Feedstuffs is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Tyson Foods strives to eliminate human antibiotics

Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN) said April 28 that it is striving to eliminate the use of human antibiotics from its U.S. broiler chicken flocks by the end of September 2017.

The company said it will report annually on its progress, beginning with its fiscal 2015 Sustainability Report.

Tyson Foods has already stopped using all antibiotics in its 35 broiler hatcheries, requires a veterinary prescription for antibiotics used on broiler farms and has reduced human antibiotics used to treat broiler chickens by more than 80% since 2011.

“Antibiotic resistant infections are a global health concern,” said Donnie Smith, president and CEO of Tyson Foods. “We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe**, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness.”

“Given the progress we’ve already made reducing antibiotics in our broilers, we believe it’s realistic to shoot for zero by the end of our 2017 fiscal year. But we won’t jeopardize animal well-being just to get there. We’ll use the best available treatments to keep our chickens healthy, under veterinary supervision,” Smith said.

Tyson Foods is also forming working groups with independent farmers and others in the company’s beef, pork and turkey supply chains to discuss ways to reduce the use of human antibiotics on cattle, hog and turkey farms. Those groups will begin meeting this summer.

Tyson Foods’ international business is committed to taking similar measures on antibiotic use in its global chicken operations but has not set a timeframe.

Perdue and Pilgrim's Pride have adopted similar measures.

Total red meat production drops 4% in 2014

Total red meat production drops 4% in 2014

Total red meat production for the U.S. totaled 47.4 billion pounds in 2014, 4% lower than the previous year, according to the 2014 Livestock Slaughter Summary report issued April 27 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Red meat production in commercial plants totaled 47.3 billion pounds. On-farm slaughter totaled 93.4 million pounds.

Beef production totaled 24.3 billion pounds, down 6% from the previous year. Veal production totaled 100 million pounds, down 15% from last year. Pork production, at 22.9 billion pounds, was down 1% from the previous year. Lamb and mutton production totaled 161 million pounds, down slightly from 2013.

Commercial cattle slaughter during 2014 totaled 30.2 million head, down 7% from 2013, with federal inspection comprising 98.4% of the total. The average live weight was 1,330 lb., up 16 lb. from a year ago. Steers comprised 51.8% of the total federally inspected cattle slaughter, heifers 28.2%, dairy cows 9.5%, other cows 8.6% and bulls 1.8%.

Commercial calf slaughter totaled 565,800 head, 26% lower than a year ago with 98.5% under federal inspection. The average live weight was 283 lb., up 33 lb. from a year earlier.

Commercial hog slaughter totaled 106.9 million head, 5% lower than 2013 with 99.3% of the hogs slaughtered under federal inspection. The average live weight was up 9 lb. from last year, at 285 lb. Barrows and gilts comprised 97.1% of the total federally inspected hog slaughter.

Commercial sheep and lamb slaughter, at 2.31 million head, was down slightly from the previous year with 91.1% by federal inspection. The average live weight was unchanged from 2013 at 135 lb. Lambs and yearlings comprised 93.5% of the total federally inspected sheep slaughter.

There were 881 plants slaughtering under federal inspection on Jan. 1, 2015, compared with 862 last year. Of these, 654 plants slaughtered at least one head of cattle during 2014 with the 13 largest plants slaughtering 56% of the total cattle killed. Hogs were slaughtered at 620 plants, with the 12 largest plants accounting for 57% of the total. Likewise, 5 of the 200 plants that slaughtered calves accounted for 63% of the total and 3 of the 521 plants that slaughtered sheep or lambs in 2014 comprised 56% of the total head. 

Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas accounted for 49% of the U.S. commercial red meat production in 2014, unchanged from 2013, reported NASS.

USDA awards $3.8m in nanotechnology research grants

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA) announced April 27 more than $3.8 million in funding to support grants focused on using nanotechnology to find solutions to societal challenges such as food security, nutrition, food safety and environmental protection.

The awards were made through NIFA's Agriculture & Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

"Nanoscale science, engineering and technology embrace opportunities in a broad range of critical challenges facing agriculture and food systems," NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said. "Advances in nanotechnology help secure a healthy food supply by enabling cost-effective methods for the early detection of insects, diseases and other contaminants; improve plant and animal breeding, and create high value-added products of nano-biomaterials for food and non-food applications."

