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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 44

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Will Applying Nitrogen this Fall Speed Up Corn Stalk Break Down?

No. This topic has been researched many times since the late 60’s. Every research paper I read indicates that corn stalks do not break down faster if you add nitrogen. Part of the issue is the fact that in our cooler climates corn stalks are not going to break down in the fall.

Which Corn Trait Controls Which Pest?

I consider the corn trait packages as, or more confusing, than the herbicide tolerance for soybeans. Multiple options with similar traits but branded differently makes this space complex. The following chart keeps the process relatively straight forward. While this is a listing of traits, many of the corn hybrids you may purchase today, maybe stacked, take a look at the full chart.


Table 1 - Corn Genetic Events and Traits

Soybean Populations vs Yield vs Weed Control

This year I ran several population comparison’s as part of a VR seeding trial. While we are still waiting to crunch the data, one observation I had in the field was that even if there is no yield benefit to seeding at higher populations, there is a weed control benefit. Depending on your weed spectrum, I would reconsider trying to save a few dollars on seed if it meant having to compromise weed control later in the season.

Which Soybean Trait Provides Which Herbicide Tolerance?

When looking at your soybean seed selection, it’s can be confusing to figure which trait has herbicide tolerance to a product. The chart below explains which herbicides can be applied pre-plant or in-crop. Really only two products of concern as far as newer traits go. Dicamba can only be applied as a burndown/in-crop to Xtend soybeans and Enlist Duo can only be applied to Enlist E3 soybeans in-crop.

Table 2 - Herbicide Tolerance by Soybean Trait Package

Should I Work My Alfalfa Field Going to Corn?

In speaking with one grower, his comment was that he never does fall tillage on his alfalfa fields. His comment was that it is the easiest of all fields to work in the spring. (I encouraged him to try no tilling some corn, as his planter has the capability, just to see if tillage is necessary) The caveat to making this work is that he does do a fall burndown when terminating his alfalfa.

Picking the Best Corn Hybrid Harder for Next Year

This will be another difficult year to compare hybrids. Last year was the DON factor. This year is the planting date factor. There will be a difference whether the on-farm-trial is weighed off or weights were with a monitor. I believe the weighed off yields are more accurate than monitored yields when comparing hybrids. 1) When comparing hybrids look at the number of on farm trial comparisons. You need a minimum of 4 comparisons, but better still are 6, before you can say there is a valid comparison. 2) Moisture on an individual trial is not as important as moisture averaged over 6 locations. Individual hybrids have different dry down rates. If just looking at one trial when it was harvested may have been at a critical stage of those hybrids dry down. 3) Population affects yield. There is a definite hybrid X population interaction. This is one reason why you need 6 locations to compare yields. Hopefully the multiple locations have taken out some of the population effect. If you have your own plots, check the population now among hybrids. 4) Relative Maturity (RM) is only valid within a company. Each company calculates their own slightly different. Even CHU comparisons are not accurate, since corn companies rate their hybrids CHU maturity based on RMs. 5) Continue to be conscious of fusarium. The industry must continue to be concerned about DON.

Check Final Stand in Population Trials

It is amazing when I see on-farm corn hybrid plots. 1) All plots have the same final population. In the real world this never happens. If you have unharvested plots do a stand count to see if you are measuring a yield difference or a population difference. 2) If you have a population comparison trial, check final stand. And if you are serious, then husk all ears in 1/1000 of an acre and count harvestable ears.

Selling Corn Off the Field

Had a call the other day on how to price selling corn off the field to another farmer. Several ways to price it, to me the fairest is what it would cost for the purchasing party to buy it dry FOB Farm, from the elevator, less an agreed upon drying charge/shrink. The person selling off the field gets a bit of a premium for helping a neighbour, and the purchasing party earns a bit of drying revenue. Keep in mind selling farmer to farmer likely falls outside the financial protection of a grain license.

