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Crop watch

By Staff | Feb 15, 2019

The month of February is the shortest month and it typically flies by in what seems like minutes. It begins with us wondering if March will ever arrive and then we wonder how it got here so fast. The big Iowa Power Show stands somewhat as the midpoint of winter or the beginning of the end of winter. So as a person is not a huge fan of ice fishing or snowmobiling its arrival is welcome.

The typical start of our early planting season is now only about eight weeks away for corn growers in Iowa and a few weeks earlier for those in southern Nebraska and Missouri. The tasks soon will move from being book keeping and booking items to those more on the mechanical realm, as in tillage equipment, planters and sprayer updates and retrofitting.

So many doubts and questions

This past spring when the planting progress was so delayed with field flooding very common, followed by ponding and major excess water problems, yet the crops were so highly rated by USDA and NASS personnel with high projected yields and most of the people who had to deal with those issue were wondering why they were still so optimistic in their yields predictions. Now in a season ending review article by John Macintosh, author of very great season ending review articles in many recent years, the truth appears to be coming out. In this article entitled ‘Pie in the Sky’ Mr. Macintosh moves state by state across the major corn and bean producing sites to compare official production states to the figures from long term extension, corn grower, and private yield trials. He figures those plots were less likely to get babied, were larger with more potential to be damaged by flooding or gully washers, or less likely to be lied about than governmentt figures.

In addition he adjusted for early harvested versus late harvested acres in both corn and beans. Given the extreme delays in harvested acres where late harvested acres were as much as 40 bushel an acre less the tally for lost bushels was 833 million bushels. Then John mentioned the areas such as southeastern Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and parts of northwest Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska where they had major windstorms that blew lots of acres over.

In a few of those areas with windstorms the growers who had wind insurance only got compensated for their field losses if they made no attempt to pick up downed corn. I know in some areas corn near 190 bushel and acre was abandoned because the insurance demanded it or grain quality from excess water forced it.

So add in another 250 million bushels. Combine those lost bushels with export figures 60 percent above the previous year and all of a sudden the corn supply is smaller than expected.

Seed quality

The quest to find an adequate supply of decent germinating SB seed is becoming a task for more companies. Planting seed with a germinations level of 39 percent does not seem like a good idea, especially if the spring weather is cool and wet. After seeing the fellow in Nebraska achieving 140 bushel an acre yields at a population of 50,000 seeds per acres we have to acknowledge that bean plants can compensate tremendously, but at this point not all the varieties have been rated for their ability to form lots of branches.

Applying a good seed treatment to all seeds seems like a good idea, but who is defining that term. To this point seed companies seem incapable of recognizing that a strong foliar nutrition program would contribute to higher mineral levels in the seed, thus higher germs and cold vigor. In fact the work that has been done indicates that a good, balanced foliar program can translate into higher mineral levels in the soil. The research work at UC Davis verifies the same, especially when Si is included in the mix.

One of the best and recently commercialized seed treatment mixes is one called Excellorate, which combines a Trichoderma fungus with a 13 mineral foliar product. It has finished No. 1 two years ago in the Minnesota seed treatment trials for emergence, stand and yield.

Golden corn

For years one party in the GM debate has touted the creation of Golden Rice saying it could save children from going blind due to vitamin A deficiency. Now a group of conventional corn breeders at the U of Illinois have announced the development of Orange corn, which has a greatly elevated levels of carotenoids, just like in carrots. The initial breeders were not aware that when rice develops the orange color it has gone bad and has rotted. The high protein and high amino acid varieties used in and developed by the USDA funded GEM corn breeding program also has an orange color due to component.

How many bushels or tons of this could value added growers grow for the U.S. or international market? The Kapel seed company in Illinois is likely already producing for that market.

Aphid resistant soybean varieties

Beginning in 2003 and most of the years through 2014 were years where soybean aphids reached treatable levels across the northern 2/3rds of Iowa. Then in 2016 their populations have been lower than treatment threshold. The reason for the lower numbers could be the extremely low temps in S Dakota which may have killed the eggs laid on the overwintering buckthorn plants.

In recent years more companies have been incorporating one or more of the Rag 1 through 4 aphid resistant genes into their varieties to create tolerant varieties where the aphis populations tend to show greatly reduced numbers. The University of Minnestoa Extension has released a chart listing the resistant varieties along with their other disease tolerance traits. The retailer offering the most varieties is Mac at the Albert Lea Seed House in Albert Lea.

Dicamba rules for 2019

The three different herbicides for the dicamba tolerant varieties were approved for another season or two but with additional restrictions. Those imposed rules state that anyone applying one of the three forms of dicamba must attend an official training meeting. Last year they could apply it as long as their supervisor had been approved.

Rules are rules and some rules can help minimize cropping problems, but the main issue with dicamba is that the herbicide has a high vapor pressure. Air inversions, which happened nearly every days between May 20th and June 20th when tracked by the working group organized between the University of Minnesota and North Dakota last year.

With Enlist, Liberty and Balance beans now being available and acceptable in more foreign markets licensing boards in different states can refer to alternative products that do not have a volatility problem when resistant weeds become problematic for their growers. With no volatility problems linked to those varieties they and non-GMO varieties could reclaim market share quickly.

Another agronomy conference

In 2018 the group of Ag people and companies we cooperated with held two information conferences. Both were well attended with over 120 in the March meeting and over 210 in the August meeting. Due to requests we decided to hold another one on March 14th in the Ames/Nevada area. Look for the details on our website. We will have most of the same companies returning and furthering the discussion points made the first time. A planter and tillage consultant will also be there to related his experiences and give guidance to those who may have to till this spring yet. More details will be forthcoming. At the two held last year the common comments from attendees was that it was the best information filled meeting they had been to in years. Consider coming to it.

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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