Renewable Farming

A dozen ways to cope with record costs, wild prices and weather stress this season

Bob Streit’s latest report to consulting clients covers a wide range — and ends with a dozen specific recommendations for weathering the 2022 crop season.

March 8, 2022: By Iowa Crop Consultant Bob Streit March has arrived and it came in like a lamb. What will the lion of late March look like? (Has anyone ever tracked the accuracy of that old axiom?) It has been nice to walk around outside without heavy clothing and insulated gloves. No snow or ice to navigate on the roads and concrete has been great. Having the ground start to thaw out will help any precipitation or snowmelt soak into the ground.  Each inch could be very valuable due to the fact that much of the Midwest and Western parts of the U.S. are in some level of drought. The western one third from Texas north to Washington state to Montana are technically in extreme drought which is greatly affecting growing crops. Much of IA, MN and MO in D1 or D3. Unless there is relief there will be western growers who will wait until rain arrives since the top soils are too dry for seeds to germinate.

Can anyone remember when tornado clean up was halted by a snowstorm?

The News

Ag consultant Bob Streit

The number one event of international significance in this past week had to be  Russian troops continuing their invasion and takeover of the Ukraine. It is difficult to figure out who exactly are the really good guys and who are the really bad guys.

We used to be able to listen to Walter Cronkite (St Joe, Missouri native) and hear the truth. Now not so much, as many media groups have their own agenda with their financial and political goals. Is Putin trying to reassemble the old USSR which collapsed as did the Berlin Wall? An old KGB member would do that. Have Fauci, Bill Gates and DARPA constructed Level 3 and 4 biolabs on the Ukraine and Russian borders? I wanted to, but refused to purchase one of the only souvenirs in the Russian shops when we were there because no honest leader accumulates a $225 billion fortune while the common citizens live in squalor.

Over the weekend a Ukrainian dairy farmer penned and distributed a letter telling how his family life, livelihood, crops and way of life are suffering and may be destroyed with the current fighting. He and his similar aged people heard stories how Stalin starved millions of their countrymen because the Russians expected them to start an uprising.

This farmer told of how Ukrainian farmers can produce enough food to feed 600 to 800 million people. Now is when their fall planted winter crops of wheat, barley and canola need to be fertilized and tended to. This is at a time when the South American crop is projected to be substantially reduced, and when deliveries of much fertilizer and other inputs remain in limbo. I will include his letter in hopes that it gets reprinted. It was sad to read because farmers everywhere know what he is talking about. Getting all the tasks completed in a normal year is tough and expensive, especially if a war is going on and many young men involved in the fighting.  

There are several ways in which the invasion will affect us. A number of the mining companies that mine, process and ship P & K announced that their activities will be slowed or stopped until their transportation vessels are not in any danger. The same applies to the companies that supply micros such as Zn, Cu, Mn and Sulfur will corral their supplies being moved into the U.S. es have a say in this. Other countries included in this slowdown include Belarus, Morocco and Tunisia.

Much of the world is better off when the U.S has a stronger and decisive leader in place.   

Grain Prices

A number of commodities that typically are selling for under $4 per bushel are now at selling at 2 to 2.5 times that price due to shortages — or expected shortages — in world supplies. Those prices sound great at first, but then operators start tallying the price increases for all of their inputs and still wonder if they can make a profit. The major soybean and corn producers in South America are expecting substantial cuts to their production due to either too much rain, too little rain or the intense heat coming at the critical stages. This was the 2nd or 3rd straight season where low rainfall totals took a toll on their crop sizes. The combined grain price increase will lead to decreased meat production and supplies around the world.  

Animal Ag

Speaking of problems in animal production there was the initial report of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in an east coast state, followed by its detection in a commercial turkey flock in Indiana of bird flu in Indiana. About ten days later or last Friday, this virus was detected in small backyard flocks in both southeast Iowa and in western Iowa. Later on Friday there was confirmation of a positive diagnosis in a large broiler operation in Stoddard County, Missouri. When the infected wild birds migrate north at 30 to 40 mph they can rapidly move the virus into wild birds that can mingle with local wild birds here or outdoor flocks. Then it can be a short job by wild birds to move the virus into a large barn. The pools along the Missouri River on Friday afternoon were full of migrating ducks and geese when I came back from Nebraska. Those pools along the river had 100s of thousands of waterfowl resting their wings there.

