Now in the last week of April we all have to cross our fingers and hope that no major rain front crosses the Midwest’s cropping area. Too much rests on each grower getting the chance to get their corn crop in the ground in the next two to three weeks. When each grower assembles all the facts and new product information and begins to interpolate each new bit of information and form the plans to the next season they always expect good weather during the planting season.
In the past ten years there have been a few seasons where perfect weather has been fleeting and we had to resort to what might be referred to as a guerilla s type planting season, where you had to be ready to hit the fields whenever a half day of acceptable weather arrived. It can make for a long season and lots of worry. So let’s all hope and pray for the next weeks to contain lots of sunshine, drying breezes and minimal showers.
After crisscrossing much of the NW, NE and then central through eastern Iowa in the last week it was easy to see there were lots of planters out, but it was out in the yards ready to move to the fields when conditions were right. It would have seemed worse if we had to sit while the fields were wet, but actually when we had to head back to our closets to grab the winter jackets and gloves, staying put and maybe having the seed in the bag yet didn’t seem like a bad idea. And as an up to date assessment as of late Monday night (1:30 a.m.) night there was snow moving across about fifteen northern states and cold weather is in the forecast thru next Sunday.
Each spring we each listen for the meteorologists who either calm everyone down with predictions of great weather that will be very conducive for big yields or they set the world on either fire or into gloom by telling that they see either too much or too little rain, or temps that are too warm or too cold. In the past few seasons it has seemed that our growing seasons seem less calm with more extremes. More dollars are riding on each crop and few farmers have enough cushion to endure many weather problems. In fact many farmers hope for a weather disaster, but not in their areas.
While there is a segment in the U.S. population who firmly believe that global cooling/global warming/climate change is going to wipe us out, the countering side can accurately say it has always changed. In the late 1970s the predictions were for global cooling and a new ice age that was going to bring glaciers back to part of the country.
This year if a certain forecaster is correct, and he has hit major fronts and storms to within an hour six months in advance, will we see this Dalton Cycle lead to a cooler summer and problems with getting the crop mature? If that is the case a person had better be prepared to apply more phosphorous to their crops to hasten development and maturity. Knowing what products will work and what the method and parameters of application will need to be.
To Plant or Not to Plant
The number of questions by growers in the last two weeks about the wisdom of planting when soil temps are below 50 F have increased. Since early April the fields have been either too wet or too cold to begin planting. When the conditions began to warm and the fields dried out the growers were ready. They took to the fields in large numbers last Saturday and good progress was made through late Monday.
What I have seen is that planting seed with a higher mineral content will give increased vigor and better cold germs. Heavier and sometimes larger seed could also be an important property. At this point not enough guidance has been given to farmers about this observation. Andre Cuomo over or up in Canada is the researcher who has dug into that forbidden issue. A mineral analysis by any soils lab with a grinder could do this. Jill Clapperton with her X-Ray Defraction scanner could do a sample in about 70 seconds. In our videos Jill is shown using this machine.
The common advice given to growers was to first judge how many days to plant their crop given planter size. Then to figure backwards from their drop dead corn planting date from this Magic May 10 date given a few days lost due to rain. Planter size has gotten larger in the last five years, so planting 400 acres per day is now doable if seed buggies/tenders are used and auto-steer devices can help minimize operator boredom and lack of sleep. Now, when operators said they wished to keep planting, the best advice may have been to get their latest hybrids in the ground and choose heavier bag weight seen to avoid shrunken kernels. Then planting their very full season hybrids would be prioritized as the GDI clock and recorded GDUs begin to decline.
One major piece of advice to growers in the last ten years has been to plant early and speed the development of plants along in May, June and July. If the entire crop dies early in late August due to a leaf disease we call the New Goss’s, and your late planted corn variety tassels late, then figure that grain weight for those filling kernels will be reduced by a percentage equal to the days of grain fill lost.
As I see it and advising, this cold spell coming is worrisome in that if you plant at 34,000 and get a stand of 26 or 27,000 then you will have wished you had stopped. There is no recourse at that point. We now know that we can keep the corn green and filling using the BioEmpruv. Fill days is everything, so if your corn would die early with all other fields as it has done between 2009 and 2015, loosing fill days is crucial. It does mean that with BioEmpuv being limited in quantity you will want to get your supply locked in soon. You might like to know that the Guthrie Center high yield field was planted on May 6 in 2016, so getting the seedlings off to a good start is important.
Planning for Increased Yields
This week there will be a small group of people that will assemble in central Iowa to share their thoughts on what can be done to increase the yields on the Guthrie County research farm. By now enough outside ideas have been proposed and experts consulted to began to map strategy. The majority supported corn on corn since the biomass of a corn crop can be managed to help build soil organic matter. The goal is to actually increase the soil organic carbon level so there is enough carbon in the soil active category to allow the soil microbes to convert a high percentage of the fixed minerals into the most plant available forms.
There is a group of researchers from the Netherlands who are delving into this extreme and precise arena of plant to plant, plant to microbe and microbe to microbe communication. (MD Zack Bush did the same thing when he was doing his intricate electronic research on human cells in his cancer and then chronic disease studies. Clapperton and a few of her colleagues have done a bit of research in this area.) It seems that testing for soil active carbon and then striving for levels of 300 to 500 are important.
This is different than testing for OM. The best instrumentation in the world is typically in Germany and the Netherlands, so the center of research being in these countries is not surprising.
Apparently this area of cropping research and application is going to be more important in the future as the growth in the food industries and consumer demand is for higher nutritional levels in the fruits, veggies and grains. A better understanding of how nutrients are put in the reduced (plant available form) and then accumulated in the grain is needed.
Until then hope for dry and warmer conditions. Until then stay warm and dry.
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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