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The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 2

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Well welcome to issue 2 of 2021. The last two weeks were filled with conferences. The Ontario Agriculture Conference and the Certified Crop Advisors Conference together had over 50 presentations. Here are more of the highlights;


Notes from OAC # 2 IPM Myth busters

This talk by Dr Chris DiFonzo Michigan State U, Dr Jocelyn Smith U. of G, and Tracy Baute OMAFRA presented multiple reasons why growers are using too much or too many insecticides.

DiFonzo started by giving a good over view of soybean aphids (SA). She mentioned that there are so many predator insects that feed on SA that in general predators have kept SA in check. She said that there is no economic damage from SA until we get 650-670 aphids per plant. We use a spray threshold of 250 per plant and rising because SA can multiply so quickly. She also called K deficient soybeans “aphid candy” because aphids love them and multiply quickly on them. (Keep your K soil test levels up) DiFonzo mentioned that spraying soybeans with a fungicide controls a fungus that kills SA. In another presentation Horst Bohner OMAFRA showed that spraying a fungicide increased soybean yields by 2-3 bushels. (editor note - since we know the best return by spraying a fungicide is on high yielding soybeans, and many growers have yield maps, and SA are worse in low yielding areas, why not just apply a fungicide to the 50% of the field that has the highest yield potential – hey one of us even has a map process that can help figure out where those areas might be!)

Dr Jocelyn Smith reviewed the summary of the on-farm trials comparing fungicide only seed treatment (FS) to a neonic plus fungicide (NST) There were 145 corn trials of which 141 went to yield. There were 33 soybean trials of which 31 went to yield. Each site had 3 reps. Root damage was evaluated in all trials. The growers were asked to pick fields or areas in fields where insects were suspected. Corn yield averaged over 141 trials, fungicide only 176 bu/ac, fungicide plus insecticide 178 bu/ac. This was non-significant. She showed that an insecticide seed treatment costs of $11.32 per acre so needed 2.3 bu/ac increase to pay for itself. Of the 141 sites 8-9% saw a significant yield increase. With soybeans, fungicide only (FS) yielded 50.7 bu/ac and adding an insecticide the average yield was 49.2 bu/ac. This is a non-significant difference. (editor note - I think this presentation will lead to a reduction in the amount of insecticide treated seed sales.)

Notes from Ontario Agriculture Conference # 10 Cover Crop Agronomy

In this presentation they worked through the cover crop selection tool found at www.mccc.msu.edu When you go there click on selector tool. If you work through this tool winter cereal rye and red clover keep coming up as cover crops of choice. Winter triticale has faster canopy cover than cereal rye. There were a number of other species that give specific benefits. High lights:

1.     Treat cover crops like other crops. Use manure or fertilizer for maximum biomass.

2.     Chris Brown OMAFRA has measured 40% more biomass when manure is applied to cover crops (Jonathan had been involved with some of this research)

3.     Other than red clover, cover crops do not add nitrogen that can help the next crop

4.     Grazing cover crops leaves 80% of the plant (Dr Lee Briese North Dakota University)

5.     Be careful with annual rye grass. It is hard to terminate and there are many acres of glyphosate resistant annual rye grass. (this species is a major issue in Australia)

Notes from Ontario Agriculture Conference # 4 Soil Carbon

This presentation covered a lot of technical information in a short time. Highlights

1.     Plant residues are converted to organic matter (OM) (editor note – many people talk about adding organic matter to the soil. You can’t do that. You add residue which is converted to OM)

2.     Plant residues break down and “stick to minerals” This is called Mineral Associated Organic Matter (MAOM) This OM breaks down slowly. MAOM is stable lasting hundreds to thousands of years. MAOM increases the CEC of a soil.

3.     Plant organic matter (POM) decomposes easily. It has a half life of a few days to a few years.

4.     Microbial community is great at breaking down residue. Controlled by climate, C:N ratio.

5.     Each 1% increase in soil organic matter (SOM) increases water holding capacity of a field by 20,000 gallons of water.

6.     You can be increasing soil OM but it does not show up on soil report. It takes a long time to raise OM.

7.     Forages especially grasses are important in increasing OM. Over 3 years grass roots accumulate more biomass than above ground fraction.

8.     Manure has an effect on crops, even 3 years after application.

Notes from OAC #26 Managing Nitrogen and CCA Conference Advancing 4R Nitrogen Management of Corn Dr Mario Tenuta University of Manitoba

Presentation by John Herd, former OMAFA Soils and Crops Specialist in Huron County, now nutrient specialist for Manitoba Agriculture, and Dr John Lauzon, U of G.

