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February 2011 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.

What Advice Can You Offer On Growing Wheat?

Feb 25, 2011

Question: I didn’t put any wheat in last year, but am thinking I will this year because prices look good. Obviously, it’s not my main crop, so any advice you have on growing it would be much appreciated.

Answer: We realize that the wheat price outlook has farmers taking a second look at growing wheat this year, so you’re in good company. Fairly small things like fine-tuning seeding and nitrogen rates can make significant contributions to crop success with wheat. Establishing a consistent number of wheat heads per square yard is one practice that we believe wheat producers would benefit from implementing. On average, U.S. growers need to aim to establish between 450 and 600 heads of wheat per square yard. Farmers whose fields receive timely rains during the growing season need to shoot for the higher end of that spectrum. Growers whose acreage receives little rainfall each season should aim for the lower end. When you establish a consistent, uniform number of heads of wheat per square yard, many of the other components that contribute to high wheat yields are automatically addressed at the same time. Use large-sized, well-cleaned (ideally, certified) seed and plant at a depth of 1" to 1.5", if moisture is available at those depths. Consistent planting depth helps achieve even emergence, and seeder calibration aids in seed placement. Research shows that spring wheat seeded at a consistent 1" depth will be 72% emerged within a three-day window. Planting at 3" results in 81% emergence in a seven-day window.
 
 
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.

Can I Improve My Soil Organic Matter?

Feb 23, 2011

Question: Is it possible to increase the organic matter and/or the CEC in soil? If so, how can I do it?

Answer: It may be possible to increase the organic matter and CEC in soil. Soils vary widely in their clay content and type of clay content. The clay in the soil contains negative exchange sites. Positive charged cations attach to negative charge clay particles or exchange site that are available or unfilled. So, if you apply fertilizer and lime to your soil it will increase the cation content in the soil, whether this increase is temporary or sustainable will depend on your soil type and your soils’ ability to absorb and retain the additional cations you applied. Once you’ve balanced the soil with the proper and maximum cations that it can hold, you’re fixed with the capacity Mother Nature has given you. Most soil tests that are used for fertilizer and lime recommendations only use a calculated CEC, which is usually adequate for fertility recommendations but leaves some room for error in determining the actual exchange capacity. Some labs can run an actual exchange capacity or TEC total exchange capacity of your soil. It may be best to better understand the soil test lab you’re using and the method the lab is using to report the CEC. You can slightly increase the organic matter of your soil by applying materials high in organic matter. Manure and/or compost with a high C/N ratio applied to soil will increase the organic matter. Remember that high C/N ratio products can temporarily tie up nitrogen that you’ll need available for crop growth, so be cautious when apply high C/N ration products. Keep in mind that different labs use different methods and ways to report results, so if you change labs it may appear that your OM and/or CEC has changed, but, in reality, the soil hasn’t. 
 
 
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 Control Options Are There For Corn Rootworms?

Feb 18, 2011

Question: What can I do to control corn rootworms besides Bt seed? 

Answer: T-banded soil-applied insecticides are still good options for controlling corn rootworms in corn.
 
 
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.

Where Can I Locate Agrostis Vulgaris Grass Seed?

Feb 14, 2011

Question: I am looking for an English grass (Agrostis Vulgaris seed) that I would like to rotate with on our Massachusetts farm. Any ideas on where I can purchase this seed?

Answer:  Unfortunately, we’re not going to be of much help as this is not a grass we are familiar with here. You may want to try an online resource, such as www.seedland.com. Also, if anyone who reads this request knows where this grass seed can be purchased, please let us know and we’ll forward that information to the farmer wanting it. Thanks!

 
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 Much Boron Should I Use?

Feb 11, 2011

Question: How much boron should I use on corn and cotton rotation ground that tests low in boron and high in calcium? Is foliar the best way to apply it? 

Answer: The amount of boron needed will depend on your soil test, but typically soil applications of 5 lb/A to 10 lb/A of a 10-15% boron product (0.5-1.5 lb/A actual boron) will be adequate. Follow your soil application with an in-season tissue test to verify that you’re applying the proper rate. If you’re struggling to increase the boron content of the tissue sample in the sufficient range from your soil-applied application, you may need to apply foliar treatments.

Boron Treatments

 
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.

Why Should I Care About Lime Quality?

Feb 07, 2011

 

Question: Why should I care about lime quality? I’ve always thought one source is as good as any other.
 
Answer: The foundation of a systems approach pyramid is soil pH. The keys to lime applications are quality and fineness. You do need to look at the purity of rock and how much neutralizing value the lime has, which requires lab analysis. The neutralizing value comes from the calcium carbonate, and the lab will compare the limestone sample to a product with 100% neutralizing value. Properties of limestone range in neutralizing power. In comparing one quarry over another there can be a $3 to $4 a ton difference in quality. Another part of the lime equation is that you need to pay attention to the fineness of the lime. The more fine the grind, the more neutralizing power that’s available because there is more surface area. You have to also weigh the spreadability of the lime, and have your equipment calibrated for the fineness of the product.
 
Learn more about the real cost of your lime application in Episode 13 of Corn College TV.
 
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