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Friday, May 29, 2015

Late Corn Decisions for Producers

Dr. Jordan Bell, extension agronomist district 1, has put together a timely article I would like to share here.

Rains Create Management Decisions for Corn Producers

Source: Texas A&M University Press Release.

Amarillo, Texas (May 22, 2015)--Rain is a double-edged sword right now for agricultural producers, especially corn producers, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel in Amarillo.
“It’s important for producers to realize that they still have options for corn as we move into June,” said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension agronomist. “While we are seeing delays in corn planting, the greater concern at this time is for those producers with saturated soils and corn in the ground.”
Bell said some corn producers who do not have seed in the ground are beginning to get concerned, but there is still time and producers should not rush planting in non-ideal conditions.
“Previous research has demonstrated that good yields can be obtained with late May and even early June plantings,” she said. “Moving the planting date later in the season actually pushes the critical growth stage of tasseling, which coincides with the period of greatest water demand, out of the hottest part of the summer.”
Research by Dr. Qingwu Xue, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant physiologist in Amarillo, evaluated four planting dates – May 15, June 1, June 15, July 1 – and six hybrids of three maturity classes. There was not a significant yield decrease by moving the planting date out of April into late May, according to Xue’s results. He achieved 200-bushel yields even with 115-day hybrids planted in late May and early June.
“Of course, as we move later, we may need to adjust the maturity class shorter than a 115-day hybrid,” Bell said. “While longer season hybrids have a greater yield potential, they also have a greater water requirement, so producers have the potential to save a few inches of irrigation water, which translates to reduced pumping costs. Dr. Xue’s work demonstrated up to a 5-inch reduction in crop water use.
“If we consider the cost of water and current corn prices, it is possible that a slight reduction in yield as a result of switching the hybrid maturity class may not necessarily result in less profit at current prices,” she said.
However, Dr. Ron French, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist in Amarillo, said, “Late-planted corn is more susceptible to fungal diseases because plants are younger when fungal activity increases, plant tissue is softer and thinner for easier fungal penetration, and rapid fungal growth will lead to a higher fungal population.
“Therefore, a good corn hybrid with good disease resistance may be desirable under late-planting and humid conditions.”
French said corn is more prone to seed and seedling diseases when soils are cool, 50-55 degrees, and poorly drained. Other factors that might affect disease severity may include seed quality, whether seed was treated with a fungicide, genetic resistance and the cropping history of that field.
“Some of the most common seedling diseases are caused by soilborne fungi such as fusarium and rhizoctonia, but also by the water-mold pythium, and potentially, plant parasitic nematodes,” he said. “Other fungi have also been associated with seedling damping-off, blight or wilt and may cause diseases such as Aspergillus or Nigrospora seedling blight and Anthracnose leaf blight.”
Seedling diseases may look similar to one another and could be mistaken for herbicide damage, insect damage or stresses, French said. Delayed emergence and low seedling counts may indicate that seedling diseases may be occurring.
“Seed may be rotted even before germination, seedlings may emerge but then collapse, which is an indication of post-emergence damping-off, or seedlings may rot prior to emergence, which is an indication of pre-emergence damping-off,” he said.
French said if a field has a history of seedling diseases in the past few years, some management strategies to consider are: crop rotation, better drainage, seed treated with one or more fungicides and/or a nematicide, and planting when soil temperatures are warmer than 55 degrees.
Bell said the much-needed rain received in the past month has delayed much of the area’s corn planting, however, there was a window last week when producers were out planting.
“Now with this most recent set of storms, some with 4 inches of rain, and the cooler temperatures, there is a lot of corn that has not germinated. As a result, we have seed in the ground under saturated conditions.”
Under these conditions, the cell membrane can be damaged, leaving the seed and seedling susceptible to fungal diseases that French discussed, she said.
Flooding also results in anaerobic conditions, Bell said. Oxygen deprivation kills the cells and reduces the metabolic rate, which also leaves the seed and seedling more susceptible to disease pressure.
“We have to remember that flooding doesn’t only mean ponded water in the fields,” she said. “Super-saturated fields will also have this problem; fields with heavy clay and fields that don’t drain will definitely be an issue.
“It only takes four days for the seed to sit in saturated conditions for us to start seeing degradation, causing either variable emergence that will affect the yields at the end of the season or even seed rot.”
Soil crusting is another issue that can follow heavy rains and warm temperatures, which speed up drying, Bell said.
“I expect we will see producers out with rotary hoes in the next few weeks, but crop injury from the rotary hoe is also a concern,” she said. “In addition to soil crusting, compaction is another consideration. As producers rush to get back in the field, it is always important to be mindful that compaction is greater with increased soil moisture.”
The last planting date for corn in the Panhandle is June 5 for full insurance coverage, but producers are still able to take out hail insurance after June 5, Bell said.
Overall, though, she said producers are very happy with the much–needed moisture in spite of the few problems the rain might cause and it will greatly benefit most summer crops.

Dr. Jourdan Bell

                Thanks Dr. Bell!
                   Blayne Reed

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hybrid Pearl Millet as a Forage Option to Sugarcane Aphid-Susceptible Sorghum Family Forages

     Folks, today Dr. Calvin Trostle, non-cotton extension agronomist district 2, released some helpful information about pearl millet as an alternative to sugarcane aphid susceptible forages.  Should prove a useful tool if hay or other forages are in your plan and managing the sugarcane aphid by other methods seems intimidating for just a hay crop. Dr. Trostle released the following:

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agronomy, forage, and entomology has compiled the attached information about hybrid pearl millet as a potential option for annual summer forage growers in lieu of sorghums where sugarcane aphid may be an issue.  This Is not a current issue in the High Plains (but could be later this year), but for growers downstate where SCA is now present (though not thriving due to rains and cool weather), this could be an option.

