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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Planting Corn in Cereal Rye Cover Crop

We have seen issues with planting corn into cereal rye cover crops.  I have always thought that killing the cereal rye early could help.  Researchers at Iowa State University have found that cereal rye supports the growth of microbes that can be damaging to corn seedlings.  They found that earlier kills worked better.  They also suggest that nitrogen at planting time can help promote healthier corn plants.  We have also found that with low soil test sulfur, rye can create a sulfur deficiency.  Sulfur at planting is also a good idea.  See what they say about reducing the risk of corn seedling disease and yield loss after cereal rye.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Happy Birthday Dad

I went to see my Dad yesterday.  His 88th birthday is Sunday and with dicey winter weather in the forecast for later in the week, yesterday was the day to take his gift.  Dad is in good health both mentally and physically.  He was proud to have passed his annual driver's test. He lives in town, but his mobility is important to him because he goes to see Mom in the nursing home almost every day and then drives out to the farm to putter about.  Dad has always been a fan of 2 cylinder John Deere's.  Grandpa bought  a Model AR in 1941 and that tractor is still on the farm.  The one below is a Model A that was built in 1937 or 38.  It was given to him with a broken pedestal.  He welded and braced the pedestal and at some point a year or 2 later we put in new rings and painted it.  The loader was built by a neighbor.  The tractor still runs and it starts by cranking the flywheel.  Dad is still better than anyone at starting it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Controlling Diseases in Wheat

We grow the Soft Red Winter varieties of wheat in our area.  The crop was more popular in the past, but wheat is still the third largest acreage in Illinois.  In the southern part of the state crop rotations that include wheat are the most profitable assuming that double crop soybeans are also in the mix.  At this time of year it is easy to look across the wheat field and think that it looks great.  A wet spell in the spring can change all that.  University of Nebraska put out this article about Controlling Diseases in Wheat. Published in No-Till Farmer

Monday, December 12, 2016

Iowa Road Trip

We made a road trip to Pella Iowa this weekend.  Crops appeared to be all harvested.  Very little tillage is don on the rolling hills in Iowa.  This is a contrast to Illinois.  Snow was falling in Iowa off and on, but never amounted to much, except to make roads slippery.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Water Quality Issues

In the business of nutrient management, maintaining productive nutrient levels in the soil has been a driving force.  In the modern day world, we need to be more sensitive to the effects of fertilizer on water quality.  High soil test levels of phosphorous can pollute our water and contribute to declining water quality in our rivers lakes and streams.  Keeping soil test levels around ideal will help minimze the loss of phosphorous.  Ideal P1 levels are 25 to 30 ppm.  Ideal Mehlich 3 levels are 30 to 35 ppm.  Multiply the listed levels by 2 if your reports come in pounds per acre.  higher levels may be acceptable on high pH soils.

Nitrogen management is more challenging, although most farms can make improvelents on their nitrogen management as well.  Nitrogen testing, split applications and cutting back on overall rates are all practices that should be looked into. With low crop prices, using the N RATE CALCULATOR will help you determine the rate of return on you nitrogen application and keep nitrogen applications at environmentally friendly levels.  In season soil tests can help you factor in weather during the growing season.  Nitrogen modelling such as is done by Climate Corp may also be useful. Cover crops can convert soil nitrogen into a more stable form for release during the growing season. The Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy is saying, don't stand pat on managing your nutrients.  Do something.  Why?  The EPA has found that 4 in 10 Lakes Have Excessive Nitrogen or Phosphorus Levels.   The days of multiplying your expect yield by 1.2 to get your nitrogen rate are over.  You should be giving it more thought than that.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Illinois River Traffic

I crossed the draw bridge at Florence today.  I was already on the bridge when lights started flashing.  I stopped to see what was coming.  The only boat I saw was the little one in the top picture.  I looked back upstream again and a tow was peeking around the bend.  ow are few of the photos I got as the tow approached the bridge and then moved under it.  The towboat was the Lydia E Cambell.  She is an Illinois river boat with a pilot house that moves up and down.  The barges were tanker barges and coal barges.
Small Boat
Around the bend 

Tankers and Coal

Under the Bridge

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Should You use Starter Fertilizer?

I have this discussion with clients regularly.  They want to know if they should use starter fertilizer. They have tried starter and it looks like the corn is getting head start on corn without starter.  The question is and always has been whether or not pretty corn means more money.  I have seen studies on both sides of the issue.  A recent study out of Minnesota Finds that In-Furrow Starter Fertilizer May Not Pay Off. They found what I have seen often in starter fertilizer studies.  It helps sometimes under very specific circumstances.  One of those circumstances is where soil test P levels are very low.  In most other circumstances, the extra green in the spring just pays for itself or costs money.  Another consderation in my opinion is whether or not the producer has the time to mess with starter.  I have seen that those who mess with starter can get a payoff in maintaining over all fertility.  If it works on your operation, go for it, but if not, don't sweat it