Training Camp delivers

A proving ground for products and teaching grounds for MFA

In 2012, MFA established a research and training program called Training Camp. Training Camp is used as a testing ground for new and existing fertility and crop protection products on corn and soybeans. We have also used this as a training site for retail staff across our trade territory. The first training camp was held in August 2012. We brought in 330 people, mostly MFA staff, to see the plots and demonstrations. The time spent at Training Camp allowed our employees to familiarize themselves with the issues of the growing season and better understand the products and seed and services in the MFA retail system. The second Training Camp was in July 2013 with 438 people in attendance.

In 2012 we split the Training Camp sites. The corn was near Boonville, Mo., and the soybean plots near Laddonia, Mo.

In 2013 we moved both corn and soybeans to Boonville. It allowed us to use the one location to better use the time that we had with our employees. I encourage you to ask your local managers and agronomist about their experience at Training Camp. Aside from MFA experts, we invited private industry seed, fertilizer and crop protection experts along with university weed specialists and agronomists. There was plenty to talk about.

In 2013 we also launched a variety testing protocol for MorCorn and MorSoy genetics. We placed these trials throughout our trade territory so we could see how our future lines will perform in different areas. These trials help our seed division determine what lines to bring forward and what lines may have holes or weaknesses. I have included the distribution and status of the trials in the following tables.

At Training Camp, we had variety, fungicide, foliar fertilizer, nitrogen timing, nitrogen-use-efficiency, phosphorus enhancement, tank contamination, spray drift, volatility and herbicide symptomology trials.

When you look at the data in the following charts, remember that any treatment that has the same letter following the yield showed no significant difference at P=0.10. This year is the first year of the data, and we will replicate these trials in 2014. We’ll continue to compile this information for a longer-term reference.

The nitrogen source and timing study turned out to be an interesting trial. We applied the “ATPLANT N” preemergence and the second application was at V6. After we planted corn trials, we had significant rain to incorporate the nitrogen. However, after the V6 timing, the rain had stopped. All ATPLANT treatments were statistically the same with the exception of ESN, showing that little to no nitrogen was lost from these treatments. In the ESN treatment, we applied 100 percent ESN. Agrium recommends 30 to 60 units of soluble nitrogen with ESN. With most nitrogen recommendations we use some form of a split application. Depending on the year, rain patterns and nitrogen source, yield can be significantly affected. I still recommend split applications in most situations to minimize nitrogen loss and boost utilization.

Our corn variety trial had 42 varieties. After we planted the corn, we spread 200 pounds per acre of nitrogen. Training Camp site soil fertility levels were optimal for P and K. This trial had some exceptional yields. These trials were in the river bottom ground near Boonville, Mo., on very good soil. They were all dryland.

After harvesting this trial and tabulating the data on the computer, I realized the yields were phenomenal. I had to double-check the weights of the plots to make sure that they were correct. While I don’t believe these are typical yields for this field I do believe that proper fertilization, weed control and management played a big part in achieving these high yields.
As we move into the 2014 growing season I will publish more results from our research site and in the fall of 2014 look for some results with two years of data.

Dr. Jason Weirich is the Director of Agronomy at MFA Incorporated. READ MORE FROM DR. WEIRICH HERE


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For weed control, focus on doable, not miraculous

Poor control and weed resistance wait for our mistakes

Last year was yet another growing season for the record books. I commonly hear a saying among producers: “No two years are the same.” And I can offer another common saying in response: “Ain’t that the truth.”

In the past growing season, yields in some locations across our trade territory were better than they expected while others experienced low yields for the second year running. As we head into a new year, I am hopeful that this growing season will be a good one for all.

Overall, weed control across MFA’s territory during the 2013 growing season was better than I expected. But we still have to keep fighting. There are four major weeds that are considered “driver” weeds for most of our fields. They are waterhemp, Palmer amaranth, marestail and giant ragweed. The successful weed control we saw last year can be attributed to the increase use of pre-emergence herbicides and the fact that we started with cleaner fields. More importantly, we had timely rain to activate those residual herbicides. In 2012 we applied a lot of pre-emergence herbicides, but never received enough moisture to active them and provide the kind of weed control we needed.

Each herbicide requires different amounts of rainfall to activate depending on which compounds are in the herbicide. 

