundation.


ZINPRO CORP., Eden Prairie, Minn. — Jeff Lyle has been named account manager — western Canada. Lyle will develop new business and nutritional solutions and provide technical sales support to customers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia for all species.


IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY, Ames, Iowa — Phil Harris has joined the Center for Agricultural Law & Taxation as visiting professor. Harris will assist with analysis, writing and instruction on tax issues important to Iowa and agriculture. He will also work with staff members to address tax issues.


U.S. POULTRY & EGG ASSN., Tucker, Ga. — Seals Burdell has retired as controller. Burdell has been with the association since 2010.


OBITUARY Mike Kane, 79, founder of Kane Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, passed away on April 11. Kane started the company in 1969 and grew it into a leading national manufacturer of equipment for customers in North America and around the world. After the company was acquired by Lee Container in 2016, Kane remained with the company as a consultant.


SCR DAIRY, Madison, Wis. — Erica Tessmann has joined the company as marketing and digital lead for North America. Tessmann will communicate the benefits of company technology to dairies in North America. She was previously with Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Assn.


TECHMIX GLOBAL, Minneapolis, Minn. — Ashley Ann Schroeder has been appointed bovine sales account manager for the Midwest territory. Schroeder was previously with Parnell Pharmaceutical.


ARM & HAMMER ANIMAL NUTRITION, Princeton, N.J. — Dr. Ruby Wu has joined the company as technical services manager-ruminant in the western region. Wu will work closely with the western region team to provide technical support and training.


HUBBARD, Quintin, France — Thomas de Bretagne has been appointed director research and development. De Bretagne will steer the company through a new phase in animal genetic selection and also will share and exchange methodologies, research and tools with Groupe Grimaud, prioritizing transversal projects. He was previously with Groupe Evolution.


PURINA ANIMAL NUTRITION, Shoreview, Minn. — Megan Wildman has been named calf and heifer specialist. Wildman will serve the New York area and act as a local resource for dairy farmers. She was most recently sales specialist.


PHARMGATE ANIMAL HEALTH LLC, Wilmington, N.C. — Peter Criddle has been promoted to chief financial officer.

Dr. Alexander Hintz has joined the company as technical services veterinarian for the eastern Corn Belt region.

Chad Howser has been promoted to executive director of sales for the U.S. business.

Mike Mulder has been appointed account manager for the southern Minnesota and adjacent territory.

Doug Rupp has been promoted to chief operating officer.

Edward Seed has been appointed vice president global marketing and international sales. Seed will focus on global product strategies and expanding the business internationally.


DPI GLOBAL, Porterville, Cal. — Kendal Thompson has been promoted to president and chief operating officer. Thompson will be responsible for day-to-day company management, operations and profit and loss.


TRELLEBORG WHEEL SYSTEMS, Spartanburg, S.C. — Douglas Saville has joined the agricultural tires operation as Midwest sales manager for North America. Saville will oversee existing accounts and grow new business in the Midwest region.


ALLTECH, Lexington, Ky. — Dr. Dulmelis DG Sandu has joined the company as poultry technical support services veterinarian. Sandu will work with the sales team, feed partners and customers across the U.S.


BROCK GRAIN SYSTEMS, Milford, Ind. — Gretchen Sosenheimer has joined the company as business support group manager. Sosenheimer will be responsible for sales order administration, logistics coordination with dealers and the internal shipping teams, process improvement for those areas and building relationships with the dealer network.


PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, University Park, Pa. — Steven C. Loerch has been named senior associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences, effective Aug. 14. Loerch will be responsible for planning, administration and implementation of programs; daily operations; budgets; safety; university policy and procedures; personnel; promotion and tenure; hiring and retention; facilities and land; external relations, and assistance for academic, regional and support units of the college. We is currently at the University of Illinois.


SUBA SEEDS GROUP B.V., Boise, Ida. — Ron Amarel has been appointed managing director of Suba Americas. Amarel will oversee the integration and strategic expansion of the U.S. operations, including Condor Seed Production Inc. and Brotherton Seed Co. Inc. He was previously with Incotec Group.


