Feature

Trial by flood

Flooding in many parts of our trade territory not only affected producers in 2019 but also MFA’s research testing site known as Training Camp. For the past eight years, we have conducted agronomic trials in Boonville, Mo., in the river bottoms just north of the Missouri River. Last spring, we were able to get everything planted before the levee broke just south of the field and flooded the entire bottoms in early June.

Since our Boonville farm was flooded, we weren’t able to hold our an­nual MFA Training Camp field day that usually includes more than 400 MFA employees and ag industry personnel. However, we were able to obtain another research site east of Columbia and provide two field days for growers to tour our test plots.

MFA’s training sites provide hands-on participation in our testing and product evaluation process. Last year’s research included variety trials for MorCorn, MorSoy, DeKalb, Asgrow, Mycogen and NK as well as corn and soybean seed treatments, foliar nutritionals, fungicides, fertilizer studies, understanding dicamba volatility, starter fertilizer and soybean popula­tion.

Beyond the educational opportunities these field days provided for participants, multiple replicated testing sites across MFA’s trade territory delivered data vital for product improvement and evaluation. We con­ducted 30 large-scale, side-by-side trials evaluating fertility, fungicides, seed treatments, plant growth regulators and other biologicals. On the following pages you will find summaries of these trials and results of the research conducted at the test plot site in Columbia in 2019.

MORCORN VARIETY TRIALS

MorCorn variety trials were planted on June 2 with a total of 36 hybrids tested ranging from 104-day comparative relative maturity (CRM) to 117 CRM. We tested 10 MorCorn commercial checks against 24 experimen­tal hybrids and two competitor hybrids.

The field was fertilized with 180 pounds of actual N in the form of SuperU. When we were finally able to get this site planted, there was an expected chance of six inches of rain the next week, so we delayed nitrogen applications until we could ensure that we had a viable stand to complete our trials. By the time we were able to get nitrogen on the test site, the corn was at the V5 growth stage. As you will see, we were still able to produce a good corn crop even with late application of nitrogen. Corn doesn’t use most of its nitrogen until the V6 growth stage, which is why we talk about the importance of getting your nitrogen on the field at the right rate and time but also ensuring that it is protected by nitrogen stabilizers to reduce loss before the plant is ready to utilize it.

The planting population was 32,500 plants per acre. Despite the late planting, yields were impressive for this site. The top end hit 226 bushels per acre with an experimental hybrid. On the bottom were a couple of experimental hybrids at 182 bushels per acre. Results from this year’s MorCorn training site trials can be seen in Fig. 1A and 1B. In addition to our training sites, these hybrids were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 other locations within MFA’s trade terri­tory. In Fig. 1C, you can see a yield comparison for the varieties that have been tested multiple times from 2017-2019 at our replicated sites.

MORSOY VARIETY TRIALS

In terms of soybeans, the diversity of MFA’s trade territory is reflected in the MorSoy lineup. MorSoy varieties range from 3.3 to a 5.0 in maturity and include conventional products as well as Roundup Ready 2 Yield Technology, Roundup Ready Xtend, LibertyLink and Enlist E3. The MorSoy variety trials were plant­ed on June 2 with a total of 55 varieties. We tested 26 MorSoy commercial checks against 27 experimental varieties and two competitor varieties. The planting population was 140,000 plants per acre.

The trials were grouped by relative maturity ranges into four categories with all of the herbicide technology traits combined. Therefore, weed control was maintained with a sound agro­nomic conventional herbicide program. Results from this year’s MorSoy training site trials can be seen in Fig. 2A, 2B, 2C and 2D. In addition to our training sites, these varieties were tested across multiple environments and geographies in 12 other locations within MFA’s trade territory. In Fig. 2E, you can see a yield comparison for the varieties that have been tested multiple times from 2016-2019 at our replicated sites.

