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April 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 Are Your Thoughts On Spiked Closing Wheels?

Apr 28, 2011

Question: We are corn on corn farmers and constantly struggle with corn stalk butts getting lodged in our disc closers on our Kinze planter. We feel because of this we are doing a poor job of getting good seed to soil contact in spots where the stalks get lodged. We have been contemplating the idea of putting spiked closing wheels on from Shoup Manufacturing and were wondering what your thoughts are on spiked closing wheels or if there is something better we could do to minimize the lodging of stalks?

Answer: I would first look at trying to add floating row cleaners to the planter. The row cleaners will help move more trash out of the way of the row unit prior to making your V trench and closing. The spike closing wheels help the most when planting in wet conditions, reducing the amount of sidewall compaction. The danger of spike wheels is under drier conditions when we either get dry soil down in the seed trench and/or don’t get enough firming action around the seed. We have also had good success in conventional tillage corn on corn running floating row cleaners (no no-till coulter) and cast iron closing wheels. 
 
 
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 Do I Minimize Tie-Up of Nitrogen In Corn-On-Corn?

Apr 25, 2011

Question: If you don't have access to side-dress equipment, what would be the best alternative in a corn-on-corn rotation to minimize nitrogen tie up and grow the best corn crop possible?

Answer: Depending on what part of the country you are located in the issue of residue breakdown may vary. In general, growing corn on corn from the mid-U.S. to the north. residue break down is slower due to cool temperatures. Corn on corn grown in the south will have less of an issue, since warm temperatures help to break down the corn on corn residue. In central Illinois and the eastern and northern Corn Belt, we typically recommend 100 lbs N/ac (may be different in your area) to be applied up front to handle the carbon penalty in corn on corn. These 100 lbs should be a mix of broadcast nitrogen and starter fertilizer, the remainder of the nitrogen needed for the corn crop is then sidedressed. In your situation, where sidedress is not possible, starter fertilizer could play a more important role for applying N (in addition to P). Applying nitrogen in a 2x2 band along with your phosphorus will help. Depending on your soil type (rates will vary), consider applying a portion of the nitrogen with the corn planter in a band at least 2x2 away from the seed. I would still recommend some broadcast nitrogen pre-plant in addition to the starter to help break down residue. The remainder of your nitrogen needs could be applied pre-plant broadcast or banding, depending on the source. Consider using a stabilizer product for this application. Another option would be applying UAN with the corn planter between 3 and 4 inches away from the seed at higher rates; however you would want a closer placement for the phosphorus. Some growers that do not have a sidedress bar, have applied UAN sidedress with a sprayer set up with drop nozzles in-between the rows. A stabilizer to prevent volatilization would be very important here. 

 

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 I pick the correct closing wheels?

Apr 22, 2011

Question:

Would you help us understand how to pick the correct planter closing wheel assembly? None of our corn acres are minimum till or trash planted. All fields are plowed followed by a roller harrow, then planted. We use a John Deere 7200 vacuum planter with the eSet metering system and Keeton seed firmers. Currently our press wheels are what came with the planter, the rubber wheels at an angle with little down pressure. We just wonder if something else might be better. Our soil varies from sandy to sandy loam to heavy soil. We are cautious not to plant when the soil is too wet. When the sun comes out the ground gets baked forming a thick crust making a situation for seedlings difficult to emerge.
Answer:
The closing assembly’s job is to make sure every seed has uniform contact with the soil and to firm the soil enough to keep the seed environment from drying out and the plants emerge uniformly.
The best way to check closing wheel performance is to dig behind your planter. The process of properly closing the seed trench includes closing the furrow from the bottom up. Dig a cross-section of the row and work until you find the seed and observe how it was placed in the soil. In ideal conditions, you want to see the seed at the bottom with enough firm soil over the top of it to keep the seed area from drying out.
The decision of which style of closing wheel to outfit your planter needs to include your tillage system, soil texture, field conditions and weather. When planting in marginal conditions, firming from the bottom up can be hard to achieve, which is why so many spiked/spoked closing wheels are available.

How Can I Eliminate "Doubles" When I Plant Corn?

Apr 18, 2011

Question: How can I eliminate “doubles” when I plant corn? 

Answer: This answer comes by way of Farm Journal Columnist, Dan Anderson. He explains that seed meters establish seeding rate (seeds per acre). Actual seed spacing (seeds per foot) can be influenced by what happens to seeds after they leave the seed meter. Seeds that bounce off the sides of seed tubes due to rough fields or high ground speeds fall more slowly than seeds that don’t bounce. If a "fast" seed catches up with a "slow" seed, they end up as a "double" in the furrow even though they left the meter perfectly spaced. Don’t blame seed meters for uneven spacing until you’ve eliminated the seed delivery aspect as a possible culprit.
 
Here are more tips from Farm Journal to help you boost your planting success.
 
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 Advice Do You Have For Late Soybean Planting?

Apr 15, 2011

Question: Do you have any advice on how to improve the outcome if I get a late start planting soybeans?

