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A fall to remember

By Staff | Oct 12, 2012

This has been a fall to remember for its ease in many ways – no rain delays, never getting stuck or making ruts that one has to wonder how they will ever be repaired, never having to wait for the dryers to catch up, having to wait for the next field to air dry so you could afford to harvest it, or hearing jokes about taking a load of such worthless grain into the elevator that you had to pay to leave it there.

While we can all remember each of them one of the main things on producers,’ and hopefully consumers’ minds, is how little rain has fallen to fill the moisture profile in preparation for next year’s crops.

Will we get a portion of the rain we need before the ground freezes or will that not happen? That is a thought that none of us wants to think about, but the time to get appreciable rain is drawing down into a small six-week window. It happened last fall and early winter as the ground remained unfrozen.

Now the trick will be to be patient and wise enough to market most of this crop correctly, or, in the case of livestock producers, to buy on any dips and hopefully see the livestock, milk, or egg prices rise enough to make a profit.

Based on how early marketers have missed out on the rosy prices the last few years and have recognized this, then seeing tops come at unexpected times, paying close attention to market technicals and sentiment makes the most sense, along with getting accurate information about South America.

Those southern producers see the chance to have their best income year and hope to squeeze their timetable to make sure they produce two full crops, so they’re willing to plant their first late bean crop before they get the normal two or three good rains.

There will be lots of second-crop corn acres, but the big variable is if the rains will continue through late March to fill the grain on the second crop corn.

In the two previous years the rain quit in late February or early March and yields were very low.

Jobs to get done

Now with most of the crops harvested, the next tasks would be to get any fall fertilizer applied or tillage done. Again that means making decisions based on how dry we expect 2012 to be. Pure no-tillers and strip-tillers saw better yields where they used their minimum tillage practices than where they worked the ground.

They must have had less moisture run off in any May rains. So while not working the ground may sound nice, how does one manage the residue in a manner than helps to control Goss’ wilt, where decomposing the residue to get rid of the inoculum is important?

Using a good stalk-reducing program may be the best choice, assuming some rains falls. In fields with good biological life simply applying fall dry AMS helps. Using a disk or newer vertical tillage rigs is an option that many will choose.

We have seen quite a few growers use a mixture of a biological plus a mixture of fertilizer containing 30 to 40 pound or nitrogen, 10 to 20 pounds of sulfur, and 4 to 5 pounds of sugar with generally good results.

I visited with a researcher last week from Utah who has a product that has worked very well when it was tried in the Midwestern states the last two years. It is a mixture of minerals along with a microbe mix that is mined from the Alaskan permafrost humus deposits.

That fact makes perfect sense in that they have developed and been naturally selected for their ability to degrade organic matter in very cold temperatures, such as during our late fall or early spring periods, or even under snow banks.

He has described how to use the process and products and it sounds feasible for most growers with a little setup time.

As to applying phosphorus and potassium fertilizer, the thought will be as to how to get as much of the material into a soil layer likely to stay moist next season so the crops can utilize it.

While most retailers utilize spinner spreaders that put the material on top of the ground, placing it several inches deep in the soil will have an advantage if does not rain much. One can study fertilizer trials from western states where rainfall is less plentiful to come to that conclusion. Strip-tillers using either liquid or dry could have an advantage if conditions stay the same.

A high yield farmer from west of Davenport, who uses a minimum amount of nitrogen, determined that if he is going to get minimal rain to carry the fertilizer into the root zone, and it was not going to rain, then just use a balanced foliar program.

Just think about that for a bit. Does it sound feasible for you to either do or try on a few acres if it means the difference between producing a poor or a good crop? In other words throw some of the books out the window and try something new out of necessity?

I am down south at the moment learning from a fellow who has worked with such a system for 20-plus years, patterned after products and practices they used in Europe for even longer. Some of the acres are under irrigation and with most being dryland.

Bug prospects

This was the year when the insects seemed to revolt. Japanese beetles appeared in huge numbers and seemed to be impervious to attempts to control them.

Using a shower of Hero seemed to control them. Then spider mites expectedly made their appearance and did their expected damage.

So far the few yield comparisons that were made seem to point to a 5 to 7 bushel-per-acre advantage and not the 12 to 18 bpa difference seen in 1988, when the higher grain price and same or lower insecticide cost gave about the same percent return.

It appears that in central and eastern Iowa where soybean yields were good, the guys who threw in the towel early to accept their lower insurance yield made a mistake in doing so. They now have extra bushels in the bin that can be sold into a hopefully rising market.

Getting ready for the rootworms coming in 2013 is on quite a few growers’ minds, if they plan to plant second-year corn.

As harvesting was being done, the monitors and scale weights showed that possessing as many roots as possible was important in getting the corn to stand and yield well.

Rootworm feeding on the roots and upsetting moisture uptake extracted a cost in bushels and standability. It and the early rootless corn was a factor in the many fields that lodged in the windstorms or stood, but still were otherwise affected by dry weather.

While a percentage of growers may gain control with a switch to a Herculex products, constant usage is bound to cause its effectiveness to be challenged.

So for the 2013 season it appears the usable plans include the Herculex and use of planting time insecticides are the method of choice.

Good luck in getting your final jobs done and may you get rained out of some of them.

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

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