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Agronomy Notebook



Evaluating early corn populations

Accurately assessing corn stands is one of the first crop scouting exercises Ohio corn growers should conduct on their fields. The 1/1000th acre method is commonly used to evaluate emerged corn seedlings. Count the number of seedlings in a length of row equal to 1/1000 of an acre based on row width (Table 1). Multiply the number of plants by 1,000 to get plants per acre. Repeat this at several locations throughout the field to determine an average.

I like to make a rope 17-feet 5-inches long and make a knot at both ends and drag it through the field making several counts along the way to get an accurate evaluation. Another method is to count 150 plants and measure the distance from start to finish with a measuring wheel. Divide the number of feet traveled into the appropriate factor in Table 1 to determine plant population. Because a longer row length is counted, the samples are more representative and fewer locations are required.

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The role of seed germination in a successful 2013

By John Brien, AgriGold agronomist

Planting is one of the most anticipated times of years for farmers. The weather warms up, the soils dry out and there is another opportunity for them to try their hands at producing that record yielding corn crop. High yields begin at planting and will not be finalized until harvest. One of the steps to high yield is getting the “dormant” corn seed to germinate.

Germination is simply the process that allows a seed to sprout or begin to grow. Although the definition is simple, the actual process is anything but simple. The germination of a corn seed requires soil moisture to “reawaken” the seed and adequate temperatures to speed along the enzymes and chemical reactions that allow the cells in the corn plant to grow and reproduce.

Corn growers know the importance of germination, but often don’t believe they have much of a role in that process.

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Reading soil test results

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Labs may differ in the data presentation and analysis but your understanding of the basic items would help you in ordering fertilizers for your fields. A soil test is a way of estimating the nutrients that may be available to the crop. Keep the following points in mind as indicated in a report by Jim Johnson of OSU:

• The top section of the report identifies the soil sample; the middle tells you about the results; and the bottom indicates the recommendations.

• Cation Exchange Capacity or (CEC) indicates the particle size of the soil. Sand has low CEC and clay and organic matter have high CEC. Soil CEC ranges from 5 to 40.

• Organic matter is the percent of organic content of the soil. Ideally, you would like to have 5% organic matter (OM) but a number between 1% to 3% is more common.

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Prepare for larger soybean seed size this spring

By Jeff Rectenwald, Asgrow Dekalb Technical Agronomist

The 2012 growing conditions resulted in production soybean seed being larger in size for many seed products. Therefore, planting equipment manuals should be reviewed to determine the appropriate settings, calibrations, and disks for delivered seed. Seed size should be checked when seed is delivered to determine if different disks or other equipment may be required.

Should there be a need, ordering and purchasing now could save valuable planting season time.
Larger seed can be planted as efficiently as smaller seed providing planting equipment has been adjusted, calibrated, or retrofitted. If the planter is a vacuum metering type planter, refer to the manufacturer manual regarding disk size and manually check to see how seed fits within the disk cell. A larger disk should be selected if one seed cannot fit properly into a cell and a smaller disk used if two seeds can fit into a cell.

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Temperature swings can hurt wheat

Extreme changes in temperature are the biggest concern wheat producers have for the development of their crop this season, a Purdue Extension agronomist said.

Temperatures in recent weeks have risen to between 50 and 60 degrees and then dropped to single digits.

“The cycling of cold to warm temperatures is a great recipe for freezing, thawing and winter heaving,” Shaun Casteel said.

Winter heaving occurs when moisture in the soil expands as it freezes and then contracts as the ice thaws. The soil gets pushed up and down, shoving young plants higher out of the ground and exposing roots. The plants’ lack of access to soil moisture and soil contact could result in stand loss, Casteel said.

Another weather concern is that there has been little snow to protect wheat from extreme cold.

“A lot of wheat fields no longer have a blanket of snow for insulation, and they’re exposed to the cold weather,” Casteel said.

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Glyphosate Resistant Weeds

 

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc. 
Director of Genetics & Technology

Those of you who were able to attend our winter meetings heard from our Agronomy staff about the presence of glyphosate resistant marestail in Indiana and Ohio and how to control it. Listed below are some of the facts about glyphosate resistant weeds.