FUNGICIDE TRIALS

Over the years, benefits from foliar fungicides have been well documented in both disease control and plant development. This past year, we doubled our variety trials for both corn and soybeans so we could look at the impact of fungicide by variety. Fig. 3A and 3B show overall results for the early and late-season corn varieties, with combined yield for the untreated block and the block treated with Trivapro. As you can see, there was an increase of 20 to 25 bushels in the plots that were treated with fungicide over those untreated in a year with limited disease pressure. We conducted soybean trials the same way and treat­ed the plants with Quadris Top. We saw a 3-bushel to 6-bushel increase on the soybean plots treated with fungicide.

SLOW-RELEASE NITROGEN AND FUNGICIDE TRIALS

While benefits of fungicide on our crops are proven, there is a way we can boost the fungicide to provide an even better return. Slow-release nitrogen (SRN) gives us that opportunity by working synergistically with fungicides, most importantly those with strobilurins. SRNs provide an efficient method of delivering low-use rates of nitrogen to the plant when it is being stressed. This allows fungicides to reduce stress and promote plant growth, resulting in more gains and higher N efficiency.

MFA’s own Gold Advantage Trend-B is a slow-release nitrogen with boron added. Boron is an essential nutrient needed during a crop’s reproductive stages for grain development. However, boron is not very mobile within the plant. When taken up early, boron most likely won’t move enough within the plant to the areas that need it most. By applying Trend-B, we are not only providing nitrogen to help the fungicide promote more efficient plant performance, but also helping deliver optimal boron nutrition for final grain development. Proper timing is crucial to get the most out of these applications for both SRNs and fungicides.

We have done many studies with Gold Advantage Trend-B as well as Gold Advantage Corn and Soybean products with fungi­cide in trials. The tables above summarize the results from 2019 with these products. In Fig. 5A, you can see the results from our SRN trial for corn. While the results are not statistically significant, you can see that there is a trend of increased yields by applying fungicide with Trend-B and Gold Advantage Corn at the proper timing of VT-R1. In Fig. 5B, you can see similar yield benefits in soybeans by providing fungicide and SRNs at the proper timing.

FUNGICIDE TIMING

If there was a theme to our trial work last year, it would be fungicides. In particular, we wanted to look at the best timing for fungicide application. Is it worth it to be early and make applications when we can, or should we wait just a little longer until the soybeans have reached full flower? Or can we delay applications until we near the end? In 2019 trials, we applied fungicide on soybeans at seven different timings, two at early vegetation stages and five during each of the early reproductive stages. As you can see in Fig. 6A, in a year where limited disease pressure was present, the vegetation application timings were similar to the untreated check. We also didn’t see an impact from the fungicide in the later stages of soybean reproduction. Where fungicides made the most impact were in the early re­productive stages when the soybeans are setting pods. That was shown to be the most optimal timing for fungicide application with an increase of 4 to 5 bushels.

SOYBEAN POPULATION TRIAL

We often get questions about soybean population and what is considered a viable stand to determine replants. We conducted a planting population trial to determine the impact of plant population on overall yield. While the results were not statisti­cally significant, in Fig. 7A you can see that an increase in pop­ulation correlated to yield increase until a certain point. This is expected for lower populations because soybeans are well adapted to “make up” for lost stand. They will branch and fill the voids to the best of their ability, but lower populations allow for less canopy closure and more competition from weeds. On the top end, eventually the soybeans will compete with them­selves, which means higher yields cannot be achieved by simply having more plants.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 144

In this March 2020 issue

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 473

Plants out of place

Weeds.

They persist and resist, and every growing season presents new hurdles. The most successful survive and reproduce. They outcompete crops for resources such as water, sunlight and nutrients. They pose ever-increasing challenges for producers.

“A weed is defined as a plant out of place,” said Dr. Reid Smeda, professor of weed sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia. “Every weed has a unique niche and how it’s going to be successful in the soil.”

Many farmers have long relied on the quick-fix control provided by post-emergent herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate and 2,4-D, but with resistance on the rise and limited new technologies on the horizon, management strategies have to change. The key is how.

