Our winter continues and back to the deep freeze for another week. At least temps are predicted to be above zero, so none of that face and finger freezing cold. I was out on the ATV at sunset looking in the brushy areas for our dog that did not come home as is normal. With the north wind blowing it was definitely winter-like.
So this is the week of the big Iowa Power Show. The list of booths and exhibitors is as long as or longer than normal, so the last few days have been spent in making preparations for being there. What could be missing is enthusiasm for the coming season and putting a new crop in the ground. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to identify the lack of joy in many people’s voice and spirit. While the Dow Jones is at record high levels and the Trump enthused economic boom taking place and we see lots of companies announcing major expansions of their production facilities, the dairy and grain producers have been staring at below cost of production prices for their goods for the third year in a row. So when do they get to participate in the happy days? Let’s hope we see demand for our products pick up worldwide and reward the farmers who produce the grain that goes to feed our livestock herds and people.
Still in the news and likely an item to stir lively debate is the topic of dicamba beans. Unless I missed something I have not heard of the soybean, tree fruit and veggie growers in the southern part of the country got compensated for the damage done to their crops back in 2016. Wouldn’t it make sense for that step to be the No. 1 thing to get done and publicized before doing the same thing again, only on a larger scale?
One thing that has been occurring has been input and testing of different spray adjuvants that work somewhat like array in that they polymerize the water so the release of small droplets is reduced or eliminated. At this time there have been three products that received approval to be used to minimize drift and all cost as little as $2 per acre. At the same time ISU mentioned in one article that they did test the new, low drift versions of dicamba and found out the reductions in volatility was only 30 percent. That leaves 70 percent of the potential for a problem to exist.
There were a number of growers with their own spray rigs that were able to use such products, observed cautioned wind speeds and observe setback distances and avoided problems with their neighbors’ fields. For that they should be commended. Custom applicators are under more of a time bind to get their long list of fields sprayed, so find it tough to be as choosy in finding the proper time to spray. Theirs is not an easy task.
The issue now with a number of 2018 bean growers is the premium placed on the seed. A number of them feel they can revert to previous programs and spend part of the savings on additional residual herbicides. Remember that in both Syngenta and Univ. of Arkansas trials the researchers were able to develop dicamba resistant waterhemp and Palmer in the second year.
No-till and reduced tillage and with new products
I was able to attend a Genesis Ag Conference held in Ames a few weeks ago. It is a smaller and innovative fertilizer and biological company out of KC that has gained some degree of fame by supplying a number of the high yield crop growers with their yield promoting products. Speakers they had in were Hugh Lovell and Ray Archuleta. Mr. Lovell is well known as one of the keepers of knowledge who has been on a quest his entire life to figure out what plants needed to achieve top growth. He was explaining his mineral chart and energy flow when he supplied that answer to a question that a few of us had. He was on to the topic of using Silica products as a fertilizer and explained that the form of biology that transformed that mineral into the plant usable form were different species of Archaea. Those are microbes that most closely resemble bacteria, yet are different in several categories. The growers using their potassium silicate are seeing nice yield responses and extreme strengthening of the stalks. I saw the same thing in using a calcium silicate product. The reasons for the response are best presented in a 20 page review paper by the head Si researcher, Dr. Brenda Tubana, who works under Dr Larry Datnoff, down in Baton Rouge. I was introduced to her a few years ago while I was down at the Aquaculture Conference.
Another presenter was an ISU crop modeler, who hails from Greece. He has the Herculean or Sisyphus-like task of using current ag science logic to explain Kip Cullers 112 Bu/A soybean yields. (Sisyphus was the Greek guy who was tasked with the job of pushing a large boulder up the hill and repeatedly had it roll back down when he nearly had it to the top). He was also hoping to tackle the issue of explaining the 400 and 500 Bu corn yields. When asked if he had accepted the challenge of explaining the 154 and Randy Dowdy’s even higher soybean yields, those did not fit any models. It appears that the old guidelines of Radiation Use Efficiency or RUE are out of date. Anyone who has been in one of the treated corn, sugar beet or potato fields will know what I am suggesting. Come by our booth at the IPS and I will relate what I observed this year in the field.
Another presenter, who I thought really did a great job of teaching, was Ray Archuleta of Seymour, Mo. He formerly was the top cover crop and soil biology field man with the USDA who used his knowledge and Italian nature to keep the crowd awake for a total of four hours. On a global scale and on most of the continents the biggest issue in production ag is to try to develop and use regenerative practices to restore productivity, water infiltration and retention, top nutrient release and good levels of microbial activity to fields that have been degraded. Over the years many grand thinkers recognized the nations declined if there soils were degraded severely. Losing half of the organic or more would likely fit that definition. The current tests that can be done to allow you to determine if you are making progress in improving your soils are the Haney and PLFA tests.
It seems that the message and admonition that micronutrients play a large role in producing benefits in overall yields and booting plant health is hitting home with a high percentage of the growers, but maybe not above that level. In times when growers are seeking hard to justify expenditures, they will likely learn that paying attention to the role of the low volume but highly valuable nutrients such as moly, manganese and zinc, etc is critical. Most retailers would prefer selling and applying higher volume products that generate more cash flow. Good books to have in your library are those edited or written by David Sasseville Tissue Testing; Don Huber – Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease; and Petra Marschner Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants.
Given the fact that a number of these mineral have seen their value rise sharply in the last few seasons, that the optimum method of application would be as a foliar spray. Be aware that the best guide is available as a download from Dr Patrick Brown’s website. He is a researcher at Univ. of Cal at Davis.
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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