• Glyphosate resistant crops were introduced in 1996. It was a good technology which needed good stewardship to extend the use of this herbicide. It was adopted by the growers and quickly became popular because of the dramatic price decrease and ease of weed control in corn and soybeans.

• University Extension personnel and Crop Consultants advised the farmers against continuous use of glyphosate resistant corn and soybeans.

• However, trait, chemical and some seed companies were promoting it; growers liked the easy and cheap weed control system and everyone was trying to make quick buck.

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Fertilizer, soil pH and Cation Exchange Capacity

By Dave Nanda, 
Director of Genetics and Technology 
for Seed Consultants, Inc.

Soil pH, and Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) — how are they related and do they affect fertilizer inputs? Some of the facts below should clarify their relationship.

• Soils are made up of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. The CEC of a soil tells us about the texture of the soil. Soils with higher clay and organic matter content have higher CEC values. The CEC value of the soil in a field is fairly constant but can be changed over time with the addition of organic matter, through the use of cover crops and manure, for example.

• Positively charged particles are called cations and negatively charged particles are called anions. The CEC is the measure of how many negatively charged sites are available in the soil.

• According to David Mengel of Purdue University, most common soil cations are calcium, magnesium, potassium, ammonium, hydrogen and sodium.

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Changing soil pH on your farm

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc.

We have discussed what pH is and the importance of having balanced pH during the last three weeks. Many physical, chemical and biological processes necessary for crop survival, growth and yield are affected by soil pH. I would like to discuss how you can adjust the pH in the soils on your farm.

• For high yields we must balance soil pH depending on the crops we intend to grow. For growing corn, beans, wheat and alfalfa, we need to have a soil pH values of 6.0 to 6.8. Balanced pH is critical because it can affect nutrient availability, soil-applied herbicides and their degradation, potential for aluminum or iron toxicity, as well as nitrogen fixation by legumes.

• Some soils have a tendency to become acidic over time due to weathering of soil minerals and release of acidifying metals, leaching away of calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium, decomposition of organic matter, and application of ammonia-based fertilizers.

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Do crops have pH value preference?

By Dave Nanda, Seed Consultants, Inc.

In the last couple of weekly articles we discussed what pH value is and the importance of hydrogen for plant growth. As we discussed last week, hydrogen is one of the four elements essential for all life.

• Plants absorb hydrogen through water by a process called osmosis. This process is what makes the nutrients travel through the water into the plant. Soil pH plays an important role in water and nutrient uptake. We saw last summer that once a plant dies due to too much heat or lack of water, the late rains could not revive it.

• A pH neutral environment is suitable for most plants. However, the pH values required by corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa are somewhat different for optimum performance. Some examples of crop preferences for acidic or alkaline soils are given below:

• Potatoes and radishes like acidic soils with pH value of 5.0 – 5.5

• Soybeans and crimson clover like pH of 5.5 – 6.0

• Corn, cucumbers and tomatoes like pH of 6.0 – 6.5

• Alfalfa, celery, lettuce and onions like pH of 6.5 – 7.0

Since we have to grow different crops on the same ground, we need to adjust the pH values of our soils so they are suitable for most of the crops that we intend to grow.

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Hydrogen’s role in crop production

By Dave Nanada, Seed Consultants, Inc.

There are four basic elements which are needed by all plants; Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen. The amount of hydrogen in the soil affects pH and the availability of other elements. The best pH range for most nutrients to be available is from 6.0 to 7.0. Nutrient deficiencies can be observed at both high and low pH values. So hydrogen plays a key role in the development of plants. Let’s look at all of these elements briefly:

• CARBON – All living beings contain carbon. Plants get carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. With the help of water and sunlight, they produce starches and sugars by photosynthesis. Animals and humans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; eat the products of photosynthesis as food and convert carbon into carbon dioxide during respiration and release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.

• Hydrogen – As we all know, life cannot exist without water.

