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The Cropwalker - Volume 7 Issue 11

The Cropwalker - Volume 7 Issue 11

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



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If you want to move the needle on wheat production, spend more time in your wheat fields. (JZ)

The main difference I see between the top 50% of wheat growers and the bottom 50% of wheat growers is drill performance and residue management. Spend time evaluating how it’s performing. If it isn’t performing, it’s usually related to 1 of 2 things - operational setup, and/or drill maintenance.

What do I look at when in the field when it comes to drill performance?

1.       Is there trash in the seed trench? Does the drill cut the trash?

2.       How even is the seeding depth?

3.       How deep was the seed placed?

4.       Is the seed slot closed?

5.       How even is the plant spacing?

Split Nitrogen on Wheat “X” Survey

I ran a poll on X (formerly known as Twitter) to see what percentage of farmers split apply their nitrogen on winter wheat. Of the 255 votes, it works out to about 37% split applying 100% of the time, 36% some of the time, and 27% none of the time.

Weed Control

Q - What can I use in my winter wheat under seeded to red clover? (JZ)

A – The only safe, registered option is Buctril M or it’s generic equivalent.

Q – Jonathan, last week why did you suggest that Prominex isn’t as strong on chickweed as Barricade M? (JZ)

A – Chickweed is a major problem within my client base, especially with those on sandy ground that do not do fall burndowns when going into winter wheat. I have used various mixes of crop protection products over the years that are contained within Prominex, and on very LARGE chickweed it hasn’t been as effective as using the ingredients that make up Boost SG, Refine SG/M, or Barricade M. Prominex or those products that contain fluroxypyr can be effective on small to medium sized chickweed; my experience has been that once it bolts or starts to go to flower, they are likely a strong suppression rating compared to those that contain the T&T active. This is only one weed of many in the field, and there are many reasons to use Prominex or Pixxaro, so unless you have a carpet of chickweed that you are specifically targeting, you should continue to use those products.


Polysulphate - New Multi Nutrient Dry Fertilizer to Ontario (JZ)

Mining a rock formation known as polyhalite, ICL has introduced Polysulphate to the Ontario market. This material is interesting as it has a low salt index with low chloride content, and contains fully soluble forms of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. It is also certified by OMRI for organic use.

The granular version analysis is 0-0-14-12.2 Ca-3.6 Mg-19.2 S. The granular version of the material is dense with a bulk density of 94.3 lb/cu ft.

On the retail side – the Agromart, FS Partners and Sylvite retails have access to this product. The Agromart locations may call the material “Matrix”.

Where could this product be used? Anywhere you have a need for sulphur and magnesium in a low chloride material, though I’m sure there will be more use cases as we get experience with the material.

Q - Can I mix boron with 28% or 32% UAN? (JZ)

A – There are several products on the market specifically designed to be mixed with UAN. Many foliar boron sources are also compatible with UAN. If you are unsure, contact the manufacturer or your trusty Certified Crop Advisor.


Q - I’m thinking of applying Sulphur on my soybeans, what are your recommendations when it comes to this practice? (JZ)

A – My suggestions can be summed up as: the earlier you plant, the less tillage you do, the higher the total biomass of  the previous crop residue, and the lighter your soil texture, will increase the likelihood of getting a crop response. Apply 100 lbs/ac of Ammonium Sulphate (20.5-0-0-24S) 2-3 weeks before or right up to planting if you would like to see if you get a response.


4 ideas to increase the amount of soil sampling (JZ)

A few pain points I have observed on why people do not soil test more frequently. If you operate a fertilizer shed or provide crop consulting, these should be a cornerstone of your business.

1)      Make understanding the results easy and actionable. Ideally these results would be coloured to filter out the noise. i.e. the results are shown in green/yellow/red when it comes to fertilizer response or yield potential. Soil tests are gauges of fertilizer response, not a precise value.

2)      Staff appropriately to service the collection of the samples.

3)      Ensure the client gets a copy of the soil test.

4)      Use a solid record keeping system to keep track of where the samples were taken, when the samples should be collected again, and what recommendations were made from these results. Run this report when it’s time to do crop planning. Review what’s due to be sampled and put in a work order to get it done.

5 things to reduce variability in soil test results (JZ)

1)      Use the same soil test lab,

2)      Setup soil sample points to go back to the same location each time the field is sampled,

3)      Ensure sampling depth is to the calibrated depth (i.e. 6”),

4)      Use clean equipment to avoid sample contamination, and

5)      Sample at the same time of year, at the same point in the crop rotation


Understanding Fertility Response (JZ)

First there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type.

