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By Staff | May 22, 2015

The calendar has now turned to the last week of May while the planting season for a higher-than-desired portion of growers in the Midwest seems to have drizzled past the optimum date for planting corn and later-than-expected time for soybean.

Things seemed to be going so well for the more venturesome farmers who jumped first and got their seed into the ground when the soils were too cool, but the soils were working great.

Most of that crowd remembered the rain-delayed 2013 and 2014 seasons when the planting dragged out for more than two months and yields in many parts of the Midwest reflected the late start.

Thus, we now have a situation where a significant part of the two major crops wer

planted over a month ago. Those look good as V2 seedlings and the soybeans are at the VC stage. The later portion is still in seed bags, while we are still watching the thermometer due to the unseasonable cool weather.

As of early Tuesday morning, I still have to listen to the weather to see if any low 30-degree temps occurred in Iowa or surrounding states.

The big news

Poultry growers and business people in the poultry growing areas of Iowa and surrounding states are still in the process of reacting to the reality that a serious epidemic has invaded their area, livestock buildings, lives and livelihoods.

And no one seems to have enough answers for the concerned people. Those who raise livestock and crops and are old enough to remember hearing how horses were wiped out by the sleeping sickness back in the’40s or the corn crop in the 1970 southern corn leaf blight will get to park this bird flu right next to them in memory or nightmare lane.

It is apparent that now enough disaster preparation has been discussed among the top level of managers at the state and federal levels. Who is doing what, and are they asking enough questions? Have they looked into related events in other countries and in other industries for similar events to see how deep the answers were buried and what the final culprits were?

There are still lots of stones that have gone unturned. Good epidemiologists should keep digging on this event and not worry about politics as much, In the end, things typically become too apparent.

One acquaintance did mention, half in jest, that we luckily did not have all 60 million egg-laying hens in the state in one big building.

Those who have studied German history know that Hitler, in the 1930s, advised against concentrating all their factories in the big cities, instead directing them to spread then apart throughout the many valleys so one big bombing run cold not wipe them out.

The tactic also spread the jobs and people throughout the entire country rather than in just a few big cities. In this instance, many consumers still have to find out what an egg, chicken or turkey supply shortage might look like.

The crops

For the large percentage of the corn crop that has been planted, the plants and stands look excellent. The corn could be rowed as early as most of us can remember, and the populations are good. The color of the plants is good, but we have to start getting enough heat and sunlight shortly if the plants are to continue to thrive when the energy in the seed has been depleted, which is by about V3 or V4.

When conditions remain cold and wet we used to see the different pre-emerge herbicides begin to have an effect on the plants with leaf twisting of abnormal growth occurring.

In some cases already, I have seen a degree of bleaching showing up with some of the triazine herbicides. The different in-plant detoxification systems are typically energy driven, and that has been lacking. In past years, we have often advised growers to give the small plants a few days to recover before some of the herbicides were applied.

As to whether any switching to early hybrids needs to be done, some incremental switching of your latest varieties to earlier maturities would be advised so as to not risk having too many full season hybrids in place. From a fertility angle, having optimum levels of sulfur in the soil and using foliar P applications are both things that can speed the corn crop along in cool seasons and help it reach maturity quicker.


In parts of the state, the bean crop is 50 percent to 70 percent planted, and the potential is still there to get optimum yields. Around the 30th to 25th of May, management of the crop needs to change a bit. Slightly higher seeding rates and a move to narrow rows is recommended once the 25th is reached. No change in maturity is needed until June 1 unless a very late variety for the area had been initially chosen. Another week down the road the advantage to narrow row beans becomes greater.

There are several management strategies that can be used to speed up the crop to meet the challenge of not forming enough podded nodes. Foliar and several hormonal products can and should be used to force more branches.

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

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