Welcome to the land of 20,000 lakes this spring. While our greatest fear about the 2013 growing season was a continuation of the drought that affected the crops in 2011 and 2012 the opposite has happened.
Heavy and nearly constant rain since late April is threatening the continuation of both corn and soybean planting.
Heavy rains over the Memorial Day weekend and predictions for additional moisture for nearly every day through Friday threaten any continued planting of both corn and soybeans.
Last week the same thing happened and kept most operators out of their fields until sometime late Thursday or Friday. There is nothing any of us can do in response except to be constantly ready for when there is a break in conditions.
One point in any discussion of the weather delays is in what year did we see a similar delay. Was it 1991, 2003, 1993 or one of the years such as 1982 or 1983? All of those years were problem years, but if I remember right planting went well in 1993, with the heavy rains beginning in early- to mid-June.
The important thing to discuss and come to a conclusion is how both crops will have to be managed given the fewer days left in the season and the unknown about what the weather holds for July and August.
The crops will need heat to catch up where they need to be as far as plant development goes. But too much heat and dry weather could cause problems for any crops planted in soils that were too wet where sidewall compaction or smearing of the root zone occurred.
According to the ISU Mesonet many locations in the state have now accumulated as much as 12 inches of rain since May 1.
The winner, or loser, are towns up in Mitchell County where the totals are now 17 inches. That’s about as much as we received in all of 2012. It’s too bad we were not able to average the two seasons.
Quite a few growers have expressed their doubts about last week’s NASS figures for the percent of corn acres planted on a state-by-state basis. Those growers are driving through different areas of the Midwest and seeing too many large areas where the soils have been too wet and too many fields have not been touched, or were worked, but never had the chance to send in the planter.
Then, as a friend from west central Illinois observed, many of the large operators really did not care how soil conditions were when they worked and planted their fields, since they were now covered by crop insurance.
Now, after a two-week period that began with 8-plus inches of rain in northern Iowa, followed by heavy rains over the Memorial Weekend, and farmers looking over their ponded, saturated fields, the topic of prevented planting is being talked about more as not getting back into their fields by June 1 could become a reality.
That means that last week’s NASS figures of 71 percent planted with one or one and a half additional days of operation, minus the ponding losses indicate that substantial corn acreage could be at risk of not getting planted.
In a season where the western Iowa ethanol plants are paying $1.20 to $1.40 per bushel over Chicago for physical corn, how do we make up for this potential grain shortfall?
Denying it does not cut it.
There could be a few meetings yet this week where crop insurance experts could be conducting meetings where they provide facts and guidance to growers about what the best course of action could be. There are more dollars per acre involved in previous years when planting delays occurred.
Everyone needs to have accurate information to make decisions about what to do and the people who will be involved in setting up such informational meetings are hoping to get farmers the most up-to-date and accurate information possible.
If you are not in this group of growers, you are likely in the bunch that are still waiting to get started with or hope to resume soybean planting. In many cases operators were jumping from one dry enough field to another and switching from corn to beans when and where needed.
Spring planting is typically stressful enough without the added problems.
The questions about how to respond to these wet conditions and delayed planting have been numerous in the past week. There are a few things we have learned that could be valuable to growers.
When corn is delayed in development it’s growth can be accelerated by an application of P fertilizer and a hormone/vitamin mixture. These lost GDUs will show up in both yield and wetter grain at harvest.
High grade P, as in 80 percent or better ortho, food grade does the best job.
There will be people wondering if soybeans are still harmed by atrazine. Yes, but I have seen beans planted directly into a 1-pound application of atrazine with no problems, as long as the bean had a good IDC score.
Metribuzin is basically a hot (contains a double bonded oxygen) atrazine with a higher level of water solubility. It is labeled and sold as Sencor or Lexone.
Where wet soils are forcing growers to consider planting beans on ground that has already received 150 pounds of nitrogen the plants face the prospect of growing tall and spindly.
What must be done is to not overplant, apply a cytokinin/vitamin mix at the V3 to V4 growth stage, and then apply a multi-product mix periodically at the R1 and R4 growth stages to add side branches, keep internodes short and add strength to those side branches.
We have worked for years with growers who typically double crop beans in mid to late June in central and Northcentral Iowa and still produce low to mid 50 bushels per acre yields.
The goals that have to be accomplished is to grow the beans to 10 to 12 inches as early as possible, force fouir to six side branches using P foliars and hormones in a humate mix, and then maximize flower number and pod set.
The program requires planning, execution and weather cooperation.
The high population of dandelions is a Midwest-wide situation. The credit for them is believed to be the early opening canopy that occurred last fall after the early corn harvest.
More seeds germinated and grew large enough to survive the winter. Typically the best time to kill them is in the fall as they are building root reserves.
It is tougher to do so in the spring. Lots of products work in corn, but only the use of Classic or First Rate do a good job in soybeans.
The warning still stands in most surrounding states as the in-flights of the moths continue. Any existing vegetation would have attracted the moths, so any field that grew winter annuals or has gotten weedy deserves additional scouting attention.
Remember that the cutworm species we have to worry about include black, dingy and pale western. The black deserves the most attention as it is a stalk or crown borer and will kill the plant.
Watch for wilted inside leaves and growing points.
No-till and heavy residue fields that are being scouted may also be affected more by stinkbugs as their numbers climb.
In recent years we have seen the amount of damage increase plus have now recognized their growing point damaging activity. 10 percent stand losses have been seen quite commonly.
Watch for the dead heart plants and where multiple side shoots are emerging from a twisted corn plant. As to whether the brown marmoted species contributes to this damage, we will have to find out.
Illinois farmers and those reading the Univiversity of Illinois IPM Newsletter have been warned to expect the start of the western corn rootworm egg hatch to begin over the last weekend in central Illinois.
Their entomologists are apparently thinking that their egg hatch schedule is wider than the normally accepted 625 growing degree unit point. With our saturated soils and unplanted fields it could spell their death in many areas. This happened a few years ago in Iowa and Minnesota.
Good luck in drying out and finishing planting.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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