15 min read

The Cropwalker - Volume 4 Issue 8

Always read and follow label directions.

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Things to do This Week.

1.    Prepare a sheet to check all seed as it is delivered. Record hybrid/variety, percent germination and lot #. Make a list of where each hybrid/variety will be planted. Make sure there are no mixed lots. Want to know that now not May 10. Record herbicides that can be used. I think we will use more Liberty this year.

2.   Make maps of all farms and give to your suppliers who will make deliveries. There will be new delivery people who do not know all the usual farms.

3.    Check forage supplies and make sure you are seeding down enough acres.

4.   Plan for nitrogen + sulphur on winter wheat.

5.    Get ready to spread red clover seed.

6.   Might be a good idea to check into glyphosate and get your requirements ordered for 2021.

Question - What do the numbers mean on this chart you shared last week from the European Fertilizer Manufactures Association?

Figure 1 - EFMA Fertilizer Compatibility Chart

Answer – They are foot notes from the guide I had pulled them from. Here is the list.


1. Due to the hygroscopic behaviour of both products, the type of stabilization of the ammonium nitrate grade could influence the storage properties.

2. Consider the safety implications regarding the detonability of the blend (AN/AS mixtures) and legislative implications.

3. Consider the safety implications regarding the detonability of the blend (AN/AS mixtures), the impact of free acid and organic impurities, if present, and legislative


4. Mixture will quickly become wet and absorb moisture resulting in the formation of liquid or slurry. There could also be safety implications.

5. If free acid is present it could cause a very slow decomposition of AN, affecting, for example, the packaging.

6. Consider the possibility of self-sustaining decomposition and the overall level of oil coating.

7. Sulphur is combustible and can react with nitrates e.g., AN, KNO3 and NaNO3.

8. Due to the hygroscopic behaviour of both products the type of stabilization of the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer could influence the storage properties.

9. Consider the moisture content of the SSP/TSP.

10. Consider the relative humidity during blending.

11. Risk of formation of gypsum.

12. No experience but this can be expected to be compatible. Confirm by test and/or analysis.

13. Consider impurities in AS and the drop in the critical relative humidity of the blend.

14. Consider the likely impact of additional nitrate.

15. Consider the possibility of ammonium phosphate/potassium nitrate reaction with urea and the relative humidity during blending, to avoid caking.

16. If free acid is present, there is a possibility of hydrolysis of urea giving ammonia and carbon dioxide.

17. Formation of very sticky urea phosphate.

18. Potential caking problem due to moisture.

19. If free acid is present, consider the risk of a reaction e.g., neutralization with ammonia and acid attack with carbonates.

Source: http://productstewardship.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/user_upload_prodstew/documents/Guidance_for_the_compatibility_of_Fertilizer_Blending_Material.pdf

How is the Wheat Doing?

We really do not know. My guess is that it is better than most years since it was planted earlier, and we have not had freezing rain early in the season. Perth county Pioneer dealer and farmer has a YouTube video where he takes a shovel into the field. After digging off the snow he punches through the last layer to show there is no crust but a good layer that allows air through. You can view this at https://youtu.be/ALf84g5iQs4 It is a 5-minute video with the pertinent part starting at 2:30 minutes.

We normally do not lose wheat now. We lose it in late March and April.

Time to Spread Red Clover

From Twitter you can see that some growers have started to spread red clover. As soon as the ground is fit, consider spreading red clover. Red clover has about 275,000 seeds/lb. (coated seed will have lower seeds per pound). This equates to 6.3 seeds per square foot per pound of seed. At 7-8lb/ac, you are seeding 45-50 seeds per square foot. At 85% germination, there is 38-42-seeds/sq ft. Even if 50% of these do not grow, you still have over 18-20 plants/sq ft. Higher seeding rates compensate for uneven seed spread. Do not worry if there is a bit of snow still in the field. Ryan Benjamins CCA-ON, in the Sarnia area has started. He says “either you get a good stand, or you don’t. I do not think moving to 10 lbs. makes much difference. I have seen good stands at 5 lbs./ac.”

Nitrogen on Winter Wheat

No big hurry. We are a bit behind the last couple of years as far as snow still in the fields. I like to wait for first green up before the first application. You should apply sulphur with your first nitrogen application. The rate for the first pass should be between 40-70 lbs. per acre. You want to get some on early in case we get rained out when everyone is trying to get nitrogen on.

How are your yields compared to your neighbours?

