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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 39

Always read and follow label directions.

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Crop Conditions

Soybean harvest started again last week. As of Monday morning October 12, about 76% of Ontario soybeans are off. This compares to ­­­about 50 % last year at a similar date. Corn harvest is also starting with about 4-6% complete. (Ten years ago, in 2010, on a similar date Ontario was 65% soybeans harvested and 5-8% corn harvested.) Winter wheat planting was going on full speed across much of the province. Keep seeding rate up at 1.8 M seeds (adjust to more or less depending on date/soil type)  and 1.25 – 1.5“deep.


Things to do this week

1.     Check fire extinguishers in combine and tractor.

2.     Discuss harvest safety with those you work with -> see this article

3.     Remind everyone that first trip across field makes most compaction. Use the same tracks for multiple trips.

4.     Check price of next year’s crops.

5.     If not done already do an ear count in hybrid plots.

6.     Check all corn fields for ear moulds

Watch for Ear moulds

The OMAFRA corn mould/Don survey has just been posted. Go to


As you can see 10% of the samples are 2-5 ppm. These fields and others like them should be harvested pronto.

Tips to Avoid Compaction on Wet Soils

  1. Do not use grain bin extensions or fill the combine as full.
  2. Use wide tires with lower inflation pressures.
  3. Keep trucks out of the field. Consider unloading at the ends of the field, not on the go.
  4. Grain cart should track the same rows as the combine.
  5. Do not turn around in the middle of the field.
  6. Do not fill the grain cart as full, unload more often.
  7. Establish a grain cart path and stay on it.
  8. Do not till wet soils, as they are easily compacted.
  9. Use cover crops to help build soil structure.

If the soil was wet enough to form ruts during harvest, it is probably too wet to do tillage. Driving on or working wet soil causes compaction. While the wheel traffic compaction (loss of pore space) is easy to see as the lost space reappears as ruts, the full-width compaction resulting from tillage is not as visible as the entire surface is compacted below the tillage depth.

If the combines and grain carts are not leaving a rut, do not worry about compaction from the heavy equipment. Compaction is the loss of pore space between soil particles and occurs when that space is squeezed out of the soil and reappears somewhere else, such as in the form of a rut. If a rut was not formed, there was enough soil structure present to support the weight without causing additional compaction. A great example is when you play with playdough, after the air is out of the dough, it will form a shape.

(Notes on compaction from Paul Jasa Extension Engineer University Nebraska Lincoln)

Question Is it OK to take another cut from my alfalfa now. It is knee high now. I am afraid of it smothering.

Answer If you answer NO to any of these questions do not cut.

1.     Do you need the feed?

2.     Have you fertilized with at least 50 lbs actual P and 200 actual K this year?

3.     Is the stand seeded 2018 or later?

4.     Is there a period of 5 or more days of good drying weather?

This time of year, it will take at least 5 and maybe 7 days to dry enough even for silage. As far as smothering, alfalfa will not smother out. If there is a lot of grass the grass or volunteer cereal either could smother the alfalfa. Alfalfa will leave the stems and drop leaves so that should there be icing this winter the stems will act like smokestack to let the gas given off by alfalfa escape. If you take a cut now there will be a little less in next year’s first cut compared to leaving it alone.

Spraying Soybean Stubble for Perennial Weeds

If your soybean field has bindweed, perennial sow thistle or dandelions consider spraying this fall. These perennials weeds need to be sprayed at least three times (over multiple years) to get them under control. If they are present, consider spraying with glyphosate about a week following soybean harvest, or after one good rain. You will not eradicate them with one spray but by weakening them, you will eventually control them. You can get rid of bindweed and perennial sow thistle easier than you can reduce annual weeds, which keep coming back from seed in the soil. Tillage this fall will not help to control these perennial weeds.

Fall Manure Application

The past spring reminded us the value of not having to apply manure in the spring. Consider applying as much manure as possible this fall to prevent next year’s yield losses due to compaction and delayed planting. You can apply before planting wheat, or some research from Ohio is suggesting you can drag hose manure onto recently planted wheat, if it has not emerged. Or you can apply to soybean stubble, and then plant some cereal rye. Ohio newsletter had a reminder “As always, print out the weather forecast when surface applying manure. Remember the “not greater than 50% chance of 0.5 inches of rainfall in the next 24 hours” rule in the western Lake Erie watershed. Also be certain to observe the proper setbacks from ditches and streams.”

