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Crop watch

By Staff | Jan 25, 2019

As we enter the last half of January 2019 we will slowly acknowledge that the spring planting season is now only about three months away. Typically we like to have most of the major decisions made within the next five or six weeks. After that if our budget forecasts indicate that if new products available for the coming season have a high likelihood or increasing yields they should be tried on at least a portion of our acres. Which ones might be in that category? Might they originate from a large or small company? From this, a nearby state or a foreign source? Have enough trials been done that most forecasts suggest the product (s) should perform with a high degree of reliability on our soil types and in our climate? Now if we are not looking for the next step up the yield ladder we will never advance, or we are in the 50 percent percentile that is always playing catch-up.

Weather-wise there were sure a lot of warnings about the huge snowfall amounts. While we had our 4-5 inches or so here, it was not the three or four day shutdown blizzard like we used to have every winter. Why is that? The kind where you could walk up the drifts onto the roof of an old, tall, square farm home.

On the athletic front it was great to see the Clemson demolition of Bama. Now our Clones need to deliver against KU tonight. I was rooting for the Chiefs being my Viking didn’t meet the preseason expectations. Go Rams.

Soybean seed quality

As the soybean seed buying season progresses this winter the topic bound to come up is seed quality. Remember the issue with grain quality being poor last fall when the weeks of constant rain through September and October created major delays in getting the beans harvested and major problems with damaged grain. The damage was caused by several different fungi bent on using the pod and seed as a food source.

Two of the major species that were involved were Phomopsis and Diaporthe. Over the winter the Phomopsis often tends to disappear in storage. Apparently not this season. I heard and saw seed damage last fall that ranged from 10 percent up to 70-plus percent. Now the issue of low germinating seed affects many companies, or basically those companies where only a low percentage ripened and was harvested with no harvest delays, is rearing its head.

There may not be any perfect solution to the problem. Will there be ways where the seed can be sourced and treated so the germ and vigor will be high enough to guarantee decent stands? Should a person get their soybean seed naked and have it treated at the dealer’s place of business, so as to see what its pretreated condition is. The current recs will to be sure to use one of the DMI or SDHI fungicides in the treatment mix, so the seedlings remain healthy in the field.

Even the largest companies will be affected by this as the wet fall weather was larger than just the Midwest. The earlier varieties may have the advantage here, but only if the harvest window was open in the particular area. Sept 1st was when the heavy rains began.

More bean growers are asking about what methods to use for high yield beans. Devoted bean growers typically relate that no one product or step acts all alone. Instead it requires a well planned, systems approach where you have the plan written down, products planned ahead of time, intentions to implement it, then do your best to feed and maintain plant health thru the entire season and hope the rains come at the optimum times.

Foliar nutrition

Does foliar application of sugar play a role in high yield crops? Lots of ‘experts’ scoff at that idea. Lots of high yield farmers swear by it. I know of only one bonafide PhD plant researcher at a major university who ran a long term study to identify the benefits of foliar sugar. It was sponsored by a major ag company.

At the end they looked at the data, said it was a great study, but nothing they could patent, so they lost interest. They said he didn’t even have to write up the results and discussion if he didn’t want to. What he learned and could teach was valuable, as could many companies selling input products and are interested in giving guidance to interested growers. Genesis Ag is a company holding such a meeting in Ames on Tuesday that will be showing the results of their trials and what different timings and products showed on sap analyses.

A year ago the same company was in Ames. One of the speakers was one of the ‘keepers of the ancient knowledge’. The invited university speaker was a modern day crop PhD modeler good at doing deep calculations showing what size crop yields were possible based on known factors. His calculations showed the soybean yields over 100 Bu/A were not possible. He was limited in his thinking because energy can be delivered to the plants via foliar nutrition or by raising the Radiation Use Efficiency (RUE) as explained by the first speaker. Thicker leaves with a deeper layer of chloroplasts containing cells make that possible. Foliar applications of Si applied during crucial plant growth and reproduction stages make higher yields possible. Foliars can also help to deliver energy to the plants. Several of the newer Ca/k/Mg foliar (Nutraboost) products improve yield by increasing the seed size. Kip’s seed size was about 1900/lb in his 154 Bu/A field.

Work by Tukey at MSU with label fertilizers let him calculate the efficiency factor of foliar nutrition versus soil applied minerals. Growers who are faced with high fertilizer costs, low soil test levels, very high or low pH levels, or low Haney scores can counter the negative effects by utilizing supplemental foliar nutrition.

Haney scores

The phrase Haney score is heard commonly. It is a series of tests whereby the biological ability of the microbes to convert minerals stored in the solid form to the liquid and plant available form is measured. In short the little microbial bodies become little fertilizer packets to the plant as they die and rot. This thinking is why the discussion of soil fertility has evolved from a chemical based system to being biology based. Plants and our digestive system rely on these microbes for the minerals they make available as they function to release the fixed nutrients.

One of the best ROI, low cost products now available that we have tested is the BioDyne 401/801 applied at planting. They have the 29 bug mix operating to free up nutrients, fix N, and help keep the plants feed and healthy. Its partner is the 501 for residue degradation. Now with a multitude of bacterial and fungal pathogens causing disease problems, the proper method of disease control will depend on good plant nutrition and ensuring the quick degradation of crop residue in the fall and over the winter, followed by a fungicide application if needed, rather than soley relying on the application of a fungicide near tasselling. With tar spot being the new ‘bogey man’, it has been deemed a threat over much of the upper Midwest, we will have to be even more vigilant.

I spent time on the net looking up articles on the tar spot disease. The best are coming from Dr. Damon Smith of the University of Wisconsin as it hit the southern part of his state and N Illinois quite hard. So far companies under the Ag Reliant group were the only one seed company to publish ratings on their hybrids. Being it has been seen across parts of Iowa, corn growers need to pay attention.

Iowa Power Show

The big Power Show is on the calendar for next week. I will be at the Central Iowa Agronomy and Supply booth at the usual location at the base of the escalator. Stop by to say hello if you make it there. We will be willing to visit and answer any questions you might have.

See you there.

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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