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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 19, 2010

We are now in the time of fall where one day it might be 60 degrees: then a few days later the gray clouds move in from the west and begin to drop flakes of the white stuff on the ground.

That was the story last week as it was relatively warm on the first three work days, then by the weekend they were enjoying nearly a foot of snow in parts of western and northwest Iowa. It looks like from now on a person needs to travel with insulated coveralls and good gloves in the pickup.

Until now the last six weeks have been great for harvest and finishing up jobs around the farm places that just never got done during the last two falls. It surprising how those tasks mount up and end up on our mental lists of things to get done when time and the weather allows. Some day soon the snow might be waist deep and such work will come to a halt.

Where are the experts now who told us all summer that we had record yields developing in the fields and that the price of corn was going to drop below $3 per bushel?

Things sure have changed from the day when grain prices move in a narrow range. They also used to move based on usage, demand and supply. So far this week talks in Argentina over Chinese purchases, debt problems in Ireland, and the number of expected cotton acres seemed to be the major criteria.

It’s tougher than ever to guess what might happen tomorrow or next week, much less three to six months from now.

Cropping preparations

Quite a few writers have noted the increased amount of fall tillage completed so far. That would be expected due to the early date of completing harvest.

After two years of not being able to get things completed in the fall everyone worked lots of hours to make sure those tasks got completed.

In addition the word has spread that several corn diseases can be more of a problem if the residue is left intact on the soil surface.

That last factor is true in regards to Goss’s wilt, so until we know more as to how it will act in 2011 and beyond it seems best to be cautious about managing it.

I did the jar test again with corn residue that was intact from the growing season. It took about an extra half day for the water in the quart jar to turn so murky that you could not see your hand holding the jar, but that was likely due to cooler conditions versus early October.

Fertilizers

It is strange to see the weird actions taking place with fertilizer availability and pricing. Typically the larger retailers have lots of supply on hand or available to them. This year some of the larger distributors backed off on production schedules or laying in supplies, thus trying to tie down amounts needed next spring at acceptable prices is tough or impossible to do.

How much of that has to do with many groups getting buried two seasons ago with burdensome carryover amounts of P and/or N that ended up being stockpiled at ruinously high prices in anticipation of springtime needs? Many of the local retailers ended up with major losses as they and their customers had to either eat the difference of cost average down to make prices palatable to move the material.

About the normal amount of soil sampling seems to have been done. I think more operators are agreeing to test for micro-nutrients as their agronomists have heard about local cases where deficiencies in many important nutrients are being discovered when testing is done.

At current futures grain prices the payback for bringing micronutrient levels up to established standards can be major. In many cases the person making the decision may decide to spend half the budget on soil applied and half on a foliar applications.

One topic that is bound to be discussed at winter grower meetings is nitrogen management. After a wet year where a high percentage of the corn acres south of U.S. Highway 30 were a light green to yellow by July 4, more growers recognized that they need to get more aggressive and proactive in how they manage the nutrient.

With the low grain prices that existed last July many growers could not project a decent payback to sloshing through their fields to sidedress or foliar apply additional nitrogen.

In retrospect everyone should have fought harder to get that done. Every form of in-season nitrogen seemed to produce an additional 20 to 50 bushels per acre. Between now and March every grower should develop their plan on how they might respond to similar conditions in 2011 or 2012.

Having a bar or dead-on dribblers ready to pull through the fields can be the key program if the need arises.

Also learn what you can about the newer nitrogen stabilizers that have proven their worth in wet weather.

The tool that could be purchased now from Spectrum Technologies and be invaluable in the future is the spad meter. It detects different shades of green long before growers can with their eyes.

Its cost is in the $1,800 range, but with corn now at $5 per bushel obtaining five more bushels per acre per year due to its use on 600 acres of corn would give an 87 percent payback in about one season.

With 700 acres it would be 100 percent after one season.

The Land O Lakes Nutrient Group was pushing a program where by the farmer customers were told that a good way to monitor their crops was going to be through tissue testing. How many growers followed through?

In atypical fashion we saw many spots in corn fields yellow flashing like we had never seen before. Samples that I sent in for analysis showed an assortment of deficiencies that, if left untreated, led to performance problems, lower yields and likely different pathogen problems.

Those tests are easy to take and not too expensive to have analyzed. Growers who were not satisfied with their yields this season should be following such a program.

Tissue testing alerts growers in enough time to apply a curative product early enough for most deficiencies to be cured and little to no yield penalty to occur. Every grower should try it on a portion of his acres to see the results.

On a related matter have many growers purchased their copy of the book entitle Nutrient Deficiencies and Plant Disease? It could well be the guidebook to getting back on course to raising crops that maintain adequate plant health and fill for the proper amount of time during the later summer.

SDS

By now everyone has given their opinion on Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans. From what I am hearing the advice being given to growers on how to manage it to minimize its appearance and effect next season have left much to be desired.

Variety choice and parentage of those varieties can make a huge difference, so getting ratings on each variety is important. Getting more oxygen into the soil and relieving compaction is also important.

Then be successful in minimizing root infection by the fusarium is something that will require planning and implementation of a specific plan and likely use of products that were developed for that purpose.

Best of luck as your proceed with your work towards 2011.

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