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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Boosting our expertise

2013 MFA Agronomy Training Camp helps us help you

In 2012, MFA Incorporated started a training program to educate our staff on new and upcoming agronomic products and practices that can help our farmer/owners be more profitable. The camp is beneficial in that it allows MFA staff to experience these products with a hands-on approach. 2012 turned out to be an abnormally dry year and our corn site was below average. Just as for our customers, corn yield was disappointing on those plots. However, our soybeans continued to thrive.

Regardless of end-of-year yield, our training proceeded. Some 338 MFA employees received training in various agronomic sessions. We had six different stops including a focus on varieties, fertility, soybean agronomics, insect scouting, fungicide options and herbicide resistance programs. The 2012 field program was very successful even with the drought.

In 2013 we plan on even a better turnout for our training. With the upcoming release of Extend (from Monsanto) and Enlist (from DOW Agrosciences), we will have several stops educating our staff on the proper use of these technologies. We’ll focus on the importance of managing these traits and challenges associated with these herbicide traits. This theme of herbicide trait management will only grow in the future, as more and more herbicide resistance traits are incorporated in corn and soybean varieties. Training MFA employees in these matters will provide you with quicker answers and more in-depth expertise at the local level.

Meanwhile, the training site serves as two purposes—training and product evaluation. We will evaluate experimental varieties, herbicides, adjuvants and agronomic practices. We also have several MorCorn and MorSoy experimental varieties to evaluate at 10 different locations across our trade territory. The replicated variety trials were established to evaluate performance of the experimental varieties and assist in the proper placement of the varieties. We will look at about 84 corn and soybean varieties at the training campsite, including MorCorn, MorSoy, Dekalb, Asgrow, Mycogen and NK. The replicated variety trials were established to evaluate performance of the experimental varieties and assist in the proper placement of the varieties.

Evaluation of new crop-protection products is key. We are evaluating foliar fertilizers, fertilizer additives, seed treatments, etc. to make sure that the products we sell perform for our producers. Agriculture is changing and so are the products that we apply to our crops to maximize profit. Through our product testing and staff training we hope to deliver proven products and top expertise. We’ll let you know how the tests go. Please feel free to contact one of our locations for the results after harvest.

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

Read the originally published story HERE.

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Grow better fescue

Developing a fertility program for your forage crops may not be as simple as determining nutrient needs for row crops. In row crop production you apply nutrients with the simple goal of maximizing yield. While you would like to grow as much forage as possible, your real goal should be maximizing the utilization of the forage grown.
Before developing a fertility program for your cool season grass pasture and hay fields, it is a good idea to evaluate your current forage species and stand health. Evaluating your current forage inventory will help determine seasonal production and times of excess or shortages in forage production. The goal should be to increase forage production or availability when forage is typically short and to increase utilization of forages when excess growth occurs.

You can use fertilizer, specifically nitrogen, to promote growth to meet seasonal needs. Grasses respond well to nitrogen fertilizer. Each ton of fescue produced requires 40 pounds of nitrogen. The soil will supply some nitrogen to the plant. The goal becomes to provide additional nitrogen to promote growth when needed. You can use nitrogen to promote growth of fescue in the spring and late summer. Determining when and how much nitrogen to apply will depend on your specific goals and should be evaluated on a field-by-field basis.

In order to get maximum benefit from nitrogen applications, soil-test levels for pH, phosphorus and potassium should be within recommended ranges. Apply lime, phosphorus and potassium according to soil test results.

Stockpiling tall fescue for fall and winter grazing
Stockpiling is the practice of accumulating growth in the late summer and fall with the purpose of grazing the forage produced through the winter months. Nitrogen applications in early to mid-August will promote growth of tall fescue and increase total forage production. Target thick and healthy stands for nitrogen applications. It is best to graze or mow summer growth down to three inches before fertilizer applications.

