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By Staff | Oct 1, 2010

This week currently looks like the beginning of a stretch of good weather where farmers in most parts of the state will either be able to begin or continue their harvest.

It may seem like harvest has been delayed for quite a few days, but actually the normal frost date for northern and central Iowa is still due for next week.

Are we getting anxious because states to the east are way ahead of us on the harvest pace because much of Illinois had little rain after July 1? Or is it because we remember how wet it was during last year’s harvest and don’t want the same thing to happen this fall? Or is it because many of the corn fields contain plants that have now been dead for about six weeks?

The last report tells that corn harvest in Illinois is now above 57 percent complete while Missouri stands at about 42 percent. In Iowa it stood at 8 percent done as of Monday night. That tally will increase, but once the ground dries more growers will concentrate on beans so they can avoid some of the danger that late-season hail storms can present.

States to our north are only 2 percent to 4 percent done. With the huge rainfall amounts that southern Minnesota tallied the figure for that state may not change for a week or more.

Harvest reports

So far there have been less bragging stories from local producers than in previous years heard in local coffee shops and over the radio. Such scarcity of braggart stories typically indicates record yields are rarer than in past years.

More corn growers that have started harvest remember the big yields of 2008 that came out at the normal time and at normal moistures. Then they also recall the very late, very wet, very muddy, and very expensive harvest when grain came out of the fields at 38 percent moisture in an attempt to get done by Christmas.

The general trend varies by region with the northern tier of counties having drier soils and closer to normal precipitation than the remaining two thirds of the state.

Any field that contained any slope drained better and showed fewer problems related to fertilizer loss and ponding.

The yield range that I have heard for corn is from 60 to 230 bushel;s per acre. The soybean yield range for whole fields is from 23 up to over 90-plus Bu/A.

Drainage and rainfall amounts played a large role in determining those yields, but another factor was how well the grower responded to each cropping challenge by using an aggressive response, whether it was sidedressing additional fertilizer, applying micronutrients as recommended, or refusing to lay down and accept a bad hand from mother nature.

The caveat was when winds of 75-plus mph hit several areas of the state in the July through September time frame. In many cases growers were wishing that someone had a crystal ball and would have been able to inform them as to what calamity was coming in a few days.

Overall in corn yield declines versus 2008 and 2009 are likely 20 to 50 Bu/A. It might be early but the penalty for corn-on-corn versus corn-after-soybeans appears to be 40 to 50 Bu/A, which is about double of two years ago.

Everyone will be much smarter in two weeks if harvest goes as scheduled. With most combines now equipped with monitors, and this year actually calibrated, operators will be paying attention to the read outs.

It is likely that more than a few will be thinking about they could improve the drainage in their fields or could convince their landlord/lady to install more tile.

What went wrong?

With the average corn yield being measurably lower than last year growers will be mulling over every factor that could be considered a negative for the season, and then balancing those negatives against what went right.

On the plus side a high percentage of the acres were planted earlier than normal and. planting populations were good. Corn borer, aphid and most other insect populations were below average.

In the negative column is the excessive moisture amounts, lots of flooding and ponding, several strong winds that pushed the crops down, poor nitrogen availability and use efficiency, two years worth of compaction and excessively warm temps during both day time and night time hours.

The final big negatives were the very heavy disease infestations by a number of different pathogens.

Remember that if the corn plants died three weeks early about one third of the grain fill period was lost. The same applies to soybeans and the degree of foliage that was lost to disease.

Having sudden death syndrome cause a 70 percent leaf loss three weeks early proved to drop a 60 Bu/A field down to 39 Bu/A. At $10 per bushel that represents a $210 gross revenue loss.

So you now have to weight that cost with what you will be willing to do and spend to avoid a similar problem in 2011.

Now that harvest is upon us it is also time to finalize this fall’s soil testing program and begin planning your 2011 nitrogen program.

With soil sampling please consider grid of management zone sampling that generates more analysis information such as base saturation levels plus micronutrient levels on a portion of the samples

From a fertilizer standpoint if we continue to get such wet years applying all the crops’ nitrogen during preplant will be a mistake unless a good nitrogen stabilizer like Nutri-Sphere is used.

This year trials and growers who utilized a sidedress program or spread their total poundage between different products and different release rates were rewarded. It took time and effort to do the extra work, but their efforts were worth it.

Continued tasks

Field inspections done this past week continued to find stalks that were marshmallow soft and in danger or lodging.

At a series of genetic field days held last week south of Ames by six companies the genetic sleuths that were inspecting the different varieties and inbreds were surprised at the percentage of plants that held ears that were either partially or fully affected by ear or bacterial diseases.

All of this helps to warn us that everyone had best push their harvest progress as much as possible, yet still being careful with everything they do.

Good luck with all of your work.

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