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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 33

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The full writing team is back this week, as a result we have a blend of regular content and fall lawn care.  The lawn article was written when I worked regularly with turf farms and landscapers. I felt it had a lot of good advice if your looking to complete in the neighborhood #lawnwars.

Crop Conditions

This is the week when a lot of crop activities slow down. Wheat is off and corn and beans are continuing to mature. Spring grain harvest is almost complete. Cover crops if you planted oats you need a minimum of 40 pounds actual nitrogen for best yields. Also, you will need to spray for rust, once flag leaf emerges. If you have not planted oats because of dry soil, don’t wait any longer. Plant the oats, and it will germinate when it rains. It is amazing how little soil moisture you need to germinate oats. Forages some growers are finishing 3rd cut. Over all yields are down. Take a long look at any fields seeded before 2018. High probability they should be terminated. It is too late to plant alfalfa, but you can still plant grasses.  Corn the crop is variable both within a field and across areas. Some corn just pollinating last week. That corn will not likely make #2 yellow. If you have some late corn start looking for places to sell it for silage. Frost and the full moon there is still the back roads belief that the first killing frost comes with a full moon. I asked Jay Campbell who was a meteorologist with CFPL in London. He looked back over 50 years of first frost data and found no co-relation between the first frost and a full moon. The reason that some believe this is, the first frost often occurs when there is no cloud cover to hold in heat. If there is a full moon when there is no cloud cover, and there is a frost, that frost is remembered. The other 27 times of full moon and no frost are forgotten.

Picture 1 - For 2019, an open fall is required for average soybean yields.


Estimating corn yield

Is rather simple. You calculate the number of kernels per acre and then estimate the weight per acre based on kernel number and you have yield. The last two years the error in calculating yield was in estimating the kernel weight. The standard number of kernels per bushel is 80,000. Usually when I do yield estimates, I figure it will take 90,000 kernels to make 56 pounds. This year it may take 75,000 to 100,000 kernels to make a 56-pound bushel.

Estimating the number of kernels per acre

This is where the biggest errors occur. The best method is to go to an area of the field where the yield is average. You can find this area by looking at previous yield maps or knowing your field. Measure 1/1000 of an acre. For 30” rows this is 17’ 5”. Then husk all the cobs in that 17’ 5”. Then either pull them all off or find 3 average size cobs. (This step is where most people go wrong. They figure if they have 29,000 plants, they have 29 cobs. Seldom occurs.) Then count the number of average size cobs. If there is a big variation in cob size this is complicated. It may take 3 smaller sized cobs to equate to 2 average size cobs. Once you have your average size cobs, count the number of rows (will always be an even umber) and count the number of kernels per row. I normally stop about 1 inch from the tip. Now you have number of kernels per cob. Calculation is, kernels per cob X average sized cobs divided by 75 to 100. (This time of year, start with 90. As the fall progresses, you may have to recalculate with a different number) Say you have, 18 rows per cob and 32 kernels long, 27 average size cobs. It is 18 X 32 X 27 = 15,552. Divide this by 90 =172.8 bu/ac. If you divide by 100 because of smaller kernels it is 155 bu/ac. Now you have a range for the field depending on fall weather conditions.

Trading corn silage for manure

You have to agree on a number of things. In crop insurance world, 1 ton of corn silage equates to 7.0 bushels of corn. Thus, if you are weighing off 20 tons per acre of silage this is 140 bushels of dry corn equivalent. Now you have to agree on harvesting costs. Since the buyer of silage will probably harvest the silage there is no harvesting cost to the seller. Also, since the seller does not have to dry the corn nor deliver it to an elevator there is no hauling, drying storage or elevating costs.  The buyer will have a cost to haul it home. Probably agree on a price of corn and pay that. The hauling harvesting, drying balance the extra forage. If trading for manure it is easy to calculate the value of the nutrients in manure. Find the local cost of N, P, and K. There is some value in micronutrients and organic matter.

Can I plant red clover into my winter wheat if I have Glyphosate Resistant Fleabane?

YES. There are a number of options. We will give them to you closer to wheat seeding time.

Can I Plant Wheat after Wheat?

Yes. Yield will probably be better than if planting after November harvested soybeans. You cannot insure these acres of wheat planted after wheat. But you can insure the rest of your wheat acres. This little nuance of Crop Insurance is specific to Ontario. In western Canada you are allowed to insure wheat if planted after wheat. Planting wheat after wheat works best on lighter soils. Consider tillage to work down all residue. Heavier soils are more prone to the disease take all.

Growing Switch Grass for Bedding

Switch grass is a perennial grass that has been used successfully for bedding and in TMR rations. Once established you can expect it to last for 10 plus years. It is suited to odd shaped fields that are too small for conventional equipment or some of your poorer land. Land can be dry but not so good if the land is wet. You cut switch grass in September and leave it in the swath all winter and harvest in the spring when it dries. This leaches most of the P and K from the leaves, so you will only need to fertilize with nitrogen. There are custom balers you can hire for a spring harvest.

