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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Aug 16, 2013

Time is rolling along and growers who pay attention to nature’s signs recognize several harbingers of fall that have already been sent to us.

The cicadas began singing several weeks ago and supposedly tell of the approximate frost date. Several mornings last week were foggy, thus rain should be coming in 90 days.

And either the new or full moon is due about mid-September, so there is a threat of a frost or worse at that time.

There are a ton of sayings and I have never written all of them down. While it may be easy to say hogwash to all of them, anyone who works with the weather and insects recognize that many of the old timers were quite accurate in their observations and prognostications.

And for early frost I can remember early September of 1974, while on the trip down to college, we noticed field after field of corn through northern Iowa were taking on that gray look after having been frozen with the sub 32-degree temperatures.

Why that may be so pertinent today is that a number of growers have remarked in recent weeks that the corn and bean crops look quite good, for late June or early July. The fields are green, some are dry and others have received moisture, but considering the calendar says August the crops have a whole lot of catching up to do and not much time to do it in.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service figures were issued Monday for each state and each crop. They do paint a pretty picture, but don’t dwell on the lateness of the crops unless you apply your personal experiences which allow you to read between the lines.

The crop status

A few weeks ago the best crops in Iowa seemed to be in western counties, west of U.S. Highway 71, on Tama soils in east central Iowa and then in way eastern Iowa where the rolling ground moved the moisture off the fields quicker and no-t ill and strip-till management keeps soils in place.

Our neighboring states have varying crop conditions with parts of Minnesota having even more prevented planting than we did. Eastern Nebraska has good crops growing, but can always slip quickly into drought.

Missouri farmers still continue to fight wet conditions, and Illinois fields are highly variable, but are closer to normal than ours.

Since then the rains in western Iowa disappeared and the cooler weather seems to be what is saving their corn.

Tasseling and pollination has happened to a high percentage of the fields, but those mid-June planted fields often will need another week or two to reach the tasseling and silking stages. More temps in the mid- to high-80s would be helpful, but at the same time would increase moisture usage and threaten the plants’ kernel retention percentage.

Last week I mentioned that conundrum most corn and bean fields exist under. It’s nothing that a general, slow 3-inch rain would not solve.

The soybeans just don’t seem to be growing, which they won’t do with nighttime temps in the 40s and low 50s. Daytime temps in the low- to mid-70s give us growing degree unit daily accumulation rates of about half of what is normal for early August.

A few weeks ago most farmers were hoping that their beans would slowly fill in the 30-inch rows. Now they seem accepting of the fact that this is not going to happen for the first time many of them can remember.

This lack of height partly occurred due to planning date, but also partly due to cold soils and cold air temps.

Late crop management

Are there still things that can be done to aid both major crops? I would have to say yes after getting to know several top producers who countered conventional cropping wisdom and learned on their own, or with peer groups, using foliar fertilizer applications and certain biologicals could help plants recover from a slow start or increase yield potential that could be delivered if Mother Nature cooperated.

Last winter I had the chance to read more about the work on foliar fertilizer done by a Mississippi State University horticulture professor who worked with the Atomic Energy Commission. He did experiments to test the availability and efficiency of leaf versus soil placed minerals, often using radioactive-labeled isotopes.

The farmers who obtain good bean yields this year will be those growers who decided that they were going to actively and aggressively manage their bean crops this season, giving them every nutrient when external signs were given and normal growth stages signaled the need for particular mixtures.

Remember that 160 bushels per acre soybean yields were not reached by following the book. The same will apply to corn.

I wish we had more documented rules and treatment thresholds for Goss’ wilt. It seems that no university or researchers want to talk at all about the now No. 1 yield robber in our major crop. Strange.

There are programs in place that growers are now using. It will be interesting to recommend such, watch the plants develop, cut the stalks open, and see how the results turn out this fall.

Weed matters

This will be the year when many farmers recognized they were dealing with much tougher weeks than they had to just five years ago. Their normal post-emerge herbicide did not touch many broadleaf weeds, and then the two fall-back-on broadleaf products didn’t kill those weeds like they did in previous years.

One thing that was noticeable about the weed survivors is that many of them were plants that had large diameter, succulent roots that did not desiccate and were capable of fueling rebudding and regrowth of stems that were partially fried.

I am one CCA who has never fallen in love with the No. 1 burner herbicide since it can delay plant development by 10 to 14 days, and it seemed we had little extra time for plant recovery after being fried.

I have seen cases where application of that product when used as a last resort either worked or still left many survivors. When the latter occurred it was time to get out the row crop cultivator. It was interesting how the members of “45 and over bunch” were more inclined to accept that last suggestion.

Insects

Several normal buggy things were noticeable this past week. Corn root worm beetles began to appear, which was later than the normal July 3 time period.

At the same time and in some of the same fields one could still dig up second instar larvae feeding on the roots.

That indicates about a 1,000 GDUs spread on egg hatch.

No wonder several granular products gave iffy results and traits also had problems.

We will be doing a bit of field screening with new insecticides in tandem with the re-release of the Invite adult beetle control program in preparation of the 2014 relaunch.

We are hoping that this proven and inexpensive program will provide the support that traited and granular/liquid programs need to reduce egg-laying numbers.

In soybeans, crop scouts were finding that aphids were moving further south and the bean leaf beetle activity was moving north.

I could find both insects in fields along U.S. Highway 30 by last Saturday.

Be sure to be scouting your acres to gauge populations against known treatment thresholds in case remediating action is needed.

Best of luck in getting this 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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