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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Dec 16, 2011

The month is rolling along and Christmas will be here shortly. Then it is onto 2012, which, just a few years ago, seemed like a long time away.

At this time is should be well worth it to take the time to consider what we have gained in knowledge and practice over the last five years and to figure out where we hope to be five years from now.

It may be time to figure out which of our experts have guessed right and which ones have veered off course and either need to get back on the road or be left in the ditch.

The time for analyzing 2011 will be here shortly as we all try to forecast what acre ratio and programs are the ones we need to learn about and adopt in our farming operation to prepare for the challenges that will occur during the season.

While most of us were listening to three or four different weather forecasters who were predicting a long, tough winter season, we instead have gotten to enjoy relatively warm and dry weather until now.

There have been just a handful of days (one exactly that I can remember) where it felt like we lived at the North Pole and freezing to death was an immediate concern.

As it is, we can easily live with days where the temperatures climb into the mid-30s every day and the sun shines for at least half the day.

If we get lucky the soils will stay thawed out and several more inches of rain falls to soak into the profile.

Each inch could be the one inch that keeps the crops alive during the hot spell next July or August. It is always nice to face only four months of winter instead of seven.

A week from now, the normal heavy prebooking season for farmers and retailers will be here. Normally, it is a busy time for seed activity. That has all been completed as the short seed supply earlied-up that task and most on-the-ball growers have secured what they’ll need.

Hot topics

The hot topic of when and where more situations of poor rootworm control may spring up has been in the news quite a bit lately. At first it was just in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Then Nebraska and South Dakota entomologist said to not forget about the problems that existed in their respective states three or four years ago.

Corn farmers must be listening and the latest under-the-radar requisitions indicate the purchasing of Smart Boxes has accelerated and most granular insecticides being sold by the remaining companies has been at a very rapid pace so far.

The take-home message may be that corn root worms still have not learned to read the book and will continue to do what we don’t expect. They are survivors of any selective pressure humans can use against them.

We need to enact long- term management practices that turn their biology against them and their survival.

Goss’ wilt solutions

I have written a lot about Goss’ wilt since last August when we first realized that we had been misdiagnosing it due to it showing abnormal symptomology.

Unfortunately, and costly to many Midwest growers, the ag people who studied its background and warned that it could become an annual problem have been proven to be correct.

What we are still seeing is that most farmers have not been given much information about it except that hybrid choice makes a big difference, and that doing tillage can help destroy the inoculum.

More information needs to get out concerning what other steps need to be used for gaining the upper hand in fighting it.

As a major concern the soils need to be protected from eroding, so practices that will help to boost the plants’ health and disease resistance need to be prioritized for corn farmers.

Too many farmers seemed to be doing recreational tillage this fall. Much of the correct battle needs to be the nutritional battle next summer.

Any leaf streaking requires a response of micronutrient applications. Top researchers are still trying to find the logic behind its rapid spread across the Corn Belt.

After sitting in a smaller area west of Grand Island for 40 years, they want to know why it became so virulent and made those big geographic leaps. Examination of preserved tissue has answered that.

What to do about it isn’t all that complicated. In fact growers who were willing to get partially reprogrammed and follow three or four suggestions were pleased with their yields in 2010.

Getting an extra 20 to 100 bushels per acre can help pay the bills for many farmers. Negotiating the politics of the plant disease can be the tricky part.

Two steps that gave very good results were the use of the trichoderma and pseudomonas plant health- boosting products and micronutrient mixes.

Meeting product demand next summer could be tough for the companies. Prebooking now would be a wise move as it helps the companies as they can lock in the raw materials now to manufacture enough product.

Copper complex results

Extension pathologists have mentioned the use of copper-containing compounds that have been used to battle citrus bacterial disease in Florida and Brazil for years.

We have had the chance to monitor the results among farmers who have used such products and have made conclusions.

The yield results have depended on what other steps had been enacted first and how far dead the plants were before an application was made.

Over the two years we have seen responses ranging from a low of 0 bpa up to 80 bpa.

This year, where a decent amount of green tissue was still left, the plants retained the same amount until frost, which helped the kernel fill.

The range of yield benefit was in the 20- to 60-bpa range. At a cost of $2 per acre for product and $6 per bushel corn it took just four to six bushels to pay for the cost of product and application. Those 7- or 10-to-1 returns are nice to see.

What we don’t know yet is if Goss’ will appear by mid-July next season. In 2011 we noticed its symptoms 21 days earlier than in 2010. Now that we know where to look we can check there first.

The challenge for 2012 for suppliers will be for the company forecasters to protect themselves cost-wise by ordering early and correctly knowing how many acres’ worth of product growers will want to buy and apply in the two to three week season next July or August.

I can put in my two-cents worth, but hopefully a survey among past users will help them put an intelligent guess together.

Growers who are preordering goods for next year may want to lock in product yet this fall, if they think they may need it.

If they wait the supply will likely not be there for them in July.

The Procidic bactericide product also has been looking good in the summary of plot results. I like to see it used in a mix of nutritional products that knock out the bacteria and supply nutrients that tissue tests suggest are low. Chimera diseases are like that.

Will SDS Rear its Ugly Head ?

What is everyone else’s guess? Lots of acres that contained record levels of the serious bean disease will be planted back to soybean next season. Losing 50% of the projected yield is not something that anyone wants to see again. Like any disease it will take three or four causal factors happening to see a similar problem. There will be susceptible varieties planted again that are both genetically and nutritionally susceptible. The implicated Fusarium and second organism will still be surviving in the soil. What we don’t know is if the wet, compacted, saturated, high density soils will be similarly wet this spring. Not having two years of compaction existing should be the big item in our favor. Knowing about tissue tests and their value, then using them to detect nutrient deficiencies, and making foliar applications if needed, will help.

Fertilizing for Corn on Corn

The high cash rent is pushing lots of growers towards raising more second year corn. I will spend time next week discussing what might be done for growers who are putting their plans together.

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

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