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By Staff | Nov 10, 2011

Based on the fact that snow is expected to fall later today, it appears that our nice Indian summer weather is over.

We will have to wait for Wednesday morning to get here to see if any parts of the state get any measurable snowfall.

Except for the hard core ice fishermen and snowmobilers, no one seems real wild about winter weather.

Are we losing our enthusiasm for trudging through the snow and venturing out on those crispy subzero mornings?

Even though much of the state needs 6 to 8 inches of moisture to come close to filling the profile, the last two months of weather has been ideal for harvest and getting tillage done.

The work that has not gotten done yet was often delayed until a rain could soften the ground enough to permit shanks to penetrate the surface.

So if the temperatures climb back into the 50-plus degree range, much of the strip-tillage and 82 percent applications could still get completed.

Lots more people are now thinking about and have been seeing signs of how dry the soil profiles is in most parts of the western Midwest.

They realize that the fate of the 2012 crop depends more on timely in-season rains than any crop since maybe 1987, unless we get that wet week in April where 6 to 8 excess inches of falls and the growers who had soil that remained open with good infiltration rates let the moisture soak in to a good depth rather than run off.

So we have to remain optimistic and hope for the best to happen.

USDA crop report

Wednesday was the date for the latest crop size report. It is just another snapshot of the 2011 U.S. corn and soybean production.

While it supposedly is going to narrow down the range in the differing commercials and USDA guesstimates, there are still smaller firms that feel if the national yield is held at 148.1 it will still be too high.

I and many other agronomists feel the same in that there were still many growers who saw what happened in their own fields and neighborhoods.

Too wet early, too hot and dry during July and August, too many damaging windstorms and lost ears due to severe lodging and too much Goss’ wilt pressure on susceptible hybrids, created lower than expected yields on lots of acres all across the Corn Belt.

Late planting added to it.

We have to wonder again if the game plan is to persuade producers to sell early and at much cheaper prices. This would let speculatives and commercials make the most money, rather than the people who raised the grain.

It wouldn’t shovel the most money to Goldman Sachs as the big acreage report this summer did, and what caused the Chinese to call Vilsack on that very issue?

The abnormally low export prediction versus how strong foreign purchases have been bears that out.

Cover crops

With government cost-sharing being available to pay for part of the cost of seeding acres to cover crop, more growers have been playing with the rye, tillage radishes, vetches and other crops that are being planted as cover crops.

There were several groups that helped sponsor a field day in the Boone area two weeks ago that involved seeing the recently seeded crops in the fields and visit with the growers and the aerial pilot who flew the seed on.

The concept of cover crops is not new to many Midwest growers.

They typically look at the shorter season that exists between the last frost and first frost and think there is not time to make a cover crop work.

There is a point to that, except when we visited with Canadian researcher Jill Clapperton she responded by saying that growers 1,000 miles north of us are having terrific results and seeing many soil improving benefits from using them.

One idea that I have seen used in Argentina that could be used here, is a high clearance spray rig that has a spray boom in front and a dry seed spinner box or air delivery tubes in the rear, that allowed the operator to spread seed in the growing crop a month before the crop would be harvested.

Using this relay cropping program lets the cover crop get a month of growth before the first crop is harvested.

At a field day, Dr. Tom Kaspar, plant pathologist with the USDA-ARS National Soil Tilth Laboratory, in Ames, listed the benefits that growers would gain from cover crops.

They included things such as nutrient capturing to prevent losing nitrogen through leaching, keeping erosion-prone soils in place, and using deep-rooted crops to break up compaction.

This allowed farmers to start putting dollar values on those benefits. From getting to know soil biology better, such specialists have identified that using a variety of crops on each field, creates an environment that fosters a larger population of microbe species and populations that will stimulate greater plant growth, along with increased nutrient availability.

Such activity has been shown to increase crop yields more than most other inputs could.

Insect control plans

The season for controlling the 2012 crop insects is still months away, but it is not too soon to spend time on planning to control the major insects in corn.

The No. 1 insect pest, which is the European corn borer, is scheduled to be at its five-year population peak in 2012.

If a non-Bt hybrid is being planted, the crop will have to be scouted during the two prime egg-laying periods, and larvae feeding periods of mid- through late-June, and the second period of late-July through mid-August.

Saving money by not buying traits, but then not doing the work to scout the crops and pulling the trigger on needed treatment is not a wise decision.

Controlling corn rootworms can get tricky and expensive if producers don’t read the book.

Growers in states including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, have seen resurgence in numbers, plus what some are concluding is a failure of the toxin-producing trait.

So the courses of action that are being considered include using conventional granular or liquid insecticides, rotating genetic traits, which sounds good. But is tougher in practice, since there are few companies that offer two CRW traits; and, finally, moving back to adult beetle control.

Any technology that would allow activity of traditional low toxicity insecticides to last two or three times longer, would make this system have a premium value.

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

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