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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 45

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Crop Conditions

It is done. Harvesting of corn, soybeans is more or less finished. Some manure spreading still occurring. Some fall tillage of corn stalks. Some of these fields are too wet for best results. Some mould board ploughing still going on.

Here is a historical of corn harvest. Note that last year we were very late.

Figure 1 - Historical Corn Harvest Progress by Date


Things to do this week

1.     Send final yields to Agricorp.

2.    Check when the deadline is for early seed orders.

3.    If you are interested in Strip Tillage, OMAFRA has three sessions in December (8th, 10th 15th) and  you can watch from home/your office… you can registered here https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/strip-till-speaker-series-tickets-129347087621.

4.    If Forages are your thing, next week is Forage Focus. There are three webinars, each 1 hour in length, on December 1st, 2nd and 3rd. CEUs have been applied for. Sessions are free. http://www.ontarioforagecouncil.com/programs/forage-focus

5.    Register for SWAC at www.OntarioAgConference.ca

6.    Go to Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show and view the OSCIA presentations. https://www.outdoorfarmshow.com/

Additional thoughts from a reader on purchases before year end

One reader commented that years ago their farm decided to go to a higher per cent tax bracket. For that year. He said that there is nothing wrong with paying taxes. Many ways it is better than making unneeded purchases. Especially if these purchases will have payments into the following years. (Editor's  note - There has been more than one story from the US on producers taking advantage of stepped up depreciation (section 179), to avoid paying taxes, only to be stuck with a high payment plan later on when prices dropped.)

What is the best starter program for corn?

I have helped a number of grower’s setup/change their corn starter program. I use the following research as background for my decisions.

Figure 2 - Corn Starter Response by Soil K Test

I have seen this research more than once at South West Ag Conference. I think the first time was by Dr Dave Hooker. To me is says dry starter in a 2X2 band is best. You will get some yield response with a liquid starter.

But it says as soil test levels increase there is less response to a starter. And if you can’t get your starter on (machine broke down or delivery not available) you can broadcast and get almost as good a response.

When I discuss starter setups with growers, I try to make the program fit the farmer and the soil test. If for instance soil test levels are medium but they are going to be applying a lot of manure I go with a dry fertilizer but suggest they turn it off when there is a lot of manure. I like the dry 2X2 because

1.     I can add 30 lbs N to get started

2.     I can add significant amount of Zn and Mg if needed

3.     I can add at least some S

4.     I can add P which to me is critical to an early start.

5.     I can use different starter blends on different farms

6.     Or I can use one starter and vary the rate of broadcast N, and or P and or K by field.

7.     I can apply significant amount of P and have it incorporated.

8.     Once you go to strip tillage/planting you will appreciate being able to have a dry starter.

Patrick Lynch

Conversations with a Huron County Farmer

From time to time I ask farmers what is going on in their back roads. This farmer cash crops, does some crop consulting, and also does custom work. He has a very positive attitude about agriculture and life. Over the years we have had some great discussions. This year he said his average yields were the 3rd best ever. But he noticed a big corn yield difference within 5 miles. Some growers got 20-30 bu/ac more than others 5 miles away. September was cold and less sunny than normal. This year we did not get the yield in September that we often do.

This week. Planting soybeans. My neighbour has a really good planter to plant soybeans. I have an older drill that I make do. I combined both farms. We have similar soils and same variety, and our planting dates were within 1-2 days. For the most part my soybeans yielded similar to his. I used a higher seeding rate to compensate for my poorer planting system. But I don’t have the $60-70,000 to update my planting system. So, for now I will be satisfied with planting more seeds. (You don’t have to spend $60 to 70,000 to have better seed placement with a drill. There are John Deere or Case IH box drills with 15” spacing and planter row units. Might be hard to find, but they are out there. You save seed with a better because of better depth control and seed trench formation, not due to better spacing/singulation.  Editors comments)

Stock choppers. I am thinking about putting a stock chopper on my combine. Not sure which brand I am going to. I would like one that I can turn off or on from the cab. I have some customers that want to no till some I won’t chop their stalks. But for customers that want to do some fall tillage I will recommend that they have their stalks chopped. I have seen fields where the stalks were chopped and there was a real thick mat in the spring that slows down farmers who want to no till.

