POCKETS OF GOOD CROPS IN EASTERN CORN BELT (WESTERN ILLINOIS CLAIMS EXCELLENT CORN POLLINATION)

(Mike McGinnis) – For 2017, the ‘garden spot’ of the Corn Belt is believed by many to be between Peoria, Illinois, and Ames, Iowa. If that is the case, Dave Mower, a consulting agronomist located in Toulon, Illinois, is right in the midst of that garden spot.

From west central Illinois, crop conditions taper off in every other direction except west, Mowers says.

Illinois’ corn is rated 62% good/excellent, below the U.S. overall rating of 64%. Meanwhile, 63% of the Illinois corn crop is in the silk stage, behind the state’s five-year average of 68%, according to the USDA’s latest crop conditions report.

“In the northern, eastern, and southern parts of Illinois, we have a lot of field variability this year,” Mowers says. “And I will say this, we do not have the crops that we had last year.”

GOOD CROPS IN EASTERN CORN BELT

Illinois corn and soybean growers have had everything thrown at them from Mother Nature, Mowers says.

“We have areas of the state that have had excessive rain, other areas that are too dry, and then my area of west central Illinois that has had excellent corn pollination,” Mowers says.

Though June was very dry for most of the state of Illinois, with some spots receiving no rain, July has brought relief with rain and humidity.

“This humidity helps too. Even though human beings don’t like it, it’s just what the crops love. Humidity is the crop’s friend,” Mowers says.

Some of the fields of his farmer customers are yield-testing fairly strong for this time of the year.

“A few of my clients say they have ears that read 18 rows of kernels around and 40 kernels in length. Those numbers have the potential to yield around 200 bushels per acre or better. But time will tell,” Mowers says.

There is one thing that Mowers doesn’t think has been considered and that is the setbacks from all of the cloud cover this growing season.

“We have not had the amount of full sunny days to get maximum photosynthesis needed for this corn crop. And we may pay the price for that. In addition, this pollination follows right along with the toll on the crop in May during that cold stretch,” Mowers says.

That May weather created uneven emergence, poor shading, spotty tasseling, and seedling mortality. As a result, we could see some uneven moisture levels in this corn crop at harvest. This variability will make for tougher dry down efforts at harvest, the Illinois crop consultant says.

ILLINOIS SOYBEANS

The west central Illinois soybeans look good, but it’s only July 21. And therein lies the problem.

“I just can’t say too much about a bean crop until later on in the year,” Mowers says.

The Illinois soybean crop is rated 67% good/excellent vs. the overall U.S. crop rating of 61%, according to this week’s USDA Crop Progress Report.

For Illinois, 30% of the soybeans have entered growth stage R3 (pod-setting), the USDA report stated.

DICAMBA TROUBLES

“We are seeing leaf cupping. More than likely this is due to dicamba damage. You can see it from the road, while driving 55 miles per hour. That has become a real issue. Whether it will cause yield loss is indeterminable. The combine will determine that result,” Mowers says.

Illinois is also facing issues with the infestation of this year’s Japanese beetles, as is Indiana.

INDIANA CROPS VARY WIDELY

In its latest Crop Progress Report, the USDA rated the Indiana corn crop as 47% good/excellent vs. the overall U.S. crop rating of 64%.

Kent Haring, Medaryville, Indiana, says that he feels fortunate to be in the part of the Hoosier state where crops are looking green in July.

“I would grade the corn crop, in my area, at an A-minus to a B-plus. And the soybean crop is a B-plus,” Haring says. “Things look pretty good, nothing to brag about on the upper echelon, but no bad crops either.

“We have very few problems with our crops, despite a goofy spring. Right now, we feel pretty fortunate, quite honestly,” adds Haring.

While Haring’s corn crop has not pollinated, overall, Indiana’s crops reflect a slower developing growing season.

As of this week, just 39% of Indiana’s corn crop is in the silk stage vs. the state’s 51% five-year average.

