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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Sep 4, 2014

After one of the coldest seasons that even octogenarians remembered, none of us Iowans, except those totally sold on ice fishing and pushing snow, want to see the cold temps approach.

Until then we should be able to experience another month or two of days in the 50s through 70s with a few 80s thrown in.

The crops are still about 10 days behind in development, and it has been a harbinger of potential problems with wet corn all season.

But the way corn plants are yellowing in the advanced stages of early death, the real question is what percentage will stay alive long enough to reach normal black-layering.

The crops

1994, 2004 and now 2014. All three seasons were cooler-than-normal with plentiful rain and a long fall.

It was in the stars to have big crops this season, which is both good and bad. The crop tours as well as the USDA are all predicting big corn and bean crops and that is likely to happen.

Yet anyone who has traveled much through this part of the country, at least in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri, in the past two weeks, has to be looking at the corn crop that is turning the same ghostly yellow colors it has every mid- through late-summer since 2009.

Soybeans are turning yellow weeks early in a patchy pattern centered around SDS. Even visitors to the show that didn’t really know crops recognized that things were not right.

Anyone spouting lots of happy talk needs to remember the way the corn looked in the years before 2009, and acknowledge that something is dramatically affecting the health of the corn plants. The same goes for the soybean crop in that SDS used to be only a minor disease of saturated compacted soils and it always showed up only on the headlands and compacted paths.

As long as temps don’t climb into the mid 80s or higher in the final three weeks, the corn may escape significant losses. In beans SDS seemed to hold off until most of the pod fill had been completed so yields should still be good.

One factor with this crop is that most growers who actually walked their fields saw many lighter-than-normal populations. The extended cold soil temps and lower-than-normal cold germs were not conducive to fast emergence and good early vigor.

There were many plants that never had much push even when crusts were minimal, and then there were fields where major crusting did occur.

Both combined to create stands that were 3,000 to 5,000 plants under the targeted goals. That is why scouts and farmers that walked their fields really wondered about what the crop forecasters came up with for populations.

Goss’ wilt

On Aug. 26, we had a well-attended barbecue at our rural residence a few miles from the show site. We were lucky enough to have quite a few notable guests at the event.

Among those guests were a well-known plant pathologist from his Purdue days, along with a micronutrient formulator who earned his stripes at the University of missouri and the top plant pathologist and the chief plant nutritionist from Brazil.

We visited several fields and growers in the Story and Boone County areas getting updated as to what these growers were doing and seeing, and having those three fellows share their knowledge.

They were most interested in seeing crops affected with Goss’ wilt as well as SDS, and take pictures and pull roots along with splitting stems/stalks. Both were hoping to get a better handle on the major diseases that have exploded in our major crops the past five years and relating it to conditions and soil types in their states.

One field seemed to violate all official rules about how and where Goss’ was supposed to attack. This field was on newly broken ground that had never grown a crop.

On the west end, about a third of the rows showed severe leaf scorching down to the ear. The rest showed the brown slimy bacterial slide on the lower two feet of stalk along with the brown slimy second ear.

The variety was supposed to be tolerant to the bacterial infection, but no one must have told the plants. There was a big windbreak that would have protected the plants from the big storm and wind on June 30.

One thing we are hoping to do is to apply a new biological which has proven to shut down other Clavibacter infestations.

If we can get the material applied we can take notes and see if we can preserve stalk quality, which is going to be severely affected by the lignases and cellulose enzymes that will be released by the pathogen this fall.

Field days

Over the next two weeks there are going to be lots of field days where different varieties will be on display and different plant management schemes will be discussed. These are often great learning experiences.

Attend a few of these if you have the opportunity. Take your best questions along and don’t be afraid to ask the tough ones. If you really want an accurate answer, wait until the crowd clears so the speaker can address your question in some degree of privacy and can take time to include all the details.

While now is typically the time to start getting your favorite varieties reserved, this is the year where certain varieties will be in short supply. Thus be sure to speak early to best guarantee you getting your favorites in the volume you desire.

Open houses

There have also been open houses where different corn processing plants along with cellulosic plants have been on display. We all recognize that it was heavy handed bid oil politics that gutted a portion of the RFS this past year.

Somehow our fair leaders want to remain dependent on importing oil from countries where their people don’t like us. It is only by becoming energy independent that we can forget about some of the Middle East politics.

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

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