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By Staff | Aug 12, 2016

It’s crunch time for our crops is approaching and with it will be stories about how well they did or instead how good they looked in mid-July.

The growing season is a marathon and not a sprint. Everything we have done to this point sets the stage for what we hope is a crop that meets or exceeds our expectations.

For most farmers everything they could do they have either gotten done or made the decision to not spend any more money, for fear of what their banker might say.

At this point Mother Nature typically takes over and most of what we can do is hope the days are warm and sunny, along with getting timely rains that fill the kernels or pods rather than shrink away.

As erratic as the summer weather and rainfall has been there will be a wide variance in final yields.

Farm events

Beginning shortly will be a long list of events geared to cropping and ag business in the Midwest. The big one will be the Farm Progress Show, sponsored by the Farm Progress consortium of farm publications. We see the same group hosting similar shows in Minnesota as Farm Fest and Nebraska’s Husker Harvest Days.

People tend to want to travel an easy distance to attend such shows and want to see displays tailored to their area and interests. In other countries we see AgroTechnica in Germany, Agro Expo in Argentina and Techo-Campos in Brazil.

For the attendees they get to see new machinery items, hear about new input products or see add ons that can enhance their farming or ranching operations. Thus we get our big show in about two weeks at its biennial permanent site.

In addition to the big farm shows will be the many smaller seed company field days held in most neighborhoods where each hosting dealer or company get to display and discuss the attributes of each of their products.

There used to be many more of these small, local shows. That has changed as larger cooperatives have been assigned the dealerships and cover a much larger territory.

Crop development

Midwest and Corn Belt wise what is being seen is that there continues to be a wide variation in rainfall among different areas in each state, leading to big swings in crop ratings.

Crop ratings in South Dakota and Kansas fell big time as their crops suffer from lack of rain. It comes at a bad time as the corn is heavily into grain fill and the kernels are prone to aborting the tip kernels.

Shallower kernels will also be the rule in the dry areas. The eastern Corn Belt is still seeing lots of moisture falling, to the point that Ohio is having a corn crop rating for Good to Excellent in the 54 percent range.

In Iowa we are seeing ear size heavily dependent on planting date and degree of stress placed on the small plant when it was in the early V stages.

The cloudy weather seen through the last three weeks seems to be having a negative effect on kernel depth and kernel retention.

The drier conditions are seen as beneficial as foliar fungal disease incidence is much lower than we saw in 2015.

This will be a plus in that retaining more green leaf tissue allows the plants to form more of the sugars needed to fill the kernels.

The soybean plants are also in the pod-fill stage. We are seeing plants anywhere from late R2 to late R4 due to variance in planting date and soil conditions.

As to which bean may yield the best that has yet to be determined. Last year’s wet, warm and sunny September helped most fields add on about 15 bushels to their Sept. 1 potential.

Rain is needed in most areas of the state to maximize pod fill.

More fields are showing signs of SDS in patches through compacted, saturated low areas or where mineral levels are low. At this point there is no curative product or action that can be used, except to try to take the steps in 2017 or 2018 to minimize the varietal or cultural items promoting the problem.

Spray management

Just as we are seeing weed control problems in soybeans due to over reliance on the same product in both crops across many seasons, the risks exist to see the same resistance problems occur among fungicides.

There are two main families of fungicides being used in row crops with only one new one that is slowly being introduced. Rotation and using two- or three-way tank mixes is now the modus operandi in South America where they don’t have winters to break the life cycle of the diseases as we do here.

Cover crops

There should be several good field days this fall where use of rye or barley as a cover crop will be discussed. There has been lots of press about them and their use, but incorporating them in a corn/bean rotation in a northern climate has created some difficulties.

For the reason that weed control in soybeans is likely to be even tougher in 2017 planting into a mulch or mat of a small grain could be the answer, especially if a new burndown product were to be introduced that works better in cool conditions and it was not harmful to soil microbes.

There are also farmers who planted into a standing straw mulch who have crops that look good.

With erosion-prone soil in different sections of the country using row crop cultivation is not a practical option.

Good luck with the rest of August and I may see you at some of the shows.

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

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