Perhaps it was the hard winter, but I’m finding the flowering trees to be exceptionally pretty this year! Corn and even some soybean went into the ground this past week too. In last week’s column I shared regarding planting considerations yet would still encourage growers to keep considering your local field conditions before planting. You’re hearing some of these same things from both Extension and Industry partners and we realize field situations differ. We keep repeating these things to provide reassurance when you’re questioning decisions. We’ve already seen problems with anhydrous application in too wet of conditions in some fields. We’ve already seen some situations that were too wet when corn was planted leading to problems with compaction, depth issues, and not closing seed vee’s. With the cold snap, it’s important to consider soil temperatures (preferably around 50F or warmer for next 48 hours), soil moisture conditions, air temperatures for the next 48 hours, potential for cold rain, and cold tolerance of seed. Soil temperatures are listed at http://go.unl.edu/soiltemp and I would also encourage you to check your own particular field conditions. Last week, I was finding soil temperatures in local field conditions to be cooler than what was being reported from high plains regional climate center. If you don’t have a soil temperature thermometer, you can do this with a meat thermometer (and just dedicate it for field use).
I can appreciate the added concern and stress with this week’s forecast. There’s several planting-related articles in this week’s CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu. Two really helpful articles from Roger Elmore share on corn planting windows where he used USDA NASS data to show Nebraska data and also shared how other states throughout the Corn Belt have found similar results regarding planting windows. The key point is there’s a planting window between mid-April to mid-May within which optimum yields are usually obtained. After this period, yields decrease rapidly. So there’s still time and the planting conditions play a role in determining final yield by getting that seed off to a good start. You also keep hearing me talk about planting soybean early. Even as early as you can in May is better than mid to late May for higher yields if that works for your situation.
Browning Evergreen Trees and Shrubs: This past winter was hard on many things. When it comes to evergreen trees, the deep frost line and extreme cold led to the inability for transpiring trees to uptake moisture. This resulted in needles appearing brown and looking dead, particularly on the north and sometimes west sides of trees. I’m seeing this particularly on junipers, cedars, arborvitae, white pines, and some spruce. We’d recommend waiting till June before pruning any dead portions out or removing any trees/shrubs to see what happens with new growth.
Rhizosphaera Needle Cast in Spruce has been really bad the past few years. If you’re seeing spruce needles on lower parts of the tree turning yellow/reddish-purple/brown, then this disease may be the problem. The fungus continues moving upward on the tree. Affected needles are prematurely cast from the tree. Above average moisture during the growing season in parts of the State led to an increasing number of spruces affected by the Rhizosphaera fungus. What’s interesting is that the fungus infects the needles in spring but the symptoms often don’t appear till the following spring. One way to double check is to look for tiny black specks on the needles and on the twigs. The good news is that fungicide applications of chlorothalonil (Fungonil, Daconil, Bravo) or Bordeaux mixture in May can help when shoots are ½ to 2” in length! If we get frequent rains this growing season, applications can be repeated every 3-4 weeks.
Vegetable Planting Guide: Gary Zoubek had put together an excellent vegetable planting guide for the area which can be obtained at the Extension Office or at: https://go.unl.edu/d7qk.
Spring Lawn Seedings: With the difficulty of this past year, many didn’t get dormant seedings on because of all the snow and typically lawn renovation in the spring is difficult because of the inability for applying crabgrass preventer to newly seeded areas. However, a new product has changed this! Scott’s Turf Builder Starter Food for New Grass contains mesotrione which provides PRE and POST control of weeds without affecting the new bluegrass or fescue seeding. We’d still recommending seeding as soon as possible or else wait till August. Tenacity is also a product containing mesotrione that works as a POST for emerged crabgrass, foxtail, and for those dealing with nimblewill (best to apply on troublesome grassy weeds up to 1” tall).
Rhubarb and Frost: For those impacted by frost/freeze this past weekend, if rhubarb leaves are not damaged too much and the stalks remain firm, it is still safe to eat. If the leaves are severely damaged or the stalks become soft or mushy, do not eat these stalks. Remove and discard them. New stalks can be harvested and eaten. Rhubarb often develops seedheads following cold temperatures, but this also does not affect eating quality of the stalks. Remove rhubarb seedheads and discard.
Grateful for beautiful weather and harvest progressing again! We got the York County Corn Grower Plot out on Friday and special thank you to Ron and Brad Makovicka for their work and dedication to that effort! I will share the official plot results next week. The York County Corn Grower Banquet will be held on Thursday, November 15 at Chances ‘R in York with social time at 6:30 p.m. and meal at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are only $10 per person for a wonderful meal! Tickets can be obtained from any of the local directors or from the York County Extension Office at (402) 362-5508.Nate Blum from Nebraska LEAD Class 36 will give a presentation on his international tour and there will also be updates from Local, State, and National Corn Directors. For those who estimated yields during the plot tour, you need to be present in order to win the Yeti cooler.
