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Agronomy Notebook



Considerations for extended cold, wet spring weather

Over the last several days we have been monitoring soil temperatures in a field near the Seed Consultants, Inc. main office. At 9:30am on Wednesday April, 11 soil temp at a 2-inch depth was 38 degrees Fahrenheit. After warm, sunny weather, 24 hours later soil temp in the same area of the field was 51 degrees. Corn requires 55 degrees Fahrenheit for germination, soybeans require 50 degrees. Although soil temperatures can reach sufficient levels after a few days of warm weather, it is important to keep in mind that they can drop just as quickly. On Friday April 13 the soil temperatures had climbed to 69 degrees F. However, after cooler weather and 1.3 inches of rain over the weekend, soil temp was at 40 degrees F this morning.

When planting into adequate conditions, it is important to keep the forecast in mind. The first 24 hours a seed is in the ground are critical to its survival, and a cold wet rain in this time period can cause cold shock, which can kill seedlings.… Continue reading

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The ins and outs of early planting for soybeans

There has been an undeniable shift toward earlier planting of soybeans. Several Pioneer GrowingPoint agronomy research studies have shown the benefits of early planting for maximizing soybean yield (graph 1). Early planting allows growers to plant full-season varieties with higher yield potential. Additionally, soybeans planted earlier will generally produce more nodes/plant, reach canopy closure sooner, intercept more sunlight and spend a longer duration in reproductive growth (graph 2).

Yield results from DuPont Pioneer Product Knowledge Plots from 1996 to 2012.

The ideal soil temperature for soybean germination and emergence is 77 degrees F. However, soil temperatures at a two-inch depth do not typically reach these levels until late May or early June. Soybeans can easily germinate at soil temperatures of 50 degrees F at a two-inch soil depth, but it is not unusual for emergence to take three weeks at these low temperatures.

However, growers who assume “earlier is always better” without proper planning and management techniques may be on a path to lower yields and missed opportunities.… Continue reading

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Preparing for a successful growing season

The 2018 growing season is fast approaching and with it another year of challenges. Spring management and field work set the stage for the entire growing season, playing a big role in determining yield potential of crops. Although environmental factors are out of their control, there are several management practices growers can do to prepare for a successful and productive growing season.

One challenge farmers face every year is completing field work in a timely manner, especially when adverse weather conditions exist. Timeliness is key to several areas of crop management including effective pesticide application, fertilizer application, tillage, stand establishment, and ultimately yield potential. Timely control of weeds and pests eliminates harvest losses due to competition and crop damage. Identifying potential pest problems requires careful scouting of fields throughout the growing season and applying rescue treatments when pest reach threshold levels established by universities.

University research has proven that timely planting is a determining factor for yield, and delays will cause loss of yield potential.… Continue reading

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Non-GMO corn production and purity concerns

Many corn growers in the Eastern Corn Belt produce NON-GMO corn attempting to capture an additional premium. Depending on the contracting elevator, standard GMO contamination allowances are typically from 0% to 1%. Producing NON-GMO corn within the acceptable tolerances of GMO contamination is possible; however, there are several challenges and potential pitfalls that make production of 100% pure NON-GMO corn a tremendous undertaking and can keep growers from capturing a premium for their corn. Planting NON-GMO seed does not necessarily mean the harvested shelled corn will be NON-GMO free. Tests used by elevators to determine if GMO’s are present may not be 100% accurate, but they are a determining factor as to whether a load will be accepted.

If a grower plants NON-GMO corn, what could cause GMO contamination?
• Contaminated planting equipment and seed tenders
• Contaminated seed
• Mistakes made in record keeping where hybrids were not correctly identified at planting and/or harvest, leading to contamination
• Adventitious pollen from GMO corn fields can cause cross-pollination of NON-GMO corn
• Contaminated combines at harvest
• Contaminated grain carts, wagons, trucks, augers, grain legs, and grain bins
What steps can be taken in an attempt to produce grain that meets GMO tolerances?… Continue reading

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Watch for harvest issues after a challenging growing season

We began this season with the best-laid plans for our corn crop. April weather provided us with the optimism we were all looking for, but since then, it’s been difficult to keep our head above water — literally. As you know, 2017 has proven to be one of the wettest growing seasons on record for Ohio, with some areas receiving over 20 inches of rain throughout the month of June and similar amounts in July as well. The saturated growing season has resulted in much of our corn experiencing shallow and weak root systems, nitrogen (N) loss, and even impacted pollination in some areas. While some well-drained fields may have had sufficient nitrogen available to the plant, excessive rainfall moved the nitrate nitrogen below the concentration of roots — making it inaccessible as well.

