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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 42

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Crop Conditions

Harvest continues with many surprises. One reader in Oxford reported an average across the scales yield of almost 65 bu/ac from 700 acres of soybeans. This from a crop that was very “suspect” earlier. Another reader in Huron is getting 200 bu/ac of corn from first acres. It is grading #2. In both cases these yields are below last year but growers are surprised.  Many Ontario growers in areas that received rainfall are saying the same thing. Don’t know where these yields came from. BUT there are a lot of acres with low yields. One grower indicated his farm will average 20 bu/ac across the board.  A lot of growers will be claiming crop insurance on their soybeans. Most cases are small claims but indicative of their yield being less than average. Keep harvesting and please be careful. Burndowns are continuing. Some weeds are harder to kill now but weeds that were sheltered by a crop canopy should be controlled. Best results will be by spraying in the middle of the day. Do not spray for 24-48 hours prior to a frost.


Landlords Need to Pay the Fertilizer Bill

When you rent a house or apartment, typically the landlord pays for the outside maintenance, does any interior touchups, and fixes any structural issues between tenants. This ensures the building is in good shape, and that it remains a viable property. When it comes to renting farm property, it seems that the tenant must take care of everything short of paying the taxes and mortgage. The tenant cuts back the trees, ensures the driveways are in good enough shape to get in and out of, and ensures the field is productive enough to pay the rent. Or do they? If you look at this from the standpoint of commercial real estate, it would be crazy to allow your tenant to dictate a few key aspects that determine the property return over the long term. When it comes to soil, why does the tenant have to bore the full cost of maintaining soil fertility with the possibility of not being able to realize the future benefits?

Corn ear mould/mycotoxin survey. OMAFRA/GFO/OABA completed this survey from Oct 3-9. They collected 222 ear corn samples coordinated a corn fusarium survey. The survey results indicated low levels of fusarium. This is good. But you cannot let up on asking for hybrids that have good fusarium tolerance. (Table from OMAFRA Field Crop News Albert Tenuta OMAFRA)

What’s Happening with the Corn Crop?

A lot of people are surprised about this year’s corn crop. One grower told me about corn that was tasseling first days of September and still made reasonable corn silage. Corn silage harvest is winding down with some a bit too dry and some a bit too wet. Overall yields are better than expected. Dr Bob Neilson, Purdue, stated in July that his research suggested if you planted long season hybrids later than normal, they would mature quicker and dry down faster. This is against conventional thinking. He now says that did not occur in the US Midwest in 2019. He also said that in early October several hybrids were dropping ears. He explained that the dry weather in late August caused the plant to develop an abscission layer early (the abscission is that layer of tissue that exists where the ear is attached to the husk). A couple of Ontario growers have told me that as they were harvesting corn silage, they noticed that some hybrids were dropping ears. This is also an indication of weak stalks. If you have not already done so, check fields for weak stalks by doing the push test. Walk through your corn with arms spread and push corn over to about a 45-degree angle and see if they break off or stand back up. How Fast is Corn Drying Down? Normally we can expect maybe 0.33% drop per day in early November. With wind and sun, it will dry faster. Only way to find out for sure is grab a sample and check it out. Corn dries through the husks, so if those husks are wet because of frequent rains, there is less to no drying occurring.

Corn Ear Mould/Mycotoxin Survey

OMAFRA/GFO/OABA completed this survey from Oct 3-9. They collected 222 ear corn samples coordinated a corn fusarium survey. The survey results indicated low levels of fusarium. This is good. But you cannot let up on asking for hybrids that have good fusarium tolerance. (Table from Field Crop News, Albert Tenuta, OMAFRA)

Table 1 - DON Concentration in Ontario Corn by Year

OMAFRA field crop specialists in collaboration with Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) and members of the Ontario Agri-Business Association (OABA) have completed the annual Provincial corn ear mould and mycotoxin survey. Corn ear moulds such as Gibberella and their corresponding mycotoxins occur every year in Ontario. These mycotoxins, particularly deoxynivalenol (DON, or also referred to as vomitoxin) are produced primarily by Gibberella/Fusarium ear moulds can be disruptive when fed to livestock, especially hogs. The 2019 survey found 96% of samples tested low (<2.00 parts per million (ppm)) for DON which is considerably lower than 2018.

Methods: From October 3 to 9, 2019, a total of 222 ear corn samples were collected from across the province. Five consecutive ears were collected from four random locations throughout a field and placed into high temperature driers as soon as possible after collection. Pictures were taken to document moulds  and insect and bird feeding damage. Dry ears were shelled, and the entire shelled sample was coarse ground and mixed for sub-sampling consistency. Sub samples were collected and finely ground for DON analysis by quantitative ELISA analysis at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus mycotoxin lab.

Is There a Payout From Crop Insurance for Sample Corn?

There might be. If you do not meet your Guaranteed Production (GP) with grades 1-5 corn, there may be a payout. Example, you have a GP of 15,000 bushels. You harvest 15,000 bushels but only 10,000 are grade 1-5. You would be paid $0.52 per bushel on the 5,000 bushels that were sample. If your GP is 15,000 bushels and you harvested 18,000 bushels of which 15,000 were grade 1-5 and 3,000 bushels were sample, you would not receive a payment. In all cases if you think you will be in a claim position, notify Agricorp.

What are The Best Corn Seed Insecticide Treatments?

There are mainly three available. A neonic (Cruiser or similar), Fortenza and Lumivia. Lumivia is chlorantraniliprole (group 28). It is registered to control cutworm, wireworm and armyworm. The “spider web” depiction of Lumivia’s control vs. Cruiser/Poncho is from their web site. Fortenza is Cyantraniliprole also a group 28. There is a similar depiction for Fortenza. In summary the two actives are similar. Fortenza may have marginally better wireworm control. They are equal for seed corn maggot, black cutworm and European chafer.

