Flint on Crops: Wet Weather Threatening Crops

    My usual Saturday consists of cutting grass and taking care of maintenance issues. I also try to squeeze in the writing of this weekly article since it has become more of a hobby than work in recent years. Today I have plenty of time to write since it’s raining again as it has done almost every day for the last three weeks.

    While our neighbors in Louisiana and SW Mississippi have been suffering the flooding of homes, businesses, and farms we have been catching the edges of those same storms that have delivered rainfall amounts ranging from tenths to several inches in one day in localized areas.

    The heavy rains have been mostly south of Highway 82 in the Hills as shown by fields that actually need rain to finish out the filling of bolls and pods in some of the North-Central counties. Corn is about finished with many fields having passed the black layer stage last week.

    Harvesting has begun where growers have the capability of drying.

    Several growers have called or mentioned during my visits that they have concerns about weather-related crop damage and deterioration. Their caution is justified in light of the fact that only a few years ago in 2009 much of the crop was lost to an almost daily rainfall pattern that began in much the same way as this year.

    The question that is on many of their minds is whether there are any realistic precautions that can be taken.

    The issue for most of the growers I have talked with is that they have already invested heavily in this crop and are hesitant to commit anything more.

    It is fairly well accepted that late applications of fungicide in soybeans have the capability to preserve quality to some degree under conditions like this but yields will not likely be improved. And while our neighbors in states farther south sometimes utilize fungicides for boll rot in cotton the practice has not been verified by research here.

    The application of products for the management of late season diseases in corn has not been documented as consistently justifiable here either.

    You might say that we have become accustomed to taking whatever comes in most cases with agronomic crops. This is frustrating to me given the possibility for damage by diseases such as pod and stem blight in soybeans, boll rot caused by several different fungal and bacterial infections in cotton, and the history of mycotoxins produced by fungi in corn.

    Fortunately, much of the equipment available today has the capability to operate under field conditions that would have made harvesting almost impossible twenty years ago. The sad part is that when we harvest under wet field conditions the soil suffers terribly and has to be reworked before another crop can be planted. Years are then required for the soil to return to the kind of structure that was developed through years of reduced tillage or no-tillage farming.

    A wet harvest is bad all the way around but when it arrives there is little choice but to get it done.

    There are alternatives for the reduction of field damage to crops. Some of these are utilized in other parts of the world but are not recognized as effective here simply because the kind of research that is needed to prove their value has not been conducted. These materials are documented in scientific publications but are still not well accepted in this country.

    The reality is that nothing can totally prevent field deterioration when conditions are ideal for the spread and development of rotting organisms. We need for rain to be less frequent for several weeks while we harvest this crop that potentially could be one of the best in recent years. God is in control of that, not us.

    Thanks for your time.

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