In what has been a very changeable and erratic first half to the 2011 growing season most farmers are still quite apprehensive about how things might turn out.
The planting season was delayed due to untimely rains about two weeks for them and about six to eight for their colleagues in states to the east, north and northwest.
This was at the same time that we kept hearing about drought conditions in the Delta States and the Southwestern growing areas. What should they expect to be next, too much rain or too little?
If it is the former would the 200 year history of the Farmer Benner cycle be proven wrong?
Who hasn’t been paying attention to the disaster unfolding along the Missouri River in western Iowa, eastern Nebraska and SE South Dakota? Coverage of the happenings by the national media seems scarce as it paints a very black picture about a government agency.
I had to travel through the area Wednesday and it basically looked like they had added many smaller reservoirs similar to Oahe and the other manmade lakes in the Missouri River chain of flood control lakes.
The problem was that those new lakes are gobbling up farm fields, farmsteads, towns, roads and commercial buildings.
Heavy rains pounded much of South Dakota Monday night, so more water was added to the problem.
Several commodity groups have assembled their tallies of the number of cropping acres that are expected to be lost.
Based on what I saw those estimates are going to be abnormally low due to the fact that the number of acres where the plants will be smothered by waterlogged roots for several months will outnumber the flooded acres by three or four to one.
It is easy to see many fields where the water is easily visible down every row of both corn and beans. Once the weather and soils warm those stands will not last long.
If you tally those acres and add them to the saturated North and South Dakota acres, plus those mudded-in in the eastern Corn Belt, and add that number to acres already lost to both floods and drought, the numbers begin to really add up.
We could actually see situations this coming marketing year where officials question the wisdom of paving over and developing all of the prime farmland acres in the major crop producing states.
In the last two weeks many parts of the state have received several month’s worth of rain. That left most fields too soggy to permit any equipment traffic.
This was at a time when many operators were still trying to get into their fields to make either a weed control trip or a foliar fertilizer to one of their fields that needed it. In many fields the corn plants are growing into the V7 to V8 leaf stage and there are limited days left to make any needed trip.
As I mentioned last week the growers who applied residual herbicides are more able to sleep at night since the weed control by such products generally looks good yet.
The degree of control often is highly dependent on how many inches of rain fall on those fields. Dilution by additional rainfall is now likely to weaken any later season control that will or should be happening.
One noticeable trait now appearing in many corn fields was the appearance of many pale yellow plant tops. What is happening is that many plants that were previously wrapped up have pushed new leaves out of the wrapped whorls, exposing the leaves to sunlight for the first time.
As to the cause, there may be two. First, is that growth has been very rapid lately. Leaves then have limited time to unfurl. Second, we used to see lots of wrapping with several amide herbicides. When those chemicals worked so well in controlling grasses, it tells us that they may have also affected growth and possibly cell division in the plants. I don’t think I have ever seen yields affected by this problem.
The corn shot up in height in most fields as conditions were very favorable for rapid growth. The plants in many fields have reached from the V6 to V8 growth stage, which puts tasseling in the July 22 to 29 time frame.
This is seven to 12 days later than our better years and suggests that corn could be wetter at harvest when compared to last year. It also places late grain fill during a cooler part of summer when the days are growing shorter.
The color of the corn improved somewhat as the roots reached nitrogen in many fields. But the leaf streaking that became very apparent is still very visible to those looking for it.
Those who have sent in tissue tests and have perhaps correlated with recently taken soil tests, have been able to examine the analysis report and learned what nutrients that plants are short of.
Now they can apply one of several foliar products to their plants and increase the chance of producing maximum yields. There is still time to get this job done and affect this year’s plant health and yields.
The presence and damage done by stink bugs is becoming apparent in more fields.
Are the several species known to exist in Iowa poised to become a problem in our major crops?
Here they seem to have broken through the control offered by the neo-nic insecticides. We still have to see if the feared brown marmoted species will show up in Iowa.
When I was down in Brazil in the corn fields of western Parana looking at insecticide test plots with a colleague I saw fields where the stink bugs devastated corn stands if they were not controlled and if chelated zinc had not been applied in-furrow.
Was their lack of winter permit greater survival or is their problem a harbinger of our future? If they are a larger problem in our soybeans this season it would be helpful for growers to have a sweep net on hand that will prove helpful in determining their population.
At one field training day last week a crop scout brought in fourth or fifth instar CRW larvae that had been found on a field planted to a CRW hybrid.
This is earlier than when they are supposed to appear. It seems that a portion of the larvae had already pupated. Typically the larvae are supposed to hatch after 625 growing degree units have accumulated.
There are other populations of CRW in central Iowa where the eggs hatch and the larvae do their feeding close to or after the plants tassel. This shows that lots of genetic variance exists in this insect’s populations.
Soybean plants are still growing, but very slowly.
Even though most fields in Iowa got planted on time, the soil was so slow in warming up that the plants in most fields are 1.5 to 2.5 weeks behind in normal development with most of them only in the early V3 to V4 growth stage.
These plants generally begin flowering on the longest day of the year, June 21. Two or three years ago we saw the first beans beginning to flower on June 11.
If the date of flowering initiation has an influence on podded node count, and we think it does, then growers have to be figuring out now what they need to do to increase the rate of plant development and increase node count.
Growing $12 to $13 per bushel beans should be enough of an incentive to aim for higher yields.
Upcoming field days
It is always good to add to your knowledge base. Knowing about local field days where there will be presenters or presentations that will be capable of offering such information is helpful.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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