homepage logo

Crop watch

By Staff | May 7, 2020

What a difference a year makes. We went from an Easter snow in northern Iowa to planting the first corn and beans in the later part of the week. Due to the cold temps predicted for the weekend quite a few farmers practiced caution and waited until Monday or Tuesday when the warmth returned. Since Tuesday every planter was running in a mad dash to get as much done as possible before the deluges began. Except for a small area north of Ames most of the showers stayed away and planting was continuing through this past Sunday night. Now most farmers have commenced with soybean planting. Again the fear of a repeat of 2018 and 2019, coupled with warm temps and perfectly working ground, is allowing most growers to work towards getting most of their spring planting work completed.

The rationale of slowing down a bit and shedding the planters made sense to the growers who had sent seed samples into the testing labs and received the documentation that a higher than normal percentage of the cold germ scores were in the low to high 60% range. It is too early to know if there will be any problems with emergence in those fields.

Every day yet is still filled with CoVid-19 news. As far as how this has been affecting how ag types have varied. Many larger companies forbade their dealers and employees from having any personal contact with farmer customers. Luckily the seed delivery routes were still being run so farmers were allowed to pick up what they had ordered or were having it delivered.

People are still wondering what is going on in this entire mess. Who screwed up, who was responsible, and will anyone be prosecuted for this. The best I can do and get away with is to refer you to several videos who have very accredited, credible people involved. Watch those with Dr. Janet Mikovitz and Dr. Rashid Buttar. The former worked with Fauci while at Detrick and blew the whistle when asked to weaponize it. This landed her in jail for five years. The latter is a triple certified surgeon and former Special Forces medic. Hopefully they will still be available for viewing via You-Tube on the ‘Next News Network. The facts given by earlier by University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle were verified.

I had a good long chat with a friend who was in military intelligence with lots of Detrick experience. His opinion is that we need to get the people working again to get the economy moving. This was all by design and was engineered by very experienced people. The cost to/for the health care providers, patients, educational systems, ag producers, industries and constitutional freedoms of everyone living through this had been monumental and needs to be billed to someone or some group.

What to watch for

After each field accumulate their 100 to 120 GDUs the small spikes should begin poking above ground. The 2 p.m. soil thermometers on Sunday on tilled ground near Boone read 80 degrees. Be watching for corn emergence and do early stand checks to see if the sprouts are growing as expected. With the ground actually freezing down to 2-inches on several nights ten days ago there is reason to worry on some of the lower germ seed.

Is it the correct decision to plant soybeans already? Realistically the earlier planted beans have demonstrated the ability to form more podded nodes when planted in late April and have not been harmed by any late freeze. The risk is always present, but bean plants are small they have proven to be tolerant of temperature drops down to 30 degrees or slightly below that mark. The cotyledons must hold enough sugar that the plants have a natural supply of a natural antifreeze.

Normally when a sole bean field is planted earlier by a wide margin in a neighborhood it is very attractive to emerging bean leaf beetles with their fine sense of smell. With the relatively mild winter the overwintering survival rate should be higher than in recent years. The 2019 BLB populations remained quite low through the entire season, which is good to know. Now with a high percentage of the fields planted and emerging early no one field should be singled out.

Nematodes that eat corn root worms

Elson Fields, a long time dedicated entomologist from Cornell Univ, has been working with a wild population of nematodes that were discovered to have a taste for corn rootworm larvae. Elson recognized thirty years ago that CRW were very adaptable and were going to keep breaking through any control plan that corn growers were using against them. He was already looking at natural wild nematode populations and their potential value in controlling a weevil species devastating alfalfa fields in their area of Upper NY State. He began testing to see if they would go after the CRW larvae as well. They did and their testing program expanded across the state. Dr. Fields Elson has also had a testing program in a corn growing area of west Texas. His conclusion and the plot results show that these nematodes provide superior control compared to any trait or planter applied product. In his published article on this project he included several graphs are included that show the good results.

His recommendation is that they should be used in conjunction with a paired strategy as any single tactic is not enough with highly adaptable insects like CRW. There is a high chance there will be a few plots in Iowa where these devouring worms will be applied and then rated for their degree of control in the 2021 corn crop. He believes they need a season to reach numbers high enough to perform their job.


The winds from the south were very strong on several days last week. Be aware that such winds typically bring in cutworm moths that will now find no-till fields that are now carrying a crop of weeds or an actual seeded crop. Any eggs will hatch after a determined number of GDUs are accumulated. Keep tabs on this insect and watch for plant feeding on the leaves of small plants.

Water pH

One very important factoid not mentioned enough is that water qualities such as pH, hardness as related to Ca and Mg content, and other mineral content are not known and not managed as well as they should be. The success of a foliar fertilizer application or the residual length or success of a pesticide application are highly dependent on the quality and properties of the water used as carrier. There exist charts that give those parameters that should be posted so more applicators recognize and use them.

For example all Pyrethroids applied in water should have the pH adjusted down to 5. SUs need the same. There are a ton of products that can do it. Citric acid is typically acceptable, but is narrow in activity as others besides adjusting pH will act to enhance surface penetration, reduce drift, block UV radiation or reduce evaporation. Whether your water comes from a deep or shallow well, a municipal water supply, or a stream, knowing what the quality of it is important. At least that is all we used to know.

Another property that can be gathered is the EC (electro-conductivity) or electrical potential of the water. If this is low it can be raised and added to any batch of spray water you are using. There are a number of fertilizers sold by innovative companies that utilize technologies whereby the working ability potential of the product or the mix that includes the product has been increased. It sounds a bit off the wall but is not different that two Milwaukee 18 volt batteries sitting on a bench, one completely charged and one uncharged. They look the same, are the same, and made of the same materials, yet one is dead and one is ready to provide power. Start asking questions about this. Such work is why water treatment equipment from a company called Pursanova Inc won the Nobel Prize for inventors in the Worldwide Industrial Trade Council contest this past year.

Weed zappers and KomCutters

About 30 years ago a company named Lasco developed, built and marketed a tractor mounted front bar or rear 3 pointed bar that was driven thru the field and basically electrocuted the taller plants that held a higher amount of water in their cells, namely the broadleaf weeds. Now a small, family run company has resurrected the device and has been selling them to growers who are using them in organic and non-organic crops where they have proven to work in controlling taller weeds that herbicides haven’t. The alternative in the past has been to hire an army of people with hoes to chop or cut the weeds out. The Zappers are made and sold near Sedalia, MO and are made in widths of 20 to 40 foot. The people who have bought and used them in recent years have seen satisfied with their performance. Safety modifications were added when these front mounted machines were redesigned. Ben Kroeger is the co-owner brother who acts as sales manager for their company.

The KomCutters weed clipping bars are newer and were invented recently by an organic producer from Sweden. He developed the idea when cutting his kids hair and observed how their hair flowed between the teeth of a comb. He added a cutting bar below the teeth, added bristles to bats on the reel and had his machine. They are made up in Manitoba and were tested and proven by extension researchers who were working with growers trying to figure out how to eliminate taller broadleaf weeds from small grain crops when herbicides could not do the job or were not labeled for that crop. There are You-Tube videos of the equipment being operated in various crops. They are light weight and made is varying widths.

Good luck with the rest of your planting and may the prices start making a strong rebound.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or www.CentralIowaAg.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page