Renewable Farming

Crop consultant: Use savings on seed to strengthen season-long crop health


Bob Streit opened his latest Iowa crop report (posted below) with a special observation for 2017: “My position in this budget crunch time is that in many cases, growers would be better off planting lower traited corn hybrids, then taking part of the savings on seed and doing season-long nutrition needed to keep the crop healthy. That includes using micronutrients, possibly foliar P, and controlling the New Goss’s Wilt. Remember that based on long-term insect history 2017 is scheduled to be a peak year for Eastern Corn borer. You will have to scout and possibly have to control them.”

Bob’s point is that keeping the crop alive and growing another three to four weeks in late summer can add more yield than the latest multi-stack corn traits.



By crop consultant Bob Streit  Nov. 14, 2016 —  The nicest part of the year is over with and we will soon have to hunker down for the winter. It’s time to get outside work completed before the ground freezes and cold winds blow.

Until that happens, we will get to enjoy the last warm days in November, which is predicted to be warmer than normal.

Harvest is not complete in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota which received 2 in. to 4 in. of rain. Many farmers have had their field work delayed until the ground either dries or freezes.

Field Observations

We had to run from Boone, IA to the Twin Cities over the weekend and observed the large number of corn fields and acres still left to harvest. Large ponds and signs of deep standing water were numerous. On top of the very wet September and early thru mid October, the last rain more than filled the soil moisture profile. This may be a harbinger of wet conditions at planting time since it is typically best to go into the winter with a 2 in. to 3 in. moisture deficit.

In central Iowa, most of the beans are out with many of the headland acres chiseled to take out fall traffic compaction. There are still many fields of corn still standing with larger growers or those who had manure to get applied, but now they can concentrate on getting those fields harvested. If recent planting intention surveys for 2017 are correct, there will be more acres of beans in 2017, thus fewer acres of second-year corn.

The degree of plant intactness and lack of lodging is very surprising after seeing so many stalk quality problems in 2015. Was it the warm and dry June and early July over much of the state that delayed the disease infections to minimize this problem?

Lots of fall tillage is underway by growers on heavier soils. The most common fall work seen is disk chiseling, where enough residue was left to provide some erosion control. There were enough growers who experimented with planning soybeans directly into standing corn stalks this spring and saw good results that they will be repeating that practice. This worked as another good way to reduce erosion and cut costs.  

Yield Publications

Late fall is a good time to begin studying published local and regional yield data. One source is the FIRST Plots which have been run for about twenty years. Farmers’ Independent Research of Seed Technologies plot coordinators try to return to the same sites as long as they can to lend continuity to the program and allow better year to year comparisons. We have seen the yields creep higher each year, showing that enhanced marker breeding has been beneficial.

What has clouded the issue a bit is that as budgets have gotten tighter and traits such as CRW have failed to deliver in the last years, there are seldom conventional hybrids included in the trials to compare against. Who is not concerned about every last input dollar going into the 2017 season?

In looking at the corn yields from the northern Cornbelt this year there were some surprises. They had a warm growing season with lots of moisture in the Dakotas and northwest Minnesota. In one plot at Jamestown, ND plot where the soil pH was only 4.5 with 115 lbs of N, the top yield was 270 Bu/A. You can bet he did not fertilize for what his removal rates ended up being.

Long term he will be pulling down his nutrient levels.


Now that the approvals for the major ag corporate mergers still have to be granted, the repercussions of such marriages are being discussed more among farmers and ag businessmen. There have been many mergers in the past, but this level of concentration is unprecedented. Few farmers and consumers believe that innovations and cheaper prices are on the horizon when there is less competition among companies or dealers.

Big companies often tend to silence or not employ the people who tend to think outside the box and are truly creative. So often it has been a very dedicated engineer or design person who has an idea they utilize within the company he or she started and grew it from there. John Deere, Dow and Pioneer all started in that fashion. One individual who thought differently founded those small companies that grew. Bigness is seldom creative.

In Ag the amount of money required to run their discovery units to stay competitive on a global scale has typically is often astronomical and becomes a driving force. In the herbicide and Ag science business it takes big bucks to create new products. Not all products pan out and sometimes the leaders don’t have the common sense and experience to guide them to consumer-accepted products.

Weed and Drift Issues

One topic that received press recently was the large number of drift complaints in the Delta country where farmers planted Dicamba resistant beans before the companion herbicide had been approved. It happened north of that region as the temptation was too great for growers to resist.

Missouri and Arkansas are not the only states where problems occurred. Our experiences from twenty and seventy years ago told us that certain herbicides can drift as particles and as vapor. Heavy high-pressure air, very humid air, still air, vapor pressures and wind are inter-relating factors that can act to facilitate herbicides drifting for miles. Work done by Minnesota researchers showed that when .8 oz of Dicamba drifts onto V3 soybeans, there is no damage — but when the same amount drifts onto them at R2, there is a 9 Bu/A yield loss.

There will be rules and regulations. That will not eliminate the problems that neighbors, claim adjustors, lawyers and juries will have to manage and pass judgment upon. In the news the past few days there was a case where a farmer and farm manager from Missouri and Arkansas got into a dispute over Dicamba drift where one killed the other.

Related to that issue, there are weed experts who have seen the Palmer pigweeds begin to form seed heads less than two weeks after emergence — or even after getting mowed off with the heads forming at one to two inches above the ground. Such persistence and survivability makes one think that the Aussie equipment that mounts in a combine that can crush 99.9% of the small seeds before expelling the trash might be what we are forced to adopt.    

Another weed that has been tough to control, especially in no-till, has been marestail. One of the major reasons for this is that it often germinates in late fall where it forms a small rosette. Weed experts in western states have found that fall-applied herbicides or cover crops help prevent it from becoming an uncontrollable problem.  

The constant admonition at winter agronomic meetings will be overlapping residual and rotational herbicide programs.

CRW Control Problems

Check out the latest issue of the Progressive Faming Magazine. In an article the author discusses the expanded problems that growers are now seeing with all of the CRW genetic insertions. It appears that all of them are showing some levels of not being 100% effective anymore. Extension entomologists are hoping that by educating growers and getting them to employ different tactics and products, they can stave off wholesale failures and damage from the problematic Western Rootworms.  

Compaction Issues

If you have area in your fields that got rutted up this fall and will be planted to soybeans next season it may be beneficial to perform a deep tillage trip to help minimize SDS problems. You’ll want to wait until after the areas dry enough to allow shattering of the soil.

Bob Streit      Boone, Iowa 50036    515-709-0143