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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 24, 2014

It’s late-October and colder weather is highly possible within a few weeks, so it’s getting down to crunch time for the 2014 harvest to begin rolling at full throttle.

It’s too bad that such a thing is totally out of our control, except to be fully ready, machinery, drying equipment, and manpower wise, for when decent weather and drying do occur.

Hopefully, we are now a few days into what may be the two-week time period for when such weather occurs.

As of Monday morning, that weather period is supposed to have just begun. The combines were moving through fields gingerly. Everyone is hoping for a big week of work.

The low spots in level fields and most of the low-lying fields were still sloppy with standing water in many of them.

Most operators have made the decision they would attack those fields and go around the waterholes until later, figuring that it may require a freeze to harden the ground enough to drive through the muddy spots.

It’s time to admit that seeing dry ground conditions like they were in 2011 and 2012, when there were few harvest delays, is not in the cards this fall. Hopefully, any breakdowns will be minor and parts will be readily available.

If the two good weeks do occur, a high percent of the crops could be in the bin and any fall tillage could get squeezed in before freeze up. Though it is hard to believe, Thanksgiving is only about a month away.

The soybean harvest

Hopefully, the remaining soybeans fields get harvested by the end of the week.

Any further rain could begin to degrade the beans in the pod creating field loss. Yields are extremely variable.

The biggest determining factors seem to be early ponding and degree of drainage followed by what kind of yields did each farmer set goals. Beans showed last year they are a very drought-tolerant crop and take advantage of late moisture in August and early September.

They do not like to sit in water during May and June, when the various slime molds cause root rot infections and root decay occurs. When those small bean plants turned light yellow it indicated that sudden death syndrome had occurred.

Because the prospect for the beans during June and July looked poor, most farmers gave up doing the little things, often bigger and some critically important tasks that ended up paying off for those who kept managing through the entire summer.

Early foliars paid off and most bean growers, who managed to double or triple branch, are seeing those efforts pay off in the yield carts.

So far I have heard lows of mid-20s to mid-30s up to the 70s and even 90s, which were a big surprise to those growers. Most of them have come to believe that many of the common diseases are mineral shortage-related and have taken proactive steps that have proven to keep the plants healthier.

The challenge this winter will be for growers to decide if they might use the new product called Heads Up and one or two nutrient applications on top of searching for better SDS tolerance to fight that costly disease.

The ISU nematology team reminds growers with infected fields to pull soil samples this fall and get samples sent in for analysis.

Corn harvest

By now many farm columnists have relayed their observations that in Iowa’s flat, glacial till , the huge yields predicted by market commentators are not materializing on all or on many acres.

While there will still be some 220s and 230s, getting those yields on lots of fields is not in the cards. In a year where there was too much nitrogen lost, not enough heat units in July and for the entire year, too many root and leaf diseases, and way too much early death because of named and unnamed fungi and bacteria that killed the crop four to six weeks early, every grower will have to be thankful for what grain is out in the fields.

Everyone is now being more realistic on yield reports.

In the wet areas and poorly drained fields, 130s to 140s are being reported.

Good growers who lost some nitrogen and had waterholes are finding out that 160s through 180 or 185 are more common achievements.

Hopefully, this news is acknowledged early enough by the markets that prices continue to recover. Will later-planted acres east of the Mississippi as in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio lower their overall projections?

As of Monday, the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service is reporting that Iowa is 19 percent harvested on corn, Illinois is at 43 percent, Minnesota at 16 percent and Nebraska is at 28 percent.

That is ahead of progress made in 2009, but a lot behind the five-year average.

The question was asked as to whether corn kernels always form a black layer when the plants die early. The kernels do form the brown or black abscission layer, which seals the kernels off from the plant and continued moisture uptake by the plant.

In years when the layer was formed abnormally, as in early plant death, the kernels seemed to dry slowly as though the layer was only partially effective in creating that seal.

Compaction

In wet falls as we are seeing now, there are deeper ruts being formed by the combines and grain carts.

Freeze and thaw cycles, targeted in-line deep tillage, past usage of gypsum, and the use of cover crops could help to mitigate their yield effects, but we will likely see evidence of compaction next year.

The caveat may be that if there is enough biological activity in the soil profile, the ruts and compacted layers should be broken up by the microbes and earthworms.

Operators may just have to use their penetrometers to take readings this fall or next spring to measure the depth and PSI of any compaction layers.

Soil testing

If you have not done so yet, be sure to decide who and when the people who typically pull soil samples, get your fields sampled.

Knowing which fields are most likely to benefit from each nutrient is the first step in developing your cropping plan for next season.

May you have the best of luck in getting more or your bushels into the bin.

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

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