If you are getting 180 bu/ac of corn and 50 bu/ac of soybeans and 90/ac wheat are you satisfied? Do you know how you are doing? One way is to track your yields vs. your neighbours. One reader shared their yields since 2016. You can purchase these from Agricorp. I have plotted his yields using Adjusted Farm Yields (AFY) which give a better graph than actual farm yields. In this case the comparison is against his county and township. It appears that over time this farm yield is increasing more than county average increase. The yield is increasing like other growers in the township but clearly above township average. You can buy Township average yields from Agricorp for $250.00.

Figure 2 - Client Yields vs. Township/County Yields

Suggested Trials for this year.

#1 Boron in a corn starter fertilizer

The latest edition of Better Farming has an article by Agris Co-op head agronomist Dale Cowan on his trials using boron in the corn starter fertilizer.

Boron can be toxic to seed so you must be careful of rates. Dales suggestion is to put out plots using no more than 0.5 lbs./ac boron in a 2X2 placement. If doing this suggest you do 3-4 different plots. You will need a guidance system to put out these plots. You would either leave strips to come back with the boron starter or plant them first and come back with no boron. (Need to be precise on placement, as boron can cause seed germination issues, make sure your 2x2 is setup properly!)

#2 KP Plus Micronutrients from NutriAg (See details below)

I have listened to this presentation so many times that maybe there is something you should look at on your farm. I am normally skeptical about some micronutrient programs but this one may be worth looking.

Herbicide Tolerant Soybean Pre-Emerge Programs

Here is a list of my favourite pre-plant or pre-emerge, Roundup Ready pre-emerge programs. Most programs should be around, or less than $30/ac. Will follow up with Round Ready Xtend, Liberty Link, and Enlist programs next week. Oh, and IP/NON-GMO programs as well.

Last year my RR acres had mainly Boundary and Bifecta. I thought both did an excellent job overall. The only reservation I had with the Boundary program was on fields with heavy Ragweed pressure, Bifecta is a better option. With the adequate rainfall we had last year, many of those acres only required a touchup for weeds not labelled, or a late post emerge spray of Roundup to clean up perennials.

Figure 3 - Roundup Ready Soybean Pre-Emerge Programs

Bio strips in a no till operation

While the gist of this farmer’s program is bio strips to me it is very close to strip till because of how he does it. Lawrence Hogan and his brother Steve use this system on about 850 acres. They use row cleaners, which to me almost makes this a strip till operation. They use a Valmar/Salford seeder to plant their bio strips. Their equipment inventory is impressively economical. You can view their system by going to  www.heartlandsoilcrop.org/blog.

Some Highlights from NutriAg Group virtual conference

Last week I listened to agronomists from NutriAg talked about agronomy and how their products fit. The focus was on their liquid fertilizers or fertilizers that quickly dissolved in water.

The first talk involved how critical early weed control is in soybeans. They reviewed how 6” high weeds could reduce yield by 6%

Another talk showed their plots on KP-Plus. This product can be tank mixed with a fungicide. If you are spraying a fungicide on soybeans, consider using KP Plus on some acres and tell us how well it worked. Their work suggests a 3.1 bu/ac increase above any fungicide yield increase.

Figure 4 - KP Plus + Fungicide Response on Soybeans at R2-3 vs. Fungicide Only
Figure 5 - Weed size and yield losses on Soybeans

Meadow Fescue in Forage mixes (notes from Cornell University)

Meadow fescue is a preferred perennial cool-season grass in mixtures with alfalfa in some areas. This grass species has the advantage of being more winter hardy than most other cool-season grasses, including tall fescue.

According to researchers at Cornell University, as little as 5% grass in an alfalfa-grass mixture will significantly improve the fiber digestibility of the mixture compared to pure alfalfa.

More than 120 meadow fescue varieties are certified in Europe and most of them have not been evaluated for yield or quality in North America. There is a relatively large acreage of meadow fescue (MF) in Europe and Canada compared to a very small acreage in the U.S.”

The Cornell research team, led by Debbie Cherney, has been involved in collecting several meadow fescue varieties from Europe and testing them alongside some of the few U.S. varieties in alfalfa-grass mixtures on several New York farms. The project began in 2018. The average seeding rate for the meadow fescue was 2 pounds per acre of pure live seed, although rates were adjusted based on seed size to achieve the same number of seeds planted per acre. At harvest the grass was separated and tested alone and in mixtures.

Some of the important takeaways from this project to date include:

• Among the meadow fescue varieties, there were large differences in the grass percent of the mixture, grass crude protein (CP) percent, (14-20%) and grass neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFD) (74-80%).

• The extent of variation in the measured forage quality parameters varied between farm locations and years. It also varied between summer and fall sampling dates.

