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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 28, 2010

It looks and feels like spring is over with. Two weeks ago we were agonizing over the amount of frost damage and still wearing hooded sweatshirts. This week’s temps were in the high 80s and low 90s with the feel of mid-summer in the air. Though the hot and humid weather was a bit oppressive it was what the emerged crops needed as many of the small plants really seemed to grow last weekend.

The plants in many fields were noticeably bigger on Monday than they were on Friday. Thus our cries need to be “more heat” to speed the crop on to further development. Remember to wish for a gentle 1- to 1 1/2-inches of rain per week to accompany it as the plants will start to use more moisture as they get taller.

With this heat and north movement of the frontal boundaries will come our late spring storms and sometimes violent weather. Thus far those problems have been standards for Missouri and Oklahoma. Our turn is likely to start soon.

It was interesting to read one Illinois researcher’s postulate that their thick planted corn fields were the cause of fewer 90-degree days in Chicago. First of all, who cares? Secondly, there may be many other factors at play. Having wetter summers and subsequent wet soils that act as a heat sink would be a much larger factor in keeping the summers cooler.

Planting progress

Across the state corn planting progress is 95 pecent or so with beans tagging along at 50 to 60 percent. Most operators who have been pushing and have not been slowed by weather delays are done with both and can move forward with other tasks.

The pace of bean planting was slowed by 10 to 12 days of wet weather and slow-to-dry soils. So as fields dry and conditions improve, operators will get their planters into the fields again to finish their last acres. Then they either put their planters away or make any quick repairs that might be needed on them.

In a few cases, and in a few areas, growers had to make the tough decisions about fields that either were heavily affected by frost or saturated in cold soils, enough to lower the stands and make replanting necessary.

In all cases the growers working with either seed company personnel or agronomists had to make stand counts and weigh their yield potential by what a perfect stand planted three weeks later might yield.

The state and national planted progress surveys have been released. In most cases the first three-fourths of the 2010 planting season ended up being one of the two fastest in history. In another week or two the final tally should be close to complete. A number of producers in states to our south have had better soybean yields if they plant later allowing the soybeans to fill pods after the warmest summer weather.

One question that has been raised already is when should a person still planting soybeans switch to 15- or even 10-inch rows. Normally that date is around May 22 to 25. With later bean planting date and the fact that bean plants will normally begin to flower around June 21, the soybean plants that have reached V5 will tend to stay shorter with fewer nodes.

Thus increasing plant population and decreasing row width is a common recommendation for late-planted beans. What we have found out with several years of work is that if you are able to use a foliar application of hormones and micros, all plants can be forced to add branches making up for fewer nodes.

Herbicide activity

So far most of the grass control herbicides applied to corn fields seems to be doing a very good job. Making the decision to use those products has to be looking like a wise choice as the wet fields and windy days have made spraying rescue or non-selective products difficult.

In the past 10 days many broadleaf species had been emerging and turning spots in fields green with their growth. In most cases trying to eliminate them before they have grown beyond the 2-inch stage is a good management practice as they can start to soak up enough fertilizer and sunshine to lower crop yields.

So there is bound to be a lot of Callisto and Hornet applied in the next week to 10 days in concert with a Triazine. Quite a few acres will also receive one of those two products by tank mixing with a non-selective product in order to minimize the chance of tolerant weeds surviving, or to add residual control where it is needed.

The new products that contain either Kixor or Balance also look like they are giving good control. Like always. let’s see how those fields and products appear in July and the degree of control they still exhibit.

Freeze recovery

By now most of the roped up corn that froze has recovered and added several inches of growth. In the end it was mostly the shallow-planted, quick-emerging corn planted early that seemed to have problems. What may have added to this season’s problems was that in the case of corn the seed normally provides a starchy energy supply to the seedling for about four weeks.

This year those four weeks was often up during the time when the plants were trying to regrow tissue. So the under-stress plant, without any top growth, was often faced with the task of growing new tissue with a very limited energy supply. Some fields made it while other small and isolated fields were not so lucky.

Added to this number of fields are a certain number across the eastern half of the state where cool and saturated soils allowed fungal infestations to attack the root, or mesocotyl, and destroy the potential of the plant, leading to those fields being replanted.

Luckily that number stayed small and we didn’t have to rely on a supply of early hybrids that did not exist.

Problematic plants

One thing that more farmers and crop advisors who are scouting fields are seeing is a larger-than-normal percentage of plants that appear weak or unhealthy. We saw this last year when a percentage of plants were twisted and acted like they had either fought or lost a battle with a hard crust on the soil surface, even when no crust existed.

When examining the roots there is often a complete lack of nodal root development. It is not unusual to find fields where 10 percent or more of the plants fit this category. Those plants are now by two or more leaf stages and are likely to produce a smaller than normal ear.

Crop advisors are still trying to pull together enough of the facts to declare an exact cause. If one looks at enough fields you get an idea that many fields have lost their top-end yield potential.

About half of the soybeans will have been planted after May 20 this season rather than in the first week of May. That means that extra efforts will be needed to get those fields to reach top-yield levels. Steps will have to be taken to force the plants to form as many branches as possible before they begin flowering. Once that starts getting them to boost flower number will be an advantage.

Insects

We are still trying to guess how much of a problem our normal invasive insects might be this summer. Earlier, it was easy to find volunteer bean plants in the corn that were riddled by bean leaf beetle feeding. Now it is difficult to find those beetles.

They have likely laid their eggs near those volunteer plants and cycled out already. Round two will be in early- to mid-July as the first true generation will emerge and move to the soybean fields.

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