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By Staff | Jun 14, 2013

We’re one week further into the 2013 growing season with mid-June just around the corner. Normally that means that most farmers are in the middle of completing their post-emerge spraying of both major crops, corn has passed the knee high stage and soybeans are only two weeks away from beginning to flower.

Those things are not going to happen for many growers this year, so we will have to adjust everything we had hoped and planned to do for the crop, switch our calendars based on crop stage, and do the best we can.

It’s too bad that whoever is in charge of the weather was not able to average the 2012 and 2013 cropping seasons to deliver two years with plenty of heat and adequate rainfall. Right now, given a choice between selecting the weather from 2012 or 2013 the near unanimous selection would be the droughty 2012.

Most Extension economists and commodity advisors are still trying to form an accurate educated guess about the size of the corn and bean crops. I wish all of them well, as conditions and planting progress along with growth stage for each vary so widely across the Midwest.

Based on what I have seen in the past two weeks, the ground and growers west of U.S. Highway 71 have good-looking corn crops with the beans recently emerged.

Between Highway Highway 71 and Marshalltown excessive rainfall has been the rule, with lots of the fields being delayed in planting or still too wet to permit field traffic.

East of Marshalltown, conditions seem to get even wetter with the planting or survival of many fields still in question. When you drive east of I-35 the amount of erosion that has occurred during the heavy rains was severe, even though the rainfall amounts were less than in previous years.

A common theme is that the markets need to become realists about the 2013 crop prospects. Unless a miracle happens there will be lots of fields that will have a tough time meeting trend line yields.

Too many fields have lost too much stand or have too many drowned out spots that will never get replanted. Continually saturated soils have limited the ability to spot in drowned out spots or replant whole fields.

What I have seen so far is that 25 percent of the fields are looking decent with good growth, 25 percent are OK, but with very slow or stunted growth, the next 25 percent have major spots that should be replanted, and the final 25 percent of fields should be or should have been replanted.

With guidance being given at widely attended meetings by good agronomists that stands of 10,000 plants should not be torn up points out that it has gotten later in the season and our options have been reduced.

Planting, replanting

The decision-making process that many growers have been going through the past two weeks has been nerve wracking in that they need to develop an absolute answer when many of the qualifying parameters are not in concrete.

In many areas, growers needed four or five good drying days to get the fields in condition to plant. That never happened, so their ability to compare their expected yields with projected yields from Extension trials was lost. Then if the trend to have such cloudy and cool weather becomes the norm, and grain-filling days during August are few, all growers hate to be overly optimistic and overrule their better judgment. But as the period from June 5 through June 10 and likely June 12 disappeared with more rain during the week, many growers have their corn-planting decisions made for them.

One has to wonder where the corn supply to feed our country’s livestock is going to come from.

In more southerly locations in the Corn Belt, corn planting will still be going on this week and next. Earlier varieties will be the rule and growers will be hoping for mothering earlier than a normal frost date. They can help themselves by choosing varieties with good disease resistance and the proven ability to move south.

Once actual yields are seen this fall any available corn should find a decently priced market.

For most growers finishing soybean planting is the No. 1 priority. The rule is still to stick with a normal maturity variety until June 21. However, if you are in a normal 2.5 area and have made a habit of planting 2.9s, then early-up your full season variety to a 2.5.

If you plant too short season of bean variety, it may flower when it’s too short, limiting stem length, podded node count and thus yield potential.

Any technique or product that has the proven ability to increase branch number should be studied and likely utilized.

Mid-June planted soybeans have demonstrated the ability to still yield in the low- to mid-50 bushel per are range.

Managing nitrogen

All fall and early spring soil tests showed high levels of residual nitrogen and our worry was that these amounts would negatively affect the 2013 crops.

Now, with more rain falling since mid-March than fell in all of 2012, every farmer and agronomist needs to assess how much of both the residual and fall or spring applied is currently left within the 2-foot root zone.

The guidelines that have been given include soil testing when the corn height is at 12 inches. At that point if the soil test shows a PPM reading of 21 there should be enough N in the top 2 feet to supply the crop needs the rest of the season.

If the person doing the testing is using a SPAD meter they are advised to wait until the plants are at least the V6 growth stage before sampling. The right procedure is to take reading on at least 30 plants of the fifth leaf about three-fourths of the way out from the stalk.

It’s easy to predict that quite a few growers will be sidedressing with UAN in the next few weeks on those fields that show erratic and yellowish growth.

Remember that if the plants show a more bronze/yellowish color may actually be short in magnesium, cobalt and zinc, creating poor nitrogen usage.

Weed season

Now that we are into the weed management season it is good to be aware of any new weeds or resistance traits that have appeared in Midwestern fields.

Within Iowa, Palmer amaranth, the multi-resistance weed, has not been documented by any weed experts. But with it being found in states just to our east, west and south, we can expect the birds, manure, grain trade, animals or machinery could have moved seed in.

Early in the season, and until it has put on a grain head, it is very difficult to positively identify.

One other resistant weed that could be causing problems for us and has been found in Wisconsin is giant ragweed that is now resistant to First Rate.

Until now that has been the herbicide that was good at controlling the domineering weed. Add in its ability to be resistance to ALS and glyphosate herbicides will mean that raising clean bean fields could get tougher.


Be aware that egg-filled SCN females have appeared on V2 soybeans already along U.S. Highway 30. This could signal a bad year from this small, but potentially costly pest.

States to the east were predicted to have their CRW eggs begin to hatch in late May and early June. Now entomologists in Indiana have found larvae in their corn fields, just as they have in Illinois.

It sure looks like it will be a short, but busy cropping season.

Good luck in getting your work done.

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

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