Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Am Glad Cathy Went To Church

It is Sunday morning, I am at home and the crop Gods appear to be on our side.  It is almost enough to make this guy smile. 

We should have chased the dairy men out into their poor hay crop sooner.  It always rains at hay making time

If height of the wheat crop determines yield, we are in trouble.

I was out putting up some wheat signs this week and it is embarrassing how short the plants are. 
Pioneer told us that 25R40 was a short plant.  It barely covers the bottom of the stake.  What they never told us was 25R56, shown here on the right side of the picture below, can be just as short as 25R40.

Personally, I believe we will be surprised at how good the wheat yields will be.  Forget the straw, grain yields will be very respectable because wheat is a dry land crop with a high degree of drought tolerance built into its gene pool.  Test weight will be extremely high.

Conventional wisdom would lead us to think that there is no point in applying fungicide this year.  It has been dry and the fusarium risk is almost zero.  I don't agree with conventional wisdom.  The newer fungicides, Prosaro and Caramba do a lot more than just control fusarium.  They also control leaf rusts and septoria.  Without the fusarium risk we have some flexibility on timing.  We can wait a couple of days past the perfect fusarium timing and still get the other disease control benefits.  That said, this week will be the right time in many fields for wheat fungicide.  Go get it done.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Just Another Day

Today is my birthday.  When you are involved in production agriculture, a mid-May birthday goes by without too much thought.  It is just another day.  Normally there are crops to plant, seed to deliver and fields to walk.  There is not much time to think about anything else.  This year is unique.  Everyone is either done or just wrapping up the spring planting work.  The only exception is a small acreage of edible beans.  Being able to sit still and reflect on May 19 is a totally new experience for me.

If you are wondering how old I am, I was born the in the same year as
1.TV shows, Wagon Train, Perry Mason and Maverick made their first appearance.
2.The Brooklyn Dodgers played their last game at Ebbets field.
3.Montreal won the Stanley Cup, (again).
4.Sputnik I and Sputnik II were launched by the USSR
5.The first frisbee was made. 

Have a great weekend.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

This Makes An IMPACT

Last Thursday Brian and Michelle, two members of Pioneer's IMPACT team arrived to plant an IMPACT soybean plot behind our warehouse.
What the heck is an IMPACT plot?
Farmers are familiar with seed companies doing research plots managed by plant breeders and their staff.  We are fortunate in this area to have the type of soils plant breeders look for.  Pride, Syngenta and Pioneer breeders all have research locations in the neighbourhood where they evaluate thousands of new corn and soybean genetic products.  After the breeders are done, companies pass on part of the evaluation torch to farmers and the Ontario Corn Committee or Ontario Oil and Protein Seed Committee in the case of soybeans.
Farmers who do their own strip trials are also familiar with companies giving them "experimental" hybrids to plant in their test plots.  When a hybrid advances to the experimental level, which Pioneer calls an R5 product, the company usually has already made the decision to sell the product next year.
Three years ago Pioneer changed the way they manage R5 products.  They bought trucks, planters and combines and set up IMPACT teams.  R5 products are no longer put in the farmers hands.

IMPACT plots are designed to evaluate a small number of corn hybrids or soybean varieties on a larger field scale than breeding plots.  IMPACT plots include the best commercial hybrids on the market, including 2-3 from our competitors, and a select few R5 hybrids which Pioneer believes will be the next generation of commercial hybrids. 
IMPACT locations are carefully chosen for soil uniformity.  Hybrids are replicated at each location and check hybrids are used to evaluate location uniformity.  What makes this effort unique is the fact that IMPACT plots are planted on all soil types, from heavy flat clays to gentle loams to droughty sands.  Ideally, Pioneer prefers hybrids spend two years in the IMPACT program. This willl expose hybrids to stress environments that breeding departments typically stay away from. 

Brian and Michelle are one of three IMPACT teams that cover Ontario and Quebec. Each team looks after approximately 50 locations of corn and soybean plots. Brian and Michelle cover the south from Niagara to Windsor and Sarnia. We are on the north edge of their area of responsibility. Our corn IMPACT plot is at Bill McIlhargey's farm on 23 hwy.
After the planting work is done Brian and Michelle spend the summer walking and monitoring each location, taking detailed notes on plant characteristics and traits. In the fall they run the combine, gather the yield information and begin sifting through the piles of data at their fingertips.  Agronomists and breeders bring their views to the table and debate the results.  It costs a lot of money to run the program, but this information is priceless.  It separates the real stars from the maybes and the no chance, no way.
A hybrid can sneak through the breeding program looking like a star, but it's weaknesses will be exposed by Brian, Michelle and the whole IMPACT team.  Thanks guys.  You're the best.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

There Is Only One Thing I Know For Sure

Crop advisers and farmers breathlessly anticipate the results of the early planting experiment being conducted this year in Ontario.  I am already worn out by the many stories and predictions.  The collective angst is overwhelming.  I have heard of corn emerged, I have heard of corn froze three times, I have heard of corn being replanted already.  Gosh, where did they get the seed?  I thought the seed corn companies were all sold out. 

This picture, courtesy of Aaron Stevanus of Waterloo Crop Services is making the rounds.  The 14 day difference in planting date from April 15 to April 29 is showing some significant difference in growth.  

Locally, corn planted the first two weeks in April is starting to emerge, agreeing with Aaron's observation.

This is Brian's corn that was planted on April 20.  Lots of roots.  Emergence will occur in a few days.

This corn was planted on May 2 and has already sprouted because nature gave us 70 crop heat units over the first 4 days in May.  Which one will yield better?  April 3, April 13, April 20 or May 2?  I have no idea, but I would bet the differences due to planting date will be small.

These soybeans were also planted on May 2 and have sprouted nicely.  Which leads to the answer from last weeks quiz.  It takes the same amount of heat, 150-175 crop heat units, to emerge soybeans as it does corn.

Several questions were asked this week about the frosty weather and effect on alfalfa.

At first glance alfalfa plants are recovering.  But, a closer inspection tells a different story.


Some stems are dead, some are alive and the plant is regrowing through the axillary buds on the wounded stems.  This has to have a negative impact on 1st cut yield, but I can't tell how much.  I also suspect these plants are going to need an extended rest period to replenish root reserves sometime before going into dormancy next fall.  The plants are weak and badly stressed due to the repeated frost events.

As far as the only thing I know for sure.  Cathy and I will not get any apple cider this fall.

The fruit buds on our apple trees are totally screwed, thanks to the frost.