SWEA CITY - Even 10 inches of rain between now and corn reaching "black layer" will not make much of a difference, said Paul Kassel, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist Friday morning at a drought meeting in Swea City.
If that comment was not wholly unexpected by the 110 people who attended, it at least confirmed that trendline yields are not expected to be reached this growing season even if the drought breaks and adequate rains start falling.
Kassel was one of six speakers at the meeting, coordinated by Kossuth County Extension. Carrie Gatton, the county's Extension program coordinator, said the meeting was called to give a view of the conditions of corn and soybeans and to give producers - grain and livestock - resources for adjusting and managing their operations as the hot, dry weather continues.
-Messenger photo by Larry Kershner
Jim McDermitt, a DeKalb representative, shows examples of pollination success, or lack of it, based on planting dates during a drought talk in Swea City Friday.
Other issues included the financial logic of additional crop management if the drought persists, managing drought-related pests, crop insurance issues, feeding drought-stressed corn to livestock and alternative feed sources.
Jim McDermitt, a representative of DeKalb, sent a murmur through the audience when he spoke of harvest starting early this year. Looking at the heat stresses experienced by row crops this growing season, and assuming the stresses will continue, he said corn could reach black layer, indicating physical maturity of the kernel, as early as Aug. 14.
"That's the worst-case scenario," McDermitt said. In all likelihood, he added, the hot weather stresses may break during August, but he still expects most of the area's corn will be ready for harvest as early as Sept. 5 and certainly by Sept. 10.
ISU Extension offers drought webinar
AMES - Iowa crop and livestock producers dealing with droughtrelated issues are welcome to attend an Iowa State University Extension and Outreach webinar Wednesday to learn more about options available to them. County Extension offices will be hosting the 1 to 3 p.m. webinar. There is no charge to attend the webinar.
Livestock issues covered during the webinar will include options to help producers manage immediate needs related to stressed pastures and reduced hay supplies. "We also will talk about early weaning to reduce cow requirements and supplemental feeding," said Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director. "Other topics facing producers are feeding value, proper ensiling and potential for nitrate toxicity for corn harvested as silage or green chop."
Members of the Extension crops team will cover the topics of crop growth and development under drought conditions and feeding drought-damaged crops. "We will look at current conditions, short-range and long-range forecasts, impacts of drought on forages and crops, and impacts on disease and insect development," said Roger Elmore, Extension corn specialist.
Extension specialists will discuss crop insurance coverage, grain marketing implications and valuing drought-damaged corn silage. Possible disaster programs related to the drought situation also will be covered, said William Edwards, Extension economist.
Area county Extension offices hosting the webinar include: Greene County, Jefferson; Hamilton County, Webster City; Humboldt County, Humboldt; and Palo Alto County, Emmetsburg. More counties may be added to the list of hosting sites prior to Wednesday - contact a local county Extension office for nearest location.
Extension agriculture and program specialists will facilitate the program at each site. Time has been allowed for questions and answers following the presentations. The webinar will be recorded and made available on the ISU Extension and Outreach website, www.extension.iastate.edu/.
Compared to 1988
Kassel said the current drought conditions, being compared to 1988, another dry and hot year, showed that corn yields around Britt, in central Hancock County, was 122-bushels-per-acre with just 9 inches of rain. Average yields a few years on each side of 1988 was around 140 bushels per acre. Kassel said 2012 drought conditions are more severe than 1988 and that farmers planted the 1988 crop into more subsoil moisture than they did in 2012.
He said the area has received less than half of the normal rainfall than usual, so the prognosis was not positive for reaching high yields in 2012.
to reach trendline yields, he said crops need 20 inches of rain spread across the growing season. Since April 23, the area has received 6 inches, including just eight-tenths during July, when there have been multiple 90- to 100-degree days.
"So any loss yields now cannot be made up," Kassel said. He estimated that trendline yields will likely be dropped by as much as 20 percent.
Still worth saving
McDermitt showed examples of ears pulled from various fields in the region that morning, showing the progress of corn. He said corn planted in mid-April had a good start, with good pollination in June and are filling kernels. However, corn planted in early May or later suffered pollination problems in the heat and showed as much as "75 percent pollination failure, and some have no ears at all."
McDermitt said the Swea City area has accumulated 1,671 growing degree units - a measurement of heat units corn needs to reach maturity. In Iowa, it's generally considered corn needs 2,700 heat units to reach black layer. Last year at this time, he said, corn had 1,338 heat units, so plants are ahead of last year by 333 units. He based his early maturity date on this formula, if weather conditions continue.
Even so, he said there is a concern that plants are cannibalizing, drawing nutrients from stalks to fill ears, which may cause stalks to weaken and fall, or lodge, by harvest time.
As for soybeans, he said, there is still optimism for the bean yield. He recommended producers do what they can for crop management to save what potential is still in the fields. This includes spraying with foliar applications, pesticides against spider mites and aphids if present in heavy numbers, and fungicides if field scouting indicates the need.
John Long, a representative for Mycogen, said the pests to scout against now is Japanese beetles, root worm beetles, spider mites and aphids. Both aphids and spider mites multiply quickly in sustained dry weather.
He said the presence of spider mites found today can multiply 70 times in a span of six to 10 days. "So be watching daily."
As for silk-clipping Japanese beetles, Long said, most corn is beyond clipping worries, however, with corn root worms, he said mature beetles will lay upward to 500 eggs in the soil.
Russ Euken, an ISU Extension livestock specialist, said supplemental feeding of pastured cattle with corn, byproducts and alternative grains will extend the life of pastures that are under heat and drought stress.
"I know it costs more," Euken told producers, "but compared to the high price of hay ..." Hay is roughly $120 per ton in Iowa, about $20 higher than last year.
He said there is concern for chopping stunted corn as silage due to the possibility of high nitrate accumulation in the stalks that are not producing ears.
There are chemical tests to show the presence of nitrates in corn, but not the level, he said. He suggests producers chop a sample from the field and end it for testing. Nitrates in ruminant animals can be changed into nitrites, which reduces the animal's blood capability of transporting oxygen. A high concentration can be fatal.
"You need to manage the silage right," he said, "because there will be a limited amount available."
A hay shortage this winter is expected due to pasture forage being stressed.