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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Oct 8, 2018

September 2018 is in the rear view mirror and we now enter that last quarter of the year. So far everything weather wise has been one of extremes. It seems very strange to see farmers in northern or northwest Iowa and their biggest challenge has been coping with the flooding and the copious amount of rainfall through the season.

Then if you travel to southwest or southeastern Iowa or just across the border to the south and lack of rainfall ruined their chance of having great yields. It’s too bad that no person would have the ability to even things out so conditions were more optimum for both parties.

Last week’s rainfall amounts of 6 to 10-inches of rain across the northern three tiers of counties as well as areas in Minnesota and South Dakota now has growers wondering if and when they will have fields dry enough for combines and grain hauling equipment to be able to operate.

If one looks at the amounts of rain that fell during September seeing the dark blue and purple indicating 12 to 15-inches recorded is obscene. If conditions don’t change the old saying that we may have grown lots of bushels but how many of them will make it into the bin in good condition could come to mind.

All of a sudden those loose husks that facilitated rapid dry down could turn into a negative if the kernels begin to sprout and molds start growing.

Rust Buster observations

Years ago when I was with a group of fellow Rust Busters we were touring in the heavy bean growing area in central Brazil where it had rained every day for 35 days. The beans had been ripe for the entire time. We got into a few of those fields and checked on the condition of the plants and beans the growers were expecting to harvest. All we could find were pods where the seeds had sprouted and already turned to mush. Some of the growers by then had mounted tracks on their combines in the hope they could run earlier after a rain. They did but the constant precipitation negated much of the gain. Already the grain trade has started to mention this risk. But we can’t forecast if this same thing is in our future.

Rosa arrival

I am not sure how much of the Midwest growers have heard of Hurricane Rosa and the fact that it is currently a Category 3 hurricane and it is poised to hit the Baja coast of Mexico and Southern California Monday morning. Normally storms out in the Pacific get neutered by colder water as the flows lose part of their energy inflow with the smaller currents dissipating. This one appears to be different in that there are now models predicting that the desert southwest could pick up sizeable enough rains to set off flash flooding before it continues into the mountain southwest areas before moving into the western parts. From there the moisture fronts and moisture laden air will continue eastward to drop very measureable to significant amounts of rain already waterlogged soils.

Stalk quality

Many warnings have been given. By now many of the media outlets and news channels have interviewed different field people asking what they have seen for weakened stalks. The common answer is that they have seen the plant tops having toppled or broke off already. On the constructive side they have instructed growers and field scouts to go into suspect fields, and do their squeeze tests on ten plants in random areas of each field. If the plant tops break off and the stalks have gotten so soft that a slight wind could cause 10 to 15 percent of the plants to lodge or break, earlier than normal harvesting will be advised.

Thinking ahead

Two of us got the chance to visit with a Jim Arends, of RTP North Carolina, for about six hours last week. He was back to visit his 94 year young mother in Ackley. Jim spear headed the work to better identify the best strains and culturing process to grow the white fuzzy microbe that does a good job of killing all plant feeding insects by eating them from the inside. This microbe was researched heavily by Drs. Bill Guthrie and Les Lewis at Iowa State. What they found and postulated was that the infective organism was a fungus that lived in the vascular tissue of plants and when it was encountered an insect on, or in the plant, it would kill it by consuming it from the inside.

Dr. Arends earned his PhD in parasitology and decided that someone had to become the expert of this beneficial fungus and learn how to produce it in batch fermentors so it would be optimally effective across different soil types in controlling the greatest number of insects. Why this might be important is that as more of the insects attacking our crops become pyrethroid resistant, and with the use of Lorsban for controlling small, sap sucking insects now prohibited, what might be our alternatives? When the Beauvaria works beautifully and is completely safe, it could become the insecticide of choice for soybean growers as well as in other crops.

I forgot to mention in my column last week that we would be at the Guthrie Center research farm to give tours of the different plots and the high yield fields on Monday, Oct 1st. Hopefully most people remembered it from earlier columns.

May everyone be blessed with dry and sunny conditions conducive to a great harvest.

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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