Field Crop News, Vol. 11:18, July 12, 2011

In This Issue:

Weather Outlook — Paul Knight, Pennsylvania State Climatologist

After one of the wettest springs on record in parts of the Commonwealth, the spigot has been turned off and pockets of drought will soon develop in Pennsylvania as a prolonged period of dry conditions is expected along with many days with above average temperatures. Initially, rather warm, less humid weather will envelope the state from Wednesday through Friday with virtually no chance of rain. Mornings will be pleasantly cool in the northern counties. As sultry air begins to circulate back toward Pennsylvania this weekend, clouds will dominate the western and perhaps central sections, keeping readings lower, though dew points will be rising.

There is some hope that a narrow corridor of showers will reach into the western third of the region during this time. Another push of hot, humid air is expected next week with several days producing maximum temperatures in the 90’s for the southern half of the state. A weakening cool front will offer hope for scattered thunderstorms either late Tuesday or Wednesday, but the majority of the state will likely stay dry.

The expected shift in the weather pattern toward cooler conditions is much less likely to occur as the flow from the northwest appears to be weakening instead of strengthening. Another pronounced spell of very warm and sticky conditions is still expected during the latter part of August and early September. During this period, Pennsylvania will be especially susceptible to the effects of tropical storms or hurricanes.

Corn Development and Drought Stress — Greg Roth, Grain Crop Management

Many areas of the state are beginning to see fields with moderate to severe drought stress. Unfortunately, these late vegetative/early reproductive stage droughts are common in our climate. In most locations, we average 3–4 inches of precipitation in July, so the odds are that it will rain again this month. These situations do provide some opportunities for crop evaluation to diagnose problem areas and to help make some harvest recommendations.

Observe patterns of drought stress in vegetative corn and later tasselling areas. Often fields show some patterns related to management issues, soil depth or drainage in these situations. We also have some of the new hybrids with improved levels of drought tolerance that might merit some observation.

The corn plant has some ability to delay tasselling and silking to cope with the drought. In one respect this is good as the plants can avoid the impacts of drought during the reproductive stage. On the other hand, this could exacerbate the effects of late planting on maturity this fall.

During the next week or so, it would be good to begin to monitor fields for drought impacts. Observe silking, tasselling and pollen shed. In some cases, with severe drought stress, silk emergence could be delayed until pollen shed has begun and this could limit pollination on the ear tips. In other cases, on better fields, you will hopefully see silk emergence before tassel emergence or pollen shed.

Also, begin to observe plant height. These early season droughts can limit vegetative growth and ultimately silage yields. Plants that go reproductive and are short could still produce good grain yields but might be limited in silage yield potential. As we make yield projections for silage and grain harvest later in the season, this will be important to consider.

In worst case fields, it may be necessary to develop a salvage harvest plan followed with emergency forages. But let’s hope that we avoid many of these scenarios.

Remember that although, its difficult sometimes, paying attention to crop development during these dry periods can provide management feedback and aid in harvest planning.

Cover Crop Options After Small Grain Harvest — Sjoerd Duiker, Soil Management

Barley harvest is past, wheat harvest is underway, and oat harvest is going to take place within the next month. Instead of letting the field sit idle if you do not plan to double crop, it is recommended to plant a cover crop. Maintaining an actively growing root system in the soil year-round improves soil quality, while the growing (cover) crop keeps weeds down and can fix or recycle nitrogen for next year’s crop.

Some options are: (1) Hairy vetch mixed with oats, to be established by mid-late August. The oats will winterkill and the hairy vetch will survive the winter and take off in the spring. (2) Crimson clover mixed with annual ryegrass or triticale in mid-late August. Both species survive the winter and the mix can supply excellent forage as well. (3) Oats and triticale or rye established as soon as the small grain is harvested. The oats might be harvested in the fall making excellent forage, whereas the winter small grain will survive the winter. (4) Faba beans and tillage radish established immediately after small grain harvest. Faba beans have large seeds and need to be established with a planter, in alternating rows with the tillage radish, preferably on 15 inch row spacing. The tillage radish might be mixed in the box with another species such as rye to provide cover in the spring. (5) Tillage radish and austrian pea. This mixture is likely to winterkill but they make for some excellent cover if established now as well as significant nitrogen fixation.

cover crop

Tillage radish and austrian pea mixture in November.

These are just some suggestions which can be expanded upon by using your imagination. It will be very important to make sure that the planter or drill is set up right to place the seed at the right depth and get good closure of the seed slot. If the soil is dry, high penetration resistance calls for extra weight on the drill or planter and heavy down-pressure springs. If the soil is moist, extra attention is needed to slot closure. Slugs are present. If we hit a wet period, slugs can do significant damage, even in the summer. If seed slots are not closed properly, slugs will have the greatest potential to cause stand loss by destroying the germinating seeds.

Educational Farm Visits Coming Soon to the Chesapeake Watershed — Sjoerd Duiker

In response to the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Pennsylvania Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), Conservation Districts across Pennsylvania will be visiting with crop and/or livestock producers to educate them on the Pennsylvania regulations relating to farming activities. Conservation District staff plan to meet with every producer in their respective counties within the next 5 years to explain the need for agricultural plans relating to erosion/sediment control and manure management. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has guidance available for producers to write their own farm plans, or assistance is available at the local Conservation District and/or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices.

