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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Apr 18, 2014

Mid-April is here and the weather seems very unsettled. On Saturday, the temps near Ames were close to 80 degree, and one day later it was snow again.

Such wide swings make it tough to make plans and schedules with all field and livestock work.

Such as should we hook up the planter or snowplow to the planter tractor? It brings more realism to last year’s joke pictures that had a snowblade on front of their planter tractor.

As it has turned out, there were farmers out on their planters in different areas on Friday afternoon and on Saturday

The hard rain that dropped rainfall amounts ranging from 2 to 6 inches of rain across the state put a stop to that. Less adventuresome farmers who paid attention to the weather forecasts looked at the predicted cooler temps moving in early in the week and decided to keep the seed in the bag rather than take the risk of having poor stand due to cold water imbibition.

The knowledge that the frost layer was just below the 2-foot mark helped keep other operators from jumping the gun.

Spring planting

After last spring’s protracted planting season, it is understandable why everyone want to get stated as soon as possible.

Up around Clarion it seemed every farmstead held a slew of equipment ready to go to the field as soon as the soils were dry enough.

In a few of the best-tiled fields, there was enough drainage to be passable. In the majority, there were enough low and wet spots to force operators to wait another few to seven days to be ready.

I did see on guy planting around Gilmore City on Friday on a sandier field, and it seemed to be going well for him.

Was it the thing to be doing, given the wet and cold weather that was predicted to arrive on Sunday? As it has turned out much of the weather Corn Belt is greatly in need of getting 2 to 6 inches of moisture into the 2- to 6-foot depth of the soil profile.

ISU Climatologist Elwynn Taylor’s old observation about having a full profile going into the spring gave us an 80 percent of a trend line crop has proven accurate, so delaying things for another week or so if we could get this week’s rain seemed worth it, especially since the ground temp was not consistently at 50 degree.

We will just have to see how everything progresses before we know who was right or wrong. Either way the percentage of corn acres already planted in the major cornbelt states is still very low when compared to normal and way behind the quick years.

Another reason to delay planting a bit is that corn planter gurus who pay close attention to seed quality and appearance are again saying that their growers would benefit from having warmer soils in which to plant.

We all have to remember that a high percent of the corn acres are being planted by operators who are running with machines of 24 rows or more or a pair of them.

Once things are fit and the weather stays clear a high percentage of the crop can be planted within a week. This year limited number of days when machinery could be pulled out and worked on has been limited and quite a few people simply were not ready for a real early season.

Pests to remember

There are insect pests that can be counted on to cause problems every year while there are others that make an appearance once every three to five years. And for each of them there are schedules they seem to keep based on heat unit.

One a person learns them it is easier to set a scouting schedule to follow to try to anticipate each and plan for their control.

Given the very cold conditions and limited snow cover over the western two thirds of the state we will see a gradient occur as far was which insect species did not survive the cold conditions.

We will likely see a very low cutworm population, as it warmed up only in the past two weeks or so.

Bean leaf beetle survival is very temperature dependent. Unless they were in very deep cover a high percentage should have died.

Corn borer were not bad in 2013 and should not be a problem again until 2016 and 2017. CRW eggs are somewhat dependent of winter time temps that somewhat determine what percent of the eggs hatch. With the high adult counts in many fields don’t expect them to disappear completely.

Be prepared with your plan and products on what you will be using to control them in 2014 and 2014. My guess is that more growers will be willing to consider an adult scouting and treatment program which serves to limit egg laying and the next year’s infestation levels.

In past years, I have mentioned an entomologist named Phil Calahan, who did his research at the University of Florida.

He was a pioneer in that his pre-ollege job was to conceptualize, design and build electromagnetic radar antenna for the U.S. Air Force. That experience allowed him the expertise to recognize the similarities between insect antenna and aircraft antenna.

He spent 20 years proving his theory, which was that insects detect their mates, scents, targeted plants, and way through their environment via EM signaling.

Today none of the entomologists I have met or studied, save one, who have studied his concepts and are furthering his research.

It creates too many questions about why our crops are attracting the problematic insect pests.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if research could be directed in that direction and we could learn how to increase their natural resistance/tolerance?

It is interesting to know that the USAF is still interested for obvious reasons.

Last minute planning

Now that the planting season is here what decisions could you make that could make you money over the next seasons? Would it be testing a new biological seed treatment that you read about but have not procured yet?

Is that product the SabrEx that gave a 19.7 Bu/A yield increase in the On Farm Network? Might it be another biological or seed applied product that may help to control the pythium or fusarium that have been killing your seedlings in your fields wetter area the last few seasons. Will it be the decision to apply 33percent of the total nitrogen as a side dress?

Those are three easy questions that many Midwest growers have faced and dealt with. Are you one of them who still need to make one of those decisions?

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

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