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By Staff | Mar 24, 2017

Spring is here at last. Most years we can’t wait for its approval. This year it was less of an issue as we have been running around most of the time since early April in lightweight clothing.

There is due to be colder weather by midweek and perhaps a little snow. But we are on the downhill side of winter 2016-17 and thus far most municipalities and school districts have saved tons of money on salt, snow removal and overtime for many employees.

As of this week the spring rush and springtime farming activities seemed to kick off as there were people applying fertilizer, doing a bit of early tillage, manure applications and seeding waterways. April is not far away and about 10 to 15 years ago the first planter went to the field in the last few days of March. There ended up being no advantage to those fields’ final yields, but it did happen.

The acreage debate for the growing season is still fluid. Strong demand from different counties remains good. The threat of trade barriers and trade problems still exist, but what were campaign boasts versus an initial bargaining ploy of a major deal.

Then locally and nationally different notable items were in the news. The first is that ISU now gets to choose a new president as Steven Leath leaves for the Auburn University and its warmer climate. What may have once seemed like a noble and prestigious job must seem somewhat overwhelming as every party wants their own voice heard and has their own agenda.

Then David Rockefeller passed away at age 101. He remained a person who worked more behind the scenes doing things you heard about, but never saw or read in the news.

Planting timing

We typically have a date set by the crop insurance agencies that dictate when farmers head to the fields to begin planting their corn crop. That date usually places a bit of sanity into the time when most semi-aggressive corn growers take their planters out and get rolling in earnest. Years ago any venture before April 25 was considered early for Iowa. Now getting started by April 15 or a few days earlier is considered normal.

In northern Missouri last year, April 6 and 7 marked the start of things. Soil temps above 50 degrees and staying there or predicted to do so for the next week or so if what we look for now.

For farmers that ask about planting early I suggest they begin with a hybrids known to have good cold tolerance and chose seed that has average or better size and bag weight. I recognize that there are articles written that say there is no difference between seed size and weight and cold vigor but I will cover this in a bit.

I have been advising corn growers to begin planting earlier because if all the corn in the state or region were going to die from disease on Aug. 20 to 25 they’ll need as many fill days as possible.

But now that we know what has been killing the crop and being able to prevent it from being repeated, waiting until the ground is above 50 degrees may have the advantage. The high-yielding Guthrie field yielded 300-plus bushels per acre got planted on May 6 in 2016.

The videos

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a group of us had taken a professional camcorder into the high-yielding fields to record what was occurring during the growing season, then followed this up by filming the developers of the BioEmpruv product and ideas of how it would best be utilized this next season.

These are all available at our website. Many people have clicked in and watched those videos. One of the scientists was Dr. Jill Clapperton, a world famous soil microbiologist who also is into instrumentation equipment and capability. She took treated versus non treated ears from the fields this fall, where nitrogen and phosphorus were stabilized with polymers, micronutrients were applied versus where nothing special was done.

Then she pulled kernels from every inch of the ears running from the butt to the tip of the ear and analyzed them for 94 different minerals. The information was all graphed as well.

On the ears where nothing special was done the mineral levels were often only one-fourth of the mineral levels of where the BioEmpruv, stabilizing polymers and micronutrient levels were supplied. Because the plants died early and mineral levels were very short in their kernels she explained that germs and early vigor were going to be low.

If you have not viewed it yet, do so as it is the first time such work was done and revealed to the public. In limited use we did see that BioEmpruv applied in-furrow produced much healthier stalks with the evidence seen all the way thru late August.


Now that planting of corn and beans is approaching the final decisions have to be made as to what if anything needs to be applied in-furrow. What products would give the best return, what do they cost, and how do they interact with the other products I may be using.

First, there are a number of minerals that have been identified, sometimes by top fertility researchers in other countries that increase root growth, color and health, direction of growth and function of that root. Such research seems to have been ignored in the U.S.

Depending on which minerals and its level of systemic activity some of those minerals can be applied through the early V stages and still have an effect on root growth. We see products like Excellorate by ABM, MicroMix by AgriGuardian and Tuxedo by Verdesian fit that bill.

Modern thinking of crop production also considers different biologicals as authentic companions to minerals to improve plant growth, vigor and health. These often work by the production and release of organic acids that serve to put specific minerals into the reduced form that the roots can then access.

Here the SabrEx and Quick Roots can be considered. There are many others that have good science behind them. Anything that gets the plants off to an early and healthy start can have a huge impact on final results.

Cover crops

I spoke at a good-sized meeting in the northwest corner of the state last week. The ISU Extension agronomist gave a good presentation about cover crops and the roles they filled in holding soil and minerals on the fields instead of allowing them to leach or erode away.

But he concluded with the statement that he could not give any strong evidence they could pay for themselves.

I followed him and thought I could provide the conclusion to the story in a convincing fashion. We have seen that our seasons are bit short for cover crops like them might be in one state to the south, and that getting direct cash flow may go in the opposite direction.

I drew on the Guthrie fields again as we found that by keeping the plants extremely healthy and filling all through September using the foliar-applied minerals and ammonia-based N, using the Take-Off signaling compounds to direct mineral uptake and assimilation, then by using those cover crops and possibly brewed microbes to the soil to raise the Haney soil test scores to 8 or 10 or higher, we could keep minerals flowing into the still healthy corn plants to increase the corn yields by enough bushels to reward that grower many times over.

Take that as a challenge to see if you can do the same thing in 2017.

One use of cover crops I will be watching closely in central Iowa are fields were cereal rye was planted last fall.

This spring the growers will be planting souybeans directly into the standing rye and running a crimper over the field at the 2-inch stage. Some of those fields stayed very clean of weeds.

Some received only a pre-emerge application, some received only a post application, and some received none.

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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