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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 14, 2014

Based on the fact that temperatures are headed to the freezer and snow fell in Minnesota and parts of Northern Iowa Monday night, fall seems to be over.

The weather guessers tend to limit their forecasting periods to no more than one week, so we can only hope for more southerly winds and a warm-up that would last through through December.

Looking back on the growing season it seemed to be completely different than any other we have seen. In ways, it was like 2009 with its cool temps and delayed harvest. Many parts of the Midwest came close to setting records for the lowest number of days exceeding 90 degrees.

Rainfall records were set for several time periods, yet parts of the five-state area went for four to six weeks without rain.The delay in the spring warm-up until late May put crops behind in development from the start. And then this fall there were parts of the Midwest hit by freezing temps around Sept. 15, while the first really hard freeze held off until early November.

Harvest

While it would be nice to say that the Iowa and Midwest corn harvest is 100 percent complete there are still growers who have larger corn acres where a portion have remained too wet to drive through with larger equipment. So those individuals could actually benefit if the ground was frozen for a week, permitting them to get through some of those fields.

There won’t be much bragging about yields coming from those late-harvested fields. Crops tolerating flooded conditions for multiple weeks cost a high percentage of the expected yield. Stands were reduced, nitrogen was lost, and weed competition within those ponds were all factors that caused bushels to be subtracted from those early yield expectations.

Refocusing

The Extension farm business leader with the University of Nebraska recently wrote about focusing on profitability again. She said that since 2009 and the start of the ethanol boom, the extra cash injected into the grain markets had somewhat clouded producers and ag businesses’ perception in how do business.

Money was plentiful for grain producers, and profits were easy.

Then when ramped-up grain production on marginal acres in the U.S. and on under-producing acres in foreign countries produced a surplus of grain, the resulting prices are not projected to cover the $230 to $250 higher costs per acre to produce that grain.

She said to shave costs while still maintaining as much production, expenses needed to be prioritized by determining what products are essential to harvest bushels. She questioned if the precision ag electronics are absolutely essential in light of corn now being under $4.

Stalk nitrate tests

In a year where there was a surplus of rain in May and June before much of the corn went into its rapid growth phase, there were many fields that showed moderate to extreme signs of nitrogen deficiency. There were fields that did not show great symptomology, but N shortages were suspected.

A post mortem on those plants, a fall stalk N test, can give a broad indication as to which fields had plants that fell into a deficient situation versus which ones had adequate to surplus N.

The categories signifying shortages or excesses are still broad and much wider than with any other nutrient categorization, so hopefully we will eventually see equipment that will easily put a number to the problem.

Neo nics

The recent release of a study conducted by EPA has generated a few articles in the national ag press. The study looked at the universal use of the Neo-Nic insecticides commonly used on major crop seeds as well as in several post-emerge products for systemic insect control.

They related disappearance or near disappearance of several insect classes, a major reduction in many birds and the role they possibly played on the bee colony collapse.

When field trials were run with Poncho, Gaucho and Cruiser we saw about a 6 bpa yield increase over no treatment. Thus it was easy to say that 6 bushels times $4 (for corn) or 2.5 times $9 per bushel (for soybeans) was an extra $24 per acre, so the return was there.

Then when every seed company began using them the advantage to the adopter likely was negated. They did help with wire worms as well as with seed corn maggot, or with bean leaf beetles after a mild winter.

The forward-thinking crop protection companies knew this shoe was going to drop since the entire family has been banned in Europe for more than two years. If they do disappear timely scouting and judicious use of labeled insecticides will still be available.

Again having growers understand insect biology with timely scouting will be important.

Cruiser was a great aid for fields within 2 to 4 miles of a tall grass prairie or woods after a mild winter for a farmer who planted beans early.

Next spring after the extremely heavy honey bee losses are recognized, people may begin asking serious questions as to environmental cost versus value.

Fish farming

Many seafood lovers in the Midwest who miss having fresh fish available to them on a regular basis may welcome a new industry to Iowa. With support from USDA, ISU and the Farm Bureau, meetings and open houses will be held for interested individuals to listen to the business potential for growing and processing tank-raised Australian sea bass in Iowa.

If the driving forces for this venture are able to follow through on plans there will also be a processing plant set up to clean and package the fish for the local and regional market.

This comes at a time when a dedicated soybean genetics and seed company has developed a line of soybeans specifically bred for the fish market.

Those beans have the right combination of Omega oils to give the meat the proper heart healthy fat profile for which ocean fish are known.

Stay tuned here as central and northcentral Iowa could be at the heart of this industry.

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

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