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By Staff | Oct 26, 2012

One more week and November arrives. Snow could be with us at any time, or we could have a great run of Indian summer. Which one will it be?

Most meteorologists are favoring the first view. There are still a few scattered fields left unharvested, but for the most part the 2012 harvest is in the books. It will go down as perhaps the earliest harvest in recent history, and in a year where much of the weather seems to be happening a month ahead of schedule, it may be best to complete as many tasks as early as possible.

There still are not many growers bragging about their yields. Instead most are either very grateful for the grain they did harvest or left wishing either that the big windstorm had not hit or that rootworms would have not caused problems in their fields. Those that are pleased with yields are tending to keep their mouths shut for fear of appearing to be bragging or having any cash rents raised.

The emphasis now is to finish any tillage operations or fertilizer applications still left. The fertilizer prices have not exploded as they did during following the 2008 season, so most operators maintained their normal levels of fertilizer applied. Where questions have existed is what application methods or equipment are going to be the most productive if 2013 remains dry. And if the same climactic scenario exists, how best to boost their plants’ fertilizer uptake.


The disparity between haves and have-nots has continued through this fall. A high percentage of the western Corn Belt remains under drought conditions while farmers in Ohio are waiting for fields to dry before they can harvest the last half of their corn and bean crops.

The western half and northwest sections of Iowa remain extremely dry. In comparison, just last week the Waterloo area received over 3 inches that soaked in. The time to receive huge rains is shrinking as they seldom arrive in November.

I was doing some soil sampling, penetrometer work and using a post hole auger recently and found there is very little to no moisture below 12 inches. The soil being brought up from 10 inches is mostly dry and dusty.

Between now and next spring we will need more rain to meet crop demands in 2013. Without soil moisture to act as a lubricant the penetrometer readings jumped above 300 psi at 10 to 12 inches. Even on bean stubble the readings often were above 600 psi in the top foot indicating very dry soils.

World Food Prize

Last week the big event held in Iowa was the event initially established by John Ruan called the World Food Prize. I went down for an afternoon to see what was all going on and who was there.

There was quite a bit of information about Africa’s farming potential and the explanation of the hurdles that still need to be overcome. The question that existed in my mind was when would their operations grow in size to where they could move to using 100-horsepower tractors and eight-row equipment.

That would allow them to produce enough food to nourish their population and yet have produce or grain to sell. Land grabs by outsiders were discussed along with a way to allow bigger operations to be founded.

If that were to happen they could move to having grain to deliver to commercial markets. For now their goal is simply to help the people grow enough to feed themselves and another portion to sell locally.

Beyond N-P-K

More of the acres being fertilized seem to be also receiving applications of sulfur, zinc and boron. The message about what tissue tests and field observations are showing must be sinking in.

Once a grower learns that the light green/dark green striping on the leaves is normal and that it can lead to disease susceptibility later in the season they realize where their current program was lacking.

If adding those minerals would help lessen the disease problems and give a 5 or 10:1 return making the decision to add them to the mix is easy. Doing so can help fix the first and easy nutrients.

Now next summer, once corn reaches the V5 or V6 growth stage the other micro needs can be assessed either visually or with tissue or sap tests with a curative foliar application.

Remember that diagnosing the problem is the hard part, taking corrective action is the easy part.

Herbicide carryover

How much risk is there for having some of the residual herbicides carrying over into 2013 due to the later applications because the systemic herbicides failed or because the dry weather hindered normal breakdown? At this point the herbicide Extension staff at the University of Wisconsin is writing about it the most. Will it or won’t it be an issue, or it it such a risk that we should be doing some things drastically different?

We all remember the Scepter problem where dry weather in the 1987, ’88, and ’89 time period created field specific problems where many showed major problems in follow crop corn or in the worst case a small percentage showed up to 50 percent yield loss in corn up to six years later.

I don’t think we are using such persistent herbicides anymore, but the best performing broadleaf products could cause bleaching or growth-limiting problems in next year’s beans.

I believe there is a greater risk to growing second year corn from lack of subsoil moisture and would want to avoid that the most.

Winter annuals

There are lots of small dandelions now growing in many fields. Any no or minimum tillage farmer may want o address these populations while they are easier and cheaper to eliminate. They are very tough or impossible to kill in the spring, so spraying them now when they are small without a deep root system is going to be most successful means of control.

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

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