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Crop watch

By Staff | Dec 6, 2019

December has arrived and with it another icy blast. Lots of tasks normally done in the fall will have to wait until we get another Indian summer or early thaw. As of three weeks ago over 30 percent of the nation’s corn crop was still in the field. At least the weather the last few weeks was good enough to permit most of the still standing corn to be harvested. Freezing weather was needed to permit field traffic and in some cases harvest was delayed until more LP could be supplied for the dryer to operate. Another USDA report should be released this next week, but is there much we can trust them with after seeing how poorly they have done so far this entire season.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Hopefully most of you were able to take a little time off to spend it with family and friends. One of the things I have learned in recent weeks is that turkey is normally high in an amino acid called tryptophan. This AA is the precursor to serotonin, which influences our sleep patterns and sleepiness. So if you happened to get tired after your big meal blame it on the fowl which you just consumed. Another factoid which was relayed to me by a semi-cousin was that the Colonists which landed in New England and founded the colonies were trying to escape religious persecution. Before they landed in the eastern U.S. they spent about ten to twelve years in Holland. They liked it there and would have stayed but they believed the Hollanders were a bit too worldly for their colonial ways, so they set out for the new world.

The story on all the Germans ending up in the U.S. dated back to the late 1700s and 1800s. Their country was landlocked and did not have enough ground for their younger farmers to work. The Russians welcomed them and promised them title to their ground as well as the promise that their sons would not have to serve in the army. After 100 years the Germans had done well enough that the native Russians became jealous. So the edict was made that they wanted their ground back and their sons would be drafted. So in the years between 1850 and 1920 lots of them headed to the U.S. for a better life and opportunities. Sons No. 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on could have a chance to buy ground.

Challenges seen in 2019

It will be good to put the 2019 growing season in the rear view mirror. But what can we expect for next season, and the ones after? There are lots of meteorologists who have shared their thoughts on what sort of season we could expect next season. I used to listen to Larry Acker until he passed away about 16 months ago. He was a cycle student and stated that there were up to 250 or more different cycles that had been recorded, all based on rotations of planets and other celestial bodies around in the solar system. Weather Trends 360 has had some good forecasting and is good to pay attention to. I like Simon Atkins and Eric Snodgrass with Simon more looking at the big picture and Eric looking and predicting for the U.S. trends. Until we see more sun spot activity we can likely expect that cooler conditions and wet conditions will rule in the upper Midwest.

There is a good chance that at our January meeting we will have a guest speaker from central Illinois who is very knowledgeable about minerals, humates and microbes. Because of this expertise he has been partners with a colleague in the Hefty Bros high corn and bean yield contest. He has not finished first in the yield contest, but has finished well out front on the net income. What I am interested in learning more about is his mix of sugars, microbes and minerals that when placed in-furrow at planting will warm the soil up by 15 degrees. Such a practice would be helpful if we are plagued with very cold soils through mid May.

Another person we hope to get there is an agronomist with Azotics. This British company has been doing field trials in the U.S. the past two years testing a Gleuconoacetobacter bacteria first found in sugar cane plants in Brazil that when applied on the seed or in-furrow it fixed half of the N needs of those corn plants. A farmer from South Dakota tested it in 2018 and saw it perform as it was supposed to. My word of advice to him was to track the Haney score in all the test fields, because placing it in an inhospitable environment was likely to be met with failure. They had made a bit of noise 6 to 8 years ago after they had done trials at Nottingham University.

A year ago we had the chief scientist from a new company out of Seattle. Their claim to fame was that they were testing a fungal species that gave inoculated plants great heat and drought tolerance as well as the ability to tolerate and emerge in very cool soils. When applied post-emerge to alfalfa the plants broke dormancy 2 to 3 weeks earlier for a 33 percent increase in yield. We hope Rusty can attend again in January.

Another person we hope can make it and may be at this week’s Iowa Crop Consultant’s meeting is a young agronomist who began working with TerrAvion, a company based on NASA technology to look at the crops and aerial photos taken twice a week or ala carte, using a multitude of different filters to detect problem spots or where a field inspection is needed. What I learned during an October meeting was promising enough to know it had the potential to help farmers in Iowa.

Bug challenges in corn

There were two main species of insects that caused problems in corn this past season. The first of these was rootworms, mostly the western species. They continued to show up both in second year corn as well as causing serious root lodging problems in first year corn, even where no noticeable populations of volunteer corn or waterhemp were present. At present we have to hope that the Duracade will work for them. The issue of survival against other control methods or products is likely because farmers have used either planting time insecticides or traits that don’t last through the V9 growth stage, they have inadvertently selected for the late hatching eggs.

The last item would be the heavy ear worm pressure on corn, particularly sweet corn or on seed corn. Spraying every two to three days gets old and expensive. A product called Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that turns insects in all stages of development to get white and fuzzy after they are exposed to the spores. It was worked with in the 1970s by two entomology professors at Iowa State. They we actually mixing the spores into a ground corn cob mix and inoculating the soil in a field by putting the cob spore mix into a Gandy box mounted on the combines.

This product applied in the fall has been shown to boost the ability of the soil to stop Japanese beetles in the larval stages to grassy feeding areas. It is available in both liquid and powdered forms, organic or non-organic. We hope to learn how successful it would be in controlling soybean gall midge. As insects develop greater resistance to current insecticides we need such products to use and be effective.

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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