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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 40

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Crop Conditions

Soybeans looks like generally soybean harvest is over. Some fields with green stems and some “jelly beans” but now most are in the bin. Yields have been very good to exceptional if there was rain. Survey suggests we are 90 to 95% done soybeans. Corn harvest is starting. Looks like 10-15% off. Once fields get to mid-20’s growers are harvesting. I am concerned about the mould that is present in some fields in some areas. DON levels in corn silage harvested to date has been average or below average. Still let’s get the corn off. A number of seed reps and growers have indicated stalk strength isn’t there, go and check if you haven’t started harvesting. Winter wheat has generally been planted in good conditions. Emergence is good. Still issues with soybean residue. One of our readers has decided to work the ground lightly to working the residue. This is a good strategy when the soil is fit and you have time. Some winter annual weeds are starting to emerge. Forages harvest is done and in general most growers have enough. There was a great oat pea cover crop that provided some great heifer feed. One reader commented that oatlage seems to ensile satisfactorily at higher moistures, better than haylage. Another reader compared fungicide treated oats and peas to unsprayed. The sprayed yielded at least 50% more. Not a bad return for a $10-12/ac investment.


Things to do this week

1.     Review marketing plan. These high prices will not last.

2.    Continue to monitor corn moisture and moulds.

3.    Check winter wheat for winter annuals especially fleabane, and fields coming out of canola.

4.    Run over soybean ground and check for perennial weeds and fleabane if it did not get a pre-harvest application and will not be getting fall tillage

5.    Consider seed some cereal rye on soybean ground that will not be planted to wheat. At 50-75 lbs/ac, this would be a $10-20/ac investment, depending on supplier and rate.

Susterra from Mosaic not available in Canada

Two weeks ago, we had written about a new phosphorus product from Mosaic called Susterra. After speaking with local Mosaic staff this product will not be available in Canada. Will keep you posted if this changes.

Some Corn Is Not Drying Down But Most Is.

Lots of theories as to what is happening. Where corn is not drying down. Is it because corn didn’t black layer properly? Did corn slow down during dry weather then cold weather changed the processes? Did cold in September shut the corn down? Is it because the nutrients are not moving to the ear and forcing water out of the ear? Or is it a combination of all these. Really it does not matter. It is not as if there is something you can do now to change what has happened. It fits the category of “it is what it is.” You need to monitor corn to watch how moisture drops. And keep an eye for ear moulds. Very little showing but be vigilant. And while you are waiting there are other things to do.

Fall Fleabane Control

If you had fleabane in soybeans this year, consider controlling them this fall. If the field is destined for soybeans next year, you must control them now. Tillage will control the small rosettes, but not the large ones. Tillage will just move them around. One strategy is to spray with Eragon plus Merge and Roundup plus 2,4-D or dicamba (if they are big) and then plant fall rye to help smother the ones that germinate later. If you do not plant fall rye, then at least spray fleabane off. The key is to never allow fleabane get to a point it is too difficult to control.

Picture 1 - Heavy fleabane pressure in Red Clover

What Can I Spray In-Crop in Winter Wheat in The Fall?

There are a number of products you could apply in the fall, most popular has been Infinity, mainly to control fleabane. Infinity also controls common chickweed, field violet and good activity on dandelions. Buctril M and Refine M are also options but will not control fleabane. Infinity FX can now be used in the fall, but only once per cropping season). The following products are not supported for fall application; Pixxaro, 2,4-D, dicamba. Regardless of product, wait until at least the 3-leaf stage.

I used the 60 mL/ac rate of Eragon LQ this fall. Will I have to spray my wheat next spring?

It depends. The 60 mL/ac rate does provide some residual control of winter annuals, which would mean you can delay your spring herbicide application. You may still have to do a delayed spring herbicide application if a) you have a high pressure of annual weeds, and a thin canopy b) you have perennial weeds (which might be better off with a pre-harvest), and/or c) you have a spring/late fall population of Canada fleabane.

Soybean planters

There are two videos you should watch on soybean planting equipment. The first is at https://dfs.app.swapcard.com/event/canadas-digital-farm-show/planning/UGxhbm5pbmdfMTU5OTY2  This video is from Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show site 2020 and different planters are featured. The other is a great video from Ridgetown Diagnostic Days. Horst Bohner OMAFRA goes over different options on planter closing wheels down pressure and seed farmers. This is at https://www.realagriculture.com/2020/10/ontario-diagnostic-day-7-digging-into-planter-setup-residue-and-replants/ In Horst’s presentation he found maximum down pressure gave consistent emergence. He tried planting at different speeds but found no difference in emergence. (I think this has to be put into perspective. Under ideal planting conditions on a nice, even, consistent loam soil planter speed may not be as important as when you are planting under less than ideal conditions or a rough ground with row unit bounce.

Why is cover crop oats is light green behind the combine?

Have been asked this 3 times. I believe that behind the combine there is a lot of chaff and straw that is tying up nitrogen. As well when you look closely there are more plants there. These are mostly winter wheat. The way to ID for sure is winter wheat plants have small hairy auricles while oats does not have auricles. (Auricles are a small ear-like projection from the base of the leaf.

