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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 4, 2011

Now that the blizzard of the decade is over and will be forgotten once another six inches of snow drops on top of the large drifts we get to resume our normal activities.

Of course there is a lot of cleanup to do using blades, blowers and plows. It is notable for how this global warming keeps pounding and covering up the east coast states with lots of ice and snow.

They and the folks in Britain who are also being frozen out will soon have to change their thinking and begin wondering about new ice ages. Perhaps their unappointed carbon credit czars who planned to make zillions will see their plans freeze into giant ice chunks.

So what is now going on in the world? From watching the news in the past week it looks like a multitude of countries in the Mideast are having their populations take to the streets to show their leaders how unhappy they are with their countries’ poor performance in keeping the inhabitants employed, fed and unshackled.

Over history leaders have all recognized how important it is to keep the supply of food at sufficient levels. Hungry people riot and overthrow governments.

In my travels I have seen that the goal of most parents is to keep their family as clean and well fed as possible and leaving their kids with a better standard of living than they grew up with. In a world with more mouths in developing countries and more developed countries having exported their industrial base, that may not be as likely.

This is what’s happening in Egypt and Tunisia, Yemin, Jordan …. The most obvious risk may be the continued availability of mineral supplies important for both agriculture and industrial uses. The most obvious one included for agriculture would be phosphorous.

Winter planning

Commodity prices have continued their march upward as usage and export numbers remain high. This is likely to continue, though as the bullish consensus remains high no seasoned marketer would be surprised if there was a pullback to set a new floor.

Their eyes remain focused on the South American and Australian crops as those acres in the Southern Hemisphere represent the next bushels to be available to the world’s users.

In time continued ag development by the Chinese and other outside investors in Africa will become sizable enough to produce enough bushels to create a third source of grain.

That may still take a few years. From what I hear from friends in places across Argentina and Brazil is that the corn loss in Argentina is greater than our USDA currently estimates.

Knowing that their domestic usage needs have to be met first before any corn can be sold into the world markets it might be premature to expect any Argentine corn to reach the world markets.

With them being No. 2 in the world for corn exports behind the U.S., that could be big news. At what point do prices get stupid and hurt farmers more than they help?

We have seen over the years that input prices and land prices skyrocket and take years to settle back down to manageable levels.

Thus far fertilizer prices have not exploded the way they did two years ago. They have climbed about 50 percent above their abnormally low prices of 18 months ago, but suppliers have been raising their prices.

Many corn producers still need to lock in their nitrogen supplies for 2011, but applied their P and K last fall.

Most crop advisors were busy with pulling soil samples last fall. Some had the labs run the analysis run for base saturations and a percentage of the fields for the major micronutrients and have a good idea of how they can improve their procuring capabilities.

Too high of a percentage still remain satisfied with soil testing procedures that may produce nice and colorful maps, but short on several crucial bits of information.

If you were among this group there will still be time this spring to hit the exact field in question and pull cores for 1/4th or 1/5th of the management zones to obtain that important information.

With 20 to as much as 50 bushels per acre hinging on being able to correct or ameliorate problem situations and $5.50 to $6.50 corn being possible, lots of dollars are at risk.

Micronutrient status

More crop advisors, who have gotten educated about the importance of having sufficient levels of five to eight micronutrients, are going to be tromping fields this season and working with growers to pass along this knowledge. That means there will likely be lots of tissue samples taken and sent in to the testing labs. All of this is doable, but will take time and follow-up to address the need of each field.

At this point several different companies have products for the market, but there have not been any or many trials that have compared the different blends.

There will be some of their trials run this season to test for efficacy and the value of the different ingredients and chelating agents involved.

It might be a good time to gather information on this topic and obtain pricing.

Seed treating

Now and in the future there will be a multitude of products that will be delivered to the crop via seed treatments. This might be the season for biologicals and the start of seed-applied biologicals.

Now would be the time to clarify with you dealer as to what you wish to have applied to your soybean seed if you have not done so already.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.

Iowa Power Show

The big Power Show held in DM is the big event of the week. Attendance on the first day was reduced due the icy roads and incoming blizzard. As of Wednesday morning the guesses are that the crowd should be bigger on Wednesday afternoon and huge on Thursday.

Good luck in making it here if you plan on attending.

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