It’s mid-July and it may be time to evaluate how the cropping season has gone so far.
Most ag people just wish the season was over and we could start a “normal” year where floods or drought are not in effect.
We would have to go back to 2008 to come up with what may be called a normal year.
2009 was too cool and wet. 2010 was a year with lots of flooding and excessive moisture. 2011 began wet and ended up in drought conditions. 2012 was the driest year out of the last 80.
Now in 2013 we have had the wettest spring in 123 years, and it appears this may be followed by a late-season drought.
Because averages are just the mean of the extremes we could well end up with a 2013 that is average for both moisture and accumulated temperatures.
Every crop producer is still wondering where the USDA hires its surveyors and statisticians.
The same goes for the crew in Iowa. It was announced that Iowa farmers had filed for prevented planting of 200,000 corn acres.
That seemed a bit low when spread over all 99 counties, only about 2,000 acres each. When a small group of farmers and ag people could begin tallying the corn acres that had not gotten planted in just their locale and it added up to 10,000 or 20,000 acres the tally seems too low.
I did hear second-hand that a local person went down to Texas to set up several planters on one of those farms that had planted corn on ground not traditionally planted to corn.
Turns out the dry weather hit, and the corn is being combined and is yielding nearly 25 bushels per acre.
Those bushels are bound to add up quickly, right? With the ethanol plants and large feedlots calling everywhere to scare up corn bushels and adding to the negative basis, indications are that the stated carryout was only on paper.
Weed management 2013
The biggest news and challenges in most sections of the Midwest where the crops were behind in development was when the growers discovered that the broadleaf weeds in their fields were not willing to turn brown and die when the normal products were applied.
In soybeans we saw that most of the preplant residual products provided good control of grasses and weeds when applied prior to weed germination. It was when the post-emerge products were applied to control the 3- to 6-inch tall weeds and they partially browned and then recovered or went unfazed that growers realized things had changed and either resistance had spread through the weed populations or the methods of application needed to be improved.
In soybeans many crop advisors have been working with growers who found that their traditional non-selective systemic herbicides alone or mixed with a broadleaf product didn’t work as good as they should have worked.
Or, that the burner they normally apply as a last resort and always hate the way it torches the leaves and takes about 10 days for the plants to recover still didn’t kill the surviving or escaped waterhemp.
That left many of them wondering what their next action should be when the last product had been used. It is time for them to hook up the row crop cultivator, scare up a rope wick and figure out what to put in it, or get the bean buggy or bar ready to go.
Last summer when LG Seeds had Ford Baldwin, the weed resistance expert with the University of Arkansas, speak at a meeting in Ames, he related how they reached the same level of failure in many fields before the average grower realized weed management rules had changed and their programs had to do likewise.
I have been watching the new products of Zidua and Fierce and have been quite pleased with the results. It’s too bad that the EPA did not approve Anthem in time for growers to use it in 2013.
They have not been perfect, but for pre-emerge products their level of control and longevity look very good. A product that will control large-seeded broadleaves would compliment both. The issue with them is they illustrate how few new products are in the pipeline.
This lack of innovation leaves us searching for new answers for weed control and leaves us asking what role the weeds are meant to have. Watching how the 2,4-D performed when the prevented planted fields grown up in 12- to 24-inch amaranthus tells us that it is not a miracle product when seed heads have begun to form.
Extra crop management
We have been getting lots of inquiries as to what should be applied to late-planted corn and beans when they are planted late and growth has been very slow.
First a person needs to make an evaluation of each field as to its potential and rate of development. Can it beat the frost?
Then they need to decide how much management they were willing to devote to their bean fields to maximize branch number, pods and, hopefully, yields. There will be costs, time, and machinery requirements so a level of commitment will be needed.
This year may be different, but long term the person who puts more bushels in the bin has historically had more opportunity to capitalize on pricing opportunities and make a profit. There is also the issue of food security and supply.
So far, the bean farmers who got aggressive and applied a combination of humates, nutrients including phosphorus, sugar and hormones have seen good increases in plant size and branch formation.
Ten to 14 days after those applications the plants are nearly closing the rows.
People are noticing is that beans are not growing very fast. Bean breeders and physiologists relate that when temps drop into the low 50s the plants stop growing and require about three days to resume growth.
Thus the cool nights have slowed the growth of even the beans planted on time. In general the beans that normally begin flowering between June 10 and 21 began that process about two weeks late and only after the plants reached the V5 growth stage.
Corn roots, weather
One thing that Dr. Elwynn Taylor has mentioned about 1947 is that the rain would shut off about July 1.
In much of the central Midwest rainfall has been lacking the last three weeks, so that analogy holds.
Quite a few corn fields are taking on that gray look in the afternoon with the leaves rolling up tightly. Those leaves feel warm to the touch, indicating they don’t have enough water available to them to meet internal demands.
One related cause is the lack of decent root formation that is seen in most of these fields when you dig plants. In retrospect much of the ground was still too wet a few inches down to work and plant even in late May.
The lack of oxygen seemed to limit root formation and exploration. Many of the fields contain plants with severely tomahawked root systems that tried to find any crack or soft zone in which to grow.
In 2012 we heard of roots growing to depths of 12 feet or more. This year root systems are reaching just a fraction of that depth.
Over the winter there were several scientific articles published concerning environmental pollution and how certain species, such as amphibians, are the first to be affected and wiped out.
I have been watching in fields, ditches and around the yards for frogs and toads. So far this year I have seen two toads and zero frogs. My wife has seen zero of each.
One major item that has received zero mainstream press is the EPA’s action of raising the allowable level of glyphosate and AMPA, its primary metabolite in foodstuffs.
It seems to preach sound science, but doesn’t seem to follow in its actions.
Basing all its action on a wayward Harvard biologist’s statement of it being safer than aspirin versus a growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary, doesn’t seem precautionary and sound.
Good luck now in receiving rain and 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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