When we are making any post-emerge herbicide application we must be targeting weeds smaller than four inches

The overlapping-residual method is gaining speed across the trade territory. This is the use of a full rate of a pre-emerge herbicide applied at planting followed 20 to 30 days with a post-emerge application of another residual. The goal is to never let the weeds out of the ground. 

It’s a sound program, but I see a disconnect between perceptions, expectations and outcome at times. When people call with questions regarding post-emerge applications, I always ask how big the weeds have gotten. The typical response is four to six inches. Upon further investigation I often learned that the caller’s four to six inches is different than mine. 

When we are making any post-emerge herbicide application we must be targeting weeds smaller than four inches. This stands true for today’s technology as well as any new technology that is currently in the pipeline. Once the weed is taller than four inches the success rate of the application significantly decreases. Again, let’s fight them in the soil. Yes, we have to have Mother Nature’s help, but that is the best option we have. 

Liberty Link technology is also gaining speed across the territory. I hear a lot of success stories—and a few horror stories. We typically see good results when we are spraying at 15 to 20 gallons per acre with good coverage of the target species. 

What I don’t like to hear are the success/horror stories that go: “I can’t believe how big the weeds were that we killed.” (An agronomist’s nightmare.) This kind of application puts a significant amount of resistance pressure on the technology. We can’t afford to lose another technology. Our weed control system in a Liberty Link program still consists of a full rate of a pre-emergence herbicide followed by a residual tank mixed with Liberty. 

A new season

As you plan for the 2014 season, lets plan for success and utilize sound agronomic principles. A two-pass program in corn and soybean is here to stay. 

I mentioned in September that Steve Cromley left MFA for another company. I am glad to announce that Jason Worthington has accepted the staff agronomist position. He started with the agronomy staff this year.

Jason will be in charge of the CropTrak program for MFA. He will also be working on nutrient management plans, training, research and producer meetings. We look forward to the excitement and new ideas he will bring to the agronomy staff. Look forward to seeing some articles from him in the near future. 

In next month’s issue I will publish the results from our research site in Boonville along with the variety trials we had across the trade territory during the 2013 growing season. 

If you would like to develop a weed control program for your farm, please contact your local MFA agronomist. 

Dr. Jason Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.

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Meeting season is here

Use these opportunities to fine-tune your operation and let your vendors know what you need to make their products work

As we wrap up another growing season I hope it was a safe and profitable year for you and your operation.

Now that we are moving into the next growing season, you’ll probably be headed to another round of the end-of-the year meeting extravaganza. You may ask yourself: why do I need to attend the informational meetings that different companies promote? I hope to answer some of those questions for you in this month’s article.

Agricultural is changing and we must realize that the days of easy management are behind us. This past year we have had many struggles with weeds, diseases, insects and fertility to name a few.
MFA has a training program that educates our employees about the best IPM practices. We host seven winter trainings in Columbia Mo., for new employees as well as the seasoned veterans of the company.

This training starts with an introduction to agronomy, soil fertility, weed control, corn production, pasture and hay production, cover crops and scouting techniques. At these meetings, we use several industry, university and internal expertise to provide the best knowledge of current and future production practices.

MFA’s agronomy staff and other MFA employees travel the trade territory during the year to do educational meetings for our locations. I had the opportunity to do a lot of these this past year. Last year’s focus was weed resistance.

With the new technologies that are coming down the pipeline, crop management  is going to become more complicated than you or I would like.

After the drought of 2012 and the failure of our pre-emergence herbicides, weed control was a hot topic among crop farmers. As I am writing this article, we have put on a few producer meetings, and in those, the main topic has been soil fertility.

We took a three-day tour across Missouri stopping in Springfield, Kansas City and St. Louis. One of our goals was to help educate MFA location managers and agronomist on the use of MicroEssentials. MicroEssentials is a fertilizer product that MFA currently sells and has an analysis of 12 N, 40 P2O5, 10 S (5 elemental and 5 sulfate) and 1 zinc. I mentioned this product in last month’s article on this page, and it has really generated a lot of calls. Another popular topic at meetings has been pasture and forage management when a grower intends to interseeding new forages. Two years of below-average forage production has made forage stand improvement a necessity. Cover crops have been a hot topic, too.

Regardless of the topic I hope that you will take time out of your busy schedule and attend producer meetings. These meetings provide you the opportunity to interact with the speakers and staff that work with you year-round.

