Crops

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Not a complete wash

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

I would love to deliver this column with the message that we harvested a bountiful crop at our research site last year. Instead, I have to tell you that our research and training plots got a taste of the same weather challenges and environmental damage that other producers in MFA’s trade territory endured in 2015.

This past year was one for the record books. Our planting crew got the corn in the ground in good shape on April 22. Everything seemed like it was going to be perfect. But we had a lot of moisture at the wrong times.

Over the past few years at our plot location near Boonville, Mo., we’ve had some trouble with lodging. In light of that, we made the decision to delay planting our soybean crop until later in May—even though weather would have allowed us to get it in the ground earlier. You can guess what’s next. Soybean planting at the location went from the planned May target date to planting on June 7. Following planting, the skies stayed dark and full of rain. Beans tried to emerge through standing water. Needless to say, our planting-date study turned into a two-date planting-date study—one on June 7 and one on July 6. Surprisingly, the late-planted soybeans caught up to the early-planted soybeans’ height.

Once the crops were in and up, we had MFA employee training on July 29 and a two-day producer tour on August 6 and 7. About 800 people attend these events to learn about different production practices and new products coming down the pipeline.

If you were able to attend either one, you will recall that the corn was outstanding. I only wish it would have finished that way. On Sept. 10, a severe windstorm blew through the area. It caused severe lodging in our corn plots. Flattened corn, with stalks jumping across plot lines is not a pretty sight for a researcher.

We were able to harvest one of the early-look variety trials by having two people on each side of the combine to make sure we didn’t have any contamination from any of the other hybrids. But as we progressed, the practice looked to be less than safe. Thus, we decided to let our plot cooperator combine the rest of the corn. It would have been great to see results from our studies on nitrogen timing; nitrogen source; phosphorus enhancement products; foliar fertilizer; fungicide timing; and variety trials. But employee safety was top priority.

While the corn ended up flat on the ground, we were very hopeful that the soybeans would continue to stand. Although we had severe water logging and stand issues from the rain earlier in the season, we ended up with several good trials. This was the first year we were able to harvest all of the soybean plots at training camp.

We have been testing biologicals from Monsanto Bio-Ag the past couple years and have reported excellent results. Some of the other trials we have been conducting include seed treatments, seed nutritionals, tank contamination, phosphorus enhancement products, Aspire with Microessentials, and varieties to name a few. While they are not reported here, they will become available.

Although last year wasn’t the year we wanted from a research standpoint, we did the best we could. We join you in looking forward to a better growing season this year.


CLICK HERE for more in the Feb 2016 Issue of Today's Farmer Magazine

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Give your weed control investment a better chance

Written by MFA STAFF on .

Proper choice and use of adjuvants helps crop protectants do their job

With weed challenges from the previous growing season and new herbicide technology on the market, paying attention to adjuvants takes on new importance in 2016.

The increase in the seed bank from an odd growing season and the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds means that weed management for the next growing season will be crucial. If there were major weed escapes, it may take years to return the seed bank to a previously lower level. In the upcoming growing season, getting adjuvants right can give your weed control program a beneficial edge.

Adjuvants improve weed control in various ways. As new herbicide technology comes to the field, one important way adjuvants contribute to weed control success is keeping spray on target. Drift control will be a priority as dicamba and 2,4-D herbicide platforms reach fields.

Adjuvants also play an important role in the efficacy of herbicides once they hit target plants. All leaves have a waxy covering (cuticle) surrounding the outside of the leaf. It’s a biological defense mechanism for the plant. The covering reduces fungal problems by allowing water to run off the leaf and helps protect the leaf under harsh environmental conditions. A herbicides has to pass through this waxy barrier to its job. Adjuvants play a role in aiding herbicide movement into the plant. There are three types of adjuvants that work directly with herbicide chemistry: surfactants, concentrated crop oils, and fertilizer salts. The herbicide a grower uses will determine which adjuvant is recommended.

Surfactants have many different roles depending on the chemistry used. Cationic and anionic (positive and negatively charged) surfactants are great wetting agents and some cationic surfactants are pre-formulated with herbicides.

Nonionic surfactants like Astute Extra, Astute and Astutue Lite do not have a charge and can be used with a wide variety of herbicides. These are not affected by ions in hard water. Nonionic surfactants are good dispersing agents. They are soluble and stable in cold water and have low toxicity to plants and animals.

Silicone-based surfactants work even better than nonionic surfactants. They are efficient at dispersing water droplets and are humectants (humidity creating). Combining these qualities increases the amount of herbicide entering the plant in addition to reducing the time for herbicides to become rainfast. However, silicon surfactants are not compatible with herbicides that need small concentrated deposits, such as glyphosate.