NIFA noted that past projects include a Cornell University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute venture that led to the development of a new nanotechnology that could keep bacteria from sticking to medical equipment and food processing machinery. A project from Harvard School of Public Health is investigating the effectiveness of a chemical-free, nanotechnology-based method for the inactivation of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms on the surface of fruits and vegetables.

Fiscal year 2014 projects include:

* The University of Georgia — $496,192;

* The University of Iowa — $496,180;

* The University of Kentucky Research Foundation — $450,000;

* The University of Massachusetts-Amherst — $444,200;

* North Dakota State University — $149,714;

* Rutgers University — $450,000;

* Pennsylvania State University — $447,788;

* West Virginia University — $496,168, and

* The University of Wisconsin-Madison — $450,100.

tru Shrimp acquires global patent for shrimp production

tru Shrimp Systems announced April 27 that it has entered into an agreement with Texas A&M University for the exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize Tidal Basin technology, formerly referred to as super-intensive raceway systems.

The license agreement for the patented technology, developed by shrimp expert Dr. Addison Lawrence, extends to countries such as China, Taiwan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the U.K.

"We have had inquiries from all over the world for our Tidal Basin technology, and tru Shrimp Systems, as a brand of Ralco, clearly understands the global implications of this technology. The patent rights we have secured represent the largest markets for shrimp. For example, China has become a net importer of shrimp. The patent rights position us to supply protein to a growing world," tru Shrimp Systems general manager Michael Ziebell said.

Since tru Shrimp Systems acquired the initial patent rights to the U.S. market, it has accelerated commercialization of the Tidal Basin technology and a state-of-the-art shrimp research center.

The first round of engineering has been completed for a multi-million pound per year shrimp production facility. The research center, located in Balaton, Minn., will be complete in August. The facility will include two commercial-scale Tidal Basin lines. It will also include 144 shrimp research tanks, 116 nursery holding tanks, an animal health laboratory and water quality and shrimp feed laboratories.

Ziebell said the global patent rights acquired by tru Shrimp Systems are an essential component to its mission; however, partners receive much more from the company than Tidal Basin technology.

"tru Shrimp Systems goes beyond Tidal Basin technology. We provide everything required for success including process, financial and operational planning and technical support. We represent a clear alternative for the shrimp raising investor," Ziebell said. "Not only are we embracing a breakthrough technology, but we are rethinking shrimp production and evolving to meet tomorrow's food safety standards. We provide a reliable, dependable, bio-secure shrimp system that can be traced across the entire food supply chain. Product quality, consumer safety and consistent supply are in the front seat of our work and not an afterthought."

tru Shrimp Systems is a brand of Ralco, a third-generation family owned multinational company with distribution in more than 30 countries. A leading global provider of livestock nutrition, animal health products and crop enhancement products; Ralco supports large segments of the livestock, poultry, aquaculture and crop industries.

FB, NPPC appeals EPA's privacy releases

The Environmental Protection Agency’s public release to environmental groups of personal details about the home locations and contact information of tens of thousands of farm and ranch families was unlawful. A lower court ruling that upheld the EPA action failed to address key privacy issues and should be reversed, according to court documents filed Friday by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Farm Bureau, along with the National Pork Producers Council, filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to overturn an earlier district court ruling. That ruling held, in part, that because some of the information had been posted online by state agencies, EPA was free to publicly release the same information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The brief to the appeals court states that there is no “merit to the (district court’s) suggestion that citizens lack a privacy interest in information that appears on the Internet. That theory is one that might appeal to George Orwell, but it is not one that has a basis in law or common sense.”

“Personal information is ubiquitous on the Inter­net; if the mere appearance of infor­mation on a website destroyed any con­tinu­ing privacy interest in that information, privacy would be dead. The Supreme Court’s FOIA prece­dents foreclose that conclusion,” the brief stated.

According to the brief, EPA’s disclosure of the requested information serves only one purpose: “to put in the hands of environmental activists informa­tion that will help them to investigate and harass family farms on their own, in their efforts to bring private lawsuits against family farmers.”

The brief states that “the disclosure of information such as names, ad­dres­ses, and other personal identifying information, like the data at issue, creates a pal­pable threat to privacy.”