“Weeds will only respond to our practices,” Smeda said. “If we do the same thing over and over again, no matter what it is, the weeds will adjust, the species will shift. Then we’re back to a prob­lem again.”

Overlapping residuals combined with a post-emergent herbicide is the best bet for sustaining these chemistries in the long run, said Dr. Jason Weirich, MFA vice president of sales and agronomy. It’s a practice he’s been preaching for the greater part of the last decade.

“It’s a double-edged sword when we go to the farm gate,” Weirich said. “When we make the rec­ommendation for overlapping residuals and to use multiple modes of action, it’s not about a sale. It’s about sound science and stewardship. There’s nothing new coming down the pipeline. Ultimately, it’s the producer’s choice, but we want to make sure that our farmers have options as we go into the next growing season and five years down the road.”

Before Bill Fry of Burlington, Kan., began working with his local AGChoice agronomists in 2016, he could see the writing on the wall. His current weed management plan wasn’t working optimally for his operation, and he was spending too much money on expensive chemicals to control what he could.

“We put a burndown on in the spring, but we had to come back at least twice with a post appli­cation to keep the weeds even halfway under control,” Fry said. “Even then we probably only had about 80% control in our fields.”

For the last 30 years, he has been no-till farming ground near the Neosho River. There, he grows corn and soybeans in addition to managing 250 head of cattle.

“Bill really wants to do everything he can to keep his fields clean,” said Colin Kraft, MFA preci­sion agronomy specialist, who works with Fry to develop recommendations for the farm and scouts roughly 1,000 acres of the farmer’s row-crop fields. “He wants to be progressive and do everything right for his operation.”

When Fry began working with MFA’s precision team, together they came up with a new plan. In the fall, Fry applies a burndown application of glyphosate and 2,4-D in the fields he plans to plant into corn the next spring. In the spring, he uses a pre-emergent herbicide on those same fields roughly two weeks before planting along with an overlapping residual. Fry is seeing a difference.

“Our crop scouts come around about once a week, and we’re ahead of the weeds all the time,” Fry said. “It saves us a lot of money and chemical because we don’t have to spend as much trying to get rid of a weed a foot tall. I would say our fields are 95-98% weed free now.”

PRINCIPLES OF RESIDUALS

The type of vigilant weed control found on Fry’s farm shows that herbicide programs still work if used properly and judi­ciously, Weirich said.

“A combination of some of these products will pick up controls,” he said. “The main takeaway is we need to be making sure we are taking the best steps we can to steward the products that we do have.”

If there is a break in treatment, weeds have the potential to take root and grow, and there’s a greater risk of developing herbicide resistance. That’s why overlapping residuals are needed to suppress those weeds, Smeda explained.

“A farmer applies a herbicide in the spring at a certain rate,” he said. “Once applied, herbicides degrade over time to lower concentrations, and this is aided by warm tem­peratures and soil moisture. When the concentration of that herbicide drops below a specific threshold, weeds will germinate.”

The threshold for each weed species is different, Smeda continued. Grasses may germinate at a lower threshold than waterhemp, and waterhemp may germinate at a lower threshold than morning glory.

“At different times through the season, you’ll start to notice weeds break through,” he said. “That’s a reflection of the degradation of the chemical in the soil through natural means. Natural chemical degradation can be facilitated by microbes including bacteria and fungi. Some herbicides on the soil surface can also be broken down by photodegrada­tion, which is the result of exposure to UV light.”

As time passes, less chemical exists in the soil.

“At the point where weeds start breaking through, a post-emergence application is needed to kill emerging weeds. Along with that, additional residual herbicide is added to boost the level of herbicide present,” Smeda said. “By doing that, you’re extending the suppression of sensitive species for a longer period of time and reducing the poten­tial that you have to put another herbicide on.”

MOUNTING A RESISTANCE

A good herbicide program requires more than just residuals, Weirich added. A multi-pronged approach is needed. Each chemistry has different modes of action for control of certain weed species. By varying modes of action in accordance with a proper herbicide recommendation, the probability of resistance is exponentially decreased.

