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The Cropwalker - Volume 2 Issue 46

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Crop Conditions

Corn harvest continues with new challenges. Ontario is close to 40% off. Some growers are done, and others not started. The current railroad strike is heavily limiting propane. One grower told me his price went from $0.37 per liter to $0.73. Double in price. I am guessing his supplier must have to truck it a long way. And he can only get enough for about 60 acres at a time. If you have your own propane dryer look, into having your corn dried by someone who is on a gas line. Yields are still all over the place. From over 200 bu/ac to under 100 bu/ac. Generally related to planting date and soil moisture/rain. More fields are showing poor stalk quality. There will be corn left out for quite a few more weeks. Watch all your fields and harvest poorest stalk quality fields first. If you have a different hybrid in a field and you can’t see it from the road check it out by walking into it. Soybean harvest continued last week on frozen ground. Probably 5-10% of beans still out.

Table 1- Estimated Ontario Corn Harvested by Date


Working with High Moisture Corn (HMC)

Typically, HMC is corn between 24 and 33 % moisture. Hard to be exact because of variability in a field. This year some corn is being harvested above this range. You can store corn above 34% moisture, but it could be hard to get it out of the silo. One approach is to blend dry corn and wetter corn to get into a suitable range. After talking to several folks, the ideal appears to blend the corn as it goes into the silo. Probably 1/3 dry to 2/3 wet if moisture does not get below 23% or so. If you layer it in, you will have layers of wet corn and dry corn. You want the wet and dry corn to be mixed. Fermentation with wet corn is critical. If you layer it in, you could have areas of too wet corn and too dry corn for best fermentation. For sure use an inoculant to improve the chances of getting good fermentation. University of Wisconsin information “Lactobacillus buchneri is a well-researched, highly effective inoculant to use for high moisture corn preservation in all storage units. Use of L. buchneri improves aerobic stability and this is important if high moisture corn removal rates need to be reduced because of mycotoxins or degradable starch.. If you can handle wet corn, there may be opportunities to buy wet corn from a neighbour and sell yours at the elevator.

Dealing with Ruts

As corn harvest continues ruts will become more of an issue in some fields. Where ruts are already made, suggest you mould board plough those areas. You can then use some type of conservational tillage on the rest of the field. Mould board plough does a better job on ruts than conservation tillage. We are now entering a time that I shudder when I see chisel ploughs working wet soils that are heavy. You can use a chisel plough on silt loams soils and some lighter clay loams, but I have witnessed too many yield losses when a chisel plough was used when the soil was wet, and then we had a dry spring the next year. The soil particles just do not get a chance to break down. You end up doing an extra pass, and this dries out the soil. If you get lots of freezing and thawing over winter the damage is less.

Reducing Compaction

I know you know. This is just a reminder. If you must drive across a field, follow the same path all the time. The first pass causes the most compaction. Use low pressure in tires to decrease the amount of pressure per square inch. When possible use part loads or a buggy. Tracks help but you won’t be able to get them now. Think about using them in the future.

Land Rental

Hate to say anything lest I be accused of putting rent rates up. I am hearing of some high rates. I imagine some land will be rented to producers who have found a great way to get good yields by using very little P&K. They may get good yields by doing this but are mining the soil. With current P&K prices and decent yields you are removing $190-225/acre of P&K over a 3-year rotation that includes corn, beans, wheat and selling the straw. If you lose land that you have applied fertilizer to anticipating cropping it in 2020 you should be compensated for the fertilizer you applied.  Current commodity prices are making some of the past high rental prices look questionable. No harm in going back to a landlord that rented land to someone else last year for more than you felt it was worth and see if they want to rent to you this year. You can just say “I was just wondering how things are going and I often check back when someone has wanted to pay more. My rental price was built on probability of long-term commodity prices not being what they were in high commodity price years and so I was offering less.” And then you can ask if the new renter is putting back as much fertilizer as they are taking out. The landlord should have records of fertilizer added. Be sure to use a personal touch. If you did things like snow ploughing or removing dead trees remind them. One idea that I have seen works is paying a bonus when prices and or yields are great. Good luck.


