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Crop watch

By Bob Streit - Columnist | Dec 22, 2020

The last month of the year is nearing the end and then it’s on to 2021. We will be glad to see it over with. From the drought and the derecho that hurt many towns, buildings, crops and trees, not seeing another big windstorm like that in our lifetimes could be okay. As to the drought, it was first noted as affecting the area around Sacramento last Feb. and proved to be a harbinger of extreme drought over the central and west central parts of the state by early June and covered all of the state by late August.

Politically in the U.S. the two sides have not been this far apart in tolerating the other side since the days of Abraham Lincoln. I have Southern friends who refer the Civil War as the war of northern Aggression. When they explained their side they had some validity to their argument. I appreciate any leader who says that we will never be a socialist country. I have been to China, Russia and the Ukraine and saw how their populations live and are still being impacted. No one likes living under such heavy surveillance and with the slightest peek at what it means, they would change their minds.

We still have the virus to contend with. Every claim that Dr. Francis Boyle, distinguished law professor from the University of Illinois, revealed in early spring has proven true. The French scientist and 2007 Nobel Prize winner for his work on viruses, Luc Mantangier, backed it all up. Now John Hopkins Hospital performed and released their analysis comparing casualty totals in 2020 with those of 2017, 18 and 19, then retracted it on day 2 because it told the unfortunate truth. We can’t have that now.

The Christmas Season

Most people were hoping to having a family filled Christmas season, but those celebrations and church events be as muted as Thanksgiving celebrations were. Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Holidays and a return to normalcy. Our wish is for a return to health for our new grandson down in St. Louis and good luck with the bone marrow work. Chemo and bone marrow work is on his schedule.

The markets

After five years and about the same of bountiful harvests around the U.S. and the world Mother Nature changed her tune and gave sections of the cornbelt weather conditions unfavorable to crops. Included on that list are a number of U.S. states, China, the Ukraine, Russia and now parts of South America where either too little or too much rain wreaked havock with yields. In the U.S. the corn usage between feed and ethanol usage along with export demand has us looking at one of the lower carry outs in years. The managers at more than one grain storage facility wonder if they have enough corn in inventory to meet feed needs through the summer. The grain prices have increased, which is great for those who still have gran to sell or held old corn hoping for a rally. Many farmers went 4 to 5 years not showing a profit and have lot of healing to do. It’s a lot easier to project above black ink projections when budgeting for 2021.

The worrisome part of budgeting for next season is the lack of subsoil moisture down to five feet and the recognition that in most of the droughts we have had since the 1930s, through the mid-70s, then 2011-12 have been multi-year events. We have to plan for the worst but hope for the best when everyone is lining up input products, buying seed and fertilizer using the latest information. We have to make plans to meet any challenges that could appear next summer.

Seed choices and disease occurrence

Except for the large swatch of corn acres across central and east central Iowa there is/are barely enough yield data to help make variety choices for next season. It was the year where deep rooting and drought tolerant hybrids showed big benefits. I spent time studying the rooting profiles of the different major corn inbreds as compiled by the Winfield Solutions corn specialists, to determine what course of action and hybrid types to recommend to growers. The tillage practices and tools as well as the planter settings and planter openers/closing equipment were important for having good seed to soil contact which affects early root formation.

During the dry growing season in central and western Iowa the environment was not conducive for fungal leaf diseases. The ISU soybean fungicide trials showed that only two or three products showed more than a 2.5 Bu/A yield increase from being sprayed. Fungal spores typically need a water film on the leaf to allow germination and penetration by the infection peg. An adequate supply of manganese will allow the plant to wall off the peg and not allow penetration. During the dry months the soils contained less water and fewer minerals were available for plant uptake. Lower levels of Mn, Zn, Cu and Bo typically lead to more disease pressure.

Drought mediated lowered mineral levels

Might the soil test level for minerals and percent hydrogen (H) base saturation look out-of-wack when compared to levels from soil analyses from their 2016 tests?

I am looking at test results where the Ca, H and K levels are considerably lower or higher than the 2016 sample results. I looked in the Marschner, Huber & Datnoff, and Taiz and Zeiger reference books on the topic and did not find direct reference to this. What is discussed is that the sheeted layers in the clays are composed of different combinations of oxygen, silicon and aluminum primarily plus iron and magnesium. Those layered sheets collapse as the soils get drier, trapping the minerals inside those layers tighter than the roots are able to extract. A quick Lab wetting may not allow enough time to rewet the soil and trapped minerals to float free. In making recommendations, I would sooner wait with making large changes in application amounts until samples are pulled after the soils return to normal moisture levels.

Tar Spot information

Points and places to our east with normally wetter climates continue to raise the red flag about Tar Spot. Damon Smith with the University of Wisconsin, Madison has taken the lead of screening for the disease, which scarred many growers from Michigan and Ohio, then west into Northwest Illinois, Wisconsin and even Eastern Iowa two and three years ago. A new research paper was published entitled “Tar Spot-An Understudied Disease Threatening Corn Production in the Americas”. Alison Roberson and Darren Mueller are listed as co-authors. We will post the research article on our site. We will also post a new mineral product that worked wonders on heavily diseased corn along the Iowa/Missouri border. It is not often that ground breaking products come along.

New SCN PI source

Since the SCN were first diagnosed up in Winnebago County in the early 1980s and we had to wear plastic bags over our shoes to not track them to more locations, the fight against the small roundworms has continued. At first they offered Bell and Jack from the University of Illinois. Their performance was equal to that of Hodgson and Amsoy varieties at the time. The Fayette source became popular, but now the little parasite can feed on varieties containing that 88788. Peking appeared and worked on by an ISU soybeant geneticist as the first varieties were maligned after a few early frost years. Now more companies are releasing newer varieties based on Peking. Syngenta’s excellent soybean breeders, plus the ISU soybean breeders are the first to commercialize this new source. Expect to see ones containing 88772, 3489B and 437654.

When the PIs arrived here they looked more like morning glories. Getting them to resemble modern soybean plants requires dedicated work and many generations before they are agronomically acceptable.

Based on what I learned from a potato growing Idaho friend he and his neighbors get alerted by Corteva climatologists on their current GDU totals, to correlate these figures to hatch times, allowing them to apply chitinase based products so their potato cyst and root knot eggs will be hatching and then melt them with a safer and effective product.

Other insect news

If we had been able to attend the large ISU Crops Conference we would likely have heard from Justin McMehan, UNL and Gall Midge Research Coordinator for the 4-State area. They have moved 3 to 4 counties in from the western border of Iowa and have the habit of injecting eggs inside soybean stems, where the larvae feed and then end up collapsing the plants. The worst areas so far have been in the counties along I-80. The University of Minnesota will be hosting one-hour educational meetings on Jan 5th, 12th and 19th to supply information to growers concerning Gall Midge (SBGM). They have many facts they still need to sleuthed out. They have a link posted on the Chat n Chew web page’s University of Minnesota site where you can register. For the easiest registration go to the Purdue Chat N Chew Cafe website where you can search for and register for these University of Minnesota SBGM classes.

And last but not least, coming out of China, and it’s not bogus election ballots, is a new insect that was first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014 and is extremely damaging to many horticulture and fruit crops as well as valuable shade trees. It is a brightly colored insect called a Lantern Fly that has a ravenous appetite for plant sap. The siren sounded in Michigan after they found a dead one. They concluded it was dead before it was transported to that state.

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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