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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 10

Always read and follow label directions.

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Splitting Nitrogen (N) on Corn

The concept has been around for 50 plus years. The idea is that by split applying nitrogen you can get the same yield with less nitrogen. The question is how much to apply in the first split. I like to have a minimum of 30 N and maximum of 50-60 N to get the crop to side dress time. Corn plants have a minimum requirement for N up to the 2-3 leaf stage (V2-V3). Up until that point the plant is living off the seed. The nodal roots start to develop at V2. Normally side dressing occurs between 4th to 6th leaf stage (V4-V6) At this stage the plant still has a minimal N requirement but since side dressing is often weather delayed it is nice to target this stage, which is early June. A later application can be applied on lighter soils, or if you feel you have lost N due to weather or you feel your yield goal is higher than you anticipated when doing the first side dressing.

Notes from my 2010 diary

Corn Harvest Winter 2010

Harvest has continued into March with pretty good results. Corn that was 40% moisture and grade 5 or sample last fall is now at Grade 3 and 16-18% moisture. Growers I talked with said they are pleased and surprised. They can’t believe how grade has improved. Basically, corn grade is determined by weight. When your dry corn in a dryer, the quick dry does not allow the kernel to shrink the way it does when it dries in the field. The result is better bushel weight with field dried corn. Corn harvested now appears to be fairly free of moulds, but there is sure to be mould in some. So far, the corn has stood well with the exception of some areas of fields.

Should I Apply Fertilizer P and K for Soybeans

The research suggests that there is no yield increase by applying fertilizer before or at planting with soybeans (on soils testing medium to high). BUT if you plan to no till wheat after soybeans consider applying some of the wheat fertilizer P and K before soybeans. I know growers who apply P and K in a 2X2 band when planting soybeans. This is on low testing soils. They want to get the P covered so apply it when planting soybeans. They also have some acres that are in single digits for P. They feel they may get a yield response in these low testing fields. OMAFRA data suggests 2-5 bu/ac for yield response, depending analysis used.

Is it Better to Broadcast P and K on wheat when Broadcasting N or Broadcast it after wheat harvest before no tilling a cover crop?

If you broadcast P with N early on wheat there is a chance it will move across the field and even off the field. I would rather broadcast it after wheat harvest. Less chance of losing P. Also, the drill will do a wee bit of incorporating. Probably, better if there was a bit of tillage after broadcasting the fertilizer and planting the cover crop. There is less risk of losing potassium off the field, you could add that to our nitrogen pass.

Winter Wheat – Too early to spread nitrogen?

If the risk of loss is low, and your wheat has started to green up, go spread your first pass. I would not apply everything this early in the season. This is under the assumption you will not rut the field up.

You Need A Small Sprayer

This winter while doing crop plans with growers who get their fields sprayed by a custom sprayer, it has become obvious that many could use a small sprayer (50-200 gallons) with a 20-40-foot boom. This can be used for spot spraying, spraying fence rows, touching up outside of fields and even spraying fungicides. An alternative is to get a sprayer for your side by side or 4-wheeler. Last year too often spraying was delayed because the custom sprayed could not get there on time. We will be doing more spraying in the future. I don’t believe current custom sprayers will be able to keep up to the demand. I told one custom sprayer that his smaller customers should buy their own sprayer. His medium size customers are suffering because of him having a lot of small fields to spray. (What is really interesting is all of the farms who have extra tractors that could be sold to buy a sprayer. Did I just say that?)

UTV Sprayer Examples



Or just buy a sprayer that will fit the bill.

Sulphur on Alfalfa, Corn, Red Clover, and Wheat

Table gives the rate of various products. There is a ratio of N:S that some use. It boils down to higher yielding crops that use more nitrogen should have higher rates of S. For wheat you need a minimum of 10 lbs actual S per acre. Some growers are applying 15-20 or more lbs S/ac. There are on farm trials showing addition of sulphur on wheat has helped the establishment of red clover. Fields on lighter soils and lower organic matter are fields with highest probability of a response to applied sulphur. If you broadcast sulphur in the fall, you can plan on having about half of the sulphate S source present for the spring. Elemental sulphur will become available with warmth and moisture, slowly. If spring applied, the sulphate portion is readily available. Elemental S availability is less predictable but allows for a potential source throughout the wheat growing season. In most situations it will release too slow to provide benefit to winter wheat, in the year of application.

