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Drought News 
last update 5/17/00

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Corn News

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BROOKINGS, S.D.--Adjustments in herbicides, rates, and timing may be in
order this year in view of an early spring and potential for limited rainfall.

Leon Wrage, Extension weed specialist at South Dakota State University, said spring came fast this year and so did some weeds.

"The best herbicide program matches the weed problem," Wrage said. "Weather is a factor in weed control," he added.

Limited fall and early spring precipitation in some areas of South Dakota coupled with periods of above normal temperature will affect weed growth
and require some adjustment in the herbicide programs, Wrage said.

Wrage outlined some responses and considerations for weed fighters when weather is a factor:

*Burndown is more critical for no-till. If there is a question, err on the side of making the application.

*Avoid extra tillage in tilled systems. Continue preplant herbicides with shallow tillage just ahead of planting. Burn off early weeds if they are taking too much moisture early.

*Early seasons combined with limited precipitation can result in extended weed flushes. Using a split preplant residual herbicide followed by postemergence or planning for split postemergence programs are good choices, especially where moderate or heavy weed growth is expected.

This gives a wider opportunity for timing to remove weeds before they hurt yield, Wrage said.

Early preplant programs fit well in early springs, because they provide extra time to receive precipitation

*It takes less weeds to cause yield loss in a year when there are other stresses. In tests where weed pressure in soybeans was heavy, a 7- to 10-day optimum window was documented to remove weeds; yields were reduced over 10 bushels per acre by being one week too early or one week too late.

*Don't shave rates if rainfall is marginal. Full rates of soil applied herbicides are important for performance. Full rates along with required additives are important for postemergence herbicides if weeds are stressed and humidity is low.

*Antagonisms with postemergence tank-mixes are more apparent under stress conditions Don't cut rates. Consider split applications if the problem in question appears serious.

*Herbicide carryover can be an added stress. Review postemergence use. Crops can metabolize and respond better under good growing conditions.


According to NOAA's National Weather Service, the United States is in

the midst of a worsening drought, following the warmest winter on

record. This threat to individuals, agriculture, and industry throughout

the country brought together representatives of the U.S. Departments of

Commerce, Agriculture, and Interior, as the federal government issued

its first spring drought forecast.

"The news is not good," declared Secretary William Daley of the U.S.

Department of Commerce. "The drought of 1999 remains with us in the new

century—and our data indicate drought conditions are probably going to

get worse before they get better."

Several southern states experienced their driest February on record; and

the spring drought outlook released today appears bleak.

"The La Niña pattern which has dominated the United States for the past

two years has created a serious moisture deficit in many areas. This

could seriously impact farmers, water resource managers, navigation

interests and the tourism industry. Forewarned is forearmed," said NOAA

Administrator D. James Baker.

NOAA Administrator James Baker explains that La Niña is responsible for

the dry conditions across the USA. Commerce Secretary William Daley,

right, discussed the economic impact of drought. NOAA's National Weather

Service director John Kelly discusses drought conditions at Washington,

DC, news conference.

The spring drought forecast says the drought is going to persist and, in some

areas, intensify. Hardest hit ..........the south, and Nebraska,Iowa, Illinois

and Indiana in the north central U.S. Secretary Dan Glickman of the U.S.

Department of Agriculture noted,"We saw lastsummer just what a drought

can do to farmers. Looking to the future, we need to be ahead of the curve,

that will protect farmers prepared for dry weather when it comes and

equipped with the mechanisms and prevent widespread losses."

Drought is a serious threat to the health, well-being and economy of the

nation, causing economic and social losses comparable to that of major

hurricanes. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama all experienced their

driest February in 106 years. Already this year wildfires have claimed

208,000 acres—nearly four times the losses at this time last year. The

areas impacted by the drought of 2000, according to NOAA, parallel the

drought of 1988, which was the most costly weather disaster in history

with an estimated $40 billion in losses. The average annual cost of

droughts is over $6 billion.

Last year's NWS climate forecast anticipated drier conditions in the

southern U.S. According to Jack Kelly, Director of the National Weather

Service, "This year, for the first time, we are issuing a drought

forecast. We are able to do this because of the advances made by the

climate research community."

NOAA scientists also point out drier than normal conditions mean a

reduced possibility of significant river flooding this spring. However,

Kelly cautions communities to be on guard against severe weather and

flash flooding.

