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CROP WATCH

By Staff | Dec 20, 2018

The warmer weather we received this past week was very welcome and saved us from the misery of a very long and cold fall. Now winter has arrived. We have to think optimistically, as are most of the weather prognosticators who are calling for above normal temps thru this coming weekend.

Already I talked to one agronomist who planned on heading out on Monday to fields along Hwy 30 to do some soil sampling that got delayed by the wet fall. Mother Nature is famous for giving us exactly what we did not expect. If it does happen getting around the next few weeks or even months would be a lot easier. Who would have guessed this after our first snow back in mid October?

Speaking of nature and weather forecasting, what natural forces are at play in determining storms, storm tracks, jet streams and the likes? One climatologist who provides advice for Moe Russell’s, Richard Brock’s, Top Producer, and the Nat Railway Board lives in Southern Uruguay at his healing center in the middle of a Eucalyptus forest. He had a neat set of natural material based, domed buildings that looks like an Eskimo built. As a result of his accuracy in predicting weather he has gotten a number of us to be more observant of solar flares, or coronal mass emissions (CME) as they are more accurately termed. In his beliefs the gravitational pull of the galactic bodies exerts pull on the mineral laden magma, and as it circulates the mineral laden magma sets up magnetic lay lines, which the jet streams and ocean currents flow along.

When he mentioned a few years ago that leaf scorch showing up on corn plants in northern Iowa after an active period was caused by a semi-major CME, we were looking for verification. In trying to confirm the event as being over a certain weekend I called this physicist friend who runs NASA’s sun lab on this certain mountain on this island and asked if his equipment could confirm the strength and the date. He said it was all correct. I asked if these CMEs were common occurrences and if there were ever any that could seriously harm the electronic equipment, like the grid and computer controls on earth. He first mentioned the 1859 Carrington event. He also said there had been a huge one back on July 23rd of 2012 that turned out to be a twin blast of extreme strength. Luckily earth was about a week away from being in the direct path. The website SpaceWeather.com just carried a story about this CME and its disclosure at their meeting in Boulder, CO. The experts at the Nat Academy of Science said repairing the damage to the U.S. grid and telecommunications network would have cost a minimum of $2 trillion dollars.

Lining up the fertilizer

This is the time of the year when many growers like to line up their N fertilizer needs for next year. And based on pricing, normally a month in the fall suited for its application, and fleet of equipment needed to apply the material a high percentage of the nitrogen used is fall applied ammonia. Only a fraction of the normal amount got applied due to wet conditions, the late fall, and the early freeze-up. So unless we have some abnormally warm weather in the Jan through March time period there could be a time, equipment, and delivery crunch on all forms of nitrogen and N application next spring.

So next spring once the snow melts, if we get any, and the ground begins to warm the early plant farmers may be triggered to get the seed in the ground and decide to worry about the N application later. In that case UAN or urea dry spread may be the way to do. Hopefully there will be enough stabilizer material to go around as wet springs have been the rule the last few years, and lost N has been the rule. There are a few new products being introduced to complement those that have a good track record. Even is a person is Y-dropping their N using a stabilizer has been a winning option.

Cover crops

Cover crops serve several purposes. Preventing loss of residual N, lessening erosion, and minimizing wind erosion where winter winds can be strong. Biologically their main purpose is to grow enough plant material to form extra sugars below ground to increase the species and number of microbes in the soil. Storing the N and minerals from decomposing residue in microbial bodies is what the soil microbes is the key as scientists say is the valuable point of us planting them.

In very wet falls, early arriving snow, or very dry falls getting a decent growing cover crop to emerge early enough and thrive can be a real challenge. So could we see the fall application of residue degrading microbes be just as beneficial? There are a number of people that are asking that questions and have the desire to find out.

A challenger to Kip

A resourceful 40 something young farmer in southeastern Nebraska shocked the soybean growing world last fall with his 163 Bu/A irrigated SB yield in 2017. So what does he do for an encore? Jimmy Fredricks of Rulo, NE produced a yield of 138 Bu/A in a dryland SB field this fall. His story showed up on the AgWeb site last week. In the article he told what he was doing and what products he was using. No, Jimmy will not get any seed company sponsoring him because his contest field was planted at 50,000 seeds per acre. That’s right. He ended up hauling about 500 bags of bean seed back because he did not need them. When asked his secrets he said he had grown corn on that ground for the last ten years. He believes in lots of microbial action, and to get that he was paying attention to how many pounds of photosynthates had been released into the ground during that ten year time period. Using the calculation of a carbon researcher from Las Lunas, N. Mexico each corn plant will form and release about ten pounds of sugar per season.

He figured that over the ten year history of growing corn and application of biological products, and avoiding the ones known to harm them, he had established the microbe team that fed the roots of his bean plants. And by using some of the newer varieties that show some of the characteristics of determinant beans plus great ability to branch, he was able to respond with in-furrow and foliar products to grow his record crop. The in-furrow fertilizer is the same material that a few dealers in the state have been selling for a few seasons. It has been recognized as something Roger has done a great job of formulating. If you want to read those articles check our website around mid-week. He had plenty of rain in August after hot and dry conditions in the two months prior. Realistically where should he set his yield goal for 2019? He did not break the bank and his focus was not on the N-P-K at all.

New to no-Till

With many fewer acres of corn stalks tilled than normal there may be many farmers who could be planting no-till beans into corn residue next spring. What they will have to realize is that many growers have made that choice in recent years and there is a learning curve with it. Good seed placement has to be achieved, they have to realize the fields will look ugly until about early July, and the residual herbicides needed in today’s weed climate will need to be applied earlier since they may have to be washed off the stalks. Those stalks likely intercepted the spray pattern and have to make it to the soil surface to do its job.

Soybeans moving into China

So in spite of some deep state player making sure that Meng Wanzhou, a lady official from a major Chinese electronics, got pulled unceremoniously from her plane and arrested enroute to a conference in Canada, causing a major flap that Mr. Branstad had to address, U.S. grown beans are openly making their way into China once again. That is all good and has producer groups hoping that both sides recognize that fair trade is good as it gives a home to our No. 2 crop.

One story that has only been coming from foreign media is that by the fall of 2019 China will be enforcing a new rule that all imported food products may not exceed 200 PPB of a certain non-selective herbicide. That is .2 ppm and includes all grain and other food products. Besides Russia, the Ukraine, Columbia and perhaps Elton Hammer’s Brazilian group, who else could meet that demand? Do we want or need to find out?

Knowing that China behind the scenes is ruled by a group of Grandmothers who give their orders to the Generals, what other group might look out for their future generations with more care and foresight. I got to listen to the older lady who was the daughter of the general who drove Chiang Kai-Shek out of China, give her closing address at a conference. Her words stick with me. Unless things change dramatically soybean growers may have to listen to those stories and decide what the marketplace is asking for.

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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