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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Corn Planting Progress

I have been working in The River Bottoms in St. Charles County Mo. the past week.  Corn planting has gone fast, even with showers over the weekend.  One client is finishing today and several have one or two days left to plant.  Rain in the forecast may slow things down again, but planting progress is excellent.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Good Soybean Harvest in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

The soybean harvest was great in Brazil, most of the states have already closed the harvest, the states further north, Bahia, Maranhão, Piaui and Tocantis are beginning to harvest, and the crop will be good, too. We have good corn crops second crop. Corn and soybean yields are great here in Brazil. Argentina has yet to show its crop yields, many rains have flooded the crops at planting and now at the harvest new floods have occurred, it is still uncertain!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Iowa Road Trip

We spent the weekend with our Iowa Family this weekend.  Corn planting seemed to be well underway on the Illinois portion of the trip.  The Missouri leg is mostly a view of Mississippi River Bottomlands.  There was a lot planted in Missouri too. Traveled from the Missouri Border to Pella.  Once we got into Iowa, there was not a lot planted. There we showers over night.  Topsoil looked amp in some place.  Other places only got sprinkles.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Topsoil Moisture

We sampled North of Springfield today.  Topsoil moisture is good.  Some of the low ground was wet, even though it has been 3 days since rain.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rainfall Shortage?

We have been hearing some concerns expressed about dry soils in our area.  Rainfall the past week should have relieved that concern in the short run.

Topsoil moisture on Wednesday when we went to the field was just OK.  Topsoil should be well soaked at this point.  Septic tank borings through the winter to a depth of 5 feet have showed that subsoil was at least moist and in some places saturated,

Soil Moisture does not change much until tillage and transpiration start.  In a dry period it is easy to mess up your topsoil moisture with too much tillage.  With wetter topsoil, that is even easier to do.

The real problem is that through the winter, the rainfall pattern was a dry one. Until the past 2 days, I can't remember the last time we had at least an inch of rain.  If that dry pattern were to continue into the summer, crop yields would suffer.  The fact is that we cannot grow top yielding crops without timely rains in June, July, and August.      

Monday, March 27, 2017

Should You Use Micronutrients or BioStimulants

A recent article in Prairie Farmer explores the use of micro-nutrients and bio-stimulants.  Karen Corrigan is quoted extensively and she is a very respected agronomist.  Karen says to use both soil testing and tissue sampling to determine needs.  I find myself in agreement with her concerning many of the additive mixes.  Often the amount of nutrient in the mixes will not completely correct a real problem area.

I also learned from Ted Peck that correcting the macro-nutrients and soil pH soil be done first.  If P, K, Ca, and Mg are not correct, there is no use messing around with the micros.  I always try to correct the big things first.  After a year or two we can look at micro's when everything else is right.  If you macro-nutrients are all at or above ideal levels, then perhaps you can push yields with micro-nutrients.

Bio-stimulants are coming into their own with many of the bigger ag supply companies owning or researching products.  Some of the products that are used for seed treatments have become mainstream.  Others need to be tested on your farm as Ms. Corrigan points out.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nitrogen Management Webinar

Emerson Nafziger is present a nitrogen management webinar on recent research next Thursday, March 30.  Click on the link for more info and to get registered.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Potassium is Critical

Often, the first time I sample for a client, potassium is below critical levels.  Potassium is one of the three macro-nutrients we apply regularly in fertilizer.  Several years ago, University of Illinois Professor Mulvaney came out with the notion that we do not need potassium fertilizer.  It has been my experience that crops do respond to potassium when soil test levels are below 230 pounds per acres.  Ideal levels are considered to be 300 to 400 pounds per acre in Illinois. Potassium is critical to help weather a drought.  Levels need to be high because availability goes down when soil is dry.

No-Till Farmer published an article out of Michigan that calls Potassium the overlooked nutrient.  You better not overlook it if you are going for high alfalfa yields.  Potassium is not currently an environmental concern, but over application can be lost on soil exchange sites.  Most people say that there is no need to apply over 300 pounds per acre unless you are growing a high demand crop.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cooperate on Insect Trapping?

