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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Sep 20, 2013

It appears that this fall’s weather is going to be just as erratic as has been over the rest of the year.

On Sept. 9 the temps were at or near triple digits and on Sunday they had cooled off by 40 degrees.

Once they drop another 20 degrees we could be in the snow season again.

Several good meteorologists who are not afraid to stick their necks out are predicting a wet fall along with a long, snowy and cold winter.

Let’s hope they are wrong and it stays near freezing through Christmas with frequent, slow, one-inch rains to begin filling the moisture profile.

The corn crop

With the last week being very hot and the previous month being bone dry, the condition of both crops went further backward and decreased in ratings in most Midwestern states.

Surprisingly, the expected yields climbed upwards, or so USDA and market analysts predicted. Most growers saw another portion of their corn lose more or all of its green color.

The earlier-planted acres may have escaped the bog reduction in grain fill that accompanied this change, while the later-planted fields and hybrids may have had their shanks collapse, while the kernels were only in the dough or early dent stages.

Bob Nielson, a Purdue University agronomist, has floated figures that when plants die before the black layer has started to form, the percentage loss could be major.

Everyone will just have to wait until good representative fields are harvested and weighted before we will have a handle on the degree of damage the heat and dryness caused.

There are areas now where the corn still shows quite a bit of green because of scattered showers that fell during August of early September.

These tend to be on the state’s borders along with the areas north of U.S. Highway 20 on the northeast part of the state. The ear size in many of those fields looks good and kernel depth looks average.

I mentioned last week that a number of us were and have been slicing stalks open since the plants got out of the ground and were finding brown pith in the root area of many plants.

Later on a high percentage of the fields showed the light green/dark green streaking indication manganese, magnesium, boron, zinc and copper and would not have shown any more deficiency.

Since many of these facilitate the plants’ responses to drought stress it would have led to the plants having more problems tolerating this season’s weather.

We will be a lot smarter in two or three weeks after more combining has been done.

For the time being, it may be good to check the stalk quality in each field to see if the plants are likely to stand until harvest.

The multiple stresses that existed typically are tough on stalk integrity.

The soybean crop

So the average bean yield is supposed to be down just a few bushels from normal? How can that be possible, given the number of stress days which caused the plants to shrink in size, the leaves to gray, and many flowers and pods to not stay attached or fill in normal fashion?

Growers who I talk to that have been walking their fields and are making pod counts that are lower than they have seen in quite a few years.

Across the entire Midwest bean growers in states that had some of the better-rated bean acres still saw this delayed flowering and decreased pod counts.

Their thoughts blended with ours in thinking that the lack of sunshine and heat was reducing the photosynthesis of the plants and their overall growth rate.

Just like corn we will have to see how this reduced podding will correlate with yields.

Last year, late rains helped to puff the bean size up dramatically. Very few areas in central Iowa have received any such rains late in the season.

Thinking ahead on residue

In a few weeks many corn growers will be heavy into corn harvest, so now may be a good time to decide what you plan to do with your residue, especially if you will be raising any second-year corn.

If this is you, then you have to decide what program or products would help to degrade the stalks any intact stalks helping to cycle the nutrients as quickly as possible.

One thing to consider would be to apply a mineral/sugar mix along with a biological product that would help rot the stalks plus begin to rebuild soil biology.

Farmers who noticed their crop died very early again for the fifth year in a row and think they need to change course in their cropping practices are thinking and reading this may be a wise move.

Last week

I made a short remark last week that I was writing the article from Hawaii. I had received a call and request about 10 days earlier asking me to work with a team to lend advice on an environmental study. The study would deal with an issue that I had not seen or read about.

As it turned out several large seed companies who command 10,000 to 14,000 acres on which to raise parent seed in a semi- residential area containing lots of houses, businesses and schools and in a climate great for insects, diseases and weeds.

Thus in their attempts to control these three things they spray pesticides that seem to drift or erode, which is a problem due to winds which can and often do shift 180 degrees quickly and often do, or in the latter case wash in a heavy rain.

We talked to parents who are dealing with health issues such as taking parents or partners to dialysis or oncologists, or children with multiple health problems such as asthma or chronic nosebleeds.

Then they encounter rashes or other more serious problems whether outside and inside their own homes without being able to escape the dust or drift. People in many small and mid-sized towns have been putting up with the problem for more than a dozen years with no one willing to listen.

The state politicians and regulators have done nothing.

Any farmer in the Midwest who sprays a common pesticide for soybean aphids and gets to smell the fumes knows how fast they must speed up so they don’t have to tolerate the smell.

I know I do. Now imagine if those fields are next to your house or your kid’s and grandkids’ schools and the spraying occurs. What would you suggest?

Then the soils are very dusty and have to be worked to manage residue from the three to four corn crops that get planted each year.

Without a good cover crop, the pulverized soil gets into the air quickly and forms a brownish red cloud that fills the air.

I had several takes on the issue. What sort of difference would it make to apply better plant and fertility management to those fields?

Are they ready to use an improved series of cover crops? Have they explored the information and libraries covering the reduced risk and biological/soft pesticides that have been or are soon to be commercialized?

A problem they have now is if they have to go to or take a person to the doctor’s office or hospital for treatment and they are asked what they have been exposed to, they have no way to give an accurate answer.

What they would like to happen is a quicker way of knowing what they would have been sprayed with and if it is something they need to act upon quickly.

They are trying to get this registration system set up using their county system of supervisors as Bill No. 2941.

Stay tuned.

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

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