The 2014 growing season is now in its stretch run where end-users and competitors are milling through the Midwest to gain their prospective on how the crops look in the field.
Most of them have moved east to west in getting their looks at judging how Iowa and Illinois corn and soybeans look.
Quite a few major grain producing countries know that what happens in the Big Three-I states, plus Nebraska and Minnesota, influences both supply and prices in their locales and markets.
A few colleagues and I have been with such groups over the past 10 days and are expecting more between now and the Farm Progress Show.
While having a decent looking crop is nice, the end game is its monetary value when converted into exports and finished products that is important to the U.S. Midwest states’ economies.
The crop status
The two-day drizzle that covered the central and west central third of the state on Aug. 6 and Aug. 7 was like a dream rain to farmers and businessmen where it fell.
Most of them had not seen a rain during July and August since 2010. The amounts that fell ranged from .5 to 5 inches with many towns reporting between 1.5 to 3 inches.
Having it fall steady for those two days allowed it to soak in perfectly with zero runoff. While it will not be enough to finish out the corn or bean crops each inch could well boost final corn yields by about 12 bushels and each soybean yield by about 5 bushels.
The only regret was that not enough territory north of U.S. Highway 20 received more than a half inch. In those spots, ground is cracking and crops are showing signs of stress. Some of the top end yields are being lost due to lack of moisture.
This lack of moisture is happening in others states. In just the past few days I have heard first-person reports of how there are large areas in Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri where dryness is a current problem and the crops are going backward.
There are varying degrees of what the yields losses will be, but there are still many ways in which bushels can be lost before they are in the bin.
The bean acres
The bean acres have good yield potential yet, and I like the branching and pod set on the beans that often were planted two to three weeks later than intended.
The operators who applied micros and hormonal-laced fertilizer concoctions early have three- to six-side branches on their plants and up to 19 podded nodes.
Those that did not apply them are seeing 12 to 15 podded nodes, which is below normal.
Across at least four states there are many acres where the bean plants stayed yellowed and stunted for quite a while due to a combination of 2013 and 2014 mixed of herbicides.
Many growers were scratching their heads wondering what they had done wrong and why their bean fields looked so crappy.
In the big picture, a thorough understanding of herbicide degradation pathways and each herbicide family’s mode of action coupled with knowledge of when those applications were made and the moisture situation during the later part of the 2013 growing helps to explain why some of those beans stayed short.
There is very likely a micronutrient interaction, as well as a microbial activity component to it, as minerals is only available for plant uptake if oxygen is available to foster that microbial mediated release.
If there were herbicide problems we have to learn from it and see how we can mange things differently in future years. We are in a time period where we are limited in effective available broadleaf products and don’t want take any out of our toolbox.
Rain will still be needed to fill bean pods over much of the state. The plants have about three weeks left when they should be filling.
We saw in 2013 that late-planted beans can work miracles given enough rain and sunlight and dedicated help from the people trying to raise them.
Bugs to worry about
The bug of the week would be the soybean aphid. Many fields along Iowa Highway 3 are showing up with populations that range from less than 20 to over 300 per plant.
Those at the high end of that range need immediate attention. Those at the low end should be scouted at least once if not twice per week. Remember they are sucking the sap that should be devoted to seed fill.
Gauging the population in each field is tough sometimes due to the spotty nature of the infestation. It is possible for a 10-foot circle of plants to be at over 300 per plant for over a week without the surrounding plants to become heavily infested.
Typically, the overall infestation in a field exploded as the plants advance from the R4 through to the R5 growth stage.
According to Dr. Dave Ragsdale, former University of Minnesota aphid expert, once the R5 stage is reached the sugars and oils held within vacuoles inside the leaf cells are released all the leaves become excellent food sources for the sucking insects.
This is what is happening now. Typically the beans have filled the 30-inch rows by July 25 and spraying with a ground rig is impossible. This year the shorter beans will still field traffic.
Don’t ignore this insect as it can be very damaging.
The other insect now appearing is the corn rootworm beetle. Their normal appearance date along U.S. Highway 20 is July 3 through July 8. In certain years, late-emerging beetles can be here through mid-August and even mid- and late-September.
High levels of Western beetles were seen around Omaha and Peoria three weeks ago. Northerns began appearing about 10 days ago near Fort Dodge and Ames. Now the westerns are back. Because pollination is over, farmers raising corn in rotation don’t have to worry too much about them.
Those who anticipate growing second year corn may want to scout for them and treat if they hope to lower the egg-laying that will produce the root chewing larvae in 2015.
Broadcast applications do work. Or growers could study the use of SideTrack D Cucurbit bait mixed with a 10 percent of an insecticide which leaves the population of beneficial insects intact to clean up other insects and insect eggs.
Currently, growers have to watch for the female beetles to begin swelling with eggs and time any applications to be made just prior to their egg-laying activity. Those first ones will be happening around Aug. 18
The word of advice is that now is the time to be alert to crop damaging insects and to the leaf diseases that are here and could become more problematic if genetic/nutritional tolerance is low or field topographies are conducive to disease occurrence.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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