TECHMIX GLOBAL, Minneapolis, Minn. — Trent Gierstorf has been appointed Midwest swine regional swine salesman. Gierstorf will work with Iowa pork producers to achieve higher productivity in their operations.

Danone agrees to divest Stonyfield brand in WhiteWave acquisition

Danone said March 31 it took a major step towards closing the WhiteWave acquisition as it has reached an agreement in principle with the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

As part of the agreement in principle, in order to facilitate the prompt closing of the WhiteWave acquisition, Danone will sell one of its U.S. dairy subsidiaries, Stonyfield, in the months following the closing of the acquisition of WhiteWave. The move is expected to permit closing to occur shortly and will allow the company to proceed at the soonest with the integration and reap the full benefits of the announced synergies.

While Stonyfield has been a valued part of Danone’s portfolio and remains a highly attractive asset, its divestiture does not impact the strategic rationale or financial benefits of the WhiteWave acquisition. Stonyfield generated turnover of approximately $370 million in 2016.

As part of this announcement, Danone reconfirmed the value creation expected from the transaction, which includes:

  • Significant run-rate earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) synergies of $300 million by 2020;
  • Improvement of Danone’s full-year, like-for-like sales growth profile by an extra 0.5-1.0%;
  • Accretion of EBIT margin from 2018, and
  • Solid earnings per share (EPS) accretion from 2017 and above 10% based on run-rate synergies.

“As part of the agreement in principle with the DOJ, we made the strategic decision to divest Stonyfield as it allows us to take a major step towards completing the WhiteWave transaction expeditiously,” Danone chief executive officer Emmanuel Faber said. “This is a good outcome as it addresses the DOJ’s concerns and enables Danone to shortly begin to capture the benefits of the combination and the value creation announced last July.”

The WhiteWave acquisition is expected to accelerate Danone’s 2020 profitable growth journey, drive strong value creation and deliver attractive financial benefits, including an above 10% EPS accretion based on run-rate synergies.

“Through this perfect match, we will bring together complementary portfolios, including some of the fastest-growing, health-focused categories that are strongly aligned with long-term consumer trends,” Faber said, adding that the combination will allow Danone to develop a world-leading dairy and plant-based food and beverage portfolio, with a full spectrum of better-for-you offerings, including protein-rich, organic, non-biotech and nutrient-dense choices.

“With this wider variety of great-tasting products, we will reach more consumers and be able to play in more meal occasions and consumption moments like snacking and on-the-go,” he added.

Through the WhiteWave transaction, Danone will strengthen and expand its position in resilient growth markets. Danone will notably double the size of its North America business to more than $6 billion in turnover, allowing the company to become a top 15 Food & Beverage company in the U.S. and the number-one in refrigerated dairy (excluding cheese) in this key strategic geography. The transaction also offers the potential to broaden Danone’s reach across geographies through new high-growth categories in the future.

“While, as part of our agreement with the DOJ, we have made the strategic decision to divest our Stonyfield business, we are proud of all that we have accomplished together. We are committed to finding the right partner to support Stonyfield growth journey in the future. In doing so, we will attract more competition and capital into the U.S. organic segment, creating an opportunity for it to grow even faster.”

USDA confirms it: Big increase in soybean acres

Kenneth Schulze/iStock/Thinkstock corn field under bright blue sky

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday delivered a double dose of bearish news for soybeans with its forecast that farmers will plant more soybeans this year at a time when there are 200 million bu. more soybeans in storage than a year ago.

The grain trade expected more soybean acres, but USDA’s forecast of 89.5 million was even larger than trade estimates. That increase of 7%, or 6 million acres more than a year ago, will draw acres from corn and wheat, both of which will have smaller areas this year.

Also bearish for soybean prices was the quarterly stocks report, which showed 1.735 billion bu. of soybeans in storage, which topped the average forecast and was up from the 1.53 billion bu. a year ago. Corn and wheat stocks of 8.62 billion bu. and 1.66 billion bu., respectively, were above trade averages and greater than a year ago.

“USDA’s March 31 reports have a well-deserved reputation for surprises, and they proved why again today,” Bryce Knorr, Farm Futures senior grain analyst, said. “Soybeans got a double dose of bearish news. Farmers, as expected, said they want to plant record acres, and their intentions were even more than we found in our survey."

