Saturday, March 28, 2015

Too Good To Pass Up

The first opportunity to celebrate 2015 The Year of The Soil is here.  It is red clover time.  Red clover gets a bad rap because of it's inconsistency of establishment. The truth of the matter is consistency is the achilles heel of all cover crops.  We have been applying clover for so long, the short comings are easy to document. Yet it is still the most proven and cost effective cover crop for Ontario corn producers.  I do not agree with the negative publicity that is attributed to red clover. It is worth investing the time to do it right.  When it doesn't establish, there is still time for a plan B to be put into action.

David Start of Woodstock, a passionate promoter of red clover provides the following recipe for clover establishment.
1.  Seed as early as possible.  Do not be afraid to put clover on snow.  If the wheat crop has broken dormancy, you are too late.
2.  Use 6-8 lbs of good quality seed.
3.  Do not spray wheat under seeded to clover with herbicide fungicide combinations.  As a last resort use Buctril M for weed control.  Weed control should begin with a fall application of the herbicide of your choice at planting time.
4.  Wait as long as possible to kill clover in the fall.  This maximizes the return to nitrogen rate for the following corn crop.

I have had personal experience with his herbicide, fungicide comment.  I took out a field of clover in 2011 with a Buctril M plus Tilt tank mix.  Fields sprayed earlier in the day with the same sprayer were not affected.  Our suspicion is under the right temperature and humidity conditions the fungicide acts like a surfactant, heating up the Buctril M.

David regularly grows 180 bushel corn with 30-50 lbs of nitrogen.  That is a definitely a goal worth pursuing.

The following ditty is courtesy of Paul Sullivan, our resident roller coaster expert.

Red Clover Cover Crop – The Seasonal Roller Coaster of Emotions
Paul Sullivan, Agronomist - CCA ON.

I have noticed over time that we have a love/hate relationship with red clover. Here’s how the emotions seem to evolve over the season spreading red clover into winter wheat.

January to early March – Seeding red clover is a great idea. At winter meetings we hear how great it is. Plan to seed at 6 lb/acre of single cut red clover.

Late March – Frost seeding clover on a windy -12 degrees C morning riding on an open ATV…not embracing red clover so much!

Early April – Scouting fields for emergence can see the little seedlings starting to emerge. Forget about the spreading experience – It’s a great day!

Early May – Time for weed control. Had planned to use Trophy for tufted vetch control. Crap!  It will kill the clover! Have heard some have used Tropotox Plus, but its $20.00 per acre!

Finally hear from Sullivan that can use Buctril M - -all is good again!

May to July – Forget the clover is even there – all is good!

July – Check the wheat for harvest. Crap!  The clover is up 10” into the canopy. Where the wheat thinned out, it’s up to your knees! Looks like straw yields are going to be less.

Early August – Combining wheat with Red Clover – Red Clover was a terrible idea!

Late August – It’s raining. Straw is still on the field and the red clover is growing. Red Clover was a terrible idea. Find out double cut clover was what you seeded because single cut was sold out.

Late September – Drive by the field and the red clover growth is taking over the straw

Mid October – Time to spray off the field – Sullivan says have to add Distinct to kill the clover. Crap! More added cost!

Late October – Red clover is still green. Volunteer wheat is smoking – dead. What are you going to do with it? Heard at the coffee shop that it has to be plowed, but the plow is parked.

Early November – Find that the field is dry enough for tillage. Forget the plow. Use the shallow disc to darken the soil surface but leave 70% of the residue on the soil surface.

Late April next spring – Go to the field to check for soil conditions. Pick up the soil and it falls apart in your hand. Looks like one pass and you will have an ideal seedbed for corn.

Early June – It’s side dress N time. Reduce N rates by 50 lb/acre. It’s looking better…

Fast Forward to late October – The corn field after wheat underseeded with red clover is out-yielding the corn field after soybeans by at least 15 bu/ac.

Editor's Note-  Please forgive the use of the smiley icons.  They were Jean Sullivan's idea.

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