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By Staff | Dec 30, 2010

The new year of 2011 is upon us. Will it be as erratic as 2010, if that is possible? What will be new or unexpected?

Will the ag industry continue to be the engine that keeps the economies of the Midwestern states marching along in strong fashion as it did this year?

In what situation will the world’s coarse grain supply be in by midsummer and how dependent will the worldwide consumers be on the U.S. having another good crop?

How accurate will be the predictions that many of our states are due for the 18.6-year drought which seems to be five years late?

Those are all things that we can ponder through the winter that will play out during the spring and summer. Don’t count your chickens early and stick around to see how exciting everything will be as those answers develop.

As to the arrival of 2011, the years seem to be flashing by at a more rapid pace. It is hard to believe that the 1990s when so many new Ag developments were released are now a decade removed.

World grain production

A week ago I mentioned that we had the privilege of listening to market watcher John Baize give his opinion of what how he saw the world grain markets and usage developing over the next few seasons.

He thought that the big population countries of China and India and their expanding middle classes and added mouths were going to be the driving force behind much of what happens.

The addition of new mouths, the upward mobility of their working people and increased protein consumption mean that millions of new acres will have to be added to the world’s total acres to meet the demand for more bushels.

That created the major question as to where those acres or added bushels are supposed to come from. On a practical sense will they come out of the CRP total in this country?

Most likely not, since erosion is the risk with many of them. They won’t come from cotton due to the record high price for that commodity. Will row crop acres increase in the western Corn and Wheat Belts?

They might, but that places those acres under a greater chance of having dry weather problems and at a time when wheat prices are good.

So while there will be a pricing battle for acres in the U.S. next spring it won’t create an answer that is world wide in nature. Watch those carryout numbers and crop conditions in South America as the winter rolls along.

Will we in the U.S. keep up our end of the bargain and be able to increase yields in 2011? Or will we watch the corn crop die weeks early from root and leaf diseases, and see SDS decrease bean yields across much of central and eastern Iowa by 50 percent or more as happened in 2010?

Weed control decisions

The decisions by farmers as to what programs and products they intend to use to manage their weeds for maximum yields are still being developed. Most companies offering residual products are offering programs that mix in two or three different mode of action products.

It appears that the in-field researchers have driven home the message to their marketing managers the theme that herbicide resistance needs to be managed proactively now, rather than just throwing higher rates of a now ineffective product at tougher weeds.

Using such programs it is now quite easy to construct a program for either major crop that includes two or three mode of actions at the expected undesirable plants.

What will make this easier are the several changes and pieces of work by different parties. The first is the addition onto herbicide labels and supposedly jugs to list the mode of application for that product.

The latest ISU IPM issue lists all the different categories and gives examples of each, making the advice more understandable. How good new CCAs and growers adopt to the weed science from fifteen years ago remains to be seen.

Corn nematodes

After living in relative obscurity for years it is surprising how much publicity the little roundworms are now receiving. Just two or three years ago the most recent publication was one written by the research staff at FMC Corp. back in 1972.

Dr. Don Norton was the nematology researcher and instructor at ISU for quite a few decades and always felt that they were a forgotten issue due to their being out of sight.

He realized that if quizzed his response to the problem was not going to be politically correct, so he never made an issue of their presence.

No producer group gave them much attention, thus funding for additional and perhaps needed research never developed. There are still almost no university corn nematologists in the Midwest and in the U.S.

There have always been many different species of nematodes living in the soil. The presence of a near monoculture among crops has helped to select for those damaging to the most prevalent crop, which is corn or beans. There are species that live primarily where trees are the predominant plants and there are species that prefer being parasitic to grass plants.

Some feast on a diet of bacteria and others eat amoebas or other small micro-organisms. One can examine their stylet (beak) to partially understand their food source.

I still have photos from a field day near Ames from the early 1980s where corn breeders were intent on developing inbreds that were much more tolerant of nematode feeding. There were often huge height differences between paired inbreds, so they were partially successful.

Now in 2011 we are seeing several different companies begin marketing seed-applied products that have been tested for a few seasons. We will have to see how they perform on a commercial scale.

The good thing on several of these is that they differ from conventional hard chemistry, which should extend their effective life.

Books to read

Back last spring I recommended a great new book that was worth buying and reading as time allowed. That was one entitled “Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease.”

The book does a great job of tying together the disciplines of soil science, soil fertility, plant physiology and plant pathology. Why such thinking is beneficial is that no plant disease occurs in a vacuum.

Instead there is either a change in virulence by the pathogen, possibly the environment, or in the level of susceptibility by the host plants. Understanding this and looking at the entire picture rather than at each specialty area is the only way to solve the problem.

The other book that is an interesting read and information filled is one entitled ‘The Corn Makers, Prophets of Plenty’. The 1943 book which was authored by an inquisitive extension agent, Richard Crabb, accurately covers the people, universities, and companies involved in the development of hybrid corn and the changes that came with it. With leaf diseases become more prevalent and with several of them being genetically connected, knowing the genesis and origin of those families is beneficial.

I hope you all have success in the new year and upcoming cropping season.

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