Knorr said growers across the country are moving to soybeans and cutting back on other crops, including spring wheat, sorghum corn. This was especially true in North Dakota, where soybean acreage is expected to be up 14% from 2016, while spring wheat seedings should be down 10%.

USDA said soybean acreage intentions are up or unchanged in the 27 of the 31 states it surveys.

Chicago Board of Trade soybeans for May "traded to six-month lows before the report," Knorr said. "The market is oversold, but the next downside support is $9.3725. A test of that level could trigger short covering, but growers shouldn’t expect any real rallies until we’re well into the growing season."

Near midday on Friday and after the report, May soybeans were down 17 cents at $9.46/bu., and new-crop November was down 8.5 cents to $9.5475/bu. May corn was up 6 cents to $3.635/bu., and December was up 6.25 cents to $3.8725.

Total wheat acreage is expected to be down this year because a drop in the winter wheat area has been known for months. Friday’s report was the season’s first for spring and durum wheat, and it showed spring wheat down 3%, at 11.31 million acres, and durum down 17%, at 2 million. North Dakota, the biggest durum and spring wheat producer, is expected to see a 10% drop in spring wheat acreage and a 21% drop in durum acreage.

“The acreage numbers are slightly supportive for corn. Corn was trending higher just ahead of the report, so there may be fund money deciding to get long today for a weather rally on end-of-the-quarter positioning,” Knorr said. “The stocks number would appear to indicate lower feed usage due to the fairly mild winter and abundant supplies of competing rations.”

USDA’s estimate is “only 68 million bu. above" the Farm Futures projection -- less than 1% -- which is within the range of sampling error, Knorr noted.

“May (corn) futures rallied up to the moving average resistance I suggested in this morning’s report on FarmFutures.com,” he added.

U.S. hog inventory up 4% from 2016

Scott Olson group of pigs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the “Quarterly Hogs & Pigs” report March 31, revealing that the inventory of all hogs and pigs on March 1, 2017, was 71.0 million head. This was 4% higher than on March 1, 2016, but 1% lower than on Dec. 1, 2016. The average pre-report trade estimate was for a 3.9% year-over-year increase.

The breeding inventory, at 6.07 million head, was up 1% from last year but down slightly from the previous quarter.

The arket hog inventory, at 64.9 million head, was up 4% from last year but down 1% from last quarter.

The December 2016 to February 2017 pig crop was at 31.4 million head. Sows farrowing during the period totaled 3.01 million head, up 3% from 2016. The sows farrowed during this quarter represented 49% of the breeding herd. The average number of pigs saved per litter was at a record high of 10.43 for the December to February period, compared to 10.30 last year. Pigs saved per litter by size of operation ranged from 8.00 for operations with 1-99 hogs and pigs to 10.50 for operations with more than 5,000 hogs and pigs.

U.S. hog producers intend to have 3.01 million sows farrow during the March to May 2017 quarter, a 1% increase from actual farrowings during the same period in 2016 and up 5% from 2015. Intended farrowings for June to August 2017, at 3.05 million sows, are down slightly from 2016 but up 1% from 2015.

The total number of hogs under contract owned by operations with more than 5,000 head but raised by contractees accounted for 48% of the total U.S. hog inventory -- the same as the prior year.


All inventory and pig crop estimates for March 2016 through December 2016 were reviewed using final pig crop, official slaughter, death loss and updated import and export data. The net revision made to the September 2016 all hogs and pigs inventory was 1.5%. A revision of 1.2% was also made to the June to August 2016 pig crop. No revisions were made to the December 2016 all hogs and pigs inventory.

Neutral reaction

“The theme here is pretty obvious: The hog numbers are still growing. As a trader, it’s hard for me to expect a big increase in pork prices anywhere in the foreseeable future until you get numbers cutting back,” Kevin Bost, president of Procurement Strategies Inc., said during a pork checkoff conference call.

Len Steiner, president of Steiner Consulting Group, said three things bear watching in the pork sector moving forward.

First, he said exports are becoming more and more important. Exports this year are estimated to take 21.7% of production, which is up from 21% last year. “We’ve got to expand that not only in total pounds but as a percentage of all the pounds of pork that are produced that are coming at us,” Steiner said.

