Crops

Keep nitrogen where you put it

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

Nitrogen inhibitors have a financial and environmental benefit. 

By now I am sure you have heard that MFA will no longer handle ammonium nitrate. In light of that news, let’s talk about nitrogen management. 

Nitrogen can be lost from the crop system through volatilization, leaching and denitrification. To increase nitrogen use efficiency, you can employ enhanced fertilizer products to delay or stop these losses. Here is how it works.

Volatilization
Urea-based fertilizer products are subject to volatilization losses if surface-applied and not incorporated by rainfall or mechanically. The risk of volatilization loss increases with high residue, warm weather and high soil pH levels. Sources subject to volatilization losses include dry urea and UAN solution. 

Urease inhibitors can be used to temporarily block the urease enzyme from converting urea to ammonia (NH3). The only proven urease inhibitor on the market today is NBPT, which is marketed as Agrotain. 

Leaching and Denitrification 
Ammonium (NH4+) sources in the soil go through a process called nitrification. Ammonium is converted to nitrite (NO2-) by nitrosomonas bacteria, and nitrite is further oxidized to nitrate (NO3-) by nitrobacter bacteria. A majority of the nitrogen taken up by the plant is in the nitrate form, however most plants can also take up ammonium (NH4+). Once in the nitrate form, the nitrogen is subject to leaching and denitrification losses. Nitrate moves freely throughout the soil profile with moisture. In coarse textured, well-drained soils, nitrate can leach below the root zone and become unavailable to the crop. Nitrate is also subject to denitrification losses. Denitrification occurs in soils that become waterlogged. It’s a biological process that converts nitrate to gaseous forms of nitrogen that are lost to the atmosphere. 

Nitrification inhibitors reduce the rate at which ammonium is converted to nitrate by killing the nitrosomonas bacteria in the soil. Nitrification inhibitors are designed to keep the nitrogen in the ammonium form longer so plants have the opportunity to take up the nitrogen before excessive moisture occurs and nitrogen is lost from the system.

Currently there are two proven nitrification inhibitors on the market. Nitapyrin has been used since the 1960s. Nitrapyrin is marketed as N-Serve and most recently as Instinct, an encapsulated product for dry and liquid fertilizers. Instinct can also be used in liquid manure. 

The other proven nitrification inhibitor on the market is dicyandiamide (DCD). DCD is the nitrification inhibitor in Agrotain Plus and Super U. Research has shown that DCD activity is shorter than nitrapyrin (Bronson et al., 1989). Proven products that contain both a nitrification and urease inhibitor include Super U and Agrotain Plus.

From a cost perspective and environmental perspective, you need to protect all sources of nitrogen from loss. In next month’s crop section we’ll cover the importance of N-Serve use in fall and spring applications of anhydrous ammonia. If you have any questions please contact your local MFA location.

Put back what you take

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

Removal rates aren’t the same across your field

As we wrap up another cropping season, I hope that your year has been a success. As I write this in late August, for publication in October, I am hopeful for a record corn and soybean harvest. With record yield potential comes some management decisions you need to make prior to planting next year’s crop. Management decisions regarding soil fertility are critical to give your crop the potential for great yields again next year. In that sense, I believe MFA’s Nutri-Track program has a fit on all acres across our trade territory.

Nutri-Track is is designed to manage, maintain and track fertility levels across operations by combining GPS-based soil testing and yield monitoring. Whether you raise corn, soybean, wheat or forage, your soil’s nutrient levels are a critical factor in maximizing production. Nutri-Track has three unique stages that will fit any operations.

Stage 1: Intensive soil sampling
Nutri-Track’s 2.5-acre grid-sampling program will provide a baseline for your field’s nutrient levels and soil properties. This is essential to correct any underlying problems so that you can maximize yield. We also use this program for range and pasture ground to maximize forage production and grazing capacity.

Stage 2: Intensive soil sampling with yield monitor crop removal
MFA Nutri-Track techs combine the information they receive from the 2.5-acre grid samples with yield data to give you a tailored recommendation for your nutrient removal and build program. By using yield monitor data, you will no longer have to use a flat yield removal rate. Thus, in the future, you can apply the right amount of fertilizer to the right areas of your fields. You won’t be over-applying in low-producing areas of the field. You will boost production in areas that can support additional yield goal.

Stage 3: Yield monitor crop removal
This is perfect for fields that already have optimum fertility. You maintain those levels by replacing exactly what you have removed. This program is also a good fit for rented ground.

