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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 22, 2010

How can it possibly stay dry for nearly three consecutive weeks in October? It has been great for harvest and everyone hoping to get any tillage done.

Paramount to many growers who recognized that compaction could well have been a major drag to crops this year was to get their in-line ripping done while conditions were drier than normal. At this point most growers would like to get an inch or so of rain to settle the dust and get any fall seeding germinated.

The rate of harvest progress has been excellent and quite a few growers in all parts of the state have either finished or can set the date when all of their acres will be combined.

Speeding up all of that work has been the low grain moistures that are as low as we have ever seen. How often will we see corn come out of the field at 11.5 to 14 percent moisture?

The only people who will be unhappy with that will be the propane dealers and delivery men. Not having to spend the obscene amounts on drying as seen in 2009 will help farmers to partially offset the reduced yields.

As of this past weekend corn harvest in Iowa was at 66 percent completed while beans were at 98 percent done.

Those levels place our current harvest at about three weeks ahead of normal. Illinois growers are ahead of that pace, partly due to their late season drought.

The grain markets seem to setting down somewhat. It’s too bad the crop size forecasts most of the summer were at 13 billion plus and had most forecasters telling farmers that cash corn prices were going to drop under $3.

Funds and specs hold most of the open positions while livestock or ethanol producers recognize that they can’t make any money at these high grain prices.

How things turn out at a time when China and Russia have had their droughts and cotton prices are pulling acres away from corn and beans could lead to interesting markets this winter.

Decision time

Now that harvest is nearing completion and any tillage is being done quickly it will soon turn into the time where we can sort through the reams of test plot and trial data to see how everything fared this season.

One thought that has been expressed by quite a few growers is that so many things were so screwed up that basing decisions about the 2011 crop could be risky.

Yet we can’t ignore the 2010 results because this past season may be more normal than 2009 was.

What happened in 2007 and 2008 could seem like ancient history because so new hybrids, new herbicides and new weeds have been introduced since then.

It appears that growers will have to be more proactive and react quickly to in-season challenges. That can include lots of different things.

If rainfall amounts are excessive and the corn begins to turn yellow, then any grower who applied a nitrate form of nitrogen will have to respond and expects to need additional nitrogen, will have to find a way to get it done.

If spots in the corn fields begin to yellow flash as they did last spring, and tissue tests show multiple micronutrient deficiencies, then a foliar micro product will need to be identified and applied.

If early season weather events slow plant development, then any method of speeding up growth needs to be utilized. The question then is how to get the job done on the acres you are trying to manage.

We have seen in the last two seasons that not having the right machinery or the time and manpower to cover all the acres can be a huge obstacle.

At the end of the harvest the common theme in most corners of the state is that bean yields were good where the plants stayed green and corn yields were generally disappointing due to the plants not staying green and alive long enough.

If that fits you, the question now is what are you planning on doing to rectify each situation in 2011?

Wishing for things to be different won’t be enough to get it done.

Growers will have to try to reverse the trend and keep their crops green and healthier for in the later part of the summer when grain fill should be occurring.

Those steps will generally take the form of supplying the micronutrients needed by the plant and replacing the biological components in the soil.

Tillage

It is easy to see that more tillage is being done this fall as has happened in previous poor-yield years. This happened in previous falls when yields were disappointing.

Some of this work can very easily be justified. First of all little deep tillage has been done the past two seasons due to wet fall weather.

Hopefully all participants have used a penetrometer to define and identify where and what density of compaction exists. That way they know how which fields most need it and how deep they need to operate.

As to preparing for raising second year corn in 2011, will tillage alone allow the residue to break down and minimize the survival of Goss’s wilt bacteria if the operator has also begun to roll their soybean fields to level the soil after the root butts rot.

Do they still have the population of Actinomycetes in those soils?

Sudden death

The issue of sudden death syndrome in affecting soybean plants in the Midwest got lots of press and deservedly so.

Heavily affected fields had their yields and gross revenue cut by 50 percent or more. 2011 bean fields will be on ground that was planted to corn in 2010 where much of the crop died weeks ahead of normal.

Avoiding a similar fate is something that growers will have to focus on and prepare a check list of things to do. First they will have to find varieties that are not as susceptible.

Secondly they will have to use any new product such as inoculants that promotes better plant health.

Lastly they need to loosen the soil, getting rid of compaction and increasing oxygen levels.

Soil testing, fertilizing

Now is the ideal time to continue updating soil tests. That typically means sampling half or all of your bean stubble.

Be sure to work with your sampling person to ask for the most complete tests possible and request more information be accumulated and reported to you.

Get a portion of the samples analyzed for micro levels since they are increasingly important.

Fertilizer prices are increasing again and a number of retailers are having a tough time getting price quotes.

Hopefully, we don’t see a 2008 scenario being repeated this winter, but the stars are aligned for it again.

We have seen production decline for growers who have been scrimping on rates or seen a decline due to less availability of nutrients. Thus growers recognize that large crops have large appetites.

Good luck in getting this work done and be safe.

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