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October 2012 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.

How Can I Improve Soil Health in Soybean Fields?

Oct 26, 2012

Question: Many of the farmers here in North Dakota have forgone wheat in their traditional rotations and are going beans on beans for multiple years – what should they consider for soil health, disease preventions, etc. to maintain viable plants and yield. 
Answer: I would encourage farmers there to entertain planting a cover crop such as rye.  That will give them some diversity and complement soil health as far as soil structure and aggregate ability. 
Dave Robison, agronomist and seed marketing manager with the Cisco Companies, believes in the benefits of cover crops. He heads to the field to dig into the topic.
If your corn or soybean crops didn’t yield to their potential this year, you still have an opportunity to plant another crop to increase your soil’s health, minimize erosion and even provide additional forage value.

Can I Moldboard Plow Fields To Eliminate Weeds?

Oct 19, 2012

Question: I didn’t have much of a corn crop this year, and weeds turned some of my fields into a jungle. Would it be ok to moldboard plow those fields?

Answer: That’s a pretty radical option, but it may help bury seed that’s present so it doesn’t sprout and interfere with next year’s crop. For plowing to be effective, you must understand each weed species that’s out there because some weed seeds need to be buried longer than others. I’d avoid plowing if you can, but if your weed seed bank is completely out-of-control, then that might be a good option.

Can I Fall-Apply Nitrogen on Really Dry Soil?

Oct 11, 2012

Question: Can I fall-apply Nitrogen on really dry soil?

Answer: You may want to consider holding off on fall nitrogen applications if your ground is dry. Some additional thoughts for your consideration: there needs to be some soil moisture to essentially seal the soil after an anhydrous application.

Otherwise, the anhydrous can escape into the atmosphere. Plus, chances are you have a considerable amount of carryover nutrients in your fields, particularly if you experienced hot, dry conditions this season and if you didn’t harvest much of a crop.

In many of those cases, I am telling farmers to just chisel their fields this fall--that they probably don’t need any additional nitrogen to help with corn stalk decomposition. I also am concerned that there is potential for a nitrate problem going into this winter, if your corn crop was unable to use all the nitrogen you applied last spring.

If you are unsure about the amount of nitrates present in your fields, and you do want to fall-apply nitrogen, pull some soil tests at varying levels within each field to verify current nutrient levels before making those applications.

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