Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Always Do What I Am Told

Daughter-in-law April was chastising me the other day for taking a break from posting.  Write a Christmas message is what I was told to do.  There were witnesses present, so I have little choice but to get back in the groove.

A Christmas tradition in our household is a gingerbread house. Terrilyn and Melissa take great pride in coming up with unique designs.  And, the best part is they are all edible.  We have gingerbread clear through to spring.

This year is a townhouse row

Last year, a country home with a porch.

A bungalow from the year before.

And just in case there is no snow this Christmas, a few reminders of what the stuff looks like..

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

From the Barker Family.

(Are you happy, April?)


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time For A Break

Harvest is pretty much complete in our neighbourhood.  The bins are more than full.  The manure tanks are getting empty.  The snow will soon fly.

Don Weaver, my ever so helpful Area Manager for Pioneer, expects me to spend the next month selling seed and inoculants.  I also expect me to spend the next month selling seed and inoculants.  For these reasons I am going to take a short break from blogging.   
It has been a great experience trying to share thoughts and ideas as they happen.  I hope if my readers haven't learned anything, at least they may have been slightly entertained with my thin sense of humour.

Here are some of my favourite photos from this past year.

My CCA Award last January.

The birth of our grandson, Hayden Brian.

During a political trip to the Ontario Legislature, Cathy sat in the Speaker of the House chair.  She looks very regal.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR.  

There is corn planted under this lake.

Silt loam soil is not supposed to crack open like this.

The sun shone and the crops grew.

Then a wind storm ruined a few fields.

A rainbow appeared.

We had to buy a bigger weigh wagon to hold all the corn.

One happy little bull calf.  We couldn't ask for more.

See you in a few weeks.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Emotional Decisions

The #1 discussion topic of the week after marvelling about how the well corn harvest has been, quickly becomes why the wheat looks terrible.  Usually, the only consolation is the neighbour's wheat looks just as bad or sometimes worse. 
The question quickly becomes, should I replant the patches like the one shown below? Or stop looking at it?

The cold hearted agronomist says leave it alone.  We have planted wheat in November that sits under 4 months of snow and still makes a decent crop, so why are we worried about wheat that is only had 4 weeks of cold and wet?  There are signs of life.  But you have to get out of your truck, get down on your hands and knees and look for it.

The emotional farmer says the signs of life are pretty faint and the bare patches are pretty big.  What have I got to lose?  Just some time, which I don't have much of.  Some diesel fuel and they make that every day.  Some seed, which is still in the drill.  Why not?  I don't want my wheat field to look like this in the spring, and by the way, I am paying a lot to rent this farm.


The cold hearted agronomist says I agree, you don't have much to lose.  I have some experience replanting thin stands of wheat.  The risk is small because the wheat won't get too thick and fall down.  So you are out your time, diesel fuel and seed.  But I don't think based on my experience you will get any payback to replanting and by the way, don't you have crop insurance?

The emotional farmer says I want to do my very best to grow an excellent crop.  I don't want my neighbours to think I am a lousy farmer.  I have to try.

The cold hearted agronomist says fine, go ahead, have fun while you drive the drill in circles.  As he walks away he thinks to himself, the neighbours are already starting to believe you are a lousy farmer.  If you replant those patches they will know for sure. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pop Quiz Answers

First, a disclaimer. 
It is very important to remember this is a one sample test.  In no way should it be interpreted as a reliable indicator to real differences between these 5 hybrids.  Pioneer will supply us with an extensive data base after harvest which will be a much better guide for identifying hybrids that are sensitive to gibberella ear mold. . 
Now for the answers.

P9760HR >.5 ppm 

35F40 - 1.4 ppm

P0216HR - 2.3 ppm

P0474HR - 3.4 ppm

P9910XR - 4.5 ppm

I must admit, there is no way I would have got this quiz correct without knowing the answers. 
It is a very difficult test and illustrates exactly why I hate gibberrella ear mold with a passion! 

Visual appearance can be deceiving.  The only way to know what you have is to test it.  That would be especially important with what appears to be clean corn. 

I tried to give a clue by putting them in order, but it was a lousy clue.  Everyone who answered the quiz, thought P9910XR was the lowest.  I am not surprised.

When I first looked at the samples out of the combine, my ranking would have been from best to worst, 35F40, P9910XR, P0474HR, P9760HR , P0216HR.  And I had a lot better look than any of you had.  I did my best to make the pictures realistic to the sample, but you can only do so much with a camera.

So in the interest of fair play, everyone who e-mailed or called will receive a hat.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pop Quiz

I have 5 samples of Pioneer grain corn that have been analyzed for vomitoxin.

If you can correctly identify the sample with the lowest vomitoxin and the sample with the highest vomitoxin, you will win a new Pioneer hat.
For bonus marks and two hats, rank them in order from lowest to highest.

Answers will be posted on Wednesday morning this week. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A TSN Turning Point

Pioneer will be announcing today a new development in the soybean patent arena.  The Canadian Patent Office has granted new pending patents to Pioneer based on the unique nature of their soybean breeding program.  I believe this is worth repeating, the unique nature of their soybean breeding program.

