homepage logo

Crop watch

By Staff | Jan 23, 2019

Two weekends ago in central Iowa was like being down in Florida. Now last weekend is like being in the upper Midwest right after a large snowstorm moved throug and blasted the territory to our south.

We have about four to five inches of new snow, while people in Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois have a lot more of the white stuff to shovel. They will either have to shovel, snow blow or get the tractors and blades to work to clear their paths out today. Good luck and stay warm.

Overall the winter so far has been on the mild side. The general trend is that El Nino like conditions have set up over the Pacific and the general wind patterns show that mild southwestern air will continue to move over the Midwest for the next weeks. We will accept that and recognize that we have to pay a penalty for living in an area with tolerable conditions during the summer months. Pity the poor people in the south.

Winter arrived for us this past Friday. That is the name for daughter No.1’s first child. Winter Irene. She came in at 6 pounds and 4 ounces with lots of hair. She looks like a keeper. All healthy, which is always the main thing parents and grandparents worry about.

The planning sessions continue

The crowd was mid-sized at the Crop Advantage seminar held in Ames last week and it seemed to be mostly made up of more elderly gentlemen. Two and three years ago the large room at the old Starlight was full and all ages were present. As to the reason for the drop off in attendance did more of the potential attendees figure they heard the same discussions at the large ICM conference in December?

We heard Chad Hart, the ag economist, give his interpretation of the coming marketing season. He believes the price peak will come in May while we are preoccupied with watching the just emerging crop and imagining everything that might all go wrong with it. He noted that even with China out of the bean market for the last few months the producer groups have established new destinations for our grain among countries that have not bought much grain from us in the past. Many of these new markets have helped buffer the loss of the Chinese markets, which is back with their large bean purchases. The corn export market has remained strong and indications are that it will stay that way. If the Chinese continue to read the tea leaves the U.S. will remain a supplier, but remember the Quid pro Quo aspect of resuming trade with us.

Bob Hartzler gave a good presentation, where he had to explain that our weed management programs have to take a more holistic approach where reducing the weed seed bank has to be priority number one, since the release of new products with new MOAs has virtually disappeared. The new rule is to use overlapping applications of residual products. He reminded us that in insect and weed control that nature usually wins.

Alison Robertson changed her talk a bit while still giving the major points of what to expect this next year for diseases in corn. Again the more holistic approach is to consider the corn residue that provides a food source for overwintering fungal pathogens allowing a disease to jump from one season to the following year’s corn crop.

One of the keys is to do what it takes to enhance the biological breakdown of the residue to lower the amount of inoculum. She covered the normal and new pathogens that are likely to appear and cause concern in 2019. The one that could explode in our corn crop that blasted many fields in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northern Illinois and did appear in eastern Iowa is tar spot. Last year when it was first mentioned the descriptions said it had not been found to be causing yield losses. After a year where it literally exploded on the scene and caused early plant senescence in fields in those three states, yield trials told when the ear leaf is 50-plus percent affected the early die-down could easily take 40 to 70 Bu/A off the top end yield. At this time all we have for information about ratings for genetic tolerance or susceptibility are anecdotal observations. It is too early for corn breeders to have identified and incorporated new tolerant lines into their new hybrids.

In fungicide trials that were conducted the use of one of the Carboximide containing mixes offered decent control of the pathogen if applied early. At this point we have heard of anyone who gathered tissue samples and had them analyzed for minerals levels to identify if mineral deficiencies correlated with level of infection. We need data or observations on that.

Pathologists with a good working knowledge of the disease from Central America were asked to use their familiarity with the disease to study Midwest climate data and predict the likelihood of this disease being a regular yearly threat. The area they put in the bull’s-eye ran from Ohio and Michigan west way into eastern South Dakota, circling south through central Illinois. Let’s hope there is a more tolerable and less expensive means of controlling this. But the word was don’t wait for two weeks to act if begin to appear. I saw just a few of the small spots on the leaves last season while scouting and they looked so innocent. I will see if I can get a copy of the map to include in a further column or put on our web site.

Insect threats

Of course there were mentions of the threats to our two main crops by ‘new insects’ in 2019.

A lot of the new insects in recent years seem to come in from the Dakotas or Nebraska. I have never heard why except they have more woody shrubs that may serve as an overwintering food source for the eggs or larvae.

The one this season is the soybean gall midge.

So far no insecticidal treatment is being recommended since the eggs laying season appears to be long and spaced out while there are very few systemic insecticides. Will a seed applied Neo-nic give enough activity? They don’t know yet. One question is if any of the chitosan or insect killing fungi that act systemically would be effective in giving long term protection to the soybean plants. Or if one of the newer conventional products when mixed with a polymer could have its residual period doubled or tripled in length.

Practical Farmers of Iowa

Later this week the Practical Farmers of Iowa will hold their winter conference. This tends to be more of the starting farming generation where the producers are trying to find their marketing niche where they are exploring different crops and approaches to developing their markets. There are typically a lot of good thinkers willing to tackle almost all tasks if they feel it could lead to a profitable enterprise.


Common knowledge is that the Fayette source of resistance is not as effective as it was 20 years ago. So the need it to find a new source or PI that could be obtained and give us another decade or two of good, effective control of the pests. A recent experiment was done in an affected state and they had good data they have posted. What they found at eight sites was that SCN counts increased due to the ability of the adults to increase in number by 32.9 percent of the Fayette varieties with a range of 11 to 53 percent. When the same populations were exposed to Peking based resistant varieties the number for population increase was 2.25 percent. When taken to yield moving the source of resistance from Fayette to Peking ranged from 4.9 to 19.3% representing a 12.1 Bu/A yield gain.

Now with new PIs having to come from China, they no longer wish to give away such valuable genetics. Getting new PIs would come through the State Dept. The Chinese feel that America Companies made lots of money and that they were never compensated. They are not willing to do that again. Thus we have to in the near term seek new ways to use biological products that have shown the ability to control this pest. What was tested in most university tests were patentable products that carry the baggage of causing detrimental effects on soil biology. There were several EPA labeled products built around chitinase producing seed and in-furrow applied products that could be valuable to growers in the Midwest.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or www.CentralIowaAg.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page