DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Kellie Blair just happened to look up this week to see a Charolais steer running past her farm office window sporting a halter, but no kid attached. "I just had to say to myself, welp... it's fair week," she said.
Like many a 4-H parent over the years, the Dayton, Iowa, farmer finds herself putting the full-court press on her children to finish 4-H projects before the Webster County Fair begins this week. Getting the cattle gentled down to lead is but one of the deadlines -- there's baking, welding, woodworking....
"Maybe it all seems intensified since last year the fair was canceled due to COVID," Blair said. "I keep thinking that we had all this time to prepare, but somehow we just seem crazy."
Ryan Wieck has been to only one county fair in his lifetime -- when he was five years old. But the Umbarger, Texas, farmer understands the frantic feeling of being behind. This week he is trying to confine himself to the sprayer in hopes of getting plant growth regulator on his cotton. Meanwhile cotton fleahopper continued to threaten early squares and the weeds in wheat stubble have responded to rainfall like it was laced with steroids.
"I'm never going to finish...," Wieck groaned good naturedly. "Last week we had a couple of days we couldn't spray, and right now it feels like I'll never catch up. I will, but then it will be something else. That's farming... there's always something."
Unfortunately, a different kind of stress emerged this week as Wieck discovered 2,4-D had wafted onto his cotton from neighboring fields to cause symptoms of injury.
Wieck and Blair are participating in DTN's View From the Cab project. The series of articles chronicles crop conditions and farm life on a weekly basis during the growing season. The two farmers volunteer their time; this is the 11th installment for 2021.
Read more to learn what is happening in their farming worlds this week.
RYAN WIECK -- UMBARGER, TEXAS
Ryan Wieck is hot, and it has nothing to do with the Texas Panhandle weather. This week he was beginning to see evidence of 2,4-D injury in his cottonfields from off-target movement.
"You know how sensitive soybeans are to dicamba -- well cotton is similarly sensitive to 2,4-D," Wieck noted. It takes only a whiff of the chemical to start the characteristic blistering and strapping of the leaves. Wieck planted Xtend cotton this year, which tolerates dicamba, glyphosate and glufosinate, but not 2,4-D.
Last week he started worrying that shortages of certain chemicals might tempt neighboring farmers to use more available and less expensive 2,4-D. In 2019, he had a 150-acre dryland cottonfield that sustained injury that resulted in a $30,000 loss, he said. This week, Wieck already had 155 acres that were showing symptoms on at least one-third of the field.
"I'm pleading with fellow landowners and homeowners to not spray 2,4-D this late in the season," he said. "It can pick up and move."
Prior to finding the herbicide injury, Wieck had just been admiring how pretty some of the fields are this year. "We're fixing to fire up the wells again to water. The rains we had last week sure did help, but we need more," he noted.
Meanwhile, he was working to apply plant growth regulator (PGR) to modify early and midseason cotton growth as his cotton approached pinhead square.
Wieck enjoys teaching others about cotton production. While cotton can be a finicky crop, it is also a beautiful and fascinating crop, he said. The cotton flower bud goes through several development stages during the 21-day period from when the plant forms squares (fruiting areas) to bloom. A pinhead square is the first stage at which the square can be identified.
Pix, or mepiquat chloride, was the first branded PGR to be used extensively by farmers. There are now other brands and hormones used, but Wieck still leans on products that utilize mepiquat to reduce stem elongation at newly formed internodes that also can improve fruit (boll) retention.
This is the first of two or more applications of PGR he will apply during season to keep the vegetative and reproductive growth of his cotton in harmony. The goal is to improve lint yield and quality.
Cotton fleahoppers continue to pose a threat to cotton in this region this week as well. These tiny pests eat the squares at the bottom of the plant -- the very ones Wieck is trying to encourage the plant to retain by using growth regulators.
This year he's also trying to take advantage of "free" fertilizer in the form of fresh cattle manure. The product is free, but he pays for delivery freight and to have it custom spread.
"I'm going to have a little wheat after wheat this year and that's where I'm applying it first. I have a hard time getting enough phosphorus into the soil with liquid fertilizer, and I'm trying this to see if it helps. I plan to put some on cotton acres after harvest too," he said.
In this area of the Texas Panhandle, there are several custom silage chopping outfits that haul manure in the off-season to keep their trucks busy.
He's held off taking advantage of local manure because of weed pressure concerns since weed seeds can pass through cattle. "But I've seen some crop results that have convinced me to try it on some acres this year," he noted. "There is a local outlet for compost. Cooking and drying does decrease the weed risk, but I like the amount of product I can get out there with fresh manure." He'll also be working the manure into the soil, which he hopes will help with weed control.
Overwhelmed maybe, but Wieck has also finished wheat harvest in time to avoid weather issues. "There are farmers to the south of me with lodged wheat and muddy conditions. I feel so bad for them and so glad that I'm not in that situation," he said.
KELLIE BLAIR -- DAYTON, IOWA
Show up at Blair Farm this week and you're likely to get served a piece of pound cake. "There are three 4-H practice cakes sitting in the kitchen right now. I'm not sure how long it will take before any of us want to see pound cake again," Kellie Blair said.
Still, Blair was counting her blessings. The farm received 1.5 inches of rain this past week and some light showers were falling on July 14. So far it isn't enough to make up for earlier deficits, but the area missed the storms that dished out hail and damaging winds in several parts of Iowa last week.
DTN Ag Meteorologist John Baranick said the outlook for additional rainfall for the central Iowa area near Dayton is cloudy at best. "Models are printing out anywhere from next to nothing to over 4 inches. The region turns drier for the following week if it doesn't get in on this rain. Heat will be another factor to watch next week as there are some indications temperatures could make a run toward triple digits mid-to-late next week," Baranick noted.
USDA's NASS Iowa Crop Progress and Condition report on July 12 rated the state topsoil moisture levels as 9% very short, 31% short, 56% adequate and 4% surplus. Subsoil moisture levels rated 16% very short, 40% short, 42% adequate and 2% surplus.
"We have some corn leaning on the end rows, but it is already righting itself," Blair reported. "The rainfall provided a real boost to alfalfa recovering from second cutting. We've got some weeds and weevil to take care of in alfalfa this week. But that sure made it green up fast," she said.
General insect scouting is on her radar right now. The watch is on for aphids in soybeans. Corn is just beginning to tassel. Reports that western corn rootworm beetle are more active than normal this year have her watching for silk clipping. So far Blair said she's not seen any disease pressure in crops. Oat harvest is likely on the calendar for the coming week.
"I keep telling myself, let's just get through the fair," she said. "But fair time also tells me summer is passing quickly."
One thing the family enjoys is having visitors to the farm and hosting field days. "It's a great chance to tell our story and educate others about farming and the conservation practices we're using," she said.
On her bucket list is to do some exchanges and visiting of farms in other regions of the country. "The great thing about social media is how it puts us in touch with other kinds of farmers and I'm really looking forward to meeting some of those people in person and seeing their operations," she said.
The family loves to camp. One thing they've tried in the past is offering their farm up to a handful of friends as a camping site for a weekend. "We had bunches of kids and parents. People were pitching in with chores and just loving being on the farm.
"Most of them were from rural Iowa, but still it was a chance for these people to see what we do and gain an appreciation for agriculture," she said.
There's another side benefit to these kinds of efforts too. "It's amazing how much cleaning up we do of the farm and in the house when we know visitors are coming," she said.
Read last week's View From the Cab about shortages in the supply pipeline: https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Pamela Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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