Figure 1 - Lumivia vs Neonic (250) Corn Seed Treatment
Figure 2 - Fortenza vs Cruiser Seed Treatment

Are You Getting Tired of Hearing About Soil Health? (Patrick’s take on Soil Health)

It is understandable. Everyone is talking about it, but no one is saying much. I imagine by the end of the winter you will have had your fill of soil health talks. (A bit reminiscent of LISA in the 90’s. Remember LISA. Low Input Sustainable Agriculture. Lot of talk about it for a few years). Lots of talk how to measure soil health. I measure it by yield. Lot of negative talk about how we are losing soil health?? So how can you say we are losing soil health when we are getting good yields. Even this year, which was a bad year, we are getting some pretty good yields. I think there are a lot of meetings where they are struggling to find “different” speakers so you will hear speakers talk about soil health. Maybe there are just too many meetings. For me soil health is measured by yield and cost to get that yield. So, if you have a farm with resistant weeds and you have extra cost to obtain that yield the soil is not healthy. If you have a farm has soybean cyst nematodes or the disease complex that causes Sudden Death Syndrome in soybeans, that is not healthy. I was recently in France. The group was touring Van Gough’s house. I went to check the wheat fields nearby that were just harvested. I got thinking. These fields have probably been under cultivation for 1500 years. Still looked pretty good. Probably not as good as ours but still good. Their average yield this year was 100 bu/ac.  I think if you keep getting good yields your soil is healthy. Just watch out for weeds and diseases. They can cause poor soil health.

Are You Getting Tired of Hearing About Soil Health? (Jonathan’s take on Soil Health)

I know I am. I am more interested in finding out what is causing soil (health) degradation, then I would be at least maintaining or possibly increasing my soil (health). Some frame the conversation as one that focuses soil biology. Yes, there is much to learn about soil biology, and what your “underground livestock” can do for you. Too much of the time it seems like we are trying to make the entire field yield like the areas that have high yields consistently year in/year out. But much of these high yield areas never run out of moisture, or never have excess ponding and are the beneficiaries of decades or centuries of soil erosion.  Should you continue to work on your soil (health)? Certainly, it is one of the true assets you have, that without it, you are out of business. And I will continue to promote practices that do not cause soil degradation (see what I did there?).

How Many Lbs. of Potash do I Need to Build My Soil Test?

One of the most balanced pieces of information I have found on this topic was written by Spectrum Analytic, a soil lab based in Ohio.

To answer the question, it really depends on several factors. The first one is that you are applying potash at a rate that is over and above crop removal. The second factor is what is your relative soil test level. A study conducted in Kentucky on a single silt loam soil found that the amount of potash required to build soil test K depended on how low the levels were. The higher the levels, the less was required to build soil test K. Another study found that the range to build soil test K 1 ppm, you required 3.4 to 21 lbs. K2O, with the average being 6.2. In Ontario, we have used 8 lbs./ac K2O (as a guide) to build the soil test by 1 ppm K. The third factor is the soil type and amount of clay content, and the density of the soil relative to the soil CEC.

What value should you use? I would argue it is more critical to figure out which fields require potash, and then decide based upon your capital budget how much you can cash flow on building soil test K. Use that budget number to determine where you will get the best bang for your dollar on your farms. Use the respective formula to determine how much potash you need to apply to build your lowest testing soils, then work on the next worst area, etc.… Do this every year, not just when you have time. Then compare your soil test levels over time to see if you are building soil test K. Your future soils testing high in potash will thank you.

Table 2 - Lbs of Potash required to raise soil test K by 1 ppm
Table 3 - Desirable Soil K Test Levels (Spectrum Analytics)

Labs in Eastern Canada, such as A&L Canada or SGS Agri-food, use the Ammonium Acetate test for potassium.

Which Add in Herbicide is Best for Fall Burndown?

Most recommendations will start with the low rate of glyphosate (0.67 L/ac of 540 concentration – need to take out the volunteer wheat), then increase if there are perennial weeds such as dandelions or perennial sow thistle. In some situations, it is advantageous to add a group 4 herbicide like 2,4-D Ester or Dicamba. But which one is better? 2,4-D ester offers the widest range of recropping options but sees reduced efficacy as the season gets later and later. Fall applied dicamba controls a wider range of weeds more consistently and will have more residual activity on winter annuals. In most situations, dicamba will do a better job.

Two Biggest Issues I See With Growers Trying to Plant “Green”

A client in the seed business called, the conversation was around cover crops and then turned to the two biggest mistakes I see growers make in the spring. They are; 1) trying to establish a crop when the cover crop is just starting to enter peak biomass (there are people successfully doing this with wheat, but they are strip cropping, not solid seeding), which is both tough to kill and possibly robs soil moisture necessary for germination. 2) trying to establish a crop after the cover crop has removed all the soil moisture from the soil profile. If you are growing a cover crop like cereal rye, for example, you must have a plan a and b and c… in place if you are going to terminate in the spring, otherwise in a dry spring, you run the risk of hoping for a rain to get the next crop established.

Can I Plant a Cover Crop This Late That Will Build Soil Nitrogen?

Not that I can think of. Even if you could, we have very little growing season left at this point. If you did try it would have to be a cool season legume, the only one that would really work is Austrian Winter Peas, which typically do not survive the cold snaps we get in March. Try to get something established earlier next year. You could still establish cereal rye or winter wheat, with the hopes of capturing any available nitrate (at risk of leaching) and converting it to plant material.

"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet."