12 min read

The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 5

Always read and follow label directions.

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In Conversation with a Perth county dairy farmer about corn and alfalfa

So, how many acres of corn will you have this year.? About 80. (I figure you need about 1 acre of corn per cow milking in a dairy herd to have enough corn for cows, calves, and replacements, so his numbers fit my calculations) How many acres of forage do you have? About 160. This falls into my calculations of needing about 2 acres of forage per cow. So, how much of your corn is corn after corn? About 25 acres. Why? Well, we always do this. (For 2021 in that geography that is not a good answer.) So, did you have any corn rootworm in 2020? Well yes just some. Explain please. Well, there were a couple areas where there was goose necking in areas. But I thought that was just the refuge seed in the bag because I planted a rootworm genetically resistant hybrid. I said, “I don’t think so. The refuge seed would be scattered randomly through the field not in one patch. I said how old are your alfalfa stands. Well 2-3 years old and some acres older. Then I said “you should only be planting first year corn on a dairy farm. You should turn under some older alfalfa and plant corn and plant more alfalfa. Then I asked, “do you apply manure before corn” Yes. And how much nitrogen do you put on your corn? Well probably 100 lbs. actual N. I said “well if you turn down a good stand of alfalfa you can credit it with 100 lbs./ac nitrogen. You are probably applying at least 50 lbs./ac available nitrogen with manure. So, you can easily cut your nitrogen rate back by 50 lbs./ac. This should be applied at planting since the nitrogen from both the manure and the alfalfa will be released later in the season. That would be a saving of $25/ac. And you can expect at least a 10% yield increase on first year corn vs. second year corn. But in your area for 2021 expect the yield difference to be greater because of the genetically resistant corn rootworm. There was at least one farm in the Perth/Huron area in 2020 that had a 50% yield decrease by corn rootworm. He ended by saying I will discuss with my son since I have given over these decisions to him.

Land rent going up!!

I am not sure what some of these folks are thinking about. But we have been here before. If you rent land suggest you make a friendly visit to your landlords to see how they are doing. Remind them of how good you are taking care of their land. You can even talk about it could be a rough year with input costs going up. The high renters will mine the soil. Only way they can make it go. They will use low rates of P and K with some “snake oil” to make nutrients more available. End result is lowering of soil nutrients. Also new renters greatly increase the chance of bringing new weeds on to the farm. And on that point make sure next year to check all field entrances where the combine started. That is where weeds will be introduced. (In my opinion one of the fairest ways for landlords to participate in the commodity market is through a crop share agreement, but they have to market their portion of the crop.)

Using growth regulators on wheat

Registration of Moddus by Syngenta has sparked more interest in growth regulators. The intent of these products is to reduce lodging on fields where historically lodging has been an issue. These are typically loam soils with a history of manure. On these fields’ nitrogen will be released in parts of the fields. Growth regulators have a completely different payback than fungicides. Payback with fungicides on wheat are pretty general. Payback with growth regulators is field and variety specific. If you know the areas that are prone to lodging, you could spray those areas.

Dry Bean Variety and other information

There is a new dry bean website that is variety and other information at https://drybeanagronomy.ca/

The interest in edible beans is partly due to increase in prices of other commodities so edible prices have also crept up.

Here is a range from last fall to now. These are no intended as locked in prices but to give an idea of what is going on in the market. These numbers ($/cwt) provided from HDC.

Azuki Beans - $56 - $65

Black Beans - $38- $42

Cranberry Beans – $50 - $55

Dark Red Kidney - $52 - $60

Light Red Kidney - $51 - $59

White Kidney - $53 - $63

Small Red Beans - $38 - $42

White Pea Beans - $40 - $45

Soybean Row Width and Populations

Seems to be renewed interest in talking about this. Probably more a review than anything new. Here is a summary.

1.     Tillage before planting into corn stalks helps yields (likely due to poor residue management and warming up and drying out soils to allow earlier planting)