The bad part of the Indiana crop story is that there is a lot of pest and insect pressure, this year.

“As we speak, a yellow crop-dusting airplane is flying over my head,” Haring says. “Plane are flying all over the place, applying fungicide and insecticide. We have western cutworm, bean leaf beetle, and Japanese beetle pressure (as shown in the photo above).”

Haring adds, “There are clipped silks everywhere. There are bugs everywhere.”

For soybeans, the Indiana crop is rated at 49% good/excellent vs. the U.S. 61% rating, the USDA stated this week. Also, 27% of the Indiana soybean crop is in the pod-setting stage.

“The soybeans change so fast. But, they look good. We planted all Dicamba soybeans and they are doing well,” Haring says.

The 2 inches of rain a week ago has helped Haring’s crops survive some extremely hot days.

“We have water ponding in my driveway, right now. So, we don’t have a water problem.”

OHIO LOOKS GREEN

Justin Barnes, a south-central Ohio farmer, says that this week’s 6 inches of rain have his corn on its way.

“It’s a great feeling to see green crops in July. We didn’t have that last year. Plus, in June we went three weeks without any rain,” Barnes told Agriculture.com.

Barnes has corn that is fully pollinated with brown silks. “We’ve had very little pest pressure. I applied fungicide to both the corn and soybeans this week. And I think we will have a better crop this year than last year,” Barnes says.

In south-central Ohio, there was a record amount of replanted crops due to flooding. “We had a lot of crusting of the soil at planting time. So, we have corn that has just tasseled in the area. And the soybeans are in good shape, but they could still go either way,” Barnes says.

How to Get Your Melons to Bear Fruit Faster

Melons (Cucumis melo), or more specifically muskmelons, are part of the Cucurbitaceae family with watermelons, cantaloupes, and timun suri. Just like other plants in the family, muskmelons vine but do not ‘climb up’. Unsupported, muskmelons would just vine all over the soil surface.

The ideal place to farm muskmelons is at 250-700 m above sea level. At 250 meter, muskmelons tend to produce small fruits while in really highland with less than 18 degree celcius temperature, they are hard to grow. Muskmelons demand air humidity level at 50-70% in 25-30 degree celcius temperature with 1500-2500 mm per year precipitation. The quality of your muskmelon fruits will be better if there’s a significant difference of temperature during the day and night.

Melons to Bear Fruit Faster, Photo by: www.hallogarden.com

Types

Muskmelons vary a lot, however there are three popular cultivars to farm:

  • Reticalatus. This muskmelon is the most popular cultivar. It’s shaped like a ball with green colored skin and net-like skin texture.
  • This cultivar has smooth skin with the color ranges from yellow to greenish pale yellow. The meat is aroma-less and can be green, orange, or even white.
  • This one has wavy skin like pumpkins. The meat is very aromatic and yellow or orange in color. An example of this cultivar would be cantaloupe.

Seeding

Farming muskmelons usually start with generatively reproduced seeds, so they’re actual muskmelon seeds. For one hectare, you can plant about 16,000-20,000 muskmelon plants so you need about 500-700 grams of seeds.

Before you plant them, you have to let your seeds germinate first. Soak them in warm water for 6-8 hours. You can add fungicides into the water.

After soaking is done, let them dry over wet piece of fabric and let them be for 1-2 days until they have germinated. Keep the fabric wet enough during those two days.

Prepare small polybags or sowing trays. Fill them with planting medium which is a mix of soil and compost or manure fertilizer with 2 to 1 ratio. Bury the melon seeds in it, about 1-2 cm deep.

Protect your sowing place with transparent plastic roof or something like it. This is needed to protect your seeds from overexposure of the sun and direct rainfall. Keep the humidity stable; water them when needed, but not too much.

Seed sowing usually happens for 10-14 days and it’s usually finished when marked with the growth of 2-3 leaves. Your seedlings are now ready.