Weed Seeds in Manure

Some of the “new weeds” are being introduced in livestock feed. This begs the question, does ingestion, ensiling, or composting get rid of the weed seeds? A lot of researchers have investigated this. The short answer is no. Feeding weeds seeds reduces the viability. Viability of weed seeds is reduced more in poultry, than in cattle or pigs. Ensiling also reduces viability. Composting manure can reduce viability if the temperature is hot enough, for a long enough time. You need temperatures between 140-170 o F for several hours. The % viability varies with temperature, length of heat, and weed species, but all these systems can still leave 2-10% of weeds seeds being viable. A survey of fresh dairy manure in New York found an average of 75,000 viable seeds per ton, and a range of 0 to 400,000 seeds. A 2% survival of 75,000 would leave 1,500 viable seeds remaining per ton. Applied at 8 tons per acre, that would increase the weed seedbank by 12,000 seeds per acre. Solution? Constantly watch/scout your fields for new weeds. They may come in feed/bedding or from your neighbour or blow in on the wind.

Q - It is October 13th, and my soys/silage are off, what do I put in for a cover crop, Oats? A – likely limited benefit to planting Oats at this stage, my preference would be to do winter wheat or cereal rye. Cereal rye will have more fleabane suppression capability than winter wheat, but you run the risk of allelopathy the following year if your spring intention is to go to corn.

Q – I want to fall mouldboard plough my alfalfa, do I need to spray it off first? A - Provided the plough is set up properly there is no benefit to spraying off the alfalfa. The reason to spray it off would be if you have a lot of perennials with Rhizome root systems like Quackgrass and Sowthistle. If you want to use any other tillage system than a mouldboard plough, you will have to do a burndown.

Q – I have black dots on my new seeding alfalfa, what is causing this? A – In this instance you are looking at two possible options; common leaf spot or black stem (spring or summer), in the pictures provided the stem looks unaffected, common leaf spot is most likely candidate. This field is a strong candidate for a spring application of Priaxor. Some varieties are moderately resistant to common leaf spot.

Picture 1 - Common Leaf Spot in Alfalfa
Picture 2 - Common Leaf Spot in Alfalfa (note lack of merging of the spots)

How P and K is Released from Crop Residue – With increased amounts of residue in corn and soybeans comes increased uptake of phosphorus and potassium. A significant amount of P&K is removed from the grain, but there is some left in the stover. Potassium (K2O) is water soluble within crop residue and therefore is readily leached out of mature plants, often prior to harvest. Phosphorus (P2O5) must go through a microbial breakdown process prior to being returned to a plant uptake available form in the soil. No-till and increased surface residue from minimum tillage can cause stratification of nutrients near the top of the soil surface. Which tends to be more of an issue on heavier soil texture than sands.

No-till Corn Planted Green vs. Strip-Till Corn Worked and Planted Green

In the June 17th, 2020 issue (see link below) we had written about a field of corn that had been no-tilled and strip-tilled green. In late September I had the chance to do an evaluation on the number and size of cobs on this field. Rows were about 5 to 10 feet apart. As far as the notes go, both treatments had the same seed, planted the same day, with the same fertility/herbicide programs (custom strip-till guy dropped the fertilizer on-top of the ground on the no-till portion).

The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 23 | Revue

The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 23 | Revue

The Cropwalker - Always read and follow label directions.To become a member and receive all issues, sign up at: https://www.getrevue.co/profile/Cropwalker/member

Figure 1 - Notill vs Striptill Corn - Planted 'green'
Figure 2 - No-till Corn Scout Report
Figure 3 - Strip-till Corn Scout Report

My three take aways?

1)    The hybrid in this plot could really crank ear size when populations were suboptimal. To the point you could have high stand losses (25%+) and maintain respectable corn yield potential, perhaps hybrid selection is key to making this work long term. Also, there were essentially no sucker plants or cobs in this no-till portion, any plants than made it had significant cob size, where as the strip-till portion had more cobs but the sucker or late emerging plants were likely holding back the first ones out of the ground.

