Here we are at the end of August and there is about a month to month and a half of the growing season yet. What a strange roller coaster ride it has been. Temps in February were warm enough to people were out in their shirt sleeves. April and May were so incredible wet that it went into the record book as the wettest on record. Things reversed course and the first fifteen days in June went down as the driest on record with .00 inches of rain. The day after that announcement it rained over most of the state. Then in parts of the Midwest it stayed incredible dry until late mid to late August. The irreversible damage was done to the corn crop by then, and nobody seems to mention the fields that when yield checked by honest farmers and agronomists, the tallies come in at 50, 100 and even close to 200 Bu/A under last years.
Usually after the USDA crop reports are released, we tend to agree that maybe they counted enough fields and did their extrapolations correctly and they are accurate. That is not the case this year. Since it began to rain in western Iowa and parts of Nebraska and Missouri two or three weeks ago the wet portion of the eastern Cornbelt have dried out and the crops have turned for the worse in a number of those states. Because so much of the grain fill was anticipated to be completed in normal fashion with normal amounts of rain, they may have to revise their figures. When might that happen and when will it benefit the grain market?
If you remember back to 1988 the months of June, July and the first twenty days of August were extremely hot and dry. The early planted corn fields got nailed as the processes of pollination and grain fill were severely affected by lack of moisture and intense heat. The conditions changed dramatically after Aug 20 and rainfall was plentiful after that date. The few guys that planted late had yields double of those planted on time. The big thing that corn breeders did to avoid a repeat has been to select for varieties that send silks out earlier to more closely match the timing of pollen shed. We just don’t see the lack of kernels that we used to. Instead the majority of the yield loss instead is kernels abortion in the first two weeks after pollination. That is very common this year.
In summary we never heard of any survey teams get into the very dry fields in Northwest Iowa or Southwest Minnesota that turned brown and has only small nubbins on the stalks. It takes a lot of corn field yielding in excess of 200 Bu/A to compensate for the fields yielding under 100 Bu/A.
We just have to mention Harvey. A certain number of people were sharing the thought that it was going to take a hurricane or tropical storm to get enough Gulf moisture into the Midwest. So a week ago when the weather channel was showing four sand storms across the North African plains that had moved into Atlantic waters and had the potential to become bigger storms. (That is the typical origin of hurricanes if the Atlantic is warm enough and wind shear above 40K feet is minimal.) Over the week Harvey continued to develop. There were many different forecasts as to what category rating was going to be achieved if it hit land and how many inches of rain would fall on the target area. One forecast way out in left fields actually guessed that up to 34 inches of rain would fall over parts of Texas or Louisiana. As it turns out he will end up being too low in that parts of Texas have now received nearly 30 inches with maybe another two to three feet of rain expected. We are used to seeing people in Thailand or the Philippines pushing their belongings or family member down the street wading thru waist or chest high flood waters. But not in Houston or other surrounding towns. Let’s pray and do where we can for the people in the path of so much water. It will be long road to get their lives back to normal. How do they hold school if the buildings have been destroyed?
I continue to duck into corn fields to take a look at the grain fill and do the calculations on yields. The big variable there is grain depth, and so far it has been about as shallow as in 2012. That year the first denting was seen in late July, as it was this year. I guess we will all be smarter in four to six weeks.
I had mentioned in a column several weeks ago that there continues to be a great disparity in the appearance of fields as one travels down the county blacktops. Many of the comparisons are night and day difference. In that column I had suggested and listed ten differing categories that could have influence how well or poorly the field(s) is/are looking. Number 11 that could be discussed would be the degree of plugging occurring in the vascular tissue of the plant. In the last two weeks we are seeing a number of fields where all the plants are dying. The first days of 90 plus degrees with a strong south wind and low humidity will deliver the coupe de grais. Then a person can go into the fields, pull an ear off and break it open to find collapsed and chaffy kernels on a spongy cob and weakened stalk. Stay tuned and see when that day will be.
There are also fields that have been managed correctly where mineral levels have been managed well and monitored. Steps to increase soil health have been implemented and the nutrient flow to the roots is at high levels. Many of those fields are still green and good yields will be produced.
One remark heard among many farmers is how so little SDS has appeared so far, much less than in 2010, 2012 and 2016. The dry summer and improved oxygen levels in the soil had to be major influencing factors. There were many acres treated with ILeVO and that product has performed quite well since its commercialization.
Two weeks ago where conditions were bone dry, nearly all of the pods were completely flat and yield prospects were not looking good. Since then the pods have begun to fill. The problem now is that the lower four to five nodes don’t hold many pods. We have to hope that warm and sunny conditions continue and any small flowers or small pods continue to develop and can contribute to final yields.
The Dicamba issue did not make headlines like it did in recent weeks. There is one major coop in northern Iowa that sprayed quite a few acres of those beans and ended up having to make service calls concerning drift on 98 percent of the sprayed fields. The calculated tally of affected acres still stands at 3.1 million, but with Fed Crop saying they will not pay for accidental herbicide damage this season, we have to recognize the incentive to report a damaged field doesn’t exist like it did last year. An advisory committee in Arkansas discussed a rule that if any of the labeled Dicamba products get sprayed on beans it has be applied by April 15. Lots of other states are watching to see what new rules are put into law in this state since a major lawsuit has been filed by injured parties.
The Farm Progress Show and field days
The time period for the big Ag Shows and for local field days is upon us. The big show is in Illinois this year and it is just far enough to keep many western Iowans from traveling to Decatur.
Most of the seed companies will hold their local plot days. It often provides that time to view new herbicides and hear about other new releases. Be sure to participate in your local shows and be sure to write down questions that you might have and present them to any attending experts.
In the meanwhile be safe and good luck in getting your harvesting equipment prepared for the upcoming season.
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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