Picture 2 - Yellow Streaks from Windowing Straw and Chaff

Time to terminate Cover Crop

While some cover crops like red clover will continue to add root mass most annual cover crops have made the maximum root growth. That means it is time to terminate. In most cases all you need is glyphosate. Red clover will continue to add root mass but the extra root mass is probably not worth the bother. Kill it off now. You also need enough growing degree days post application for the herbicide to be effective.

Land Rental thoughts

Each year at this time a certain amount of rented land changes hands. This is a sensitive topic for me to write about. However, I believe that it is in the best interest of Ontario Agriculture to have long term leases. To that point here are some thoughts to help you retain your rented land.

1.     Talk to your land lord even if this is not a year for rent renewal. This being a Covid year they are more anxious. Be honest about how yields are. If this year yields and prices are good consider a special payment. I believe that variable rate rents are good. Final rental amount is based on yield and prices. If you are thinking about applying multiple years of P and K tell them. This is sort of a “I plan on cropping this land for a few years” statement.

2.    You need a clear understanding as to what your land lord expects. You can start this conversation be saying something like” I appreciate you renting your land to me. But I don’t want to take anything for granted. What are your expectations from me? Are there things you wish I would do differently?” You may be surprised as to what the answer is. It could be something as simple as driving slower, not working on Sunday or other things that you can easily do.

3.    Show the land lord what you are doing. Show them soil analysis where you are maintaining soil test levels or increasing them. Explain that you can easily grow crops by depleting the soil but you don’t feel that is right. Tell them all the conservation methods you are using such as less tillage cover crops, good crop rotation. And any other improvements.

4.    If you are in a situation where you feel you will not be able to rent the land next year, ask this question. “What do I have to do to be able to extend this rent for another term?” Some answers are final. Such as my relative wants me to rent to them. Or I sold the farm. Or so-and-so has offered me a lot more money so I took it. However, many times they will give you an answer that you are able to deal with and retain the land.

5.    Sometimes you just have to walk. Especially if the landlord wants more money than you can pay and still make money.

Corn Test Weight vs Kernel Weight and Yield Impacts

In our last Twitter yield poll, participants expected the province to average 168 bu/ac. The two previous entries polls were 167 and 166, respectively. During these polls, I would expect that majority of participants had used a kernel weight factor of 80 to 90,000 kernels/bushel. Given the strong 2020 growing conditions during grain fill, I would expect that many producers will be looking at 65 to 75,000 kernels/bushel (see my example below). How does this impact final yields? Since we are paid in 56 lb. packets (aka bushel) of corn, and each kernel weight more this year compared to the norm, we need less kernels to make each packet.

Figure 1 - Impact of Kernels per Bushel on Yield per Acre

So instead of looking at 168 field average, a farmer with a field of corn could be looking at 190 to 220 field average due to the increased kernel weight.

But, but, what about test weight? Test weight is a given weight within a certain volume (0.5 hectolitre). It is a grading factor, not a yield factor. In 2016, we had lighter test weights, but strong yields. When corn is traded, it is traded in 56 lb. increments, not based on volume. Therefore, a bushel of corn isn’t a volume measurement, it is actually a weight measurement.

How to measure kernel weight

It’s actually pretty easy. I had purchased a postage size scale to carry with me to do projects like this (yes, nerd alert). Strip all the kernels off the cob, count them, weight them. If you wanted a rough number, you could just count the rows around and length, then weight the kernels.

The hard part is adjusted kernel weight to a “dry” weight, or leave them in the house or shop to air dry for a bit.

In this case, I had counted 28 cobs with 16 around by 30 rows. So that area of the field should run about 204 bushels/acre if it only takes 65,733 kernels to make a bushel.

Figure 2 - How many kernels does it take to make a bushel of Corn?
Figure 3 - Kernel Weight at Various Amounts of Kernels per Bushel

Green Feed Staging

Checked a few fields for a grower on staging his barley/pea crop. Optimal timing for maximum protein is during the boot phase. Once the head is out, protein content gets rapidly diluted with starch accumulation. Depending on the type of feed you are hoping to make and the weather conditions in the forecast, keep this in mind.

Picture 3 - Staging Spring Cereals for Maximum Forage Protein Content

Tillering in Corn

Yesterday while checking a corn field for expected yields/moisture, I noticed quite a few tillers on a number of the plants (1-2 per plant). This field had reduced populations due to seed chilling at the start of May. The reason it was note worth was the size of the cobs on the tiller plants. Many lacked proper pollination, but there were quite a few that made up for the reduction in stand. It is no wonder the seed rep for this hybrid has commented it doesn’t respond to high populations.

Picture 4 - Two Tillers on Plant 1
Picture 5 - Main cob on Plant 1
Picture 6 - 1st tiller cob on Plant 1
Picture 7 - 2nd tiller cob on Plant 2
Picture 8 - 2 tillers on plant 2
Picture 9 - Less than impressive cob on Tiller 2, Plant 2 (lack of pollination)

Corn Dry Down

I’ve researched several ways of determining corn dry down. The answer is; any significant amount of dry down will not happen until March. Why? It has to do with relative humidity and growing degree days. Here are the two best explanations I have found;

1)    Growing Degree Days – corn moisture declines 1% for every 24 to 29 growing degree days. (which we likely will not have many of those until closer to spring).

