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Crop watch

By Staff | Aug 30, 2019

The first two thirds of the year are past and we now move into September. While August is typically the month most important to both corn and bean yields, this year, September might be just as important for corn yields in the fields where the plants are lagging several weeks to a month behind in development.

The soybeans in many cases still have to finish filling the pods and expanding the bean size. In looking for any hints on how the new month may progress as helping maximize yields, much of the western part of the state could use more rain.

The inch that fell last week was nice, but three to four slow inches would have been better. Getting additional heat units will be essential as only the April or early May planted acres have begun to dent.

Is Vegas taking bets on the percentage of corn in the Midwest that will make it to black layer before the first below 28 F temp is reached? For the USDA’s NASS to be correct it can’t freeze until mid November. The NASS crew pulled out of the tour due to physical threats made against them.

The ProFarmer Crop Tour is history and at least the crew of participants admitted that all they could do was make an estimate on the yield potential of each corn field. They likely envisioned adequate rainfall during September with sunny conditions and temps in the mid 80s through the 20th and then dropping down into the high 70s during the last ten days and staying warm thru the first three weeks of October. The projected highs in the low 70s for the next two weeks spell problems for lots of acres, as in millions of. Keep rubbing your rabbit’s feet.

As to the yield potential of the soybeans, old timers tell me that in the years they have been raising soybeans they have not seen the beans this short this late in the year. I stopped and checked a field just southwest of the Ag Leader building on the south side of Ames on Sunday. They were planted around June in 15 inch rows. From a distance they appeared cupped. Upon closer examination they weren’t herbicide damaged, but were less than knee high. An examination of about a dozen plants turned up a pod count of 10 to 11 pods per plant. Will the USDA would convert that into 45 Bu/A?

On a sad note last week’s Farm News related that a soybean association leader and farmer from Humboldt fell off a bin the previous Tuesday and was killed. Who among us has not climbed up on a bin or silo to open a hatch or helped to direct ground activity to aim the spout in the proper direction, when we had a fleet moment when we felt for a second that we were at risk of falling and caught ourselves? Our condolences to Dean’s family and friends.

Late week activities

The need to meet with several people ran me in circles and in a way it was good. On Friday morning I had to make a quick run to Marshalltown to meet with a person for about an hour. I got that done and then had to high tail it to Sioux City to meet with two scientists from Washington State.

This husband/wife team are microbiologists who found an interesting species of Trichoderma fungus that allows plants to tolerate extreme heat, cold conditions and extreme drought. In trials it more than doubled corn yield in the 2017 drought in South Dakota when it was applied using Y-drops after the dry weather had started.

They had visited several sites where yield trials were being conducted. The data so far had documented 30 percent yield increases in alfalfa. Rusty and Regina are postulating that their microbe is lowering or eliminating the oxidative stress levels in the plant leaving them more energized to product dry matter. This seems to be one of the goals of many of the Redox products. Less stress equals healthier plants better able to spend time, energy and inputs to form more photosynthates.

The weekend

After meeting with them I had to drive back to Lohrville for my wife’s high school graduation celebration. (Thanks to Tom Latham for procuring the funds to complete Hwy 20 as a 4 lane 73 mph highway).

On that entire trip I had the chance to see the corn fields that were either turning brown or extremely yellow. They appeared to be in the death spiral to becoming a ghost field. Similar to what has become early dying corn around Aug 20th to 25th. We typically find rotted roots and lower stalks that have a mottled brown appearance and plugged lower nodes. Other noticeable observations were yellowed top growth where nitrogen had been lost or rolled leaves where water had sat in a waterhole and the weight of the water resulted in soil compaction to limit root growth. This phenomena has already been identified in eastern and in northern Iowa by alert agronomists and growers.

A few of us who have been working on this project for ten years have been wondering if when we had a delayed crop where a high percentage still had most of its dry matter to be deposited yet after late August. Then if the crop had to endure a few days of 90 F temps, a strong south wind and low humidity conditions, would the delayed crop succumb to the disease and be unable to complete the grain fill?

There were many fields that still looked very green yet. Better drainage and more retained nitrogen or the use of a nitrogen stabilizer could have made the difference. Good soil biology as thru the application of one of the BioDyne mixtures is also helping treated fields. Certain genetic families (B14) seemed to be most prone to the early yellowing problem. How many seed company signs might get pulled in the next week as a result? In about eight weeks the yield monitors and comparisons will provide answers.

Indigo Ag

A now well funded company called Indigo Ag made a splash when they announced they had found different microbial mixes that helped plants tolerate drought conditions. They expanded their portfolio with microbes able to help plants tolerate other stressy environmental conditions. This made the news and attracted more investors. Ultimately a few more large companies in the food industry decided they would fund projects and movements that could further ‘regenerative ag’s goal of rebuilding the carbon levels in the soil. The loss of carbon has been real and can be credited to a great degree on the application of a certain systemic biocidal herbicide, as documented with its patent number of PO 7771736, along with the use of 82-percent nitrogen.

To try to get the carbon back into the ground and where it came from, they are funding practices like no-till to the tune of $15 per ton of carbon per year. The residue from 200 Bu/A corn could generate about $45/A to the operator. Until last week I had not heard that their reps are now calling on farmers in IA to sign up cooperating farmers. Their reps are now calling on identified operators.

Nitrogen stabilizers and foliar nitrogen

If the recent past springs repeat themselves and the heavy, ponding heavy rains will keep arriving in May and June that result in saturated soil and water ponding, using a product to reduce nitrogen denitrification or loss is a no brainer. Products such as molasses or KtSO4, will do the job as can Ca based products or polymers such as Nutrisphere. The products have different types of modes of action, so those kindest to soil biology need to be utilized. Expect a few new ones to be commercialized in the near future.

Rescue and supplemental foliar nitrogen products also have a role. Wet areas prone to N loss can often be treated with foliar products successfully. When the root zones turn anaerobic the roots can’t work as designed, leaving leaf applied products as the most effective application method of getting the plants to green up, resume normal protein synthesis and producing photosynthates to yield close to normal. Perhaps the premier product in this area is the Kugler KQ-XRN which releases over about a 40 day time period. It involves unique layering chemistry.

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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