Renewable Farming

Consultant Bob Streit: Why full-season crop nutrition paid so well this year

September will soon be history as we march into October. So far the weather has been great, except for the lack of sunshine as the sun is disappearing earlier each day. We had a once-in-18 years moon eclipse on Sunday night and it was a very sublime event.

And as of Monday morning Sept. 28, there was a large pool of cold air, as in 18 to 29 degrees, poised up north of Montana. Will it move south — as cold air typically does unless a western Midwest high forces it to stay north?

And in what now has global warming people wondering what is going on, the Pacific Ocean is now about a foot lower than it is supposed to be. This goes against the theory proposed by Dr Louis Frank, the Iowa City based space physicist who was the understudy to Dr James van Allen, which claims that higher ocean levels are the result of the constant bombardment of the planet by ice comets.

Harvest Season

Bob Streit

Now that we are into the harvest season, farmer are searching for as much harvest information as they can scrounge. After a week or so they can notice if growers are bragging or keeping quiet about their yields. If everyone is jolly things must be decent to very good.

If everyone is staying silent, the yields are disappointing. My theory, and what I was advising my clients, was that the 2015 season would follow the same script as in recent years. Any fields where the growers did not identify and apply micronutrients to counter the leaf streaking symptoms of nutrient deficiencies would have serious disease problems.

Then those disease problems would spread to every field, even those managed much better nutritionally, and with most fields ghosting out in mid to late August when a hot, dry week or weekend would occur, leading to the death of most plants in all fields. By planting on a specific cycle, kernel fill could be maxed and good yields would be possible, even if the season was challenging.

In the past week or two I have been in fields that were very well managed and will be fun to watch the yield monitors while they are being combined. In one north central set of fields the hybrids planted by a family were chosen for their yield punch in 2014, planted on time, sprayed twice with micronutrients and once with a fungicide. So far the kernel counts, based on either 80K or 90,000 kernels per bushel, indicate the final yield should be 250 bu/A or over. Having the plants still being quite green up to Sept 20 added three to four additional weeks of grain fill.

In west central Iowa I was in a few more fields with a livestock producer. He planted early, on very fertile ground, using a seed treatment of micros and microbes. Near VT he applied an ammonia based foliar N mix along with the Bio-Impruv for plant health to boost their immune response. On Sept 28, 50% to 70% of his leaf tissue was still green. I weighed two black layered ears of hybrids typically very susceptible to Northern Corn Leaf Blight on a high dollar Sartorious scale that weighs to the 1,000th of a gram, and they weighed 15.12 ounces each. Even after they dry down, his 34,000 ears per acre count projects to a very nice yield.

In the same field we walked along 100 plants, pushing the tops of the plants over the neighboring row as a stalk rot stress test. All but one of those plants sprang back upright. This grower is one happy camper.

In a neighbor’s field where nothing special was applied to the seed or foliar nutrition, the yield projection was for a yield about 100 Bu/A lower. In addition, the push test found that 99 out of 100 plants pushed over — simply snapped from stalk rot. 

Is that Goss’ wilt or some disease that sure looks like it? The immunoassay tests say yes.The plants smell like it.The second ear rots like western Nebraska ag consultants warned about in 2009. It responds favorably to antibodies of the Clavibacter Michiganesis Nebraskensis, the bacteria implicated in Goss’ wilt.

It appears that for the near future, corn growers will have to aggressively manage their corn fields to maximize plant health and nutrient levels if they hope to hit the high yields. Guys with lots of poultry or cattle manure will benefit from the nutrients contained in it and the soil tilth that applying organic matter adds.

Soil Sampling

Every cropping program needs to begin with a solid set of soil samples and the analytical data generated at a top-notch testing lab. We are lucky to have several very good labs we can utilize. I always like to have the report give the Base Saturation levels since it gives clues as to what might be out of balance. Then I like to see 1/3 of the samples tested for the micronutrient package. I would much rather have just the numbers and recommended range than lots of pretty maps missing the pertinent data. In years with tight budgets those figures will help determine if there is a balance of nutrition where there are very low levels that prove to be yield limiting.

The Haney test is getting more publicity as the many magazines and soft sell pamphlets are often running articles where Jill Clapperton or Bob Kremer are being interviewed and sharing their views. The farming public is finally learning that there is a big biological component to soil fertility. It is not all chemistry.

I would sooner try to raise high yield crops with moderate soil tests if the soil biology score is above 12 on the 1 to 50 scale. A score above 10 indicates that the nutrients are more likely to be plant-available during the growing season. Both Midwest and Ward Labs can run that test upon request. Is this the year to pull samples on some of your acres?


In recent history the growing seasons of 2010 and 2014 will go down as the bad years for Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS). Also, 2015 was a season where it became problematic in areas of the Midwest. While I had the chance to recommend and scout fields that were treated with ILeVO, I also saw fields that were in areas that were hammered by SDS in 2014, then after receiving a Trichoderma seed treatment and a micronutrient mix, the SDS never became a problem in 2015. Good nutrition is important in avoiding the problem.

Septoria showed up as promised, and the Strobes did a good job controlling it. Downey mildew and Cercospora were omnipresent in most fields, but neither became very severe. The R3 application helped with both. Where the moisture levels were high in July along with cool soil temps, white mold continued to be a problem. Opening up the canopy might be the best option for some, but how to do that and maintain a more solid canopy to suppress broadleaf weeds is a tough balancing act.    

Weedy Thoughts

On the Michigan State Extension site, Christy Sprague recommended that growers who had weeds that did not seem to die from a normally effective herbicide should try to collect seed samples from five plants in escape areas, and then send them into their weed department for testing. There is still the chance that weed escapes occurred due to poor penetration by the herbicide or environmental or tank mix interactions rather than true or partial resistance. Getting the solid answer could be the first step in formulating weed control strategies for 2016.

Water Rules and Cleanup

Last Friday there was a good workshop and field day at the Verdesian Field Day west of Guthrie Center. They are a blended company of several smaller, yet technologically advanced companies assembled by an investment banker who anticipated that Ag companies were a good long-term investment.

It was a day of discussion and plot tours where topics such as water quality, soil health, use of stabilizers and advanced cropping strategies were discussed. One final idea introduced was one of plant signaling compounds discovered by scientists at a Dept. of Energy Research Lab. This compound stimulates the crop plants to soak up more of the soil-available nitrogen so it has a greater supply available for plant processes.

Published Sept. 28 by Bob Streit,  Boone, Iowa 515-709-0143