May is now half over and it has been very unusual weatherwise. And being so much of what we do in farming depends on having favorable conditions, lots of sun, gentle drying breezes and occasional showers, suffering through delays in getting crops into the ground becomes magnified.
Just as all survival on earth depends on the top 12 inches of living soil, our season and farming success or failure depend on decent weather from April 15 to May 15.
When it appeared by mid-March that it was going to be an early and warm season most Midwesterners did not believe we would still be freezing in the Corn Belt in the middle of May.
In some ways things are going in reverse. The western part of the state and Corn Belt are supposed to be the wet areas. This year we are seeing the western part of Iowa, and contiguous regions of Nebraska and the Dakotas remain wet and planting of the corn crop has been delayed.
Progress in the central one third of the Corn Belt, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska has been good with corn planting being about 90 percent completed. West and east of those states progress has been slowed dramatically.
Larger planters can help growers catch up quickly, but the delay and loss of heat units has already occurred and there is more moisture in the forecast.
The amazing thing about the near- or sub-freezing temps this past Friday and Saturday nights was that Acker, Weather Trends 360 and Simon Atkins all predicted the event last fall.
Thus people paying attention to those three individuals or groups have to look to see what else they have forecast for the rest of the season.
Thus far they have mostly cautioned about the end to El Nino with warmer and much drier east of the Mississippi with more reasonable west.
Thus having and continuing to take steps to develop a deeper and more massive root system on your crops should pay dividends.
In Iowa, farmers west of U.S. Highway 71 still have quite a few corn acres to get planted yet. Over the remainder of the state getting started or completed with soybeans demands attention.
In our area, central Iowa, farmers began to work ground again as of Monday afternoon.
The next item has to be covered it how well (or poorly) the emerged crops are growing. So far the main status is that the stands range from very good to spotty depending on how well the soils warmed up which often depended on drainage.
There are a number of growers who are beginning to question the light weight and kernel size of the seed they planted and if they should have demanded larger and heavier seed.
In many cases and often in the northern parts of the state the seedlings have been very slow to emerge with the cool nights slowing GDU accumulation.
Yellowish or already showing streaking of the leaves plants seems to be the rule in places. Having very little heat and sunshine is having an effect.
The return to warmer weather with more sunshine should help immensely with the yellowish plants. It does make a person wonder if nitrogen loss has been an issue that will have to be watched and addressed.
Low molybenom levels or lack of sufficient zinc, manganese and copper can also cause low N use efficiency. In that case adding additional N will not solve the issue.
I took my first tissue samples on May 12 in fields where the V2 corn leaves were showing the characteristic light green/dark green streaking. What might show up on the test results?
In these particular fields new soil tests show extremely low levels of both zinc and boon.
The available dry fertilizer materials did not contain either of those two elements, so early foliars have to supply those minerals by the V4 growths stage or early size will be affected.
Late-season catch up will not occur.
In news that hit the wires last Thursday and papers on Friday was the announcement that both Bayer and BASF were considering acquiring parts of St. Louis-based Monsanto.
Now how much sense does that make? The first two companies definitely have the deep pockets that would be required to pull off such a big purchase. But knowing how German companies act, think, and strategize, the contacts in the field that I compare notes with said at most it would be some sort of collaboration.
German companies never take on blue sky liability or outside controversy.
I believe most of the people with the question about why JPMorgan Chase and Black Water Inc were the two companies that lined up the financing of the ChemChina and Syngenta merger are still waiting for details on last week’s announcement.
Remember that some mergers are based on strength and some are not. Which one might this be? On what might be a related note the latest not coming from the Chinese government and its ag department is that the news that they are saying they never approved the import of Banvel sprayed soybeans.
In the article there was also mention of questionable documents supplied to them in 1984 and 1991. Let’s see how this gets sorted out.
In farm country most growers have had to take the approach of never planting varieties that have not cleared the approval process in their expected importing country. If the grain terminals won’t take it the individual grower has a problem. It would be heads they win and tails you lose.
So what should farmers do in the areas where temps dropped to or below freezing? The maps from the NWS showed that such temps actually occurred in major parts of about 17 counties in Iowa and across much of the upper Midwest. It typically takes about three to five days of warm and sunny weather to see if the frosted plants will be forming healthy regrowth.
In the first few days the tissue takes on a grayish or brownish tint. We typically see that shallow-placed kernels and faster emerging hybrids tend to be affected more and their root crowns are shallower and could be frozen quicker.
As to guidance on what to do if your fields are included in this category the first step to follow would be to allow time to have the new spike form and get at least an inch tall.
During the first two days splashing rain or wind can move bacteria-filled soil into the small whorl and rot the root completely. Because those plants are not able to make many sugars they will be handicapped in being able to detoxify most herbicides.
Thus herbicides that are degraded through the P450 system like SUs and HPPDs should be avoided until the plants have formed two or three new leaves. Foliar nutrition rich in minerals and sugars can help plants recover quicker.
So keep close track of such fields, give them adequate time to recover and there are things you can do to help some fields. But know the facts before you make rash decision either way.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.
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