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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Apr 10, 2015

Now that March and winter are over there are a few things to say goodbye to and a few things to welcome in.

Warm temps and more hours to sunshine will be with us until some time in late fall. The lawns and parks are beginning to green up and the grass is beginning to grow.

The kids, young and old alike, can partake in summertime outdoor activities they have been dying to do since the leaves fell off the trees last fall. Summertime baseball and softball will be with us once again, to play or watch or listen to on the radio as we did when we were kids.

As to what we get to say good bye to – heavy snows, slippery patches of ice on the roads or walks, wind chills, heavy coats, and scheduling events or trips without having to worry about flight cancelations or blizzard shut downs.

Acreage fluctuations

It seems unusual to hear that many growers are still poised to jump on this next crop report in making their decision as to what mix of crop to plant. If Iowa farmers had a wider choice rather than just corn or beans and the competition for markets was only coming from farmers in other states there would be more options.

Rainfall amounts during the summer and disease threats are likely to cause greater variance in grain prices than minor acreage fluctuation. Proximity to multiple markets is also a big factor. Thus there is the typical view of what to plant, the contrarian’s view, and that of the contrarian. It’s like a big paper, scissors and hammer game.

In Brazil and Uruguay growers may choose between five or more crops depending on expected profitability. They have longer seasons to work and cost to get the crop to markets can have a large bearing on final returns, thus one of the focuses within their ag systems is to get more livestock into the countryside so feeding any grain on their own farms or in their neighborhoods is an option.

A few states’ legislatures are forwarding bills on industrial crops such as natural fiber production, hoping to develop alternatives to petroleum-based sources.

In many states there are smaller operations planning to grow veggies or fruits that are costly to transport in or are meant to replace what has been grown in California and is now at risk with its long-term water problems.

Depending on how long it takes to develop markets for the grain produced from the new row crop acres around the world, growers may have to get creative again to match production to consumption.

Planting date

The soils are exceptionally dry and fit now given the calendar date. The 1 to 2 inches of rainfall expected later this week may change this situation. Farmers who have gone into their fields with machinery are reporting the ground is working well, but remains cold.

The insurance date for replanting coverage is still about a week away and it is fiscally sound to wait for that date. So when should a person begin to plant corn?

Normally one needs ground that is dry enough to do any tillage or have their planters work properly without mudding up. We also like to see the soils close to 50 degrees before starting. The seed-applied fungicides are improved now with Apron and Maxim so the seeds don’t rot after 2.5 weeks in the soil, but overall seed quality from several companies has not.

In the last six years we have seen the majority of corn fields begin to “ghost out” sometime in mid- to late-August and quit accumulating grain weight.

In 2013 it was around Aug. 15 with a few stress days. Last year the heat arrived the weekend before the Farm Progress Show.

The crop survey teams don’t seem to acknowledge or recognize this event, even while it has had an effect on yield. The early planted or the early maturity hybrids that get a higher percentage of their grain fill completed have been the higher yielding fields.

Thus being planted early has been advantageous the last few years.

Soybeans growers face a conundrum on planting date. Earlier planted beans typically form more podded nodes, which helps to produce more total pods and bushels. But it can increase the risk of SDS, especially in a wet year.

Later-planted beans have to play catch-up to compensate for fewer branches and nodes. Overall, I would sooner plant beans on the early side and do the other things right to minimize the threat from SDS.

Those adjustments include choosing beans with the right parentage that have done well in SDS screening trials, applying micronutrients by V4 and once later to keep their immune response high, working to minimize the fusarium population in the soil by applying a pseudomonas in furrow or at planting time, and considering using an affordable on-seed product that either fights the fusarium or to kick up the plants’ immune response, called systemic acquired response.

In this category would be the new ILeVo, the HeadsUp, or an encapsulated pseudomanas product. Growers in southwest, southeast and central Iowa and parts of Missouri who got hit with terrible SDS and are getting no credible answers as to the causes, need to change course and get more proactive to avoid the huge yield losses seen in 2014.

Drift risks

I was in the office of a major retailer late last summer. They just had a visit from their insurance agent, who had informed them that business was going to be done differently in the next seasons. Those companies recognize that some of the more volatile herbicides may return and will increase the risk of drift problems.

They also acknowledge that more growers are having custom applications being made on their acres due to time constraints as well as being able to shift liability to the application company.

The change the agent had announced was that if any applicator began to spray a field after the wind speed exceeded 10 mph the insurance company was not going to cover any damages.

How does a farmer or applicator manage this when smaller particles will be needed to get the coverage that more of the post waterhemp controlling products need? They will need to educate themselves again as to the proper size of nozzles and droplets as well as recognize pressure records.

As part of the solution to the potential drift problem is the Dyna-Jet Flex system. It is a boom and nozzle system that operates with high frequency, rapid pulse solenoids that will cycle many times per second, but are only on 10 to 35 percent of the time allowing the operator to raise pressures while controlling droplet size yet reducing drift.

In their experimental work it showed a great reduction in particulate drift.

N management

So Bill Stowe is going through with his threat against the three counties in Iowa? There are growers who would like to start shooting mortars already.

Then there are those who are conscious of the problem that can occur when much or all of the nitrogen is applied in late October or through November, while the period of maximum N uptake is in early/mid-June through late July. That leaves lots of days when the ground temperature exceeds 50 degrees, where saturated soils can put a high percent of the N at risk.

One way to solve part of the problem of N loss is to have growers declare early as to what form of stabilizer they intend to use. There are about a half dozen commercialized forms being marketed.

There are also other produces like sugars, molasses and sulfur fertilizers that can do decent jobs of stabilizing the soil-applied N.

With more growers recognizing the availability of having their soils Haney-tested for biological life, more will rightfully be questioning the positive or negative effect of each of the stabilizers.

Getting a better score is indicative of having fields with better moisture intake and able to hold more organic matter nitrogen.

If yield potential, cost of production, and potential corn suitability rating values being determined by the 1 to 50- 50 being the best – getting a good score is going to be important.

Yield potential and positive ROI chances will be reflective of that score, thus landlords and growers will become cognizant of each stabilizer effects on soil quality.

May the soils receive the needed rain, yet dry quick enough to get planted on time this spring.

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

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