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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 29, 2010

It’s now late October and harvest is virtually complete. In my Sunday and Monday jaunt from Ames to Osage to Cedar Falls to Chicago and back I saw less than a half dozen bean fields still needing to be harvested and not many more corn fields.

Three plus weeks of dry weather combined with extremely dry corn and lots of motivated farmers who too well remembered the 2009 harvest season had everyone cranking extremely hard. Putting dry corn directly into the bins helped immensely.

This year most corn was harvested in the 13 to 15 percent moisture range while last year there was some 35 percent corn being harvested yet in late December. Due to this rapid pace of work many jobs that were left undone in the two previous years should get completed this fall.

Once the tillage work and fertilizer applications get done growers will likely move immediately to sorting through the reams of information garnered the last few seasons to begin making preparations for 2011.

Lots of companies will be pressuring them to close the deal on many inputs using impending doom as the threat. In the case of the best Goss’s wilt hybrids become scare the threat is real.

In the other case of several fertilizers such as dry and liquid P being tough to locate and get a price on, growers who act swiftly may be rewarded for quick action. For most of the other inputs there should be time to gather the facts, compare different scenarios and products, and then act based on those comparisons.

In fact growers may want to listen to experienced advisors and growers who have faced the cropping challenges that will likely be present in Iowa in 2011 that have not been an issue until now.

One site I like to visit is the one called the Chat N Chew Cafe. It contains the IPM Newsletters from the ag universities in the Midwest and Eastern Corn Belt. Most of the items are timely and deal with the issues and solutions that growers need to be updated about.

So what is being discussed that could influence how you manage your crops next year and have to be incorporated into your planning as your proceed this fall?

Since grain prices are about now 60 percent higher than expected last spring and expected to be strong for 2011 doing a few things extra to increase yields would be justified.

Fungicides and crop diseases

Over the past few seasons the use of fungicides has been discussed often. There have been a few missteps as they first promoted it too early or without any analysis of where the results were most likely to be the most financially rewarding.

This past harvest the yield comparisons that were made showed that there were very positive results across the state when corn was sprayed at the right time.

Increases of 15 to 30 bushels per acre were quite common. Yield increases from spraying soybeans, which is normally quite consistently positive along U.S. Highway 20 and south, but occur about half the time north of Highway 20, were also quite positive this past year.

What farmers and crop advisors need to be made aware of, as growers in South America have been trained, is that there are strong recommendations as to the stewardship of the labeled products.

Based on studies from Cornell University and the Royal Academy in the United Kingdom strobes should never be used alone consecutively or twice alone in one season. Being the few labeled strobes involve a single action the risk of resistance developing is quite high.

In a recent study at the University of Illinois they tested several strobes against different strains of the fungus that causes frogeye spot, or cercospora, in Tennessee and found that some of the recent strains had become 200 to 700 times more resistant than strains from a few years ago.

The take home message is don’t use the same family of products all the time.

New insect pests

They often give common names to insects based on what the insects consume. That makes sense and becomes the norm. An insect that we deal with every year in Iowa is the corn earworm. When that insect typically shows up as a yellow and green worm at the ear tip we know right away what to call it.

If it were to show up attacking and consuming soybean pods it is called the soybean podworm. The insect has made the switch to feeding on soybeans in much of southern Missouri and points south. All Missouri farmers are being told to be watchful for the insect if it were to move north. That might put southern Iowa farmers in the path.

That event has caused entomologist and policy makers to recognize how insects and their feeding patterns continue to evolve and will continue to make our management of them change.

In this case scientists point to several human interventions that could be the cause for the shift. These include:

  • More insecticides are being applied to bean fields early in the season, thus eliminating the normal beneficial insects.
  • There are more early-season applications of fungicides, which is eliminating the beneficial parasitic fungus (Nomureae rileyi) that normally serves to keep the ear worm population in check.

How many of those things are being done now in Iowa fields and how might this invasion appear in our fields?

Penn State Conference

There was a weed science conference held in Penn State earlier this summer where the attendees were weed scientist from across the country. The issue was the emergence of the so called super weeds that are now appearing in crop fields across the country and have proved to be resistant to many of the commonly used herbicides.

As of June 2010 the list included 19 now known to be resistant to the weed control product that is most commonly used.

They debated that when any new weed control system or gene-altered crop were to be commercialized, then the Weed Science Society of America and the Environmental Protection Agency may want the applicant to propose what they would suggest that farmers do to lessen the chance of resistant weeds becoming a problem.

Looks like the horse and barn door analogy fits perfectly here. The take home message is don’t become reliant on one family or one methods of controlling weeds.

Making new variety choices

How does one make the right variety choice for 2011 based on results and weather incurred in 2009 and 2010? We now know which varieties respond well or respond poorly to wet soils, cool and hot conditions, diseases such as SDS, GLS, or anthracnose, Goss’s wilt, and low nitrogen levels.

Weather wise we have a full moisture profile in most parts of the state. That is always a huge plus going into a new season. If deep tillage was done the ground should not have much shallow compaction.

That should help with snowmelt infiltration and deep rooting. The soil fusarium levels will be quite high, which will need to be managed with new products proven in the lab to help boost plant health and disease attack response.

Your recent soil tests, which hopefully explored soil micronutrient levels, should show which fields tested low and which ones tested moderate to high for minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, boron, etc.

All of these are keys to getting both major crops to stay green and healthy beyond July 20, which has become a major stumbling block the past three to four years and can’t be ignored any longer.

If those levels are low now is the time to explore the foliar micro packs like Defender and Trio that are available.

Going into 2011 Purdue’s Bob Nielson still recommends trying to assemble and use performance data generated from multiple year data at multiple sites.

If the company can’t prove it with data or proven performance, he says to proceed with caution. He recommends considering using varieties that consistently yield 5 percent or more above the plot average.

With disease in corn and beans becoming a huge issue in many parts of Iowa, growers will want to consider corn varieties that have good scores against anthracnose, fusarium, eyespot, GLS, and now Goss’s wilt.

In addition they need to stand well without being greensnap susceptible, are drought and wet feet tolerant, and thrive in both hot and cold growing conditions.

That is asking a lot for one variety or family of varieties. Thus the axiom is to spread your risk among three families. Going forward and, after having visited with specialists from Nebraska and Colorado, having Goss’s tolerance might be No. 1 until we get to know it better.

In soybeans we still need all of the offensive and defensive traits, but the ability to avoid SDS problems is what growers are seeking.

For planning’s sake, which biological products have you investigated and planned to use next season?

Funeral plans

The day came for me and my siblings to help make the plans to bury my father later this week.

Like many old farmers who had carried too many buckets of feed and loaded too many hogs, poured too much concrete, and worked hard all of his life, his body just wore out.

His mind stayed sharp until close to the end, so we had good visits while he was in the nursing home in Stacyville.

So now for him it is on to the next part while we celebrate his being here for 84 years.

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