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USDA NASS surveying nearly 4,500 Minnesota farmers about crop acreage

Dave Hansen, Minnesota Ag Experiment Station closeup of corn seedlings
JUNE SURVEY: Minnesota farmers contacted by USDA NASS are asked to complete the June crop survey.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is in the process of conducting two major midyear surveys in Minnesota — the June Agricultural Survey and the June Area Survey.

The agency will contact nearly 4,500 producers across the state to determine crop acreage and stock levels as of June 1.

“Two of the most important and well-known surveys NASS conducts are the June Agricultural Survey and June Area Survey, due to the widespread and significant impact of their results,” says Dan Lofthus, director of the NASS Minnesota Field Office. “When growers respond to these surveys, they provide essential information that helps determine the expected acreage and supply of major commodities in the United States for the 2018 crop year. Results of this survey are used by farmers and ranchers, USDA, businesses, exporters, researchers, economists, policymakers and others who use the survey information in making a wide range of decisions” that benefit the producer.

Data for the June Agricultural Surveys are gathered by NASS via the internet, mail, phone or via in-person interview.

For the June Area Survey, trained enumerators from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture representing NASS visit select tracts of land and interview the operators of any farm or ranch within that selected tract. Growers are asked to provide information on planted and harvested acreage — including acreage for biotech crops — and grain stocks.

Additionally, the survey collects data on livestock inventory, cash rents, land values and value of sales.

“NASS safeguards the privacy of all respondents and publishes only state- and national-level data, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified,” Lofthus says. “We recognize this is a hectic time for farmers and ranchers. However, the information they provide helps U.S. agriculture remain viable and capable. I urge them to respond to these surveys and thank them for their cooperation.”

NASS will analyze the survey information and publish the results in a series of USDA reports, including the annual Acreage and quarterly Grain Stocks reports, both to be released June 29.

Survey data also contribute to NASS’ monthly and annual Crop Production reports; the annual Small Grains Summary; the annual Farms and Land in Farms, and Land Values reports; various livestock reports, including Cattle, Sheep and Goats, and Hogs and Pigs; and USDA’s monthly World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

These and all NASS reports are available online at

For more information, call the NASS Minnesota Field Office at 651-728-3113.

Source: NASS Minnesota Field Office

An adult conversation

father and son standing in field

Over the course of our marriage, we’ve developed certain code words and phrases to communicate with one another. There are several examples I could share, but one of my favorites is quite simply, “I need a banana.” This code came into being when someone (disclaimer: a friend, not a physician) told me bananas contain potassium, a mineral that aids mental stability. So, when I declare the need for a banana, John is alerted that something or someone is driving me crazy.

Another one of our favorites is the statement “We need to have an adult conversation.”

I’m not sure it’s one of our favorites, but it has been uttered many times, and its meaning is clear to both of us. When I hear those words, I know the conversation is likely to take longer than the typical “non-adult” conversation.

I’ve never actually kept track of the number of times an adult conversation has been suggested, but my recollection is that Kendra has made the request more often than I have.

Allegedly, I have initiated more of those all-important conversations. Since neither of us has been tracking the exact amount, we’ll just ignore that statistic.

Regardless of who makes the suggestion, I think both of us would agree we have benefited from the investment of time and effort required to make those conversations happen.

Early on, before such conversations had an official title, we realized that when discussing difficult topics, our conversations weren’t always productive. Our solution to that problem was to set up guidelines — rules, you might say — that we were both willing to follow. Step one was to define the word “communication.”

We settled on this (adapted from Webster’s dictionary): Communication is the process of sharing information with another person in such a way that he or she understands what you are saying.

After the definition came the guidelines. Here’s what we came up with:

1. Listening is an important part of communication. God gave us two ears and one mouth, and it’s good to use them in that proportion.
2. Don’t imagine what is being said — listen (refer to No. 1).
3. No “communication turn-offs.” Those are things like crying, pouting, name-calling, shouting or _______ (fill in the blank and feel free to send me your additional suggestions).

And …
4. No hidden agendas.
5. Keep the goal in mind — communicating so the other person understands.
6. Don’t just talk about the problem; brainstorm about possible solutions, too.
And perhaps the most difficult of all …
7. Don’t be lazy. It’s time well spent.

