Many of you may know that I grew up in eastern Colorado. It was a small farming town called Eads. I never dreamed I would live anywhere else. That area of the country is quite opposite, in terms of weather, from Missouri. In Eads, we always seemed to be in a drought (at least that’s what I remember). Here, we go from one extreme to another. I mention this because I’ve had the great opportunity to live in many places and have seen our agriculture community reach out to those in need. These past few months have once again proven why I love our agriculture community. People came together to help those affected by flood damage. They show up in times of trouble and don’t expect anything in return. I appreciate everyone who has graciously donated goods and time to help those in need.
While we’ve had a trying spring, it’s time to focus on this growing season. We’ve talked about selecting the right nitrogen source and rate. We’ve talked about selecting the right adjuvant. Now, let’s talk about weed control.
Weed control is the hot topic at a lot of coffee shops. New traits will allow HPPD, dicamba and 2,4-D herbicides to be applied to soybeans. WOW. I bet we can treat them like the old Roundup Ready soybeans. WRONG. While that practice might work for a while, it’s not a good long-term plan.
Overlapping residuals is something that we’ve discussed before. With the rapid adoption of the LibertyLink weed control system over the past couple of years, we have seen a decrease in the number of acres that are receiving overlapping residuals. On the other hand, in the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend system, we’ve seen the continued use of overlapping residuals. As we look to the future of the trait platform, most have tolerance to glufosinate. It’s even more important that we steward these new technologies. We have been putting considerable selection pressure on the LibertyLink crops, and we need this system for future use. This should be an indication that we need to protect this trait.
You may have heard in the ag news that University of Illinois researchers identified a population of waterhemp in Illinois that is resistant to group 15 herbicides (Dual, Outlook, Zidua, Warrant). This class of herbicides has been doing the heavy lifting for many years. Waterhemp populations that are resistant to multiple modes of action are becoming more common every year.
You may have also heard that a couple of companies have a new mode of action (MOA) in the pipeline. This would be the first new MOA in several years. This is very exciting for a weed scientist. It will still be several years before we will see the new products placed with trial cooperators and even a few years after that before they are available on the market, but it is exciting nonetheless.
In the near term, however, there is nothing new on the horizon. That’s all the more reason for us to focus on stewarding all of the technologies that we currently have. We must use good application methods to make sure we don’t run out of options.
As for the 2019 growing season, MFA will continue with our same protocol as last year when it comes to application of dicamba products XtendiMax, Engenia or FeXapan. MFA staff will evaluate sentinel plots weekly to determine soybean growth stages and potential cutoff dates for spraying dicamba in our different regions. Every Tuesday morning throughout the growing season, we will send out reports to all MFA employees and publish an updated map on our website to give a general outline of the soybean stages in the different regions. The map and other information will be available at mfa-inc.com/news.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or one of our MFA Agri Services, AGChoice or affiliate locations.
Anything that prevents a herbicide from reaching its target, deactivates a herbicide or reduces exposure to the target weed is a hurdle to effective pest control. Often, these hurdles seem daunting. While matching applications to proper environmental conditions is critical for highly effective weed control, there are tools we can use to overcome threats to herbicide performance— even in optimum circumstances. Among these are properly selected, high-quality adjuvants.
Adjuvants are often one of the least understood but most effective tools to enhance crop protection performance. Depending on the product, a properly selected adjuvant can prove invaluable to increasing the likelihood of plant uptake. Adjuvants condition water to prevent herbicide deactivation, reduce drift fines and make mixing and tank cleanout easier. The key to successful adjuvant use is knowing the right product for the job.
Adjuvants typically fall under three basic categories: activators, spray modifiers and utility products.
These include non-ionic surfactants (NIS) such as MFA’s Astute, crop oil concentrates (COC) such as MFA’s Relay, and methylated seed oils (MSO) such as MFA’s SoyPlus. NIS, often called “wetters” or “spreaders,” are designed to reduce surface tension of a water droplet. This action causes a droplet to flatten out and spread across a leaf surface, increasing the surface area in contact with the leaf. NIS products contain ingredients such as organosilicones that have some penetrative properties, but typically oils (COC and MSO) are considered true penetrants. While oils provide less reduction in surface tension than NIS, they increase penetration through barriers such as waxy leaf cuticles.
Selecting the proper activator is a balance of increasing weed control without adversely affecting crop safety. For example, oils can add to weed control, especially in unfavorable conditions, but can have negative effects with certain herbicides.
More and more products such as Xpond, a high-surfactant oil concentrate (HSOC), are being used because of their combined effects as a spreader and oil. Lower oil use rates makes them safer on crops without sacrificing weed control.
