Renewable Farming

Two main challenges facing most Midwest corn-soybean growers

Below, we’ve excerpted key sections of crop consultant Bob Streit’s report to Midwest clients and friends. One of Bob’s many strengths is his journalist’s “nose for news” — his constant search for fresh techniques and products which can add a few dollars to your bottom line. 

September 13, 2021 By Bob Streit  Now that the real hot daytime temperatures seem to be in the past, sundown is occurring over an hour earlier and the smell of fall is in the air. We know that harvest in different parts of Iowa may be starting within two weeks. A high percent of the bean fields have yellowed ahead of schedule. Corn fields range from dark green to different shades of browned husks, to fired from the top and the bottom, to being totally brown with ears hanging down.

Crop Tours and Their Accuracy

As to what we can expect for yields across the Midwest, Pro Farmer tour participants said the crops west of the Mississippi were erratic at best. Yield summaries in those states would be highly variable. Much of the reason for this is that most of the summer rains, if any came, were in the form of passing showers that were quite small rather than large fronts that dumped two to three inches over entire states. Most counties had no rain in April, not much in May, then a small total in June and July before a few larger fronts delivered precipitation during August. Often the tours are held too early and they rate crops for their potential, assuming rainfall amounts will be normal for the rest of the season.

Summing up or giving an average for the corn crop would be difficult. If I drove 50 miles in different directions I could walk into corn fields that might yield 60 Bu/A on the low end or I could walk into fields that could be in the 220 to 260 Bu/A range. As far as seeing many very high yielding fields, there are too many rings of kernels aborted from the ear tips to see that happen. Those extremely hot days of June and early July where the leaves were severely rolled up by 9 am took a toll on plants stressed by both lack of moisture and temps in excess of 86 degrees.

Phantom Bushels

As to our crop raising counterparts to our east and west, their crops have also been stressed and will not be record breaking. A number of others and myself who drove clear thru Nebraska late in the season saw a corn crop that, rather than staying green, had turned different shades of brown on a varying percent of the  plants in each field. In the better fields the upper 20% of the leaf tissue was brown. In other fields the upper leaves (top third) were brown. The cause was likely a mix of extreme heat along with not being able to keep up with moisture demand and later season leaf diseases. To our east, most comments from both growers and crop tour participants traveling through Illinois and Indiana were predicting record corn yields. Since those projections, Ken Ferrie, a crop scout from Illinois and frequent guest columnist in Farm Journal and DTN, was reporting that a mixture of leaf diseases, Anthracnose, Eyespot, Goss’s Wilt, GLS and Tar had moved in and were reaching severe levels. His statement was that fields that were poised to yield 250 will be closer to 200. The late season rains and high humidities were conducive to foliar fungal and bacterial diseases. Is there a chance the projected residual activity was reduced from previous years?    

So how might the yields be in surrounding states? 

We were thinking earlier that Nebraska irrigated farmers might get to claim the #1 corn state title by bushels/A or total bushels by state. Driving to and back from Denver in late August gave me a chance to views their crop from the highway. We did not have the extra time to make field inspections. What we saw was a crop that looked very tough once you got west of Grand Island.  

It would be a learning experience if every field, both corn and beans, had to be labeled as to what genetic family the variety was in, the RM, the Haney score and what if any microbials had been applied, traits if any, root type and architecture, compaction readings and depth to those hardpans, prior crop, tissue test readings, soil organic carbon levels, water extractable organic carbon scores, rainfall amounts by weekly totals, moisture infiltration rates, seeding rate, days of severe leaf rolling and major soil types. Why would we want that? Because all of those things influenced how the crop responded to every human-controlled input and what nature threw at it. We could learn from everyone’s mistakes and be more proactive next season.

Late Yield Enhancement of bean yields

With bean prices above $12/Bu and expected high demand from China, more growers had the thought of coaxing more bushels from their bean acres. That is one area in which the guys who have won the contest in their respective states or on a national level have sleuthed out the needed steps and products for yield success. In Kip’s field that made 154 Bu/A about eight years ago, his bean size was 1900 – 1915 seeds per pound. We shucked and weighted a representative sample of pods, as we were curious.

A number of fertilizer companies have mineral mixes they sell to people who hope to do the same. Which one is best still needs to be contested.  No one knows at this time. Two fertilizer experts assembled a reasonable and doable mixture that coaxed out a 20+ Bu/A increase in a droughty neighboring state in 2020. We used a close version of that in a few local fields, applying after their areas picked up 2+ inches of rain in late August. They had already implemented the first parts of the HYMS program.

Another grower in a nearby state applied some of the same minerals to beans near the R3 or 3.5 stages and his beans size was huge as of Sept. 8. Included in those programs were SprayTec, BRT, BW Fusion, Full Sircle and Albion products.

The same grower used a strong mineral program and the new Amino Acid chelated minerals and enough acres of BioEmpruv to get a good opinion about their efficacy. Having very green corn plants with long and large diameter ears filled to the tip without having spent any money on fungicides is a success. Many of the fields in his area are under heavy pressure from Tar Spot. There were a few lesions on the plants but were mostly contained.  The BioEmpruv worked again and passed the tests for Tar Spot.    

Cracking open tough stalks, or shredding them, before applying a residue digesting product,
is critical for good breakdown before spring. Fragile stalks allow more uniform planting and less N competition in spring.


For 2022

As we move into the harvest season we have to recognize the two main challenges for most growers. The first would be the need to increase fertilizer efficiencies due to the large price increases seen with most of the products. Using the proven microbes into your soil to increase your Haney scores has been proving via soil and tissue testing to be key to getting the most for your fertilizer dollars.

Next is learning that there are several ways to manage plant disease beyond simply applying a fungicide near R3 or VT. This would be to use a biological mix plus a carbon source to stimulate residue degradation and minimize the amount of inoculums present to infect next year’s crop. We have seen very good results with the BioDyne MeltDown product.

Shredding or cracking open cornstalks prior to application is advised. We saw this past year that growers planting no-till into untouched corn stalks often had problems with seed placement due to the hairpinning that occurred under disk openers.


Bob can be reached at     (515) 709-0143