A few weather prognosticators correctly predicted the spring of 2017 was going to be on the cool and wet side. How we wish they were not so correct. We and our machinery are sitting on the sidelines looking at the fields that received a major drenching over the weekend. From the 6- to 8-inches that fell in a band from SW Missouri through St Louis and into Chicago, the 18- inches to 24-inches of snow that fell in western Kansas, and our measly 2.5-inches of rain to much of the central part of the state has grain farmers now wondering what their next step is and when they might be able to take it.
Last week was somewhat a no-man’s week when it seemed too cold to plant but too dry to pass up the opportunity to get their corn acres planted. On Monday and Tuesday most agronomists were fielding calls from growers who wanted a second opinion on what they should be doing: start planting at full speed or wait until the ground temp was close to 50 degrees and moving upwards.
Sitting idle with dry conditions lead to impatience, and anxious crop farmers don’t like to do nothing. The cold rain expected to move in by noon caused most operators to quit late on Thursday. Now ten days later we still don’t have answers on what was the correct thing to do. Will most acres emerge without major problems or will the late Thursday planted acres see adequate stands?
The situation now is warmer weather is expected to be moving in by mid-week with potential showers on Wednesday. Every grower will be carefully watching the planted fields looking for the rows of small, emerging seedlings hoping for a full stand rather than one reduced by the cold soils.
The NASS Bureau released their weekly progress report on Monday. The tally for each states planted status was: IA-28 percent done; ILL-63 percent; NE-34 percent; MN-12 percent; MO-67 percent; ND and SD-5 percent. Those figures will stay the same for the next few days. The speed of today’s planting ability is much faster with larger rigs, seed tenders and high speed capabilities. We just need the ground to dry and warm up. My observation to growers looking for guidance was that the high yield fields that we worked with last year in Guthrie County were planted on May 6, which is still in the ideal window. Will the remaining acres, said with the realization that many growers have few to zero acres in, get planted by May 15.
The danger that exists in 2017 to the late planted corn is that since 2010 the corn has been dying in the Aug 15 to 25 time slot. Corn that gets a late start may only get a percentage of the normal fill days in before the plants begin to turn yellow and then brown. Thus growers hoping to take advantage of the GDUs left will have to proactively do everything they can to keep their crop green and filling. Any minerals that enable the corn and bean plants to grow larger, deeper and healthier root systems will be beneficial. That can be done early post-emerge if you are aware of what minerals fill that role. That will mean closely monitoring the plants’ nutritional status, applying foliar micros when called for, and making sure nitrogen supplies remain adequate. We have seen and taken pictures of the brown death moving into a healthy corn field from their neighboring fields after crossing a 250 foot distance. It can also be a factor for growers who wish to try any new product that helps the plant ward off any new bacterial disease that been causing plant health problems. Late season plant health is likely to a critical component to getting high yields this year. That is why growers who used BioEmpruv in 2016 will be using it again on more acres this season.
Before the registration of Metalaxyl (Apron) corn seedlings typically had to be emerged by fourteen days after planting or it began to rot below the soil surface. Now with the inexpensive protective seed coating the seedlings can keep emerging in cool and wet soils for nearly a month. This is typically most noted in low ground where the water sat or due to poor draining was slower to warm. Since that time there have been a stable of new seed treatment products ready to be applied to the seed in the seed plants.
The number of products available for seed application has increased dramatically as the seed treatment companies screen more products and as we now see more fungal diseases attacking new seedlings. The debate may now center on whether the seedlings are weaker or if the disease causing organisms are more aggressive. The correct answer may be a combination of the two.
The number of companies offering minerals to put on the seed or in-furrow so the mixture will be readily available to the newly emerged roots is growing dramatically as we continue to plant when the soils are cooler. Work by Drs. Jill Clapperton and Andrea Cuomo suggests that mineral content within the seed correlates with early germination and cold vigor. Their work demonstrating that sufficient levels are needed to avoid emergence problems may help both seed companies and farmers in knowing what in-field fertilizer programs should produce the best seed. We expect a number of companies to follow the use of the X-Ray Defraction Scanner closely in working to develop innovate programs once they can quickly track mineral levels both in all their seed as well as how much variation exists among kernel location on the cobs. Saving tip kernels by supplying adequate nutrition to the plant throughout the entire season rather than letting them shrivel up and fall thru the sizer or plates could be a money saving idea.
In the areas that had pounding rains the burden of scouting each field and location in each field where water sat will be the immediate task. Doing a quick drive by will not be enough. Knowing the soil types and where any high Mg areas exist can help each grower zero in on particular areas where problems are more likely to occur. Typically Mg base saturation levels near or above 20 percent show more crusting.
If a rotary hoe pass needs to be made, try to time it for when the sprout begins to push against the crust and before it forms a tight bend and the coleoptiles erupts. This year we are likely to see major variations in rate of warm up based on soil types and topographical variation across each field.
One occurrence that surprised observers was how rapidly the soil temperature dropped within a two day time period. One extension agronomist recorded about a ten degree decline over a two day period, likely due to low 30s night time temps.
Weed and Disease Control Issues
While traveling across north central Iowa this week the number of waterholes was large. Water was running thru many fields. Depending on the solubility of each herbicide and possibly soil movement growers will have to watch those low spots where water sat or where sheet erosion occurred to get a clue about the longevity of the residual herbicides that had been applied to their fields. It will be best to have the facts for each product you applied prior to planting. Scouting your fields and know what herbicides had been applied along with the solubility soil colloid adsorbtion of each product. This will be valuable in determining if higher rates or a new tank mix partner may be needed to control any late emergers.
If you possibly are raising any wheat acres now is the time when the various fungicides or other control products have to be applied. Ones I will be watching closely are the FullTec Cube and similar mixes that combine phosphites with minerals and amino acids. They can be more completely effective, longer lasting, cheaper and have zero risk of the fungi developing resistance to them.
The light trap counts by entomologists of black cutworm moths have been high in locations to our south. Being the moths drop out of the air when they hit a zone of an exact temperature, did they reach that 45 degree zone and land before they reached Iowa? We have not seen any major BCW problems for a number of years but it could pay to stay alert for them in fields that held a green cover prior to planting.
The NRCS finally changed their stance and accepted some responsibility for their negligence allowing Palmer amaranth to be spread in the many CRP pollinator fields. They will allow specific herbicides to be applied if a person can find a specific number of the plants in a given acreage, if you first notify them of your findings. If you have some of those acres check the rules so we can keep production of seed from those acres to a minimum.
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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