In addition, the brief states that farms and ranches are inherently different from typical businesses in that information divulged typically leads to a home residence of a farm or ranch family.

“Most businesses’ mailing addresses lead to offices or factories; their telephones are an­swered by receptionists and secretaries; and their GPS coordinates point to parking lots or security-guard booths,” the brief states. “But family farms are funda­men­tally different -- or the great ma­jority of them, their businesses are their homes. Their driveways lead not only to their fields and their hen houses, but also to the swing sets where their children play. Their business telephone numbers are answered not by nameless receptionists in florescent-lit offices, but by their spouses in their family kitchens, and their children in their upstairs bedrooms.

“If anything, the fact that the disclosed information concerns farmers as both individuals and businesses is a greater reason to find the infor­mation pro­tect­ed, not the other way around.”

The EPA shocked the farming and ranching community in early 2013 when it publicly released a massive database of personal information about tens of thousands of livestock and poultry farmers, ranchers and their families in multiple states. The information was collected from state regulatory agencies and then distributed to three environmental groups that had filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act. The database included the names of farmers, ranchers and sometimes other family members, home addresses and GPS coordinates, home telephone numbers and personal emails.

“We wholeheartedly support government transparency, but we insist on protecting the privacy of farm and ranch families,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.

Avian influenza outbreak holds lessons

Avian influenza outbreak holds lessons

The data is still inconclusive but indications are that the H5N2 avian influenza virus, over the past few years, may have morphed into more of an airborne virus in that it may have the ability to attach to debris.
.
Initial indications are that moist conditions and cool temperatures may, in fact, aid in dust or feather travel from farm to farm, and even state to state.

To date, many of the sites infected with the virus have been near water bodies with wild fowl present. Others, however, are farms near those farms. In some cases, the virus has successfully bypassed biosecurity measures meant specifically to minimize such exposure for commercial poultry.

According to a fact sheet released April 24 by the Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa, the H5N2 virus appears to survive indefinitely if frozen. It is also known to live for seven days in bird feces. What the virus doesn’t like is heat. When warm weather gets here and is here to stay, the virus spread is expected to be brought to a halt.

EIC experts also said ultraviolet light kills influenza. Likewise, dryness or low humidity reduces its viability.
Interestingly, type of production has not played a role in the recent H5N2 outbreak, according to EIC. The virus was first detected in Asia where commercial-scale production of eggs is nearly non-existent. In the U.S., the virus was first detected in backyard flocks in the Northwest. The current situation in the Midwest has affected floor birds, caged birds and birds with expanded stocking densities. “The virus is specific to species, not housing,” said EIC.

For bird owners, the most important thing to do is to maintain the highest of biosecurity standards.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that owners of backyard flocks follow these tips to prevent poultry diseases:

• Keep your distance (restrict access to your property and your birds);

• Keep it clean (clean and disinfect your clothes, shoes, equipment, and hands);

• Don’t haul disease home (if you have been near other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home);

• Don’t risk disease from your neighbor (do not borrow lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies from other bird owners), and

• Know the warning signs (sudden increase in bird deaths, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, watery or green diarrhea, lack of energy, poor appetite, drop in egg production, swelling around the eyes, neck, and head, and purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs).

Commercial poultry producers are advised to do the following to minimize the risk of an AI outbreak on their farms:

• Keep an “all–in, all–out” philosophy of flock management. Avoid skimming flocks—birds left behind are exposed to work crews and equipment that could carry poultry disease viruses. Process each lot of birds separately, and clean and disinfect poultry houses between flocks.

• Protect poultry flocks from coming into contact with wild or migratory birds. Keep poultry away from any source of water that could have been contaminated by wild birds.

• Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter the farm.

• Provide clean clothing and disinfection facilities for employees.

• Thoroughly clean and disinfect equipment and vehicles (including tires and undercarriage) entering and leaving the farm.

• Do not loan to, or borrow equipment or vehicles from, other farms.

• Change footwear and clothing before working with your own flock after visiting another farm or live–bird market or avoid visiting another bird farm if possible.

• Do not bring birds from slaughter channels, especially those from live–bird markets, back to the farm.

If AI is detected, farms must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. AI viruses are inactivated by heat and drying and also these viruses are very sensitive to most disinfectants and detergents. The area to be disinfected must be clear of organic material, which greatly increases the resistance of avian influenza virus’ resistance to disinfection.

