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Late-season conditions; looking toward 2016

By Staff | Sep 4, 2015

The long, sunny days of summer seem to be coming to a close. It is getting dark shortly after 8 p.m. and sunrise comes much later.

The Sunday night forecast includes about eight straight days of above-normal temperatures, and they will be welcome, but won’t make up for the GDUs we were shorted the last two weeks.

But given the choice between being bone dry we will take the rainy days as it is time to start filling the profile for next year.

Corn conditions

Even though the USDA crop size predictions still tell us how monstrous the corn and bean crops are going to be, the way so many of the corn fields are turning yellow or brown, more of them will be a crap shoot as far as anyone can guesstimate their yields prior to harvest.

Typically in years with record yields we have fields that stay green clear through until the first frost. Instead what I have and others have seen across a four-state area are more and more fields that seem to be both cannibalizing themselves from the top of the plant with top leaves turning a pukey yellow or a totally brown color.

If they aren’t doing that they seem to be dying from the ground up. Those with better drainage and a more managed nitrogen system where nature did not saturate the soils for weeks, the plants have stayed green, leaving their owners more optimistic about final yields.

I and a few other agronomists are getting phone calls from farmers who have not been satisfied about being told it is programmed plant death or normal dry down.

They suspect something is going wrong and are seeking answers as to what to do in 2016 to avoid the problem. That is good since it is only a realization that there is a problem that has these operators looking for answers that are credible.

The test strips that allow growers to check their corn plants for cytoplasm male sterility are still telling that this bacterial disease is present in many fields. What also helps is having a resource group of experienced pathologists who can tell us whether a disease-causing organism is an aggressive or docile pathogen.

The latter tend to be showing up after the primary disease-causing organism has already invaded.

Fields in Minnesota are showing the problems as are fields in Missouri. The same goes for fields in Illinois and Nebraska. Thus, overall, it will be affecting grain fill and final yields.

Currently the fields where the seed was treated with a microbe/mineral mix geared to control Goss’ wilt are looking tremendously healthy.

When we summarize the data we are guessing that people who tried it on a few acres will be expanding their use of it.


This year with its frequent and drenching rains in May, June, July and August reinforced the idea that the use of stabilizers and side-dressing with stabilized nitrogen is a good management plan.

Losing N to leaching or denitrification is a double loss and no amount of preplanning can predict if this will be a year where it will pay off in a big way.

Over much of the state their use has been a sound plan the last four years.

Later, I will be discussing what I learned from the companies offering new or established stabilizers, if I make it to the Farm Progress Show.

The soybean crop

The occurrence of SDS in soybeans is a major problem in quite a few areas of Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri. The saturated soils that occurred in May and June were basically a guarantee of a repeat of 2010 and 2014 if the growers did not actively manage the crop to avoid or minimize the Fusarium-caused disease.

Items that need to be examined by bean farmers who are heavily hit this year are field drainage, genetic susceptibility, herbicide use, lack of Manganese, copper and zinc available to the plants, and presence of high Fusarium populations in the soil.

Each of those can play a role. Studying each and taking steps to manage each will be important in lessening or avoiding the problem in 2016.

At a crop consultants summer conference we got to see a field trial of several seed treatments. One of the products displayed was Bayer’s ILeVO. It did look very good.

Unfortunately, there was no work utilizing the biological called Heads-Up. There were a lot of growers who liked what they heard, but the premium was more than they wanted to spend in a price-conscious preplanting season.

Trade shows

If possible be sure to attend any local shows or demos where new varieties are on display or new cropping regimes are being tested.

The emphasis now is the efficiency of each product and expected return on investment.

We saw a lot of that as growers were deciding on what traits, if any, to use in 2015.

It’s going to be much the same looking towards 2016.

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

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