Then there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type by variety.

Then there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type by variety by local growing conditions.

Then there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type by variety by local growing conditions on your farm and soil type.

Then there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type by variety by local growing conditions on your farm and soil type by landscape position.

Then there is understanding nutrient response by nutrient by crop type by variety by local growing conditions on your farm and soil type by landscape position by weather conditions.

And this is why as agronomic professionals we use the saying “it depends”.


When to use Nitrogen Inhibitors (JZ)

Nitrogen inhibitors reduce the risk of nitrogen losses by allowing a wider window to apply nitrogen at less than opportune times. The reality is we cannot predict the weather, and we cannot apply materials at the exact application time on all the acres. Inhibitors are a fertilizer aid, to be used when you have this mismatch between application and plant uptake, with a window offering risk of N losses. The wider the time between application and plant uptake, the bigger the mismatch, and the larger the opportunity to have losses.

Inhibitors will not allow you to reduce your agronomic sound nitrogen rate if it was applied under perfect conditions. What they will do is protect that rate against losses so that you do not have to make subsequent applications or over apply to make up for losses.


Nitrogen Inhibitor Products (JZ)

There are two modes of action on the market. Those that prevent volatilization (products in the Urea form are most susceptible to this form of loss (Urea, Amidas or liquid UAN)), and those that prevent or slow the conversion from ammonium to nitrate to reduce the risk of nitrates leaching (sandy soils) or denitrification (waterlogged soils i.e. depressions/clays).

Volatilization occurs when nitrogen products are applied on the soil surface and are in the process of being converted to ammonium by the Urease enzyme. When you do not have enough moisture to move the intermediate nitrogen products to hold the materials and wash them into the soil, or the surface moisture is actively leaving the soil, you are at risk of loss. This is typically called above ground nitrogen loss.

Leaching and denitrification are considered below ground nitrogen losses, as the nitrogen is already within the soil profile, and both losses are caused by excessive moisture. Leaching is lost due to nitrogen moving lower in the soil profile than root uptake can occur; these soil types are either sandy or have a gravel sublayer. The 2nd type of nitrate loss is denitrification, which occurs when the soil microbes use the nitrate within the soil for energy, causing nitrous oxide losses. It has a particular “smell” when these types of losses may be occurring. You do not need to have standing water to have denitrification and are more likely to have this type of loss in soil with low bulk density/poor water infiltration or with a clay subsoil.

As some products are now off patent, rather than list every product on the market, I will list the mode of action and what form of nitrogen it works on.

Nitrogen Source/Sink

There are two sides to nitrogen dynamics. The source (soil OM, manure, commercial N, bacteria), and the sink (plant requirements). This dynamic is adjusting as we move through the growing season. The result when it comes to nitrogen is this chart. If you can use tools to help predict nitrogen sink requirements or nitrogen losses, we can make better nitrogen rate and source decisions.


Business Matters

Q - How many weather stations do I need for accurate disease modelling? (JZ)

A – This study from Metos Canada suggests you need stations at the field level.



Q – What are your thoughts on carbon credits? Why haven’t more farmers taken companies up on them? (JZ)

A – I’ve framed my response to this question as the following. The incentive pays $10-30 per acre. How much is the gross revenue of the crop you are hoping to affect changes on? Corn has been $1200-1600 or more, soybeans - $750-1000 or more, winter wheat - $600-900 or more.

Many farmers would rather spend time on gaining $10-30 or more per acre in managing their cost structure, or time in the shop ensuring the equipment is operating at top performance or having a focused grain marketing plan.

Is it worth handicapping your cropping practices to gain another $10-30 in revenue in the current type of gross margin environment? Possibly? This is very much a farm-by-farm business decision. The revenue from this program should not limit your topline gross revenue, but rather supplement it.


Q – You have written about maximizing your supplier rewards programs, isn’t this just selling more product? (JZ)

A – I view supplier programs as bonus incentives when it comes to influencing purchasing habits. That’s also how you should view it. Bigger picture, compare the incentives between companies where the product selected wouldn’t have any agronomic impact, and can be used interchangeably. Sometimes these rebates can add enough dollars to your pocket to pay for some time away or for a few date night meals at a nice restaurant.

 “The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.”

 Albert Einstein