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The Cropwalker - Volume 3 Issue 46

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Question What about Envita, the corn inoculant that allows you to reduce your nitrogen requirements by 27%?

Answer It looks interesting. I have looked for 3rd party research to validate some of the claims. I cannot find any. (I will keep looking) The suggested retail price is about $20 /ac. They claim 6 bu/ac yield increase. It certainly deserves a look. Here is a potential trial layout.

1.     Compare 27% less to your normal rate.

2.     Use a small plot with no nitrogen vs. a small plot with no nitrogen just Envita

In both cases have plots set up so that you can get 3-4 different weights. It could be side by side or a length of the field. This way as you go down the field you would have 3-4 comparisons of different soil conditions. Just because you applied less nitrogen doesn’t mean the product worked, you may have been using too much nitrogen for that growing season.

Wheel traffic causes forage yield loss

Forages fields have more compaction than neighbouring cash crop fields. But forage fields can overcome compaction because of the slow break down of roots.

But, wheel traffic causes yield loss in forage fields. Wheel traffic cause yield loss by compaction, splitting crowns that allows diseases to enter crowns, and the main yield loss is due to breaking off shoots that have begun to regrow after harvest. This loss is greater the longer the delay between cutting and traffic. Research trials show an average yield loss of 4-6% per day for delay after mowing. Raking at 24 hours after cutting vs. 48 hours means a 5% yield increase. Some ways to reduce wheel traffic,

1.     Use a merger

2.     Move full wagons with as little as possible driving on stand

3.     Do not drive on an adjacent harvest field

Research has also shown than duals do not decrease yield loss

A good thing is that grasses do not show the same amount of damage to wheel traffic as alfalfa does.

Corn and Soybean Trials are Available Go to www.gocorn.net to view the corn trials. The Pioneer Qrome hybrids are not in the trials. When the trials were planted the genetics of these hybrids was not being accepted in Europe. Go to www.gosoy.net to look at the soybean trials.

Red Clover revisited

This is research done by Dr Bill Deen University of Guelph. It consisted of 12 Ontario locations. In this research red clover reduced the Maximum Economic Rate of Nitrogen for corn by 50 lbs per acre, while increasing corn yield by 4.5-7%. The overall affect was that red clover underseeded in winter wheat increased profitability of the system by $25- 50 per acre. Tillage before wheat planting gave a red clover yield of 2008 kg/ha while no tilled wheat gave a red clover yield of 1364 kg/ha. Their conclusion “No-till has replaced conventional tillage over the past two decades. No-till production systems seem to be less favourable for red clover dry matter production. “This begs the question “if you want red clover and have time why not do some “tickle tillage” before you plant wheat? There was a trend that using higher N rates in winter wheat gave lower red clover yields. (none of these trials had S applied. We know that to get a good red clover stand you need S.

Soybean nodulation numbers

1.     A 50 bu/ac soybean crop removes 210 lbs/ac nitrogen

2.     Between 50-75% of this come from nodules

3.     Nodules are visible 10-14 after colonization

4.     Nodules reach full size in 4 weeks

5.     Maximum N fixation occurs at R5

6.     Adequate nodulation needs 7-14 nodules per plant

7.     Nitrogen fixation works best at 25-30 0 C

Source: Horst Bohner – OMAFRA Soybean Specialist

Crop Physiology vs. Crop Phenomics

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada Crop Physiologist Malcolm Morrison recently presented on the “Lost Art of Crop Physiology”. At the end of the presentation, he made the comment that the Art of Crop Physiology has not been lost, but rather it is evolving to be called Crop Phenomics.

A few comments from Malcolm;

1.     Phenomics is the study of phenotype (phenotype is the observable characteristics e.g. what the plant looks like) expression through imaging and sensors to take crop measurements quickly and non-destructively. Rather than the old-fashioned crop physiology method of destroying plants to analyze what is happening. This also allows those working with plants in real time to see the stresses of water, salt, temperature, light nutrients, and diseases in real environments.

2.     Phenomics is the study of plants (used for breeding/variety selection), precision agriculture is the study of the field (used by agronomists/producers for response zones), Remote Sensing is the study of a given region, used for land use monitoring. The difference between the three is spatial resolution.

3.     Phenomics is observing and selecting phenotype through the interaction or expression of Genotype by Environment by Management.

4.     With phenomics you don’t just select for yield, yield is affected to a greater extent by the environment than a phenomic trait. Yield also cannot be selected for successful in early generations as many phenomic traits can.