For corn consider using 10 lbs /acre. For alfalfa use 15-20 lbs actual. While we are still learning the best way to apply S consider applying it with your first application of N on wheat and corn. For alfalfa I like to get it on as early as possible.

For those of you that have used Microessentials SZ (MESZ) as your wheat starter, I have never seen S deficiency on those fields in the spring. You could likely cut back 5-7 lbs S/ac of total intended S on those acres.

Figure 1 - Common Sulphate Fertilizer Sources

Elevore vs. Eragon

Elevore is a new active ingredient used in burndowns. The company Corteva are calling it “the fleabane fighter”. In Peter Sikkema’s research it gave similar results to Eragon. Eragon might have been a tad better. Eragon is a group 14 product while Elevore is a group 4. So different groups. If you have been using Eragon for a number of years in the same field consider trying some Elevore. Elevore must be applied 5 days before corn and 7 days before soybeans. The seed must be 4 cm (1.6 inches deep). This means that you have to make sure closing wheels do a good job covering the seed. It must be mixed with a product like Suremix or Turbocharge. The manufacturer strongly recommends glyphosate be added to the mix. Red clover is not on the label but Paul Foran from Corteva says it does a good job controlling red clover. There is a restriction on applying Elevore at planting, due to the risk of Elevore getting into the seed trench and causing injury. Corteva hasn’t had any issues provided you follow the proper days to application.

Soil Health is Elusive

In my opinion, what growers and their advisors want is soil productivity. Just because a soil is healthy doesn’t mean it is productive. Think of the difference between soil performance on a knoll vs. at the bottom of a slope. At a recent meeting I spoke at, I made the point that Soil Health is a misnomer, and we should be discussing is how to improve Soil Productivity. There are three factors that go into soil health, Physical, Chemical and Biological. It is the interaction of your current “soil health” with the weather/environment, sunlight, management etc, which leads to soil productivity. One of the better tests I have found to check for “soil health” is the Cornell Soil Health test, which should really be called a soil productivity test. If soil health was the number one thing that mattered, we would not be able to grow tomatoes in Rockwool in a greenhouse.

I recently ran a poll on this subject and of the 173 people that answered, 68.2% said they would want to measure soil productivity vs. the 31.8% that wanted to measure soil health.

Picture 1 - Soil Measurement Poll

Policy ≠ Science – Adele Hite

Last week I had included this quote. It was used for good reason. Here is why. Policy is used to ensure the common property of the public is protected and does not fall into the “Tragedy of the Commons”. It does not ensure that your business will be profitable, or that your crops will improve. Here are a few examples; 1) Has doing a Nutrient Management Plan improved your farm’s yields? Have the NMP improved your nutrient use efficiency? I would argue that in most situations, doing a nutrient management plan is to protect the public’s interests in freshwater assets, and the general environment, more so than ensuring you are applying the right nutrients on your farm. And I respect that it serves a purpose. But just because you do the work for compliance, doesn’t mean you are a better or more profitable farm as a result. Dave Hula is one of the highest yielding corn growers in North America. He is not a policy guy. Whether or not he is profitable at that yield level is up for debate, but one thing is for sure, listening to someone that works in compliance is unlikely to push the envelope on profitability or yield.

Where are we are at on the “Soil Health” journey

I view some of the newer tests on the market at the innovation stage at this point. A few of the innovators and very early adopters have tried some of the tests. In my opinion we haven’t reached the peak of the hype cycle when it comes to measuring soil health. On a few of the tests I would say we are at the same point we were when soil testing had first started back in the early 1900s. We haven’t had enough experience with them to sort out the chaff from the grain so to speak. Try them, see what you learn, discard the ones that don’t provide any actionable advice. It’s no different than when we first started working with fungicides. Some actives, like Tilt, are still around, others didn’t pass the test of time.

Hype cycle chart with adoption curve. We are some where between innovators and early adopters and have yet to cross the chasm (where products fail), when it comes to soil health tests.

Figure 2 - Hype Cycle and Technology Adoption Cycle

Micronutrient Nutrient Response by Soil Characteristic

I had this chart shared with me by Wes Anderson of CropPro Consulting. He put it together with information from the now defunct International Plant Nutrition Institute. The purpose of sharing the chart is to provide a summary of where you are likely to see a deficiency from various micronutrients, based upon soil factors (individual crops will have their own demands or needs). For instance, if you have Boron in the soil during a drought, it will significantly reduce availability to the plant.

Figure 3 - Micronutrient Availability Chart

"Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome." – Shane Parrish