The question that I most often get is, “Why should I enroll in this program?”
We all know that each field has areas that out-yield the rest of the field. By employing the data analysis along with precision application, you can apply fertilizer with true variable-rate technology. You will get your nutrients to right spots in the field. The practice has proven itself.

The next question that I get is, “Through this program I will spend less money on nutrients, correct?”

That is not always the case. When I look at composite data from our precision techs, I see that growers are under fertilizing areas of the field and sometimes over fertilizing other areas. Cost might be a wash, but putting the nutrients where they are most efficiently used has the potential to boost yield.

This year looks to be one of the best we have seen in several years across our trade territory as a whole. I understand that there are parts of our trade territory that won’t see record yields. This program is still a fit for those acres. At MFA we support the 4 R’s: The Right fertilizer source,

Right rate, Right time, and Right place. As an industry, this is an important concept. Regulators and environmentalists scrutinize agriculture more each year. We need to manage our inputs and be good stewards.

MFA can help you develop a plan for all of your acres and make sure we are using your nutrients to the best of their ability for maximized profit.
Contact your local MFA location to make a nutrient management plan. It’s a good practice.

Learning in the East

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

ALOT Class XV is back from China

In July, I traveled to China with Agricultural Leadership of Tomorrow. ALOT is a two-year program that teaches its members leadership along with a deep exploration of Missouri agriculture and how it fits into the larger world. Members travel extensively in the state as well to Washington D.C. to visit with friends and foes of agriculture. The international trip is a capstone of sorts. ALOT is a great program, and I encourage anyone willing to commit the time to apply.

China wasn’t my first choice of countries to visit, but after our trip, I am glad that I did. I can’t believe some of the things I saw, heard and smelled on the trip.

We visited several production agriculture farms. Particularly interesting was a rice farm. It was a demonstration farm for rice production with fish and crab intercropping. The farm had a polywire fence around the field to keep the crabs in. Labor for a 2,000-acre rice farm had numbered about 1,200 workers, but with the new practices on demonstration there, managers have reduced the number of employees to 300. It may be a harbinger of things to come in rural China.

The most shocking thing I saw at this location was duck production. An elevated duck pen was situated above a water canal. Waste from the ducks dropped into the canal, which drained directly into the Yellow River. I don’t think this practice would survive long in the United States.

Our group visited a government-built community designed to house farmers. As a way to accommodate rural-to-urban migration, the government builds these communities along with schools and hospitals for the residents. As residents move into the community, they are given a small parcel of land to farm and one dairy cow. These farmers are also asked to work in a local factory or plant to provide additional income for their family.

We visited a prairie restoration site. Here, the Chinese government restored an over-grazed and wrecked prairie to its native vegetation. It was amazing to see the restoration job with the prairie back to green vegetation, but now there is no grazing on any of the land because officials do not want to destroy plants that have been re-established. Thus, animals are kept confined in this region. I would compare the area to southeast Colorado, a dry, short grass prairie.

One thing that I will remember from the trip was an explanation about chicken cage sizes. We were on an egg-layer farm. Because of the recent regulation changes in California for chicken cages, the plant manager for the facility reminded us that the number one goal of production agriculture in China is to feed the people. He said that obviously China has a lot of people to feed, so the regulations cannot be like those of California. Another interesting fact about this plant is that they use the waste to produce natural gas.

The Chinese are hard workers. On a number of occasions, our group saw workers sweeping interstates and roads with hand-made switch brooms. However, “The Company,” the Chinese government, is in control of everything. Citizens there would actually reference “The Company,” but we knew what they meant. At times we couldn’t help but wonder if it was all a planned and rehearsed tour. Either way, it was an eye-opening experience.

Overall, it was an educational trip for my ALOT class. I hope we can leverage it and our entire ALOT experience into a positive influence for agriculture in Missouri and the United States.

There’s more that I would like to tell you about ALOT and China than space allows here. If you see an ALOT class member, be sure to ask them about their experience. We all have important information to share. Applications for Class XVI of ALOT are due Sept. 15.

To keep the benefits, manage resistance

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

Weed resistance isn’t the only threat; let’s take care of fungicides

Fungicides grow more popular. Over the winter you probably had the opportunity to attend producer meetings in your area. And, you probably heard a company representative or an agronomist talk about the use of fungicides to increase yield. Most of the presentations promoted “plant health” or stress reduction as a way that fungicides help increase yield on your farm.

Interest in the use of foliar fungicides has increased since the highly publicized arrival of rust a few years ago. Until recently, use of fungicides had been limited to fields where diseases were known to be present as well as soybean and cornfields used for seed production.

