Rains over the last week have been most helpful in slowing and conserving irrigation; and much of it came in time to improve some of the dryland production, particularly in N. Georgia. While some areas have experienced very dry conditions in the previous weeks, setting back some of their production, most row crop producers show 60 to 65% of corn, cotton and peanuts rate in good to excellent condition. Corn still has a ways to go before we let up on our management.
You might say “So what is the danger in corn if conditions continue towards a good to excellent crop”? The danger is what the most recent prevailing winds and rains mean to managing a good corn crop to harvest. Over the last several weeks, scattered reports of southern rust, northern corn leaf blight, southern corn leaf blight and other diseases have been noted throughout the corn production region at relatively low infection levels. Many growers have sprayed fungicides with effectiveness and have been able to keep diseases from spreading. However, current warm, wet conditions favor the disease over the host. Unfortunately, this increases the chances of outbreaks where efficacy of our fungicide applications may be in decline and diminishing to a point that infections will increase unless we are paying close attention to both crop stage and disease. The bottom line is to continue scouting and not be afraid to apply another fungicide application if disease infections begin to increase in the area. Our oldest corn is at early dent and it still has a ways to go. The majority of the crop is still in a very vulnerable stage.
I also suggest to keep a watchful eye out for stink bugs, particularly if your crop is just silking as it is the most vulnerable stage to disease and insects. Once the ear is at the blister stage or beyond, stink bug damage is isolated to individual kernels. In most cases, kernel damage will not be severe enough to cause economical losses, particularly in late growth stages. However, stink bugs can leave minute wounds in the tender kernel coats and provide direct routes of infection of Aspergillus or Fusarium. Aspergillus is the fungus that produces aflatoxin as the fungus infects corn kernels. My suggestion would be to include an insecticide if you find a stinkbug infestation in the crop as you scout and spray for emerging disease problems.
Remember to watch your soil water profile and stay ahead of plant stress. Do not stop irrigating until you reach black layer. Currently, the price of corn is good and the lack of water can undermine grain weight which will reduce your income.
If you have peanuts or cotton or both, the crop progress has been equally as good. Both are moving towards good growth and responding to good management. I talked to Dr. Mark Abney, UGA Peanut Entomologist and he agrees the Georgia’s peanut crop is progressing well and thrips are generally “out of the picture” but a very unusual outbreak of tobacco budworms have occurred in 30 to 50 day old peanuts. He encourages all peanut growers to definitely scout all fields. I encourage all growers to be a student of all the crops that you grow. This means being out in the field, walking, looking and studying. Yes, it takes time but it pays great dividends when you do. If you don’t or can’t personally walk your fields and do not utilize professional scouts, then I encourage you to employ a professional that can help you spot emerging problems before they become economical losses.
I also had a conversation with Dr. Phillip Roberts, UGA Cotton Entomologist, who affirmed the cotton crop was progressing well. He spoke a warning to cotton producers regarding a plant bug outbreak that definitely needed attention. He felt that some aphids were beginning to build and should be monitored as to avoid the potential build-up and crop losses.
Although a lot is happening around the state, our crops are moving forward under good conditions. The last three days, I have talked to many of my Ag friends in Nebraska, Colorado, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio and the current dry conditions and heat has them very concerned. Corn, particularly, is vulnerable and most do not have any irrigation. Conditions are rapidly falling as subsoil moisture is depleting fast and prospects for rain is poor in most areas. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers.