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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 4, 2012

The rainy weekend that just ended seemed strange in that temps were about 30 degrees colder than we have become used to and the total accumulation for the three days was still less than an inch.

Sooner or later we will have to fill the profile to a greater degree than has happened. Now that April is over, our fear of continued frosty weather should also be over and we can charge full bore into the new growing season.

Most of us were apprehensive due to the expected cold rains and past experience with emergence problems that often resulted when that happened a day or two after corn seed was put in the ground.

So unless things change, the marathon that will be the 2012 growing season has officially started. Ladies and gentlemen “start your engines.” After a weird sort of winter and spring it seems good to get back to where things seem semi-normal.

A late middle-aged farm boy from my home town passed away last week with a measure of fan fare. He was Rev. Everett Hemann, 66, a Catholic priest who died of pancreatic cancer. He and his two brothers shared the same vocation as well as a passion for flying, as they often did in their own airplanes.

In his sermons at St Thomas church in Ames, the ISU center, he often told stories about being reared on a small dairy farm and helped raise crops and took care of the animals. He was able to relate the lessons that he learned to greater challenges that lay ahead in his years of working with adults and students, then finally as he learned about his cancer and his acceptance of it.

Rather than bemoan his fate he felt he would better serve the people of the Midwest by telling what his approach was in preparing to leave this earth and teaching other people how they too should make preparations for the same fate when their time came. He touched a lot of lives of all denominations across the state. Wish him and his family well.

Early emergence

Now with the weather turning cooler and wetter, which was a surprise to many people after the very warm March, it appears that the chance for a general, early planting season has been minimized. Getting the corn planting completed hinges strongly on whether or not we get more rain during this week.

Most fields need another day or two of drying before field traffic will be permissible. So a good question related to this is how the stands look for the fields that were planted a few weeks ago.

For the ones I have gone past most look decent, but another week will be needed before we can see how the lower spots have emerged.

One thing that told us to slow down two weeks ago was knowing that the cold germs on a portion of the seed supply had dropped between the required December-January testing. As a rough, but logical guess, we are thinking that this drop was likely due to the female plants in the seed fields being affected by Goss’ wilt and died early from this problem. Having the plant die early definitely would not help the germination levels.

As an aside, a few growers have been wondering if part of the push to get Refuge in a Bag into the market was a way to slough off lower quality seed at a premium rather than just dispose of it through normal channels.

Some of those curious growers have been sorting out the 5 percent or so of different colored seed, sending them into state labs for germ tests, and found that some of those germs are way low.

If the intention is to convince EPA on the refuge reduction idea, and thus have fewer than 5 percent susceptible type plants in the field to maintain trait susceptible insects to mate with, this would defeat those arguments and process. Maybe more guys should sort through their seed on a rainy day and do something similar to see if this is widespread.

Insect alerts

The larger number of moths that are flying out of bushes and almost any vegetation these days is very noticeable. Should we be concerned about these and what needs to be done? On the website Chat n Chew Cafe, entomologists from different universities are making note of this. What they point out is that there is a threat from known pests such as the black cutworm moths that annually migrate in by being blown in from the Texas and Mexican Gulf states during days with strong south winds.

Last Wednesday they would have arrived here in about 26 hours from Mexico. We can expect them to lay eggs in fields with heavy residue and winter annual populations.

Some of the other moths are pictured and identified as armyworm moths. They will lay eggs that will hatch and again feed on grass plants. The larvae are not normally a big problem, however they should be watched in fields with lots of water ways or ditches along the edges.

Remember that bugs don’t read the books and can do unexpected things. Since the crops are valuable this year, be sure to be scouting and watching for insect catch reports.

Curled dandelions

Not wanting to be sounding like a chicken little, but being observant of nature’s signs, who has been watching the dandelions on the lawns and along the roads?

Do you see the same stem twisting that makes most of them look like they have been sprayed with a phenoxy herbicide? An in-tune-with-science friend mentioned this last week during a conversation. By chance he also has been playing with his Geiger counter to see what is going on.

He is also seeing the twisting and relates it to fallout from the Japanese nuclear plant. Radiation does cause this phenomenon, which is what 2,4-D can do to corn roots, where they twist up and possibly gnarled.

I had sprayed our lawn with a herbicide mix, so those stems and leaves are twisted. But along the roads and all around the towns, even where nothing has been sprayed, the same type symptoms are appearing. It may be worth knowing about if this is real so we can take our iodine tablets.

Uruguay

A few weeks ago I wrote about our trip to South America. Here’s a few more thoughts. On part of the trip, we took two days off to see the sights in both Argentina and the small, but quaint country of Uruguay.

Agriculture is a big thing in both countries. Raising grain and livestock are important parts of their economy. In a trip about five hours south of Buenos Aires we passed through the pampas region, which is a nearly uninterrupted stretch of grassland and semi-swampy land that serves as a great area for raising cattle.

From the bus it was nothing but cattle in those pastures that seemed reminiscent of the great buffalo herds that used to be in the U.S. years ago.

We enjoyed visiting the smaller country that lays just to the east of Argentina and south of Brazil. What seems somewhat surreal is that the appearance of the much of the countryside looks much like northern Iowa looked like in the 1960s and 1970s with many farmsteads and livestock facilities.

They remain diversified in their cropping programs and how they rotate. With their location from the equator, they typically double crop or raise winter grains. Not having a freezing, snowy winter makes a big difference with what they are able to raise.

In comparison with Iowa and its geography, they cover a 200-by 300-mile footprint. In Iowa, we have 3 million people and approximately 18 million hogs. They have about the same land mass where they raise 11 million cattle and 11 million sheep.

Meat exports to Europe and Asia constitute a big share of their exports. Having a business friendly climate as opposed to the socialistic policies of Argentina creates a much better business climate.

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

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