Monthly Archives: July 2011

CropUpdate 7-18-11

While it may be strange, I love the smell of corn pollinating and don’t mind walking fields this time of year!  Summer is flying by but it seems like it’s taken a long time to get to tasseling in our fields this year.  Now that corn is tasseling, we can take into account the third foot root zone for irrigation scheduling.  There still is moisture to consider in the third foot so continue to check your readings on your irrigation scheduling tools and now take averages for all three feet.  You may be surprised as some of you won’t need to water till end of July/beginning of August!  If you have any questions about your irrigation scheduling tools, please continue to call any of us Extension educators or the NRD personnel as we want to help you and work with you now to answer them.

Disease just isn’t an issue so far in fields, so for those of you who purchased fungicide, wait till disease is present when you may need it.  UNL research by Dr. Tamra Jackson has proven yields are just as good with delayed fungicide applications as they are at tassel.  The longer you wait to use it for gray leaf spot, the more chances you will have residual for southern rust when it comes in.  While corn prices are high, you want to keep as much of that money as you can!  I don’t recommend fungicides on soybeans as we don’t have the disease to warrant it.  If you did pre-pay fungicide for soybeans as well, the timing of that application should be R3 (beginning pod).

Soybeans are approaching beginning pod for many of you.  For soybeans, this is a critical time for moisture in addition to seed fill at R5.  Many irrigation systems were running on beans last week and I just cringed because the time we don’t want to water soybeans is full flower or (R2).  The reason for that is because it can create disease issues.  We’ve seen a large increase of sudden death syndrome (SDS) the past few years in our county.  Part of that is due to early planting in cold soils, but irrigation during flowering can also play a role.  The major disease that occurs when irrigating during flowering is sclerotinia stem rot (also known as white mold).  While we have very few cases of this in the area, this disease is one that you don’t want to get started in your fields.  Like the fungal pathogen causing SDS, the fungal pathogen causing white mold is soil borne.  Thus, once you have it, you can never get rid of it.  White mold gets started during R2 when flower petals begin to die and the fungus develops on those dead petals. Wet, humid conditions during flowering are key to fungal development, so in the future, avoid irrigating beans during the flowering stages to avoid problems with these two diseases.

County Fair Reflections

A HUGE thank you to all the Fair Board members, 4-H Council, leaders, youth, parents, volunteers, Clay County News Staff, and Extension staff that made the 2011 Clay County Fair a success!  Words can’t really express my appreciation.  Driving home every night, I had time to reflect on each day so I decided (for all you farmers) I’d give you a break from irrigation scheduling : ) and provide some reflections from the county fair.
     I love watching the fairgrounds come alive…to see the barns and buildings filling up and the excitement of the youth and parents.  While it’s a lot of work, I really love fair week and I’ve always appreciated our county fair in Clay County.  I appreciate that the focus is on the youth and families-exactly where it should be; we truly have something special here!  There was several times in conversation a person this week would say “I haven’t been to the fair in X years” to which I’d respond “Welcome back!”.  For those of you reading this and can identify with that statement, I’d really encourage you to come out next year-because you truly are missing out on something special. 
     Every year different things stand out as I’m sure they do for the youth and parents as well.  This year, these are some of my reflections looking back: 
*Deanna and Holli working so hard to prepare before fair while Cindy and I continued programming right up to fair.  Everything was ready to go and we felt prepared for everything this year!
*The Fair Board Members working so hard before fair, deciding not to run me over before fair : ), and cheerfully picking up trash each morning and doing various tasks throughout fair.
*All the Superintendents, 4-H Council members, and Leaders pitching in wherever needed-how you all organized your volunteers to make the shows, exhibit judging, and the food stand run so smoothly.
*Kurt and Amy-the FFA Advisors from Sutton and Sandy Creek becoming so involved this year-it was great having them as a part of our team!
*The adults and youth who pitched in to clean out horse stalls Wednesday night before the fair.
*The beautiful day for the poultry/rabbit show outside and the youth excited to show their bucket calves and do their interviews on Thursday.
*The family fun night on Thursday night-I love seeing all the families come out and see what the 4-H clubs come up with each year!  Games, face painting, campfire, and all the work that went into pre-cutting the wheels and blocks to make small vehicles out of wood-a really cool and fun night!
*Beautiful morning for the hog show and the horse shows running so smoothly.
*The sheep and meat goat judge working so well with the youth –frankly all our judges did a great job with this-it’s where the focus should be-but the sheep/meat goat judge was exceptional!
*The beef judge commenting the quality of our breeding beef can compete with any show anywhere; just watching our youth building their herds for the future with hopes of coming back-that is exciting!
*The awesome buyers at the livestock auction, the excellent job that Bruce McDowell did as always and that Lonnie Stripe did as well, and a smooth-running auction!
*The dedication of the Clay County News staff-especially Tory who endured all the shows in order to capture those special moments and feature stories!
*The way so many swine families stuck around at the end to clean up the swine/sheep barn and help me put things away this year so I didn’t have to do that myself.  I really appreciated that!
*There are many moments but for the sake of space, THANK YOU ALL for making the Clay Co. Fair a success!