Stalk strength will likely be a concern for some fields as we head into harvest. Not only has the wet weather led to significant N loss due to leaching in lighter soils and DE nitrification in heavier soils, but corn hybrids are also changing.… Continue reading

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Sound management critical to overcome challenges of 2017

The spring of 2017 has provided Ohio’s growers with many challenges, and as the growing season continues, sound management of crops will be critical to diminish potential problems and maximize yields.

Patterns of wet weather and large rainfall events have caused planting delays, emergence problems, and required replant of both corn and soybeans in many areas. Due to large rain events this spring, many fields were flooded. While both corn and soybeans can survive flooding/ponding for a period of time, several factors determine the length of time plants can survive. Young corn plants can usually survive two to four days in flooded conditions. Death of corn plants is more likely prior to the V6 stage of development because the growing point is still below the soil surface. Soybeans can usually survive two to four days completely submersed. If weather is cool (mid 60s or cooler) plants are more likely to survive several days of flooding.… Continue reading

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Possibility of seeing purple corn plants

For many areas of the eastern Corn Belt, a great deal of corn has been planted over the past few weeks. Some corn has emerged and is in the early stages of growth. One phenomenon that commonly occurs at the early stages of the growing season is the appearance of purple corn plants. Corn plants can turn purple for several reasons related to environmental factors such as:

• Sunny days and cool nights (temps in the 40s to 50s F)

• Soil pH lower than 5.5

• Cool temperatures

• Wet soil

• Stresses that hinder the uptake of phosphorus

• Herbicide injury

• Soil compaction

When saturated soils and cooler weather occur, producers may see some purple plants in their fields. Purpling in corn due to cooler weather most often occurs when plants are in the V2 to V5 growth stages. Because of diverse genetics, hybrids react differently to early stress and some will exhibit purpling while others will not.… Continue reading

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Pests to watch for in 2017

One of the topics of discussion this winter at the corner table of the local coffee shop most certainly was the upcoming growing season and the expected higher than average insect populations due to the mild temperatures this winter. That topic of discussion paired with high armyworm and black cutworm moth captures from neighboring states should keep early season insect pressure at the forefront of growers’ minds this year. Insects that overwinter as adults such as bean leaf beetle, flea beetle, and stink bug will have the potential to have higher than normal populations early this spring. However, just because insect mortality was lower this winter does not mean there will be a problem this spring because populations may have been lower heading into winter. Nevertheless, lets look at some of the insects to keep an eye out for this spring.

Corn flea beetle that overwintered as adults are the vector for Stewart’s wilt that can cause seedling corn plants to tiller and yellow striping in the leaves.… Continue reading

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Growing Degree Days and corn emergence

As corn planting gets underway across the eastern Corn Belt and another growing season has begun, it will be time to walk and scout fields. Once the corn is planted, the next critical event will be uniform emergence. Many producers have read or heard that it takes about 100 to 120 Growing Degree Days (GDDs) for corn to emerge, but what does that mean?

A GDD (also referred to as Growing Degree Units) is a calculation based on daily high and low temperatures. This calculation helps to predict stages of growth in corn based on an accumulation of heat units or GDDs. The basic formula for calculating GDDs is: add the daily maximum temperature to the daily minimum, divide by 2, and then subtract 50. The value calculated by this formula is the total number of GDDs accumulated in one day. It is a fairly simple equation with a few limitations: The highest maximum temperature that can be used in the equation is 86 degrees F (even if actual temps are higher) and the lowest value for the low temperature that can be used is 50 degrees F (even if actual temps are lower).… Continue reading

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Corn germination and emergence processes

As growers across the Eastern Corn Belt get ready to plant corn, it is important to review and understand what goes into corn the germination and emergence process. Uniform corn emergence is one of the most important aspects of stand establishment and producing high yielding corn. Understanding germination, emergence, and how environmental factors influence these processes is the first step toward ensure uniform emergence.