In 2015 there were no answers to preventing the spread of the disease. The only solution was to kill 50-80% of the birds to keep the last 20-50% from getting infected. Now if there was an OMRI approved microbial product that was 100% successful in preventing a flock from getting sick or ever testing positive that had already demonstrated that it worked, do you think that state officials and DVMs would permit the livestock growers to use it. Because a few of us know and work with the developer of such a product, and have alerted the right people, we will see if they act correctly or fail in their duty. Now if there is an upcoming meat shortage, maintaining an adequate poultry supply is important. This could be interesting.

Hog Diseases

Concurrent with the problems of the expected smaller grain supplies is an increase in hog viruses that are either slowing weight grains, killing hogs, or reducing reproduction. One almost has to conclude that their immune and reproductive systems are compromised. This is bad to happen when demand for pork and hog prices are good. High grain prices have made feeding animals too expensive. Barns are not being filled up in many cases if feed prices were not locked in.

Regenerative Agriculture

This term has been used a lot in the past two years. It was deemed more usable to those who believed that sustaining failing systems would not solve any problems or minimize problems seen in input intensive production. When I asked a well-known local authority who covers the national scene if corn growers will have to deal with $1/lb. N next year. He said it might be even more expensive for 2023.That reminded me of the presentations by the Regen Ag folks at the soil health conferences and field days attended in 2021.

In order to get a handle on the new microbes appearing on the scene for 2022, we attended the Moses Organic conference in La Crosse held in late February. The organic producers have to be productive without commonly used fertilizers and herbicides, and can do it. How many of our growers who don’t have their input products lined up and possibly already in their heated sheds, may be constrained by lack of products in 2022, not by choice but by external circumstances.

In a major and expensive research project partially funded by private farmer dollars and food processing companies there will be a multi-year study of the practices used by regenerative growers to reduce inputs while also producing similar or improved yields with much healthier crops less prone to insect or disease problems. The headquarters and source of this concept was born from a USDA entomologist who began to realize that prophylactic use of many input products was making disease and insect problems worse. It appears that the time for regen Ag is here now and will become more important in the future.

2022 Weather Expectations

Will we have too much rain or too little, and will it too cool or too hot? The answer to each of those questions will likely be yes, yes, yes and yes, depending on the date on the calendar and stage of growth of each crop. In the last three years and traditionally in July and Aug we normally had 4 to 5 weeks, and now 9 to 13 weeks of weather that stresses the crops for moisture. Have you identified the different products and steps you can use or implement to help your crops tolerate moisture stress?

Here are the main topics that you can dwell on:

1. Break compaction with deep tillage or use of cover crops.

2. Maintain some crop residue to minimize surface runoff.

3. Plant hybrids from a genetic background that form a deep root structure.

4. On second year corn be sure to manage for CRW control.

5. Apply a microbial mix that helps to loosen the soil, build Haney scores, improve moisture infiltration and add mycorrhizal fungi to the roots.

6. Consider applying a humate product that will attract and deposit humidity in the furrow.

7. Try to use a seed treatment that delivers micros to the young seedlings. Two in particular should be included.

8. Be sure adequate Zn levels are maintained through the season.

9. Tissue test for all mineral levels and correct deficiencies.

10. Apply Respite or Phonix ethylene inhibitors when intense heat could push the plants into heat stress. Each application lasts for 10 to 15 days.

11. Apply CaSi Mainstay Si to the plants near V6 to V7 to increase water use efficiency by 36%. Any filming problems can be treated by adding apple cider vinegar to the spray tanks.

12. Control fungal or bacterial diseases that may plug the vascular systems.   

Bob Streit can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or visit the website  www.centralIowaAg.com       

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