IVESDALE, Ill. — From compaction to disease, fungicide to nitrogen, how are the corn and soybean crops across the Midwest faring?
A panel of AgriGold agronomists, representing the U.S. Corn Belt from Ohio to western Illinois and into Wisconsin took on the challenge of addressing some of the current, former and future issues facing the 2022 U.S. corn and soybean crops.
The panel at the AgriGold Specialty Products Conference on June 29 discussed issues that involve the crop in their territories and that involve the corn and soybean crops as a whole.
The panel was moderated and questions were posed by Chuck Hill, specialty products manager for AgReliant Genetics.
The panelists included John Brien, eastern agronomy manager for AgriGold, whose territory covers Ohio and the eastern Corn Belt; Nick Frederking, AgriGold regional agronomist for southern Illinois; Kevin Gale, AgriGold regional agronomist for northern Illinois; and Joe Stephan, AgriGold regional agronomist for northern Indiana and southwest Michigan.
Can you speak to corn rootworm that you are seeing so far?
Gale: Corn rootworm is a big concern for my area in northern Illinois, especially as you go to the northwestern part of the state, where there are heavy beetle counts, heavy rootworm pressure over the last couple of years. 2021 was a heavy rootworm year.
We had a dry June, we didn’t have saturating rains. We had heavy pressure of corn rootworm.
I suspect we are going to have that same pressure again this year. I’ve done some digs in the corn on corn. I can see some feeding there.
I suspect corn rootworm will be a concern, especially in those areas that had a heavy pressure a year ago, just from a lack of flooding and wet soils, the larvae had good survival.
Nitrogen always is a key component of grain quality and of yield, as well. Have we lost a bunch of nitrogen so far or not? What are you seeing? And did growers apply what they normally apply because of the cost this year?
Gale: You’ve got to have nitrogen available season long. I think you also need to have sulfur. Nitrogen and sulfur go hand in hand.
Just looking at some of the tissue sample results in my area, we may be running a little short on nitrogen, specifically, late in the season. We also see that with sulfur.
An application strategy is something that growers are trying to manage and go a little bit later in the season and have season-long availability of nutrients to maximize grain quality.
From a nitrogen perspective, a lot of nitrogen went on last fall as ammonia. From a cost perspective, it just made a log of sense to get your nitrogen on if you were able to do that.
I think this year, in general, the weed and feed programs, the starter programs, have looked a step ahead of those growers using 100% anhydrous, just from a rooting perspective. Having that nitrogen close to that root early in the season has shown huge benefits to get the crop off to a good start.
Frederking: A big difference, as far as nitrogen goes, in my area versus Kevin’s, is that he does have a lot of fall-applied anhydrous and we don’t, in southern Illinois. A lot of it goes on in the spring, so nitrogen availability is not so much my concern, but accessibility is.
I’m going to highlight that restricted root growth due to compaction, whether it’s a two by zero application on the plant, as close as you can get to the row.
We had compaction on sidewalls. There was not a chance that the two by zero ever made it to the roots.
That grower’s plan was to go back and Y drop, again, as close as you can get to that plant, but again, your bottlenecked roots are going straight down.
The amount that plant is taking away from that Y drop is going to be minimal, at best. Accessibility is going to be the question for nitrogen in southern Illinois.
Stephan: My tissue samples have been really good for nitrogen. Sulfur is a little low. A large percentage of my growers do an in-furrow or a two by two.
Maybe 15% to 20% of my region is fall- or spring-applied anhydrous, a lot of sidedress, a lot of 28.
Can you speak to fungicide use, as well?
Stephan: I had more growers and more discussions this past winter about fungicide purchases and encouraging growers to do it. A large percentage of growers in northern Indiana and Michigan are bought.
That was the discussion. Because if you don’t buy in October, November, December, you’re not getting it in June, July or August.
That was a big discussion last winter and most operations did make that commitment.
Brien: If you are in the business of farming, that is your business, you are doing a lot more managing. I think you are going to see a lot of two-pass fungicide programs start hitting that V10 to V12, come across with a ground rig and most of these growers have ground rigs, get that pre on, maybe a cheap generic just to protect.
Then, with tar spot, with southern rust, that stuff is moving in so much later that sometimes, by a tassel application, you run out.
It has run its course, and at 3/4 milkline, are you going to get a grower to get an airplane to come in and spray a fungicide, 10 days before black layer?
If we can do that layered approach, we can take that tassel application, put it at R1, put it at R2, protect that crop a lot longer and not spend a lot of extra money. The longer we can keep it green and healthy, the more yield we put on it.
Gale: Last year we had a lot of downed corn, a lot of disease pressure. Some growers sprayed fungicide. Some growers decided not to.
With the onset of diseases we have, southern rust, tar spot, there’s going to be more growers interested in putting fungicide on and just pre-booking it to make it part of a plan.
It is also going to be important to get it timed right, to get in front of this disease pressure to make sure it works. There’s been a lot of fungicide booked for this year, there’s going to be a lot of fungicide applied, assuming we can get enough planes to cover the acres we need covered.
There is a pretty good representation of the audience here today who are buying non-GMO soybeans. What does it take to get a grower to switch from the traited side, as the non-GMO market is picking up?
Stephan: I think it’s easier than it ever has been to get a grower to switch to growing non-GMO. When a grower looks at his herbicide costs today, including trait costs, the dollars have added up quite a bit over the years and growers have gotten really adapted to adding multiple applications of residuals, so that residual cost is essentially the same.
When you look at dollars and cents, a lot of the factors that growers were apprehensive about on the non-GMO, not organic, it’s a little bit easier to walk through that math.
A grower looks at his program and says I just have to make sure I start clean, start with a great residual and I will work this through my program. I have seen growers move toward a few non-GMO contracts and it was easier than they thought.
Gale: My area has a lot of traits. I think the biggest thing is, No. 1, Roundup has been less effective. Growers aren’t using Roundup and it doesn’t kill as much as it used to.
We see a lot more use of residuals and layering residuals has been a positive. It’s just segregation and making sure you’re not going to have a lot of drift of stuff.
If you are spraying your own crops you have better confidence in the control over that. You don’t have a retailer going around and spraying somebody else’s crops and accidentally getting Roundup in there, where it could be a problem.
A grower can have more confidence in switching to a non-GMO crop, and when they see that higher premium, it’s enticing.
Frederking: It’s largely a traited market in our area. The few accounts that we do have that grown non-GMO, grow it for two things — having an accessible market for that shipment and it’s a business decision, at the end of the day.
There’s no difference to the herbicides we are applying to non-GMO or traited. You have to have overlapping residuals, you have to put pre’s down, insecticides, fungicides, the inputs really don’t change, in my opinion.
If you’re trying to influence growers, it’s really accessible markets and the dollars and cents actually pencil out a little higher for non-GMO when you start talking premiums.