Wheat Ergot Update

Numerous calls have come in on the wheat ergot situation.  It must have been the perfect environmental conditions for this to happen this year in such a wide area and I need to take some time to figure out why this year during conditions that also favored scab and not a few years ago with similar environmental conditions.

Two main questions have been raised:  “Can I save back seed” and “can I bale and graze straw?”.  I don’t recommend that you save back seed, yet many seed fields in the area most likely were affected as well.  Seed can be sifted on a gravity table to help clean it so that is an option-but most farmers don’t have means for doing this so ultimately I wouldn’t recommend our farmers to save back seed.

In regards to baling straw and grazing, while walking harvested fields, I was noticing some ergot in heads that were too short to go through the combine heads.  Ultimately, the few kernels in a large amount of straw would be so dilute, I wouldn’t expect there to be problems with grazing the straw.  If you’re concerned about using wheat straw for feeding or bedding, you can always dilute it with alfalfa or another feed to reduce chances of ergotism in livestock even further.  I should point out that I’m talking about wheat straw in which the wheat grain has been harvested.  I would not recommend feeding wheat straw that was just cut with the ergot contaminated and wheat grain in tact.  If you plan to feed straw in that situation, I’d recommend sending samples to a Vet Diagnostic Center for alkaloid testing.

A third question I’ll throw in here is should you plant 2nd year wheat if that is your rotation.  While it is not assumed that ergot will happen every year and while the chances of ergot happening a second year are not great, it’s best management practices to go ahead and rotate to be on the safe side as any sclerotia (black fungal ergot fruiting bodies) would be lying on the soil surface and can produce spores that could affect the next wheat crop.  Again, this isn’t guaranteed to be a problem again next year (unlike things such as tan spot or septoria that are likely to show up in wheat on wheat fields), but to be on the safe side, I would recommend rotating.  Dr. Stephen Wegulo also wrote an article on ergot in wheat at the following site.

CropUpdate: 7-5-11

Last week was a blur of phone calls but it’s great to receive them and know so many of you are doing your best to wait for your soil to be depleted before scheduling your first irrigation!  There are some of you in the Little Blue NRD who haven’t received the rains the past few weeks and have hit the 90-100 trigger on your watermark sensors to schedule your first irrigation.  Most of you reading this won’t have to irrigate till after tassel (and then you can take into account the 3rd foot in your average)!  The 90-100 trigger relates to 35-40% soil moisture depletion and is proven by research via Dr. Suat Irmak at South Central Ag Lab for our silty clay soils.  Waiting for the trigger, regardless if you’re on load control or not, will still allow you at least a week to 10 days before you have to worry about getting behind.  Please continue to call with questions.  There’s also a discussion topic on my blog for your comments/questions.  

Corn and beans are looking good overall, are closing canopies, and corn is rapidly growing.  Wheat is being combined in the southern tier of counties and there has been quite a range of yields due to the dry weather producing small heads and disease issues such as scab, smut, and ergot.  Scab (Fusarium Head Blight) is a concern when we receive rain and high humidity during and around flowering.  We were recommending fungicides at that time.  Some people escaped it, some put the fungicide on, and others didn’t-so there’s a range of yields out there from that.  Common bunt (stinking smut) is the smut that creates clouds of black spores when you’re combining and the grain smells like fish.  Loose smut is loose in the head and doesn’t form a kernel shape like common bunt does.  Both can be prevented by not saving contaminated seed and using fungicide seed treatments at planting.

Ergot is one I hadn’t seen in wheat since I’ve been here but have in roadside grasses.  Ergot is caused by a fungus that infects the wheat head during cool, wet conditions during flowering.  Like the fungus that causes scab, it simply replaces the normal pollination process and instead, a black/purple hard fruiting body (sclerotia) is eventually formed.  Before this is formed, a sugary drop called honeydew is formed which then turns into the sclerotia.  It’s a problem for our producers because I don’t know that you can set your fans to blow it out like you can for light, scabby kernels since ergot sclerotia are denser.  The problem with ergot is that it contains toxic alkaloids (one is like LSD)…in fact, it’s blamed that ergot-contaminated grain is what caused the Salem Witch Trials.  These alkaloids are also toxic to livestock so contaminated grain should not be fed or even blended off for livestock.  Federal grain standards classify wheat as ergot infested when it contains more than 0.3% sclerotia.  If you are finding ergot-contaminated grain in your fields, do not save seed back next year; start over with disease free certified seed.  The sclerotia will live on top of the soil for a year (they will produce spores next growing season so don’t plant contaminated wheat fields back into wheat, barley, oats, or triticale).  Mowing roadside ditches and keeping wheat fields free of other grasses can help prevent ergot infested grasses from spreading the ergot fungus to wheat via blowing spores and rain splash.  More information can be found by checking out the UNL Extension publications Head, Grain, and Seed quality on the Web site.

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