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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 22, 2009

The planting season continues for Iowa growers and most are still optimistic. Already there is a medium-sized disparity between growers east versus west of I-35 due to the amounts of rain that have fallen east of that demarcation.

Rain tends to be a negative during this time of year and dry weather is generally a positive. Growers in north central and southwest Iowa got a jump on other growers around the state, especially those in the eastern one third of the state. This week’s warmer temps will now help to even progress and heat unit accumulation out over the next few weeks. While heat unit accumulation has been extremely slow during the previous two weeks it now looks like 70 degree or better temps and 15 growing degree units per day or more will be commonplace. As that happens the emerged plants will start to add leaves and plant development should increase.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that growers in the eastern Corn Belt are running behind normal in their planting progress. Incessant rains keep coming just when growers think they can return to the fields. Having a 24- or 32-row planter is only an advantage in getting things done when the fields are dry enough to operate. Two weeks ago the IPM newsletters from those eastern states read like ours did last May. You had to remember the helpless feeling as fieldwork was continually being delayed. However, if this weather break continues and a warm spell with moderate winds for about 10 days becomes a reality they will be working round the clock in some not-quite-ready fields to get the seeds in the ground. It may not be picture perfect, but it might be done.

The soybean market continues to climb while the corn market is proceeding at a slower speed. This is all good, but if one looks behind the scene and realizes that the Chinese are getting rid of their declining value dollars to buy hard asset commodities, it falls right inline with what Jim Rodgers, of investment fame, predicted and it makes perfect sense.

Corn price advances need to be bolstered by profits from the livestock or the ethanol industries. Both are having severe challenges for the past two years.

What we have seen

Tonight several crop specialists are in Springfield, Ill., the hometown of Homer and Bart Simpson. The two of us took the path from Iowa City to Hannibal, then U.S. Highway 36 east to the city. USDA reports said only about 12 to 24 percent of the corn crop was in the ground and no beans had been planted yet. What we saw were lots of green fields, where the green foliage consisted mostly of several species of weeds.

There were more fields with emerged corn than we expected, but in many fields big waterholes and blank spots covered a significant portion of the acreage. I saw virtually no stalk fields that had been spring worked or had planter tracks through it.

After visiting with a few growers we were better able to assess the situation. The fields varied from just being ready to work to needing five to seven days to dry. The warm temps were going to dry the top inch or two, but the soils were going to be saturated below that depth.

Their challenge will be to be prudent enough to wait until the fields are ready to plant them, yet keep an eye on the calendar and get most of their crop planted before May 25. Many of them have already reacted by moving to earlier hybrids so they won’t get penalized by excessive moisture at harvest.

The yield potential for those later-planted cornfields can still be very high as we saw in Iowa last year. Two of the months will have to be great for plant growth and development, so it is too early to predict accurately how things will turn out. The yield potential for soybeans can still be similarly good if the crop is well managed and they get rain during the seed filling period. There are management steps the farmers can utilize and implement with soybeans to help the plants develop and form as many branches and pods as possible.

Having along fall and slightly above average temps during the first half of the summer with cooler and moist temps during August and early September would aid the crop.

Earlier in the week I was just west of Omaha and their problem is the opposite of those to our east. The winter and spring months have been extremely dry. They got about eight-tenths of an inch of rain last week, helping the corn and bean plants to emerge, but more is still needed to build the moisture profile before the plants get taller and enter their peak use phase.

The weather has been conducive for the salts that were in the injected fertilizer to get wicked towards the surface and into the root zone, burning the root tissue. Irrigated fields can be watered, but nothing can be done for the plants in dryland fields.

A tribute to Dave Harms

The reason that we are here is to attend a funeral for a friend who was very active on the agricultural education and crop consulting scene for 30 years and some of us had known for most of those years. For those who read magazines such as Successful Farming, Soybean Digest, Crop Professional, or other ag production or agribusiness journals, you often saw Dave being asked for his perspective.

He was active and involved with the national crop consulting and ag management societies and took a role in helping steer several university ag departments. He was also instrumental in helping to guide the American Soybean Association/Soybean Board management groups. Thus anyone who works with a consultant, works with a farm manager, or grows soybeans or contributes to the check-off fund has been affected by him.

In past years he was in our agronomy group that was traveling to South America to study their crop production practices and infrastructure. He succumbed to cancer last Saturday on their farm near Springfield, Ill.

His wife, Colleen, and their five kids who are scattered around the world, were in attendance. What was fun about being around Dave was that he had a very active mind, was willing to share his thoughts, always wanted to explore new places and ideas, and never quit being a kid.

I know many of us will be sitting in church wondering if there was any chemical or product that Dave and others of us are being exposed to on a regular basis that contributed to his getting cancer.

We all know or have family members that suffer or have suffered from the same disease and we continue to be confounded by what causal exposure is creating it. We don’t want the same thing cutting our lives short, so we wish to know if there is any product, lifestyle, or ongoing practice we need to implement to avoid problems.

Other field items

A few other things can be seen in the fields now that should be commented on: In the western part of the state one can find volunteer soybean plants being consumed by over-wintering bean leaf beetles. This means that early emerging beans should be scouted for beetles for the first few weeks.

Cutworm feeding has been minimal so far, but any no-till or reduced tillage corn field that held significant winter annual weed growth should be scouted for leaf or stem feeding.

Soil crusting has been minimal so far because we have had no baking temperatures, but areas that caught heavy rains in recent weeks may now have crusting problems with the 80 degree temps.

Don’t be afraid to call in the rotary hoes if you find plants that are being held under by packed soils and rain is not predicted for the near future.

New products

A new herbicide that received registration for sale in 2009 is one from FMC called Cadet. I saw this PPO about 10 years ago near Ames when it was being tested as one called Action. One teaspoon of AI actually fried five to six acres of velvetleaf and other broadleaf weeds, so it looked very promising. Small amounts of it will be available for use in any bean fields and will be a nice, inexpensive tool to use in keeping either Roundup Ready or conventional bean fields clean.

Good luck in getting the rest of your planting done and may the warm temperatures continue.

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