One Sunday a few weeks ago, John filled the pulpit at our little country church. As a sidebar to his message, he shared that we had a very long, difficult day on Saturday. We had driven over seven hours to an emotional funeral and driven back home the same day. About three hours from home I suggested we have an adult conversation and, tired as he was from the long day, he agreed.

After church, a young man, married less than 10 years, asked John a simple question: “Do you mean to tell me you and Kendra still have to have those kinds of conversations?”

I guess he hoped there was a statute of limitations on adult conversations. Turns out there’s not. But hang in there, friend. It’s worth the effort.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email, or visit

Ohio commodity groups get behind legislation to protect water quality

fotokostic/iStock/Thinkstock sprayer in soybean field
NEW LEGISLATION: New legislation in the Ohio Senate and House would, in part, invest as much as $20 million in farm equipment and other initiatives to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

The Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) and the Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) recently endorsed Ohio Senate Bill 229 and Ohio House Bill 634, bipartisan legislation that would invest significant new resources to protect water quality throughout the state.

OCWGA and OSA representatives testified, May 22, in favor of HB 634, sponsored by Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, and Rep. John Patterson, D-Jefferson, before the House Finance Committee and in favor of SB 229, sponsored by Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, at the Senate Finance Committee.

If approved, the two bills would:

• Invest as much as $20 million in farm equipment and other initiatives to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin.

• Invest $10 million to prevent open lake dumping of dredged materials in Lake Erie.

• Invest $2.65 million in the Ohio State Sea Grant’s Stone Laboratory near Put-in-Bay to pay for research lab space and monitoring devices.

• Invest $3.5 million to support the conservation efforts of the soil and water conservation districts in the Western Lake Erie Basin.  

"Ohio grain farmers have demonstrated their commitment to the protection of both soils and water quality by investing their time and money to work with partners and find solutions," says OCWGA board member Mark Drewes. "We applaud this bipartisan coalition of legislators for making the health of Lake Erie and other bodies of water a priority."

"This will help even more farmers implement best management practices," says OSA President Allen Armstrong. "Farmers have invested millions of dollars in research and education to address water quality, and we would welcome new resources from the State of Ohio."

For more information, please visit

Source: OCWGA, OSA

Getting high-speed broadband to rural Nebraska

Man on computer
RURAL ACCESS: With agriculture and the rural economy depending on technology, getting high-speed internet access to rural areas is a priority.

High-speed internet access is limited across many portions of rural Nebraska outside city or village limits. To boost broadband development in these areas, state Sen. Curt Friesen, 34th District, of Henderson, introduced LB994, which creates the Rural Broadband Task Force to study the development of enhanced broadband services in rural parts of the state. The bill passed the Unicameral unanimously and was signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The law creates a task force, which will include members from the Nebraska Public Service Commission, the director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the director of the Department of Agriculture, along with additional members appointed by the governor from agribusiness, business, telecommunications, public power and education sectors.

The Nebraska Information Technology Commission will host a Rural Broadband Task Force Fund to pay for the study, which is initially funded by a $50,000 transfer from the Nebraska Internet Enhancement Fund. The task force will report its findings by Dec. 1, 2019.

Another aspect of the legislation was the authorization of NPSC to withhold funding from companies that have not provided adequate broadband internet services to unserved or underserved areas. The funds withheld could be used to institute a reverse auction program that would award funding to broadband providers to support high-speed internet infrastructure projects in those areas. LB994 exempts the sale, lease, rental and storage, use or consumption of dark fiber from state sales and use taxes.

"I try not to think of this so much as a study committee, but more as an action or policy committee," Friesen says. "We know what the problem is, so we just need to determine what is the best plan of attack for getting the problem fixed at the least cost to the public. We need to find ways to incentivize private industry to deliver high-speed broadband to low-density, high-cost areas as quickly as possible using the best economically suited technology to accomplish the goal."

Most Nebraskans have access to broadband, and more urban areas have access to download speeds of at least 100 Mb or more. For some rural areas outside city limits though, residents have no service, or dial-up service, which is almost unworkable today.