Second, he said U.S. per capita consumption is expected to be 1.27% higher this year.

“So, we’re going to consume more of it on a per capita basis; we’re going to export more of it, and if either of those don’t happen, you’ve got some problems on prices,” he said.

The third and final thing to watch, according to Steiner, is the processing plant construction progress. Last year, U.S. slaughter was 91,000 head more than the hypothetical capacity at the biggest week. If the plants are finished on schedule, they will reduce the number of head to 49,000 above hypothetical capacity.

However, if any of these run into construction delays, the number becomes a lot bigger than 91,000 head over capacity. “Sometimes, they run on schedule; sometimes, you get surprised. I think that that’s a risk,” Steiner said.

In terms of producer margins, Bost said until financing and profitability say otherwise, the industry will continue in expansion mode.

“I think the hog producer has done well,” Steiner said. “They made so much money in 2014 that they’ve still got it in their pockets. So, the bankers are not controlling the expansion as much as the hog farmers are. They got a little nervous in October and November, but recently, they are holding money together. There is nothing in the cards at this point in time that says they should stop expanding or contract.”

N&H TOPLINE: Simpler test for ketosis helps dairies

Photo: Bryce Richter A result of a blood sample from dairy cows, used to detect ketosis.
A result of a blood sample from dairy cows, used to detect ketosis.

On dairy farms, ketosis can be a “silent killer” that is caused by excessive toxic particles released by the liver, usually when a cow starts to produce milk after giving birth.

The start of lactation is the moment of maximum metabolic stress for a dairy cow, when her overworked liver can crank out molecules called ketones. Ketones provide energy to other tissues in the body but, if excessive, can reduce milk output, set the stage for disease and even cause the cow to be culled from the herd.

Ketosis appears in 40-60% of lactating American dairy cows. Even though ketosis costs an average of $290 per cow, it often goes undiagnosed, because the blood tests are laborious and expensive.

Far better would be a test for telltale molecules in the milk, which is just what University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor of dairy science Heather White has been working on, in collaboration with dairy science department chair Kent Weigel and professor of veterinary medicine Gary Oetzel.

The result of their effort, called KetoMonitor, is now incorporated in the AgSource system used by dairy farmers  predominantly in Wisconsin to track their herds and milk output in an average of 100,307 cows over the last 12 months. AgSource relies on a sophisticated spectrometer to look for two milk-borne compounds that signal ketosis and then uses sophisticated computer analysis to refine the prediction.

Blood tests are the old-fashioned way — but still the gold standard — for detecting ketosis, but KetoMonitor’s milk tests and computation have become the first line of defense.

By testing milk from “fresh” cows every week or so, Ketomonitor first estimates the prevalence of ketosis in the fresh cows. Then, by analyzing the data on milk production, reproductive history and other matters on each fresh cow, it identifies cows that might need a blood test for ketosis.

Ketomonitor already catches 85% of cows with the condition, which is almost enough to avoid blood tests entirely. Once they reach 90% accuracy, blood tests for every fresh cow would no longer make economic sense, White said.

To reach that magic number, graduate student Ryan Pralle is using computational tactic called “machine learning” (think digital self-help class). When the software makes a mistake, it combs through the data, looking to do better the next time around.

The accuracy is improving, he said, noting, “When we compare it to some other non-blood tests, I think our tools are very competitive.”

When White and her collaborators began tackling the problem about 10 years ago, she said, “We recognized there is a lot of money lost in sub-clinical ketosis. A cow is having negative outcomes; she’s making less milk and is not going to re-breed as easily, but she can’t walk up and tell you she’s sick.”

Thanks to the efforts of White and others at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, that has changed.

“Ketosis has become something that producers really want to manage they because recognize the cost of the disorder,” Pralle said.

Tree trunks act as methane source

bestdesigns/iStock/Thinkstock melting globe

A new study from the University of Delaware is one of the first in the world to show that tree trunks in upland forests actually emit methane rather than store it, representing a previously unaccounted new source of this powerful greenhouse gas.

