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Crop watch

By Staff | Dec 30, 2019

Merry Christmas everyone out there. May everyone enjoy the holidays and everything that comes with it. Remember whose birthday it is and how we should honor it.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seems to fly by. The four weeks seem to go by in about ten days with lots of activity during the interval. Part of what occurred during that time frame on the state or regional wide schedule were the ISU ICM conference and the Acres EcoAg Conference up in Minneapolis. The former was good with lots of newer pertinent topics to be discussed. It was a chance to meet with the crop specialists from outside the state that we normally don’t get to interact with, so it was time to swap business cards for future correspondence. I will relay some of the information picked up at the ICM conference.

More on the ICM Conference

Hemp Production: I said I would spend more time on what info was presented at the ICM crops conference. One that did surprise me a bit by its existence was on raising hemp. Nationwide there was lots of enthusiasm and discussion about people pondering the idea of raising a forty acre field of the crop. With the high dollar figures being bantered about the idea of producing it sounded intriguing. When it came time to actually finding credible information and making decisions on particulars of seed or plants, weed control, management of the crops, registration/permitting and inspection, then harvesting and processing of the crop at the end of the season most potential growers in Iowa realized that with the big input costs they had best sit out and observe the first season.

At this session information was given on the permitting, inspections and testing that was going to be required, the number of hucksters ready to pluck the novices, and the lack of processing facilities for any acres that met the requirement and would get harvested. After hearing about all the regulatory oversight the crowd composed of ag types that don’t like constraints determined they would be observers for the initial years and decide of the market: fiber; seed; or CBD oil they could best manage.

Algona had a processing plant in the WWII era and it sounds like developing fiber production for industrial uses, construction, auto parts, or clothing could find a home in the state. The primary challenges then may be lack of approved weed control products and risk of cross pollination with wild plants that would be within three to five miles. Grown for fiber may be the preferred way of growing it, as thick stands of the tall plants were said to crowd out any weeds. With strict standards for any pesticide residues in the oil, raising the crop organically may be a necessity. Being able to have another crop to break rotations would be great. At present the patchwork of regulations and lack of cohesive rules between state are likely to restrict entry into the market.

Robin Pruisner, the presenter, said that she had traveled across the country with colleagues from other states to build her knowledge base. She had heard of Rafael Mecoulam, the Israeli chemist, and had learned about the homeostasis system referred to as the endocannabinoid receptors, which is what the CBD oils affect. According to different sources the benefits in the arena of pain management and chronic pain are great.

Crop disease issues

Most CCAs needed to hear the latest news on plant path issues in corn and soybeans in 2019, such as what diseases appeared, how much they affected the crops, what sort of economic impact they had, which products looked to be superior in those trials. We each know what happened within our local areas, but may not have seen the big picture. A sizeable percentage of the attendees heard both Alison Robertson and Daren Mueller give their update on both crops. In the case of soybeans Septoria showed up near row closure, but was not as severe since so many soybeans were shorter than normal due to delayed planting and cool conditions. Not as many acres were treated with R3 fungicides.

The major pathogen besides SCN in soybeans was likely Cercospora (Frogeye Leaf) spot, likely due to the fact that strobes no longer control it. This was initially observed in the eastern bean belt and moved west. The newer three way products being used more against the causal fungus and offer a high degree of control, at least for now.

In corn, the disease pressure seemed to be poised to be a bad problem early, but the severity in infestations were tampered with the warmer and drier conditions during July. Once the August weather turned wet and the later planted crops began to enter the reproductive stages, the leaf diseases pressure increased in most fields. The performance of the different fungicides varied with the newer product mixes offer longer residual control and increased systemic movement.

The major new disease seen in 2018 was the Tar Spot. Because it a greater problem in wet years its presence was limited until September when it moved west and ended up appearing in the eastern 80 percent of the counties. A betting person would guess that growers in Minnesota and South Dakota are likely to see the pathogen in their states in 2020. The newer and more expensive products kept the plants cleaner and limited yield loss.

I kept waiting for the mention of micronutrients and lack of a plant immune response if those levels were low, making the plants more susceptible to disease attack, but that never happened.

The Acres Conference

The Acres Conference is an annual event and actually attracts a number of international guests involved in ag production of education. They are likely the first large group promoting the idea of regenerative ag. Many of the attendees were involved in raising specialty crops and closer to being grown for human consumption. They had a wide assortment of speakers with usually four concurrent sessions. It was sometimes difficult to decide which one to attend.

Soil health and soil biology was a large focus of many of the talks. In that respect growers with erodible acres who have had to manage their erosion on a constant basis for years would have recognized the same themes. One outstanding speaker was a familiar face, David Montgomery, who spoke in Cedar Rapids about a year ago. He is a soil geomorphologist at Washington State University who has traveled the globe to find the greatest evidence of erosion and then tracked if that civilization continued to thrived or declined and either disappeared or relocated due to their ability to feed themselves. He has written books on the subject with his next one tracking soil health with human health.

It is interesting to hear the story of an entrepreneur type grower who identifies a need among the consumers, and then decides to do something different than the crowd and becomes a folk hero decades later. In this case it was Bob Quinn of Montana, or Bob’s Red Mill Flour fame. When wheat flour began to cause gluten intolerance problem he went searching for old heritage varieties that affected individuals could consume. He has been highly successful and his flour is in a wide range of stores. His cousin operates another large cooperative organic wheat group called Wheat Montana, which a local producer visits when he makes his western jaunts during the late summer visits. A farmer friend from nearby has struck up a repoir with the Montana Wheat operators, enjoys their bakeries and whole wheat bread. Their flour is actually sold in stores here such as Walmart. It has a rich, nutty taste and it great for baking with.

Our January meeting

In recent years we have had independent and company reps that gather twice a year to present cropping ideas to growers who are looking at new ideas and products. The common thread is that we focus on soil health and working with mineral and plant health rather than hard chemical answers to our challenges. As proof that such ideas work we have held meetings and field days in central Iowa where extremely and great yielding crops have been produced.

With harvest and the tillage season being late we moved the date from mid-December to January 22nd. One of the speakers will be tillage and planter consultant Kevin Kimberley. He will have an hour on the program on the 22nd. Then because he needs more time to deal with his subject in greater depth, interested growers can head to his farm shop east of Elkhart on the 23rd. Be thinking of the second day if it interests you and let Carol, Marv or myself know when you RSVP. The meeting will be at the 2501 Briggs Woods Trail golf course just south of Webster City at the fabulous Van Diest Meeting Hall. There will be a small fee to cover the tasty meal and to pay for the hall rent. Please email us at: carol.streit6@gmail.combastrit@gmail.com or Marv@highyieldbeans.com

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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