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Crop watch

By Staff | Apr 14, 2020

With the intermittent warm and sunny days winter is slowing losing its grip on the northern Midwest states and its inhabitants. Slowly but surely each day gets longer and we see more signs that nature has awakened and it is ready to bloom. The early flowers are up, fresh gopher mounds are appearing, pastures and hay fields have turned green and the early grains and forages are being planted. The tallest rhubarb plants are about three weeks away from being harvestable. Now more corn planters are parked in the yards after being updated and prepared for another busy season. At least progress is being made on the farm scene.

Meanwhile in many states the people are under a lock down order. I don’t know if enough of them are skeptical about the official narrative of this so called pandemic. Shouldn’t the health officials be willing to test cheaper and readily available treatment products that have the potential to fight the virus rather than wait for a vaccine that may have dire side effects? Taking in good nutrition that fosters a healthy immune response makes a lot more sense.

On Saturday morning I received a call from a wise and alert Story County farmer who asked if I had read that a commonly used animal wormer trialed in medical settings in Australia had proved effective in killing and eliminating the virus within 48 hours. Sure enough the news and alt press articles were being published by Sunday evening. This pandemic is looking more like a campaign to get everyone vaccinated. A world traveling close friend who often travels southeast Asia asked a few profound questions as to why the virus moved 12,000 km to NY and 18,000 km to Sao Paulo but couldn’t make it 700 miles to Beijing or 400 miles to Shanghai.

For a good summary position look up on Next News Network the interview of Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai. We have been with him on conference calls in the past and found him to be one of the best combinations of smarts, ambition, common sense, and empathy for the working people of which he is one. In the interview he outlines what modern medicine should look like if it to live up its Hippocratic Oath. Meanwhile we tried our first dose of tonic water and a ground zinc tablet. It tasted like lemon or lime aide. I took mine with a dash of peach schnapps. Not bad.

Field progress

The corn planting season is getting closer. The soil temps need to warm a bit but if the ground is dry enough we will likely to see the planters running by late week with the most adventuresome farmers who have a lot of acres to get done. The only worrisome aspect to this are the lower than normal cold germ test results they are getting from independent labs after they send their larger lots of seed in. I was informed by concerned growers who were looking a germs in the low to mid 60% range. They were suspecting the seed may have been raised in the eastern Corn Belt states, being planted early, having collected a lower than normal amount of heat units and sunshine, then killed early with salt water. If that might be you but you never had any testing done it may be wise to plant your heavier seed first. On the other or perhaps the first option may be to use a product like Excellorate from ABM which is a combination of microbes and minerals proven to improve germination and early vigor of the seedlings.

One management step advocated by a number of high soybean yield achievers was to plant soybeans earlier, with some going in before their corn is planted. This has the effect of allowing more vertical growth and plant height before flowering. The net result is more podded nodes. The trick then is to also use products or management tools to add more branches at the same time.

In recent years the newer varieties from the larger soybean breeding companies have shown the ability to form more branching plus form a flower stalk called a raceme. Such racemes on determinant or semi-determinant beans in South America can form up to 26 flowers and possibly form two such racemes per node. This trait fosters the thought that bean yields can be coaxed even higher with the right management and input programs in place. The most surprising thing about walking in most high yield bean fields is that a good management program can keep the beans about knee high, keeping them from lodging and minimizing the risk of white mold becoming a problem.

Corn and soybean insect threats

With early planted soybeans comes the increase threat of the small developing and emerged seedlings from bean leaf beetles. This is truer if the field is located near a large wooded area or CRP tall grass prairie. So if a farmer is still treating their seed or deciding on what products to have applied to their seed any fields that fit that parameter of susceptibility or of earlier than the neighbors’ planting date, using a systemic insecticide may be justified.

A few weeks ago I mentioned a research project underway at Cornell University and in southwest Texas where a type of insect eating persistent nematodes are spayed on the soil in year one and reach high enough numbers to control any CRW larvae in year No. 2 and subsequent years. I have been visiting with them and suggested they put at least a few small plots into the No. 1 corn state. What do you think? In an era where traits fail as do many planter applied products so, such a program if successful would provide another strategy.

I have mentioned a few of the newer or new to Midwest conventional grower in previous columns. One of those is a natural fungal product which was extracted from the soil. It was researched heavily in the 1970s and 80s by entomology professors Bill Showers and Les Lewis at Iowa State. Before Bt hybrids were developed they knew this fungus was responsible for killing a high percentage of the corn borer larvae during the winter. When a person sliced open stalks in the spring about 90-plus% had turned white and fuzzy. One idea they had and worked with was mixing its spores with ground corn cobs and spreading them through the fields with combine mounted Gandy Spreader.

Beauveria bassiana

When the Bb spores in the liquid or talc formulations were applied to the seed or in-furrow in Nebraska we saw a +/- 90% reduction in earworms on the ears and a more intact stalk at harvest plus a 10 to 12 Bu/A yield advantage even on Bt hybrids or on sweetcorn. On the later it makes the sweetcorn ears much more saleable.

Another potential use on emerging insect pests is to use the same Bb on the seed to control gall midge. Maybe treat the seed that will be planted on the outside few hundred feet or outside rows since inward protection is how the insects move into the fields in the first few years.

The supporting researchers for the JABB Company have even applied their product within the drip line under the ash trees to stop the ash borers. It stopped the insect tunneling and helped the tree recover from previous damage. This was all with a reduced risk natural product. We have some on wheat in OK to see if the sesame follow crop can avoid damage from the beet armyworm.

Winter annuals

It is time for no-tillers in central and southern Iowa to make their early application of broad leave weed control products to fields where broadleaf weeds such as Marestail and Giant Ragweed are a problem. Both will germinate at temps below 50 F and both weeds show at least partial resistance to several herbicide families.

Processed chicken manure anyone?

A few years ago a company from Pasco, WA shipped Perfect Blend fertilizer into Iowa on a test turn. The results in the fields and in National Soil Lab three year trials were outstanding. In NSTL studies a sweet spot application of 800 to 1,000 lbs. of the 8-5-5 fertilizer with micronutrients mixed with a half rate of their normal dry program out yielded the conventional dry program by over 20 Bu/a. This half and half program made sense. The challenge ended up being the added cost to ship it from the Pasco location made it too expensive. Where it still needs to be examined and utilized. In the fields where pipeline installation screwed up the ground the resulting biological bloom helps to repair the ground starting within days. The high carbon content of the material serves as microbial food and stimulant. So nutrient release from the reservoir in the soil will become plant available.

Lastly, we saw an experiment where they filled a 6 to 8-inch poly cylinder a foot deep with the silica sand and then added an amount of PB fertilizer equivalent to a 1,000 lb/A rate, then added a bit of water on a regular basis. By the end of year No. 2 there was a dark brown layer of organic matter down to 9-inches in the sand column. This signified that heavily eroded areas or a natural sandy area in fields could be improved in quick fashion with processed manures.

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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