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By Staff | May 10, 2018

With the arrival of May we are finally getting the 70 plus temperatures. The landscape across the Midwest has turned a gorgeous green as it typically does in late spring. In response to the question last week of ‘where were the April showers?’ many parts of the state received rain in amounts ranging from .5 inch in way northwest Iowa to 4.3 for parts of central Iowa.

Planting thoughts

At this point there has been no mass speculation about delayed planting and the hassle that comes with it. The #1 item, and one that all seed company employees dread, is a mass movement to earlier hybrids. In most cases we have seen in recent seasons that staying with the appropriate medium to full season hybrids is the best choice thru May 15 or 20th. The one caveat there is that for the last five plus years there has been a substantial acreage planted to 110 – 112 day hybrids as far north as Hwy 3 or even further north. All along growers have been taking some risk of not receiving the necessary number of GDUs to mature the plants.

To me the greatest risk is not having an earlier than normal frost, but of seeing the early dying phenomena occurring as we saw in 2014 and 2015. Being we live about three miles from the Farm Progress Show site and I had to help with a few corn plots in 2014 and I was paying close attention to the health of the corn plants. What was very apparent was that most of the corn was nearing complete death by August 15th and 50 percent of it was severely lodged, enough so that all of the harvest demos were canceled due to risk of embarrassment to all concerned parties. If the same thing occurs and farmers have not taken the appropriate steps to maintain plant health, then getting the grain fill door slammed shut during the early stages of grain fill could hurt the yields tremendously.

So for us in Iowa we have to wish for our crop growing counterparts in northern Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas that the rains hold off for a few weeks and permit them to get their crops in the ground. To the south the risk for corn growers in Kansas and Oklahoma is they planted their crop early and watched it get frozen off three times. So far the plants have regrown and still look good. But each time the plant has to regrow it sets the plants back. This could force the critical grain filling into a hotter and typically drier time of the summer.

Manipulating plant growth and architecture

Old timer agronomists and insightful, experienced farmers know there are a few management steps that can be used to hurry the crops along if need be. The first and major one is to know that having a plant with a higher P content is going to develop more rapidly than one with lower P in their tissue tests of soil tests. Foliar P applied at the right time and in the right form with the correct batch pH and surfactants can make this happen. Work done at Ohio State has also shown that higher P tissue tests can also help increase kernels row number. The same can apply to an application of calcium nitrate.

Raising high yield corn is like a good game of checkers, while raising high yield soybeans is like a tough game of chess because you have to plan your strategy ahead of time. With the application of different compounds, you can force earlier and additional, shorter internodes, additional branches and more roots. If you can assemble advice from the right people you can jump into the higher yield plateau on a regular basis.

Insect threats

At bean planting time an appropriate question is about the risk of having a damaging level of bean leaf beetle emergence and feeding on the young plants. In maps and prognostications published in recent weeks the entomologists covering this state have published their predictions for the nine sections of the state. All of them see only a low overwintering population based on the number of days below the mid-teens. Unless you are planting beans a few weeks ahead of your neighbors and near a large treed areas or big patch of tall grass CRP, the risk of seeing a major problem this spring with the overwintering bean leaf beetles is very slim.

I did visit with a Webster County farmer last week who related a story where he had attended a soybean meeting and one grower told of his hollowed bean plants breaking off right above the ground and they could not identify the problem. Could it have been charcoal rot or the Dectes stem borer, which has been identified in several surrounding states?


I mentioned that a number of new biological products from several newer companies are going to hit the market this season. Many of those center around chitin or the ability to dissolve chitin, as in the hard shell on a beetle, egg case or beak on a nematode, or a fungal strand of a root rotting pathogen.

Two of these have actually been EPA approved as nematicides and have data to back up their performance. Why such an achievement is important is that we are seeing SCN counts back up to 30,000/ 100 cc of soil even on resistant varieties. That leaves bean growers asking how to respond with very few high yielding Peking varieties available.

The first of these is Nemasan, from O2YS in Georgia, and the second is Varnimo from LidoChem.

Supplies of both are such that any grower hoping to test either of them this season should be able to locate and apply them this spring. With the first mentioned product the nematology team from Mississippi State tested it against Telone, a high dollar, deadly to soil microbes and soil health product, on peanuts. They listed yields, nematode counts and nut size and counts from the trial. The Nemasan product stomped the hard chemistry product at a fraction of the cost. We hope to place a few plots with their product this spring.

The data on the Varnimo from other states also look good. There need to be a few plots placed using that product to see how it performs on heavy soils with high SCN counts.

Silica news

At our March 12th meeting in Ames where we had a great list of topics and speakers, one of the guests worked with Redox Chemical. He covers Michigan, Wisconsin and points east including Japan. During his talk he enumerated the benefits he saw with crops sprayed with their Si product. It still left questions about the increase in yields and the corn plants’ ability to form sugars. In the literature there was a well documented article by Dr. Guy E. Abraham, MD entitled ‘The Importance of Bio-Available Silica in Human Health. On page 2 he discussed the role of the mineral in plants:

“The Silica Cycle”

‘The silica cycle begins with the uptake of bioactive silica, that is mono-orthosilicic acid, by roots of plants. Below a pH of 9, mono-orthosilicic acid, hereafter called silicic acid, exists in its free form in water up to saturation (100 PPM). After translocation, condensation, and precipitation in plant tissues, silicic acid performs several important functions.

-Structural: Silica contributes compression-resistance and rigidity to the cell walls which aids in photosynthesis by improving light interception. It also renders the plant drought-resistant.

-Physiological: The presence of silica reduces evaporation and transpiration, therefore conserving tissue water. It also promotes oxygen availability via the roots through increased rigidity of the air canals.

– Protective: Silica increases the resistance to pathogens, insects, and mollucs. It also protects the plants from toxicity of excess metals, such as manganese and iron, by distributing these oxides evenly in plants tissues, increasing their solubility. Silicic acid also forms a silicate coating around micro-particles of the oxides of these metals, increasing their stability, preventing aggregation and precipitation. These microscopic amorphous particles of silica, and the other silica-containing plant tissues, return The Importance of Bioactive Silicates in Human Health to the soil for recycling after the death and decay of plants.’

Now all of a sudden the different observations made by farmers and agronomists last year were confirmed, which should benefit us and medical practitioners. We will be posting the 8 page article to our website.

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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