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TLC For Late Crops

July 29, 2008
 
 

You know what they say about the best laid plans. This spring, Pete Pistorius found himself making production decisions on a daily basis that were "difficult, significant and not how we planned them.”

"I don't know of a farmer that didn't put some amount of crop in under less-than-ideal conditions,” says Pistorius of Blue Mound, Ill. "The challenge now is to get that crop to harvest.”

Across the nation's soggy breadbasket, farmers gutted out a tough, muddy spring and are now facing an uncertain summer. Delayed and washed-out crops have given way to a mish-mash of crop conditions that elude any one-size-fits-all fixes.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie

"We have a saying around here: You never walk away from a crop,” Ferrie says. "Giving up usually gets expensive, and that's especially true this year with historic prices. Unless it only changes your insurance check, it's best to stick it out and do what you can to manage the hand Mother Nature has dealt.”

Patchwork pockets. "Scouting, spraying, harvest—all change when you don't have uniform fields,” Ferrie notes. Beyond flooding and spotty drowned spots, the portions of the Midwest became a crazy quilt of uneven stands and crops mixed within fields as farmers tried to salvage what they could from a late season.

Pistorius, who farms with his father, Tim, and brother-in-law, Craig Paulek, was primarily dealing with delayed planting and some ponding until the City of Decatur relieved its swollen lake by releasing water and flooding several thousand acres of prime farmland located downstream. The six-generation Pistorius family farm lost 200 acres in the wash.

Pistorius was able to replant but figures monitoring this crop will be more important than ever. "We could face some heavy pest pressure this year. Uneven fields planted in wet conditions are going to pollinate unevenly, and it's going to be critical for us to continue scouting throughout the entire summer,” he says.

Pest patrol. Ferrie says insects tend to pick on areas that are not uniform. "This year it is like we have three fields in one, and it will need to be scouted accordingly.

"We have 20% of the fields two weeks or more behind the rest. If you make that call to spray the older crop, realize the remaining 20% may need to be retreated later. Working with applicators will be critical, and don't be surprised if custom applicators charge you two application fees—even if you are only spraying the remaining 20% of the field,” Ferrie says. "They have to recover their fuel and labor costs.”

Delayed crops may be even more critical when considering fungicide applications. Preventive fungicide applications made to corn prior to tassel have been linked to yield losses and stunted or mis-shapened ears. "Make sure you have an applicator that is willing to skip those areas. You may want to consider adding a bit of curative if you come back later to do the ponded areas,” Ferrie says.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Summer 08

 
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