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By Staff | May 25, 2012

The month is now rolling along and its beginning to feel like a long time since the planters first went to the fields.

This trend is evident with most growers as they often have corn fields that were planted from three to four weeks apart.

This wide temporal spacing will be causing mismatches for the first month or two of the season when it comes to matching herbicide applications to plant development stage, insect management to crop growth and most post-emerge applications.

This would suggest that harvest moistures could vary tremendously this fall and having farmers jumping between corn and early-maturity soybean harvest to harvest the crop that is at the desired moisture.

Looking that far ahead may seem presumptive given the number of problems that are starting to appear in many fields. Those and the issue of getting adequate moisture during the season are what on many peoples’ minds.

Two weeks ago, it seemed to rain very easily. Now someone seems to have thrown a switch and most of the showers swing into either Missouri or Minnesota. Other people are commenting on how windy this spring seems to be.

When we’re trying to spray, it gets difficult to accomplish much when good stewardship and neighborhood consideration means that you have to shut down three or four days out of the week due to wind and perhaps another day or two to let the soils dry.

With the emphasis now on being timely with herbicides to catch the weeds when they are most controllable, waiting on the sidelines is not what we wish to be doing.

A big deal

Last week was the big groundbreaking ceremony for the new South Korean vitamin plant that is to be built in the ag industrial park just west of FortDodge.

Anytime a $250 million plant gets built in Iowa and offers decent paying jobs that bolster the fortunes of ag development is a big deal.

Anyone who has been through and toured the development around Eddyville and Blair, Neb., realizes that when a corn wet-milling plant gets built, there is a synergistic effect on businesses that can capitalize on the starch stream available to manufacture other products needed in the food and feed arena of ag production.

Expect to see another four or five businesses locate in the park yet in the future, as happened in those two other towns. Hats off to the city and area planners, as well as to Bill Northey and state officials, to make the Koreans and Cargill feel welcome.

Creating value from our raw commodities is priceless as it signifies more jobs that will spur good paying jobs and local opportunities.

How crops look

A few warts seem to be showing up. It is always tough to generalize and say that all of the very early-planted corn looks great.

Much of the stuff planted around the insurance date looks good, but that window only consisted of two to three days. When the planting window opened around April 25 and 26, farmers planted again and some of those acres had their stand and emergence issues.

Plant populations are down somewhat and a higher-than-desired percentage showed the ability to loop up and were delayed in their emergence if they came up at all.

Experts at universities are still scratching their heads as to the actual cause. Was it planter problems, or seed germination and vigor, a full moon, soils too wet and cool, soil or sidewall compaction issues? What?

In many cases it may have been all of them as at the time the rush was on to get seeds into the ground between the showers that seemed to be arriving every two to three days.

We are now seeing that while most corn growers planted 34,000 to 35,000 seeds (per acre) most stands are in the 28K to 31K range, or a few thousand less than intended.

Another potentially large issue is that while the corn should be turning a dark green color there are many fields that are more of a yellowish tint. When you examine those plants and dig the roots you often find root systems that have turned brown, indicating that there are problems with root soil dwelling pathogens.

Whether or not the plants get their primary and secondary root systems established before moisture demands exceed their moisture supplying capacity is something that needs to be watched as it is critically important.

Getting regular rains is still going to be very important this season as most areas never got their subsoil moisture supply replenished. Now that we are having warm, windy and low humidity days, the plants are less able to meet moisture demands.

While the plants are small there aren’t major visible problems with wilting. Sooner or later the increasing moisture demands will have to be met by rain that can be measured in the rain gauge. Come on weathermen and do you stuff.

The old issue of rootless corn is appearing again. In some areas and with some soil types, degree of topsoil compaction, and varieties the plants just don’t seem to be forming the deep and spreading root system they should be forming. Then when we get the 30 mile-per-hour winds the plants get whipped around which prevents the secondary roots from forming.

Having no shallow moisture prevents their initiation. Back in the 1980s it was a more common problem that was often helped by row crop cultivation using shields that let loose dirt move around the plants to brace the stalk and spur brace root formation. A cultivation and/or an application of a cytokinin hormone containing product should still help in problem fields.

Some fields planted with South American-produced seed seem to be having problems. With the severe drought in those countries as I saw during my trip, high quality seed is typically not produced under stress conditions, and such problems could have been predicted.

They tried and it didn’t work.

Seedling disease problems

The issue of seedling diseases causing stand problems will become more apparent in different parts of the Corn Belt. We are seeing it in those browned roots. There was a major project among Extension pathology teams to identify, analyze and catalog the different fungal species of phytophthora and pythium that were found to be causing root disease problems in Midwestern states.

Twenty years ago there were about 11 known species of phyto and maybe five known species of pythium that attacked our corn and bean crops.

Well the known number the task force came up with last year was an incredible 51 species with at least 19 identified in Iowa. Pathologists are still left to speculate as to why this number has climbed so high. Is it a factor of better identification techniques, more mutations, natural selection or a change in the environment accompanied in a die-off in naturally present beneficial mediating organisms like the pseudomonas?

I hope that a relationship with several biological companies in the U.S., South America, Cuba and our Extension researchers can give us answers to our questions.

Plant yellowing

Part of the yellowing problem seems eerily similar to what we saw with soybeans during the spring and early summer of 2010. That year, a trained eye could see the abnormal color difference in the fields that later exploded with SDS near their flowering time.

When you examine those yellower corn plants the light green/dark green streaking can be seen which is indicative of micronutrient shortages. If the plants had a large root system in a nutrient-filled soil that was not crusted or compacted, the prospects with doing nothing would be rosy. That may not be the case.

The proper response may be to be proactive in such fields, pull early tissue tests and respond by making an application of a micronutrient mix while the plants can respond to the minerals.

Remember that the demand for such products will likely exceed their supply so the early customers are more likely to get their hands on the product mixes. Those companies had to try to guess demand last December and January in order to purchase raw minerals for manufacturing, get the products made, then distributing them during the cropping season.

Building too much inventory was not their goal. Responding accurately to this challenge now is likely going to be a key factor in determining which fields have problems with Goss’s wilt later this summer and fall.

Get your micro-nutrient products reserved at your supplier now before it is all spoken for.

Volunteer anyone?

In a related issue, the amount of volunteer corn in second-year corn fields is catching people’s attention. When there were 25 to 50 bushels of corn left on the ground due to severe Goss’s stalk lodging last fall and then it didn’t rot, such problems were expected.

We had heard that row crop cultivator manufacturers put on extra shifts to meet demand from growers in the new row crop areas of the Northern Corn Belt.

It appears that more growers in Iowa will be trying to find or pull an older cultivator out of their sheds and put it to use this year.

If we have a dry season eliminating the 30,000 to 60,000 extra plants per acre could be important.

Good luck in getting everything done in the coming weeks.

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

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