Methane is about 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, with some estimates as high as 33 times stronger due to its effects when it is in the atmosphere. Because of methane's global warming potential, identifying the sources and "sinks" or storehouses of this greenhouse gas is critical for measuring and understanding its implications across ecosystems.

Upland forest soils usually take up and store methane, but this effect can be counteracted by methane emissions from tree trunks, the research team from the University of Delaware's College of Agriculture & Natural Resources found. Their work was published in the scientific journal Ecosystems.

"We believe our work can help fill in some gaps in methane budgets and environmental processes in global ecosystem models," said study leader Rodrigo Vargas, an assistant professor in the department of plant and soil sciences.

Shreeram Inamdar, professor of watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry, is co-investigator on the project with Vargas, and doctoral student Daniel Warner is the lead author of the paper. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from Delaware's Federal Research & Development Matching Grant Program.

Maryland study site. In a 30-acre area of upland forest at the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in Cecil County, Md., the researchers tested a cluster of trees, soil and coarse woody debris (CWD) — dead wood lying on the forest floor in various stages of decomposition — to measure fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide.

Warner visited the site over the course of one growing season, April to December, and measured the carbon dioxide and methane fluxes of the soil, tree trunks and CWD to determine whether those three components were sources or sinks of these greenhouse gases.

In terms of carbon dioxide, research has been done for decades on the fluxes of tree trunks — known as stem respiration — and soil — known as soil respiration — but research to determine the importance of carbon fluxes with regard to CWD still lags.

It's a different story for methane, however. While studies have been done on methane fluxes in connection to soils, which usually consume the methane and are considered methane sinks, very few studies have dealt with CWD and tree trunks in upland soils.

"What research has been done is generally lab incubations of wood, where they measure how much methane is released over time. What we've found in this study is that some coarse woody debris acts kind of like the soil and consumes methane, while other pieces of coarse woody debris emit small amounts of methane, which is also what we saw with living tree trunks," Warner said.

To understand the differences between the actions of the CWD pools, Warner and his colleagues found that fresher CWD has a positive methane flux, which is similar to how a living tree behaves. The researchers also found that CWD had a high rate of variability when it came to methane emissions.

Tree trunks and methane fluxes

While tree trunks have been known to release carbon dioxide, this research showed that they were also releasing methane.

"The tree trunks constantly have low but detectable emissions of methane. Soils are providing an environmental service of sequestering this potent greenhouse gas, but the trunks are releasing methane equivalent to 4% of what could be captured by CWD and soils at the ecosystem scale," Vargas said.

Overall, the tree trunks acted as a source of carbon dioxide and as a small source of methane, but the magnitude of gases emitted varied by species.

Tulip poplar is one species that released a lot of methane and carbon dioxide, whereas beech trees released the most methane within the forest but emitted very little carbon dioxide. "It might be some species-specific trait that's controlling the flux," Warner noted.

Temperature also played a key role in regulating the magnitude of the fluxes.

"Methane in soils seem to follow a temperature gradient where higher temperatures are related to higher uptake of methane, but that's not necessarily the case for CWD or for tree trunks," Vargas said.

Warner said it's hard to develop a temperature relationship with methane, because there are two processes that oppose each other. They found that beyond a threshold of 17°C for soil temperature, the variability of methane consumption expands dramatically.

As for where the methane originated, Warner said it's still a scientific frontier, but this study provides enough clues to give the researchers some theories.

The first one is that methane is produced in hot spots in the soil.

"By hot spot, we mean a place where conditions are conducive to methane production, and then that methane is sucked up by the tree roots, transported through its vascular system and released out of its trunk," Warner said. "We know that happens in wetlands, but in uplands, maybe it happens in one specific spot and nowhere else."

The other mechanism that could be causing methane fluxes from trunks is internal rotting or infection inside the tree that produces an environment where methanogenic bacteria can survive, and then methane diffuses out of the tree.

"At this moment, the mechanisms of methane production in upland forests are not clear. Methane can be either transported from the soils upward inside the stem and diffused to the atmosphere or produced inside the stem by fungi or archaea — single-celled microorganisms," Vargas said.