Corn Yields: There’s an interesting article in this week’s CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu regarding final yield forecasts. Interesting to me are the box plots showing the range of ’30 year average’ vegetative and reproductive stages vs. 2018. The high heat in June shortened the vegetative time-frame. However, the silking through grain fill period was relatively typical for most locations and the long grain fill period with lower temperatures allowed for the better yields we’re experiencing (where drought and late-season hail wasn’t a factor).
Soybean Harvest Losses: Four soybeans in one square foot equals 1 bu/ac harvest loss. Various publications show how to determine harvest losses in areas of 10 to 25 sq. feet. For those with the SoyCorn Pocket Field Guide, page 78 shows estimating loss based on combine header width: http://nebraskasoybeans.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/SoyCorn-Field-Guide.pdf.
Evergreen Trees: Some evergreen needles are also changing color right now. It is good to look at your trees to determine the cause of the needle color changes. Evergreen trees actually go through a natural needle drop process with some years resulting in more thinning than others. I think this year may be one of those years as stress events can make needle drop heavier. Needle drop appears as needles turning yellow and falling from the tree. Pine trees may keep their needles for 2-3 or more years while spruce keep theirs for 5-7 years before needle drop occurs. Natural needle drop tends to appear along the main trunk and inside needles of the tree.
I also check for the presence of fungal disease. If the pine tree needles have dark spots/bands on them, it may be a fungal disease like dothistroma needle blight (on Ponderosa and Austrian pines) or brown spot (on scotch pines). The fungi actually kill the needles both directions from the location of the infection. With our heavy rains and high periods of humidity, I’m seeing increased fungal disease in evergreen trees this year. Fungicides applied in mid-May and again in mid to late June can help prevent this.
Pine wilt disease occurs in Scotch and Austrian pines. It’s caused by a bark beetle that has nematodes in its gut. The nematodes are native to Nebraska but Scotch and Austrian pines are not. Ponderosa pines aren’t affected because they’re native to Nebraska. The beetle ‘vomits’ the nematodes into the xylem (water-carrying vessels of the tree). The tree senses the presence of the nematodes and shuts down water to various branches as a way to prevent the nematodes from attacking. Thus why one sees a major branch then side of a tree turning gray-green then yellow-brown. Unfortunately, the entire tree will die typically within 3-9 months. Some farmers have tried trunk injections and drenches around their trees in hopes of saving them, to no avail.
On spruce trees, I’m seeing yellow/purple/browning of needles. This often is due to a fungal disease called rhizosphaera needle cast. One way to determine if this is the culprit is to look for tiny black dots on the gray twigs next to affected needles. The black dots are actually fungal structures that allow for infection to occur. Fungicide applied in May and after heavy rains can help. I always intend to spray my spruce tree each May but have failed to get it done the past several years. With recent rains, I’m trying it this fall to see if it can help; will let you know!
There have been several calls about arborvitae rapidly turning brown and I’m seeing evidence of heavy spidermite pressure at one time. Spruce spidermites affect spruce, juniper, arborvitae, etc. The rains and snow washed them off, which is one way to manage them. Evidence can be stippling (tiny yellow-green dots on needles) and also using a magnifying glass, one may see some webbing on undersides of needles. One can also just bang the needles on a white piece of paper to see if any mites are still active. Mites are most active in the cooler times of the season…so August through October in this case. Great resources for additional information include: Diseases of Evergreen Trees and Insect Pests of Evergreen Trees which can be obtained here: https://nfs.unl.edu/publications.
It was great to see so many fields of corn and even soybean emerging throughout the
area this past week! Also grateful for the rain we received in York and for those who received some in other areas. There are still areas who continue to miss rains and I remain concerned about the soil moisture situation. I have another soil moisture update this week at http://jenreesources.com if you’re interested in checking that out.
Thursday night/Friday morning’s high winds caused some damage with overturned pivots/corner systems and tree damage. We also saw newly emerged corn and even soybean cut off or
buried due to blowing debris/soil, particularly in soybean stubble. It will be important to watch the plants in these fields the next several days. By late Friday afternoon, I was already seeing new growth occur, which is good. Typically, that has been the response in the past-new regrowth in corn as the growing point is still below ground. However, it will be important to watch the corn plants for any bacterial issues that may kill seedlings. One can also split open a few plants and look for a healthy growing point. Regarding the soybean, I have seen soybean lose cotyledons due to hail, crusting, freeze, and wind damage, and still produce a plumule at the top of the soybean stem. It’s just hard to know for sure what will happen so it’s best to watch the plants in the fields.