U.S. Geological Survey Director Charles G. Groat noted, "Based on data

from the USGS's nationwide stream gage network, there are some areas of

the country— particularly east of the Mississippi River—where

streamflows are well below normal for this time of year. "Think of it as

not having enough money in the bank. We have not had enough water during

our normally wet winter to put in our groundwater bank for our normally

dry summer and fall. We anticipate additional drought problems in the

months ahead based on the below normal streamflows and groundwater

levels we're seeing now."

The drought is expected to continue through spring. The National Weather

Service is an agency of the Commerce Department Complete information is

available at http://www.nws.noaa.gov


Much Of United States To See Warmer Than Normal Temperatures For most of
the United States, the rest of the spring and summer will bring warmer
than normal temperatures, and some Midwestern and Great Plains states
will continue to experience drier than normal conditions, according to
the latest seasonal forecast released last week by NOAA's National
Weather Service. The forecast also predicts that La Niña, which has
dominated global weather patterns for the past two years, will linger
until August 2000.
"All of the computer weather models agree that most of the U.S. will be
warmer than usual, but at least we can see the end coming for La Niña,"
said Ants Leetmaa, director of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, which
is part of the National Weather Service. He added that the persistent La Niña is the meteorological answer to the expected warmer, drier
(La Niña is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the
equatorial Pacific, as compared to El Niño, which is characterized by
unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.) Last
month, NOAA released its national drought forecast, which called for
drought conditions in southern Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi,
Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia in the south, and
Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana in the north central U.S.
The forecast released last week reaffirms most of that outlook. "Drought
conditions could actually worsen in the Midwest and Great Plains states
(Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and northeast Kansas),"
Leetmaa said.

Weed Fighters Need To Roll With Punches Weather Delivers

BROOKINGS, S.D.--Unusual weather is the unpredictable part of the weed control equation, and this year may require different tactics, a weed specialist said.

Some weed issues are fairly predictable, said Leon Wrage, Extension weed specialist at South Dakota State University.

Annual weeds that seeded the last two or three years are a good bet to be primary problems again this year because perennials usually appear where they were last year. Good weed maps can be useful in planning effective weed control, said Wrage. However, other weed issues, such as weather, are less predictable. Because of the early seasonable temperatures, weeds are already a factor. Kochia has emerged and other early weeds will follow, noted Wrage.

This means that burn-down is more important for no-till, Wrage advised. It can also result in weed emergence right with or even ahead of the crop. Wrage said it will be important to push the timing of postemergence herbicides earlier to be sure weed competition is minimized.

Wrage advised, early planting small grain can give crops a competitive advantage over later emerging weeds such as foxtail.

Wrage noted weather has already influenced some weeds for the 2000 season. There is less "cheatgrass" and winter annual mustards in areas where there was limited precipitation last fall and early this spring. The dry fall also reduced biennial thistle fall rosettes in those areas.

The key for success, said Wrage, will be to remove weed competition early. Stresses from weather increase the pressure for good weed control because it requires fewer weeds to cause yield loss.

Wrage urged producers to continue to check fields closely because changes in weather can change the weed situation.


AMES, Iowa -- Minimal precipitation since harvest in much of the state suggests that many growers should carefully consider spring tillage options before going to the field
"Generally tillage should be minimized to avoid loss of moisture already in the soil," said Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension agricultural and biosystems engineer. "A tillage pass could result in the loss of up to one-half inch of soil moisture or more. Conditions responsible for more moisture loss include dry surface winds with low relative humidity and a lot of sunlight. To a limited extent deeper tillage tends to let more soil aggregates be exposed to drying air conditions."
the choice of tillage operations will depend on how (or if) the soil has been tilled previously. Soil that has been left undisturbed since harvest last fall should be relatively moist in the top few inches from infiltration of any precipitation and the barrier effect of residue against moisture loss.
For soils with adequate internal drainage, no-till may offer the best management choice.
Growers without recent no-till management experience will want to make sure their planters are properly maintained and adjusted, and carefully evaluate pest and nutrient management plans.
For soils with poor internal drainage, light tillage with a field cultivator or disk just prior to planting will dry the surface enough to plant without causing undue moisture loss.
Soils that received primary tillage last fall may need to be leveled with a secondary tillage operation for planter operation. Two strategies (early spring or just prior to planting) may be used to conserve soil moisture.
"If early spring tillage is to be used, it probably should have been done by now or as soon as possible. With an early spring strategy, the soil is opened up for some drying, but spring rain that does occur can readily infiltrate the soil," Hanna said. Using the second strategy, the tillage and leveling operation is delayed until as close to planting as possible.
"Any soil moisture present in the tilled depth is not allowed to begin to escape until about when the seed is planted. If tillage also is used for herbicide incorporation, consider label requirements and select herbicide and tillage timing accordingly," said Hanna.
Additional spring tillage issues include concerns about limited frost action during the past winter and sealing of soil around ammonia knives. Although warmer temperatures limited soil freezing to help break up compaction, many Iowa soils were dry enough during harvest that compaction was probably minimal.
"Even though some soils were observed to be 'hard' last fall as evidenced by increased tillage draft requirements, growers should recall that dryness causes soil to become hard," Hanna said. "Dry conditions rather than compaction could easily increase tillage draft."

