12 min read

The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 7

Always read and follow label directions.

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Things to do this week.

1.     Read labels of main herbicide products you will use this year. A good place to do this is online. You may have old product and that label may be different than current label.

2.    Make a list of herbicides you use by crop and note their group.

3.    Plan/lay out projects /plots you want to run this year.

4.    Make a list of all used equipment you can sell (and every farm has a lot) and plan to put in an auction. Used equipment has a good resale now. And you will be helping someone upgrade.

5.    Review your main corn hybrids and look at populations, disease ratings for main diseases, and ability to deal with cold soils.

Starter Fertilizer Mixes

Whether using an air cart or regular planter equipped to apply dry fertilizer planter here are some thoughts to try to minimize plugging and build ups…

1. There are many mixes using sulphur and magnesium. There are several grades of Sulpho-Mag (K-Mag). Standard grade looks like cut glass and is extremely abrasive. This is fine for planters with a standard dry fertilizer box but will quickly wear out parts on an air system. Premium grade is made by granulation and is more susceptible to taking on water during days with high humidity. Typically, it is cheaper to buy K-Mag, than to try and make your own blend with Magnesium Oxy Sulphate and Potash, only reason to this is if you cannot get K-Mag.

2. Looking to increase the flowability? Nutrien’s ESN is an excellent option when looking to improve the flowability of a blend. With air carts you are pushing moist air past the prills as it is being blown to the opener, as a result you end up with moist and sticky residues the entire length of the piping from Urea or other Ammonium Nitrates. Dusty potash exasperates this even more. Flowability can also be an issue with planters with dry fertilizer air bins.

3. Mosaic’s MESZ may have a slight improvement in flowability over MAP. Especially if it has been oiled when leaving the terminal. An added benefit of MESZ is that you would not require Ammonium Sulphate in the blend, if looking to apply Sulphur in the band. Not accounting for nitrogen, 40 lbs. of P2O5 from MAP, and 10 lbs. of S from AMS, will take up more blend volume and have more flowability problems than just using MESZ.

Figure 1 - AMS + MAP Blend vs MESZ vs MESZ + Urea Blend

4.There is limited benefit to placing boron in a 2x2 compared to broadcast. Due to boron toxicity and the low application rates. My rule of thumb, boron should be applied with the highest rate nitrogen application. Agronomists have commented on seeing a bigger yield bump by broadcast over 2x2 applications. The use of Aspire (Mosaic’s granulated potash with boron), can reduce the risk of hot spots, if using boron in a 2x2 band. Not that that I recommend it, but an old rule of thumb I was told is to not use more than 1/10th of lb. of actual boron in a 2x2 stater band, which would be about 20 lbs. of Aspire.

5. Adding liquid micros to a dry blend can cause additional issues. Mileage will vary depending on the underlying blend ingredients. Consider a drying agent in the blend, such as, zeolite, kitty litter, or Agsorb to reduce blend humidity.

6. Fertilizer Blends with Nitro K - If you deal with an Agromart Group retailer location, they may carry a fertilizer product suitable for starters called Nitro-K. This is an ammonium nitrate-based product with a 21-0-21 analysis. While a great fit for planters with fertilizer boxes, I would caution you putting this in an air cart without knowing the product’s critical relative humidity.

7. I anticipate certain fertilizer products are possibly shaping up to be tight this spring. Ensure that any materials used as substitutes are compatibility in a blend. See critical relative humidity chart and the compatibility charts below from the European Fertilizer Manufacturers Association.

Figure 2 - EFMA Fertilizer Critical Relative Humidity Chart
Figure 3 - EFMA Fertilizer Compatibility Chart

Grasses in Alfalfa Mixes – There is a tendency to choose grasses for forage mixes by, 1) Use whatever grass the alfalfa salesperson is selling, or 2) Pick the highest yielding grass from government forage trials. Both systems have limitations. A better way is to choose the grass you want and then pick a variety to complement the alfalfa and forage system you are using. The highest yielding grass is orchard grass. The highest yielding varieties are those that mature early. These varieties are aggressive and can kill out alfalfa, especially if there is residual nitrogen from years of manure application. In these fields you should choose as late a maturing variety as you can get. This increases the feed value in the first cut and helps ensure the orchard grass does not overtake the alfalfa. For timothy, choose the earliest maturing variety possible. Later varieties will have fewer heads in the first cut, but alfalfa can kill out late maturing timothy if the stand is managed aggressively.