If birds exhibit clinical signs of highly pathogenic avian influenza or might have been exposed to birds with the disease, producers or bird owners should immediately notify federal or state animal health officials. All bird owners, whether commercial producers or backyard enthusiasts, should continue to practice good biosecurity, prevent contact between their birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to state/federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

For a complete list of states where AI has been detected, visit: http://tinyurl.com/kzlazqt

 

Millennials driving restaurant sales

Millennials driving restaurant sales

AFTER getting off to a sluggish start this year, restaurant sales finished the first quarter of 2015 on a positive note and even surpassed grocery sales for the first time ever, perhaps signaling the start of a new trend.

The outlook for restaurant sales remains positive for the rest of the year; restaurant operators' optimism regarding sales rose to its strongest level in more than a decade, according to National Restaurant Assn. (NRA) chief economist Bruce Grindy.

Recently released U.S. Census Bureau figures suggested that sales for eating and drinking establishments in March totaled $50.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis, up 0.7% from February's volume of $50.0 billion.

In the first quarter of 2015, those sales totaled $150.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis, up $2 billion from the 2014 fourth quarter's sales volume of $148.4 billion. In addition, it represented the first time on record that eating and drinking establishment quarterly sales topped the $150 billion level.

While the data did not include popular stores like Costco, Walmart or Target, the results may indicate that a new demographic has officially started to change the trends.

NRA has recognized Millennials — the largest generation in U.S. history, at 92 million people — as the future of the restaurant business and is encouraging restaurants to take notice.

For U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets, Millennials, as a group, currently represent about 14.5 billion visits and $96 billion in spending, which is 23% of total restaurant spending.

"Millennials view dining out as a social event," NRA said in a post on its website. "They prefer to eat at restaurants with a lot of choices and lower price points."

While quality still remains important to Millennials, it isn't as important as price, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report.

"Millennials are poised to reshape the economy; their unique experiences will change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come," the Goldman Sachs report says.

However, NPD Group, a leading global information company, recently reported that Millennials have actually cut back on both restaurant visits and spending and that their spending depends on their age and lifestyle.

Older Millennials, ages 25-34, who are more likely to have families have cut back the most on restaurant visits, making 50 fewer visits per person over the past several years, according to the NPD report, "Encouraging More Visits from Millennials."

Younger Millennials, ages 18-24, made 33 fewer visits per person. Annual per capita restaurant spending for younger Millennials is $1,240, down $146 per person compared to their spending in 2007; older Millennials' annual per capita spending is $1,369, down $213 per person.

While the reasons are varied, NPD said it is concerned about the decreasing amount Millennials are spending at foodservice, particularly Millennial families with children.

Additionally, Millennials indicate that restaurants can be too expensive and that cooking at home is healthier and tastes better than what they can get away from home, NPD noted.

"Even with their cutbacks, Millennials still make a lot of visits to restaurants, and to encourage more visits, restaurant operators need to offer them a 'good deal,' which, to Millennials, means reasonable and affordable items that are of good quality and the right quantity," NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs said. "They not only want to get their money's worth; they want good food and service."

Volume:87 Issue:16

Is Corn Belt farm economy too specialized?

Is Corn Belt farm economy too specialized?

Is Corn Belt farm economy too specialized?
ECONOMIC cycles often provide benefits to some and harm to others. Particularly in agriculture, rising grain prices are simultaneously celebrated by crop producers for the increased revenues they bring and decried by livestock producers as those prices increase input costs.

It has been argued that the farm economy in the Corn Belt — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio — is particularly vulnerable to economic cycles due to increased commodity specialization.

However, Todd Kuethe, University of Illinois agricultural economist and professor, recently showed that, contrary to popular belief, the farm economy of the Corn Belt is as diverse now as it was in 1930.

According to Kuethe, the animal sector accounted for roughly 76.3% of the value of agricultural production in the Corn Belt in 1930, but by 2013, this share declined to just 37.3% (Figure 1). At the national level, the animal sector's share of the value of production has remained relatively stable, declining slightly from 57.4% in 1930 to 45.5% in 2013.

