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The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 46

By Jonathan Zettler CPA, CMA, CCA-ON and Patrick Lynch CCA-ON


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This is the last complimentary edition for 2021, thank you for reading.

Note: No Cropwalker next week. There will be one more issue in December and then we will be off until mid-January after the conferences.

Right after we sent the last Cropwalker the corn hybrid trials, and soybean variety trials were posted.

For corn hybrid trials go to  http://www.gocorn.net/

For soybean trials go to   http://www.gosoy.ca

Q Should I be trucking manure farther this year?

Ans Absolutely. In the past some liquid manure cost more to truck than it was worth. This year with higher fertilizer prices (and higher crop prices) it makes a lot of sense to take it to those fields further from the barn. The exact value varies with manure analysis. But here are some main points:

1.     Haul the most concentrated manure the furthest (generally the bottom of the pit)

2.    The exact value this year is about 30% more than last year. But this is just the nutrients available for next crop year. If you include future released phosphorous the value is higher.

3.    Last year manure if manure was worth $20-25 per 1,000 gallons this year that manure is worth $25-30 per 1,000 gallons.

4.    Custom rate survey by OMAFRA put cost of hauling liquid manure at $14 / 1000 gallons (2018)

5.    Use your soil tests by field to put manure where it will add the most value.

6.    Get your manure analyzed. I just did an example with a grower and his manure is worth about $1,000 per big load. It is solid livestock where the bedding is chicken manure.

Reality check on nitrogen products for 2022

Background Cost of N is going up. All N fertilizers come from nitrogen in the air. Natural gas is used to compress air (pretty complicated) to form anhydrous. Anhydrous can be used to make anhydrous ammonia, urea, ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate. Urea and ammonium nitrate are used to make 32% N. Water is added to 32% N to make 28% N. There are shortages of natural gas and reducing the amount that plants can use make the various N products. (Anhydrous is also used to make the ammoniated phosphates, such as MAP, DAP, MESZ.)

It costs more to transport 1 lb. actual N as 28% than it does to transport a pound of N as urea. This is reflected in the price. Typically, N in 28% is $.10-14 a pound of actual N more expensive than a pound of N from urea. So, on many soils the cost of adding thirty more pounds of N at $.50 per pound N is about equal to the cost of making another trip to apply at side dress time. But at $1.00 per pound N the savings by side dressing are worth going for.

Want to save $35-50 an acre on your N costs next year?

Urea vs 28% Currently there is at least $.50 a pound difference cost per actual pound of N between one pound of N from 28% and one pound of N from urea. If you can save 30 lbs. of N by side dressing some 28% that equates to $15.00 per acre. If you switch to all urea from 28% on 170 lbs. actual N that equates to $75-85 per acre. If you are set up to use 28% maybe you can use some urea. You only need about thirty pounds of N as 28% (10 gallons per acre) to carry herbicides. If you can add more N as urea in a broadcast, there is money there. This also depends on whether you have pre-bought your nitrogen.

Calculating the price per pound of N

You can do the fancy calculations or just use the Ontario Nitrogen calculator. In it there is a place to put the source of nitrogen and cost per tonne. It then gives you the cost of one pound of N. Then you can compare products. While you have it open see what rate of N you should be using.

How to calculate cost per pound of N.

There are two conversions required. But it is fairly simple. First you need to how many pounds are in a metric tonne (how fertilizer is priced), second you multiple by the analysis to get how many pounds of plant food (nitrogen) are in a metric tonne.

Figure 1 - Nitrogen Product by Actual N/MT and Price per MT

Prioritizing fertilizer dollars in 2022 (part 3 starter fertilizers)

1.     One principal of fertilizer use is the first dollar you spend on fertilizer gets you the biggest return. Each succeeding dollar returns less than the previous dollar. Some of our starter rates are from convenience. I always used that rate.

2.    The planter is set at 156 lbs., and I cannot change that setting. (Maybe this is the year to take it apart and change the setting)

3.    Research is done at certain set rates. (30 lbs. /ac is a common set rate) For example, a starter with 30 lbs./ac phosphorous vs no starter vs broadcast. Reality is that in a field you probably will not see a difference between 20 and 30 pounds per acre of starter fertilizer. If you cannot reduce the rate, look at changing the nutrient mix and put more N and/or K in the starter. (Watch safe rates). A common starter is 100 lbs. acre MAP/MESSZ. This year try cutting that rate by 50%.

4.    For corn we have been using 10-15 lbs. per acre of S. Could reduce this amount by 20% without sacrificing yield.

5.    If you are set up to use liquid starter, consider cutting rate in half and broadcasting the phosphorous that would have been in the starter. Compare price per pound of P and expected benefit before doing this.

Maximize fertilizer dollars by getting pH right

I just read another article on best use of fertilizer for 2022 here is a summary The biggest regulator of the return on your fertilizer investment is raising the pH to above 6.2 for corn or 7.0 for legumes. This is where fertilizer is most available, and the plant growth can make the most use of it. As the pH drops, fertilizer efficiency drops 30 – 50% in producing crop yield (spending more, getting less). Correct pH soil is a BASIC MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE for any manager who has any desire to run a profitable farm.

This chart shows how pH affects nutrient availability. So even if you can grow corn at a pH below 6.5, raising pH increases nutrient availability.

Figure 2 - Fertilizer efficiency by soil pH

Q Should growers be using a fungicide on Harvxtra alfalfa? If so which one. In your Cropwalker you do not mention Acapela, and Pub 812 says Priaxor should only be used on alfalfa used for seed production. Please clarify.

