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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

Once we reach the middle part of February we are typically right in the middle of the winter dog days. We have gotten tired of playing with and pushing snow, sliding on ice and crunching vehicles, and thawing our frozen fingers.

The stack of magazines we had planned on reading since last summer no longer looks as interesting and spring seems like a year away. Friends have traveled to the Louisville Farm Show for entertainment while we tackled more important tasks at home, and days aren’t long or warm enough to get the blood flowing at high speeds yet.

We have to remind ourselves that the official start to spring is only about five weeks away. It will get here.

Most producers are still trying to make sense of the grain markets and how to incorporate what they are providing with how they have to buy inputs for the coming season. The common thought was that if the price of corn could climb into the $4 to $4.25 range for corn and close to $10 per bushel for soybeans there were slim profits to be made with raising decent yielding crops in 2009. That hasn’t quite happened so most growers are still trying to develop their cropping and marketing plans.

My perception of the ag producing community since late last year was that everyone was running about four to six weeks behind in their work and planning processes. That has not changed as the weather, uncertainties in seed and fertilizer pricing, and general economy have not cleared up at all. Like others I am an optimist, but I’m also a realist about the general economic situation.

Too large of a segment of our population has a sense of entitlement without wanting to put in the years and efforts to truly generate products or goods. Shuffling paper is not a wealth producing industry.

In the final assessment it look like many of those who were involved in the later recognized that theme, yet had neither conscience or sense of right and wrong. Now our politicians are trying to correct the symptoms without acknowledging the actual sickness. I’ll bet they don’t realize they are among the culprits.

What do we do now?

As some of you may have heard we inhabitants of Iowa no longer have Marlin Rice as our Extension entomologist. For 20 years Marlin was at his desk and out in the fields searching out insects that were either protecting or destroying our crops.

This was at a time when we were having to deal with all sorts of little six- and eight-legged pests on which we had to spend or loose money if we didn’t know how to properly deal with them.

At first we had other scientist working along with and guiding Marlin, people such as our root worm man, Jon Tollefson; virologist John Hill; soybean bug guy Larry Pedigo; and others. As time marched on hard work and skill pushed the cream to the top and Rice was The Man.

His skills with a camera were good enough to have nearly every company and university using his insect photos in their stories and brochures. Like others who grow in their profession, travel broadened him and the world got a lot bigger as he added African adventures to his resume.

He was also editor of the well-written, weekly, group project known as the ISU IPM Crop Newsletter. Anyhow Marlin moved on to work as a research scientist with Pioneer Hybrid in Johnston.

He will still be in Ames working with insects and other projects trying to make sure bad and good insects stay in line. Everyone wishes you the best luck in your new career.

Who are we going to pester with our insect questions now?

Soybean conference

Last week I was in Maryville, Mo., putting a meeting concerning higher-yielding soybeans, then in St. Louis Monday evening and Tuesday for the Soybean Geneticists Industry Workshop, before getting home about midnight on Tuesday. Two and a half days, 991 miles.

The St. Louis workshop is an annual affair where the heavy duty research being done in the soybean world is discussed and shared. Ideas on new insect resistances and pests, disease threats and solutions, specialty uses for soy products, and novel ideas on how to improve soybeans and their culture were among those things that were discussed.

The ideas got near shoulder deep and in a few of them it was tough to follow and understand what was being proposed and presented. For example, an insect and plant genomics researcher from Minnesota was digging into aphid research and the new aphid resistant bean varieties.

Before the Ohio aphids broke through the new Rag1 varieties us commoners thought all aphids would be controlled. Instead it appears there are different strains of aphids in existence. At present no one in the U.S. knows how many strains might exist in China.

The researcher told how the resistance genes includes the Rag 1, Rag 1-c and b, Rag 2, Rag 3 b and c, Rag 4, with several substrains could be incorporated into varieties, but suggested that their ability to produce lots of generations and offspring was the ideal trait that would allow them to get through single gene resistance. It was another example of how nature loves to throw curve balls at human efforts to defeat insect activity.

Another session has an extension researcher give his interpretation of Kip’s high soybean yields. He has been working with Dale Blevins, the top potassium physiologist, to decipher what is being done by Kip to raise such high yields.

He did a very good job at telling what they understood was being done, talked about what segments they thought needed more exploration, and what they truly did not understand. I could not resist chucking a grenade and asked what tips he and his colleagues would input in the quest to get to 200 bu/A.

In all it was a very good conference, one where you learned a lot by attending sessions and also in the hallways in the evening or between talks.

Preparations

Over the next few weeks growers need to continue to work on finalizing their cropping plans. This can be done with soybean seed and deciding what inoculates and protectants should be applied. Making all the decisions about fertilizers is more difficult since many final actions will be determined by how and when the soils thaw and whether the fields dry early or stay wet.

It is becoming apparent that many growers are hoping for the weather where they can either apply all of their N as 92 percent with their wider rigs yet be flexible in case they need to position to be able to topdress 40 to 50 pounds of N with their residual herbicide followed by 60 to 80 pounds of sidedressed.

Growers recognize unless we get near-perfect weather and drying conditions the rush to apply nitrogen with limited equipment and siphoned nitrogen supplies could be a real mess this spring. Typically four good weeks are required to get the anhydrous applied.

However, not enough UAN will be available to meet preplant needs. Thus it looks like the need will be to apply two forms in two application timings to make things work, with sidedressed nitrogen playing a larger-than-normal role.

Patience and foresight will have to be practiced by all.

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