Tuesday, April 30, 2013

One Job We Can Forget About

Not much happened this past week.  Brian did get some 28% on wheat fields from Saturday afternoon to Sunday.  Well drained fields quickly came into shape on Saturday.
Other than that little bit of progress field work has been a no go, but that will change soon.

I was asked on the weekend if I had taken any soil temperatures.  I said no because when the ground is wet, it doesn't matter what the temperature is.  Agronomists often write about and fuss over soil temperatures.  It sometimes is a factor affecting the outcome of early planting corn and soybeans.  
Once the calendar switches to May I don't care about soil temperatures any more.  If the ground is fit, plant.  Simple.  Put the temperature probe away, hopefully in a place that you can remember where it is come next April.  

The big money men are jittery about planting progress in the US.  The chart below has them spooked.  

The prime planting window is here and very few acres are in the ground.  We know how quickly that can change.  
A blog post by Darrel Good at www.farms.com/ puts a statistical twist to the number of days suitable for field work and planting progress on a typical day in Illinois.  The basic premise is that while farmers can plant many more acres in a day thanks to machinery technology than they could in the 70's, the number of total acres per day planted has not increased very much.  Sure farmers can plant more but there are fewer farmers.  The net result is less acres per day than what you might think.  You can read the mind numbing numbers at the link below


Hopefully next week we will be too busy to blog.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It Could Be Worse

I know it has been snowing again, but hey it could be worse.  On the bright side there is no excuse for not having your corn planter ready to go.  Here is a link for some last minute tips.


Seeding depth is a favourite agronomy topic because it is so important.  Corn needs to be planted 2" deep.

Secondary roots will not develop properly if corn is planted too shallow.  The temptation with cool, wet soils is always there to shallow up a little.  This is a mistake.

Meanwhile planting progress south of the border is lagging behind normal pace.

I remain very optimistic this spring will turn around.  Corn planted by mid-May still has outstanding yield potential.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fish Creek

In the local tributary known as Fish Creek the water stopped flowing last summer.  That proved to be a shock to the fish population.  The water always flows in Fish Creek.  This past week the water and other things were flowing down in large quantities.  

I know you really don't care about Fish Creek.  What about the flooded wheat fields?

The recent heavy rain is why we discourage early nitrogen application on wheat.  The wheat does not need nitrogen yet and the risk of losing the N is high.  Run-off is the obvious risk with high water. Leaching is an additional risk in sandy soils but in our clay loam soils denitrification is the problem.  Denitrification is the process where the nitrate form of N is converted to N2 gas by bacteria that survive in water logged soils.  N2 gas is lost directly to the atmosphere.  Temperature plays a big role in how fast the process happens.  When it is cold denitrification losses are low.  As soils warm the process speeds up.  Regardless, there is too much time lag between late March and 1st week in April applications of nitrogen and the needs of the wheat crop.   
The flooded wheat still has a fighting chance.  The plants have just started to break dormancy.  Their requirement for oxygen is extremely low which means established wheat plant can stand being submerged for over 48 hours.  The water is cold which helps extend this further because cold temperatures slow down respiration in the plant which reduces its oxygen needs and cold water contains more dissolved oxygen.  The wheat plant doesn't have gills, but every little advantage helps in these conditions.
Spring will happen in 2013.  It always has and always will.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hayden Takes A Break

Recently Liam was seen hard at work in Grandpa's headquarters.

Hayden who has been overwhelmed of late, informed his little brother that it was Liam's turn to answer the agronomy question for the week. 

Liam did not want the responsibility.  He called in his father to help.  Hayden realized this was a mistake, but there was nothing he could do to stop it.
What was the question that demanded attention?  
Old man winter is overstaying his welcome and getting on people's nerves.  Wheat and forage producers have been asking about the state of their wheat and alfalfa crops. Some investigating was required.
On Wednesday morning Brian put on his insulated coveralls and headed out to a local wheat field.  This field was planted in late October and does not have a lot of top on it.

He dug some plants and brought them inside.  48 hours of 20 degree warmth brought them to life as seen below.

Lots of new vigorous growth.  A warm rain would bring this field to life.  That would be the time to apply some nitrogen.  Until then keep the applicators parked. 

He also went to a alfalfa field planted in 2012 that was harvested late in the fall and never had the chance to re-grow.

 These same plants 48 hours later looked like this.

A different alfalfa field that is entering its third year of production was also investigated.

Similar results were observed in this case as well.  Lots of new bud growth.
Based on the three fields surveyed, it appears the winter was easier on the plants than it was on the growers' nerves.  This makes sense because in the St Marys area we have been snow covered until just recently.  This usually gives our overwintering crops a comfortable environment to spend the winter in.

Hayden, you can now relax because your dad did a pretty good job.