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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jan 22, 2016

After being outside the last few days I’m just glad we don’t live any further north. But it could be a lot worse.

We were asked to attend and speak at a food conference in Finland in October and before we left I had taken a quick glance at my globe to see where it was actually located and until then did not realize that about a third of the country was above the Arctic Circle.

No wonder it was cold then and that drivers turned their lights on by 3:30 p.m.

Recently their temps have been in the range of -18 to -54 degrees. Even in Celsius it sounds cold.

While it is true that the arctic has been warming and a portion of its ice cap has been melting, what is never mentioned is that the Antarctic has been much colder over a much wider area.

With the magnetic north pole location in flux the deep molten magma is causing the internal circulation to warm Alaska and Russia.

There is still an awful lot of cold air poised to plunge south into the Midwest over the next few months. Don’t put your woollies away just yet.

IPFS

And on schedule for the first Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in February is the big Iowa Power Farming Show. Five years ago and before there always seemed to be a 70 percent chance of a big blizzard blowing in while the show was being held.

Lately the weather has been much milder. It is always a good time for all people involved in agriculture to attend the show and tour the booths and possibly take in some of the presentations.

The crowds are likely to be about the same though there will be a lot fewer things purchased by the attendees.

Last year, any booth that displayed – or any presentation that dealt with – equipment that offered savings or a boost in efficiency was well attended or drew sizeable crowds.

With dollars being tight only items or management programs that could boost overall productivity or offered great ROIs by themselves or when incorporated into a systems approach will be garnering the attention.

It was gratifying to see more displays and talks being given concerning soil health and soil microbials. It’s about time we caught up to the farmers in many less-developed countries who have been depending on the best of the biologicals for years to perform tasks such as many nutrients more available to keeping their plants healthier during the season.

With so many articles being written about drones and farmers/agronomists demonstrating that getting a bird’s eye view from the air can be a quick way to spot a beginning problem with a disease or insect before it spreads or becomes serious, many growers and field scouts may be looking for a reliable model with a good camera that could be bought for $1,000 to $1,500.

We saw a model with replaceable parts and high-pixel camera at the Tulare Farm Expo. It was the best one I had seen until that time, but its price tag around $8,000 seemed too expensive. There are several acquaintances that have purchased the Phantom 2s which seem capable of doing the job and being affordable.

With more weeds surviving the herbicide applications, being able to quickly scout fields and detecting weed escapes while they are still small could make the difference between respraying early enough or missing the optimum window and having escapes.

Politics, economics

Just as Donald Trump’s campaigning seems to get close to going over the line on many issues, he has opened up topics that common Iowans have been wishing for action on.

In the same way I have had a few readers who have called me up and let me know that few writers were wanting to delve into the topics or what is or has gone wrong with agriculture and the economy.

I mentioned last week that many of the people we have looked to for answers on crop problems don’t seem to realize that no matter how good an operator a farmer was in 2015 and 2016, figuring out how to make money raising $3.40 corn for $3.99 to $4.25 a bushel was tough unless they knew before hand exactly when to price their corn two to three years ahead of time.

The callers also wondered how when the cost of parts and shop rates at repair shops as well as insurance costs were going up 20 percent per year, the official inflation rates were under 2 percent. Or why it was assumed that growers were lining up to pay as much or more for some inputs as they did two years ago.

Ag is a cyclical business and it always has been. With more dollars changing hands on each crop or each pen of cattle the risks seem to outweigh the rewards at this time.

Most farmers recognize that with more bushels they raise the lower their costs per bushel becomes. So with only two crops available for most Midwest farmers to raise, which group of growers doesn’t have plans to raise as many bushels as possible on their acres?

So what crop is out there that most farmers could grow that they would not have to sell at low commodity prices?

It is always interesting to watch the monthly and quarterly grain export figures. Those export numbers continue to drop. Are all of those importing countries not feeding their animals or people as much as they normally do, or might they be purchasing their grain from other sources?

After spending time in a number of the major and minor grain-producing countries and hearing from their growers how they took a clue from the export-happy Germans and spent time learning what their customers wanted for grain type or quality, it seems reasonable that as producers we need to do the same if we hope to recapture a portion of that business.

An expensive dollar doesn’t help, but that is not the complete picture.

Argentine farmers are overjoyed that they finally got rid of their know-nothing socialist president. The only problem now is that they and their crops have to endure warm and dry weather during the critical cropping periods.

In Brazil the formerly parched fields in much of Mato Grosso are now as wet as they were in Parana earlier.Rain can make grain, but getting their fungicides applied on time and lasting as long as they should is becoming difficult.

This is now being reflected in their steadily decreasing crop size forecasts.

Remember that for the second crop to produce up to standards they normally like to have the safrinha corn or cotton planted by mid February.

Over the last 10 years it has only rained 2.5 percent of the time during their winter months of May through August.

Thus they don’t want to have their grain or plants trying to fill during this time.

Meetings

Coming up for meetings this week in Iowa is the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference in Ames on Friday and Saturday.

The keynote speaker is a young crop advisor named John Kempf. He has a keen insight on what makes for healthy plants and for nutritious food.

His goal is to help growers produce the most nutritious and long-storing food possible.

That seems to be a novel idea these days, but is one that is helping to produce profits for the participants.

He is also going to be speaking at Nevada’s Christy Hall on Thursday afternoon. That meeting will be open to the public and will give him a chance to speak to more people.

I will see you there.

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

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