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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thank You

Yesterday we held a customer appreciation event in our warehouse. Thank you very much to all who attended.

Our youngest attendee, Hayden, with his Aunt Melissa.

The before lunch meeting.

Thank you to the lunch crew.  You did a great job.

Thank you again for attending.

Don Weaver, our Pioneer Area Manager.  Thanks Don.

Two enthused onlookers.  Thanks Rick and Brian. You were both a big help.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If I Were God

Most people if they could play God for a day would cure world hunger or end all war.  If I had the opportunity I would choose a different goal.

Gibberella ear rot, caused by the fusarium graminearum pathogen, more commonly known as ear mold and the vomitoxin it produces, is an ugly, unpredictable disease that has the ability to negatively impact the cash flow of corn growers in this part of Ontario.  Sometimes it is said this is only a problem for hog producers.  I disagree.  It is a problem for ALL producers because it lowers the quality of our grain and silage.  Yep, it affects silage too.

In my career I have faced serous outbreaks 4 times.  A suitable analogy, in my opinion, would be cancer in humans.  Despite many years of research and millions of dollars the corn plant is still susceptible to this disease. 

We do know that genetics play a role in the susceptibility of our corn crop to gibberella ear rot.  Every year there is a small amount of gibberella present, but most of it goes unnoticed.  This year is no exception.  I can find gibberella infection on susceptible hybrids.  Only in years like 2006, when a major outbreak occurs, does it get much attention.  Then the experts all emerge from their foxholes.  The bs hits the fan about which hybrid and which company has the biggest problem with gibberella. 
All seed corn companies have issues with gibberella.  Some companies are not smart enough to realize it or don't want to admit it.  Within Pioneer any discussion about corn hybrids will include the potential for gibb infection.

This time of year gives an opportunity to evaluate hybrids on your own farm and determine which have susceptibility to gibberella.  It only takes 5 minutes.  The following pictures taken three days ago reveal what to look for and this is NOT a Pioneer hybrid.

Husks that are pink in colour and tightly wrapped around the tip of the ear are slam dunk clues that this hybrid has susceptibilty to gibberella ear rot.  This hybrid should never be grown on large acreages in this part of Ontario.  It is too risky.

Most agronomy types would say this year has been too hot for gibberella to develop.  It is often associated with cooler, wetter growing seasons.  They don't understand the disease.

You can understand what risk you may be taking, just look for the clues.

I hate this stuff.  And if I could be God, gibberella would cease to exist.