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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jan 4, 2013

The New Year is here and with it comes new expectation and hopes.

While the economies in different parts of the world and regions within this country have been hurting since 2008, rural areas have fared quite well the past four years.

Agriculture seems to have gained new stature within the macroeconomic structures as the populations in many countries have grown and those countries seek to gain a stable food supply for their people.

Since wealth can only be generated from natural resources and we have some of the best soils in the Midwest, plus a strong work ethic to go along with them, this need for food production should be rewarded.

What does create apprehension among Midwest farmers is the acknowledgement that the national political leadership has very limited knowledge and understanding about how to run its balance sheet. Every farming operation needs to have a sound budget plan and needs to finish the year close to what those expectations were.

There seems to be little leadership from the White House as evidenced by there being no finished budget the last three years. We will find out later this week how the budget talks in Washington end up and if they avert the crisis that could change this country’s standing in the world and its credit worthiness.

Such juvenile actions can affect interest rates and the dollar as the world’s currency, hence stature as a business partner.

On the sports scene there are things happening to affect fans within the state. There are going to be many ISU fans down in Memphis, touring Graceland, eating BBQ and walking along Beal Street.

May their short trek end on a happy note. This past Sunday the NFL team from Minnesota proved it was partially back as they upset the team from Green Bay. They aren’t yet up to the level of the Purple People Eaters, but much better than the last two years.

We are seeing several good college basketball teams now ready to begin conference play. Now we get to see if playing cupcakes helps or hurts them once the competition strengthens.

The crystal ball

What can we expect to see in 2013? 2010 was a year where saturated soils during May through July along with warm temperatures, created an environment where sudden death syndrome clobbered soybean fields in many parts of Iowa.

Goss’ wilt was found at heavy levels in nearly all fields, but was not recognized for what it was and corn yields dropped about 20 bushels per acre over the previous year. A high percentage of corn growers never recognized what was happening.

Then in 2012 the rains returned for about two weeks in late spring to build some degree of subsoil moisture, but never enough to fill the profile.

Week after week of 90-plus degree weather along with no rain took its toll on many fields depending on how much moisture was held in the soil and whether or not any scattered showers fell on the fields.

There were growers and areas lucky enough to get drenched, but not enough to prevent another 20 bpa yield drop across the state and nation.

Thus we now have snow on the ground and a time when Canadian and arctic air is expected o be moving into the central Midwest. It will sure feel a lot more like normal, especially with the 6 to 12 inches of snow on the ground.

The silver lining that we may benefit from is that the ground never froze before the snow arrived, so any melting snow should contribute to the amount of moisture held in the soil. Typically the melting snow only contributes only about an inch to the moisture supply. It could be different this year.

Last fall the warm soils accepted several nice late fall rains that added another 3 to 4 inches of rain that fell in November and December.

Acres of crops

The experts supposedly know exactly how the corn versus bean battle will end up. In actual farming circles there are still quite a few growers who have left their options open and will survey the moisture situation that exists in mid March before finalizing the acreage for each crop in their own operations.

In areas where the ethanol demand distorts the crop ratio acreage may not change much. This makes a person wonder how the ratio could change when and if the level of federal subsidies decreases and the risk of raising second-year corn falls more on the individual growers.

There were insurance policies written last year that were based on how the rain and temperature levels over the summer months compared to normal. After the numbers were crunched by the selling companies they found that 100 percent of the policies written in Missouri received a payment compared to about 90 percent in Iowa and Nebraska.

Similar policies will be written again this year, but are not as sweet as they were in 2012.

Management plans

January is typically a time when producers gather the facts, educate themselves or attend local meetings and formalize their plans to manage or control their weeds and insects. Doing that is more difficult this winter as controlling weeds has become more difficult as major shifts in weed populations have happened and resistance to certain herbicides has become a reality.

So the mode of operation in many cases is to step back about 15 years and remember what products did the most complete job in controlling weeds then.

Somewhat the same difficulty applies to certain insects in our two major crops with the main problem being how to manage corn rootworms. Insects seem to be extremely adaptable, thus any cropping scheme that is easy for them to adapt to will fail first.

So it was inevitable for second-year corn to be where the CRW trait failed. Our strategy just needs to change to stay ahead of the insects.

What I am expecting to see, and am working toward, is a return to adult beetle control to either be the primary program or one that will help to reduce the egg-laying beetle population.

It was cheap, it worked, and its timing didn’t need to be perfect. What was needed was to know, understand and being able to anticipate when the beetles would emerge and how quickly they would pass through their reproductive stages.

A companion insecticide still needs to be determined since the encapsulate insecticides have fallen out of favor with the EPA policies.

Good luck in your planning process and finding the best informational meetings.

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

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