They reviewed all the ways that nitrogen can be lost and then looked at Nitrogen loss inhibitors. There are some (urease inhibitors) that prevent nitrogen from being released as ammonia, others use a physical barrier, so nitrogen so it will not be leached.

Bottom line

1)In most cases if you cover your urea or UAN there is no advantage to adding an inhibitor.

2) You have to look at the extra cost if you are already managing nitrogen properly. At Manitoba prices the following cost the same 130 lbs of N as urea, 113 lbs of N with a urease inhibitor, 109 lbs of N with a double inhibitor, 104 lbs of N as ESN.

3) The benefit of these products only last for 2- 3 weeks.

4) You need warm wet windy soils to have a significant loss of nitrogen by volatilization. If you are forced to apply urea or UAN and not incorporate it and weather suggests you will have N losses either by leaching or volatilization use one of the products. (editor note I believe the loss from volatilization seldom occurs in the spring)

5) Denitrification losses occur when soils are saturated for a period of time. (from my experience when you have these wet holes that N is loss occurs, it is not worth doing anything about them. Seldom do we have complete fields with saturated soils that will cause denitrification.

6) These products reduce nitrous oxide emissions into the air. But may not give a yield increase. Dr Mario says it is much easier to measure N losses to the air than find a yield increase.

7) Yield increases are in the magnitude of 5%

8) The idea is to use less nitrogen with one of these products and get the same yield

(editors note) ESN is safe to the seed. If you are concerned about fertilizer burn with the N portion of a starter fertilizer the use of ESN reduces this concern and improves flowability of the material)

From the archives of 2011 (10 years ago)

Improve Second Year Soybean Yields with Spring Tillage

In 5 on-farm trials in Ontario, Horst Bohner, OMAFRA, found that a light spring tillage pass 2-5 days before planting soybeans increased yields by 2.5 bu/ac compared to no-till. It is believed that tillage disturbs old root channels that harbour disease. Under no-till conditions, the next crop will follow the root channels, exposing the roots to these diseases. With a bit of tillage, the beans are forced to make new root channels. Tillage also buries leaves and other trash that could harbour disease. The soil must be in good shape at the time of working in the spring or these benefits could be nullified.

Biggest Yield Robbers in Soybeans

I bring this up as you are likely to sit in on, or have already sat in on, quite a few presentations on the “best” soybean practices for maximum yield. Using University data from the Crop Protection Network, here is the list of the BIGGEST yield robbers in soybeans. Does this mean you NEED a foliar fungicide to maximize yields? I’m going to suggest, no, you don’t, until you start to lose yields due to White Mould or Phomopsis, or Pod and Stem Blight. When it comes to root rots, most seed treatment take care of the common seeding diseases, but not necessarily Soybean Cyst or Sudden Death Syndrome. Food for thought as you plan your 2021 soybean crop. Chart Source: https://loss.cropprotectionnetwork.org/crops/soybeans?year_start=2000&year_end=2019&diseaseCategory=&country=2&region=7&cropID=2

Figure 1 - Crop Protection Network - % of yield losses due to various diseases

Where did our yield estimates end up?

In July, August, and September 2020, we ran a Twitter survey on expected 2020 OMAFRA corn and yield estimates. Here’s how we faired out using the average of the respondent’s answers. There is a fairly large gap between the StatsCan corn number and the Agricorp values. We do feel that Agricorp’s values provide a better reflection of where yields ended up, given the sheer number of data points and actual results they have to work with. A couple of other Ontario yield tours are included for example purposes.

Figure 2 - Various Yield Estimates and Yield Contest Results by Crop

Digitizing Agriculture without being “precise.”

There are ways of digitizing agriculture without doing what one would consider being “precise”. Here are three examples on how to at least make better decisions at a field level vs. trying to decisions at a farm or local level when it comes to information. Three products on the market that fit this, that I have experience with or been exposed to are; Xarvio, Ukko Agro, and Metos/Pessel weather stations.

