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2010 growing season —

By Staff | Feb 9, 2010

Bob Streit, left, discusses the EC probe with Dale Cornwell, of Mallard, during the second of three sessions held for the 2010 cropping challenges program held at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge. Cornwell said he attended to learn more tips on agronomy practices to use on his own operation.

Approximately 40 were in attendance Tuesday night for the second of a series of three programs outlining cropping challenges for 2010 held at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

Presenter Bob Streit, a private crop consultant, provided the class with information on soil tests, microdeficiencies and management tips to high yielding crops.

Streit said there are several different theories when it comes to soil analysis and stressed that a producer must have a working knowledge of them.

The means of gathering these analyses evolved over the last few decades. Just 20 to 30 years ago, Streit pointed out, the sampling technique involved about one sample over a 40- to 80-acre field which was considered, back then, good enough.

Then throughout the 1990s variable rate technology was introduced which provided producers a soil analysis that would allow for nutrients to be applied at adjustable rates throughout the fields to help correct deficiencies.

In 2005, sampling more by the management zone, according to soil type, became popular and now in 2010, Streit is predicting producers will employ more of those management zones to get a more complete profile of their soils’ micronutrients.

He strongly recommends producers request their test to include the percent base saturation, which refers to a measurement of the percent of the soil cation exchange capacity that is occupied by a particular nutrient and includes calcium, potassium, magnesium and hydrogen.

A new tool being used to assure soybeans are getting the nutrients they need throughout the growing season is one that includes using a newer tool now available called an electrical conductivity probe.

“Producers that are getting high yielding soybeans are using the EC probe,” said Streit.

The tests, he said, are helping producers keep nutrient levels up throughout the growing year. They are making more timely applications of foliar fertilizers.

When it comes to diagnosing a plant with diseases or nutrient deficiencies, Streit used the analogy that unlike doctors that can ask a patient their symptoms, a farmer and agronomist can only infer as to what is going on based on observations of the plant and what soil tests are indicating.

“Above the ground can provide symptoms and some answers, but not what is happening inside the plant,” said Streit.

Those diagnoses require examining the roots.

With last year’s growing season proving to be a cold one, many are wondering if Iowa should expect the same for 2010 and, if so, what management practices should be used?

To help fight corn problems associated with light and micronutrient deficiencies, Streit recommends managing residue with a biological mix such as Z-Hume to start the degradation process of the stalks and take advantage of the multiple nitrogen sources, including side dressing that are available to avoid residue-based tie up of the fertilizer.

Typically, Streit said last season’s residue should be gone by June of the new growing season. Otherwise there can be a reoccurrence of last year’s diseases. Because 2008 stalks did not breakdown in many fields in 2009, diseases from the ’08 season ended up in the ’09 crop.

BioPack, a biological mix, is being used in experiments by NASA and elsewhere to see what its affects will be on crops that are grown were heat and sunlight is not available.

BioPack, Streit said, will be tested on some fields this year and will be either used in the form of a seed treatment or used to treat the seedling.

Foliar fertilizer applications are becoming increasingly popular, Streit said, who took a few minutes to discuss with the group some tips on when to apply and how to help achieve higher yields.

Optimum times for foliar fertilizer applications in corn, he said, are at the V4 growth stage, pre-tassel, at brown silk when the plant is the hungriest, late kernel fill and eight to 10 days after a glyphosate application.

In order to ensure a producer gets the best results of a foliar fertilizer application, Streit suggested checking the quality of the water being used for spraying, applying at the right time and temperature of the day and making sure not to use nitrogen that could potentially burn the leaves.

Identifying foliar diseases is also important and suggests using study guides and having them readily available for use.

Once you have identified the disease, management is the next step, Streit said.

Foliar diseases, he said, can be managed with the use of fungicides with the main issues being to maintain the leaf health during the period of major grain fill and to recognize what strobe/triazole mixes will be timely and efficacy.

Although fungicides do work well, Streit cautioned that they are sometimes used as, “a band-aid over a gaping wound,” and it would be wise to try to find and cure the nutrient deficiency behind the disease.

Poor nutrient management will have the final result of poor grain quality and Streit stressed that as producers you have to watch your grain as it is appearing a lot of the grain was out of condition at harvest in 2009.

To help control possible diseases in soybeans, Streit first recommends a seed applied fungicide, especially in wet conditions and on higher priced seed.

A compaction-free seedbed and root zone, where decent pore space and oxygen levels exist, is also a large part of disease management.

It may be essential to consider a newer biological fungi protection, such as Sabre or T-22, which will be in low supply for the 2010 growing season.

Applying fungicides in soybeans, Streit said, should be done at the R-3 stage or right before the rows close. In this case, he said, strobes/triazole mixes are typically superior.

When it comes to the amount to be applied, Streit said, more gallons would equal better coverage.

Identifying diseases in soybeans is also very important and one big mistake many farmers make is confusing maturity with a disease.

Soybean seed management, Streit said, begins with using inoculants if possible.

And it’s never too early to plan for the seasonal management of one’s soybeans.

“Get your action planned now,” he said.

Producers should decide what pressures will be on the seed or seedling and respond proactively; get educated, scout and prevent insect vectoring and damage; keep weed competition to a minimum and be proactive in manipulating hormonal and physiological plant activity by using a foliar application.

Streit said there are three approaches to cropping – from the engineering or machinery standpoint, the chemical perspective and the biological viewpoint.

“A good producer understands all three with a good understanding of the biological,” Streit said.

The last session of Cropping Challenges for 2010 will be held at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, at Iowa Central Community College’s Career Education Building, Room 108.

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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