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Fight to the finish line

Andy Westhoven

By Andy Westhoven, AgriGold Regional Agronomist

The 2019 growing season has certainly been one for the ages (and the record books). It has been both memorable and forgettable. I know many growers who have said this year they had to throw out the rule book. I can empathize with any grower, as I too did some things that made me embarrassed. However, this was, and still is, a year of audibles. We’ve had Plan A, B, C, D, etc. We had to be quick on our feet whenever the slightest window opened for fieldwork. Sure, many times it was questionable at best, but it’s what had to be done. Now if you’re fortunate to have a crop planted and still actively growing, I believe you have to fight to the finish line.

There are many factors now out of our control. Many crop roots are average at best, which is a major challenge. It’s critical to first analyze the crop potential in the field, set realistic expectations, and if economically feasible or justifiable, protect the crop. I understand some are willing to write off the year. Others may look at this crop as an opportunity to capitalize.

Much of the corn crop is 5 to 6 weeks behind schedule. Unfortunately, the insects and diseases are right on time. Insects such as Japanese beetles are ferocious eaters and have been spotted in several locations. Gray leaf spot is just one disease that is popping up on all sizes of corn. There are others such as northern corn leaf blight, tar spot, etc. that might creep in later. Additional insects may also rear their ugly head. This is not meant to frighten but instead enlighten the opportunity to protect your bushels. There are many factors to consider when weighing the option to spray a pesticide. The first is yield potential. Keep realistic expectations in mind. If a field has 180 to 200 bushel yield potential or more, there is enough incentive to spray and protect that crop. Other than yield, factors such as planting date, hybrid(s) planted and health packages, crop rotation and/or tillage, field history, etc. should also be considered.

Lastly on corn, two years ago I conducted a trial planted on June 2 with a 113-day corn hybrid sprayed multiple times with a fungicide. During a field day in August, I questioned if the trial would even reach black layer as that season was experiencing a very cool August. To my surprise, the plot yielded extremely well and reached black layer! The area sprayed with fungicide was over 20 bushels better than where I sprayed nothing. Additionally, the moisture was in the low 20s with exceptional test weight. It was harvested in early November that year. My take home from this story and trial was not to give up on June planted corn – if you feel there is potential.

Turning the leaf over to soybeans, their story is similar to that of corn. If you have a good stand and good crop potential then fight to keep and protect those bushels. We all know the soybean story is written in August and September. If we have good weather, then we typically have good yields. Like corn diseases, soybean diseases have also begun their movement into the fields. I have commonly observed 8- to10-bushel gains or more from a fungicide application made between R2 and R4 growth stages. We have certainly experienced the “right” environment for diseases to impact our soybeans. Be sure to give a fair assessment to each field, run through a similar list of factors like variety, planting date, crop rotation, tillage, etc. to help make the best-informed decisions.

The planting season is over, but we’re only in the middle of the growing season. This year has been about weathering the storm in so many ways, but it’s worth repeating, if you have a growing crop, fight to the finish line!

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