Manure this year you could really see that crops were better on manured fields. But then they were much better where farmers applied manure when soil conditions were right. Too many times farmers applied manure “to get it done” That costs them as opposed to waiting until soil is dry. It is the same with tillage. Too often farmers just want to “get it done” as opposed to only doing tillage when soil is fit.

You asked me why so much tillage that leaves no residue on top? Well it is simple. Some farmers like to see that dark soil. Also, some landlords want to see it. If you have a landlord that wants to see black soil you can either give that to them or risk losing the land.

Increasing alfalfa yields

Came across some old notes from Dan Undersander, Forage Agronomist University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension. Notes are older but still true. We are still struggling to maintain forages yields on par with what we have seen for increases in corn, soybeans, and wheat.

1)    Soil pH must be 6.8-7.0

2)    You have to add fertilizer. Each ton of dry matter removes 58 lbs. actual of potassium. (100 lbs. Potash)

3)    Cut first cut early. The RFV of forages drop by 5 points per day. (I know this is older research. But principle is the same.) Corn loses 1.5 bu per day ($6.50 per acre per day. Soybeans lose 0.5 bu/ac /day (most years $5.50 per acre per day. Forages at 2.0 Ton per acre lose $10.00 per acre per day. Often it is better to cut if there is a chance of rain and take your losses that way instead of delaying harvest. (Editor Note - Some producers that sell forage as a cash crop have suggested that they sell first cut as wet hay, then 2nd and 3rd cut as dry hay, simply to get 1st cut off early enough to make money on the other two cuts.)

4)    Minimize yield loss from wheel traffic. (more on this next week)

5)    Shorten life of stands. Alfalfa in 3rd year has 15% the yield of second year and fourth year has 39% less yield than 2-year-old alfalfa.

Cover Crop Notes from CCA Soil and Water Meeting

Aaron Breimer of Veritas/Deveron and Michael Funk of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority had a presentation on cover Crop Trials and findings of the Upper Medway sub watershed study (2015 to 2018) on phosphorus load.

First the phosphorus loading.

Michael’s Conservation Authority found that in the study watershed, 6% of phosphorus loss was from May to October, and 94% of phosphorus losses were from November to April, with the study period from 2015 to 2018.

Figure 3 - Map of Sub Watershed Study (UTRCA Presentation)

After the initial study, the goal was to make a management change to see if there would be a significant change in phosphorus losses. Rather than implement a number of changes, there are currently implementing 1 Best Management Practice within the Watershed. On the west half they have incentivized the planting of cover crops, the east side there is no incentive to plant cover crops. The conservation authority has a goal of 75% ground cover (hay, pasture, winter wheat or cover crops) for the winter on the west side of the watershed. It is too early in the cover crop study to quantify the impact of the cover crops. Stayed tuned to this project for results.

Now the cover crop piece.

Aaron Breimer presented three different trials on cover crops. The first trial was done with two different growers over a couple of years on wheat stubble, with fall planted Oats, then going into corn the following year.

Figure 4 - Corn Response to Oat Cover Crop

By 2014, Aaron was curious enough to pull tissue and soil samples to see if lab work could provide some clues, he did not find any difference in soil test, but there were a few differences showing up with the tissue test. These were pulled as close as possible to reflect similar growing conditions.

Figure 5 - Oat vs No Oat Soil and Tissue Test in Corn

Aaron also ran a multi-species trial in 2016, inspired by some of the earlier results he was seeing in his Oat trials. In these trials some species were more conducive to support corn that others. Please note that each of the trials all had 30-35 lbs of oats blended with the species. Complex Mix 2 had mainly brassicas, and as result Aaron isn’t a big fan of having brassicas in cover crops mixes when going to corn. Aaron’s current guess is that the brassica species affect mycorrhizae leading to similar issues when planting corn after canola. Complex 1 had warm seasons species such as phacelia, clover and pearl millet.

Figure 6 - Corn Response to Cover Crop by Tillage

The third cover crop data set Aaron presented involved 50 lbs./ac of cereal rye with 200 lbs/ac of potash. It was broadcast into corn stalks after corn harvest, it was not indicated if fall or spring tillage was done. IP soybeans were planted. Cereal rye meant hardly any weeds in-crop, where there were no cereal rye check strips, a respray was required in-crop.