"Before the 1970s, the animal sector accounted for a greater share of the Corn Belt farm economy than it did for the nation as a whole," Kuethe noted. "Many interpret this shift away from livestock production as evidence of decreasing diversity in agricultural production across the region, and this trend has been criticized for a number of reasons, including adverse environmental impacts and increased vulnerability to crop price cycles."

He said many suspect that the Corn Belt farm economy is overly specialized and greatly exposed to adverse price movements in just a few commodities. However, Kuethe said there is evidence that the economic diversity of commodities produced in the Corn Belt has changed very little since the 1930s, which can be seen by examining an empirical measure of the diversity of the economy provided by Shannon's Diversity Index.

Shannon's Diversity Index was developed as a measure of a landscape's biodiversity and tracks the abundance of various species in a given location. Its minimum (zero) is observed when a population contains only a single species, and the index increases as the number of species increases or when animals are spread more evenly across species.

Kuethe used the index to examine U.S. and Corn Belt agricultural production, as measured by cash receipts for various commodities (Figure 2).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service classifies agricultural cash receipts using four categories of livestock and related products (meat animals, milk and dairy products, poultry and eggs and miscellaneous livestock) and eight categories of crops (food grains, feed crops, cotton, tobacco, oil crops, vegetables and melons, fruits and vegetables and all other crops).

A Shannon's Diversity Index of cash receipts, therefore, measures the degree to which the agricultural economy is comprised of one or many commodities and the relative share of total cash receipts by commodity, Kuethe noted.

"The index is expected to decline if the economy is dominated by the production of only a few commodities," Kuethe explained. "However, the diversity index suggests that the farm economy of the nation and the Corn Belt region has remained relatively stable since the 1930s."

His findings revealed that the Corn Belt farm economy grew gradually less diverse from 1930 through 1970 but increased at a similar rate through the early 2000s and declined again after 2004. A slight uptick in 2013 showed that Shannon's Diversity Index for cash receipts by commodity type was the same as it was in 1930, according to Kuethe.

While the Corn Belt is understandably less economically diverse than the nation as a whole, this difference has remained consistent, he said.

"Thus, empirical evidence suggests that the Corn Belt's agricultural production is as economically diverse as it was more than 80 years ago," Kuethe concluded.

Volume:87 Issue:16

Ideology obstructs climate policy

Ideology obstructs climate policy

CONGRESS has heard the "supermajority" consensus on the reality and causes of climate change, according to scientists from Texas A&M University, Idaho State University and the University of Oklahoma.

In a paper published in Climatic Change, the scientists suggest looking at business interests, partisan predispositions and political ideology for the hurdles to climate policy action.

"Different perceptions and claims among lawmakers are a major hurdle to agreeing on action to address global warming, and these were thought to simply reflect scientific uncertainty," lead author Xinsheng Liu said. "However, our findings show that congressional testimonies are, in fact, consistent with agreement in the climate science community and that the sources of controversies must lie elsewhere."

Liu and co-authors Arnold Vedlitz, James Stoutenborough and Scott Robinson found that despite Republican-controlled congresses in the U.S. being more likely to feature scientists with a skeptical view, the majority of experts called as witnesses still indicate that global warming and climate change are real and caused by human activity.

They analyzed 1,350 testimonies from 253 relevant congressional hearings between 1969 and 2007. Among expert witnesses who expressed a view, 86% said global warming and climate change are happening, and 78% said they are caused by human activity. Under Republican-controlled congresses, a three-quarters supermajority of scientists said climate change is real and anthropogenic. Most significant of all, 95% of scientists giving testimonies support action to combat it.

The near-complete agreement in the scientific community has been consistently presented to Congress, the report says. The researchers, therefore, challenged the view that simply providing more information is key to evidence-based policy-making.

The findings in the study could help scientists move past the information deficit model and shift research in new directions. This includes gaining a better understanding of how business interests, partisan predispositions and political ideology shape the views of policy-makers.

Because of the economic costs, there can be strong political justification for denying the existence of global warming and climate change.

"Action on climate change requires courage to face the facts by acknowledging, incorporating and legitimizing the supermajority scientists' views on the issue while recognizing different opinions beyond science," Liu said.

 

Grassland stability

Biological diversity not only brings variety to the natural world, but it also could be the key to keeping ecosystems strong, according to a new University of Minnesota study published April 17 in the journal Science.

