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The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 4

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Notes from OAC # 30 Making Sense of the Soil

Probably not the first session you want to listen to. Mostly about how researchers are and should listen to farmers about soil health. Really no good tips from these farmers. Just philosophies. One tip was if you grow peas and they are falling over plant flax with them. Another thought is that cereal rye does dry out ground in the spring. Leaving it to grow to knee high, dries the soil, and then when you kill and push it down it forms a mat to hold moisture. This would be a technique for sandy areas of a field. Some discussion about multiple cover crop mixes and feeling that a simple mix may be best. One good comment is that cover crops must pass the economics test. One grower has a $5 /ac budget for cover crop seed. Maybe a bit low for Ontario.

The Soybean N Credit and Other Nitrogen Myths! (Darel Walker CCA Indiana [we trade newsletters])

Dr. Mike Castellano of Iowa State University spoke on nitrogen fixation at the Indiana CCA convention. Key points

1) Soil produces 100-400# N per year from organic matter mineralization.

2) Soil microbes consume 150-350# N per year.

3) About 30#N/acre/year is lost to leaching and ends up in tile and eventually streams and rivers.

Regarding soybean N credit theories. He made three statements and asked us to label them either true or fake news!

1)Soybeans are a net N contributor. Fake News! Dr. Castellano says a soybean crop removes more N from the soil than it produces through rhizobium bacteria.

2)Soybean residue breaks down faster than other crop residues. Fake News! Decomposition studies have found that this is not true!

3)The soybean N credit is really something else. True. Dr. Castellano said that although dozens of studies have been done on the soybean credit, we still do not understand it. But here are a few more facts proven by crop research. Corn on corn needs 40-50# more Nitrogen than corn after soybeans. Many researchers believe this is due to the immobilization of N by microorganisms which are breaking down last year’s corn stalks. To break down the old corn stalks, first we need to feed the soil microbes that consume N in the process of digesting the old stalks. This process occurs in the spring and summer months and coincides with the time that corn needs the most nitrogen per day. To overcome this, we need to apply extra nitrogen and blend it near the soil surface where most stalk decomposition occurs. (editor’s note: using the Ontario Corn N calculator we recommended more N for grain corn vs. corn silage when corn follows corn)

Here are a few other facts about soybeans. 60 BPA soybeans remove 195# of N/acre in the grain, and 70 BPA soybeans remove 228# N/acre in the grain. Growing soybeans consumes organic matter slowly over time. In other words, growing soybeans removes organic matter from the soil. His talk is sure to create controversy amongst agronomists including myself who long have preached the virtue of the corn-soybean rotation.

Notes from OAC # 8 Cereal Rye Chart be Christine O’Reilly OMAFRA

The following is a summary of the do’s for cereal rye.

When growing Cereal Rye for forage you can expect 3500-5000 lbs/ac dry matter harvested at boot stage in the spring. If allowed to go to flowering you could get 8,000 lbs/ac dry matter.

Figure 1 - Cereal Rye Management by End Use

(Editor’s note – this is Christine O’Reilly’s chart, in both of our experience cereal rye matures, and is usually harvested, before winter wheat.)

The following table is prepared by Jake Munroe OMAFRA showing soybean yields where cereal rye was crimped and rolled and soybeans planted vs. soybeans with no rye. In 2020 a number of locations suffered from dry weather after planting. There were some weed control issues. Jake and his group will continue to work on this project to figure it out. One point he said make sure you seed cereal rye perpendicular to the way you will seed soybeans.

Figure 2 - Soybean Yields in Roller Crimped Cereal Rye vs No Rye

Question: Having listened in on several crop meetings, and on Tues. a speaker from MI.

was telling us they did get a very favourable response (in spite of the soil test recommendations

med to high range in both P and K) by applying 20 –25 units of P placed 2 X 2 along with 20 lbs of S

Since we here in ON are growing 200 plus bu corn, probably closer to 250 bu in the past 3 years.

if I were to do this here in ON, will this burn the seed if I were to do a custom mix of 50% A sulfate 25 % Map 25 % K? If I am correct the analyses would be 12.75-13-15 –11 and to get P and S to the 20 unit range I would need to apply this at 200 lbs per acre looking like this 25.5 N - 26 P – 30 K – 22 S. Do I risk seed burn from these levels in a 2 X 2 band?

Answer: These rates are within the safe rate guidelines. You have a total of 25.5 lbs N and 77.5 Lbs N + K + S. The chart (OMAFRA Publication 611) below shows a safe rate is 52 kg/ha N (47 lbs/ac) and 117 Kg/ha N+K+S (105 lbs/ac). Since I know you generally do not have dry soil and you are no on sand these rates are as safe as anything is in crop production. Thanks for the question.