Vertical Tillage — Sjoerd Duiker

Vertical tillage tools are gaining in popularity in Pennsylvania as well as other parts of the country. A rough classification divides them into ‘rolling’ and ‘deep’ vertical tillage tools. Rolling vertical tillage tools include such ones as the Great Plains TurboTill, the Case-IH True Turbo, the Salford Residue Tillage Specialist, and the Landoll Vertical Tillage.

These tools come with different features. Most of them have two staggered gangs of coulters whereas the Landoll has slightly curved disk blades. Some have rigid gangs which can only run straight (e.g. Turbo Till), while others have gangs of coulters or blades that can be adjusted to different angles the direction of travel. There are many different types of attachments to smoothen soil, such as tine harrows, rolling baskets, and rolling harrows to bust clods, level and smoothen soil. Vertical tillage tools are meant to leave most residue on the soil surface for erosion protection and do little soil disturbance. They are primarily meant to size residue and mix it minimally with soil to speed up decomposition.

Producers have started to become interested in these tools because of some problems getting good stands after high-residue corn crops. Some producers are using these tools to establish cover crops by broadcasting them on the soil prior to running the vertical tillage machine. There are many different options of using rolling vertical tillage tools. There is the danger of running them in low-residue situations (e.g. after soybeans, corn silage or small grain straw harvest) in which case the residue cover would be decreased below the critical threshold of 30%. Running vertical tillage in the spring does nothing to help speed up decomposition before planting. Producers should evaluate the different tools on their own merit and consider if they fit in their operation. Penn State is offering a demonstration of different rolling vertical tillage tools at the Field Diagnostic Clinic at Rock Springs next week (July 19+20).

vertical tillage

This field shows the residue cover after a Great Plains Turbo Till was run in high-yielding corn stover.

Corn Diseases and the 2011 Corn Crop — Paul H. Craig, Forages, Dauphin County and Greg Roth, Grain Crop Management

Now is the time when corn diseases begin to appear and it’s important to become familiar with the symptoms in your fields. With the recent dry spell experienced across the state, the incidence of foliar diseases may be slowed, however, when wet weather does return, it is likely that many foliar diseases will begin appear quickly. Fields at the highest risk are corn on corn, corn hybrids with lower disease resistance levels, no-till fields and fields with limited air movement patterns such as river bottom fields.

These are fields that need to be monitored closely for disease development. Another issue this year are the later planted fields. These fields will be reaching the grain fill stage well after other fields and there will likely be lots of innoculum present from disease epidemics underway in earlier developing fields. Yield losses are most severe when diseases such as Grey Leaf Spot or Northern Corn leaf blight develop prior to pollination or early in the grain fill period.

Consequently, many of our later plantings may be exposed to these diseases at a critical period. It is impossible to make blanket recommendations on the potential severity of the disease or the statewide impact or management recommendations. Individual fields will need to be monitored for stand vigor, stage of maturity, disease presence and yield potential. Another factor to consider will be the weather forecast before applying a fungicide. Typically, high risk fields with good yield potential and a history of Grey Leaf Spot or Northern Corn Leaf Blight have been the most responsive to a fungicide application. This year we may need to add the low lying, later planted, fields to this high risk category.

Symptoms of Some Common Corn Foliage Diseases

Lesions on the leaves tend to be brown, oval or spindle shaped, about ¼ wide to ½ inch long, with yellowish to reddish brown borders. Sometimes concentric rings or zones are apparent within the diseased areas. Common in no-till fields with corn residue.

Grey Leaf Spot
Early lesions from grey leaf spot are pale brown to reddish brown and blocky to rectangular in shape when compared to other leaf blights. Lesions are typically restricted by leaf veins giving the lesions parallel edges for a “match stick” appearance. Older lesions may have a grayish color. Lesions will eventually merge causing large areas of dead leaf tissue.

Northern Corn Leaf Blight
Long, elliptical, grayish-green or tan lesions ranging from 1 to 6 inches in length grey green to tan in color. These lesions typically develop on the lower leaves and then move up and can affect leaves and ear husks. Eventually the disease causes the plant to look like it has been injured by frost. This disease has been increasing around the state and can result in a “frosted” appearance at the dent stage in the most severe cases.

Ugly Forage Stands — Marvin Hall, Forages

Several of my forage seedings from last fall and this spring look very ugly. Around the state I see, and am told about other, forage seedings that aren’t doing very well. Here is what I’m attributing these ugly stands to and how I plan to manage them.

Seedings made in the Summer/Fall of 2010:
Even though the seedings were made in August & September, in some cases the dry weather delayed seed germination until late September or early October. This resulted in smaller than desired plants going into the winter and weak plants going into this wet and cold spring. Now the rains have stopped and the summer temperatures are high which adds further stress to these already stressed plants.

Seedings made this Spring:
Seedings were generally made late this spring and were followed by wet and cool weather. Then, when the temperature began to warm up, the rains stopped. Root development had been slowed by the cool and wet soil conditions and now the roots haven’t developed enough to extract moisture or sufficient nutrients from deeper in the soil.

