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The Latest Observations From the Field
July 28, 2014—Over the past week, the dry weather has released some soil nitrogen, significantly improving (deepening) the corn’s color. Nitrate levels in the soil have made a slight recovery, especially CoS. I am now seeing dark green next to yellow portions of leaves which indicates a flush of new nitrogen into the plant. Ten to 14 days of dry weather is precisely what we needed. Proper Nitrogen management (tying N to population and K levels) will be handsomely rewarded this year. 2014 Nitrate Master 7-21
In northern Illinois, most corn fields are now wrapping up pollination. The cooler weather has probably helped insure near perfect pollination, but with plenty of moisture, that was likely to happen anyway. Corn plants have achieved maximum height this year. On Friday I measured a DeKalb plot for height, and the average was just below 10 feet. With saturated soils in June, I consider the root system to be (at best) average. Average root systems and huge plants leave them a little vulnerable to a dry August.
Tissue tests continue to improve with drying soils. Nitrogen levels have increased, and have now gone back above the trend line. All of the insoluble nutrients have improved, while Sulfur and Boron continue to lag. Another agronomist whom I trust said that the low Boron tests correlate with late tassel emergence, which explains why we have such long silks. Some yield trends are emerging with tissue tests, and I continue to correlate tissue tests to yields.
Rootworms continue to be missing in action. There are four possible explanations; 1) The winter froze the eggs, 2) The saturated soils at hatching in the second week of June drown the larvae, 3) With so much more corn with 2 traits below ground, control is much better, 4) they are late to hatch again. I think that #3 can be ruled out as 75% of the fields I look at are 2 traits below ground, and there is not much difference to the 25% with only one below ground trait. We are going to start monitoring the rootworm populations with sticky traps to get a better idea of numbers, and will also continue to dig roots to monitor them.
Anthracnose appears to have started much earlier than usual. Nearly every crown I split is discolored and getting a little punky, which means the disease is starting to separate the plant from the root system. This is the disease that will cause the plant to die from the top down in September, and can cause stalk rot later on. Spraying a fungicide now will slow the die back, and keep the plant intact far longer this fall.
While the cooler temperatures are awesome for me working outside, these below-average temps are causing us to lose heat units. We have fallen several days behind the 10-year average for heat. Corn planted in the second week of May has accumulated 1,500 heat units. We need more 85 degree days or the corn will be as wet as it was last fall.
Bottom line, we now have the two major prerequisites for awesome yields, an intact root system, and night temperatures below 70 degrees in July. With the burst of Nitrogen I saw this last week, I am now more confident that we will have a large crop coming.
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Test Results For Samples Pulled July 7, 2014
July 16, 2014—Nitrate Tests for our four northern plots have now all crashed. There are three sources of N for the plant today: Nitrates, Ammonium N, and N mineralized from the soil. Today, the Nitrates are effectively zero, the ammonium N is not in much better shape, and the mineralization process has greatly slowed with all the wet weather. The corn plants nearing pollination have taken up three quarters of the N which is stored in the stalks. The remaining N now has to come from the soil. If we can get several weeks of dry weather, the biological processes will fire back up and start releasing N. Field observations show traces of N deficiency on the lowest leaves as the plant sloughs them off. Bottom line, there is going to be a huge reward for applying enough N (matching it to planting population) and K.
Tissue Tests are also all over the place. Overall, the corn plants have taken up nitrogen much better than Potash. With limited air in the soil due to the wet weather, root growth is below average. Therefore, plants are taking up N better than K. Keeping K above 2% is the strongest yield correlation as I examine tissue tests against yield files. Most fields are showing deficiencies in micro-nutrients. It is apparent that one quart of Zinc is not enough Zinc. Yesterday, we pulled tissue tests in my starter plot, where we put up to a gallon of Zinc in the starter. I want to see if the low levels are coming from a positional problem or supply problem. Boron is running low, and not increasing in the run up to pollination. I have concluded that Boron needs to be applied V10 to V16. Sulfur levels are declining in most fields. The AMS is soluble enough that it is leaching through the soil.
