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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Jun 10, 2016

Another week deeper into the season and the rush to get everything done with corn before the ground rigs can’t get through the fields anymore.

Everything connected with weed control, any cultivation, side-dressing or any other post emerge fertilization needs to be finished before the corn gets too tall for the pulled sprayers.

Not having a high-clearance sprayer sets the limits to how late a corn grower can get through his field and affects final yield.

Some of the tallest corn is at V6 to V7 growth stage in central and southern Iowa, so farmers can see the deadline getting closer and closer.

And though owning or having access to a Hagie, Miller, Walker or Deere can make late-season applications possible, making those trips through tall corn often comes to an end right after the tassels begin to elongate out of the whorl.

Soybeans are a different story and growers can typically continue working with them with normal ground-driven equipment until about July 20 to July 25 in 30-inch rows.

Typically only growers who hope to work their way into being among the top skill categories in raising top-yielding soybeans have established their high yield goal are prepared to make extra trips that add an extra seven to 10 bushels with each pass.

Fields

Planting progress this spring went in spurts. The season began around April 11 with the magical crop insurance replant date being reached. It ran strong for about 10 days and then took a 10- to 14-day hiatus as it turned cold and wet. Then depending on your location it drug on in two- and three-day windows until the ground dried up and field traffic was permitted.

Crop scouts and planting consultants are seeing corn stands they would rate as the poorest they have seen in the last 10 years.

The factors they point to as the cause center on the extended cool and wet weather, planting in the two days before a cold rain, and the very light weight of the seed they were delivered and its cold germ ratings.

It is common to see V2 to V3 stage plants in the same row as V5 to V6, even when automatic down pressure springs were used. That is in addition to stands that are typically 3,000 to 4,000 less than expected.

Comments about soil conditions ranged from the “best in years” to the soil “being cold and mucky” below the top few inches.

This opinion seems to have been correct in that quite a few fields have gotten ugly in the past week as one can now see traffic patterns where plant color and size vary dramatically based on planter, tillage or fertilizer passes.

Examining the roots lets one find packed soil and restricted roots.

Other causes of the ugly fields where patterns can be seen can relate to micronutrient levels and shortages. A high percentage of conventionally tilled fields have suffered topsoil erosion. The soils highest in nutrient levels are what have washed from high areas to low spots or off the fields entirely.

This black top soil contained the majority of those nutrients needed by the plants to stay green and healthy. When those levels decline the plants yellow or become streaked, and some of the safteners used are reduced in efficacy.

No guidelines have been published on each product’s reliance on P450 exciters, but the effects are real. Tissue testing of plants in affected areas is the best way to validate any suspicions and begin remediation.

Weather

Is it possible to switch from cool and wet to hot and dry with little time between? The forecasts for the week seem to say the answer will be, “yes.”

Certain meteorologists have stated that ocean temps and currents cannot switch so quickly. We shall see. If temps climb into the 90s with low humidity and winds the plants and their root systems could be stressed to pull in the needed moisture from the soil profile.

Steps taken to ensure healthy soil and a deep root system should pay off. The recent spurt in prices along with weather caused production problems indicates that forecasters see the season full of challenges for our crops in the U.S.

As proof there are problems around the Midwest NASS stats for the week ending June 5 have fairly high ratings for the percent of corn and bean crops rated as fair or poor for this early in the year.

For example the ‘fair to poor’ for Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska ratings come in at 20-23-27-30-28, respectively, for corn. Likewise for soybeans the same states rate at 26-24-26-26-22. Much of Nebraska just finished planting in the last week.

For it being only the first week in June the potential for insect, disease, heat and moisture problems during the coming three months remain high enough that every grower will have to be on his toes to adjust management to minimize such challenges, as much as that is possible.

Cover crops

Using cover crops to boost soil quality and soil biology is still a hot topic. There are still challenges with answers still needed by many participants.

These vary as to the optimum seed and species mix, ways to terminate so as to not jeopardize the main crop (how not to have a systemic herbicide hurt the following corn crop), timing of each planting, obtaining optimum corn or bean stands and utilizing each crop produced.

In a number of places we have seen reduced stands and vigor after systemic herbicides were used for termination and conventional seeds were planted. This indicates a need for a new burndown product in the marketplace that the new mix from Australia could fill.

The timing of each planting may have to be altered by moving varietal choices to earlier or later varieties that would allow for earlier planting or harvest of the cover crops. This year’s problems with armyworms indicates that the moths love to lay eggs in rye stands, leaving growers needing to more closely monitor movement of the invading worms and treat early if needed.

The overall trend and farmer acceptance of cover crops will continue to increase as erosion control and scavenging of soil nutrients increase in importance. Growers are also exploring more marketing opportunities for the crops they can grow in rotation, be it hay, bedding, or whatever else they can produce.

How much benefit might be gained from the newer polymers coming into ag? Can termination be easier and consistent? Can better insect control be possible with a lesser environmental footprint?

In work down south and what we have done here the new Argosy polymer appears impressive in helping product get into and stay on the leaves.

Plant health

Astute growers should always be thinking during the summer when looking at their crops about what bests contributes to their remaining healthy. Which minerals are most needed to fuel their immune systems?

Corn growers who used to be most worried about fungal leaf diseases from past years now need to add bacterial pathogens to their thinking. With many corn fields now approaching the V6 to V7 growth stage it may be the time to apply the best product to control the principal cause of what killed their corn early and caused the poor stalk quality last season.

This is where a small application of BioEmpruv should fit. Coupled with a near VT application we see it as the best chance of keeping corn plants green into mid September.

Weeds

Be sure to scout each field to see how well the residual products have controlled broadleaf weeds.

Small weeds generally get bigger and compete against your crops, so have to be managed. Be sure to check the labels and see which products should fit the need.

Good luck in staying on top of things.

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

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