The start of the harvest season has or will arrive at different parts of the state already. After one of the weirder growing seasons that was a mixture of extremes few people have a good handle on what to expect when they begin running the combines.
The very wet April and May was followed by very wet conditions in northeastern Iowa and by very sparse rainfall through June, July and August over the southwest three-quarters of the state.
The USDA estimates seem to tell us that things are rosy, but as I see it their expectations don’t seem to acknowledge the sub 100 Bu/A corn yields being determined by insurance adjustors of combine results in the extremely dry portions. When will there be the reckoning of the polar views?
Meanwhile we are still thankful for only having to put up with droughts, tornadoes, floods and occasional blizzards but no Hurricanes. What was a scenic part of the U.S., Puerto Rico, has had to do their damage assessment since my last column. What a mess. Normally we are in a world of hurt if our power is off for more than a day, much shorter if you have livestock. To have to endure the electrical grid being down for maybe 6 months would make a person pull up stakes and go elsewhere.
The electrical linemen that were down in Texas helping fix things tell of all the work that had to be done, but they were able to truck in crews, replacement poles and parts. To have to get them onto an island where the infrastructure has been destroyed would make it a tough task.
Early harvest results
The bean harvest began over a week ago and so far yields are surprisingly good. I looked at many fields and did not expect much. In most fields there are very few pods on the lower four or five nodes and no terminal cluster. The pod number in the middle of the plant is decent, but below what we saw last year. If yields turn out to be good we may have to credit the newer varieties selected for their ability to branch and compensate for a lower than normal podded node count.
So far no one has come up with any more theories as to why the beans yellowed up in patterns similar to when SDS is a major problem, but we never saw the yellowed mottling indicative of that Fusarium disease. I am still gathering samples for lab analyses for what I think may show up under the scope. How many of you looked up the YouTube videos of the huge solar flares erupting from the suns mantel? They were up to 100,000 miles high and huge emitters of EM radiation.
One thing that I did see during my travels through western Iowa and to Kearney, Nebraska were the areas with a Palmer amaranth problem. Though I have seen 10 foot tall pigweeds with a thick elongated seed head before, these were very distinctive. One of the large plants near a farmer’s barn, and close to his son’s greenhouses so he was hesitant to spray, was measured at 10 foot tall, 8 to 9 feet in diameter, lots of branches, and branches and bracts so sharp that you would want to wear welding gloves that reached to your elbows if you were going to work around them. In that area the resistance problems are real and only 2, 4-D and prees of HPPDs can control them.
So far they have not found any product that will control them in soybeans. Allowing any of them to go to seed could doom the field if planted to beans at any future date until the seed bank would be depleted. Be cautious about moving any cattle or machinery into the state from that area.
What might be expected to happen is the plants from any sourced pollinator mixes or from feed sources will continue to more into the central Midwestern states. Control could be haphazard and some of those plants will go to seed. With the plants already developed herbicide resistance status decent herbicide credited weed control, they could increase in number and cost to control. This would drive bean farmers to say the heck with growing beans and switch to more second year corn. This could change if we could find a microbial mix capable of degrading the weed seed over winter.
There is corn being harvested in many areas but it is not going full bore yet. Again few growers know what to expect from each field. The trend that seems to be developing is that fields with better moisture holding capacities, better biological activity, and managed such that the plants stayed greener longer have been forming kernels that filled much longer and much deeper versus varieties and fields that died early. The point that good soil health is important is being driven home more with every field that has been harvested. Growers seem to be recognizing this axiom. I stopped to visit with Ray and Lance at Ward Labs on Monday of last week.
Two years ago they were accepting maybe 12 to 15 soil samples per week for a Haney Analysis. On Monday they received over 200 samples for the same test.
How were yields out there? I was in fields that yielded from 220 to 260 to 270 to an NCGA measured 308 and a field with a yield range from 305 to 355 Bu/A. This last field was going for wet ground feed to be put up at a feedlot so their goal was to harvest at 27 to 30 percent moisture. The sprinkler irrigated BioEmpruv sprayed field was going to average around 330 versus 220 last year and 125 in 2010 due to Goss’s Wilt early death. He was happy and it shows what having good moisture and stay green means for corn yields.
It may be beneficial if you are playing the waiting game to dissect corn plants and kernels. The plants staying green until late have ears where the kernels reach up and over the end of the ears. There are no aborted kernels and zero tipback. In extreme cases or where the calcium silicate was applied the kernels show zero dent. I saw ears like that in Illinois two weeks ago where very accurate scaling and dissections were done and there were only about 72,000 kernels per bushel. That alters the yield calculations formulas based on plant and kernel counts.
This is the time to carry a notebook with you in the cab to write down what you see. There is typically too much stuff to track and remember clearly six weeks later, when you try to correlate mapping results with visual observations.
The Haney test was developed by a real living person who worked around crops and cattle before he went to college and began his career as a soil scientist. He is secure enough with himself that when supposed good soils from Oklahoma and Missouri were given the same Haney scores from good high organic matter ground in Iowa he recognized he had to revise the testing. Part of the score is assembled from CO2 bursts as read from the color changes in the test ‘paddles’. Rich saw that it was time to change how some of the contributing readings could be influenced by the limitations of the color change seen in the paddles, so they move to taking instrument readings instead. Thus the better producing higher organic matter fields are receiving higher scores that high yielding low organic matter fields from states to the south. At this time Ward Labs and Brookside in Ohio are the labs most closely coordinating their testing protocols with Dr. Haney.
A quick field day or field showing
Over the last year I have often mentioned the plot work that was being done as Dave Schwartz’s farm 4.5 miles west of Guthrie Center. We toured the farm and viewed the plots last Wednesday afternoon, and except for the sandy areas that did not take the heat and drought thru July, found corn plants that still look fantastic and are still dark green from the lower leaves to the top of the tassel. One of us commented it may be good to invite people interested in touring the plots to do so.
We have plans to host a field day there next Monday morning, Oct 2 beginning at 10 AM. The 911 address is 1778, Hwy 44 West, Guthrie Center. Dave Schwartz, Mitchell Hora, Bob Wagner with BioDyne, Marv and myself will be there to explain what has been done to the crop to maximize plant health and grain fill. None of us have a good enough eye to say if it will surpass last years’ 340 BPA, but it looks very good and we did try a few new products to boost water use efficiency and grain fill.
If you can attend you should enjoy it. In the days of Francis Childs it was interesting to see the fields in person and listen to the story of what the management steps were. Bring your lawn chairs and maybe ATVs to get to the back territory. Perhaps call Carol Streit with your RSVP at 515-231-6710 so we have a closer count. We plan to be done before noon so you don’t lose any harvesting time.
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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