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CROP WATCH

By Staff | May 3, 2013

Based on how the first week of the cropping season is developing, it appears that the rest of the season could be one very wild.

Like a big roller coaster you get to endure steep drops, long climbing inclines and lots of dips and curves while hanging sideways or even upside down.

Will it be a droughty or flood-filled season? Will it be very hot or very cold?

Yes, yes, yes and yes. That will depend on what hour, day, week or month you might be referring to.

This week it looks like we will have our first 80 degree days in more than six months while we will hopefully also have our last 30-degree day.

A few snowflakes are also predicted, though they are not expected to accumulate.

The tillage and initial planting got started over parts of the state late last week as temps finally warmed beginning on Thursday.

The first planters I know of began rolling on Saturday where drainage was better or the ground was lighter and more fit.

The operators I was visiting with were cognizant of the fact that they needed to wait until the soils were in good condition and dry enough to permit field traffic.

After a chaotic and droughty 2012 where the best corn fields were either planted around April 11 or May 15, most didn’t seem to be panicking over the date on the calendar.

With more planters stretching from 16 to 34 rows doing lots of acres every 18 hours is possible.

However one has to think back to 1991 when the planting season in north central Iowa occurred in two-to-three-day spurts between May 11 and June 5 to see how weather can interrupt the best laid plans.

On the Streit Ranch the new raspberry bed, and first sweet corn are already planted.

Statewide and national NASS surveys report that the 18 major corn growing states are at 5 percent planted versus 49 percent last year and a normal of 44 percent.

With areas picking up from traces to more than 2 inches of rain on Monday and more expected this week, we may see more guerrilla-type planting when operators respond quickly to any open planting windows to take to the fields to get more acres in.

Luckily, it is still just early May and things are likely to turn around shortly.

Acres in 2013

The prediction for flooding in the Red River Valley appears to be coming true. They have a heavy snow cover that has begun to melt and ice that has not opened to the north.

They have been preparing sand bags for weeks and have built machines to fill multiple bags at once plus geared the bag size to allow younger people to handle their weight.

This is where the additional and new acres were supposed to have come from with newer higher-yielding hybrids adapted to the Dakotas from the major companies to be credited.

One can now see that the government’s efforts to collapse grain prices by dummying up carryout and acreage totals will have the opposite effect on boosting overall 2013 production.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell them that.

Groundconditions

Several factors seem to have been in play when the rivers rose so quickly in Illinois and southeast Iowa when they had the hard rains two weeks ago.

First, much of the soil had been powder dry for many months and it often needs to be wetted before new moisture can penetrate.

In the southwest part of the country they have actual water repellent soils, often due to concentrated salt levels.

In addition, we also see that growers responded to poor yields by attacking the soils with tillage implements in the fall season seeking to heal whatever was bad.

This can have the opposite effect by pulverizing the top few inches and destroying any residue that did exist.

Without the normal moisture infiltration preserved and rainfall energy absorbing residue cover the surface will seal over resulting in the water running off rather than soaking in.

We saw substantial surface erosion in a flatter central Iowa two weeks ago when there were some moderate to heavy rains. Soils that have been better managed soak up the water while the others had more ponded water.

The farmers who experimented with cover crops last fall and had a green cover in their fields saw great rainfall infiltration, helping to fill the subsoil moisture profile. Those extra 3 to 5 inches of water that soaked in could translate into additional bushels of corn this fall if July and August are dry, as in up to 12 bushels per additional inch of water.

Thus we are likely to see more cover crops planted if conditions and crop development are conducive to getting them planted later this summer or fall.

Aerial seeding could be a big item for those applicators. We may also see Hagie, Miller and John Deere or a shortline companies follow their Argentine and Brazilian counterparts and begin designing and building equipment to seed into a standing crop, adding a month to the cover crops growing season.

Weeds

It is now easier to find the first emerging broadleaf weeds growing in untouched fields. Thus no-tillers from now on have to design their weed management programs and perhaps add a burndown product to their mix or make sure a component offers burndown activity.

Thus far it looks like mustard species, marestail, mints and perhaps giant ragweeds are the weeds that have already emerged. Several of these have become resistant to several of the post-emerge products, thus are best controlled early rather than let them become a problem.

We will likely see all of the KIH 485 product as in Fierce and Zidua get placed this season as more growers seek a more effective way of controlling waterhemp.

Authority supplies are getting tight already due to the same reason. Many manufactures are no longer producing unlimited supplies, thus early ordering pickup of your needed products is the best course of action.

Good luck in getting the weather you need to proceed on time.

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

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