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By Staff | Nov 13, 2015

So far so good as the nice November weather continues. It’s great to be able to get outdoor tasks done yet just a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

We often find ourselves frozen out of the fields by the week of Thanksgiving of making preparations for that occurring, but this fall we may have a few extra weeks of grace.

What it means is that winter season will be one week shorter and one week of snow will not happen.

For that we need to be grateful.

Completing harvest

After a few rain delays harvest resumed in much of the state with the main activity being in eastern Iowa where progress was slower and grains stayed wetter.

Much of that portion stayed wetter in May and planting was delayed, thus the tasselling, silking and maturity stages were also delayed.

There also tends to be more operations with livestock, thus getting the manure spread or injected held a higher priority ranking than did finalizing harvest or doing the fall tillage.

There are finally a few piles of grain that can be seen throughout the countryside near grain elevators.

As many of those seem to be related to lack of farmer selling being delayed by low grain prices than did tremendously high yields.

I did see soybeans in a big outside pile in northwest Iowa a few weeks ago, and that is very unusual.

I hope they found an inside home before the rainy weather arrived.

Tillage, compaction

The last two springs have been quite wet and there is a high probability that numerous fields suffered compaction related problems the past two summers.

Now is the best time to get out and do something to remediate the problem.

The first thing would be to head to the fields with a penetrometer and measure how dense any compaction layer is in terms of PSI needed to penetrate the layer(s) and then measure how deep and how thick those layers might be.

We like to use a computerized penetrometer from Spectrum technologies to do this work. It lets us measure any compacted soil profiles and gauge how bad any problem exists and how deep it or they are.

With those facts we can inform a grower if any of their fields have a problem that needs to be cured and how deep they should pull the ripper.

Those same facts could also allow us to tell a grower that a cover crop of rye would substitute for the tillage trip and possibly at a cheaper cost.

Tillage and insects

Farmers who had different insect problems appear in their fields during the summer often ask if fall tillage could help make those problems disappear.

Tillage had not proven to make much difference with corn rootworm populations since the eggs are so small and they are normally laid at the bottoms of cracks in the soil.

The survival rates are not affected much by a chiseling or ripping operation.

The exception might be that in a very cold winter, very cold air could penetrate deeper and freeze out a certain percentage of the CRW eggs.

The exception would be where Eastern corn borer larvae enter the fall and winter season in a stage that is subject to physical damage and freezing damage if the insulating stalk tissue is shredded or broken.

In a few places this year there were a countable population of this pest. Even if a percentage survive there is still a chance that a known fungus or protozoa will mortally parasitize them.

In summary, 2015 was not a season with major insect problems. The black cutworm invasion was never severe.

There were lower levels of larval feeding on roots of second-year corn that caused a bit of root lodging, with more of the damage being in concentrated spots.

Then later in the summer, there were more spots and fields where late-hatching eggs, late-feeding larvae and late-flying beetles appeared at concerning levels to let us know we should not forget about them.

The appearance of this late brood served to alert us to the fact that our use of granules or liquid insecticides, as well as traits, has selected for those hatching well after the 625 growing degree unit threshold.

It often looks like six to eight weeks after what is considered normal.

2016 seed decisions

Choosing the best corn or soybean varieties is a real crapshoot going into this offseason.

Disease tolerance against soil pathogens was large as well as the ability to tolerate wet conditions in May and June.

The overall all plant health ratings were huge as were the Phyto field resistance rating.

Then any beans that were able to form lots of small pods by Sept. 1 seem to be able to fill those pods and capture that extra yield potential.

Higher available levels of potassium and sulfur in the soil helped those late pods fill.

Thus any operation adding those two minerals was a big factor in final yields.

With corn, the realization has got to be that resistance to bacterial and fungal diseases was a huge factor this season.

Bred in resistance to these helped keep the plants green, though having higher mineral levels, especially manganese, copper and zinc were perhaps larger factors in staying green.

Then any grower hoping to get top yields is going to have to do everything in his or her power to find the mix or seed- or foliar-applied products to stay green through Sept. 20 to maximize grain fill.

Watching as a bystander when all the fields ghost out in the Aug. 20 to 28 time frame, as the crop has the last seven years, or whenever that hot week hits, is not going to accomplish much.

Part of the seed variety selection could well be forced by budget considerations and bankers’ requests.

It was easy to add ala carte benefits with $6 and $8 corn, but $3.50 and $4 corn paint a different picture.

So as the educational and decision season is at its beginning, keep your wits about you.

Recognize which inputs have proven to give constantly good returns on investment and which ones have the best potential to do so.

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

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