Monday, September 20, 2010

Pre-Season Fantasy Pool Picks

With corn harvest around the corner, as well as the NHL season, it is time for the corn hybrid pool picks and predictions.

Get ready for some big corn yields.  Last year we had a cooler than average year.  This year, warmer than average by approximately 300 heat units and very little stress.  This gives full season, offensively minded high yielding hybrids a big advantage. 
Early soybean yields have confirmed my earlier thoughts.  I told our agronomist, Morris Sagriff a month ago that I have seen soybeans like this only once before.  That was in central Illinois! 
There have been a couple of confirmed reports of 70+ bushel soybeans, lots of 50-60 bu reports.  I know one client that grew 50 bu natto beans. Tacking on the $4.00 premium makes potentially $700 per acre.  WOW!  Probably wise to keep some of that cash in reserve for next year.

Now for some hybrid specific predictions.

Reliable stay at home defenseman who can also quarterback the power play.   Will never win a scoring title, but this veteran can make poor coaches look good.

This hybrid is our power forward pick.  Big and rangy with great offensive skill.  Good roots and stalks make up the defensive package.

New league scoring champion for 2010.  Move aside, Sidney Crosby.  This new hybrid also brings some defensive drought tolerance. 

Second line centre.  Will provide secondary scoring punch to P0118HR and replace 37Y14 family in the lineup.

Raw talent gives this rookie a chance to make lineup as defensive partner to 38M58.  Showed real promise in 2009's shorter season.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do We Have to Feed the Whole World?

It is now real easy to find things that enjoy chewing on our corn crop.  Curtis Gartly sent me the pictures below of damage caused by the Western Bean Cutworm.  These picturers are from a plot of DeKalb DKC50-44.  This is an example of a hybrid that has the YieldGard gene for corn borer control.  The YieldGard trait provides excellent protection from corn borer, but will not stop western bean cutworm feeding.  The Herculex gene is the only gene that gives protection from both corn borer and western bean cutworm.

Typically western bean cutworm larvae burrow into the ear and feast on the developing grain.  Pioneer has a complete lineup of Herculex trait hybrids that provide the extra insurance against the western bean cutworm.

Western bean cutworms are not the only fox in the henhouse this year.  The next set of pictures were taken from a field of Pioneer 36V51.  36V51 is an example of a hybrid with the RoundUp Ready gene, but no gene for corn borer control.  Surprise, surprise, there is corn borer in this field.

The purple stalks are a classic symptom of corn borer injury.  The corn borer that you see burrowing into the stalk cuts off the flow of carbohydrates produced by the upper leaves.  The carbohydrate buildup in those leaves triggers the plant to produce a purple pigment called anthocyanin.   
You can trigger the entire corn plant to turn purple if you remove the ear.  By taking the ear away we remove the sink for the carbohydrates produced from the leaves and stalks.  Within a few days the whole plant takes on a purple hue.   
There is one good thing to say about corn borer.  They eat western bean cutworms.  36V51 has no protection against western bean cutworm, but as long as corn borer are present, no western bean cutworm will survive.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Beans, Beans" Chapter 4

We have been following the plight of a soybean field planted mid-April and first reported on May 6.  This is what it looked like back then.

Then it froze on Mother's Day and the betting began.  Will they survive?  A week later they looked like this.

Two weeks later they looked like this.

One month later they looked like this.

Today, they look like this.

And this.

The final chapter will be written in 2-3 weeks.  Stay tuned.

Right On Schedule

On Saturday August 28, Lawrence Vink was chopping 37K84 for Hilant Farms at St Pauls.  This field was planted the last week in April and pollinated mid-July.  
Most bunker silos in our area will be filled this week and tower silos will follow right away.
Two weeks ago we talked about corn hybrid maturity and the 5 stages of 12 days from pollination to physiological  maturity.  As a quick review the 5 stages are

1. Milky embryo or blister stage
2. Young sweet corn stage
3. Beginning dent stage
4. Half milk line stage - 65% whole plant moisture
5. Hard dent stage - 35% grain moisture

We explained before how corn maturity advances like clock work once pollination is complete.  45 days after pollination, this 37K84 is at 65-68% whole plant moisture.  Hilant had Lawrence cut this corn high to maximize energy content in their silage.  The part of the field that did not fit into their bunkers will be ready to harvest as cob meal in two weeks.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Corn Silage Time

This past Monday we met with some customers at the farm of Cees Haanstra and family to discuss corn silage and bunker silo management.  Whole plant moistures are rapidly approaching 65% which is the ideal moisture range to start filling bunker silos.