 
Answer: What we’ve found is that you need to push the seeding rates a little higher if your soybean planting runs late. We have a 15-year study that indicates that is one of your best options. The reason: with late planting the plants will be shorter, so you need more of them to compensate for the late planting. The study also shows that narrowing rows to 20” or less provides some yield insurance in an adverse growing season. With normal planting dates, our study showed that 120,000 viable seeds per acre were sufficient in 10” and 20” rows. That rate was competitive with 160,000 seeds in 30” rows. We’ve also learned that bumping the seeding rate to 200,000 didn’t produce the highest yield in any row width. That simply suggests that, under normal conditions, we cannot push yield by pushing seeding rate to real high levels. However, in 2008, which was unusually wet that spring, and many soybeans weren’t planted until the end of June, planting only 120,000 viable seeds per acre carried a significant yield penalty. The highest yields across all row widths usually occurred with 160,000 seeds per acre. Planting 200,000 viable seeds per acre produced a yield advantage in 30” rows, but it didn’t run away from 160,000.
 
Here are some considerations if you get into fields later than usual this spring to plant soybeans.
 
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.
 

Would You Recommend Starter Fertilizer This Year?

Apr 12, 2011

 

Question: Would you recommend starter fertilizer this year?
 Answer: Starter fertilizer can definitely help you gain more bushels in the field, but the response can and does vary year-to-year. In our test plots, on average, we’re seeing a 7 bu. to 10 bu. per acre response when we use starter. Bear in mind that success with starter fertilizer is very dependent on optimum timing and good placement. In addition, you may want to consider incorporating some zinc into your starter as zinc can help improve consistency of response. If you add zinc, make sure you buy a good quality zinc and mix according to the label. We’re seeing about a 7 bu. average response to adding 9% EDTA chelated zinc at the rate of 1 qt. per 20 lb. of phosphorus. 
 
Want to bump those yields this year, then look into the opportunities available with starter fertilizer. Ken Ferrie explains what to consider for 2011.
 
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 Prep My Planter For Planting Season?

Apr 08, 2011

Question: I wasn’t able to attend any of your planter clinics this winter, but I’d like any recommendations you might be able to give me on getting ready for planting season. 

Answer: We have repeatedly seen farmers’ efforts in prepping their planter pay-off in crop performance. In fact, a split-planter study by Pioneer Hi-Bred (Doerge and Hall, 2000) shows an average yield improvement of 4.2 bushels per acre when a planter is properly prepped for the field. The key is checking each facet of the planter and making adjustments before and during the planting season from the hitchpin to the closing wheels. That means you need to inspect everything involved with the seed transmission: chains, sprockets, bearings, idlers and clutch assembly, including all of the components involved in seed metering, as well as the meter itself. Other factors farmers need to evaluate prior to and during planting include: parallel arms, row cleaners, no-till coulters, gauge wheels, disk openers, seed tubes, closing wheels and seed placement. An investment you might consider making is purchasing a mechanized spinner that allows you to check planting row units with little effort. A small motor like those used to calibrate dry insecticides can be hooked up to the main driveshaft and used to spin the planter. First, you’ll want to spin the planter with the boxes on to help you determine if there are issues with the seed shaft alignment to the meter. Then, with the planter boxes off, run the planter and look for any frozen links or problems with idlers or rollers. You can check bearings by taking a long screwdriver, placing the tip on the bearing housing and holding the other end to your ear. Bearings that are beginning to fail will have a gravelly sound.
 
Check out this link to learn more about the types of small motors you can purchase and use to spin a planter unit and check for potential problems.

What Kind Of Yield Response Can I Expect From Corn Fungicides?

Apr 05, 2011

Question: Several of my neighbors applied fungicide to their corn after tassel last year. They didn't find that it raised yield, but it did raise moisture levels. Is this a common outcome of using fungicides?

 
Answer: A common effect from corn fungicide is a healthier, greener plant. This stay green and plant-health effect result in high moisture levels early in the harvest season, and this is a common outcome. The yield response will vary depending on several things: genetics/hybrid, crop rotation and environment. For example, some corn hybrids have more natural defensive characteristics and don’t respond as much to corn fungicides. We have plot data that shows anywhere from a zero response to greater than a 50 bu/a response. Again, the genetics and environment play a big role. Corn-on-corn rotations typically have greater disease issues than rotated corn following soybeans. Remember that the environment each year will be different, whether it’s hot and dry or cool and humid, etc. 2010 was the first year we evaluated the V5 fungicide application on irrigated plots in southern Michigan. The response to applying fungicide on irrigated V5 corn ranged from a low of 1.0 bu/a to a high of 11.8 b/ac increase, again depending on hybrid and crop rotation. The same irrigated plots also evaluated R1 or post-tassel applications, which increased yields from 5.0 to 12.4 bu/a. If feasible, consider setting up some trials on your own farm to evaluate fungicide applications on several of your hybrids. 
 
Check out this information to evaluate fungicide use 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

How Do I Know The Nitrogen Cycle Is Working In My Fields?

Apr 01, 2011

Question: What value is there to the nitrogen cycle you talk about, and how do I know it’s working in my fields?

Answer: Between 30% and 70% of the nitrogen we need to grow a corn crop can come from the soil when the nitrogen cycle is able to work efficiently—that’s roughly 3,000 to 6,000 lb. of inorganic nitrogen. Part of why farmers apply nitrogen is to stimulate the soil microbes to help with the process of accessing the nitrogen in soil. The soil microbes immobilize nitrogen and then it is mineralized back into the field. One way to ensure that the nitrogen cycle is able to conduct itself efficiently is to maintain proper soil pH, because the microbes have a narrow pH window they work within.  Please check out the following link to learn more about the nitrogen cycle and how to put it to work in your fields this season.

Nitrogen Cycle

 
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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