Finally after nine months of waiting, the first general rain fell over western Iowa and much of the state.
The amounts reported range from a low of four-tenths to more than 4 inches with many sites recording 2 t o 2.5 inches falling from Friday night to early Sunday morning.
Unfortunately, several of those storms contained twisters that tore up a few towns and many dwellings. This came at a time when farmers were all wondering exactly what to do during this time when it seemed too early to plant, too dry for this time of year and ground conditions were perfect.
At least now we can set our internal cropping clocks and things will seem more normal.
Larry Acker and several other meteorologists had predicted this cooler and wetter period for mid- to late-April and it seems to be coming true.
One difference this year is that the soils have to be warmer several inches down than in most years.
So for now it appears that as the soils dry every planter in the Midwest will be going as many hours per day as humanly possible.
Jack Frost paid a visit to 13 states in the central U.S. last week.
The seven-day forecasts did a great job of showing where the cold air masses were going to be each night and were accurate.
Fruit growers were well aware of those forecasts and were either darn nervous or actively instituting management tactics to avert disaster.
As a few days have passed more signs of what happened or didn’t happen are appearing.
Around Iowa the reports tell that some vineyards are estimating that they have lost 80 percent of their expected grape crop.
That could be serious for them if they are dependent on locally grown grapes to make wine. I noticed here that the maple tree leaves fared well, the oaks did okay, and the leaves of the hackberries, pecans, and coffee trees got fried.
What I was worried about were the apples, peaches, plums and cherries. The small fruits must have contained enough sugar to prevent freezing since they all appear to be fine along U.S. Highway 30.
That should mean local fruit growers should be able to supply the stands and grocery stores this fall with great-tasting fruit.
Row crop damage
Reports are now coming out of Illinois about major acres of corn that were planted early, had emerged and were between spike and three leaf corn.
Reportedly 30 percent of the Illinois acres were planted during the early warm spell and some growers were completely done with their corn planting.
The 28-degree temps froze all the stuff that was above ground and even some of the plants that had not emerged, but had sent out sprouts, were frozen.
Other confirmed stories tell of major corn acres for individual growers having rotted in the ground.
Last year the best yielding corn was the stuff planted the first week of April. This year the early planting did not appear to work.
I know of a few growers and agronomists are doing their own cold tests on lots of seed from different seed companies.
What they are seeing is that the cold germ levels of some of this year’s seed corn is being affected dramatically by the long tail of last year’s Goss’ wilt infestation and nutrient levels.
Accompanying those germ tests are tissue tests that will help determine nutrient levels within the kernels.
Research out of Canada suggests that seeds low in certain nutrients will have low vigor and less energy with which to emerge and form a healthy seedling.
The last few years agronomists and growers have been seeing lots more seedlings that struggle to emerge and form one of two loops before they either emerge or fail in their attempts to emerge.
It must be easier to blame the planter or down pressure for emergence problems.
The other issue besides corn is how the winter wheat fared in eastern cornbelt states.
Depending on the stage of growth and when they sprayed on their top-dressed N there are major differences in which plants and fields tolerated the freeze.
That could mean wheat bushels could disappear and being replaced by soybean acres.
All this talk of super weeds makes one think about what happens when they arrive here.
There was a research article published this week where Minnesota weed specialists think they now have waterhemp and giant ragweed in their part of the country now resistant to glyphosate, HPPD and ALS herbicides.
Add in the 2, 4-D resistance that has shown up in Nebraska and we could have one heck of a weed problem to control or manage in the future.
Another item that was pointed out by a University of Tennessee researcher and shown on slides was that the rate of growth on the Palmer amaranth and potentially on waterhemp was that those weeds are best controlled when sprayed when they are less than 4 inches tall, and that they will be taller than that on the second day after emergence.
Thus the window for control in a total post-emerge system is open for a maximum of two days. How many farmers can manage for that?
Thus at this past winter’s conferences the gospel was to use pre-emergence products on soybeans and be ready to use rescue-type products at a moment’s notice if problem weeds appear.
In one presentation at a University of Minnesota conference they showed an estimated cost to Minnesota growers of $621 million dollars when their broadleaf weeds got out of control.
BASF announced its application for a label for a new herbicide, which is basically a reformulation of Banvel.
The product always worked, but had a high vapor pressure, meaning it put vapors into the air after it had been sprayed.
This new formula won’t do that to the same degree, so would lower the number of drift problems, albeit operators spraying it would pay attention to not spraying on windy days.
Yeah, right. It should help corn growers and their neighbors’ fields when and if weeds continue to flourish.
On the same note one cropping firm operating in Iowa and several other states is having growers pay attention to their available calcium level or calcium base saturation on their soil tests and fertility program and applying calcium when needed and a high percentage of the pigweeds never emerge.
Thus that tactic may have to be employed more. Treat the cause and not the symptom.
Meanwhile may the sun shine and warm temps return.
What does everyone think of the pink slime debate?
I had read some of the early articles discussing the product and realized the issue could gain traction.
It was a sucker punch for the company involved, since all that was in those packages was ground beef.
Compared to preformed beef patties that pass off as hamburger patties at fall field days, there is no comparison.
I have a cutout from one of the boxes from a field day held in August on my desk yet and there are 21 other items included besides beef in that list.
Many people would not want them included if they were informed about it and the fact that a lot more than beef was in their burger.
Stuff that makes your gut rumble. We know that too many people are too far removed with how food and meat are produced.
A few years ago we raised a batch of chickens at our acreage. We made the mistake of finishing the butchering close to the house where there was a table and hydrant.
The kids all said, “yuk” and that they would only eat chicken that came from McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken, chickens that did not have guts or feathers.
So maybe the debate should involve people close to the beef industry who are trying to deliver a wholesome product coming from something that had bones, hides and intestines.
That is life, and that is nature. Get used to it.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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