Einstein’s Theory of Relativity as it Applies to Soil Moisture

Source: Dr. Bob Nielsen, Purdue University (Edited)

 

 

While Dr. Nielsen wrote this for Indiana, it unfortunately fits Ohio this year also.

 

Suitability of the soil moisture and whether a field is “fit” for field work and planting is partially “in the eyes of the beholder”, but is also subject to the “laws of relativity” and calendar date. Use your best judgement.

The bad news is that Monday’s USDA-NASS crop progress report estimated that only 6% of Indiana’s corn (4% of Ohio’s Corn) had been planted as of May 12, which puts our farmers in the unenviable position of suffering through the slowest planting progress EVER for this point in May. Nationally, only 30% of the corn crop was estimated to be planted as of May 12, compared with the most recent 5-year average progress of 66%. With more rain moving through the state late this week, let me offer a contrarian (if not “tongue in cheek”) view about soil moisture and planting.

The superintendent of our Purdue Agronomy Farm and I commiserate every planting season when it comes to deciding when the soil is “fit” to work or plant. We scuff the surface of the fields in mid-April, dig a few spadefuls of soil, squeeze the soil into a ball like the soil scientists tell us to do, and then agree that the soil is too wet to work or plant.

Around the first of May, we scuff the surface of the fields, dig a few spadefuls of soil, squeeze the soil into a ball like the soil scientists tell us to do, and then agree that the soil is too wet to work or plant.

Again in mid-May, we scuff the surface of the fields, dig a few spadefuls of soil, squeeze the soil into a ball like the soil scientists tell us to do, and then agree that the soil is maybe just about right to work or plant, but we’ll give it a few more days.

By late May, we scuff the surface of the fields, dig a few spadefuls of soil, squeeze the soil into a ball like the soil scientists tell us to do, and then agree that the soil is just as wet as it was back in mid-April, but maybe we ought to be working ground and planting anyway.

Einstein was right…………it’s all about relativity.

The point of my sharing this annual ritual with you is that we are rapidly approaching the point in the planting season where we need to “fish or cut bait”. Yes, there are risks of working ground too wet or planting “on the wet side” (see articles below), but there are also risks of waiting so long for the soil to become “fit” to begin planting that the majority of your corn ground gets planted way too late.

Heaven forbid that I should recommend anyone to work ground or plant corn in soils that are wet enough to cause severe compaction that will haunt you later this summer. But, you know, when you decide back in mid-April to wait, you’ve got quite a bit of good planting season left to go. When you decide in mid-May to wait AND you have a lot of acres to cover, what you save by avoiding some soil compaction now may be less than what you risk by planting the bulk of your corn acres very, very late.

If you concur with these thoughts and decide to “mud in” your corn and suffer serious yield losses; then you did not hear it from me. If you “pull the trigger” now and successfully avoid planting the bulk of your corn in mid-June and win the yield jackpot; then I’ll accept all the credit.

There are no black & white answers to this situation, there are no silver bullets, and there are no certainties in farming. Use your best judgement in deciding when to head back to the fields over the coming days and/or weeks. You know your fields and soils better than anyone else.

It’s All About the Weed Seedbank – Part 1: Where Has All the Marestail Gone?

Source: Mark Loux

For the second year in a row, we are scrounging to find enough marestail at the OARDC Western Ag Station to conduct the research we had planned on this weed.  After years of having plenty of marestail, we have had to look around for off-site fields where there is still a high enough population.  Which, since we are scientists after all, or at least make our best attempts, left us thinking about reasons for the lack of marestail, and our overall marestail situation, and seedbanks.

While the short game in weed management is about getting good enough control to prevent weeds from being a yield-limiting factor and interfering with harvest, the long game is about preventing seed production and managing the soil seedbank.  One of the characteristics shared by marestail, giant ragweed, and the nasty pigweeds, waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, is a rapid decline in seed viability in the soil within the first year, and an overall decline to 5% or less viable seed within 3 to 4 years.  Another characteristic of marestail and pigweed seed is a relative lack of dormancy, which results in the potential for an almost immediate increase in population the year following a year of substantial escapes and seed production.  How big that increase is depends upon how many plants go to seed and how many seeds are produced per plant, with the potential of up to about 200,000 seeds per marestail plant and one million per waterhemp or Palmer amaranth plant.  The net result of these two characteristics, though, is that these weeds can ramp up population fast following a year of poor control, but populations can also decline rapidly with good control that prevents seed.

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Delayed Planting Effects on Corn Yield: A “Historical” Perspective

According to the USDA/NASS, for the week ending May 5, only 2% of Ohio’s projected corn acreage was planted – compared to 20% last year and 27% for the five-year average. Persistent rains and saturated soil conditions have delayed corn planting. The weather forecast this week indicates the likelihood of more rain, so it is probable that many soggy fields may not dry out soon.

