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By Staff | Dec 18, 2017

The clock is ticking towards the Christmas season and with it is a craze of events. Tight schedules; family and church events; tasks to finalize during the final days of the year and slew of things to start making decisions on are all demanding your time. At least we have not had to spend hours or days cleaning snow out of the yards or plowing deep drifts after one or more blizzards.

Here is an early “Have a great Christmas Season” and may you and your family have as good of time as possible during these last two weeks of the year. However I am one who can only stand so many Jingle songs before I start searching for another channel. Too much commercialization of the holiday and not enough focus on what the holiday are supposed to celebrate. This year it may be best to help out the people who lost everything during the Texas or Florida hurricanes.

Recent events

The Farm News Ag Show was another success when it was held at the east ICCC Campus last week. I was able to head up there on Thursday arriving while Elwynn was telling his audience why the crop yields turned out as they did, what to expect in 2018, and how, if possible, to manage and react. I say this as a person who in August spent a lot of time looking at corn fields that had not received a good drink of water in over two months, were gray in color and completely rolled up, thinking the end was near, expected the worst, and the yields this fall were surprisingly good in most places. He believes the lack of hot stress days and generally cool nights saved the day and let the corn plants recover at night. At this point he is still holding onto the maybe outdate notion that corn can only root five or six feet deep. We also entered the season with a completely full profile and in many locations it was full yet as of June 1. He held off from making his prediction for 2018 so as to get the facts on a few of the influencing factors that need to be assembled.

At this point he recognizes the other caveat applied to apply to 2018 is that much of the state has a moisture profile deficit running from 3 to 7 inces entering winter. With the ground frozen no rain and very little moisture enters the soil to be saved for next summer. And wishing for spring rains to fall in late March rather than mid April is something we can do but does not always work out that way.

Dave Kruse of CommStock Commodities then gave his analysis of the markets and upcoming season. This was not a pleasant task as we are in a time where demand needs to be increased enough to eat up the surplus of coarse grains worldwide. We have had consecutive good production years in many of the major grain producing countries and it is putting a lid on prices. He credited the Iowa congressional delegation for lobbying the administration had to keep the RFS so it would keep adhering to the mandate that eats up a major amount of corn. He did supply the data showing how a switch to 15 or possibly 20 or even 30 percent alcohol in our vehicles would not harm vehicles but increase corn usage and eventually the market price.

The strength in the soybean market has been a pleasant surprise to him as the demand from China remains strong. They simply use a lot of beans and can’t grow enough in their country. But there is risk to having one main buyer for your crops.

North Central weeds meeting

The North Central Weed Science meeting was held down in St Louis last week. It is a collection of weed scientists, extension specialists and industry reps that assemble to present on and learn about new products being field tested or proposed to go to more advanced trials.

Each of the newer products or mixes that could be commercialized in the next three to five years will be discussed. The number of actual new products or families was quite low again, as most tended to be new mixes of new products.

The major topic of discussion Banvel, surprise! Surprise! There are lots of mixed feelings about this old new product and there is no prefect answer. The estimate that was made was the reported damage acre tally of 3.1 million acres may have actually been six times that figure. I would have said it was two to three times that much. Most growers once they found out that federal crop was not going to compensate for herbicide damage it was better to be able to blame low bean yields on drought.

The dust has not settled yet on this topic as a number of states will impose dates or temperature restrictions after which no more of the herbicide can be applied. We are hearing April 15th for Arkansas, June 15th for the Dakotas, or even nothing after any daily high temps hits 85 degrees.

A major point of discussion is how drift or volatilization damage to other crops such as veggies, fruits, grapes or ornamentals will be handled. In many cases the dollar loses could be much greater. Using the wrong nozzles or running the booms to high might explain a portion of the drift problems, but nature is in control of the inversion and vapor issues. Sadly Bill Clinton used to say that you would be surprised who comes out of the woodwork when you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park. So how many EPA officials or politicians get attracted when a few companies drag a few $100 bills thru Washington?

One marketing technique which was just unveiled was a rebate of about $6 per acre for those planting the Extend beans. Now that will not mean anything to farmers out in central Nebraska where the Palmer amaranth is already resistant to the dicamba. Instead I am learning about which companies in the world are developing the optically equipped sprayers and even cultivators. Adding steel to the equation or can differentiate between and crop and a weed plant. Thinking different might be what has to be done now.

Seed decisions

Over the next months many seed buying decisions will be made for the major crops. Prior to the grain price collapse everyone could justify buying Cadillac priced seed with traits for every threat even though only a few of those represented an absolute threat. Times have changed and in many instances growers only have a Chevy or VW budget to spend on inputs. A great number of them would stand an improved chance of showing a positive return if they trim their seed spending and spent the money instead of properly identified, applied and timed plant nutrient needs. With insects I have seen the use of polymers increase the residual periods of insect control. Properly identifying insect threats and learning their biology can often identify a time window to prevent their egg laying activities early enough to eliminate their threat.

One friend has his clients request that their larger volume hybrids be delivered early enough that they can send samples to independent seed labs for cold germ and quality testing. He figures it is their prerogative to do so. Seed quality can be everything if we have another cold, wet snap a week or ten days after the planter first get to the field.

So enjoy the next two weeks and may you have a blessed and safe Christmas holiday 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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