• The grass CP% was always sufficient in an alfalfa-grass mixture because of the inherently high protein content of the alfalfa.

• There was always a range in CP among varieties, but most of the variation was due to a range in the grass percent of the mixture. The less grass in a mixture, the higher the grass CP%.

• Meadow fescues, on average, were considerably higher in NDFD than tall fescue. Pradel, among the most popular of meadow fescues sown in the U.S., consistently had a high grass percent in mixtures, but it tended to be among the lowest in NDFD among the varieties tested.

• Hidden Valley, a U.S. variety, consistently had a lower grass percent in mixtures, but it often was among the highest in NDFD.

• Other meadow fescue varieties were not consistent over sites or cuts within a season.

• More studies are needed to compare species under a variety of climatic conditions and soil types.

Read the full report of meadow fescue variety performance for specific details and results from this study.

Products that contain Pyroxasulfone (yes, that group 15 herbicide)

I am finding that because this active is relatively new on the market, not every crops person is aware of what Brand names contain this active. Pyroxasulfone is a group 15 grass and broadleaf herbicide, which can be used in both corn and soybeans. It is manufactured by Nippon Chemical in Japan, and then licensed to various distributors, who the buy rights to sell it in their own formulations. BASF has the rights to sell it as a standalone herbicide and is sold under the trade name Zidua. All the other distributors are required to mix it with their respective tank-mix partner as part of the license agreement, see below.

The main competitor to Pyroxasulfone is Syngenta’s Boundary. Which can be tank mixed with Authority, but not Valtera. Pyroxasulfone can be mixed with Valtera (Fierce), with risk of crop injury in soybeans. The main advantages to Pyroxasulfone relative to s-metolachlor (Dual/Boundary) are it can be tank mixed with any group 14, it is less water soluble than S-metolachlor, meaning it is less prone to leaching, but requires more rainfall for activation. As far as weeds are concerned there are some slight advantages to Pyroxasulfone on broadleaves such as Velvetleaf, pigweed, lamb’s quarters, Kochia, and Ragweed.

Figure 6 - Pyroxasulfone Herbicides Registered in Ontario

Caleb Niemeyer – Using Rain Fall to Improve Corn Nitrogen Recommendations

Caleb Niemeyer, a Precision Agronomist with Woodrill Farms, completed his Masters degree under Dr. Bill Dean, and has done much of the corn nitrogen modelling work around trying to identify environmental factors at the Ridgetown and Elora Research stations and related trial work, that could be used to improve Ontario corn nitrogen recommendations.

Here is a summary from that research report (text pulled from the Abstract, link below).

“To achieve maximum profitability while reducing negative environmental consequences, corn growers attempt to apply nitrogen (N) fertilizer close to the Maximum Economic Rate of N (MERN). MERN is highly variable and difficult to predict due to variation in net soil N supply and crop N demand which are both influenced by weather. Data from a ten-year N response trial in Elora, Ontario were analyzed to study rainfall effects on MERN. Further historical weather and N response data from Elora and Ridgetown, Ontario were also collected. On these medium textured soils, net soil N supply had little variation while crop N demand was variable. Rainfall accumulated from V5 to V12 was associated with increased yield, crop N demand and MERN. A rainfall adjustment to the current Ontario Corn N Calculator improved grower profitability by $54.86 ha-1 in a validation dataset, demonstrating potential to use in-season precipitation data to improve N management.”

The R2 value (degree of correlation) on rainfall as the driver of MERN, improved the N recommendations from using the corn nitrogen calculator of 0.33 by including rain fall to 0.84 over the same 10-year period. A R2 value of 1 means a high degree of correlation.

Figure 7 - Yield by Crop Stage by Environmental Correlation to Determine N Rates

DY – Delta Yield (difference between maximum yield and yield with no nitrogen), MEY – maximum economic yield, MERN – maximum economic rate of nitrogen.


Teasing out more than the averages…

Another attempt at quantifying how precision ag can help you rise above the mean… but to do that means finding ways of properly teasing out areas that make up the averages. This part seems instinctive to most people. The parts that is perhaps less straight forward is how to define what those areas are outside of the averages. Perhaps the first step is starting with a yield map of the field that shows the variability in yield. You have a swing of 50 to 200 bu/ac in the field, but an average of 165 bu/ac. If you continue to manage by average, it will be hard to tease out the opportunities to bring the laggards “up”. And sometimes “up” means by providing more margin, not necessarily yield. Although I am seeing situations where it does mean yield.

