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December 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.

How Much Nitrogen Availability Is There From Manure

Dec 31, 2010

Question: If only 85% of nitrogen is available the first year in manure, how much can I count on for the second year? 

Answer: The amount of nitrogen (N) that is available the first year will be highly dependent on the type of manure and the application methods you use. For example, between 50% and 60% of the N in poultry manure is typically available the first year (before any loss), and 0% to 10% the second year. Animal manure that has considerable organic material can have some residual N availability in the second or third year after application; however, manure sources that have low organic N will not have second-year crop available N (Iowa State University, PMR 1003, September 2008). In general, you can expect the N availability from manure to be low in the second year (0-10%); but again, that will depend on several factors. The best thing to do is have your manure analyzed at a laboratory for N availability. Most labs that do soil testing also do manure testing. Keep in mind that the percent available does not take into consideration N loss from volatilization, leaching, or denitrification.  Application methods are highly influential in volatilization loss. 
 
 

Can Narrow Rows Yield More Corn?

Dec 27, 2010

Today, we’re looking at narrow row corn production. There are a couple of scenarios in which we do recommend that farmers consider going this route.

Narrow rows provide two primary advantages: water management and the ability to push plant densities.
 
What we’re finding after a couple of decades of experience with narrow row plots is that  both 20” rows and twin rows show a 7 bu. to 10 bu. yield response over 30” rows.
 
The yields are a bell curve when compared with population, and we hit our highest yields in 30” rows before 20” rows or twin rows. But that yield response doesn’t buy a lot of machinery. Machinery costs should definitely be a consideration in your evaluation process.
 
And if you sidedress, narrow rows tighten the window you can sidedress in. But if sidedress nitrogen was part of your system before your row change, it needs to carry over with your narrow row production.
 
It bears repeating, too, that any change in your production practices needs to be part of your overall Systems Approach.
 
With narrow rows there is also a difference in scouting, with insects and disease. Tight rows are good for managing water, but also can foster disease conditions.
 
 
 

How Can I Address Sudden Death Syndrome In Soybeans?

Dec 20, 2010

Question: I had sudden death syndrome in my soybeans this past season. What should I do for the 2011 season? 

Answer: Sudden death syndrome (SDS) was fairly widespread this past year, but losses varied depending on the severity within fields. Some states, like Illinois, had fairly limited outbreaks while others, such as Ohio, had quite a bit of it throughout the state. SDS tended to strike in fields that were wet and stayed wet and in fields planted earlier than normal. X. B. Yang at Iowa State University says that everything you can do to manage this disease must be done before or at planting, as there is no chemical that controls SDS. There are no SDS-resistant varieties, but there are varieties with tolerance. Also, he says to plant fields with a history of SDS last, when the weather is warmer and the soil is drier.
 
 
This blog is provided 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 Can I Decide Whether A Soybean Seed Treatment Pays Off?

Dec 17, 2010

Question: I’m seeing more and more information about seed treatments for soybeans. Can you give me some ideas on how to decide whether I should use one next spring?

Answer: There is no simple answer, though the value of soybeans can help you determine the best decision for your operation. We also like the way Ohio State University plant pathologist Anne Dorrance answers this question: “Has the field ever needed replanting? Is it poorly drained? Is it in no-till production? How many years out of the past five have soybeans been planted? If you answer yes to any of these questions; or, if soybeans have been planted at least three of the past five years, there’s a very good chance you’ll see a return on your seed treatment investment.”
 
 
This blog is provided 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 Deep Does Manure Need To Be Incorporated?

Dec 14, 2010

Question: When manure is applied to fields, how deep does it need to be incorporated? Does it need to be covered with soil, or will the crop residue with a small amount of soil work just as well?

 
Answer: Most manure nitrogen is lost through volatilization. Incorporating by mixing soil instead of burying the manure under the soil is most effective. Typically incorporation of 3 inches to 6 inches is very effective. Covering the manure with soil will be most effective; residue alone will not reduce volatilization. Residue can help absorb and trap nutrients to reduce potential runoff.
 
 
This blog is provided 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.
 

Check Out These Planter Prep Tips

Dec 10, 2010

While some parts of the country are braced for snow this weekend, our thoughts as agronomists are already tuned-in to planning for the 2011 cropping season. One of the things we encourage farmers to evaluate every year is the condition of their planter. Now is a good time to get it ready to run at peak performance, so you’re ready to roll once planting commences. In episode 6 of Corn College TV, you can glean some top tips on planter prep from Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer.

“Look at your planter’s transmission,” she says. “Take the chains and look for broken and frozen links. Sometimes when looking at chains it’s an obvious no-brainer, but sometimes it’s just one link that will make the transmission jerk.”
Also check the bearings. Bauer says the bearings at the main drive shaft will bend or twist over time.
 
Learn more in Episode 6 of Corn College TV. Bauer gives step by step guidance of what you can do in the shop to make sure you’re running a smooth-running planter.
 
This blog is provided 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.
 

What Nutrients Do Soybeans Need To Produce Optimum Yields?

Dec 07, 2010

 

Question: What would be the optimum soil condition as far as analysis to grow soybeans? What would you like to see in a soil analysis for maximum yield as far the elements?  What do beans respond well to as far as nutrients?  I'm in Virginia, and my soil is classified as sandy loam.
 
Answer: Proper soil pH between 6.5 and 6.8 is the foundation of a successful soybean crop. Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) levels will vary based on lab procedures and extraction methods. Since actual soil test values will be dependent on the laboratory, I will reference categories. Most labs will give you descriptions of very low, low, medium, high, or very high categories along with your actual values. Be sure to touch base with your laboratory to better understand what values are important for your soils. It is ideal to keep your P levels in the medium range. Soybeans are very responsive to K and require good levels. Keep your soil test levels in the medium to high category for potassium. The optimum K level on your soil test will also depend on the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC). Soybeans are also responsive to manganese. You may want to consider doing some in-season tissue testing to evaluate nutrient levels in the soybean plants in order to fine-tune your fertility program. You can learn more about fertility needs in soybeans at the following links.
 
 
 
 
This blog is provided 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.
 
 

What Kind Of Tillage Tool Will Break-Up Compaction The Best?

Dec 03, 2010

Question:  I'm thinking about buying an implement for fall soybean stubble tillage and was wondering what you guys thought would do the best job breaking up compaction and give me the best seedbed for next year’s corn?  I have mostly heavy soils with a few hill tops and sand streaks. Any input you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:  For a corn-soybean rotation we typically are not real concerned about burying a lot of residue as we are in the case for corn-on-corn.  We often use more aggressive tillage in corn-on-corn to rip up root balls and bury residue.  The disc ripper type tools are helpful for that.  In the corn-soybean rotation, we are trying to create a uniform soil density and prepare an adequate seed bed.  We can often accomplish this with less aggressive tools with closer shank spacing.  You want to make sure the tool you are using has uniform fracture of the soil in-between the shanks, as not to leave “columns” in-between the shanks.  We can typically get good shatter with 15-inch or less shank spacing.  The point on the shank will also contribute to good shatter in-between.  You would need to evaluate this in your own soil types.  In some cases a narrow 2-inch point can accomplish this; in other cases you may need a narrow wing point to help with the shatter.  Always keep in mind what your options are for leveling after your primary tillage. The smoother the surface after primary tillage the easier it will be to level with a vertical tillage leveling tool.  There are several primary tillage tools with leveling devices attached on the back that can set you up for a harrow type (vertical tillage) tool to prepare the final seedbed. 
 
This blog is provided 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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