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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 7, 2011

Harvest is now progressing rapidly as the warm temperatures of the last week accompanied by gentle to gale-like winds is drying both the corn and bean crop very rapidly.

In fact things are getting so dry that there are now several problems popping up that could end up being costly.

The first threat is that many of the beans are so dry that shattering is a constant threat.

The second problem is that beans at seven percent means that bushels are being given away to grain outlets with no compensation.

The third related problem is that the gale-like winds blew a lot of corn plants down and blew ears off the shank, leaving them lying on the ground to feed any scavenging livestock.

Last is the threat of fires in harvesting equipment and the tinder dry crops that are still standing.

What went up has now gone down.

This means grain prices, as several reports and the international financial turmoil has driven funds to the sidelines as the high levels of uncertainty was too much for the managers to stomach.

The fundaments are still as strong as they have been in recent history, but the overall economy and partial destruction of demand rule for the present.

In addition the government’s desire to have a cheap food policy and affordable commodities, especially in a pre-election year, is still in effect that can over-ride those fundamentals.

Harvest surprises

Farmers in most parts of the state are now into their second week of harvest. As of Tuesday night there had been no rain delays or breaks, though one may be welcome as a way to get a breather.

It also will not be long before we will be doing some serious worrying about filling the profile in preparation for next year’s crops.

I don’t know of anyone who has dug down to six feet lately, but as they do for drainage projects we will likely hear that in many areas the ground is powder dry to five or six feet.

All drainage tiles quit running months ago.

Most of us are still wondering how it was possible to fill the soybean pods enough to produce the very good bean yields that most Iowa and Nebraska growers are encountering.

Except for a few passing showers that caught a few communities, much of the southwestern three fourths of the state received little to no rain during July and August and the plants in many areas were flipping their leaves over during the later part of the afternoons.

It must have been due to the bean plants root systems ability to extract nearly all the moisture out of the root profile.

The one big negative is that bean growers in most parts of the state that froze have found that the pods and seeds on the upper parts of the plants did not produce the number or size they should have.

One to two more weeks and another rain would have made a big difference.

It appears the corn crop did about the same, though the current library of reported yields suggests that soil types and the moisture holding capacity of each field greatly influenced how many of the normal 55 days of the grain filling period were actually devoted to that task.

Corn on the lighter soils is yielding much less as those plants died early.

Stalk lodging

Quite a few corn fields got even uglier during the strong winds last week.

Here we thought that with the advent of Bt hybrids a decade ago such stalk lodging was going to be a problem of the past.

If you go into those fields you will find that there are many marshmallow-soft stalks where the pith is brown and decayed.

Those soft stalks are typically the same ones that hold a spongy and shrunken ear. All that can be done is hope that the corn snouts can get under each stalk and pull it into the head.

It will slow harvest and we will have to hope that the plants don’t collapse and more ears don’t fall off.

Some grain molds are also appearing and may end up being an issue to livestock producers.

I have not heard of any problems with Aflatoxin within Iowa or Nebraska, though parts of each state had conditions that were considered conducive to the fungus.

Residue digesters

Most corn growers who intend to grow second year corn, and are listening to the prescribed management steps for Goss’s wilt, have been listening to advice on what to do about the residue.

They have heard that depending on the level of microbial activity in each field, they should apply 20 to 30 pounds of nitrogen and 10 pounds of sulfur to each field and perhaps a microbial mix such as Z-Hume to aid in residue digestion.

Those pounds of N and S will be reclaimed next year by the growing crop, so those invested dollars will be returned.

Contrary to other years, it did not seem to make much difference as to what rotation had been used in the field.

Air sample and air filter analysis done last year showed that the ever-present dust that filled the air held lots of fungi – a bacteria that settled into all fields.

Goss’s management

Besides doing tillage and selecting more tolerant hybrids there will be more steps that need to be utilized next season.

The best program that maximized yield is likely to include making shifts in weed control programs, will utilize soil and tissue tests that examine micro-nutrient levels, and is likely to require in-season foliar applications.

In time there will be suggestions as to which biologicals are most likely to promote plant health and allow for nutrient release.

One machinery addition that most growers will have to consider is attaching and plumbing in the Totally Tubular system, which will allow the application of in-furrow products.

Soil sampling

With soybean harvest being half to nearly done on many farms, it is time to make plans to update soil sampling and analysis in each field that needs it.

Doing it by grid or management zone is a personal decision. Doing the latter is still as usable and still leaves budget dollars for having a more complete analysis done on one-third to one-fourth of the samples.

The better analysis may end up pointing out more deficiencies, but with the cost of renting ground and the other inputs, it greatly increases the chance of maximizing the return on investment on each field.

Good luck in your harvesting work and be safe.

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

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