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May 2010 Archive for Ask an Agronomist

RSS By: Farm Journal Agronomists, Farm Journal

Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at TestPlots@FarmJournal.com, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

Agronomists Shed Light on Compaction from Central-fill Planters

May 26, 2010

Question: Our two neighboring operations are looking at purchasing a new corn planter and/or a new bean planter together to take advantage of some economies of scale. The corn planter would probably be a 16-row central fill and the soy planter would be a split row (16/32). We're concerned about the compaction that comes over the center of the planter in the case of the central fill and over the whole planter in the case of the split row. We're on fairly heavy clay soils that can compact easily. Is there a significant issue with these larger planters, or is the impact minimized with wider operating width? 

 

Answer: There are many advantages to running a central-fill planter, but your suspicion of the compaction these planters can cause is merited. This past year, yield losses of up to 60 bu. were verified in the rows behind the bulk bins. Central-fill planters intensify the compaction of the rows behind the seed bins. This is worse in heavy clay soils and conventional tillage and anytime you plant in wet conditions. Those who no-till or strip-till could see less of an impact. So far, individual row hoppers have been shown to be the most even way to distribute weight across the planter toolbar.

 

If you run a central-fill planter, here are some recommendations:

  • Be conscious of the weight issue and avoid planting in wet conditions.
  • If you plant in compromised conditions, run as light as possible.
  • Rethink adding a starter tank in a position that could increase weight on the same rows as the central bins.
  • Talk with your manufacturer about features to transfer weight across the wings.
  • Consider outfitting your planter with central-fill and individual seed hoppers. In wet conditions, you could switch back to using the individual bins for each row.


We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter setup, scouting and other questions to
TestPlots@FarmJournal.com.

  

Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

Evaluate Soil pH and Buffer pH To Determine Lime Needs

Water pH and buffer pH levels can indicate whether you have residual acidity that needs to be neutralized.

 

Manure versus Commercial Fertilizers

Cow manure helps boost crop yields on this farmer's fields. He asks, "How do I achieve similar results with commercial fertilizers?"


How Should We Handle Stalks This Year?

With last year's late harvest and the good traits of corn hybrids, what are we to do with the stalks?

How to Check Planter Down Pressure
Farmers need to know that not using the correct amount of pressure has its setbacks.

Can an N Inhibitor Replace a Sidedressing Application?

An Indiana farmer asks if
he can eliminate the need for sidedressing by adding a nitrogen inhibitor in the spring nitrogen application.


Could the N in Manure Be Lower Quality?

A dairy farmer from Wisconsin asks why, when he applies manure to cornstalks in corn-on-corn, the corn still looks yellow and sickly the next spring.

 

Evaluate Soil pH and Buffer pH To Determine Lime Needs

May 20, 2010

Question: What’s the difference between soil pH and buffer pH? My soil has a pH of 5.1 and a buffer pH of 6.7.

 

Answer: Soil pH is the measure of active acidity.  Active acidity is soil solution hydrogen (H+), and levels can change quickly.  Buffer pH is a measure of several things: active acidity, salt replaceable acidity and residual acidity.  There are many different buffer solutions that laboratories can use, including Woodruff, Adams & Evan, Mehlich, Shoemaker, McLean, and Pratt.  The Shoemaker, McLean, Pratt (SMP) buffer is one that is widely used and has a pH of 7.5.  The laboratory will mix water with your soil and take a soil pH reading, then mix SMP buffer solution with the soil and take a SMP buffer pH reading.  The more residual acidity in a sample, the more the SMP buffer solution is lowered from 7.5.  Both your water pH of 5.1 and buffer pH of 6.7 are indicating that you have free H+ in soil solution and residual acidity that will need neutralized.  I would recommend contacting the laboratory or a local agronomist that can help you determine the quantity of lime and type of lime to apply.  There are also charts created for the SMP buffer that will help you determine how much lime to apply.

  

www.agweb.com/farmjournal/cornnavigator/Article.aspx?id=131187

High-yielding growers hold soil pH constant, and don't let it swing up and down.

www.agweb.com/farmjournal/current/Article.aspx?id=153576

It's easier to maintain a good soil pH from the surface than to fix an extremely acid one after you get into strip-till.


We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set up, scouting, and other questions to TestPlots@FarmJournal.com.

 

 

Liquid Versus Dry Fertilizer Use

May 17, 2010

Question: It seems everyone in my area is switching from dry to liquid fertilizer on the planter.  Am I suffering yield loss sticking with dry?  Or, is it a handling issue? 

Answer:  The growers that have switched from dry to liquid starter fertilizer have chosen to do so mainly because of handling logistics. Making sure you have the proper blend and rate of starter fertilizer is more important, however, than whether it is dry or liquid.


www.agweb.com/FarmJournal/current/Article.aspx?id=149984

With liquid N fertilizers, variable-rate can be accomplished with a flow controller, a control valve and meter and a hydraulic-driven.

www.agweb.com/FarmJournal/TestPlots/Article.aspx?id=125748

Two decades of evaluating starter fertilizer have convinced Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie that the practice pays.


 

Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

 

Manure Versus Commercial Fertilizers

Cow manure helps boost crop yields on this farmer's fields.  He asks. "How do I achieve similar results with commercial fertilizers?"


How Should We Handle Stalks this Year?

With last year's late harvest and the good traits of corn hybrids, what are we to do with the stalks?

