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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 5, 2009

Busy people don’t like deadlines, especially when we don’t get to set the rules. What we know is that too many Iowa soybeans are still in the field as was roughly 80 percent of the corn last Sunday.

Hopefully, it is slowly being harvested this week and will continue to stand until it is combined.

Outsiders have asked why that has happened. Once they hear that we have had 235 percent of our normal rainfall in October and days as warm as 70 degrees were nonexistent during that time, they can begin to understand.

Two of us traveled out to the American Society of Agronomy annual meetings held in Pittsburgh, leaving last Saturday morning. Due to plane schedules that didn’t make any sense and the need to stop a place or two, we drove. That gave us a chance to see the crops through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t a bad drive and went quicker than I expected. In that entire distance on Saturday and Sunday we saw a grand total of one combine working and that was on hilly ground just east of Davenport. Either all the farmers in that distance were Seventh Day Adventists, or their fields were just as wet. Thus it looks like a delayed or non-existent harvest has been the rule for most of the major corn or bean producing states.

Through much of October we have been waiting for the warm weather that is supposed to be moving in within two to three days. Little of that weather ever appeared and now it is crunch time, as many farmers have a few weeks of harvest left as well as weeks needed to dry the abnormally wet grain.

Then there is the normal amount of fertilizing or possible tillage or strip-tilling that many were hoping to do. Can we get that all done by Nov. 23? We can just hope for the best, as we can’t change it.

Wet corn

For the past two weeks corn growers who were able to find any of their fields with moistures near 20 percent felt good about it. Most of those were growers who planted earlier hybrids early or on time, or farm in southwest Iowa.

The rate of crop development was abnormally slow this summer, even slower than the announced growing degree units suggest should be happening. I had the chance to visit with Mike Thurow, president and engineer for Spectrum Technologies. He is hoping to market equipment to growers that will tighten GDU calculations by tallying hours of heat rather than just the daily temperature extremes.

University of Illinois researchers suggested this back in the early ’80s. By next summer Spectrum will be selling small sunlight gauges that will measure and log PAR sunlight units on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

They will still be offering farm-sized weather stations that can track five or six different weather readings that we like to track. Once a grower can have that information and match it to corresponding varietal information from his seed companies, he or she might have the information to determine if he must apply a sidedress or foliar application of products to speed the crop development up.

We may need such weather gauging systems placed periodically across the states to better monitor growing conditions so we can be more proactive in our crop management.

For those who will be sending a crew into their fields to take soil samples, don’t forget to think about requesting micronutrient analysis to be run on a percentage of them. The recent history of applying only NPK fertilizers has left many fields increasingly short in a number of the micros. Now is the chance to influence yields for perhaps the next four years in those fields.

Meanwhile, may the sun shine and help deliver the late-season Indian summer we greatly need. Be safe in your work.

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