What this means is new varieties developed by Pioneer will be covered under Canadian patent law.  Keeping seed back to grow the following year will be illegal.  This includes new varieties with the RR1 gene. 

Pioneer currently has strong language on the seed tag stipulating one year use only, but this patent development strengthens their position.

This decision by the Patent Office is a first in Canada where patents will be extended on a variety to variety basis.

The corporate explanation can be found at

The majority of Pioneer's competitors in the RR soybean seed game have adopted the RR2 gene as their answer to keeping their varieties protected from being bin run.   Information has aready been circulated that famers will be able to bin run varieties containing the RR1 gene.  This is now incorrect.

Pioneer has always taken the position that a single gene does not make a good variety by itself.  It is the sum of many genes that make a superior soybean variety.    

The Canadian Patent Office has agreed with Pioneer. 

Pioneer has a strong value offer that I have communicated to my customers.  This development will guarantee new investment and new improved genetics continue to arrive at the farm gate. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Curtis & Ron Drop to 2nd Place

I gave some credit last week to fellow Pioneer reps Curtis & Ron for some P98555HR that yielded 246.6 bu.  Looked good at the time.

On Monday they lost the title to Gerald Kodde, a customer of mine, whose plot of P0474HR yielded 246.9 bu /acre

The P0216HR was OK too.  It yielded 242.3 bu/acre.

The P9760HR was a measly 233.3 bu/acre.

In fact, the plot average across 9 hybrids was 235 bu/acre.  Each strip was 2/3 of an acre, the full length of the field.  In 26 years in the corn business, this is the highest yielding location I have ever witnessed.
The question Gerald asked was "Where did this corn come from?" 

There is only one good explanation.  Keep going to church, Gerald.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gibberella Ear Mould 101

I wrote about the possibility of Gibberella ear mould being an issue on September 6, hoping I was going to be wrong.  I hate writing about problems, but Gibberella is showing up consistently throughout the neighbourhood.  Based on discussions with customers, it is time for a Gibberella primer lesson.

1.  The organism, Fusarium graminearum, is the same pathogen that causes Fusarium head blight in wheat.   Wheat harvest, which causes clouds of spores to spread, coincides nicely with silking time in corn.  After infection through the silk channel, the disease lurks at the tip of the developing kernel where it meets the cob.  If wet, moderate conditions persist, it will grow and mature into a toxin producing pain for the Ontario corn farmer.

2. Current status of samples submitted to labs to date indicate 60% of those samples have 0-2% Vomitoxin and 30% have 4-6% vomitoxin.  The hot spots seem to run from Elgin, north through Middlesex, into Huron and Perth.  As harvest is delayed, the problem will get worse. 

3. Proper procedures for sampling would include doing your best to accumulate a representative sample.  Taking sub samples from more than one spot and mixing them is best.  Use cloth or onion skin bags.  Do not use plastic bags because plastic will sweat.  Samples need to be taken to the lab immediately or frozen. 

4. The livestock industry has experience with managing of corn containing toxins.  Corn should be screened to take out fines and red dog, which contain the highest levels of toxins.  Dry corn down to 13% at high temperatures.  Drying corn is the only way to stop the toxins from getting worse.  Aerate well to eliminate hot spots.  Toxin inhibitors and binding agents are helpful for producers that are feeding contaminated corn.

5.  It is not the amount of toxin in the corn, but the amount of toxin that is in the finished ration.  Dilution is the solution.  Adding protein supplements, minerals and premixes help reduce the overall toxin concentration in the final ration.  Be careful using distillers grain in a ration because the distilling process will concentrate toxins.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Y" Pioneer is Here

My post about 92Y12 soybeans yielding 72 bu prompted more than a few inquiries.

92Y12 is not for everyone, due to its 3050 HU rating.  We are on the northern edge of it's adaptability and need to learn more.  Looking at some early Pioneer yield summaries, 92Y12 is head and shoulders above other varieties.  I firmly believe if it is planted late April to early May it will work for some of us.

Pioneer has been promoting the value in "Y" series beans for several years.  There are three other new "Y" varieties that yielded well with a lower maturity risk.

91Y61 yielded 65.4 bu.
2925 HU

91Y41 yielded 66.8 bu.
2875 HU

90Y90 yielded 62.4 bu.
2750 HU

"Y" is definitely here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Curtis and Ron Join the Club

Fellow Pioneer Reps, Curtis Gartly and Ron Murrell took their corn plot off this week near Thorndale.  Some more impressive numbers.

P9855HR planted May 10 was the best of the bunch pumping out 246.6 bu/acre at 24.9 % moisture. 

A new hybrid we are watching, P9760HR was a respectable 233.4 bu at 23.5 %.

One plot does not make a trend, but it is a good start and we will keep you posted. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Old Man's Turn

This past summer, Brian had an impressive yield performance from 25R26 soft red wheat, running 127 bu/acre.

