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Crop watch

By Staff | Apr 18, 2019

Mid-April is here and in most recent years the corn planters in the central and western Iowa have begun running strong across many acres, while the growers in Eastern and Northern parts of the state are revving their engines. This year the pace has been slowed by unusually cold weather and water table that have been exceedingly high.

Luckily the second major bomb cyclone blizzard in a month only managed to clip the northwest six counties with rain, ice and strong winds. The storm hit Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota much harder with snowfall amounts as high as 25-inches. This snow is expected to melt this week and will have to drain down the Missouri River systems, keeping the fields along the rivers wet for the foreseeable future.

We had to make a quick weekend run down to St Louis and were greeted by rainy weather, strong winds from the northwest, and some snow. On Sunday St. Louis and points north were the recipients of temps in the mid 30s and two to three inches of snow. As we drove north into a clear skyed Iowa the temps were about 15 degrees warmer.

In state news it was reported that at 2 p.m. Sunday the former Des Moines Water Works Director, Bill Stowe, had lost his short battle with pancreatic cancer. Lots of ag people including myself had held meetings with Mr. Stowe as he fought for cleaner water in the state.

He and his opponents didn’t always agree as to the best method to use to achieve that and he grew frustrated at the entire process and slow efforts to change the system. It took a while before Bill and his colleagues were finally educated enough to realize that applying the right amount of nitrogen was trickier than putting a man on the moon, as several separate biological systems are involved. In spite of any disagreements you still had to respect the opinions of people that work hard to do what they think is right. I had talked to both Bill Stowe and Northey about a new nitrogen stabilizer that could be available shortly and would be the answer that both farmers and regulators would welcome.

Spring field work progress

Traveling around in the state last week it was easy to see that very little field traffic was getting done. There were a few growers north and northeast of Des Moines able to get into their better drained fields and get a few hours of 82 percent applied before rain on Wednesday stopped that work.

One ambitious corn grower southeast of Marshalltown was busy planting on his better drained Tama soil type fields. He was ready to finish another of his fields when I stopped to watch him work. Normally planting in soil with a temp near 40 degrees is not recommended but the calendar says it is time to start if the soil is fit.

More growers in central Iowa were able to get started with fertilizer applications and tillage work, with a few of them getting stuck in the mucky soils. There were reports of growers making deeper ruts that quickly filled-in with water or were having to deal with stuck equipment. The general consensus was that most fields would have to drain and dry off better before the machinery could operate.

Spring wheat planting

Throughout most of South Dakota and Minnesota the prognosticators were expecting and hoping to be able to begin working the ground and planting their spring wheat around May 1st. With measurable rain expecting to reach our four state region by mid-week any further slowdown could jeopardize the planting of that crop as growers may not be able to meet their May 15th deadline for that crop and force them into planting corn or soybean.

Their chance of finding a profitable alternative crop is limited. Any further planting delays would add to the growing glut of soybeans, already being expanded as African Swine fever decimates more of the Chinese herd.

Repairing and restoring flood damaged fields

For many land owners in western and southwest Iowa repairing and restoring flood damaged fields will be an important task. After the water goes down and crop residue or debris is moved away, the next step will be to restore the microbial populations as soon as possible. In looking over possible choices on how to do this one thought is to apply a granulated manure fertilizer such as Perfect Blend, which has shown the ability to spur enough microbial growth to reform 8 inches of brown/black topsoil within two seasons. Rates of 500 to 1,000 pounds an acre worked well in their trials and could be applied with the current spinner spreader application rigs. The same thought could apply to ponded fields where water sat for weeks or months in 2018.

Dicamba thoughts

Most Midwestern states still had more dicamba drift complaints than considered tolerable the last two to three seasons.

It was apparent that monied interests got rewarded, as basic tenants such as being a good neighbor in rural America are put at risk with such a volatile and potentially damaging product. EPA tried to mandate a one size fits all policy across the U.S. even though the university specialists felt that each state would be better served by having a state by state calendar based deadline to adhere to.

The observations the field personnel made showed the later the applications were made, the warmer the temperatures, resulting in more volatilization complaints. Now a number of states are insisting that there are too many variables across each state, such as planting date, size and developmental stage of susceptible neighboring crops, and weather variables for the EPA to try to fit each state into one national policy on policing the product. The EPA was in effect saying that the same application cutoff dates should govern in South Dakota and Minnesota that apply for Arkansas and Mississippi. Now a number of states have fighting back with the Federal regulators to force them to recognize that one strict policy will not fit this case. There are currently advisors who feel that it should only be used by no-tillers as a preplant product. In other cases if susceptible crops have emerged in neighboring fields those crops need to be protected.

The rule in baseball is three strikes and you’re out. That rule might apply here if more cases of volatility cases occur again. We don’t want it here.

Nitrogen applications and timing

At how many nitrogen pick up points are there long waiting lines for anhydrous tanks to get filled and how long might the supplies last? These thoughts and happenings are already a reality in places. These discussions were being held several months ago and it sounds like farmers may need to have Plan B in case they are caught in that situation. What other sources may you have to use and what application equipment may have to be utilized.

Stress tech

New strains of Trichoderma fungi were discovered by a team of endophytic mycologists a few years ago. These are fungi that live inside plants giving those plants capabilities they did not formerly possess naturally. In this case these fungi were found in the soils surrounding the hot geysers in Yellowstone National Park.

Through observation and testing the fungi were found to give plants the ability to tolerate hot daytime and night time temps as well as added drought tolerance. They also give grass plants, including corn plants, the ability to germinate and grow under very cool conditions. The company, called Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies, has been doing testing in many different countries and under varying conditions to see how much different crops benefit from their microbe’s presence.

So far the biggest benefits have been under very cool conditions early and then later, when hot eqtemps come in late summer or very hot night time temperatures. One cow calf man in a dry area of S Dakota who mob grazes applied it in 2018 to one paddock that normally supports 100 cow calf pairs for twenty days. The StressTech allowed his cattle to graze the 100 pairs for sixty days.

The liquid StressTech formulations can be applied to the seeds, placed in furrow, through a Y-drop applicator, or post emerge prior to a rain. If our corn fields come under night time heat stress in late summer this product could provide welcome relief and added bushels to each treated field.

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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