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By Staff | Mar 5, 2010

March has finally arrived and the famous New Hampshire groundhog informed us a few weeks ago that winter was only going to be here until mid-March.

At least that is some wishful thinking. Chopping ice from around numerous shed doors last month with a 35 pound pry bar was not something for the weak or faint of heart.

Looking around most farmsteads, one has to surmise that it will take much time for the snow banks to melt and all the water to run somewhere.

Typically, meteorologists say they expect about an inch to an inch and a half of snowmelt to seep into the soil profile.

In many seasons farmers are hoping for all of the snow melt to soak in.

This year we actually don’t need any contributions made to the soil profile. Already the warnings of flooding potential have gone out to low-lying communities where they have a history of too much water.

That means they might as well make all the preparations they can for poor Grand Forks and Fargo.

The start to the typically early part of the planting season is now only about six weeks away.

Last year there were planters rolling by April 12 or 14.

Everyone was in a hurry because of the weather-delayed planting season of 2008.

Lots will need to be done yet in that time period and most growers will need to play catch-up with the tasks they did not get completed in 2009.

In some cases that means trying to get fertilizer applied, a bit of tillage done if necessary, machinery prepped, and seed treatments made if they are needed.


It seems there are operators who swear by tillage and those who swear at it.

To me much of the right answer depends on what soil type you have to operate with.

Growers who get to play with Tama or Galva Primghar or other similar soils have less need to till due to superior internal soil drainage and faster warming ground.

Those who get to muck around in the heavier glacial till soils like those of the Clarion Nicollet association have tried no-till, but find it too much of a challenge, especially in colder and wetter springs.

Last year the rate of soil warm-up was extremely slow and it was exhibited with all of the fields that were filled with extremely slow growing plants.

We may have to face some tough decisions in a few weeks if the spring remains cool and wet.

It would be nice to expect soybeans to perform well even with lots of residue on the soil surface, but the caveat is that the operator will have to try to move residue from the seeding row to allow decent sunlight interception.

One of the biggest burdens in 2009 and future cold years was, and will be, having soils that stayed cool so long that phosphorus release was almost nonexistent through much of June.

If we get close to a repeat of 2009 in 2010, be ready with the sprayer and willing to invest in a hormone/P fertilizer foliar mix.

It has really helped growers in past seasons. Phosphate is an important element in promoting growth and building new chromosonal material in the plant.

Having warm enough soil and enough biologically reduced P available for root uptake is important for fast growth and top yields.

Several of us experimented with a newer pseudomonas seed applied inoculant last season and the results from two crops looked very good on both corn and beans. Both that organism and the trichoderma are import for P release.

Grain quality

There has been more chatter within the grain trade about poor quality grain and some that just is not keeping.

A normal practice when wet grain is put into the bins late is that it can be frozen if the air temps are cold enough.

This winter there are reports from across the Midwest that the grain did not dry as it normally does. Instead the moisture crystallized and the grain stayed wet.

Other observers took note of what our grain looked like in the fields during harvest. I had mentioned last fall that Japanese buyers were touring farms in northeast Iowa in November and saw lots of brown corn.

They noted that color and were concerned because they knew it might be black before it would arrive at their ports. About two weeks ago Chicago reported that Japanese corn purchases were going in the direction of countries that had better quality grain.

With most of their imported grain going either to poultry or swine herds they do not want to import problems they don’t have to.

In visiting with lab personnel who are monitoring mycotoxin levels in grain that is being or intended to be fed, the problem has not gotten any smaller over the winter.

Southern location

I had no colds or sore throats all winter because I was out in the tough conditions much of the time. I screwed that up by flying off to South America to see how conditions were and to observe plots and visit with different agricultural people in Brazil and Argentina. There were a few plots showing up in Mato Grosso that I was hoping to attend so that set the agenda. Getting very little sleep from Sunday morning to Monday night, breathing dry airplane air, and going right into 90-plus degree temperatures was a big change.

A few antibiotics and a few good nights sleep seem to have helped. I will relay a few more of the events and crop happenings that I see here and next week.

My wife and two of our young adult children are going to fly in later to join me and friends as we see crops and the Andes in the northwest Argentine provinces of Salt, Tucaman, and Jujuy. We used a few products in the field this season that they are interested in and vice versa.

Typically when you head here it is kind of like going into a parallel universe where things are almost the same, yet radically different. Brazil is a very colorful country that is becoming a world power in several ways, with oil exploration and grain exports being two of the major ones.

Everyone works at least one job and no one ever appears to be sitting around. They have several great tasting wheat-brewed beers that they like to serve at about 28 degrees. In most meals they expect you to eat several pounds of spicy, barbequed beef.

Desert at those places are typically fresh, grilled, cinnamon pineapple or in a few place good Italian ice cream.

Growing in the fields now are crops of soybeans, corn, cotton, rice, millet, sorghum, cane, teak and many more unusual crops. The development of the corn crop ranges from being two weeks from planting to 4 inches tall, to having reached the tasseled stage.

The bean growth ranges from R5 to having been combined been combined for several weeks. The cotton ranges from being 2 feet tall to where it will be planted after the beans are combined in March. Cotton plants generally require 150 days from planting to maturity and they want it to mature during June when it doesn’t rain and risk damaging the fiber quality.

Whole lot of shakin’

The country of Chile had an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, making it one big quake. There were a number of videos posted from surveilance cameras showing how badly the ground was waving and everything anchored down was moving.

While Chile is a long ways away and has a much better economy and more equipment to use in cleaning up, we may feel the effect here.

Much of our winter fruit supply originates there. In addition, quite a few of the seed companies have inbred lines planted there for isolated grow-outs and multiplier fields.

I will fill you in more on all of that next week.

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