(Jonathan’s addition, I would use MESZ instead of MAP, and cut back on the AMS rate, this will be even more crop safe, provide a slow-release source of sulphur, and better root interception of the phosphorus, as you will have more prills per pound of P for the roots to intercept. This would also reduce the volume you have to handle by about 10%. The breakout would be 36% AMS, 36% MESZ, 28% Potash. Gives you 21-26-30-22 S-0.7 Zn actuals, 180 lbs/ac of 11.7-14.5-16.7-12.3 S-0.4 Zn. FYI, If running through an air cart, AMS can make things gummy.)

Figure 3 - Safe starter rates - Source - OMAFRA Pub 611

Notes from OAC # 32 Hay Cash Croppers (Ian MacDonald OMAFRA, Matt Bergeman, Fritz Trauttmansdorf

1.     Number of forage acres in Ontario has been declining for many years.

2.     Livestock numbers have not declined as much. There are more horses than dairy cows in Ontario

3.     There is a market for high quality forages for horse market, dairy cows and export.

4.     The needs of each market are different. Choose your market and grow for it instead of growing forages and looking for a market

5.     To grow high quality hay, you need a dryer or have hay dried, just as you do for corn.

6.     Cost of production for hay is about $.04 /lb. for seed, fertilizer, lime; $.03 /lb. for harvesting, cutting, raking, tedding, baling; $.01 /lb. for drying; $.01 /lb. for storage making a total of $.09 /lb.

7.     One system, Cut early morning, ted 2-4 hours after cutting, ted again in the afternoon, bale next day at under 25%, put into dryer and dry to 12-15%

8.     At 4.5-5.0 T/ac there is more profit in forages than corn.

9.     All speakers talked about increase in yield of other crops following forages

10.  Ontario has a unique climate to allow forage production. We are cool enough to be able to grow cool crop grasses and alfalfa. We are not dependent on irrigation to grow forages.

11.  Growers all talked about need to manage forages with fertilizer, and controlling insects and diseases

12.  Final comment it costs as much to produce poor quality forages as good quality forages. (Editor – pretty much applies to all crops).

Thoughts 10 years ago:

When it Rains it Pours! – We hear lots about planting based on soil conditions and not the calendar. Recent weather patterns confirm that this is an important rule to implement. Heavy rainstorms are becoming more frequent and more intense. Bryce Anderson, a DTN ag meteorologist indicates that days with heavy precipitation (more than 1 ¼ inches) have more than tripled over the past 100 years. In the period of 1900 to 1960 the U.S. Midwest averaged only 2 days per year with rain exceeding 1 ¼ inches. From 1960 to 2010 the average was 7 days. Anderson also commented that years with annual precipitation over 40 inches moved from only 2 years in 1870 to 1950, and up to 8 years between the years of 1950 to 2010. What this means is that when conditions are good, we need to act. When the weather changes, it seems to change drastically.

The things you should know about European Fertilizer Spreaders

Picture 1 - Kuhn Axis Spreader on Trailer.
Picture 2 - Kubota Spreader with Section Control
Picture 3 - Sulky Spreader

I have a number of clients that use these units, a number I have suggested that should consider them, and quite a few that are still unaware they exist, here is my notes I’ve gather over the last 3-4 years looking at them.

1.     There are three, maybe 4 main spreader manufacturers in Ontario from Europe. Amazone, Bogaballe, Kuhn, Kverneland (now branded as Kubota). There is also one or two dealers offering Sulky. For the purposes of this comparison, I will focus on Amazone, Kuhn and Kverneland, as they have the most dealer presence and support.

2.     There are several ways you will save running these spreaders over the North American one you currently have in your yard (either owned or rented from your local retailer).

1) They come with an integrated scale to calculate and ensure the right rate is being applied.

2) they can spread much wider than the 40-60’ feet you are used to, and with proper set up, do it evenly up to 120 or more. This increases productivity and reduces soil compaction on each pass up and down the field.

3) They can come standard with section control and border spreading. This means a significant reduction in overlap, and material ending up in tree lines and ditches. This is especially critical when using a spreader to apply high rates of nitrogen on a crop that lodges i.e., cereals.

4) In crops that lodge, there will be a yield benefit.

5) They are out of the box variable ready, and most can be plugged directly into an ISOBUS monitor (i.e., John Deere 2630/4640, Trimble TMX2050/CIH XCN1050, Agleader 1200 etc…)

6) Variable rate capabilities will allow you to unlock opportunities in fertilizer management you are currently missing due when applying flat rate.

