Crops - 2009 Year in Review

Written by Dr. Paul Tracy on .

This year’s wet weather and delays will affect 2010 on your farm

Once again it’s December, and I’ll discuss a few observations from the past year. It provides an opportunity to point out some “learning experiences” and prognosticate how these issues will affect our lives over next 12 months.

Obviously, this field season was dominated by WET weather. As I write this in late October, Columbia, Mo., has received close to 50 inches of rainfall this year. Delayed harvest, grain quality and delayed fall fertilization are primary concerns. Hopefully by press time, things have gotten better, the crop is out and we are already preparing for next season.

Over the next few years, you’ll be hearing a lot about the four Rs of crop nutrient management. The International Plant Nutrition Institute developed the program based upon promoting the Right source, Right rate, Right time, Right-place strategy of managing crop nutrient inputs. Realistically, agronomists have always practiced the 4Rs. In 2009, many of our fields lost applied nitrogen because of excessive rainfall. The 4R philosophy helped prevent some of that loss.

After several years of international marketing, transportation logistics, commodity brokering and other non-production components of crop nutrition, it is nice to see the industry concentrate on agronomics. We at MFA have never strayed from that core mission. In February, I’ll start a series on the 4Rs.

Once again, the power of modern crop genetics amazed this year. Both soybeans and corn were planted into poor conditions last spring. They responded quite nicely, with good growth and yield.

However, this does not mean that one size fits all. New traits and technologies need to be evaluated based upon local environments. Many poor choices are made when local decisions are directed by national programs or trends.

MFA Incorporated spends appreciable time, effort and resources evaluating genetics at the local level. We do this to ensure that our growers have the best opportunity for success. If you have not already done so, get with your MFA seed specialist and/or Certified Crop Adviser to make the right choices for 2010.

The 2009 season reminded us not to put all of our genetics in one basket. Some high yielding lines did poorly under extremely wet conditions. Some genetics designed to hold up well under drought stress conditions did not yield as well as their high-yielding counterparts. No one can predict next season’s conditions. Therefore, please consider a strategic minimum-risk approach to seed selection. This includes selecting genetics based upon local history, soil conditions, crop nutrition, field drainage and other related factors.

The wet fall and relatively low wheat grain price has left us with a tremendously small amount of winter wheat acreage. This should stimulate more full-season soybeans next year. When planting soybeans early, consider residual herbicides, seed treatment, proper fertilization and appropriate maturity groups.

For the second straight season, heavy forage production and large amounts of hay removal have further depleted our forage-crop soil fertility levels. A large majority of soil samples coming from forage fields this fall are showing low phosphorus and potassium levels. Fertilizer prices have stabilized, making now a very good time to replenish those nutrients.

The past two years have provided excellent germination, growth and tonnage of forage legumes. One thing made very clear this year was that when soils were deficient in nutrients and/or low in pH, they produced only a fraction of the legumes present in neighboring well maintained fields.

MFA’s Agronomy Services division has continued to help producers write and maintain nutrient management plans. As we get nearer to the 2011 deadline for plan development, this activity is expected to increase. I recommend that all row crop and livestock producers develop plans (regardless of mandated requirements or state/federal subsidies)..

Similar to nutrient management plans, you’ll see us increase integrated crop management activities like crop scouting and crop consulting. MFA is positioned to offer these services.

The 2009 season marked the fifth straight year of increased precision agriculture programs (sales and services) for MFA Incorporated. During that time we have clearly demonstrated ourselves to be the leader in bringing this technology to the region. Our comprehensive programs offer the most complete package in the marketplace. We offer service for equipment, grid sampling, zone sampling, variable rate seed and fertilizer technology, RTK accuracy. And we couple those services with co-dependent input selections like seed, fertilizer and crop protection products.

Overall, the 2009 field season was turbulent, but resulted in good agronomic production.