Contacts: Mark Hanna, Extension Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-0468, hmhanna@iastate.edu Elaine Edwards, Extension Communication Systems, (515) 294-5168, eedwards@iastate.edu

Your editor grew up on a farm (SD NE border) and remembers the drought in the 30's, especially 1935. Memories of dust storms that made it so dark you had to light the kerosene lamp in the house to see. Clouds of grasshoppers that blotted out the sun like a storm cloud. Hoards of grasshoppers arriving and stripping a cornfield to bare stocks in a few hours. I also remember cornfields so dry that leaves on the corn curled up. Thistles thrived in the drought when nothing else grew and blew and piled up on fence lines, and we spent a lot of time burning pile ups of blowing thistles (tumbleweeds). Therefore, we have been running some photos of the 30's drought to wake you up to what the word drought means. Most people farming now have never seen a real drought of that magnitude. Streams drying up, normally running at flood stage in the spring, Iowa drain tiles that normally run half to full on most farms are dry this spring. The great lakes, being far lower then usual and are dropping at an alarming rate to an all time low, have gotten the attention of people who do not believe this drought amounts to much So far, indicators are ahead of what was happening during the 30's drought. Most climatologists will not come right out and say an exact prediction because weather could surprise everyone, (unlikely this time) but they can be made to look bad if on record. So most just say "all things point to that . . ." or "indicators are . . . ," etc. Indications are soil moisture is so low that even an above normal spring rainy season would not get prospects back to normal. Now they report each month so far, that spring rainfall has continued below normal making the situation even worse. All long term forecasts are for less then normal precipitation. Experts have stated that without carry over soil moisture even normal rainfall for the rest of the season would not mean a normal crop year. We have been running maps that indicate what is now expected and they include a hotter then normal summer which will add to the problem of crop survival. Previous issues we have indicated that disregarding these obvious indicators it needs to be noted that drought of this type runs in cycles every 25 years. Also that the corn belt has had droughts of some magnitude on a cycle of 12 years. Both of those hit at the same time this year. Whether these La Nino and El Ninos run on these same cycles no one has stated probably since they may not have been observed or connected to weather until recently. Most Ag net sites and publications are tied to advertisers and running negative information such as we have been running would not be popular with advertisers who would like the Ag community to be buying at the usual rate. This publication is supported entirely by subscription so we tell you like it is. However, we do need your support and a subscription at $7 a year helps both of us. This $7 investment will give you a source of information you will get nowhere else. See subscription blank on back page. Tell your friends about this publication and that they can pick up a copy at most Interstate highway rest stops newsrack vending machines or better yet suggest they subscribe. Remember to check our web sites. US FarmNetwork.com, USFarmNews.com and CountrySingles.com

Thanks, Harlan L. Jacobsen Editor Publisher

For more Information:
http://www.noaa.gov NOAA's Drought Information Center
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center — Two Week Lead Outlook
NOAA's El Niño Page
NOAA's La Niña Page
NOAA Media

Limit Spring Tillage for Farm Fuel Savings

AMES, Iowa -- Increases in diesel fuel prices along with conserving soil moisture has some farmers thinking about limiting spring tillage operations.

"Total diesel use for all field operations, including tillage, planting and harvest, is typically four to six gallons per acre. Eliminating a deep, primary tillage operation can save one gallon per acre, and eliminating a secondary tillage operation can save one-half gallon per acre or more,"said Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension agricultural and biosystems engineer. "Fuel savings are in addition to savings on wear and tear on machinery and labor requirements.