Regardless of surfactant, they all share a goal—to disperse water droplets. Surfactants aid in droplet creation by breaking the surface tension of water, which allows droplets to spread out rather than bead up. This is especially important when using contact herbicides such as Cobra. Contact herbicides do not move through the plant, so coverage area is extremely important.

Concentrated crop oils and methylated seed oils like Relay, Xpond and Soy Plus enhance uptake of herbicides by penetrating the cuticle. The waxy cuticle is made up of fatty organic compounds. Because oil-based adjuvants have similar chemical properties, the oils and cuticle are chemically attracted to one another. That provides better penetration of the herbicide through the cuticle. Oils also keep herbicides in a liquid state longer, further aiding herbicide uptake.

Methylated seed oils are smaller less complicated molecules, which makes them lighter and more effective at penetrating the cuticle. Crop oils and methylated seed oils must also contain an emulsifier and require agitation to keep the oil suspended in water, preventing buildup on the water surface.

AMS “conditions” hard water (AMS Advantage and Waypoint) high in magnesium and calcium ions for herbicides, especially glyphosate, which binds to these ions reducing its effect. Adding AMS before adding glyphosate to the mix can protect the herbicides active ingredient against binding.

MFA’s line of water conditioners, including AMS Advantage, Waypoint, Overide and Impetro are good options if hardwater is a obstacle.

Of course, the pesticide label is the primary source to consider when choosing an adjuvant. Here are some things to consider when the label provides you a choice.


•    If both oil concentrate (crop or vegetable oil) and non-ionic surfactant are options, consider nonionic surfactant under normal weather conditions if weeds are small clearly within label guidelines. If weeds are stressed from dry weather or more mature, their cuticle material will likely be thicker. Use oil concentrate in these conditions.
•    If labeled, try to include oil concentrate to control grass weeds.
•    Use nitrogen fertilizer only if it is recommended on the herbicide label.
•    If your herbicide has high potential for crop injury, consider nonionic surfactant instead of oil concentrate.
•    To improve crop safety, do not include oil concentrates with plant growth regulator-type herbicides (i.e., dicamba, 2,4-D, etc.)
Herbicide manufacturers research the best surfactants to use with their products. Newer herbicides tend to have labels with very specific directions for amount and type of surfactant. However, some herbicides have more general recommendations in the label.
A word of caution: adjuvants are not regulated by the EPA and therefore you may hear exagerated claims about what the products can do. Make sure you buy adjuvants from a reputable source. Here are some red flags for products that might sound too good to be true:
•    It is only available on the internet.
•    Any claim that includes “resistant weeds” in its purpose
•    An unknown company that is located outside MFA’s market area.

If you have questions about the best adjuvant for your weed control program, contact a local MFA agronomist HERE  or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Make a plan for manure

Written by Cameron Horine on .

Livestock operations can benefit from foresight in nutrient management plans

Do you own a dairy farm or have a swine operation? Or maybe you have poultry barns. If you have any of these you understand the large quantities of manure that can be collected. What do you do with all of the manure and/or bedding that is accumulated every day? Do you export it to another producer or do you apply it as fertilizer on your farm?

However you handle the manure is up to you, but to do it properly and safely you may need to have a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) in place. A CNMP is an organized five-year plan specific to your operation. It allocates the manure produced on your operation and provides a plan to properly use the nutrients on your farm based on criteria including topography, crops, soil tests, etc.  

Every operation is different, and every CNMP will be different. There are many factors that affect a CNMP. Two of the main factors is having proper soil test results and manure analysis. The manure analysis will be dependent on animal type, animal growth stage, diet and storage. Knowing the analysis of the soil and manure allows for proper allocation of manure to each field based on the crops’ needs for the year.

If handled correctly, manure can be a beneficial resource. Some of the benefits include improving your soil tilth and structure, increasing water holding capacity of soil, and increasing growth of beneficial soil microbes and organisms. On the other hand, if handled incorrectly, it can be a waste and an environmental hazard. This is why a CNMP that has been properly put in place for your operation is essential and can save you from negative implications with the government and your neighbors.

In many cases, manure alone will not satisfy the crop’s nutrient needs and supplemental fertilizer will be necessary to achieve your yield goals. The CNMP provides you with a detailed report of planned manure applications and supplemental fertilizer for each field. These detailed reports help you to make management decisions on your farm. With a CNMP you will protect the environment, get the best use from your nutrient assets and maximize your crop or forage yields.

The cost of the CNMP varies based on the type of operation and the size. However, the cost is refunded by the USDA/NRCS.  
If you need a CNMP or you currently have one that needs to be renewed, contact your local MFA or affiliate.

Cameron Horine is a staff agronomist for MFA INCORPORATED. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

 

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Make room for monarchs

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

It might surprise you to find me writing about monarch butterflies in this space. But I am. There has been a significant decline in the monarch population over the past few years. It is easy to point fingers to others, but it is time to admit that a shrinking habitat is likely the cause of monarch decline.

