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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 15, 2010

Everyone’s thought so far this fall is how “can the harvest season of 2010 be so different from that of 2009?” Last October the harvest was delayed for almost the entire month when it rained all but five of the 30 days. Then this October no rain has fallen and many farmers have been able to proceed for over two weeks straight.

Hopefully good conditions will last until we get all the grain out of the fields and stored away. The same dry conditions should allow those who want to do deep tillage to break three years worth of compaction will be able to complete that task.

How many of the experts who concurred with the USDA and every major commodity firm and weekly 70 percent good to excellent ratings are looking wise? What were they smoking to now look so wrong? At least it is refreshing to see them called to answer as how they can continue to issue such optimistic crop forecasts without ever venturing into the fields.

This past August extremely rapid crop development should have been recognized as a negative when it shortened the fill period. When certain fields began to dent in late July, which was about three to four weeks early and created very shallow kernels, none of them seemed cognizant of its ramifications. Now we sit with an exploding grain market.

While $5-plus corn prices accompanied by $10-plus beans will reward a percentage of the growers, others committed a high percentage of their production at levels much lower.

In 2006 different segments of agriculture had to face prices hovering at levels unaffordable by both livestock and ethanol producers causing more rent and input price problems than it was worth.

Try this

That might sound like a redneck challenge, but this might be interesting for you to try this. I had read that a good way to see what bacteria inhabited the corn residue in the fall was to place several sections of infected corn stalks into a quart jar and incubate the tissue.

Knowing that Goss’s Wilt was present and is creating lots of management questions I cut a few pieces of stalks from infested plants and placed them in a quart jar of water to which I added about 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. That was on Sunday night. I placed it on the window sill where it would sit in the sun on Monday.

By Tuesday morning the water in the jar was so cloudy and orange that you can’t see thru the jar. In only 30 hours the bacteria had exploded in the population. I have taken pictures already and will have to post it for the growers I work with.

What it illustrates is that any unburied residue may present enough of a disease threat for 2011 that all corn fields, especially second-year corn will have to be very well managed to be profitable. Having a dead field by July 1 could prove very costly.

At this point any grower’s intention to raise second-year corn will demand serious strategizing. Planting only Goss’s tolerant varieties, keeping the plants micro levels high enough that they stay as healthy as possible and then being able to use a rescue treatment if needed will have to be the action plan.

The season in summary

What conclusions will we develop when harvest is over? There will be growers who will make more money than they have in any other year in the last 10, and there will be those who will come up very short in the revenue versus costs charts. We can list a number of reasons for the big discrepancy and why there is such variation in results.

Drainage or lack thereof was a huge difference. Expenses for drainage are normally paid back over a five-year period, but this year they may be returned in the first season.

Heavy rains and ponding occurred and there was not much that could be done for this, unless you do certain soil quality tests that qualify why so much of your rain runs off, and you can remediate the situation.

You may end up concluding that your soils have gotten too hard due to losing their actinomycete population and now have too poor of moisture infiltration rate. That might mean it’s time to learn what activities and biologicals create a more porous and active soil.

Yellowed corn plants were a common sight and occurrence this season in many parts of the state. It might mean that investing $1,500 in a Spad Meter from Spectrum Technology to gauge which fields needed additional sidedressed or foliar nitrogen would be money well spent. Or that money spent on a good stabilizer like Nutri-Sphere with your UAN or urea, N-Serve with any 82 percent, or the application of AMS to get a slow release form onto the crop were all steps that would have helped. The effects of leaf and stalk diseases were huge.

Last spring there were a number of crop advisors who gave validated reasons for why tissue tests should be taken to detect any micro-nutrient deficiencies. Such applications at V5 to V6 for $3.50 or $4 per acre produced greener and healthier plants with much larger ears.

Later in the season growers often chose or ignored leaf lesions that continued to expand and ended up reducing grain fill later in the summer.

Looking towards the 2011 season when we may face just as many challenges, with a number of them being new within the state, all growers will have to be more cognizant of all these factors and be able to make the correct management decisions in-season using the information that they have extrapolated from their sources.

The opposite course will be to continue to not respond to in-season challenges. We have seen that the latter course can be very expensive whether it is one of the new bacterial diseases or the expanded range of SDS. Remember that sitting back and taking advice from uninformed or non-anticipating people could end up being very expensive. We still need to hear from producers and consultants in Nebraska who have fought Goss’s for years.

A challenge during the winter planning and meeting season will be to learn what new products might be those that could be incorporated into your management program. Will there be anything recommended for managing SDS? What curative product could be applied to delay or cure the plant if Goss’s Wilt appears? Who might have being testing such products this season? Most of these new challenges won’t be managed via traits. Over the next season expect that nutritional or biological products will offer solutions for a number of the problems we will be facing.

A Short Trip

A few weeks ago my wife came home and asked if I would accompany her on a work trip to NY. My first thought was that my first trip back in 1987 left me thinking that no sane person would or could ever live in that area. But after realizing that accompanying her would mean that it would give me a chance to visit the Cornell University Trichoderma expert plus see their campus, find out a few things from a biotech friend about phages being used to control bacterial diseases, plus see the Brookhaven DOE research site I relented. The Cornell lab visit was great and very valuable. I had already read part of the ‘Trichoderma and Gliocladium’ text book by that time and could ask Gary the right questions. I also know that there is currently a bank of knowledge that we might be able to use to help against bacterial diseases. Insightful specialty crop growers in Florida commonly make use of such products. The DOE facility tour was unbelievable. We got to see the 2.5 mile accelerator that was built prior to the one at Fermi Lab. The RHIC or Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider was an assembly of serious electronics that filled a 100 by 200 ft by 60 foot tall building with 40 foot tall doors. Then the cyclotron, which is where a number of the plant nutrition studies have been performed by serious fertility researchers, was worth seeing.

We stayed on Long Island, which I had expected to be a concrete jungle and endless condos. Instead the central and eastern parts were mostly veggie, turf, and sweetcorn fields along with countless vineyards. I visited with a few farmers and asked them how they managed their crops and what ground was selling for. What I was told by one grower was that farm ground seldom sells. But her family had sold the development rights to NY City for 16 acres so it could never be used for anything but growing food for the city markets. The going rate for that contract was $70,000 per acre and they still held title to the ground. That showed that they value their fresh food in a very financially manner.

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