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By Staff | Mar 9, 2018

March is here so officially spring arrives in about another two weeks. Typically much of the additional heat gained from longer daylight hours and the normal warm-up gets used to melt the snow cover and snow banks. Since most of that disappeared a few weeks ago the soils should warm quicker and begin to dry out.

Of course there will still be a few subfreezing nights left in our forecasts, but we can once again say we survived another Midwest winter. In summary there were about three, two week long periods of intense cold, but no blizzards that shut the state down for two to three days where it was life or death for people that were caught outside when the snow and winds blew in.

Thought I have mentioned it in other columns the purchasing and action decisions this past winter all seemed to be occurring four to six weeks later than normal. Uncertainty in peoples’ and their bankers’ finances were and are still the bug unknown. Until recently there weren’t many opportunities to sell grain above most projected production costs. So as of March 1st there are still many transactions that have to take place before the dust settles.

New news

I got a call last Monday from a friend who had seen mention of a crazy article in the Des Moines Register concerning a press article where two researchers at ISU were claiming to there being Russian collusion over non-support of genetically modified crops. First of all readership of the once proud flagship newspaper is not what it once was, so I had not seen the article. So I tracked it down. Sure enough, an assistant professor in the society department and associate professor in the department of agronomy, genetics, development and cell biology were claiming that the Russians, besides colluding in the U.S. election, were sponsoring negative articles about GM food. That was worth a very good laugh for most people since most astute readers have acknowledged that this was just a diversionary tactic by one of the political parties. Who is to be believed by the actual consumers and producers?

My approach has been to support a bill where politicians and now academia have to dress like NASCAR drivers. In other words, they should be required to wear patches on their jackets identifying their sponsors. The more money that sponsors contribute to these people to support their cause, the larger the patch needs to be. If their word is to be perceived as honest, they should have few or no patches on their clothing. If they are wearing one very big patch, or lots of medium sized patches, then we have to question their thoughts, opinions and advice.

If ‘experts’ are advising the public on items relating to their health, we need to question their impartiality and discover who has been writing the checks. In this case, if the Russians gave a darn, then these researchers need to check into the research project conducted by Dr. Irina Ermakova, head of the Human Behavior and Neural BioScience Institute and relay their findings to the public.

In a somewhat related manner I had the chance to catch part of Jack Welch, former president of GE and a great marketer, that long lasting corporations tried to find out what their customers wanted and then provided that product. They did not spend time and effort to tell their customers they were wrong or needed to be re-educated on the topic.

What about the weed control future

I was on the road part of last week and attended the Triumph of Ag Show out in Omaha. Over half the crowd is typically from western Iowa, so it made sense to be there. I had two speaking spots and in one of them a serious and learned gentleman from Grand Island asked what the future of weed control looked like. It was a good question and one that many growers have been asking themselves for a few years. In his part of the world they have been battling Palmer Amaranth for several years now and its appearance has been causing consternation for many growers since there are not many great answers, other than “don’t even let it emerge”.

Two decades ago we could often answer such a question by noting that there were one or two new herbicides in a new or newer family of products that looked great in research and held the potential to help growers effectively manage that weed. For 2018 there are lots of new mixes of old products, but no actual new herbicides. So when a new weed or a now resistant version of an old weed becomes more challenging for growers to control, finding the best right answer often gets tougher.

This older gentleman had built a newer type of tractor and accompanying cultivator for his fields, where he had just installed buried drip-line irrigation. He recognized that big herbicide companies now have a pharma division that gets the lion’s share of the research dollars. Thus new products may not get more common in the future. So how would all of you answer his question? I suggested he look into the newer optically equipped cultivators, then the optically controlled and thinking sprayers. The latter still has to be perfected and marketed on a broad scale in the core of the corn and bean belt to be sold and serviced in volume.

Nitrogen management in 2018

A few years ago the Bill Stowe lawsuit was a hot topic of discussion as well as one of division. The suit ended up being dismissed for two reasons, first was that one arm of the government could not sue another arm, and that not-for-profit entities, such as drainage districts could not be sued. The topic of trying to reduce or eliminate the amount of N being leached or eroded from our crop fields is something that governing bodies and farmers alike still hope to achieve.

More growers recognize that applying most or all of their N six months before the corn crop needs it allows too much time for it to be lost. We have seen the development, patenting and marketing of the Y drops offer a great tool to help farmers apply the N closer to the time of crop uptake. The use of calcium, sulfur, carbon or molasses based stabilizers seems to be on the increase. The acreage where branded stabilizers are used is also increasing, and we see decisions about which ones to use may come down to which are the least damaging to soil biology.

I have been trying to connect with the research manager for a major ag firm who is heading up the work to steer their twenty plus year old new product thru EPA in time to be available for the 2018 or 2019 crop. I hope to get him on the phone in the near future.

Our Ames meeting on March 12

The reservations for our meeting planned for next week continue to come in. The speakers for the meeting are those that everyone should enjoy listening to because they are all tops in their field, well seasoned, educated, hands-on and are able to get their message across. You will hear more about the 310 to 370 Bu/A corn yields seen in 2017 at the Guthrie Center research farm. We still have a few seats left, but need to get the attendance roll to the Hilton Inn staff by a certain date. Even if you have to pack your own lunch or run to a local restaurant consider calling or emailing Carol or myself with your reservation. The time is still a 9:30 start at the Ames Hilton Inn just south of the Gateway Center on Monday March 12th.

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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