Ans Yes you should spray Harvxtra with a fungicide for common leaf spot and other diseases. Harvxtra is bred to maintain feed quality at later stages of maturity than conventional alfalfas. This means spraying a Harvxtra variety with a fungicide should yield more extra pounds of forage.

Regarding your comments about spraying Priaxor for seed production fields only, if you read further on the Priaxor label it mentions alfalfa and forage production under crop group 18 which can be fed to animals. That first sentence in PUB 812 should have been changed once Priaxor was registered for feed. BASF is aware of the issue in Pub 812 and will update it in the next issue.

Acapela fungicide was registered for leaf diseases more recently than Priaxor was registered. I should have been using both product names when I wrote about spraying alfalfa for disease control.

Q What rate of N should I use on corn and wheat?

A. (I am sure this question will be discussed a lot in the coming months so here is an early go at it)

For corn if you pre bought Nitrogen last year’s rate will be a good starting point. The increase in nitrogen price will be offset by the increase in corn price.

If you did not pre buy any calculations I have done suggest probably a 10-15% decrease in nitrogen rates. The best way to find out is to use the Nitrogen calculator.

For winter wheat the discussion is similar. If you are using 120 actual N I see no reason to change. If you are using 150 actual N, you may want to use the 10-15% lower rate as it applies to corn. In 2021 many people increase the N rate on wheat because it looked like one heck of a crop. And it was. 2022 crop needs to be killed nine times before we worry about how it looks.

Q How much nitrogen is available when I plow down alfalfa? Is there more available if I plow down the last cut which was 12-16” high?

Ans Good question. The research showing the value of N credit when alfalfa is plowed down is old. It was done when average corn yields were just over 100 bu/ac. I suggest that today the credit probably should be more like 125+ pounds per acre. The old research looked at how much extra N you had to put on to get maximum yield. With those criteria I imagine there would be very little corn yield increase by applying more than 50 pounds per acre N.

If you plough down a good stand (100% of the field has a good stand) there is even more nitrogen. Nobody knows for sure. I suggest that in these cases 30 lbs. of actual N (applied early) would probably be enough to get maximum economic yield.

Q So what about the age of the stand. Are you saying I only need to put 30 lbs. up front?

Ans In many cases this may be enough. Typically, alfalfa going to corn also has manured applied. If no manure use, the Nitrogen calculator and see how much N you use. I consider the alfalfa N equal to side dressing. (Or at least half)

Question – Is there anything fertility wise that can improve a corn plant’s ability to fight off tar spot?

Answer – There is limited research from central America and Mexico that increased rates of nitrogen may increase the risk of tar spot occurring. I would suggest that until we have research available, we follow general principles for disease management with regards to fertility. Looking at the research and extension material on disease management, this means balanced fertility. i.e., do not use excessive N rates, and do not forget about potassium (K). Consider managing nutrients that are critical to photosynthesis, as tar spot reduces the photosynthetic potential of plant by reducing the amount of leaf area available.

Question – What data should I be collecting on my farm?

Answer – The only reason to collect data is to make an informed decision on a management practice or do benchmarking. Collecting yield data by field or using yield maps in my opinion is table stakes. Soil tests by field or management zone is table stakes. If you were to think of your farm as a factory, and wanted key performance indicators (KPI), what would you measure to ensure you are on track? Some of these metrics are likely to be spatial, and some are likely to be temporal. Some are likely to be both.

Question – I want to push the envelope on forages, how can I use precision ag to do that?

Answer – I have a few ideas, in bullets below.

1.     Use imagery to gather yield data. Because you are harvesting the whole crop, unlike other crops, biomass will equal a yield map. Count the amount of forage coming off the field, you can now extrapolate using the field average to how the field is yielding. Check to see why areas of the field are low yielding. Use this map to apply crop removal or include in your fertility calculations.

2.    Forages are highly responsive to sulphur (and boron if alfalfa). Sulphur (boron) response is highly correlated to landscape position. Using a SWAT or topography map, apply sulphur materials by landscape position instead of by plant rate.

3.    The same SWAT or topography map can be used to account for differences in plant establishment/mortality and be used to manage for seeding rates by landscape position.

Current Soybean Herbicide Traits

Figure 3 - Soybean Trait Platform and In-Crop Herbicides

What soybean variety characteristics should I be looking for?

Yield – This one might seem like a no brainer, but do not get lulled into new for the sake of new, that is what plots are for. On the other hand, you want to make sure you have traits that will allow you to get yield. If you have SCN, that trumps yield from plots that did not have SCN.

Herbicide trait – what herbicide traits fit my weed management needs?

SCN – Does your soybean genetics have resistance to nematodes? If it does, what gene are you using? Are you using seed treatments to help manage this pest?

SDS – Does your soybean variety have a seed treatment to provide protection against sudden death syndrome? What is the variety rating when it comes to tolerance?

White Mould – How susceptible is the genetics to white mould infection, and is it able to stop the spread?

Pod and Stem Blight – If available, if pod and stem blight is a concern, how does the genetics stack up against its peers?

Phytophthora Root Rot – If you are on clay soils and having issues with emergence, what is the PRR rating of the genetics on your short list? In 2019, the Ontario Soybean Trials had developed new protocols for the testing of PRR in soybeans. Check out https://gosoy.ca/phytophthora.php to check for performance.

"All we are is a lot of talking nitrogen."

– Arthur Miller