Figure 7 - Soybean Response to Cereal Rye Cover following Corn

The effects of fall seeding date on Cover Crop Oats and Barley

Anne Verhallan, CCA-ON and OMAFRA Soil Management Specialist – Horticulture Crops posted a few images last week of various seeding dates at Ridgetown College of Oat and Barley cover crops. If you are hoping for much top growth, and farm or advise north of Ridgetown, the end of August/start of September is really the cut-off date to get much growth. Anne also commented that After October 6th, only the barley grew, even then it’s just barely there, even with really nice weather in November.

No-till forages into stale seed bed and Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass

This summer I had a few conversations with a dairy farm that wanted to try no-till forages. The crop rotation they have been doing is corn silage, then fall rye for green feed, work the soil and then try and establish alfalfa/grass mix in mid to late May after the cereal rye is off. In an effort to save some time and diesel fuel, this fall we put together two cover crops to try and direct seed into in the spring. So far, the corn silage was cut, manure spread, field worked. Then half the field was drilled with 40-50 lbs of Oats, and the other half with 5-6 lbs of Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass. While soil sampling, I checked the field earlier this week. The Oats had quite a bit more growth than the Green Spirit, which may have been drilled deeper than expected. One issue I can already see we will have to address is the carpet of winter annuals showing up (chickweed/speedwell). Both were drilled around September 17-20th. Stay posted to see how it goes in the spring.

Picture 1 - Pail marks split between Oats on left and Green Spirit on Right
Picture 2 - Oat Cover
Picture 3 - Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass

Two “newer” drills - Kuhn/Sky Drills

Newer “style” multi-tillage drills (can seed in both low and high residue seed beds), seem to have a roller in front of the double discs, partially to pin the residue, partially to help with reconsolidating the seed bed.

The two drills I had in mind are Kuhn’s 9400 NT and French-based Sky Agriculture’s Easy Drill.

Features that Sky’s Easy drill had caught my eye are ease of calibration, the ability to place fertilizer on the soil surface, in the seed trench, or below the seed trench. The Easy Drills also have the capability alternate rows with different species and rates as well. On top of this you can change the amount of pressure on the closing wheels versus what is being put on the front roller wheel. Row spacing is approximately 16.6 cm or 6.5”. While it seems like it could work well for small to medium sized operations, the only supplier I’m aware of on this side of the Atlantic is Quebec-based Innotag.

Easy Drill - SKY Agriculture

Easy Drill - SKY Agriculture

Direct Drill

Picture 4 - Multiple seed and fertilizer placements
Picture 5 - Weight distribution is adjustable between front depth control and rear firming wheels
Picture 6 - Box drill version planting green
Picture 7 - Larger drill seeding into wheat stubble

A client is looking at upgrading drills and wondered what my opinion was on the new Kuhn box drill. The Kuhn 9400NT was released to market in 2019. It was designed for no-till conditions to plant cereals, legumes and cover crops, and with the ability to quickly adjust to conventional tillage. A few features that caught my eye with this drill are the ability to apply seed, seed with fertilizer, or two different types of seed. There is an iPhone or Android app available to help with drill calibration. It also has an ISOBUS monitor available. The piece that attracted the client to this drill is the ease of calibration. Row spacing is 7.5 or 10”. One feature I’m on the fence on is adjustable mechanical down pressure, 310 lbs standard, up to 390 lbs in total with 20 lb increments. Another is the fact that you are still working with double disc openers, whereas the most proven no-till drills on the market (i.e. John Deere), run a single disc opener, with a depth wheel, to minimize hair pinning. The unit has a walking beam similar to the Sky drill mentioned above, mainly to maintain better depth control, but lacks the ability to transfer more weight to the front or rear depth control wheels.

Picture 8 - Kuhn Pro Opener

Planter-Like Depth Control in a Grain Drill - Kuhn Krause PRO Openers

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Picture 9 - Kuhn 9400 NT drill
Picture 10 - Kuhn 9400 NT drill

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