"Agriculture is the state's No. 1 industry. And if we want the state's No. 1 industry to compete in today's world, we need access to the technology that is available today," Friesen says. "We need to stem the flow of young people from greater Nebraska and try to spur some economic development in areas other than Lincoln and Omaha."

Friesen says he believes access to high-speed broadband would help diversify the economy in rural parts of the state and even out some of the up- and downcycles of agriculture.

Friesen is realistic about the challenges. "We held hearings across the state, and we tried to cover the issues that were brought forward," he says. "We realized that the most sparsely populated areas would be the most difficult to get service to, because companies cannot build a business model that would be economically sustainable" from so few customers. That's why the law doesn't choose a specific broadband delivery model, but leaves it up to industry to creatively come up with a mixture of technology to get high-speed broadband to the last miles of rural Nebraska at an affordable cost, Friesen says.

FFA members experience the down-and-dirty of planting

four North Shelby FFA members sitting on planter
AG EXPERIENCE: North Shelby FFA members Grant Coe (left), Mason Uhlmeyer, Youssef Francis and Kirby Latimer sit on the plot planter they learned to operate this year while putting in a soybean variety plot at their school.

Before the final bell sounded at North Shelby High School, ushering students into summer, four FFA members had one task to complete — plant a soybean variety plot.

It was the first time Youssef Francis had worked with a planter or driven a tractor. After just a few feet, he and his fellow classmates realized something was wrong. In one row, no seed was coming out. “When I set up the planter box, I put the plate in backwards,” Francis says. “It was not able to pick up the seed.”

HOOKED UP: Four North Shelby FFA members learn to hook up a planter at their Shelbyville, Mo., school. FFA supporters like company co-owner Dan Uhlmeyer (left, in red hat) offer the use of a planter and tractor to put in a plot at the local high school.

On another box, the plot planting team of Francis, Mason Uhlmeyer, Grant Coe and Kirby Latimer found seed pouring off the side and not into the row. “The seed chute was not connected,” Latimer explains.

Actually, Jenny Bradley, adult agriculture education instructor at the Shelbyville, Mo., school, likes it when planting does not go smoothly. “They have to learn to troubleshoot problems right on the spot,” she says. “They must correct the problem in the field. It gives them real-world experience.”

Bradley helps coordinate the plot management from planting to harvest between North Shelby Ag Leaders, an adult group, and members of North Shelby FFA chapter.

Harold Eckler, North Shelby FFA advisor, has been involved in the plots for the past 35 years. “We use it as a laboratory,” he says, “an extension of the classroom. With the plots they learn about farm management, agronomy and ag mechanizations. It gives them the basis for the ag industry; and more importantly, it gives them hands-on experience.”

The plot sits on 22.9 acres owned by the North Shelby School District. This year there are seven different seed brands entering two soybean varieties each. It is the first time planting back-to-back soybean varieties. Typically, it is a corn-soybean rotation.

Area farmers, many of whom are members of Ag Leaders, donate all the equipment to plant and harvest the plot. Mesmer Fertilizer in nearby Bethel, Mo., also offers fertilizer and chemical recommendations during the growing season along with donating application services.

“Our community and Ag Leaders group are huge supporters of the FFA,” Bradley says. Many in this rural area have gone through the North Shelby FFA program.

“It is their way of staying involved and giving back to the organization,” Eckler adds.

INSPECTION TIME: Kirby Latimer looks over a unique plot planter box to make sure it is in correctly.

Practical application
For many kids, planting is off-limits on the farm. Most, like Coe, run the field cultivator. However, the plot provides students insight on other aspects of a row crop farm.

“We learned more about the importance of seed depth,” Latimer says. The four young men also took a closer look at the piece of equipment. “We have an ag mech team, so our advisor goes over the parts of a planter and how each part operates,” Uhlmeyer adds.

Uhlmeyer grew up in a farming family. However, maneuvering an eight-row plot planter was different.

“My grandpa has a 24-row planter complete with Ag Leader GPS,” he explains. “It knows when to turn around at the end of a row. With a small planter, you make all of those decisions. We had to learn to pay closer attention and be more precise.”

Their planting prowess will be on display throughout the summer.

FILL ’ER UP: FFA member Youssef Francis places one soybean seed variety into the planter while Mason Uhlmeyer looks on.