I have been impressed how well most fields have recovered from the wind event two weeks ago. We are splitting stalks, and noting how full the internodes are today. This information will be correlated with yield files. Rootworm feeding remains below average. I am starting to wonder if we killed some rootworm last winter. I finally found my first northern beetle yesterday and western rootworm today, which is a week behind the normal timeframe. Rootworms are no threat for silk clipping this year. So, the only question will be whether rootworm levels build enough to make adult management worth the expense. Every field I enter has some discoloration from anthracnose in the crown of the plant, which is going to make fungicides pay for all corn-on-corn fields, and hybrids that are weak on anthracnose in corn-on-soybean fields. The recent cool weather is perfect as we enter into pollination, but is it too cool?
No-till soybeans continue to lag behind conventional soybeans. In discussing the reason behind this, my conclusion remains that residue management is making all the difference. The nodulation has died in yellow areas in soybeans where the soil is too wet, and the plant is no longer being supplied with nitrogen. Insect activity is starting to build. The worst aphids are 0.5 per plant, but we still have a long way to go. Japanese beetles are SLOWLY building up, but they also may have been hurt with the cold winter. There is a lot of brown spot showing up in the soybeans fields, and this disease alone will make fungicides pay off nicely. There is also some powdery mildew from all the wet weather.
Follow us on Facebook under Hintzsche Companies or on Twitter: @HintzscheCo or @HzAgronomist for more field observations.
Have Rains Affected Nutrient Levels?
June 23, 2014— Soil Nitrates are now above the trend line for both corn-on-corn and corn-on-soybeans in the
same territory. Nitrate levels have improved for corn-on-corn, most likely due to the sidedress applications.
The results that I’m looking at now were pulled on June 16th, before the ‘Noah conditions’ started on the 18th.
I anticipate nitrates to drop on the tests I pull (slop out) this week.
The last 10 days have given us twice the amount of rain that fell during the entire month of May. I believe our
subsoil moisture has finally been recharged. I estimate nitrogen loss to be from 20 to 50 units, depending on
the application method, timing, and how long the soil remained saturated.
The June 16th tissue test results surprised me. Out of 75 results came in, only three were not deficient in boron.
The majority of these tests came in critically low. (Note: Several of the critically low tests had boron applied this
spring!) If we don’t see boron climb by the time the corn is chest high, I am thinking about an earlier application
of fungicide with boron, just before tasseling. One third of the zinc tests came back deficient, and 40% of
manganese tests were also deficient.
Potassium levels also dropped in some fields. I discussed this with Jake Jungels, another Hintzsche agronomist,
and we tossed around several theories for this drop. Jake noticed some common trends: no K fertilizer 18 months
ago, fog chisel, and K levels lower than 350#/a, combined with a huge uptake of nitrates, which may have been
enough to depress K levels.
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How’r Things Looking?
June 19, 2014–Despite a slightly later than usual start this year, the crops in northern Illinois are looking quite
good. Nitrogen levels continue to track on the historical average line for corn-on-corn fields, which validates
my recommendation to stay with the plan, neither increasing nor decreasing nitrogen rates for sidedress.
Corn-on-soybeans are still running high in nitrogen.
The mistakes made for this crop year have become quite evident over the last 10 days, whether it was a day
too early on tillage, resulting in compaction, or last November’s wind and poor job chisel plowing late last
year, resulting in cloddy seedbeds. It seems that everyone I work with has at least one field that is less than
ideal. Stand counts for the most part are coming in just fine. One class of chemicals has really dinged the
corn this spring (more than usual), hindering root growth, and holding back the corn plants in areas that
keep missing the rains.
The first two weeks of tissue tests from both Hintzsche and Burroughs are universally low in boron. I will
be very surprised if we don’t see a 5 to 10 bu/ac response to boron applications. The fields that got zinc
from starter are looking good. In my starter plot, I applied five gallons of 32% directly into the seed furrow.
(I was actually trying to see if it would kill it.) However, with all of the rain, it now looks the best. I guess
an inch of rain within six hours of planting does a good job watering down salt burn on the seed.
more field observations.
How Does Soil Temperature Affect A Crop?
April 30, 2014 — Here are a couple of thoughts and graphs about planting in cold soil temperatures.
Now that planters have rolled last week in northern Illinois with less than ideal soil temperatures, I will try to clarify soil temperatures and its affect on emergence. Agronomists, including myself, have been talking about the first drink of water and risk of chilling injury. Here are some details: a corn kernel will imbibe 30% of its weight in moisture before emergence can begin. The temperature of that water affects emergence. Cold water absorbed can cause the cell membranes to become rigid and rupture. ‘Extended exposure’ to soil temps below 50 degrees, or large swings (of 25 degrees or more) can cause chilling injury. (Taken from Monsanto’s agKnowledge Spotlight).