2.    You only need 100-110,000 plants in MOST situations for maximum yields.

3.    Normally dropping 160-165,000 seeds will get you 100-110,000 plants.

4.    Row width - 15” is higher yields than 7” or 30”.

5.    Wider rows do not reduce risk of mould.

6.    Reduce mould risk by variety choice and no-tilling.

7.     Lower seeding rates may reduce mould.

8.    Using an insecticide allows you to plant a lower seeding rate.

9.    Use of fungicides (other than for mould) returns less than fungicides on wheat and corn.

10. You get a better stand with a planter than a drill. (mainly due to improved depth control)

pH Changes in No till Fields

If you are in no till for a long time you have to be concerned about soil pH. Many crop production activities reduce soil pH. The most common one is surface applied nitrogen. Nitrogen will reduce soil pH. The good part of this is that soil applied lime can raise the pH in the top two inches. There are numerous research projects showing the effectiveness of surface applied aglime correcting soil pH in the top two inches. If the pH is low in the 4-6” you have to incorporate aglime. So, this begs the question how do I know? The only way to really know is to sample the top 2” separate from the 6” depths. If you mix the soil from the top 6” the soil pH will be different. You could have low pH in the top 2” and this is masked by a 6” soil core. Fields that are a concern are fields that had a low pH before you started long term no tilling. Here is the textbook explanation Decrease in soil pH happens largely as a result of near-surface application of ammonium-based fertilizers. In the soil, the nitrification process which transforms ammonium to nitrate results in the release of hydrogen (H+) ions, which is the definition of acidity. Over time, soils become more acid. Ammonium-based fertilizers include urea, UAN, ammonium sulfate, manures, crop residues, cover crop decomposition and green manures of all species. In soils with high pH (greater than 7), which also tend to have carbonates that produce the high pH, the change in pH is minimal due to the ability of soils with carbonates to resist a change in pH and are termed ‘highly buffered’.

The current recommendation for liming no-till systems is effective. On an acid soil, aglime should be incorporated to adjust the soil pH to the desired level in the entire plow layer before no-till crop production is initiated. If the soil pH is in the desired range initially, it can be maintained by surface applications of aglime in no-till systems. If a regular liming program is followed and soil pH is not allowed to drop to very low levels, further incorporation of aglime applications should not be necessary. Where incorporation is not possible, there are beneficial effects of surface application of aglime to acid no-till soils even though the immediate effect will only be near the soil surface. Surface liming approximately every three years based on a regular soil testing program should be adequate for no-till systems.

Understanding Manure Values

In an attempt to make the best of a poopy topic, here is the goods, short and sweet.

1) When it comes to nitrogen, not all manures are equal when it comes to losses, or availability in the growing season. Just because someone selling the material says it has a 100 lbs. of N per 1000 KG, does not mean that you have 100 lbs. of N per 1000 KG crop available to work with. The first thing I do when I get a manure test from the lab is run it through N-MAN, to determine how available it is given the conditions it will be applied in, see below.

2) The test will be expressed in %P. To put this in fertilizer terms (P2O5), you need to multiple this value by 2.29. i.e., 0.5% P = 1.145 P2O5. After you have P2O5, 40% of this value is available in the year of application, with 80% of the total value assumed to be available for crop requirements by year 2. 20% of the total P2O5 applied is assumed to be tied up in organic matter or fixed in the soil.

3) The test will also be expressed in %K. To put this in fertilizer terms (K2O), you need to multiple this value by 1.21. i.e., 0.4% K = 0.484 % K2O. Of this, 90% is assumed to be available in the year of application.

4) Some labs give an estimate of available N, P2O5, K2O by application timing and method on their reports. (double check to see if the P values reported are 40 or 80% of total P).

To access the Agrisuite link mentioned below; click here -> https://agrisuite.omafra.gov.on.ca/

Figure 1 - Estimating Manure Values

Any one good to follow on Twitter for fertilizer market information?

Why, yes, there is? The best one I have found in the last year is Josh Linville with FC Stone. He works as Sr. Risk Management Consultant and periodically posts on what is happening in the wholesale market within the United States and the world import/export market.

Josh Linville (@JLinvilleFert) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from Josh Linville (@JLinvilleFert). Sr Risk Management Consultant @INTLFCStone, 17 yrs experience in US/International Fertilizer Markets, All tweets are my own, RT≠Endorsements. Kansas City, MO

One thing I like about Josh’s posts is that he focuses on the crop price today relative to the fertilizer price. (Prices how bushels of corn it takes to buy 1 ton of Urea fob New Orleans, LA). See below for example.

Another good follow aside from Josh is the market analysts with ICIS (International Commodity Intelligence Services), a UK based fertilizer publication. I follow Deepika and a few of her co-workers.

Deepika Thapliyal (@IcisFertDeepika) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from Deepika Thapliyal (@IcisFertDeepika). Reporter at ICIS (The Market publication) tweeting about all things fertilizers. London, United Kingdom

Growth Regulators in Cereals

We now have three growth regulators in Ontario for use in Cereal crops (Wheat, Oats and Barley). Here is a brief overview of how each of them works, registered crops, suggested application timing and tank-mixability as per the label. Am I convinced everyone needs to be working with these products? Definitely not. But if you are an intensive spring cereal grower, and regularly battle lodging during harvest, I would strongly suggest you consider trying one of the newer products (I say this knowing other markets have been using them for over 20 years! and in my case I was spraying the predecessor to Manipulator in 2002 as a summer student.)