Ag resource
The plot does not collect data, according to Bradley. Rather, it is a means for seed salespeople to show their new varieties.

North Shelby Ag Leaders hosts a plot tour at the site, complete with meal and guest speaker. “It allows individuals to compare visually different varieties and talk to seed salesmen,” Bradley adds.

Seed salespeople pay a $100 entry fee. Entry fees and money from the plot go to fund the FFA program and scholarships, as well as FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) grants for incoming freshmen. Three years ago, Uhlmeyer received one of those SAE grants. Now he planted the plot in hopes of helping another FFA Greenhand with his or her project.

“I did not even know about the plot until I received the grant,” he recalls. Helping sow the soybean seed meant more this year. “It reminds you of what others have done so that you could succeed. It put a lot more meaning into it for me. It is just a way to give back. I hope whoever receives the grant will be able to benefit from it like I did.”

2018 Michigan Sugar queen, court to be crowned June 15

group of women competing for Sugar queen title
REPRESENTING SUGAR: One of these women will be crowned the 2018 Michigan Sugar queen on June 15 at the annual Michigan Sugar Festival. Two others will be named attendants.

Michigan Sugar Co. plans to crown its 2018 Michigan Sugar Queen and court attendants at the 54th annual Michigan Sugar Festival at 7 p.m. June 15 in Sebewaing.

Fourteen women from throughout Michigan Sugar’s growing area are vying to become the company’s next ambassadors through the Michigan Sugar Queen Scholarship Program. Here is a look at each of the finalists:

Heidi Bierlein, 18, of Vassar. Bierlein is a graduate of Vassar High School and is pursuing a business degree at Baker College. She is the daughter of Brian and Karen Bierlein.

Sayge Cuthrell, 19, of Cass City. Cuthrell is a senior at Cass City High School and plans to study nursing at Ferris State University. She is the daughter of Scott and Amy Cuthrell.

Bailie Gagne, 18, of Midland. Gagne is a senior at Bullock Creek High School and plans to study elementary education at Central Michigan University. She is the daughter of Troy and Kimberly Gagne.

Ashley Gibbs, 18, of Almont. Gibbs is a senior at Almont High School and plans to study agricultural education at Michigan State University. She is the daughter of Kevin and Brenda Gibbs.

Grace Kern, 18, of Reese. Kern is a senior at Reese High School and plans to attend Central Michigan University to study computer science. She is the daughter of Paul and Lisa Kern.

Jannah LeBean, 17, of Bay City. LeBean is a senior at All Saints Central High School and plans to attend Saginaw Valley State University to study cellular biology. She is the daughter of Bernard and Darlene LaBean.

Paige Lupcke, 21, of Saginaw. Lupcke is a graduate of Bay City Central High School and attends Delta College, where she is part of the Michigan State University Institute of Agricultural Technology program. She hopes to complete her degree at Michigan State University. She is the daughter of Rick and Christie Lupcke.

Montana Maher, 18, of Silverwood. Maher is a senior at North Branch High School and plans to study public and nonprofit administration at Eastern Michigan University. She is the daughter of Lee Maher and Karen Ferkowicz.

Anastasia Melnik, 17, of Imlay City. Melnik is a senior at Imlay City High School and plans to study biochemistry at the University of Michigan-Flint. She is the daughter of Maxim and Ann Marie Melnik.

Morganne Narrin, 18, of Fostoria. Narrin is a senior at Mayville High School. She plans to study zoology at Michigan State University. She is the daughter of Barry and Candice Narrin.

Amanda Neumann, 18, of Essexville. Neumann is a senior at Essexville-Hampton Garber High School and plans to study management at Michigan State University. She is the daughter of Andrew and Jean Neumann.

Rachel Phillips, 18, of Almont. Phillips is a senior at Almont High School and will be attending Oakland University where she plans to study veterinary medicine. She is the daughter of Robert and Ann Phillips.

Reaghan Scott, 19, of Bay City. Scott is a graduate of Bay City Western High School and attends Delta College where she is studying dentistry. She is the daughter of Mark and Beth Scott.

