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Crop watch

By Staff | Mar 6, 2020

Wham, bam, and we are now into the month of March. February came and went quickly for most of us. The warmer and longer days are great for our psyche plus they are great indicators that nature is waking up. Around here a few of the spring flowering plants have emerged plus the geese and swans are making their presence heard. The bees have also been out already. Most of our snowbanks are close to disappearing and the Midwest skiing enthusiasts are getting what they think may be their last runs of the season.

So with spring arriving ahead three to four weeks early and the crazy cropping season putting most growers four to six weeks behind schedule in making many cropping decisions how do all the cropping people get all those things done in just a few weeks? Those growers who are observing nature are guessing they could be out in the fields in about three weeks. We stopped and visited with Ray Ward at his lab in Kearney, NE last Wednesday and he is already receiving soil samples from southern Nebraska farmers and agronomists who found out that the frost is out of the ground in their respective areas. The fly in the ointment for people who are watching are aware is that areas in the south and southeast have been extremely wet in February. Does that rainfall move to the north in mid to late March or April? After two delayed planting seasons every crop grower is going to try to plant as early as possible to get the seeds in the ground.

Viral news

The Coronavirus spreading through Europe and Asia on a major scale in major way and now a bit in the U.S. is still making news. We have been checking a few things out and visiting with a few knowledgeable people in an attempt to figure out the who, what, how and why of the situation. I finally got my hands on a 2015 research paper out of the University of North Carolina that was printed in Nature Medicine entitled ‘A SARS-like Cluster of Circulating Bat Corona Viruses Show Potential for Human Emergence.’ The authors and groups listed as participants are from UNC, NIH, FDA, Harvard Medical, Zurich Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That is an impressive group of research groups with deep credentials. Usually if they are researching things they are making stuff. The ‘what’ is apparent. Something got out, on purpose or due to lax security or people being careless? Did the switching to 5G trigger something a biological factor to turn on in the Silicon Valley of China city? The ‘who dun it’ has to be figured out yet. Which person or group benefited the most from this event? Who sold short on Wall Street and picked up billions or trillions on the deal? If it was a man-made calamity, who or which company (s) was evil and powerful enough to pull it off. We can only speculate on this and the truth may never get out. Remember it is an election year and in the recent decade the appearance of supposed epidemics have become the norm.

In both the long term it will likely make U.S. businesses think twice before moving their factories and supply chains to foreign soils. If we see vehicles, industrial equipment like mills and lathes, farm equipment, or HVAC equipment needing repair parts it might take many months to acquire those parts. Who can afford major delays in fixing equipment, especially if difficulties in acquiring electronic or machined parts hurt business or schools around the world? Can we get the crops planted on time and received the crop protection products we use if the intermediates for crop protection products are not available, cannot be shipped on time or shipped at all? Will our foreign markets for food and high tech equipment get smaller or larger? With our current need for more skilled workers and localized production we could follow the German model and place more factories in smaller cities and towns where high paying jobs are really needed. Both parties would then be served. Skilled tech school and college grads could both be served and remain in their home areas or states if they so desire.

Tasks at hand

Addressing fertility needs could be the first task for growers once they get into the fields. That thought was reinforced when growers walked through the many displays at the Iowa Power Show. There were many booths where in-furrow planter attachments were on display. It is common knowledge that placing low salt fertilizer in the soil close to the initially small roots will foster earlier and larger growth as well as increasing fertilizer efficiency, especially if overall mineral levels are on the low side.

The opposing view is that making the planting time application takes time and reduced the number of acres planted per how and per day. This last fact can be true, so with each grower and field being different the grower will have to prioritize what is most important. If the weather ever shapes up the argument in favor of furrow jet equipped planters looks to maximize bushels per fertilizer dollar spent.

More growers are then discovering that placing biologicals in the same slot even offers more benefits in that those ‘BioStimulant’ typically enhance root growth to boost the development of the plant and positively affect overall yield. Those attachment also allow additional biological or mineral products to be applied at low rates. By the time the seeds arrive at the farms point of operation there is no room left on the seed to add anything else.

Fungicide thoughts

One thought that more corn and bean growers have been having is that they need to be thinking about disease control earlier in the season, as in boosting stalk degradation in the fall or early spring by adding a microbial mix yet this spring if they did not complete that task last fall. This should help reduce the amount of fungal or bacterial inoculum.

I have also mentioned that most growers would benefit from buying and reading the No. 1 selling reference book by Huber entitled ‘Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease’. Just as in humans, deficiencies in immune important minerals leave both humans and plants open to disease attacks.

The newer fungicides now being developed and sold by several of the larger firms offer systemic activity and longer residual. Both of these characteristics help, but nature often allows for quicker development of resistant fungi and bacteria than companies can develop and commercialize new products. Rotation of different families and modes of action still needs to be practiced. This is another argument for most growers to take a strong look at trying a box or two of the Impulse this season.

Dicamba thoughts

We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska aerial applicators conference early last week and later to La Crosse, Wisconsin to the Moses Conference.

At the first no one seemed to have heard about the ruling in the Bader Farm Dicamba court ruling. One would figure that aerial applicators would have been the first group to be reacting to the news. Nearly everyone up at the La Crosse meeting had heard or read about the Missouri case. The lawyers for the growers of specialty crops who have been drifted on in states to our south must have read about it. At the national level they expect about 2,000 suits to be filed.

Accompanying this issue was news from several Midwest and Mid-South University weed specialists. The news was that the seeds collected from 2019 matured plants that survived being sprayed with the Dicamba products had been planted in their greenhouses, had germinated with small plants being sprayed with the same herbicide and were not dying. That is not good news for the growers has such plants in their fields that put off seed. They will have to inspect such fields if planted to beans again for emerged plants and take action.

While I am thinking about it, the family run design and manufacturing facility, Old School Manufacturing LLC, near Sedalia, MO had their weed Zapper on display in La Crosse. In 2018 they made 15, in 2019 it was 50. They plan on making 100 with widths of 15, 20, 30 and 40 feet for the 2020 season. The power needed to be effective as the widths increases in wattage, so the 3 point mounted generator that runs of support wheels becomes larger and heavier. This leaves the front mounted boom where the operator can monitor and adjust the height easily. The growers who used these machines in previous years were impressed at how the Zappers worked on eliminating the larger weeds growing above the canopy that no herbicides have been able to control. Ben can be reached at 660-851-8800, or info@theweedzapper.com.

We handed out Farmer Shield information at many booths with great reception at all of them. The people typically said it was a great idea they had been hoping for and it should help lots of people.

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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