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Rain, anyone?

By Staff | Jun 28, 2012

Another week closer to the warmest summer months and another week of dealing with all the events happening in the field.

It also sounds like another day closer to the blast furnace type temperatures predicted for several Midwestern states later this week.

To me anything warmer than 84 degrees is just too hot. It would be much nicer to sit in an air-conditioned office, but that isn’t going to happen.

A friend made the observation that these really hot conditions seemed to happen since a company spilled 210 million gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

While we once got 80 percent of our summer moisture from the Gulf flow, that supply doesn’t seem to make it this far north anymore.

It may dump two feet of rain on Florida, but none on the thirsty Midwest.

The state of the U.S. corn and soybean crops is illustrated in the conditions report released this week.

At this point the percentage of corn acres rated as good-to-excellent in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Nebraska are now at 48 percent.

Meanwhile the soybean crop is rated as 44 percent for the same states.

Those figures are much lower than what we have become accustomed. Most guys farming, and under the age of 40, have never seen a bad drought.

They may get their chance in certain areas and certain states.

Let’s hope not as there is no extra grain in the world, no matter what the figures released by the USDA say.

For their work they should get put on a strict diet to reinforce those facts.

Field happenings

  • Rain: Any moisture fronts and rainfall events that fell across the state this past week hit the portion west of Interstate 35 and not much further east.

Where rain arrived the crops perked up and often added a foot or more in height.

It isn’t hard to find early-planted corn close to tasseling. In fact, I saw corn on Monday that was beginning to push tassels out.

East of the rainfall area the soils are getting drier.

The crops are generally looking OK, but are showing a grayish color and have basically stopped growing. How long they hold on will depend on what the daily moisture use is.

When scheduling irrigation one likes to know what the pan and PET evaporation levels are for a given day and week.

The pan evaporation measures how much moisture would evaporate out of a metal pan sitting out in the open.

Temperature, wind speed and humidity affect it. With PET the moisture use evaporating out of a planted crop is calculated.

With temps in the upper 90s and winds being 25-plus miles per hour the potential moisture use by the crops have been on the high end of the usage range.

Once the soil moisture levels hit 20 percent the plants will no longer be able to extract any more, since oven drying is the only way to extract the last amount. That is when we know the end is near.

Hopefully that does not occur. Parts of the eastern Midwest are in that position already.

  • Weeds: One of the herbicide researchers in Iowa put it best when he talked to a group of growers about the weeds that didn’t seem to be fazed by more applications of herbicides in their fields.

He told them they had two choices of action, using a row crop cultivator or hand hoe. Now what would they prefer?

In more fields that landmark year seems to have arrived in 2012 where weeds that normally started to wilt down in one day are now standing tall and perfectly healthy a week after being sprayed with herbicides that previously worked.

So things are different now and it is going to take more thinking and strategizing. Welcome to 2012.

And seeing how many waterhemp are flourishing in many corn fields now ready to produce seed for 2013 and beyond it may not get any easier.

There are more and more instances where operators have hooked up their row-crop cultivators to go take out the survivors that will soon be standing tall above their bean canopy unless measures are taken.

There is finally action within the Environmental Protection Agency on Kumei’s new KIH 485 product. BASF got its label on Zidura for corn. Fierce was labeled a few months ago on no-till corn.

FMC is having a showing of Action near Ames in a few weeks.

A fellow from the U.S. is also seeing if companies in Japan have any new products that could help offer broadleaf control in soybean fields in the near future if they were entered into state trials.

Growers now need two to three new products to fill in the performance gap.

Unfortunately, the companies we depend on for developing new products have not had the financial incentive the last few years to develop, test and release products.

New families and possibly new MOA’s tend to cost in the range of $600 to $700 million.

  • Crop diseases: It has been on the hot and dry side and most moisture-dependent foliar diseases are not causing too many problems.

In 2011, Goss’ grew from a disease that we had to discuss with so-called experts all the way to Des Moines and Washington several times to gain recognition for it devastating effect, to one that most growers learned about first hand and the hard way.

It won’t do to sleep on this problem in 2012. In the past week the Extension pathologists in Ames and Lincoln, Neb., disclosed they had detected the vascular form of the corn disease in different fields in Iowa.

This terminology basically means that it has gotten into the plants’ plumbing tissue.

A week ago it took a trained eye to pick out the barely visible symptomology.

This week those lesions are much easier to see. Last week it was good to have the Ag Dia kit on hand.

This week one does not need it as much. As to whether it is in a high percentage of the fields already – no comment. Now is when growers will feel rewarded for planting only tolerant hybrids, using conventional herbicides and applying herbicides.

The commodity forecasters still have no clue about what it can do to the nation’s corn yield.

Combine it with an Eastern Corn Belt drought and the USDA’s 168 bushels per acre figure sounds laughable.

Soybean challenges

With many fields of beans either being planted late or beginning to grow later than planned, the major challenge will be to have the plants form as many podded nodes as possible. That and adding branches always creates the top yields.

Using any hormone products that added cytokinins earlier in the season helps form more branches and shorten the time interval required between trifoliate leaf stages. These could still be added with good results.

Other foliars will reward growers who have been receiving moisture as it sets the stage with more branches, flowers and pods. Mother Nature still needs to deliver the moisture.

Good luck with your work and getting the rain you need in the next week.

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

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