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Crop watch

By Staff | Jun 25, 2019

Anyone’s guess as to how both corn and soybean yields will turn out on many acres in the state and across the country is only as good as throwing darts at a dartboard. Such wacky weather that commenced in the spring of 2018 and continues to this day has been responsible. I have mentioned guerilla farming in the past, where taking advantage of small breaks in the weather, be they small half to two day opportunities, has been crucial for growers to getting their acres planted during the optimal yield window. When and if the ground becomes fit, have the machinery ready and have multiple rigs operating, no matter what time or day that window opens. If you happen to be in an area that the rain missed or the fields’ drainage was better, get after it.

In my scouting runs I keep driving past fields that were planted to our two major crops in June by an optimistic grower who could not bear the thought of having the field sit idle for the summer and recognized that growers to the east were even wetter. If corn or beans did not get planted, they would still have to be planting a cover crop and worrying about controlling weeds the rest of the year.

Of course everyone is watching the markets that are accompanying our planting season. So far they have made a nice run, but anyone who is out in the fields recognizes there are too many late planted fields, too many yellowed and oxygen starved acres, and large waterholes to produce the number of bushels seen in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. It is surprising how the university long term planting date study expected yield losses were often halved by the commodity advisors. Are these accidental or deliberate errors? People closer to the actual fields recognize that ending stocks by the end of the corn consumption/exporting year may be near record lows. There could be many more ships heading from South to North America or from Odessa to China.

New items in the field

There are several new things to watch at this time, some big, some remarkable, and some that make a person wonder what is next.

A high percentage of the corn fields show some degree of yellowing. Be sure to stay on top of this. Pulling tissue samples for analyses to determine any nutrient shortages can be done with V4 to V5 corn plants. Be sure to include Moly in their tests and be sure to request it. If that mineral is short and you misdiagnose it prior to side-dressing any N, you still will not rectify the problem. Zn and S deficiencies look quite similar. A few days of drier and warmer weather can improve plant appearance, but if they don’t, you have to know what to do next.

If extended cold springs become the norm, we need trials and information or what products help the soils warm quicker in the furrow, permit rapid root growth under cold and saturated low O2 conditions, and aid in sunlight capture above and beyond the norm.

Indigo Ag

Perhaps the biggest announcement was by a newer venture Company called Indigo Ag. This is a microbial company that has advanced from a startup with one microbe that imparted improved drought tolerance in several crops to one that has quite a few new bugs that do several things. The company personnel’s thoughts are that scientists and microbes are capable of giving plants new abilities that previously had been inserted via gene insertion at a high price and lengthy registration process. They have garnered lots of venture capital and attention. With these last two items they recently announced they have convinced large companies to pay farmers to adopt regenerative ag practices and growing crops in a manner that will build soil carbon levels. Several large companies such as Anheiser Busch and others have signed on.

Knowing and observing that we have lost about 50 percent of the carbon that was in our soils in many fields over the last four decades, and that cropping resiliency is based on having a larger sponge in our soils to both hold early summer moisture and host soil biology, reversing this trend will be valuable. I saw the sand and dust filling the air this past Saturday when the moisture front blew though our area. There are simply a lot more eroded areas where the organic matter has disappeared.

The program they have announced will be paying farmers $15/A for each ton of carbon their cropping program returned to the soil. Knowing that native carbon levels in the soil are based on the length of our cold season and the amount of rainfall available to grow vegetation, and that current carbon levels are dependent on tillage practices and the use of certain fertilizers and pesticides, this payment amount, while not huge, is the first to actually pay growers to adopt positive practices. Stay tuned to hear the full details.

New weed control worries

There were articles last week announcing that the Univ. of Illinois weed specialists confirmed that strains of Illinois waterhemp had broken through the one last herbicide family deemed effective in controlling them. This was the amides of which Dual, Harness and Outlook, or the Group 15 they belong to. That generated a few questions that Aaron Hager, the extension weed specialist, was able to answer when he returned the call.

He said they could have announced and published this finding earlier but wanted to do their conformational studies first. In these studies they included the most commonly used member of the herbicide family, so they chose S-metachlor, acetachlor, and Outlook.

They looked to see what percentage of control or lack of control still existed with each of them. Based on this work they concluded the manner of resistance was that the water hemp had developed the ability to metabolize the herbicide as readily as had the soybeans.

These ‘percentage of control’ figures are available and may be important to know in forming weed management programs in the future. Dr Hager and others have been stating that total dependence on chemical control appear doomed to fail. How to change without assigning us to go back to heavy duty and potentially erosion causing cultivation is the conundrum. We do see that planting into a rolled cover crop can work but has weather and insect risks. Currently no one has the perfect answer and no one has volunteered to returned to hand weeding. This is where Blue River Technology/JD or Amazone sprayers would work perfectly.

Other weed control items

The Argus Added Value Fertilizer Conference was held in early June in Atlanta with an attendance fee of $4,500. The goal of the conference was to address biological and biostimulants that will be applied along with fertilizers in the future.

The attendees included both large and small companies and the speakers involved industry and academia that understood and were steering the changes as the role of biology in plant nutrition becomes better understood. The first two talks dealt with developing collaborative strategies to improve the credibility of the industry and then understanding of how microbial biostimulants work with fertilizers, the range of delivery mechanisms, and the benefits for growers. Dan Custis of ABM was one of the presenters.

Like all conferences, some of the best bantering was taking place outside of the presentations and after the regular talks. Apparently the hot topic was what steps different companies and distributors were doing to protect themselves from getting involved in costly lawsuits such as have taken place out in California. They recognize they are next in the asset chain if employees and/or customers suffer health problems due to exposure to products deemed harmful. After the disclosure about the close coordination between companies and culpable and supposed EPA regulators, having a label may not be enough to escape scrutiny and being found guilty. The liability insurance industry may have the final say.

Insect emergence dates

So far the insect emergence dates and been running about a week behind the normal dates. This is important to insects that overwinter here. People that planted conventional corn hybrids need to be alert to ECB moth flights. Those who planted any sort of hybrid, especially where grain quality is important, need to monitor Earworm and Western Bean moth flights. A few new systemic biological products are now available as products to provide long and effective residual control.

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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