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November 2013 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, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

How Can I Control Volunteer Soybeans?

Nov 19, 2013

Question: I had some volunteer soybeans in my corn this year that I think affected my yield outcome.  Next spring I plan to take a wait-and-see approach to address them if the problem shows up again.  Got any recommendations?

Answer: If volunteer soybean shows up in your corn next season, consider these postemergence control measures, outlined by Darrell Deneke, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension IPM coordinator. He says soybean size at the time of herbicide application will determine the degree of control you get. As is true for most all weeds, smaller volunteer soybeans are easier to control than larger ones. Try to get on top of any problem before volunteer soybeans exceed the V3 growth stage. Using 2,4-D to control volunteer soybeans is one option, he says, though SDSU research shows that soybeans are not as sensitive to 2,4-D as they are to other plant-growth regulator herbicides, such as dicamba or clopyralid. The plant-growth regulator herbicides, such as Hornet, contain clopyralid and should provide effective control to smaller soybeans. He adds that products that contain dicamba, such as Status, Distinct and numerous generics, will provide effective control over a wider range of volunteer soybean growth stages. As always, read all product labels for application directions and to insure the herbicide you plan to spray is labeled for use in your state.

Beans Gone Bad

Move over waterhemp, ragweed, lambsquarters and all your weedy friends. There’s a new rabble-rouser in cornfields this season: volunteer soybeans.


What Tool Do I Need for Vertical Tillage?

Nov 05, 2013

What Tool Do I Need For Vertical Tillage?

Question: What kind of tool do I need for vertical tillage?

Answer:  There is no single tool that works for vertical tillage.  One of the first things I always tell farmers is that vertical tillage is a system, not a one-season tillage pass or a single tool.  It can take you a couple of years to transition to a true vertical tillage system. Before you buy any tool you need to think about what you’re trying to gain from using a vertical tillage system. One of the best goals you can set is trying to achieve uniform soil density. That uniformity can help you develop a good quality seedbed, which is crucial for uniform corn emergence and high ear counts. Evaluate whether you have density layers or compaction problems in your soils.  If so, at what depth? Your answer matters because it influences the type of tool you will use to correct those problems. At 4" deep you can go in with a variety of tools to remove a density layer.  If it’s at 12" deep, though, you will need a more specific tool to accomplish that. Consider your residue needs before purchasing vertical tillage equipment. For instance, if you’re in continuous corn, you need to select a tool to get rid of rootballs and incorporate more residue.  If you have deep density layers but don’t need the residue, you can use something like a disk ripper, which is designed to go deeper than a chisel plow. If you have shallow layers and don’t need a lot of residue, then you can run a chisel plow. If you have deep density layers but need a lot of residue, you probably can go with an inline ripper type tool. On highly erodible soils, you need less aggressive tools.  Primary vertical tillage tools include chisel plows, disk rippers and inline rippers. Other tools are better suited to leveling fields, such as harrows and coulters, which prepare the final seedbed.  Whatever your final decision, make sure you consider your soil residue needs and how deep your density layers run before buying any of these tools.

Tillage: Dig Deep, Go Vertical Remember how you were told as a kid to not judge a book by its cover? That same advice applies to evaluating vertical tillage.

Key Steps in a Transition to Vertical Tillage Ken Ferrie reminds farmers that vertical tillage is a system—not just one tool. Switching your tillage system can be a challenge, but using better management for your soil can led to higher yields. When not done correctly, however, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie cautions that the transition’s risk can outweigh the reward.

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