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By Staff | Nov 4, 2011

Here we are at the beginning of the potential snow season with most of the crops harvested and the expected fall tillage well underway.

In some years any good weather after Nov. 1 is a blessing. So far predictions from several noted meteorologists are for good weather until just before Thanksgiving.

A storm or ice at the time would be very typical of what has happened the last few years. Most of us would welcome any sort of moisture, as it was officially confirmed that the recent September to October period was the driest since 1953.

The topic of moisture, or lack thereof, will be paramount for most growers over the winter and going into the spring season. Will the soil moisture profile get filled prior to next May?

The weather and worldwide economy swirling around Europe is making marketing decisions difficult this season.

As the Greek debacle continues, hope for a fix for the Euro fades and our dollar strengthens, which is typically a negative.

Lined up behind Greece, though, are major problems in the currencies of Ireland, Spain, Iceland and Portugal.

So even with our problems in the U.S., life and the economy in Iowa look much better.

News in the ag world

It seems like lots of things important to agriculture and growers have made the quiet press papers. I will try to mention a few of them and what the ramifications may be. The normal fall work and dry weather has also created questions that need answers.

It was announced that the world’s population has reached 7 billion people. That is a lot of mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and food to process and transport.

One hopes that we have a Solomon in charge to solve all of the problems that will appear. The best bet is that all of those countries develop their economies so all of the people can earn the money that they can then use to either buy or grow their own food.

No free loaders should be tolerated.

Strobe sesistance

A year ago the announcement was made about Dr Carl Bradley, the University of Illinois Extension pathologist, verifying that strobe resistance had been found among the frogeye leaf spot, causing fungus in Tennessee.

This year, the same thing was found and verified in the neighboring states of Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. This was warned against by researchers both at Cornell University, as well as teams in Europe, who well knew about the narrow action site of that family of chemistry.

Their recommendations were for growers to never use a strobe all by itself twice in a season or consecutively.

How many growers or retailers are not adhering to those guidelines or have never been instructed as to their existence? Not doing so risks losing a very valuable family of products.

Adaptable pigweed

A few weeks ago I was in a field near Iowa City and ran into a patch of pigweed, or waterhemp, where the plants stood from four to 10 feet. The healthier plants had stems about two inches in diameter and a wingspan of about five feet.

If each of those plants produced their estimated half million seeds and sent pollen several miles downwind, they could place a lot of pressure on any control measures used by farmers in that neighborhood next season.

There are plans by several seed companies to gain control of glyphosate tolerant waterhemp by incorporating either 2,4-D or dicamba resistance into new soybean varieties.

The wrench that may have gotten thrown into those plans was announced by weed specialists from Nebraska.

What they discovered and have been working with are waterhemp plants that are able to tolerate from 56 to 128 ounces of 2,4-D per acre.

Because both herbicides are synthetic auxins, will those weeds be tolerant to both? One would have to guess that this would be the case.

Combine that with Illinois waterhemp that have shown resistance to members to the HPPD and PPO families, and they are becoming very tough to manage.

That might be why, as one researcher said, we don’t control weeds, we manage them.

With these developments, it appears that soybean growers are going to have to be extremely alert to these problem weeds and adopt strategies that throw multiple modes of action at them.

We have to hope that there will be several new problems that make it through the maze of Environmental Protection Agency hurdles to get commercialized for the 2012 season.

If new tools are not added to the toolbox, along with recognition of why weeds appear, improving soybean yields could become more difficult.

New soil tests

It is estimated that we still have only identified about 20 percent of the microbe species that exist below the soil surface. How they function, how they interact and influence plant growth, and how they work to make nutrients available for plant growth is still something that we are still struggling to learn.

Our first batch of soil samples that we had analyzed with a gas chromatograph has just been returned. We are hoping to use this to help us understand what might be going on in some problem fields from a biological perspective and then be able to write a prescription for each.

If it works, we expect that more crop advisors and growers will be doing the same. It is an area that gets more interesting as you get into studies of the science, especially if you have someone to coach you through the learning process.

Root worm problems

The other critter that has been getting publicity in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and previously Nebraska are the corn rootworms.

While Bt-containing hybrids served as a control mechanism for a few years in sections of the first three states and not so good in Nebraska, Extension specialists are finding resistant strains that have caused problems, plus lots of lodged fields.

Many policy makers and research teams are doing their best to either figure out what happened or explain away the problem.

The simple explanation is that they have developed resistance. The tougher explanation is that a portion of the population was semi-resistant in the beginning.

There were populations in Nebraska that proved to tolerate a 14-time level of toxin when the first products were tested.

Apparently the rootworm populations were always very heterogeneous in their genetic makeup and those most tolerant have been the survivors.

The very wet springs we suffered through five years ago were thought to have drowned many of the young larvae. It looks like they are making a comeback in certain areas.

Too dry for anhydrous

A frequent question of the past week is, “is it too dry to apply anhydrous?” Having fall soils drier that we remember seeing them is cause for worry.

The answer I have given is that the anhydrous is typically tied up in the moisture held on the soil colloids.

Though the soils are very dry in many parts of the Midwest, they are still holding about 20 percent of the moisture that they are capable of.

Plants are unable to extract moisture that exists in the 0 percent to 20 percent of capacity range.

They typically die at 20 percent. Some researchers suggest applying any NH4 as deep as possible, then going out into the applied fields later that afternoon and the next day. If the smell is not overwhelming, then the loss should be minimal.

The bet that many astute growers are making, considering how nitrogen programs have turned out the last few seasons, and how dry things are now, is that they will use a combination of nitrogen sources to hedge their bets.

They are trying to include some placed nitrogen and a stabilizer along with 100 to 150 pounds of AMS to better spoon feed their corn crop.

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

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