It also allows you to ask questions that pertain to your farm or ranch and, with increased knowledge, I hope, increasing your production. I can’t speak for other meeting speakers, but when I talk at producer meetings my goal is to be strictly educational.

With the new technologies that are coming down the pipeline, crop management is going to become more complicated than you or I would like. During the meetings you attend, the speaker will learn just as much from you as you learn from them. That’s beneficial to everyone as we fine-tune our recommendations for new technology.

For example: when we are talking about these new technologies, you provide us with what information we need to collect or what hurdles we will need to clear before these technologies will be successful. Several fertilizer and chemical companies provide opportunities for you to learn about these technologies and practices. These are excellent resources to help make your farm return the most it can.

Many of you have interacted with the MFA agronomy team and got to know Steve Cromley very well.

Steve has been with MFA for the past eight years and has done a great job. He has contributed to Today’s Farmer in several issues. In Steve’s early years he focused on nutrient management plans and transitioned into a senior staff agronomist for the past three years. Steve accepted a position with another company at the end of September. We would like to wish Steve a smooth transition into his new role. He was a huge asset to MFA and will be greatly missed.

I look forward to seeing a lot of you over the meeting season. I enjoy every chance I get to interact with producers, and it is always my goal to help solve your problems.

Dr. Jason Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.

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Fall field management

Fall-applied herbicides and fertilizer can help next year

August was hard on crops in much of the trade territory. As you see the results coming out of the field, it is time to start thinking about the plans for next year’s crop. Do you apply a fall residual herbicide? How much P and K will you apply? What about micronutrients? These are all questions that have been leading producers and managers to call me.  

Fall-applied residual herbicides have been gaining popularity over the past few years. I believe that the intended purpose of the herbicide is to keep the field clean so when it’s time to plant in the spring little to no fieldwork needs to be done. However, most of the time when I get questions about fall-applied  residual herbicides, the main topic is waterhemp. Any fall-applied residual herbicide labeled for corn or soybeans will have no effect on the waterhemp that you will be facing during the 2014 growing season.

If you apply the herbicide in October or November, it will be long gone by the time waterhemp starts germinating. Fall herbicides can, however, be very effective on marestail, henbit, and other winter annuals. In spring of 2013, when I traveled across our trade territory, I could pick out which fields had a residual herbicide applied and which ones didn’t.

The beauty of the MESZ product is that every fertilizer prill has the same guaranteed analysis. This allows us to have even distribution of these nutrients across the field.

I believe the practice of fall-applied residual herbicide has a fit in most of our trade territory. In some places, it might be beneficial to leave the cover to help reduce soil erosion. There are a lot of good herbicide options available. Visit with your local MFA to get details on which fall herbicide program might fit your farm.

When it comes to fall fertilization, the numbers of acres that get applied is always a matter of how well fall weather cooperates.
Last fall, MFA agronomist Steve Cromley wrote a column called Nutrient Level Tune-Up. This article is available here:

Cromley made some good points. In summary: Soil testing and nutrient management is not an exact science. When you receive your soil test reports, there are a lot of numbers. Don’t get lost in the numbers—take a step back and look at the soil test ratings. These ratings for P and K are crucial. The ratings range from very low to very high. The lower you are on the rating, the higher probability you have of seeing a yield response from applying fertilizer.

Developing a long-term fertilization strategy will help you take your farm to the next level. You have a couple options to choose from: build-plus-maintenance or the sufficiency approach.

Build-plus-maintenance is more common on deeded land or land with a long-term lease. We typically see sufficiency plans on land that is leased short term.

Cromley jokes that a weed scientist always sees new products coming down the pipeline and a soil scientist rarely sees anything new. Just the same old stuff: MAP, DAP, etc.

Well, for the past couple years across our trade territory some of MFA’s locations have had a new product called MESZ. The product is made by Mosaic and has an analysis of 12N 40P 10S and 1ZN. You may say, “I am already doing this with our four-bin trucks.” The beauty of the MESZ product is that every fertilizer prill has the same guaranteed analysis. This allows us to have even distribution of these nutrients across the field.

Dr. Kelly Nelson at the University of Missouri Greenly Center has evaluated this product for several years and has seen a positive response. We have evaluated it in our Training Camp locations on corn and soybean and believe this product will provide the economic benefit you are looking for.

