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.