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By Staff | Dec 7, 2012

When Informa guessed the corn acres for 2013 at 97.7 million it seemed way too high. Due to the poor performance of many second-year corn fields in 2012 we thought that bean acres would make a rebound as corn acres would drop.

So what should we think if the USDA pegs corn acres at over 100 million?

Could that actually happen based on reasoning, or is it a game where enough growers studied which crop could be insured for the maximum amount of dollars in case the soil moisture reserve were not replenished and this was the year of the big drought?

More crop agencies are facing the fact that little rain has fallen across the western part of the Corn Belt. Even farmers with irrigation may be faced with water shut offs if aquifer levels drop too much in different districts.

One wants to remain an optimist, but major sections of major crop producing states may have major water problems if winter or spring rains don’t arrive in time. All those predictions for 166.2 bushel corn yield averages won’t mean squat. The current four-year trend from 2009 through 2012 for U.S. corn yield averages of 164.7 dropping to 152.8 and then followed by 147.2 and finally 122.3 could go lower still.

The weather trends in South America are bound to have a greater-than-normal effect on grain prices here as worldwide grain demand is not slacking off at all. There are still 7 plus billion people to feed and clothe.

A new trend

One interesting article that a friend from the Netherlands sent describing a paradigm shift where an astute ag professional has been observing worldwide in many crop producing countries. This shift was one he termed SCI or System of Crop Intensification.

In this trend he noticed that with many crops forward-thinking and aggressive growers were adopting new practices to boost yields that far out-yielded what their teachers or state certified researchers were capable of.

Their methods were typically composed of a combination of cheaper input costs, treatments applied more timely than currently recommended, more sustainable and more in tune with what worked with their schedules. Other neighboring growers typically recognized the progress being made and replicated the efforts on their own acres in quick fashion.

The author felt the movement was founded by a French priest in Madagascar by the name of Henri deLaulanie back in 1960. Is the author correct in his observations and are we now witnessing a major shift where the progress is being led by progressive growers again?

Is that anything new or just a reaffirmation of that fact that many of the people capable of coaxing crops from a hostile environment tend to be too stubborn to quit when one person says something won’t work?

New weed pressure

By now every farmer and crop advisor has either read stories about Palmer amaranth or listened to a researcher like Ford Baldwin from Arkansas tell how it is a very tough weed to control that will change many farming practices when it gets here. We have learned recently that it has now been found in northwest Indiana and southern Michigan.

You can now add northeast Nebraska to that list. So how long before animals, bean meal or machinery transport move the seed into this state and add it to the list of weeds that we get to manage?

2012 seemed to be our wake-up year with waterhemp so having 2013 as the year for Palmer would not be surprising.

What weed scientists have learned about this new weed pest is that it has a metabolism that is favored by warmer soil temps, ideally 85 to 95 degrees, which is warmer than most pigweeds.

Reliance during different time periods on a single herbicide has also helped select the most tolerant weeds generating the most seeds.

South American pests

One big soybean pest here is the soybean cyst nematode, which we first recognized as being a problem in Iowa in the early ’80s.

They have now spread across the state from what we initially recognized as the original field in Winnebago County. We now know they can severely affect bean yields by sucking sap from the roots of those bean plants.

In Brazil they have their problems with a nematode known as Meloidogyne, or the root knot nematode.

It also affects the bean plant roots, causing a large knot or overgrowth on the normally thin root. Those affected roots look like twisted or gnarled, white carrots that are in great pain.

The yield loss occurs by diverting plant energy to grow those roots rather than to pod and seed development.

Their scientists are working on the problem, but are having difficulty in finding a source of resistance to breed into new varieties.

The pest is estimated to be problem on 80 percent of their acres.

Upcoming meetings

The next few weeks will be ones with many different local, regional and national meetings. There will be local seed meetings, the American Seed Trade Meetings, the North Central Weed Conference, and several others.

Stay alert for information about a new fertilizer called Perfect Blend. It was developed by a research team headquartered in the Pacific Northwest.

What their manufactured product does when applied to the soil is add the carbon rings that are basic to humus, thus creating a biological bloom. This bloom can boost yields and help form black topsoil where only sandy soil existed before.

This research is currently being conducted at the National Lab for Agriculture and the Environment at ISU.

What is being seen with its application is that it seems to reverse the damage done when topsoil has been eroded and the soil’s sponging ability has been reduced. This would then allow crops to better tolerate stress periods during the dry summer months.

Expect this product to be available in Iowa shortly. Where it would fit immediately is to help rebuild sandy or eroded areas where drought causes major yield losses.

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

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