May is now here and hopefully the late winter season is over and finally leaving. Pulling the winter jackets out for the past two weekends seemed strange, but felt good as snowflakes were not too far away on those cold and blustery days.
Looking back to the first 10 days of May in 2013 we had a total of about 12 inches of snow and temps that kept it around a few days.
We do live in the Midwest and cold fronts are just a normal part of spring as the big air masses collide in a battle royale for supremacy through most of the month.
So what sort of late-May and June can we expect? I know my wife wonders why I like to watch the 10 p.m. weather each night. I tell her because everything I and most crop growers do pretty much depends on it.
Will people be out in the fields, will plants and fields be suffering from too much or too little rain? Will it be cold enough to bring along a jacket or should I wear shorts?
And if it is spring, might it be a long day because getting the crop planted is paramount?
Considering different meteorologists that make a living predicting or trying to predict the weather days, weeks or months in advance.
Most of us have listened and gotten to know and feel comfortable with a number of the better-known ones as well as a “few up and comers.”
Some of them live on the edge and cautiously look at the many, perhaps as many as 150 or 450 long-term galactic cycles plus the alignment of the planets. They recognize those cycles and gravitational forces cause molten cores to flow in patterns to cause water and air to move in concert.
The best of the bunch try to sleuth and extrapolate past patterns for similarities that help suggest what is to come this next season. I think most farmers and other professionals who are not afraid to stick their necks out in telling us that unusual patterns are being set up for the coming season.
We have seen the best of them predict events out three, six and even 12 months out and be right about storms, snow and extreme temps down to the day or hour. Those really good ones can’t live under the admonition of “now don’t scare anyone.”
Years ago when I was working out in southwest Kansas I was out in the wide open rolling plains when I happened upon a white-paneled truck that looked a bit like a TV network satellite transmitting unit.
Upon knocking on the door and getting an invite in I found a crew that worked for a team made up of the SCS, NASA and the CIA. They were collecting data covering how the rays they were transmitting from satellites bounced back from the ground based on how much moisture was stored in the soils.
From that info they could guess yields and then infer what the political stability would be in each country, knowing what their expected yields and that hungry people are more likely to riot and overthrow their governments.
The 2016 season
The plantings season began very early for corn growers in Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota, while growers to the west and east are being delayed by wet soils and keep getting wetter.
Seeing Arkansas get wet a few weeks ago was basically a guarantee that states to the north would face the same problem.
Within Iowa there is a wide range in the state of planting progress with many farmers being half to completely done on corn, but getting the last half complete will depend on how fast the soils dry out this week and if the predictions for measurable rains next Sunday and Monday are realized.
If more than 1 inch falls and cool, cloudy weather arrives, it may push the late round of planting beyond May 10.
After seeing how things have turned out at harvest I always like to get the corn planted early to start the growing degree unit clock ticking, as long as soil temps are near 50 degrees.
What has happened most of the last decade is there was a 10-day burst of heat creating a planting window in early- to mid-April that farmers could take advantage of if they had their equipment and psyche ready.
Even if it gets wet their sprouted seedlings can begin to accumulate heat units and make progress in growing both above and below ground.
We have currently seen the first corn emerging the last few days with stands looking good. While the ground has cooled and staying wet, the seedlings are able to pull nutrition from the kernels and the plants don’t have to form all the sugars independently.
As long as the soils dry and continue to warm those small plants should do fine. This is when in-furrow applied nutrients can help the plants get the nutrition they need to flourish and stay healthy.
While many bean growers did begin to drop bean seed in the ground, most recognized they were jumping the gun a bit when they planted prior to April 25.
When they resume they can feel comfortable knowing that the time is right to get the task done. Planting in the first 10 days of May tends to help the plants form the maximum number of podded nodes and top yield potential.
This is when 30-inch rows can match or exceed the yield potential of narrow-planted beans in that extra branches can help thinner populations for just as many podded nodes.
With proper inoculation a field scout should be able to dig up soybean plants only 4 to 5 inches tall and begin to see nodules starting to form.
The plant-to-microbe signaling network is working full bore at this time to make sure the plants are able to communicate with the Bradyrhizobium bacteria on the roots to ensure the small nodules begin to form on the roots to create an apartment for those bacteria to live in, converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form roots can utilize.
The minerals needed for this to happen include molybdenum, nickel and cobalt. Short supplies of those can restrict this nodulation process.
The astute corn and bean contest growers know at which stages of growth the important yield-determining events are occurring. Minerals such as phosphorus and zinc must be at optimum or near optimum levels at the V4 stage or yields could be lowered.
It is also near this stage that if growers are going to supply the minerals to grow deeper roots, they will be applying those two minerals.
This V4 to V6 growth stage in corn, and usually V3 to V4 in beans, is when hormonal products seem to show the greatest effect on plants and can set the stage for higher yields.
Ignoring nutrient deficiencies that were detected with updated soil tests, or not detected due to lack of sampling, or dragging down root uptake due to compaction can impact the plants significantly at these early stages.
This is when your work in the fall via getting new samples pulled, and then carefully sorting through the results can pay off in a big way.
Those who will be planting soybeans yet need to make sure they have at least applied fungicides such as Apron or Maxim to help prevent early root rots.
Replant insurance is typically well rewarded.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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