For up-to-date information on sugarcane aphid, its distribution, and its effect on all sorghums, access the on-line information at  With rains delaying planting across wide swaths of Texas a lot of acres intended for sorghum/sudan, haygrazer, etc. remain unplanted.

Hybrid Pearl Millet as an Alternative to Sugarcane Aphid-Susceptible Sorghum Family Forages

With the widespread presence of sugarcane aphid (SCA) in Texas in 2014 and the apparent expansion occurring again in 2015 for this damaging aphid to Texas sorghums—grain, forage sorghum, sorghum/sudan, etc.—growers interested in annual forage and grazing may have another option that appears to be largely unaffected by SCA.  Hybrid pearl millet (HPM) is a leafy forage that may fit some grazing and haying operations.

Field observations in several Texas areas in 2014 by producers, county ag. extension agents, and millet breeders found little to no SCA in HPM.  Furthermore, April testing by USDA indicates that HPM is essentially a poor host of sugarcane aphid (e.g., was largely resistant to SCA).

The Dept. of Soil & Crop Sciences has developed a summary of potential hybrid pearl millet use as an apparent alternative, at least for some acres, among Texas forage producers who seed annual crops like sorghum/sudan.  “Hybrid Pearl Millet as an Alternative to Sugarcane Aphid-Susceptible Sorghum Family Forages” is posted online at  AgriLife Today will also have a news release early next week.  Additional key millet points include:

·         Entomology testing and field observations suggest that hybrid pearl millet is a poor host for sugarcane aphid.
·         Although two insecticides are labeled for use in sorghum family forages to control SCA, both require withdrawal of livestock for 7 days.
·         Hay and forage growers, especially on smaller acreages, may be less willing or less able to spray for sugarcane aphid.  This could be particularly damaging to a forage crop as leaf area is lost thus making HPM more attractive for growers even if forage yield potential may be lower.
·         Millet, which is very small seeded, is best adapted to sandier soils, but it also tolerates high pH soils better than sorghum family forages due to a different iron uptake mechanism, and it does not develop prussic acid potential like sorghums.

       Thanks Dr. Trostle for the information,
              Blayne Reed

Monday, May 25, 2015

Planting Sorghum or Corn in “Yellowed” Pre-Plant Treated Fields

Planting Sorghum or Corn in “Yellowed” Pre-Plant Treated Fields

                It is no secret that we have had a devil of a time with weed control these past few seasons.  In response we have been getting better and more aggressive in our use of pre-plant herbicides in our primary row crop, cotton.  This is making for an interesting dilemma with such a long (yet welcome) period of wet weather delaying most cotton plantings.  Any more delays in cotton planting and many of us will be outside our window for our full potential of profitable cotton crop.  This leads many of us to consider alternate crops that do not require as large a production window such as corn or sorghum planted slightly later.  So, what can we do about our fields that were aggressively treated with pre-plant residual cotton herbicides?
                Dr. Jordan Bell, extension agronomist district 1, Dr. Wayne Keeling, research agronomist district 2, and myself have been wrestling with the issue in discussions.  Dr. Keeling mentioned to Dr. Bell that, “You do not necessarily have to rule out sorghum or even an earlier maturity class corn on Treflan (yellow) ground. Because Treflan is bound very tightly in the soil, you can plant below the herbicide. Well, how deep? That depends on how deep the herbicide was incorporated. Trash whippers work well to push Treflan soil away from the seed. If you plant below the herbicide, the cotyledon can grow through the herbicide, but if you plant on top of the herbicide, the roots will grow through the herbicide and you will see quick herbicide damage. This can be detected within 4 to 5 days after planting as long as soil temperatures are ideal to promote germination. The recent rains will not wash away the herbicide and alleviate the problem. It is best to plant under ideal conditions with soil temperatures at 65F for 10 days to ensure vigorous early growth. Planting in the current conditions with cool soil temperatures will result in stressed plants that will be more susceptible to herbicide issues in addition to the other problems such as disease and pest problems.”  
                Dr. Bell added speaking of the Amarillo region, “I do not think many of our Panhandle producers use as much Caparol and Staple as the Southern High Plains producers so hopefully those will not affect too many acres.”
                Our specialist’s thoughts on the issue would fit very well with what I have witnessed in the fields over the years.  We definitely want to get below our “yellow” pre-plant cotton herbicides with corn or sorghum plantings into really good planting conditions, and maybe bump our seeding rates a touch.  I would caution about bumping seeding rates too much as it is very easy to get too high a plant population by over estimating any loss due to herbicide, especially if we successfully plant below the herbicide layer.  Corn and sorghum seedlings do tend to act much more heartily with deeper plantings compared to cotton when it comes to emergence. 
                It might also do some good to recheck the label for the applied herbicide.  We might be concerned over nothing.  There are a few pre-plant residual herbicides, some of the ‘white’ herbicides by name, which have both a corn and cotton label.  

               For more information, here is a link to a publication by Dr. Calvin Trostle, extension non-cotton agronomist district 2, that addresses crop restrictions for herbicide applied for cotton:

Blayne Reed