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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jul 15, 2010

So far the weather trend for the rest of July is up in the air. Getting enough rain to meet the crop needs has not been a problem.

Several regions are still getting too much. Most areas have plenty of moisture in the soil profile to carry the crop for several weeks.

Most growers are just hoping for an inch or two every week, not too much or too little. It appears that hot weather will be moving in during the middle of this week, hot enough to start baking the crops in areas where rooting depth has been compromised by saturated soils and two consecutive wet harvest seasons. Who knows what is going to happen through July and August to determine crop size. It could swing either way in dramatic fashion.

Those who have been doing a bit of flying or even running high clearance sprayers see a different scene than those who are earth bound. Too many waterholes and too many weak areas will subtract from crop size.

A year ago the Lanworth commodity service that has a staff of meteorologists, physicists and plant physiologists was estimating the crop size at 12.3 billion bushels. They stuck with that guess in spite of being prodded to match it.

They stuck to their guns saying that they would be proven correct. After the strange USDA bushel juggling act that took place a few weeks ago upped the usage by a huge percentage it looks like their estimate was closer than any other group’s.

Too bad it cost every corn seller at least $.40 per bushel last season.

The corn crop

Much of the state’s corn crop began to tassel on schedule this year. My guess as to this occurrence made three to four weeks ago ended up being correct. In 2009 tasseling was also projected to start on or about July 10, but the cold air moved in and the tasseling date ended up being delayed by two to three weeks.

In recent weeks there have been comparisons made to the 1983 cropping season which contained a severe, but short, drought. In that season the dry weather moved in prior to tasseling and pollination and silking were interrupted. Since then the stress tolerance of hybrids has been improved dramatically through traditional breeding methods.

Being able to get the job of pollination completed during a time of cooler temps and adequate moisture is important. Over the years I have seen a lot more bushels lost due to kernel abortion and tip kernels loss in the two weeks after pollination.

Let’s judge how many kernels will be on each ear in two or three weeks and not prematurely. The old saying of “Don’t count your chicken before the eggs hatch” is very accurate. In about a week we should be able to do the husk and shake test on many ears and see how many silks detach easily.

What the Lanworth group focused on in 2009 when they made their 12.3 billion bushel crop size guess was a major decrease in the corn canopy chlorophyll amount by Aug. 1.

That important plant component is what allows the plants to convert sunlight into sugar and starch. Without enough chlorophyll grain production will continue at a slower pace with a reduction in final grain produced.

So how does our corn crop of 2010 compare in chlorophyll content and greenness to that of the 2009 crop.

The best accuracy would happen if a person would use what is called a Spad Meter in representative fields across a number of states or have a satellite system that would gather the same information.

The other component of such a survey would be to ground true things by examining enough plants in enough fields using a 24- to 30-power lens to look at leaves to see if they were still a dark green or they were losing a percentage of their greenness.

Not too many crop scouts have done that, but what they have been finding will be an important component in how the corn crop will be judged in a few long months.

Such scouts have been noticing a change over the past two weeks that has not been mentioned by any articles or press yet.

I have my opinion, but will not stick my neck out at this time.

The soybean crop

There is no firm trend as to whether the beans look better or worse than the corn in Iowa. Much of the rankings or ratings are regional and dependent on topography and soil type.

Those beans growing or trying to grow in super saturated soils are still having trouble with a root system that is not functioning properly. Where drainage has been better the bean plants are close to closing their 30-inch rows and looking very good. That means that there will be lots of 30-inch row bean growers going full bore next week in their attempt to get any fungicide and foliar materials applied before they can’t make it through with a ground sprayer.

So far reports of major aphid populations in any Midwest state are almost nonexistent. We are hearing of very light numbers in surrounding states and that have been a few found in parts of northeast and northwest Iowa.

Illinois entomologists are speculating that the wet spring weather may have fostered the growth of a fungus that controls their population.

What might be different with aphids this year is that we are entering the season knowing that there are three different races of the small insect which has the potential to confound efforts to develop resistant varieties of beans.

So far Race 2 and 3 exist in Indiana and likely Ohio. More work needs to be done on this to determine what constitutes the mechanism of this trait.

The main soybean insect pests so far seem to be the many loopers and lep larvae that are chewing holes in the leaves.

Their large numbers suggest that most of the night-flying moths that we have been seeing for the last month have been legume feeding moths.

It’s been a tough year where too much rain has turned a great year into one that many growers are getting disgusted about.

However there are still things that can be done to improve your crops’ potential.

Doing those extra things can still make a difference in how yields and revenue end up.

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