And preventing resistance is an ongoing battle in the world of weed management. In Missouri, 15 weed species have confirmed herbicide resistance. Of those 15, water­hemp is considered to be the most problematic, followed by horseweed, Palmer amaranth and giant ragweed. Now there are suspicions about Johnsongrass.

The first documented case of glyphosate-resistant John­songrass was collected from a soybean field near West Mem­phis, Ark., in 2008. Recently, Smeda collected some rhizome samples from western Missouri to study.

He and some of his graduate students are now conducting Johnsongrass trials in MU greenhouses. “We want to verify if there is resistance and determine the mechanism. Johnsongrass is difficult to manage in corn, and the potential loss of glypho­sate as a management tool could be problematic.”

If Johnsongrass and other significant grasses such as giant foxtail and fall panicum become resistant to glyphosate, Smeda said there would be large holes in the Roundup Ready technology.

“Roundup Ready’s real effec­tiveness is on a lot of the grasses and secondary species,” Smeda said. “But we’re already having to put other chemicals in. That’s why Xtend and Enlist soybeans were developed. It’s going to really require us to think about new strategies of how we’re going to manage this in a corn system as well as soybeans.”

Last year, University of Illinois weed scientists also document­ed waterhemp resistance to the Group 15 class of herbicides— long-chain fatty acid inhibitors, which include products such as Dual, Warrant, Outlook, Degree, Harness and others.

Sometimes called “the super­weed,” waterhemp has demonstrated resistance to six herbicidal modes of action: atrazine, 2,4-D, chlorimuron, fomesafen, glyphosate and mesotrione.

“That doesn’t leave us much, does it?” Weirich said. “Group 15 herbicides are commonly used as part of our residual pro­grams and not only heavily used in soybeans but also in corn. Losing that effectiveness on waterhemp on some populations we know is possible, and it’s something we need to be aware of because currently we don’t have any new modes of action from a residual standpoint.”

If herbicides continue to lose their effectiveness, me­chanical measures like the chopping crews and culti­vators used in some southern states are still an option. However, these control methods are expensive and unreasonable for the size of most farming operations in MFA’s territory.

“Missouri is predominantly a no-till state,” Weirich said. “I’m not sure that we’re ready to go back to that kind of system here from the standpoint of equipment, stewardship and the farming practices we have today.”

CULTURAL CONTROLS

Implementing cultural controls such as cover crops could also help farmers fight weeds. Cereal rye, specifically, has allelopathic properties, meaning the plant itself produces biological chem­icals that affect the growth and survival of other plants.

“Rye is one of the most allelo­pathic of the cereal cover crops,” Smeda said. “Compounds re­leased from the roots of rye have unique herbicidal-type activity. When planted in the fall, it will keep out winter annual weeds. Once the crop is terminated, there are two to six weeks of soil residual activity from those allelopathic compounds.”

In addition, Smeda said 50% of the weeds in Missouri and surrounding areas are light sen­sitive. Because of this, cereal rye can have a suppressive effect.

“Cereal rye forms a sort of mat,” Weirich said. “It basically intercepts the light, causing a smothering effect on the soil. Is it 100% effective? No, it’s not, but it does take out a few of those populations that might be at risk for herbicide resistance and provide a different control method.”

Even before working with MFA and AGChoice, Bill Fry was planting cereal rye as a cover crop for his cattle to graze through the winter. In the fall, when the corn is starting to dry down, he has the seed flown on with a plane. The next spring, he removes the cattle and lets the rye continue to grow. He terminates the cover crop prior to planting soybeans in the residue.

For Fry, the cover crop offers many benefits.

“If you have a good stand, the rye not only fills in the tracks from the cattle, but also helps keep weeds out,” he said. “The cows prefer it to hay. Plus, it provides mulch for the plants.”