2)    Relative Humidity – grain will dry when the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) is below that of the grain. The equilibrium moisture content is the moisture corn will dry down to, without any heat (just air). Based upon today’s weather, we have 80% humidity, not exactly great drying weather, but if the air temperature was zero, it should dry down to about 20% moisture.

3)    When corn is frozen, it can dry through sublimination (think shrunken ice cubes in the freezer).

Will corn dry over the winter? Yes, but it depends on a combination of these three factors. If you are hoping for sub 20% moisture corn, you may have to wait until March/April. Wind and sun will dry corn. You can keep checking moisture this fall, but I would just take it off as ground conditions allow.

I can’t seem to increase my corn yields beyond 180 bu/ac, got any pointers?

I’ve come across a few instances where producers have confided that their management hasn’t allowed them to continue to increase their corn yields relative to their expectations. Here is a list of some possible reasons.

1)    Uneven planting depth

a.     Rough seed bed – either due to lack of fall burndown (working fields “green” in the spring), conditions being too wet, or working soil too deep (your last pass tillage pass should not be deeper than your planting depth).

b.    Planter maintenance – Poor opener blades leads to more trash in the seed trench, and poor seed trench shape.

c.     Shallow planting – more consistent emergence happens at 2 to 2.5”

d.    Driving too fast – row unit bounce costs money. Being a smooth operator is the goal. Smooth is fast.

2)    Weed Control – in-season

a.     Do you want to control weeds when you see them? Consider an effective pre-emerge and do a fall burndown for any perennials.

3)    Hybrid Selection

a.     Maturity - If you are constantly playing the long-ball game, it’s either home runs or outs. You also need to hit singles, doubles and triples to get on base and score runs. To do this means growing adapted hybrids. More than adapted hybrids and barely being able to get them in on time usually causes a yield hit because they simply don’t finish.

b.    Try something new – if you have only grown hybrids from one supplier and haven’t been happy with any of the yield potential within that zone, perhaps it’s time to find a new genetic platform. There really are only three genetic platforms on the market. Corteva (Pioneer/Brevant), Bayer (Cropland/Dekalb/ Legend/Maizex/Pride/DLF Pickseed), Syngenta’s Greenleaf Genetics (NK/Horizon), so it may mean looking across platforms, no just within another company’s portfolio.

c.     Populations – not all hybrids need excessive populations to perform. In speaking with a few seed industry dealer reps, they are focusing on other areas to increase grower yields than just increasing populations. That’s right. Not all areas of the field can support 38 to 40,000 plants. So, unless you have excessive or strong fertility and unlimited moisture or the ability to variable rate to those zones that do respond, keep populations reasonable. On the flip side I’m seeing a few producers where they would benefit from increasing populations, given the genetics they are growing and yield potential.

4)    Crop Rotation/ Insect Pressure

a.     This is probably the biggest factor that growers can change to increase yields. Great yields come when you plant corn after a red clover underseeding in winter wheat. If corn is following canola, you can expect a yield hit due to allelopathy issues. What about insect pressure from Corn Rootworm for corn on corn acres? Or nematode issues?

5)    Residue Management

a.     If you run a reduced tillage program, perhaps there are issue due to uneven residue spreading from the previous harvest, or limited breakdown over the winter months (think spring 2020). This requires more nitrogen and sulphur along with starter fertilizer earlier in the season compared to those fields without these issues.

6)    Compaction

a.     Are you working with 4”, 6” or 24-36” of moisture in the soil profile?

7)    Fertility Program

a.     Nitrogen Timing - Perhaps putting all the nitrogen on up front is leading to losses due to leaching or denitrification. Or maybe the rate you are currently applying doesn’t match your yield goal.

b.    Sulphur - Some areas within the province respond heavily to sulphur. Sulphur tests I pulled during side-dress season came back low. This year was an above average responsive year when it comes to sulphur.

c.     Magnesium - If your soil tests suggest less than 200 ppm (some agronomists believe less than 100) of Magnesium, you should be considering Magnesium (K-Mag) in your starter. If it is under 100 ppm, you MUST have it in your starter. If your Mg is 100 or less, you can induce Mg deficiency by applying high rates of potassium.

d.    Fertility Placement - In the one case, the grower commented they are dealing with lower testing soils, the best bang for your fertility dollar is to keep it close to the corn seedling. Having 2x2 placement for dry starter is a MUST if you hope to have strong yields and maximize your fertility dollars, and it is mission critical on low testing or shallow soils.

How much do you want to spend?

I find putting a limiter on fertilizer dollars helps to bring focus on what’s truly important during the crop planning process. Only have $80 for soybeans this year? Well, you can start with the most limiting nutrient and top up until you run out of response and go to the next one. This also ensures you stay away from foo-foo dust, because typical you have spent most of your fertilizer budget that there’s nothing left for these types of hit or miss products.

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

- General George Patton