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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 20, 2011

It is now mid-May and the progress that most farmers have made in the last three weeks has been amazing. Things get done when they work those 30-hour days and as many preparations as possible have been made.

With the dollars invested and the dollars on the line with the 2011 crop, very few operators were not going to put every effort to get caught up as quickly as possible to give their crops as good of a start as possible.

Growers in other states have also been able to play catch-up, but things are not going as smoothly as hoped for with Mother Nature and the Mississippi River now causing a multitude of problems.

The grain markets have remained choppy as the battle between two forces takes place. On one side is Goldman Sacks, where the traders have been dumping their long positions, and on the other are the fundamentalists who are watching the acres disappear with every broken dike, Palmer drought reading and swollen river.

Typically the lows happen near planting time if good progress is being made. The progress thing is a real mixed bag this spring and tough to gauge, as good versus poor conditions seem to be regional.

Corn stands, growth

Many of the corn seedlings began to poke out of the ground within a week of planting. Warm days helped to speed up their growth and the longer days represented more hours of heat.

Now that the spikes have started to unfurl growers are starting to inspect their stands to see how they match up to expectations. Most of them look quite good, but a few are beginning to see higher-than-desired percentage of plants that seem to be struggling.

They act like they are fighting a heavy crust, which doesn’t make sense, since in most cases there is no crust. At this point all that can be done would be to hope that a few days of 70-degree temperatures will allow the roots of those plants to begin to pick up the nutrients in the soil and begin grow as expected.

I have to look at fields such as those tomorrow to see if planter settings or down pressure may have been responsible for causing problems.

In cases like these where one has to declare the culprit it is best to take the time needed to assemble all of the clues before rushing to a conclusion. I have seen times when I was about the fifth “expert” to suspect amide herbicide causing hypocotyls twisting and premature coleoptiles eruption (leafing out under the ground), only to find out that no herbicide had been applied.

We may be sending some seed in for testing to see what might have happened.

Early sidedressing

Improved nitrogen management in 2011 is what quite a few growers are hoping to achieve. After seeing a large benefit to later sidedressed nitrogen the last two years that step is what they have decided is the course to follow.

It requires an extra trip through the field and extra time, but if the weather cooperates it will be doable. The question about the best stage of growth at which to perform this task will then arise.

There is no “best time” since the goal is simply to make the product available to the plants closer to the time at which the plant needs it for growth plus minimize the days during which it could be lost to weather induced losses.

Given a choice the people who have used such a program successfully take into account the number of acres they have to cover, the number of days required by the task, and then, leaving room for weather-caused delays, try to have the solutions on before the corn gets too tall to drive through.

The farmers who have a high clearance sprayer have a wider window. Those who have ground the is more poorly drained may not get to be as timely. Thus in north central Iowa there will likely be sidedress rigs operating within two weeks. One tip might be to try to use an N stabilizer to avoid water logging losses.

Any insect problems?

So far there have been no insect problems reported on corn or beans. The one to watch for in the near term in corn would be for black cutworm.

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

Pay attention to any wilting occurring in no-till fields or those that supported mustard plants prior to tillage. Those fields will be those that were most attractive to the migrating, egg laying moths.

In soybeans the bean leaf beetle is typically the one causing problems early. Pay attention to fields within two to four miles of a large wooded area or tall grass/CRP prairie.

Coaxing more Bushels from Your Acres

Inaccurate carryout projections aside, the trick to ultimate profitability this season will be to coax more bushels from each acre that you farm. In soybeans that will start with doing the extra things by or at planting such as placing fertilizer where and when it is needed by the small plants. It also means doing the right things to the seed that have proven to work such as applying inoculants and perhaps combinations of chemical and biological treatments. There were several good ones available this season that should help with SDS. Do what it takes with foliars to manipulate the plants to cause them to maximize flowering, pod set and retention, and then pod fill.

With corn the main issues will be somewhat the same. Make sure the plants never go without the nutrients they need at each growth stage. This can mean having enough residual NPK plus the other major macro and micro-nutrients that you have been reading more about such as sulfur, manganese, zinc, boron and copper. Even consider the nutrients such as nickel and cobalt since the plants consider them to be important and have needs for them. Consider sidedressing N if shortages have occurred in recent years. Take tissue tests since that is the best way to identify nutrients that are at insufficient levels in the plants. The challenge the past few seasons has keeping the plants green and healthy as late into the season as used to be considered normal. Stay on top of things and like Dan Muff used to say “Watch the plants and try to figure out what they might be thinking. Are they hungry for anything or are they asking for help in some fashion.” This should be the year where if you follow such advice the payback should be huge. Think like your plants do.

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