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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Sep 10, 2010

The calendar has rolled into early September, the Farm Progress Show for is over and the Clay County Fair is starting later this week.

Here in Iowa we are nearing harvest and the moisture from a hurricane may be grazing our state in a matter of days. There are likely still more questions about the size of our upcoming harvest than in recent years.

Will we see the same thing here as they are seeing in states to our south and east? Will final yields be better than expected or will they fall short of those and be below trend line?

Current U.S. Department of Agriculture ratings still have the corn crop at 69 percent rated good to excellent. We will see shortly which prognosticator has been the best at evaluating the crops.

In a short while we should be able to tabulate all that has gone right as well as what has gone wrong during the 2010 growing season. On the plus side most of the corn acres were planted at a record pace and at a record early time.

Planting populations were at record highs, emergence was rapid, insect pressures were low, hail damage was about average, no droughts of significance occurred and pollination was at an early date.

On the negative the main issues have been too much rain, ponding on the heavier soil types, and excessive heat during the day and at night.

So how do those all balance out and how do the resulting crops respond as to final yield, grain quality, plant health, and overall evaluation as to where it was a bad or good year. To me the significant fact is that these things can be evaluated by the first week in September when such things are generally considered in early October. What happened to the missing month of time and grain fill?

Farm Progress Show

Though it was touch and go weather-wise the Farm Progress Show went well with lots of input from the organizers, sponsors, and participating companies.

The 2.5 inches of rain on Tuesday night was luckily not an excessive amount and was managed due to the grounds being permanent and walkways being in top notch condition.

I went each day in the time I had available when working around other tasks. It was time well spent as it was possible to visit the tents of the weed control companies seeing what new products or programs they would have for next season as well as visiting the seed companies to see how their varieties were being evaluated for diseases such as Goss’s wilt and what their breeding focus was at the current time.

Machinery wise I didn’t see too many operators writing checks for new stuff. There are just too many unknowns about prices and the upcoming harvest to get overextended. Where the prospects are very good the financial rewards could be great. In the overly wet areas the prospects are not as good.

Corn, soybean fields

A valuable and insightful task to take care of now is to scout each field to see how the ear fill ended up, how each variety responded to the abiotic parameters of the season and is overall plant health, and how intact the stalks are.

That means getting this work done in the mornings when the temps are cooler. Take along a good notebook or clipboard to write everything down and perhaps make up an Excel spreadsheet to tabulate ratings on.

Everything will be both relative as well as qualitative. Realize that if you don’t like how things look and you manage the crop in the same fashion in 2011, are the results likely to be the same next fall?

It’s time to begin one’s decision-making process. Notes and observations made now can help you in December and January when you are making input decisions. Questions written now are those you can remember to ask when attending meetings this winter.

Take a good knife along as well as a spade. Bring your penetrometer along if you have one. Dig the plants up and see how the root mass is shaped.

Is it, or was it, deep and expansive or was it restricted in size and pancaked? If the later seems to be common, then you will have to decide what soil property or what field traffic has caused the problem.

Future soil testing can help identify the soil property or characteristic may be at the root of the problem. The probe or shovel can be used to find and quantify the compaction zone.

If you find one then you have to decide if a chemical, mechanical, or biological approach will be the best methods to eliminate the problem. Use the knife to split stalks and stems.

By now most of the stalk rots will have turned the lower crown region either reddish or black in color. Seeing the vascular bundles as individual threads indicates that one of the stalk rot fungi has been at work for weeks or even months.

If the stalk and attached leaf sheaths hold the quarter sized dark splotches and whitish ooze marks indicating Goss’s, look for the sieve plates are the nodes being darkened where the bacteria clogged the plants plumbing tissue.

Once you have determined what disease or disease complex was present be sure to squeeze the stalks to gauge how solid they are and to make an estimate on how well they will stand.

Most crop scouts are finding the stalks much softer than desired. If any of these remnant hurricane rains reach the central parts of Iowa it could spell trouble for fields.

Letting the corn field dry down to 15 percent may sound nice and save on propane, but the soft stalks that seem to be the rule may not allow that to happen.

In soybeans, do about the same thing as in corn with the roots. Count branches and podded nodes to see how they compare among fields and other varieties.

Do you have the 17 to 20 nodes on the main stem or is the number less? How do you propose getting to that number if you didn’t reach it this year?

Then made observations about overall plant health. Was the size and number of nodules on the root good and were they green or pinkish on the inside?

Split the stems to see if it a healthy whitish color is it blackened and hollow? Did SDS hit the variety or field severely, moderately, or not at all?

If that disease was a factor make notes as management will need to be upgraded for either corn in 2011 or soybeans in 2012. Growers will need to be very proactive to avoid similar problems in future years.

Nitrogen programs

It can be said that if a corn grower had the crystal ball that informed then as to expected rainfall timings and amounts it would be easy to develop the perfect nitrogen management program.

Because they don’t have such a device and because the weather seems as erratic as always, growers may have to move to programs that split their nitrogen forms into two or three forms with different release timings.

In the 2010 season with long periods of saturated soils, even spring 82% looked poor in places. Split applications, sidedressing, and the use of stabilizers with any pre- or in-season applications were beneficial to the greenness and productivity of the corn crop.

The operators who applied one of the micro-nutrient mixes also noticed that their corn remained a darker green color. That is likely due to the physiological processes being more efficient with an adequate supply of manganese, magnesium, and zinc being plant available. Better overall plant health was very evident.

Designing your N program will also have to be assimilated with your residue management program, especially if any second year corn is planned.

Because the experienced crop advisors and growers in Nebraska and Colorado who have had to learn to manage Goss’s Wilt place great value on destroying the inoculum, anyone who intends to raise second year corn had best learn their rules.

Rapid degradation of residue is something they insist on. It may be a different ball game from now on.

Clay County Fair

The folks in northwest Iowa have their big fall event beginning later this week. It is always fun to attend and see the many folks who enjoy the sights and sounds. Everyone who attends seems to enjoy the variety of displays and hominess of the people. I will see you up in Spencer next week.

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