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USDA forecasts record-breaking production of corn and soybeans

WILLMAR -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's September Crop Production Report, corn and soybean production in the United States is expected to set new record highs this year.

Based on crop conditions as of Sept. 1, USDA is forecasting that corn production will total 13.2 billion bushels, down 2 percent from the August report, but still higher than the previous record of 13.1 billion bushels set in 2009.

A national average corn yield of 162.5 bushels per acre is expected, down 2.5 bushels from the previous month and 2.2 bushels below last year's record of 164.7 bushels per acre.

Expected yields for corn were reduced throughout much of the Corn Belt, Tennessee Valley and Delta regions. Meanwhile, expected corn yields in the lower portions of the Southeast were increased.

In terms of soybeans, USDA is forecasting that soybean production in the U.S. will reach a new record high of 3.48 billion bushels, up 1 percent from last month's report and 4 percent higher than last year.

Based on crop conditions as of Sept. 1, USDA is forecasting a national average soybean yield of 44.7 bushels per acre, up 0.7 of a bushel from both last month and last year.

In the September report, USDA also estimated that Minnesota corn production would total 1.24 billion bushels, down slightly from the August forecast and from last year's record high.

Based on crop conditions as of Sept. 1, corn yields in Minnesota are expected to reach a record high average yield of 177 bushels per acre, down one bushel from Aug. 1, but up from last year's average yield of 174 bushels per acre.

Minnesota soybean production is expected to set a record high total of 341 million bushels, up 5 percent from last month's forecast and up 20 percent from last year.

Based on crop conditions as of Sept. 1, Minnesota soybean yields are also expected to average a record high of 46 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from last month's report and up 6 bushels from 2009.

Minnesota sugar beet production is forecast to total 11.9 million tons, up 12 percent from 2009. Sugar beet yields are expected to average 28 tons per acre, up 4.3 tons from last year's average yield of 23.7 tons per acre.

Scientists develop genetic map of switchgrass

Scientists from USDA's Agricultural Research Service have developed a new tool for deciphering the genetics of switchgrass, a native grass being widely studied for its potential as a biofuel.

In collaboration with his colleagues, Christian Tobias, a molecular biologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service, has published the genetic map for switchgrass, a development that is expected to invigorate the search for genes that will make the plant a more viable source of bioenergy.

Switchgrass is now grown primarily as a cattle feed and to restore depleted soils. But interest in its use as a biofuel has intensified in recent years because it can be burned to produce electricity and, like corn stalks, also used to produce ethanol.

Switchgrass is considered a viable source of bioenergy because it can be grown on marginal land and is adaptable to different regions. And since switchgrass is a perennial crop, it does not need to be replanted every year, resulting in lower energy costs and less runoff.

To make switchgrass a more viable biofuel, scientists are searching for ways to increase yields and make it easier to break down the plant's cell walls, an essential step in producing ethanol.

August grain and livestock prices move higher

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota corn farmers during August averaged $3.50 per bushel, up 13 cents from the average price for July.

August soybean prices also increased to an average of $9.75 per bushel, up 34 cents from the previous month.

Wheat prices during August averaged $5 per bushel, up 76 cents from the July average price.

Hog prices averaged $63.40 per hundredweight, an increase of $3.80 from July's average price.

August beef prices averaged $88 per hundredweight, up 10 cents from the previous month.

Minnesota milk prices during August averaged $16.10 per hundredweight, up 70 cents from the July average price.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.