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Crop watch

By Staff | Dec 13, 2019

aThe month of December is moving along quickly. Now is the time for conference and farm shows and there will be plenty of them in the next two or three months as learning opportunities and to scout out new products and ideas. Normally it is past time to put the old season away and get ready for the new one. This year we are hearing of lots of corn yet in the fields in eastern Iowa where it was incredibly wet through the fall along with several measurable snows. Then in North Dakota my first the last first hand report from an Illinois friend told of 2.4 million acres of corn still left to be harvested.

With the localized LP shortages, high drying costs, and lack of decent prices the bets are that those fields will have to stand through the winter. The declaration was announced that such corn will be classified as in ‘on farm storage’. A more appropriate term may be ‘in cold storage’. Now an optimist would hope for only light snows and the plants to stand perfectly through the winter. A pessimist would expect deep, crusting snow that collapses the plants as it melt. We will see how it turns out.

Closer to home most of the ‘still standing in the field yet on Dec 1st’ have been harvested, typically leaving water filled tracks and lots of mud.

Eastern Iowa late harvesters are hearing from the highway patrol people if any of the mud gets tracked onto the roadways.

So far I haven’t made any comments about sports yet this fall. My Twins flamed out as the Yankee jinx was on full display. Sunday’s announcement of bowl sites and dates should leave fans of both programs happy. Both groups could say ‘would of, should have’, but at this point all of those fans should be happy. Both programs appear to have up and coming basketball teams. We just got back from the Hilton ISU versus Seton Hall basketball game. It was definitely a big time game of tackle and scrumming. By the roster count Seton had 6 guys 6′ 9″ up to 6′ 14″, as Kevin Garnett used to say. By luck on the concourse we encountered and visited with Xavier Foster, the latest 7-foot recruit from Oskie. He was well spoken and looked very excited to be at the game.

Ag news

In the past years our working group of crops people who have an interest in soil health and producing healthy and as hopefully profitable crops, has hosted two meetings a year bringing in speakers from companies that we obtain credible products from. Earlier we expected the best time was to plan for a mid-December timing. Then as the harvest and tillage season became extended we decided the middle week in January was better. Look for publicity on it in this column. Location wise Larry Eeckoff held a BioDyne meeting in an absolutely great meeting facility funded by Bob Van Diest located just south of Webster City this fall. It was equal to, or superior in design and equipment to any other venues I have been to in the Midwest.

Insect issues

The two corn insects that became more of a problem this past season were corn ear worms and corn rootworms. The population of the former was quite large and was noticeable when inspecting ears in late summer. Recent history says they have not been controlled by the current Bt traited hybrids. The redeeming fact with them is that they are cannibalistic with only one per ear. I mentioned in an earlier column that the growers who are producing sweet or seed corn may give the Beauvaria bassiana (Bb) product a try as it performed well in field trials and entire fields. It’s a natural soil derived product placed there by nature, living vascularly for the entire season. The recent research suggests the fungus produces chitinase, which insects can detect with their radar systems.

In comparison the corn rootworms present a larger challenge. Observations suggest that our normal strategies of applying a planting time insecticide or using traited hybrids has selected for the late hatching eggs. For about fifteen years now, crop scouts have been finding lots of late root feeding and beetles populations. It makes sense in that each year we use those strategies we are selecting for those able to develop avoidance strategies. A number of corn growers are considering using Duracade hybrids to see if they might provide control. We are hoping that one of the insecticide companies might experiment with polymerized granules to provide controlled release for extended control or develop an effective biological control product. How would Bb work?

The Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management conference

Due to two major meetings scheduled for the same week I had not been able to attend the ISU ICM conference in recent years. This year they were in following weeks, so I was able to make it to Scheman this year. I figured I would give a rundown on a few sessions I sat in on, telling what I saw and learned from the discussions.

First up was a presentation and discussion by Justin McMechan from the U of Nebraska dealing with Soybean Gall Midge. It is a newer pest that appeared almost out of the blue and surprised growers when it appeared. While midges have been around for years, this species is new and is posing a serious threat to soybean growers in the four state area comprised of the corners of Northwest Iowa, northeast Nebraska, southwest Minnesota, and southeast South Dakota.

The insect is known as a small stem boring, fly larvae that tunnels into the soybean stems just above ground level in large numbers. If they are numerous enough they can topple the plants. Growers began to notice them two seasons ago in Nebraska and South Dakota and since then has been found in over 75 counties.

It was determined to potentially be a serious pest so a joint effort has been made by entomology teams from those four states to partner their efforts to begin to understand the insect. For the second year now they have intensified their efforts and devoted their members to do basic scouting, surveying and observation to see what they could learn about how the insect attacked plants, where they fed and overwintered, how far they moved into the fields, how their larvae acted, how the adult flies, when and for how long they laid eggs. Lots of work was done in infected fields where they placed conical traps across infected fields to gather data on populations, emergence sequence and timings, ovipositing (egg laying) duration, adult activities and requirements, effects of rainfall and temperature on the adults, eggs and larvae, and so on. In a lot of cases they monitored these infected fields for the entire season and often checked the traps every day to be as accurate as possible. Thus the body of knowledge went from almost nothing to having a lot of facts from one season.

They have started doing screening work to see which insecticide may give the best control. With a long egg laying season and having at least two or three generations per season plus those emerging adults, control with only one applications of any hard chemistry may be impossible. I had a good conversation with the researcher where we discussed work done years ago at the U of FL that has lead to continued research on insect signaling and attractants. Using polymer stabilizers with hard or soft products may also be worthy projects.

Another good session was by a younger Chinese born economist who moved from his home in a rural county in a province north of Beijing to the U.S. about ten years ago. (His English was excellent). His talk was on recognizing China as a vital trade partner and his projections on how the current trade spat may turn out. He opened his talk about how he has traveled in the U.S. to see and enjoy the wide open spaces and marveled at the open landscape in many of the Midwestern states. He mentioned and gave the comparison that Iowa has roughly 3.2 million inhabitants, while his individual county alone held 100 million people.

He said that with their changing demographics and upward mobility of many of the citizens into their middle class, they had an almost insatiable desire to get more protein into their diets. ASF has thrown a wrench into their plans for additional protein production. As to how Presidents Xi and Trump plus their teams of economic advisors will solve their differences, he was unsure. He didn’t say it was a high stakes game of chicken, but he said it was an appropriate description. He recognized the many moving parts and knew about the infected wild boars being found dead in Poland as well as the Chinese helping fund the dredging of the Parana River clear up to Rosario down in Argentina. Mr. Zhang will be presenting at the upcoming crop update meetings. You will likely learn a lot if you attend and listen to his presentation. More next week.

Kudos to Brent Prignitz for organizing the conference as well as the support staff.

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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