Weather keeps field work behind schedule
It is hard to believe that the Fourth of July is upon us already. The arrival of that holiday typically signifies that field tasks and spraying for weeds are generally over.
Bare ground is just a memory, and most of the work left generally centers around small grain harvest and trying to get hay crops harvested.
Not this year, as wet and windy weather has limited progress in controlling the hordes of weeds in many fields, often limiting the days per week in which to spray to perhaps two.
This is in a year where no new products were introduced and winter conditions must have been ideal to weed seed germination.
Many Midwest farmers have openly questioned the accuracy and validity of USDA crop ratings that seemed to tell us that crops in all the major states were the best ever.
Now, with this week’s crop ratings where the corn ratings in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio dropped to 48 percent and the soybean ratings came in at the same average, the facade of rosy crops seems to be shattered.
Nebraska’s corn and bean ratings were at an average of 69 percent, Missouri’s were at 40 percent and Iowa’s were at 82 percent.
Drought conditions prior to tasseling can be mediated with a good rain, but flooding problems don’t disappear so easily.
Do those figures indicate that the large grain surpluses predicted for this fall may not materialize?
One noticeable event for observant sky watchers is the arrival of hazy skies and a smoky smell arriving from a major forest fire in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian provinces.
Will that continue for some months and influence us more than the Icelandic volcanoes?
The corn crops across our part of the Midwest advanced rapidly with many fields getting to the waist-to-shoulder-high range. We can predict the tasseling date for those first-planted fields to be in the second full week in July.
Those fields closer to knee high are still in the V8 growth stage, and their projected tasseling date is still about a month off.
While having the corn develop that rapidly is great, there are still many fields still needing to receive additional nitrogen if the equipment is still available to make the application.
Plants in the flooded low spots and sidehill seeps are the areas most affected. Areas consisting of heavily compacted soils also contain stunted and often yellowed plants.
Streaked leaves are still evident in many fields. When the plants are growing rapidly their mineral demand can exceed the root system’s ability to extract them from the soil.
Sometimes the plants catch up, and the leaves grain their dark green color.
Other times, the streaking remains and those mineral needs need to be addressed.
The need for more high-clearance application rigs has been recognized and more of that equipment has been outfitted with the “dead on dribblers,” the Hagie fixed bars, or the shorter drop tubes that can place the additional 32 percent below the leaf canopy and either onto the soil between the row, next to the row, or knifed into the soil.
Given the facts that 2- to 3-inch rains seem common this season and the soils are wet, it may be wise to mix in a partial rate of a stabilizer with the UAN. The corn can access the nitrogen in the ammonia/ammonium form as easily as the NO3 form, so the added cost can more than be justified by boosting use efficiency.
The diseases making their appearance are eyespot, early anthracnose and the caramel-colored lesion at ground level.
Keep an eye out for those three and any others, then the progression of symptomology in your fields. Check scouting guides and be able to predict yield losses versus expected treatment costs.
Insects have not been a major issue in most fields as last fall’s weather was tough on their survival.
There were a few armyworms appearing in fields planted to rye last fall. Now the two pests seem to be early corn rootworm hatching and root feeding in second year corn, then light European corn borer whorl feeding in a few conventional corn fields.
If those might be your fields, be sure to scout them to determine if any economic or treatment thresholds have been reached.
Most growers have noticed the extremely slow growth in their bean fields. Most years the beans reach the V4 growth stage by late May and are at the V6 to V8 stage by June 21.
This year, the majority were at V2 to early V4 by the same date.
How many nodes can those plants form before the R3 growth stage arrives? Will the plants get tall enough to close the row or not, as was a real threat in 2014?
Growers need to explore their choices on what steps they might use to increase the chance of forming extra branches, flowers and pods on their plants.
Over the next two to three weeks, a number of things could be done to boost those counts and increase yield potential.
If lower bean yields across the Midwest is the rule, increasing your whole farm yields could financially rewarding.
Above-ground diseases have not been noticeable yet, but conditions for root problems have been similar to those in 2014, so be alert to any notifications.
Boosting the plants’ nutritional status is the most critical recommendation at this point.
After and if the bean canopies close, moist conditions can foster heavier infections of Septoria brown spot.
Will the bird flu be a one-time occurrence or will we see its return this fall? More than one person who was blessed to work with the government crews wondered about their competence.
The lack of clear answers as to its cause and method of transmission as well as carcass disposal and facility cleanup is making the financial people ask serious questions about restocking the barns as quickly as is proposed.
The issue of immune response, oo lack thereof, also needs to be discussed by epidemiologists and veterinarians with a discussion about how to improve that factor.
This segment of the livestock industry is too important to have any pertinent questions swept under the rug.
Here’s hoping everyone reading this gets the chance to take a short break, enjoy the holiday with your family and in your community.
Salute the flag when it goes by and appreciate the country we live in.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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