Sulphur in Soils and Plants (Video conference with Luke Gatiboni Extension Soil Fertility Specialist and Assistant Professor North Carolina State University)

Sulphur (S) moves in the soil, mainly in soil water down to lower soil profiles, but a very small fraction also moves up as does Nitrogen (N). S does not leach as far, or as fast as N. There is even a tiny fraction of S that volatilizes. Maybe 0.01 lbs. /ac per year. This volatilization is offset by S deposits from the air. We have greatly reduced the amount of S from the air but still get some. The bulk of the soil S is in organic matter (OM). The S in OM is slowly released. The soil must be warm to release S. Thus, the need to apply S early in the season as opposed to later unless your soil already has good S levels. When applying S with N on winter wheat add S to the first trip.

Plants need 10-40 lbs./ac S per year. Crops like canola, alfalfa and wheat are responsive to S applications. Soybeans are not responsive and no research to suggest corn will respond to S on most soils. Soils most responsive to S will be sandy soils or eroded knolls low in organic matter.

Other trivia: S can be tied up in soils like phosphorous meaning it may take a long time to be released. OM has an average of 0.6% S. Elemental S must be oxidized to a sulphate form to be plant available. This takes at least 6 months.

Cover Crops Become a Real Crop

These are comments from a reader who is a dairy farmer. Original thoughts are his, but I agree 100%.

These past few years more dairy producers are feeding cover crops. It started with forage shortages but now is becoming more prevalent. Driven by high land costs, need to get every dollar possible from current land base, acceptance of cover crops as good feed, increase in BF when certain cover crops are fed.

The most common one is an oat something mix planted after winter wheat. If you are in a dairy area and not doing this, consider it. But this crop must be managed like all good crops. You need fertilizer, especially nitrogen. Manure after wheat harvest is a good option. Last year we saw how these crops responded to a fungicide application.

There is one issue that is not resolved. These mixtures are 75-80% at harvest. They are not going through the normal fermentation process because they are so wet. But the dairy farmers feeding them love them. They are talking about an increase in BF production. There is a concern with effluent. At 75-80% moisture there is more than with most ensiled products. You cannot allow this to get into municipal drains. One solution is to soak effluent with dry straw and feed this. Other solution is to collect effluent and put it into the manure pit.

Note: Pat and Jonathan have differing viewpoints on the term cover crops and the use of it as a forage crop. Jonathan feels that if you are planting a crop for use as FORAGE, it should be called a forage crop and managed accordingly, from seeding rates, fertility management, and harvest management. The thought process is that calling it forage, means it is not an after though on its intended purpose. Recently another dairy producer commented they grow very little alfalfa in the crop rotation because of the amount of forage they grow in the “shoulder seasons” to make the most of their land base. Almost every acre goes into the winter “green” with a forage crop (intended purpose).

The following are conclusions from New York State tile drainage research, comparing phosphorous (P) and nitrogen (N) losses from untiled land vs. tiled.

The first trial was corn. The readings were taken over 3 years.


For three years in New York state, tiled vs untiled corn fields were monitored. The tiled fields had more total water leaving, but less surface water runoff than untiled fields. The reduction in surface runoff in tiled fields meant lower losses of total soluble solids and lower total P exports than untiled fields. With total lower P losses, 84% of P losses on tiled fields was still due to surface runoff, with the remaining 16% coming from tile water, even though 50% of water run off came from the tiles.

In contrast to P, Tiled land lost much higher rates of Nitrogen, with most of the losses occurring as nitrate in tile drainage. Most N losses from both fields were during the non-growing season. This demonstrates a need to implement practices like cover crops to retain residual soil N left at the end of the growing season. It is necessary to limit N losses to improve farm profitability and to achieve water quality goals. Overall, tile drainage continues to have mixed water quality impacts.

The reductions in exported P and sediment are promising and have important implications for the P reduction efforts ongoing in the Lake Champlain Basin. However, improved P management comes with an increased risk for N mobilization and future research is needed to identify practices, or a suite of practices, that can improve both water quality factors at the same time.

The second trial applied 4500 gallons of liquid dairy manure each year on an alfalfa field.


With tile drainage moving 72% of water off the field, most phosphorus losses occurred due to surface runoff. Improved subsurface drainage rates from the tile did appear to help in reducing P loss form the plots.

Nitrogen losses occurred mainly through tile drainage. The rate of loss and average nitrate-N and total N decreased during the three-year period. The proportion of applied N and P lost in runoff was highest in 2018 but following establishment of the alfalfa-grass stand, and in-season nutrient applications. the loss rates decreased. The non-growing season loss events, particularly snowmelt, consistently generated the majority of N and P losses in both surface and tile flows. Reducing the manure application rate following the final harvest could help limit the supply of available N and P from soil that is vulnerable to losses during the non-growing season.