U of I is looking for cooperators for insect trapping.  If you would like to participate, follow the link on the bulletin.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soybean Harvest Almost Done in Brazil

By Eduardo Paim:

Good Morning! Here in Mato Grosso we are closing the soybean crop, productivity will be a record! The climate is perfect for harvesting and production. Overall the average should be between 65 bags per hectare and 70 bags per hectare. The planting of the second crop corn is developing well, with good rains for the development of the plants.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Little Fertilizer Can You Get by With

I read a recent article in No-Till Farmer talking about Postponing P and K applications to save as much as $52 in production cost.  university of Nebraska suggests that perhaps producers can lower costs by fertilizing to sufficiency rather that shooting for ideal levels.  Critical levels tend to be much lower than what we consider to be ideal levels.  What does that mean?  Until your soil test levels reach the critical point your chances of reducing yields are fairly slim.  So does that mean you can cut back?  I have no idea what your current soil test levels are.  If they are already low, then maybe.  Keep in mind that in dry years, potassium availability decreases as soil moisture drops, so keeping K levels right at that critical point may not be a great idea.  Yes your financial situation can come into play, but mining your soil may not be the best idea ever.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why Tillage Now?

We have been seeing a lot of late winter field activity this year.  If you are putting on Nitrogen, are you doing it knowing you might lose it?  Are you using inhibitor?  This is more like fall applied than spring applied.

What about tillage?  You are killing very few weeds since they are not growing.  You may be smoothing out the ground and setting it ip for erosion.  Rough ground prevents erosion.  You might be smoothing it out and setting it up for crusting.

Do you plan to till it again before planting?  Why till now?  Are you plannig to kill weeds chimically and plant in a stale seedbed?  That might work.

Before you do a winter tillage operation ask yourself why.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Harvest in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

The climate has become perfect for the soybean harvest and for the second corn crop. In the month of February we had many rains in Mato Grosso, there were soybean crops that were flooded by the waters, but this will not promote a big fall in soy production. I believe we are on our way to a big harvest in Brazil. We still have the states of Bahia, Maranhão, Tocantins and Piaui that suffered from the lack of rainfall and still did not harvest their crops. Another expectation is to know about the production of Argentina.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Phosphorous Pollution

When I was getting my degree, we were taught that phosphorous does not move.  In the modern world we hear of problems created by phosphorous in our surface waters.  Recent issues in Lake Erie, especially in the Toledo area is teaching us that phosphorous does move.  Very little phosphorous can also cause big problems.  Why is the problem surfacing now.  In many places farmers have been cutting back.  Nutrient stratification could be an issue.  No-Till could be an issue.  Joe Nester, A consultant in Ohio has been looking at rainfall pH as an issue.  He has run some simple tests and found that dissolved phosphorous does increase as rainfall pH approached 6 or a bit higher. Click on the link to learn more about the Great Soluble Phosphorous Mystery.

Monday, February 27, 2017

When to Plant Corn

Sorry I have been away.  Influenza A is the culprit.

Warm and dry weather has many farmers anxious to plant.  In some ways conditions seem similar to 2012, although in 2012, the drought began in 2011.

In general, early planting is one way to combat drought.  Get the corn pollinated before weather gets extreme.  In my opinion, April 1 is considered early in Central Illinois.  If soil conditions are favorable, starting planting the last week of March is pushing the envelope, but may be OK depending on the 15 day forecast.

In 2012, I know there was corn planted as early as March 9.  The yields on that corn was disappointing.  I think the problem was frost in mid-April.  Frost in in mid-April is not uncommon.  My meteorologist tells me that was dry  weather does not reduce the chances of a mid-April frost, so in deciding when to plant you need to consider the potential for frost.  Modern corn hybrids seem to be much more tolerant of cold conditions and even frost, but when the frost gets to the growing point, it can do damage  even if it does not kill the plant.  The growing point seems to move above ground as the corn grows from V3 to V4 according to Dr. Nielsen's Illustrations.

Warm and dry weather will speed up germination and emergence, so that could be a factor in determining ideal planting date.

Another factor to consider is fluffy soil syndrome.  The syndrome is discussed in the latest Journ of Soil and Water Conservation.  Fluffy soil syndrome will cause uneven emergence which can reduce yields.  Tilling shallow or not at all can help avoid the issue.  Tilling deeper in dry weather creates pockets of variable moisture that can cause uneven stands.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Should You Split Your Nitrogen Application?

Emerson Nafiziger discussed likely changes in removal rates for P and K at this year's crop management conference. Removal is not a good way to make fertility decisions.  You need to know what you have.

He also briefly discussed return to Nitrogen Dollars.  At least in 2016, split applications did not pay. Maximun return to N was at relatively low rates.  Check out his comments on nitrogen.  I would not change my application method because of this research, but you might want to look at the Nrate calculator to help in your rate decision.  My recommendation would be to go to the high side of the chart.

If you are applying Nitrogen right now you should be treating it as a fall application and use inhibitor.  A warm wet March would denitrify a lot of N.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Cover Crops and USDA.

