April is here and with it lots of warm weather and pleasant and gentle rains. Right.
It was in the low 60s to low 70s on Monday and if the weather forecast maps from Monday night were accurate, our neighbors to the north and west will be waking up to 12 to 15 inches of snow on Tuesday or Wednesday morning.
We will have to conclude that we just experienced the shortest spring on record.
Will we get the rain this spring or not? I was up around Humboldt Monday and one farmer who is having a drainage project going through his neighborhood, where a crew is digging to a depth of 25 feet, is finding only powder dry soil all the way down.
So it would take only 49 inches of moisture to fill the profile if the 2-foot rule remains in effect. Otherwise the crop-size forecasters can say all they want about how much moisture has fallen in the western Midwest, but we know that little to none has soaked in.
Now with April marching along substantial rains are still needed to give us a chance of starting to fill the profile.
A common feeling among grain producers this week is still about the hosing given to them by the USDA as their surveyors somehow found a few hundred million bushels from somewhere; fed a whole lot of livestock without using any grain; never accounted for the 4 to 5 million abandoned acres in Missouri, Kandas, Arkansas and Illinois in 2012 and still have 97 million acres producing 160-plus bushels per acre this summer.
Lots of growers who would like to price a bit of grain are unable to do so now. This exercise is likely to have the opposite effect that the officials would like in that fewer farmers will now chose to plant corn if they left their decisions to be made yet this spring when it appears that planting will not be early.
Heavy snow now in the Dakotas is likely to lead to some degree of flooding. Discouraging production this early could be a big problem in a year when supplies may run out and no 2013 production can be slipped into 2012 supplies. Shame, shame on them.
Extra N for soybeans
One thing that should be on every soybean grower’s mind is how to manage soybean plants in light of the high levels of nitrate nitrogen left in the ground following the 2012 drought.
As we have always seen, this extra nitrogen leads to excessively tall bean plants if moisture is present, which creates spindly plants more prone to lodging along with leaf and stem diseases that tend to be a problem when air exchange rates are reduced.
These include diseases such as downey mildew and white mold. For both of them to be a problem rain or dews will have to occur.
There are steps that can be used to limit plant growth and lessen cell elongation. Both will only be achieved through plant architecture manipulation via foliar applications.
This will all need to be done while still boosting growth early and doing what it takes to add as many side branches as possible.
How many growers can manage all of those things or will ask the right questions on what to do?
As we have discussed earlier, the extra N in the soil has the potential to create more insect problems this summer.
Will it be soft-bodied or hard-bodied bugs that cause the most problems beginning in about five weeks? Pay attention to the winds in the next few weeks. This is when strong winds from the south and southwest blow the black cutworm moths in from the Texas and Mexican Gulf Coast area.
Then they fly into or land in fields that hold a heavy population of mustard plants where they can lay eggs.
Last year we saw places where grass herbicides failed for some reason, drawing in the moths, leading to cutworm problems and poor stands. Trap counts will be taken by crop scouts later this month with the results publicized.
What has been seen in recent seasons is that the moths can be present without much egg laying happening.
It is close to the time when every bean grower has to finally decide what products to have applied to seeds. Some things like an inoculant and a fungicide mix are a given.
Next are products that could be applied like a neonic if you want the insurance of not having to worry about bean leaf beetles, or if you are a betting man saving that money to be used on a foliar product later.
One product that has gained popularity in recent seasons is SabrEx, a trichoderma mix that boosts root and plant growth while aiding plant health.
A new microbe
In my journey to learn about soil microbiology, one important critter I learned about from Dr. Robert Kremer, a USDA microbiologist, was the pseudomonas flourscense.
It has two main roles in the soil. First, it acts as the sheriff of the soil and keeps the populations of soil pathogens such as rhizoctonia, fusarium and phytophthora at bay.
It also produces an organic acid that makes phosphorous more available. If you look at the P1 level on your soil test and it is less than 30 percent of the P2 level then you would likely benefit from having this microbe in your plants’ root zone.
Because it is a fragile microbe and only propagates via vegetative rather than spore means it has always been tough to formulate in a user-friendly form.
One biological company has finally done this and is making a small supply available at a cost of about $7 per acre.
Where it could really pay dividends is in fields where seedling rots have been destroying stands in corn or beans.
Farmers in southeast Iowa have seen such problems on a large scale in recent years where growers have been trying every product that they can find without slowing the spread of the problem. They are likely to find that the best way to solve a biological problem is with a biological answer.
When we experimented with a Pf four years ago we saw a 6 to 9 bushel-per-acre soybean yield increase.
If it rains, use the time to finalize planter preparations and do a bit of preplanning on how you expect to manage both your corn and bean crops in a proactive manner.
This project is going full steam ahead with due diligence now being done to study the feasibility of a plant being built in the Midwest. Farmers are going to work it into their cropping plans and targeted fields on either a broadcast or strip-till banded basis.
As an aside, the results from Washington and California make it look like it should be a terrific fertilizer for gardens, flower beds and hort crops.
A 25- or 50-pound bag or container of it would be something that would be easy to handle.
Two to three years ago, when a few agronomists who were visiting with western-located crop friends, they were giving the warning that once the disease became indigenous the main qualifier for choosing varieties was going to be their tolerance to Goss’ wilt.
Was this far fetched or true? Now is the time to be already thinking about what your plan is to combat it in 2013.
The same rain that will be needed to grow your crop could make the disease worse.
Since the disease is one of nutritional deficiencies be thinking already about what micro-nutrient mix or mixes you plan to apply once or twice this summer.
The earlier you contact your supplier the better that company can plan inventory which would help ensure that enough product would be formulated.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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