I attended the Certified Crop Advisor - Soil and Water Quality meeting last week, held at the Springfield Golf Course, Guelph, ON. It was a good reminder for several tools I haven’t worked with since my university soil science and cropping systems classes. The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), and, The Phosphorus Index (which will be coming out shortly as an app version, under Agrisuite as PLATO – Phosphorus Loss Assessment Tool Ontario).

Why are these important tools for your farming operation?

1)    You can use the Universal Soil Loss Equation to make management decisions to compare different cropping practices and the effect it can have on soil erosion. i.e. What impact does strip till have on my farm compared to ploughing, or what if I added forages or a cereal crop to my rotation? The end number is an estimated annual soil loss value expressed in tonnes/hectare/year.

2)    You can use the Phosphorus Index (which requires input from the USLE), to determine high risk fields of off field movement of phosphorus, allowing you to determine which fields are suitable for application of manure for no-till/strip till, and which have a high risk of losses.

See below for a few scenarios;

Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE)

Without going into significant detail on how it is calculated. Which you can find here; http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/12-051.htm Let’s say farmer Rob wants to consider strip tilling his corn into alfalfa, rather than ploughing it like he has in the past. He farms in Wellington County (where I have the most data support my case). He has a rain factor of 0.9, a Harriston loam with an organic matter above 2.0%, Slopes with 3-4%, 1000 ft long, a cropping mix of forages, corn and soybeans. Rob is looking at purchasing or hiring a strip till unit and wonders how much soil erosion would be saved by crop.

Looking at the “A” value, which is loss in mt/ha/year of soil, you can see that strip tillage would offer the biggest benefits for corn on corn, or corn on soybeans, than coming out of alfalfa, but may still offer other benefits (fertilizer placement, reduced spring workload, etc).

Table 2 - Soil Erosion by Crop by Tillage System

Phosphorus Loss Assessment Tool Ontario (PLATO)

Concerned about soil erosion, Farmer Rob has livestock and is considering how much risk is involved with applying manure and not working it in. Here are a few examples for farmer Rob’s cropping practices (surface applying manure, banding phosphorus P with the planter);

Table 3 - P-Index by Crop by Tillage System

As you can see, in this situation, on this soil type, the farmer has the same P-Index from surface applying manure vs. working it in. Is this what the current research supports? More to come in a future issue.

Your cropping practices don’t fit the scenario above? Which factors cause high risk of P losses?

1.     Tillage practices or crops that leave soils prone to soil erosion (i.e. ploughing soybean residue)

2.    Clay soil types with significant field slopes (greater than 3%)

3.    High phosphorus soil test values

4.    Surface applying high rates of phosphorus, and not working it in

Methodology on how to calculate P-Index can be found at the link below, will send out an update once Agrisuite is available online.


I Green Chopped My Cover Crop, Will I Still Have to Do a Fall Burndown.

Without going and looking, chances are you will have to spray off the field, either this fall or next spring, if you have winter annuals such as chickweed, Shepard’s purse, Canada fleabane, or perennials such as Dandelions.

Picture 1 - Winter Annuals/Perennials in Green Feed Stubble

How Much Elemental Sulphur Does It Take Reduce Soil pH?

Typically, more practical to grow crops suited to the soils in question, but sometimes producers and certified crop advisors ask, how much elemental sulphur can I apply without impacting soil pH? The answer is quite a bit, see table below.

Table 4 - Elemental S required to reduce soil pH

Can Green Bin Waste Materials Contain Pathogens?

Short answer, is, no. If the product has a fertilizer license for land application, it must be heat treated prior to being field applied. This is a requirement of having a fertilizer license. Is the risk zero? No, not every process is perfect.

“Until you have an experience that provides you with perspective, you won't know that you had it made in the shade. Experience provides context.”

–Jonathan Zettler