StarLink corn overshadowing talk of corn and bean yields this fall


SALEM, Ohio – The 2000 corn and soybean harvest is shaping up like any other year: The fall harvest conditions across Ohio and Pennsylvania vary, as do the yields. But the focus of this fall’s conversations, however, has been more about biotech corn than bushels per acre.

Nearly three-quarters of Ohio’s soybean acres have been harvested, although late planted acres due to spring rains and replanted acres due to slugs will be slow coming off.

“The majority of the bean harvest is in its final stages,” said Lee Lipp, grain merchandiser with Agland Co-op in Canfield. “But there’s a lot of replant acres out there. There was a whole area that had a huge amount of replants, all due to slugs. I doubt those yields will be too good.”

The soybeans are also coming in extremely dry, Lipp said, typically testing at around 11 percent to 13 percent.

Further north at the Western Reserve Farm Cooperative, with elevators in Jefferson in Ashtabula County and Middlefield in Geauga County, soybeans look to be in excellent condition, said Lanny Anderson. Moisture content is ranging from 11 percent to 18 percent.

Like Lipp, Anderson said there’s still a lot of late-planted soybean fields out there. “Yield-wise, we’re looking at an average crop,” he said. “Certainly not a bin buster for our area.”

Statewide, Ohio’s soybean yield estimate is 43 bushels per acre, according to the USDA’s October crop outlook report. That’s just 1 bushel less than the records in 1997 and 1998.

Bean harvest is running a little later in Pennsylvania, with only 25 percent of the acres harvested as of last Sunday.

Agland has been moving wheat barges down the Ohio River from the co-op’s terminal in East Liverpool and Lipp said the first soybean barge should go out by the end of this week. For the next five weeks, he’s sold one soybean barge a week.

“We’re moving a lot of product out of the area,” Lipp said. “This may be the year we start moving some corn barges, too.”

Only about a third of Ohio’s corn grain crop, and 27 percent in Pennsylvania, has been harvested, as of Oct. 22. For Ohio, that’s 14 days behind last year’s schedule but only one day behind the 1995-99 average. Corn harvested for silage is 94 percent complete in Ohio.

Ohio’s projected corn yield is 152 bushels per acre, which tops Ohio’s previous record of 143 bushels in 1992.

Nationally, half of the corn crop has been harvested; 58 percent of the soybean crop has been harvested.

“Bean receipts are disappointing because yields are down,” said Bill Dodds, merchandising manager for Andersons Inc., which operates 14 elevators in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. “Corn receipts are as planned in the eastern Corn Belt, but lower in the western Corn Belt.”

Signs posted at all of the Andersons’ receiving points illustrate the real talk of the town this harvest season. The posters read: “No StarLink corn here please,” referring to the variety of livestock feed-approved biotech corn that has not been approved for human consumption.

Following the recent recall of taco shells and flour containing its StarLink corn, Aventis CropScience voluntarily canceled its registration of StarLink corn Oct. 12 and has stopped sales of StarLink hybrids for the 2001 growing season.

StarLink corn can no longer be planted for any agricultural purpose.

Aventis is currently working with the USDA to keep the current crop out of the food chain and on the farm for approved livestock feed uses. The USDA will directly control on-farm storage and delivery of StarLink corn to approved facilities for feed or nonfood industrial use.

“I don’t think it will affect us,” said Dodds, adding that the Andersons have helped at least two Indiana customers market their StarLink corn directly to a feedlot.

One source puts the Ohio acres planted to StarLink at around 1,430 acres.

Several eastern Ohio elevators said no customers have asked if they are taking StarLink corn this fall.

Segregation mess. In a recent EPA statement, Stephen Johnson, deputy assistant administrator for pesticides admitted the agency “does not have any evidence the food containing StarLink corn will cause any allergic reaction in people, and the agency believes the risks, if any, are extremely low.”

Johnson added, however, that Aventis did not meet its responsibility of ensuring that StarLink corn be used only in animal feed or nonfood industrial uses and the agency had strongly recommended Aventis cancel its StarLink registration.

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