Ashleigh Sherd, 17, of Akron. Sherd is a senior at Akron-Fairgrove High School and plans to study veterinary medicine at Delta College. She is the daughter of Kristoffer Sherd and Tanya Volkert.

Through the Michigan Sugar Queen Scholarship Program, a queen and two attendants are chosen to serve for one year as ambassadors for Michigan Sugar Co. Their duties include public appearances, community service projects, interaction with lawmakers and agriculture leaders and helping to represent Michigan Sugar throughout the state.

After completing the requirements of the program, the queen receives a $2,000 scholarship and each attendant a $1,000 scholarship to be used to help pay for college.

Following the June 15 crowning event, the new Michigan Sugar queen and court attendants will take part in the 54th annual Michigan Sugar Festival Grand Parade at 10:30 a.m. June 16 in Sebewaing. After the parade, the queen and court will be at the festival grounds to meet with festival-goers and pose for photographs.

More information about this year’s festival, including a complete schedule of events, is available at

Source: Michigan Sugar Co.

Make fungicides pay on soybeans

soybean field
CONSIDER ALL FACTORS: If you’re going to spray fungicides, time it right, specialists say. You will need to look beneath the canopy to judge stage of development.

I saw enough data this winter to convince me to spray fungicides on soybeans. We have never done it before. Can I do it with my own self-propelled sprayer, or should I hire it done? What do I need to know to make this application pay off?

The panel of Indiana certified crop advisers answering this question includes Don Burgess, agronomist with A&L Great Lakes Labs, Fort Wayne; Jesse Grogan, agronomist with Ag Reliant Genetics, Lafayette; and Bryan Overstreet, Purdue University Extension ag educator in Jasper County.

Burgess: Prior to deciding on whether to make your own application of a fungicide, it’s critical to thoroughly read the label. Doing so will not only detail the proper use of the pesticide, but may also reveal if any additional costs might be needed prior to making the application. This could include required nozzles or other components. Other operational costs such as fuel, equipment depreciation and labor need to be considered.

It’s also important to factor in the differences in the amount of yield loss associated with making the application, based on the size of your sprayer vs. the custom applicator’s sprayer. A wider boom will cause less yield loss due to wheel tracks than a smaller boom. This difference alone may offset cost of the application. Data from Purdue University indicates an average yield loss of 2.5% from wheel tracks on a sprayer with a 60-foot boom, while a sprayer with a 120-foot boom caused an average yield loss of 1.3%. This is a difference of about 0.72 bushel at 60 bushels per acre. With $10 soybeans, this is a $7.20 difference, which may cover the cost of the application.

Grogan: Soybean fungicides are effectively applied with self-propelled sprayers. Use drive lines from previous trips across the field to apply postemergence herbicides in June. One can spray in these passes without running over too many plants if you have autosteer. Soybean fungicides are applied in late July to early August at the R3 growth stage, which is three nodes with quarter-inch pods on top of plants. Crop coverage is important. One must apply 15 to 20 gallons per acre and at higher pressure. A one-time application of fungicide is most cost-effective. Some varieties are more responsive to fungicide than others. Your seed representative may have information to help with that.

It is useful to scout fields for foliar diseases like frogeye leaf spot. Remember that most foliar fungicides are not effective for diseases like downy mildew or sudden death syndrome. Review fungicide efficacy charts for target diseases to control. Custom applicators do a great job and can cover more acres in less time, and have experience with soybean fungicides.

Overstreet: You can apply it, but here are some stipulations you may want to think about. If the product is a restricted-use pesticide, do you have an applicator’s license? You may also look at the number of tracks you are going to make across the field. Does the custom applicator have wider equipment? If it is flown on, you will not have any tracks.

As far as payback, decide on what diseases you’re focusing control on to make sure that you have the proper fungicide to use. Look at that fungicide’s label for the proper timing of the application. When looking at the label, also look at harvest restrictions. Some of the fungicides can’t be sprayed once the soybean plant gets to the R5 stage.



Ag issues keep churning for North Dakota Grain Growers Association

silhouette of farmer climbing
HARD WORK: A farmer climbs the truck ladder during wheat harvest in North Dakota.

