The midpoint of the month of August is here and still most growers in the southwest 3/4s of the state are hoping for their first big rain since May or June. Sadly in many areas that damage to the corn is already done and no amount of rain will replace the loss to the yield potential that existed in early April. Personally I had a bad feeling back in February when we had all that 60 degree weather. We always have to pay for a free gift like that. Any person driving west on one of the many blacktop roads thrugh the western half of the state, eastern Nebraska and now southwest Minnesota can see the fields that are often different stages of brown or yellow. For the past few weeks we looked up to the sky and hoped for one of the big yellow or green blobs on the radar screen to deliver its load. After seeing so many of them dematerialize for the last two months reality is setting in.
The soybeans still look good from the road with a dark green color, in comparison to many of the corn fields. Looks can be fooling though. As any grower has found when they scouted their bean fields, most of the pods up and down the stalks are nearly or completely flat. Rain in the next two weeks will be critical to pod fill. After two weeks many of the early Group 2 beans could start senescing. I don’t believe we have ever seen so many acres yield so poorly in the Midwest, but that may be the prospect if the dryness continues. I sure hope I am wrong on that issue.
Every grower had to be listening to the USDA crop size estimate last week wondering if they were ever going to acknowledge to the multitudes of cropping problems across both the eastern and western corn and bean belt. Surely they were going to crank their numbers down dramatically and the grain prices were going to rebound. The opposite happened and the question now is who do they hope to reward or pay off with the non skyrocketing grain prices. Was it the fund traders who remain short or some country who were hoping to still buy cheap grain before the first combines roll?
Progress of the corn crop
In places the most remarkable thing about the corn crop was how deep the roots must be reaching for moisture to stay alive. We know that our heavy and soggy soils can help a crop survive a few dry weeks, but three dry months is a huge challenge. Back in 2012 after a very dry growing season there were drainage crews installing 6-inch diameter concrete tile under Highway 3 to eliminate the drainage wells that had been used by area farmers. When digging as deep as 25 feet the drainage crew was still finding corn roots.
In high yield years the temps after grain fill will be below average, which slows fill giving the ears more days to accumulate starch. In years with hot temps in late July and through August the days devoted to grain fill are reduced in number and the kernels will often dent early. We actually were seeing up to 10 percent kernel dent in late July. It has advanced to over 50 percent dented in some fields planted to 106 day hybrids along Highway 30. The fill appears as though it will be quite shallow, which is not a harbinger of great yields. Did the USDA consider this?
Already certain crop people are sending out warnings that poor stalk quality could be an issue this fall. The corn plant will rob minerals from the stalk to fill the grain, weakening it. Taller hybrids, those on sandier ground or where the plants died earlier will be most at risk.
For farmers who expect to plant much second year corn in 2018 may want to monitor the populations of both species of corn rootworm beetles. If you are scouting the fields for them and taking population counts per plant be most aware of those which are getting swollen abdomens, as those are the pregnant ones expecting to lay eggs affecting next year’s crop. The skinny beetles need more time to develop those eggs. Any populations over one beetle per plant at a 50 percent female rate is considered high enough to require treatment to prevent egg laying.
In states or part of the states where moisture has been adequate there are few leaf diseases appearing. One in corn worth noting would be southern rust. It made an appearance over most of Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Illinois in 2016 and can be a serious issue if it begins to appear pretassel. The textbooks say it can cause serious yield losses, but has not been too troubling so far.
In soybeans, Frogeye leaf spot, a Cercospora fungal disease is appearing in both moisture adequate and moisture short situations. Though it has not been diagnosed as being strobe resistant a betting person would say it was. Therefore what controls Septoria will not phase it.
I mentioned last week that I would discuss a bit what was discovered during rust research work done on Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. They were testing for the degree of systemic movement of the strobe and triazoles on plants. They found that when they applied either or those two families of products the systemic movement was so low that when they sprayed the left half of a soybean leaf it did not control leaf diseases on the right half of the leaf. This is the reason that more gallons of carrier and twin directed nozzles are those recommended as giving the best control. The newer carboximides included in Priaxor and TriventPro do move systemically.
A new company and line of products
Based on the recommendations of a farmer friend in northern Minnesota, who raises corn, beans and sugar beets, I contacted the product agronomist from Redox Chemical Company. He came out in May to present and to describe the role of each of their products. The basic company focuses on different mineral mixes, hormonal products and botanic extracts. The research and field data in the presentation looked very impressive and perhaps applicable to Midwest growers.
Based on an invite to visit their research locations while the weather was hot and stressy, if I wanted to see how their number one product helped stressed plants it was time to travel out to Utah and Idaho. I went out there last Thursday and toured with them and held meetings thru Saturday.
What I saw was impressive. A agronomist/DVM we were taught by, who learned from a team mate of Einstein, had always mentioned that silica or silicon could be an important element. Not listed as an essential element, but crucial to drought and disease resistance. I got to see where it had been applied to corn, potatoes and sugar beets. What was most noticeable was that the leaves seemed to be three to four times thicker and in sugar beets, as rubbery and as strong as a truck inner tube. In the farmer’s fields the beets, which normally have to be sprayed 4 to 6 times with insecticides and fungicides, had not received any and looked 100 percent healthy. The expected yield on the field was projected to be 60 tons per acre at 18 percent sugar. Normal out there is about 40 tons at 16 percent sugar.
In corn, the silica material and other minerals had been applied to a center pivot irrigated field planted at 40K per acre. The plant health was superb and they seemed to be in great shape. It was a 103 RM hybrid planted in early May at 42 degrees N latitude at about 4200 elevation. What was most noticeable was that most plants had either two or three full size ears that were running 18 to 20 rows around and 34 to 38 long. The leaves felt much more rigid, yet soft, and did not cause paper cuts to your arms. I asked them to take pictures and let me know the final yield.
I have not been around potato culture much, except to be able to detect insects and diseases if they were a problem. This field looked terrific and again they controlled both pests with a mixture of different Ca, Si, and botanical extracts. Potato cyst and root knot nematodes are a constant problem in that crop, but their botanical product eliminated them as a damaging. It did not wipe out their populations, it just made the plants immune.
In all of the fields the need for irrigation water had been reduced by third. That made me wonder if it would do the same for dryland crops. It seemed to on their pivot corners. Research findings and conference proceedings from Brazil suggested the same.
I had asked John when we met in May about how to help my fruit crops. He said that their Ca and Ca-Si would double the size, triple the sugar content and increase the shelf life dramatically. Last week when I picked a full box of peaches that were bigger than baseballs and some as large as softballs I had to be believe him.
After seeing their crops and reading the literature, when they said they would like to test their products in the Midwest next summer it made perfect sense to me. If they helped with stalk strength, improved the drought tolerance, increased the fruit or seed size, and lessened disease in a western climate they should be worth testing in the Midwest on row crops.
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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