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CROP WATCH
November 2, 2018

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The string of decent harvest weather continues as our wishes and prayers seem to be getting answered. If we had only known this we would not have had to push through the mud quite as as much, but the date of the first big snow and ground freeze up are still in question.

Therefore most operators in the northern cornbelt always have to keep checking off the tasks that need doing.

On the worldwide weather front the two items that may be worth mentioning are the chance of a big cool down in nearby months and volcanic activity over in the Mediterranean. Students of meteorology who watch long term cycles have been recognizing that the sun entered its quiet stage, which means a lower level of energy being delivered to planet earth.

This is typically referred to as the Maudner minimum. Larry Acker and Simon Atkins make many references to this cycle and astronomical observations seem to verify this cycle. As partial proof point to the mid April snow storms and mid Oct snow that fell across much of the northern Midwest with major amounts of snow in the small grains growing provinces of Canada. There is also talk of super cold air like we have never seen coming in through a crack in the atmosphere. This does sound strange.

And for anyone planning on an Italian getaway, be aware there is volcanic movement in an old Sicilian dome that has been slipping at a rate of 4 cm per year. This past week it sped up to a rate of 8 cm per day. If there is a calving event observers are speculating on a major tsunami like that seen eons ago and documented by surveys around that sea where there are no old trees below 300 or 400 feet above sea level.

USDA figures in question

Prices and marketing continue to be major topics as growers need to make money with the crop they have been harvesting. All season most growers in states west of the Mississippi plus Wisconsin and Michigan looked at the USDA planting progress survey results, then done the same with condition of the crops, the percentage rated good to excellent and final status and wondered what planet those results came from. In an article in an investment blog this past weekend a long time market watcher who has been recognizing the cropping challenges (flooding, huge rain events, periodic or prolonged droughts) is finally calling into question the production figures used during the season and now at harvest. The last two years' carryout figures have been large. But as the combines in many of the weather challenged counties and states have not been adjusted downwards as what were supposed to be huge yields are often proving to be much lower than forecast and often driven lower by late season flooding, pod splitting and early season snowfalls. He believes that quite a few bushels of grain from previous harvests are being counted as new bushels to make their yield forecasts look accurate and suppress grain prices now when farmers are under pressure to sell and storage is tight. I think he has a point as there are lots of corn fields in the area north of Hwy 30 and south of Interstate 80 had too much of too little rain and 140 to 160 Bu/A yields are common. Remember that the poor degree of stalk quality still means that not every bushel produced will not make it into the bin.

Harvest progress

The latest NASS figures tell that corn harvest still has about 40 percent left to go. Bean harvest is further along and with the shorter days heavy dews slow progress. In many cases and along the major rivers a lot of water still needs to drain from those fields before they can be harvested; the winds being on the gusty category likely caused more stalks to collapse.

As the memories of stalk quality are fresh in their minds is will be good for corn growers to be looking for answers as to what were the causes and how best to make changes for 2019 if they feel they must improve on this factor. There is no one factor that dooms one field to severe problems, though a knowledgeable person could make a check list that should be quite accurate.

High up on the list would be mineral deficiencies of the four major minerals that help fuel the plants immune system, Also severe moisture stress of either too much or too little water. Next up would be moderate or severe genetic weakness to the said diseases. And the fourth one would be lots of disease inoculum overwinter in the plant residue poised to infect the plants as soon as they germinate. A few of the minerals could be applied this fall.

The residue needs to be managed this fall and typically enhanced by decomposing microbial mixes seem to be doing the best job. Selecting the best variety is typically done in December or January.

Tighter budgets could force many corn growers to seriously consider planting conventional varieties. Should that scare a corn grower? Not that I have seen over the last decade. Those growers just need to recognize that understanding which insect pose a threat, knowing if the insect moves in from a southerly location or from the neighboring fields, and what is the insect's method of producing the next generation.

For the fields with major rutting problems deep tiling may not help much unless and until the ground dries enough that it shatters with any rippping. One other solution could be to plant a form of tillage radish soon after harvest and hope that the seeds germinate quickly enough that the roots grow deep enough to shatter the compaction zone.

Late season soybean diseases

There were many questions about the black appearance of the soybean plants that stood in the fields for three to four weeks after they should have been combined.

Several more species of fungus were diagnosed as those identified on those black stems and pods. Early analysis told that Anthracnose, Pod and Stem Blight and Phomopsis were commonly being seen. As the season progressed those fungi added to the list were Diaporthe, Charcoal rot, Fusarium and Alternaria. Most them can commonly be found rotting combined stems by this date. This year the added moisture increased the infection rates and kept the plants standing in the fields longer.

Newer insect pests in soybeans

One insect that I have mentioned before as posing a threat to soybeans in the state and having already been found in neighboring states is the Dectes Stem Borers. In parts of Kentucky, as just south of southeastern Illinois this insect appeared in many fields and yield losses in excess of 12 Bu/A being found. In one field that was scouted an extension specialists found that 25 to 50 percent of the plants had been felled by the tunneling larvae. It has also been found in both Kansas and Illinois. When will it appear in this state and will alert scouts and farmers be able to identify it and figure out the treatment threshold?

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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