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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Aug 17, 2012

Not much has changed in the last few weeks except that we found it can rain for nearly a full day and only allow an accumulation of .25-inch of rain.

That was this past Sunday. Most Iowa growers were hoping for some amount in excess of an inch to help fill both the corn kernels and soybean seed.

The cooler weather has helped moderate crop moisture use, but it will only contribute to grain yield if rain falls.

Seeing the USDA corn and bean forecasted yields drop as much as they did was surprising, not because of the bushel decreases, but due to the apparent need to fess up to the grain users about a potential squeeze on users as livestock and industrial users watch the grain piles disappear a lot sooner than normal in the coming marketing and usage year.

Currently the tallies show a corn production figure of about 10.7 billion bushels produced. Lower the yield figure by 10 bushels per acre and add 5 million acres to the abandoned total, removing those bushels from the harvested total, and any final changes will occur as more of the models are compared to actual harvest figures.

What remains to be seen is if the cooler and somewhat wetter weather occurring now in August helps grain fill much. Remember that this is also the time when we normally begin to build moisture reserves for the coming season.

Kernel abortion losses

Over the years I have seen a lot more yield lost from kernel abortion that occurs during the blister and early milk stage of development than from poor pollination.

This year both maladies seem to have occurred in the fields. With the high temps and severe moisture stress that occurred during the pollination phase and during the two weeks following this problem was expected though we had to hope for the best.

During my scouting rounds across the state it was still common to see from eight to 22 aborted rings. Pollination took place, but the multiple stresses reduced the plants’ ability to fill those kernels, so they just went away as the contents were reabsorbed by the plant.

As happened last year the extreme warm nights played a role, though the amount of loss due to this is always tough to quantify. Recently, the cooler nights is helping recover some of that kernel depth and several growers have remarked about how the kernels have continued to fill more, long after they expected black layering to occur and grain fill to end.

Any grower who has gone into his or her fields has to have taken note of the ear size and ear shapes. For most dryland farmers the ears are misshapen, uneven and under-developed.

Getting the stripper plates set to get the ears off and then getting the combine set to knock all the kernels lose is going to be a maddening challenge.

Goss’ wilt

I did make it out to Nebraska this week to scout a number of irrigated corn fields. The amount and severity of the Goss’ wilt infections on the stalks of the plants was surprisingly heavy since the varieties had been rated as being tolerant of the disease. The infections were much heavier than we had seen either in 2011 and 2010.

The extra moisture being delivered by the center pivots apparently was enough to allow the lesions to develop and spread. I saw the same thing in a few other areas around the state where moisture has been closer to normal amounts.

The big black thumb-print-sized lesions coming from the ground are marching up the stalk. They killed the corn the last two years.

It made one think that premature death was going to happen and the causes were going to be either disease or drought related, coupled with lack of or type of roots on each hybrid.

The lack of performance data dealing with moisture use of the traited hybrids is something that may be entering heavily into this.

Without clear cut, unfettered lab and field results we have little information to go on. “Trust us” is not enough reassurance.

Crop populations

A number of seed industry people continue to trumpet the idea of boosting corn populations even higher than the normal 34,000 to 36,000.

I have seen irrigated fields in Georgia at populations over 50K and have helped plant dryland fields up to 45k when we were planning on using a growth regulator to stiffen the stalks.

It appears that these high populations were a detriment this season. More growers are thinking about backing off a bit and selecting hybrids with better ear flex.

What has a number of them spooked is the recognition that the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s were both three-year events and not single outliers.

The other item is that a number of forecasters are predicting that growers will respond to high corn prices by planting more second-year corn.

What I have been hearing from growers is they would have been bushels and dollars ahead by maintaining their 50/50 rotation instead of being so heavy on corn acres.

The deciding factors may end up being soil pH, drainage and long-term productivity on each field as well as how close they are to an ethanol plant.

Spider mites

Anyone who either did not scout for spider mites or was oblivious to them has likely missed the boat on managing them.

Their numbers now seem to be going down as of late in the previous week. The wetter and cooler weather was expected to help lower their developmental rates as well as to permit natural infections by the neozygites fungus.

Any fields that show the characteristic yellowing on the leave’s undersides should be scouted yet for all mite stages and for the eggs. If a field had previously reached high numbers, was sprayed two to three weeks ago, try to scout the field again for possible re-infestation or a recovery of the mites via egg hatching.

A few of the hot fields were previously sprayed, but not with the right combination of products or with enough gallons to get good three dimensional coverage.

Fertilizing for 2013

Fertilizer Industry leaders are urging growers and retailers to get proactive in lining up the fertilizer supplies for 2012 fall application season. This is a reality as many retailers got burned bad back in 2008.

Most of them were simply trying to cover their grower’s needs and the fertilizer price dropped dramatically. The wholesalers made their money, many farmers paid the higher prices and the retailers got stuck with the bill.

Now business is done in a different fashion and farmers’ needs are identified before the distributors book supplies.

If you can figure out what 70 percent of your grounds needs that early booking can help move supplies into your area when and where you need it.

Good luck in your coming work.

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

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