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Adapting agriculture in a changing climate

By Harold Watters, Ohio State University Extension

I had the opportunity this year to observe and discuss the growing of corn in three separate locations across the globe.

  1. Here in Ohio, where I work for OSU Extension,
  2. In Ukraine where I had the opportunity to visit in March and again in August
  3. And in Nevada where I visited in early December.

Corn is an adaptable crop and is grown on almost every continent in the world. Its origins are here in the “new world” — corn was not observed by Europeans until after the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Reports I have read say he saw the crop in the West Indies. I am not sure if this was on his first voyage, but certainly the time period is around 1500. At any rate, it was a long time ago.

In Ohio, growers report varied yield results in 2012, mostly varied by planting date, and by when or if rain fell.

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Seed treatments made a difference in 2012

By Ty Higgins. Ohio Ag Net

For soybean growers across the country, 2012 was a unique year. A drought plagued most of the Midwest and commodity prices soared. As growers begin to prepare for the next growing season, they must consider adjusting agronomic practices to increase their bottom line. In 2012, the use of seed treatments had quite a positive impact on both emergence and stand for the soybean crop.

“It looks like it is going to be the second or third driest growing season on record,” said Palle Pederson, Soybean Seedcare Technology Manager for Syngenta. “You know that when plants are under stress, especially in dry conditions, it is so critical to get uniform emergence to outperform the weeds and also to get good protection on the root system. Healthy roots in many cases means higher yields.”

Starting the season strong is critical to increasing yield potential and protecting the seedling from early-season stress is crucial for a successful season.

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Coaching high corn yields

By Matt Reese

With the last seconds ticking off the clock in overtime, the best player squares up behind the three-point line for the win, he shoots — nothing but net. Victory!

Sometimes, everything comes together for a buzzer-beater victory in crop fields, but that kind of success doesn’t happen by chance, which makes success in corn production similar in many ways to success on a basketball court, according to Fred Below, a professor of crop physiology at the University of Illinois.

“You have to plan for high yields. We put together a management system that consisted of five individual factors that we know are important for yield and we put them together in in a systems package,” Below said at a recent BASF meeting in northwest Ohio. “Since there were five, we made the analogy to a basketball team where we have five pro players that represent the enhanced management system against five high school players which represent the grower’s current standard.”

In his 2009-2010 omission plot trials, Below looked at phosphorus fertility, nitrogen, genetics, population, and fungicide.

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Ear rots a health and harvest concern

By Matt Reese

There have been reports of farmers getting sick from cleaning combines without wearing dust masks. This could be linked to the inhalation of dust from a number of different ear rots that are being discovered in the Ohio corn crop.

Ear rots in fields can present health and safety issues during and following harvest. Corn harvest and grain handling become very important when ear rots are an issue.

AgriGold agronomist John Brien pointed out a number of potential ear rots in Ohio this fall to watch for in fields.

 

Fusarium kernel rot

Fusarium is caused by several different species of Fusarium and is the most common fungal disease on corn ears. The Fusarium pathogen overwinters very well on corn and grass residue and is more often seen in no-till, minimal-till and continuous corn fields. The Fusarium fungus thrives in environments that are hot and dry after pollination.

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Another look at a challenging 2012

By Kevin Cool, Beck’s Hybrids Seed Advisor, CCA

To say that 2012 has been challenging would be an understatement. As we get deeper into August it is becoming clearer how the hot and dry weather has affected the crops. You have probably read or heard a lot about the effects of heat and drought on corn pollination. Even with hot and dry weather early in the growing season if weather conditions during and around pollination are near normal, close to average yields can still be obtained. This is why when corn was knee high and we were dry, I felt we could still have a good year. The most critical time would be at pollination.

Unfortunately for many of us, the drought has persisted not only through pollination, but beyond. Just as equally, if not more

important, is that extreme heat has come along with it. During pollination many of us were breaking temperature records with ease.