Tillage and Fertilizer Spreading Demonstrations at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show

This year 14 pieces of tillage equipment will demonstrate how to handle cover crops. As well there is a fertilizer spreader demonstration including equipment for variable rate. This equipment is being demonstrated for fertilizer dealers and farmers who want to apply their own fertilizer

Winter Lawn Preperation

While next spring is still months away, now is the time to think about lawn maintenance that will pay dividends in April and May. The following suggestions could help a lawn with winter survival, spring green up, minimizing weed pressure and withstanding summer drought stress.

Over Seeding

Consider adding grass seed to where it has become thin or damaged. Ideal time in the fall for adding grass seed is from mid-August to mid-September.

To ensure success when adding grass seed consider the following suggestions;

  • Speak to a turf specialist to select the right grass seed for the lawn in question – Examples; Full Sun, Shady, High Traffic, etc.
  • Add top soil or compost in low areas to grade, spread grass seed, and apply a thin layer (0.7 cm or 1/4 inch) of top soil or compost on top of grass seed and pack to firm soil.
  • After adding grass seed, keep the area moist by watering the lawn several times a day.
  • After one week, reduce watering to twice a day, until the seedlings are established.
  • Mow newly seeded turf after 4 cm (1.75 inches) of growth has occurred, ensuring the grass is dry.


Mowing at a proper height will help keep the lawn dense, uniform and weed free.

Mowing basics

  • Mow as high as possible, as low cutting encourages a shallow root system. Cutting grass low will cause the lawn to be more prone to drought stress and increase broadleaf weed invasions.
  • Mow when leaves are dry, as it allows for more even distribution of clippings and a cleaner cut.
  • Leave clippings on the lawn when possible. By leaving grass clippings they could permit a reduction in fertilizer applications by 20-35%.
  • Keep mower blades sharp for a clean cut. Reducing damage to the leaf tip will help to minimize disease pressure on the grass.
  • When mowing, remove only one third (1/3) of the grass blade, by keeping at least two thirds (2/3) of the blade, the plant has leaf area left to recuperate and shade out weeds.
  • Ideal mowing height for lawns is 6-8 cm (2.5-3 inches) during the growing season. Cut shorter earlier in the season, with a longer cut when summer drought conditions arrive. Avoid mowing during mid-day to minimize plant stress.

Fertility – Timing and Rates

The goal of a fall lawn fertilizer application is to maintain a low water level in the grass plant by increasing cell sugar content. This can be accomplished by applying nitrogen (N) at very specific times during the fall season. Nitrogen will help increase sugar content in the plant by increasing chlorophyll production, the key in capturing sunlight for photosynthesis. The deeper and healthier roots that result will have a better chance of winter survival.

Depending on the approach, preparing the lawn for winter can be a one or two part process.

When applying 1-2 applications per year, a single fall application will be required. If applying 3-4 applications of fertilizer per year, an early and late fall application will eliminate the necessity for early spring fertilization. (Table 1 provides a good visual of the various application timings). Fall weather with warmer than normal temperatures will mean appropriately delaying applications. Select products that have a ratio of 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 of Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. Applying products before a rain will help move them to the root profile for uptake and minimize risk of burn.

Table 1 - Suggested application timings by Lawn Management

1st Fall Application

Apply a fertilizer product that will provide 0.3-0.5 kg N per 100 m2 (0.6-1.0 lbs N/1000 sq ft.) during the period from mid-August to mid-September; Example: 100 lbs of 20-5-10 applied at the suggested rate covers 20,000 square feet. Products that have Urea, Ammonium Nitrate or Ammonium Sulfate as the source of nitrogen are preferred. Slow release products can also be used; however performance will depend on weather conditions following time of application. Due to delayed nitrogen release, Organic based fertilizers are generally not recommended for fall application.

2nd Fall Application

Apply 1.0 -1.5 kg N per 100 m2 (2-3 lbs N/1000 sq ft.) during the late October to early November period. It is imperative that day time temperatures have dropped consistently below 10 degrees Celsius for this application. The lawn should still be green but any blade growth will have stopped. N rate will depend on the colour and density of the lawn. Use the high rate (1.5 kg or 3 lbs) if there is poor colour and density; conversely use the low rate if the lawn is in good shape and a maintenance application is only required. Example: 100 lbs of 20-5-10 applied at the suggested 2 lbs N/1000 sq ft. covers 10,000 square feet.

Timing is critical for nitrogen applications; too early results in lush growth, increasing the risk of winterkill, and too late will be of no benefit to the turf and increase the risk of run-off.

Cultural Practices

Cultural practices that also help are;

  • Adequate surface drainage for water run-off
  • Controlling excessive amounts of thatch
  • Aerating (Late Summer)
  • Adjusting soil pH (late fall) with lime or sulphur applications

By combining all of the elements together, the lawn will be…

  • Having great winter survival
  • Greening up earlier
  • Having a thick appearance (better density)
  • Withstanding summer drought conditions

Think progress, not perfection.”

- Ryan Holiday