Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fertility Tips

I was out this afternoon looking at some badly stressed corn.  It was easy to see how pollination was affected by the drought. 
My rough estimate would be 25% of the kernels on this ear were not fertilized.  That does not equate with 25% yield loss because if soil moisture levels improve the plant will put more weight into the fertilized kernels.  On the other hand if it gets drier, the yield loss will be worse.

There is a good video from the Pioneer website describing the impact of severe drought on both corn and soybeans.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Following Message Has Been Approved By The Kirkton Horticultural Society

Justin Toews sent this picture to me wondering what had left this tangled mess on his soybean leaf.  I suspect others have asked the same question this year walking their soybeans and finding this symptom.  You will see it on random, widely scattered plants.  The chewing is confined to one or two leaves and doesn't spread to other leaves or plants. 
It is caused by the thistle caterpillar which during the process of building his home leaves a tangled web and chewed up leaf.   It takes him about a week to do his business and then he pupates.  This is when the Horticultural Society gets excited.
The adult of the thistle caterpillar is the painted lady butterfly.  Flower lovers adore butterflies.  A few mangled soybean leaves are a small price to pay in order to keep the Horticultural Society happy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Keep Trying Sabine

Sabine Maas was telling me last week how she has tried everything she can think of to make it rain.  Leaving the van windows open, washing the house windows and leaving home with laundry hanging outside on the line has not worked.  Yesterday around St Marys and east toward Embro, it actually rained about 1-3"depending on the cloud you were under.  No such luck on this end of Line 6.  Which leaves us like Sabine, not so patiently waiting.
The corn plant is moving on through the pollination stage of development.  Brown silks are evidence that pollination is complete.  You can tell how successful pollination has been by carefully removing the husks.  Fertilized silks fall off the cob and unfertilized silks stay attached to the cob.
 This ear is fully fertilized with 18 rows of kernels.

This ear has mostly green silks and they still are attached to the cob.  In this field this is not a problem because pollen shed is in full swing and in a couple of days all silks will be fertilized.  We have a lot of growing season left and yield potential is still high in a lot of fields.  I believe we are 1" of rain away from a crop that will be much better than it appears now. 

Even plants that look like the ones above,
Will change to looking like this one after a good shot of rain. It will surprise us what they can produce, but they need rain now.

Many have been questioning the value of fungicides, given the lack of rain.  I remain an optimist and believe the rain will come in time to make fungicide use worthwhile.  This morning I was out with Brian applying a test strip of Acapela on his corn.  Acapela is a new fungicide product from DuPont that belongs to the strobiluron class of fungicides. 

If your corn looks like this, fungide will pay.  Typical yield response is 7-10 bu/acre.

If your corn looks like this, the answer is obviously no.  But there is a lot more good corn than poor corn in our neighbourhood which I believe is still worth protecting. 

Just don't ask Brian to do it.  He cursed the whole time we were in the field and this is what his radiator looked like after one round. 

After my post last week looking for blinders Bill Arthur's daughter offered to design human blinders for interested clients.  Ask and you will find.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where Can I Buy Some Blinders?

That didn't take long.  Wheat harvest started and finished in 7 days.  Yields were respectable, 80-100 bu/acre, some more, some less.  Pioneer wheat varieties performed well, especially 25R40 and 25R39. 
Dan Mitchell, service manager for Stratford Farm Equipment, phoned last Tuesday wondering why so many farmers were complaining about the poor samples coming from their Case combines especially with varieties like 25R56.  My experience has been tough thrashing wheat is usually a genetic problem.  We were spoiled for years with 25R47 which always produced a clean sample regardless of conditions.  Some of the newer varieties that delivered more yield were not as pleasant to work with.  Hulls glued to the kernel, more cleanout at the elevator and more diesel fuel were the end result of planting this type of wheat. 
Pioneer's new 25R40 takes us back to the easy thrashing days of 25R47 with improved yield potential.  It's family tree includes a connection to 25R47.
The other thing making the situation worse this year was the dry spring.  Dry cold weather in April delayed tiller heads from maturing as quick as the main heads.  Rain in June encouraged the delayed tillers to grow and produce wheat.  These later maturing tiller heads were impossible to work with.  This made Dan's life miserable, but it sure wasn't the combine's fault.

Horse trainers use blinders to block distractions and keep the horse focused straight ahead on the road or track.  The drought has been causing a lot of distractions as I drive down the road.  It is painful to see crops suffer and know that we are powerless to do anything about it.  We are actually lucky in this area.  It is not as bad as it sometimes appears.

The two pictures above are from the same spot in the field.  The top one was taken at 3:00 in the afternoon.  The bottom was taken at 9:00 the next morning.  The best time to evaluate drought stress is early in the morning.  If the corn recovers and the leaves unroll over night the yield loss from drought is almost zero.  Growth and development occurs at night.  If the moisture stress is relieved over night, the plant functions close to normal.  It will sacrifice some plant height, but grain yield potential is still excellent.

This picture was also taken locally and these plants will obviously not recover fully.  The crazy part of farming in our part of Ontario is 10 feet away from this picture I took the next picture.

The two pictures are from the same field and the same hybrid.  Because I prefer to be an optimist, I know which picture I am going to focus on.  I am going to ask my neighbour Don Thomson the ferrier, if he can make me a set of blinders.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Alfalfa Deserves a Long Weekend

It is the weekend when we celebrate the birth of our country and most people get an extra day off from their respective workplace.
If there is such a thing as a crop deserving a day or two of rest it should be granted to the alfalfa crop. If you ask your dairy neighbour how his hay crop has been you will hear one of the two following resopnses.
 "It has been ok" which means he does not want you to know how bad it is.
"It has been awful" which means he is telling the truth.

This crop has been through a lot and the situation is getting worse.
First, the plant had to recover from the frosts in April.  This recovery process drained precious root reserves.  I blogged about the effect of frost on the alfalfa back on May 6.
Second, 2011 harvest management has a huge impact on root reserve levels.  The crop needs a period of rest and replenish root reserves before winter sets in.   If root reserves are high going into the winter, the plant will perform better in the face of adversity. This is the main reason why some fields are fairing better than others.
Third, alfalfa weevil were very active during May and into June.  The leaf area destroyed by the weevil is like loosing part of an assembly line in a factory.  Production drops, efficiency suffers and sometimes workers are laid off.  The lack of production from the above ground part of the plant prevents root reserves from being restored to healthier levels.
Fouth is potato leaf hopper.  Populations are building and this pest sucks sugars from the stems and leaves.  
Last, is the continuing dry weather. Enough said.

This weekend, while you give praise to the best country in the world, say a prayer for the alfalfa crop.