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By Staff | Sep 7, 2018

September is here and the busy month of August has passed. We now enter the month in which the final bushels of grain are produced and added onto the kernels on the ears and the seeds in the pods. Give us a warm month with lots of sunshine, plentiful but not too much rain, and we will like the results, as long as the plants are still healthy and green. That last caveat is important, because if the leaves are brown, the chlorophyll is gone and the ability of the plant to add any more grain is kaput.

This year the first day of the Farm Progress Show Show started very grayish with a heavy cloud cover and predictions of rain. Those predictions materialized as heavy rain began falling by noon. Too many in the crowds did not pack their rain suits and had to stay inside the tents. By 12:30 the thunder and lightning began. Due to safety concerns the highway patrol is told that large crowds must be dispersed if lightning is within eight miles. In farm country we have all survived heavy lightning storms, hail, and occasional tornadoes, so we figured we might get slowed down a bit in walking between different displays and tents. The word went out about 12:30 that the show had to be shut down and the crowd moved out of the grounds looking for some place to dry off or attend any event.

Major exhibitor booths

The FPS tends to be more of a machinery show where new models and updates are being exhibited for the first time. The challenge is to woo grain or livestock farmers to pique their interest long enough to have them experiment with their wares and help them decide they need to make a purchase in the coming year. A number of the booths held pieces of outsized equipment that could fit on the larger farms, but might be oversized for the average farmer with the 800 to 1100 acres. The booths where I took pictures of displayed the Fendt tractor and combine and the reworked Tribine. The former was a 463 hp tractor with dualed front and rear tires. The Fendt combine held a 16 row head and it is in the largest commercially available machine category. The huge Tribine is still a demo machine.

There were many booths where drones and the latest technology to scan, dissect the findings, and then assemble the data into a usable format to affect next year’s cropping plan were displayed. Four years ago drone companies at the big ag show in Tulare, CA were displaying machines possessing the ability to carry a payload of 2.5 to 3.0 gal. of spray product, typically a biological to apply to their high value crops. Having seen YouTube clips of larger Chinese drones with the ability to carry an adult passenger, how far off are remotely piloted drones that can carry a 20 to 25 gallon payload and navigate via GPS over vineyards or veggie fields applying micros, hormonal products or signaling compounds? Odd shaped, rough topography, or remotely located fields come to mind first.

I visited a number of seed company tents, some where their corporate structures had changed dramatically since last spring. The impact in the field and among farmer customers is still to be determined. The effect has been a disruption of the normal relationships that have sometimes been there for a decade, which creates uncertainty while before there were many givens. Corn growers are now looking at a changed landscape where there are now very few U.S. owned seed companies, with only one major one fitting that category. They are wondering who is going to look out for their interest and well being. The companies need to show they understand Midwest and U.S. growers, their history, a working knowledge of their crops and challenges they face each year. Input suppliers may need to re-establish those relationships if they have changed.

Early dying corn

There were many out of state and out of country visitors at the show. A common question from them was what has happened to your corn crop? They were expecting green and healthy corn while what they saw were a high percentage of brown fields with the ears flipped down. My response was that it was not natural but was now the new norm.

The full answer took a few minutes and it created some puzzled looks. I typically said that the poor state of corn plant health was a bit worse in 2014 when the harvest demos were canceled due to the severe lodging and it was embarrassing to the companies. At some time in the future the corn growing industry needs to come up with an answer that ties it to mineral nutrition rather than just recommend a fungicide application. In what year might the corn crop take a serious healthy decline a few weeks earlier than has become normal.

A few updated and observant have been noticing a color change in the corn plants in the July 10th to 15th time frame. We are seeing in plots that a 4 oz/A BioEmpruv in-furrow application at planting time creates a much healthier corn plant and stalk. Three years of plot work plus Dave Schwartz and his crew did this at his Guthrie Center plot have shown this boost in early disease control can help produce monster corn yields as seen in recent years. If this product that supplies minerals and healthy plant growth promoting compounds, plus a fermentation compound is keeping the plants green and free of bacterial attack, the primary problem is bacterial in nature and not fungal. The two families of pathogens can work together in attacking plants as they gang up when possible.

Another observation that a number of growers who applied the Mainstay Si calcium product and the BioEmpruv typically had near perfect plant health and resulting large ears with no expense for foliar fungicides. In a related project a number of us are gathering plant samples from across several states for the purpose testing them with the Ag Dia CMM kits on them.

Based on field observations and kernels counts the yields from the fields that have remained green and received decent amounts of rain will be very good. The divide between northern and southern Iowa is crazy this year. North of Hwy 30 the problem was too much rain. South of Hwy 30 it was too little rain after July 1.

Stalk quality

Charlie Hurburgh, the Rockwell City native and ISU grain quality specialist, warned producers in the audience at the FPS that stalk quality this fall could be poor. The stresses on the crop this season were severe and the lack of moisture during July and August will be manifested as stalk rot. Corn growers should be touring their fields and walking in to perform the push test on plants in different areas.

One other factor to know is that the Clavibacter bacteria has been tested and found to produce amalyse and cellulosic enzymes. This means the Goss’s bacteria produce compounds that dissolve cells in the stalk and shank. When you walk into freshly combined corn fields where the stalks still contain moisture and sap you can detect a sour vinegary odor. This is that enzyme. They also use it at ethanol plants to dissolve the kernels more completely to boost ethanol yield per bushel of grain.

Make note that early corn harvest in Texas and Oklahoma began a few weeks ago and there are reports out that there have been cases where mycotoxins have been detected.

Residue management

As harvest approaches the topic of residue management comes up. What might be the optimum way to handle the residue from high yield corn, especially if you have highly erodible soils in your fields and/or need to raise second year corn? So far the BioDyne 501 microbial mix has done a terrific job of decomposing the stalks when applied in the fall. The earlier and warmer the temps when making the applications, the better as more sugars are available. We saw last fall at Guthrie that applying the product on 350 Bu/A stalks behind a stalk shredder caused the residue to decay at such a rate and improve the moisture infiltration rates that the fields could have been planted by mid-February without using trash whippers.

SDS in soybeans

In the last three weeks the signs of this Fusarium vulg. infection have been appearing in more fields, especially where saturated/low oxygen/compaction conditions occurred earlier in the year. The worst areas so far have been appearing north of Hwy 3 where the rainfall amounts were historic through much of the season. The yellowish tint to the foliage early in the season hinted there would be late season problems appearing. So far the blue snot on the roots has been tough to see. I will comment more next week on treatments that could have been applied to the seed.

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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