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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Aug 14, 2013

Mid-August is here and we really have to wonder how the last six weeks of the growing season will turn out.

In a year where the majority of the days have been extremely cloudy, just as AccuWeather’s astrometeorologist Theodore White predicted, everyone who has crops in the field is wondering if they will get mature before the likely frost dates arrive.

In a year where four years worth of USDA mistruths have disguised the lack of grain to feed or export, producing this grain and getting it into the bins will be important to the livestock and ethanol producers and their expected use in the coming year.

It’s regrettable that USDA cannot man up and relay the actual prevented planting figures and the true condition of the crops in each state.

More Iowa producers have traveled to different states and relayed their opinions about what they have seen and how they would rate their respective crops. Those eyewitness opinions based on knowing how to judge crops and how each of those crops should look on a given calendar date is worth more than what some non-crops person sitting behind a desk can conjure up.

I had to travel up to Mitchell Country this past weekend to go to a funeral and got to see more of the worst rain affected areas in the state.

What I saw was that the majority, but not all of the corn acres, have pollinated.

They still need seven to eight weeks of frost free days at normal temps to reach black layer. We have to hope that we can first get moisture to relive some of the drought stress, then start getting warmer days to play catch up on those lost GDUs.

The days are soon going to start getting shorter so the ability to recapture those lost units will be tough.

Crop conditions

I had mentioned that a commodity forecaster from Illinois visited us in Iowa two weeks ago. He had visited us via phone and had to complete his western Midwest leg of the Corn Belt before heading into the eastern states. He heard that several agronomists thought this was one of the worst crops they had seen, and was wondering how badly we had misjudged the crop.

Unfortunately he had to conclude that our take on the crop matched what he was seeing. In his written summary he mentioned that he typically looks for uniformity of stand, evenness, color and maturity. He said that many of the fields did not meet the standards needed to produce normal yields.

What surprised me most was he said he had never before seen the crop start to yellow within his three-day travel period.

I could not see that at first, but as I was driving back from Waterloo to Ames last week and back from northern Iowa Tuesday the change on color was visible even to the casual observer.

Based on experience we have learned this is an early sign of a worsening fusarium and Goss’s infection in the crown region of the roots that typically becomes a death spiral for the crop.

Having this show up by early- through mid-August in a crop where much of it was planted four to six weeks late and the plant development is delayed, is not a good sign as most of the grain fill still has to be completed.

What several of us have been doing through this and other recent seasons after the plants reach the V6 growth stage is splitting the stalks lengthwise to examine the tissue at each node looking for a light to dark brown discoloration.

The further away the tissue is from white the more unhealthy the plant is. As the tissue at the lower nodes darken it means that the increasing population of bacteria is in the process of plugging the water conducting tissue located at each sieve plate.

This forces the upper plant part into a moisture deficient situation.

Foliar fertilizer

In a few articles I mention the benefits to be gained from making foliar fertilizer applications to the major crops. These include corn, soybeans, alfalfa, wheat, cotton, veggies and fruit trees.

What a good foliar program can typically do is supplement residual soil-applied minerals. It can also offer a more efficient means of getting minerals into the plant and it can be used as a means of manipulating plant physiology.

And as proven in field work by aggressive growers it can be a way of bypassing dry soils when the moisture flow from the soil into the plants is reduced or applying nutrients or biology triggering products directly into the plant.

When growers begin to get serious about using a foliar program they begin to think more about water quality and what in that water can reduce or hinder their efficiencies. These growers typically begin their program by testing their well or municipal water for water pH, calcium and manganese levels and degree of hardness.

Each of these parameters affect how well the applications get through the wax layer on each leaf and how little or much of each product gets tied up by the minerals in the spray tank.

We have been lucky to have been exposed to a top researcher who works extensively with Japanese water and industrial scientists who have been studying water quality and action for decades. They know and recognize the value of paying attention to water quality and how it can benefit foliar applications.

What we have found to give the best results is water that is first run through an reverse osmosis filter and is then run through a structuring or energizing device.

An analogy that fits is that if you use DeWalt or Milwaukee cordless tools and you pick up two batteries, one charged and one uncharged, you’ll find they weigh the same, yet the charged one is in a state that is ready to help you get work done.

Bug stories

The insect of the week continues to be corn rootworm larvae and beetles. I have heard of beetle populations in western Iowa as heavy as 24 beetles per plant. This would project to a very high egg and larval numbers as each female will lay 250 to 500 eggs that could attack the corn roots in 2014.

These numbers translates into 4,500 eggs per root mass, enough to overwhelm any trait or liquid or granular insecticide. It sure appears that a two- or three-crop rotation or a method to control egg-laying beetles had to be applied to bring high populations under control.

We are testing the formerly successful Invite or Slam program where CRW beetles were attracted by a semiochemical (scent) where they ate a 10 percent rate of a registered insecticide that killed all the beetles for about 14 days.

Aphid pops seem to be remaining low. One finding is that 50-degree temps caused the aphids to move off the bean plants and into the trees to begin their egg laying.

Weed control

More bean fields are erupting with different species of amaranthus that have escaped different control products. Palmer amaranth species is not here yet, but we have the red root species as well as common waterhemp.

We can also see hybrids that stand about 5 feet tall, with a very thick red root, red stem and long narrow leaves. These have the starch reserves to push out new buds and branches after the plants have been torched with the burner herbicides.

Next issue: When you stop and inspect the prevented planting fields that hold heavy populations of pigweeds that have been sprayed with 2, 4-D you’ll see there are many survivors, especially if any of the plants had formed a seed head.

I visited several weed-filled fields along U.S. Highway 69 last Saturday. More growers are seeing this and wondering if adopting this iffy results program to keep their beans clean is their future.

It appears that a more effective and planned program that looks at mineral and pH levels in the soil is going to be needed.

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

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