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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 25, 2011

We are getting closer and closer to the start of spring as evidenced by the recent warm days that melted off much of the snow cover.

Now with the predominantly bare fields and longer days we can venture out with lighter clothing and no gloves. That sure feels nice.

Before long we will get to watch the grass grow greener and the smells of spring will soon be in the air.

Just last week the whiff of spring was in the air as our friendly black and white, bushy tailed friend fragrantly announced that their hibernation period were over with.

World wide events keep getting lot of publicity in recent weeks. No. 1 this past week may have been the big earthquake in New Zealand. Stuff like that is always supposed to happen in non-English speaking third world countries where they live in misery anyhow.

To see crowds of people escaping collapsing buildings where typical commerce and business activity make it look like something that could easily happen here. Let’s see how long our luck in this country holds in 2011.

And the ferment in the Mideast continues for another week if not another century. First it was Tunisia, then Morocco and Egypt and now Libya. Which country is the next domino to fall as the people now partially empowered by knowledge of the conditions in the outside world reach for their slice of freedom.

Who can blame them as they realize that their economies haven’t done a very good job of employing and supplying them with food? I was going to mention something about being herded like cattle, prodded, and X-rayed, but then realized that that was my experience in several U.S. airports just in the last months.

So the best we can do is support the people and let them know we will try to keep pumping out bushels of grain that could boost the world’s grain supply next season.

How long until spring?

A debate about how deep the frost went this winter always seems to pop up when we get to see in what shape the soil is in the spring. We know that last fall was near perfect with warm and dry temps through December and it was warmer than normal until about Christmas.

We had snow on the ground by then and it was insulating the ground to some degree. Then days turned very cold in early January and tilers related than the frost went deeper than normal.

This should fracture any shallow compaction and hopefully give us mellow soil this spring.

Last spring there seemed to be a wide variance in how different fields worked up. We heard of fields that worked up perfect, but in others farmers told of very slabby soil conditions where everything came up in big chunks.

Several have related to me about how they have ripped the ground and it froze deep, then asked if their chance of having problems with SDS or early root rots on corn will be reduced.

The answer there is to take additional steps to fight the biological battle with the fungal pathogens known to cause the problems. That battle is not going to be fought completely with steel and horsepower.

Instead it will be done with defensive biological, tolerant genetics, improving soil conditions and then recognizing and addressing nutritional deficiencies.

Soil science

The ag science and industry groups in this country still have a ways to go in defining soil quality and what practices and products they can use to improve it before they can match the efforts in some South American countries.

They assembled a wide array of groups such as soil fertility specialists, soil microbiologists, machinery builders, seed researchers, livestock people, climatologists, farm operatorsa nd drainage experts to discuss everything they knew that affected the soil to determine what they knew and didn’t know.

Then they made their minds up to do the work to fill in the blanks.

We have done a portion of that work, but a large portion of the findings have either not gotten to the public or involved recommendations that did not translate into everyday, doable practices.

A major one showed up this last fall as the topic about what should or could be done with corn residue remaining in the fields.

How much could be removed for cellulosic purposes and what was it worth? How should it be managed so as to not cause problems when raising second year corn and trying to fertilizer or prepare a seedbed?

Then knowing that Goss’s wilt bacteria would survive in the stalks and we still don’t know how the disease will act in a moister climate, did we want much residue to remain on the surface.

Long term we have to prevent erosion while shorter we need to produce a crop in 2011. Those are thing we will find out this coming season.

Seed treatments

In late February and early March growers typically visit with their local seed suppliers to line up the products to be applied to their seed. On soybean seed that means an Apron Max-type product to prevent Phyto and Pythium from being problems.

Then a good inoculant like ABM should be added. This year I am advising that a plant health promoting biological like SabrEx be applied.

If the entomologists release their predictions about BLB and expect that bug to be a threat near overwinter sites, spending money on the NeoNics would be justified. There were trials done at several sites where micro-nutrients imbedded in polymers and applied to the seed.

Such studies could persuade growers and seedsmen to considering adding such seed treatments to their customers’ seed if they are trying to maximize production. Most of these steps and products made good sense with $8 beans. Now with $12 beans most become no-brainers.

The issue of how to manage fields hit hard by diseases in 2011 has not really been addressed by most groups this winter and seems to have growers somewhat unprepared to battle something they can’t see or completely understand. The answers are out there, so keep asking searching and asking questions.

Good luck with these items.

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