The market introduction of strobilurins, a broad-spectrum fungicide registered for control of a number of foliar diseases across a number of crops, increased the adoption of fungicide use in our trade territory. However, the current trend in our trade territory and through the Midwest is toward an increased use of fungicides for “plant health.” That general description covers improved stress tolerance and growth efficiency to increase yields instead of simply disease management.

From my perspective, it might be useful to discuss what university research tells us about fungicide use on corn and soybeans and what strategies the row-crop industry is adopting.

Disease management
The highest probability of seeing an economic response from an application of a fungicide is in the presence of disease or when conditions are favorable for disease. Fungicide use in this scenario increases yield by eliminating or controlling yield-limiting diseases in your field when conditions are favorable for disease development.

Some of the factors that are favorable for diseases in corn include: susceptible hybrid, continuous corn, no-till, late planting, high plant population, high-yield scenarios, irrigation, disease activity at tasseling, disease favorable weather conditions, or a history of disease in the field.
Some of the factors that are favorable for diseases in soybean include: susceptible variety, early planting, historical disease presence, dense crop canopy, favorable weather conditions, irrigation or a continuous no-till soybean field.

With the factors listed above, you will see there is some overlap between the two systems, but there are also several differences listed for corn and soybean production. While decisions for fungicide use based off the two cropping systems cannot provide 100 percent accuracy, they will provide a baseline justification for use of fungicides.

Just as I have recommended in the past, you must be able to see if it works on your farm. When you are applying fungicides to a field with low risk it is always a good idea to leave a portion of the field untreated as a comparison to evaluate the use of fungicides on your farm.

“Plant health”
We have all heard the discussions about the use of fungicides for plant health. We have seen applications of fungicides on corn or soybeans stay greener longer. Does that always result in higher yield? I don’t believe it does 100 percent of the time. I have seen significant yield increases from applications of fungicides, but on the flip side, I have seen cases where there was no yield responses.

Some of the potential plant health attributes include, but are not limited to, greening effect, corn stalk strength and drought/stress recovery.
Most claims about the greening effect suggest if it is greener longer, its healthier. Yet, this effect can have a negative impact as well. It can slow or even delay harvest, and it may require grain drying after harvest.

Stalk quality appears to improve with the use of strobilurin fungicides. Some university research shows improved stalk strength after strobilurin use, even where disease pressure was low. More research is being conducted to validate industry claims.

Fungicide resistance
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about fungicide resistance. The use of any fungicide increases the risk for resistance. Anytime a fungus is exposed to a fungicide, even when fungal activity is low, the selection pressure on the fungus is increased toward resistance.
While there is no way to prevent every case of resistance to strobilurins and DMIs, we can hope to delay the development of resistance by minimizing the use of at-risk fungicides.

Factors that increase potential for fungicide resistance might include: repeated/overuse of fungicides of the same mode of action; applying half-rates of fungicides and applying fungicides when disease pressure is already high.

Most of the products on the market include two modes of action. Also, when you read the label of most fungicides, you will see it covers resistance management and the importance of utilizing resistance management strategies. Always read and follow the label.

I believe proper use fungicides are going to help us reach the full potential of our crops. If you have other yield-limiting factors eliminated on your farm and are looking for ways to potentially increase production, fungicides might be an option for you.

Scouting can be another way to avoid loss from diseases in your field. Again, leave a check strip on your farm so you can see the result in your fields. If you are looking for a proper fungicide program or a field scouting program, contact your local MFA retail location.

Dr. Jason Weirich is the MFA's director of agronomy. READ MORE by Dr. Weirich HERE.

 

Good operators

Written by Dr. Jason Weirich on .

Skill and care are top traits in MFA’s best applicators

We all are in for a more complicated life in the coming few years. New crop protection technology and formulations mean we have to pay attention to what goes in the sprayer, where the sprayer goes, which way the wind blows, how the sprayer is cleaned out, etc. These are things we already do, but one way we will pay for weed resistance is through more complicated logistics at application time. Being careful has always been important. It’s more important now. 

At MFA, we’ve stepped up our training to meet these challenges. One of the enjoyable parts of my job is to train our employees about new technology and how that technology gets used on our customers’ farms. It might sound like something boring, and it can be, but our applicators know it is important, and to watch them absorb new information knowing it will make our operations more successful is one of those pride moments that makes a job worth doing. 

