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By Staff | May 24, 2013

It wasn’t long ago when we were still holding out hope for enough rain to get this year’s crops germinated and emerged.

Contributing much to the profile moisture seemed like a distant dream. We still are not saying that it needs to stay away for a few weeks, but if most farmers are going to get their beans planted within their preferred optimum planting window, things need to dry out for another week or so in order for the wettest corn fields to be planted and then for the corn stalks to get worked or for the untouched corn stalks to allow field traffic and the planters to run through them.

We know that beans can be a very forgiving crop, but the calendar is now showing that we are in the last week of May and a high percentage of the soybeans still have to be planted in the Midwest.

That will only happen after the last of the corn goes in the ground.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service’s state-by-state percent planted survey results were released Monday and they showed that 70-plus percent of the nation’s corn were planted as of Sunday, while only 24 percent of the nation’s soybeans were in the ground.

Most of the Midwest states had corn planted figures around 70 to 74 percent with Wisconsin trailing the field at only 43 percent done.

The University of Wisconsin’s IPM newsletter committed quite a bit of space to advice on switching hybrid maturity choices.

Of course, they included advice from an agronomist who discussed the added drying costs that could be incurred by and when planting corn in the last week of May. With much higher yielding hybrids of 95 RM and earlier hybrids, the risk as not as great as it was 10 years ago.

Their higher livestock numbers will also be an inducement to stick with planting corn.

USDA forecasts

The USDA continues to believe that we have a record crop just ready to be harvested. All it will take is time, or so they think. 43 percent of the corn was planted last week, which represented good progress. We have to wonder if the ground was as fit as it should have been and how much of it was somewhat mudded-in due to everyone now paying attention to the calendar.

Most growers can come up with five or more reasons why there might be more risk of working and planting the fields too early than back 10 to 15 years ago.

Whether or not we have problems with sidewall compaction or smeared zone in the soil is something that we will just have to wait to detect.

Field cultivators with their flat sweeps can be marvelous tillage tools, but can also cause those smear layers when ground is worked too wet. Too many tomahawked root systems can be costly if conditions later in the summer turn hot and dry.

The strip-till machines are getting good marks again as the worked zones should present a deeper and soft zone in which the roots can reach and explore quickly after germinating.

The number one thing to look at this week and next will be to scout each field to see how good and even the stands are in each.

By the end of this period more growers will have scouted the fields planted just prior to the snow and big cool down the first week of May.

Each scout should also be digging and examining the root systems in each field and with each variety to see if the root systems have been developing as healthy of a seminal and as many nodal roots as possible.

If there is any browning or discolored tissue try to determine what the problem could be and if anything can be done for it this season.

The last two to three years a number or crop scouts thought they could see the early root browning associated with several bacterial or fungal caused diseases.

In southeast Iowa, growers have had a tough time getting corn stands to survive to the V4 growth stage in spite of applying about every combination of seed treatment possible.

This year more biologicals will be tested to see how well they will work.

Wheat rust

There are a few new acres of winter wheat in the Midwest this year, partly because of the desire to work in more rotational crops plus the chance of irrigation water being in short supply in recent seasons. It also generates a decent price and offers the chance to double crop or work in a cover crop.

If you are growing any wheat acres be sure to remain vigilant now for leaf diseases that tend to show up during the early spring growth stage and when humidity levels increase.

Cutworm issues

Not so much in Iowa, but a number of neighboring states to the west, south and east were earlier catching medium to high numbers of black cutworm moths.

Their current projections are to have egg hatch and corn emergence taking place at about the same time.

This could spell trouble if you happen to have fields where the egg laying occurred.

Scout such fields after the corn emerges and watch for any of the tell tale withering and wilting plants which have been hollowed out by the hungry larvae.

With the higher price of corn versus five years ago the treatment envelopes are lower than in those days.


You only have one chance to kill emerged weeds prior to planting. Doing this in a no-till or strip-till regime is important and can be difficult, especially if you are having problems with herbicide resistant versions of those weeds.

There are potpourri, or witches mixes, of three to six products that are doing the job. Inexpensive is always better if they do the job.

More products like Cadet and Aim are suitable candidates as is 2, 4-D. Authority can also do the job when beans are being raised. It offers long residual as well and may still be the best, long lasting soybean broadleaf herbicide.

Jerry Carlson, of ProFarmer fame, is working with various combinations of his surfactant, Wake Up, with various other herbicidal products and with several sulfur containing fertilizers.

The goal is to find a consistent mix that eliminates existing vegetation even where resistant weeds exist. Some of those mixes look very good.

Where cover crops were planted last fall and were growing yet this spring the comments about the crop were that the erosion was eliminated and all of the needed rain soaked in rather than running off.

Soil tilth and soil porosity was also greatly improved. But applying a heavy dose of a non-selective systemic herbicide to kill the cover crop seems counterproductive. Having new and effective mixes to eliminate the beneficial crops would be nice, so pay attention to any news articles about them.

Carryover N

First we had a drought where no nitrogen was leached leaving carryover N levels quite high.

Then we had rain and it was speculated that some of this N was leached away. Now we wonder if we have to worry about this possibility.

What should a person do? The best course of action is to work with soil residual N tests and using a Spad meter to test soil and tissue levels for N.

Then supplement as much N as is needed.

Just time any applications so they are made just before the crops go into their rapid growth phase. N can move deeper into the soil and be recoverable by corn plants from as deep as 30 to 36 inches.

Good luck finishing corn planting and getting a good start with soybeans.

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

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