What to do:

  1. Assess stand density. If there are insufficient forage plants (15 alfalfa plants/ft2) then make plans to take the seeding out. If there are sufficient plants then go to step 2.
  2. Make sure soil fertility is at optimum level.
  3. Control weeds and insects. Any additional stress to these plants could be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”.
  4. Continue monitoring the seeding closely into October when cooler and wetter weather should be ideal for plant growth. If there is no improvement in plant growth this fall, then make plans to take out the seeding in your rotation next spring.

Marketing — John Berry, Marketing Educator, Lehigh County

The grain trade has waited anxiously for the July 12th USDA Supply & Demand report. It is now available at

Some pieces of this 40 page summary are below. The note that proceeds the full report is included here, and is quite interesting - to me. If we read the second sentence (next paragraph) we see the 2011 corn and soybean harvest estimate is based on a “method”. We do not get production estimates that are based on actual crop conditions until August 11th. I imagine we will hear lots about how this report is inaccurate or gets adjusted over time. My point is this - the USDA WASDE reports are perceived as THE source of data for global grain trading. Besides other people’s guesses and future adjustments - this information is all we have.

USDA world agricultural outlook supply and demand estimate, July 12, 2011 “note”: This report adopts U.S. area, yield, and production forecasts for winter wheat, durum, other spring wheat, barley, and oats released today by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). For rice, corn, sorghum, soybeans, and cotton, area estimates reflect the June 30 NASS Acreage report, and methods used to project production are noted on each table. The first survey-based 2011 production forecasts for those crops will be reported by NASS on August 11 and will be included in that day’s issue of this report.

Wheat: U.S. wheat supplies for 2011/12 are raised 90 million bushels as higher carry-in and production more than offset reductions in imports and higher use. Beginning stocks are raised 52 million bushels mostly reflecting higher estimated carryout for 2010/11 as reported in the June 30 Grain Stocks report. Production for 2011/12 is forecast at 2,106 million bushels, up 48 million from last month as higher winter wheat production and higher forecast yields for durum and other spring wheat more than offset lower area as estimated in the June 30 Acreage report. Partly offsetting is a 10-million bushel reduction in projected imports with lower expected supplies in Canada. The 2011/12 season average farm price for all wheat is lowered 40 cents on each end of the projected range to $6.60 to $8.00 per bushel, mostly reflecting the sharp drop in projected corn prices this month.

Coarse Grains: U.S. feed grain supplies for 2011/12 are projected higher this month mostly with higher expected beginning stocks and production for corn. Corn beginning stocks are raised 150 million bushels reflecting changes to 2010/11 usage projections. Corn production for 2011/12 is projected 270 million bushels higher based on planted and harvested area as reported in the Acreage report. Feed and residual use for 2011/12 is raised 50 million bushels with larger supplies and lower expected prices. Corn use for ethanol is raised 100 million bushels with larger supplies and an improved outlook for ethanol producer margins. Exports are raised 100 million bushels mostly reflecting increased demand from China. Ending stocks for 2011/12 are projected 175 million bushels higher at 870 million. The 2011/12 season-average farm price for corn is projected at a record $5.50 to $6.50 per bushel, down 50 cents on both ends of the range.

Oilseeds: U.S. oilseed production for 2011/12 is projected at 96.3 million tons, down 2.3 million tons from last month, with lower soybean production accounting for most of the change. Soybean production is projected at 3.225 billion bushels, down 60 million due to reduced harvested area. Harvested area, estimated at 74.3 million acres in the June 30 Acreage report, is 1.4 million below the June projection. The soybean yield is projected at 43.4 bushels per acre, unchanged from last month. Soybean supplies are 40 million bushels below last month’s forecast as higher beginning stocks partly offset lower production. Exports for 2011/12 are reduced 25 million bushels to 1.495 billion reflecting lower U.S. supplies, increased supplies in South America this fall, and reduced global imports. U.S. soybean ending stocks are projected at 175 million bushels, down 15 million. The 2011/12 U.S. season-average soybean price is projected at a record $12.00 to $14.00 per bushel, down $1.00 on both ends of the range. Soybean meal prices are projected at $345 to $375 per short ton, down $30 on both ends of the range.

My summary - more corn than we were told earlier, more wheat than we were told earlier and similar/more soybeans to what we were told earlier. Of course; these are merely projections until harvest is past.

Weather, Weather, Weather - from here on. Assuming our buyers will continue with current demand. Consumer conditions in Asia (as a major buyer), economic turmoil in the EU (general financial jitters), democratization in the mid-east (political instability) and the capacity of U.S. farmers to make a crop (supply for corn and soybeans) has me watching local prices more regularly than normal.

Contributors: Extension Educators: Jennifer Bratthauar (Franklin), Paul Craig (Dauphin), Greg Hostetter (Juniata), Joel Hunter (Erie), Dept. Crop & Soil Science: Sjoerd Duiker, Marvin Hall, Greg Roth, Dept. of Meteorology: Paul Knight

Editor:Mena Hautau, Agronomy, Berks County