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By Staff | Feb 22, 2013

We are now in the last half of February and waiting to see if Thursday’s blizzard is going to be the one we remember a year from now.

While we need moisture in the worst way, getting deep drifts on top of frozen ground is not the optimum way to receive it.

However it does fulfill predictions by several forecasters that the second or third week of this month may be the wettest week of the year. Mark that quote and let’s see how accurate it is viewed by mid-summer.

More than one grower expressed the sentiment that they would be finalizing their cropping plans after they judge the moisture profile recharge that exists on March 15.

Because it has been below-freezing for so long, the topsoil has remained frozen meaning that any rainfall they did receive drained away without contributing to moisture profile amount.

And we have all been educated in what we might expect our crops to produce in the situation that the profile is not replenished and there would be a higher-than-normal stress days this summer.

Nitrogen plans

After the dry conditions of last summer we may have to look for guidance to some of the research and fieldwork that was conducted in Wisconsin this past fall.

Some of the results from this work was presented at January crops conferences and is available on the Chat N Chew web site.

What may be significant is the amount of nitrogen remaining in the soil in fields either planted to corn when yields did not match applied amounts, or where N containing manure was applied and none of it lost to leaching.

In their sampling, the fertility people sampled for NO3-N (nitrate minus the nitrogen) in one foot increments down to three feet.

They found carryover N levels in the top three feet over of 100 pounds and sometimes two to three times that amount.

That is great if one plants corn back on those fields and the best course of action is to do this soil tests to determine actual N available for crop uptake, then reduce applied amounts, thus saving costs.

It can cause problems with soybean growers as the bean plants could first fail to nodulate and then possibly grow rank and end up yielding poorly.

Taking spring N tests could be beneficial. Then you could determine your best action be it corn or beans.

In beans the focus then would be to apply foliar products proven to limit auxin response by the bean plants.

Invite or Slam?

A few weeks ago, I wrote that it may be time to dust off the old corn rootworm beetle control program called Slam or Invite where an extract from a USDA genetic throwback melon was used as an attractant to entice the soon-to-lay-eggs beetles to an insecticide ladened droplet.

It may happen after a bit more screening work this summer to test newer insecticides and to gauge the duration of the attractiveness. Cheaper and easier is always nice to hear about with any control program and this may be a program that fits that bill.

This one would reduce egg and larval numbers to give granules and traits a chance under very heavy beetle numbers.

When the program was in place six to eight years ago, it always worked very well. We now have many more high clearance sprayers that would work in making that application.

The program was misplaced when new CRW technology appeared and grew in popularity.

John Kempf meeting

An agronomic friend was traveling via Amtrak last week from a meeting at the Tanio Facilities out in Spokane.

So while he was in the Midwest he put on a meeting in Fort Dodge last Friday.

The invitations went out and the room at the Starlite was full that day with people interested in hearing him.

His take on raising crops was that the current cropping system relies too much on rescue chemistry and not enough on building nutrient and energy levels in the plants where they could then fight off insects and diseases without outside help.

His track record in the past years, where he has moved from working mostly with fruit and veggie growers with very high value crops, to programs equally focused on row crops suggest that what he is teaching may be more applicable to Midwestern growers than we previously realized.

A few of those who attended expressed an interest in trying a few of his products this coming season to see how they work.

Last year’s observation

While walking corn fields last season, early and late, many growers and I were often surprised at how many blank spaces appeared in stands and how many runt plants grew and showed up as runt-eared plants near harvest.

Try as I might I could not shake the thought that it could well be due to poor seedling health and vigor.

For those of you who spent years raising hogs or cattle, how often did you raise a batch of those animals through slaughter that were money-makers that started out as weak or diseased?

In light of research done in If you consider Canada, where they tested the germination levels, vigor and early growth based on the health of the parents and the mineral levels of the seed, and couple that thought with your observations you in recent years, then look to see how long the plants in the seed production fields stay green and healthy.

In the last five years, many of those fields begin to decline in health by mid July.This cannot be conducive to producing as healthy of crops as possible.

Can the managers recognize this and adopt the cultural and foliar fertilizer change to rectify this problem?

I am convinced they can in light of the fact that it would help everyone’s bottom line. Just wishing for it will not get it done. It will require a preplanned, proactive testing and application program.


The mid April time frame is not less than two months away. Keep working on making plans for your seed treatments and any foliar nutrition that would help produce healthy crops.

Be educated as much as possible so you are best prepared to sort out the new products that are legitimate and those that are not.

And if all of this new info on plant health and insects is getting confusing, have you lined up the agronomist who is going to help you manage your crops this season?

If light green/dark green striping is common in your corn fields this summer, are your prepared to respond?

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

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