Central Michigan field crop update – July 16, 2020

Crop, pest, financial and stress management update.

Pineapple corn
Corn that is heat stressed, commonly referred to as pineapple corn. Photo by Monica Jean, MSU Extension.

This is a great time to make sure your cover crop plans are in place for the season. The perfect opportunity is right after wheat harvest, with several suggestions outlined in the Michigan State University Extension tip sheet, “Cover Crop Choices Following Winter Wheat.” The MSU Extension cover crop team also created a recipe guide geared more towards the novice cover cropper. When we reflect on the last several years, weather has seemed to impact our yield potential and ability to complete farm work in a timely manner. Cover crops are a great tool to manage moisture, weeds, erosion and work as an insurance plan for variable weather. If you would like assistance planning your farm’s cover crop plan, please reach out to one of our cover crop team educators.

Weather report

The central part of Michigan received some relief with scattered showers over the past week but continues to be dry. According the MSU Enviroweather stations in Ithaca and Freeland, rainfall totals since April 1 are 10.81 and 10.27 inches, respectively. Growing degree day (GDD) totals are running about 100 GDD ahead of last year. View Jeff Andresen’s weekly weather report.

Pest report

The growing season is progressing and scouting your crop regularly for pest pressures is critical to finishing well. There are a number of insect pests that can impact crops at this point in the growing season. These include, aphids, mites, potato leafhoppers, corn borer and western bean cutworm. It is important to get out and scout for these insect pests because most of the crop damage can occur before the plant shows visible symptoms. View Chris DiFonzo’s summary on the current insects to be scouting for.

Western bean cutworm traps set out July 8 had double digit moth catches in the first week.

Commodity reports

Corn is tasseling. This is a critical time as the crop heads into pollination. The two weeks before and the two weeks after is the time that is finalizing the kernel number per ear, according to Mark Licht, Iowa State Extension agronomist. It is also a peak time for water use and nutrient uptake.

Soybean development continues with most of crop in early flowering. This is a good time to walk your fields to evaluate your week control strategies. We are seeing some marestail and waterhemp escapes. If you still have to make a herbicide application, be aware of the weather before considering spraying for weeds or pests. Check the label for efficacy ratings due to heat, both herbicides and insecticides can see a decrease effectiveness.

Harvest has started in the region for wheat, with yield decreases being reported of 10-15% and lower test weight. This is most likely due to the challenging weather early in the season, such as frost and excessive rain. The multiple days of 90 degree-plus heat really top off the yield potential.

Oat and barley crops are turning and maturing. The excessive heat and dry conditions are expected to impact yield and quality of both of these cool season cereal grains.

Second cutting alfalfa harvest is wrapping up. After harvest, scout for potato leafhopper in alfalfa with a threshold of (number of per 100 sweeps by plant height): 50 (3-8 inches), 100 (8-12 inches) or 200 (over 12 inches). Potato leafhopper populations are high this year and damage has been observed in several fields. It is also important to scout the new seeding’s and alfalfa seeded with a companion crop such as oats. Potato leafhopper damage in the seeding year can impact the long term productivity of the stand.

Dry beans are off to a good start. Some damage due to potato leafhoppers has been reported.

Financial considerations

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a variety of financial relief programs have been created for small businesses, and many are available to farms. Be aware that each program has specific tax implications. Direct payments and loan forgiveness, for example, generally create taxable farm income. Information on COVID-19-related programs is available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service offers guidance on some of the employer tax credits related to COVID-19 programs.

Additional information on these and other programs will likely follow. Please work with your tax preparer in determining the full impact of these programs for your farm business.

Mental health minute – farm stress

Do you or someone you know experience any of the following?

  • Spend five out of seven days feeling unhappy.
  • Regularly unable to sleep at night.
  • Regularly over-sleep.
  • Constantly feel exhausted, lack energy, over-eat or not eating enough.
  • Recently placed an elder in a nursing home or in alternative care.
  • Have lost someone you are close to or something such as a job.
  • Been diagnosed with a chronic or acute medical illness.
  • Have difficulty or lack the ability to prioritize what is most important in your life.
  • Feel that you can no longer manage your stress.

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from some level of support or counseling. MSU Extension Teletherapy Pilot Project is a program that can help you in your time of need.

How to connect

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  • Please join us live on Facebook @MSUEFieldCrops weekly on Wednesdays for your lunch break at 12:30 p.m. We discuss what is happening in our central Michigan farming communities.
  • The field crops team has both a Twitter and Facebook Please like or follow us @MSUEFieldCrops.
  • If you would like to be added to our regional newsletter, please send an email to Monica Jean at atkinmon@msu.edu or Paul Gross at grossp@msu.edu.

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