Long-term research by universities and seed companies across the Corn Belt gives us a pretty good idea of planting date effects on relative yield potential. The recommended time for planting corn in northern Ohio is April 15 to May 10 and in southern Ohio, April 10 to May 10. In the central Corn Belt, estimated yield loss per day with delayed planting varies from about 0.3% per day early in May to about 1% per day by the end of May (Nielsen, 2019). These yield losses can be attributed to a number of factors including a shorter growing season, greater disease and insect pressure and higher risk of hot, dry conditions during pollination.

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Managing Big, Wet Cover Crops

Source: Dr. Mark Loux, OSU Extension

Managing cover crops in a year like this can challenge even those with the most experience.  A few suggestions regarding termination of covers:

  • Increase glyphosate rates to compensate for larger size, and consider applying alone or just with Sharpen.  Mixing glyphosate with other herbicides or ATS can reduce its activity on grass covers, especially when large.  Herbicides that can antagonize glyphosate include 2,4-D, metribuzin, atrazine, and flumioxazin and sulfentrazone products.  Sharpen has not caused a reduction in glyphosate activity on grass covers in university research.  One approach would be to apply the glyphosate or glyphosate/Sharpen first, wait a few days, and then apply residual herbicides.

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Finding value in sharing farm data

Source: Jenna Lee and John Fulton

What will sharing my farm data accomplish and what is the value?

Many farmers may find themselves thinking about this very question as they weigh the benefits and drawbacks of sharing their farm data. The potential to realize value from data can often stem from sharing it via digital technologies to service providers or other consultants. In many cases, it may be necessary for a grower to share farm data with multiple entities in order to obtain the largest return on investment possible. While many simple solutions have been presented to farmers that make it easier than ever to share data, the benefits and tangible value of doing so have not been clearly or accurately conveyed.

Sharing data for use in collaborative tools may result in benefits such as:

  • Reducing the number of duplicate datasets generated or collected.
  • Innovative digital tools allow for drawing of site-specific information and learnings.
  • Allowing for one common data source that all decisions can be made from in order to eliminate confusion or inaccurate interpretation from outside sources.
  • Moving from collected data to actionable decisions quickly, and on-the-go.
  • Verifying original analyses and developing new insights from same data.
  • Generating trustworthy, data-backed answers and solutions for complex issues like water quality.
  • Identifying opportunities to improve efficiencies, reduce risk, and increase bottom line.
  • Empowering scientists and researchers to explore and develop new analyses.

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Work Safely Around Grain

Source:Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension Agricultural Engineer (Edited)

OK, so maybe it’s too wet to be in the field. While we are waiting on a little bit of cooperation from Mother Nature, we may be keeping busy doing other things  like hauling grain.  As you empty your bins keep these safety tips in mind!

Make sure everyone working around stored grain understands the hazards and proper safety procedures.

Using appropriate safety practices when working around grain is vital.

“Make sure everyone, including family and employees, working around stored grain understands the hazards and proper safety procedures,” North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer Ken Hellevang says.

“Too many people ignore safety practices and suffer severe injury or death while working around grain,” he adds. “They get trapped in grain, tangled in auger flighting, or develop respiratory problems from exposure to grain dust and mold particles.”

Grain Bin Dangers

Never enter a bin while unloading grain or to break up a grain bridge. Flowing grain will pull you into the grain mass, burying you within seconds.

Stop the grain-conveying equipment and use the “lock-out/tag-out” procedures to secure it before entering the bin. Use a key-type padlock to lock the conveyor switch in the “off” position to assure that the equipment does not start automatically or someone does not start it accidentally.

Bridging occurs when grain is high in moisture content, moldy or in poor condition. The kernels stick together and form a crust. A cavity will form under the crust when grain is removed from the bin. The crust isn’t strong enough to support a person’s weight, so anyone who walks on it will fall into the cavity and be buried under several feet of grain.

“To determine if the grain is bridged, look for a funnel shape on the surface of the grain mass after some grain has been removed,” Hellevang advises. “If the grain surface appears undisturbed, the grain has bridged and a cavity has formed under the surface.”

Stay outside the bin and use a pole or other object to break the bridge loose.

If the grain flow stops when you’re removing it from the bin but the grain surface has a funnel shape and shows some evidence that grain has been flowing into the auger, a chunk of spoiled grain probably is blocking the flow. Entering the bin to break up the blockage will expose you to being buried in grain and tangled in the auger.

If grain has formed a vertical wall, try to break it up from the top of the bin with a long pole on a rope or through a door with a long pole. A wall of grain can collapse, or avalanche, without warning, knocking you over and burying you.

Follow recommended storage management procedures to minimize the potential for crusting or bridging and chunks of grain blocking unloading.