When tractors are used, Hanna advised paying attention to several key points to minimize fuel consumption. Tractor engines and transmissions should be well maintained. Make sure inflation pressure in rear and front tires is correct for tractor axle loads. For mechanical front-wheel assist tractors, closely match front tire size with rear tire size as detailed in the operation manual. Although well-maintained diesel engines are efficient, if possible match tractor horsepower to the required load or task. If a large tractor must be used for a smaller drawbar load, shift the transmission up to a higher gear and reduce engine speed by throttling back.

The tractor must be properly ballasted to be most energy efficient when pulling heavy drawbar loads. A properly ballasted tractor under drawbar load will generally have 5 to 10 percent wheel slip on firm surfaces or soil and about 10 to 15 percent slip on looser tilled soil. Slip is often not visually noticed until in excess of 20 percent. Proper ballasting should be according to manufacturer's recommendations in the operator's manual or from the dealer. Two-wheel drive tractors may have a total tractor weight of 115 to 135 lb. per PTO horsepower and four-wheel drive tractors about 90 to 105 lb. per PTO horsepower. Static weight splits between rear and front axles, respectively, will be approximately 75 percent/25 percent for a two-wheel drive tractor, 60 percent/40 percent for a mechanical front wheel assist tractor and 45 percent/55 percent for a true four-wheel drive tractor.

In addition to field operations with the tractor, trucks should be well maintained (engine, tires, transmission). Some trips may be able to be combined or eliminated with advance planning, Hanna said.


Mark Hanna, Extension Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-0468,
Elaine Edwards, Extension Communication Systems, (515) 294-5168,

BROOKINGS, S.D.--South Dakota crop producers have much to consider this seeding season, said Bob Hall, Extension crop specialist at South Dakota State University

While some areas of the state are dry, some are still wet, and others are somewhere in between. Forecasts that predict a hot, dry spring and summer are making producers wonder what if anything can be done to combat the potential lack of moisture this summer.

If a warm, dry spring and early summer appear imminent, Hall recommended that farmers do no "recreational tillage." In other words, use no-till or minimum tillage to conserve moisture.

"A lot of time farmers don't realize the impact of an additional tillage operation. It is something that can really make the difference (in soil moisture)."

Hall urged producers to use common sense and plan for a normal year. If you plan for a drought by reducing populations, you may short-change yourself if the drought is not severe enough to affect yield.

Small-grain growers should seed as soon as possible and pick early maturing varieties, advised Hall. Small grains germinate at soil temperatures of about 34-46 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant early so heading and filling will beat the heat, said Hall, which typically starts about the first week in July.

Hall said if small grain seeding is delayed beyond optimal dates this year, it will likely be the result of springtime moisture which many areas of the state would like to see. SDSU research data suggests small grain yield reductions may be expected when seeding is delayed beyond mid-April in the south and late-April in the north.

Small grain yield reductions observed in previous years indicate significant reductions are expected north of state Highway 14 if planted after April 27; between Highway 14 and Interstate 90 after April 22; and south of I-90 after April 15. Hall said producers in these areas could expect yield reductions of about 0.8 bushels per acre per day for spring wheat, 0.9 for durum, 1.8 for oat, and 1.5 for barley.

Hall recommends that corn growers seed as early as frost-free dates allow. Corn growers should not expect any significant yield reductions unless planting after about May 7 to 17. Both corn and soybeans germinate in soil temperatures of about 48-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Hall added, newer corn hybrids better tolerate drought than those of 10 to 15 years ago. Hall warned producers to neither push nor severely reduce populations. If recent populations ranged from 24,000 to 28,000, consider using 24,000 to 26,000 this seeding season. When seeding into dry soils do not exceed seeding depth of 3 to 3.5 inches on clay, 4 to 4.5 inches on silt, and 5 inches on sandy soils.

Thirteen years of data at the SESD Experiment Farm at Beresford indicates 101-103 relative maturity corn hybrids drop off in yield when planted after about May 17. In comparison, 112-118 relative maturity corn hybrids should be planted earlier since they drop off in yield when planted after May 7.

Again, soybeans should be seeded as soon as frost-free dates allow. Soybean growers should not expect significant yield reduction until late May to early June. Hall advised producers to plant normal populations and plant at a normal seeding depth of 1 to 1.5 inches. Hall does not recommend planting a variety with poor emergence score into clay soils deeper than 1 to 1.5 inches. If producers wish to plant deeper than the recommendation, Hall said, "Consult your seed dealer about soybean emergence scores."

Again, 13 years of data from the SESD Experiment Farm indicates Group I and early Group II soybean varieties should be planted by about the last week of May to minimize possible yield reductions from delayed planting.


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