Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ask Hayden

A new feature being added to the blog is a segment we call "ask Hayden".  We know that Brian is a lot smarter than his dad, so it follows that Hayden will be even smarter still.  Therefore, we may as well go right to the best and brightest Barker for advice.

The first question is
Dear Hayden, "what do you think about fall fertilizer?"
Fertilizer is Expensive.

Dear Expensive Fertilizer,
"Fall is a great time to apply potash and phosphate.  It gets an important job done which allows everyone to focus on the job of planting next spring.
A 3 year rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat will remove 170 lbs of phosphorous and 170 lbs of potash per acre.  If you bale the wheat straw, the potash removal increases to 260 lbs of potash.  Three years of corn silage and haylage will remove 175 lbs of phosphorous and 550 lbs of potash.
These nutrients have to be replaced or soil productivity will decline.  It is a long slow decline and difficult to notice, but please pay attention to these nutrients." 

Editor's note - Hayden's generation should not have to pay for our mistakes. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Plot Wars

The annual battle of the plots between companies will soon be into high gear.  This year we are seeing variability across fields that leaves experienced farmers shaking their head.  Yield monitors are telling the less experienced the same thing.  Yields from one end of the field to the other can vary from 80 to 200 bu. This is an unprecedented spread, at least in this part of Ontario. 
The biggest contributor to this is the lack of available moisture deep in the soil profile.  One wise person made the comment that yield maps this year will be revealing more about the variability of our sub-soils than anything else.       
Against this backdrop, seed company reps including yours truly will be flogging a variety of plot results.  How much validity is in the data presented?  An experience I had recently illustrates how misleading one plot can be.
I was with a customer who split his 12 row planter between Pioneer P0474HR and Dekalb DKC 50-45. 
The first side-by-side produced the following result.

P0474HR   -  191 bu @ 21.7
DKC 50-45 -  172 bu @ 21.5

These numbers would leave the folks wearing Pioneer underwear breathless with ecstasy.  Those with Dekalb underwear would claim foul because it was weighed by a Pioneer guy and totally disregard the whole experience.

We moved over 8 rows and replicated the weigh off.

P0474HR   -   182 bu @ 21.9
DKC 50-45 -   182 bu @ 21.6

Significantly different numbers 20 ft apart in a field that appears to be perfectly uniform.  We stopped there because it was time to go get something to eat.

The Pioneer underwear types would say we won by an average of 9 bu.  Happy days are here again.  The Dekalb underwear types would say the only reason Pioneer looked a little better was because P0474HR is a later hybrid.  You can see that by the difference in moisture.  I would tell both types to take a seat in the "time out" chair.

Does either result have any significance?  Not really.  Statistic analysis of side by side data tells the truth.  A 12 bu/acre difference has only a 60% chance of predicting the best hybrid for next year if we rely on only one plot.  If we had 10 plots, a 12 bu advantage increases the probability to 90%.  The problem today is with so many hybrids to choose from, getting a large number of comparisons in a local area is very difficult. 

As far as individual plots in our neighbourhood having a lot of significance this year, I tend to think not.  
My take home message is stay wary of the "painted underwear" types. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Photo Finish

Our soybean planting date trial was harvested last week and the results are listed below.

92Y12 - May 11      55.8 bu/acre  @ 13.5%
92Y12 - May 26      53.8 bu/acre  @ 13.5%
91Y61 - May 11      56.0 bu/acre  @ 13.0%
91Y61 - May 26      54.0 bu/acre  @ 13.0%
Interesting how the yield difference was consistent with both varieties at 2 bushels apart.  In a sense I am not surprised that the results were close.  Looking back at my notes, the May 26 planting date was a full stage behind the May 11 date. (For a refresher, look at my "Down the Back Straight" post on August 10).  Rainfall pattern favoured the later planting date.  We went through late June and July on barely 1" of rain.  August was kinder with 2.5 ".  There were 12 days of over 30 degree highs in July and only 3 days in August which tended to favour yield development of the later planting date. The growing season was also long enough to allow full season varieties to reach maturity with time to spare.
Nonetheless, there was a definite response with the May 11 planting date which fits the longer term trend.
OMAFRA research into planting date response over 3 years shows a 4 bu/acre response for the same time period, May 10 to May 24. 
Pioneer has initiated a number of planting date trials this year.  I have been hearing of higher responses to earlier planting and will report the summary later. 
On a different topic we also evaluated response to applications of Acapela fungicide on soybeans applied at the R1 stage.  We had 5 locations of treated vs untreated and one location also had a strip of Headline as a comparison.  The yield environments ranged from 50 to 64 bushels, so our selection of sites were generally higher yielding locations in the area.
Four of the five had positive response and one location had no response.  The 4 positive responses accumulated a total of 8.4 bushels of extra beans for an average reponse over the 5 trials of 1.7 bu.  The Acapela vs Headline resulted in the same 1.5 bushel response to both fungicides over untreated. 
OMAFRA has studies which predict a 2 bu or 4% response to fungicide use which closely agrees with our results. 
Not exactly the stuff to excite a fungicide sales person, but if you have your own sprayer there is a positive economic return.  I tend to believe yield claims for fungicides, while usually overated, are still reflected in responses like ours.
Early planting dates and fungicides are tools in the toolbox useful for achieving maximum economic returns in soybeans.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Better Call Agricorp

Tony Koot contacted me earlier today.  His 90Y90 soybeans yielded 69.2 bu per acre.  One of the quickest ways to get Agricorp's attention is to produce a crop way above your guarantee. 
Nice job, Tony.