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By Staff | Jan 8, 2010

Is it cold enough for everyone? Is anyone else wondering why you live in this area? Where are the gullible proponents of global warming these days who can explain why Arctic conditions have existed over much of the country the past weeks and for the foreseeable future?

With most growers and Iowans still sick of the past season, having a second tough winter wasn’t what the doctor ordered. At least before the Christmas storm we could comfort ourselves by saying that at least we didn’t have thick packs of ice to deal with and slide on.

Now we get to shuffle around on the slick surface until the January thaw. At the Streit ranch the water heater went out over the Christmas weekend and it took about a week to get a new one in. One thing I found out in the interim was how tortuous and long a 60-second cold shower was. I don’t recommend it.

The winter planning season continues with growers making decisions about the 2010 crop. I have never seen things as confusing as this year due to dubious results from a cool season and so many changes being forced upon the farming public.

Perhaps the best thing is that most of the fertilizer and herbicide prices have dropped dramatically from the astronomically high prices that existed last season. All farmers know that the grain they just put into their bins or delivered to the elevator was the most expensive crop they ever grew. Having it go out of condition due to not being watched is not an option that anyone wants to occur. Thus even though checking bins is way down on the list of fun things to do, it will be an incredibly important task for all grain producers this winter.

Educational clinics

Through the month of January the Iowa State University Extension service will be holding its annual regional crop information sessions where about a half dozen cropping topics are covered. Those who have attended in the past years always thought the information and meeting setup were very good and were glad they went.

If you check the ISU Extension Web site you can find the dates and locations. Have a second and third choice in mind in case another snowstorm interrupts your initial plans.

Mycotoxins, grain quality

Due to a perfect storm of factors a number of crop advisors were expecting this corn crop to have major quality problems. Leaf diseases were major problems and many producers who applied foliar fungicides saw 20 to 25 bushels per acre yield increases. Assuming that the husks are simply another leaf and that leaf diseases reached severe levels, and knowing that fungal mycelium strands can move through the plants plumbing tissue, the chance that kernels were going to be infected was very high.

Having a very wet October made things worse, but wasn’t the only cause of the problem.

In the past week I have seen a wet corn pile at an elevator that was being scooped up with a huge pay loader onto semi trailers. Around the middle tube, perhaps 20 to 40 feet out, the grain was so black and chunky that from a distance it looked like they were loading coal.

From another source came the story that feed consumption had decreased by 75 percent at several swine facilities. What is that going to do to the rate of gain and health of the animals?

One vet who works extensively with hogs, cattle and dairy animals and has been tracking grain quality problems over the past five years, found a new record with vomitoxin levels in a sample.

To answer an old question he is tracking the varieties and weed control programs being used to produce the grain in question. A few of the top people he is working with have not connected all of the dots yet as to why such problems have occurred.

In another case a fellow checking heat tapes in a flat storage facility decided to take a customary leap down about six feet into supposed soft grain rather than climb the ladder. He hurt his leg because that corn that was supposed to be soft was brick hard. Ouch. How good will that grain be?

And in a situation that we didn’t want to hear yet, watch the corn export numbers. Inspectors from major importing countries are smart and intuitive. Given a choice, they have no desire to import a major problem for their animal production industry.

When does word spread that actual #2 corn was sometimes a rare commodity this fall or that many growers were grateful that their grain was accepted at a local destination? Hopefully everyone remains vigilant and able to react quickly to grain problems as they develop.

Run the fans and observe all guidelines.

FGD and gypsum

In November Ohio State University and the Fluid Gas Desulfurization Industry held their conference in Indianapolis. What OSU researchers wanted to present was more of the research information they have gathered over the years when they tested the calcium sulfate generated in coal burning plants.

Such CaSO3 is often used when it is available as a replacement for mined gypsum. In addition there were several growers who took the podium to tell of the great results they received when their crops reacted favorably to having sulfur levels boosted and soils fluffed up.

There were reps present from the EPA. Previously they were considering banning all use of such FGD gypsum and requiring that it needed to be landfilled. Such action was going to add enough cost to coal burning plants that many would either shut down or would have to raise prices to all customers. When conference attendees and presenters visited with those regulators they wanted to convey the message that a more responsible and educated approach was to separate good from bad FGD gyp and not bury all the material to let our children and grandchildren deal with the product.

In a surprise move last week the EPA ruled that such material could be used in a beneficial manner and that producers needed to be better educated about the use of power plant gypsum. Hooray for their good judgment this time.

New insects

It is too early yet to see if we get to deal with a new insect that moved here from the Bahamas Islands. It is new specie of ant that was named the Rasberry ant after the person who identified it in one of its new ranges in the southeastern U.S. In its native areas it is known to be able to outpopulate and drive fire ants out of their mounds. Apparently populations increase rapidly and their billions can force a number of other insects to move out.

In preliminary estimates some view it as being good and others dread it ever appearing. Where the insect has appeared in a few of the Southeastern states it has spread rapidly. Several researchers have commented that they are hoping they can teach it to eat kudzu.

Input planning

Now is the time to review all of your crop management plans of 2009 and see how they produced. If any steps failed to produce the desired results and the causal factor was under your control, now is the time to make the changes to rectify that step.

In Illinois and with the Iowa Soybean Association industry leaders are acknowledging where the bar on soybean yield now exists. How many people are reaching that level or even half of that amount?

If 2010 is as cool and short of growing degree units as 2009 was, what cultural or fertilizer changes do you need to make to help your crops mature faster? Based on successful results from last year, many growers have proven successful results from increasing biological activity in the soils and adding to the mineral supplies to the plants with some of those being foliar applications.

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