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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 26, 2010

The Thanksgiving season is here and it is time to assess the season and all that has happened for which we are or should be thankful for.

It seems like just yesterday when we were making plans to go to the fields as spring arrived quickly after what seemed like a year-long sentence to Siberia.

Then it seems like just yesterday when we were loading the planters with corn and soybean seeds to start another growing season. How time either flies or takes forever depending on what side of the process you are on.

What do each of you have to kneel down and say thanks for as you review your year? Personal items such as birthdays, weddings, new additions to the family, graduations or the beginning of a new college adventure for your young adults, or the passing of a loved one are things that transcend business events.

Everyone has a personal life that often does not get enough attention. On the farming side of things everyone in Iowa had to tolerate one of the wettest and warmest seasons on record, just when we were getting used to wearing winter jackets to all July events as we had to in 2009.

Everyone who used to think that farming flat ground was the way to go found out that a bit of roll to the ground was the best thing for getting rid of the two or three times normal rainfall that fell during the months of May through October.

On the business side of farming or running an agricultural-based business the season began with most farmers thinking there was no way that they would ever see profitable prices generated by the expected low prices.

Inputs in many areas were some of the highest on record and all expectations were for trendline or higher yields.

All the experts and know-it-all crop forecasters showed their wisdom and propensity to follow the lemming rule as only a few broke from the herd and saw things with opened eyes and opened minds.

They all need to receive dunce caps from Saint Nick. Looking toward next year we see perhaps the biggest maize of hurdles as we get to outguess Mother Nature, our elected officials, the USDA and government, all the germs, bugs, fungi and bacteria that seek to eat our crops.

So for our chance to face all the challenges once again and for the good things that did come out of the past season, we have to give thanks.

Here’s to all of you at the beginning of the week wishing you a good Thanksgiving holiday. May all of your family members make it home safely and may you get to enjoy your time with them.

Saved again

One potentially huge event happened in the last few weeks that received little attention. That was the carbon trading market, which fell apart as Congress faced political reality and dropped action on the climate change bill.

That bill was finally recognized for what it was, a series of new taxes on energy intensive industries in the central part of the country, with the proceeds funneled through a Chicago financier to the East Coast Establishment. With the energy usage we demand in the Midwest to make or process foods and grains it would have added huge costs to run many businesses and farms while adding few benefits.

Input decision time

One season that is here and will be with us for some time is the season wherein crop farmers either begin or formalize their seed buying decisions.

It is tougher now than just five or 10 years ago. Most seed corn companies got by in their seed guides using three or four numbers.

Now they use about half of the alphabet in getting their message across and sometimes it still doesn’t make any sense to growers as each company has their own systems to designate the herbicide or insect traits possessed by each variety.

A few years ago it was important to know how each corn variety fared when the hybrid would be facing grey leaf spot and common rust.

Goss’s wilt and stalk or leaf anthracnose were just a gleam in the plant pathologist’s eye. Now in all of our technologically advanced status we have to ask for the varietal ratings for new diseases that we barely knew existed until this July.

In soybeans it used to be that we would plant the crop, spray a few times to control most of the weeds, watch the field mature in the fall, and then combine and complain because beans often could not generate the same gross revenue as an acre of corn.

Now it seems like every few weeks a new disease or insect is found to chew on, infest/infect or threaten the crops and needing our prompt attention.

Burying our collective heads in the sand and refusing to respond to the latest challenge or seeking the correct answer is now worth lots of dollars.

The revenue at risk might be 30 times $11 per bushel value or $330 per acre if you can do things right, avoid problems with disease such as SDS, and market those bushels properly.

As you visit with your seed dealer you will have to realize they likely agonized over collecting the best and most pertinent information on what varieties should perform the best on your acres.

What makes it tough is that the weather is bound to be different and challenging in 2011. Until we get most of the way through 2011 we won’t know if floods or a drought are scheduled for us.

Thus the best advice will be to plant a mix of maturities and genetic backgrounds to be right on a portion of your acres.

All of those choices will have to possess tolerance to the diseases that were a problem in 2009 and 2009 and expected to be a problem in 2011.

It is surprising how quickly nature and disease organisms have selected against varieties the last few seasons.

Field activities

The past month has been a blur in the life of many fertilizer people and growers getting the supplies of those nutrients applied to their acres.

In the area I have traveled in the past week most of the 82 percent applications were wrapped up a week or so ago.

Supplies and deliveries to many terminals were limited with growers left in limbo as to when more product was going to be delivered.

There was still activity with dry spreaders moving through fields on the days when winds were not to brisk.

The question about where the extra four or five million acres of corn acres needed to meet demand will come from.

Thinking they will result from a switch of bean acres to corn with the fewer bean acres compensated by double crop acres after eastern Corn Belt wheat harvest leaves a lot to chance.

Quite a bit of soil sampling was still underway. This is a good sign as growers recognize that getting an accurate soil test and a thorough soil analysis is the place to begin in setting up a cropping program.

More growers have been requesting a more complete soil analysis be run to provide the micronutrient levels and hopefully the base saturation levels.

Too often the lab runs only the standard test, which leaves knowledge void of pertinent information that could be used to improve crop yields and minimize the disease situation in many fields.

Education

Be aware that in late November and early December there will be several opportunities to keep building your knowledge base and get your crop questions answered.

The Extension service has its annual IPM Crop Management Clinic. The Farm News is then sponsoring its annual ag show in Fort Dodge. Check the dates for both of them as they should be worth attending.

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