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Weather, Memorial Day and field opportunities

By Staff | May 29, 2015

The month of May is going fast, and June is just around the corner.

It has gotten to be a frustrating planting season for farmers who still have a portion of their crop yet to plant. Considering that the planting season in central and north central parts of the state began around April 12 this is going to be seventh or eighth week involved. And when you recognize that there are growers in extreme northern/northeast Iowa as well as around Iowa City who had locally heavy rains that put their behind schedule the optimum corn planting window has come and gone.

With the rare pineapple express type of weather event of this past week it will take quite a few days for the fields needing drainage to be suitable for planter traffic. After looking at the NWS maps and watching the moisture streaming from the Corpus Christi area the term “atmospheric river” seemed like an apt term to use.

Until now, the amount of rain received has been manageable except there were few dry two or three breaks to finish those last fields. In looking over the last two decades the years with the best crops began with springs that were on the dry side and the dryness continued into June. That meant no waterholes and a minimum of lost nitrogen.

Memorial Day

I hope you were all able to partake in any local Veterans Day festivities or were able to spend it with family. Too often the people who served time in the military, and their families, don’t feel appreciated for the sacrifices they made.

Here at the Streit ranch we played mechanic, gardener, carpenter and the like until late on Saturday afternoon. Then after looking at the weather maps and the forecasts, it looked like there was no way I was going to be scouting fields on Sunday or Monday.

So we threw our suitcases in the car and headed out on a three-hour drive to Sioux City that evening and finished the last 100 miles to near Royal, Nebraska, the next morning to visit a state park I had heard about four or five years ago. It is called Ashfall State Park. It is called that because back in 1971 a fossil hunter saw a large bone sticking out of a creek bank after a heavy rain.

He dug around it and began to unearth what looked like a rhino skeleton. The Nebraska Natural Resource team got involved, did some excavating and uncovered a huge cache of finely preserved prehistoric animals that had gotten buried under 10 to 25 feet of dust from a big, ancient volcanic explosion more than 12 million years ago.

By comparing the mineral content in the dust against samples from a series of volcanic calderas out in Utah, they tracked it to the Bruneau Jarbidge volcanic explosion, which was 2,400 times bigger than Mount St Helens. Apparently, the dust went clear to the Atlantic Ocean, but during the glacial periods the dust got bulldozed into the rest of the soil, so its presence was not noted.

Anyhow at the park’s location there was a well-visited water hole where the mastodons, ancient horses, camels, giant turtles, big cats, several species of rhinos and hippo-type creatures were covered in a blizzard of this mineral rich dust with their skeletons becoming very well preserved and intact. Some are on display, while others have been uncovered but are left lying in a large machine shed or rhino barn just where they died.

If you have not been out there yet, or you have kids or grandkids who enjoy science or dinosaurs, it is worth paying a visiting to Ashfall State Park. It is about seven miles north of U.S. Highway 20 and just 100 miles west of Sioux City.

In the field

While the opportunity to get back into the fields has been limited there have been a few chances to get jobs such as spraying done. There have also been a few chances to scout the fields to check on the performance of the different residual herbicides. At this point and in the fields I have scouted, the performance has been excellent for grass and very good on broadleaf weeds. The small escapes are typically from about one-half to 3 inches tall. More might be emerging over the next few weeks, partly depending on how much they get diluted in the in frequent rains.

Where those broadleaf weeds are appearing we will see operators apply their choice of HPPD herbicides. The common alternative appears to be the old standby of Dicamba, which seemed to work well. But it had its challenges with finding a calm enough day to get it applied.

Once we get our stretch of dry weather and everyone is able to judge the need to make a post application, the main challenge might be to get enough calm days where the wind speeds are less than 10 mph. The conundrum that will need to be reckoned with is how to nozzle up to get the coverage contact-type herbicides need again yet avoid drift. I have been seeing a few custom rigs equipped with the T-Jet system using solenoid controlled, pulsed nozzle systems that are getting good reviews. Their patterns in the field do look good, and drift seemed to not be a problem. Now that they are affordable, will they become a sound investment for a custom applicator or a private applicator?

It will be important for every crop farmer to tour his or her fields and make a close examination of any weed pressure that is in each. Weed and grass problems are always easier to tackle if the problem plants are small.

Bird flu

Now the raw stories about farmers who are being affected by the spread of the disease are becoming public. It’s bad enough to have to depopulate, but not knowing the procedure one must go through to feel safe about spending the dollars in six or seven months makes it a tougher position to be in.

Last Friday night on my way home, I happened to take a road that went right past one of the big sites that had dug the trenches in which to bury the birds. I recognized the guard and stopped for a few minutes. The number of flies that got into my pick up in the short time was amazing. It reminded me of my childhood where we would climb up the side of the rendering truck to view what was inside if they every stopped by our place. It takes a strong stomach to tolerate the circumstances for more than a few minutes.

As to biosecurity, the people on the frontlines are still mystified as to the disease’s spread. Are they identifying every area they should be? What are they missing or who should they be listening to that they are ignoring? One item I have not heard discussed but will come up shortly is: if the key is biosecurity to keep outside things from getting in, then when fall waste disposal is to be discussed, how are they supposed to keep inside things from getting out? There are people in other sectors of the livestock industry and in other countries that have face similar calamities that could lend guidance, but no one is seeking them out yet

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

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