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Crop watch

By Staff | Feb 22, 2019

Another week, another six to ten inches of snow. Two days midweek with nighttime temps below zero with strong winds. Plow out the yard and plan to do the same this next week.

When it was so dastardly cold a common question was how we were enjoying the cold. Anyone who grew up on a farm with livestock likely had the same response as me. It could always be worse, as in laying on your belly in the snow and manure trying to thaw out a froze waterier while the thirsty hogs or cattle were trying to push their way to the front to get a drink is something that none of us every enjoyed, yet got the pleasure of doing many times. It could always be worse.

Now when the sun comes out on a calm 10 degrees it actually feels warm. We are adaptable creatures. Last Monday we got to drive home from St Louis, a 370 mile jaunt, with a solid and steady rain during the first two thirds of the journey, and a white knuckle drive down a deserted Hwy 163 through seven inches of snow where the center line visible about a third of the time. It was a trip down to see the daughters and hold the new grandkids.

Mid-February musings

Decisions are still being made about what newer products to consider trying on a portion of the acres. With budget being tight, yet knowing that ag production works backwards in that when grain supplies are excessive we all try to produce even more corn, growers realize that we sell by the bushel so have to try to pump out more bushels be acres if possible.

I met with several different groups of farmers this week, from along the route in Missouri, near Ft Dodge, and finished the week off up in South Dakota. Lots of miles but it made the most sense and other people’s schedules help determine my route.

Questions have come up about the Jimmy Fredrick’s 150 Bu/A soybeans and how he can possible do it consistently. My response is that raising high yield corn is like playing checkers, where one plus one usually equal two, while two plus two could equal four or five.

Results typically tend to be more additive with corn. Growing high yield soybeans are more like a good chess game, where you have to preplan your season long strategy, have a written plan and stick to it.

The crop may respond dramatically to added fertilizer by growing tall and bushy, yet yield lower because excessive early growth can be counter-productive. The bean plants are hormonally driven, and if you understand them you can manipulate their architecture and physiology to your advantage. One major item being noticed by growers is that earlier planted beans typically form more podded nodes. Podded node and branch count followed by optimum nutrient availability through the end of pod fill are huge elements. More attention is being placed on late season nutrition, often through early R5 to increase seed size, as harvesting a bean size of 1900 per ound instead of 2500 per pound represents a 30 percent or so improvement in final yield. The point of discussion then is what minerals to apply, in what commercial product, and did you manage the crop correctly so as to allow late season ground applications to be made after R3.

If you read the stories about Jimmy, his main comment was that he was not worried about NPK levels, but more alert to microbial activity and having high enough carbon levels to have his microbes properly nourished. In his case years of continuous corn furnished the large carbon deposit rather than a cover crop.

Spring tillage

Two weeks ago I mentioned having spent time with a tillage consultant to get his opinion about what a proper tillage plan and tool would be the most correct one for a person needing to raise second year corn on heavy glacial till soils in central or north central Iowa where soil pHs, high SCN pressure, or not enough drainage made raising good soybeans difficult.

Mr. Kevin Kimberly of Elkhart is going to be one of the speakers at our March 14th conference. We plan to give him 6 0 to 90 minutes to share his idea on tillage and planter add-ons that make a yield difference. That is likely not going to be enough time to get much in-depth. He did say he may hold a one day clinic at his place on March 7th for growers who would benefit from a long one day course. A good grower from the Ft. Dodge area who bought updates from him commented that Kevin and Brock taught him so much more and went in depth on topics that even the Precision Planting folks never even delved into. Call him at 515-240-8211 for more information.

It is time to start reserving your space for March 14th. We have most of the same companies sending their reps or officials to present at this gathering. You can also register at that site or call Carol at her regular phone number.

We did add a new product to our offerings. With more fields and growers in northwest areas of the state experiencing problems with the soybean gall midge, coupled with lack of any program or product to use in controlling the pest, we figured it was time to search across the country for a product that has been working in similar situations to control the stem dwelling insect.

We did look extensively at a fungal insecticidal product used in the organic arena that is now being used to parasitize and kill tunneling or plant eating insects. It was experimented with at Iowa State University back in the 1970s and 80s but it was never commercially produced until now. Then just as we needed it, the company owner and manager increased his fermentation capacity. He will be making available a non-OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) formulation at about 40 percent of the OMRI price. It is typically applied to the seed or in-furrow, and should give season long control. See the details at www.centraliowaAg.com

Fertilizer for 2019

For the umpteenth year in a row growers are facing tight budgets and one of the obvious sectors that gets cut as always are the preplant applied P and K plus the micros. In one large trade area a friend reported that they have been tracking the P and K levels on a large number of fields and the previous low side of high to high side of medium levels have now dropped into the high side of low. This is when placed or strip tilled fertilizer shows its advantage. The twin 2X2 where the P is accompanied with either a polymer extender or Pseudomonas fl have been giving higher yields than they should.

The one product that is riling the most growers is nitrogen and how some of the supply firms underhandedly canceled locked in material when the weather prevented growers from getting the material applied last fall. Now the $350 product is $200 to $250/ton higher. Now might be the time to test some of the newer stabilizers or look at using a microbial product that includes some of the free living nitrogen fixing bacteria coming from the USDA library. These can work but require application equipment and monitoring of the levels in the soil or thru the use of a SPAD meter.

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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