Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who Wants A Cold One?

Borrowing a phrase from the advertising campaign of a favourite beverage is a cheap stunt on my part, but it seemed to fit.  Adam Van Dinther posted this frosty picture of his windshield on Saturday morning.  More on the frost later in this post because there are more important things to talk about first.

The alfalfa crop takes centre stage this week.  I was out yesterday with my PEAQ stick evaluating feed quality.  A PEAQ stick is a measuring tool that takes the Predictive Equation for Alfalfa Quality developed by the University of Wisconsin right out to the field.
For my dairy farming friends like Adam, who want their first cut haylage to be 20% protein, 30% ADF and 40% NDF, this is the week when it will happen.  

Right now alfalfa is in the late vegetative to early bud stage of development.   By randomly picking out the most mature stems and holding them up to the PEAQ stick you get an estimate of the ADF level.

This first year field was still in the vegetative state and the PEAQ estimate was 28 ADF.

In this 3rd year field that was just entering the bud stage, the PEAQ estimate was 29 ADF.  No in field tool is perfect when it comes to measuring feed quality but the PEAQ stick provides a quick and simple way of confirming that the crop is close to the magic 20-30-40 figure for high producing dairy cows.

A second reason for checking alfalfa is because reports are filtering in about alfalfa weevils.  Adult weevils overwinter in the trash and leaf litter on the field.  Before they die the females lay eggs in the stem of the alfalfa plant.  Young weevils hatch and start chewing on the leaves as shown in this picture I took yesterday.
The larvae are light green or yellow with a white stripe and black head.  When fully grown they are only 5/16" long.
They will feed for 3 to 4 weeks and then pupate.  The adult does not cause trouble and there is usually only one generation per year.
Action is required if 40% of the leaves have injury or if you can find 2-3 active weevil per stem.  While it was easy to find feeding injury in all fields I walked through, the damage I witnessed yesterday was no where close to the action level.  Generally the best recommendation is to cut the crop.  Alfalfa fields that are being left until June will need to be scouted for the next two weeks to make sure the weevil numbers stay low.

Turning back to the cash crops, corn and soybean producers will be sick to their stomach this week.  A lot of emerged corn is going to look very rough for a few days.  Two frosty nights in a row lays a major beating on leaf tissue.  My standard recommendation is to go fishing for a week.  It may take that long for the field to look better.
This corn plant will not die.  It's growing point is well protected below the soil surface and new leaves will emerge.  The leaves that have been lost to the frost will have no negative effect on yield potential.  The worst thing to do is go look at it every day and worry. Depending on the temperature, it might be Wednesday or Thursday before you will see much recovery.  Do not spray any post emergent herbicides, especially hormone based herbicides for a few days because there is no point in adding more stress.
Very few soybeans have emerged yet, so they are fine.  If they are emerged the growing point is still protected by the cotyledons and no damage will occur.
Wheat heads are still protected in the stem, so no concern there either.
Unprotected strawberries in your garden will not be so lucky.
Regardless, the very best thing to do is sit back and reach for a cold one.  Or on second thought maybe a hot one would be better.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Comeback Of The Year Award

A week ago I was prattling on in this forum about spraying wheat and planting soybeans. Seven days later, the wheat has been sprayed and most of the soybean crop has been planted.  It is 26 degrees and sunny out.  Some rain is in the forecast.  Corn is emerging in less than two weeks after planting.  It takes 150-180 heat units to get corn and soybeans emerged, so you don't need a heat unit chart to tell you how much heat we have received.   The 2013 planting season has been a huge success so far.

Brian gave me some observations from the sprayer seat after driving through approx 2000 acres of wheat.  Going over a bunch of acres provides real insight.

1. Either the wheat is really good or not very good.  Not much in between.  As always, it looks much better from the road than it does close up.
2. When nitrogen did not go on until the first week of May there has not been enough rain to activate the N.  If the nitrogen source was urea, the situation is worse and the wheat is starving for N.
3. If nitrogen and sulphur were applied together in April, the wheat looks fantastic.
4. Disease pressure is low, but where the canopy is lush the fungicide will still pay for itself.

I have stated it before in this blog and I will continue to keep stating it.  There is only one good way to control perennial weeds and winter annuals in the wheat crop.  Spray in the FALL.  Mike Cowbrough and Peter Johnson have been banging away on this one as well and the message is not getting through.

Look at the next two pictures.
Taken May 2, 2013.
Taken May 16, 2013.
Same spot, same field.  I just do not understand why this is considered acceptable. One shot of glyphosate in the fall takes care of this.  Just do it.

The comeback of the year award has to go to our apple trees.  They are loaded with blossoms.  We have never seen them like this before.
It appears the tree is trying to make up for last year's crop failure.  If all these blooms become apples the tree will collapse under its own weight.  My mouth waters with the thoughts of harvest.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Style

Snow on Mother's Day isn't so bad.  It gives everyone a chance to spend quality time with their mothers. Cathy believes it was 1985 when we had 6 inches of snow on Mother's Day.  She was expecting Brian at the time.
Melissa presented a unique gift to her mother yesterday.  I suppose one could call it a fruit cake.  Except it is not the kind of fruit cake that my grandma would make.  This healthy eating thing has gone a little too far for me.
The moisture over the weekend has been a blessing for both mothers and farmers. Especially those farmers that were commenting about dry seedbeds in their corn fields. Dry seed beds last week were the result of working ground too deep and too early.  The too deep is easy to correct if your leave your field level coming out of the fall and run the cultivator just deep enough to crumble the top 2 inches.  The too early is a different matter.  I understand the peer pressure associated with growing crops and it is practically impossible to stay out of the field when everyone else is going.
Meanwhile, our attention is turning to planting soybeans and spraying wheat.  Both jobs need to wait until the freezing night temperatures pass.  We are in the prime planting window for high soybean yields and the forecast looks favourable for later in the week. Waiting a few days now for soil temperatures to rebound is a smart play in my opinion.
In the wheat crop weeds have emerged and both septoria leaf blotch and powdery mildew are present in the canopy.  But, there is too much risk of crop injury when it is this cold. Monday night's forecast is a frosty one so waiting until Wednesday to start spraying would be another smart play.
And speaking of smart plays I plan to watch a hockey game tonight.  "Go Leafs Go".