Fry stressed that farmers interested in growing rye as a cover crop should do their research.

“Cereal rye is easy to terminate; rye grass is not,” he said.

EXPANDING ENLIST

New traits in crop genetics also offer promise for combating weeds, but stewardship of these technologies is a concern.

Last year, Corteva Agriscience released the Enlist E3 trait of soybeans. Enlist soybeans are tolerant to three classes of herbicides: 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate.

“It’s really going to be the first year where we’re going to have a large number of acres of Enlist,” Weirich said. “Pre­viously, when we had a new trait come out, we saw a step back in adoption of residual herbicides, and growers relied more on post-emergent applications only. Due to current commodity prices and the farm-gate value, some people think we will see that again. If we do, we will see weed resistance.”

Smeda also worries about future management practices surrounding these new traits.

“GMO crops have been a great advantage for farmers,” he said. “But it made us a little management lax and too long dependent on those tools that were successful. Now we’re trying to get back to other tools like residuals combined with post applications that were also successful in the past but abandoned because of the ease of these other programs.”

After the drought of 2018 and flooding in 2019, proper weed management is particularly important this year, Weirich stressed.

“Due to the environmental factors of the last two seasons, I do expect to see increased weed presence in our fields,” he said. “In areas of flooding, we could also see weeds we haven’t seen in a while from soil deposits. We just can’t forget what we’ve learned over the past 20 years. This is definitely not the year to cut back on herbicides, especially residuals.”

For more information on how MFA can help with weed management, contact your local MFA or AGChoice agronomist.

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 1010

For love of dove

 

It’s Sept. 1—opening day of dove season—and 20 hunters are posi­tioned around the perimeter of a freshly mowed, mature sunflower field on Don Dettmann’s farm in Mokane, Mo.

Shots are fired. Shouts follow.

“Over the top!” “Was that you?” “Did you get him?” “Good shot!” “Whose bird was that?”

Spent shotgun shells litter the ground under 19-year-old Marissa Ziebarth’s feet, near several birds she’s harvested this morning. It’s her first dove hunt, and Ziebarth is learning the ropes from her boyfriend, Tyler Cooper, a National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) forester.

“I’ve never shot anything that moved before! I was thrilled,” she said. “It’s tough but really exciting.”

This mentored dove hunt was one of 16 such events held across Missouri in 2019 to introduce the sport to area youth, men and women. The NWTF, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, the Missouri Prairie Foundation and the Missouri Department of Conservation work with private landowners such as Dettmann to make these hunts possible.

“Dove hunting is one of the best experiences, especially for first-time hunters,” Cooper said. “The weather is usually always bearable. You don’t need a lot of special gear, so it’s not expen­sive. Shells are cheap. You get to shoot a lot. If you’re on a good sunflower field, you’re not bored. You can go with a bunch of buddies, so there’s a lot of camaraderie. Not to mention, if you do kill some doves, they’re tasty as can be.”

In the mentored-hunt program, contributions from the NWTF and MDC pay for fertilizer, seed, herbicide and con­tracting costs to establish the sunflower fields. In return, the landowner allows the local NWTF chapters to host three dove hunts on each field. Dettmann belongs to the NWTF’s Callaway County unit, known as The Kingdom of Callaway Limbhangers.

“This is my sixth year doing this,” Dettmann said. “I start way back in March and put in over 200 man-hours in this sunflower field—all for opening weekend. But it’s worth it to watch a new hunter’s eyes get big when that first dove flies by and they take a shot at it. They may go through a whole case of shells and only get a couple of doves, but they have a ball doing it.”

For his eight-acre field, Dettmann said preparations started with a burndown, and then he disked and tilled the ground two weeks later. Then the field was fertilized and sprayed with a pre-emer­gent herbicide. Dettmann used a two-row planter to sow the sunflower seed. When the flowers were 4 inches tall, a post-emergent herbicide was applied to kill any new weeds.

“By late July, the field was in full bloom,” Dett­mann said. “Some of the flowers were over 10 inches wide and full of seeds.”

