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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jan 8, 2016

And here’s wishing everyone a good and prosperous new year of 2016.

That makes the 1990s sound so long ago and the 1970s almost ancient.

I can now partly understand how my grandmother, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 92, felt when she mentioned all the change and new inventions she had seen in her lifetime.

From horse and buggy to jet travel around the globe. Supersonic planes moving at 600 mph versus driving horse teams down muddy and rutted dirt roads.

So what will the next year and next decade bring? No one quite knows, so that is why most people are sticking around to find out.

In farming, logging and construction the weather determines much of what happens during a year or a summer.

At this time of year growers are always looking for answers or an outside opinion on how much rain, heat or stress weather they are predicting for the 2016 season.

Though the start to the planting season seems like a long time away, those three to four months can pass quickly.

For most people many of those days are going to be crammed with lots of work, lots of planning and much preparation.

There seems to be more decisions to be made each year, even though the computers were supposed to erase or simplify many of the involved tasks.

2016’s acres

Even while the economics of raising our two major crops in the Midwest don’t sound promising for the coming season, most growers will be making decision only about two crops – corn and beans.

Doing a good job or raising either one of those seems to be getting more challenging due to insects, disease or weeds that seem to be able to survive.

Wheat acres were moving east into parts of Iowa and Nebraska, which could have offered us a potential for a third crop, but the three to five weeks of heavy rains during June and July caused huge yield and quality problems, wiping out the prospects for producing any profit.

Thus the challenge to find a third or fourth crop is still just that.

So is the best course of action to develop new uses for the grain we are already producing?

That’s what earlier generations and group efforts were able to accomplish. Beginning about 10 years ago, the efforts to build and operate ethanol plants coupled with several tough weather years and the trend to exporting increasing amount of grain to China worked to get rid of the huge amounts of carryover grains.

Now the low crude and gas prices – which most drivers were hoping for – and Big Oil seem to be stalling biofuel efforts.

So in looking at the markets, the one thing to recognize is that there is still money in to be made in raising food, while it appears to be challenging to produce commodity crops.

More farmers have been recognizing that as evidenced by a food producing conference in Springfield, Missouri, where the expected crowd of 250 to 300 people grew to over 1,000 actually in attendance.

Meetings

Practical Farmers of Iowa is having its annual conference in Ames the weekend of Jan 22.

Though many of the topics don’t deal with huge farming operations, the people that go always tell about gleaning several worthwhile bits of information from the proceedings.

You may wish to check out the details of their conference.

The keynote speaker is John Kempf, from Ohio, who has become well known as a person who understands soil biology and growing nutrient-dense, high-value crops that show tolerance and resistance to diseases and insects.

However, on Jan. 21, he’ll be speaking at 1:15 p.m., at Christy Hall, connected with the Story County Extension office, in Nevada, for about 2.5 hours.

Anyone who had 2015 crops that should have yielded more than they did, or experienced problems with stalk quality, may find this meeting worth attending.

Farmers who have become students of soil health, will likely find they’ll be advanced several years in their quests to gather knowledge.

The meeting will be at the Scheman Building in Ames, on the ISU campus, Jan. 22.

Be sure to bring a notebook and the ability to write fast. You will enjoy learning from and asking question of Kempf’s thoughts and suggestions about regenerative agriculture.

Weed ideas

As I listen to the weed researchers at the winter meetings discussing the increasing percentages of weeds that are now tolerant to two, three or four different herbicide families, including ones like the PPOs, which even the growers who never raised GM crop were relying on for waterhemp control, I wonder what the future holds for most growers.

The reality hit home for many farmers, who were planning on using the latest transgenic varieties, as they saw the prospect of expensive drift problems, causing prior Chinese approval to get canceled.

What should growers do now?

For the coming season it might mean to get any early diagnosis of a new suspected case of resistance verified by a university lab that does weed seed testing.

Then the next would be to sit down with a person who knows the old chemistry and chart out a program utilizing viable residual products.

There are no new savior herbicides being introduced this spring. It may mean putting new sweeps on an old row crop cultivator or leaning how to manage a cover crop that will help minimize weed problems.

For some growers, they may have to move to continuous corn as there are viable and affordable products that would still be effective in corn.

Working in a third crop would help, whatever it might be.

I think quite a few people are scratching their heads on this topic.

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

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