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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 45

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Crop Conditions

Corn - It is all about the corn harvest. We have never really seen anything like this. Ever. Maybe 15-20% of Ontario’s corn is off. Some growers more, others not started. Growers are trying to find corn dry enough with field conditions suitable to harvest. Many fields are over 30% and lots of comments that after the last week, moisture went up. This is not uncommon. There are lots of fields with very poor stalk quality. During September, plants tried to put everything in the stalk to finishing filling the ear. There is a difference among hybrids. If you don’t want to do the push test, then at least keep checking to see which fields are standing the best. Unless there is a dramatic change in the weather, there will be corn harvested in March, April, or even May. This is not uncommon. Some growers on the heavier soils in the Niagara area leave corn out every year to be harvested after the ground freezes. As one CCA agronomist said “Over my years I can't think of (the) 5% of the acres left out over winter where the result wasn't good. It isn't something to be feared in my opinion. The fear of leaving it out is unfounded and rarely results in poor results” There is a loss in yield, but this is compensated by lower moisture, better bushel weight and less field compaction. It is not as much fun harvesting corn in the cold winter weather, as in November, but it can be done. Soybeans - still a significant number of acres to be harvested. Hopefully there will be an opportunity later this year as there was last year in December when a bunch of frozen soybeans were harvested. I am told of one grower who had 10 combines in his fields getting the last of his beans off. Moisture was around 16-18%. These beans will not be harvestable next spring. The same grower commented that you should still harvest in order of planting date/maturity to avoid rotting soybeans.


How Do I Choose My Hybrids/Varieties for 2020?

It is fairly simple. Last week we gave you a summary of traits available by gene for corn and soybeans. The choices are staggering. The reality of hybrid/variety choices for 2020 is the major companies all have good genetics. The good seed salespeople know their genetics better than you will. First you choose what seed salesperson you want to deal with. You can’t deal with everyone that comes in your lane. Probably should stick with two seed companies. I trust these folks and know that the good ones know their genetics. Then you ask them what you should buy for 2020. Then ask why. If the only thing they mention is yield, you may have a problem. You need to concentrate on yield, but other things that are important on your farm. What diseases, e.g. white mould, Fusarium (DON), bushel weight, early emergence, and weeds. The reality is collectively these traits are what makes yield (Presuming there is not a lot of difference in yield between the top companies’ best hybrids/varieties). If the conversation lags, ask them again why you should buy certain genetics.

Which is Better, Xtend Soybeans or Enlist?

It looks like the Xtend soybeans are better than the first release of the Enlist soybeans. The Xtend soybeans have the newer genetics (2nd or 3rd generation in many instances while it appears Enlist soybeans are still working with older genetics (1st generation). I am confident the Enlist soybeans will get better. The issue with Xtend soybeans is spraying dicamba post emergent. Again, this year we had issues with dicamba being sprayed in July. While you never should, this grower with Xtend beans had serious weed issues, and had to spray. One strategy is to plant Xtend soybeans where you are confident you will spray pre emerge or real early post emerge, say before May 25th. Then plant Enlist soybeans on fields where you have glyphosate resistant broadleaf weeds that will need to be sprayed in June. It appears that spraying Enlist soybeans in June with the new 2,4-D choline formulation is less hazardous to surrounding crops than spraying dicamba in June. And if you know you have a neighbour that may not be as cautious about spraying dicamba as you are, you may have to plant Xtend beans in self-defense.

My Alfalfa Looked Poor in May but Appeared to Come Back This Summer. What Will Happen Next Year?

A lot of poorer looking alfalfa fields seemed to get better as the season went on. What happened? Last winter damaged the alfalfa roots. Then the plant grew more roots around the dead roots. The rot still exists. If you left these fields consider ripping them up next spring, and plant new alfalfa somewhere else. In fact, any alfalfa field planted 2017 or earlier is probably not worth keeping. If you just refuse to abandon these acres then first thing next spring inter seed with annual rye grass.

Can I No till Corn into alfalfa?

