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Crop watch

By Staff | Feb 14, 2020

Old man winter is still around and there is enough white stuff to prove that. So far the outbreaks of very cold temps have been short and infrequent. I had to replace batteries in my 4430 yard tractor and remember two years ago where the cold temps placed such a drain on batteries that it created a shortage of them across the Midwest?

At times it was a two week wait because their factories could not keep up. In Missouri, there are a few inches on the level in the fields and ditches. In northern Iowa there are taller drifts around the sheds and trees, but nothing like we saw in the 2008 to 2010 era. Going back a bit longer the winter of 1968-69 took the cake. Up in northern Iowa school was called off every day but one in January. We went to our grandparents farm near McIntire to help clear a path. We could walk up the snow drifts right onto the attic of a big old farm house. Going to school until mid-June was not much fun though.

Winter is crawling by yet. A few of us were discussing how far behind the normal tasks seem to be dragging. The average estimate was than everyone seemed to be running four to six weeks behind. So the average was about five weeks. If the predicted early spring arrives it means that a lot of different tasks will need to be completed in quick fashion.

Epidemic in China

China is sure having a mixture of problems that would even stir up countries with a free market economy. First they have African swine fever sweeping through their hog herd creating a huge protein deficit they have to respond to by greatly by importing pork from around the world. Now they have the corona virus affecting and killing an unpublished number of people. A week ago the word was that the source of the problem was a virus originating from bats. The word by Sunday was that the true source was from a Level Four containment lab in Canada where the microbes had been pilfered by Chinese agents who had been caught secretly shipping them back to their native country. Another idea was that it was actually a Nipa virus.

That side of the microbe world has been hidden from the populace of most countries. Germs used to be considered the poor man’s atomic weapons. The problem is that once the bottle has been opened it is impossible to put back in. To gain a bit of insight a person could read books such as Lab 257 by Michael Carroll, which is about the U.S. Lab on Plum Island off Long Island, or BioHazard by Kanatzhan Alibekov, aka Ken Alibek. In addition to the origin of this bug there are flags raised by researchers suggesting it may have DNA inserts and be race specific.

Might it be transported by infected people, business men or women or college students from the U.S. or vice versa? I checked on the published number of Chinese students at the major colleges in Iowa or nearby states. Currently there are 368,000 Chinese attending U.S. institutions. ISU lists 1,725. University of Iowa has 1,304. UNI has 130, Creighton 43 and a bit further away, the University of Illinois tops all universities with 5,800 students. Their tuition costs are multiples higher than in-state students pay so most universities have active recruitment programs there. Any student from China who has just returned from break and has the sniffles or a cough may get noticed more by a professor teaching their class. Stay tuned on this. Anyone who lived and experienced the bird flu problem of a few years ago how fast and pervasive airborne viruses can move and be understands the problem.

Tasks at hand

Febuary typically is the time for farmers with nice sheds to pull the tillage and planters in and begin to make any updates to equipment. With tighter budgets, a multitude of ‘attachments’ available to planters, and numerous articles about the value of perfect even stands and even emergence, and if the main frame is solid more corn growers have opted to rebuild their planters to include hydraulic down pressure and high speed equipment to get such stands and increase acreage per hour capacity in case the narrow planting windows remain the norm. This year we had a warm and sunny enough September that many late planted fields still yielded well. Normally June planted corn yields are 30 to 40 short on bushels.

Fertility and weed control plans

After attending the IPS many people commented at all the new in-furrow and closing wheel attachments. Do they all work? Based on what we are seeing at Guthrie Center, other farms in the state, and what we learned at the Redox Conference and from the World BioStimulant Conference, placing the nutrients closer to the roots, keeping them stabilized against leaching and having the microbial population stimulated creates the greatest chance of growing the largest crops with the least dollars spent on fertilizer. When combined with a foliar program that continues through late grain fill the realized yields are closer to the potential yields.

Soil sampling and remaining on the four year schedule is something that maybe did not get done last fall due to wet conditions. If possible that task could be completed this spring or early summer and giving recognition to the fact that springtime results will differ from fall results.

After a year when saturated soil, prevent plant acres, and delays were problematic we have to think back to 1983 and 1984 PIC program. After the fields were idled in 1983 and many fields were not planted or support any growing crops those same fields exhibited severe phosphorous deficiency symptoms. We knew so little about soil biology that the top experts could only suggest it was a chemical bond problems. We now recognize that what was occurring was a die-off of the Pseudomonas population. So any field that did not have a cover or a thick weed crop for much of the season may face the same challenge. The need to apply a biological product or mix at planting time will be very important to the success of both major crops.

Driving past and walking through some of the preventive plant fields to count and view the massive weed populations on some of them amazing. Unfortunately the same wet soils that prevented planting also prevented getting in to get any control efforts completed. Higher rates of residual products applied may be a good course. Or midseason applications of curative products may be called for if anything is effective and labeled. In China they talked about having developed products that caused all the weed seeds to germinate in the fall, to be frozen off in the winter. Who or which company is working on something like that?

Farmer Shield

The follow up calls on the Farmer Shield products has been constant. The fact that there is now a complete lineup of product that can be successfully used to clear out heavy metals and pesticide residue is a long time in coming. I mentioned last week that when I was tested for heavy metal levels in my body I was above tolerable levels for lead, cadmium and mercury. The first two were due to painting livestock buildings and cattle fences with lead paint and then washing off with gasoline. The last had to be there due to enjoying seafood and having some fillings. Those are very long shadows. I will soon get to find out what pesticides are still in me. So any one who mixes, applies, helps manufacture, ship, warehousing or breaths in such products also has to be at risk and should be alerted.


Will this season’s rainfall in the state and surrounding area be anything like that of 2019? We hope it is not, but the risk of having overly saturated soils is very likely in the Missouri and Mississippi river basins. Many of the states to our north and northwest have heavy snow packs that were added to this past weekend. That means that developing an efficient, effective, and affordable nitrogen program for grass crops will require forethought and implementation. The use of the best stabilizers and in season applications timed to crop use and uptake could be important. Give it lots of thought before the season hits.

South America visitors

Over the weekend we received word that a top notch, 40ish, PhD from Auburn University who speaks perfect English will be bringing a group of consultants and researchers into Chicago, through Iowa and onto Sioux Falls to attend the Hefty Bros field day in late July next season. If any Midwest Company would like to meet with them to possibly discuss conducting field trials with these guys and gals in their country please get in touch with me about getting introduced to them.

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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