The study — led by Yann Hautier, a Marie Curie fellow associated with the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and with the University of Oxford in the U.K. — looked at 28 years' worth of data on plant growth, number of species, ecosystem stability and exposure to changes in nitrogen, carbon dioxide, fire, grazing and water collected from experimental grassland plots at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve near East Bethel, Minn., as part of other studies.

Hautier's study found that all of the human-induced changes affected the productivity of the grassland plots, but only those that reduced biodiversity reduced ecosystem stability.

"Basically, we found that any driver of environmental change that will cause a loss of plant diversity will, in turn, reduce the stable production of plant biomass through time," Hautier said. "Biodiversity is somehow a special case, because it's not only a cause of changes in ecosystems but also a response to other changes."

The study is unusual because it looks at several factors that affect ecosystem stability at the same time over a long period in a setting that kept other potential variables constant. It is important because understanding the cause-and-effect cascade of changes to ecosystems is key to anticipating the impacts of human actions and minimizing damage to natural systems that undergird the planet's ability to support human life.

"The main message is that if we want to continue to benefit from the services that our ecosystems are providing, we should be very careful about preserving biodiversity," Hautier said.

Based on the results, Hautier is now expanding his research to explore whether the decline in diversity affects natural grasslands' ability to provide multiple ecological benefits simultaneously.

Volume:87 Issue:16

High-tech grain bins hold big value

High-tech grain bins hold big value

CLEMSON University's Kendall Kirk can activate a fan on his grain bin in Blackville, S.C., from the other side of the world, if needed, and that could prevent thousands of dollars in lost crop value.

In addition, the automated grain bin can sense an overnight dip in humidity while Kirk sleeps and shut off the fan to avoid over-drying the grain. The fan turns on automatically again if temperatures and moisture levels call for it. Kirk, meanwhile, can rest assured knowing that the value of his grain is protected.

"This bin is like a bank. If you put $250,000 in your bank, you don't want to come back in nine months and find $150,000," Kirk told a group of farmers gathered at a field day at Clemson's Edisto Research & Education Center this month.

Kirk, a precision-agriculture engineer, is researching the use of automated bin management technology that monitors bin temperatures, humidity and other factors that can damage stored grain. Automated bins also reduce the chance of accidents by limiting the need for farmers to enter grain bins to identify problems.

The impact of Kirk's project, which was supported by the South Carolina legislature, can be vast. In 2012, South Carolina farmers sold nearly $500 million in grains, including corn, wheat, soybeans, grain sorghum and others, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Farmers store grain to hedge market prices as well as to keep harvests on schedule if freight transportation is unavailable. However, improperly stored grain can be damaged by mold, insects, condensation and other factors. Excessive moisture can lead to mold, for example, while too much loss of moisture can cause grain to lose weight and value.

One southeastern farmer recently lost $3/bu. on his soybeans because of poor storage, said Edgar Wood of Palmetto Grain Brokers. That's a loss of about one-third of the crop's value because the grain overheated.

"It basically caught fire," Wood said.

By contrast, he estimated that a soybean farmer who properly stores the grain from September through May could gain 70 cents/bu. by waiting to sell when the market is better.

"The market is going to pay somebody to store it," Wood said.

Around 85% of southeastern farmers store grain on site, Wood said. Fewer than 5% use automated grain bins, however.

"The manually managed grain bins will never be able to optimize grain shelf life the way an automated bin can," Kirk pointed out.

Working with Clemson graduate student Dan Ulmer and agriculture engineering technician Richard Hallman, Kirk is evaluating automated bin storage to determine the cost-effectiveness to farmers and to establish a monitoring system best suited to South Carolina's climate as the state's high temperatures and humidity make grain storage more challenging.

Kirk also plans to work with growers to evaluate energy consumption of automated bin management systems with the hopes of reducing electricity costs.

Kirk joined the Edisto Research & Education Center last year to help boost its precision-agriculture program, which works to increase farm profits and reduce operating expenses and environmental impact. He also is developing peanut and hay yield monitors, a peanut digger that works at variable depths and some remote-sensing technologies for livestock management.

Kirk put his automated grain bin system in place in October and continues to fine-tune his system to aid growers.

"We're trying to expose growers to new technologies so they understand the advantages, the drawbacks and the costs," he said.

Volume:87 Issue:16