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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jan 21, 2011

The latest crop forecast size was released a few weeks ago and it lowered the bushel carryout to the lowest levels seen in years.

Thus the markets remain strong and look like they should stay that way, which is great for grain producers, but not such a good thing for livestock feeders unless the meat prices rise accordingly.

It works for ethanol producers as long as the price of fuel also rises, which is has. If you include the increase in prices for many other goods, one can paint a picture for much higher inflation over the next quarters.

Nitrogen management

We just had one of the wetter seasons on record which followed one of the wetter years ever. Nitrogen management was a huge management item in both years as shortages of nitrogen caused yield losses of 25 to 50-plus bushels per acre. In hindsight it is easy to say that one should have been using a sidedressing program to help address those shortages.

Looking toward the 2011 season we can predict either a wet or a dry season and high nitrogen prices. Obtaining the greatest efficiencies with the dollars spent for N will be our goal under either scenario.

The correct program, correctly guessed at without the use of a crystal ball, will likely utilize two or three sources of nitrogen that will release the nutrient throughout the season so no shortages occur during the critical stages.

If an operator insists on making this application all preplant it will likely means applying 82 percent and then 32 percent with a stabilizer.

If it is applied just prior to planting the program will likely be using AMS plus the 32 percent with a stabilizer. If the machinery and labor will allow split applications then either 82 percent or 32 percent with a stabilizer, possibly some AMS and/or sidedressed 32 percent would suffice.

We have seen the stabilizers such as Nutrisphere look very good in 2010. In 2009 there were challenges as heavy residue amounts and more corn-on-corn caused heavy rates of nitrogen tie-up.

In a previous column I mentioned that the Y-Not dribblers are a new tool that allow high clearance sprayers and pull type rigs to place the liquid N solutions right next to the base of the plants.

This eliminates the risk of having dry soils in the upper profile decreasing the availability of those solutions to the roots.

Fertilizer prices

With higher grain prices comes the desire by most input suppliers to garner a portion of those gross dollars. That looks to be the case as it was back in 2008. Since that time the prices for P and K dropped dramatically and many retailers feel they got burned severely by several big suppliers. Due to that learning experience they now don’t want to shoulder the entire burden of buying and inventorying all of the fertilizers that the growers will need during the season.

As far as what retailers and growers should do about the current situation is to stay current with soil tests so they can formulate their fertility programs several years in advance and know as exactly as possible much product their crops will need along with when it should be applied.

Then they may have the flexibility to do their buying when prices would have slacked off.

In the future we will likely see more foliar applications of fertilizers as research has proven that the efficiencies can be much greater than soil applied products.

The trick then is to know what the rules are for application as to rates, pH of the mixes and timings.

Biological components

In the past few years I have had the chance to learn more about soil microbiology and how important it is good cropping to know about the biological components of the soil, their activity and purposes, and how to foster their growth.

The attendees at most no-till meetings seem to be more attuned to what is new and is happening than do conventional tillers, but that could be changing.

Why such knowledge is important is that if we are going to be successful in keeping our major crops healthy we need to recognize and manage the major soilborne diseases that have been attacking our corn and soybean plants.

Losing four or more weeks of grain fill with the corn and bean crop is having a devastating effect on individual farm productivity in Iowa and other states and will continue to do so unless we take a proactive approach in diagnosing and managing the problem. For 2011 that means controlling the fusarium, anthracnose, and other pathogenic fungal populations in the fields.

Relying on doing tillage to the soil is not going to accomplish this task. Instead expect to see different biological mixes that have recently been introduced to the market or soon will be.

The ones I have experimented with such as SabrEx or Rhizofos have great merit. At a recent conference and meeting I learned of a few more that have been under development and will be tested this coming season. The focus is on the trichodermas and pseudomonas.

Stay tuned for information about these.

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