Monday, February 25, 2013

Decadal, adj.

With apologies to Mr. Young, I apparently slept through my high school English classes.  I had never heard of the word decadal until this past week.  I went to the dictionary to confirm its accuracy and sure enough the word decadal is an adjective used to describe ratio of 10 to 1.  Where have I been?  Why should you care?

Our Pioneer Agronomist Aric Bos forwarded a report prepared by Andy Bootsma, an Honorary Research Associate with Ag Canada in Ottawa.  The report was entitled Decadal Trends for Crop Heat Units in Ontario and Quebec from 1951 to 2010.  It is a look at the average temperature data from selected locations in Ontario and Quebec in 10 year intervals.  If you want to download the full report here is the link.

The report can be summarized quickly using the following two charts.

The data reveals that the average growing season is 12 days longer and 344 CHU warmer in the first decade of 2000 than it was in the 1960's.   
My own experience is a reflection on this trend.  In 1995, I planted a 2750 heat unit hybrid and was told by the crop insurance inspector at the time it was one of the highest yielding fields in the area.  It was a cheap attempt on his part to butter my bread, but the fact remained that in 1995 this maturity was a common choice in this area.  Choosing to plant a 3000 heat unit hybrid for grain on our farm was considered to be taking too much risk from a maturity point of view. 
This coming spring 18 years later I have decided to plant a 3100 heat unit hybrid.  This is because the risk of lower yield with a shorter season hybrid is now geater than the risk of wet, immature corn with a full season hybrid.        
Our hybrid maturity selection criteria has changed.  Going forward, our hybrid and soybean variety selection criteria will continue to change as we adapt to the changing environment.  Decadal change.  I think I got it.  Mr. Young would be proud.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ask Hayden - Part 2

For the second installment of our "Ask Hayden" series, he responds to a reader who inquired about corn population recommendations.

Hayden believes there are two points to consider.  The first is a realistic expectation of yield from each field.  While it is nice to dream about 200 plus bushel corn in April, reality usually shatters this dream by October in the St Marys area.  On our beautiful uniform silt loams soils, 200 bu is a reasonable target.  Anything less is a disappointment.  However, most of us do not have the luxury of farming this soil type.  On fields that have a high percentage of heavy clay or gravel, 160 bu is a success.  With this in mind consider the chart below.

High yield potential supports the use of higher seeding rates.  On those wonderful silt loam soils the sky is the limit.  Where yield potential is lower, planting 37-40,000 seeds is great for Hayden's grandpa the seed dealer, but not that great for the farmer.     

The second point to consider after a realistic expectation of yield, is which hybrid are you planting. 
This is a graph of population response for P9910XR.

And a graph of P0216HR.
In 150-200 bu environments the two hybrids have a similar response with the optimum planting rate being 32,500 seeds per acre. 
In high yield environments the response is dramatically different.  36,000 seeds per acre gets the job done with P0216HR and P9910XR can stand populations over 40,000.
A different response is seen when you plug in P0118AM.  In those 150-200 bu environments, 28,100 seeds per acre is the optimum rate for P0118AM.
These graphs can be found on the Pioneer Planting Rate Estimator web page.  

Thanks Hayden.
PS. Dean Shantz, Pioneer Account Manager reminds Hayden that for iPhone users there is an app for the Planting Rate Estimator, available in the App Store.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Whales, Hogs and Rice

Recently Cathy and I witnessed an incredible fight for control in Banderos Bay off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  We were on a whale watching vessel and witnessed three male humpback whales beat the crap out of each other.  It felt like we were watching the whale equivalent of an ultimate UFC match.

This fight was over mating rights with an available female.  Male whales spend the majority of their time completely alone.  Once a year they get together to sort out their differences.  After a 24-48 hour battle the strongest and baddest male will win and send the other males off packing.  It is natural evolutionary process where the strongest get to procreate and improve the genetics of the species.

This lead me to think about the way farmers, more specifically hog farmers, work with and control the natural instincts of animals.  Why hog farmers?  I do not raise hogs, but I do know a few farmers that do.  Hog farmers are under constant attack by activists who pretend to have the best interest of the pigs at heart.  Farrowing and gestation crates are bad.  Group housing is good.  The sows will automatically be happier if they get to play and run around together.  My limited knowledge of hog group dynamics tells me that the only sows that would be truly happy in the group are the strongest and baddest sows.  It is natural.  They will dominate the feed trough and keep the weaker sows weak.  That way they get to mate with the strongest and baddest males.  Hog farmers interfere with this process by providing separate living quarters for individual sows.  Every sow gets enough to eat, individual medical care and does not have to put up with an ornery grandmother.  However, if the activists were honest they would admit it really has nothing to do with pigs.  It has everything to do with control. They are attempting to prove they are the strongest and best at what they do.  Their agenda is to be in opposition to all forms of agriculture which use livestock and crops for economic gain.                

If you have doubts consider this.  My old friend Peter Johnson was taken to the woodshed by a reader in the Ontario Farmer a year ago for supporting golden rice.  Peter had heard a presentation by Patrick Moore, one of the original founders of Greenpeace at last year's Southwest Ag Conference.  Patrick, who quit Greenpeace, made a strong argument for golden rice.  Golden rice is normal rice that has been genetically modified to contain an elevated level of vitamin A. Standard white rice does not contain vitamin A. Grandma always told us that eating carrots was good for our eyesight and she was partially right because carrots are rich in vitamin A.  People in south east Asia, who eat a lot of standard white rice have a higher incidence of blindness due to vitamin A deficiency.  Eating some golden rice containing a higher level of vitamin A would improve the quality of life for these folks.  However, golden rice is one of those nasty GMO's and environmental activist groups have fought tooth and nail to stop the cultivation of this crop by people that may benefit.  The activist position is based on the premise that western industry would be the only benefactors from golden rice.  No matter if this crop actually helped improve the lot of undernourished children.  It was all about control.  I do believe that the activists never asked any of the blind children for their opinion.
The activists are gradually losing this battle.  The Philippines will allow the cultivation of golden rice some 30 years after its discovery.  You can read more detail about this situation at the link below.