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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 13, 2011

Farmers in Iowa have to feel quite good about how the last two week’s weather has turned out.

It wasn’t too long ago that we were still wearing heavy clothing and watching the rains arrive on a daily basis, hoping that they would subside in time and long enough that we could get most of the crops planted within the “optimum window” and then hope for the best.

That occurred starting about two weeks ago and has lasted since then. Every farmer put in the long hours required as we knew they would, and now the statewide percentage planted is now on par with previous years.

The published tally told that 51 percent of the expected crop was planted last week and we will build on that figure this week.

For many farmers in central Iowa last week marked the time for planting corn while this week was meant for dealing with soybeans.

Based on reports from across the country the central part of the Midwest seems to have made the most planting progress.

Much of Minnesota got hit by heavy rains early this week and has not made much progress yet.

Northern Missouri is in good shape, but the southern part is wet. Much of the eastern Corn Belt remains too wet from record April rainfall. Now we are getting to see many low-lying acres in the southern Mississippi waterway get covered with water, either destroying the crops or subjecting those acres to delayed or prevented planting.

That is not a good omen for those hoping for record row crop acres to be planted.

Did everyone get to enjoy one of the earliest 92-degree days as we had Tuesday? It was surprising how such a small mass of air that superheated could move across the state and leave its mark.

Hopefully this heat burst is not a harbinger of similarly hot weather for the rest of the summer. 84 degrees is as warm as it needs to get for human comfort.

Acres and grain supply

There is still no one answering as to where all of those extra acres are supposed to come from.

From within the area I travel through there were a few pastures and odd acres that got tiled, tilled and planted this spring, but nowhere near the quantity needed to build the huge added acre tally published by the USDA.

Much of the Texas south country missed their corn planting window due to drought and now the acres up in the Dakotas and in the Delta could be lost to flooding or added as prevented planting.

Now if the pipeline supply is as low as or lower than published, the ethanol plants hired better grain buyers and have pre-bought their grain supplies, and there is very little early corn early supply what segment of the grain usage community gets left out late this summer?

It could be interesting and costly for those segments of the food chain.

Crop development

Most of the growers who were able to get a few acres planted during the warm spell three week ago have had some degree of nervousness as to the condition of those seeds and seedlings.

Were they going to stay firm and healthy or were they going to turn to mush? We will soon find out what is due to happen.

A few who have done their digging have found seedlings that seem to be suffering from being trapped by a crust and is in need of being hoed.

I have seen some of the first acres where the small seedlings are now about an inch tall and looking good.

So in the next week each of those early-planted fields will need to be scouted to see what is happening with those small plants.

If they need help with any crusting, then the decision about what to do will depend on expected rainfall, soil conditions and condition of the hypocotyls.

To hoe or not to hoe

If we get the conditions that promote the formation of a heavy soil crust and the little spikes get held under the soil or begin to leaf out, it will be important to find the problem early and either get rain before the spike unfurls or be ready with a hoe and get the job done while there is still push to the seedling.

In the recent seasons more growers have been seeing plants that were forming loops underneath the soil instead of heading to the surface.

What gives?

Emerged weeds, grass

In areas of the state where no-till farming rules most of the growers try to get their residual herbicides on prior to weed and grass emergence.

That didn’t always happen as planned due to the wet weather, leaving growers trying to come up with their own mixes that would work on a post-emerge basis.

What seems to be happening more is that growers have been putting together witches brews of different conventional products that should do the job.

The same mix is then expected to offer residual weed control at least through late July or early August.

Soybean populations

Unless the soils get very wet we should see most of the soybeans planted on time.

That should help on overall yields by allowing the time to get the plants to form the higher number of podded nodes needed.

With high soybean prices and the acknowledgement and proof by top growers who have generated top yield that such added steps do work, soybean growers may have to realize that once the beans are in the ground and have emerged the real work starts.

What they should do to maximize branching, flowering, pod retention and grain fill is be working on such information and follow through as the return will be there this year.

The question about the perfect row width for soybeans came up at several winter meetings.

The perfect answer might not exist as several different factors and requirements exist for each field.

One demonstration seems to indicate that twin rows on 30 inches optimizes sunlight infiltration and conversion, while eliminating dead air lowering of CO2 levels that are detrimental to C3 plants that can happen.

Solid seeded, or 15-inch rows fit the need to cover soils more prone to erosion, but 30-inch rows can produce as high, or higher, yields if they can be promoted to branch more.

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

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