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By Staff | May 10, 2017


Already this growing season is looking like one that will have a multitude of challenges. Besides the economic issues, the weather, crop diseases and weeds are high on the list of things that will need lots of attention and thought. A week ago I mentioned that trying to decide to plant or sit on the sideline seems like a no-man’s land situation. Now that the weather has warmed up and we finally have returned to warmer and sunnier conditions we can see the forest and the trees. For the people who planted in the day or two before the cold rain when the soil temperatures dropped about twelve degrees the jury is still out and we will have to inspect each field planted on the Wednesday or Thursday before Friday’s drop in temperature.

In the last 15 days, I have had the chance to drive up to Minneapolis, up to NE Iowa, and out southwest of Kearney, Neb. Farmers in the latter area are in the predicament that conditions were dry and warmer around the early part of April so they started planting. Their progress came to a halt when it cooled off to the mid to high 20s and the snow began. Many of the leaves that were unfurled froze and many of the plants turned brown or white. It was too early to detect if the regrowth and growing point were going to recover or if soil pathogens were going to reduce their stands. East in Illinois the planting season was earlier than normal and early season planting progress and plant development was ahead of normal. Then in late April much of the central part of the state got blasted with rainfall amounts of 5 to 8″ of rain.

The stories about the 24 to 30 inches of snow in way southwest Kansas were verified by those in contract with growers or crop scouts out near Dodge City. Like many late spring blizzards one of the greatest dangers is to the cattle out on pasture as the blowing snow plugs their nostrils. Without fingers to clear the snow they smother. As a result there were pictures of pastures riddled with the carcasses of dead cattle. This snow storm and cattle disaster was about six weeks after a wildfire roared across 650,000 acres killing cattle and people plus destroying houses, barns, sheds, hay piles and fences. It has not been a kind spring for them.

Now the corn growers’ task will be to scout their fields to see if the plant stands were reduced by a significant amount, or if they still have stands of close to 30,000.

Judging Populations and Remediating Action

If the fields are dry enough to walk through by the end of the week it will be time to scout several that emulate the majority of your acres. By then, most areas of the Midwest will have had a run of five or six days in which the plants could recover and begin to show new growth. That should also allow enough time for the plants to receive sunshine and give better signs of being a vigorous survivor. Most of the questions about weak plants and stands are a factor of saturated, cold soils in poorly drained fields where the roots are sitting and trying to pull in nutrients to fuel plant growth.

In scouting fields in central Iowa where the earliest fields were planted around April 11 through 13, the stands look good and populations are excellent. Since then they have not captured enough GDUs to grow much or start developing a deep and expansive root system. Let’s see how they look in another ten days and if the sun shines. A number of progressive growers have experimented with foliar feeding stands of corn that were damaged by frost or hail. They found that applications of a product called Foliar Blend or micronutrients plus CaN3 can help the plants recover in dramatic fashion.

The planting progress in the last week was restricted only two or three days when the temperatures finally warmed into the upper 70s or low 80s. Most operators were solely focused on completing their corn planting and moving onto their beans. It seems that while most operators could have thrown caution to the wind, and kept on planting through the cold conditions, a majority were selective about when they went to the fields with their planters.

A week from now we should be able to make better decisions as to which fields will have the 30k populations or which ones have reduced stands that need to be touched up with the mounted 6 or 12 row planter.

Weed Emergence

The weed growth does not seem to be slowed much by the cool conditions. The lambsquarters and marestail are getting larger and could be tough to control in no-till fields. In fields where we have seen or suspect the weeds of being herbicide resistant, elimination of the emerged weeds may require special actions or products to do so.

Cover Crops

In my travels the last week, the windblown soils of central and western Nebraska, it was surprising to see the number of acres of crops that are being planting into standing cover crops. It makes great sense if wind erosion risks are equal to or greater than water erosion. Those stands all had the brown color indication what product had been used to terminate the cover crops. My thoughts and those of the operators I talked to was, it would be great after doing what was beneficial to the soil and its biology if there was a safer and softer product to use to kill the rye or other cover crop. One alternative has always been to use Paraquat. But most growers read the warning labels and stay away from it. Plus if coverage is not complete or cool weathers sits in the kill takes up to two weeks. Stay tuned to this thought in future columns.

Another Question

My thoughts on plant disease and disease control have changed quite a bit in that several of my well schooled teachers go on the theory that plants become diseased because they have an immune system and nutrient status that is not as good as it should be and that its immune system is lacking the minerals needed to stay healthy. In different countries and within parts of the U.S. the current arsenal of strobes and triazoles are having problems in controlling diseases they once did a fine job on. Using nutrition to keep the crop healthy makes more sense than allowing the mineral deficiencies to linger. Yield losses and treatment costs are typically much greater than solving and curing the reasons for the problems.

I related that in part because Brazilian growers have to spray their soybeans an average of 3 1/2 times and in bad areas 11 to 13 times, or they die. Without a winter to kill off diseases and insects they have many more generations of diseases and insects. The selection pressure is greater and the risk of resistance developing is much greater. They should or will have to always be thinking a few moves ahead in the chess game of growing crops under such circumstances. In the Midwest picture we are also seeing cases of disease developing resistance to several popular products and families. In diseases the creation or appearance of problem weeks is slower due to slower generational turnover.

It may be good to play “what if” in your mind on the different disease and insect pressures. What course of action or products are showing some weaknesses and how do you plan to counter them this season, next season, then five or ten years from now? Doing such strategizing is what different research groups commonly do, as it takes many years and paths to do down to be successful with their few candidates.

Potato Problems

We just received word on Monday that the largest seed potato company supplying cut potatoes to other growers in the Pacific Northwest did not clean up the fields they acquired after bacterial ringspot had been detected in those fields. This disease is caused by Clavibacter bacteria. A product called BioEmpruv is the only means they have of not losing plants in the field or huge warehouses full of stored spuds. Those growers will likely apply 1 to 2 gallons per acre multiple times because of the high chance of losing the crop before and after it is harvested. The product supply is and always has been limited, especially ten days from now. Our chances of getting more are limited by increasing demand. If you are thinking of ordering some get it spoken for soon.

Good luck in getting your beans planted and then in scouting your planted fields.

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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