Mid February is approaching us and it seems like the month just got here. It is a short month and it always rushes by. Few people have the information on a calendar that was proposed and would make keeping records and schedules much easier. That calendar included thirteen months of four weeks each. Thus every Sunday landed on the 1st, 8th, 15th or the 22nd of each month, each Tuesday was on the 2nd, 9th and so on.
We see many things in nature and in human and animal behavior that has a 28 days cycle. The same with fish behavior and the moon cycles. But if the people in charge wanted to keep us off kilter and not at the top of our game, then not following this simple calendar would serve its purpose.
As to news and national events, this is a dead time of winter. Some people have had the chance to slip away to a warmer climate for a week or two to get recharged by the sunlight and warmer temps. Here in the upper Midwest it is easy to clock how much longer the days have gotten since Dec 21th. Soon the days will climb back above freezing every day and the snow banks, which are relatively fresh, will slowly melt away and the pastures and lawns will begin to green up. Does that mean that everyone connected to crop farming is ready to have the season arrive? Not by a long shot. The situation is many areas is about as unsettled as it was back in the mid 1980s. The grain markets have shown a bit of strength, but not enough build much optimism. But the people and animals still have to eat, and the planning season will eventually arrive. So whether we like it, or we are not nearly ready for spring to arrive, it will get here.
I still have a few people to see yet among the clients that I work with. Typically I have all of them seen by early to mid January. Not this year, as decision making and following through with lining up and purchasing inputs proceeded at a very slow and late pace this year. The best course of action was to allow more time for things to fall into place and have people one by one get into the mood to get things decided and plans to be made.
The thought process about what herbicides to use typically comes after seed decisions were made. In looking at the state by state run-down, the only new herbicide mixes were those of older products or reshuffling what blends could be adjusted to manage weeds that seem to be slipping thru previous years’ programs. The days of relying solely on one or two applications of a non-selective product are long over with and most growers are accepting that fact. Two new premixes are blends of Anthem, which is Zidua and Cadet, have been altered and became Anthem max and Anthem flex. The Enlist Duo is also listed for a number of states, but full approval still has to be granted.
The number of training meetings being held around the state devoted to training private and custom applicators on the do’s and don’ts of dicamba application was increased dramatically. A high number of farmers question to full rationale behind this, as the reality and enormity of the past and future problems with this product has a high percentage of them questioning its value. The private applicator can chose their days, wind speed parameters and tank mix companions after much deliberation, and can minimize the risks. A custom applicator has to try to stay on schedule and reckon with winds that could limit their allowed season to be as short as four hours per month, as some climatologists recorded last season.
A high number of growers who are back to working with traditional chemistry looked at the entire scenario and came to the conclusion that they and their neighbors did not like being blackmailed into doing or buying a product or program that may not be in their best interest.
Whether to stay with a corn/soybean rotation, staying with continuous corn, planting beans following beans or breaking up by moving to a 1/3 or 1/4 beans were all options. No one answer fits everybody. Special weed, insect, or other pest problems are usually the factors that can drive changes in each person’s rotations. In many parts of the state the proximity to feed users or ethanol plants can influence such decisions.
In a number of states to our south where the growing seasons are longer there are likely to be more second year beans due to prices and the fact that the beans on bean yields have not be negatively affected much. One factor that could influence this is that soybeans are well known by their ability to make tilled and every no-till fields to be more prone to water and wind erosion.
More growers are asking questions about foliar applications of plant nutrient and if is a wise practice. Surprisingly most universities and older ‘experts’ tend to view the practice as unfounded and not paying dividends. Typically the reason for their opinions is because they read the results of trials or conducted some themselves where they did not know the rules, or did not ask anyone that knew the rules, and the results showed little reward. The truth is that running a good foliar program requires constant evaluation of how the weather, soil biology, and seasonal variations within the growing season were affecting plant nutrient needs. They then have to respond after they interpolate tissue test results, expected crop nutrient uptake information, and past experience to make an educated guess about what to do. One of the best people we ever saw at this was Ray Rawson’s fertilizer dealer. He would dig roots and evaluate the above and below ground parts of the plant, looking for color, growth indicators, and any aberrations before he formulated his spray mixtures. It was both art and science. There are still a few guys in the Midwest who still do it with confidence. In a way it’s like a MDs office where it is called a practice.
For documentation as to foliar feeding’s authenticity one can point to the work of HB Tukey at Michigan State where he worked with the Atomic Energy Commission with label fertilizers. He testified in front of congress formulated guidelines that growers could use. His knowledge was passed on and the current genie is Dr Patrick Brown at the Univ. of California at Davis. His field guide is a very good and complete work that is worth using.
High ROI choices
In choosing the highest ROI products to use this year many growers will read what high yield achievers are recommending. Often that advice centers on paying attention and addressing their tissue or sap analyses results of their micronutrient levels and expected plant demands. To me it is like having a nice new full steel building constructed by an outside crew. And it after they get it up, you notice two or three boxes of bolts sitting on the pallet that should have been used. What might happen as a result? Each of those bolts was supposed to support a wall or a support or a joist. Just like a minor element like Manganese or moly or zinc isn’t needed in huge amounts, but what is does is important to plant growth or plant health. Be planning what you monitoring program will look like this season.
New pest control products
There will be a few new products this year that will have targeted purposes. One of these is a new formulation of a natural fungus that can control nearly every insect in a season long fashion. That fungus is called Beauvaria basiana. It is the fungus that typically turns insects white and fuzzy before it kills them. It is labeled for in-furrow or foliar applications. In nature and in ISU research by Guthrie and Lewis it was found to live within the vascular systems of corn and other plants.
Another is a bacterium called Bacillus amyliquofaceans that dissolves things made out of chitin, such as insect eggs, insect shells, or parts of nematodes. There will be some products labeled to be used alone or are present as one ingredient in a multi-species mix.
The last one is a plant extract that is used to boost plant metabolism and limits the oxidative stress and cellular damage that is done to plant cells when it is under nematode attack. A few major university researchers were very dubious of its value and could not see how it could produce good results, but had to reevaluate the product after the yields came in. This product and some of the first two may find a home in the Midwest since the Fayette source of SCN control is fading.
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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