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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jan 13, 2012

Why don’t we all vote to have every winter in Iowa from now on follow the same script as last year?

A good and sound survey like that would surely be something that someone could follow up on and have happen. Right?

Actually getting to work outside and not be bundled up or sliding around on black ice wondering when we might be the one ending up on crutches or in a casket due to the weather is a sheer pleasure.

Just knowing that winter will only be two or three months long instead of seven makes things so much more bearable. Of course all die-hard ice fishermen or snowmobilers will have to travel further to enjoy their hobbies. The one thought that any Iowan or Nebraskan is “when do we get to pay the piper and how much will it cost?”

One serious thought on everyone’s’ mind, and farmers’ especially, because everything we do depends on the weather, is that much of the Midwest has been under some degree of drought.

Most ISU?Extension soil moisture profile probing has detected some of the driest soils seen in about two decades. And we know that if we don’t start the season with a near-full profile we get to tap dance through the growing season knowing that each quarter- or half-inch in rain will be vital to keeping the crops alive.

That is how things were in 1987 and we remember what happened the following year. Now with the next crop size summary report due to be released on Thursday, and knowing that the USDA has been playing fast and loose with their usage and carryout figures, what that report said and how timely the rains are will greatly determine whether next year turns into a year with either $3 or $8 corn with soybean prices marching in either like or opposite step.

The crop seminar

The round of Extension crop seminars continues over the next few weeks as growers either get the chance to be updated on what is happening in the world of ISU crop research or get tested for their application license.

I attended the session in Ames on Tuesday and there seemed to be a different tone among presenters in the different sessions. In past years, most of the facts and opinions seemed to be so definite and final.

This year, with the topics of Goss’s wilt, corn rootworm, soybean aphids and herbicide resistant weeds, the statements of “we don’t know for sure” or “we will just have to find out how they will act” or “they weren’t supposed to do that” were uttered a lot more.

Five or six years ago when the great science companies came with their inventions to save the ag world we all thought that our cropping problems were going to be over with. Nature and her different components ended up having different plans, as she has always had in her quest to get the upper hand.

It appears that we collectively will have to get to work, realize that we have to put our thinking caps back on, and spend the effort to develop new plans and solutions to counter those problems.

No one ever said it was going to be easy. Of course we all need a good challenge and as long as we don’t have to swing a hoe too often we will survive.

Goss’s wilt

I heard it again today so it must be true. When ISU?’s Elwynn Taylor told me last summer, I wasn’t quite sure about it. What he related was that back in the early-80s, or when 3780 was running strong as the dominant early hybrid across the Corn Belt and there were lots of look-a-like hybrids being introduced, Goss’s wilt made a strong appearance exploding the bubble of strong performing hybrids.

That was the first time I had heard it and no one else had evidence of such an occurrence. When he quizzed me and asked if I knew what had happened I knew that an early University of Minnesota inbred that was very susceptible to the disease was one of the inbreds used in those hybrids, so that had to be the answer.

Growers moved away from those hybrids due to poor performance, but I don’t remember anyone relating why. Now it makes sense.

Genetics’ and corn hybrids’ ultimate success always becomes the dominant genetic family’s downfall.

On that note is everyone developing their steps 3, 4 and 5 in their plan to fight the disease in 2012?

I think too many growers have considered the tolerant hybrid and tillage angle, but have not tackled the last three steps.

I know Jerry Crew, of Webb got after me a few weeks ago, and I realized back in August 2010, that controlling erosion and our soil resource is something that must be a top priority in whatever cropping program we use.

Those last few steps will be tackling the biological, nutritional, and, if it comes to that, the rescue angle for heavily affected fields.

In previous weeks I had mentioned learning about the SabrEx product which helped maintain plant health.

Then with micronutrients we are finally seeing more fertilizer outlets and experts educate themselves and come to the realization that most Midwest farmers in their cropping careers have never applied nutrients No. 7 through No. 15 that the corn plants require.

How long did we expect them to last? At least we now have the labs to perform the needed tissue tests that document the findings.

One topic during the seminar was that of seed transmission of the disease. Of course when one flies over the fields during the season and there are circular spots of dead plants scattered evenly throughout the field, why would one think that such a thing was possible? It just makes too much sense, what else could it be?

The weather

Actually the way weather trends are developing the act a lot like marketing trends. A bullish consensus says that anytime 80 percent or more of the participants are optimistic, we are headed for a top. At 90 percent the reversal is very near. So Dr Taylor, aside from recognizing that many profiles are not nearly full, predicts a shift closer to an El Nino where rains resume and we don’t have to sweat things too much.

Just like the old dust belt saying “plant in the dust and the bins will bust.”

Watching Argentina and southern Brazil happenings, it sounds quite bad in those countries. While it lifts markets here, when you know a bunch of the people and consider them friends, it hurts to know they are being hurt.

With our 7 billion mouths to feed we can’t miss out due to too many bushels of lost yield.

Weed movement

How are so many of the current diseases and weeds managing to spread so well?

There are many different means for weeds to move. The seeds can wash or blow in different directions. They can also be spread by birds or animals.

A better and more efficient way is to have plants that are either male or female, thereby having the female plants depending on receiving pollen from a male plant from either 5 feet or 20 miles away.

Then if the female plant produces up to 250,000 small seeds the seed bank is built rapidly. There is also a high chance or improved and more tolerant progeny being produced via the hybridizing crossing process.

The waterhemp and other weeds do get to demonstrate such hybrid vigor by becoming bigger competitors in your previously clean fields.

We are seeing a trend where growers and more crop advisors are recommending that different modes of action be used in each field and that long term strategies need to be used.

Dr Hartzler show studies where fields in Illinois contained weed populations where 83, 75 and 33 percent of the weeds were resistant nowadays to herbicides.

In addition 83, 33 and 29 percent were now tolerant to one, two, or three families of herbicides. With many of those resistant and hardier weeds also being taller than the bean crop, failures will be easy to see from the road.

Corn is a tougher competitor for such weeds, but sheer weed numbers will force growers to change tactics.

Be alert to the upcoming Iowa Power Show and No till conference to be held in St Louis.

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

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