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By Staff | Apr 5, 2013

It has been quite a while, but does anyone remember an April 1 that was as cold as it was on Monday?

Besides being cold it was windy, penetrating an insulated, hooded sweatshirt. Later this week, things are supposed to change to a warmer pattern and none too soon.

One year ago there were many growers who had most of their spring tillage done and were doing odd jobs until the replant insurance date had been met.

There were a few farmers who snuck out with a planter to plant their smaller fields that were prone to staying wet if the spring rains ever began, or went out to set their planter(s) and verify that all of the mechanical and electronic parts were working.

This season just has the appearance so far of being one that could keep us guessing as we have to assimilate many natural indicators plus cultural and input ideas to produce as big of a crop as possible.

In 2012 nothing came easy and the stressing conditions never let up. Maybe we should start a large pool with everyone’s monthly predictions as to rainfall or lack of, heat and temperature variance, storms or weather calamities and then what pests are lurking around the corner.

One issue that has not gotten much publicity is the effort being supported by two major milk-producing groups to allow aspartame to be added to milk without any labeling about the addition. What in the world is going on with this?

Milk is supposed to be a health-promoting food that should supply calcium in the diet. Why add a product that, in research, was linked to a high number and percentage of brain tumors appearing?

Weed control changes

A few years ago we began to hear from growers and Extension advisers in the Delta States about their difficulty in controlling their broadleaf weeds. While southern weeds often have weird and more aggressive sounding names, many of them are in the same families that are a challenge to control in the Midwest.

The obvious conclusion is that growers here would soon be facing similar challenges. Extension and weed company experts warned us that in year one we would see a few escapes, in year two there would be general failures to control major populations, and that in year three those growers who did not hear or believe the warnings would have major problems with escapes.

Depending on location and cropping history, more central Midwestern farmers will be in year two or three of that cycle.

I am hearing from most observant growers that they are heeding the warning and have updated their weed control program to be using one or more residual products along with being ready to spray with a good post-emerge product.

One has to hope that the first application will do the job and last long enough to get to the full canopy stage before its control disappears. In some cases and with certain weeds there are few to no alternative products that remain in the arsenal if the escapes have multiple modes of resistance.

The word of caution is to be able to know what the population and pressure is for each field you are managing, know how you are going to eliminate any existing vegetation at planting time and then know what combination of residuals is most likely to offer the most residual.

Always be thinking about what the mode of action is for each product and where the weak link is in each of your programs. Such thinking has created the term of overlapping residual control where each operator knows how long each product should be lasting and possibly laying down a second residual product before the first product is fully degraded.

The presence of Palmer amaranth that has resistance to four or five families and can grow 3 to 4 inches per day has made southern growers very jumpy.

We have our smaller, but tough waterhemp here filling that role. Good luck in this task.

Insect programs

In lots of magazine articles this winter authors were predicting significant insect problems in 2013. Based on what I have seen and learned many of them are likely to be correct.

Dry conditions typically harm the fungi and bacteria that help provide natural means of control. The populations of insects such as spider mites, stink bugs and tunneling insects are often worse following a drought for several reasons.

With bugs like CRW, fewer predators and less drowning of the larvae and eggs occurs. Several good entomologists deduced why different insects found certain plants more inviting and figured out that many piercing and sucking insects flourish on nitrate nitrogen and simple sugars.

If drought inhibits or slows the uptake of certain precursing minerals and the simple compounds are in the leaves and stems rather than complex carbohydrates or protein the insects could zero in on fields containing those plants. The high NO3-N levels seen in soil tests foretell of such problems in 2013.

The best course of action is to find answers as to what could make the plants in your fields less attractive than the plants in your neighbors’ fields and then do what it takes to force them away from your fields.

One insect family that follows this pattern is the aphids. They became a major problem in 2003 when we had a late-summer drought.

Hard-bodied or shelled insects often flourish in dry weather. They don’t lose moisture as easily as the aphids or Lepidopteran (coming from a moth or butterfly) insects and are less prone to attack by beneficials.

It would be a good time to educate yourself yet as to how to identify each insect and be able to describe each insect’s life cycle.

Controlling each through chemical means can get expensive, yet not controlling them can cost many times more. Being able to keep them away from your fields can be the most effective, yet most mentally challenging program.

The moisture situation

Even though many parts of the state, particularly eastern Iowa, received decent rains about two to three weeks ago, nearly every part west of Marshalltown remain dry as very little rain fell west of that line.

Now the soils remain dry with very few recharge inches as the showers fell on frozen ground and the water ran off. I tested several fields along U.S. Highway 30 on Monday with a 24-inch penetrometer and found no major frost layers. The NASS weather service tells that in most counties the soil temp is in the 38- to 42-degree range.

Because the nighttime temps are still below freezing rapid thawing isn’t going to happen.

With the soils thawing, you may now be able to absorb any moisture that falls. This has to happen to allow the best chance of partially filling the soil moisture profile prior to planting and producing decent crops.

A new experience

On Monday’s WHO’s Big Show, Bob Quinn interviewed Brent Neuberger, FMS company’s state tech person, who was instrumental in bringing a few herbicides back to the market that have let Midwestern farmers control weeds the last few years.

Neuberger told of how FMC is going to be launching Anthem herbicides in corn and hopes to have it available for use in soybeans soon.

Neuberger is traveling this week to Argentina to present to farmers about how U.S. growers now have to manage the problem of herbicide resistant weeds.

He will be traveling where the topography looks a lot like central Illinois with an eastern Kansas climate and growers that seem a lot like central Iowa people.

They are having major problems with a resistant Conyza (fleabane) along with stink bugs and thrips that are proving to be tolerant of pyrethroid insecticides.

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

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