Response to nitrogen fertilizer will depend on available moisture. Apply 40 to 60 pounds of nitrogen in early to mid-August for fall growth. Apply higher rates when excess forage is needed if moisture is adequate and yield potential is high.
In order to maximize forage utilization and return on fertilizer investment for stockpiled forage, cattle should be managed with controlled grazing. Strip grazing will reduce waste and maximize forage intake. Research conducted at the University of Missouri has demonstrated that stockpiled tall fescue maintains quality throughout the winter months.

Spring applications of nitrogen to promote growth of tall fescue
Spring nitrogen applications should be made to promote growth at the time of greatest forage need. If managing for hay or maximum tonnage, the nitrogen should be applied before grass greens up in early spring. Figure about 40 pounds of nitrogen per ton of growth desired.

If you have adequate forage early in the spring or can’t keep up with the early flush of growth, you can apply nitrogen after the first grazing cycle. Applying later in the spring will reduce overall tonnage but should extend the grazing season longer into the summer months.

Using fertilizer to promote forage growth to meet production goals and seasonal needs reduces waste and maximizes forage utilization.
Steve Cromley is senior staff agronomist for MFA Incorporated.

READ the originally published story HERE.



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Grass+Legume makes better forage

Getting legumes into grass pasture is a time-honored way to make better grazing and hay. If you plan to interseed new legumes into an existing grass stand, consider following ideas to improve the success rate of your seeding.

Grass stands are commonly lower in nutrients than what will be needed by the legume. Soil fertility should be brought up to a level adequate for the interseeded legume. Phosphorus is commonly low in grass pastures unless animal manure has been applied regularly. Phosphorus encourages root growth and development as well as nodule production.

Soil pH generally needs to be higher for legumes than grasses. Apply lime several months prior to seeding the legume to adjust for proper soil acidity levels at the time of seeding.

Well-established grasses may make it difficult to get a legume going. There are several methods that can be used to weaken the existing sod, allowing the legume to become established. Grazing, mowing, light tillage, burning, chemical control, frost seeding and no-till drilling are all potential ways to aid in legume establishment in a heavily sod-dominated pasture. The thickness of the grass canopy and roots both need to be considered. If the existing sod has a thick vigorous root system, then a management practice such as light tillage will help weaken the stand to allow for legume establishment. A no-till drill used in combination with a sod-suppression management practice will help ensure good seed to soil contact and even emergence.

It is important to inoculate legume seed before planting. Even if the pasture has previously grown legumes inoculant should be used because Rhizobium bacteria populations necessary for good nodulation can vary across pastures. It is a relatively cheap practice to help ensure good legume establishment.

The benefits
Successfully interseeding legumes can also reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer. Legumes have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. As older legume roots die, grasses can take up nitrogen from their decaying roots, increasing protein content and yield. A good legume stand can fix between 50 to 300 pounds of nitrogen per acre and should comprise about 30 to 50 percent of the pasture.
One way to look at the value of legumes is to consider that adding nitrogen fertilizer will increase total dry matter yield for the year it is applied, but a legume will improve the seasonal distribution of forage dry matter across multiple grazing cycles. Nitrogen fertilizer will also increase the competitive advantage of the grass over the legume.

Protein is in high demand for growing and developing livestock. Legumes have higher protein content than grasses and can be a great benefit to help meet livestock’s protein intake need. They can also improve the palatability and digestibility of the forage system. Improving the quality of feed has shown to directly benefit animal performance through increased gains, higher conception rates, increased milk production and higher weaning weight. Legumes also help decrease fescue toxicosis in fescue infected with endophyte.

Adding legumes to an established grass pasture provides many benefits. A substantial and healthy legume component in your pasture delivers increased nutritional quality, reduced need for nitrogen fertilizer and a longer grazing season. These benefits all mean lower input costs per pasture acre and increased animal performance through grazing better quality forages.

Adam Noellsch is a staff agronomist for MFA Incorporated. 

READ the originally published story HERE.

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