It’s mid May and everyone in the U.S. and a number of other countries who eats at least one good meal a day has to hope that the weather holds long enough this week to permit most of the Midwest corn crop to finally get planted.
Until now a serene sort of calm has been in place, likely because it has been one of the cooler springs on record and few days were warm enough to get ground temperatures suitable for seed germination.
Now that May 17 is here it is time for the weather to shape up and let us go about our business of getting both major crops off to a good, though delayed, start to the growing season.
A month ago we feared the chances of getting enough rain to fill the profile to 8 to 10 feet were slim and none.
Now the rivers in eastern Iowa are currently running bank full and in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska are hoping the rains hold off. Conditions are not as wet in western and northwest Iowa.
Illinois and Missouri are soaked, while Minnesota and Nebraska have generally had enough rain to get the crops up and then hope for timely rains.
Generally it seems like the omnipresent high pressure ridge that set up last spring has dissipated and moisture fronts are now moving across the Midwest every few days.
It is the woman of the house and farm that are very important individuals serving many roles in keeping the farm operating smoothly and working in partnership to help make many of the decisions that have to be made as couples begin farming.
They bear and and rear the children, haul them to school events and 4-H meetings, prepare meals for and nurture everybody, and often help make expansion and marketing decisions. If they are happy, everyone is happier.
Make sure you say thanks and did something nice for her last weekend, or better yet on a regular basis. And for the women who play a major role in putting in the crops, doing field work and overseeing the crops, kudos to your efforts and successes.
The rainfall amounts of last week ranged from .25 to almost 4 inches. Thus we saw farmers in northwest and eastern Iowa who were finding most of their fields dry enough to work completely, while others still had spots that were too wet to work.
In my travels on Monday from Ames, to Marshalltown and Tama, north to Cedar Falls and finally Osage, field cultivators and planters were running in many fields. In central Iowa the no-tillers on the rolling fields in Marshall County were finding that the soils were in good condition and quite a few operators hoped to finish planting corn later this week.
On the flat ground in Boone and Story counties the ground was still too wet as of Sunday afternoon to permit much field traffic and what was being worked was still tacky and came up in spongy clods.
Patience is very tough to practice, but with the mid 90-degree temps with wind predicted for May 14 everyone knows things will dry. The question is if the rains will stay away later in the week enough to let everyone start or continue with planting.
No one seems to have panicked yet as last year taught us that just because part of the crop will not get planted in the ideal April 22 to May 5 planting window doesn’t relegate it to lower yields. But getting planted during that window is ideal for several reasons.
The plants stay shorter with lower ear placement, moisture use is generally less and the critical pollination time and critical blister stages occur earlier when moisture supplies are generally adequate, the heavy grain fill period happens during the time with longer days and more heat and there are generally more days for field drying to occur after the ears black layer and husks open.
I mentioned last week that the high-yield producers of today are recognizing that their crops go through developmental stages during the season where plant health and final yields benefit from supplemental nutrition and being nudged along by foliar applications.
Last week I mentioned work by Tuckey and Wittwer done along with the Atomic Energy Commission. In one of their projects and what they testified about in front of the U.S. Congress was work with both annual crops and with fruit trees where they applied radioactively labeled nutrients and then cut off stalks, branches and other plant parts, laid those parts on X Ray plates, and tracked how far and fast each nutrient moved either up or down within the plant or tree.
Using these findings they formed guidelines as to how much more valuable or reactive each nutrient was when foliar applied versus soil applied as well as forming ratios for upward versus downward movement. When one reads about the work you have to wondering why it was publicized so little and utilized even less.
When we spent time with several very sharp crop consultants from Europe last winter and asked them how growers were coping with high input and land costs, they said that such developments forced each grower to coax as many bushels or pounds of production from each acre.
This meant that they were much more likely to make both in-furrow applications of nutrients and biologicals at planting time as well as in-season applications of hormonal and nutrients that would trigger crop growth and supplement available soil nutrients.
This will mean in 2013 that tissue testing needs to be a regular item for growers with deficiencies addressed. All growers shooting for top corn yields do not have to accept as normal that .75- to 1-inch of tip kernels need to abort.
They also do not have to believe that there is nothing that can be done to minimize or stop a Goss’ wilt infection. And soybean growers need to be ready for a challenging chess game in getting their plants to maximize root nodulation, branch number, flowers and retained pods and finally bean size.
It has been quiet lately on the international scene except for one announcement last week. That one little item was that the country of India, which is due to become the most populous country in the world within the next 20 years, signed an agreement with a soybean producer group in Mato Gross, Brazil, to request and get delivered conventionally raised soybeans.
We have to recognize that crop acres in Russia, Africa and South America are being developed at a fast pace. Growers in those areas are able to run the same green, blue and red equipment using the same smart guidance add-ons as we have here.
If those growers are better at delivering what those consumers requesting while we try to convince them to buy what is easiest for us to grow, when they can go elsewhere to buy their grain, they are likely to do so.
It is sobering but true; so we can’t let it happen. Remember that Brazil still has between 200 and 250 million pasture acres they could develop into row crop acres. Argentina could develop around half that much.
Once the former gets their infrastructure developed and the latter hopefully gets a new and less parasitic government structure, they will become more competitive.
Russia has many acres of rich black soils and a younger and more capitalistic populace. Africa is getting their Chinese benefactors to develop their natural resources and minerals along with their economies.
Later this week we should begin to see the first planted corn send spikes above ground.
Be sure to keep track of what is going on in your fields if you have some of those acres.
Being early in detecting any problems and responding in a timely fashion can still pay big dividends.
Good luck with getting your corn acres in the ground. And be sure to make sure the ground is fit.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page