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Pre-planting schedulesCROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 12, 2010

During most of the winter having one major blizzard every two weeks seemed to be the guidelines. We all thought that Mother Nature was going to be challenged to keeping up that pace. Guess what?

If Friday’s forecast is accurate we may actually receive two storms in one week. Looking at the most recent one that dumped 6 to 10 inches across most of the state, it now stretches from Waterloo to the eastern edge of Pennsylvania and off the coast of the Carolinas.

The only good thing is that people nationwide get to share in the white bounty. It has to be great for the salt retailers and snow blower sales and service businesses. I know that I have looked at snowmobiles, and it is out of necessity in getting to an open road over miles of blocked paths.

Last week’s Iowa Power Farming Show was held last week and its three-day run seemed to go without any major hitches. The crowds were steady and large the first two days and were smaller and persistent through 2 p.m. the final day. Attendees were asking lots of proper questions about the right topics and were more than willing to visit.

At times two to four people wanted to visit with one of us at the same time and it was tough to find the time to please everyone. It gave people the opportunity to visit with neighbors and acquaintances during the time when it is easy to get the blues and start feeling like stranded Eskimos have to feel after 10 months of winter and very little sunlight during that time. Even with the tall drifts around every windbreak and buildings the calendar says that April 15 or the traditional start to spring planting is only about 60 days away. That means 60 days in which to firm up plans for buying and preparing the equipment for all inputs such as seed, fertilizer, applicators


After having a harvest that dragged on six weeks longer than expected everyone feels they are running six weeks behind in their work. On top of that it is hard to play catch-up when snowstorms make clearing yards a twice-weekly exercise. In spite of this it is still the time to get products and equipment in place and ready for when you will need it.

Now and through mid-March is the time to see that all of your soybean seed is lined up as well as the plans to get it treated with the proper products. As in past years, each grower will have to sit down and examine and decide what disease, pest, or cropping problem seems to challenge each field the most. Times and givens have changed dramatically the past five to 10 years.

Now a high percentage of the beans receive a seed-applied fungicide. That is because the best products have shown that they normally pay for themselves several times and protect what is now a very valuable crop.

The next given is likely an application of a premium inoculant if the grower is targeting a better than average yields and has read the test trial information out of Jim Buerlein’s work at Ohio State.

One thing that I learned about the new crop of inocula it that the best of the new bacteria produces a zebra colored nodule with most of them situated right along the stem. Having them along the stem boosts nitrogen transport and lowers the amount of starch that has to be devoted to feeding the bacteria inside the nodule.

That means that more of the photosynthates can be funneled to pod fill. “Crunjulated” is the new descriptive term for those zebra-striped nodules.

To apply Cruiser or Gaucho is still an educated guess where bean growers can take the approach that it will pay on every acre, or they can target apply it to fields that will be planted first or are near a major overwintering site.

There were quite a few second generation bean leaf beetles last September that run a high likelihood of surviving the winter due to the deep layer of insulating snow this winter.

Several growers came to our booth at the Power Show and commented that produced three to seven more bushels per acre in fields where they applied the hormone-producing PPFMs that were produced by the University of Maryland.

What they saw is that the ability to manipulate the physiology and hormone level in the bean plant was beneficial when the field contained adequate fertility levels and there is good biological activity in the soil.

Consider using that product. So the ending admonitions is that if you have not already visited with your soybean seed supplier about what you want applied to your seed this spring, now is the time to do so.

Insect questions

A few pertinent insect questions still exist going into the late winter months. First would be if entomologists think European corn borers return as a major corn pest in Iowa in the near future. To answer that one has to recognize that ECB used to fluctuate on a five-year cycle that researchers thought was dictated by high or low levels of two pathogens that killed the larvae. One of those was a fungus and one was a protozoa.

Peak cycle years in the near past were 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007. In 2002 and 2007 people that drove gravel roads at night during the mid-June and late-July flight periods never got their windshields smeary. It seems that the advent and use of Bt hybrids has eliminated them as a serious corn pest.

The second insect that is raising questions as to the potential for a problem in 2010 is the corn rootworm.

After seeing huge numbers in many areas and seeing problems with both extended diapause from the Northerns and egg laying in soybean fields from the Westerns during the 2003 thru 2007 seasons with the numbers climbing each year the populations crashed in 2008.

The most plausible explanation was that many of the larvae drowned during that wet spring. The small larvae were at a very vulnerable and not very mobile growth stage, thus that theory seems plausible.

Beetle numbers were generally very low as well in 2009, except for a late and large flush of small sized Northerns last fall.

Did they lay eggs and do they pose a threat? I will have to see if I can visit with entomologists to get their opinions.

Herbicide for 2010

By now most farmers have studied the various available weed control guides and gotten reacquainted by name with products they maybe have not used in years, but now see the need to.

Many of the residual products used 10 to 15 years ago can still do the job very well.

The release of a few new products as well as the use of new softeners open up the window of application and increase the safety margin of other products. In time there will be new families and products introduced. New families are tough to develop and research as the cost of bringing a new family to market and getting the efficacy and tox tests done is projected to now cost $500 to $800 million dollars.

Soil tests

How many of you had a portion of your acres soil tested this past fall or scheduled that task for this spring? Good, if you are in that crowd. If you did that, did you have 20 to 33 percent of those samples analyzed for the major micro-nutrients?

I have been looking at samples lately and formulated recommendations for those acres. What jumps out from those results is that levels for sulfur, boron, and manganese are nearly all low to very low. All three are very important nutrients for producing healthy crops and ones that will develop and mature on time.

If your corn stayed wet and you are hoping for drier grain this fall, make sure you pay attention to your test levels for those nutrients.

If your test levels are low and it is impossible to apply those elements in any way other than foliar products, you may want to develop a program whereby you can take tissue tests at the designated time and make the one or two foliar applications on time and with the proper products.

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