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Challenges of the 2011 crop year

By Staff | Jan 28, 2011

Bob Streit, agronomist, speaking at a seminar Monday at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, told about 30 producers that the next step up in higher yields will be in managing soil micronutrients.

FORT DODGE – Iowa farmers, as are their counterparts nationwide, facing a crucial crop year. If the U.S. harvests another short crop as it did in 2010, nations will be looking at rationing their food.

“We are on the cusp of a very interesting year,” said Bob Streit, an independent crop consultant, told an audience of 30 producers at a crop seminar Monday night at Iowa Central Community College.

Streit noted that with China and Russia already having their droughts in 2010 and the current hot, dry weather threatening to sap yields in South America, he asked, “What’s going to happen if we have the ‘Elwynn Taylor’ drought?

“Who’s going to decide who gets the food?” Taylor is the Iowa State University climatologist who has been telling farmers that the U.S. is due, in 2011, for its 23-year drought cycle.

Last week, the USDA released estimates that 33 percent the 2010 crop was already used up in the first quarter of the fiscal year and year-ending stocks in the U.S. and in the world are already expected to be extremely tight.

“Most diseases are a result of a soil deficiency. Don’t treat them as a singular entity.” —Bob Streit Independent crop consultant

If U.S. yields in row crops are average or less “we could be in a negative situation,” Streit said.

The challenges facing producers in securing big yields are manifold, Streit said, “So you have to have a plan.”

He reviewed the weather impacts on the 2010 crop and how weather and soil conditions combined to knock yields down by the explosive occurrence of Goss’ wilt in corn and sudden sudden death syndrome in soybeans.

Recommending that the first step in any crop plan is to plant corn and bean varieties resistant to the two diseases.

The next step, he said, is soil testing for the presence of micronutrients as well as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

“The next step up in yields will come in micronutrients,” he said.

Streit produced the results of several soil samples in the Webster and Hamilton County areas that showed soil profiles were seriously lacking in manganese, cooper, zinc, boron and calcium.

He said the presence of these “micros” help the plants ward off lesions from fungus, as well as help the plants in taking up N, P, and K. Some applications have found to give producers healthier plants, with stronger stands and increased bushels.

Streit suggested a number of commercial products designed to rebuild soil micronutrients that he said are relatively inexpensive and can be applied with other inputs. “Would you spend $6 to get $52 back? Sure you would,” he said.

Treating disease causes

Streit said that it’s not enough to identify a disease and treat it, adding that getting to the reason the disease is in the field will go farther in preserving yields.

He said that it’s imperative that producers understand the relationship of the disease triangle – host, pathogen and environment. When the three intersect, an outbreak occurs. Separating any of the three will break the triangle, he said.

That can be done, he said by planting resistant varieties, and/or creating a healthier soil environment through breaking up compaction, in the case of sudden death, adding tiling for better drainage and applying micronutrients if necessary.

“If you are short zinc, magnesium and copper the plant cannot fend off (fungus) spores,” Streit said.

He said soil tests are also showing that Iowa fields are well short of boron due to less manure being applied.

Boron primarily regulates the carbohydrate metabolism in plants. It is essential for protein synthesis, seed and cell wall formation, germination of pollen grains and growth of pollen tubes. Boron is also associated with sugar translocation.

Especially in corn fields chopped for silage, Streit recommended manure be applied onto those areas.

With the shortage of magnesium in the soil, Streit said, food grains are packing fewer nutrients. “We’re seeing more animal diseases,” Streit said. “We’re seeing swine with no magnesium in their livers. They have no immune system.

“How far up the food chain does that go?”

He also suggested pulling plant tissue samples twice during each growing cycle. It may be that farmers would apply fewer foliar fungicides, or apply, if necessary, earlier to preserve yields.

“Most diseases are a result of a soil deficiency,” Streit said. “Don’t treat them as a singular entity.

“NPK treatments alone are not enough. Micros are important.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or at kersh@farm-news.com.

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