AgDM newsletter article, February 1999

Reasonable choices for tough times

By Jerry DeWitt, Extension IPM Coordinator, Department of Entomology, 515.294.1923,

Looking ahead to the 1999 season, producers will be faced with crop protection and management decisions. The tough times producers faced this past year do not put these needed decisions on hold for 1999. Operating costs anticipated for this year should be carefully analyzed, but perhaps with a different eye. Looking back at each field and the farm history is a starting point. What has worked based on your crop production and management system is a good starting point. But this may be the year to look at some different, but reasonable, input choices.

Maybe it is time to play the odds, look at options differently, and make some reasonable choices for the year ahead. You have the chance to make decisions that may impact your bottom line for not only this year but for the long term. Think in terms of risk for 1999. What can you endure at what cost? What are your options? What is listed below aren't fancy, just simple, and they work.  Make them work for you in 1999.

Don't treat first-year corn with insecticides

The odds aren't with you. Corn rootworms have not traditionally been a problem on first-year corn. And supposed secondary pests such as black cutworms can be controlled (if they show up) with rescue treatments.

Use reduced rates for rootworms

Each insecticide has a labeled rate for efficacy. Rates are based upon research and years of observation. But the industry rates are on the safe side to assure that products work all the time under all conditions. Play the odds and consider reduced rates depending upon last year's rootworm populations, field history, and expected populations.

Don't buy technology you may not need

Bt corn works. But European corn borers don't show in sufficient numbers every year to always need Bt corn. Good product. Bad risk for tough times. Save your money, scout for European corn borers and be prepared to treat only if you need to protect your crop in 1999.

Another don't buy decision in 1999

Precision agriculture has a lot of potential. But it has even more questions and it can be costly. If you have not invested yet in the computer technology, software and GPS system, hold off for better times. They will come. In the meantime, keep good records of soil tests, yields, and management practices in each field. That will be a good start when you are ready to dive into precision agriculture.

One place where you need credit

If you are hauling manure, take credit for the nutrients, legumes also. A long history of research clearly shows this is a money saver with little risk.

Band the herbicides and add the iron

You pay more when you broadcast herbicides. Banding will give good weed management control when coupled with cultivation. And yields will be virtually the same. The fields may not look the same, but the yield is what counts, not the looks.

Sample your soil

This technology is not new, it just keeps on working. Good samples, accurate tests, and sound interpretations can keep money in your pocket.

Select seed for reduced costs

Select your seed for 1999 for attributes that will put money or keep money in your pocket.  Look at standability, harvest moisture, pest resistance, and not the color on the bag, name, or tradition.  These are the things that can save you money by the end of the year. Check out the latest ISU Corn and Soybean variety test results and make your decision.

Scout this year

You can tell a lot about what has happened and what may happen by walking your fields. Weeds, insects, diseases, and nutrients all have a story to tell in your field. Start a scouting program. Walk your fields and keep good records and you will save money.

Hire a pro

Crop consultants in Iowa can be an important resource for you in 1999. They can look at the big picture, give you some ideas, and make recommendations that should save you money, even this year after you pay the acreage fee. If you are unsure of what to cut and where, consider a crop consultant this year.


If you really want to cut costs and reduce inputs, you need to know (remember) what you have done and where you are going. Write them down and store them away where you can find them, when you will need them. You don't need to computerize, just commit to working on records each day or week. A pencil will do the job. Keep a pocket notebook in the truck. If it is handy, you will do it.


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