Both Warner and Vargas agreed that the next steps should be to test the generality of these observations across different forests and identify the mechanisms of methane production and transport in tree trunks. Finally, they suggest that global and ecosystem models should take into account methane produced from tree trunks as a new source of methane to the atmosphere.

USDA announces $1.9m for alfalfa, forage research

weaver1234/iStock/Thinkstock. close up of alfalfa leaves

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) announced March 30 the availability of $1.9 million in funding for research and development to improve the agricultural productivity, profitability and conservation of the U.S. alfalfa forage industry.

Funding is made through NIFA’s Alfalfa & Forage Research Program (AFRP).

“Alfalfa and other forage crops have great potential as high-value, sustainable crops,” NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said. “These NIFA investments will help expand this potential into profit for agricultural producers.”

Alfalfa is a high-nutrition animal feed that also shows promise as a source for bio-based materials and other renewable resources. AFRP is an integrated, alfalfa-oriented research and extension program that supports collaborative research and technology transfer to improve overall agricultural productivity, profitability and conservation of natural resources through conventional and organic forage and seed production systems.

In fiscal 2017, AFRP will support the development of improved alfalfa forage and seed production systems, practices and supporting technologies.

NIFA is soliciting applications for fiscal 2017 to support projects that:

* Increase alfalfa forage and seed yields as well as forage quality through improved management practices, plant breeding and other strategies to reduce biotic and abiotic stresses and costs of production;

* Improve alfalfa forage and seed harvest and storage systems to optimize economic returns to alfalfa producers as well as end users, including milk producers;

* Develop methods to estimate alfalfa forage yield and quality, which would support marketing alfalfa forage as a livestock feed and also develop instruments to reduce producer risks, and

* Explore new uses for alfalfa such as fish feeds, nutritive supplements, high-value chemical manufacturing or other novel uses.

Eligible applicants include state agricultural experiment stations, colleges and universities, university research foundations, other research institutions and organizations, federal agencies, national laboratories, private organizations or corporations and individuals who are U.S. citizens or nationals.

The deadline for applications is May 1.

See the request for applications for details.

Space exploration benefits Earth-bound ag

NASA Research into space farming has resulted in numerous Earth-based advances (e.g., LED lighting for greenhouse and vertical farm applications; new seed potato propagation techniques, etc.). There are still many technical challenges, but plants and associated biological systems can and will be a major component of the systems that keep humans alive when we establish ourselves on the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Research into space farming has resulted in numerous Earth-based advances (e.g., LED lighting for greenhouse and vertical farm applications; new seed potato propagation techniques, etc.). There are still many technical challenges, but plants and associated biological systems can and will be a major component of the systems that keep humans alive when we establish ourselves on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Following a new National Aeronautics & Space Administration's (NASA) bill that Congress passed in March authorizing $19.5 billion spending for space exploration in 2017, manned missions to Mars are closer to reality than ever before.

As both public and private enterprises gear up for a return to the moon and the first human footsteps on the red planet, there is a renewed focus on keeping people alive and productive in these extreme environments.

Plants, and specifically crop plants, will be a major component of proposed regenerative life-support systems as they provide food, oxygen, scrub carbon dioxide and aid in water recycling — all in a self-regenerating or "bioregenerative" fashion. Without a doubt, plants are a requirement for any sufficiently long-duration (time- and distance-wise) human space exploration mission.

There has been a great deal of research in this area — research that has not only advanced agriculture in space but has resulted in a great many Earth-based advances as well (e.g., LED lighting for greenhouse and vertical farm applications, new seed potato propagation techniques, etc.).

A recent article by Dr. Raymond M. Wheeler from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, now available open access in the journal Open Agriculture, provides an informative and comprehensive account of the various international historical and current contributions to bioregenerative life support and the use of controlled-environment agriculture for human space exploration.

Covering most of the major developments of international teams, it relates some of this work to technology transfer, which proves valuable here on Earth.

The idea of using plants to keep people alive and productive in space is not new in concept or in scientific inquiry. The article covers a large portion of the historical international research effort that will be the foundation for many of the trade studies and mission design plans for use of artificial ecosystems in space.

