Crop and Field Updates from Extension - UNL CropWatch, July 7, 2011

Crop and Field Updates from Extension - UNL CropWatch, July 7, 2011

July 7-14, 2011

Added July 13

Tom Hunt, Extension Entomologist at the Haskell Agricultural Laboratory, Concord:  Soybean aphids were found in very low numbers in northeast Nebraska Wednesday, July 13. It appears to be the very beginning of soybean aphid colonization of soybean. The next few days of hot weather (highs in the 90s) will likely slow population growth, but they are around and farmers should be aware of them. When temperatures become more moderate (highs in the 80s), the populations will start to grow.

Doug Anderson, Extension Educator in Keith, Arthur, and Perkins Counties:  Recent storms included hail around Venago and a little south, rain from south to north of Perkins through northern Keith County, ranging from 1 to 2 inches.  Wheat harvest has been set back at least four days.  As soon as fields firm up, wheat harvest will begin.  Some wheat fields were laid down by the high winds in recent storms. Most growers feel they'll be able to pick it up with minimal yield loss. High humidity continues. 

Karen DeBoer, Extension Educator in Cheyenne County:  Recent storms have left fields very wet. Wheat harvest should start in fields with sandy soils over the weekend unless rain persists.

Jennifer Rees, Extension Educator in Clay County:  Corn is beginning tasselling and soybeans are flowering. High winds in rapidly growing corn has created greensnap in some areas. Crops overall are looking good right now. Producers are trying to harvest wheat but high humidity is creating higher moisture conditions that aren't allowing for a timely harvest. Ergot questions continue to role in from wheat producers.. I provided an update on my blog at


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Ergot in wheat

Darker grain indicates ergot in wheat.

Jennifer Rees, Extension Educator in Clay County:  Corn and beans are looking good overall and closing canopies.  Corn is growing rapidly. Wheat in the southern tier of Nebraska counties is being combined. Yields have ranged widely, due to dry weather producing small heads and problems from diseases such as scab, smut, and ergot. Common bunt (stinking smut) creates clouds of black spores during combining and the grain smells like fish. Loose smut is loose in the head and doesn’t form a kernel shape like common bunt does. Both can be prevented by not saving contaminated seed and using fungicide seed treatments at planting.

Ergot is one I hadn’t seen in wheat since I’ve been here but I have seen it in roadside grasses. Ergot is caused by a fungus that infects the wheat head during cool, wet conditions during flowering. Like the fungus that causes scab, it simply replaces the normal pollination process and instead, a black/purple hard fruiting body (sclerotia) is formed. Before this is formed, a sugary drop called honeydew is formed which then turns into the sclerotia. The ergot sclerotia are a problem at harvest as they're dense and not apt to be blown out with fans, as you do with light, scabby kernels. Ergot contains toxic alkaloids that can have mind-altering effects.  In fact, the Salem Witch traials have been blamed on a harvest of ergot-contaminated grain. These alkaloids are also toxic to livestock so contaminated grain should not be fed or even blended in for livestock. Federal grain standards classify wheat as ergot infested when it contains more than 0.3% sclerotia. If you are finding ergot-contaminated grain in your fields, do not save seed back for next year. Also, the sclerotia will live on top of the soil for a year so don’t plant contaminated wheat fields back into wheat, barley, oats, or triticale. Mowing roadside ditches and keeping wheat fields free of other grasses can help prevent ergot infested grasses from spreading the ergot fungus to wheat via blowing spores and rain splash. More information can be found by checking out the UNL Extension publications on wheat head, grain, and seed quality on the wheat/disease Web site. 

See Rees' blog and crop updates at

Robert Tigner. Extension Educator in Chase County: Crops are looking good. Some soybeans are far behind but looking good. Corn that was late planted and hailed last month has mostly grown out of the damage. Early planted corn did not fare as well. Appraisers have totaled several irrigated circles. Some was replanted as late as July 1. I saw my first combine in wheat Tuesday (July 5), but the field was much darker than the golden color it should be. Hail storms did hit some wheat fields, causing as much as a 50% yield loss. Even though we had some 106°F days last week, corn did not look stressed except on the lightest areas of fields. Second cutting hay has begun.