In past years, using cover crops and crop insurance had sometimes been in conflict.  These issues had been addressed, but USDA recently came out with new guidelines that clear things up and seem to fit into most management situations.  It you go to the USDA cropland page  and look on the left side of the page to click on the Cover Crops Termination Guidelines, you will get a download that tells you all the rules.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Climate Change

At the crop management conference, we heard from Jim Angel, Illinois Climatologist.  Angel presented some compelling evidence that our climate has changed for the  warmer over the past 100 years.  His opinion is that some of this change is man induced.  That is not  a huge stretch considering that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tripled since the beginning o the industrial revolution.  Not all of that has been from burning fossil fuels.  Farming more land than ever has contributed  too, because of the breakdown of organic matter.

I did not get to discuss the issue with Mr. Angel, but I have not heard from anyone as to how much carbon dioxide we need to sequester to reverse the trend.  I also have not heard. What is the cost?

It  seems there are some positive developments from climate change.  Carbon dioxide may be increasing crop yields.  It may be an advantage that the corn belt is moving north.

Global Temperatures since 1900.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

No-till Challenges

Everyone who No-tills faces challenges that their neighbors don't face.  Finding what works for you can require a good deal of experimentation.  In the modern world, covercrops can be a part of the formula that works.  A Wisconsin farmer overcomes some of his challenges with 4 keys to success.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Seed Emmergence

Yesterday we attended a program put on by Linco-Precision.  They put together one of the top one day meetings I have been to.  One of the presentations was on seed emergence in corn.  They presented data that suggests that the closer together in time that corn plants emerge for the soil, the better the yields.  The research numbers were more than significant. One of the biggest factors controlling emergence was the evenness of soil moisture.  They did not arrive at the same conclusion that I did, but they do tell you  how to achieve results.  It looks to me like you would be most likely to encounter even moisture conditions under No-Till or stale seedbed.  Prairie Farmer entitled their article, No Ear Left Behind.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dicamba Use in Soybeans

Last week Dr. Hager discussed the use of Dicamba with Xtend soybeans.  He cautioned that the Dicamba will not be a silver bullet, but it may be a good tool in the toolbox if used properly.  He says Dicamba was never rated excellent on Water Hemp, but it is very good for now.  You should use the Dicamba according to its very restrictive label.  Beware of too much and too little wind.  There is only one approved nozzle.  If you mess anything up you could be in violation of label restrictions.  More on Dicamba Stewardship.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Weed Control

Last week we attended the Illinois Crop Management program in Springfield.  They seemed to save the best speaker for last.  Dr. Hager discussed weed control in the resistance era.  He continues to call for multiple modes of action in the same application.  He showed us why herbicide rotations are not really effective in keeping resistance at bay.  His discussion of Palmer Amaranth took up a big part of the program.  He says we need to have zero tolerance.  That means if soybeans are too tangled to walk through, you need to get in the truck or 4 wheeler and go get the plants.  The destruction of crop will be minor in comparison to the problems created by the Palmer amaranth.  Evena few weeds should be removed.  More on resistance here.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Soybean Harvest started in Mato Grosso

By Eduardo Paim:

Here in Mato Grosso soybeans have already begun to be harvested, in the north of the state some farmers are complaining that it is raining a lot and this can damage the quality of the grain. The average production is excellent for these first crops that are being harvested, 60 bags per hectare. In general Mato Grosso already has 15% harvested. Here in the south the harvest has already begun and the production is excellent!

Rainfall can change the quality of crops and productivity, and we have heavy rainfall forecast to fall in February.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

More on Lower Population Soybeans

I recently blogged about lower population soybeans based on Marion Calmer's research.  The idea makes a lot of people nervous.  This DTN article out of the University of Wisconsin confirms Mr. calmer's assertations about lower soybean populations.  Shawn Conley, Twitter aka @badgerbean goes in to some details on seed treatments and other insurance measures you can use to make sure those low seeding rates work.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lots of Geese

Geese were plentiful in Fayette County yesterday.  Both Canada Geese ans snow geese.
 Corn feilds should not have any volunteer corn this spring.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Soybeans in Brazil Looking Mixed

By Eduardo Paim:

Good morning mate! I've been away for a while. Here in Mato Grosso we are looking at a very good soybean crop, I believe it will be a record of this production. In the states of Bahia, Piauí, Maranhão and Tocantins there was a lack of rainfall and some crops were replanted. In the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná and Santa Catarina there was an excess of rainfall, which affected the crops. In Brazil in general I believe that on average we will have a good harvest! Argentina It has great problems with excess of chucas in part of the country and drought in another part of the country, I believe that this year will have great damages in soybean and corn, now it is left to plant wheat to recover part.