Research in the area started in 1950s and 1960s through the works of Jack Myers et al., who studied algae for oxygen production and carbon dioxide removal for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. Studies on algal production and controlled-environment agriculture were also carried out by Russian researchers in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, beginning in the 1960s, including tests with human crews whose air, water and much of their food were provided by wheat and other crops.

NASA initiated its Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) Program in the early 1980s, with testing focused on controlled-environment production of wheat, soybean, potato, lettuce and sweet potato. Findings from these studies paved the way to conduct tests in a 20 sq. m, atmospherically closed chamber located at Kennedy Space Center.

At about the same time, researchers in Japan developed a Closed Ecology Experiment Facilities (CEEF) in Aomori Prefecture to conduct closed-system studies with plants, humans, animals and waste recycling systems. CEEF had 150 sq. m of plant growth area that provided a near-complete diet, along with air and water regeneration for two humans and two goats.

The European Space Agency MELiSSA Project began in the late 1980s and pursued ecological approaches for providing gas, water and materials recycling for space life support and later expanded to include plant testing.

A research team at the University of Guelph in Ontario started a research facility for space crop research in 1994. Only a few years later, they went on to develop sophisticated canopy-scale hypobaric plant production chambers for testing crops for space and have since expanded their testing for a wide range of controlled-environment agriculture topics.

Most recently, a group at Beihang University in Beijing, China, designed, built and tested a closed life support facility (Lunar Palace 1), which included a 69 sq. m agricultural module for air, water and food production for three humans.

As a result of these international studies in space agriculture, novel technologies and findings have been produced; this includes the first use of light emitting diodes (LEDs) for growing crops, one of the first demonstrations of vertical agriculture, use of hydroponic approaches for subterranean crops like potato and sweet potato, crop yields that surpassed reported record field yields, the ability to quantify volatile organic compound production (e.g., ethylene) from whole crop stands, innovative approaches for controlling water delivery, approaches for processing and recycling wastes back to crop production systems and more.

The theme of agriculture in space has contributed to and benefited from terrestrial, controlled-environment agriculture and will continue to do so into the future. There are still numerous technical challenges, but plants and associated biological systems can and will be a major component of the systems that keep humans alive on the moon, Mars and beyond.

The original review article appeared within the special issue dedicated to agriculture in space and is available for free to read, download and share in on De Gruyter Online.

FMC Corp. purchasing DuPont's EU-required divestment

FMC Corp. (FMC) and DuPont announced March 31 the signing of a definitive agreement for FMC to acquire the portion of DuPont's Crop Protection business it must divest to comply with the European Commission ruling related to its merger with The Dow Chemical Co.

As part of the deal, DuPont will acquire FMC Health & Nutrition and receive $1.2 billion in cash, while FMC will acquire DuPont's global chewing pest insecticide portfolio, its global cereal broadleaf herbicides and a substantial portion of DuPont's global crop protection research and development (R&D) capabilities. FMC expects that this acquired business will generate approximately $1.5 billion in revenue and $475 million of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in 2017.

After closing the acquisition, FMC Agricultural Solutions will become the fifth-largest crop protection chemical company in the world by revenue, with estimated annual revenue of approximately $3.8 billion.

"This is a significant step forward for FMC and for our Agricultural Solutions business in particular," FMC president, chief executive officer and chairman Pierre Brondeau said. "The combination of market-leading products from DuPont's crop protection portfolio and its world-class R&D capabilities will transform our Agricultural Solutions business into a tier-one ag technology company.”

Brondeau continued, “The crop protection industry is undergoing significant change, as evidenced by the consolidation currently underway. To continue to meet the demands of our customers, FMC needs to provide more options to growers looking for innovative solutions that protect crops and increase yields. By combining these high-value products and R&D capabilities with our own product portfolio, pipeline and formulation expertise, FMC will be able to serve our customers better and accelerate the pace at which we bring new solutions to the market.”

The concurrent sale of FMC's Health & Nutrition business will allow the company to maintain a strong balance sheet and ensure that it can continue to invest in growing both its Agricultural Solutions and Lithium segments, he added.

Business being acquired

The acquired portion of DuPont's crop protection business includes an industry-leading selective insecticide portfolio consisting of Rynaxypyr, Cyazypyr and Indoxacarb. The first two of these products have full patent protection over their respective active ingredients, and FMC expects the products to generate more than $1 billion in 2017 revenue.