To help our workforce stay up-to-date, this past year we implemented a recognition program called MFA Incorporated Operator of the Year. The program seeks nominations from throughout our trade territory to highlight MFA custom applicators who really excel at their job and in their community. We use this program to propel nominations to a national competition sponsored by AGCO. The AGCO Operator of the Year is announced each year at the Agricultural Retailers Association annual meeting. It’s a popular program, with a lot of participation. It is tough to win. Aside from a trip to the ARA meeting, AGCO Operator of the Year winner receives a top-end Harley Davidson or cash prize.

Mark Sharitz is director of marketing at AGCO Application Equipment. I liked what he said about the 2013 nominees for the national competition: 

“Every year, we are impressed by the high caliber of nominees for Operator of the Year. The hard work and precision of custom applicators across North America have a direct impact on farmers’ productivity and their ability to provide food, fiber and fuel to the world. While we can only select one annual winner, the real goal of this program is to recognize these professionals and demonstrate appreciation for the work they do.”

I don’t get to brag often enough on our applicators, so take a look at our 2013 MFA Incorporated Operator of the Year finalists. These are the guys that farmers request. They are doing a good job for you. 

 

Mike Welch  

AGChoice, Emporia, Kan. 

Years of service: 5

Annual acres: about 30,000

AGChoice Emporia manager Brian Creager said Welch is an operator who customers request when calling in an order. “He cares about the customer and their property,” said Creager, “He takes pride in the application. If conditions might affect application, he consults with the customer.” Welch keeps equipment clean and well-serviced to take advantage of good application weather. “If it is too wet, he will call the customer to let them know so it isn’t a surprise to anyone.” 

In his spare time, Welch restores vehicles and spends time on his Harley Davidson. 

 

 

Jay FlinnJAY FLINN

MFA Agri Services Maysville, Mo. 

Years of service: 7

Annual acres: about 30,000

Aside from working hard to get product on the field, Flinn has trained other applicators at Maysville Agri Services. MFA manager Gerald Wheeler said Flinn is a top communicator with both customers and MFA, and always sure to notify both MFA and the customer of any problems or challenges he sees in fields. Flinn is dutiful to keep application equipment in top condition and ready for service. In the community, Flinn is president of the Sherman Township board of trustees, an assistant youth wrestling coach and a member of the Dekalb County Riders saddle club. 

 

 

Dusty Vanskike 

MFA Agri Services Centralia, Mo.

Years of service: 17 

Annual acres: about 30,000

Centralia MFA Agri Services assistant manager Brad Toedebusch said that Vanskike is one of those get-things-done-right employees that it is hard to put a value on. “There is never a question on whether application jobs are being done correctly and professionally when Vanskike is on the job, and I believe that is the true definition of reliability,” he said. Aside from crop protection, Vanskike took the lead on operating a four-compartment precision fertilizer applicator at Centralia. As new operators join Centralia Agri Services, they ride with Vanskike to get a firsthand view of how it is supposed to be done. 

In the community, Vanskike supports the local VFW Honor Flight and various veterans activities around Centralia. He volunteers for the Centralia Panther youth football league.

 

 

Phillip Snodgrass  

MFA Agri Services Higginsville, Mo.

Years of
service: 6

Annual Acres: about 40,000

Higginsville MFA Agri Services manager Bob Owen used a quote from a customer to describe Snodgrass: “I have been farming for almost 50 years and have seen dozens of applicators come and go. Snodgrass treats my farm as it if it were his own. The edges are burned back perfectly, and he kills weeds up to the edge of the waterways without killing the waterways. He takes his time and keeps his booms low.” Owen said that Snodgrass takes extra time at the end of the day, even during the long days of spring application, to wash, clean and fuel his machine so it is ready to go the next day. 

In the community, Snodgrass is active in Ducks Unlimited and National Wild Turkey Federation, and he spends time working a cow-calf herd on the family farm at Polo, Mo.

 

 

Lance McBryde  

MFA Agri Services Jackson, Mo.

Years of
service: 12

Annual acres: about 20,000

Manager of Jackson MFA Agri Services David Wichern said that the hills of Cape Girardeau County, Mo., represent a huge challenge for crop protection applicators. But McBryde excels at the task. He has taken the challenge of professional application on the rolling hills and odd-shaped fields and built on it by knowing field histories and being a go-to source of information for customers. McBryde takes pride in keeping customers up-to-date on which formulations will help negotiate weed resistance issues, which is one reason many customers call him directly with orders or questions. 

In the community, McBryde serves on the Cape Girardeau County Farm Bureau board of directors and supports local cattlemen events. He is also an auctioneer. 

 

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