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-Farm News photo by Doug Clough BRENDA SCHUMACHER, of rural Ida Grove, wraps chicken halves in pastry as part of her unique take on chicken cordon bleu. She said she enjoys taking cookbook recipes and “tweaking them to make them my own.”

By Staff | Jun 22, 2012

June is already half over and all growers seem to be uneasy with how the weather is acting so far. While we were supposed to be completely finished with La Nina and its dry weather companion, rain has been quite scarce since early May.

This includes only the territory between Colorado and Pennsylvania, so it is technically not the entire country, only the major grain growing area.

Within the reading area of this paper, the northwest quadrant of the state has been one of the more fortunate areas, which is great for those growers. But with the acknowledgement that the combination of heat, wind and humidity we are receiving most weeks, moisture usage by the two major crops is almost double over what is considered normal. This is serious.

While we recognize how far the crops are from being made and in the bin it is quite astounding to see conflicting USDA reports on consecutive days. In last week’s report on Day 1 the USDA reports that the crop ratings have dropped by a significant amount for this early date. Yet the next day’s report on expected grain production and expected carry out, USDA doesn’t factor in those dry conditions and the fact that most areas have no subsoil moisture.

The closest analogous year that I can recognize as being similar so far to 2012 would be 1987. In that year, the crop hinged on timely rainfall all season, ready to go off a cliff if the next .75 inch rain didn’t materialize. However we all remember what happened in 1988, and we don’t want to go there.

The conditions Tuesday were just like a blast furnace. It was 97 degrees, a 40-mph wind and humidity levels that were very low.

A few areas of the state got rain last weekend that amounted to less than a half-inch to 3 inches.

While we got 1.3 inches near Ames, a realist has to say thanks for the moisture that will actually last about six to seven days. Crop usage by corn plants at the V6 growth stage will be around .16 inch per day. Those closer to V10 will be using about .20 to .21 inch daily. We continue to have to worry about the moisture, or lack thereof, below 12 to or 18 inches of soil depth. We need it filled as a safety margin before we get to the normally drier weather of late July through August.

Crop observations

Both corn and soybean growth is being stunted by lack of decent moisture in much of the Midwest. A friend who traveled to Columbus, Ohio, a week ago said much of the corn from the Iowa border to Ohio was pineappled when he was driving through the region. Most astute farmers hold the opinion that drought-stressed corn typically does not produce record yields. Genetics are better, but water is still a requirement for the crops.

The rootless corn has mostly disappeared. A portion of the affected plants finally fell over and got torn lose from its one root. Near Carroll there were supposedly stands that were counted at about 32,000 to 34,000 plants on Friday afternoon, then dropped to 17,000 to 18,000 by Sunday afternoon as the strong winds whipped the plants around too much. Supposedly it was not a pretty site. Plants in other areas recovered after rain fell. Many fields were just on the edge of not recovering and may still suffer due to small root size.

Weed issues

Most of the corn was laid by though it often was not weed free. On too many acres there will be waterhemp populations beneath the canopy that will help to increase the seed bank size. Many of them will flourish and produce many seeds after being cross-pollinated by a herbicide-tolerant weed.

Seeing how many soybean fields still hold 1.5- to 2-foot tall weeds that seem impervious to what has been sprayed so far indicates that the weed battles for the year are not over with for many growers. This has all been made worse when no rain fell to activate the residual products.

What we can read out of the current situation is that there are no “new mode of action” families that the European companies can mine for new analogs that would fit our needs.

Corn disease

By now most growers have likely heard that Goss’s wilt has been found in multiple locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. These either have been or are in the process of being lab confirmed. This early detection may be due to more people looking for it, or it may be due to actual earlier appearance of the bacterial disease.

In 2010, we first detected the disease on Aug 14. In 2011, it was on July 21. Looking through plant photos I took and re-examined it was obviously here in 2009, but we thought it was a form of anthracnose. I still need to look at pictures from 2008. Many still refuse to recognize that it has changed and so have its symptoms and how it moves up the plant.

So what should corn growers do now? I would say to examine how each field and hybrids without those fields would be rated for susceptibility. If they planted a susceptible hybrid into heavy residue with lots of inoculum, and did not follow a program that relied on residual herbicides and did not recognize the leaf streaking on the leaves and respond accordingly, they may have a serious problem resulting in a yield loss. Serious to farmers in Nebraska and eastern Colorado in 2009 was a 100 percent loss.

There will be several curative, residual mixes and product mixes that will enter widespread trials shortly to see how they perform in controlling Goss’s or boosting the immune response in plants. We have been seeing several of them applied to commercial fields since 2010 and several of them have really helped the plant’s overall health and yield.

Insects of the week

About a week ago there were major flights of Japanese beetles. This weekend the population of that insect seemed to explode as they had leaves of plum trees and raspberry plants on their menu before moving on to apple tree leaves and ornamentals on their Monday diet. Previously they ate all the smartweeds. It was very common to see 10,000-plus bugs in a plant eating and making their next generation. This year it seemed that they could be controlled with high rates of common insecticide.

Good luck with everything. May it rain soon in all of your neighborhoods.

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

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