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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Sep 12, 2014

Fall is now definitely in the air. The full moon is scheduled for Sept 9. Originally it was viewed as a dangerous time, since the colder Canadian air often invades during this lunar event. It appears that it occurred early enough and with enough latent heat to keep any cold weather out and the crops safe until after Oct 5.

Fall 2014 decisions

The major issues growers will be dealing with over the next year will be one of working through cash flow projections in light of much lower cash grain prices.

For multiple years, livestock farmers had such problems as grain prices soared while meat prices stayed low.

Now, larger crop acreages and more favorable weather worldwide have helped cause the reversal in those fortunes.

From visiting with ag bankers and ISU economists we hear that most farmers’ cash flows are ending up in the red.

How they deal with this will be a big story over the next few seasons. In surveys, common responses range from fewer pounds of fertilizer being applied, to fewer machinery purchases.

Each of these plans will have to be examined to make sure they are not too counterproductive. Soil testing should still be done on schedule to track what nutrient levels exist for crop usage.

If nutrient levels are low and the percent chance of getting a major response to adding fertilizer in front of that year’s crop exist, then not applying fertilizer that year can be costly for that operator.

Long-term stability among landlords and renters helps with the issue of making sure removal rates are followed as much as possible, since both parties can benefit or sacrifice equally.

Looking at input costs forces one to carefully examine weed control. I had the chance to look at a University of Illinois-designed weed control plot yesterday near Clear Lake where they planted rows of different weeds and grasses north and south and applied different product mixes east and west. It helped to test and show which products did the best job of controlling or failing to control specific weeds.

In past years it was easy to pick out clear winning combinations. This time it was more difficult since a high number of weed seeds germinated after the May 20 to May 25 deadline, which used to mark when weed germination finished.

One can hear discussions where keeping soybeans clean can cost $30 to $40 per acre.

The use of residual products will be the doctrine everyone is now advised to follow.

One issue that exists is that the rate of new product releases is slow to non-existent. There are no silver bullets showing up in plots and nearly every success story can be checkmated with one partial failure.

The modern axiom is to not use the same product too often for fear of weeds and insects adapting.

SDS in beans

In 2010, an SDS crisis in many parts of the U.S. bean growing area developed, especially in central and north central Iowa. This year the epicenter was in southeast Iowa and northern Missouri. There are still questions about the causes and factors related to the disease’s appearance and severity.

In dissecting the problem there are rainfall and drainage issues, genetic and susceptibility issues, compaction factors, and nutrient availability and herbicide usage issues relating to both 2014 and prior year applications.

This year planting dates did not matter as much as in 2010.

When examining information garnered by past USDA research, the one fact that jumps out is how soil biology, namely pseudomona populations, which serve to keep fusarium populations in check, can be wiped out by certain broad-spectrum herbicides having bactericidal properties.

If the plants and their roots are not able to mount an adequate immune response against those soil pathogens the root infections occur become more severe with time.

The questions we have yet is the relationship and timing in the soybean leaves between nitrate N versus ammonial N following the extension of the last trifoliate leaf set.

The corn crop

More growers are taking an objective look at their corn fields and asking what has happened to cause them to turn brown so quickly, and weeks before they black-layered.

Why were weeks of potential grain fill lost, when everyone in the media has been saying things were great and everything was normal?

It is only the sixth year in a row this has happened. Why have certain farmers’ crops and fields stayed healthy and green?

Make sure you have gone into these senescing fields to see how many of the ears and kernels had reached black layer. Make sure you scout each of the problem fields to check for stalk quality issues.

Soft stalks can be found in many of them and could dictate harvest timing.

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

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