Yes. One of the easiest no till things to do. When we started into no till in the late 70’s, early 80” I remember one grower who harvested first cut alfalfa then planted corn with his conventional John Deere planter of the day into the alfalfa field. The fact that it was alfalfa made it easy. If you have a good alfalfa field, it means the soil is probably a nice silt loam, or a lighter clay loam. Also, the alfalfa will give you slow release nitrogen. I have seen corn no tilled into alfalfa many times. I have never seen it fail.

Pushing Heat Units

Wanting to use full-season heat units in 2020? There are three factors I look at when positioning a hybrid with a grower, 1) does it gain any yield over using an adapted hybrid. 2) does it have good or respectable dry down, and 3) does it have acceptable test weight. There are instances that I can think of in the past where adapted hybrids have been brought to market with low test weight, and the full-season hybrids were beating it on both test weight and yield. Check the data.

Did Your Corn Black Layer?

In the last week a number of corn growers or industry reps have commented that the higher moisture corn isn’t drying down. In most of these instances I would speculate that the corn did not mature. If you are hoping that this corn dries down like corn that has reached black layer, you are likely to be disappointed. It will eventually dry down as we saw in 1992. Dry down will be slower. If stalks quality isn’t an issue, plan on leaving it out, or find an alternative market that does not involve drying.

How Do You Do Genetic Selection?

First thing I do is go to the Ontario trials, and pick a short list of hybrids from suppliers I will work with, that are above the trend line. See Area 2 graphs below, for example. Once I have this list, I will then look at local plot performance on similar soil types and management that the hybrid will be used. (Usually also including data from the closest Ontario corn committee trials). I also take yield relative to moisture, genetics package, and experience with that hybrid into consideration. The main purpose of using the visual charts is taking out everything that doesn’t at least meet “average” for moisture and yield, and to see if there is a “new” outlier that should be looked at, if it hasn’t been tried before.

Figure 1 - gocorn.net Area 2 - Year 1 Corn Yield vs Moisture Chart

There are a number of hybrids above trend line for yield and moisture, but past grower experience suggests that they have very weak stalks, so I would not recommend them or grow them myself. There are a few that have no dealer support in my area, or lack Roundy-Ready traits for ease of weed control, so those are out (there are a number of really strong conventional hybrids coming to market, might be worth considering on a few acres, if that is your thing). If nothing, else this turns into an exercise of re-affirming why you grow, what you grow.

Do You Have A Systematic Way of Recording Plot Data?

By this I don’t just mean yield and test weight. I meant treat it like a research plot similar to the corn hybrid companies. It doesn’t have to be complicated, if nothing else it may actually free up some time when you go to look, or at least bring focus when you are looking at a plot. When I’ve been making a few notes this past week looking at plots, I’ve found that after I move over to the next hybrid, I’ve missed a critical note on the previous one. At least if I had a chart or rating scale on a piece of paper, these critical pieces wouldn’t be missed (see more below).

What Do You Look at When Walking a Corn Plot?

This is from my perspective, depending on what you value in a corn hybrid, you might be looking for something different. Some of these notes are for identification purposes in the field.

First take – first thing I look at when walking up to a plot this time of year is it standing? Can I see down the rows? Are there stalks lodged?

Stalk Quality – does it pass the push test? What percentage? Are the tops of the plant breaking off, where are they breaking off? Is the stalk breaking below the cob?

Height – how tall is the plant?

Ear placement – where is the ear placement relative to the stalk?

Husk – There is lightly husked corn, kind of a moderate, and then tightly husked. Ideally, I like lightly husked if possible. Tightly husked can be advantageous for areas prone to bird damage (Also use a later flowering date).

Ear Direction – If it’s still pointing up, and it’s November 18th, it’s on the do not recommend list (if possible), at least for grain corn.

Shank – How long is the shank holding the cob to the stalks?

Cob – Number of considerations, first one is cob weight relative to size. Cob diameter, cob length, kernel depth, did the tip fill, if the tip didn’t fill, what happened? Kernels small at the tip, just absent, cob size reduced? Are there ear moulds? What colour are the kernels?

What do you look for in a corn hybrid?

Picture 1 - Corn hybrid holding up well with recent snow.

“One of the biggest shortcuts to success is believing that you’re good enough before you’re actually talented enough.

One of the biggest obstacles to success is believing you’re so good that you don’t have to put in time and work to get talented enough.”

–Neil Strauss