5.     Sustainable agriculture has to have the word forever in it.

YEN – Wheat

One advantage of social distancing and virtual conference is the ability to taken in events I normally would not be able to. One of these is the annual awards for UK’s Yield Enhancement Network’s top Cereal and Oil-Seed Rape Growers (OSR – aka Winter Canola). If you recall, we wrote about when Drs. Ruth Wade and Roger Sylvester-Bradley spoke at SWAC 20 earlier in the year. They presented about a private-public partnership on running a field scale R&D program as a grower yield contest. The first crop under this program was winter wheat, and have added other crops such as OSR, peas, grassy hay, potatoes, etc.…

During this presentation Dr. Sylvester-Bradley made a few points on basic things you must get right to grow big wheat yields, farming in general and running a competition.

1.     You are converting solar energy into edible energy (i.e. carbs)

2.     It is inevitable that there will be environmental consequences to farming, high yields dilute these consequences and reduces required land base required, do not make apologies for this.

3.     To make improvements design protocols for farmers to run field sized experiments, then run a competition to compare those measurements.

4.     Large yields come from large crops.

a.     Harvest index NOT so important.

b.     Many shoots with large biomass and many heads is the goal.

c.     Need above 25,000 grains per m2 to achieve high yielding wheat. (minimum 400 heads per m2).

5.     Most modern varieties can produce high yields, variety selection is of less importance in creating a high yield crop than other factors within the management scheme.

6.     Macro-nutrient capture often seems deficient

a.     Consistently seeing higher yields with animal manures

7.     Over the last 8 years of the wheat competition, yields have only been at 57% of the theoretical potential. 40% of theoretical yield for winter canola.

8.     Early sowing is required for high spring barley yields.

9.     The highest overall UK yield was 15.6 t/ha (232 bu/ac) of winter wheat, 12.7 t/ha of winter barley (236 bu/ac), 11.3 t/ha (210 bu/ac) for spring barley.

Canadian Agriculture Partnership – Grant Program

If you farm in Ontario, are looking at making operational or field improvements on your farm, the CAP grant program is open on December 9th and closes January 5th . You will have to have a current Environmental Farm Plan (4th edition) to participate. https://www.ontariosoilcrop.org/canadian-agricultural-partnership/

Grant Program Example – CAP Tillage and Nutrient Application Equipment Modifications

I’ve been a big proponent of using European spreaders (Amazone, Bogballe, Kverneland/Kubota, Kuhn, others…) that can apply fertilizer with section control. Some of these units have up to 128 sections (Amazone), which would be 10-12” resolution when spreading at 120’. Pretty neat. The grant to buy one of these units is 40% up to a maximum of $20,000. If you are saving 5% on fertilizer overlap, and average $100 per acre per year in fertilizer being broadcast, you would have to cover 3,600 acres to cover the remaining 60% of the cost, if just accounting for overlap, assuming you found a respectable used unit for $30,000. Add in rental costs, and that number comes down to 2500 acres. Add in yield loss due to lodged wheat, and you gain a few more acres. Likely an easy 3-year payback for an 800-acre grower at that price point, plus you have quite a bit of spreading capacity and usually gain variable rate capability. A few growers have commented spreading up to 80-100 acres per hour depending on the product, field, and tender set up. Usually the biggest limiting factor is keeping fertilizer to the field (not much different than an airflow).  One of the biggest benefits for everyone with these units is that fertilizer is not ended up in fence rows, ditches or streams during application, put fertilizer where it is needed.

If broadcasting fertilizer is not your thing, the same grant program for the spreaders offers financial incentives to switch to strip till or banding your fertility with no-till setups.

Picture 1 - Kubota Spreader with Section Control/Variable Rate Capability

Available Soil Health Tests

Have a number of growers that have tried a few different “soil health” tests. There are two main ones on the market that I am aware of.

1)    A&L Vitellus – There are a number of versions of the Vitellus test, all under the Vitellus brand. The most common Vitellus test is a typically chemistry test from A&L (usually package S1 +S7), plus the Solvita test, it is marketed as Vitellus Soil Health. The most recent addition is the Vitellus Bio, which provides a “finger print” analysis of specific microbial functional groups in the soil and are associated with improved soil health and crop yield.

2)    Next Level Ag – Indicator Complete – This South Dakota based lab offers what they term the “Indicator Complete”, it is their regular chemistry test combined with both the Haney Test and the Solvita test. The Haney test was developed in Texas by USDA employee Rick Haney, to try and quantify the available organic fraction of plant nutrients. The Solvita test was developed by Will Brinston of Woods-End Laboratories, to provide an estimation of carbon respiration of the soil, which can then estimate nitrogen “release”. The final indicator complete report ranks the macro nutrient in various categories and provides an overall rating based on these factors to determine crop responsiveness to applied nutrients.