The knolls are a prime spot for opportunity. If your seed supplier, or you are a seed supplier, recommends increasing seeding rates for corn yields, but flat lining yield wise on knolls, throwing more seed at 15-20% of the field that is knolls is not going to provide much return, or possibly even reduce it in those areas. Increased seeding rates (34-38,000) is maybe suitable for 40-50% of the total field area.

I have put together a visual example below on seeding rates by soil type for soybeans. Now these yields and rates are hypothetical. The main point is that the optimal seeding rate for a soybean variety on a loam soil, might not overlap with that on a sand, or perhaps a clay soil type. Knowing that, if you want to grow the same variety in each field with these three soil types, you may want to adjust your seeding rate!

Figure 8 - Soybean Seeding Rate by Hypothetical Yield by Soil Type
Figure 9 - Box and Whiskers Chart of Hypothetical Yield by Soil Type

Writing VR Scripts

As I work through processing client yield maps and comparing them with what we had done as far as seeding rates goes, I am seeing more “noise” in the “as applied data” compared to the target rate than I would have expected. And it is not just hydraulic driven planters, even on planters with the fully loaded Precision Planting gear still have a certain amount of noise.

The reason I bring this up is that I have seen a few situations where growers are using a script that has not considered how much “slack” is in the application rate. In those situations where the “slack” is a wider rate range than the script, it does not make much sense if paying someone to go through the exercise of making a script.

In the example field below, I have a prescription I wrote (very high level of detail with a few check blocks), the “as applied data’ from the planter (less level of detail), and then the difference between the targeted prescription rate and the as applied rate (a bit crude due to the software used to work out the difference). If you wrote a script for a difference of 500 seeds/acre, the planter on average varied by more than 600, you would be varying just by equipment “slack” more than the script. The wide ranges at the extremes in the “difference” map will be due to the planter driving in one zone but applying a portion of the seed in another zone, such is life.

Food for though as you finalize your crop plans for this spring.

Figure 10 - Planting Prescription Target Rate
Figure 11 - As Applied Corn Planting Rate
Figure 12 - Difference between as Applied and Target Corn Seeding Rate

Q – What are your thoughts on applying nitrogen on frozen soils covered with snow to Winter Wheat?

A – I would not recommend the practice, especially in my area where there is considerable snow cover that could cause off-site movement during snow melt.

Now I don’t think there is much frost in the ground based on the amount of construction activity going on, so once the snow melts and the wheat starts to come out of dormancy, it’s game on, at least for a portion of the N. Keep in mind that putting a lot on early when you still have a month or more before significant grow leaves you open to a lot of loss due to spring rain events.

Back to the frozen soil, University of Kentucky ran a study on applying nitrogen on frozen soil prior to a significant rain event. They figured that 49 to 75% of the N was potential lost.


Michael Horsch – Data Based Farming (My comments based on an Antara Agronomy Article)

Michael Horsch is the Horsch in Horsch Farm Equipment. He has an 8000 acre farm he speaks about in an interview with Farm Equipment magazine on how farms that collect excessive amounts of data are less profitable than those than collect lower amounts of data (by a factor of 10X), and a net bottom line improvement of 2X or more. He has a point.

There are only a few key factors you really need to home in on to improve crop production on your farm. And in my opinion, as an example, having NDVI imagery to watch the crop change in biomass day by day likely is not one of those. Is NDVI imagery an important tool to use in managing a crop? Definitely. But you likely only need 1 picture in season to address a management change, and that is when it is time to spray a fungicide at peak biomass, so that you only apply it on the highest risk parts of the field, and none in the nonresponsive areas. And maybe one additional one if you wanted to measure yield potential in-crop to apply nitrogen. There is not much point in collecting data for things we cannot or will not be able to address through management.

“You need boots, not gigabytes…” – Agronomy and Research

“You need boots, not gigabytes…” – Agronomy and Research

One of the most important things you can do as a farm manager is to make decisions from the field not from behind a desk.

Prescription Farming vs Management on Horsch’s Own 8,000 Farm

Prescription Farming vs  Management on Horsch’s Own 8,000 Farm

Michael Horsch explains what he learned from his sons on a 8,000-acre farm that influenced his view that on-farm digitalization negative correlates to a lowe...

Horsch Says Next-Level Farming Success Won’t Arrive Via Digitization & Prescriptions

Horsch Says Next-Level Farming Success Won’t Arrive Via Digitization & Prescriptions

Farmer and machine inventor Michael Horsch explains what he learned about computer usage from his own farm benchmarking groups overseas.

“Yield = temporal x spatial variability.”

—Jonathan Zettler