These products vary in utility and include fertilizers, water conditioners, humectants and deposition and retention aids (DRA). Fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate (AMS) are often used as a water conditioner. AMS can neutralize hard water ions that deactivate herbicides such as glyphosate but can also improve uptake of herbicides by introducing ammonium to the solution. Problems with use of ammonium-containing fertilizers include high volume requirements and incompatibility with newer dicamba formulations due to increased volatility. Low-use alternatives are available. Some contain ammonium, such as Waypoint, and some don’t, such as Impetro II.
Humectants aid weed control by increasing a droplet’s drying time. Extending the time a herbicide remains in liquid form can improve uptake by weeds, increasing control. In MFA’s Crop Advantage lineup, humectants have been added to Impetro II and AMS Advantage.
DRAs are used to control drift and minimize droplet bounce to reduce off-target movement and leaf retention. Compatibility and considerations with tank-mix partners are important, so choose DRA products wisely. PowerShot and SoyPlus HD contain both penetrants and DRAs, and MFA’s Impetro products contain DRAs in addition to humectants and water conditioners.
This broad category of adjuvants covers several products that mostly work to increase the ease of handling pesticides. Included in this group are defoamers, tank cleaners such as Evict and compatibility agents such as Convert that can prevent or even remedy certain tank-mix issues.
With such a wide array of functions and compatibility, adjuvant selection is challenging. To complicate matters further, adjuvants are not regulated like pesticides, and the market is full of untested, inferior products claiming to be of equal quality. For example, you would assume an NIS labeled 90/10 would contain 90 percent surfactant. In fact, the label only implies 90 percent active ingredient, which could be any number of things and make a typical rate ineffective.
The uncertainty in the market is why MFA developed its Crop Advantage line of adjuvants. We subject our products to third-party testing by the Council of Producers and Distributors of Agrotechnology to ensure the highest quality. Growers can be assured that products with a Crop Advantage label adhere to MFA values of honesty, integrity, accountability, innovation, technology, customer partnering and stewardship. For more information, visit with your local MFA crop specialist.
SuperU fertilizer makes sure this corn crop will receive the nitrogen it needs with protection against volitalization, dentrification and leaching.Where did fall 2018 go? Harvest dragged on and on. We had little to no movement of fall fertilizer, fall herbicide, and, for that matter, timely planted cover crops. It seems we say this every year, but this past fall will certainly be remembered— either for harvest at Christmas or lack of field work being done.
Now, however, it’s time to focus on the spring ahead. As I mentioned, very little nitrogen has hit the ground. Yes, a few areas got a good run around the holidays, but, for the most part, we are at ground zero.
For many, anhydrous is the preferred N source in MFA’s trade area. Its high percentage of nitrogen, effectiveness and application methods make it a great fit. However, supply can be tight, which I think will happen this spring.
Looking at N options for spring application, we have to be realistic. We do have other choices. Available nitrogen sources include urea, urea with N-Guard, urea with Instinct, SuperU, UAN and anhydrous. No matter which form you choose, nitrogen stabilizers are crucial to protect your plant food investment.
I’ve discussed urea before. If it is surface-applied, we must protect it with nBPT, the active ingredient that combats the urease enzyme and limits volatility. You read about this in last month’s article on our Training Camp results. MFA’s nitrogen stabilizer N-Guard is an approved nBPT that is proven to be one of the best volatilization inhibitors on the market. Volatilization is the most common form of nitrogen loss with dry fertilizer products.
Now is also a good time to cover SuperU, a stabilized urea-based granule that contains nBPT and dicyandiamide (DCD). The nBPT provides above-ground protection, and DCD protects the nitrogen below ground.
Urea with Instinct nitrogen stabilizer also provides below-ground protection. The active ingredient in Instinct is encapsulated nitrapyrin, an organic compound that slows down the soil bacteria that converts ammonium to nitrate, keeping nitrogen in the ammonium form longer. Instinct is essentially N-Serve for urea.
If UAN is your nitrogen source, it must be protected, too. UAN is 50 percent urea and 50 percent ammonium nitrate. While the ammonium nitrate isn’t volatile, the urea portion is, and they are both subject to below-ground losses. Agrotain Plus is the product we use in this situation. It has nBPT and DCD that will protect the nitrogen from all three forms of nitrogen loss: volatilization, denitrification and nitrate leaching.