Germination

Germination begins in a corn seed when it has imbibed 30% of its weight in water. While corn can germinate when soil temperatures are 50 degrees F or higher, research has determined that the optimal temperature is 86 degrees F. Visual signs that corn germination is taking place are the appearance of the radicle root, coleoptile, and seminal roots. When temperatures are cooler, the germination process is slower and seedlings are more susceptible to disease, insects, and other damaging factors.

Emergence

Uniform emergence is one of the most important yield-influencing factors that growers should work to achieve.… Continue reading

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Preseason planter maintenance tips

Hopefully by now you have begun to service and prepare your planter for a successful crop initiation. Set yourself up for a successful planting season and a prosperous harvest by taking time to ensure your planter has been calibrated and set to handle the varying seed size that we are experiencing this year. Below are some guidelines to assist in properly adjusting your planting equipment.

 

Planter frame adjustment

Hitch and toolbar height: Tractor hitch heights may vary due to tire size, tractor manufacturer, and type of planter. Hitch height should be raised to level toolbar for best planter performance. The tool bar height should be 20 to 22 inches from ground level. Make sure it is level or running slightly uphill to provide correct down-pressure from springs.

Seed transmission systems: Check sprockets, chains, bearings, meter drives and insecticide drives daily. Any vibration in the drive system will end up at the meters and cause spacing issues.… Continue reading

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Tips on capturing the premium for non-GMO corn

With lower commodity prices, many corn growers in the Eastern Corn Belt are producing non-genetically modified (GMO) corn to lower input costs while attempting to capture an additional premium.

Depending on the contracting elevator, standard GMO contamination allowances are typically from 0% to 1%. Producing non-GMO corn within the acceptable tolerances of GMO contamination is possible; however, there are several challenges and potential pitfalls that make production of 100% pure non-GMO corn a tremendous undertaking. Several factors throughout the growing season can result in contamination and result in a loss of premiums. Planting non-GMO seed does not necessarily mean the harvested shelled corn will be GMO free.

Contaminated seed or seed that does not meet allowances can cause purity issues from the start. Seed handling and planting equipment that is not thoroughly cleaned prior to planting can be a source of contamination as well. Adventitious pollen from nearby GMO corn fields can cross-pollinate with non-GMO corn, affecting purity.… Continue reading

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What is the proper plant population?

One factor that greatly influences corn yields is plant population. Determining the correct plant population may take some effort, however, it is a critical factor that every corn grower needs to get right in order to maximize yields.

Recent research performed by universities and seed companies has determined that that yields increase significantly as populations are increased up to a point of 34,000 seeds per acre. In general, yields begin to level off at planting rates around rates 36,000 seeds per acre. Recent studies have also determined that even in low yield environments planting rates of 31,000 seeds per acre maximize yield and economic return. In very productive, 250 bushel per acre yield environments, research results show that higher populations (38,000+ seeds per acre) maximize yields. Breeding and advances in genetics have improved the modern corn plant’s ability to yield at higher populations when compared to corn hybrids from the past.… Continue reading

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Uniform corn emergence tips

Two aspects of stand establishment often discussed by agronomists are emergence and seed spacing. “Picket fence” spacing in corn helps plants grow efficiently and minimizes competition between them. Uniform spacing is an important part of stand establishment. More importantly, however, is uniform emergence. Plants that are just 1 leaf collar behind (due to uneven emergence) significantly reduce yield. According to Paul Jasa, University of Nebraska Extension ag engineer, “When a plant develops ahead of its neighbor, it hurts yield dramatically. It’s going to vary somewhat from year to year, but a plant lagging behind those around it becomes a weed.” To achieve uniform emergence, consistent planting depth is critical.

Field conditions, gauge wheel settings, unit down pressure, and planter speed all affect seeding depth. Set planter depth and check it regularly. A planter may have enough weight to apply the proper down force when full, but what about when it’s almost empty?… Continue reading

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Winter wheat management

In the coming months as the weather warms, up winter wheat will break dormancy and will begin to green up. After a period of about 2 weeks producers should evaluate their stand in order to make management decisions for their wheat crop. Part of this evaluation includes counting tillers to determine if there is an adequate stand for achieving high yields. According an article in a 2014 C.O.R.N. Newsletter written by Laura Lindsey, Ed Lentz, Pierce Paul, “Yield potential is reduced if tiller numbers fall below 25 per square foot after green up.”

