Scouting essential right now
Given a choice most farmers with enough years of experience and flat ground and living in the Midwest would sooner experience a growing season with a little less than normal amount of rainfall, especially early in the season when getting tasks such as planting and spraying done on time.
We are now into a time when the corn crop is growing tall enough that tractor traffic through the fields will soon be a thing of the past.
Operators with high clearance rigs could have all the custom work they could want, but with low prices and tight budgets much of that midseason work might not get done.
A lot of the corn looked very yellow two weeks ago, and much of it has improved since then.
There was no official declaration of what factors were causing the problem, but when talking to a few wise friends the candidate ideas centered on deficiencies of several minerals, tie up of nitrogen by decomposing bacteria or fungi, lack of root development and lack of oxygen in the soil such that the roots could not do their job of extracting fertilizer from the soil.
Part of a week of sunshine and drier weather sure seemed to help. At first there had not been enough rain to flush much N deeper than the roots were exploring, but that has changed as the ground has become saturated.
Now might be the time to examine each field, pull tissue tests if possible, and if you have a chlorophyll meter that reads degree of greenness in a plant, use it in each field to see where on its 1 to 80 scale each fields’ green score falls.
The best way to fix this, assuming your mineral and sulfur levels are adequate, would be to either sidedress or topdress with a dry or liquid form of stabilized N.
If ground conditions don’t allow this recognize that there are several good liquid forms of N that perform well when applied as a foliar.
That typically required several trips due to limits of how much can be applied each time across the field.
I was rating corn roots in a fungicide trial about two weeks ago and the amount of browning showing up was surprisingly high.
An 8-inch corn plant should have roots reach about the same depth and they should remain white.
These browned roots have been noticeable the last five years and given the problems that occurred in the months following we think the problems with fungal and bacterial infections are just getting worse.
It is like the plants are lacking severely in their immune response.
This is the time to be digging roots to see what those of each hybrid and in different fields are looking like.
A grower’s typical response when they see this pointed out is what is going to happen and how might they improve the situation this year and in following seasons.
It can be tough to turn the roots healthy again, but improving drainage, as in drying out can help.
Applying nutrition, energy products containing phosphorus or nutrition are the best long-term solutions.
Short term solutions may involve an early fungicide application.
Now is not the time to play laissez-faire with your soybean fields.
Early in the season is when you should be trying to add nodes, branches and roots as much as possible.
If your own knowledge, or that of your crop advisor, can’t come up with steps to take now, then find someone who can.
It can mean a good increase in yield in most years to get aggressive in managing this crop.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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