So how does this translate to the acres already planted? What does ‘exposure to soil temps below 50 degrees mean? Did we encounter that last week? I graphed the hourly soil temperature from the University farm south of DeKalb.
As you can see, the low generally occurred each day at 9:00 am, so when I refer to the website WARM Soil Temperatures, I am referring to the low temperatures for a 24 hour period. Average temperature also matters. On my chart, I listed the date and the average daily soil temperature. If the daily average soil temperature stays closer to 55 (above 53) chilling injury should not occur. So Saturday and Sunday would have been a good day to have a first drink, making Friday and Saturday good days to plant. On both April 23rd and 24th, we had extended exposure to soil temps below 50 degrees, so the 22nd would have been a poor date to plant. The DKCG plot went in on Tuesday 4-22, and by Saturday afternoon I could see the tip of the radical breaking the seed coat. Cold soil temperatures does not mean the corn won’t grow, but could reduce stand up to 5,000 seeds. It will be interesting to rank hybrids from this plot this year. Another consideration for 2014 is that we are sitting on abnormally cool soil temperatures deeper in the soil, which will cause rapid cool downs when the sun is not warming the surface. This is the largest reason I have been relatively conservative in giving a thumbs up to planting last week. On the plus side, Ascend (a plant growth regulator) is a big help to improve emergence under less than ideal conditions.
When we get back in the fields, soil temperatures won’t matter as much. I say, “Pay attention to soil temps in April, and soil conditions in May.” My only precaution is to avoid below average emerging hybrids right before a cold storm.
Nitrate Testing 4-29-2014
Here is my first nitrate report for the 2014 growing season. Today I will explain my nitrate testing protocol and give the results for the first three weeks of tests.
I have four sites selected where I will pull two soil nitrate tests at 0 to 12 inches, and 12 to 24 inches on a weekly basis. The results will be averaged and put on the scale with 25 ppm being enough N for a 200 to 225 bu/a range. My goal is to get determine the mineralization and N availability in the soil. Site 1 is CoSB in the test plot at Kirkland. Site 2 is DKCG plot, in a multi-year corn. Site 3 is my replicated starter plot NW of DeKalb, and is second year corn. Site 4 is a high yield continuous corn field SW of DeKalb. There will also be a fifth site, Corn on Soybeans from the Burroughs area. I will pull these tests on Mondays. If rain is in the forecast, I will try to get the samples ahead of time, on the weekend. Three of the five test plots had 40 units of N applied as AMS last fall.
So far, I have three weeks of results back. As expected, Week 1 came back much below average, indicating there is no left over nitrogen in the soil. Week 2 came back still below average, but was better than last year at this time, and Week 3 (April 21) jumped above average. This was a surprise. I surmise that with plenty of air in the soil, some mineralization is occurring. In other words, it’s warm enough to supply the soil with enough air which activates mineralization, but too cool for the temporary dentrification as last year’s corn stalks are processed.
Online Anhydrous Ammonia Safety Awareness Program
April 2014 — The Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association (IFCA), in conjunction with the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Department of Agriculture has developed an online program for Anhydrous Ammonia Safety Awareness. Funded by a grant from the Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), this program consists of five modules: 1) Properties and Characteristics of NH3, 2) Proper Protective Equipment, 3) Transportation to and from the Field, 4) Safe Hook-up in the Field, and 5) Emergency/First Aid Procedures. There is no cost to use this safety awareness program which is specifically designed for farmers, their employees and family members who work around, transport, or apply anhydrous ammonia. Over the last two years there have been an increased number of anhydrous ammonia releases and hospitalization due to inhalation or skin exposure. The safety awareness program can be accessed 24/7 by going to http://ifca.com and clicking on the link at the top of the IFCA homepage. The training module can also be accessed at http://learning.ifca.com. If you have any questions regarding the online training modules, please contact Kevin Runkle at the IFCA office.
How are things shaping up?
