Wednesday, August 28, 2013

From Aphids to Agitators

Topic #1
This past week was one of angst for soybean growers.  On one hand the soybean market was responding nicely to a weather scare in the US.  On the other hand soybean aphid numbers were exploding and eliminating some of those same high priced bushels.  By Monday afternoon, Brian and I made the executive decision to stop spraying.  If anyone asked, the bean crop was too far advanced and it was becoming revenge spraying.  This sort of worked until today when a couple of nervous growers wanted two fields sprayed and Russ wandered across an IMPACT plot where the full season varieties were under heavy pressure and not close enough to the critical R6 stage of development.  The R6 stage is when it no longer is worth killing aphids, however a lot of brain cells were being burned last week while trying to determine how close we were to R6 vs aphid numbers.  No one was satisfied, which was the reason for the stop work order on Monday.  The grower, the agronomist and the custom applicator were all getting grumpy.
The best description of soybean development I have ever seen is courtesy of Shawn Casteel, Purdue Extension.  Definitely worth a look and saving for future reference.

Topic #2
I always marvel at how a corn plant can pee on itself.  We had 2 mm of rain on Tuesday night which is the first measurable precipitation in 3 weeks.
The leaves work as a funnel to accumulate that small amount of rain at the base of the plant where it does the most good.

Topic #3
You sometimes hear agronomists preaching tip fill on corn.  I took some pictures today in my hybrid test plot.
This is P9754YHR a new 97 RM hybrid that has amazing tip fill.  This is a heavy test weight, outstanding grain quality hybrid.  The plant stand is a solid 33,000 and every tip looked like this one.
This is P9910XR, which will never fill its tip.  It can't and won't.  Doesn't make it a poor hybrid, just a hybrid that does not fill its tip.
P0216HR is a hybrid that Pioneer reps south of the 401 think we are crazy to plant this far north.  I am not sure I agree with them.  Half of the field around the plot is planted to 216.  I just need September to be frost free.
P0094YHR is a new 100 RM hybrid that has my attention.   Impressive appearance, with less maturity risk.

Topic #4
Leave it to Nuhn Industries.  I attended the North American Manure Expo last week which was held at the University of Guelph Arkell Research Station.  On display was Nuhn's latest invention, called the Lagoon Crawler.
It is an amphibious beast that can drive into a lagoon, maneuver and float while agitating and then drive out of the lagoon when the job is done.  The operator controls the unit while standing in complete safety on the bank of the lagoon.  Power washer not included.
A more detailed description is at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thank You Ladies

On Friday, a seed that Cathy planted two years ago came to fruition.  We had a "ladies only" customer appreciation day.  It was made clear on the invitation that no men were invited. The idea was to hold an event that recognized the contribution of the females in farming.  At the same time it was designed to leave a memorable impression.  From my point of view Cathy, April and Terrilyn hit a home run.
A tent was erected in our back yard.
Tables were set with white linen.
 A floral centre piece was at each table.
 Everyone took home a gift.
Fancy deserts were added to the menu.

The real highlights of the meeting were delivered by Sandy Maynard, DuPont Pioneer Supply Chain Manager and Martina Pfister, DuPont Pioneer Western Ontario Dairy Specialist.
Sandy spoke of her career in a male dominated corporate environment at Pioneer.  She was often the "token female" in the management group.  12 out of 13 bosses during her career were male.  She told some humorous tales, such as the time she was assigned with 7 male managers to a 3 bedroom condo as part of a team building exercise.  She spoke with passion about the quality of new female employees coming on board with DuPont Pioneer.  Her goal is to mentor these young women and hopefully reduce the types of hurdle she had to overcome during her career.
Martina, who is exactly the type of enthusiastic young female that Sandy referred to, then spoke about why she chose a career in agriculture.  Growing up on a dairy farm provided the foundation.  Her travels to other parts of the world convinced her that agriculture was indeed the right place for her.

Well done Sandy and Martina.

PS Thank you Roy and Donna for the back up.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Wise Words From An Academic

I am taking a lazy man's approach to the blog this week and posting a link to a commencement address by the President of the University of Florida to PhD level graduates.  I know some of you have a very dim view of professional academics and social media, however this fellow made some great points about both.  It is a little long, but if you read through to the end I believe the message is one that is very applicable in today's society.

Full disclosure - I found this address via Twitter.

One more alert about soybean aphids.  Keep an eye on your soybeans.  Aphid numbers are climbing in some fields.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Shiver Me Timbers"

Summer has been giving us the cold shoulder lately and it appears the trend will continue for the short term at least.

The common question floating through a corn growers mind is what impact will this low temperature trend have on the crop in the field.  The fact that corn responds to heat makes us inherently nervous when the thermometer dips below average in the middle of summer.
I am here to relieve some of that nervous anxiety.  In Ontario we are growing corn on the northern edge of the adaptability zone for this crop.  We are well equipped with drying and storage systems that allow us to harvest the crop at high moisture levels.  We had to invest in this equipment because our growing season is not long enough to allow the crop to dry naturally in the field.  That being said, from a plant development point of view, early tasseling is a major contributing factor to good yields.  An early tasseling crop provides a safety margin against late season problems.  Early tasseling is defined as completing the pollination process by August 1.  Normal tasseling extends the period into Aug 7.
Heat plays an important role in getting corn to tassel, but it plays less of a role after tasseling and during grain fill.  In the pre-tassel stage more heat means faster development which is good, less heat means slower development which is bad. Once pollination commences the relationship between heat and yield reverses. Excessive heat adds stress to a plant that is already at maximum load shedding pollen and fertilizing all the new embryos that become kernels.  After pollination the grain fill period of corn is broken down into 5 stages, each stage being about 12 days long.

Day 1-12. Milky embryo or blister stage
Day 12-24. Young sweet corn stage
Day 24-36. Beginning dent stage
Day 36-48. Half milk line stage
Day 48-60. Hard dent stage and black layer formation

Heat and drought stress shortens the stages, which we saw last year.  In 2012, we went from pollination to black layer in 50-55 days.  This year the stages will return to normal and with the cooler temperatures they may even lengthen a bit.  However, the 60 day estimate will remain fairly accurate.  High yields are built during years when plants make use of the long sunshine hours in August AND take the full advantage of the 60 day grain fill period.  Bright sunny days and average temperatures are ideal.  My buddy Pat Lynch has always argued that September weather determines the corn crop and he is at least partially correct.
The average killing frost date for this part of Ontario is October 7.  Given that our crops pollinated during the last week of July and 1st week of August, we are looking at black layer maturity on or about October 1.  

This is why the corn market has been losing its value the last month.  Moisture and cool weather do not cause much stress to the crop once it is pollinated.  The market is responding by trying to buy new crop corn as cheaply as possible.  An early September frost will upset this trend, but that is a discussion for another day.