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By Staff | Nov 18, 2011

The fall has been much more enjoyable than what we saw two and three years ago, when constant rain delays and wet ground made harvest a quagmire, taxing both men and machines.

Even though we know we still need to get that slow, three-day, 6-inch rain, being able to get more of the end-of-season chores completed is always nice.

So now we have the Department of Labor taking it upon themselves to write rules that prohibit children, younger than 16, from doing many of the farm and ranch chores that we all grew up doing.

It was common practice that 6 or 7 was the age where you learned to drive the smaller tractors on the farm, and 7 or 8 was the age at which you drove the tractor on the baler.

Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to see 8- to 10-year-olds running the quadtracks, doing tillage or running the grain carts.

It sure made you feel grown up when felt like you were actually contributing to the operation of the farm.

In our neighborhood, one family had all of its boys plowing with the 4020 at 4 a.m. by the age of 4. Most actual farm operators with children have to feel that the DOL may have a few valid points, but are way off base with this action.

Now is the time to make and send in your comments on this issue.

No news may be good news, but right now there has not been much news to swing the market in either direction. The lower prices may be welcome at the time when cash rents are set, but we always like higher prices when insurance prices are set.

Fertilizer costs

Once the potential gross income from raising and selling corn rose to high levels a few years ago, members of the fertilizer groups knew they had to capture more of those dollars.

We saw this in 2008 when prices for DAP (a phosphorus and nitrogen source) rose to more than $1,000 per ton. Many retailers, who loaded up on the high-priced materials trying to protect their customers from even higher prices, got stung when buying quit and the prices collapsed.

Those same prices for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium have been climbing over the last year and are at prices that make applying a two-year replacement amount of those materials make one gasp a bit.

One strategy that some employed was to lock in fertilizer early, or match grain sales with fertilizer prices.

This worked well as long as the crop reports didn’t get manipulated so much as to artificially drop prices when they should have held steady or even risen. We have seen that the last few months.

All one can do is to raise the efficiency and return on the fertilizer dollars that are being spent.

Long-term leases better allow a farmer to want to build levels on the ground that he is farming. Land- lords need to understand this and work along with tenants to establish common goals.

Efficiency rates can now be better managed by looking either at directed placement with either planter-placed material or strip-till injection.

One other way that is used in other major crop growing countries is via the use of biologicals such as pseudomonas florescence.

This bacterial produces and releases phosphorous that is held in the soil, making it plant available. Several of us experimented with it two years ago and found statistically favorable responses.

Residue breakdown

When Goss’ wilt was diagnosed and we realized that its symptomology was different than that shown in the colored texts and what we were looking for, we knew that residue management, controlling erosion and minimizing the effect of the disease were going to clash.

That is now happening as most recommendations have centered on destroying residue as the first and only method controlling the bacterial infection.

Growers have done a great job of turning more fields blacker than we have seen them in years. Those with enough years of seasoning behind them remember winters in the early ’80s when all of the snowbanks and ditches turned black with the blowing dirt.

Getting the residue recycled before spring helps with controlling the inoculums source, but we don’t want it to happen at the expense of having losing soil to wind erosion.

It has become apparent after evaluating the growing seasons of 2009, 2010 and 2011 that Goss’ is adaptable to most of the weather conditions that we have in Iowa.

That is the inoculum side, or one-third to one-fourth of the plant path triangle. The third concept is to make sure you don’t have any easy and suitable host corn plants in your fields.

If the research shows that varieties with a high percentage of B14 are more susceptible, then shift from them.

If other work and test data suggest that plants with leaves showing the light green/dark green streaking of nutrient deficiencies are more at risk, do what it takes to aprevent that from happening.

Consider utilizing a soil and tissue testing program in 2012 and foliar micros if the tests verify shortages.

Use your own eyes and experience and how you remember healthy corn plants looking 10 years ago.

If you study soil microbiology, you will learn than there are many important species of pseudomonas bacteria. They release compounds that are harmful to soil pathogens and act as the sheriff in the soils.

Having an adequate number is likely important in producing healthy and high yielding crops.

Growers have asked if much of the residue has degraded so far this fall. The answer would be “no.”

We needed moisture for that to happen, and we have not received very much.

This process can continue under the snow cover this winter if the snow gets deep enough to insulate the ground.

The balancing act is that we need enough decomposition to allow the inoculum to die off, but enough residue to shield the ground during winter/late spring winds and next season’s heavy rains.

Flood losses

More university and soil researchers are now giving their formulas and advice in remediating the damage to fields along the Mississippi.

Most of the researchers deal first with how to handle sand deposits and then with the damage to the soil microbiology.

The use of cover crops is typically mentioned as the best way to get the bugs in the soil active again.

One interesting site to visit is Lee Valley Equipment. At this site are many pictures that an Extension director took while flying over flooded fields.

At the time, many farmers still had not gotten into the area to visit their ground to assess the damage.

What they have been finding are fields that now hold sand piles up to 10 feet deep that have to be moved.

This will take heavy road building equipment. When such equipment is used to build pipelines or roads, the landowner typically gets the rights to file damage claims for continued crop loss for 10 to 20 years after the damage was caused.

Have a good Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy the turkey. This year that won’t be the Detroit Lions as they have an exciting team to watch.

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

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