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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Sep 3, 2010

The arrival of September always makes us realize that for all intents and purposes the summer months are over with. Though there will still be great fall days we know that changes are on the way.

Hopefully the average weather will be warm and dry with a minimal amount of rainfall. Having La Nina conditions move in would normally be ideal for harvest, this year it may be a necessity for avoiding stalk rot from several of the diseases that have forced such a big change in crop appearance the past two years.

The early harvest results are slowly trickling in from across the Midwest from the early maturity hybrids. So far those have been generated from states to our south and east such as Arkansas, southern Illinois, and Mississippi and so on. While 2009 was known for being very cool and wet, creating near perfect cropping conditions and very high yields, things reverted back to hot and dry this season, causing their yields to fall back into their normal range.

We are beginning to hear about a bit of early harvest going on in central Iowa with early season maturity hybrids planted by mid April. It is too early to set any trend.

The corn crop

Did we miss something? Did a sudden cold unpredicted freeze sneak up on us last week and kill all of the corn without us knowing about it? Is that why most of the corn looks like it was killed by freezing temps long before it should happened?

It wasn’t that long ago when a seed dealer could have a field day until about Sept. 15 and be proud of the dark green plants and the full ears that each held. Now it looks like those showings may have to be scheduled for some time in mid July if they want to show any fully green corn.

There are certain smells that a farm-raised person can just get a whiff of and know what it is and where they have smelled it before. Last Friday night when I got home near dark, I could smell the corn field just to the south of our house. The field had turned brown early in the week and the smell of decaying stalks was already being emitted from the field.

In the previous two weeks I had mentioned a potentially serious corn disease that has become common in Iowa called Goss’ wilt.

The disease was first detected in Nebraska back in 1969. Since then it has been detected and caused problems in other states such as Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisc.

Perhaps the main question that exists is how well the plants will stand. The assortment of diseases that can be found on most plants is large both in number of species and severity. Be monitoring your fields on a regular basis.

A prolonged wet spell could mean trouble with harvestability if the stalks and cobs get soft. In addition all livestock feeders need to be aware of the fact that this fast-dying corn can also be infected with various mycotoxins produced by the infecting fungi and should be testing feed sources on a regular basis.

The Fusarium species are known to produce toxins such as Don, Fumonisins, Zearalone, and Trichothecenes.

These can cause maladies ranging from reproductive problems, pulmonary edema and esophageal cancer in animals and humans to the ‘blind staggers’ in horses.

Typically these also act as immunosuppressants so the affected animal is more prone to other diseases. In other words, nasty stuff.

Flying observations

Last week I had the chance to fly twice. Other growers have also teamed with neighbors to hire pilots to gain that aerial view.

So far everyone’s conclusion has been that there are too many drowned out spots, too much yellow and diseased corn acres, too many dead corn fields, and too much SDS to achieve a record crop. There will be areas of very good yields and happy farmers. Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin are very highly rated. But Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio just have a few too many problems to reach levels seen in other years.

At a field day earlier this week each grower was asking specific questions about the appearance of the crop and what had gone on internally inside the stalk and the soil around the roots. I get the feeling that this questioning is going to intensify through and after harvest.

Such scrutiny is good. For those with intense interest in gathering answers be aware of field days scheduled near Osage and Davenport next week.

They will be worth attending.

Soil testing

While you are making harvest preparations it will be good to begin lining up the person or company to do your soil sampling for this fall.

My suggestion is to continue either the grid or management zone sampling. I prefer the latter if you then use the savings to sample every fourth or sixth sample for the major micro-nutrients.

Include sulfur, boron, manganese, zinc, and copper. Also get a base saturation run as that provides more clues if you have to develop a program to help a struggling field.

SDS and soybean yields

The big story yet in soybeans is still the appearance and impact of SDS on soybeans across Iowa.

The disease had become a regular problem in eastern and southeast Iowa, but is causing problems over all but the NW corner this year.

Someone ask me if I had seen any correlation with the use of the big rollers in the spring? What have other growers seen? Maybe using them was not such a good idea.

Each grower is going to have to develop a serious working plan to minimize SDS’ appearance next season. That means finding more tolerant varieties, using foliar micronutrient blends, and investigating any solidly supported biological product that could protect the roots against the Fusarium invader.

If one would like to get a bit of scientific sleuthing check out a book by Dr. Gary Harman of Cornell University called “Trichodermas and Gliocladiums.” It is used as the bible in the industry across the world.

I know there will be one of more products that will be marketed in 2011 that could help dramatically against the problem in both corn and beans.

A few more are being developed and could move into the row crop market. Keep in mind that the Fusarium fungi cause as much problem in corn as they do in soybeans, the species and sometime the symptoms are just different.

Hope you enjoyed the Farm Progress Show. There are always lots to see and do.

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