Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Perception Takes It On The Chin

We know how the mind's perception of reality plays tricks.  What we believe to be true often is not the case.  Especially if you subscribe to daily reports from the local coffee shop.  
A case in point is the latest weather data.  If I asked you whether May 2011 has been below, the same, or above for heat accumulation when compared to the 30 year average, what would you would say?
I could post a poll on this blog to track results, but let's cut to the chase.  Sunny warm days make us feel good, wet cloudy days make us feel lousy.  With many more wet cloudy days than sunny days in May, I tend to think most would say heat accumulation has been below average.  Agree?

Here is the evidence to date.

Equal to slightly above the 30 yr average.  How in the ***!!!!!*** did that happen?  Here is the answer.

We experienced a lot of daytime highs from 10-18 C and nightime lows were usually around 10C.  Do the math and you get about 400 heat units. 
But, I hear you say, "it was wet and cloudy, this can't have the same effect as dry and sunny".  Fair enough.  All I know is I am not smart enough to factor in sunlight intensity with respect to growth.  If any of my readers can, there may be a decent research job waiting. 

This little guy is showing the effect of cloudy weather.  But he is up and a clear demonstration that there has been enough heat, about 250-300 heat units, to get him this far.  And with some sunny weather he will turn bright green. 

The secret is being smart enough to know what we think we know, may not be what we know.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Queen is Waiting

My dairy friends really like to work.  Many still have corn and bean crops to look after.  In their spare time this week they can harvest first cut haylage too.  If you depend on a 4 cut system, it is time to go.  The alfalfa crop is almost ready.

It is a tough to find many buds yet, but they are close.  Bud formation is often delayed with cloudy wet weather.  The forage experts, which I am not one, claim optimum feed value of first cut alfalfa is at the bud stage.  But the trade off is if you wait too long it can mess up the 4 cut plan.  If you are a 3 cutter, then you have the option to wait a bit and let the alfalfa build more yield. 

According to Robert Larmer, one of the better forage experts, we can expect feed value of this first cut to be a bit lower than average because of the lack of bright sunshine.  Sunshine is very important for building energy in alfalfa and especially in grasses. 

 One last positive thought.  There is lots of moisture to support a strong 2nd cut.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Some of you may be familiar with TED talks.  TED talks provide an on-line audience for people like Bill Gates, JK Rowling, Steven Jobs and Michelle Obama.  It also highlights presentations by many other academics, scientists, nerds, wannabe philosophers and assorted quacks.

In the middle of the deep, and not so deep, thinkers featured in TED talks I discovered the answer to a serious problem that has plagued millions of people, including a couple of brother-in-laws of mine.  I am not kidding, they did complain about round shoe laces.


I will sleep much better tonight.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Be Happy

The world didn't end on the weekend and it won't end either if our beans don't get planted this week. 
There has been a focus, and rightly so, the past two years on planting beans early.  Both Pioneer and OMAFRA agree that yield potential is lower with later planting dates, however, there is still time to produce a respectable soybean crop as long as we don't panic and muck it in.

We are now into the 4th week of May which is traditionally the time when the majority of soybeans are planted in Ontario.
Let's review some factors to consider before we get back into the field.

1. Variety selection
Stay the course.  Soybeans are opposite to corn.  There is no need to switch maturities as planting dates get later.  Full season beans will still deliver more yield potential.  Many of us like to have the option of planting wheat, which make late group 0 to early group 1, 27-2800 HU, varieties the best choice to balance yield with earlier harvest dates. 

2. Agronomics
Horst Bohner's chart is worth looking at again.

Variety height becomes a factor.  Stay away from short varieties.  As planting dates get later, all varieties will grow shorter.  Again, corn is the opposite, growing taller as May turns to June.  The reason beans become dwarfs is after June 21 the shorter daylength prompts them to start flowering.  When we plant on June 1 there is only 21 days for beans to grow vegetatively before the reproductive hormones start to accumulate.  Beans actually have to get to the 2nd trifoliate before they reach puberty, so to speak.  This makes a very small bean plant initiating pods close to the ground which means more header loss in October. 


In addition to harvest losses, a smaller plant cannot support the same yield potential. A one month delay in planting date results in a 9 day delay in harvest date.  This time squeeze affects both the vegetative and the pod fill durations.  The photosynthetic factory is simply not big enough to support a lot of flowers and pods at the same time, which explains why .3 bu loss per day is real. 

3. Row width and seeding rate

This chart identifies the number of bags per acre required to hit the recommendeed seeding rates for each row width.  Going to narrow rows is a good plan as planting dates move into June.  Increase seeding rates as well.   Crowding bean plants within the row will force individual plants to grow taller as they try to compete with their neighbours. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

Very little burn down has been applied to corn stalks yet and things are getting messy.  Yuck!!

Dandelions, sowthistle and other assorted crap are flourishing and getting bigger.  At a recent "crop expert" meeting Brian and I attended, a lot of discussion focused on the best strategies for dealing with this issue plus making time to plant the soybean crop.

