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Crop watch

By Staff | Mar 20, 2020

Mid-March has arrived and it is busy time in most farm shops as machinery prep and input inlays are being made now. When the 60-degree days were upon us it looked like an early planting season may happen. Then with the snow on Friday and Saturday this weekend and cooler temps we had to realize that it is more likely to be a month off for most growers in the state. bam, and we are now into the Month of March. February came and went quickly for most of us.

What is going on in the U.S. and around the world? No more big events and crowds, no big 12 or Big 10 or Missouri Valley Tournament games to watch or championships to celebrate? That doesn’t seem possible. Then America’s game with the crack of the bat and ‘Play Ball’ is not going to happen on time, only two weeks late, or at all? I’ll stay away from making comments about what we have dug up as it generated quite a few called from everywhere. I will just say to look up the now shunned Professor from the Univ of Illinois, Dr. Francis Boyle and listen to what he has to say. Let’s just pray that people recover quickly and most communities and states are not hit hard.

Remember that your strong immune system is the best defense against this – and most other diseases. Eat a diet and take supplements that boost your mineral levels into the high category.

On the local scene, when I went into a large store to pick up a pack of bar soap nearly every shopping cart was stacked full of TP. Maybe those companies are behind the entire scare. We heard that in some stores in foreign countries they had guards watching the shelves carefully so no one got more than their one package. Now what else is going on behind the scene as this smokescreen event takes place.

As a humorous event one alert reader called the local newspaper to tell the reporter what I had included in my column. She said she was first inclined to tell him to keep taking his meds, but wrote to me asking if I had provided that information. Yep, but I had my info on hand.


Related to the above paragraphs more people are beginning to realize that our current president was completely right when he questioned the wisdom of allowing our medicines, machining equipment, medical processing equipment, many of our mineral supplies, and many of the basic components we use in producing crops and food to come from a distant land where their leaders may not think of us as great business partners in every endeavor. It is not just us, as a good share of the countries are in the same situation.

In the Midwest where we need vet supplies and for the cattle, poultry, hogs and sheep running out of stuff is not an option. On the crop raising end being down for days or weeks because in important component is unavailable won’t work, especially where bad weather can cause enough problems.

Thus going after the cheapest priced products or depending on just in time manufacturing may prove to be intolerable this and in future years. It appears that in many countries the idea of bringing the plants and jobs back home time is here.

This week

This upcoming/past Monday there will be a gathering in Pocahontas where crop producers get to hear from David Hula on how he grew a record corn crop of 600+ Bu/A. While most people may say why would he want to do that, especially is he does not make any money doing so, he is going to likely say that shooting for and achieving that goal educated him as to what new components, practices, or input that he used in 2019 paid off and are worth incorporating in future years. I talked to him for a bit at the FPS show in 2018 and got to ask him a few questions. Between then and for the upcoming season there are a few new biologicals, amino acid or humate based products, or minerals that can be applied with the planter or post emerge that could add bushels and profitability to everyone’s operation.

Each grower also needs to keep an eye out for a product that can replace one, two or three others or can be applied at the V5 to V8 growth stage and last through the entire season to eliminate an expensive high clearance or aerial trip.

In recent seasons discussing the idea of enhancing and seeking to improve soil and plant health is resonating with more growers. The comment from Gabe Brown, a noted Soil Carbon Cowboy and a big regenerative Ag advocate who has rebuild the OM on his acres in Northern N Dakota back up to 7 to 9%, on the matter made quip that “people used to laugh at him, because he thought different. Now he laughs at them, because they all think alike.”

Seed treatments

Over this and the next few weeks many bushels of seed beans will be treated and put into bulk boxes. There are several special challenges in parts of the state from insects and diseases that have to be met by growers. In several cases the current recommendation for these challenges is there is nothing they can do. The first of these is the soybean gall midge, which has been working its way from the west into soybeans fields, typically moving in from the outer edges. So far they have moved east of Hwy 71 and close to Hwy 69. There were reports from down by Atlantic of fields where no damage was observed where the yields were in the upper 60s and some over 70. In the heavily damaged fields the outer rounds were in the low 40s. The jury is out of the proposed solution due to the long egg laying period that reaches from mid-June to mid-August. Currently the four states most affected are teaming their funding to support the research efforts by a UNL entomologist Justin McMechan. He did great work last season when he and his team planted hundreds of funnel traps on infected fields to learn more about emergence time, dates, duration, mating flight timings and duration, eggs laid per female and so on. He said his plate for the coming seasons is almost overwhelming. An entomologist is a participant in this work. My take is that you don’t want to tell a grower or agronomist there is nothing that can be done to manage and insect that can destroy 45 to 50% of a growers soybean crop.

Our plan of attack is to rely on local observations made last fall as to if they observed plants that had lodged or broke over just above the soil line. Then the plan is to treat enough of the seed with the Bb2.5 which is a soil derived fungus that was well researched by two ISU entomologists back in the 1970s that has shown the ability to colonize the soil and vascular tissue. Then any insect that runs into the fungal mycelium will turn white and fuzzy. The treated seed will be planted so far into and around the fields that were hit hard last season.

There were fields planted to Bt corn near Grand Island last season where the seed was treated. The appearance between the treated areas vs the untreated was amazing as to late season plant intactness. The yield difference was 10 to 12 Bu/A. Most Bt events do not control earworm infestations, which did the damage. In many field nearly every ear held one of the fat chewing larvae that lived near the ear tip.

Chitosan or O2YS

One product we are still learning about and have seen some almost miraculous results with is an elicitor compound made from shrimp shells. How it works is it causes both plants and soil microbes to form an enzyme called chitinase that dissolves the hard exoskeleton and mouth parts of insects, nematode beaks and egg cases as well as the fungal strands of root rot fungi. We have seen it rescue soybean plants that were nearly dead and in a matter of three to four days save fields that we assumed were going to die. What is seen in southern locations is that it can act as a combination fungicide/insecticide when applied first to an untreated seed, both corn and beans. One friend sprayed his son’s redwood house siding to keep the carpenter bees that were chewing holes or burrows in the wood in which to lay their eggs. It did the job not only that year but into the next summer as well. I sprayed it on my dog’s neck after she rubbed it raw and was festering. The large area healed up in quick fashion and she is still running around.

BioEnsure or ProtectPlus

The last product to mention that is newer to us that researchers are still trying to assess its function and benefit is a specie of Trichoderma fungus. We previously called it StressTech but had to change it. Their company president and endophyte mycologist, Rusty Rodriguez, lead the discovery team that found them inhabiting the inside cells of the plants living in the hot thermal soils around the hot geysers in Yellowstone National Park, giving them great tolerance to stresses such as cold, extreme heat, salty conditions, or extreme drought. In both 2011 and 2012 when the air temps at 11pm were still above 90 and the yields were being reduced each of those hot nights we believe we would have avoided the yield loss related to the hot nighttime temps. Their yield trials data from India test plots showed that 125 F days and 100 F nights didn’t faze fields where the seed had been treated. Two other interesting observations made in the last two seasons were that when sprayed on forages or mixed pastures the forage output was tripled. When it was applied to Texas cotton the gin manager found that the fibers in the cotton were the best quality of any he ginned this past season. This product can be applied to the seed, in-furrow, Y-dropped or even foliar. The fungus seems to benefit all crops and was used on Dowdy’s 190 + Bu/A bean field in 2019.

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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