So, what is a tiller? And how should they be counted? Tillers are additional stems that develop off of the main shoot of the plant. Primary tillers form in the axils of the first four or more true leaves of the main stem. Secondary tillers may develop from the base of primary tillers if conditions favor tiller development.… Continue reading

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Planning for high yielding soybeans

When planning for the upcoming growing season, it can be easy to focus more energy on corn production as it has traditionally been the more intensively managed crop. However, producers who put in the effort to manage their soybean crop have proven it is possible to attain high yields of 70+ bushels per acre. Below are some tips for planning to produce high-yielding soybeans in 2016.

• Quality Seed: Planting the right seed sets the stage for the entire growing season. Growers should plant genetics with high yield potential. Choose varieties that have been tested at several locations and across multiple years. Growers should choose varieties adapted to their soil types and management practices. As with corn, choosing varieties with strong disease packages and agronomic traits with aid in achieving higher yields.

• Planting Date: University research has proven that timely, early planting is one way to increase soybean yields. As with corn, planting soybeans by early May improves yield potential.  … Continue reading

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Green stems still a problem in soybeans

In many areas of the eastern Corn Belt, soybean growers had difficulties this harvest due to Green stem syndrome. When green stem syndrome occurs, stems and leaves can remain green after pods have matured. As a result, while pods and seeds are mature and dry enough to be harvested, harvest operations can be slowed as combines work to “chew” though green stems and leaves. In addition to creating harvest delays, green stem syndrome can increase fuel consumption and result in shattering losses if growers delay harvest until stems have fully matured.

The occurrence of green stems varies from year-to-year and can be affected by several factors, such as:

• Viral infections

• Insect feeding

• Late planting

• Drought stress

• Application of fungicides

Successful management of green stem syndrome requires management practices that include timely planting, establishing adequate plant stands, irrigation, and controlling insects/pests. Although green stem syndrome slows down harvest, soybeans should be harvested as soon as pods are fully mature in order to minimize harvest losses due to shattering.… Continue reading

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It’s never too early to plan for next year: Now is the time to implement plans to ensure clean fields and maximum yields in 2017

For many of us, fall is about seeing the “payoff” from all our hard work during the past season. While harvest does allow us to make observations and summarize our findings from the past season, I’d encourage you to also consider preparing your seed bed for next year. For some of you that means tillage, for others who do not intend to till their acres, this means controlling those fall emerged weeds.

While this past growing season was hot and dry for many of us, the recent fall rains have provided the moisture necessary for winter annual and perennial weed populations to thrive. Those same weeds will not only be tougher to get sufficient control of next spring, but will inhibit us from getting our 2017 crop established and off to the best possible start.

Fall is an excellent time to control many of these troublesome winter annual and perennial weeds such as marestail, dandelion, chickweed, henbit, field pennycress and purple deadnettle.… Continue reading

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Maintain quality of grain in storage

As harvest is in full swing across the state, and fields of corn and soybeans are disappearing, grain bins are starting to fill up. All of the management decisions that growers made throughout the growing season are being evaluated as yield data is collected and analyzed. Also, growers marketing programs are in full swing trying to maximize the best price per bushel across an entire operation.

One factor affecting profitability is still at jeopardy; that is the quality and marketability of corn and soybeans before they are sold. Grain condition in storage is often overlooked until there is a problem as grain begins to be moved for sale. Grain quality and condition will never improve after it is put into storage, however, it can quickly decline to the point of dockage or rejection at a point of sale. Considering the following points when storing grain can help reduce potential grain quality issues.… Continue reading

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Use plot data to make good decisions

As harvest is completed across the Eastern Corn Belt, seed companies, universities, and growers will have the chance to compile and analyze data from yield testing. One of the most important decisions a farmer will face all year is deciding what variety to plant and in which field to plant it. To ensure that the best possible decision is made next spring, it is important to spend some time looking at yield data. While reviewing data is critical, knowing how to determine whether it is accurate and useful is equally important. Below are some tips for using data to make sound planting decisions next spring.

Look for Replicated Data

Don’t rely on yield results from one strip plot on a farm or from a single plot location. Look for data from randomized tests that are repeated multiple times and across multiple locations. Replications in testing increase the reliability of the data and help to remove variables that can skew results.… Continue reading

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