Gary Zoubek, Extension Educator in York County: Crops are generally looking good. We received about ½ inch of rain this past week! Soil sensors in irrigated crops have been reading at or above field capacity but are now starting to drop some. Corn grew at least 18 inches this past week, going from waist high to neck high in one week! Early corn is in the V11-V13 stage and early soybeans are in the R1 stage.

Nemaha River

The Little Nemaha River is running full bank on Thursday, July 7, on its way to meet the flooded Missouri River.  (Photo by Gary Lesoing)

Gary Lesoing, Extension Educator in Nemaha County: With warmer temperatures, significant rainfall, and excellent growing conditions this past week both corn and soybeans have grown significantly. Corn is in the V10-V12 stages. It has probably grown 3 feet in the past week. Many of the soybeans have begun to flower. Last week most soybean fields were sprayed for weed control. Wheat harvest began, with good quality, 60 lb test weight, and about 12% moisture. Yields were above average from 55-70 bu/ac. Some farmers have planted soybeans as a double crop after wheat and some will plant cover crops for grazing cattle. Some fields, primarily white corn, have some green snap due to strong wind storms. Also, some corn hybrids are showing buggy whipping on leaves. The leaves are light green and the tassel is wrapped tight in the leaves. Some fields are flooded due to seepage water, while others are flooding due to backup water from the Little Nemaha River. In general any crops that are not flooded, look excellent. 

Added July 7:  After more rain last night and early this morning, fields are becoming saturated in the Little Nemaha River basin and there is a lot of runoff. This will contribute to more backup as this water flows down the Little Nemaha to its mouth at the Missouri.

Drew Lyon, Extension Dryland Crops Specialist at the Panhandle REC, Scottsbluff: We’re a week away from wheat harvest and there is a lot of dryland wheat that’s looking pretty mean. Our crop is quite late and still threatened by the hail, high winds and storms that keep popping up. Sunflowers and proso millet were planted quite late. Every time they were planted, there would be a heavy storm and they would have to be planted again. You hate to complain about rain in dryland production, but we’ve had strong convective storms with hard downpours and fast rain. No-till fields have fared a little better than others that had soil crusting. A lot of growers were playing catch up with planting still on the 5th of July.

 Onion leafing in corn

Onion leafing of corn in Saunders County due to early damage from hail, wind and rain  when the leaf became entangled. As the corn plant continues to grow, the new leaves in the whorl bulge out on the side in an effort to escape.  (Photo by Keith Glewen)

Jeff Bradshaw, Extension Entomologist at the Panhandle REC, Scottsbluff: In our sugarbeet plots at Mitchell where we’ve comparing conventional vs reduced tillage we’re seeing a lot of silting in the conventional till areas. Plants couldn’t even break through the soil in some areas. We aren’t seeing any of that in the reduced tillage plots. A lot of irrigated crops here are behind. We’re seeing a fair amount of replanting or producers who wanted to replant but haven’t been able to due to the weather. We’ve had hail and high winds, and a number of pivots were blown over in recent storms. We’ve also seen a lot of flash flooding in the area. I haven’t had a lot of insect calls, although there has been a small resurgence of army cutworms recently. Western bean cutworms have started their flight in southeast Nebraska, but we’re not seeing them here yet. We’ll probably see them in the next week or two. There’s been little activity in potato. Psyllids are marching north from Kansas and eastern Colorado has seen some sand chafers. The second hatch of grasshoppers is well underway and we’re seeing some pretty high numbers.  (See CW story.)

John Wilson, Extension Educator in Burth County: Flood waters continue along the Missouri.  Aside from flooded and waterlogged fields, crops look good. We have a lot of ground that’s poorly drained, not from flood waters, but from drainage ditches that aren’t flowing. Groundwater is high and we’re starting to see die back in water logged fields. They looked good for a while, but problems are beginning to catch up. We’re also starting to see some grasshoppers.

Ron Seymour, Extension Educator in Adams County: Corn’s growing fast and is now at the 9th to 10th leaf stage. We’ve caught a few good rains. Soybeans are not quite blooming, but getting there. Wheat harvest is likely to start by the end of the week. Growers are taking their second cutting of alfalfa.

Charles Shapiro, Extension Soil Scientist at the Haskell Agricultural Laboratory, Concord: Crops are growing well.   In our tillage plots, no-till is behind and a little stunted due to the cooler soil under the residue. This could turn with the warmer weather this week.