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Crop watch

By Staff | Mar 15, 2019

Hello again. We are one week closer to spring. While a week ago the 10 day and 30 day weather forecast was for much cooler weather and a chance of snow, things turned around for us with temps in the low to mid 30s with rain on Saturday. Seeing the snow melt was great and with numerous 10 foot drifts along the gravel roads it will take more time. It sure made those same roads incredible smeary. Going more than 15 mph made you vehicle want to swerve towards the ditches. Slow speeds were the rule.

One of the big debates and largest hurdles to upper Midwest growers clear across the Cornbelt is the lack of fall field work for the tillage farmers, meaning most residue is still untouched and little fall fertilizer was applied. It will create a huge work load for any custom applicators called on to meet the phone calls from anxious growers wanting their material applied ASAP. As big of crunch in the fertilizer business are several forms of fertilizers where the basic ingredients were supposed to be barged up the river systems by mid-March. With the expected huge snow melt and delayed barge movement different formulators are not receiving their shipments of raw material and have to play the waiting game. It may create the situation where getting the seed in the ground may happen first and any liquid products applied later.

We should shortly be able to get a gauge on rainfall amounts for Arkansas. Typically what they receive in March we get in May. Ahead of that signal there are prognosticators who recognize that the percentage of Pacific moisture versus Gulf moisture received in the Midwest has grown. They were watching the amountt of moisture received in the Sacramento area in January and recorded very high rain amounts. Will many acres be planted before April 25th ?

Planting depth

Typically in years where May conditions are dry and warm episodes of rootless corn pop up in late May and early June as the corn plants reach the V6 growth stage. If those first brace roots encounter warm and dry dirt they quit growing and the plants end up with fewer roots that help to prop up the plants and anchor them firmly in the soil. In order to develop answers to the rootless corn syndrome different companies and groups of researchers over the years have done trials on planting depth versus the number of roots and brace roots that will eventually form. The two factors are related with shallower planting leading to fewer roots.

Thus the different sources have published their finding and typically post the root counts versus planting depth. In a number of those trials the final yield data was captured. The take home message has been that planting the corn kernels at a 2 to 2.5-inch depth is preferred in most years and over most years produces the greatest final yields. Planting shallower usually leads to fewer roots to gather nutrients and moisture to meet plant needs.

The findings from Beck’s Practical Farm Research were mentioned in the Wally Farmer magazine. They made mention of the new Precision Farming planter equipment where the planter adjusts the seed depth to field and weather conditions, but mentions the add ons are not commercially available yet.

Over the years I have seen two established growers who preferred to plant very shallow to minimize root mass, believing the growing a larger root mass subtracted from final yields. Both raised very high yields, but both had irrigation to deliver moisture at regular intervals.

Kimberley’s shop meeting

A full house crowd of about 50 growers showed up last week to attend the meeting that Kevin hosted to talk and show ideas and observations about planters and their operations plus the same on tillage tools. In some of the videos they have actually mounted Go-Pro cameras in the planters and tillage tools to show how the seeds are falling, the blades are cutting, or the dirt is flowing as desired based on product design or setting. There were a ton of questions and debates on different topics.

Most growers grabbed business cards to Kevin or his son Brock for continued training in the future. A few things were surprising:

1. Adjusting the disks or fall Barracuda tool by just a small amount to level or change the front gang versus rear gang could make a big change in the job it was doing. Blade size, spacing, angle of penetration, cutting edges and leveling equipment were all stressed.

2. We just assume that planters or tillage tools are set as needed when they are delivered new from the dealer. Not so. And typically the person who knows how to make the adjustment needs to be driving alongside the machine while it is being driven through the field.

3. Watch for custom built planters using the International Harvest bars from a smaller company near Storm Lake to become popular because of their very accurate machining, use of heavy duty oil impregnated bushings, and little wear after heavy use generates more publicity. Parallel linkages have to be run parallel to the ground and stay tight to keep the openers and closers doing their job.

Citrus greening

Citrus greening is a serious disease that in the last decade has led to a 60 to 70 decrease in citrus acres in Florida. Lots of citrus farmers have quit the business and were looking for answers to the problem. There now appear to be two sides to the issue. On one side are the universities and biotech firms that want to introduce GM plants for lease to the growers. Their latest tactic was to gain approval to apply as much as 36 times as much streptomycin and four times oxytetracycline on citrus trees in Florida as used on the human population in the entire U.S. in recent years. This runs the risk of creating even more species of antibiotic resistant bacteria. After 100s of millions of dollars have been spent they are no nearer to the answers.

On the other side are growers and researchers who have been using good nutritional programs and remediating microbe to the soil. They have also changed the methods and products used for weed control. They are bringing trees and groves back that had been abandoned for several years. It is an interesting story. So far the universities and large moneyed interests don’t pay attention to the successes their opposing parties have demonstrated. Look up ‘Frank Dean – Citrus Successes’ for the story. We seem to be having parallels in the Midwest crops at this time.

The final month

Our spring conference was being held in Ames of this week. The number of people registering has been good. The number of walk-ins is still an unknown. It should be a good lineup of speakers.

The first two speakers will tell what they have been monitoring and achieving with their work on soil health and tweaking the microbial mixes that are available for planting. What our observations have been is that the higher yielding fields are regularly showing the higher soil health scores. So if all that is holding back a well fertilized field from being your top producing field is a good biological population, then working to achieve that may generate your greatest return. Dan Coffin, one of the developers and agronomist with BioDyne Midwest will be present to discuss how microbes have to work together to produce the desired results.

After that the topics will include energy containing fertilizers and how Mainstay Si produces multiple benefits for Midwest growers. They will also hear how a product that causes a chitolytic enzyme to be produced can be used to battle both insects and certain diseases. For the first time an excellent speaker will discuss how growers in Emmet and Kossuth counties are remaining profitable via growing organic crops. Commodity crops are having their challenges now due to market forces. Then finally soil sampling results, use of polymers now and in the future could provide answers to nutrient loss, and steps to use in producing high yield beans will be included in the afternoon sessions.

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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