Also, never enter a grain bin alone. Have at least two people at the bin to assist in case of problems. Use a safety harness when entering a bin.

Rescuing a Trapped Person

If someone gets trapped:

  • Shut off all grain-moving equipment.
  • Contact your local emergency rescue service or fire department.
  • Ventilate the bin using the fan.
  • Form a retaining wall around the person using a rescue tube or plywood, sheet metal or other material to keep grain from flowing toward the person, then remove grain from around the individual. Walking on the grain pushes more grain onto the trapped person.
  • Don’t try to pull a person out of grain. The grain exerts tremendous forces, so trying to pull someone out could damage the person’s spinal column or cause other damage.
  • Cut holes in the bin sides to remove grain if the person is submerged. Use a cutting torch, metal-cutting power saw or air chisel to cut at least two V- or U-shaped holes on opposite sides or more holes equally spaced around the bin. Grain flowing from just one hole may injure the trapped person and cause the bin to collapse.

Dust, Mold Pose Health Hazards

Even low-level exposure to dust and mold can cause symptoms such as wheezing, a sore throat, congestion, and nasal or eye irritation.

Higher concentrations can cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma episodes and other problems. Typical symptoms include shortness of breath; burning eyes; blurry vision; light sensitivity; a dry, hacking cough; and skin irritation. People may experience one or a combination of these symptoms.

In rare cases, severe symptoms, such as headaches, aches and pains, and/or fever, may develop. People’s sensitivity varies based on the amount and type of mold. In addition, certain types of molds can produce mycotoxins, which increase the potential for health hazards from exposure to mold spores.

The minimum protection for anyone working around moldy grain should be an N-95-rated facemask, according to Hellevang. This mask has two straps to hold it firmly to the face and a metal strip over the nose to create a tight seal. A nuisance-dust mask with a single strap will not provide adequate protection, he says.

Other Dangers

Getting tangled in the unloading sweep auger is another major hazard. Entanglement typically results in lost feet, hands, arms, legs and frequently death due to the severe damage.

Although you shouldn’t enter a bin with an energized sweep auger, it may be necessary in some instances, Hellevang says. All sweep augers should have guards that protect against contact with moving parts at the top and back. The only unguarded portion of the sweep auger should be the front point of operation.

If someone must go into the bin, make sure to have a rescue-trained and equipped observer positioned outside the storage bin. Use a safety switch that will allow the auger to operate only while the worker is in contact with the switch.

Never use your hands or legs to manipulate the sweep auger while it’s in operation. The auger should have a bin stop device that prevents the sweep auger from making uncontrolled rotations.

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Corn Management Practices for Later Planting Dates – Changes to Consider

Source: Peter Thomison, Steve Culman

As prospects for a timely start to spring planting diminish, growers need to reassess their planting strategies and consider adjustments. Since delayed planting reduces the yield potential of corn, the foremost attention should be given to management practices that will expedite crop establishment. The following are some suggestions and guidelines to consider in dealing with a late planting season.

Although the penalty for late planting is important, care should be taken to avoid tillage and planting operations when soil is wet. Yield reductions resulting from “mudding the seed in” are usually much greater than those resulting from a slight planting delay. Yields may be reduced somewhat this year due to delayed planting,  but effects of soil compaction can reduce yield for several years to come. Keep in mind that we typically do not see significant yield reductions due to late planting until mid-May or even later in some years. In 2017, favorable growing conditions allowed many growers to achieve exceptionally grain high yields in corn planted as late as early June.

If you originally planned to apply nitrogen pre-plant, consider alternatives so that planting is not further delayed when favorable planting conditions occur. Although application of anhydrous N is usually recommended prior to April 15 in order to minimize potential injury to emerging corn, anhydrous N may be applied as close as a week before planting (unless hot, dry weather is predicted). In late planting seasons associated with wet cool soil conditions, growers should consider side-dressing anhydrous N (or UAN liquid solutions) and applying a minimum of 30 lb/N broadcast or banded to stimulate early seedling growth. These approaches will allow greater time for planting. Continue reading

Adapting Burndown Herbicide Programs to Wet Weather Delays

Source:  Dr Mark Loux, OSU

While it’s not terribly late yet, the wet soils and wet forecast could keep most of us out of the fields for a while.  The questions about how to deal with burndown herbicide treatments in delayed planting situations are rolling in.  One of the most common ones, predictably, is how to kill glyphosate-resistant marestail and giant ragweed and generally big weeds in soybeans when it’s not possible to delay planting long enough to use 2,4-D ester (Enlist soybeans excluded).  While we wrote last week about marestail populations being on the decline, this does not mean it’s gone by any means.  Overwintered marestail plants become tougher to kill in May, and the fact that fall weather was not conducive for herbicide applications makes the situation worse in some fields.  The good news is that we have some additional herbicide/trait options for help with burndown since the last time we wrote an article covering this in 2016, although our experience is that nothing we suggest here is infallible on large marestail.

