Ohio silo collapses, unleashing ‘sea of corn’

NORWALK, Ohio — An Ohio fire chief says a metal grain silo collapsed into a “sea of corn” up to 12 feet deep that pushed a nearby home off its foundation.

Chief Doug Coletta in Norwalk says no one was hurt in Tuesday’s collapse that spilled more than 100,000 bushels of corn.

He says corn that flowed like water knocked over a fire hydrant and created a “one-block mess” in the community about 50 miles southwest of Cleveland.

Neighbors described hearing an explosion, but Coletta says what they likely heard was the sound of the bin breaking apart.

The chief said Tuesday it was not clear what caused the silo to give way.

Afterward an attached but empty grain dryer, resembling a smaller bin, was leaning. Coletta said it would be dismantled.

Ohio silo collapses, unleashing ‘sea of corn’

In the autumn, a flower aficionado’s fancy turns to poppy seeds

In northern gardens, poppies are the languid wildlings of summer, the stuff of picnics in the meadow and memorable afternoons. They can be tricked into a great show in the Washington garden, where they explode on the scene in May, linger for two or three weeks collectively and then shrivel in the face of the accumulating heat.
They are part of an enormous late-spring bacchanalia that begins with clematis and peonies and embraces catmint, larkspur and the first of the roses and lavender. Even in this crowd, poppies seem outlanders from the north, and their show is all the more tasty for its sense of migration.

Perennial oriental poppies are outrageous in their size and markings, but if their bloom coincides with a precocious hot spell, as it usually does, the show is over before it begins. Annual poppies flower around the same time, but their smaller size is compensated by lots of buds, successively offered. Even in the heat, they have a tangible season.

Now is the moment to buy poppy seed. Getting it to sprout can be a little hit-or-miss, so poppy maniacs sow seed in November, after the fallen leaves have been cleared or mulched, and again in February. Keep the February seeds safely stored in the refrigerator over the winter and make a note on your iPoppy to sprinkle them around Valentine’s Day.

Corn Prices Raise Worry Over Expensive Food


First it was heat and drought in Russia. Then it was heat and too much rain in parts of the American Corn Belt. Extreme weather this year has sent grain prices soaring, jolting commodities markets and setting off fears of tight supplies that could eventually hit consumers’ wallets.

In the latest market lurch, corn prices dropped in early October, then soared anew, in response to changing assessments by the federal government of grain supplies and coming harvests.

The sudden movements in commodities markets are expected to have little immediate effect on the prices of corn flakes and bread in the grocery store, although American consumers are likely to see some modest price increases for meat, poultry and dairy products.

But experts warn that the impact could be much greater if next year’s harvest disappoints and if 2011 grain harvests in the Southern Hemisphere also fall short of the current robust expectations.

“We can live with high commodity prices for a period without seeing much impact at the retail level, but if that persists for several months or a couple of years, then it eventually has to get passed on” to consumers, said Darrel Good, an emeritus professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois.

Monsanto Income Drops by Nearly Half

Executives of Monsanto told skittish investors on Wednesday that earnings per share would grow 13 to 17 percent in the next fiscal year and that the company was on its way to fixing problems in its seed business that have undermined the confidence of Wall Street.

The remarks, in line with some previous assurances by company executives, were made as Monsanto reported that net income for the year that ended Aug. 31 had dropped by nearly half from a year earlier.

“I believe we’ve taken steps to allow our company to return to growth,” Hugh Grant, the chief executive, told analysts and investors Wednesday on a conference call.

He said the seed business was going to offer “more products at more price points” to help regain the trust of farmers who have been put off by high seed prices and lower-than-expected yields for some products, particularly Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn.

In Italy, a Battle Over Genetically Modified Corn

VIVARO, Italy — Giorgio Fidenato declared war on the Italian government and environmental groups in April with a news conference and a YouTube video, which showed him poking six genetically modified corn seeds into Italian soil.

In fact, said Mr. Fidenato, 49, an agronomist, he planted two fields of genetically modified corn. But since “corn looks like corn,” as he put it, it took his opponents weeks to find his crop.

The seeds, known as MON810, are modified so that the corn produces a chemical that kills the larvae of the corn borer, a devastating pest. Yet while European Union rules allow this particular seed to be planted, Italy requires farmers to get special permission for any genetically modified, or G.M., crop — and the Agriculture Ministry never said yes.

“We had no choice but to engage in civil disobedience — these seeds are legal in Europe,” said Mr. Fidenato, who has repeatedly applied for permission, adding that he drew more inspiration from Ron Paul than Gandhi.

The World Trade Organization says that general bans on genetically modified crops constitute an unfair trade barrier, because there is no scientific basis for exclusion. But four years after a W.T.O. panel ruled that European Union policies constituted an illegal “de facto moratorium” on the planting of genetically modified seeds, some farmers, like Mr. Fidenato, and seed producers like Monsanto complain that Europe still has not really opened its doors.