This past Sunday, 92Y12 soybeans yielded 72 bu/acre at 12.7 moisture on my farm.   
I am old enough to remember when wheat yielded 72 bu and corn 127 bu.  My hat is off to a lot of smart breeders for giving us varieties that pack a punch.
Morris Sagriff, our agronomist has been pounding on me that we are growing soybean varieties that are too early.  We are giving up too much yield and worrying too much about getting wheat planted, according to Mo.
Our results are giving Morris some ammunition.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our New Toy

Our new bulk seed tender made it's maiden voyages this week, delivering bulk wheat seed direct to customers. 

Brian really likes shiny new stuff.  When I put the first scratch on it I will never hear the end of it. 
Customers have liked it too.  Speaking of customers, you guys need to come up with a better line than "I guess my Pioneer rep is making too much money".  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A View From The Bunk

 Corn silage harvest is underway leading to some observations from the past week.

1.Maturity is variable.  We expected to see maturity differences due to the wide range of planting dates and hybrid selection.  What has surprised some growers is the maturity differences within the field.
Comments like "there is a big difference in moistures from load to load" have been common.  What they are witnessing is the impact of the wet spring.  Corn in the weak areas of the field, due to mostly poor drainage and compaction, has died early.  The healthy areas have stayed alive and are greener.

Those of us who are grain producers will make similar observations when we roll the combines out.  But, it will be more yield variability than maturity.  Healthy corn is going to yield as well as last year.  However, our field averages will not maintain the same pace. 
The other message for grain producers will be standability.  The corn plants are weak and will not stand well if fall storms move through.

2.Yields are very good and the grain content in the silage is good.  Some producers are telling me they are filling the bunk with fewer acres than last year.  This is another strong indicator that grain yields will be very respectable in our local area. 

I may humbly suggest it might be good for your local Pioneer sales representative.   More than one customer has indicated they want more Pioneer next year, particularly 34A85.  This hybrid has consistently proven to be an outstanding performer in the silage arena

I guess you could say 34A85 is "King of the Hill".

There is still a lot of silage to cut and the forecast is indicating another week of rain and showers.  Corn plants continue to mature even in wet weather and while maturity is not a problem yet, silage harvest moistures will continue to drop. 
It is my observation over the years that producers have made more mistakes by taking silage too wet than by taking it too dry.  Folks like Pioneer's Robert Larmer, who knows a lot more than I do, would advise you to simlpy tighten up the processor when silage gets a little dry.  Make sure every kernel gets damaged.  Dry silage can still make temendous feed. 

Add a quality inoculant like 11CFT and you are good to go.

Speaking of silage processors, a customer made an observation regarding Pioneer this week.  Pioneer nutritionists have been advocates of silage processing for many years.  My customer had the opinion that the only reason Pioneer promoted processing was to make up for their inferior silage hybrids.  A good silage hybrid did not need processing was the reasoning.  Now that he uses a processor he sees what it can do and admitted he had been wrong.  More feed in the silo and better feed coming out. 
That's what it is all about.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Take Me Home, The Party's Over

Many questions have been asked this last week about top die-back and leaf yellowing that everyone sees while driving the country side.  There are several things going on in each field that are not easy to diagnose unless you get out and go for a walk.

1. Maturity and Planting Date. 
Corn planted in May is maturing fast and what we see in some fields is the normal drying down phase of the crop.  We have received enough heat for 28-2900 heat unit hybrids to reach blacklayer.  Silage harvest is getting underway which tells us that it is normal for corn to begin drying up as the plant consumes its reserves to finish the grain fill period.

The June planted corn is coming along quickly too.

This corn is on schedule to black layer the first week of October.  The one thing we notice in the later planting dates is northern corn leaf blight.

Norther Leaf Blight expresses itself as cigar shaped lesions on the leaf.  Most hybrids have some resistance to NLB, but these lesions will continue to spread consuming valuable leaf area.

2. Diseases and Stress

This plant is infected by anthracnose stalk rot.  It causes the top of the plant to turn red and die.  If you peel the leaf you will see the black colour on the stalk, right at the node.

Cut the stalk open and you see the dead pith in the middle.

This type of disease is worse in the stressed pockets of the field.  We now see the accumulated stress from a wet spring, a wicked blast of heat at pollination time and a week of cloudy wet weather in early September.  A weak plant is not able to fight off disease infections, just as a weak person is more susceptible to pneumonia.

The weak plants are also showing signs of infection by my old friend, gibberella ear rot.

This is the centre of a cob infected by gibberella. 

I am a little surprised how easy it is to find gibberella in corn this year.  I do believe it is the result of accumulated stresses during the growing season because it is easier to find in the weakest part of the field.

3.  Hybrid differences are also responsible for some of the things we notice.  We know late season health differs from hybrid to hybrid.  Will this impact yield performance?  We will know in a few weeks.

If I asked you which hybrid is earlier in maturity, you might say P9623HR, because it is drying down quicker than P9519HR.  In reality, P9519HR is the earlier hybrid of the two.  It is demonstrating better late season plant health.