The North Dakota Grain Growers Association continues to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Founded in 1967, the North Dakota Wheat Producers merged with the North Dakota Barley Growers in 1984 and changed its name to the North Dakota Grain Growers Association.

The farmer led organization has worked on many issues important to North Dakota grain growers including farm programs, trade policy and environmental regulations.

Over the past 50 years:

• Seven farm bills have been passed.

• Exports boomed in the 1970s.

• President Jimmy Carter imposed the Russian grain embargo and exports crashed.

• Interest rates soared.

• A farm crisis spread in the 1980s.

• The Conservation Reserve, Conservation Stewardship, Swampbuster and Wetland Protections programs were created.

• The North America Free Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership were signed.

• President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if it wasn't re-negotiated and imposed tariffs on Chinese steel, which ignited fears that it would cause a trade war and hurt grain exports.

The issues keep churning, says Harlan Klein, of Elgin, N.D., who served as a member of the board of directors of the North Dakota What Producers. Klein is also a former NDGGA chairman, and director of the National Association of Wheat Growers and U.S. Wheat Associates.

The persistent issues are in part due to changing times and the nature of U.S. democracy, he says.

"We change administrations and Congress every four to eight years and we have to educate new people," Klein notes. It doesn't help that every generation gets further removed from the farm, he says.

Not discouraged
NDGGA's directors aren't discouraged, though.

Jeff Mertz, Hurdsfield, N.D., the current NDGGA president, says directors are energized by a simple fact.

"If we don't stay involved, someone else will make ag-related decisions for us," he says. "Once you acknowledge this, it motivates you to ensure the success and profitability of the next generation of North Dakota farmers."

Making the most of a ‘Classic’ opportunity

JonGorr/iStock/Getty Images Plus Tractor icon on map traveling toward Anaheim, California

Mike won a Pennsylvania Soybean Board trip to attend this winter’s Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif. Here’s the "family take" on the trip:

Sheilah: We were blessed with the opportunity to travel completely across the country with a toddler. Okay, blessed may not have been my first description that came to mind. But with just a little convincing and debating, we decided it would be a great family trip.

Mike: This is something I’ve always wanted to attend. Sheilah spent a lot of time planning and making arrangements. We also cashed in some Disney dollars to take Cole to Disneyland for a couple days.

Sheilah: I made Mike make a list of the speakers to listen to and vendors he wanted to see at the Classic. We had a tentative daily plan with lots of room for adjustment.

Cole had his own ideas though. Once we got to the show, he saw "TRACTORS!" We took turns letting him climb in and out of all the equipment, and he wanted to run from one to the next. While Mike listened to speakers, Cole and I checked out all the vendors and the little kids play area.

Mike: I wasn’t the only one in awe of everything. Cole woke up every morning yelling "TRACTORS!" and would climb into his stroller ready to go — still in his PJs.

We had come to an awesome event. The caliber of speakers and the vendor’s willingness to answer questions and interact was the best I’d ever experienced.

CATCHING GOOD MOMENTS: A Reskovac selfie captures a good West Coast memory.

Sheilah: There were some great interactive displays and games the whole family could participate in. Did I mention the root beer floats? And we met farm families from other parts of the country. Listening to other farmers’ perspectives on issues is always interesting. All in all, it was a very optimistic crowd.

Mike: I’m always up for furthering my ag education, and enjoy sharing ideas with other farmers. We heard the best growers in the country talking about what works and doesn’t work for them. I’m sure no secrets were revealed, but some great ideas were shared.

Sheilah: After it was over, we spent an afternoon watching Cole run up and down the beach on the West Coast. At 20 months old, he has already had his toes in the sand on both coasts. That’s something that took Mike and I a lot longer to achieve.

Mike: When I set out on this farming journey, I never dreamed that the opportunity to travel across the country would come to our family. Opportunities are endless if you keep your mind open to new ideas and suggestions. It was a great trip, and we look forward to attending the Commodity Classic again someday.

Sheilah and Mike Reskovac and their son Cole farm near Uniontown, Pa. Catch all their "Two Hearts, One Harvest" blogs at

What’s causing corn emergence, seedling problems?

