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By Staff | Sep 11, 2015

Here we are after the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois, and most of the local field days. Those shows went well for the people attending.

It has been a time to get machinery and bins ready for handling and storing grain as well, since they will have to be operating at peak performance levels about a month from now.

Fixing a bearing or shaft now versus during the peak of harvest is always easier than in the mud and darkness of the shorter days of the fall.

A huge topic lately since the crop tours, the yields they forecasted and the resulting grain prices has been the accuracy of those surveys and what has happened to both major crops since.

What a number of people and I have seen are two crops that have fallen apart in many sections of the Midwest.

We are still waiting for any producer group representative, any crop scientist, any university researcher to give an explanation of the causes of the quick die-off of the corn crop and the expansive nature of the SDS problems seen in the last two to three weeks.

During the season, I have written much about the issue of soil health and plant nutrition. Included were lots of lines about diagnosing nutrition deficiencies and how leaf-streaking was always a tell-tale sign of those nutrients being short.

Recommendations were given as to how biological and foliar nutrition could help to minimize the problems and either help maintain plant health or cure the problem.

Some growers have listened to those discussions and paid attention to what astute retailers have recommended be done to avoid a disease burst this fall.

Some paid attention and some did not, as the fields show. It is only the seventh time in the past seven years that the corn crop has died four to six weeks early.

Now in seeing the ghosted color of many of the seed fields unless steps are implemented with the 2016 corn crop a repeat or worse can be expected.


There were a number of Iowa farmers who drove to the Farm Progress Show. Some took the I-74 route through Davenport, while other went through Hannibal.

Both groups were utterly surprised and the fellows I talked to all remarked, “I never realized we were being lied to so badly.”

What they saw were about 50 percent of the corn fields on that route were 80-plus percent dead.

Many of the ears were tipped down and a false black layer had formed with shrunken, pointed kernels that missed out on several weeks of grain fill.

This is not happening only in Illinois or southern Iowa. I have talked to people in the northern parts of the Corn Belt and have seen fields in Minnesota where the fields have ghosted out early.

One fellow who participated in the Pro Farmer Crop tour and had visited a field that was forecasted to produce 240 bushels per acre went to the same field over this past weekend and adjusted the yield down by 100 bpa due to this rapid death.

The first signs of the problem were at V8 to V10 when the V3 and V4 leaves were sloughing off the stalks. Moisture from rains and dews had caught behind the leaf sheathes, acting as a perfect bacterial hosting site.

If you had dug the plants you could find a browned, watery crown region rather than pure white tissue. Shortly after that the caramel-colored lesions appeared. As those lesions moved up the sieve plates, each node darkened as the bacteria streamed upwards.

The tissue plugging continued, serving to block water and nutrient flow to the upper portion of the plant as the plants worked to fill the kernels. Then when the burst of heat and low humidity converged last week the plant no longer had the clean plumbing tissue to meet the plant demands and gave up the ghost.

A book that should be read to help understand what is happening is “Animal Pharm,” by Mark Purdey.

Another thing is be aware of is a potential relationship with environmental energy.

Check out something on Google called the Carrington Event. It tells of a major sun flare or mass coronal emission event that hit the U.S. and much of the civilized world in 1859 showering enough emission energy that those bursts traveled back through telegraph wires to start those stations on fire.

If that sounds strange I had never heard of that happening either.

So what to do about all of this? There are several areas to concentrate on. When you are having your soil samples taken and sent in this fall you should have several of them tested for soil biological activity.

Both Midwest Labs, in Omaha, and Ward Labs, in Kearney, can do this. This will let you know where on the 0 to 50 scale your fields fall.

Doing the right things with fertilizer, tillage, herbicides and variety selection will be important, especially since the buzz phrase for next season will be to cut $100 per acre from your input budget.

If any farmers in your neighborhood had corn fields that stayed green until late, try to find out what they did to make that happen. Spending $10 to $20 per acre to get that extra 20 to 40 to 100 bushels can be a big deal.

Again if any group of experts doesn’t have a clue, they had not adapted to the new paradigm and it is time to have history slough them off.

I did two tours of the fields and plots that received the Generate or Micro Mix in-furrow or early post, or the BioImpruv this summer or a combo of both to judge how the plant health fared.

Being the Ag Dia test strip verified Goss’ Wilt early and the BioImpruv sets up plant health specifically to fight Goss’ and the new version adds fungal help, we have to conclude that Goss’ was a major problem along with NCLB.

Those plants were dark green yet Sunday.


More fields are showing the dying early patchiness of SDS. The disease is more severe in Minnesota than in any previous year.

Compacted, saturated soils along with poor nutrition during May and June could be pointed to as several of the causal factors.

As with Goss’ wilt, soil management, correct variety choices, fertility and seed treatments make up the bulk of control strategies.

As to seed treatment the ILeVO is on the high dollar end with Heads Up being on the low dollar side.

Both have looked good in university trials.

Bug problems

The late season bug observations told of many fields that held noticeable populations of northern corn rootworm beetles. While they are supposed to be present during July 3 to Jult 10 window, they are here about two months late.

It sure appears that by using either planting time insecticides or traited hybrids we have selected for the late-feeding hatching strains of the insects.

At first most of the females were not puffed up with eggs, but later these could be found. Those beetles were flocking to any very late-planted corn fields, patches of pigweed plants, and often into still green soybean fields.

It sure looks like everyone having fields containing an attractant needs to be alert to the threat this next spring.

One person from California who generally works with soil microbes develops diets that will create microbes that will eat food sources that include rootworm eggs.

Growers who follow him and use his strategies have been successful.

A few growers in Iowa did spray with the CRW attractant along with a labeled insecticide in alternate strips to kill the beetles at a cheap cost.

Those attractants worked very well in the past.

Weeds anyone

Crop advisors who have traveled south of west and talked to farmers and ag dealers who get to deal with more herbicide-resistant weeds tell of growers who are really looking for answers on what to do for weed management in future years.

That group is likely to include more Iowa growers next season. There has now been confirmation in southeast Iowa of waterhemp resistant to the PPO family of herbicides.

The plants lived through Authority, Flexstar and Cobra without any signs of problems.

Such an occurrence leaves a hole in the overlapping residual programs that had proven to be the most successful.


This will have to be a focal point at winter meetings.

Nature, where in the area of bugs or weeds, usually wins.

What will our strategy be for future seasons?

Enjoy the great Clay Country Fair when you attend.

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

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