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Crop watch
January 3, 2020

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We are hoping you all had a nice Christmas holiday's season and are ready for the New Year. As to Christmas, wow. Normally is you are a betting person and you had to lay some money down as to whether the temperature on the 25th was going to be closer to 50 degrees or five degrees, most would bet on the five degrees or even five below. Those hoping for a white Christmas would have been disappointed because central Iowa saw a nice high of 53 degrees. No snow, no wind chill and no ice or blizzards to fight. The only ones that could complain were the snowmobilers who had to keep their machines in the sheds. Or those relatives up in Minnesota who hoped to get some good ice fishing in.

We had to make a quick dash down to St. Louis to visit with the three daughters and the 2.25 grandkids. We had some good chow and were delighted to be able to enjoy it out on the sunny patio in 71 degree weather. It was a good way to prepare for ushering in a new decade.

Here a month or so earlier it appeared that the ground was going to be frozen solid in late October and bring any fall tillage to a stop. Instead we have had a nice November and a great December thaw. It will make the rest of winter seem a lot shorter and easier to tolerate.

Good news we hope

First, on most grain producer's wish list was a large uptick in the grain markets. Thus far we have not seen a huge jump up, but the USMCA treaty is moving towards a full vote after being held hostage for several months. Most pundits were betting against it because giving the President any sort of victory did not appear to be in the cards for the House. Though it was not the big announcement we had been waiting for, being able to solidify trade with our two closest and large volume neighbors only made sense. It was time to get it done.

Next on the wish list was forward progress to opening full trade with the Chinese markets due to the huge volume in so many U.S. products. We saw in the 1970s that any interruption in foreign access to U.S. grain supplies forces them to find an alternative source. We know our southern competitors are always ready to clear more acres of previous pasture or Cerrado for both corn and soybean production. With their improvement and development of infrastructure they are planning on being an even larger competitor. Now our two leaders are facing reality that our economies are interdependent, we need their food and high tech goods markets and they need to keep their cheaper labor working to keep their economy humming. Thus in the last few weeks we have seen grain markets make some welcome gains.

The Chinese custom has been to have their leaders be a large group of grandmothers, rather than testosterone filled males. Doing nothing now can also cause problems down the road, as their 2025 or 2050 plans call for them to become number one in six major high tech and industrial arenas.

January meeting

In recent years our group of ag people that are working to educate Midwest producers about soil health and suggest ways and the use of newer products to either increase ROIs via higher yields or increased efficiency in the cropping system they are using. At those meetings or conferences we invited in reps from several companies to present information about the products their companies produce as well as how those products have performed in test plots or in field trials. Farmers who have attended have usually made comments that they have been some of the most informative meetings they have been to or they have never taken so many notes.

The dates for the meetings have been formalized and they will be on January 22nd and 23rd. On the 22nd we will have seven or eight speakers relay information that has value. Continuing to work towards building good soil health is something we stress. If the springs continue to be wet and cold it may cause growers to adjust ground preparation, planters and what might be applied in furrow. Might there be a mix of products that would allow the ground to warm up faster, and say by 15 degrees? One very knowledgeable mineral/humate/microbe fellow will tell of his success in doing so.

Now on the international ag scene, a new major topic has evolved, and that is the category of so called bio-stimulants. These are either products that will increase fertilizer use efficiency and prevent their loss to the environment, or make applied nutrients more available to the intended crop. This is the category where many of the newer microbials fit and one that scares many of the major fertilizer companies who built their businesses on products applied by the cwt per acre. Applying microbes that boost efficiency or are applied at a few pounds or a few ounces per acres are not something that will fill large warehouses.

We will have a founder of one such company who presented at the fall of 2018 conference attend and speak again. They have been testing their microbial product in many different locations across the glove the last seasons and will tell what they have learned. Check out Rusty Rodriguez, Ted Talk U-tube, entitled Symbiosis. His Trichoderma products has performed very well in hot and dry or cold and wet soils. One major threat to good corn production is if the night time temps in late July or August are very warm or hot. Yields can take a huge dive due to intense nighttime heat, as we saw in 2011 and 2012. His company's product can prevent such a problem. We are also inviting a PhD parasitologist who would describe a product that provides season long insect control for use in feed, fiber and food crops.

I will spend a few minutes presenting information about a new plant health promoting, mineral based product that will offer major benefit both corn and bean growers that could be groundbreaking in what it can do. I learned of it first when I was on a speaking tour through Brazil back in 2017. It is rare when what happened 30 to 40 years ago makes a sudden and hugely beneficial appearance.

The main meeting will be Jan 22nd at the Briggs Woods Golf Course just south of Webster City in the Van Diest Conference Hall. Kevin Kimberley and his son Brock, planter and tillage Gurus from Elkhart, IA will speak for an hour the first day. Growers who wish to get more information about planter retro-fits or tillage equipment can reserve a spot for a demo meeting the following day at his shop east of Elkhart.

Reserve your spot soon by calling into Carol Streit at 515-231-6710, Marv at 515-370-3381, Larry Eekhoff at 515-571-7260, or me at 515-709-0143. There will be a small fee ($25-30) for attending with 'at the door' being slightly higher. It will help cover the meal and building rent. We will be offering CCA CEU credits for attending.

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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