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Crop watch

By Staff | Jan 24, 2020

We are already over midway through the month of January. It is typically the longest, coldest, and snowiest month of the year. It seems to drag on forever and is the most challenging to get through because that is when vehicles don’t start, machinery get balky and needs to be repaired, and having to spend time to blow or push snow can take hours each day. When Febuary arrives the days are noticeably longer, the temps moderate a bit, and the calendar flips over much quicker. The month of March then arrives and temps can fluctuate widely but at least a higher percentage are warmer and the size of the snowbanks begin to get smaller as more of them disappear as the water runs away.

The late week storm was well predicted and could be observed on the weather radar services as it built as a line of rainstorms down in Texas and moved north. It made it close to Kansas City area by last Thursday night and into the Hwy 30 zone by mid-morning. All schools had heeded the warnings and called the day off from St Louis north, so most people were inside or getting their chores done early or feeders filled in case the wind and snow hung around for the full three days. In the Boone area that bad drifting has subsided a bit by late on Saturday and the end result were ditches that were now filled, but no drifts on the gravel or paved roads. It looks like a cold upcoming week.

On the sports scene, which can keep a person paying attention if they are lax fans, focused on the NFL games of Sunday. It looked like there was a chance of an all Midwest Super Bowl, but that scenario was halted by the team from San Francisco. The games seem to be different nowadays in that great offenses with skilled players seem to be the winning combination. In today’s game it seems that having defenses where the players act like rabid hyenas seem to win. The Packers from Wisconsin lost by the same 17 point margin that Minnesota did. The Chiefs with their quarterback whose father pitched for the Minnesota Twins year ago, and presents himself and the Big 12 Conference very well, is likely going to be the team we will root for in two weeks. ISU fans got to see him play in his college days.

On the schedule

January continues as meeting month where growers continue to get caught up to speed on new input products by going to training and educational meetings while also reading industry sponsored articles and sorting through performance trials from the previous season. The task may seem tougher this season in that a high percentage of the research plots were destroyed or in some manner compromised by the late planting date and excessive rainfall or flooding that happened over much of the Midwest.

With the lighter than normal test weights the combine yield monitors results are also more in question. In the seed business the axiom year ago was to look at region wise multiple year data to get a feel for how a hybrid or variety family was going to perform in a like weather year. In today’s seed world where the young PhD or MBA running the sales program a hybrid might be released in introductory quantities one year and replaced by a new hotshot hybrid when year two runs around.

Weed and fungicide choices

So the word of advice is now to pay attention and try some of the newer products, but keep the bulk of your acres devoted to those varieties whose genetic families seem to fit your soil types and geographic area. One observation I have made with seed varieties is that many farmers tend to plant their favorite hybrids on a high percentage of their acres one year to long. In the area of weed control there are no longer many new herbicides being introduced each spring. Companies now offer more mix and match blends where different modes/sites of action are being blended to eliminate specific weaknesses that exist with each. Throw in different resistance or lack of long residual issues and picking a perfect herbicide combination get more difficult. In corn the Corvus, Acuron, or Harness fb Callisto product seem to be go to choices. In soybean the Zidua Pro or Authority mixes have performed well in the recent seasons.

Two decades ago the use of fungicides on any corn or bean crops was an unknown. The epidemic of Southern Corn Leaf Blight had only been a two-season issue. Then avoiding erosion became a major focus of growers and high residue no-till farming came into play. That allowed GLS to move into the nation’s corn crop as it attached a very popular 111 RM hybrid which was planted on a high percentage of the acres. The corn disease explosion that showed up in 2010 was actually predicted by the top soil fertility experts who recognized that the micro-nutrient supply was being depleted with the decrease in manured acres and reliance on the N-P-K fertility programs being taught at Land Grant Universities and large fertility retailers. This was also while erosion and the use of pesticides harmful to soil biology allowed half of the OM in many soils to disappear or move downstream. We now have tissue tests showing that certain micronutrients that are crucial to plant health are deficient on a high percentage of the acres, leaving many acres susceptible to a number of old and new pathogens, and the common response is to apply fungicides to kill those fungi or bacteria instead of fixing the nutrient based problem. That sounds like the inmates are running the insane asylum.

Anyhow the world of fungicides has changed in that the older strobes and triazoles were limited in their length of residual activity and lack of systemic movement in the plants. We are now seeing either enhanced member of those two families being commercialized or new families such as the carboxamides added into the mixes. In nearly all cases the single new product will be sold in two or three day mixes as a means of reducing the chance of resistance being developed. Depending on how heavy the disease pressure becomes, these combos should last longer and give superior control. The door is still open to nutritional based disease suppressing products to be introduced as products that make the plants so nutrient rich that diseases and insects leave those fields alone. The Impulse product from SprayTec that is here in limited quantity is one of these.

One large factor that is not typically discussed is how much pesticides do their job on a molecular level. Several of the top speaker on soil health will discuss it but never put it into print, due to the repercussion it will have on them. I will give an example: Harmony is an older herbicide did its job by chelating copper for 2.5 weeks. This copper deficiency left the soybeans developing whitish buds and exhibiting a yellowing tint and stopped their growth for that two weeks as copper was needed in the plants as well as in the weed. Then gradually as the plant was able to pull more copper into the roots, its nutrition needs were replenished and it resumed growing. Meanwhile the weeds that had even greater needs for copper died or were killed by root rot fungi during the 2.5 week deficiency period. Weed scientists are always trying to identify and exploit differential metabolism to their company’s advantage. An insightful grower needs to learn what differential metabolic pathways are operating in his cropping program and how to react to any collateral damage being done to his crops as he is seeking to eliminate pest pressure.

Reading soil test results

By now most of the lab results from the fall pulled soil test should be back in your hands. If you don’t fully know how to interpret them, find a good agronomist who can who can help you develop a plan that will vary based on how long you will be farming that ground and what the budget allows. That can be old hat when compared to interpreting Sap Analysis data or when converting Haney results to action.

The “Show the Money” Conference 2020 is planned for Wednesday of this week. Attendance should be good as we were accepting phone calls, test messages, and emailed reservations all weekend. The invited speakers all appear poised to make it. We expect each of them to do a great job in explaining their products and how they fit in with your current program, or if they offer completely new benefits beyond what you were able to do otherwise. A number of women will be attending, which is good as we finally have products, people and a company that can address pesticide exposure and remediation.

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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