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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 7, 2014

November is here and many producers are grateful for the two to three weeks of warmer and drier weather that has allowed them to nearly catch up on corn harvest. We had heard the predictions of a repeat of 2009 when a high percentage of the corn was still in the field at Thanksgiving with a portion of those acres being harvested after Christmas.

There are still lots of task to get done and we are seeing the poorer-drained fields staying wet and somewhat impassible for grain harvest. It may require frozen ground to get some of those acres in the bin. Good tile pays again.

Market wise the commodity forecasters and tea leaf readers were telling us last week that the market psychology made a switch finally and that the funds were beginning to come back into the market on the bullish side.

Anyone who knows much about playing the market recognizes that a steady market is not one in which anyone can make much money. While mild or wild swings are tough to swallow at times, the daily swings are where seasoned traders can take advantage of by identifying fundamentals and spotting trends early.

This announcement was welcome in that prices were way under the cost of production. Something had to change to foster some form of optimism going into the 2015 season. One fact to be aware of is that the University of Illinos has calculated using trend line yields that 80.46 million acres will be enough to meet corn demand in the next marketing year. This tally does not reflect acres being chopped or producing seed corn, but is lower that the acreage figure of the last two years.

Harvest progress

The long spell of high 60s to low 70s weather felt great and was beneficial for grain drydown. Quite a bit of the corn was finally getting into the 16 to 18 percent moisture ranges meaning cheaper drying costs and easier handling. That did mean it was impossible to heap up the grain in the wagons or semis.

The ruts left in quite a few fields were impressive and deep. In retrospective it may have been wise to wait, but we never know what the right thing to do is. Going through with an inline deep ripper on bean stubble ground may be the tillage of choice. In stalk ground, a disk chisel or Dominator-type implement will normally fracture the soil if enough horses are available.

One thing to keep in mind is that the amount of soil lost to water erosion this spring was again much greater than is considered acceptable. Keeping enough ground cover to shield the soil from erosion during the winter and spring is the best way to protect soil. Using strip-till seems to be the best tillage method to form a good seed bed while still protecting a high percentage of the soil from hard rains.

By now few beans are left standing. Some of those that were left were planted late or a full season variety. The rains in late-August through September were beneficial to pod fill and was generally reflected in final yields being above target.

Ear molds

While ear molds were not a huge problem, the three-week wet spell lasting through mid-September was conducive to Diplodia forming its black stringy mycellial strands in and around the kernels on the tips of the ears. Hybrids having a lighter and earlier opening husk tended to have more issues with this.

Though it is a double-edge solution, adjusting the air up a bit will force those kernels out the back of the combine rather than stay in the grain tank.

Stalk nitrate tests

Taking late fall nitrate stalk samples is a practice that has value in that it provides guidance on the effectiveness and accuracy of your application practices. It gives guidance, but is still not the gospel since it gives a hindsight look at how well your application methods and amounts performed.

What casts a shadow on the findings is that there is such a variance on guidelines and detected amounts. The N researchers at Purdue University are saying if your stalk N-NO3 ppm readings are less than 251, your yields will generally be less than 80 percent of maximum.

The optimum range is 250 to 2,000 ppm, which is huge and makes us realize that there still needs to be a better, more precise and predictive way to project total nitrogen needs.

Soil sampling

Over the next few weeks it will be an ideal time to either sample yourself or by hiring a GPS-equipped sampling professional to update your soil sampling program.

It you are dealing with that now, it would be good to discuss a few important things with the person sending the samples to the lab. Figure out and communicate with anyone assigned this task if you want grid or management zone sampling.

Then discuss how you want the lab to handle high pH or sodic soils. Make sure you also discuss if you want a micronutrient analysis run so you can track the levels of critically important minerals.

Any omission now can influence the crops for the next three to four years.

Soil biology

There have been a few forward-thinking lab managers who are trying to develop an analytical protocol that provides the basic information, such as pH, P, K and OM, and base saturation and then hopefully a micronutrient package.

This can then be tied in with a biological profile that identifies the species using peptides or the genetic material from the body or the microbe.

This is considered an advance over the lipid test, which looks for the specific fats making up the cell walls of the critters in the sample and allowing identification of each.

Ray Ward with Ward Labs out in Kearney, Nebraska is offering this testing now for his clients as well as with clients of cooperating labs.

Researchers Rich Haney and Jill Clapperton have been the leaders in perfecting the testing protocols in this area.

This information could end up being valuable in that more biologicals will be used by growers in the near future. If you have already detected a shortage oo surplus in your soils you can take remediating action quickly.

Good luck with your last days of harvest or making preparations for next season.

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

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