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By Staff | Feb 24, 2017

March is getting closer and the start of the planting season is now only about seven or eight weeks away. That seems somewhat impossible, but the calendar says it is true.

This run of temps 30 degrees above normal has been welcome, but appears will become more seasonal in the next week.

Not having any snow to melt will allow daily temps to warm quicker. While the lack of moisture at this time does not cause any worry, everyone is aware that the delta states have been in drought conditions for quite a few months and droughts from that area have a habit of moving into the Corn Belt. The main question for us is will it move further west than Ohio and Indiana and impact Illinois and Iowa?

Growers who listen to the top three or four climatologists recognize there are large disparities in their predictions for the 2017 growing season. Will it be colder and wetter this spring and enough to delay plantings? Will the summer months be blessed with plentiful rainfall or will the amounts fall short of what is needed? Actually several people are predicting that a mild El Nino may be developing. We will know by September.

In these last weeks there is lots of machinery prep to get done and planter/tillage machinery work to complete before we take to the fields. And all of this has to take place in a climate where budgets are on the tight side.

But repairs are costly compared to preventative maintenance so these have to be done.


As mentioned in last week’s Farm News I had to take a hiatus in writing my column. Three of us flew to Brazil on Feb. 7 and there were lots of long travel jaunts and late night schedules. The four-hour time difference doesn’t sound like much but when you are getting up at a body time of 2:30 a.m. each day it gets tiring. We toured much of the state of Parana, which is northwest of Sao Paulo. It has rich volcanic soils and the topography resembles that of north east of Cedar Rapids. The difference is that in northeast Iowa the horizon and hills might be one to two miles away. In Parana the horizon and hills might be eight to 10 miles away.

Daily temps were in the high 70s to mid 80s so it was very comfortable each day.

We were invited down to visit the SprayTec Co., in Maringa, and give talks at different locations in front of several groups. We had the chance to visit with their chemists and plant pathologists and go through their labs to look at the screening they were conducting and hear what they were planning for the future.

Their technical staff may not have had all the whistle- and bell-type equipment, but were thinking futuristically about disease, weed and insect control. They subscribe to the theory that if plants have a very sound nutritional profile they will be much healthier and disease pressure will be greatly reduced.

They are also questioning the effect of halide fungicides on soil health.

One gentleman on the trip with me was a retired Purdue University scientist who has a vast background that stretches back 50 years and included work in those secret labs we only hear about. Thus he was able to clue me in to the relevance of some of the projects we were looking at. The company wanted our take on what they were doing and potential applications in the U.S.

Being Brazil is in the southern hemisphere it was the equivalent of early August down there. The soy crop ranged from being about R6 to being harvested already. The corn crop ranged in maturity from fully dented with the first crop to 6 inches tall as a second crop.

In western Parana the large cooperatives have built major chicken slaughter plants with farmers constructing barns in which to raise those chickens. The slaughter capacities of those facilities are in the 250000 to 500,000 birds per day range. The dressed and frozen birds then get exported to 28 different countries in Europe. Because of the 2016 drought and freeze corn production was a bust and the feed plants actually had to import corn for feed usage, first crop corn acres were expanded to meet the feed needs.

Yields for first crop corn in Parana state in the past were typically in the 190 to 195 bpa range.

Their corn hybrids tend to be taller, higher-eared, heavier test weight and harder starched then ours. It typically gets harvested and is put right into storage with no drying.

Most of the major companies that operate in North America also sells seed in Brazil and does the same sort of advertising.

We got into several soybean fields to see how they were faring. Their fields are still facing pressure from Asian rust and the average number of applications in Parana this year has been 3.5. At a projected cost of 3 bushels of beans per two applications of fungicide the cost to control the fungal disease will be slightly over 5 bpa. To not apply means they would lose the field.

When we got to Emparada and the USDA-ARS-type soybean research facility we got to view plants that had not been sprayed as much and they were heavily infected.

With rust, by the time you can see symptoms with the naked eye the plants are going to die. Through the work and strategizing of the top researchers the growers changed their cropping rotation to only planting one crop of soybeans per year so as to create a longer non-green bridge where no inoculum was being produced to infect the next crop. We did not have the chance to visit with scientists from Paraguay, Bolivia, or Columbia to see if they also observed this ban on any winter-cropped beans.

We got the chance to visit with several growers. It rained almost every day we were there so most of them had some downtime, although getting the combines rolling was tops on their list of things to do. When we questioned them about what new things they were trying this or next year the big items were new biologicals, new signaling compounds, or minerals they were going to apply foliarly or in-furrow to boost growth and hopefully yields.

Just as in this country there is interest in foliar applying amino acids to boost yields. What I learned from my travel companion is that this practice can help yields if the right combination is used and hinder plant growth and response if the wrong combination is applied. The same rule applies to disease effects.

As always most farm-raised guys love the Brazilian restaurants where the attendants run skewers of hot beef of every cut to the tables offering you the choice of as much beef as you can eat, are great.

They tell you if it is the sirloin, loin, ribeye, flank, rear roast or the hump. Mix in the salad bars with lots of fresh greens and it is a great Paleo diet. The taste and quality of their beef has improved dramatically the last 12 years. It was tender and tasty.

The week we got to Brazil was the week of their big Coopeval Farm Show held at Cascavel. It was the equivalent of our Farm Progress, Husker Harvest, or other regional ag show.

The crowd size was about 60,000 each day. The show venue was huge and comparable to the IFPS, but the lot sizes for machinery companies seemed smaller, leaving more room for livestock and short line companies. They also had barns and corrals where different breeds of beef and milk cattle were on display.

They had the typical Angus and Hereford breeds as well as the Breford, Brangus, Nelore, Brahama, Zebu and Curacu.

Different herd managers have been creating synthetic breeds that combine meat quality with heat tolerance, the ability to finish out on grass, and insect resistance.

The last task we tackled involved an old friend that many Iowa visitors got to know over the last decade or so. He was Tadashi Yorinori, the western hemisphere expert on soybean rust. Based on a request from the FAO (food and agriculture organization) in Rome, Tadashi wrote a book on the struggles scientists in South America had in learning to control, and then educating growers on how to handle the disease.

He fell about 7 feet onto a tile floor last spring while closing a shutter door on his house, getting injured in the fall, enough to go into the hospital where he died. The APS (American Phytopath Society in St Paul) offered to publish the book, thus some of the details on completing any final chapters, translation into the different languages, and requesting different people to write the forwards had to be arranged.

We made significant progress on those tasks. The book should serve as a template for any other country or ag systems if a major new plant disease moves in and threatens the food supply.

All in all it was another trip of a lifetime. We had the chance on Saturday to take the extended inside tour of the Itapu hydro dam and to tour the famous Foz do Iguasso Falls. The river level was as high as I have seen, so the water flow was tremendous.

It’s 5-mile-long, horseshoe-shape just thundered like you would expect if the Mississippi River went over a 300 foot cliff. OSHA in this country would never allow it, but they have walkways built out in the falls so you can get very close to the dangers and can look down over the 75 and 300 foot drop offs.

The mist was so thick you could not see through it and got thoroughly drenched if you did not wear a rain jacket.

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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