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By Staff | Jul 3, 2009

July is here and we are now halfway through the year and perhaps the 2009 growing season. It is again time to evaluate the state of the crop and make guesses as to how things may turn out.

Three weeks ago we were hoping for warmer weather that might push our crops along in development and give them a chance to reach maturity before the normal frost date arrived. Most of the Midwest finally had that seven- to 10-day warm period and it made a huge difference. Thus it looks like most of our corn will be knee to head high by July 4. Over the past 10 years a high percentage of our corn crop has reached that criterion by June 4.

How many of you have ever dreamed of living and working in a third world? Being born in northern Iowa, the best I have done is to visit a country like Paraguay, which, though beautiful and filled with some nice and intelligent people, has a government and economy that leaves a lot to be desired.

We have also gotten to know a crops researcher from Zimbabwe, who now refuses to leave his compound to tour his plots because he knows it is not safe. That country was once very productive and was a major grain exporter. Recently due to the political and environmental actions taking place in this country more and more of the people across the heartland of Iowa are wondering what exactly is going on and who is perpetrating all of the mistruths.

Cap and Trade with its higher energy costs and every other price increase that goes with it would absolutely nail agriculture and greatly increase food costs. What are our supposed leaders thinking, unless they desire third world status for us?

Agriculture has been a bright spot as it has been improving productivity each year and its output helps to balance our trade. Having tight, new restrictions place on agriculture and having input costs skyrocket again would greatly penalize producers.

State of the crop

After scouting a great number of Iowa fields over the past few weeks a story about Cubs fans comes to mind. The reason why is that the Iowa corn crop has made great progress in its appearance in the past three weeks and, except for a portion of the second-year corn, now looks very good.

Three things are in place for good yields and most corn growers are optimistic. Those three are early planting, good stands, and a full moisture profile entering the middle part of the growing season. The bean crop has also grown well the past two weeks and we are now getting the plant development we have been hoping for. Both crops have a long ways to go, but the potential is there for a crop that might match what we saw in 2004 or 2002.

How that ties into the Cubs is that there is a saying that an optimist sees a glass that is half full, a pessimist sees a glass that is half empty, and a Cubs fan just wonders who is going to knock the glass over? The one thing that many growers are noting as they inspect their cornfields is that the stalks are extremely brittle. Just brushing against them often results in those stalks snapping off a foot or two above the ground. In last weeks strong winds along U.S. Highways 3 and 20 in central Iowa there were reports of noticeable green snap.

Typically the plants are most vulnerable to that malady a week either side of tasseling. Right now it seems they are so turgid that they are ‘snappy’ much earlier than normal. So keep the strong the winds away for the next month.

The corn fields that are still showing problems are those of second-year corn where there was a lot of under-decomposed residue left on or near the soil surface. Side dressing nitrogen helped a portion of those fields, but about 40 percent of them are still showing their yellowish color with stunted growth.

In examining potential remedies for those fields one would have to consider foliar feeding nitrogen to bypass residue tie up.

In 2008 several different forms were tried and some of them provided a statistically significant yield boost. It might be time to use the same remedy on such fields. Check with your local fertilizer supplier and ask for any data or results from local sites.

The markets

Months ago most marketers were wondering how five to six million crop acres could just disappear. It seemed plausible that double-cropped acres may not get planted in the late, wet fall of 2008. The question now is how those acres reappeared again in a very wet spring when getting the corn acres planted east of the Mississippi was a huge challenge.

I could wish you a week where you get all of your work done. At this time of year getting all of you work done is impossible. Instead we just run out of daylight each day. But have a good Fourth of July and enjoy some festivities.

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