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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Nov 25, 2016

Thanksgiving is here and Christmas will be here before we know it. You are either just getting ready to sit down to a feast that your family has just prepared for the entire clan, or recovering from eating too much or overdosing on NFL football games.

It is a holiday meant to remember the pilgrims who traveled by ship over dangerous seas to try to form colonies in this country after finding England too crowded and too oppressive for their liking. They didn’t do very well the first year and many perished.

Then, as they got the hang of things, they found out with the help of some local Indians, that they could actually raise enough food to feed themselves. Chopping the wood to burn in their fireplaces or hearths and cleaning up without dishwashers had to be a real burden.

Having been up in Canada on weeklong fishing or canoeing trips, just having an iced beverage and a warm shower seem like a welcome novelty.

Anyhow it is a time to think of all the things that have happened in the last year and give thanks for the opportunities we have been blessed with. It was predicted to be a droughty year, but it wasn’t. Our bins were full this fall after harvest.

The corn crop stood much better than last year and it was less expensive to dry it. Hopefully most people are in good health or making life changes to work in that direction. If you have kids or grandkids in school hopefully they are doing well and enjoying the experience.

Seriously we have to be thankful for being born into loving families in a country where we are given the opportunity to learn and work as we like, to worship as we like, with freedoms and opportunities to reach and achieve all that we dream about.

Nothing is perfect all the time. But when we work hard, and are sometimes assisted by like minded friends and family, we can set and often achieve our goals. Remember to say a prayer of thanks this upcoming holiday.

Fall work

The cold winds blew in from the north and northwest last week and dropped our lovely 60 and 70 degree temps into the low 30s and 40s. Having so many extra days of warmth was great and it was easy to get spoiled.

There were many chances to get extra outdoor tasks done before things froze up or there was snow on the ground. The tasks for many growers was to get the last drainage/tiling jobs done or to do any last tilling in fields that had done been done yet.

With the many deep ruts made by heavy machinery during the early part of harvest it was apparent that many of the low areas in the fields had been compacted to the point that going through a few freeze-thaw cycles was not going to be enough to fracture any hard layers. Thus there were a number of chisel plows and in-line rippers at work.

My input there would be that in situations where compaction is suspected or apparent it can be beneficial to use a compaction probe, preferably one that registers PSI readings each inch into the soil to know how hard the ground is and at which depth the zones exist.

Weather anyone?

A number of us have been paying attention to the temperatures and precipitation expected for this coming spring and growing season. That is a yearly event.

When I heard about the forest fires they were experiencing in the southeastern states I was wondering how they could be dry enough after the few hurricanes and fall rains how they could have gotten dry enough to be conducive to such fires. Those fires were confirmed and they are under drought conditions.

Does that mean there is a threat of a La Nina dry summer up here? Elwynn has noted and mentioned that Midwest droughts typically move up from the southeast. So far the expectations are night and day different.

The Browning Newsletter made a point that there are two types of La Nina and this one at its early stages tends to be the one that does not create the dry weather in the Midwest.

If things do turn dry we can’t do too much different except do everything we can to help the plants form a deeper and fully functioning root system.

Deep tillage, the use of cover crops, the application of biologicals such as SabrEx, mycorrhizal fungi that extend the root system five-fold, and application of certain minerals can help plants tolerate dry conditions much better.

It is expected to be a colder winter with several polar vortexes. There will be cold and snow and several blizzards. There always are. But by early March a 30-degree day with sun will feel like a kind summer day.

Seed buying

Budgets are even tighter than last year for most farmers. There just have not been many marking opportunities compared to five years ago. So that leaves most looking for areas in which they can shave costs.

Over the next month it will be time to download the results of the local and regional FIRST Plots and find the university yield trials. At times with the rapid pace of new product introductions and many different abbreviation and hoard of trait and seed treatment options, making decisions is much different and seemingly more difficult than five and 10 years ago.

One question I have heard more than once is “should a person be spending dollars on fertilizer that can be proven to produce a positive return rather than on traits that may not?”

We know that the many minerals in the soil are absolutely needed to build the plants, plant parts and assist in filling the grain. Not every insect causes a problem every year. CRW may be the exception.

And there are alternative options to control weeds than having a trait to rely on. A person has to remember that traits were introduced and reasoned to basically be insurance against European corn borers, or as a remedy to help control weeds that often escaped previously available herbicides.

Now many of those traits act more as security blankets for many growers. Your fathers and grandfathers produced good crops and made money before their introductions. How much money can you trade for convenience this next year? That may be a heretical question to some, but for others it makes sense.

We still need to manage the entire crop, make good input decisions, scout, and prepare for the expected and unexpected happenings.

SCN research

Nematologists at K-State are taking a different tactic in their fight against nematodes. In their case they are using a system where genes are being turned off, referred to as gene silencing.

In that manner patents can be granted and dollars garnered. On the other hand, a number of seasoned pest researchers are developing and culturing bacteria groomed to consume chitin-based food items, such as nematodes and insect eggs. We spent time with a PhD chemist in southern California last spring who has been successful in his projects and is taking the practice to quite a few growers.

There are other practitioners doing the same. That treatment is much cheaper and with the loss in labels of many of the commonly used fumigants appears to be a viable option.

One other is the planting of members of the radish families that release sulfur gasses when they are disked into the soil while green.

Remember the different conferences that will be held in the next few weeks – ISU’s ICM Conference, Farm News Ag Show, and the Acres Conference.

All will be worth attending since the knowledge you could gain is valuable. Ames, Omaha and Fort Dodge are all within driving distance.

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

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