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Crop watch

By Staff | Feb 4, 2019

This is a big week for the many ag companies that either call Iowa home or do business in the state. Their big and typically well attended Iowa Power Show is due to kick off on Tuesday morning.

The weather people seem to be trying to throw a wrench into the works by predicting and perhaps delivering a hearty 40 to 50 mile per hour blast of very cold air midweek that may keep people from traveling if conditions get tough enough. It has happened before as I can remember three or four years ago camping out at a west side hotel in Des Moines because the roads were top treacherous in the countryside. Earlier there was one show where the company reps got to the show on Tuesday morning to be ready early, but by noon the roads closed, so everybody was there for the whole show, attending each other’s events for something to do. As of Sunday night the entire northern and northwest part of the state was catching heavy snow.

For the first time ever, I will comment on a Hollywood and a business person. The hottest tabloid news lately has been about Jeff Bezos hooking up with a married lady. I had to spend time in the office printing materials for the IPS so I thought I would ‘Google in’ to see who Jeff’s new squeeze was leaving in the dust.

Her husband’s name and picture came up and except for in one smaller town this has not made state news. I recognized her husband as the young man who was the former point guard for the Iowa Falls men’s basketball team back in the 1980s when they made it to the semi-finals two years in a row.

He and the rest of the team used to walk into an Iowa Falls east side cafe after practice. It turns out Pat was an honor roll student, graduated from Luther College, and headed out to Hollywood where his brothers had set up shop and became an agent to a crowd of young, soon to be discovered movie and music stars. He has made a fortune doing that but not the billions like Mr. Bezos. He and his brothers gained the reputation of being honest and likeable agents who would treat the entertainers well. It can be a small world.

This coming season

As the month of January more growers are hoping for or preparing for the fact that they will have or will get to plant a crop again this season. In most years the fall harvest went well and they had a semi-leisurely fall tillage season to get fertilizer applied if they have the heavier and blacker soils that often benefit from tillage. That work did not get done and the economics and soil types suggest that second year corn is their best option. So how is the best way to tackle the task in the manner that most of the ground went into winter in saturated conditions and little fall fertilizer was applied.

So many agronomists and growers will be giving quite a bit of thought to the best way to prepare the ground in order to get a good seed bed and get the corn crop off to a good start. The heavier populations being planted today create lots of residue, so the biological residue degraders recommended for application in the fall will likely fit in this spring.

Hopefully the snow melts off early and we get days where the ground would be frozen enough to permit sprayer traffic. If we get several weeks of stalk degradation it should get rid of a percentage of the residue, but more importantly start the degradation process to lessen the amount of disease harboring inoculum before the corn plants get knee high. We may see that at planting or in-furrow application of the micronutrients like Cu, Bo, Mn, and Zn that help the plants form an active disease response action will be beneficial.

It is too early to give guidance on what form of tillage would be best for corn on corn. I had a good chat with a tillage expert and he is expecting to be deluged with his clients wondering how to best meet the same challenge on their farms.

We plan to meet on Friday at his place to talk tillage tools, sweeps, blades, degree of angle, dirt flow, and compaction. He knows that going too early when the ground is saturated with blades could cause a severe compaction zone that will cost bushels later in the season. He would prefer to used blades rather than sweeps that had a sharp edge.

Narrow spacing would be preferred over wide as it would better help to bust up large dirt slices. This would give an increased angle on any so called finishing discs.

He mentioned the Kraus and Barracuda blades as being good to use. If you look that up on You-Tube the blades could be described as notched, serrated cupped blades. He said in cases this past springs he had some growers delay their first day in the spring by 14 days and at the end of the year they were glad they did.

Going to no-till soybeans in standing corn stalks requires a change in thinking among first timers. Soybeans tolerate compaction much better than do corn and have a more fibrous root system to explore more of the root zone for fertilizer and moisture uptake.

So more on that later after I take class.

New insect thoughts

The IPM teams at the Land Grant University teams in Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota are churning out more findings on the soybean midge. Farmers who have been achieving higher bean yields and are in or close to counties where the new insect was detected are formulating their 2019 bean growing plans and are giving thought to what program they could implement to ward off problems with the gall midge. They were first wondering if a spring time seed applied product used in early May would last thru August. So far what we have seen is that they don’t.

The latest info suggests that there may be 3 +/- 1 generations in the June through August time frame.

Does that mean that a long lasting hard insecticide mixed with a polymer or a biological approach may have the greatest chance of success? I believe we need to visit with every biological supply firm that has commercialized such products. Would Pam Marrone have something? How about the new company down in Florida or the one that displayed at the conference in HI in October? Could we replicate the results from the Delta country using one of the Chitosan products? These could be worth exploring.

If you find yourself forced inside due to the expected cold conditions, use the time wisely to keep tuning your 2019 cropping plans. Look through the different states IPM conference proceedings to information that might be pertinent.

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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