Pioneer has many resource people and one of the best is our Dairy Specialist, Robert Larmer.  Standing in front of Cees' corn silage bunker, he is demonstrating a probe used for measuring the density of bunker silos.  


Robert is a really smart guy because he made Brian do the work.

Robert then provided the following management suggestions and measurement parameters for putting up top quality corn silage in a bunker.
1. The target density for most efficient preservation of dry matter is 15 lbs/cu ft. of silage.
2. Spreading silage in 5" layers or less and 800 lbs of packing weight per ton of silage delivered per hour is necessary to achieve target density. 
3. Dual wheels are more effective than singles because the larger surface area and weight of the dual more than compensates for the reduced weight per sq in. of tire.
4. Internal temperature of the silage mass should be under 20 degrees C in the summer.

Here he is checking the kernel processing job done by Haanstra's Claas harvester.  In the plastic 500g cup beside his knee there should be no more than 1-2 whole kernels of corn.  Every other kernel must be broken or cracked to allow for rapid starch digestion. 
Theoretical length of cut should be set at 3/4" for effective fibre utilization the corn stover in the rumen. 
And, of course the use of Pioneer 11CFT corn silage inoculant completes the job.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Does Size Matter?

Let's talk about cob size.  At this time of year the the most common method of estimating corn yield potential is to eyeball the size of the cobs.  I have heard comments from growers impressed with how big their cobs are and also just as many comments from growers who are concerned their cobs are not big enough.  (Insert your own wisecrack here)
Does size matter?  Not as much as you might think.  I will use 38M58/38M59 as an example because it has a small ear.  This hybrid has been a dominant force in the 28-2900 heat unit maturity range since it was introduced in 2006.  Every August customers call expressing concern that their 38M58 genetics has very small cobs.  "How can it yield with these small cobs?"  Every year I agree with them that it has small cobs, but we all have to wait and see what the scales at the elevator tell us.  The story always ends with customers ordering more 38M58 genetics for next year.  


This is 38M58 on the left and DeKalb 43-27 on the right.  The Dekalb hybrid has more 2 more rows of kernels giving it a more girthy look.  But, 38M58 has a smaller core and bigger kernels.  The kernel to cob ratio is known as shelling percentage and 38M58 has a higher shelling percentage than most other hybrids.  38M58 is also a heavy test weight hybrid and we cannot measure test weight with our eyes. 
One last thing to note is depth of kernel.  High yielding hybrids have the ability to increase their kernel depth which contributes directly to yield and test weight.  This is called kernel flex and I believe this trait is more important than ear flex when determining yield. 
Will 38M58/38M59 do well this year?  Time and weigh scales will tell us. The hybrid has the same small ears as usual.  The long summer may give fuller season hybrids an advantage against 38M58, I still predict it to be a very competitive hybrid in its maturity.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Corn Maturity Moving Along

This is a shot of ear 38M58 taken on August 14 which is 34 days after this hybrid began to flower on July 10.  It took about 5 days for pollination to occur after the first silks emerged, so this corn was done pollinating on July 15-16.  You can see it is now in the dent stage of development.  
After pollination, corn advances through 5 stages of 12 days each, or a total of 60 days, to reach physiological maturity.