A burndown of glyphosate and 2,4-D struggles to control marestail in the spring anyway, especially in the absence of fall herbicide treatments.  Our standard recommendation, regardless of when spring treatments are applied, is to either replace the 2,4-D with something more effective, or to add another herbicide to supplement the 2,4-D.  Sharpen has been the frequent replacement/supplement, and we now have the option to use dicamba in the Xtend soybean system instead of 2,4-D.  While it’s possible to use higher 2,4-D rates in the Enlist soybean without waiting to plant, higher rates do not necessarily solve this issue based on our research, although a follow up POST treatment that includes glufosinate or 2,4-D usually finishes off plants that survive burndown.  We also would not expect the addition of Elevore to consistently solve this issue either, and it requires a 14 day wait to plant any soybean.  There’s a list of suitable soybean burndown treatments in our marestail fact sheet, and also below – these are for fields not treated the prior fall.

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Yield Response of Corn to Plant Population in Indiana

Source: RL (Bob) Nielsen, Jim Camberato, & Jason Lee Purdue University (Edited)

Summary:

Results from 97 field scale trials around Indiana since 2008 suggest that maximum yield response to plant populations for 30-inch row corn grown under minimal to moderate stress conditions occurs at about 32,150 plants per acre (ppa), equal to seeding rates of about 33,840 SEEDS per acre (spa). Economic optimum populations are several thousand lower than the agronomic optimum. Corn grown under extremely challenging conditions (e.g., severe drought stress) may perform best at plant populations no higher than 22,800 ppa and perhaps as low as 21,000 ppa under truly severe growing conditions (e.g., actual drought, non-irrigated center pivot corners, non-irrigated sandy fields with minimal rainfall).

The cost of seed corn is the largest single variable input cost for most Indiana corn growers(Dobbins et al., 2019). Minimizing that cost involves a combination of shrewd purchasing skills and wise selection of seeding rates. This summary focuses on our recent research evaluating the yield responses of corn to plant populations in field scale trials conducted around the state of Indiana since 2008.

Reported corn plant populations have increased steadily in Indiana (and Ohio) for the past several decades, at an annual increase of approximately 315 plants per acre (ppa) per year, based on historical data summarized by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. In 2018, the average reported plant population for Indiana (and Ohio) was approximately 30,400 PLANTS per acre (USDA-NASS, 2019). Considering stand establishment success typically ranges from 90% to 95%, the average reported population suggests that the average seeding rate statewide is 32,000 to 33,800 seeds per acre (spa). Among the agronomic factors that support the steady annual increase in plant populations has been the genetic improvement in overall stress tolerance that has resulted in a) ear size and kernel weight becoming less sensitive to the stress of thicker stands of corn and b) improved late-season stalk health.

Click here to read the entire study

 

Estimating Wheat Yield With Stem Counts

Source: Dr. Laura Lindsey

Between planting in the fall and Feekes 4 growth stage (beginning of erect growth) in the spring, winter wheat is vulnerable to environmental stress such as freezing temperatures with limited snow cover, saturated soils, and freeze-thaw cycles that cause soil heaving. All of which may lead to substantial stand reduction.

However, a stand that looks thin in the spring does not always correspond to lower grain yield. Rather than relying on a visual stand assessment, farmers should estimate the yield potential of their winter wheat crop by counting stems, before deciding whether a field should be destroyed. An alternative method to evaluate wheat stand is fractional green canopy cover (FGCC). Fractional green canopy cover can be used to measure the canopy surface area using the mobile device application Canopeo. The app can be downloaded for free here: http://www.canopeoapp.com.

Figure 1. Measurement tool used to consistently count the number of stems in one foot of row.

Wheat Stem Count Methods: Wheat stems (main stem plus tillers) should be counted at Feekes 5 growth stage (leaf sheaths strongly erect) from one linear foot of row from several areas within a field (Figure 1).

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2. Winter malting barley image analyzed for fractional green canopy cover with the Canopeo mobile device application.

 

Fractional Green Canopy Cover Methods: Fractional green canopy cover should be measured at Feekes 5 growth stage using the mobile device application, Canopeo (http://www.canopeoapp.com). The camera should be held at a height to capture three rows of wheat in the image (Figure 2).

 

 

 

 

 

After counting the number of wheat stems or measuring FGCC, Table 1 can be used to estimate wheat grain yield. For example, if an average of 51 stems is counted from one foot length of row, the predicted grain yield would be 100 bu/acre. Similarly, if the average FGCC measurement was 35%, the predicted grain yield would be 100 bu/acre.