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By Staff | Aug 25, 2017

So Monday was the day of the long predicted eclipse. Will it be like the famous comet, Kahoutek, which our physics professor spent hours telling us about how it would light up the sky and set the standards for celestial events? I can’t remember whether we cared or not, but on the predicted date nothing happened and only those researchers with the best telescopes could spot the little twinkly fugitive that change course leaving all the prognosticators with egg on their faces.

All the motels in many towns and cities in the so called path of totality have been sold out for weeks and sometimes years. Out in Utah and Idaho a few weeks ago all of the rental cars had been booked for visitors coming in for their viewing. The best one I learned about was that one of the farmers placed an ad on the internet offering to lease about a quarter acre of his freshly mowed hay ground and ended up renting out every acre in the field. He ended up referring late callers to his neighbors who also had hay and pasture ground that would be suitable for setting up tents on.

It was interesting to see clips of Walter Cronkite back in the late 60s or early 70s covering the big eclipse of that time and noting that the next total sun eclipse was going to be 40 or 50 some years into the future, which made it 2017.

Field happenings

Most producers and ag people in the state, if they have been looking skyward during June, July or August, it was to try to see if any rain clouds were going to be passing over their fields to drop much needed rain. For many, that rain never arrived or in the quantity needed, to sustain the corn crop as needed. Beans have a chance yet to amount to something but getting good pod fill is totally moisture dependent.

It sure has taken a long time to finally hear of small groups making their own crop surveys on their own and traversing the major corn states to see what both crops look like, so they don’t have to rely on a USDA report that seemed much more negative towards prices than seemed possible.

Besides scouting numerous corn fields I stopped at one of the nearby corn fields northwest of Ames that had turned a very yellow color about a month ago. There were several theories about what had happened with most of the opinions centered on the nitrogen sitting in the completely dry 12 to 18 inches of soil making it unavailable to the roots. I walked in about a dozen rows and randomly pulled 10 consecutive ears. It was not in waterhole areas or a place where compaction would have been a factor. It was second year corn.

I counted rows around and rows long, multiplied by 32,000 ears per acre. The ear size ran from 12-13-18 rows around by 18 to 24 long. 13 sounds like a strange number, but the ears were so goofed up that when I counted the rows an inch from the butt, three ears gave a count of 13 around. Plugging those counts into the formula and then dividing by 90k, 100k and so on up to 130,000 kernels per bushel due to shallow a very shallow kernel fill and 100 percent of the kernels dented, the predicted yield came out to a high of 106 Bu/A to a low of 73 Bu/A. Within a month we will be hearing of combine results from Midwest fields. Just as rainfall varied widely this season, we will see corn yields vary quite widely.

When I worked in irrigation country the yield data versus applied irrigation water showed that each inch of water generally produced from 10 to 12 bushels of corn. The fact that the excavation crews west of Humboldt during the drought of 2012 found corn roots at 25 feet tells us how the corn survived as well as it did during a very dry summer. So how well you can develop your soil health, water infiltration rates, microbial populations and fertility program to allow your plants to grow a fully functioning root system that reaches deeper could be critical important in future years.

Soybean yields

Growers have been asking if their beans already had 40 or 45 Bu/A of grain already deposited in the pods. My reply at that point was there had been no grain fill and if no rain came the yield may be zilch, nada tough assessment but true. Since then scattered, but maybe covering four to six counties, timely rains have been marching across the state and delivering moisture that will help the plants to begin to fill the pods. More rain will be needed to minimize the pod abortion. There are some of the fuller season and late planted beans still flowering, but many have reached their maximum node count and now is the time for grain fill.

One interesting thing I saw in a field of some 3.0 Extend beans were flower stalks at many of the nodes. These flowering stalks are called racemes, and they are typically a characteristic of determinant beans, such as those seen in Brazil and northern Argentina. At their maximum you may see up to 26 flowers and potential pods on one raceme and sometimes two racemes per podded node.

Since the yield trials at the University of Wisconsin showed a 1.8 Bu/A yields drag do only a few of the newer varieties show those racemes? Does anyone have an answer to this? Take a look at see what you can find.

News continues to be generated about the Dicamba drift. Even Minnesota is getting into the act as there seems to be a two to three week interval between drift events and when the symptomology of cupped leaves appears. The latest fact finding seems to point later applications to taller plants, limited rainfall after application, and possible use of AMS which allowed the product to convert to the volatile form all played a role. The most damning findings as came out in a closed meeting was that no independent testing of the approved products by third party experts was allowed, because their findings may have jeopardized EPA approval.

North Dakota has done some work to see if the germination of the seed coming from the drifted-upon fields is going to be good and the seedling normal or abnormal. Watch for those findings.

Insects and weeds

Isn’t one of the tasks of the county commissioners supposed to be monitoring and enforcing the population and control of obnoxious weeds? And aren’t Canadian thistles on that list? How many other people have noticed the major patches of the spread-by-the wind, deep rooting perennial plants flourishing alongside the roads at a population of four per mile on just one side of most of our roads and in CRP patches? Their blue flowers may be pretty in the summer, but if those patches go unchecked they will just keep moving into crop acres where they are extremely difficult to control.

Be alert in northwest Iowa to the aphid populations which have been on a slow climb and in scattered fields have reached the treatment thresholds. And in dry years where moisture supplies are critically valuable to pod fill the 250 threshold is likely too high. So in a year where the deck seems to be stacked against growers and their attempts to achieve profitable yields it will still be best to keep monitoring this insect.

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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