South central Minnesota crops progressing

Crops are progressing at a good pace in south central Minnesota.

Ryan Miller is a Crop Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester. Miller covers south central Minnesota, and said things are looking good, but there are some questions, especially when it comes to the soybean crop.

“Yes, things are looking good,” said Miller. “The one strange thing is the fields that were planted in early May typically aren’t showing rows anymore, and we can still see them. There are some places where you can still see down to the soil surface, which is extremely odd at this point, unless it was a really late planted field. That peaked my interest.”

He added, “They could still potentially close, and we’ll be following up in the next week or two to see what happens.”

The other challenge in soybeans is disease pressure in certain fields.

SDS in Soybeans

He are soybeans showing the symptoms of sudden death syndrome, which is said to be showing up in south central Minnesota bean fields. (Photo from Pioneer.com)

“It appears sudden death syndrome is starting to poke its head up,” said Miller. “We’re starting to see the symptomology. We should start to see more of it in the next couple of weeks. Right now, unless you’re out in the fields, it’s hard to see the foliar symptoms. If you’re on the road, you probably won’t pick it up.

“Unfortunately, there is a history of SDS in the area, basically from Waseca to Owatonna, and Austin to Albert Lea,” said Miller.

Farmers may want to begin scouting their soybean fields for aphid activity.

“We’re starting to see aphid activity, and to this point it hasn’t been too big of a problem,” said Miller. “Up until a few days ago, the activity was really light and hard to even spot. Now, it’s really variable from field to field. Some are at our threshold of 250 aphids per plant, with 80 percent of the plants infested, and they need to be sprayed. But there are other fields even a few miles away that don’t need spraying.”

Soybean Aphids

Soybean aphids are showing up in south central Minnesota fields, but may not be at threshold yet. It’s important to scout fields as soon as possible. (photo from sdsoybean.org)

Miller wants farmers to avoid the temptation to spray without checking fields to see if it’s necessary.

“Given the current economic situation, people could benefit from waiting to spray (if a field isn’t at threshold),” said Miller. “We’re not out of the woods. These products won’t necessarily end the infestation. There are fields that may see recolonization later on. There are a lot of aphids flying around.”

A story developing out of southwest Minnesota involves non-performance of aphid killing products.

“There’s a narrow band of area in southwest Minnesota where there’s been some non-performance of insecticides,” said Miller. “How we stay away from that is waiting to spray until we need to, and that also can limit the need for a second application. But you still need to stay on top of it. Things can change quickly, and it won’t always be evident from the road.”

He said the overall condition of the corn looks good.

“We’re in the R2 to R3 stage,” said Miller. “I was looking at doing some early harvest estimates, and it’s a little tough because we have a long way to go. However, assuming we continue with good conditions, we might be looking at anywhere from 187 to 260 bushels per acre. If we can continue with good conditions, the harvest could be a little above normal.”

So far, the corn crop doesn’t seem to be feeling a lot of pressure.

“The corn really looks good,” Miller said. “I know there was some concern in northern Iowa with corn on corn leaf blight, but the corn here looks good.

“The bottom leaves haven’t even fired up yet, which they do when they hit the R3 stage. At that stage, the plant begins to recirculate some of its nitrogen and nutrients to use things up, and that hasn’t happened yet. The soil and the environment are still providing adequate fertility.”

The small grain harvest is progressing well in south central Minnesota.

Oats harvest

The oats harvest in south central Minnesota is all but wrapped up, according to Ryan Miller of the Extension Service. Results are generally in the 150 bushel per acre range. (photo from pond5.com)

“I’m hearing tremendous yields on oats,” he said, “somewhere in the area of 150 bushels. That’s a phenomenal yield for small grains. Haven’t heard a lot on wheat yields yet, but I think that will be good too.”

He added, “Reports out of northwest Minnesota are that they have had good yields, but the protein content was a little low.”

 

Here’s the complete interview with Ryan:

 

 

 

 

Southeast Minnesota farmers take a hit in 2013

The catchphrase is “prior planning prevents poor performance.”  In 2013, southeast Minnesota farmers found out that Mother Nature can have plans of her own.

 

Southeast Minnesota farmers saw a banner year in 2012, with the growing season producing bumper crops.  In 2013, farmers saw a complete 180-degree turn for the worse, and the area is still feeling the effects as farmers look to the upcoming growing season, when they get back into the farm fields that help produce our nation’s food supply.

 

2013 started poorly

 

Lisa Behnken is a Regional Extension Educator in Crops with the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Rochester, and she said 2013 saw a very slow, wet start to the season.  When spring did finally begin to wake up, the first problem area farmers saw hit the livestock industry particularly hard.

 

Lisa Behnken of the U of Mn Extension office, Rochester (Extension Photo)

Lisa Behnken of the U of Mn Extension office, Rochester (Extension Photo)

“The first thing that hit people was the alfalfa,” said Behnken. “We had a massive alfalfa winterkill.”  She said roughly 50 to 90 percent of a farmer’s acres died.  This alfalfa is a prime source of feed for the beef and dairy cattle industries, and farmers were in a tough spot.  Behnken called it the first “big, red flag of the spring.”