How to Check Planter Down Pressure
Farmers need to know that not using the correct amount of pressure has its setbacks.

Can an N inhibitor replace a sidedressing application?

An Indiana farmer asks if by adding a nitrogen inhibitor in the spring nitrogen application, can he eliminate the need for sidedressing? 


Could the N in manure be lower quality?

A dairy farmer from Wisconsin asks why when he applies manure to corn stalks in corn-on-corn, the next spring the corn still looks yellow and sickly.

We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set up, scouting, and other questions to TestPlots@FarmJournal.com.

 

Manure Versus Commercial Fertilizers

May 15, 2010
Question:The ground I get cow manure spread on always yields 10% better than that ground without manure.  My ground is grid sampled and broadcast to high levels.  What can I do to get the same results without manure?
Answer: Increased crop yields following manure applications are common. Manure provides many benefits above and beyond the nutrients it contains. Manure stimulates microbial activity in the soil that commercial fertilizers often fall short in providing. Manure can also increase the nitrogen efficiency of the soil in corn production. Make sure your non-manure fields are receiving enough nitrogen. I would encourage you to put out some nitrogen rate studies in your field to help address this potential issue. Getting the same results without manure is going to be challenging and may not be possible. The application of bio-stimulants may help but can be very costly.


www.agweb.com/DairyToday/Article.aspx?id=155423%20
Manure can offer readily available nutrients and help rebuild soil organic matter.

www.agweb.com/images/uploaded/files/.../Erb_WDE_2009.ppt
Regulations may force manure distribution. Higher fertilizer prices make it more feasible.


 

Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

How Should We Handle Stalks this Year?
With last year's late harvest and the good traits of corn hybrids, what are we to do with the stalks?

How to Check Planter Down Pressure
Farmers need to know that not using the correct amount of pressure has its setbacks.

Can an N inhibitor replace a sidedressing application?

An Indiana farmer asks if by adding a nitrogen inhibitor in the spring nitrogen application, can he eliminate the need for sidedressing? 


Could the N in manure be lower quality?

A dairy farmer from Wisconsin asks why when he applies manure to corn stalks in corn-on-corn, the next spring the corn still looks yellow and sickly.

We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set up, scouting, and other questions to TestPlots@FarmJournal.com.

 

How Should We Handle Stalks this Year?

May 07, 2010

 

Question: The reason I'm writing is because my husband is concerned; he has a lot of corn stalk trash to work down for his bean fields.   Last fall we got all our ground fall tilled, which is important in our area. Most of our fields were stalk chopped and worked.  However, because of the late season and the fact that two of our fields didn't have all the stalks chopped before they were tilled -- those two fields have a lot of trash.  This spring we didn't get a lot of rain, and he feels that helped contribute to the stalks not breaking down and rotting.   Also, those fields had tremendous yield -- which is great -- but as the seed companies keep working at better traits -- more bushels, good quality corn -- what are we to do with the stalks?

He has talked to several neighbors, and they are having the same issues, and for the most part our neighbors did not get their ground fall tilled. So they are really hurting.   We use a soybean drill for planting, but there are a lot of trash/corn stalks out there.  He also thinks some corn is worse than others for deteriorating, because of the traits of that corn.

Are you hearing from anyone else with this problem -- and do you have any suggestions?  
 
 
Answer: Many of us have the same concerns and are stressed with the issues you addressed in your comments. Struggles with the residue aftermath are common; at times it may seem like we’re fighting ourselves. Striving for higher corn yields, pushing populations to the limit, and demanding healthy corn genetics with good stalk strength, have all caused this extra residue. 
 
Residue breakdown, for the most part, requires the residue to be in contact with the soil. The soil contains beneficial bacteria and fungi that use the residue as an energy/food source to survive, in the process breaking down the residue. There are several things we need to do to have robust, healthy micro-organism populations. Bacteria and fungi require air, moisture, and good nutrient load, just like the crops we are growing. This requires that we take care of the soil chemistry (pH and nutrients) and soil physical properties (air and moisture movement up and down). 
 
Uniform Soil Density, a term used frequently at Farm Journal Corn College, allows the proper air and moisture movement for bacteria and fungi. We can also help the process by downsizing the residue at harvest. Set up the combine properly to do part of this, but it may also require stalk chopping. Continue your stalk chopping practice when time allows.    How you handle the residue in the spring depends a lot on the soil type. Be careful not to cause more problems, than just heavy residue, by a tillage pass that leaves you in worse shape. The couple of fields that did not get tilled may serve you better by no-tilling. Avoid "tough residue times" during early morning, late evening and high-humidity days. Double-check the size of the coulters on your drill/planter, make sure the diameter is at the recommended size and the cutting edge is good. Work on growing beneficial bacteria and fungi, and your crops will thank you.
 

Previous Q&A with our Agronomists:

How to Check Planter Down Pressure
Farmers need to know that not using the correct amount of pressure has its setbacks.

Can an N inhibitor replace a sidedressing application?
An Indiana farmer asks if by adding a nitrogen inhibitor in the spring nitrogen application, can he eliminate the need for sidedressing? 


Could the N in manure be lower quality?

A dairy farmer from Wisconsin asks why when he applies manure to corn stalks in corn-on-corn, the next spring the corn still looks yellow and sickly.

We’ve launched this blog as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set up, scouting, and other questions to TestPlots@FarmJournal.com.

 
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