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Crop watch

By Staff | Mar 25, 2019

At last springtime weather has arrived and the nasty, chilling cold temperatures of the disappearing winter are subsiding. Days in the mid 40s will become more common and the last of the eight to ten foot tall snowdrifts will melt away following gravity into the soil or downstream to the Gulf of Mexico. Goodbye and good riddance.

For much of the Midwest last Wednesday and Thursday winter went out with a big bang. Generally conditions east of Hwy 71 were mostly overcast and wet, dangerous stormy weather was the rule across western of Hwy 71. Through that territory in western Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Colorado down through Texas a so-called Bombgenesis cyclone blizzard swept through with snows amounts as great as 18-inches along with winds up to 107 mph hour. It shut down airports and interstate travel, caused major flooding through fields and towns, and endangered livestock as the calving season was underway for the beef producers across the states.

In a published story where weather anomalies such as this storms are dissected and analyzed this bomb cyclone was analyzed, records were set for the greatest pressure drop in a 16 or 24 hour time period. Check out this link: www.geoengineeringwatch.org/manufacturing-winter-weather-engineering-a-bombogenesis-cyclone/

Just as in many of the major hurricanes in the last few years that became weather monsters in a short period of time, such very strong storms seem to be getting energized by unnatural sources. In this instance heavy rainfall before the frost in the ground was gone and before the ice in the streams and rivers had melted created jams that backed the water up creating serious flooding. What had been a minor storm intensified dramatically in a very short time frame. A week from now the water and ice may be gone, but for those in the center of such storms the problems were very real and caused long lasting effects.

On the local sport scene both the Hawk and Clone basketball teams participated in their conference tournaments. Both played well. It was really fun to watch the ISU Cyclones, who limped through the last third of the season, wake up and played with fire and passion in their three games to take home the trophy.

It was fun to see the fans and the players celebrate after the blowout game with Kansas. Who would have guessed that? In a phrase mentioned before, they have a team of MacDonald’s All Americans while our team eats at MacDonald’s. Hats off to Steve Prohm, his coaches and the game strategy they developed. May they proudly display their trophy. It was a case of the ‘blue collared’ versus the ‘Blue Bloods’.

The March 14th conference

The conference held March 14th in Ames was a success. There were over 100 people in attendance and the comments about the information presented and the quality of the presenters was top notch. More people should have been there as the information was up to date and actually consisted of stuff they could learn from and take home to successfully incorporate into their operations this coming season.

Too often ag people go to meetings, eat a few pieces of chicken, and hear the same topics as the year before with no new information.

This one started with two good talks giving the latest information about soil health and so called disease suppressive soil. Young Mitchell Hora wove a story about how the microbes in the soil are involved in growing healthy and productive crops while Dan Coffin with BioDyne Midwest talked about their microbial mixes working symbiotically to grow healthy, disease free plants. With the proper beneficial microbes making minerals available and influencing plant growth the dynamics of the microbials help to inhibit plant pathogens reducing the need for expensive disease controlling compounds.

Up next was a discussion on tillage and planting equipment and how each tool used could be set or utilized to do the best job possible, acknowledging that conditions are different in each field on different days given different moisture conditions. What this did was generate interest in hearing more of the information on another day in smaller meeting. We all have questions on equipment that very few people can answer on a knowledgeable level. Hats off to Kevin on this and the experience he has gathered.

Next up was Dr. McNeill of Algona who led a discussion on pertinent talk for some, one on the steps and thinking involved in transitioning a few acres or fields to organic production. There are 42,000 acres in organic production in two counties in north central Iowa with most growers being quite profitable.

The fellows who have made the switch successfully typically went into it with optimistic visions of the future and worked towards being successful. The mentality and action involved in how they achieved this, and the preplanning thought process were discussed. This talk went longer than expected when audience members asked lots of questions. A picture was shown of the small hand held food scanner that has been developed for grocery shopping housewives to use as they go to the grocery stores to select their food items. Their cheap cost and the fact that for $5 to $7 each the scanning equipment and software could be put into smart phones in the near future surprised people.

Eric Massey, the Technical Rep from Redox Chemical Company led a discussion of their products as to how they should be used and how they are proving beneficial to growers of specialty crops and row crops. They plan to conduct more plot work in the Midwest on our major crops to see which combinations prove to be the best in supporting high yields, stress reduction, and plant quality.

A person has to be futuristic in their thinking to catch everything he mentioned. Foliar fertilization along with reducing oxidative stress are two areas they specialize in. Those are not yet mainstream topics but may have great value as yield contest winners attest to.

The finals talks centered on the other practices and management tools that are being experimented with in plots, fields and at research farms as growers try to find the right combination of products able to increase yields and generate higher ROIs.

We recorded the conference and should have thumb drives including covering the presentations available within a week or two. Look for the information at our website.

Pork producer’s threat

The news on this latest topic showed up late in the week. Fifty cargo containers of food products shipped from China ending up at a New Jersey port were found to hold hidden pork products smuggled into the U.S. without proper testing for the presence of African Swine Flu. This could be a big deal, as the virus can move through finished pork products as well as carcasses.

If the highly infective ASF would get into the U.S. it could spread very rapidly and cost an estimated $11 billion to fight. They caught these containers, but how many other shipments may have come in thru other ports undetected?

New challenges for crop producers

Two hot topics on the winter crop meeting circuit were the soybean gall midge and the new fungal disease called Tar Spot.

The midge infected counties lay mostly in northeast Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, and western/northwest Iowa. Based on visiting with attendees at the Iowa Power Show the damaged plants may have been found in fields as far east as Highway 169 in western Iowa.

No farmers of any size like to be told there is nothing they can do about a pest problem that may cost them bushels. They first wonder if there is an insecticide that will last long enough to control the insect over its multiple generations. We spent time with a PhD parasitologist who has been producing a biological fungus for use in the organic world for at least a decade that was well researched at ISU. He thinks it should work for this pest as it has been used to control insects and diseases in research and field setting around the world. The documentation for this work exists. The original researchers were planning to place spores in a corn cob mix and spread them using combine mounted Gandy boxes.

The other item is the tar spot in corn. When it was first detected in the Midwest no one could say that it reduced yields. That has changed and the current word is that it shaved yields by 30 to 50-plus bu/A.

Very little information has been published about how each seed company’s hybrids tolerated’ the disease, as only one company and one university have compiled any list. The current advice is to be very vigilant with this pathogen. None of the investigators have done any tissue testing on plants in severely infected fields. At present maintaining high mineral levels, and managing residue so as to minimize inoculum, and scouting to spot early infection seem to be the best management steps to use.

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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