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Crop watch

By Staff | Nov 6, 2019

October is whizzing by very quickly as decent harvest conditions arrive at very sporadic intervals. The fields are getting wetter now and with the shorter daylight hours getting the ground to dry enough to allow field traffic is challenging. There are still many bean fields standing and it has gotten necessary to jump from corn to beans and back again as the grain dryers have to catch up as there are still too many point of moisture need to be pulled out of the corn grain. No one likes to dry 25-plus percent grain but if the mid-teens to low 20 degree temps sitting out in Nebraska and South Dakota head east, winter type conditions could force farmers to worry more about the snow than high moisture levels. It is too early to talk about the ground freezing up this early but night time temps in the teens seem to present a risk of getting much fall field work and fertilizing done.

As it turns out the Tariff talks with the Chinese were delayed for a bit, but will begin this Friday. Let’s hope they have positive conclusions. It’s too bad food is being used as a weapon again. How can we change their thinking about theft of intellectual property when it has been the norm? They have starved in the recent past and don’t want to go back. They did have an official proclamation recently, and I have not heard this verified, that road kill could be included on the menu. What might their demand for us be as to food shipped into their country? As a participant and speaker at a major food security conference back in 2014 along with 29 other speakers I hope the producers are not being hoodwinked by major seed companies on this issue. Another issue that needs Trump’s attention is that of the RFS enforcement. We need enforcement from day 1. Having them ramped up over a three year time period dilutes the benefits down significantly.

I did chat with a friend out in Utah who we get a few products from. Even though he is a Mormon and I figured he would be the last person to go to a hemp meeting, he was headed up to a two day meeting up in Sun Valley, Idaho. I had to ask what arena he might be participating in with that crop and he responded that this conference was centered on using hemp fiber in building construction, paneling, and insulation. They were experimenting with mixing different percentages of hemp fiber, glues, and cement powder to have rigid panels they could use for walls or ceilings that had a high R value. Those panels could replace the normal fiber glass bats and possibly the ridged foams. So he is exploring using such construction of a new house and office complex.

Cloudy facts

I got a response back from Tom Skilling assistant with WGM meteorology team in Chicago relating to the cloudy weather they had recorded for the months already passed. More crop people have been wondering why their crops grew and developed at such a slow pace even if they were planted on time and should have taken advantage of the longer days of mid and late June.

They can understand why the mid and late June planted crops took forever to reach the reproductive stages. What the WGN crew had were records for the percentage of possible sunshine in a normal year versus in 2019. The only month with a higher than average tally was July when it was 10 percent sunnier than normal. August was slightly behind normal at 1 percent cloudier.

As a percent of normal the rest of the April through October time period was off 12 percent from normal of a reduction percent of 19 percent less sunlight than normal. So are we entering a new norm where cloudy weather will be the rule? 2018 was a year with constant clouds and record rainfall amounts thru much of the Midwest.

Futuristic thinking and


If ‘cloudier than normal’ is how our summers might be in the future, then what sort of response might growers have to react with or what products might imaginative or thinking outside of the box researchers develop for growers to use? That would mean more foliar or in-furrow P fertilizers since this mineral is how plants move energy around. Then there would be the need to find products to speed up energy cycling as in ATP down to ADP. After that we would examine how to boost RUE, or radiation use efficiency in the cells of the leaves that hold the chloroplasts which capture sunlight energy. A boost in RUE by 15 to 25 percent could compensate for a cooler summer. If this sounds far-fetched, it isn’t. There were a few plots around the Midwest where such products were being tested on corn or soybeans to see how corn and soybean plants would react to their application. I attended a meeting with a company out in Idaho that has developed and been using such products on higher dollar crops for about 25 years now and been successful with them. Now they are testing them on corn, beans, alfalfa and small grains.

While most input companies are focused on killing bugs, fungi or nematodes they have been working on studying and working with some of the top scientific teams to manipulate the physiology of the plant to boost the natural plant responses and defense systems already in place to fight off insects and disease. They have seen several advantages to their innovative thinking. There is no energy cost to the plant when it needs to degrade a physiological altering material, and the microbiome in place in the rhizosphere around the roots is not harmed with it having to recover.

Having to think about plants benefiting from a reduction in oxidative stress was a new concept for me two years ago. One of the presenters with Redox Chemical Co. had just returned from attending the world wide, futuristic, ten day long, BioStimulants in Agriculture Conference that was being held in South Korea. At that meeting the top scientists were stating that 66 percent of the plants’ energy was consumed by having to respond to environmental conditions/stress. Altering the plants response or internal mechanism to conquer the stress would then leave more energy for forming grain, fruit or produce. Then because taste and flavor are controlled by compounds termed flavonoids, phenols, terpenes, and carotenoids, producers hoping to raise highly profitable crops will want to be able to manipulate their foliar programs to maximize nutritional levels and value. Having hand held, desktop or ‘in a smart phone’ scanner available for shoppers to measure those compounds when making selections in the marketplace creates an entirely new ball game.

Yields and quality

So far there have been some very good yields reported. At the same time Mother Nature was not kind to many parts of the country and it is still anyone’s guess as to where field, farm, county and state averages will end up. If we end up short of growing degree days and sunlight hours compared to our better production years, it is safer to say yields will also be lower compared to our better seasons.

Remember that a high percentage of the corn crop was extremely N deficient for part or all of the summer, and the same for much of the corn taking on a brown appearance by mid to late August. The later planted fields are likely to produce grain with a lighter test weight and a looser starch pack. Only time will tell what the quality of the very late planted fields will be like. Will it store well or will it be prone to go out of condition?

As to soybeans, the plants in the southern 2/3rds of the state took forever to begin flowering and most plants held fewer pods than normal.


Next on the agenda might be how to manage the stalk residue in a late wet year for second year corn. A tillage expert we had at a meeting recommended having tillage tools that involved the IH notched, serrated, fluted blade with a 3 inch cupping that was on their 3300 disc. It was the closest thing to a one pass tool that he had seen. You might give Kevin or Brock Kimberly a call with any questions for for guidance.

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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