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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 22, 2012

We finally had the great week where field equipment, including planters were able to operate five to seven consecutive days.

This allowed nearly all producers in the five-state area to make very good progress in getting their row crops planted. This showed up in the NASS statistics tabulated after this weekend.

Approximately 90 percent of the corn crop is in the ground, yet only about 55 percent of it has emerged.

That shows that much of the corn was planted in the past week as growers were limited by wet conditions and soil intermittently in the past three weeks.

We can see that around here as planters were out in full force the last seven days, leaving behind those furrowed patterns in the fields, waiting for the small seedlings to poke above the soil surface.

We are very lucky to have gotten the warm and dry weather just when it appeared that we were on the verge of having a delayed planting season.

We were all anxious about wishing that the rains would quit for a while, since we have been so anxious about not having much rain during the July 10 through the mid-March time frame.

What helps to ease our drought apprehension is seeing the tiles beginning to run again and seeing the rivers fill their channels and banks again. The Des Moines River north of Fort Dodge was barely a trickle as were most other rivers in western Iowa.

If it weren’t for the water treatment plants and their outflows you had to wonder if there would have been any flow.

It looks like a segment of Wall Street is at it again. How much of a repeat do we get to see and endure again as the lords of Wall Street prove once again that they are not as smart as they like to think? This time it looks like JPMorgan is in the spotlight.

A few days ago the story came out that one of their divisions, the one that specialized in derivatives as a means of minimizing their risk exposure, bet on the wrong side of things again and are now upside down on those bets.

At first the losses were reported to be as much as $1 billion. The figure today was up to $4 billion and possibly climbing. A few years ago I read a book on derivatives and found the author and his class had so much contempt for all other humans because the rest of us weren’t totally mesmerized by their utter brilliance and value.

Is this bank too large to fail, as they like to say? What if any will be the collateral damage to other businesses and trade?

Seasonal timings

The season continues as one that is much ahead in heat unit accumulation. That has allowed insects that can be economically important pests to develop far ahead of normal, while the crops they expect to feed upon are often behind normal in forming roots, stems and leaves.

More than one entomologist and farmer are wondering what we can expect each to do when the temporal mismatches reach their zenith.

For instance the stalk borers that lay eggs in bordering grass areas, with the eggs hatching and then migrating into the four outside corn rows bordering ditches and grass patches when the 1,300 to 1,400 growing degree units tallies have been reached.

In one Corn Belt state they are seeing the first small larvae moving into the corn already. Here there would be very little corn tall enough to offer shelter to those tunneling larvae. Farmers who have grassy margins or grass waterways in many fields may want to begin scouting earlier than they normally do and possibly apply an insecticide to prevent this damage

In another neighboring state the first corn root worm eggs have begun hatching. The correct heat unit accumulation has been reached, so those eggs will begin to produce the small larvae whether there are corn roots to feed on or not.

If there are little or no corn or grass roots to feed upon in the first few days after hatching, the larvae could starve. It may also mean that if the corn plant and root systems are very small and offer little feed, each individual plant could have a higher percentage of their roots fed upon to meet the larvae’s dietary requirements.

The entomologists are advising growers to do regular root digs to see what is happening below ground in their fields in case any rescue applications need to be made.

A similar thing seems to be happening with bean leaf beetles. A few weeks ago the volunteer bean plants were getting chewed on very heavily.

Now, three weeks have elapsed and there is still not a decent food source for the beetles. Will they have died and laid their eggs on an alternative crop?

Emergence and stands

Two to three weeks ago when cold rains were arriving several times a week the advice from many crop advisors was to not plant in the day before a cold rain do to past problems resulting from violation that rule. We have now gotten the chance to inspect stands that have caught the growers’ attention and been able to see if that advice was correct.

A portion of those fields now possess a reduced stand and plants that struggled to emerge. Days of sunshine have helped those fields’ appearance, but not enough to make the struggling plants look normal or appear like their will contribute the normal amount to yield.

Researchers gave their opinions on the matter and laid the blame on cold water imbibition, which we know is real. None took the logical step to send a sample of kernels to an accredited lab to get a mineral analysis in, as did a top researcher in Canada.

A good diet typically produces a healthy person, animal or plant. A diet that is lacking in nutrition produced an organism that is lacking in health or vigor. An illustrated study from North Dakota looked as peas that had been grown on a plant that had been sprayed late in its life cycle.

The samples they tested showed less than 10 percent of the seeds produced normal seedlings.

Watch small plants

It wasn’t long ago that top growers really managed their best fields and walked through them on a regular basis wonder what they could do in-season to improve their yields and yield potential.

Then they hit a phase where their thoughts were clouded and most only thought about how to kill the weeds that had emerged since their last trip.

Now, enough out-of-the-box producers and researchers have opened new thinking and product channels that top growers are willing to tweak their management programs to get their yield trend moving upwards again.

After a rough 2009, 2010 and 2011, where many growers were wondering where their expected bushels went to, or saw it collapse onto the ground, the good thinkers have realized that having a corn crop that shuts down four to six weeks earlier than it is supposed to is not conducive to top yields.

If the stage is set up for 250 bushels per acre yields, then why have a field that dies early and only produces 150 or 175 Bu/A?

So this year each grower needs to recognize when their corn and bean plants are showing signs of deficiency.

More and more of the cropping establishment has begun to acknowledge that sulfur is important to both crops and have been at deficient levels in recent years in many fields. The same can be said for zinc and other nutrients.

The same could happen for nitrogen. With the soils warming very early and then receiving ample moisture, a portion of the nitrogen likely moved deeper into the soil.

What testing program or instrument do you have in place to make sure you detect any deficiency early enough to do something about it? Perhaps the year buy a Spad meter to stay on top of your corn’s nitrogen needs?

The same could be said for Goss’ wilt and its detection. Have you made your plans to order the test kit from so you can verify the presence of the disease in your fields?

With so many so-called experts giving witness to the fact they could not see the disease in fields south if U.S. I-80, or in fields in their neighborhoods, or east of Iowa Highway 14, who are you going to trust your fields and diagnoses to?

When trials prove that there exist curative products to control Goss’ wilt, being able to confirm your suspicions and observations could be worth big bucks.

Thus, what we are seeing develop again may be the realization that top management has to be used during the entire growing season and does not end in mid-June.

Good luck through May in getting the planting and spraying done.

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

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