April will be here this week and the chances for warmer and sunnier weather are increasing. We may have one or two more snow events in parts of the state, but we survived another relatively mild winter.
We used to hear the stories about how our parents had to board the buggies behind the horses and rode to school a few miles in each direction. Going against the strong winter winds had to make it a frigid. We can’t match those stories about the horses, but we can tell how in the winter of 1969 we never had to take our high school semester tests in St. Ansgar because nearly every day in January became a snow day. That sounded great until we found ourselves taking classes until mid-June to get in enough qualifying days to meet the state requirements. That year we had to go scoop our grandparents out and their drifts were so high we could walk right onto the roof of their big, old, two story with an attic farm house.
But spring-type weather is now here. Different parts of the state and Midwest have been in a dry pattern and there will be little to no snow melt. Drier soils should warm up quicker, as long as the sometimes predicted cold and wet April weather doesn’t materialize.
On a sad note my business partner for a number of years had his oldest son pass away Monday morning. He had a bad infection around Christmas time and the MDs said his liver seemed to be under a great deal of stress, but couldn’t determine what was going on. He felt really sick on Saturday and went home and went to bed, then felt worse on Sunday, so Marv and Barb took Ryan to the hospital. Every organ shut down early on Monday.
There was a good story about high yields being obtained in several Iowa corn fields last growing season. Besides the one in Guthrie County there were other growers around the Midwest who harvested some very good crops. For that Dave Schwartz, of Ankeny, and I have to thank Larry Kershner for digging up the facts and putting them in a story you could all follow. Dave and his helpers at the farm did most of the work, and I guess one could say assembling the cropping plan was somewhat like putting a big puzzle together.
You start by assembling truths that you know and then delve into theories and new products and ideas that test those different beliefs and postulates. Each year there are new products showing up that make perfect sense and would seem to fit a high percent of your acres.
There are others that are “out there” a bit more, but deserve to get onto a few acres to see if they perform. Then, if everything clicks, you get a decent amount of rain and avoid any major hailstorms, what you did pans out and you can do a repeat the next year.
So in analyzing the 280 to 340 bushel-per-acre yields we can say that having good soil biology was important. Dave and his people did a great job of investigation and had Haney and PLFA soil tests run every month. The Haney test is named after Dr. Rick Haney, a USDA soil scientist, who can be seen on his U-Tube videos talking about how most fertilizers applied to the fields have to undergo being incorporated into a microbial body before they become true plant food.
Thus the best responding fields to the BioEmpruv applications were those having a Haney score of 8 to 10 or higher. The highest scores I know about are with a farmer near Spring Valley, Minnesota who has several in the mid 20s. How to get there, then the time and cost requirements are what many growers are wondering about.
To me most of the growers who are experimenting with cover crops or using manures are likely ready to begin the climb to higher yields. Our challenge is to figure out what the 2017 plans should include. Definitely polymer stabilized P and N, late foliar N such as Kugler’s KQ-XRN or PT21, the Take Off signaling compound, micronutrients at various times, tissue testing, and different applications of N will be used.
The new items might be foliar-applied amino acids of the correct combinations and rates, in-furrow minerals prescribed by Toshui Yamada, maybe silica or silicon in various forms to capture more energy from different sources.
Now why would any agronomist from Iowa be mentioning sugar beets? Maybe because one of the four big pockets of sugar beet production happens to be along the border of western Minnesota and North Dakota, partly in the famous Red River Valley.
Beets tend to be somewhat an orphan crop in that there are less than three million acres total, not enough to really entice any major input supply company to spend much money or time to see what herbicides or fungicides would be safe and efficient to use on the crop.
In the Minnesota, North Dakota and Michigan growing areas, the humidity levels were high enough in 2016 to create the perfect environment for foliar fungal diseases.
Cercospora betacola is a leaf disease specific to both sugar and table beets, causing leaf spotting and wilting that can be damaging to plant health and production.
In the past, growers and supply companies always figured they could just keep spraying with the same products they have used since introduction of the strobe fungicides. In 2016 there were growers who sprayed six times or more before the crop advisors could only shrug their shoulders and announce that the Cercospora had developed complete resistance to the single site of action of the entire fungicide family.
So what does the proposed action plan for 2017 disease control look like? At this point several older products heavily based on copper, zinc and manganese at heavy rates are being suggested.
Costs are currently estimated at $100 to $120 per acre. At this point that is not being well accepted being margins were in the red for many growers last year.
So what is the next idea that could provide a solution? We have been searching for the answer for the disease control in beets, and as you have already guessed other crops. There is a major body of knowledge based on some older research, some at universities in California, South America and in Europe that is being investigated and put into practice.
That knowledge is looking into the properties of a form of phosphorous that is not a phosphate, it is a phosphite. Rather than being in the HPO4 or H2PO5 form they are in the HPO3 form. That makes them become systemic and effective fungicides and bactericides.
If the same minerals are added to the mix they flow through the entire plant rather than staying on the leaf or in the area of application.
These have been in use in those three areas for a number of years and allow for a rotation of more products, so resistance is delayed or prevented.
Here in the U.S., we have seen with both herbicides and fungicides we use the same families of products too often and create resistance strains, then have to face the prospect of needing another new family to show up at the last minute.
This theory of using phosphites is what Jared Chambers, the Spraytec Co., or AgriGuardian formulators are working with and now providing to U.S. growers.
You may want to investigate what those companies are offering and see if they can help get you off the treadmill and avoid such a resistance problem in the future.
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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