April 15, 2014– Welcome to spring! Temperatures were in the 70’s around the 12th of April, but fell again when that cold front moved through DeKalb County, giving us more snow and below freezing temps! Nonetheless, spring is starting to look more promising. With the calendar saying planting season is at hand, here are a few items that have caught my attention. First, I have been very pleasantly surprised with how good the soil looks in fields that were chiseled in the fall just before the ground froze. I am questioning my earlier statement about having to work these corn on corn fields twice. Secondly, soil temperatures are critical in the context of the first drink of water. If the first water imbibed is too cold and the soil temperature drops dramatically within 24 to 36 hours after planting, the corn seed can be stunned and emergence will be disappointing. The soil temperatures jumped 7 degrees on April 12th to an overnight high of 52 degrees. Then on the 14th and 15th, the temperatures dropped 15 degrees back down to 37. Consequently, I am strongly recommending against planting right up to a rain. We have a large reservoir of cold still in the soil, so decent soil temperatures can literally disappear overnight.
The Hintzsche Agronomy team is pulling together a significant amount of tests this year, all designed to identify what improves yields and profits for our growers in northern and north-central Illinois. One project that I will be repeating is a replicated starter test plot. As growers pursue higher yields, starter fertilizer programs are getting corn off to a faster start and are ultimately increasing yields. The first soil nitrate tests have come back, and as expected the amount of nitrogen in the soil is well below average for the four corn on corn fields I am monitoring. We will pull these tests each week to measure N availability, and soil mineralization. The corn harvested last week actually yielded better than the last days of combining in December in the snow. There is surprisingly little ear loss, and moisture dropped significantly.
Winter wheat fields really took it on the chin last winter. Most of the wheat fields I have observed recently should make fine corn fields this year. The extreme cold last winter actually killed wheat where snow cover was thin. The only factor mitigating this impact is planting depth. Wheat must be planted a full inch deep.
Please make every effort to be safe this spring!
Burroughs’ Annual Grower Meeting
March 4, 2014 — Our Minonk and Washburn (Burroughs Ag Services) locations held their Annual Grower Meeting at the Rutland Legion Hall in Rutland, Illinois. There were about 48 growers in attendance. Speakers included Jeremy Hoskey (BASF) who led a discussion on Fungicides, Todd Taylor (Hintzsche Agronomic Services Manager) on Weed Resistance, Andy Paulson (General Manager Axis Seed Direct) on Axis Seed Varieties, and Rick Griesbach (Hintzsche Agronomist) shared a presentation entitled “What We Learned in 2013.”
Branch Managers Darcy Kessler (left) and Jamie Eilts, from our Washburn and Minonk plants respectively, share some cake with their guests.
MORE PHOTOS FROM THE MEETING:
Results of a Long, Harsh Winter
March 27, 2014 — I am finally seeing more and more evidence that winter is ending and spring is right around the corner! It’s been a long winter; one of the coldest on record with the third heaviest snowfall in northern Illinois. So, will this harsh winter have an impact on this year’s crop? Did the cold weather kill any insects?
Bean Leaf Beetles and Stinkbugs are the most vulnerable to cold because they overwinter as adults in crop residue. However, with all of the snow we got, it’s likely that they were well insulated and protected from the extreme temperatures. Rootworm overwinter as eggs in the soil and are generally rather winter hardy. Aphids overwinter in shrubs and are somewhat vulnerable to extreme cold. Bottom line; the arctic blast we all endured the last four months probably didn’t kill many insects. In fact, if spring-like temperatures take their sweet time and the soil is slow to thaw out and warm up, we could see above average insect impact in 2014.
Last week, when the snow was melting, one of my growers called and asked why his neighbor’s fields have large ponds, and his fields don’t. The neighbors had chiseled their fields relatively early, while this particular grower had chiseled late in the fall. I surmised that his field had probably frozen soon after being chiseled, without a chance to dry and settle. This left large pockets that absorbed the water, while his neighbor’s soil had settled, so the water sat on top of the frost. This observation has given me some clues about the seedbeds we will likely see this spring. Without repeated freeze-thaw cycles (we only had one long freeze cycle), the seedbed will most likely work up rough, and I would not be surprised if corn on corn fields will need to be worked twice. The corn on corn fields that were not chiseled last fall will undoubtedly present a huge challenge with no easy answers.
In 2012, the temperatures were around 80 degrees during the last week of March. The soils were warmed to a significant depth, and when cold rains came at the end of April, the soil temperature was warmer at depth than at the surface, allowing it to resist the cold rains. For 2014, we will be sitting on very cold soil temps below planting depth. Pay attention to the temperature of the first drink of water after planting. If it is cold, the shock will likely hurt yields. With a large reservoir of cold temperatures at depth, a cold rain will drop soil temps very quickly. Hence, planting right up to a rain is likely going to hurt both emergence and yields.