Crop Field Visits

January-March 2002

Joel DeJong , crop specialist

Problems occur each season in crop production - hail, herbicide injury, replant decisions, plant diseases, insect problems are some examples. In 2001, the problem most frequently reported dealt with crop stand or potential yield loss due to insects. Producers can often get answers from lots of sources - but often use Iowa State University (ISU) Extension because we are often recognized as seeing a broader range of problems than their local agronomist, and because we offer a viewpoint with no sales goals attached.

Phone calls from producers often end up with individual field visits to help producers analyze their best options for specific situations. Proper problem identification and resolution are an important part of our service to crop producing clients during this time of year. These problems can make thousands of dollars difference for producers in some instances - if provided well and on a timely basis. Answering these questions is a client priority during this time of year. Eighty-eight individual farm visits were made during the past growing season, not counting many more made with agronomists from agricultural dealers throughout the area.

Surveys conducted of those who have farm visits done with them in previous years have shown a high dollar impact from these visits. Four surveys have been conducted in previous years trying to assess the value of these visits. Values from these surveys, on a per acre basis, have ranged from $13 per acre as a low, to a high value of $39 per acre. Although this survey was not sent to participants this year, the consistency of those number from past years would certainly be true for this year.
Instead of conducting a written survey this year, I picked up the phone and discussed the outcomes of field visits with five producers - just to get a feel for how some of the situations turned out. Here are some of the responses.

Farmer number 1 had almost 80 acres of corn that had extremely severe white grub problems in mid-June. He wondered first what the problem was (white grubs), and then tried to decide what he should do about the poor stand. We discussed the stand left (10 to 12,000 plants/acre, mostly in patches), and if he should go in and "patch in" the stand. After reviewing the date, yield potential data and other details, we discussed the possibility of planting beans there instead. The 70 acres with a bad stand would not have likely yielded well to interplanting corn (most farmers that tried it receive little additional yield from these seeds), but still yielded 55 bushels of beans per acre. Estimated increase of crop value produced per acre was about $75 or more dollars - a large impact!

Two producers were trying to evaluate treating for bean leaf beetles in early September. My recommendation at the insect levels their fields had would be to treat them - as long as the soybeans were not showing significant maturity yet. One producer increased his yields 5 bushels - which "barely paid for the treatment" (he calculated an income increase of about $10 per acre after the treatment costs). The other producer informed me he gained 9 bushels compared to a check strip he left - netting an additional $30 plus dollars per acre for the 160 acres treated.

Producer # 4 had a field with marginal stands quite early in the season - on 360 acres. After riding and walking the field thoroughly, it was decided to leave a marginal stand area of about 40 acres (which yielded 130 bushels/acre), leave a good area of about 80 acres (yielded right at 200 bu/acre), and replant the remainder - which yielded 150 bushels per acre. Replanting this area left allowed him to gain at least 20 bushels per acre, but likely a lot more when compared to the marginal area. This increased value per acre was likely about $80 per acre.

The fifth producer I called did not have a chance to change the outcome for 2001 because of my visit - the stand was poor due to insects and planting methods - but he was convinced not to replant an area of soybeans in a field (35 acres, yielded the same as rest of field, saved about $12/acre replant costs). However, he did buy a good spade to help him evaluate how well he is putting the seed in the soil for next year, which can help him avoid many of the problems he experienced this past year.

These are good examples of how using good, research-based information to help producers make sound decisions can help them make great differences in their profitability. ISU Extension is a great resource for farmers making those tough decisions.


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