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The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 1

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Welcome back. Days are getting longer and we are making plans for another season.

We have made a promise to ourselves to write articles that we feel will benefit you. Some will be just interesting information. If you disagree with any subject matter or want us to research a topic please contact us.

So here we go!

Last week was the Ontario Agriculture Conference. We will be referring to various presentations and will label them as notes from OAC #


Notes from OAC # 19 The Corn Whisperer Dr Bob Neilson Purdue

To me Dr Bob Neilson is THE corn guru of North America. He combines experience with practical information. He reviewed corn yields in the US. From 1866 to 1936 a period of 70 years the average corn yield was 25 bu/ac. In the mid 1930’s double cross hybrids started to increase yields by about 1 bu/ac/year. By the 1950’s the yield increase was about 1.5 bu/ac/year. This was because of single cross hybrids, fertilizer, mechanization, and pesticides. Since the mid 19990’s average yield increase has been about 2 bu/ac/year. Dr Neilson commented on the high corn yield winners in the US. He has listened to many of them and has concluded the same as many of us have: 1) They never give any of the secrets as to how they got the high yield. 2) Of the growers who enter the high yield competition there is 120-180 bu/ac difference in their yields. 3) The growers who win this competition do not really know why they won. 4) They tend to throw everything at their crop of corn, high populations, fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides but they do not really know which input gave which yield increment.

His conclusion 1) Improve your knowledge of corn production, 2) Identify the yield limiting factors in your system. 3) Make decisions based on facts not testimonials.

Notes from OAC # 14 Is A Bio-Strip till Corn System for You?

An excellent presentation by Ian MacDonald (OMAFRA) and Lawrence Hogan and Steve Howard from Huron county on their bio-strip till system. This is really a strip till system (using cover crops to replace what a strip-till does). I really cannot summarize it since there are too many significant details in their program. They outline their bio strip recipe of both the system and the mix they use along with their fertilizer and herbicide program. If you are interested in bio strips (these are in a no till system) you have to watch this one. It alone is worth the cost of registration. Jonathan’s takeaway’s from watching this one is 1) Spreading chaff is a must!!! 2) You will have to manage your fertility differently in no-till/strip-till corn system. 3) Cover crop species selection is critical to making the system work. (to manage C:N ratios, residue cover, and rooting depth) 4)) A row cleaner is used to “prime” the soil in the spring to dry out the top layer/get some black soil.

Notes from OAC #21 Soybean Success Horst Bohner OMAFRA and Dr Dave Hooker U of G

1.     Soybeans should be planted at 1.5” deep.

2.     In 2020 there was no detrimental effect to yield by planting late April at Bornholm.

3.     Earlier planting had fewer plants emerge. In 2020 the temperature dipped to -3 the night after planting. Then there was snow.

4.     Earlier planting leads to earlier harvest and earlier wheat planting.

5.     You lose 1.1 bu/ac/day for every day wheat is planted after optimum planting date.

6.     The Ontario soybean trials show relationship between Maturity Group (MG) and Days to Maturity. On average a 1-day difference in maturity = 0.08 MG.

7.     There is 6 or more days difference in soybean maturity withing a group of varieties with same MG.

8.     Later maturing soybean varieties yield higher.

9.     Pick a soybean variety based on yield and days to maturity.

10.  Some tillage of corn stalks before planting soybeans to remove residue from rows helps some fields.

11.  Soybean fungicides give 2-3 bu/ac yield increase. Unless you have white mould…

12.  Build soil P&K to moderate levels for best yields.

Climate Change and Corn Production Management (notes by Darel Walker CCA Indiana)

At this year’s Indiana’s Certified Crop Adviser convention, they had two interesting speakers that discussed how our climate has changed in the central corn belt and what we can do about it to improve yields. The speakers we Dr. Eric Snodgrass, a Nutrien Ag Solutions climatologist and Dr. Jeff Schussler, a retired Dupont Pioneer corn breeder. During his talk on current crop weather trends, Dr. Snodgrass mentioned these historic weather statistics from Indiana: We are getting more large rain events. Today, we are experiencing about three times more rain events greater than 2” than we had before 1948. Our average low temperature during the growing season has increased 2 degrees F since 1948 while the average high has increased only .9 degrees F since 1948. He also said that we have an average frost-free growing season today that is 9 days longer than before 1948. His consensus was that these changes have been beneficial to growing higher corn yields.

