Monroe County Agriculture: Egg prices may not have peaked with Easter coming up

Ned Birkey

Ag weather and 2023 Groundhog forecast: Unfortunately the milder winter weather has come to an end, with colder temperatures and more precipitation forecast for at least the next 10-plus days of February. The Old Farmers’ Almanac says that Punxsutawney Phil, the most notable weather prognosticator, will be greeted by a sunny and cold morning as he emerges from his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2. Otherwise, this annual publication says that Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day will be cold.

One good thing is that the daylength hours by Feb. 2 will have increased to 10 hours and three minutes, and by Feb. 1 we are two-thirds finished with meteorological winter. Spring comes on March 20, with the vernal equinox, meaning the sun has crossed the equator on its journey into the Northern Hemisphere for the next six months. With La Niňa hanging on but weakening, the tentative forecast is for a more normal temperature and precipitation this summer.

Biological seed treatments: A hot topic in agriculture is biological seed treatments of corn and soybean seed (for our area). These products are marketed to increase grain yield and return on investment by the action of a single or a mix of plant-beneficial microbes (e.g., fungi, N-fixing bacteria, and P-solubilizing microbes). One company claims to put nitrogen on the seed with their product.

This is an area that Kurt Steinke of Michigan State University will address during his presentation at the Feb. 7 MSU Crop and Pest Meeting in Dundee. Registration is still available by calling the St. Joseph County Extension office at 269-467-5511.

The University of Illinois evaluated nine commonly marketed biological seed treatment products for soybeans in 2022. The preliminary, one-year results showed no statistically significant differences between treatments and the untreated control. However, one year is not enough data to conclusively report any findings, so the study will be repeated in 2023.

Coffee with Corn webinar series: The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan is offering their late winter Coffee with Corn webinar series. This seven-week series has a different topic each week and starts on Jan. 31 and ends of March 14. The webinar runs for an hour starting at 8 a.m. and is available free of charge. Google “Coffee with Corn Webinar” to register or for more information.

Eggs: Egg prices are a hot topic recently, with prices higher than at any time since September 2015. Apparently, smuggling eggs is a new issue at the U.S. and Mexico border that has made media news.

The main reason for higher domestic prices is a highly pathogenic strain of avian, or bird, flu, which spreads from wild to domestic fowl, including laying hens. To date, almost 58 million commercial poultry birds, including boiler and about 43 million egg-laying chickens, as well as turkeys and other various fowl from 46 states, including Michigan, have died. Other factors include COVID-19 pandemic and higher feed and trucking fuel costs. Egg demand peaks around Easter due to holiday egg hunts and baking, so prices may not have peaked.

Popcorn: Although we missed National Popcorn Day on Jan. 19, popcorn is not only a nice and nutritious winter/movie treat, but a fun crop to grow in the home garden. The National Popcorn Board in Chicago has lots of nutritious and fun activities and a growing guide so everyone can have some fun with and education about popcorn. Essentially novices should plant popcorn seeds similar to and at the same time as they would plant sweet corn. The main difference is leaving the popcorn on the ear and stalk until the kernels feel hard and dry. After harvest, store the ears in a dry location with ventilation. Ears will be smaller than other types of corn and seed companies sell ornamental popcorn, hulless popcorn, miniature and rainbow popcorn, white, yellow and puffy pop hybrid popcorn varieties.

Ned Birkey is an MSU Extension educator emeritus and a regular contributor to The Monroe News.

This article originally appeared on The Monroe News: Monroe County Agriculture: Egg prices, seed treatments, popcorn