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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Feb 28, 2014

We are now in the last four weeks of what is normally considered winter. It is typically a time of highly variable weather, where it can be 45 degrees one day and the next day a full blizzard moves across the state, closing most of travel and business activities.

As the temps rise and each day becomes more conducive to outdoor activities it will become easier to finalize and implement plans to roll field equipment hitting fields.

Soybeans

Just when we were all hearing how big the South American soybean crops were going to be, we begin to hear about how dry it has become in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. With their lighter soils these flash droughts can appear much quicker. It has been quite hot in many locations, so the evapotranspiration demands have been high.

I have to get a new appraisal from friends in those two large soybean-producing countries for the latest info, but it sounds from the outside that they have dried out in the past three to four weeks. Organic matter of less than 1.5 percent doesn’t hold much water. Traited varieties have also been shown in the scant research to have lowered water use efficiency.

That is a bad combo. Now if a lot of their mid-season planted beans or second-crop beans are entering the flowering period and they get rain, the risk of soybean rust will increase and be potentially harmful.

This gives a great chance of price increases for Midwest-grown beans. Thus it will be worthwhile to invest in the products that have a great chance of improving yields. No. 1 and No. 2 on the list are seed-applied fungicides that produce a healthy seedling and replant insurance followed by a top-grade inoculant that will be important in helping the plant roots to fix as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as possible.

In many trials the ABM inoculants have finished as the top-rated brand. It takes roughly 5 pounds of fixed N to produce a bushel of beans. If the nodules do not form as required, those yields will not occur. With the drought conditions in place since July 2011, survival of those strains in the soil has been questionable.

Each spring an important questions is what the over-winter survival rate of bean leaf beetles. By late February it should be possible to safely say that survival in arctic-type conditions will have been very poor. In most of the western Corn Belt, snow cover was scant, during their chances to survive even more.

If price holds for beans it would also be a year where one could justify doing the extra items such as applying a biological or foliar fertilizer hormones to induce more branch formation.

Given decent soil fertility levels the bean grower who wins the branch count game wins the yields game.

Western weather

A noted topic of the last few weeks has been the lack of adequate water supplies in the western states. The same 4-mile-high, refusing-to-move high pressure ridge blocking most major moisture fronts from moving into the states.

It is the same one forcing the jet stream north along the western border of the U.S., helping to warm Alaska, and then dragging the cold, arctic temps south over the Midwest.

How dry weather in California, Oregon and Washington affects Iowa is that there is a good amount of Midwest grain typically fed in those livestock operations.

If their water boards are already telling them there will only be 10 percent of the normal water or none after June, then they will have to look east for their grain supplies.

We will have to hope for enough rain to produce for that need. If Nebraska farmers fill that need we will be in place to produce for that deficit.

BioFilters

Most people that have attended one of the ISU Extension field days have seen one of their bioreactors. In the west they have BioFilters. These are generall dirt trenches, but there are some poured concrete in ground cavity, that is filled with wood chips and red wiggler worms that catches waste water or liquid waste.

The bacteria growing on the chips or in the worm’s gut do the breaking down of the waste. These are being installed near several types of enterprises in the western states now and will provide a source of gray water, that would have previously been wasted, for crop use.

On-Farm Network

The Iowa Soybean Associations’ On-Farm Network held its annual meeting recently on a snowy day that limited attendance. ISA released figures on how some of their grower-based experiments turned out in 2013. The set of results that did wake people up was the response the growers saw from a biological product known as SabrEx.

This ABM product, developed at Cornell University, works by stimulating root growth and plant health. The beneficial trichoderma fungus works by releasing organic acids that boost the availability of manganese, iron and copper.

The 19.7-bushel-per-acre yield response seemed huge to them, but is right in line with what many growers have seen since it was commercially released.

Getting a response like that is what growers should be investing in this coming season with both corn and beans.

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

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