Saturday, June 23, 2012

Around The First Turn

I am sure my neighbours figured Barker had messed up again when part of our soybean crop was left unplanted for over 2 weeks.  They are so used to seeing dumb things done at our place that they don't even ask any more.

This time, the mistake was done on purpose because Pioneer requested our participation in a planting date study.  The field above was planted on May 11 with 92Y12, which is an early group 2 soybean and a full season variety for our area.  A strip of 91Y61, a mid group 1 variety was also planted on May 11.  If you relate more to heat units, 92Y12 is rated at 3050 HU and 91Y61 is rated at 2925 HU.
On May 26 we planted strips of both 92Y12 and 91Y61 for a second time.  We now have both varieties planted side by side, two weeks apart.  These strips will be weighed off this fall to evaluate the effect of planting date on these varieties.  Other Pioneer sales reps have done the same and the intention is to summarize the results after harvest. 

We have reached the summer solstice and the shorter days from now on will trigger the soybean plant to flower. 

In fact, 2700 HU varieties like 91Y01 in the picture above are starting to flower, right on cue.

The theory is a bigger plant at flowering time will support more flowers and produce more yield.  .

The May 11 planting date soybeans are clearly in the lead with 3 more fully developed trifoliates than the May 26 planting date.  If the race was to end today the easy winner is the May 11 planting date.   But the race is not over.  It is only in the early stages.  Weather during the reproductive stages of plant development carries the hammer. 

The other theory we are testing in our our variey test plot and our IMPACT plot is the value of full season soybeans.  In 2011, 92Y12's were 8-10 bushels better than earlier varieties planted on May 25.  If the results repeat themselves we have to begin questioning our reliance in this area on early maturing soybean varieties.  My buddy Peter Johnson may not be as impressed.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Early Father's Day

Last Sunday, I cashed in on a Christmas present from the kids.  They bought me a membership in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum at Hamilton.  As well as the membership I received a ride in a Pt Stearman biplane.

I noticed most of the volunteer pilots were little guys, like myself.  400 lbs does not leave much room for football lineman types.  I could have chosen a flight in the Harvard instead, but the open cockpit in the Stearman was the deciding factor.  The Stearman was the most widely used primary trainer for military pilots during WWII.  Over 5000 were built, but only 300 were used here in Canada.  Open cockpits in the winter did not go over well with neither the instructor nor the student.

Getting strapped in took a few minutes.

The view looking straight ahead. 

Even I could understand the instrument panel, compass, RPM, altimeter, ground speed, oil pressure and bank & turn indicator.  What more do you need?

Cruising at 80 mph makes this thing an awesome crop scouting machine.  After the war many Stearmans were used as crop dusters with the pesticide tank sitting in the front cockpit. 

It was a great ride, but a little loud.  I had an intercom link with the pilot, but in the air it was useless.  When we landed I commented to my pilot that the instructor pilots must have gone deaf after spending many hours training students.  Funny you mentioned it, he said.  The instructor that checked him out had to go get his hearing aids adjusted after the flight.

Happy Fathers' Day.
(You too can hitch a ride.  Just show this blog to your family and maybe they will take the hint.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three Cheers For The Yellow Tips

Dave Standeaven sent this picture to me.  It is a common sight in many corn fields and the question is why do some plants have these white and yellow tops? 
The answer is plant growth response to weather conditions.  The last week in May was warm and dry.  The corn plant was all geared up and ready to grow, like a teenager before puberty.  On June 1 we had an all day soaking rain which relieved the moisture stress.  The plant took off.  Then the wind blew hard following the rain on Saturday and Sunday. 
After the weekend on Monday June 4, the plants looked like the ones below.

It was warm and sunny last week and the plants continued to grow fast.  The ones that you see with the yellow tips are the same ones that were rolled up and now they have burst open.  The reason they are yellow is because the sun was not getting to the deveolping leaf tissue hidden by the tight whorl.  Now they are suddenly exposed and it will take only a day or two for these leaves to turn a nice dark green.
It can be hybrid related if the timing of weather coincides with the teenage like hormones raging in the plant.  A slower growing hybrid would not be as prone to do this.  But it is not yield limiting, so there is no worry.  The good news is that the whorl opened.  It the whorl stayed tight and did not let new leaf tissue emerge, then it would be yield limiting.  So, have a drink and give a toast to the yellow tips.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

High Tech, Low Tech

The Twitter sphere has been alive with armyworm alerts this past week.  Technology is a powerful tool for sharing information.  The problem I have with Twitter is there is no context to the information.  It is brief snips of information from a sender that may or may not know what they are talking about to a user that is in the same position. 
The positive is that it helps raise awareness of another potential threat to the wheat crop and that part of Twitter is great.  Armyworm can be devastating.  The negative is the overreaction to a pest that in our experience is very difficult to control.  Lots of pictures on Twitter of people finding armyworm.  My reaction is good for you, but it doesn't mean anything other than the sender knows how to take a picture of an armyworm.  This is the context that is missing in Twitter.  The problem appears to be everywhere and that in itself is misleading.  Call me an old fart.
It takes low tech boots on the ground and some knowledge to evaluate the actual potential threat.  The presence of a few worms does not make the control effort worthwhile.  In 19" of row you need to find at least 5 small armyworm. 

