Friday, September 28, 2012

IMPACT Lessons

Yesterday the Pioneer IMPACT team showed up to combine their soybean plot behind our warehouse.

There is a huge effort put into the IMPACT program evaluating the next generation of soybean and corn genetics. 
Another example of this occurred last week.  Brian and I were with a large group of Pioneer agronomists, plant breeders and assorted technical specialists from Ontario, Michigan and Ohio looking at our corn IMPACT plot at Bill McIlhargey's.  This group is responsible for developing and evaluating corn genetics for the Great Lakes area.  They were on an evaluation tour of dozens of corn IMPACT sites across the province.  IMPACT plots typically have about 28 corn hybrids.  Half of these are new hybrids.  The rest is split between current Pioneer hybrids and competitive hybrids that a lot of you currently grow.  Each plot is 8 rows wide by 56 feet long and there are replicated check hybrids at each location.  The check hybrids are proven Pioneer hybrids currently sold.  The IMPACT plot is the last step in the selection process new hybrids are subjected to.  The new hybrid, or soybean variety, must do well in IMPACT testing before they make the team. 
IMPACT plot locations are carefully chosen and placed on a wide range of soil types from sand to loam to heavy clay.  The intent is to expose hybrids to typical field conditions that occur across Ontario.  The main criteria of each site is uniformity of soil type, drainage and slope.  Those of you that know the front of Bill's farm understand why this location meets the standard.  It would be considered a high yield site with well drained silt loam soil. 
The only problem is when you receive one inch of rain from July through August a site with high yield potential can become somewhat less than high yield.  And pose a challenging question to the evaluation team.
These two pictures are of a Pioneer hybrid currently on the market.  (Please don't panic and start calling because Brian and I do not sell a lot of this hybrid.)  My point is not to prove that we are incredibly smart in not promoting it.  This hybrid is used as a check hybrid and has some important characteristics for growers.
This picture is the same hybrid about 100 feet east from where I took the first two pictures.  Looks fantastic.  Now, put yourself in the agronomist position.  What have you learned?  Is this hybrid a total piece of trash?  Customers like the hybrid and continue to purchase it.  But the first two pictures would sure make you stop and think.  Nobody wants to expose customers to that kind of response to drought.  Or has the extreme lack of rainfall caused a 1 out of a 100 type response.  We are dealing with genetics and there is no sure thing.  And what about the new hybrids and the responses we witness at this location?  Are we seeing the worst or the best of the new hybrid? 
The correct answer is, while the mental pictures will stay in our head, the yield data generated from this one location is probably useless.  There is too much variability to generate meaningful comparisons. 
This makes us ponder the strip plot comparisons we have planted in our own fields.  Will this information be useful?  Or do we have the same problem as this IMPACT site? 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

John Deere Beans

Drought stress causes responses in soybeans that are quite striking.  With all due respect to a certain much revered farm equipment manufacturer, the colour green in soybeans at harvest time is not a good thing. 
Soybean harvest is underway and we are hearing about green stems, leaves and what some folks are calling secondary growth or re-growth.  A corn plant tends to die when subjected to drought stress during the growing season, but a soybean plant does the opposite.  There is a genetic component to the symptom because certain varieties will hang onto the green colour more than others, but the condition is always worse in the drought effected pockets in the field.  The heat and drought stress caused the soybean plant to abort flower production and set fewer pods. The reason the plant stays green is because there are not enough beans hanging on the plant to drain the carbohydrate reserves from the stems and leaves.  The draw of the beans on these reserves is part of the maturation process which cause the plant to die.  With fewer beans to feed, the plant's death spiral takes longer than it should.  If there are green leaves still hanging on it indicates the plant could have fed a lot more beans.  It is not a re-growth symptom like we sometimes see in edible beans.  The soybean plant will not take a late season growth spurt and try to make more beans because its day length mechanism is telling it to shut down. 

And remember those potash deficient soybeans that I had shown in a previous post.
This is what they look like now.
A lot of green stems and leaves because the problem is the same.  Poor pod set and few beans.  Any stress that interferes with pod set can create more "John Deere beans".
Green seed can also be a problem in the stressed areas, especially for IP soybean contracts.  The green seed will be very slow to dry, but if you have a bin and can store them for a few months the green beans will dry down.  It just takes time.
And speaking of time, with harvest occurring earlier this year there is a perfect opportunity to spray soybean stubble ahead of or just after wheat planting.  Even my buddy Peter Johnson will agree that the perfect time for weed control in your wheat crop is at planting time.  Spring herbicide application is too often just revenge spraying.  The damage usually has been done before we realize weeds are present or it rains too much, keeping the sprayer out of the field.  A fall spray of your favourite glyphosate product will almost guarantee you don't have to spray in the spring. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hayden's New Defence Partner

I have been remiss in not highlighting the newest member of the Barker family.  On August 29 around 10:00 pm Brian called to let us know that Hayden had a new baby brother, Liam. 
April, delivered Liam at home with the assistance of a mid-wife and all went very well.  Liam arrived in the world weighing 7lb 2 oz.  We are very proud of our our daughter in law and her decision to do it the "old fashioned way". 
Grandma Barker now has two perfect little boys to brag about.  She embraces this task with enthusiasm because she has never been able to brag about the two less than perfect older Barker boys.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Tool For Silage Producers

Corn silage harvest is at full throttle.  Usually there is a lot more discussion on whether the corn crop is ready to ensile.  Given that all fields appear to be rapidly drying in the heat, the issue this year is the availability of harvesters and manpower.  There is a lack of both on some days.

Pioneer has been working on a computer model to predict silage maturity.  It is based on hybrid selection, planting date, soil type and localized weather data that when compiled together will give the silage producer another tool to help manage corn silage harvest.  It will be provided as a service to growers who plant Pioneer corn silage.

This year a number of growers have been enrolled in a pilot program to field test the validity of the software.  Maybe not the ideal year for a pilot program like this, but the system has been in development for a few years and every year is a learning experience.

When enrolled you get access to a website that will predict the DM and daily growing degree accumulation.

This is what the display looks like.  It will give you to judge how quickly your silage is advancing to the proper DM content for your operation.