The flowers matured around the second week in August, and Dettmann used a brush hog to create “runways” in the field and scatter seed on the ground. By then, finch and doves had started to feed on them. A few more runways were cut three days before the first hunt on Sept. 1.

“Don has one of the better fields in our pro­gram,” said John Burk, NWTF’s district biologist for Missouri and Illinois. “On opening day, the field was in perfect condition, and the birds were in there thick. It’s a turnkey deal for him, and a real good partnership for us.”

By the end of opening day, nearly 300 birds were harvested on Dettmann’s farm between the morning and afternoon hunts. The field was at capacity with 11 new hunters, both adults and youth, along with their guardians and assigned mentors.

“My father died when I was 5 years old, so he wasn’t around to teach me to hunt,” Dettmann said. “When I was around 10 or 11, the husband of one of my mother’s friends took me duck hunting in Chillicothe. It was one of my most memorable moments. When I learned about this mentored hunt program and how it focused on youth, I wanted to be part of it. I’ve al­ways liked the idea of helping a kid who wants to hunt but just doesn’t have a place to go. That’s why I do it.”

This field’s for the birds

With their towering stalks and brilliant yellow rays, sunflowers are as beautiful as they are useful. These showy members of the daisy family not only add a vibrant splash of color to the landscape, but they also create wildlife-friendly habitat and a hunting haven, espe­cially for migratory and resident doves.

“A field of sunflowers is an all-around fun, recreational opportuni­ty,” said Adam Jones, MFA Incorporated natural resources conservation specialist. “It’s a great food plot for attracting wildlife, and the seed is nutritious food source, especially for bird species. When managed and manipulated properly, it can provide a concentrated, high-quality hunting environment.”

If dove hunting is the goal, sunflower plots of around 10 acres are ideal, Jones said, but even a few acres will suffice if positioned in the right spot.

“Typically, an open landscape is more attractive to the birds, and ridge tops tend to work better than bottom land from a flight path standpoint,” he explains. “Make sure there is a water source close by and adjacent perching locations, whether natural or artificial, such as trees or power lines. The birds want to fly off to perch and rest for a while, and then they’ll fly back in to feed. If you’re looking to sit there and have a good shoot, creating that traffic is important.”

Growing sunflowers to the scale for successful hunting takes careful planning and management, said Jones. It all starts with sound agronomics.

“You need good seed-to-soil contact and decent fertility,” Jones said. “Sunflowers don’t require a lot of fertilization, especially if it’s a food plot, but the basics have to be there. Follow soil test recommendations for best results.”

Controlling weeds

Sunflowers produce much more seed when planted with wide spacing (15-inch to 30-inch rows) and are not crowded. How­ever, this also provides conducive conditions for weed growth between the rows. Many dove field managers use a pre-emergent herbicide before planting and post-emergent her­bicides after planting to control weeds in their fields.

“Weed control is not only important to reduce competition with the sun­flowers but also from a dove foraging perspective,” Jones said. “The birds are not only after the sunflower seed, but they also want bare ground to feel safe enough to utilize the food source. They’re looking for a place that’s easy to fly into, land, get everything they need and then move off. If you have a really weedy patch, you’re just not going to get the bird use that you would in something that has good weed control.”

To achieve desired results and avoid injury to the sunflowers, it is critical to follow the label for application rates and usage instructions. The list of approved herbicides isn’t nearly as long as for other crops such as soybeans and corn, Jones said.

“Some of our good residual herbicides are labeled for sun­flowers, but there’s not a lot of over-the-top options,” he said. “Weed control is something that needs to be considered and planned up front.”

Selecting varieties

Weed control also plays a role in variety selection. The most common sunflower grown for wildlife is Peredovik, a black-oil variety, but several seed companies offer hybrids as well. Sun­flower seed is also available with Clearfield technology, which makes the plants tolerant to over-the-top applications of Beyond herbicide to control post-emergent weeds.

