It was a tough news week last week. It seemed like nothing happened, as to little progress made with the crop harvesting. The week was bookmarked with 2 to 3-inches of rain with another 2-inches midweek. Then lots happened as to the weather and threats to the corn and bean fields in the Midwest. Our first few hard freezes occurred in the state on Friday night. By Saturday morning it was a crispy 27 F in northwest Iowa. That marked about the first of four subfreezing nights that put an end to the growing season.
While we can cry in our spilled milk, the poor souls with a high percent of their spring wheat still in the fields and many of the soybean plants still holding their leaves, parts of the Dakotas picked up over 24-inches of snow really deserve our sympathy. As of Sunday morning about ten states can claim a measurable snow cover on the ground. So much for global warming.
By the benchmark of Oct 15th, a date when the farmers in northen Iowa generally have all of their beans harvested and half done with corn harvest, most have completed less than 10 percent of that task. And that work must be completed before any fall fertilizing, manure spreading, and fall tillage can be done. All of this points to another late completion date for the fall tasks and pressure on all input involved parties in the spring of 2020.
A slightly higher percentage of the beans are done as most operators will be waiting for more field drying of the corn crop. In some instances the ground was too wet to run the platforms so guys jumped to corn harvesting. More of the first planted beans, based on their maturing group, have dropped their leaves and have been ready for harvest. With so many of the fields having replanted spots in them, it is time to get the mature acres acres done and then come back after the spots drop their leaves and the ground is either dry or frozen solid to permit field traffic. Yield reports show widely varying results so far. From less than 20, up to low/mid 40s, to low 60s and once in a while 75+ Bu/A. The latter are very rare and even the best of them might not turn much of a profit. The reasons given are too wet, too cool, and too cloudy during too many days of the summer. Then late in the northern sections of the state the white mold caused problems in the low air movement fields.
It will be tough to identify one concrete lesson learned from this year except that gaining full control of weeds requires extreme vigilance and lots of forward planning. Then that raising high yield beans requires a concrete plan to form the maximum number of branches, the most pods at each node, then a program to grow the largest sized beans possible.
There was an interesting article by the Robert Nielson, the great extension agronomist from Purdue, in their latest IPM newsletter. This spring after numerous delays and when many sane growers were asking if they should still be listening to outside exporters extolling the value of continuing to plant near full season varieties clear through mid June in northern states and late June in southern locations. At the time Dr. Nielson explained how corn plants respond to planting delays by completing their growth and reproduction functions using fewer heat units. (Nothing special, it’s just magic). That theory crashed and burned so this week the Purdue IPM newsletter comments on what happened this year, lists all of his figures, and points out that the expected path to corn plant development thru to full maturity, instead of completing it in 300 fewer GDUs actually required 250 extra. Does that mean there needs to be an extra component to our GDU accumulation accounting? Do they need to account for hours of sunlight of varying intensity, or Joules per time unit as well as hours of heat? Knowing him he will dig into it. It is an interesting four page piece with graphs and charts. Look it up at ‘Chat N Chew’.
In the different state reports it was noted that as of Oct 8th 58 percent of the corn crop in the 18 major corn states had reached maturity. In North Dakota the figure was 22 percent. In Iowa it was 52 percent, Nebraska was 74 percent. in Missouri it was 87 percent. If the state by state figures were so low, how could NASS give such a high very good to excellent ratings for the same state and date? Who should the farmers faced with the prospect of paying hefty drying bills send their propane bills to?
Meanwhile for the second year in a row we had a very late planting season, heavy late spring monsoons, wet field conditions with saturate root profiles, and cool in the last half of July with a cool August. In both years the actual killing frost held off until Oct 10th, but the last weeks were mostly cloudy. In response we could see more request for ideas on how to coax plants to develop faster, and create interest in 103 to 105 day hybrids that can yield as much as the 110 to 112 hybrids. I see increased interest in furrow jet attachments where placed P along with in- furrow micro and microbes get more minerals and energy to the developing seedling and root system early by more growers. And if we are aware that making micro-nutrient hungry plants wait around until they can scavenge for the MN, Cu, or S they need to complete a process, then we need to supply the product on time or before.
One very wise mineral person who has had the winning Net Dollar entry in the Hefty brothers corn high yield contest has talked about a mineral/microbe/sugar mix that when placed in-furrow has increased soil temp by 15 degrees early. Might such a mixture be something that we need to look at and consider using in a field?
Most information sources state that it requires 30 GDUs to drop grain moisture one point. Monday’s 1 p.m. temp was 54 F. So the tally for Monday thrrough Wednesday should be about six heat units. With the weakened stalks seen in quite a few fields most growers will have to combine most of their fields before lodging becomes a big issue.
Making a quick tour of your fields to rate the stalk quality by variety and soil type or fertilizer regime may be worth it.
Grain quality, plot results and soil sampling
The grain quality is expected to be below normal due to the many days of rain around and after pollination and the many stresses on the plant. The test weights are expected to be lighter and the kernels more subject to damage at harvest. Both will be causal factors that will lessen the expected safe storage time. Low temp air drying works with warm ambient temps which will not be the case this fall.
I mentioned walking into some test plot fields last week and seeing rows treated with newly released or experimental products. So far in early combine results the product performance will attract more interest. High levels of soil biological activity with adequate mineral nutrition that supports season long plant health should be every cropper’s goal. If you plan on having second year corn next year be sure to apply some of the BioDyne product to Meltdown the residue. It should be step No. 1 in your 2020 disease control program.
It is also time to decide which fields need to be sampled to stay on schedule in your two or four year cycle. Be sure to request for a full micronutrient test to be run including Mo. Rate each field for the major element and realize that lowest stave theory is typically correct.
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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