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By Staff | Apr 17, 2009

Bang! Boom! Woosh! And the 2009 planting season is upon us. The strange weather continues across Iowa, but for now growers can make progress in getting part of their 2009 crop in the ground.

On Monday there were wet snowflakes falling from the sky while at the same time there were corn growers from Fort Dodge to Storm Lake and Mason City pulling their planters into the fields. A few adventuresome growers in Northwest Iowa got up from the Easter dinner table and celebrations, climbed into their tractors, and did the same thing.

It feels good to get started on a new season and one that we have to hope is much easier to manage than that of 2008. It may be a planting season reminiscent of 1992, following a 1991 season when there were few opportunities to plant during May and many acres were finally completed in early and mid-June.

The next spring most farmers responded by working night and day in April and most corn planting was wrapped up by May 1. Partly due to the early planting date and cooler season, yields were some of the best ever for many growers.

The issue of indecision still exists for many growers. With the large number of growers who were shut out last fall from doing much preparation in the way of tillage, residue management, or fertilizing, many either were or are still waiting to see how early they can get to the field. They are also studying how the economics of each crop worked out this spring before finalizing their decisions.

The USDA reports have helped swing the markets, but in ways that are still puzzling. Having projected bean carryout falling into one of the tighter supply levels in recent history is giving support to beans and should lend strength to corn as well.

Progress around Iowa and the U.S.

Prior to Sunday the rate of planting progress across the state and much of the entire corn belt was behind normal. Cold soil temperatures still exist in many places and in about 60 percent of the state the soils still need additional time to dry.

Those conditions are expected to change if the 60 degree temps move in as expected and rainfall amounts are limited later this weekend.

A common concern is often raised over the soils that are dry enough to plant into, but are still cold. Prior to the genetic advances by seed companies the seedlings typically had to emerge within 2.5 weeks of being planted or the kernels would rot.

Today those seedlings have 4 to 4.5 weeks to make it. Thus once the ground is dry and the calendar reaches April 15, the starting flag can be dropped.

Over the past decade there have been yield and harvest moisture benefits to early planting. And after last year it feels good to get at least some of the acres planted for the first and what should be the final time.

Then the GDU accumulation can begin for those planted hybrids and fields. As a note I had my first sweet corn in the ground on March 22. The 5 p.m. soil temp in the sheltered area on that Sunday afternoon was 63 degrees. It now has a 3/4-inch sprout on it.

Another benefit to early corn planted is that it should hasten the start of soybean planting. When that occurs the bean plants emerge earlier and typically end up with more podded nodes, which can be a good indicator of higher yields. Last week I noted that one of the major challenges of a cooler season is that when soils remain cool the mineralization of P and K are slowed and uptake is reduced as microbial activity is lowered.

What we have learned from the foliar fertilizer advisors is that high-yielding producers help their crops compensate for such problems by supplementing crop needs with in-season foliar applications of such nutrients and other needed micros. Bypassing soil limitations makes sense if application parameters can be discovered and rules are formulated.

The aerial applicator and bee rules of 2009

One change that was instituted for 2009 pesticide applicators is that all bee hives that are registered with the state have the capability of shutting down the application of pesticides within a mile of the hives.

Anyone applying an insecticide within a mile of the hives is supposed to halt applications between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In a year like 2008 when the aphids kept up their assaults from mid July through mid-September there would have been severe challenges in getting all the required spraying completed.

Thus there will have to be good communication among bee keepers and farmers this summer as both sides have legitimate reasons to complain.

One product that was tried in 2008 with good success and could help compliance with the Bee Rule was an insecticidal, fungicidal mix called Safe Strike.

It is a mix of several natural oils of a type that have been used for years and centuries. Like most biologicals it is most effective when applied before insect populations have begun to climb. Its insecticidal mode of action is feeding cessation and a severe reduction in fecundity (the ability to have babies).

Cost wise it was very affordable and had a long residual. It offers good savings when considering it was dual purpose. We used it in the most severe test case, which was rescuing corn roots against later instar rootworm feeding in a rescue situation.

Additionally I used it on my apple trees as a test and it worked there very well for both insect and disease control. We never found a wormy apple all fall or winter when we were using them.

Soybean trials and what seed treatments to use

As of mid April, growers who intend to plant soybeans should be assessing what disease and insect threats their soybean plants will be facing this season.

Now is the time to discuss this with your seed supplier and decide what products they should have applied to the seed. There will continue to be more technology applied to the seed that help minimize problems, and no technology fee is assessed for them.

To make those assessments an understanding of each insect’s habits and each pathogens method of infection is known. Combining this knowledge with your ground’s soil types and surrounding topography you can chart the best products to use.

South American thoughts

Quite a few people I have visited with have asked how things looked in both Argentina and Brazil. In several ways it is hard to generalize or summarize what we saw.

The reason why is that they are big countries and cropping is done differently than in the U.S. The sites we visited in Brazil are at about 15 and 13 degrees south latitude. That equates in northern latitudes to about where Nicaugua and Mexico City are located.

Where we were in Argentina, by comparison, it was roughly a bit south of Dallas. Their first crop planting season in Brazil begins in early to mid-October after the spring rains start and continue through late December.

The second, or follow-up crop, planting season begins in early January and continues through mid-March. Their winter is extremely dry and experience has taught them to get any crops’ grain fill completed before the dry season arrives.

The maturities of the bean varieties are also longer season and typically are from early Group 5 to a mid Group 9. Thus you will typically see fields within a short distance that range from ready to harvest, to mid-vegetative stage, to already replanted to a follow crop.

In Argentina the growing season near Buenos Aires is shorter and soybeans are generally double cropped after winter wheat. Bean maturity ratings are earlier when double cropped and usually range from late Group 3 to mid-Group 5.

They had a severe LaNina season where the moisture fronts came from the abnormal directions and many normal moisture patterns were reversed. When the rains did resume for many areas in February, much of the damage was done and the insect populations were entrenched.

Thus they want to forget the past season just as much as most of us do. What a review of history has to tell us is if La Nina conditions typically migrate northward along the Pacific coast from South to North America.

That is a question for a good historic meteorologist.

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