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By Staff | Jan 20, 2017

After surviving the biggest non-storm, ice storm of the last decade we are blessed with having our hoped-for January thaw.

So it rained a little while the ground and temps were below freezing. Most of us with a few gray hairs remember the big Halloween ice storm of 1991 that knocked out power to many inhabitants of central and northern Iowa when some lines were down and out of commission for months.

Camping out with sleeping bags and kerosene heaters in our houses with no running water was not as nice as would be expected. As it was the storm was slow moving and the temps stayed surprisingly warm. The gravel roads were worse than the paved roads for driving on, which was strange.

Looking at the bright side, how often have we endured a big storm in mid-January and not had to shovel or dig through snow drifts afterward? It sure seems like we got a free pass from Old Man Winter.

An interesting aside about that 1991 ice storm that nailed many in north central Iowa, is that the big front moved clear to the east coast and combined with a nor’eastern and the remnants from a storm out in the Atlantic to cause huge waves and conditions tough enough to sink ships.

One of those sinkings caught the attention of an interested author out of New York. During private interviews he documented during his visits with suppliers and relatives in seaport towns, he focused on one ship, the Andrea Doria. Out of that work came a book and a movie called, “Perfect Storm.”

Grain analysis

In a column two weeks ago I mentioned our on farm research project where we planted fields on a rough farm in Guthrie County where the fertility levels were CRS 31 to 45, lower than most farmers would rent or buy, and had a disease-filled history, where the corn plants typically died by late-August.

This year the operator utilized a few products that most farmers had heard about, but not every of them have heard about. By July 10, the crop was under moisture stress due to no rain since late-May and things were not looking too good. But then the rains arrived and the corn was boosted by the application of a new nutrition-based product to fight a disease that most agencies don’t acknowledge exists.

The combination of products did their jobs, kept the plants healthy and supplied with nutrition until after mid-October. The yields of 280 to 340 bushels per acre were about what we expected.

But we thought there was still more to investigate and learn yet. So we took ear and plant samples from this farm and others where we experimented with BioEmpruv and performed nutritional analyses on the leaf samples, ears and with kernels pulled from those ears.

We used an instrument called an x-ray defraction gun that emits low level x-rays that bounce back a signal that indicates what minerals are in the sample – all 94 of them within about 75 seconds.

Already and in the near future we will have a nutritional analysis of each set of kernels pulled out every inch up the ear for all macro and micronutrients to see how much difference exists between treated versus non-treated ear samples. This might be the first time such sampling was done.

Typically the grain gets shelled off and bulked together. In this method we thought we could learn if any elements were running out and should have been supplemented with more soil or foliar applied nutrition.

We will try to post this on our website and have charts made that we can display at our Iowa Power Show booth or at the Triumph of Ag Show planned for early March in Omaha.

In looking at the date late last night we saw the macronutrients vary three or four fold on treated versus non-treated ears. And where we had the N and P stabilized and the plants kept healthy using BioEmpruv, there was no significant decline in macro- or micronutrients in the butt versus the tip kernels.

In looking at the results generated by applications and usage at numerous farms the common denominator where results were big was having a Haney Soil Quality score of 8 to 10 or higher. The questions that will be asked by growers then are: where their individual field’s Haney scores would be; what products and practices would help them raise the score, what products or practices should they avoid; and what is the cost and time element for them to achieve better scores.

Those are the questions and topics that I hope get discussed, first by the presenters at the ISU Extension Soil Health Workshop and by soil researchers and agronomist best versed at developing such plants and conveying such knowledge to growers.

Weed management

Not much is new on the weed scene except most growers are where delta growers were several seasons ago, recognizing that the old days where one trip or one product allowed us to control all weeds all season long are over. Instead the axiom is to use multiple applications and trips applying residual products.

Knowing that may be impractical due to input costs and lack of new products, it will be very interesting to watch the growers who have gotten skilled at raising cover crops plant beans direct into standing cereal rye fields, maybe crimping the plants, and then at most applying one residual or one post spraying to control any weeds.

If this works it will be very positive for weed control, reducing erosion, and for the operators’ budgets.

Perhaps the first response will be most growers asking the great question about why they should keep paying the hefty tech fee for something they are not getting much or any value from. This is at the same time when many feeding operations are having a tough time sourcing any non-GMO bean meal.

There will be new herbicide resistance traits appearing, some looking like they will have value. Each will have to stand on their own merit and value. Final yields and final economics will allow us to evaluate each of them.

Part of this evaluation process will be drift potential, drift liability and legal requirements on the part of the land operator and applicator, and hopefully good neighbor attitudes.

Other meetings

Other meetings that could be in your areas in the near future would the Crop Advantage seminars, Practical Farmers if Iowa’s annual conference today and tomorrow. It typically draws a larger crowd each year. Then there is the No-Till on the Plains, Salina, Kansas in a week or so.

Check them out to see which one of these fit your needs the best.

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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