1. Milky embryo or blister stage      
2. Young sweet corn stage
3. Beginning dent stage
4. Half milk line stage
5. Hard dent stage

The above hybrids have a spread in maturity as follows, with corresponding pollination dates.
38M58 - 2850 CHU - pollinated July 15
P9623HR - 2850 CHU - pollinated July 15
P9855HR - 2900 CHU - pollinated July 19
P0118HR - 3050 CHU - pollinated July 22
P0125HR - 3050 CHU - pollinated July 22

A hybrid that silks on July 10 will reach physiological maturity, which is defined as 33-34% grain moisture, on or about September 15.  Physiological maturity occurs when a layer of abscission cells form between the kernels and the cob.  The abscission layer, commonly known as black layer, stops the movement of water and nutrients from the ear to the kernel.  All moisture trapped in the kernel now has to migrate out through the skin of the kernel. 
Heat has the greatest effect on drydown.  It has been proven that it takes about 35 CHU to drop grain moisture 1 percentage point.  During September in the London area we receive on average 19 CHU's per day, based on long term temperature records. 
If we have 15 days left in September, we can expect to accumulate 285 CHU's (15 x 19).  Grain that is 35% moisture on September 15 should then lose 8 points of moisture (285 / 35) and be approximately 27% by the end of the month.  If heat continues to accumulate at an above average rate, it is possble that corn will be 25% moisture on September 30.
After corn reaches 25% it takes more heat, 50 CHU's vs 35 CHU's, to take moisture from the kernel.  In October we receive about 6 CHU's per day.  Therefore we would expect to lose 3-4 points of moisture (180 / 50) by the end of the month.  Combining corn that is in the low 20's in October is always a pleasure.
Remember these are averages and local conditions can create exceptions. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Need A Different Hobby

This post has nothing to do with agriculture, but it is important to have a pastime that you enjoy outside of work.  We are all busy people and it is very easy to not take time and have some fun away from the farm.
Most people have interesting hobbies like woodworking, gardening, golf or collecting antique tractors.  My hobby (?) in the spring and summer  is running.  Here I am near the finish line of the 8 km South Huron Trail run in support of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Huron county.

Looks like fun eh?  Yeah, right.
As a footnote, I want to mention an old friend, Mark Kennedy, who I bumped into at the race.  I haven't seen Mark for a while and I almost didn't recognize him because he has lost 60 lbs since taking up running 3 years ago.  That takes some serious dedication and drive.  Hats off to Mark.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bet You Didn't Know We Sell Sunflowers

Cathy loves her flowers, so I thought it would be nice to include these pictures of Steve Bradley's Pioneer sunflowers.  Steve has been growing them for birdseed for about 5 years.  Sunflowers are the world's most beautiful crop at this time of year.

"New" Pest - Part 2

These are western bean cutworm adult moths retrieved from the pheromone trap located across the road from our warehouse.  These 10 moths are from the night of July 27, the largest one night catch of the past week.  We have retrieved 35 moths from the trap so far this year.  This is not a big number.  Heavy moth flights can produce trap counts in the 100's.  The moth flight numbers should peak this week.  

The moths are attracted to the trap by a pheromone located in the cap of the jug.  They then fall into a windshield washer mixture in the bottom.


This is a close up of a western bean cutworm moth.  The key identifying features are the white bands along the leading edge of the wings and semi circular patterns behind the white band.  The markings on the moth's wings are fading quickly because the windshield washer mix is very warm.


Friday, July 23, 2010

"New" Pest Arrives

This is a picture of a western bean cutworm trap positioned by our Impact Plot.  OMAFRA crop reports have been highlighting the increases in trap counts for the last month.  A new bug gives agronomists something to talk about, which can lead us to think we about to be overwhelmed by this latest threat.
The western bean cutworm is a relative newcomer to the local crop scene.  It was first detected in Ontario in 2008 and has been steadily increasing since then.  This pest first appeared in Colorado, hence the name "western".  It also feeds on edible beans.  The western bean cutworm has been able to flourish because the european corn borer has been eliminated as a threat in most corn fields, thanks to Bt technology.  To make a complicated story short, the corn borer larvae would eat the western bean cutworm larvae for breakfast, so as long as european corn borer were present, the western bean cutworm would never survive.  Removing the corn borer gave the western bean cutworm an open door.   


This is a picture of western bean cutworm eggs taken from a field near Strathroy by Willy Ann Kennes, a Pioneer Sales Rep.


This is the same egg mass 24 hours later and you can see the young larvae beginning to hatch.  The larvae grow quite rapidly and will soon look like the critter below.

And they can do a significant amount of damage.

