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SmartTour soybean snapshots

At first glance, the soils in central Iowa on Wednesday looked like they were ready for the planters.

But, you dig an inch or 2 below the surface, and that brownish-grey tint turns the dark brown color that indicates the presence of a lot more moisture. The planting window was wide open Wednesday, though, despite a few less-than-ideal conditions. And, farmers were taking full advantage, as the team found out on its SmartTour.

Woodward, Iowa, farmer Marty Orr plants soybeans on Wednesday. (More SmartTour videos)

Grant Kimberley was planting soybeans Wednesday in one of his fields in southern Story County, Iowa. Kimberley says the recent break in the wet weather has allowed him to get all the farm's corn planted and 15% of the soybeans in the ground as of Wednesday morning.

"Conditions aren't too bad...just barely good enough," Kimberley said Wednesday. "We're still picking up some mud on the wheels. Though it's dry on the top, it's still pretty damp underneath."

Looking ahead, he says he's got some concerns with disease pressure in his soybean fields this year. Last year was "really bad" last year for sudden death syndrome, so he's taken steps to cut down on the danger posed by that disease as well as soybean cyst nematode and iron chlorosis.

"The best thing we can do is select resistant varieties. And, the other thing we've done is rotated out of soybeans in some of our trouble fields that have more issues with these diseases," Kimberley says. "Then, we'll put them back to beans later on."

If you're like Kimberley and are wary of disease issues in your soybeans or corn this year, take a few specific steps. First, says Iowa State University plant pathologist Alison Robertson, take note of your growing conditions since planting; if it's been on the cooler and damp side since you got your crop in the ground (like most of central Iowa), make sure you get out in the field and scout closely to see if you've got disease pressure. And, if you do, be ready to replant.

"Look for yellow, grayish-green leaves. Dig seedlings up to inspect roots. With corn, the mesocotyl could be rotted, and seed roots could be rotted," Robertson says. "In soybeans, you could see rotting in the taproot. But, you won't see any of it until you dig those plants up.

"Do stand counts and decide if a replant is needed," she adds. "You can use seed treatments and change hybrids, but the only thing to really decide is to replant or not."

Though replanting may be necessary if you do have seedling disease damage, don't jump to change any other management choices at this point, especially in soybeans, says Pioneer agronomy research manager for seed treatments, Keith O'Bryan.

"I wouldn't change anything like varieties or seed treatments. When a plant gets a disease, it's a combination of factors, like temperature and moisture," O'Bryan says. "The earlier you plant, the better."

O'Bryan adds that early pressure from seedling diseases can sometimes usher in more susceptibility to later-season diseases and pests. This year, that pest could be soybean aphids.

"It could be a big aphid year," he says. "They do well in cooler, damp conditions like we've had so far."

If current research reaches fruition in the form of new products in the near future, managing other pests could become a thing of the past, says Bruce Battles with Syngenta Seeds at the company's Slater, Iowa, facility. Battles says though corn product research is "paving the way" with new technology for herbicide and weed tolerance, there are a lot of new products in that pipeline that could yield similar controls for soybeans soon.

"Now, soybean technology is rapidly evolving," Battles says. "We're looking for new herbicide tolerance traits in soybeans and looking at weed resistance, which is a major issue."


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