Thursday, June 10, 2010

Crop scouts don't like to be positive...

I have a professional crop scout for one of our farms.  Actually the farm manager thinks it's a good idea, so...

Anyhoo, he recently reported conditions were ideal for an outbreak of white mold this year.  To be sure, crop scouts are pressured, I think, to find some problem to justify their fee. We have never had it this far south, but I guess it's showing up just north of me (Champaign County).

This could be a really tricky problem as the freakishly productive Kip Cullers points out.
We have a white mold problem on our farm because of the green beans we’ve grown in the past and the intensive management practices we follow. We have a disease breeding factory here and once you get white mold, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it.
This year, we put 4 pounds per acre of Contans WG® down before we planted, then we worked it in a couple inches deep and then we chemigated another 4 pounds per acre three to four weeks later. To me it looks like the Contans WG should work because it affects the sclerotia before the soybeans bloom.
Another thing we learned in Brazil is spraying soybeans with Cobra® at the third or fourth trifoliate. We’re going to give that a try, too. The Cobra should cause the growing point to fork so hopefully we’ll get two main centralized feeders so the soybeans don’t grow so tall.
White mold is costing us a lot. Last year, we had the best soybeans ever and it looked like we would make 165 to 175 bushels per acre. And then white mold came in and ate our lunch. We’ve got to get this disease figured out. Between this and the soybean height, we could be losing as much as 100 to 125 bushels per acre. [More]
Laying aside the fact that if I lost 100-125 bushels/acre, my yields would be about -60 bpa, I do respect his assessment. 

But try to find any reasonable, effective approach to handling this problem other than looooong rotations with lots of small grains.  Yeah, that sounds doable.

So to sum up, our intensive production of corn and soy could be at risk from new problems triggered by what some see as long term climate change for the Midwest.
"Historically, a drought like the Dust Bowl would happen every 100 years, but what we've found is that modern droughts are shorter and can be more severe," said Cherkauer, whose results were published in the early online version of the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. "The frequency of these droughts and the aerial extent has decreased significantly, however, since the middle of the last century."

Studying precipitation data from 1916 through 2007, Cherkauer and Mishra found that only one severe drought -- in 1988 -- occurred since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. During that time, Indiana and much of northeastern Illinois have trended toward more precipitation during the crop-growing season from May to October, a positive for corn and soybean growers.
"There is less chance of having widespread, extreme drought," Mishra said. "We may have drought, but the tendency is that we're getting more precipitation during the crop-growing season."

Cherkauer and Mishra predicted future drought conditions by studying historical precipitation trends and inputting soil moisture and stream flow data into the Variable Infiltration Capacity Model, which simulates how precipitation moves through land surface environments.

Cherkauer warned that despite the rarity of drought conditions, droughts would be likely to occur during the later part of the crop-growing season, when the plants need moisture to produce grains.

"Yields are also much higher than they were during the Dust Bowl, so the impact of the damage would be worse," Cherkauer said.

Mishra said future research will try to determine the cause or causes of the increase in precipitation. He said global warming is likely a factor because rising sea temperatures near the equator are causing more El Niño conditions, which increase rainfall in the Midwest. [More]
Say what you will about drought, but it cuts down on fungal diseases.  

Drought tolerance may not be the feature we will need here in hybrids soon, compared to disease resistance.


Anonymous said...

175 bu/ac? Just what are you doing to get that kind of yield from soybeans? I know I have a longer growing season for soybeans (1st of May to mid November) here in Virginia. If I get 50 bu/ac I think I've done really good.

John Phipps said...


Hey - it's not me. I was referring to Kip - the Curve Wrecker for Soybean Farmers.

Note his last sentence. If I had his "losses" I'd be about 60 bpa in the hole!

Don't ask me how he grows 'em. I still giggle when I get over 60.

Anonymous said...

I've looked at how that man manages his fields in a few agronomy classes. At some point, his main income was vegetables, which are very management intensive compared to corn/soy. He carries that intensive management into his bean fields where he treats a few of them as best he can. The information he gleans from his own personal test plots he adapts to the rest of his farm. I am always blown away at the knowledge of that man.

Anonymous said...

Take it from a northern farmer, you don't want white mold. If you've never had it, do what you can to control it from the top (Cobra, Headline, etc.) Once you've had it, the sclerotia are alive in the soil for a very long time just waiting for the right conditions to overwhelm your crops.