nother week later and in much of Iowa things are nearly at a standstill. After a late winter season where February weather was warm and dry the climate has changed to cooler and wetter. Around here a few fellows have been able to work some of the better tiled fields and have worked the ground with a few actually getting corn in the ground. That was the situation last week. After spotty and sometimes heavy rains over the weekend places that only received a few tenths of rain a few corn planters fired up again on Monday. We will just have to see how much if any precip arrives on Monday night to know how much if any planting gets done this week.
Hopefully everyone had a good Easter holiday and possibly got together with relatives. It tends to be a short holiday weekend and one where not everyone gets Friday off, so it is tough to do much traveling to join up with people. We were planning to join up with our family members but in the end almost everyone was committed to church activities in their own hometowns on Sunday. So we ended up attending Mass in Ames and met up with two of the sons in Ames and called it good.
I had to make a run through central Illinois and northeast Missouri last week dropping off products and discussing cropping plans with several farmers out on that route. It was too wet along I80 for any planting and if guys were in the fields it seem to be the task they were tackling was to work on tiling projects and to fix inlets that needed repair. South of Peoria the planters were in the fields in many locations. Apparently there had been corn planted in late March, but that work came to a halt. Cold weather and wet conditions arrived and the tractors got parked. Most of that corn had emerged and reportedly looked good. So they were second guessing those decisions thinking they should have kept going.
It is still early compared to the 20 year average for getting going on field work and planting a high percent of the expected acres. It is still only mid April and there is lots of time for conditions to shape up. In the last five or six years my advice has been to get planted as early as possible since if the corn all dies around August 20 or 25 the fields and hybrids that get the most fill days in before the plants turn brown produce the most grain.
But, my tune has changed in that growers who now have the ability to manage their crop and the number one serious corn disease can 99 percent guarantee they can keep their corn plants green and filling all through September and likely through five to 10 days in October if the plants do not black layer until then.
The 280 to 340 bu/a high yield field near Guthrie Center was planted May 6 in 2016, or after the ground warmed up. It was treated at knee high and pretassel with the bacterial control product and it stayed nice and filled the grain and then black layered before it froze in mid October.
But if your corn is not managed for controlling the New Goss's then being delayed for however many days could see those acres lose bushels due to browning and dying early.
The number of phone calls and emails from readers wanting more information about BioEmpruv has been surprising. They typically say that they knew something was wrong based on their 20, 30 or 40 years of watching their crop stay green until late September. Now since 2009 early death and the plants looking like pale ghost plants told them something was going on. At least now they can be told what is causing the problem and they can take steps to manage it. Farmers who will be using it have to recognize that supplies are limited since it is a fermentation product and making it is a lengthy process. The early bird will get the worm. Call Marv or myself on reserving yours and lining up delivery.
Many of those people are asking about getting one or several Haney tests run on a few fields to gauge where the soil health rates currently. The message that there may be a payback to their efforts to raise cover crops and protect the soil is raising their spirits. Until now they had thought that their dollars they had spent on cover crop seeds and making the extra trips was money down the drain. Now that the know that a decent Haney score when combined with taking care to stabilize their N and P, mange the N so a portion is available in the NH4 form, or applying Kugler's KQ-XRN or PT-21 foliarly, and then managing the plant health proactively for maximum stay green and fill days will make everything pay off.
We recognize we are still on a learning curve and there is only one way and one chance per year to measure if we are making progress. I have told people that when farmers shoot for top and profitable corn or bean yields they do not typically do it in a scientifically sound manner, because they may change 2, 3, 4 or 5 things, rather than just one. But if things work out they could care less because the system and the approach worked.
Last week I had the request to sit down and play teacher with two young and 'either just graduated' or 'will this spring' agronomists. One is playing farmer and rancher as well as joining a newer company that is working to set up a hay growing and marketing network to supply high nutrient hay to the horse and dairy industries out in California or further north.
The other soon to graduate person decided over a year ago to focus his studies to plant nutrition and soil health. He had been interacting with the Clean Water Alliance crew to utilize cover cropping to help prevent erosion and hold the nutrients in place in the fields rather then lose them down the Mississippi.
He already has been working with about 40 growers in his home area and helping council them on how they can use the Haney and other tests to measure their progress in improving their soil quality. In fact the figures and records he had logged suggested he had taken and sent in more soil samples for such testing than any other agronomist in the state. Farmers in his southeast Iowa county tend to be the most receptive to strip tilling and using cover crops. Land is high priced and they work to maximize their returns as much or more than in other locations.
When going over the items we discussed, both took about four pages of notes on books to read, people and researchers they needed to visit with and learn from, and ask tons of questions. Both were very sharp and I would guess a challenge for their professors in college because they grasped the knowledge they were being presented and had the ambition and experiences to assimilate it in their work already, likely realizing what facts were pertinent and which should be discarded.
So a few colleagues and myself will help shepherd them in their endeavors and invite them to join us when a person full of experience and history will be in Iowa with the time and inclination to share their wealth of knowledge with them.
Last Minute Preparations
If and when the rainy days occur it may give crop farmers a bit more time to do preplanning. This winter there were quite a few questions about which microbials should be used and in what conditions might the results be best. Another hot topic was how to manage both corn and soybeans for top nutrition that may minimize the need for rescue chemistry. For that I tend to carry the book entitled Mineral Nutrition and Plant Disease plus the latest book by Sasseville on tissue testing. Both center on the fact that plants decline in health if they are short the minerals needed to fuel their immune system. It would help most growers if they could learn the role of the top ten or twelve important minerals. There is still time to try a product on test acres to see if it lives up to expectations and promises.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or www.CentralIowaAg.com.