Do I expect this beast to become a huge problem this year?  No.  For one thing, the numbers are not high enough yet to cause real yield loss.  For another, the Herculex Bt gene that Pioneer uses in most of their lineup for corn borer protection also gives good control of the western bean cutworm.  Herculex is the only Bt gene that provides growers some insurance against this newest invader. 
But, we need to remain vigilant going forward because experience proves the western bean cutworm population will continue to grow, along with agronomist job security.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Corn Pollination Trivia

Pollination success is critical for determining final yield.  The number of kernels set is determined at pollination time.  Because our conditions are ideal this year, with lots of sun, adequate soil moisture and excellent plant health, we are going to see tremendous kernel set.  Drought is the single greatest environmental factor that interferes with the pollination process. 

  • Pollen shed is controlled by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Once pollen grains have matured inside the tassel anthers, the anthers begin to dry.
  • Anthers come in a range of colours, from dark purple to light yellow.
  • Anthers typically shed pollen around mid-morning when anthers dry in the heat and sun.  

  • As the anthers dry they will split apart to allow pollen grains to fall out.
  • When pollen makes contact with a receptive silk the pollen grain grows through the silk channel.
  • Pollen grains are viable for only a few minutes after they are shed.  They quickly dry out and die.
  • A tassel normally sheds pollen for about 5 days.
  • A tassel will not shed pollen when it is raining.

Silk Emergence

  • Silks come in two main colours, pink like the ones above (Cathy's favourite) and yellow.
  • Each silk that emerges connects to a single ovule or potential kernel.
  • A silk must be pollinated for the ovule to develop into a kernel.

  • Silk emergence starts with the base and proceeds to the tip of the ear.  This year it is taking about 6 days for silks to complete emergence.
  • Silks continue to lengthen for up to 10 days.
  • Silks become less receptive to pollen over time.

  • This picture shows silks that are fertilized.  They will stop growing and begin to dry up.

  • When the ovule is fertilized, the silks detach and fall away.  This picture shows a fully fertilized ear.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sex All Around Us

The corn crop is ready to reproduce. This is a shot taken on Wednesday, July 7 from Fred Olbach's 38N85 planted on April 14.  Today, Friday July 9, we can find silks beginning to emerge on fields of 38N88 and 38M58 planted the week of April 19.  It is normal to see silks emerge before tassels because breeders select hybrids that initiate silks first.  It is a factor that contributes to yield stability.


The rains that fell over the area last night could not have come at a better time.  The peak demand for water and nutrients occurs at pollination.  Corn silks grow at the rate of 3/4" per day under ideal conditions like we have now.  The above two pictures were taken of the same plant 2 days apart.  You can see how quickly silks grow.  What this means is a large portion of our corn crop will be in full pollination mode next week.  Pollination under good conditions lasts about 5-7 days, so over the next 14 days most corn fields will be pollinated in this area.  It is a full 3-4 weeks ahead of last year's pace.
What it also means is the early corn silage will be ready to chop on or about September 7, because it takes approximately 45 days to reach half milk line after pollination is complete.  It takes about 60 days to reach physiological maturity, grain moisture 35-40%, after pollination is complete.  A little  more timely rain will set up some awesome grain yields.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing

We were away on a family holiday the last 10 days of June and upon returning I noticed some patterns in quite a few food grade soybean fields.  The picture below is one such pattern.

This is another.

Obviously something to do with a sprayer.  This field was spot sprayed with a post emergence herbicide the last week of June cleaning up broadleaf escapes.  There were entire fields in the area that looked like the beans on the right of the picture.  If we look closer, the reason for the injury is clear.

This is text book example of Group 2 herbicide injury caused by being too aggressive with this family of herbicides.  Group 2 products in soybeans include Pursuit, First Rate, Classic and Pinnacle.  All fine products that provide good value for money spent.  Unless you use too much, too late.  These fields had Pursuit applied in combination with Boundary and glyphosate at planting time.  By the end of June the soybeans were advancing through the 4-6 trifoliate stage.  An application of Classic or Pinnacle following the Pursuit in an attempt to clean up broadleaf escapes in these big soybeans can lead to this type of injury. The optimal timing for Classic or Pinnacle is the 1-3 trifoliate stage.  This best matches the weed stages with crop safety.  These bean plants will recover, but the purple veins will be seen for a long time.  Yield loss can be dramatic.