2)    No-till corn appeared to be slightly greener in the stalk at this point in the growing season, we had a hard frost about 10 days prior. No-till corn was taller.

3)    The field was a bit rough, coming out of possible 10 or more years of hay production. Proper depth control/down pressure may have significantly improved results in both systems. If you must go into spring with a heavy green residue field in green, you maybe further ahead just direct seeding or no-tilling it in rather than trying to work it with 8-12” of green material.

2x2 Dry Starter vs. No Starter in No-Till Soybeans

Here’s the situation, half the rows didn’t get 2x2 starter, the other half got 2x2 starter, no-till with planter on 15” rows into fall killed sod on a very low fertility, loam soil. This was the first-time soybeans had been grown on this farm, and due to weak nodulation, an in-crop nitrogen, sulphur and potash application was made just prior to R4 (podding). This is the same no-till soybean field into alfalfa that was featured in the June 17th issue. While at the field just prior to harvest, I pulled 10 plants from the starter and no-starter rows. Of these 10 plants I randomly selected 3 to evaluate for pod count, seeds per pod and weighed the seeds from the 3rd plant in both instances. From walking the field all season, the samples were generally representative of the field.

My three take aways?

1)    More work is required on starter fertility response in no-till soybeans, especially on low testing soils.

2)    We need more planter equipment setup for starter on soybeans, especially for those planting on 15” rows. Why do not we have more units with 2x2” starter on 15” rows. I have not been able to find any, as in zero, for sale.

3)    If you have visual K deficiency, and have rain in the forecast, strongly consider top-dress potash in-crop. Visual potassium deficiency had disappeared during the later stages of grain fill.

Figure 4 - Starter vs No Starter Fertility, Seeds per Plant/Yield and Tissue Tests
Picture 3 - L - No starter - R - Starter
Picture 4 - Yellow strip in middle, no starter, either side, starter
Picture 5 - L - No Starter, R - Starter
Picture 6 - L - No starter, R - Starter
Picture 7 - Same plant as Picture 6 without pods, not difference in plant structure
Picture 8 - L - No starter, R - Starter

The most limiting factor on all farms is time

Dr. Dave Hooker recently posted on Twitter that some of his students did not want to reduce the amount of tillage on their farm operations because it would mean less seat time in the tractor. https://twitter.com/cropdoc2/status/1315301892243718144?s=20

My comment in the thread was that the most limiting factor on any farm operation will always be time. The one advantage I see with the most successful operations, regardless of tillage system, is that they invest less time in field work per bushel than those of their counter parts. And it does not mean you need to spend more money on equipment. From what I can see, you can buy a 12 or 16 row planter for the same price as many 6 row planters. Spend more money to buy a planter that performs in no-till or reduced tillage systems. You can buy a combine with a 12-row head for the same money as a 6 or 8 row etc.… How many hours does it take you to raise your total bushels?

Now three things you can do; 1) work more efficiently and farm the same number of bushels and spend more time with your family or find off farm work (seed dealership etc.) or a hobby (lawn bowling anyone?). 2) farm more acres 3) spend more time reading the Cropwalker Newsletter.

I have laid out a few examples here on hours per bushel raised. I’m sure I’ll get some push back that on the larger farm sizes listed below, it would be hard to run efficiently at harvest on that many acres with one person, and the critics are likely right, so my reply back is, what is the “right” number then?

Figure 5 - Bushels per Hour at Various Acreage Sizes and static yields

Where to focus on making farm improvements.

As you continue to work on bringing the crop in, and have time to think over the season, here are a few thoughts on what can have the biggest improvement on the bottom line. Mission critical is finding those things that can increase yield, increase price, and reduce cost. There is likely only a handful of these types of improvements on most operations, and I am not here to figure them out for you (section control on a drill, perhaps for some people?). See the example corn crop below. It also reinforces why experimenting or trying new things on a limited acreage is so critical. There is a saying you cannot save yourself to prosperity, and then numbers below definitely reinforce that point. (Idea pulled from Kristjan Herbert’s 5% Rule)

Figure 6 - Net Margin Improvements and Where to Focus

“When you get an invitation to do something in the future, ask yourself: would you accept this if it was scheduled for tomorrow? Not too many promises will pass that immediacy filter."

- Kevin Kelly