Reducing Costs for 2020

Lots of articles. An interesting one by University of Nebraska Crop Watch page, states that “seed fertilizer and chemicals make up about 20% of the cost of growing corn.” This is the one that will be talked about the most, but a very hard one to reduce without reducing yield. Equipment and land operations cost about 20%. Hard to control some of these if equipment payments are a significant portion. Land rent represents about 44% of all costs. Author states that in some cases rent is much too high.

What Tillage for Corn Stalks on Fields Going into Soybeans?

I have spent 2-3 hours researching this topic. One of the US Midwest land grant colleges has an article just posted. But research is old. There is no information on what tillage tool was used. I am very suspect of their fall tillage tool. Their final word is that there is no point in doing any tillage on corn stalks. I believe that there are many reasons to do some tillage on corn stalks. 1) There is research to show you can reduce some of the surface compaction caused by harvesting. 2) Cutting and burying corn stalks helps to dry out soil in the spring. 3) If using a drill, corn stalks not worked can cause a lot of damage to tires and press wheels. And if using a drill, you get better seed to soil contact when there has been tillage. 4) If you are broadcasting fall fertilizer you must do some tillage. 5) Some fields need to be levelled. On the other hand, there are reasons not to do any tillage. 1) Depending on soil type you may not gain a benefit to fall tillage. Lighter soils with low corn yields, and not much residue, may not benefit. 2) Erosion prone areas of the field may be better left alone. 3) If you are using a planter for soybeans and have good row cleaners the benefit to tillage is less. 4) If not doing any tillage leave the stalks as high as possible. 5) It’s too wet to work the soil, and will cause more issues.

Finally, it depends on the tillage tool and how it operates. At Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, we had 2 years of demonstrations, where 12-14 pieces of equipment were demonstrated each year. There was a big difference in the results obtained.

Herbicide Trait vs Yield in Soybean Selection

In my opinion, pick a slate of the right genetics that fit your goals (no-till vs tillage, early vs. full season, SCN, white mould, etc.), then worry about which one will provide optimal weed control based upon your weed spectrum. In 2020, you should be using a pre-emerge herbicide program regardless of which genetics and herbicide tolerance you work with. The exception would be if you have been hit multiple times with off-target drift, then it might be time to make herbicide tolerance a higher priority (it shouldn’t happen in the first place, consider it like defensive driving).

How to Compare Non-GMO to Herbicide Tolerant in Provincial Soybean Trials?

These are typically running on the same farm; the trials are published as a yield index. For example, let’s say you farm at Elora, and you are comparing OAC Strive (a 117-day IP type soybean) to NK S05F9 (a 117-day RR2Y soybean). You will have to adjust the yearly yield index by plot average to find out what the nominal difference is. In this case, about 2.3 bu/ac over 2 years at Elora, and 0.8 bu/ac over 2 years for all of Ontario in the maturity group. If you are wanting to comparing genetics in the same herbicide type, the www.gosoy.ca website can calculate this for you.

Table 3 - Comparing Conventional vs Traited Soybeans

IP vs. NON-GMO vs. Seed Production vs. Crush Soybean

Typically, around this time IP buyers are trying to secure acres, seed production people are trying to gauge how many acres they need to grow, and producers are looking at how easy the neighbour has it growing crush beans. Regardless of which class of soybean you choose to grow, revenue is what pays the bills. The charts below provide a rough idea on what you would require for a premium to maintain total gross revenue at various yield levels. If you have low soybean yields, and a high soybean price, you require a strong premium if you are considering a variety with yield lag compared to what you currently grow today. In the example above, disregarding seed cost and herbicide/harvest considerations, the OAC Strive’s had about 1 bu/ac yield lag to the S05F9s, at 50 bu/ac. At $12/ac, you would only need a $0.24/bu premium to make up the difference.

Table 4 - Premium Required if Yield Lag at 40 bu/ac
Table 5 - Premium Required if Yield Lag at 50 bu/ac
Table 6 - Premium Required if Yield Lag at 60 bu/ac
Table 7 - Premium Required if Yield Lag at 70 bu/ac


“Nature bats last. And she always bats 1,000.”

–Robert K. Watson