By Valerie Werkmeister.
This year’s early spring made for high hopes for area farmers. The mild winter, the early, warm temperatures and the rainfall at just the right times seemed to be the perfect combination for bumper crop conditions. That was…until the month of June came without rain. As the days stretched into weeks without rain, the prospects of that bumper crop melted in the searing heat.
June ended with triple-digit temps and weather forecasters say to expect more of the same through the end of the week.
A week ago, area farmers still had hopes of getting at least 100 bushels per acre. This week, they will be lucky to see 50 bushels per acre, says northern Posey County and Gibson County farmer Rick Ziliak.
“It’s looking very bleak,” he said.
He, as well as other famers, hoped the irrigated corn on land closer to the Wabash River wouldn’t be affected as much. As the heat continues, it’s just cooking the little bit of corn that is there.
Frank Bender explained how the pollination process for the corn is stressed. There are fewer and smaller kernels that will produce a significantly less yield.
“We had a beautiful and smooth spring. I finished planting in April,” Bender said.
Different soil types make a difference too. Crops on non-irrigated and sand-based soils are likely to suffer most.
Conditions have steadily worsened and the question on everyone’s mind is “When will it rain?” If anyone can accurately answer that, they would be a hero, especially if they said it would be within the next few days. Recently the Purdue University Agronomy Specialists provided the Ag & Natural Resource Educators with an update on the impact of drought on crops around the state. Here is some of the information that they had to share.
Thus far the corn has been hanging on amazingly well, except in some of the counties where the drought is most severe and on the sandier soils. There has been some delay in silk emergence in regions where the drought is more severe. When looking at the corn, one of the first symptoms of water stress is the rolling of the leaves to reduce transpiration in the afternoon. If you go back the next day in the morning, the leaves will be unrolled and look better. That type of stress does not indicate severe yield loss. Once you see the symptoms get worse (leaves do not unroll), is when the drought stress is more severe. If it stays dry and temperatures increase, the impact of the drought will be more severe.
This year’s soybean plants are putting more energy into root development than on above ground plant growth. Some of the worse looking fields right now are those that were planted in mid-May and didn’t really have adequate moisture when planted and immediately after planting. Overall fields planted before mid-May are in good shape. Soybean plants have the ability to recover from this dry period and still yield well if we get moisture later in the season. So far most of the yield losses that have occurred are in fields where farmers did not get a good plant population. One thing to note is that this year, it will probably not be uncommon to see soybean plants under stress flowering at the V3 to V4 growth stages instead of R1 or R2.
It might be hard to control lambsquarter and marestail this year if it gets to be four inches or more in height and under drought stress. If you see that you have lambsquarter or marestail in your soybeans then you need to apply a post emergent herbicide. It is suggested that under this year’s conditions that you use the maximum rate and an adjuvant package designed for high temperatures and stress as noted by the herbicide label.
You should also be on the lookout this year for spider mites in soybeans. Dry weather conditions can bring on spider mite damage fairly quickly. Initial scouting for this problem can be done by looking for soybean leaves turning a rust color. If you see rust color leaves, then you should place a piece of white paper below the leaf and shake the leaf. If tiny reddish or orange mites fall into the paper, you have a spider mite problem.