We often get questions about using N-Serve in spring applications of anhydrous. Is it needed in the spring? Research has shown that we can see a 7 percent advantage from fall-applied nitrogen with N-Serve and a 5 percent advantage when it’s applied in the spring. Another question that comes up is about how long the protection from N-Serve lasts. A rule of thumb is 90 days for fall applications. Days are counted from application until temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Then the counting starts again in the spring when soil temperatures warm above 40 degrees. Generally, with spring applications we can expect eight weeks of activity from an April 15 application, seven weeks from a May 1 application, and six weeks from a May 15 application.
While many of you prefer anhydrous, yields with SuperU have shown to be equal to that of anhydrous with N-Serve.
A pound of N is a pound of N, as long as it’s still available for the crop when it needs it. This spring, whether you’re applying and protecting anhydrous, urea, Super U or UAN, visit with your local MFA Agri Services or AGChoice for the best option to use on your farm.
During MFA Incorporated’s 2018 Training Camp field day July 25 in Boonville, Mo., Director of Agronomy Jason Weirich explains the dicamba research trial conducted on the site.
These soybeans were affected by off-target dicamba movement in the Training Camp trial. The stunted growth and cupped leaves are key symptoms of dicamba damage.
Weirich and his agronomy team used these plastic-covered hoop houses to create conditions that were conducive to dicamba volatility. Fourteen different tunnels were used, each placed over two rows of soybeans that were subsequently subjected to straight dicamba or a mixture of dicamba and other crop protection products.
ON OCT. 31, THE EPA MADE its much-anticipated announcement that dicamba registration will be extended for over-the-top use on cotton and soybean plants genetically engineered to resist the product.
The approval is for two years, and the EPA will consider the issue again in 2020. In its news release, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the registration extension was made because dicamba has proven to be a valuable weed-control tool for America’s farmers.
The decision is welcomed by MFA Director of Agronomy Jason Weirich, who agreed that growers need the dicamba-tolerant technology in the Roundup Ready Xtend crop system as a weapon against the increasing number of herbicide-resistant weeds.
“We need dicamba technology to combat weed resistance, but we have to be good stewards,” he said. “Protecting the technology for the future is important, not only from an economic standpoint but also an environmental standpoint.”
This past year, Xtend seeds, which are tolerant to both dicamba and glyphosate, were planted on some 40 million acres, representing nearly half of all soybeans and cotton in the United States. Bayer, which now owns Monsanto, expects that total to grow to 60 million acres in 2019.
In the two seasons that Xtend technology has been commercially available, growers have seen success in both weed control and yield response, Weirich said. However, there have also been widespread complaints that dicamba herbicides drifted and harmed non-tolerant crops.
To help mitigate those issues, EPA imposed additional restrictions on dicamba spraying. Starting in 2019, only certified pesticide applicators will be allowed to spray the chemical, and applications must end 45 days after planting soybeans and 60 days after planting cotton.
MFA placed its own stringent protocols on the sale and use of dicamba during the last growing season to minimize the risk of damaging non-targeted plants. A network of “sentinel plots” across MFA’s service territory allowed crop scouts to track soybean growth and provide timely information to applicators about crop progress. MFA applicators were alerted to stop spraying when the majority of soybeans in their area reached the R1 reproductive stage, when dicamba injury can do the most harm to non-target plants.
That protocol will continue in 2019, Weirich said.
“We consider our system to be a success,” he said. “In 2018, we didn’t have nearly as many complaints as we had in 2017 and actually sprayed more acres of Xtend soybeans.”
Weirich and his team of agronomists are also conducting their own research to help understand more about what causes off-target dicamba movement. Trials at MFA Incorporated’s Training Camp site in Boonville, Mo., this past summer helped shed some light on best practices in applying dicamba products, Weirich said.
“When we set up these plots, we had just come out of 2017 season, where we saw a significant amount of off-target movement, and we were looking for reasons why,” Weirich explained. “This trial specifically looked at different tank mixes and their role in dicamba volatility. There’s been a lot of talk about how ammonia sulfate, different salts in glyphosates and other issues could cause off-target movement.”
To encourage conditions for dicamba volatility, Weirich and the MFA agronomy team used 15-by-5-foot plastic-covered hoop houses placed over soybeans at the V3-V4 stage in mid-June. A flat of soil taken from the site was filled to capacity with moisture and treated with either straight dicamba or a dicamba mix. The flats of soil were sprayed more than 50 yards away from the plot so there was no risk of contamination.
The trial included 14 different treatments. Each flat was placed underneath a hoop house over two rows of soybeans and left for 24 hours.
“The temperature got up to 97 that day,” Weirich said. “It was hot and humid. This trial was designed to make the environmental conditions conducive to volatility.”