Monarch butterflies overwinter in central Mexico during the area’s dry season, which is right about now. Increased illegal logging in central Mexico has reduced the monarch’s overwintering habitat, but that is not the sole cause for its decline. The rapid adoption of non-selective weed control programs has reduced the amount of habitat in the butterfly’s summer breeding grounds. This is a factor in which our trade territory plays a vital part.

As a weed scientist, talking about planting milkweed goes against what I have done in the past. Milkweed has been considered a pest to most of agriculture, and we have sought to control or eradicate milkweed from our farms. Of course, I am not saying we need to totally upend weed management. However, there are some things that you and I can do to help make sure the monarch butterfly doesn’t get listed as an endangered species, or worse, go extinct.

Yes, it will involve planting milkweed. This isn’t the only thing the monarch needs in order to rebound, but it will play a key role.

As I look at the Midwest and see acres of CRP, community gardens, state and federal parks and our spacious backyards, I see places that make ideal candidates for monarch habitat and foraging.

Timely mowing and herbicide applications can also help protect the monarch population. Try to avoid mowing this kind of habitat when the monarchs are using it. This will allow them to continue the life cycle and make the trek north or south.

Common milkweed, swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, and whorled milkweed would be the species of choice in our trade territory. There are numerous facts available on the following links that can help you establish habitat for monarchs and pollinators.

While we might not see eye-to-eye on every topic, we do have a common goal: to sustain monarch and pollinator populations while using sound science for the foundation of our decisions. Look for more information in the coming months about monarch and pollinator issues.

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Drive and learn

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

One thing you can’t complain about as a farmer is the view. Whether it’s the sun setting over a freshly cut hay meadow or watching a whitetail buck dart across a field when he is spooked from a resting spot, there is a lot of beauty in the rural setting. We can debate just what kind of country scene is the most enjoyable, but I’ll suggest that of all the views on your farm, there is one that provides more useful information than most: the one from your combine cab.

What you see from the combine cab can tell you a lot about the cropping year, the success of your management practices and the success of the products you have used. How you’ve done with weed control, planter setup, and water management decisions are just a few things that you can really verify by paying attention to what your field at harvest is telling you.

Here are some tips for a successful combine ride.

Don’t devote 100 percent of your attention to your yield monitor

It can be easy to jump to conclusions if you are not focusing on the right things. For example, yield monitors are great, but often they become such a strong focal point in the cab that they blind you to other information that can provide real insight. The yield data that can be compiled and used for nutrient-removal recommendations along with other long-term trends is very valuable if looked at objectively. Watching the swings on the monitor from the cab can lead to rash decisions. Make sure your monitor is logging information so it can be analyzed later. Then dim the screen for a couple rounds so you can focus on what’s going on in the field.

Grade your planting job

One of the best ways to do this is to evaluate the consistency of corn ears as they enter the head. Not just consistency from one area of the field to the other, but consistency from one ear to the next. Ideally, every ear would be the same size, but fluctuations in timing of emergence or fluctuations of intra-row spacing can really influence ear-size consistency. After ear consistency, evaluate stalk consistency both in spacing from neighboring stalks and in size compared to neighboring stalks. The cause of a spindly stalk is sometimes obvious from the cab. If spacing is even, the plant probably emerged late. If spacing is uneven, intra-row competition is often to blame.

Grade your weed control

Evaluating how weedy a field is from the cab is a universal practice. But to say, “Boy, that field is a mess!” or, “Man, that field is clean!” is not enough. Try to note not just how severe the weed pressure is, but also how diverse it is. What weed species are present? Paying attention to weed height might give some clues about when they emerged. Also, look at the crop condition around the weeds. Was it late pressure due to a delayed or inadequate crop canopy, or is there something to evaluate in the timing or product selection of the herbicide program?

Look for causes, not just effects

There are hundreds of issues both positive and negative that can be picked up from the cab. There are thousands of variables that may have caused that issue. If there is lodged corn, get out and split some stalks. Are there tunnels from insects? Is stalk rot present? Is this a wet area of the field or a droughty area? Is the soil type the reason for a change in performance, or is the nutrient level? Very often the view from the combine will answer questions. It can also raise more questions. But raising those additional questions can still be a valuable part of finding the right answers to improve your stands and yield.

Take Notes

Finally, what I’ve mentioned above is the kind of information you use when you sit down to discuss a crop plan with your MFA advisor. Write it down so you can have it with you. When you bring your MFA precision representative yield data to analyze the notes you take from the field, these extra notes may be the key to really unlocking the information on that field.

Of all the points in the year, harvest can be one of the most enjoyable. However, to ensure that there are future, better harvests to enjoy, it’s best to take the information your field has to offer and make improvements on the lessons these fields provide. Those lessons and improvements must come from objective observations. Informed decisions are a best management practice!

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