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By Staff | May 18, 2018

Spring is supposed to be marching along with field work and planting finishing up in Iowa while farmers in the states to the north being at least half finished. Instead we are now in a situation where wet conditions and cooler weather are dominant factors for us in the western Cornbelt.

States to the east have made better progress while states to the west are having their drought issues. The Dakotas are still very cool, but planting has progressed. Kansas now has 59 percent of their territory at either the extreme, severe or exceptional drought categories while South Dakota is worse.

Projected temperatures for the next two weeks are expected to be much warmer, after a weekend where a medium weight jacket felt good. Those cool temps are not what the emerging plants need.

On the national scene things are quiet except over in Hawaii where the lava flows remind us those humans only inhabit the crust of the earth. They can be wiped out in a hurry if the earth decides it is time to rumble. Perhaps it was not the smartest thing for their state government to offer volcano insurance to entice people to build houses in a declared ‘at risk’ area for lava flows.

The season so far

Most of us are waiting to view the surveyed planting progress numbers from each major row crop state. Are things as good or as bad as we see in our own little world?

We know that much of northern Iowa is behind on planting progress while much of Minnesota is worse. The latest figures given on the Successful Farming webpage proclaim that progress on corn jumped 75 percent in one week, so does that mean that 55 percent of the corn acres are in or is the figure less?

Corn is more planting date dependent so the delays with getting beans into the ground don’t concern growers as much, since we have seen very good bean yields with delayed planting in recent seasons.

The much discussed optimum planting window of April 25th thru May 15th is closed.

In recent seasons the first fields were planted in Iowa around April 10th to 15th. The soils were warm enough and it was dry enough to permit field traffic. Except for the rain predicted for later this week the temperatures parameters appear to be in our favor with many predicted in the 75 to 80 degrees for the next ten days.

The question then is how many areas still unplanted caught so much rain late last week to make conditions too wet for field traffic? If we could get the heat and a few more good drying days that would permit the mentioned farmers to finally get their corn in the ground.

Does that mean that the growers north of Hwy 20 that had planned to return their 110 to 112 day hybrids and haul out hybrids in the 105 to 107 RM? Any further delays from this date could make growers in southern and central Minnesota think strongly about changing the percentages in their hybrid mix.

The entire Midwest

There seem to be no averages this spring as to what sort of weather has been dictating our field progress. While farmers in Iowa and Minnesota need drier weather now, the conditions to our west in the Dakotas through Kansas range have been extremely dry. In the NWS survey the total acreage in either severe, extreme or exceptional drought now reach 59 percent.

While April was about ten degrees below normal for most of those states, slowing pasture and crop growth, they were on the dry side with many receiving less than an inch of rain. As evidence the Dept of Ag in South Dakota is doing a grasshopper survey already to prepare for significant problems with those insects.

Corn stands

So far, the corn stands in the emerged fields look good and even. The small plants need to start receiving sunlight to begin making their own sugar and expanding their root size to capture nutrients. With the longer days of May the soil temps are able to warm up quickly, even with the cooler nights.

As a warning the entomologists with the University of Minnesota running their black light traps detected several time periods, as between 4/29 to 30th and 5/1 to 4th, where black cutworm moths blew into the state on weather fronts. Assuming they laid eggs and those hatching larvae acquire the 312 GDUs to reach plant cutting size, their populations may be large enough to require scouting and possibly treatment.

Check to see what percent of your plants suffer cutting damage, consult your sources for their treatment threshold and be ready to take action. Recognize that smaller larvae will be doing more days of feeding before pupating then large larvae will. Under hot and dry conditions the cutting will be at or below the soil surface, typically eating into the growing point. With wetter and cooler conditions the feeding will be higher up on the plant and they typically recover.


A lot of seed treaters have been utilized in the last two weeks as farmers were preparing to move to planting beans. Applying a top grade inoculant is still an important step in achieving good yields. The plants still need 4.4 lbs of nitrogen to form each bushel of grain. It is easier and cheaper to have the bacteria fix it from the atmosphere than apply it during grain fill.

The current weather conditions and forecasts for wet and warmer soils are ideal for SDS occurring in fields with a history of the disease. The fungus stays in the soil and typically has increased in number as the Pseudomonas fl. bacteria has been decimated by application of a common herbicide.

Worth mentioning is the fact that the soybean aphid eggs normally hatch after 150 GDUs at based 50 degrees have accumulated. The young aphids typically feed on buckthorn for the first few weeks before moving to other crops. One worry about them now is that populations across a number of states have developed resistance to the pyrethroid insecticides. Other newer insecticides remain effective but their cost will be higher.


All of sudden there are a number of biologicals that hold the promise of controlling SCN. One is the Varnimo, which is a bacillus bacterium. It is a seed applied powder which can be applied through a treater or in-furrow.

The BioDyne 401 may contain the same bacteria can be in-furrow applied. Then one company wants to test an insect killing fungus that also kills corn borer larvae. Last week we hosted a sales manager from a company that has an EPA registered Chitosan product that can be seed or foliar applied and has performed very well in Mississippi State trials. It also has worked well against other SB pests. We intend to work with several growers to plant plots testing the different products so we can see how they perform. Our wish list for a number of years, and we did play with one years ago, was a foliar applied botanical extract. This year we will be working with two organic based foliar products. The one tested at Mississippi State is already commercially available.

In addition Redox Chemical Company, the CaSi supplier, has a botanical extract that has worked very well in preventing nematode feeding that was developed by their top chemists. It is called Root Rx and is used heavily on sugar beets and potatoes. These two crops plus strawberries are heavily affected by different species or genera of the same pest. The current method of damage control is to apply several hundred dollars per acre of hard chemistry such as Telone that sterilizes the soil and often require self contained breathing apparatus. So these new products would only be more effective, a fraction of the cost, safe to soil biology, and safe to be around. Win, win, win, just like Trump.


As the bean planting season moves later on the calendar the herbicide application season also moves later. We now see more broadleaves emerging in the fields including marestail. The prime season for waterhemp emergence is here and the Palmer season is shortly after. With several states having a concrete date set by when Dicamba must be applied by, that window is getting narrower. With the label being more restrictive this season finding the proper day to spray will become more difficult.

Good luck in getting all the work done in a now trying season.

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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