 

A wet spring delays planting

 

Behnken said farmers took the winterkill into consideration heading into spring planting, and rearranged some plans to include re-seeding of alfalfa, but here came the next challenge:

 

2013 was hard on livestock farmers because of alfalfa winterkill

2013 was hard on livestock farmers because of alfalfa winterkill

Southeast Minnesota saw a very wet spring.  Behnken looked back at the calendar as May 2 saw an estimated 15 to 20 inches of “heavy, wet snow” blanket the region.  “It turned cold, and the snow just stayed in the fields.  There was virtually no window to plant in the month of May.”

 

She estimated farmers saw a very small window to plant in mid-May, when a few fields opened up.  Farmers were able to plant a few fields of corn into the dead alfalfa stands, but there was still manure and fertilizer to get down on empty fields, and it was “a lot to do in a very small window,” said Behnken.

 

To plant or not to plant

 

May 31 was the deadline for farmers to decide on taking payments for prevented planting acreage, or to keep forging ahead to try to get corn in the ground, and it was a tough decision for everyone, but especially for livestock farmers.  Behnken said the livestock farmers “needed feed for their animals.  They had to plant.”

 

June 15 led to another tough decision for farmers – whether or not to plant soybeans or take prevented planting

payments to help cover some of their farming costs.  “Acres were still under water in mid-June.  It’s not like they were going to dry out if we had many sunny days in a row.  They were simply not plantable.”

To plant or not to plant?  A tough decision for many farmers in 2013 (photo from nebraskacorn.org)

To plant or not to plant? A tough decision for many farmers in 2013 (photo from nebraskacorn.org)

 

Livestock producers weren’t the only ones who needed to produce grain.  Grain farmers who had forward contracted their crops owed bushels to their local elevators.  Farmers who had contracts with ethanol plants had to come up with bushels as well for the plants to use in their production.

 

June fields were very muddy, very sticky, and “it was very tough planting conditions,” according to Behnken.  As a result, southeast Minnesota farmers were still planting well into July.

 

An aphid explosion in August

 

“As the weather began to change, warming up in the third week of August, we saw soybean aphid populations explode,” said Behnken. “It’s probably the worst case I’ve seen, in terms of numbers and the speed at which populations grew.”

 

Soybean aphids (U of Mn Extension file photo)

Soybean aphids (U of Mn Extension file photo)

“If you weren’t out scouting your fields and following good IPM practices when you reach the threshold for spraying, you took a big yield hit.”  Soybeans were at least two stages behind normal growth rate, and that made the hit even worse.

 

Behnken was at a field day in early September when soybean damage was at it’s worst, and saw many bean fields that were literally black in color.  “Soybean aphids defecate excessive plant sap, called honeydew, that drips onto the lower leaves.  A black to gray mold may then colonize the honeydew, turning the surface of the leaf a dark gray.  In severe infestations, the field will take on a very dark cast.  The mold then covers the green areas of the leaf, interrupting photosynthesis, and reducing plant growth.”

 

Behnken said some farmers walked away from their fields when they saw this.  “Some farmers began to throw up their hands, understandably, and say to themselves, enough.”  Several farmers weren’t going to put any more money into their bean fields, especially since it was planted late to begin with, and they weren’t sure the returns would make up for the cost of producing the damaged crop.

 

Better harvest than expected

 

Harvest was a challenge as well.  The weather was cool, which led to “very poor drying conditions in the field,” said Behnken.  She called it a very nasty harvest season.  “It was going to be late, which we expected because we planted late.”  She offered silage as an example, which she said was chopped six weeks later than normal.

 

To exacerbate the poor drying conditions, southeast Minnesota farmers had to deal with a shortage of propane for their dryers.

 

“Our yields were…okay.  For most producers, we were pleasantly surprised that we came up with an average

Corn harvest (photo courtesy of indianagrain.com)

Corn harvest (photo courtesy of indianagrain.com)

yield,” said Behnken.  She estimated the average corn yield for the area at 150 bushels per acre, with extremes on either side of that number depending upon how much snow landed on each farm field.  “A few fields in the area did go over 200 bushels, but that was the exception.”

 

Many soybean yields came in at roughly 40 bushels per acre.  Between 40 and 55 bushels per acre is considered a pretty good year.  There were extremes as well, with “some farmers harvesting only 20 bushels per acre off their fields.  Overall, it was a modest harvest, definitely not a bin buster.”

 

Turn the calendar

 

Behnken said the Extension Service is encouraging farmers to turn the page to the New Year, but not to forget the lessons learned from a rough 2013.

 

“Let’s learn the positive lessons.  There’s going to be a weed seed bank out there.  There are going to be pest issues because some spraying last year simply didn’t get done in time.

 

“Did we do anything with our fields that would cause soil compaction issues as we get set for spring planting?”

 

She said farmers in the area did learn a lot about cover crops, which could be very beneficial to soil health in the years to come.

 

2013 was a legitimately bad year for most, and she said “it’s time to turn the page.”