GM corn health risks identified – General – North Queensland Register

16 Dec, 2009 03:45 PM

AN INTERNATIONAL study of three Monsanto genetically manipulated maize (corn) varieties shows clear evidence of health risks, according to anti-GM lobby group Gene Ethics.

It says that the study analysed data from 90-day rat feeding trials of: insecticide-producing Mon 810 and Mon 863 GM maize; and Roundup herbicide tolerant NK 603 GM maize.

Adverse impacts were found on the kidneys, livers and the dietary detoxifying organs of experimental rats, and also some damage to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and the haematopoietic system.

The research was conducted by French scientists from the universities of Caen and Rouen and is published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.

According to Gene Ethics, the report shows the GM maize events contained novel pesticide residues that will also be present in human food and animal feed where they may pose grave health risks.

Crop Science Society of America Award

ASA, CSSA, SSSA to present awards in Pittsburgh

October 7th, 2009

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) will recognize the following individuals during the scientific societies’ Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA, www.acsmeetings.org, on November 1-5, 2009. The annual awards are presented for outstanding contributions to education, national and international service, and research.

Recipients:  Crop Science Society of America Award

James L. Brewbaker, University of Hawaii – Seed Science Award.

James L. Brewbaker has served as a plant breeder and geneticist for the University of Hawaii Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science since 1962. He received a Ph.D. from Cornell University in plant breeding and has served as a visiting scientist in nine countries. His research is on the genetic improvement of tropical crops, with a focus on maize and tropical leguminous trees. He also founded Hawaii’s Crop Improvement Association and Hawaii Foundation Seeds, where he serves as director.

Money Grows Out of the Ground | The Financial Planner’s Briefcase | TheStreet.com

DECATUR, Ill. (TheStreet) — Agriculture and fair competition have had a strained relationship.

Price-fixing scandals, such as the lysine conspiracy, have marred the industry. (Lysine is a vital component of livestock feed and the subject of the new movie "The Informant.")

Regardless, the industry is growing in appeal as the world’s population expands, straining food production. More food is needed from less space as cities grow, claiming more farm land. Companies such as Archer Daniels Midland(ADM) is a big source of food, and its shares will benefit as a result. Archer Daniels has risen 37% over the past year, compared with a decline for the benchmark S&P 500 Index. Archer Daniels’ growth potential is all but guaranteed.

Still, not all food producers have risen quite like Archer Daniels. Bunge(BG) and Corn Products International(CPO) declined during the past year, while The Andersons(ANDE) is little changed. Some of the biggest players in the industry, such as Cargill, are closely held.

Global population growth stands at 1.1% a year, which doesn’t sound like much, but in reality means there will be 77 million more people every year, taxing an already stretched food supply and leaving a huge hole to fill by food producers. Food isn’t a complex industry to understand: Everyone needs it, and it’s all basically the same.

That last point gives the industry most of its character. Commodities, be they corn, grain or lysine, require hedging, which is a huge task. Archer Daniels, for example, has nearly $2 billion in derivative contracts to help guard against a decrease in price or other events that could affect profits, such as foreign-exchange risk.

Money Grows Out of the Ground | The Financial Planner’s Briefcase | Financial Articles & Investing News | TheStreet.com

Monsanto Plowed Down (MON)

It’s becoming increasingly harder to figure out whether Monsanto (NYSE: MON) is a bargain or a value trap. Yesterday, the agriculture giant announced less-than-stellar guidance for its 2010 fiscal year, which started at the beginning of the month.

It’s really a tale of two product lines for Monsanto. The seed and trait business is growing and competing well against — and sometimes withDuPont (NYSE: DD), Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), and Syngenta (NYSE: SYT).

Its Roundup product, on the other hand, is headed in the wrong direction. Once a cash cow, Roundup now faces generic competition, and a glut of chemical herbicides in the supply chain is pushing down prices. Unlike drug companies such as Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Merck (NYSE: MRK), which can pretty much kiss off most of their sales once generic competition starts, Monsanto does expect to bring in $650 million to $750 million in gross profits from Roundup in the coming year. Still that’s a long drop from the nearly $2 billion in gross profits that the herbicide brought in during fiscal 2008.

In a couple of years, it’s not going to matter much: By 2012, the company expects that seeds and licensed traits will make up 85% of the company’s total gross profit. But in the meantime, the drop is hurting the bottom line.

Earnings per share, after adding back restructuring charges, are expected to come in between $3.10 to $3.30, a sharp decline from the $4.40 or so that’s expected from the recently completed year. Trading at a forward price-to-earnings ratio of more than 24, Monsanto is a little cheaper than we’ve seen in the past, but it doesn’t leave investors much breathing room, if Roundup sales continue to fall faster than expected.

Monsanto Plowed Down (MON)