By Darren Hefty

There were so many things going on in fields around the country that will and have had a big impact on yields in 2017. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the bigger ones I saw and what can be done to protect your crops going forward.

Wheat Curl Mite – We saw wheat curl mites as a problem once again in 2017 and cultural changes are a big part of the solution. Here are the 3 keys to avoiding wheat curl mites and wheat streak mosaic in your next crop.

  1. Eliminate the green bridge. Kill off volunteer wheat and other grasses for at least a couple weeks ahead of seeding this fall.
  2. Seed later but still within the optimal window in your area.
  3. Use one of the moderately resistant varieties if available for your area. Kansas State University recently discovered a third potential resistance gene which appears to offer protection above 75 degrees, which would be brand new.

Late Season Soybean Disease – Cool weather in early August brought back sclerotinia white mold to the Upper Midwest, while other areas saw diseases such as target spot. Most diseases that can survive in crop residue are managed by rotating crops and dealing with the organic material, commonly with tillage. With white mold, I’d add one more thing to the mix. You can spot treat the infected areas or entire fields with Contans, which is a biological that actually eats the sclerotia, to reduce future disease pressure.

Spider Mites – In droughty areas this year, spider mites were a big factor. Some areas still get by using Capture/Brigade or Lorsban to control them. Other areas need to invest in a good miticide.

Corn Earworms – With many acres moving away from higher value corn traits to conventional or straight Roundup Ready hybrids, a gamble was taken that certain pests would not be a problem. As a result, I saw more corn earworm this year than I’ve seen in quite a while. Since the timing to get control of these bugs revolves around such a narrow window (before the bug gets inside the husk), switching back to a trait like SmartStax may be a cost effective option for next year for some.

Nutrient Shortages – As more farmers take advantage of simple and inexpensive tools like plant tissue analysis, nutrient shortages are being discovered and often addressed. Especially in drought-prone areas, it was clear that if the nutrients weren’t out there early in the season it was difficult to get them into the plants this summer.

Emergence – If you want top yields, you need to get your seed out of the ground quickly and evenly. We saw a real benefit in advanced seed treatments this growing season. You’ll hear more about this before next spring.

Corn Rootworm – As I’ve already mentioned in the corn earworm blurb, an increase in corn rootworms is prevalent in some areas that switched away from traits with below-ground insect protection. If you make that trait switch on your farm, be sure to use a full rate of an effective corn rootworm insecticide. I expect to see a substantial economic benefit of doing just that at harvest this year.