Figure 2 - Available Growth Regulators

How to calculate cost per pound of nutrient

You have two comparable products to apply, let us say Urea vs. UAN on winter wheat for example, and you want to figure out an easy way to roughly calculate the cost of each. Once you have done this if you know roughly how many pounds of actual you are applying to different crops, you can very quickly run budgeting numbers rather than having to go through making a blend, figuring out the % of nutrients and working it back to a per acre cost. This way you can complete you field by field budgeting in minutes instead of hours, especially if you are using a spreadsheet. The other reason I like having a rough idea on cost per pound of plant nutrient, is that when I come across a new product or a by-product someone is positioning, I know how it compares historically to products I have been working with. i.e., Sulphur from Ammonium Sulphate is usually in the $0.90 to 1.00 per pound actual without accounting for nitrogen value.

Example 1) Urea vs. UAN

Figure 3 - How to calculate cost per unit of nutrient (Nitrogen)

P.S. you can use the Ontario Nitrogen calculator to figure out cost per unit N with different products.

How to calculate product availability, analysis, and blends in liquid form

I have found that even the best crop advisors get tripped up trying to figure this out. They master doing dry blends and formulations, then when it comes to liquid form, it is like you are talking in Greek. The issues are the confusion between volume and weight. We do all the math for dry in weight, and we apply it by volume, but the unit of measure when talking with application rates is typical in weight, adjusted by product density. We should be doing the same thing with liquid formulations. With liquid, typically we talk volume, and not weight and product density.

Figure 4 - Calculating Liquid Fertilizer Blend Analysis, Rate and Density

BASF Crop Protection Updates – Notes from January 27, 2021 Agronomy Update


-       Only use Liberty 200 SN on corn, it should be the only product sold in Eastern Canada. If you do have some Liberty 150 SN kick around for some reason, do NOT apply it to Liberty Link corn, you will run the risk of running into crop safety issues.

-       BASF has expanded the label on Liberty 200 to include glyphosate resistant weeds Canada Fleabane, Waterhemp, Green Pigweed, Ragweed, and the suppression of Giant Ragweed. They have also added tank mixes with Enlist 1 (2,4-D choline) and Zidua SC (pyroxasulfone).

-       If this is the first year working with Liberty, it behaves completely different than glyphosate to make it effective.

o  Need high water volumes (20 gallons), bright sunny hot days during the middle of the day. Medium water droplets, liquid Ammonium Sulphate for Water conditioner (goes in the tank FIRST).

o  You are better off waiting for better conditions to spray Liberty than to spray on cloudy day.

o  Do NOT mix Liberty with Enlist DUO or glyphosate, will result in decrease in weed control on Dandelion, Grasses and Velvetleaf.


-       Is still one of the most effective ways of controlling fleabane in a burndown. (85%)

o  Are seeing 94% control 8 weeks after application when Metribuzin is added to the tank mix.

-       Once fleabane starts to bolt it is too late to control, need to control with tillage (still will not be perfect – rototiller anyone?)

Dicamba (Engenia)

-       No longer seeing Dicamba as 99% effective on fleabane based on Dr. Sikkema’s trials. Low rate is 78%, mid-rate 87%, high rate 91% effective. Adding Eragon brought the level of effectiveness back to 98%.

-       They are finding antagonism with dicamba and metribuzin. Finding about 10-20% lower efficacy with this tank mix combination.

Waterhemp is the weed to watch for!

-       Rich Anderson has been finding plants with 20-40 seeds at 4” tall in the fall.

-       This weed will require a pre-emergent application (starting clean), and in-crop residual application with your post emerge application, and a fall application (either tillage or burndown), to keep it from getting a toe hold.

-       Waterhemp populations in Ontario are resistant to herbicide groups 2,5, 9 and 14. In Quebec and the United States, group 27 has been identified.


-       Will show up again in 50-60 days after application without any residual activity. Simply the behavior of the weed.

-       If you struggle with this weed, Zidua SC has been excellent.

What fertilizer form is required for legal trade?

Occasionally I will see a product misrepresented by being labelled as one way, perhaps to suggest it has more plant nutrient in it, when the rest of the industry labels it in a completely different from. One example of this is sulphur. The entire industry and the fertilizer label requirements are that it being labelled in elemental form. However, I have seen a few instances where the supplier is trying to pass off (hopefully inadvertently) that the product is valued in SO4 format. If you purchased the product thinking you were getting 24 % of S, but it is labelled as 24 % SO4, you are going to be sorely disappointed when in reality it only contains 9 % of S (37.5% of what you were hoping for). Typically, this is a bigger issue when importing product into the country from another area with different fertilizer labelling requirements (some countries in Europe, for example, reports Magnesium in oxide format). If the supplier wishes to indicate that the product, they are selling is in sulphate form of sulphur (SO4), the proper way to do that is to indicate it is 9% S, in sulphate form.

Figure 5 - CFIA Fertilizer Labelling Requirements

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