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Early planting strides may spawn disease, weed pressures

With the moisture that's hit the Midwest in the last 2 days, the planters are standing still. But, farmers made a lot of early progress, so the delay isn't a bad thing for many.

But now, a lot of farmers now are facing conditions just right for challenges that, after the last 2 years, they may have thought they'd never face again. Early planting may change disease and pest pressures and their severity both in the short term and later on in the growing season, farmers and crop specialists say.

Already, pests like black cutworms -- which University of Illinois crop specialists said this week were already being reported in traps around that state -- are popping up and could become problems earlier than normal if the early pace for planting and fieldwork can continue. So, what's the early guess? One specialist says the early flights don't necessarily indicate a bigger problem later in the year.

"Because the black cutworm's flight is so early in the growing season, it's easier to predict how early planting may affect potential outbreaks," says University of Illinois Extension entomologist Mike Gray in a university report. "In general, early tillage and planting of corn works against the establishment of economic infestations of black cutworms. So, despite the recent intense flights across many areas of the state, I believe the prospects for widespread black cutworm problems this spring are low."

With weeds, keeping effective control measures in place in the field may be a challenge because of the early feverish planting pace. Many farmers may have planned on pre-emerge soil-residual herbicides before planting, but because of the early planting window, those plans were scrapped. If that's the case, make sure you choose products that have good post-emergence control, says University of Illinois Extension weed specialist Aaron Hager.

"Even if a soil-residual herbicide can be applied after crop and weed emergence, not all soil-residual herbicides will control emerged weeds," Hager says in a university report. "If weeds also have emerged, additional management procedures, such as the addition of a herbicide with post-emergence activity, may be needed."

Don't forget to consult the product label for additional information regarding the need for tank-mix partners or spray additives to improve control of existing weeds.

"Corn injury can be enhanced if these products are applied during periods of crop stress, such as stress caused by excessive soil moisture, cool air, or cool soil temperatures," Hager adds. "Most herbicide labels also caution not to use nitrogen fertilizer as the herbicide carrier if corn has emerged."

Nutrient deficiencies and other diseases like sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans could be the byproducts of an early, quick planting season for some farmers.

"Lots of guys parked their planters waiting on anhydrous, but we decided to not wait since the ground was working good and the weather was warm," says Marketing Talk member mspencerfarms, who says he finished planting corn on April 21.

Others -- like Marketing Talk member Jim Meade / Iowa City -- say they'll likely put down nutrients -- just like herbicides -- once the crop has emerged. And, even though the region is wet now, that doesn't mean many farmers are getting in too big of a hurry yet.

"I'll be putting on liquid N this year. Later, dribble in the row, likely," he says. "I can plant in 3-4 days, so I'm just not too worried about it."

But, that doesn't mean other disease pressures may be fueled by the early progress thus far. "I would be concerned about SDS showing up in mid-August," says Marketing Talk member mspencerfarms. "This weather is a perfect breeding ground for soybean diaseases."


With the moisture that's hit the Midwest in the last 2 days, the planters are standing still. But, farmers made a lot of early progress, so the delay isn't a bad thing for many.

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