Monday, January 16, 2017

War on Crop Residue

2017 marks my 40th year in the business of soil management. In 1977 when I started working s a soil scientist, there was still a big question as to the effects of conservation tillage on crop yields. Farmers led the way in proving that top yields could be had even with high surface residue. In the past year, I have noticed that there seems to be a war on residue.  Tours at John Deere and Greg Sauder's Yield Center 360 both unveiled tillage equipment that looks to imitate moldboard plowing without moldboard plowing.  Burying residue seems to be becoming accepted management.It was refreshing last week to attend the National No-Till conference and see that there are still people out there that are interested in leaving residue on the surfacefor soil health benefits and erosion control.

Last week I read an Article in October Prairie Farmer "Residue Impacts on Corn Yield". The Article list 5 problems with crop residue that I will attempt to debunk.

1. Residue saps moisture.  While residue sticking down into the planting slit can wick moisture, a well adjusted planter will overcome that issue easily. Residue other than in the planting slit covers the soil and conserves moisture. 

2. Insulation effect.  Residue can keep soil temperatures lower than bare soil. This issue can be overcome two ways.  One, light vertical tillage can cut up residue and get it to decompose a bit to get some bare soil.  Two, Row cleaners move trash away from the planting area allowing soil to warm up as needed when seeds are planted.  The added bonus of the insulation effect is that as temperatures rise into the summer, crop residues keeps ground and field temperatures closer to ideal.

3. Toxic Environment. They say that too much decomposing residue adds toxins to the soil.  Residue on the surface is not a problem.  Incorporated residue could be a problem, especially in a corn on corn situation.  Rotate to a different crop.

4. N and P Stealer.  There are lots of ways to overcome this. Adequate P levels in the soil will reduce P tie-up.  Nitrogen may be tied up, but once again. adequate fertilizer N will help to make nitrogen available when the crop needs it.  Residue on the surface is not the culprit.  Cover crops can also help. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Maximizing Soybean Profits.

ne of the highlights of the national No-till Conference was listening to Marion Calmer discuss his soybean production  methods.  Calmer is a manufacturer of narrow row corn heads and an on farm researcher.  He uses replicated strip studies to test his ideas and the ideas of others.

I have written several times about soybean population research.  The point is that extremely high population soybeans do not provide any economic advantage.  In fact, in Calmer's six year study, Yields were nearly the same no matter what population he planted.  He admitted that he is reluctant to plant less than 75,000 plants even though his research would support as low as 50,000 plants per acre.   For every increase in population by 25,000 plants per acre he says it costs  an additional $10 per acre with no return.  If you are looking to save money in the coming year, look at cutting back populations.  If 75,000 plants per acre makes you nervous, try cutting back 25,000 from wherever you are.

He also compared 30 inch rows to 15 inch rows.  The 4 bushel per acre advantage of 15 inch rows is huge.  If you are still planting 30 inch row soybeans it is a costly production method.  He admitted that there might be an additional gain of 1 bushel per acre if the soybeans were drilled.  A few years back he was drilling his production acres.  He has switched to 15 inch rows in the past few years.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Responsible Nutrient Management

We have spent the past three days at the National No-Till Conference in St. Louis.  Not only is this a great No-Till Conference, but it is a great crop production conference.

At the Luncheon on the first day, Responsible Nutrient Management Practitioners we awarded for their diligence in taking care of their soil nutrient levels.  Jason Carter, Mike Werling, and Mike Taylor were recognized for their nutrient management programs.  Jason Carter is using chicken litter to build his soils up.  His program also includes annual soil testing to measure progress.  As his soil has improved, he has cut back on chicken litter.

Mike Werling is looking at economics and applying fertilizer at modest rates to maximize profits.  He soil tests every three years.  Cover cr ops are also a component of his program.  Werling uses less than one pound per bushel of corn to produce high yields economically.

Mike Taylor makes sure his soil tests correlate with soil types on his farm.  He also uses cover crops and lower than average fertilizer rates to produce higher than average yields.  He uses variable rate technology as appropriate and also applies in row fertilizer to spoon feed his crops.  He is using No-till and cover crops to improve organic matter levels on the topsoil.

Friday, January 6, 2017

TO Do List for 2017 Growing Season

It would seem we might be too late to implement new management plans for 2017.  Things like Field drainage are already done or scheduled, but if you can afford the investment, now may be the time to get on your contractor's list for next year.  Hybrid selection is likely done.  Prairie Farmer offers other tips that can still be implement in their 10 tips article.