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By Staff | May 25, 2018

Just as one of Clint Eastwood’s best cowboy movies was called ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, we could call this spring and the planting season so far “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

There is no average, just a wide spread in how the crops look as of May 20th following a winter and spring with the latest ‘ice outs’ on many lakes in Minnesota and heavy snows clear thru late April. I was in some very good corn in way northern Missouri on last Friday where the tallest was in the early V4 growth stage.

This compares to corn that was likely four leaf stages ahead of this one year ago.

On Wednesday I traveled north and northwest thru Hamilton, Wright and Kossuth counties in Iowa up thru the area west and northeast of Mankato, Minnestoa.

What I saw were the majority of fields had not been touched yet as it has stayed too wet to get into them for any fieldwork at that date. To the north of that area they had stayed drier.

In fields with better tile drainage some planting had been done and those operators were hoping that rain would stay away for a few more weeks to permit planting to be started or continued.

Trade Negotiations talks and tariff imposition threats between the U.S. and China seem to be reaching an equilibrium now, based on recent reports. In line with the strategies outline in ‘The Art of the Deal’ the first step in successful negotiations is to ask for more wishes than would actually settle the complaint, then to capitulate a bit to come to an agreement that closely resembles your original goal.

The latest now in the tariff rift is that China is willing to spend about $200 billion more per year buying product from the U.S. to cut their trade surplus with us. They also recognize that is they are to be a world class super power they can no longer pilfer trade secrets from all of their trading partners as they currently do.

Instead they need to recognize and adhere to international patent rights and not copy everything. So perhaps the biggest need they have to spend money on is food products for their growing population which has a growing middle class that like to eat more animal based protein. That seems to mean buying more soybeans along with more beef and pork.

Brazil is growing more beans, but still has infrastructure problems and no rail system.

Planting progress

The USDA planting progress survey results are not out as of 11 a.m. Monday morning.

I have seen those for last week. They showed that corn planting was 65 percent complete for Iowa with a range of 75 percent done in the southern half of the state but only 25 percent done in the northern part of the state.

That would be okay if the northern part received more heat units, but that isn’t the case. There was good progress in areas but little in others as there was a lot of standing water and wet pockets in affected fields.

As we move past May 20th farmers begin to ask about switching their previous full season varieties to earlier adapted ones, how they might act versus with normal planting dates and recommended populations.

The previous and early season varieties can then become the full and mid-season ones. The plants will grow taller as they get planted later, up to about May 29th. After that date the plants get shorter and form fewer leaves. The populations should stay the same.

Increasing the corn plant populations can be counter-productive, as the taller stalks can have a greater tendency to lodge. I don’t know if anyone has ever measured rooting dept of late planted corn versus normal date of planting. My guess is that the warmer temps during early vegetative growth could push the plants to grow tall with a shallower and less massive root system.

I have mentioned earlier that this would be the time to work with foliar P if soil tests are medium or lower. I would also try silica products to try to capture more sunlight.

If the so-far unsettle weather continues to include these Canadian based cold air intrusions this far south, are we likely to end up with fewer overall heat units? And are those heat units equal to those of a few years ago.

If planting soybeans after May 20th the use of rows less than 30 inceshe is typically recommended or using products to help the plants form more branches. The plants will form fewer podded nodes per plants, thus the need to compensate by growing more plants.

Using hormonal products, namely cytokines can help with the branch number. This is when planting twice to achieve 15 inch rows or running a separate planter can raise the yields by a significant margin.

Time demands

In a normal year we often see the planting season gets spread over a three week time period depending on how many acres each operators has to cover and if they have livestock to tend to and manure to spread. As the season got delayed by April snows and then wet fields, seasoned veterans recognized that all of the normal amount of work to work the ground, if any, apply any needed dry fertilizer, then apply dry/liquid/gas nitrogen, and finally plant was likely to cause the normal three weeks of heavy planting to get condensed into a one or two week period.

This placed an insurmountable amount of work on the fertilizer suppliers and their equipment, so there were acres that got planted first, as operators figured they could come back with dry spread or sidedressed/Y-dropped nitrogen. Now the need to have enough dry weather in June to make those applications will be needed. And the need for many of those same sprayers to have their wet booms on will be just as great as normal.

Maturity and insect concerns

Can late corn planting dates make those fields greater targets for insect attack?

Just assume that late planted corn will attract more rootworm beetles that could clip silks and feed on the tassels. Other insects that could be attracted by pollen, silks or semio-chemicals would be Japanese beetles and egg laying corn borer moths.

In soybeans the main insect that appears late would be soybean aphids and possibly northern corn rootworm beetles that typically appear to feed on late shedding waterhemp plants. Would they choose to eat on small pods and bean leaves if they offer the most tender tissue?

The September weather in 2017 was ideal for late grain fill, as it stayed warm and wet. If it instead stays cool and dry, the same degree of grain or seed fill will not occur. Thus both types of late planted crops could be negatively affected by weather not conductive to sugar formation.

Weed control

While parts of the Midwest have been receiving too much rain other parts have remained dry, enough that either there has been very little weed seed emergence or activation of early applied herbicides. Given a choice, having it a bit drier than normal in the spring keeps the herbicide in the shallower soil zone and avoid being diluted. It also means that dislodged weeds have a lesser chance of getting rerooted.

The same drier conditions will give us more days to make the critical trips and be more timely, where wind restrictions are more likely to be violated.

Early scouting and tissue testing

More crop advisors are becoming advocates to tissue testing with subsequent applications of foliar micronutrients if the results and recommendations call or them.

Twenty years ago the corn plants stayed dark green throughout the season and showed very few leaf diseases. Now heavy light and dry green streaking of the leaves is the rule instead of the exception.

On the V4 corn I looked at last Friday such streaking was already very visible in many of the fields. I pulled leaf and upper plant samples to turn into Midwest Labs for analysis. If you compare those leaves to those in the in the old pictorial guide entitled ‘Be your own corn doctor’ I am expecting to learn that Mn, Mg, Bo, Zn, and moly are deficient.

A grower can pay now by applying Micro Mix to the crop or pay later for a fungicide application to solve the disease problem allowed to develop.

Good crop managers will be making their plans to scout their fields at the V4 to V6 growth stage and bag their samples for drying and remittal. They also need to be making plans to bring in those foliar nutritional products or plant health promoting products like BioEmpruv that need to be applied by the V8 growth stage.

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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