Dr. Schussler also shared some interesting climate data. According to Dr. Schussler, the worldwide average C02 level is about 400ppm today, and has increased since 1930’s. He also mentioned it was a high as 6000 ppm in prehistoric times. Maximum temperatures have NOT increased in the USA in the last 100 years. There have been more heavy rain events since 1990. Drought frequency has not increased. Solar brightness has increased since 1980. He stated that the improvement in solar brightness accounts for 27% of the corn yield improvement the US from 1984 until 2013. (In my opinion we need to be measuring solar brightness during grain fill, it will provide an indication of what final yields will be during starch accumulation.) It may shock you what the average US corn yield was in 1984! (It was 106.6 BPA) So, what can corn growers do about climate.

change? Here are several ideas from Dr. Schussler:

1) Plant earlier to take advantage of the longer growing season.

2) Grow longer hybrid maturities up to the average GDD for your locality.

3) Increase populations to take advantage of the increase in solar brightness.

4) Split apply your nitrogen and use N stabilizers as a hedge against large rain events and N loss.

5) Consider adding cover crops to your system to capture excess N (left over at the end of the season) and improve soil drainage.

6) Improve soil drainage with system tile where needed.

7) Utilize new traits such as DroughtGard™ and AquaMax™ corn hybrids which have improved water use efficiency.

(Darel Walker is an agronomist with Advanced Agrilytics. For years Darel and I have traded our newsletters)

News from Syngenta

Here are some notes passed on from Marijke Vanderlaan from Syngenta about what they saw in 2020.

Acuron is now labelled for control of giant ragweed, yellow nutsedge, hairy galinsoga and for control of fleabane up to 20 cm in height.

Tavium (dual (no safener) + dicamba) is now labelled for up to V2 (previously only PRE applications). This will be the first Dual POST product in the market in Canada.

Miravis Ace - 2020 grower side x sides = 3.6 bu/ac over competitors, n=48 (83 %-win rate) in Winter Wheat.

Miravis Neo - 2018-2020 grower side x sides = 11.3 bu/ac over untreated, n=30 (97 %-win rate) in Corn

Moddus - new (Plant Growth Regulator) PGR for Canadian growers - now registered for spring wheat, winter wheat, oats, and barley.

Quantifying Soil Spatial Variability

Dr. John Fulton from Ohio State University has a great interview with the hosts of the FarmBits Podcast. If precision ag is an interest of yours, Dr. Fulton covers a few topics of interest such as why identifying fertility response zones is mission critical. The actual application capabilities of equipment. Variable manure application, and how much you can expect to “save” or “gain” by switching to variable or “optimal” rate applications, he does note about 7% as a guide for savings depending on crop mix, and existing soil test levels.

Nebraska Digital Ag on Twitter: "Join us for Episode 15 of FarmBits with @fultojp. We are wrapping up our series on Quantifying Soil Spatial Variability. We're chatting about generating maps for variable rate applications, application equipment technologies, making nutrient and lime applications, and much more!… https://t.co/G6ZqekkuHg"

Nebraska Digital Ag on Twitter: "Join us for Episode 15 of FarmBits with @fultojp. We are wrapping up our series on Quantifying Soil Spatial Variability. We're chatting about generating maps for variable rate applications, application equipment technologies, making nutrient and lime applications, and much more!… https://t.co/G6ZqekkuHg"

“Join us for Episode 15 of FarmBits with @fultojp. We are wrapping up our series on Quantifying Soil Spatial Variability. We're chatting about generating maps for variable rate applications, application equipment technologies, making nutrient and lime applications, and much more!”

