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By Staff | Dec 21, 2012

It is hard to believe that there are only about two full weeks left in the year. It was only 12 years ago that anyone who had experience with Cobol or Wat 5 computer code made lots of extra money getting everyone’s computer systems ready for the dreaded Y2K and all of the tomfoolery and calamities that failing computers were going to bring.

Most of us never got too shook up about that, perhaps because our computers were always breaking down. The notable exception to wondering what the approach to the New Year will bring is that of wondering what the Mayans knew that caused them to end their calendar on today’s date.

We had the chance to visit the site known as Chitzen Itzen a few years ago when we accompanied a group of farmers from Humboldt down to Cancun. The beaches were clean, but the rest of the country was not. My wife and I first visited Tulum, another Mayan ruin that delivers more questions than answers, before we traveled over to the chicken place.

The architecture of the big pyramid and village was astounding and, surveywise, perfectly laid out by transit.

So if they were great builders, engineers and astrologers, what else did they know that we currently don’t?

Dust Bowl Days

A few weeks ago IPT aired broadcast episodes of a series covering the Dust Bowl. Apparently it dealt with the drought and its ramifications on vegetation over the high plains along with land use policy and what humans did to place their land at great risk to wind erosion.

When much of the 1930s ended up being droughty, the strong winds, clean plowing and lack of windbreaks allowed storms to pick up dust from Colorado and Kansas, carrying it as far east as Washington and Philadelphia.

I lived and worked in western Kansas from 1976 to 1980 and experienced bad dust storms when four consecutive Tuesdays in February delivered storms that measured about two miles high and roared into town at speeds of 50 to 75 mph.

All you could do was get inside, make sure all windows and doors were closed, and then breathe as little dust as you could until the winds subsided. Driving was a bad idea as it was a great way to ruin an engine.

When it was over after two or three days most buildings had 2 to 3 inches of fine dust inside each door or along any opening. You could see why prairie women could be driven mad by the winds and dust.

With it being as dry as it is now in much of the Midwest you have to wonder how conditions will be this winter if we get a few strong winds. Leaving more crop residue will help to lessen blowing dirt risks, but not eliminate the risk completely.

Building your library

I mentioned a few weeks ago a new soil fertility book written by a world-wide collection of soil fertility experts. So far I have found it is written in a manner that you don’t fall asleep as quickly as other such books do. I added it to my collection with one written by a Brazilian expert by the name of Euripides Maltavolta.

In that book he covered the many soils of that country and how they used principles from around the world, including Germany, the U.S., the Philippines and Europe to set their fertility principles and how they needed to manage their wide range of soils.

Now a new soil fertility book has been written and released by the international plant nutrition institute or IPNI. It takes a different focus in its examination and with its recommendations. The book is titled “Fertilizing Crop to Improve Human Health: A Scientific Review.”

Its 28 authors from 15 different countries first examined what correlations were established for the role of each mineral in either growing the many crops or what job they performed in keeping them healthy. They then followed the food crop through its human consumption path and its effect on human health.

Thus their intent was to describe and catalogue the different cultivated crops and what could make them the most valuable when consumed by earth’s 7-plus billion people. As more producers and medical people recognize the connection between healthy soils and crops to human well being, this could be one of the landmark texts.

BRT Conference

Last week I attended a crops conference held near Iowa City. One of our guests was a medical school teacher and researcher who had quite a story. Dr. Wahls grew up as a dairy farmer’s daughter in northeast Iowa and remembers her father suffering from poor coordination in his later years.

She was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis and by 2007 her conditions had regressed to where she was getting around in the teaching hospital in a reclining, motorized wheelchair.

Other doctors could offer no help when she asked what she could do for her condition, so she scoured the literature to see what “hunter gatherers” ate 10,000 years ago in hopes she could eat the same diet in a quest to remyleinate her nerve sheaths. That move to eat more healthy foods and get the right minerals, vitamins and fats into her system must have worked because she discarded the wheel chair in 2008 and now bicycles up to 15 miles to work. She started a foundation to help others afflicted with MS and specializes in focuses on that disease in her research.

The facts and treatments she has developed could come in handy to crop producers. If a herbicide that we currently use is described correctly in its medial profile (at the biannual Brighton Conference in Brighton, England) as one that can lead to nerve sheath demyleination they will have to follow her lead in a prescribed program to recover.

The entire conference was very good and the presenter and attendees discussing many of the big topics that are challenging today’s growers and crop production.

EPA approves Anthem

Everyone who is now growing soybeans or corn and has been hoping for another herbicidal answer to weeds that won’t die will appreciate hearing that a new mode-of-action herbicide was granted a label for use on corn last week. Fierce and Zidua share the same active ingredient from a Japanese industrial giant.

It worked its way through state trials and failed to gain approval in time to use in 2012. Thus far it has only been approved for use in corn, but not beans. Its sister compound Fierce has also been approved for use in corn.

In time both should gain approval for use in beans and should help to control all amaranthus species.

It has been about 15 years since Authority was released, so it was high time for another new product to be approved. .

ISU crop updates

Be aware that the ISU crop pdate meetings will begin right after Jan 1 and will be held at many locations around the state.

The topics to be covered vary around the state depending on local needs and challenges.

The main issues of corn rootworm control, resistant weeds and how to manage crops in dry conditions will be covered at every location.

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

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