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By Staff | Feb 6, 2015

Our streak of warmer-than-normal temperatures came to a harsh end as Storm Linus plowed into the state on Saturday and Sunday.

It screwed up the Super Bowl watching plans of many folks in the affected states.

We had plans to do the same, but after making a snow drift plowing trip back from church in the morning, venturing out in the cold, white-out conditions did not seem like the rational thing to do.

Being this is the beginning of February it is time for the big Iowa Power Farming Show. This event typically marks the late-midpoint to the winter in the Midwest.

Since the groundhog in Pennsylvania reportedly saw his shadow we very likely do have at least six more weeks of cold temps.

We can survive the 20-degree conditions, it’s just that the minus-degree days still seem very cold, especially if the sun is not shining.


I expect the show to be have been well attended. Ag men and women are looking for something to do, especially if they have no plans to head south.

I don’t expect most growers to be pulling their checkbooks out to make any big purchases, but the focus is more likely to be on the little things like seed treatments, micronutrients, and any other add-ons that could offer inexpensive products with good ROIs.

MIT conference

On a related issue there is another conference at MIT the middle of this week. At this one the focus will be food quality and traceability.

As more millennials become consumers and food purchasers they seem to want to know more about how their food was raised and if its as wholesome as it has been advertised.

And they are not just taking some advertiser’s word, or a catchy jingo as verification of its quality.

Listening to consumers is always going to be a wise operating standard for farmers. I have heard more in the last year from producers marketing direct to consumers that the best way to gain good, loyal customers is by listening to their requests and needs.

Insect outlook

By the end of November, we all expected insect life to become extinct by spring. Now that the months of December and January were relatively mild we need to be observant of published guidelines as to the effect of chill hours on insect survival.

Our main questions are typically about three or four different species – corn rootworm eggs, bean leaf beetles, soybean aphids, honeybees.

We still have to wait and keep temperature records for the next two months to gauge survival of the CRW eggs. While the literature typically says that we normally don’t have temps cold enough to freeze their eggs, the cold conditions did freeze water lines 7 feet deep.

A lot of crops people still would like to find out more about the characteristics of those late hatchers that showed up in late-August and September.

By May, the entomology crew can make calculations to predict if we will see many of the over-wintering beetles. My guess now is they will not be heavy.

Soybean aphid egg survival likely got hit by the cold temps in October and November, but stay tuned to the next two months for the final determination.

As for honey bees, the main worry is that in a high percentage of the hives the bees consumed their summer production during August and early September.

The cause of this was unknown and astute bee keepers were feeding their hives over winter.

Indiana learning

Two of us made a quick run on Sunday to Bluffton, Indiana to attend a good crops conference. The focus was on soil management and different mineral mixes those growers have been using to coax the best yields and best nitrogen efficiency out of their crops.

Frank Dean, a microbiologist with Lido-Chem, gave his perspective on the restorative steps he was using on soils and citrus crops.

They have a strong Israeli connection in their research department, which is a strength since they have had such a strong need to be productive on poor soils and limited irrigation.

One project some of those farmers are working on is growing acres of a red fife wheat. This is a type of wheat that apparently has been bred more for its low levels of certain proteins that cause allergic reactions in a growing number of people.

If they find the variety can flourish in their area and in their climate it could become a nice rotation cash crop they may have milled and sacked for their own distribution. I will be getting some for my daughters.

The resistance issue

Friday was the day for the pest resistance meeting in Ames. This was in response to the increasing number of weeds and insects that have developed tolerance to the products that used to be effective in managing their numbers.

There were farm managers, crop consultants, pesticide people and scientific staff, bankers and growers in attendance – people who recognize that taking the ostrich approach is not going to solve the problem.

Part of the modus operandi was to contribute ideas that could be used to educate the farming public on the topic and how to have everyone take ownership of the issue.

I mentioned that when asbestos as a building material was found to cause health problems, when tobacco use was linked to the same, when cars were designed with defective gas tanks, or airline engines were faulty, those manufacturers had to take ownership of the problem.

The majority of those present recognize that the problem with resistance is only going to demand more vigilance, time and expense in the future.

But doing nothing will be even more expensive.

Cash flows

The figure given by bankers at that meeting was that 87 to 89 percent of the cash flows they had examined were still showing losses.

With grain prices declining with every USDA report marketers are wondering what to expect for prices on the 2015 crops.

So many magazines and projections over the last five years talked of new plateaus where $6 to $7 corn and $10 to $12 soybeans were going to be the new norm.

A national farm journal recently tallied all the extra acres from each country that had moved into row crop production.

Basically new crop land has been developed, counter to the old axiom that no one is making any new ground.

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

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