Statistically Significant and Snake Oils/Nutrient Products

Brian Arnall, Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist with OSU has a great presentation on what he looks for when evaluating nutrient products and the statistically significance of what it takes for Brian to give his support for some of these new products. It does not always have to be statistically significant to get Brian’s approval, but there should be a general trend across all treatments that might just below the statistical significance threshold. Video is 22 minutes in length.

Evaluating Nutrient Products and Stabilizers

Variable Rate Nitrogen in Corn

Pat and I had a discussion on variable nitrogen and the various strategies to use to make it work. Here are a few possible scenarios. Point number 1 is that when we are adding nitrogen to the soil, we are supplementing above and beyond what is already there for soil suppling power. The goal of variable rate nitrogen should be to remove nitrogen as the limiting factor up until water or another nutrient becomes the limiting factor for yield potential for that zone. This in essence is trying to match up the yield sink with the N source in a better way than we are doing today. With this chart in mind, the next step is defining what areas of the field have low, med, and high mineralization potential (hint – it is not JUST organic matter %), and have low, med, high sink potential for the corn crop. What we want to measure, when measuring for TEMPORAL variability in a SPATIAL environment is the areas that are unstable from year to year, both form an N supplying standpoint, and a yield potential standpoint.

Figure 1 - Marginal Nitrogen Response in Corn

Average Tractor Weight per Year

Joanna Wallace shared this photo from the CCA conference of increasing John Deere tractor weights over time. I would imagine if you took the X axis and changed it to average acres farmed per year instead of it just being the year, the average tractor weight per acre farmed would be going down or staying fairly similar. The biggest problem we are seeing with regards to tractor weights is compaction, but there are management tools to mitigate the effects of this. If you are equipment shopping, please take a look at the size of the footprint, specifically the PSI you are applying to the soil, when making an equipment decision.

Making Sense of Building Fertility Rates

With strong commodity prices, some clients are asking about building fertility rates of P&K and how much they should be putting on. Since you still have to eat, pay the mortgage, and keep other family members clothed, the supply of money/cashflow is likely the biggest limiting in most operations. Use that as the starting point on what you would like to fertilizer for over and above your existing crop plan. If it is $35/acre or maybe a lump sum, then work with your Certified Crop Advisor to figure out what the next most limiting nutrient is by field and allocated a portion of your fertilizer budget towards it. I have included a previous article on what it takes to build a soil test level by 1 ppm potassium below. Will discuss some phosphorus management thoughts next week.

How many lbs. of potash do I need to build my soil test?

One of the most balanced pieces of information I have found on this topic was written by Spectrum Analytic, a soil lab based in Ohio.

To answer the question, it really depends on several factors. The first one is that you are applying potash at a rate that is over and above crop removal. The second factor is what is your relative soil test level. A study conducted in Kentucky on a single silt loam soil found that the amount of potash required to build soil test K depended on how low the levels were. The higher the levels, the less was required to build soil test K. Another study found that the range to build soil test K 1 ppm, you required 3.4 to 21 lbs. K2O, with the average being 6.2. In Ontario, we have used 8 lbs./ac K2O (as a guide) to build the soil test by 1 ppm K. The third factor is the soil type and amount of clay content, and the density of the soil relative to the soil CEC.

What value should you use? I would argue it is more critical to figure out which fields require potash, and then decide based upon your capital budget how much you can cash flow on building soil test K. Use that budget number to determine where you will get the best bang for your dollar on your farms. Use the respective formula to determine how much potash you need to apply to build your lowest testing soils, then work on the next worst area, etc.… Do this every year, not just when you have time. Then compare your soil test levels over time to see if you are building soil test K. Your future soils testing high in potash will thank you.

Figure 2 - Desirable Soil K Test Levels by CEC

Labs in Ontario, such as A&L Canada or SGS Agri-food, use the Ammonium Acetate test for potassium.

Figure 3 - Lbs of K2O required to Raise Soil Test K by 1 PPM.

"A very good friend of mine

Told me something the other day

I'd like to pass it in to you

'Cause I believe what he said to be true

He said

We're here for a good time

Not a long time

So have a good time

The sun can't shine every day.”

- Trooper