By Bob Hartzler and Meaghan Anderson

Cool conditions during the 2018 planting season increased the potential for herbicide injury to corn seedlings due to slow emergence and reduced ability of the crop to metabolize herbicides. While herbicides may be responsible for emergence issues, most of the problems this spring seem to be primarily due to environmental conditions rather than the herbicide.

A symptom associated with Group 15 herbicides is improper unfurling of leaves as corn emerges from the soil. This injury is less frequent now than in the past, since many of these products now include safeners. Also, the availability of effective postmergence herbicides has resulted in many growers reducing application rates. 

Improper unfurling of corn leaves has been attributed to other phenomena as well, including cloddy soils, compaction or soil crusting, cool and wet soils, and wide fluctuations in soil temperature.

Poor emergence
A field in southeast Iowa this spring exhibited symptoms of improper unfurling of leaves on corn plants. The injury had no apparent pattern, affecting plants at random and accounting for about 5% to 10% of the total stand. Some plants were twisted or in a corkscrew shape underground, while others were buggy-whipped at the soil surface.

The cornfield was planted April 24 and sprayed with 2.8 quarts per acre of Harness Xtra 5.6L on April 28. Following planting, nighttime low temperatures remained cool until early May, but daytime temperatures reached highs in the 70s or 80s. Planting depth varied quite widely across the field, with some seed planted more than 2.5 inches in the ground and other seed at less than 1-inch depth. 

Prior to noticing symptoms, the farmer also rotary hoed this field as is his standard practice in spring. This resulted in some emerged seedlings being reburied in the soil.

Abnormal growth of corn seedlings often is caused by a combination of stresses, and in many cases its difficult, if not impossible, to identify which factor is the primary culprit. While we can’t rule out the possibility that the herbicide played a role in the issue in this field, we suspect the environment along with management practices were the leading factors involved in the emergence problems. 

Herbicide carryover
An additional stressor in this particular field was the presence of fomesafen herbicide carryover injury. Flexstar and other fomesafen herbicides can cause veinal necrosis on corn leaves, and the damage to the mid-vein often causes early leaves to “collapse.”

These veinal necrosis symptoms were only evident at the entry of the field, indicating that the carryover likely was due to overapplication of the herbicide in this part of the field. Due to the lack of fomesafen symptoms in other areas of the field, it is unlikely that fomesafen contributed to the improper unfurling seen throughout the field.

There have been numerous reports of fomesafen herbicide injury to corn recently in Iowa. Since fomesafen is broken down more quickly with wetter soil conditions, some injury following last summer’s dry weather is not surprising to see this spring in spray overlap areas or where a heavier rate of the herbicide was applied. Experience suggests the corn will rapidly grow through this injury, but there always are exceptions.

The increased use of rescue treatments made into July to control waterhemp is the primary factor leading to these problems. There is a 10-month rotation restriction for corn following fomesafen use, so the product shouldn’t be used in July in most situations. The inclusion of residual herbicides (group 15 products) with early-postemergence application or planting narrow-row soybeans are the simplest strategies to limit the need for rescue treatments.

Seedling diseases attack young corn
Corn in a field in southwest Iowa emerged normally but then began to rot from within the whorl following a heavy rain.  The damage was spotty throughout the field, but where it was present, 5% to 10% of the plants were affected. Since no herbicides had been applied yet (not a recommended practice), there were questions whether the rain could have splashed residues from the previous year’s product into the whorl of the corn plants this spring. Based on the herbicides used during 2017 in this field, it was easy to rule this out. 

So, what was the problem? Nearly all the dying corn plants had significant quantities of soil inside the whorl. The likely cause of death was bacterial infection due to the soil washed into the whorl. 

The majority of the preemergence herbicides applied to fields achieve selectivity based on differential metabolism; the crop detoxifies the herbicide more quickly than sensitive weeds can do it. Any situation (shallow planting, heavy rain, misapplication) that increases the amount of herbicide in contact with the seed while it imbibes water increases the likelihood of injury.  

Cool or fluctuating temperatures can also reduce the crop’s ability to metabolize the herbicide. There are always risks when using herbicides, but the advantages they provide in managing weeds greatly outweigh these risks.

Hartzler is a professor of agronomy and an Extension weed specialist at Iowa State University. Anderson is an ISU Extension field agronomist in east central Iowa.