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Crop Watch

January 20, 2020
By Jerry Nelson - Columnist , Farm News

Winter finally arrived in central Iowa this past weekend bringing with it ice and measurable snow in a huge front that stretched north from northern Minnesota down to Laredo, Texas over the weekend. The immediate task is to clear the yards, drives and yards from the white stuff so the vehicles can move around without problems. Thus, the long field work and tiling season that was continuing until now may come to an end, depending on how long the temps stay below freezing. It was good while it lasted.

The main discussion in the last week has been the government crops report, which has already been filed under fiction in most people's library. From visiting with seasoned growers who cast a wide circle of sources it is hard to find a large area where the growers universally proclaim their grain yields were above those of 2017. Based on all of the test weight measurement it has been established that test weights were lower to much lower than in previous years, and where the early snows put both the corn and bean crops in a situation where not all the grain produced made its way into the grain tanks and grain bins. So are we supposed to believe that both corn and soybean yields only took a slight hit from the wacky weather of 2019. It looks more like whoever is in charge believes that cheap food and cheap fuel are good for the economy, so they will release the figures that support that narrative to achieve the goal. Finding grain yet from 2018 that was never accounted for in a record wet year is another stretch.

On the agenda

The activities that normally occupy grain producer's schedule this time of year are those involving the booking of seed and chemicals. The first place many growers go for information is the collection of test plots run by the FIRST Plot organization. It used to be easy to make a list of companies that you like to do business with and they have a good rep in the area. Then you go through the plots on roughly the same latitude as your acres and maturity you like to plant. This year in looking throuuh the published results and things don't seem to be as clear in that there are still lots of middle sized seed firms and many smaller ones pulling hybrids from two or three collective pools of hybrids. Thus you don't know if Hybrid A is the same as Hybrids E, F and G genetically with the methods of growing and handling the seed may have influenced the germination and emergence of the seedlings.

The number of plots planted versus harvested and entered into the data banks are likely at a low point since erosion and standing water affected so many acres versus a 'normal' year. Then with growers seek a major drop in GDUs and grain that did not follow the normal drying sequence, the general inclination is to seek hybrids with as great of yield potential but offering drier grain at harvest. If the 2018 and 2019 weather trends being cooler and wetter, we have to figure out which climatologists offer the clearest and most accurate prediction of what is in store for us for weather in 2020. Typically those that stick their necks out the furthest get them chopped off the first. Maybe not so much this year.

The insects that seemed to cause corn growers problems in 2019 were ear worms and CRW. In a trial done out in Nebraska the application of the Beauveria fungus on the seed added 10 to 12 BU/A to the final yield and greatly improved plant intactness and harvestability.

As to how the battle against CRW is going, that is a mixed bag. Bad problems tended to be localized in individual fields in 2019. The crop rotation sequence and product or means to control the feeding larva were all critical factors. Farmers with cornfields where the plants faced heavy feeing pressure have typically used traits and planter applied products sometimes without much success. They are hopeful that they can gain control this next season. Currently the lack of hybrids containing the Duracade trait is limited and there have been performance problems. The corn geneticist's knowledge had not caught up to what is known by the top soil microbiologists. Heavily traited hybrids often lose the ability to extract nutrients from the soil due to a canceling of elicitor compound production.

Outguessing the


To me the trend is cooler and wetter, meaning be ready with your seed and planter when any small planting window occurs. Adding planting capacity has helped even if it means retrofitting any older bar or planter. Anything to help the soil to dry and warm up will help. Then using seed treatments that boost the mineral levels to the seed and allow for beneficials to colonize the root system first will help improve root health and mineral uptake.

Even if the springs are cool and wet there always seems to be a time period in July or August where the plants on the lighter ground suffer due to dry conditions. Avoiding any compaction problems and doing everything possible to grow an expansive and healthy root system is what 99.99 percent of the farmers are after.

The planter and tillage clinics

Last week I attended two days of Kevin Kimberley's winter meeting. It was a valuable experience in that it teaches what to look for in how every attachment, opener or closer, or in-furrow is supposed to work. The same goes for every tillage tool, in that many of the vertical tillage tools out there, were named vertical tillage even if they didn't fit the description and action of what other vertical machines did.

Brad Forkner, mineral specialist out of Illinois, presented to the group on how he would set up a mineral and fertility program that would support the production of top end crop yields. He has set up a fertilizer plant near his home which will allow him and his clients to customize anything needed. His understanding of how all of the minerals interact, the roles of the biology in the root zone, where essential oils fit, and the importance of each of the micronutrients far surpass what most fertility people talk about. Remember that he has out-dollared Dowdy each of the last two years. Dan will be speaking at our meeting of Jan 22nd. Kevin will be presenting for an hour on the 22nd and then having a session at his location near Elkhart on the 23rd. If you are planning on going on the 23rd he needs to know to have enough food ready.

The Jan 22nd Follow the Money Conference

We are planning on having the conference on the warm, sunny and calm winter day next week.

The reservations continue to come in. The speakers are lined up and each of them know their specialized areas well. In the past we have had crowds of up to 210 people. Anyone expecting to eat had been call in by Friday afternoon to reserve a spot so we can turn in an expected crowd size to the caterer fixes enough food.

What we are having the speakers focus on is how their recommendations and products will help the crop react positively even in a stressed environment. If the collective opinion of the bio-stimulant scientists is that plants devote 60 to 70 percent of their energy battling environmental stresses, then by supplying the correct nutrients and supporting the good microbial activity, the crop will produce a better crop and that is the path to follow.

The past attendees typically remarked it was the most informative conference they had attended in years. Bring your notebooks and pens. We will have it taped with videos being available at a later date.

For those that are CCA certified we will be offering CEUs for those that need credits. We hope to see you at the meeting. Stay safe and warm in the meanwhile.

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



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