The full report can be viewed here. https://www.nnyagdev.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/NNYADP-Report_ADK2020FINAL.pdf

Me: How many meetings are you attending this year?

X Grower: None

Me: Why?

X Grower:


X Grower: Do the fundamentals of cropping change that much each year?


Components of Soybean Yields

If there has been a couple of observations I have made in general when it comes to year-to-year variability in soybean yields, it can be summarized in the attached chart. The biggest robber when it comes to soybean yields across all soil types in Ontario is root rots, as a result in wet springs you are already run the risk of taking the top off your soybean yield for the year. The second time yields take a whammy is during flower abortion/poor seed fill during the reproductive stages. The third time yields take a whammy is due to white mould during the seed fill stages, for those areas prone to it.

As part of your soybean management program, figure out which diseases are your biggest yield robbers in your area under your management practices, and put a plan in place to address them. Sometimes it may mean putting less soybeans in the rotation, rather than going to the chem shed and buying a silver bullet. Ontario Soybean Disease Chart Source; https://loss.cropprotectionnetwork.org/crops/soybeans?year_start=2000&year_end=2019&diseaseCategory=&country=2&region=7&cropID=2

Figure 4 - Soybean Yield Expectations
Figure 5 - % Ontario Soybean Yield Losses by Diseases (Source: CPN)

To read this chart... i.e. 40% of soybean disease losses in Ontario are due to Soybean Cyst Nematode.

Question - Can I set back horsetail in wheat under seeded to red clover? Should I be spiking my MCPA Ester in my Buctril M?

Answer – yes, you can set it back using Buctril M. No is the quick answer on the spiking. As per OMAFRA’s pest management app, Using the 0.4 L/ac rate of Buctril M will provide 70% control, using Buctril M and increasing the rate of MCPA Ester to that in Mextrol 450 still provides 70% control. The Gold Standard in wheat is MCPA Amine @ 0.4 L/ac, which provides 80%, but will injure the red clover. Lastly, horsetail does not cause a big reduction in winter wheat. If you could control it in wheat you would not notice a big yield jump. Better to control horsetail in your other crops.

Do I need Precision Planting equipment?

No, I do not think most producers NEED the equipment from Precision Planting. But if there is ONE advantage the people at Precision Planting have done is create a dashboard and feedback loop to give you an indication that things are less than optimal at planting time. If there is one piece of equipment, I would recommend producers switch to on their planter, it is having a precision planting monitor, and weight pins. This way you can tell if you have enough down pressure to maintain ground contact as you are planting through the field and have a great visual on seed drop performance. If you are looking at a new planter some of the options may help. With some options you can plant at faster ground speeds and maintain good seed to soil contact. (if you do not have a lot of stones.) You may be able to plant the same acres with fewer rows. My guideline is 100 acres planted per row at 4-4.5 mph. At 6 mph you can probably plant 130-140 acres per row.

Question – Can you improve the performance of corn seed safety of corn starter?

Grower wants to apply AMS – 70 lbs/ac, MAP 80 lbs/ac, Potash 20 lbs/ac, K-Mag 30 lbs in a 2x2.

Answer – Yes, you can, and apply less volume of material. In this instance I would use Urea – 25 lbs/ac, MESZ – 100 lbs/ac, Potash 20 lbs/ac, K-Mag 30 lbs/ac… and apply less product and have a MUCH lower salt index.

Figure 6 - AMS vs MESZ Corn Starter Blends

What I want in a Crop Scouting App – Table Stakes

1.     It cannot be internet based, it must be a native app that pushes and pulls information from a server.

2.     The system should run on both Apple and Android devices and be accessible on desktop/laptop.

3.     Populate grower, farm, filed file structure from a pick list.

4.     Populate common crops/crop stages from a pick list.

5.     Populate common weeds/stages from a pick list.

6.     Ability to add general notes for the full field.

7.     Ability to write the entire scout report from one screen.

8.     Grower has access to the software for minimal or no cost to view information.

9.     Ability to generate recommendations and calculate quantities required, shared to grower via minimal cost app.

What I want in a Crop Scouting App – Taking it up a Notch…

1.     Ability to add georeferenced pictures or drop pins and add pictures for future refence.

2.     Ability to mine historical scout report data by year/field/weed/crop…

3.     Can build chem programs ahead of season and adjust as required in season, calculate all quantities required. Grower or application adjusts to what was as applied compared to recommendation.

“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”

—Simon Sinek