“The hybrids and Clearfield varieties allow more weed-con­trol options, but there’s a cost difference in the seed,” Jones said. “The hybrid sunflowers tend to do better than common black-oil sunflowers, but both can be successful if managed properly. Your local MFA carries all of these options.”

Planting

In this region, sunflowers should typically be planted in late April or early May to ensure the plants are mature and seeds are dried down in time for dove season, which runs from the first of September until the end of November in Missouri. If dove hunting isn’t planned, sunflowers can be planted as late as early July and still provide food for many other wildlife species.

Jones said sunflowers can be conventionally planted or no-tilled, as long as a good seedbed is established. Sunflowers will grow on a wide variety of soils, but usually perform poorly in wet areas. The plant population should be similar to corn. If seeded too densely, the sunflowers will compete with each other and produce smaller heads, which means less food for wildlife.

“The seed can be broadcast, but that really complicates things,” he said. “It’s hard to get a good, consistent stand. Plant­ing with a row planter is typically the best option. Most of the time you can use a unit designed for corn, but you can also get plates specifically designed for sunflower seed.”

Preventing deer damage

In areas with moderate to high deer densities, heavy browsing can prevent sunflowers from producing seed and sometimes leads to stand loss. Young sunflower plants and developing seed heads seem especially palatable to deer, Jones said.

“Deer damage is a real issue with sunflowers,” he explained. “When they’re real small, just like a soybean, the deer will eat them vegetatively. But when that head first starts to emerge, they can go through and eat all of them. I’ve seen fields that are just sunflower skeletons. You’re not producing any seed then.”

A properly designed electric fence can repel deer and deter damage. Commercial food plot fences are available, but Jones said a simple system can be easily installed with just poly tape, hotwire posts and a charger.

“The electric fence either needs to be super tall, or it needs to be two-tiered, which works really well,” he said. “Essentially, it messes with the deer’s depth perception. They’re not sure they can clear the fence because they can’t really tell how far away the second fence is. It’s just the way their vision works. That’s easier than building an 8-foot-tall electric fence.”

Managing the hunt

As dove season approaches, mowing strips throughout the field will scatter seeds on the ground and facilitate bird retrieval during the hunt. Manipulating sunflower fields in this way is legal, not considered baiting, Jones said. Leaving part of the field standing will also benefit other species, such as songbirds, quail and turkey, he added.

“If you have a patch large enough that you can sacrifice a couple rounds on the outside, mowing some even three or four weeks ahead of time could be beneficial to get a pattern of doves using the field before the season opens,” he said. “I like to keep the strips fairly wide. Shooting and retrieving birds over these mowed areas makes it way easier, and you’ll have less loss.”

During the season, Jones recommends landowners man­age hunting pressure by allowing rest days between shooting sessions. A break in the action gives the birds a chance to get comfortable about returning to the field.

“Get your limit. Get out. Let it rest for a few days, and you can hunt it again,” Jones said. “That way, you can continue to get birds to use that field and have really good hunts multiple times during the month of September or even into October.”

Ultimately, growing sunflowers is about more than just seed production, Jones said. It’s about growing interest in outdoor sports.

“We’re seeing a large decline in hunting population because many of our hunters are aging,” Jones said. “That’s a big deal, because hunters pay for conservation through licensing and fees. For that model to perpetuate, we need more people to take an interest in getting outdoors, and dove hunting is a good recruitment opportunity.”

For more information or details on sunflower planting and management, contact your local MFA or AGChoice personnel or Adam Jones at 573-876-5246 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • Created on .
  • Hits: 1327

About Today's Farmer magazine

Today's Farmer is published 9 times annually. Printed issues arrive monthly except combined issues for June/July, August/September and December/January. Subscriptions are available only in the United States.

If you would like to begin or renew a print subscription, CLICK HERE and go to our shop. We are proud to offer the subscription for only $15 per year.

 ©2020 MFA Incorporated.


Connect with us.