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By Staff | Mar 1, 2018

March has arrived and if conditions hold it will be coming in like a lamb.

The big 6 to 8 inches of snow failed to materialize due to the temps hovering at or just above freezing as the drizzle and mist amounts on Saturday were heavy.

It could have easily converted into 6 to 8 inches of snow if temps had been a bit colder. At least this way we could see a big warm-up as very little energy will be spent on melting the deep drifts. From this time on farmers and other people involved in ag will be paying much more attention on the climate as a high percentage of the corn and soybean belt went into winter on the edge of being abnormally dry to being in a slight drought. Regionally what may be significant may be the deluges of rain that have been falling in the southern one third of the eastern and southeastern Cornbelt states.

The average amounts have been in the 6 to 10 inches range with areas within Arkansas receiving 12 to 14 inches.

Remember that history says that here in Iowa the rainfall patterns tend to follow those in Arkansas by six to eight weeks. So will they be a harbinger of things to come.

Here we now have a major flock of Canadian geese walking around in the backyard. A decade ago that would have been a novelty, but these days the once migratory birds are sticking around year round. Does that mean all the protection they once garnered as migratory birds no longer applies to them?

When I was out in Nebraska from Monday through Wednesday in the territory from Lincoln to Kearney one could see the large Vs of migrating sand hill cranes. These are a long legged, long necked that were once headed for extinction, but have now made a big comeback. As it is the only thing they contribute is an annoying honking as they fly to their summer nesting grounds up in Montana and Canada.

But springtime activities are starting to appear. If you happen to visit a warm weather vacation the spring training baseball games began late last week. After the teams get their thirty something game played it will be time to move north where the grass has become green and people are ready to hear “play ball”.

New news

One item getting its share of publicity is the large series of well publicized training sessions for people that might be applying dicamba herbicide on soybeans this coming growing season. The label requirements were tightened up even more this year, as the three companies marketing their companion dicamba formulations and the companies selling the seed recognize that their ability to obtain a renewal of the two year provisional label hinges on having minimal drift problems this year.

At this point most people in the ag retail world are not holding their breath, as the majority of the waterhemp that are escaping control with the current mix of herbicides are emerging after R1, and after that stage the product becomes off label.

When one reads up on what constitutes an air inversion, which is when the ground cools more and faster than the ground, and the air is calm, the air gets denser near the ground and spray particles either stay or become airborne, where they can move for miles on the slightest breeze. Coupled with the wind speed requirements of between 3 and 10 mph, there have been locations within the state where people have tracked the number of hours when spraying was permissible during the entire month and the total hours were in the single digits. That would cause many people to seek an alternative product or program.

Nebraska meetings

While out in Nebraska I attended the late winter meeting of the Nebraska crop consultants. The group is quite a bit larger than in Iowa as roughly 75 percent of the acres are serviced by agronomists who work to help plant the farmers’ strategies regarding fertility programs, weed control, insect scouting, and irrigation management. A fully attended meeting typically has 90 to 100 consultants attending.

With irrigation management and heavier insect pressure there are more things that can go wrong, so having a top notch agronomist overseeing the operation can be very important.

One big point of discussion involving a rep from a state regulatory board was the state of the underground aquifer and its drawdown, meaning is the groundwater being depleted or staying nearly constant. The stakes are huge, in that if a farmer has a good water supply they can dig their wells and supply their center pivots, which are typically nozzled to run between 800 and 1,000 gallons per minute. With good management and fertility the average grower there has an advantage over the good growers in Iowa in that when it gets dry in late July or all through August the moisture keeps falling if the pump and pivot keep running. They always shoot for the highest yields possible rather then quit spending money August 1 because it hasn’t rained in the past two weeks.

At first glance, most Iowans may blow off their concerns about the water supplies out in Nebraska and Kansas.

It’s many miles away and we typically get almost enough rain to not limit yields. But the noticeable change in the current weather in Iowa is that most of the state receives 4 to 5 inches more yearly rainfall versus 15 to 20 years ago. Much of the increase is likely due to more moisture being released into the low atmosphere by the irrigated corn planted at high populations in those two states. Thus what happens out in those two states creates an effect here and points east.

There were people telling stories about some of the wind problems they saw in 2017 and other past years. With the Rockies to the west some of the adiabatic winds during the summer are often capable of causing the greensnap problems like were common in western and NW Iowa back in the late 1980 through the mid 1990s.

Another big point of discussion was what they were recommending to be done at their growers’ farms where Palmer had moved in. Quite a few of them worked in the areas where Palmer move in within the last three or four years and completely changed how the weeds had to be managed. Doubling or tripling up on residuals had become the common recommendation since there were no post-emerge products labeled for use in soybeans. In some areas the dicamba mixes were still effective, but in the majority those were no longer effective. Thus to see any emerging small weeds signaled they had lost the battle already. No one in Iowa is looking forward to facing such a battle while trying to raise Soybeans.

The second Nebraska meeting

The second meeting that both Marv and I attended was the Nebraska aerial applicator conference held for three days in Lincoln. We had been warned that they were a lively bunch, and that warning proved true. I guess flying an Ag Tractor with 500 horses or more in giant loops while carrying and spraying 400 to 800 gallons of water and chemical mixes could make adrenalin junkies out of everyone.

They loved to talk about their adventures and things they had seen or done. Luckily they were still around to tell the tales. People that I know who begged for one joy ride with them typically hugged the ground right after they landed, as the excitement level was far beyond what they had imagined.

So it was back home later in the week after meeting and visiting with quite a few people who live in the same yet different world than we live and work in here.

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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