Six of the 14 flats were treated with straight dicamba: Clarity, which is not labeled for over-the-top application on soybeans, and two approved formulations, Engenia and XtendiMax. Each was applied in both a 1⁄2-pound and 1-pound rate.
“Clarity showed visible damage to the ends of the 15-foot tunnel. It’s a non-improved formulation, and it definitely showed increased volatility,” Weirich said. “With Engenia and XtendiMax, movement was very minimal, no more than 1 foot away from the flat. We couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two products.”
Other lessons learned from the trial, Weirich said, were the detrimental effects of ammonium sulfate (AMS), commonly used as a water conditioner in glyphosate tank mixes. In the Training Camp plots, a full rate of AMS with both XtendiMax and Engenia showed significant damage compared to applications of straight dicamba.
“We saw severe cupping and stacked nodes a good 5 to 7 feet outside the tunnels on both ends,” Weirich said. “We also tested a 1⁄10 rate of AMS, and also had significant damage. In fact, visually, I couldn’t tell the difference between the full rate and 1⁄10 rate.”
The take-home message, he continued, is to meticulously clean out application equipment before spraying an Xtend field, even if the sprayer is moving from a Roundup Ready field to a Roundup Ready Xtend field.
“What this tells us is that a very small amount of AMS is detrimental to Xtendimax or Eugenia,” Weirich said.
Another section of the trial compared different formulations of glyphosate with varying salt content, which has also been suspected in dicamba volatility. One plot looked an application of Xtendimax with Roundup PowerMax and another tested Xtendimax with Durango, a glyphosate product from Dow AgroSciences that is not labeled for application with dicamba.
With the XtendiMax-PowerMax mix, there was movement to the end of the tunnels with increased damage near the flats compared to the straight dicamba product at the same rate. With Durango, however, there was significantly increased injury.
“There are some best practices out there to minimize volatility, and at MFA, we’ve taken the stance that we will use PowerMax, based on the research and data out there,” Weirich said. “This trial shows us there is a big difference in the various salt formulations of glyphosate and the effect on volatility.”
Weirich acknowledged that this trial was a one-year demonstration with the main goal of educating MFA employees about the risks associated with off-target dicamba movement and the importance of proper tank cleanout. He said MFA plans to continue the study next summer.
“Overlapping residuals are still key for the future of dicamba or any technology coming down the pipeline,” he said. “At MFA, we’re doing everything we can to manage this technology by training our applicators to know the risks and follow all federal and state guidelines. We need this technology, and we want to make sure we are good stewards.”
What a year we’ve had—from nearly perfect planting conditions to a drought that affected most of our trade territory to more rain during harvest season. Is this the new norm? Maybe.
In most cases, we’ve seen higher yields in corn this year than we expected, but we know that yield variability across fields is normal. We’ve also seen the same when we look at nutrient values. Do they always correspond? Do the high-yielding spots always have the higher nutrient values? The short answer to both of these questions is, “No.” Sometimes the areas with lower nutrient levels might be your highest-yielding spots in the field. This may sound confusing, but these areas are removing more nutrients than others. So it only makes sense that we would put back different rates of fertilizer. Right? This is a common issue we discuss when visiting with producers.
This variability in nutrient values can cause headaches when planning how to replace the P and K that your crop removed. While the flat-rate method of replacing what the whole field averaged has worked in the past, I believe that variable-rate application of nutrients is one of the best management practices that we should all consider to help minimize environmental issues and increase yield. This allows your fertilizer dollar to go further. Nutri-Track programs have a strong focus on nutrient stewardship. We want to put your fertilizer where it will get you the biggest return.
As you may have seen, the first week of October we announced that MFA is partnering with Adapt-N to offer Nutri-Track N recommendations with all of our current Nutri-Track acres (see related story on page 5). This program allows our agronomists and precision specialists to work with producers to employ a nitrogen model to determine optimal rates for your fields. This model takes in a number of factors to determine the right N rate. The tool evaluates organic matter, soil type, rainfall and other variables that affect nitrogen. We then use this model-based N recommendation to have a conversation with you to find efficiencies in nutrient stewardship as well as increasing yield.
Over the past couple of years, two of our producers have been named 4R Advocates, a national award for nutrient stewardship. The 4Rs promote general best management practices that are the foundation of our precision programs: the Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place. While this may sound simple, it can also be very complex. The 4R program is important, because it demonstrates our commitment to soil stewardship, proper fertilization practices and the economic benefit of these techniques.
I also feel strongly that the average person, not involved in agriculture, misunderstands the concept of fertilization in commercial farming. The 4R program may help dispel some misconceptions by the general public. For more information, visit www.nutrientstewardship.org or stop by your local MFA.
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