Renewable Farming

Oct. 6 crop update from consultant Bob Streit

Every grain farmer is fully engaged in their busiest time of the year when they are in a full-scale rush to get all of their crops out of the field before a hail or snow storm arrives in the Midwest. We saw in past years what a late-season hail storm or early ice storm can do to both crops: It pounds them onto the ground making them unharvestable. The best guidance is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. If our luck holds we will get three to four warm and dry weeks where there are a minimal number of weather delays and mud does not become an issue to slow us down.

The NASS harvest progress figures today are showing that the top three corn producing states to the west of the Mississippi are roughly 12% harvested on corn and about 45% on beans. East of the Mississippi the corn is about 45% and about the same as the west on bean harvest.

The question remains as to if good yields in MN and IA will compensate for the very low yields in the eastern states, MO and KS. If the corn had not died early, that might have happened. But with early die-down, especially in much of the region south of Hwy 20, western yields likely will not be enough to raise the average.  

Yield Reports: Months ago there were crop tours where seasoned veterans drove their predetermined routes across the major corn and bean growing states. Their task was to stop at specific intervals and mark a set distance into the fields to make a standard yield determination. That sounds simple and it used to be.

Tour participants can only make their best calculation based on what they expect normal weather and normal crop development will be after that date. Their assumption is that the corn will stay green until late September when it should black layer and achieve maximum grain fill.

After all, what can happen to screw that up? Even the best-laid plan by the tour organizers and the tour members can have a monkey wrench thrown into the accuracy ratings due to an early dying crop. Thus we are seeing a broad range of how well those predictions are meeting with reality.

The upper part of the Midwest was the garden spot for the months of June and July. It was cool early, perhaps a bit too cool and cloudy, there was also the forest fire gaze, but that reversed itself as there were still a few hot days in July. Rainfall was mostly plentiful, except for part of NW and NC Iowa. It ended up being a good growing season in the state, though too much rain and too much lost N were major challenges. Much of eastern NE and northern Missouri as well as the eastern Cornbelt suffered thru a 1993 type season.

The comments I am hearing about yields now are that farmers who did not take corrective action to recognize and correct disease causing situations now wish they had been more proactive.

There were corn growers who did not pay enough attention to fungal and bacterial disease ratings, and it has cost them as their yields are in the 140 Bu/A range. Instead of having heavy, tightly packed and shallowly dented kernels, their ears are light, loose, deeply dented ears with ten to twelve rings of kernels that aborted.

Last week I mentioned spending time in several fields where the management using minerals, sometimes fungicides, or a new plant health promoting product, and those fields are being harvested now. Typically if a corn field yields at 200 to 220 Bu/A it is considered very good and most growers are pleased.

In two of those targeted and treated fields, the yields are in the 245 to 280 to even the 300 Bu/range. (Both had the BioEmpruv plant health product applied.) By staying green as long as it used to be considered normal, the plants were able to fill the kernels to the maximum, helping to produce bragging-type yields.

Since corn and bean growers are always working to increase their yields, the challenge should be to learn how those top yielding fields were managed and what products helped to increase yields and standability of those plants.

Just remember, brown is bad and green is good when it comes to yields. The periodic NDVI greenness maps showing the area percentages colored in brown or green, and how those areas are now being correlated to great, good, or poor yield results are proving to be very accurate again.

Consider the use of a seed or in-furrow application of a mineral/biological mix as it can get the seedlings off to a rapid and healthy start. I will write more on that later when I discuss the good-looking established and new biologicals, plus the latest on essential micros that affect root growth. The preparation work for this will consist mainly of getting educated on it and adding a Yetter type 2 x 2 application system to your planter.

If I had to sum up the two most important high yield observations those two would be to:

1. Restore soil health and biology and

2. Successfully fight Goss’s Wilt. There’s an even longer-term concern in this: If the corn crop begins dying in early July, it becomes a food security issue for the U.S. population.  


Soybean observations: The SB crop on Sep. 1 looked good, with a lot of bean potential that could be added due to all the flowers and small pods still attached to the nodes on the plants.

If each field could get sufficient moisture and heat during September those final pods might form and fill. Nature delivered, and the yields showing up on the monitors were dependent on soil fertility levels and energy levels in the soil. The trend on bean yields varies from being a good average to extremely good.

Soil testing this fall should give clues and to what fields met expectations and which ones ended up being disappointing. A person could expect the Haney test to help explain the top yields occurred. The variables to examine also include the amount of branching for each variety, podded node count, planting date, root size and health, nutrient and micronutrient levels, level of disease infestation and rainfall timing.


Soil Sampling: When the fields are harvested, it is time to get soil samples pulled. The current guidance would now be to have the micronutrient levels analyzed on 25% to 33% of the samples, and select a few fields where you will want to have a Haney test run. Doing this will allow you to have a benchmark to see how your fertility program is faring and to establish each the fields’ soil health index.


Resistant Weeds: Remember to gather seeds from plants in any patch of broadleaf weeds that didn’t die or get affected by formerly effective herbicides. There are tests that can be run to verify suspicions, giving you key information necessary to formulate your weed management programs for 2016.


N programs:  Late season plant cannibalization in fields where N loss occurred was real. Field loss via leaching or denitrification became a reality once the ground became saturated and warmed up. Luckily many growers did find that several effective N stabilizers did work well, then the Y-drops or dead on dribblers on ground applicators allowed tractor powered or high clearance rigs to perform as advertised. The change that could be seen this next season is that stabilized dry N is priced equal to 82% so in season dry application appears ready to become more common.


Have a safe and rewarding harvest!

Published October 5, 2015 by Bob Streit. Boone, IA 515-709-0143