If you are reluctant to treat your whole farm with this product, I would suggest that you take a couple fields and split them in half and evaluate it on your farm.

Take it to yield and see the difference for yourself. I believe that this product will help you take your yields to the next level.

Soil testing and interpretation is only a portion of a well-developed nutrient management plan. A nutrient management plan should consider the 4R best management practices for each field.

The 4R nutrient stewardship concept is to apply the right source of plant nutrients at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. Visit with an MFA Agronomist to help develop a nutrient management plan that is tailored to your farm.

Dr. Jason Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.


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Cover crops on the rise

Seeding a cover crop can be useful, but make sure it fits your rotation

The use of cover crops is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington talked about cover crops in the late 1790s. And you’ve probably heard people talking about “green manure” crops that used to be more common where you farm. There are various reasons that cover crops slipped from popularity, and some good reasons that they are on the comeback in some situations.

In general terms, cover crops are non-crop plant species selected to seed into crop production fields. They can be seeded during the crop season, but often times are seeded as a “follow-up” to the growing season. The main goal of a cover crop is to conserve resources and boost the ecosystem.

Cover crops contribute to those goals by potentially increasing soil infiltration to reduce runoff and soil erosion. And, the right kinds of cover crops provide improved wildlife habitat.

That’s aboveground. In the soil, properly managed cover crops can increase soil porosity and organic matter, which tends to increase water-holding capacity, again, reducing runoff and erosion.

If you plant legumes, like the green manure crops on granddad’s place, you can fix nitrogen to credit into your fertility plan.
Cover crops can also be a part of weed and disease management.

Yes, cover crops have benefits that we know about and some that we haven’t discovered yet. On the other hand, cover crops also have a few management issues that you need to consider.

When you are making a plan for cover crops, you must have a goal. If you are doing it because your neighbors are doing it you might want to rethink why you are doing it. There are a lot of different crops that are utilized in a cover crop situation:
•    Wheat
•    Tillage Radish
•    Turnips
•    Oats
•    Rye
•    Clover
•    Cowpeas
•    Hairy Vetch
•    Italian Ryegrass, Marshal Ryegrass, Lolium multiflorum

One cover crop in particular has been a hot topic lately: ryegrass Lolium multiflorum. For the record, I categorically advise against ryegrass. It has the potential of turning into a problematic weed on cropland. In other parts of the world, ryegrass is resistant to several different herbicide modes of action that would make it very difficult to control in our fields (ALS, ACCASE, Glycines, Chloroacetamides and Glutamine synthase inhibitors).

Some other cover crops have weedy characteristics too. As you consider cover crops, you need to have a plan to kill it or be willing to interplant. We have solid herbicide options to kill most of the cover crops at certain timings. However, if the spring is delayed or we have a very wet spring and can’t get across the field to spray, those options will need to be altered on a field-by-field basis. Managing the cover crop becomes an integral part of spring planting. This can cause problems when its time to plant our normal cash crop. The delayed planting of some fields this spring could be the difference of making a great crop or a bad crop.

In June and July, I receive several calls on rotation restrictions following our soybean and corn herbicides. Most herbicide labels don’t have any information on what the cropping rotation or grazing restrictions are when the following crop is a cover crop.

Cover crops depend on good fall growth to serve their purpose of reducing soil erosion, increasing nutrient retention or breaking the hard pan.

Failure in fall can severely reduce tonnage and your conservation goals.

Choose the cover crop that best fits your reasoning. I don’t believe that one blend of species will be the right blend for every producer.

Dr. Kelly Nelson at the University of Missouri research station in Novelty, Mo., is demonstrating seeding times and rates of different cover crops in corn and soybeans. Dr. Kevin Bradley at the University of Missouri is researching the use of cover crops to suppress weeds into corn or soybean crops. Bradley’s work was presented at the recent Pest Management Field Day. This was the first year of data from those plots.

There is a lot of research/information needed to fully integrate cover crop systems for our trade territory. I do believe they have benefits, but with the benefits come hurdles. Through sound research and your on-farm experience you can use cover crops to your benefit. Find a wide range of information on cover crops at the Midwest Cover Crops Council: Contact your local store for more information and recommendations.

Dr. Weirich is director of agronomy for MFA Incorporated.

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