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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jul 8, 2011

July is now here and it can be one of the most critical months of the growing season.

The crops need plenty of sunshine and a sufficient amount of heat. Rain at the right time is also important.

Not too much or too little of either one is important. We need breezes to churn higher carbon dioxide into the plant canopy, but not so much that we get hard winds near tasseling time as that can cause our infamous greensnap, which we have seen in occasional years across western Iowa.

If it stays too cool we fall behind on heat units, which was a major problem in 2009. Too hot and the daily ET becomes excessive and the deep soil moisture reserves can become depleted.

Too much rain and we have the ponding or anaerobic conditions that can kill or serious affect the physiology of the corn and bean plants.

So will everything work out for us once again this season or will excesses in one of those items cause problems that ends up hurting our yields?

Right now things are looking decent across most of the state, but most growers are not expecting record harvests due to problems that have cropped up.

Experience has taught them to not count those proverbial chickens just yet. Sort of plan for the best, but expect the worst.

It was only two years ago that major hailstorms marched across eastern and then central Iowa to dash hopes of great crops for many growers and left them picking up the pieces.

Lots can happen in this month.

And so we had our famous USDA planted acre report. The only comment that most farmers have made about it is that luckily it’s so far from reality that no one is close to thinking that it is accurate.

Unfortunately the markets traded off if it last week and grain prices took a major tumble. It was very easy to poke major holes in it by asking where all of those acres flooded out along the two major rivers or in the Dakotas, Southern Illinois, Ohio, or Indiana were accounted for.

We all know that when those crops were mudded in just to get them planted, that they will produce trend line yields. Right?

Remember that the naysayers who went against official reports and surveys the last two years ended up being correct. Groups and agencies that had their agenda had the benefit of the bully pulpit and it their level of accuracy or inaccuracy was proven out when the combines rolled.

But if you are a feeder or an enduser, now is your chance to procure your grain supply on paper at a more affordable cost.

Most of the July 4 weekend was tied up moving our middle daughter to Denver for a year of grad school. That allowed us the opportunity to see how the crops looked along I-80 through Nebraska.

What we saw was a countryside that was very green clear out to North Platte or a bit west of there.

The corn crop looked very good with many fields within 10 days of tasseling. They have had enough rain that most pivots were shut off. The soybeans that were planted looked about like ours, with most running behind in development stage and height.

Their state surveys estimate that Nebraska farmers have 10 million acres planted, with most of the acres west of Lincoln being irrigated. Sulfur in their water supplies help to insure that their corn gets plenty of that element.

If we get dry during the next six weeks don’t be surprised to see them generate a higher per acre yield in that state.

Ethanol logic

On the way home we stopped in Seward to visit relatives. While there and eating lunch in the VFW Hall I got a chance to tour the Quilt of Heroes exhibit that was on display. In it they had pictures of the soldiers from Nebraska and western Iowa who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade.

That display or a replica of that exhibit needs to be taken to the headquarters of each group that campaigned against ethanol. While the people who headed those campaigns centered their argument on subsidies for the ethanol industry they never wanted to comment on the huge military and human cost of procuring oil from the Mideast.

They need to realize the human cost of importing that oil rather than raising a portion of it here on our own ground. Producing our own fuel and researching synthetic fuels is a much better long-term strategy than providing more small town soldiers for cannon fodder.

GDUs and moisture

The corn continues to grow rapidly and the first tassels will be poking above the whorl within a week. It looks like the majority of the tasseling in central Iowa will be occurring in the July 15 though July 25 time period, which gets much of the corn mature around the last two weeks in September. That would be more the norm and will hinge on the plants staying healthy until then.

Variegated, or striped, leaves is still the norm in many fields. Tissue analyses that have been done continue to indicate that four to five nutrients fit into the low-to-deficient categories.

By now growers have either accepted the information on tissue testing and sprayed their fields or dismissed it, stating that they will watch neighbors and the results before they put forth their own efforts.

Each to their own, but growers who did their testing last year were very pleased with their results and are spraying more of their own acres this season. This might be the year to really push the envelope on yield due to the expected higher grain prices.

There have been the questions about how late a person could apply such mixes and the answer seems to be clear to tasseling or slightly later. But if one is spending the money and is hoping for the greatest return it should go on in the V6 to V8 growth stage or slightly later. Some who applied two shots are noticing much greener corn that looks great.

The news concerning the discovery of Goss’ wilt-affected plants in western Iowa was one that most growers were expecting, but not welcoming.

More samples from different parts of the state are awaiting their analysis. Right now we will have to see what occurs and to what degree it becomes a problem.

In its home range it did not move very fast and was not very aggressive. It seems to have changed and leapfrogged about 900 miles east and north into Manitoba. While we don’t know if wet or dry weather is in store for the rest of July and August, but those who changed and planted more tolerant varieties have to be thanking themselves that they took that precaution.

Other diseases that are being verified in corn fields include GLS, anthracnose, eyespot and holcus spot. common rust, Northern corn leaf blight and a few others are still expected to appear.

Those are all quite noticeable when they reach a high level of infestation. Remember that disease infestations typically happens, or gets worse, near tasseling when energy resources in the plant get allocated to the tasseling and silking process.

If the upper, or flag, leaves turn or emerge a light green to whitish color it often indicates that there is a serious root problem, most often a fusarium infection that destroys the crown region.

Nothing can be done to remedy the problem once that happens.

With soybeans the plants in many fields finally began to grow and add trifoliate leaf sets. Many are now approaching the V6 stage and have begun to flower. Better two weeks late than never.

Growers who wish to get aggressive and go after high yields can still adopt a few of the known practices that help, as long as they have completed a few of the earlier recommended steps.

Fields that have already received a foliar hormone/micro/vitamin application are showing very nice branching and other growth responses.

Insect discoveries

Over the next few weeks we are likely to see soybean aphids appear as well as the European corn borer’s second brood.

Their normal peak egg laying period is about July 25 through Aug. 10. The first brood numbers were down, so the second brood could be expected to remain low, but those with non-Bt hybrids need to scout those fields.

Side dressing

There are operators who have adopted a more managed nitrogen program and are in the process of making their final nitrogen application trip.

With good stands and high grain prices it looks like the rewards will be there for those who have documented a need via late spring N tests or built a sidedressed application into their program.

Years ago high yield contestants proved that applications close to or at tasseling would still contribute to yield. The advice then is to study your rotations, give credit for manure applications and use stabilizers if possible.

Good luck in making your final preharvest field trips. Be sure to be aware of what is happening in your fields.

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

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