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  • Analyst David Hightower recently explained why he thinks demand will provide more support to the corn and soybean markets six months from now than people think.

  • Uncertainty surrounding rail car deliveries to grain elevators in the upper Midwest could turn the fall harvest into a "disaster," according to one South Dakota elevator manager.

  • Sometimes when I get on a roll with a project (or two), and I lose focus on my regular tasks, like keeping the blog fresh. Here are just a few interesting snippets from my overflowing notebook.

  • Tuesday's U.S. spring wheat trade saw basis levels for high protein milling wheat gain as much as $1.75/bushel, a sign that protein is potentially poised to be a growing issue.


  • As reports of Palmer amaranth continue to sweep across the country, nearly everyone has heard about this formidable weed. Now's the time for you pay closer attention and look for infestations. “The only refuge where this weed has not been reported is Minnesota and North Dakota,” says Rich Zollinger, North Dakota State University Extension weed specialist. "It appears that once established, eradication is impossible – at least no state or area has been able return the land to ‘weed free’ status."“Correct Palmer amaranth identification and prevention in North Dakota has been a key Extension message this year,” adds Zollinger. Once the combine starts rolling, it’s important to be on the lookout for this weed. From the truck drivers to combine operators, make sure everyone knows how to identify this weed. If you do spot an infestation, properly clean your equipment before moving to the next field to avoid weed seed dissemination. “I encourage everyone to keep keen observation,” says Zollinger. “A good refresher of how plants would look at this time of the year is on page 137 in the North Dakota Weed Control Guide.”      Bob Hartzler, Iowa State University Extension weed specialist recommends looking for infestations on roadsides, around grain bins and storage areas, and near field edges. He recommends the following when you find Palmer amaranth:Properly eradicate small infestations. This weed can produce 1 million seeds per plant, and pulled plants can re-root and produce seed if not properly disposed. Don’t underestimate the number of plants present. Palmer amaranth emerges from mid-May through August.Don’t confuse the identification of water hemp with Palmer amaranth.“The majority of waterhemp and Palmer amaranth plants have the same general shape and growth habit,” says Hartzler. “This reinforces the need to closely examine the floral characteristics of the two pigweeds – the large bracts of female Palmer amaranth make it simple to differentiate Palmer from waterhemp.”Have an attitude of prevention.“High seed production and the efficiency of field equipment at disseminating seeds will facilitate the movement of Palmer amaranth across Iowa,” says Hartzler. “However, individual farmers can prevent it from becoming established in their field with a combination of vigilance and diverse weed management.”

  • Remember MTBE?That’s the octane booster that oil refiners used to put into gasoline in this country. After the potential cancer-causing MTBE started showing up in groundwater near Lake Tahoe in California, it was eventually banned in this country. It was a big break for ethanol, which has replaced MTBE.Refiners still export MTBE, however, but because it’s roughly $1 a gallon more costly than ethanol, U.S. ethanol exports are starting to replace MTBE around the world.That’s one reason why University of Illinois economist Scott Irwin sounds almost bullish on ethanol production these days.On Friday, we checked with Irwin to see how much the market has changed since he and economist Darrel Good looked at exports in June.Exports this year are likely to hit about 800 million gallons, Irwin projects. That’s short of the record of 1.1 billion gallons, but well above the 620 million gallons shipped in 2013.“There’s a pretty consistent market for U.S. ethanol exports, to the degree I think it’s only a mater of time before the world will use all of our available capacity,” Irwin told “I’m getting a lot of calls from investors and venture capitalists asking about the ethanol space.”Exports themselves don’t account for a big chunk of the U.S. corn crop, but Irwin believes they help improve corn prices “at the margin.”Right now, the market “is being overwhelmed by huge yields,” he said. Those big yields aren’t going to be repeated every year. Meanwhile, exports are expected to grow in places like India, the Philippines, and even Brazil and the Middle East. That’s because ethanol is the global bargain for boosting octane.Here’s the Irwin-Good article on exports.

  • At least one thing is clear. The Midwest frost threat is no longer a worry, through early October, according to Freese-Notis Weather Inc.What doesn’t seem to be crystal clear is the favorability for widespread warm and dry harvest weather. Discuss the corn, soybean harvest weather in Marketing Talk.Nearterm, the weekend weather looks slightly wet for the majority of the Corn Belt. However, longer term, the western Corn Belt could trend the wettest.“Weekend rainfall will be rather spotty in coverage as a cold front slides southward through the Corn Belt. Most areas across the central and southern Midwest will receive 0.1-0.5" with some localized 1" amounts. Slightly heavier rainfall is forecast across the Great Lakes Region where 0.5-1.0" is expected,” says Josh Senechal, Meteorologist, Freese-Notis Weather.End Of Month Outlook“For next week, the jet stream will head northward. Other than some showers next Tuesday-Wednesday across the western Corn Belt, a sprawling area of high pressure will center itself across the Ohio Valley Region, lending an extended period of predominantly dry weather,” Senechal says.The remainder of next week (Thursday-Sunday), looks predominantly dry along with above normal temperatures working into the central and western Corn Belt. Harvest and dry-down weather looks favorable for most of the Midwest although delays are possible across the NW, he says.“For the 11-15 day time-frame, the latest suite of model guidance favors above normal rainfall across the western and northern Midwest with near normal rainfall across the east. This may prolong harvest delays across the west, although the presence of near to above normal temperatures will be a mitigating factor,” Senechal says.Beyond, near to above normal temperatures may persist, with a low frost threat into the start of October. "Most areas will see favorable harvest weather with the western Midwest the most likely to suffer from occasional delays," Senechal says.

  • As threats of frost continue, you may want to evaluate the probability of a killing frost. You can assess the risk of a killing frost by using the Corn GDD decision tool on the Useful to Useable website. The tool uses a combination of factors, such as customizable planting dates, location, and maturity, to establish growing degree accumulation. “This decision tool allows you to select a county and customize planting date, hybrid maturity, and comparison year,” says Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension cropping systems agronomist. “The tool then outputs growing degree accumulation and predicted date of black layer as well as fall frost frequency and date of 50% probability of first freeze.”“The last USDA crop progress report indicates 72% of corn in or past the dent stage with 5% of the corn acres mature and soybean with 26% leaves turning color,” says Licht. “Heat unit accumulation has been and continues to be slower than normal resulting in a crop that is not maturing as early as planned. With the 50% probability of a 28°F frost generally being mid- to late-October, there is some concern with a fall frost killing the crop before maturity is reached, especially for corn.”This decision tool was used to calculate 2014 risk of frost for four different scenarios in Iowa; planting a 102- day and 114-day hybrid on April 27, 2014 (Fig. 1) and planting a 102-day and 114-day hybrid on May 25, 2014 (Fig. 2). April 27 and May 25 were used because they represent when approximately 10% and 90%, respectively, of the Iowa corn acres were planted. Figure 1. Useful to Useable Corn GDD decision tool scenarios for April 27 planting date with 102 day and 114 day hybrids. Green, yellow and red colors indicate low, moderate and high frost risk prior to reaching maturity. Figure 2. Useful to Useable Corn GDD decision tool scenarios for May 25 planting date with 102 day and 114 day hybrids. Green, yellow and red colors indicate low, moderate and high frost risk prior to reaching maturity. “These four scenarios were run for select counties representing each of Iowa’s nine crop reporting district,” says Licht. “These figures suggest that corn planted in April of well adapted maturities have little to no risk of a killing freeze before maturity. The figures also indicate that later planted corn, even at shorter maturities may be at moderate risk of a killing freeze in the northern two thirds of Iowa.”Assess your own risk at