If you have dandelions the size of dinner plates like the one below, increase the rate of glyphosate to minmum two litres.  Adding Eragon to a litre of glyphosate will provide good control and quicker burndown at a slightly higher cost.

In my opinion, we need to be using Classic to give control of Dandelions.  If using Guardian, add more Polaris to boost the gylphosate rate.  If you choose to boost the rate with a different cheap glyphosate product, make sure to spray immediately.  Different formulations of glyphosate can salt out if they are left mixed in the tank for a day.  To be absoultely safe, use the Polaris at the 2 litre rate and when you run out, change to the other glyphosate product and mix in the remaining Classic.

If you have sowthistle in IP beans, the best strategy would be to hit the field now with gyphosate to clean up other weeds and come back with post emerge Classic as late as possible to hammer the sowthistle.  Don't expect miracles if sowthistle is present.  In May and early June sowthistle is too early in its growth cycle for glyphosate to give much control.

Another common question is whether to spray, till and plant?
OR till, spray and plant?
OR till, plant and spray. 
In reality we are going to be pressed to get as much done as possible in as short amount of time.  A light vertical tillage pass with a RTS or Turbo-till can get you planting a day or two earlier because it mixes some air into the top inch of the seed bed.  Most soil applied soybean chemistry can be incorporated, but Classic and Valtera, which is part of Guardian Plus, do not like to be incorporated.  Does light vertical tillage do any incorporation?  No, don't sweat over it.  These units do not mix the soil enough to qualify as incorporation tools.

Personally, I favour the spray, RTS and plant method or just spray and plant.  Ideally we would like the glyphosate on at least 24 hrs before we touch the field, but it may come down to spraying and planting the same day.  Using the three most over used words of redneck lingo, Git 'R' Done.

I don't care for spraying after planting because I want herbicide on NOW, not later.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am No Don Cherry, but?

A common question this week while we all stood and watched the clouds roll by has been "how does the early planted corn look?"

Here is what I wrote about corn planted on April 16, one month ago.

"Assuming this forecast is accurate (????), we can expect daily highs to approach 12 C and lows to approach 7 C. These temperatures contribute 5-6 heat units per day. By May 1 this corn will not be emerged because it takes 150 heat units to get seed out of the ground, but it will have accumulated 60 - 70 heat units toward its development. By May 7 these fields will be in the spike stage and I predict them to be excellent stands. If I am wrong I will let you know."

We all know that the more predictions you make, the better the odds are that you can claim to get one right.  I do not make many predictions because I don't want the same reputation our weather forecasters enjoy.  However, I have been keeping track of this corn planted 4 weeks ago. 

These were taken on May 7, when according to my bold prediction, the corn should be close to emerging.

Not even close to emerging, but still fighting.

Here are two shots taken yesterday.

My prediction back on April 16 is turning out to be mostly right.  It just took two weeks longer to happen than it should have.  I have heard other reports about the April corn starting to emerge.
The latest heat unit data supports why this corn is emerging.  April was a zero for heat and May has been just warm enough to gather the 150 heat units required.  The seed treatment has done its job and kept the seed viable.   

The other thing to keep in mind is even if we wanted to replant, it would be next week before it could happen.  An 80% stand planted on April 15, will easily out yield a 100% stand planted on May 23.

As for Don Cherry, how in the heck did he know Tyler Seguin was going to score for the Bruins?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Move Over Sagriff

Our grandson, Hayden, is 4 months old today.  Last week he started his agronomy career by helping plant his first corn hybrid test plot. 

Next month he will start doing agronomy service calls.  Happy retirement Morris!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ducks Unlimited

Someday I will learn to stop poking fun at Mother Nature on this blog.  She blessed us with a lovely present yesterday at 6:00 pm.  We received 2.3 inches of rain in 30 minutes.  It was a localized downpour that radar displayed as one tiny red dot.  A neighbour one mile to the south watched the whole episode while he was planting soybeans. 
The following pictures, taken this morning, are all within a stone throw of our farm.  These 5 different fields are all planted to corn.     

And one wheat field.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mike Cowbrough is a Smart Guy

The architect behind the Ontario Weeds website is Mike Cowbrough, our provincial weeds specialist.  I had a customer drop off a couple of weeds from his no-till soybean field wondering what they are. 
This is one of them.

A quick peruse of the Ontario weeds website lead to a firm ID.  This appears to be Canada Fleabane to my untrained eye.


Follow the link to weed index.  You will find many common, and not so common, weeds with great coloured pictures of each.  Descriptions and habitats are listed. 
If you are still stumped, you can send in a picture of the weed to get postive ID. 
It is an outstanding tool.  Well done Mike.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yes Mom, Yes Mom

With Mother's Day approaching we all pledge to do the following. 

We promise to clean our room.
We promise to help with the dishes.
We promise to go to bed early.
We promise to stop tormenting our brothers and sisters.
We promise to do our homework.

Mother Nature has so far proven her point, she is the boss.  If we keep our promises, Mom will bless us with good planting weather and good yields.   There is still lots of time to get the job done.  I received a table today courtesy OMAFRA showing historical corn planting times and yields for the last 10 years.