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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 16, 2012

The big news in the state recently may be the planned construction of two major fertilizer plants meant to either manufacture or distribute fertilizer to retailers for their customers’ crop needs.

The size and expense of constructing those $1 billion plants seems mindboggling, but important to the corn growers in the Midwest.

If we intend to grow that corn it would be nice to see the lock and dam system on the Mississippi River updated so that the grain can be moved to the major ports as quickly and safely as desired.

It would also be prudent to make sure producers are growing the types of grain that all of the current export customers are wishing to buy and feed.

An international businessman who was on a trip to the Far East told a different tale after returning to California last week.

Tillage anyone?

Growers have been putting in long hours the past few weeks to either get as much tillage done as possible or to make sure every fertilizer trip planned has been completed.

There have been a few fields where chiseled ground has been disked or field cultivated to give a smooth seedbed.

Hopefully, very little recreation tillage gets done as we don’t want a return to the early 1980s where all of the ditches and snowbanks were black for a good part of the winter.

Those were the days where too much soil was lost to either wind or water erosion.

The point was driven home to most operators that any soil loss would end up costing them in terms of losing both the soil as a sponge to hold water and the nutrients contains in those top few inches of topsoil.

No-tillers typically use the fall period to attach the species of broadleaf weeds that fall into either the perennial or biannual category and prove tough to kill with most broadleaf herbicides.

Their time is also spent making additions to their planters or figuring how to place their fertilizer so the crops can maximize crop response.

The hard-to-control weeds for no-tillers tend to be thistles and dandelions. Fall is the best time to actually eliminate them with phenoxy herbicides.

The old axiom is that the energy is going into the root and the plants are most prone to being killed.

In the spring the energy path tends to be from the root out to the top growth and controlling them is very difficult.

New weed problems

One recent occurrence that deserves to be mentioned is that Palmer amaranth has been found at heavy levels in row crop fields in northern Indiana.

This is the pig weed that has been causing severe and costly problems for many growers in the Delta states the past few years as it has been shown to possess multiple resistance to most of our major herbicide families and can quickly grow out of control.

Stories told by Delta state agronomists and growers sound almost like tall tales, where they can easily spend $150 per acre on hired labor to clean up infested fields or in the worst case situations have abandoned fields in the past.

It is suspected that the infestation moved into the state via manure imported from southern livestock operations where cotton seed meal was fed.

You have to wonder how long it will be before growers here get to deal with this weed. Enough attention is being paid by Delta state growers that the availability of Liberty Link soybean seeds and the accompanying herbicide is going to be very tight this season.

Input supplies

In the past it was very easy to let input decisions slide until the time that the products would have to be applied.

These days many companies have changed their planning and inventorying process and are more likely to limit production to what they know they can sell rather than produce as much as is physically possible.

Sales personnel are tending to get rewarded for being accurate with their pre-season predictions.

This change means that early and thorough planning for each potential problem is going to be more important for every grower.

What will happen when a totally unexpected and major problem with a weed or insect on lots of acres remains to be seen.

Midwest moisture

During the summer months, the epicenter of the drought was tracked as moving from Indiana to Missouri.

Now the driest area seems to stretch from I-35 and all points west and the soils in that area are tending to be hard and bone dry below 15 inches.

There have been a few rains that have fallen in the central part of the state, but not enough to close the 8- to 12-inch moisture deficit since Jan 1 that currently exists.

Normally we would be expecting this La Nina to swing back to an El Nino and move our moisture amounts to above normal.

None of us know what may happen between now and next August, but like always we have to plan for the worst, but hope for the best.

Seminars

Look forwward to the big Integrated Crop Management Conference again as it will be held on Nov. 28 and 29 in Ames.

There will be several areas of intense attention including herbicide resistant weeds, use of stalks for ethanol production, cultural techniques applicable to droughty conditions and a host of other topics that are important.

It should be two excellent days of instruction.

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

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