We have now moved beyond the first week in April, so the risk of snow becomes less and temperatures are going to be headed to the 60s shortly, or are they?
Most of us were expecting high 40s to 60 degree temps because those are what we have gotten used to in recent years as early springs have somewhat become the rule. The snow that fell over the state this past Saturday and Sunday were predicted and it came to fruition. While things can turn around quickly the night time temps need to get higher quickly. It was interesting to note that a number of meteorologists pulled their record books out and mentioned the big April 8th to 10th snow that came back in 1973. That was a doozy. I remember coming out of church and there were lots of big flakes falling. The old saying that was mentioned was that ‘big flakes make for a small snow’. Not that time. By the time the snow quit falling and the winds quit much of northern and northeast Iowa had totals from 12 to 20 inches with many snow banks over ten feet high.
We had taken off that forenoon to attend an event over in Northeast Iowa and there were about 125 people that got snowed in at a school gymnasium, but safe inside with food around.
Up in Minnesota last Tuesday and Wednesday conditions became very winter-like with 6 to 10 inches of snow, temps in the 6 to 11 degree range and 40 mph winds with lots of slick roads. It was the worse blizzard I had been in for two to three years.
On the national and international news out of Canada the big story was the bus crash where a hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan collided with a semi killing 15 of the players. Can we expect a fund raiser from their sister city in Iowa. My guess is yes.
The major stories in the last few weeks have centered on the rumblings about the possibility of tariffs being placed on imported metals by the U.S., which was followed by the proposed threats of duties being placed on soybeans and pork headed from the Midwest into China. With already low grain prices and lots of red ink, seeing lower soybean and hog prices for the nearby months is not what producers and the ag economy wanted. So what will be the end game?
We know that our nation runs a big trade deficit continually and in the interest of our economic viability we would like to see it reduced in size. Ag exports have been our best export driver as we grow a lot more than we consume. Having a large percentage of the world’s top rated soils, plus having the topography that helps to provide favorable rainfall patterns as well as a population of Northern European descendants that like to play in the dirt and grow things, are also important. In the Browning Newsletter and another magazine I read this weekend, China has about 20 percent of the world’s population while it has only 5 to 7 percent of the arable land.
A lot has been contaminated with heavy metals. Thus if they want to avoid having a noticeable percentage of their people starve they have to import their food from countries that can produce, transport and ship it. They and the U.S. are interdependent. Having Brandstad over there as our ambassador to mediate and understand the issues will be very important.
From what I know and having seen in my seven days in China back in 2014, they are trying to not slip back into isolationism. They have many, supported, graduate level young adults over here attending major universities to get educated in the hard sciences. In the old days the cars, if they had one, were old beaters. Now their autos are much newer and fancier. What our president sees as topics that need to be discussed includes IP protection. If our companies have to disclose product, production and design details to the Chinese government, they lose worldwide for the long term. Our businesses need to be protected on this issue.
Before long the issue of expected planting dates and delayed planting could be hot topics. Mid April will be here this week and typically farmers like to be operating at least with some machinery by that mark. This year we need to melt the snow yet, having the surface waters drain and the soils dry up, and the soils to warm up to the 50 degree mark. That might not happen yet this week as much of the northern Midwest still has a snow cover and sub-freezing temperatures.
The prediction is for warmer weather, which will help warm the soils, but there are lots of tasks to be completed. A lot of fertilizer still needs to be applied and early tillage passes made in many fields. Much of the seed has been delivered and we have to hope that earlier hybrids don’t have to be rounded up and delivered again. This next month is going to be very busy.
A new microbe
In the current ag market most growers have recognized that the arena of biologicals has been elevated as both large and small companies have gotten involved. More of the offerings are now producing consistent results. This has all been needed as we have seen insects, fungal and bacterial disease causing organisms have broken through many hard chemistries while nematodes have done the same, and toxicological problems have stifled the release of more of the hard chemistry products. We still need answers and products that are effective and affordable.
When I was down in a few southern states a few weeks ago visiting with a microbial chemist and two ag specialists, the discussion got into an arena that more growers will be hearing about. That subject is the focus of several new products hitting the market this spring and it is bacteria that work by dissolving chitin. This material is the hard crunchy material that makes up the shell of a beetle or lobster, the outer shell of an insect, the body and beak of a juvenile nematode, a nematode egg case, or an insect egg. It may also be the mycelia strand of a pathogenic fungus. If you have enough of the bacteria in the soil or root zone producing the chitinase, or the enzyme that dissolved the crunchy material, you don’t have to use a hard chemistry to eliminate the problem critter, you just dissolve the little critter or its key parts.
The first to get a federal lab was a biological nematicide called Varnimo. It is from a company called Lido Chem. They are also our source of Argosy, a medical grade polymer that gets mixed BioEmrpuv and whatever other product could use a longer residual period. FMC has commercialized a strain of the same microbe plus Capture for a broad spectrum insect and disease controlling product.
Some of the BioDyne mixes also contains microbes in that same category that work to help control plant pests above and below ground. We met with the rep from a new company from Georgia on Monday, that has a combo product that seems to eliminate problems caused by insects, nematodes, fungi mites and bacteria. It doesn’t kill them, it just dissolves them while leaving the non-target organisms untouched. A foliar application of a natural trigger to the plants can also cause the plant to start making antibodies to combat the attacking insect or fungus, which is called systemic induced resistance. The residual period seen so far has been six to eight weeks and even season long. Some of them become systemic and will inhabit the vascular tissue of plants to control tunneling insects and larvae as well. I will know more about the products after the meeting.
Getting ready for the season
Now we are in the home stretch the task is lining up more of the products for the coming season. A few of us who were at the March 12 meeting have been making plans for the coming season. Our goal is to hit 350 to 400 Bu/A on more of the acres and take the peaks even higher. For that we are focusing on soil health, having a healthy soil biological population from past cover crops and BioDyne; using fertilizer stabilizers like Avail and Nutrisphere; applying micronutrients such as those from AgriGuardian (MicroMix) and Moly, which allows the corn plants to pull in the nitrogen; signaling compounds like Take Off to maximize assimilation into the plants; silica foliars which we think is allowing greater sunlight capture to produce more sugar and energize plant functions while also kicking up natural defense mechanism; and the BioEmpruv to keep the corn plants alive and filling until mid to late October as it has the last two years, versus dying by August 20th. We will be holding a field days at the site in late October to related what we are seeing and what we have learned.
For those who did not hear about that meeting or wish to review it, visit our website to get the details on ordering a recording of the conference on a thumb drive www.centraliowaag.com .
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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