When the northern and central parts of the state got hit by two major snows in mid-April it seemed to be a harbinger of the wacky growing season we were going to have to endure.
Already many of the long term records for annual rainfall have been broken in the northern half of Iowa and we still have over two months to go, albeit Nov and Dec are typically void of much rain.
After nearly a two week hiatus during the time when a decent number of growers like to be on the downhill side of harvest, many of them took to the fields again with a resuming day of anywhere from early afternoon on Saturday, when some of the worst ‘got stuck severely’ situations happened, through Thursday morning. For many the light rain and overcast skies coupled with cold conditions kept many from making much progress on Friday. The strong winds of Saturday and Sunday finally dried the top soil allowing growers to get into most fields.
I was over in eastern Iowa on Friday and what I saw was somewhat shocking. How often is it that in fields near the Iowa River than water would be three to four feet deep in both corn and soybean fields. ie: up to and over the ears. When might those fields get harvested?
It was good to see that the Farm News Reporters were thinking ahead and were on the ball in their coverage of the grain quality issues that many corn and soybean farmers have been and will continue to face yet this fall.
In the past 30 years we have seen split pods be a major problem in very few years, and then it was more the growing season coupled with a 1.8 to 2.2 maturity soybean that had a genetic weakness. In that year there were double digit losses where the beans were left lying on the ground.
This year it seems to be the early maturity beans for their respective areas that had ripened before the wet weather arrived and went thru many wetting/drying cycles.
The sprouting in the pod is also a rarity that has seldom become a major problem. It has and is happening and it is common to see the yellow beans laying on the ground before they rot and take on a rotten black color. Reports from the field and from several states coming from guys who have been running the combines tell that yields before and after the long rain delay show a 10 to 15 percent difference.
What was making 90 before the rains are now making 75 to 77 Bu/A. And fields that were doing 60 before are now doing 50. This trend could confirm the seed drop that becomes non-visible after the beans lying on the ground rot and turn black. Spread over millions of acres in six to eight states the tally will add up to a large figure.
At last count I have heard of damaged beans that have ranged from <5 damaged to 42 to 76 percent damaged. For those who have contracted ahead, which was a smart move, and the grain destination does not crush beans themselves, the growers are at the mercy of whatever the bid becomes. This is definitely not an enviable position to be in, especially when the price of beans is already low. Corn yields So far the biggest factors affecting corn yields has been drainage correlated with degree of tile in a field or natural slope, ability to get drainage water gone, and ability of each operator to either prevent nitrogen loss, proactively use a nitrogen stabilizer, or have access to a high clearance sprayer to Y-drop replacement nitrogen. The corn growers who used the newer and longer lasting stabilizers are sometimes seeing Bu/Lbs of nitrogen down around .7 lbs N/Bu, which is outstanding. Stalk quality is a larger issue and for sure has operators running in fields they would sooner stay out of but out of necessity then have to try to harvest the collapsing stalks. In comparison, the operators who managed for optimum plant health have stalks that are still rigid with white piths. I split some stalks at the Guthrie Center research farm where NSN to stabilize the N, CaSi was applied at V8, and BioEmrpuv had been applied in furrow at planting and near VT and the stalks were pure white inside and were still solid enough that it took a lot of pressure with a large Buck knife to split the stalks. While mentioning those fields I should say we took out the stair step plot on Tuesday afternoon. With the steep sloping sidehills still being greasy some areas were still too wet to get onto. The 1197 planted at 34k was running between 270 and 290 on the just calibrated monitor. Yields were better on the flat ground but it was past dark when we got done so we have not calculated those yields yet. So far the response from growers who applied the Si product have seen standability much improved except for in areas in eastern Iowa who saw an 85 mph wind go thru and push all of the corn over. The operators called its use a no-brainer. I wish I had known about it before we had all of the greensnap events back in the late 1980s thru the late 90s. This basically verifies what rice, wheat and cane grower in Asia and South America have seen over the years. There is a ton of research on the products, but little has shown up in U.S. print for the public. Hugh Lovel, one of the keepers of ancient knowledge is also a big proponent. Until now the definitive book on Si as a nutrient was from Dr. Feing Mai from Japan, a scholarly gentleman and friend of Huber's. A recent publication I finally managed to track down is Silicon Solutions by Edward Bent, out of Italy. It has not been available thru any bookstore so far but I finally got my copy spoken for. We did pull grain samples and will have them analyzed for nutrient levels to see where all the 90 plus minerals varied by treatment, if at all. Two years ago we saw that P levels, an important mineral, were typically 400 percent higher on the healthy corn where in-furrow micros had been applied. As to yields I have heard of quite a few in the low 100s where too much rain fell and sat most of June. And I know of better drained fields where the N loss was minimal and whole fields of 245 to 270 plus were gathered. Of course the press likes to mention the ultra high yields and leave out those that were disappointing. Rotations for 2019 The USDA seems to be forecasting more corn acres being planted in 2019. They must know that all expect all of the corn being harvested on time and the normal fall tillage being completed as planned. And have any prognosticators figured in the long term damage with the deep ruts that will affect next year's crops. It is amazing to see the deep tracks made in many fields now. Deep tillage will not be the answer as saturated ground does not shatter as it needs to. The best course of action for those who will have second year corn fields and maybe even those who no-till beans into corn stalks would be to apply a biological mix to hasten the stalk degradation process. In part years it was considered essential to manage the residue. After seeing the heavy fungal and especially the bacterial disease pressure in many of the stalks fields, maximizing and managing the residue degradation is going to be step number 1 is minimizing disease problems in 2019 corn fields. If any of you are still trying to come up with answers about why diseases were or are a major problem in your corn fields this year a good book to purchase and study would be one entitled 'mineral nutrition and plant disease'. With the knowledge contained in that book and the soil and tissue test results you should be able to minimize those problems in your fields and start marching up the corn and bean yield ladder. 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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