“These selective insecticides are highly complementary to FMC's existing broad spectrum insecticide portfolio,” the company stated.

The acquired portfolio also includes DuPont's global cereal broadleaf herbicides, consisting of nine active ingredients and multiple formulated products. This herbicide portfolio comes with strong, recognized brands and DuPont's proprietary PrecisionPac technology. FMC said these products bring significant diversification to its crop exposure in herbicides, as well as increase the balance of pre-emergent and post-emergent applications in FMC's portfolio.

The geographic spread of the revenue in this portfolio will result in a significant increase in FMC's presence in Asia and Europe. Following the acquisition, FMC's crop protection revenue will be almost equally spread across all four major regions:  North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

The underlying intellectual property related to the acquired products, including patents, registrations and data packages, will be transferred to FMC, and the company will also acquire a global manufacturing network to fully support these products, including four active ingredient manufacturing facilities and 10 regional formulation plants.

The acquisition will bring DuPont's world-class discovery and development organization, including its Delaware crop protection research headquarters, 14 regional development labs and related regulatory capabilities. This organization includes a pipeline of 15 synthetic active ingredients currently in development covering insecticides, herbicides and fungicides and an extensive library of 1.8 million synthetic compounds. The majority of DuPont's crop protection research workforce will transfer to FMC as part of this transaction.

FMC Health & Nutrition will become part of DuPont's Nutrition & Health segment.

"FMC Health & Nutrition is a highly profitable business with leading positions across the vast majority of its portfolio, deep applications knowledge and an extensive global network of laboratories and manufacturing facilities. It is a very complementary fit with DuPont's current portfolio. We are confident it will thrive under DuPont's leadership and will contribute to their successful Nutrition & Health business," Brondeau said.

The transaction is subject to the closing of the Dow and DuPont merger, as well as customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Closing is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2017. FMC expects this transaction to be immediately accretive to adjusted earnings per share and said it will give updated guidance for 2017 at its earnings call scheduled for May 2, 2017.

Prestage Foods of Iowa breaks ground on state-of-the-art plant

Prestage Foods Prestage plant rendering

Prestage Foods of Iowa LLC has officially broken ground to begin construction of its new fresh pork processing plant, although no ceremony was held.

“With the initial engineering complete, we are excited to be moving into the construction phase of this project,” said Jere Null, chief operating officer of Prestage Foods of Iowa. “At the peak of construction, we expect over 600 people to be working daily at the site. After construction, we will permanently employ approximately 1,000 people. We are proud to be investing and creating opportunities for the people of Wright County, the region and the state of Iowa.”

Prestage Farms currently raises pigs in more than 30 Iowa counties. The new facility will support these operations and will use state-of-the art systems to clean the air, reduce water and energy needs and provide a safe work environment and will utilize the latest innovations in processing and automation technology to help ensure that it is a world leader in food, employee and environmental safety. For example, the plant will use the most modern “air scrubbing” technology and will incorporate a water reuse program, which reduces the overall needs for water and wastewater treatment.

With construction beginning, the new plant is set for first operations in the fall of 2018. The plant will be a $43 million boost to the payroll in Wright County and will provide economic benefits to surrounding counties as well. More than 900 new full-time jobs will be created, with even the lowest-paid workers beginning at more than $37,000 per year plus full benefits. Average wages at the plant are expected to be more than $47,000.

“We are confident that we will be able to translate and apply the same commitment to quality in processing that we have to our live animal production business,” Dr. Ron Prestage said on behalf of the Prestage family. “This is an exciting time in our industry and an exciting time for our family business!”

Prestage Farms Inc. is a multi-generational, family-owned and -operated business started in 1983 by Bill and Marsha Prestage, who, along with their three sons, still own and actively operate this multifaceted business. Today, Prestage Farms, together with its affiliates, is a top-five producer of pork and turkey and employs more than 2,000 people company-wide, contracts with more than 450 farm families in seven states and produces more than 1 billion lb. of meat annually. Prestage Farms is headquartered in Clinton, N.C., and has operations in Iowa, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma.