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By Staff | Mar 2, 2012

Here we are at the start of March and only three weeks until the spring season arrives.

So far the last few months have seemed like a long and extended fall, one similar to winters along the latitude that Columbia Missouri and Kansas City lie on.

It seems like there has been more moisture creeping into this section slowly recharging the soil profile.

All Midwest growers are watching this development very closely, as summer weather is everything when it comes to farming.

You can bet all of our importing partners and the world’s other major grain producing nations are paying close attention to the amount of rain that falls here.

This can and will affect grain prices everywhere, just as the drier weather in Argentina and Brazil has helped to cause another bull run in commodity markets.


The winter conferences are still being held. Last week Iowa Central Community Collge in Fort Dodge sponsored a crop fair that was well attended.

Then there was a series of meetings where several Extension specialists presented educational information about micronutrients and how their application would benefit the major crops and boost plant health.

It’s hard to tell if such information is becoming commonly acknowledged by producers and crop specialists.

In about two weeks, the ISU weed specialists will hold a series of statewide meetings where the discussion will be about how to manage weeds in the new era where more and more of them are now tolerant to glyphosate.

Like all problems, the first step in solving one involves acknowledging is a problem.

High tunnels

Another workshop is dealing with high tunnel construction and management in the state.

A high tunnel is a small, plastic-lined hoop structure in which the owners and managers grow fruit and veggies inside.

The plastic over the hoops lets a certain sun radiation through that heats the building to 60 degrees on winter days and expands the growing dseason on both ends.

Those inexpensive greenhouses are now such a big item in Michigan that the state’s producers expect to overtake Florida for second place in veggie production.

Producers have found that they can also grow fruit that is commonly not allowed at that latitude, such as sweet cherries. People who have been doing it for a few seasons expect to be able to net about $5 per square foot of space if they work at it and develop the market.

Who of us would not like to work in a greenhouse during the dreary winter months and eat fresh veggies? The workshop will be held in Iowa Falls on Thursday. It is interesting to go online and read the stories and experience of people who have already gotten involved in this project.

New products

The number of new soybean broadleaf herbicides commercialized the last 14 years can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

The market just wasn’t there for any other company to introduce into. Now the need is there and few new substitutes have worked their way through the myriad of test plots where their degree of weed control is examined.

A few years ago Kixor was introduced and it has done the job in some areas, but is used more in corn than in soybeans.

Now on the scene is a new product from Japan that has been tested as KIH 485.

If it gets full labeling it will be marketed by the three companies that sell pre-emerge residual herbicides, Valent, BASF and FMC.

With EPA’s budget being cut and many more ‘young-gun’ employees in charge they seem to be less inclined to grant licensing to the companies hoping for them.

Iin the last two weeks the first of the products was labeled for use in corn. In an era when we need more of the same we have to hope that the entire bunch gains approval for the coming season.

Seed supply

The seed corn supply has always been adequate for consumer needs in past years. Will that trend continue for 2012 or will it not?

An increase in 2012 corn acres, with higher populations, coupled with 2011’s hot weather/dry conditions, as well as Goss’s wilt, lowered the seed yields in many locations.

Weather conditions in Argentina and Chile hold the key to how much winter seed is available for delivery and planting. Over the next few weeks, we will be finding out how many bags of our favorite hybrids will be available for planting this spring.

Being able to visit with people of those two countries helps provide me insight into what has happened down there.

Seeing the fields in person and visiting with growers in person would make it even better.

Goss’s expectation

I had the chance to visit with one of the people who best has the insight to guess if Goss’s is going to be worse in 2012 than in 2011.

I had my hunches, but had to see what he would say. So he asked me if the stalks and other residue had degraded much since last fall.

I had to tell him that until now there has been little to no residue degradation since it has been too dry in most areas.

Enough articles have been written documenting that the Clavibacter bacteria can survive 10 months on intact residue and perhaps longer on foxtail plants in ditches and fence rows.

The conclusion that could be drawn is that growers really need to be on their toes and do what it takes to keep their plants as nutritional sound as possible.

Nitrogen management

Most of the recent springs have been much wetter than desired. Those wet, saturated soils have created a perfect environment for loss of applied nitrogen.

That is when we have seen many corn fields take on the light green appearances.

Tissue and soil testing, as well as SPAD meters, can be used to verify nitrogen levels within the plants.

So what can we expect this season? Last fall many of the soils across the western Midwest were so dry that many applicators were seriously concerned that the soils were so dry that they would not hold the 82 percent.

They were also dry enough to break many injector knives and shanks.

So after we see how the early part of the growing season turns out we can use different tools to test for nitrogen levels and make the decisions about the need to apply additional nitrogen.

Over the last few years we have seen significant benefits to applying additional N.

The forms will vary, ranging from 82 percent to 32 percent, and with the cheaper cost of urea, some of that will be applied in the standing crop.

Expect more growers and agronomists who will be watching their crops more closely and have learned that there are things they can do and products they can apply to help the crop through periods of nutrient shortages.

One wise person who has been teaching such plant and nutrient fertilizer practices believes that Midwestern growers may have to manage their crops more like the hort and veggie people have for years.

Good luck in the next eight weeks as the planting season creeps closer.

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

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