Figure 1 - Example NLAG Indicator Complete Report with Macro-Nutrient Ratings

CCA – Soil Water Info Day – PLATO – The Next Generation of Ontario P-Index

Keith Reid of Agriculture and Agri-food Canada presented at the Soil and Water Quality day on an updated version of the PLATO – Phosphorus Loss Assessment Tool for Ontario, which he had started to update while still at OMAFRA, before moving to AAFC.

One of the reasons for updating the tool is that we are about 98% efficient for phosphorus in Ontario agriculture, but need to get to 99% due to agriculture being one of the larger contributors to algae blooms in Lake Erie.

Updates to PLATO were required, as the old version considered high runoff a risk regardless of whether there was any phosphorus source or not. Risk classes were set up in a way that caused the index value (or risk) to just significantly with small changes. There was no way to validate the results, and tile drains had been ignored as a transport pathway.

What OMAFRA has found is that nothing moves unless we have water. Applied phosphorus is much more water soluble than what is in the soil. As a result, these losses are very seasonal/application based.

The new tool has a few changes 1) accounts for both phosphorus source and transport, 2) accounts for both the risk and benefit of tile drains and 3) accounts for the difference in risk from phosphorus being applied in growing and non-growing seasons.

This new tool is available through Agrisuite; https://agrisuite.omafra.gov.on.ca/

Additional comments/notes made by Keith;

1)    Total runoff over the year is very close to the same whether through surface or surface and tile. But the exact timing of runoff changes

2)    Soil erosion is usually reduced with tile drains

3)    Only part of the water into the tile drain carries much phosphorus (risk is greater with clay > clay loam > loam >> sand) due to clay cracking in dry weather, whereas there isn’t much in the way of cracking or earthworm channels in sandier (coarse) soils.

4)    Leaching phosphorus from crops is bigger issue in Western Canada than Ontario due to frozen soil, less of an issue in Ontario due to lack of frozen soil at times during the winter months.

Establishing Alfalfa with a Drill – One Grower’s Opinion

I compared notes last week with Nick Dubuc, a Quebec grower that uses a John Deere 1560 drill with updated 90 series seed boots to establish his 80% alfalfa, 20% timothy crop. His comments were that the first few years they had ran a Brillion seeder, as a few had suggested that was what you need to establish alfalfa, they had one good season and 2-3 bad seasons using this unit. He felt it only worked well if the rain is timed right. Since switching to a disc drill, the alfalfa early in the season looks awful, but feels he gets a better germination percentage than with the Brillion. With the 1560, Nick sets the drill to ½” with medium down pressure and goes. One issue with the drill Nick has noted is plugging the seed tubes with Brome grass seed, he has had to mix the Brome with cracked corn to maintain flowability, switching to Needham seed tubes may help with this.

Field information;

Brevant 4H400 HiGest (80% Alfalfa/20% Timothy by weight); didn’t see much Timothy due to dry start in August. Seeding rate – 18 lbs/acre.

Two spring cultivator passes on corn silage stalks, one pass with Brillion roller before seeding, no fall tillage.

No-till plot for test purposes.

Picture 2 - Seeding April 27th
Picture 3 - Dry May, so rows only showing May 24th
Picture 4 - June 5th after rain, (no-till plot)
Picture 5 - June 8th, taking off
Picture 6 - June 25th
Picture 7 - July 2nd – scouting for potato leaf hoppers
Picture 8 - 1st cut on July 14th, due to reaching PLH threshold
Picture 9 - Second cut August 13th (sprayed for PLH on July 24th)
Picture 10 - Third cut, Sept 11th

Nick commented he likely would have only taken 2 cuts if he didn’t have potato leaf hoppers, 3 cuts on established fields is the norm in his area. 4 cuts can be abit hard on the crop.

“How to go broke farming...

  1. Grow only one crop.
  2. Keep no livestock.
  3. Regard chickens and a garden as nuisances.
  4. Take everything from the soil and return nothing.
  5. Don't stop gullies or grow cover crops - let the top soil wash away, then you will have "bottom" land.
  6. Don't plan your farm operations. It's hard work thinking - trust to luck.
  7. Regard your woodland as you would a coal mine, cut everyt tree, sell the timber and wear the cleared land out cultivating it in corn.
  8. Hold fast to the idea that the methods of farming employed by your grandfather are good enough for you.
  9. Be independent - don't join with your neighbors in any form of cooperation
  10. Mortgage your farm for every dollar it will stand to buy things you would have the cash to buy if you followed a good system of farming.”

- Division of Extension. University of Tennessee. 1927.