It finally seems that the winter season is over with. Most or all of the snow has melted in northern Iowa, so the warmth of the sun can focus on warming the soil up to the point where corn or soybean seed can germinate. In looking at the date on the calendar the planting season might be slightly delayed, but until now the cold soil temperatures have been low enough to force everyone to sit on the sidelines. Most growers expect this next week will be one devoted to making fertilizer applications and doing tillage.
This past weekend we drove to St. Louis and worked our way back on Monday, so we had a chance to view the progress being made by famers in southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri.
We saw a few planters operating in Missouri where it has been drier, but none in Iowa. South of Hannibal a number of smaller fields on hillier ground had the tell-tale planter tracks. With all of the surrounding trees allowing the ground to warm up quicker the operators must have figured they should plant the high labor fields before the rest of the ground was ready. Now will their current dry conditions plus those in southeast Iowa continue through the season and have the farmers praying for rain a month from now.
Part of the trip was to deliver a load of furniture and piano to daughter No.1, and to see the new grandson born to daughter No.3.
Little William or ‘Will’ is still doing the baby things of eating and sleeping and not much else. He is healthy and beginning to put on weight. Oh the things he will see, the things he will do, and the places he will go. Just like Dr Seuss wrote.
Oh the joys of young parenthood. All is well and that is good.
At present there seem to be a multitude of varying opinions about what to expect in the coming growing season. I just read the prediction from Captain Kirk from Weather Trends 360 where he is laying out the groundwork for the opinion that the sunspot patterns run on eleven year cycles and that the groups of three seem to be indicating a cooling down of temperatures where GCUs might be short this year and continue that trend for a decade or two. At the close of the article a retired Navy Physicist and Engineer gives his predictions, which are also for colder seasons. He also gets into prescribing an action plan where he tells growers to prepare for Minneapolis type growing seasons at Peoria with a big loss in GDUs. His PLA includes using strip till to allow the soils to warm quicker, use biologicals that cause the soils to warm quicker, and explore cover crops that create a deeper zone of microbial activity.
Is he on the mark or way off?
If we do see the cooler and GDU short seasons, my take on it would be to use more foliar P as plants transport cellular energy using charged phosphorus, and then grow a thicker leaf that holds more chloroplasts to serve as organs to capture more of the photon energy from the son. We have seen a newer explored mineral form that thicker leaf in corn plants. We just need to explore what means or instruments we can use to measure the energy flow. Time to call a research entomologist in Tallahassee.
Other predictions, such as from Dr. Simon Atkins, are for a continued cool April and May, but with a record hot June. Like every other season we have to expect the unexpected. The best way to prepare for it will be to build a deeper root profile, with a good moisture infiltration rate, and with a healthier soil while maintaining high mineral levels in the soil that help remediate stress problems.
Spring plans at Guthrie Center
We have been making plans for the fields at the research farm west of town. We will be adding a few items that have shown promise as being valuable minerals, being good and effective signaling compounds, products that will increase the radiation use efficiency ratio, newly discovered compounds that might eliminate sap sucking pests in a safe manner, or others that will allow the plants to tolerate extremes in heat and moisture stress with no decrease in yield.
We expect to have one or more field days at the site with open invitations to see the progress that is being made. If surviving as a farm operator in the Midwest depends on being the most observant and alerted ag producer, we intend to do some educating. We will be taping what is being done down there and produce videos providing the details. The big topics will include soil health, soil biology, proper mineral nutrition, the development of safer and softer means of insect and disease management, signaling compounds and grain quality.
We will follow up with a pre-harvest field days in late September where growers can see how the plants look. In both 2016 and 2017 we saw that all of those factors, when managed correctly, then having the BioEmpruv applied as V6-8 and near VT, allowed the plants to stay green thru mid October and fill each ear out to the tip with barely any dent in the kernels. In addition the minerals levels in the grain were extremely high.
People who will be planting in the next few weeks need to be asking themselves if they have done everything possible to raise the mineral levels in their plants and to help fight the fungi and bacteria in the soil using sustainable or regenerative products. Starting on that course will be important.
A new microbe
Another small biological company was founded in recent years and appear ready to make its mark this season. The information they are seizing upon comes from a small and mysterious world where little organisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses live inside plants and can actually impart much stronger heat and moisture stress tolerance into those plants. In this case they found grasses growing near a high temperature geyser that, if they were infected with a fungus that was parasitized by a virus, could tolerate 160 degree temps with no damage done to them. The same applied to moisture stress. In the conversation with one of their scientist I had to ask if he had a black and yellow book written by a Cornell Univ. professor on his shelf. His ‘yes’ answer immediately validated their work and claims.
Check our website later this week for more information on details on the work and results from past field trials. What you see may be worth trying on a few acres this season.
The topic of soil health seems to be the rage in many publications and at field days. When do the articles on plant health gain just as much publicity? One great book to buy and use as a reference book this season is Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease by Larry Datnoff and Don Huber. It is available thru the APS press in St Paul, MN. It deals with the major nutrients needed by plants and tells what happens when those minerals are short or in excess.
Just as good human health is gained through consuming nutrient dense food and avoiding to harmful compounds, not by taking pharmaceuticals, plants need to have the proper amount of the correct minerals to stay healthy and yield close to their maximum.
That means that when and if bacterial diseases attack, diagnosing mineral shortages followed by foliar nutrition can help make the attack subside and disappear.
May the sun shine and the skies remain clear for the next few weeks while we have to complete a month’s worth of work in a portion of that time.
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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