Wheat in Nuckolls, Thayer, and Webster counties ranges from elongation to near boot and is turning blue-gray from moisture stress. Wheat is a crop that I’m always learning about-it can look really bad (or really good) and then end up surprising a person regarding yield either way. Lower leaves
in fields are turning yellow-brown. Some of this is due to moisture stress while there’s also powdery mildew pretty thick in lower canopies of wheat that had more tillers. A few have talked with me about using the wheat for hay or silage and then potentially going in with short season corn, sorghum, or a forage crop. Our forage specialists would recommend that if the wheat variety has awns, it’s best to either take for hay or silage at the boot stage so the awns don’t cause issues with livestock feeding. Todd Whitney, Extension Educator in Phelps/Gosper counties, had worked with a feedlot using an awnless wheat variety. Because of the additional growth that occurs in wheat (and other small grains) from boot to full head elongation, they found biomass production may be increased 25% if the forage was harvested during the later pollination period.
Evergreen Trees: There’s also been a lot of evergreen tree questions. For those noticing spruce trees looking kind of yellow with early morning sunlight, spruce spidermites have been working hard with the cooler, dry weather. They tend to build populations in spring and fall. You can check for spidermites by taking a white piece of paper and banging the needles on it. Then look for the presence of tiny dark green to nearly black spidermites crawling on it. Rainfall is a great way to wash them off of trees as are strong streams of water (easier done with smaller trees). There are also a number of miticides available that homeowners can purchase from lawn and garden stores (look for products that say they can be applied to trees for control of spidermites). A great brochure on insect pests of evergreen trees can be found at: https://nfs.unl.edu/documents/foresthealth/insectevergreen.pdf.
Many of us also noticed our spruce trees turning red/brown/purple/yellow in color last fall. This is most likely a disease called needle cast of spruce and can be prevented by spraying trees now (mid-May) with a product containing copper sulfate. Regarding Ponderosa or Austrian pines, if you look closely at the needles and observe dark bands or rings on them followed by death of the needle either direction from the band, the tree problem is most likely due to a fungal needle blight like dothistroma or brown spot in Scotch pines. They can all be prevented by spraying a fungicide containing copper sulfate now. The following brochure on diseases of evergreen trees is really helpful: https://nfs.unl.edu/documents/foresthealth/diseasesevergreen.pdf. Sometimes the problem is finding the products listed on these brochures in our smaller towns as these brochures were developed in Lincoln. If these specific products aren’t available from your local lawn/garden store, box store, or coop, I would recommend looking at the products available and look for a product that says it is effective against needle blights on trees. Not all the products I’m seeing have copper as an active ingredient, but other fungicides are listed and the key would be the fact that the site (trees) and even better, the site with problem (trees with needle blights), is listed on the label.
We also continue to see pine wilt affecting our Scotch (short needles in groups of 2) and Austrian pines (long needles in groups of 2). Pine wilt disease is caused by the pinewood nematode that is carried within the gut of a long-horned beetle. The beetle is what creates the ‘shotholes’ often seen in bark of infected trees. The nematode is native to Nebraska, as are Ponderosa pines (long needles in groups of 2 and 3). This is why we don’t see the problem in Ponderosa pines but do in Scotch and Austrian, which are non-native to Nebraska. A tip, if you’re trying to distinguish Ponderosa vs. Austrian pines, anytime you see needles with a group of 3 it’s a Ponderosa. Pine wilt is caused by beetles carrying pinewood nematodes vomiting them into the water-carrying vessels of the tree (xylem). The tree senses the nematodes and essentially blocks water to those branches. Often you will observe a branch then perhaps a side of the tree and eventually complete death of the tree within 6-9 months. While I have diagnosed many samples of pine wilt, more often when I visit homeowners the tree problems are due to fungal diseases which occur on the needles.
Lawns: Please remember the importance of sweeping or blowing fertilizer and pesticide products back into the lawn instead of leaving them on sidewalks. Leaving them on the sidewalks puts them in contact with people and pets walking on sidewalks and moves them into storm water systems via rain that can eventually end up in streams. I’m also seeing a number of 2,4-D/dicamba products being sprayed around tree bases to kill weeds which is affecting the new growth emerging on trees. Consider applying a wood mulch layer around the base of trees to help avoid this situation in the future and be sure to read and follow all pesticide labels.