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Assessing corn after a tough early growing season

By Jeff Rectenwald, Technical Agronomist for Monsanto

Recent strong storms in Ohio brought high winds and some much needed rainfall in several parts of the state. The rainfall was critical in many parts of Ohio where the corn and soybeans were showing strong signs of drought and heat stress. Since April 1, many parts of Ohio have received 5 to 10 inches of rainfall, which is 3 to 4 inches below the 5-year average. Growing Degree Days (GDD’s) for the same period have accumulated 1,200 to 1,300 units, which is 175 t0 200 GDD’s ahead of normal. We use the GDD’s to track the overall progress of corn development. I like to consult the numbers weekly to track the progress of rainfall and temperature in the state. You can also track these at the Ohio page on the National Agricultural Statistics Service website.

 

Why is my corn short?

Corn planted earlier in the season tends to be shorter than later planted corn because the daylength is shorter April 1 compared to May 1.

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Foliar fungicides in corn

By Kirk Reese, Agronomy Research Manager for DuPont/Pioneer

The use of foliar fungicides in corn production has become a more common practice in recent years. This is largely due to the increased value of the crop and the subsequent interest in protecting or enhancing grain or forage yield. There are factors where the value of corn yield can be enhanced by a foliar fungicide application, which we will discuss in this agronomy update.

During years 2007 to 2011, 475 on-farm trials conducted by Pioneer have shown an average 7-bushel grain yield increase in the presence of a foliar fungicide compared to an untreated check when applied between tassel emergence and brown silk. The economic benefit, or the point where the value of the yield increase was greater than the cost of the fungicide application, occurred 80% of the time when calculated at a corn commodity price of $4 per bushel and application cost of $28 per acre.

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Minimizing herbicide injury for crops

By Jeff Rectenwald, Asgrow/Dekalb agronomist

Post-emergence herbicide tank mixtures are an important element of integrated weed management of tough-to-control broadleaf weeds in corn. Environmental conditions, such as those that have favored development of thin cuticles on the leaf surfaces of corn this spring, influence the absorption of post-emergence herbicides and potential crop tolerance. Warm, humid conditions promote rapid absorption while cool conditions may slow crop development, herbicide uptake and crop selectivity. Crops under stress may not metabolize herbicides quickly enough to avoid crop injury. Therefore, it is important to take appropriate steps to minimize the risk for injury.

 

Basics of leaf cuticles

The leaf cuticle changes during early corn development. From emergence to V4, under normal conditions, corn leaves have crystalline deposits of wax on the cuticle, which reduce herbicide spray retention and leaf wet-ability by trapping air under the spray droplets. There is rapid change in the cuticle from V5 to V8 as the wax becomes a smooth film on the leaves.

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Watch for seedling blights in corn

By John Brien, AgriGold agronomist

The spring of 2012 is shaping up to be another planting season to remember. Late March was warm and beautiful and got a lot of growers excited about planting corn, then April hit. The first portion of April was decent but after April 10, the temperatures were less than ideal. While the soil conditions were good in most areas, the less than ideal soil temperatures kept most growers wondering when to plant corn. Unfortunately the cool to cold soil temperatures were, in fact, a major hindrance in corn growth.

While most corn planted in Mid-April emerged, that emergence took 2 to 4 weeks and once it emerged, the growth has been less than ideal. The latest concern on the corn planted on April 17 through April 20 is a large and often devastating infestation of seedling blights. Seedling blights is a generic term for soil-borne pathogens such as Pythium and Fusarium attacking the struggling corn plant.

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2012 off to a good start compared to 2011

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Associate Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc.

What a difference a year makes! According to a recent USDA crop progress report, as of May 20, 94% of Ohio’s corn crop was planted and 74% of the state’s soybeans were in the ground — a big difference compared to last year when almost nothing had been planted at that point. This year’s planting progress is also well ahead of Ohio’s 5 year average. Some growers planted corn as early as late March and some were sidedressing nitrogen in early May. The unseasonably warm weather in early March created favorable conditions for field work and had farmers in their fields earlier than normal.

It is a common understanding that early planting will provide corn with a higher yield potential; however, planting too early can leave plants vulnerable to adverse weather conditions, such as below freezing temperatures. Some of the earlier planted corn in Ohio was stunted by frost.

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