Land preparation and planting

Land for muskmelon farming should be plowed first to smooth out the big chunks. Then, make seedbeds with 100-120 cm width, 30-50 cm height, and 10-15 m length and 50-60 cm distance between seedbeds.

If your soil’s pH is less than 5, add in 2 tons of dolomite or agricultural chalk per hectare. Mix it with the seedbed soil at least 2-3 days before basic fertilization.

Add 15-20 tons per hectare basic fertilizer like compost or manure fertilizer. Also add 375 kg of ZA, 375 kg of KCl, and 250 kg of SP-36 per hectare. Mix them all up together on the seedbeds with the seedbed soil. Let everything be for 2-4 days.

Then, cover up your seedbeds with black silver plastic mulch with the black side to the soil and the silver side out. Make planting holes on the mulch. There should be two rows of planting holes per seedbed with row distance 60 cm and hole distance in a row 50-60 cm. This should be done at least 2 days before planting.

The next step would be to plant the seedlings: one seedling per hole. Water them. Planting should be done in the evening when the sun is not too hot.

Care and maintenance

1. Pole markers

To get high quality harvest, muskmelon plants need to be supported by pole markers so the fruits do not touch the ground and the sun can penetrate every part of the plant.

Install the pole markers before your muskmelons grow too large, usually at day 3 after planting to avoid damaging their roots when you stick your pole markers in.

Prepare 1.5 m pole markers and stick them into the planting holes diagonally so they would crisscross with each other. Then, get a longer stick of bamboo and put them in the intersection of pole markers and tie everything together with ropes.

2. Watering

Water your muskmelon crops regularly every evening until your crops reach the one week mark. After that, watering can be done once every two days. Make sure to have a well operating drainage system and never let there be any puddle of water.

3. Follow-up fertilization

Follow-up fertilization is needed after the one week mark. The recommended form of fertilizer is liquid, could be organic or chemical. Follow-up chemical fertilizer is given six times. Dissolve it in water and give it to your crop with the dosage 200-250 ml per plant. Here’s a table to help you with the fertilization:

Period Age

(days)

Fertilizer Type Amount

(kg/ha)

Dilution
1 7 NPK (16:16:16) 100 4000 L of water
2 14 NPK (16:16:16) 30
Boron 5
3 21 NPK (16:16:16) 36
Superphos 20
4 28 NPK (16:16:16) 36
5 42 NPK (16:16:16) 100
Superphos 100
KNO3 20
6 50 NPK (16:16:16) 36
KNO3 30

4. Synthetic pollination

In the dry season, pollination is done by insects. However, in the rainy season, insects are less in number so pollination has to be done synthetically.

Synthetic pollination is done in the morning before 10 am. Do it on female flowers, especially flowers on the 9th-13th branches. In one plant, you can usually find 3-4 to-be fruits until further selection happens and you are left with 1-2 fruits per plant, depending on their size.

5. Pest and disease

Muskmelon farming in tropical area like Indonesia is quite risky because they’re vulnerable to pests and diseases. Some pests that could be dangerous are aphids, fruit fly, caterpillar, thrips, and mite. Meanwhile, some diseases that could attack are anthracnose, fruit rot, stem rot, and mosaic.

Melons to Bear Fruit Faster. taken by: www.hallogarden.com

To avoid these, do some technical culture like crop rotation, balanced fertilization, and taking care of your garden sanitation. If you muskmelon crop is attacked by pests or diseases, feel free to use either organic or synthetic pesticides.

Harvest

Muskmelon crop is ready for harvest at age 3 month, usually. You can see that they’re ready for harvest from their physicality. For example, for reticalatus cultivar, you can see the obvious and prominent net-like texture on the yellowish green skin with cracked stem surface and potent aroma.

Muskmelons should be picked at 90% ripeness or about 3-7 days before they’re fully ripe to give time for distribution. Picking is done by cutting the fruit stem with a knife or a pair of scissors. Cut it in the shape of the letter T with the cut side towards the leaf instead of the fruit. Picking should be done in the morning at around 8-11 am gradually.