One of the first ones I have come across is BASF’s Xarvio Field Manager, it is a desktop website and App that can be used to forecast disease and crop growth. It is reasonably accurate on crop staging for a free app (for 2020, have not seen 2021 pricing as of yet). I have not been as impressed on the disease modelling or Biomass maps (at least in wheat or soybean). You can also upload yield data and other information site specific on the app to view it when you are in the field. It does appear there will be future functionality around building variable rate scrips, and they already have been offering on/off scripts for fungicide applications in season.  https://www.xarvio.com/ca/en.html

A relatively new one to the Ontario market is Toronto based UKKO Agro. Ukko Agro’s focus is taking University research crop and disease models and then building a digital infrastructure for agronomists and farmers to use. In Ontario they currently have models for Spring and Winter Wheat growth stage and Fusarium Head Blight disease modelling, Soybean growth stage and white mould/soybean rust modeling, and for Potatoes Late and Early blight models. They also have a basic weather station that should hold up for 3-4 years without extensive maintenance. Ketan, the lead with UKKO Agro, has stated they are not selling weather stations to make money, it’s just a means to get a more accurate forecast on the crop models (can then model at a field level, rather than using a local weather feed). In the next couple of growing seasons, they will piggyback off other people’s weather stations to drive some of these models. If this is of interest and you would like more information, reply back to this email and Jonathan can get a demonstration account setup for you.

A 6-minute overview Quick system demo - Ukko Agro - YouTube

A more advanced one with best-in-class hardware is Metos (Pessel). These systems are more sophisticated and are viewed as the gold standard in crops where weather monitoring is paramount (i.e., orchards/vineyards etc.) I like the Metos units, as they can use the SWAT maps I’m working with to build crop yield forecast models, and to the show moisture capacity of the soils. (CropIntelligence www.cropintel.ca is one example of using SWAT Maps, Metos soil moisture probe and weather station, and then using soil water forecasting to drive yield decisions in season). Metos does have a very large database of crops and field activities that they can forecast for, however their focus is more on the hardware side, with companies like UKKO Agro coming in to fill some of the void on the crop modelling. One example of the Metos crop model is providing information on when to cut hay and achieve a good chance of having drying conditions.

At some point I’m hoping I can use the UKKO modelling in the Metos platform.

Here’s some notes on the haying window/forecast model…

Picture 1 - Description of Metos Hay Drying Forecast
Picture 2 - Picture of model (this for January, so not much drying happening)

Precision Planting Webinar Notes - Day 1 – A few take aways

1.     Three most critical factors to getting seed out of the ground are; resistance to emergence, soil temperature, and adequate soil moisture.

a.     Out of these three having adequate furrow moisture is the most critical (minimum 30%). Using a Smartfirmer to record soil moisture, Precision planting found that the sweet spot is planting a minimum of 1.5” deep, with at least 30% furrow moisture. By doing this, you are able to improve your planting depth “win” rate to 81%, rather than just planting at 2” (21% win rate).

b.     To get to 30% furrow moisture might mean 3” on loose soil, 2” on properly firmed soil, and 1.5” on compacted or tight soil.

2.     Are in the process of releasing a new style of row cleaner called “Reveal”. The Reveal row cleaner allows you to adjust the depth of the row cleaners separate from the pressure being applied. This unit is mounted to the frame of the planter, rather than directly on the row unit. By doing this they are seeing less noise and weight challenges on the row unit. This is improving yield and seed emergence by reducing row unit bounce and the amount of trash in the furrow. The most consistent yields came from setting the unit 1-1.25” deep. This is interesting, because from what I can tell it’s doing a similar job to what we had written about last week with Lawrence Hogan and running row cleaners prior to planting. The current hypothesis is that the tine engagement provides a warmer “tilled” like environment. In trials conducted in Argentina, they are seeing 7-10% more plants.

3.     The last point I wanted to cover was the importance of ground contact of the gauge wheels, and the margin the unit is set at for force on the soil. Ground contact ensures that you are planting to true depth of the opener, other wise you may be not reaching the full depth of the opener blades if the gauge wheels are not touching the soil surface, leading to unevenness of depth. The margin factor comes in when we want additional force beyond just maintaining ground contact. The margin is used to add additional weight to ensure the sidewalls are firmed properly. The amount of additional weight or margin required depends on the soil type and soil conditions at planting. Too heavy and you end up with sidewall compaction, too light and you end up with loose soil from a poorly formed seed trench.

High Speed Style Discs – Watch Outs from My Point of View

If you are looking for a tillage tool to dry out the soil in the spring, high speed discs, in my opinion, are not the right tool for the job. You should be looking at a using cultivator. If you do want to use a high-speed disc in the spring, do your first fields with the cultivator to get started, then consider using a high-speed disc once ground conditions are drier.

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