Why are they hard to control?

1. Armyworm feed at night.  During the day they are on the ground at the base of the wheat plant.  Spraying should be done late in the evening or at night to get enough insecticide onto the worm to kill him.  Spraying during the heat of the day greatly reduces the chances of control.  Most spraying, especially by custom applicators is done in the middle of the day.  You need to hire a night hawk.  My custom applicator, Brian prefers to sleep at night.

2.  They armyworm need to be small, less than 1" long.  If they are bigger than 1", the chances of control is low.  Usually by the time we find them, they are getting too big.  Being a worm, they grow very quickly.

3.  If you have to search hard to find them, you don't have a problem.  That is the situation in most of our area.  Just because the neighbour is spraying does not mean you have to spray.  A few fields have been sprayed locally and my humble opinion it was a waste of time and money.  Re-read my comments on spraying during the day.

4. Insecticides are dangerous to work with.  Brian has all the safety equipment necessary, but he still doesn't like using the stuff unless absolutely necessary.  I don't blame him. 

5.  Beware of days to harvest intervals with insecticide use. 
                   Matador 120E              28 days
                   Dylox 420LC               21 days
                   Lannate                        20 days
The wheat crop is advancing and theoretically there is still time, but the window is closing.  We are producing a food crop and these standards should be followed. 

Armyworm have been a serious problem in parts of Ontario this year.  Around the St Marys area forget it.  Use the sprayer to kill weeds in the corn and soybean crops.  Leave the insecticide for the farmers that really have the problem. 


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Picket Fence Soybeans

I was admiring Gerald Kodde's stand of soybeans one day last week.  Gerald plants with a Kinze unit planter in 15" rows and the stand was gorgeous.

If there is such a thing as picket fence soybeans, Gerald has it.

Earlier in the week I attended the OMAFRA breakfast meeting for crop consultants in Exeter.  These meetings have been taking place during the spring since the late 80's.  Every year in early June as regular as clockwork there is much moaning and groaning about soybean emergence.  The finger of blame is always pointed at  "that blankety-blank controlled spill device" otherwise known as a seed drill. 
Did you know that the seed drill was first introduced to the New England colonies in the early 1700's by a fellow named Jethro Tull?  And you always thought Jethro Tull was just a 1970's classic rock band.

The picture above is the result of inconsistent seed depth placement and is what you see in many drilled soybean fields.  This drives agronomists nuts and I will admit to being there and done that.  Why would we put up with a stand that looks like this?  One would think based on this evidence farmers would  quickly convert to a planter like Gerald's on every acre of soybeans.  But agronomist opinion and fact do not always agree. 

OMAFRA's soybean specialist, "bout a bushel" Horst Bohner puts it in perspective.  Based on his work in the field, this inconsistent seed depth and emergence does not have much yield impact.  This is totally opposite to corn where we know consistent seed depth and emergence is a key to high yields.  With soybeans though, as long as the final population is over 100,000 plants per acre in 15" rows it really doesn't matter how they are spaced.  That beautiful unit planter job contributes "bout a bushel" to final yield over drilled beans.  This is because the soybean flowers and sets seed over a 4-6 week period.  The weather during this long period in July and August, compensates for our planting mistakes. 

So I can look forward to the OMAFRA meetings next June and listening to agronomists moan and groan again about a technology that is 300 years old.  At least I can listen to Jethro Tull on the way home.

I still really like Gerald's soybeans.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Above and Below

There are a lot of nice looking corn fields out there.  The earliest planting looks as good as any.  At this growth stage I really believe corn plants talk to us.  We just have to turn on our ears.

Some are telling us they are happy and excited to be here, like the plants from the field in the picture above.  Others are telling us they are not as happy and feeling a little purple.  Purple colouration is caused by the anthocyanin pigment which is triggered when the leaves produce more cabohydrate than the plant can consume and the carbohydrates build up in the leaf tissue.  A healthy young plant will have no problem consuming all the carbohydrates produced because it is rapidly growing.  A sick plant will look like the one in the picture below. The plant sugars are accumulating and it has an upset tummy.  It is not growing well and it is speaking to us.

The reason for this plant not feeling well was easy to understand when I looked at the roots.

It is a text book example of a corn plant trying to penetrate a shallow layer of compaction and not yet succeeding.  It looks like the plant was growing on top of a flat rock.  In this case, I believe the rock was created by manure tanker traffic and shallow tillage.  Anything that interferes with root growth below ground will result in a purple, slow growing plant above ground.  The plant is telling us loud and clear why it does not feel well.

The two inches of rain this weekend will help these plants recover.  It will have to keep raining in June to allow the roots to penetrate through the compaction zone. 

If your plants are purple, look at the roots.  They are speaking to you.