3.     Things to look for and/or compare.

1)    Section Control – there are big difference between spreaders on how they do section control, the number of sections and width of those sections the spreader has (to turn on/off on Gores), even within the same manufacturer’s models. (please note that you will need to ensure your monitor is fully capable of managing all the sections, i.e., Amazone has up to 128 sections, but not all monitors can support this many sections. Kverneland runs section control based on width up to 1 m with Geospread. It isn’t very clear on Kuhn’s section control, in the past it has been 4 to 8 sections, newer models it is suggested to be infinite.

Figure 4 - Kverneland Section Control (Source: Kverneland)
Figure 5 - Amazone Section Control Capability (Source: Amazone)
Figure 6 - Kverneland Border Spreading Options (Source: Kverneland)

2)    Paddles (number/style) – determine two things; how the spreader overlaps to ensure there are no misses and an even spread pattern; and how wide the spreader will throw the material. Amazone = 2 vanes, Kuhn = 2 Kverneland = 8 vanes

3)    Metering Capability/Method – Both Amazone and Kuhn can detect blockages through the metering device and either alert the operator or clear the blockage themselves. Kverneland uses a central release point, leading to no impact or fertilizer fragmentation on the vane, and no interference on drop point when applying fertilizer on hills. All three units have independent disc control, allowing you two split the rates the spreader applies in half, great for when you are spreading 120’, but want to apply a VR script at greater resolution.

4)    Scales – all the spreaders I’m writing about in this article will have scales, some measure only on a single cell, others have multiple cells throughout the unit, some measure as you apply product and adjust according, others are more of a static scale.

5) Calibration – Kverneland uses a 6-step process to calibrate for accurate spreading. This is combination of using a SGN (size granulage number) box, and a density check, then using an app on your phone to choose the proper settings. Amazone uses a combination of an app and test mats for the top-of-the-line units. Kuhn offers an app for proper setting as well (no test mats though!).

Figure 7 - Kverneland Calibration Process (Source: Kverneland)
Figure 8 - Amazone EasyCheck for Calibration (Source: Amazone)
Figure 9 - Kuhn Axis 40.2 Calibration Chart for Urea (Source: Kuhn Web App)

6)    Spreading capacity – is measured in KG/min. See chart below.

Figure 10 - Maximum spreading capacity per hour by spreader brand

7)    Additional features – Amazone -> Tilt sensors to adjust spread pattern, Electronic eyes to check on how well the material is flowing, Wind Sensors to adjust for wind effects on spreader pattern. Both Kverneland and Kuhn offer a cart to pull the spreader instead of having to carry it on the 3pt hitch.

4.  Once you have the capability to run these units, the next step is to have the soil data to maximize them to their true potential. At a minimum, run the spreaders with a boundary file, to make use of the border controls.

Nitrogen Losses in High Ammonia Products

In preparing for a presentation on Municipal Organics for Manure Matters with the Ontario Professional Agri-Contractors Association (OPACA), I put together the following information on nitrogen availability with regards to anaerobic digestate (values from N-MAN). This is one product that is fairly susceptible to volatilization. In the example below, I assumed it would be applied at different times and placement for the 2021 corn crop.

A few notes;

1)           Application method doesn’t seem to matter much in the early or late fall, you will have some losses regardless of method. Injection or incorporation in 1 day is preferable due to smell factor, minimize risk of off-field movement of phosphorus in the product (about 10 lbs. per 1000 gallons).

2)          In May, 21, note the difference in availability between immediate incorporation and injection. If you are planning on applying 5000 gallons, this is about 30 lbs of N, or $15/ac worth of fertilizer.

3) I included standing crop values, for those surface applying it to cover crops, or possible hay fields in the spring/summer.

Figure 11 - Nitrogen Credit of Anaerobic Digestate by Timing/Placement

Comments from OSCIA AGM – Anne Loeffler

A few comments from Anne Loeffler – Conservation Specialist with Grand River Conservation Authority (and winner of the OSCIA 2020 Soil Champion award).

1. One of the single biggest improvements in her watershed for farmers has been the adoption of cover crops.

2. There has been a change over the last 20 years to less livestock, small grains and pasture in her watershed, growers should consider adopting longer crop rotation in the future to offset some of these changes.

3. She ended with a comment from a former colleague, Doug Hawking – “Resource on the farm, pollutant when it leaves the farm.”

“The highest reach of civilization is a seamless system of trust among all parties concerned.”

- Charlie Munger