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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Apr 29, 2011

What is the old saying? Is it “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference?”

Thus we are sitting here in most of the Midwest watching it rain on a very regular schedule. In some places like southern Illinois nearly 20 bridges in one area washed out on Monday night, and the Illinois through Ohio region is having its wettest April in 125 years.

In Iowa things are not as wet, but with enough rain to keep the ground wet and the temperatures on most days barely creeping to or above the 50 degree mark, it feels more like mid-March rather than late-April.

Inhabitants of many small towns in western Iowa, and not people in St. Louis, North Carolina and a host of other southerly states, have had their share of storms and twisters. Is anyone else wondering what the rest of the summer and growing season will be like?

All we can do for the next week or so is to be ready to go day and night once it gets dry enough. We still have time and the opportunity for a great crop. It might just take a bit more active management to coax the crops along to maximize yields to start rebuilding grain stocks.

Question: Where were the extra acres in the prospective planting report supposed to come from?

If they were supposed to come from North and South Dakota, the forecasters need to examine the pictures of the flooded watershed acres in the Red River basin and other watersheds around the region.

Having spent a bit of time out there and listening to the farmers tell how the water just seems to drain away even without tile, we have to wish them luck in getting those acres planted.

The upcoming season

In last week’s issue the editor wrote a good story where he related the advice of several different cropping advisors and what they thought of the planting progress or lack thereof so far this spring.

He and the advisers seem to be correct in that with today’s planter size and the willingness of all farmers to put in the long hours necessary, the majority of the corn crop could be planted within a week once the weather shapes up and the soils are dry enough to plant.

That window just needs to open or happen sooner rather than later. Maybe the legacy of the Royal Wedding will be that it signified the beginning of the best growing season that has ever occurred in Iowa.

The issue is typically that of growing degree units and how rapidly they accumulate and if the sum of the stress conditions is minimized during the season.

Until now the heat units have been very slow in accumulating. In fact, the seed corn kernels that I have been checking that have been in the ground almost three weeks now have a sprout on them that is less than a quarter-inch long.

In 1991’s delayed planting season where the ground was very warm when the fields were finally planted the seedlings were above ground in as few as four days.

Once we get into any part of May the hours of sunlight each day grow longer and GDU tally actually represent more heating hours.

The supply chain

The biggest worry of a section of the input supply chain may lie with seed companies and dealers if there is shifting to slightly earlier varieties

In the last few years, when faced with similar delays calmer heads ruled and the local reps impressed among farmers that any shifting among varieties needed to be looked at as incrementally shifting the percentages devoted to categories of early, medium and late hybrids.

Wholesale changes or shifting is typically not needed.

The yield potential of corn planted in the April 25 through May 9 window is still at 100 percnt of optimum; and through May 10 to 15 is still at or near optimum.

The risk is that harvest moistures are likely to be higher due to fewer drying days occurring after the black layering date.

In soybeans, the yield potential can remain at normal high levels as long as growers can manage the crop so as to maximize the podded node count.

The seeding rate in 30-inch rows should still max out in the 125,000 to 150,000 range as long as the growers have experienced success in the past.

Any seed or early foliar applications could incorporate hormonal or biological products that boost the hormonal cytokinin production. This adds branches and root growth.

Biotic, abiotic factors

What needs to be remembered is that the keys to rapid early growth will be having a good seedbed that is well aerated; has adequate phosphorus and micro-nutrient levels that supply all of the minerals needed to form the enzymes, cofactors and other plant substrates needed; enough heat and moisture to stimulate photosynthesis and cellular activity; and enough soil microbial activity to permit the reduction reactions making the nutrients available for growth to occur.

If growth remains slow due to one of those parameters not being present or at levels needed, growers need to recognize what is occurring and identify what may need to be done.

It might mean blazing a path where only the adventuresome have gone before, but with high grain prices it could well be worth experimenting.

It might be that your “kooky” neighbor found out what has worked in the past and could provide some relevant advice.

The advice may include foliar phosphate to boost tissue test P levels, a sugar and vitamin and hormone spray, or anything containing a cobalt product to boost cellular energy transfer.

In recent seasons we have seen very good results using a product called Stimulate and a food grade orthophosphate or a phosphite tank mix. Don’t be afraid to use your sprayer if the crop is begging for something to spur growth.

In previous weeks I have talked quite a bit about the role of trichoderma fungi and pseudomonas bacteria within the root zone and soil.

If the prices for your grain looks like they will remain high giving a good return for new products that do pan out, and you are trying to determine which products would help you in future years, maybe try to hunt down a few of the new in-furrow or seed-applied items and try them in a few strips or fields to see what might work in your farming operation.

Soybeans

The advice with soybeans and planting later than desired is to stay with the normal maturity bean variety until June 15.

Thus nobody currently needs to change a thing from what they were planning. If it stays wet and May 22 or May 25 is approaching, and you still have beans to plant, it will be time to be asking questions of your seed supplier as to the branching ability of the intended bean varieties.

If they branch a lot you may want to maintain the regular seeding rate. If they are a thin line bean without much branching, then it may be best to increase the seeding rate or even narrow the row width into 15- or 20-inch rows.

In either case the better yielding beans are grown on plants that maintain decent air movement through the canopy rather than crowding them too much.

Soil conditions

The main axiom expressed by most crop advisers is while everyone will want to rush in and plant ASAP, it will still be best to make sure the soils are dry enough so that compaction does not occur and become a limiting factor over the rest of the summer.

All indications seem to show that all of the bushels we will be producing this summer will be sorely needed by some consumer in the world.

That has not always been the case. Enjoy the fact that you have seldom gone into the season knowing that your corn and bean crops are very likely to be worth more than $6+ and $13+ per bushel.

Even with all the uncertainty, knowing that the crop will be worth a decent amount of money will seem to make the expense, long hours, and sweat worth it.

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

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