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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jun 15, 2012

What a difference a month makes. In late April, our challenge was finding enough dry and warm days to finish planting.

It seemed like the rains would never quit and La Nina was gone. A few tiles were beginning to run in parts of Iowa, and it seemed like the drought of 2011 was history.

Now we sit with a corn crop that carries ratings ranging from 80 percent very good to excellent, to areas in the Midwest where the corn growers are wishing for the big white combine to take what is left and collect on the hail policy.

One long-time commodity analyst is saying that the next three weeks will tell the story.

We have to hope that the corn crop ends up being better than the apple crop in the upper Midwest. The crop expected this year is a clear example of how much Mother Nature is really in charge of how the crops turn out.

Three cold nights in May froze the blossoms of nearly all the fruit trees north of I-80 clear across the Midwest. Michigan experts are predicting at least a 70 percent reduction in production. We would be lucky if ours was that good. On our 50-plus trees I saw one apple on the branches and it fell off last weekend. The cherries looked better until the birds came to the same conclusions and filled their little gullets with the tart morsels.

We had to head to Denver, Colo., late on Wednesday to arrive in time to attend to daughter Jennie’s grad school graduation on Thursday. Kearney, Mo., made a nice midway destination and making it that far cut the journey in half. When you get so much dirt in your eyes scouting fields, they get too scratchy by the end of the day, which was around 1:30 a.m. By driving it let us see the countryside and make comparisons to conditions in 2010.

Last year the countryside was green to west of North Platte. This year the ditches and pastures in the same area were brown due to drought. Nearly all the center pivots were operating, and it appeared that the corn fields needed the moisture. This might be the year when sections of Nebraska vie for the title of being the No.1 corn producing region.

It was unusually hot and dry out in Colorado, as in the low- to upper-90s each day. It seemed blistering out in the sun.

On the way home we saw the smoke being generated by the first of the range fires that are now rated as being completely out of control. With that in mind I saw where forecasts for South Dakota are being given for the threat of range fires in that state.

Larry Acker, of Fortucast Commodity Market Tioming, based in Arizona, makes predictions for certain years and certain parts of the country by labeling them disease, flood or fire years. Beginning last fall the last category started to make more sense. Were last fall’s fire days just a harbinger of things to come?

Mark Pearson

Concerning the late- Mark Pearson, he believed that people that made a mark in history and business weren’t the ones that followed all the rules. He thought that showed little imagination and fortitude.

Instead, being different and asking the pertinent and sometimes tough questions that others were hesitant to ask brought out the information that most audiences really wanted to hear. It was remarkable that a kid who grew up in states to the east and went to school in Arizona would become such a landmark fixture for the state and this part of the country.

It was his penchant for really liking people and showing interest in their interests that everyone admired about him. It made how he worked and acted professionally fun to observe. It sometimes hurt to be around him because he often had everyone laughing so hard. He left a pair of really big shoes to fill.

Colorado Conference

While we were in Colorado there was a medical conference that I had been made aware of and the timing was such that my sister and brother-in-law from the Boulder area and my wife and daughter were able to attend. There were about 160 doctors and health care practitioners in attendance.

The goal was to hear several excellent speakers share their knowledge about food quality and what constituted healthy food. All of those practitioners were far down the road in realizing that the quality of the food dictated the degree of human health.

What they were working on now was getting educated about what constituted healthy soil and microbial life. They know that food is not produced at the grocery stores or at the warehouses. They wanted updating on the major current issues and problems in production ag.

One person I met was a telomere researcher and teacher, as well as reps from several companies that were offering test kits for analyzing telomere properties. What telomeres are is a nucleotide sequence which acts as a cap on the end of a chromosome strand.

It acts like the small hard end on a shoe lace that keeps the lace from unraveling. By offering this protective action the chromosomes remain intact longer in length as the cells go about replicating. This preserves cell and organ health, and lets the person or animal live longer and stay healthier.

This topic is hot in the medical field as was proven when three researchers won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2009 for their findings about the make-up and function of the structures.

One of the top researchers in the field is concluding is that the telomere forming process is screwed up when the diet is short on key micro-nutrients. He wants to get connected to soil and plant research and researchers so he can develop his prescription for better health.

Field happenings

Root rots are continuing to show up and sometimes at very serious levels. This is unusual given the fact that soils are generally quite dry.

USDA ARS research suggests that the pathogen populations have exploded after the pseudomonas fluorescence population was dramatically reduced.

The black cutworm activity has generally slacked off as the crops reached the V5 growth stage. There were fields and spots within fields where grassy or weedy conditions attracted lots of the egg-laying moths.

The lack of rain preventing the pre-herbicide activation seems to have been responsible.

As mentioned previously, April 10 or 12 are typically the dates when the pre-herbicides need to be applied in order to beat the seed germination to the punch. This year the key dates seemed to have been around March 22 to 23.

In addition many of the “laid over the top pre- or post-planting herbicides” never received the half-inch rain to get activated. Thus the broadleaf weeds emerged and, given the dry conditions, are proving tough to kill. With the No. 1 nonselective herbicide now showing a general inability to kills common broadleaf weeds, the challenge is to identify escapes or anticipated escaped weeds in time to respray.

Since that is difficult the proper action appears to be spending the dollars using the superior residual combination with the first application and avoid the respray operation.

In soybeans, losing the weed battle is not an option.

Many corn fields are now yellow flashing. This would be the time to get tissue tests pulled and lab analysis done.

Several co-ops are offering their agronomists’ help in getting this done. There is time to get the results back and make any required micronutrient applications.

Not responding to such deficiencies greatly increases the chance of having a serious Goss’ wilt problem in 2012 with subsequent yield losses and a serious volunteer corn problem in 2013. The disease has a long and costly tail.

Has everyone seen all the newspaper headlines and heard the radio stories this past week about a little lawsuit down in Brazil? No?

It makes one wonder if we still have an investigative press. It is reported that there are 5 million Brazilian farmers who have entered a class action lawsuit against a genetics company concerning the right to collect technology fees from those farmers.

The amount sought is around $7.7 billion. I know many Brazilians and they are not stupid and they are not lazy. I think they mean business. This could be interesting for them and for U.S. producers.

Has everyone called the Iowa Corn Growers or Corn Promotion Board office already about making sure they fund Goss’s research to be conducted at your Land Grant University?

We have to realize we are the ones who have to step up to the plate to make sure the answers get sleuthed out and a sound management plan developed. At this point what, other than soil conservation, is currently more important than this topic?

It’s your money, and it should be your voice.

Good luck in getting your needed rainfall.

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

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