Friday, October 8, 2010

Avoid Planting Wheat After Corn

Growers following wheat planting after corn harvest should be mindful of the potential for head scab development in their crop.

Wheat and corn are both members of the grass family, and as such, are affected by some of the same pests and diseases, one of which being head scab.

Head scab, a major disease of wheat that affects the crop during the flowering stage, is caused by the same fungus (Fusarium graminearum) that causes ear and stalk rot in corn.

Even if the cornfield into which wheat is planted did not have a major ear rot or stalk rot problem this year, the fungus still is present in the corn stubble left in the field after harvest. Wheat planted into this stubble is more likely to have a head scab and vomitoxin problem next year, especially if conditions are favorable.

Advice: plant wheat after soybeans, not after corn.

If it's essential to plant wheat following corn, plant a scab resistant variety.

In addition, plow under the corn stubble before planting wheat and be prepared to apply a fungicide next year at flowering if the weather becomes favorable. These approaches will minimize, but will not eliminate the risk of head scab in wheat planted after corn.

Source: Pierce Paul, Ohio State University Extension

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Controlling Weeds After Harvest

Winter annual species can create dense mats of vegetation prior to spring planting if not controlled before the onset of winter. Applying a herbicide in the fall to control these weeds and prevent them from producing seeds are important objectives of fall herbicide applications.

But before rushing into fall herbicide applications, University of Illinois Extension weed specialist Aaron Hager offers a few suggestions:

"Scout fields before making any application to determine what weeds are present and if their densities are high enough to warrant treatment this fall."

Many herbicides are not labeled for fall application so check labels first. For example, Atrazine is widely used before and after corn emergence, but is not labeled for fall application. Some herbicides approved for fall application have application timing and geographical restrictions. Before applying a treatment that does not possess much soil-residual activity (for example, 2,4-D or glyphosate), schedule the application to occur after the majority of winter annual species have emerged.

"Instead of applying such a treatment in early-October, a mid- to late-October application might provide better results. On the other hand, if your fall application will include a herbicide with soil-residual activity, then the application could be made sooner."

Combinations of one or more herbicides can broaden the weed control spectrum which can become quite valuable if winter annuals have emerged before the application is made. Combining 2,4-D and/or glyphosate with soil-residual products can improve control of emerged species and help control biennial or perennial species. Include the appropriate spray additives with all applications.

"Fall applications that include soil-residual herbicides may not always result in a clean field by planting time next spring. Delays in spring field work may allow the fields to green up before the crop can be planted. Additionally, we have found that if we successfully control the suite of winter annual weed species,
the emergence of summer annual weed species (such as common lambsquarters and smartweed) sometimes occurs sooner than if the winter annuals were still present."

Hager does not recommend using a fall herbicide application as an avenue to provide residual control of summer annual weed species. Control of summer annual species, such as waterhemp, is improved when applications of soil-residual herbicides are made closer to planting compared with several weeks (or months) prior to planting.
Thus, he recommends selecting an application rate of a soil-residual herbicide that will provide control of winter annuals throughout the remainder of 2010, and do not increase the application rate in hopes of obtaining control of summer annual species next spring.

"With the increasing prevalence of horseweed, including glyphosate-resistant populations, fall herbicide applications may prove more efficacious than spring applications. Glyphosate alone may not provide adequate control when applied in either fall or spring, but a fall application timing provides an opportunity to utilize higher application rates of products (such as 2,4-D) than are feasible to use in spring."

Source: Aaron Hager, 217-333-4424

Farm Supply
Farm Magazines
Artwork: After the Corn Harvest in Minnesota

Friday, October 1, 2010

No-till Seeding a Good Way to Improve Pastures

"One of the primary concerns in establishing new forage stands in a well-tilled seedbed is the threat of soil erosion during the establishment period. In addition to reducing soil erosion, no-till seedings conserve moisture already present in the seedbed," says John Hobbs, an agriculture and rural development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Moisture conservation, along with a dramatic reduction in water run-off, improves the water supply for the new seedlings.

No-till seeding methods also require less time and fuel than traditional methods because rocks remain below the soil surface.

No-till seeding can also improve the forage quality of existing pastures and hay fields.

"No-till seeding practices can be used to completely reseed forage stands that have become unproductive," said Hobbs.

Forage stands can be improved using no- till methods to add legumes to pure grass stands and to strengthen weak grass stands through the introduction of both legumes and/or grasses.

There are several rules that must be followed for no-till seeding to be successful.

The five most important are: proper soil testing, minimizing competition fromexisting sod, seeding on the proper date, using high quality seed, and controlling the depth of seeding.

"It is a waste of time and money to try to establish or improve stands when the soil fertility and/or pH are too low to support productive plants," said Hobbs. "You have to fertilize and lime according to soil test recommendations prior to seeding."

Landowners also need to graze fields, cut them for hay or apply herbicides to reduce competition from existing sod or cover. After seeding into an existing pasture, periodically graze or mow the growth of existing pasture or hay plants to favor growth of the newly established seedlings.

"No-till seeding can be successfully done in late winter, spring or early fall, but it is important to make plans and preparations in advance so the seeding can be made on time," said Hobbs.

The use of seeds with a high germination percentage is also important for success. Cheap, low quality seed is often the most
costly item in no-till seeding because it results in low productivity stands or thin, weak plant density.

Making sure seeds are planted at the right depth is the final step toward success. Hobbs recommends adjusting seed equipment to place the seed at a shallow depth of one-quarter to one-half inch.

"Placing the seed too deep is the most common single reason for failure to get a stand. If you see a few seeds on the soil surface after seeding, then your seeding depth is about right," said Hobbs.

Source: John Hobbs, (417) 223-4775

Farm Supply
Farm Magazines: No-Till Farmer
Artwork: South Pasture by David Marty

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bee Pastures Help Pollinators Prosper

Beautiful wildflowers are being planted in "bee pastures" -- floral havens created as an efficient, practical, environmentally friendly, and economically sound way to produce successive generations of healthy young bees.

Pesticide-free pastures are simple to establish, and -- at just a half-acre each -- easy to tend, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist James H. Cane at the Pollinating Insects Biology, Management, and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah.

Bee pasturing isn't a new idea, but studies by Cane and his collaborators in a research greenhouse and at outdoor sites in Utah and California are the most extensive to date.

The research indicates that one of the best species of pastured pollinators is the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, a gentle bee that helps with pollination tasks handled primarily by the nation's premier pollinator, the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Cane estimates that, under good conditions, blue orchard bee populations could increase by as much as four- to fivefold a year in a well-designed, well-managed bee pasture.

Cane and colleagues have studied wildflowers that might be ideal for planting at bee pastures in California. In particular, the team was interested in early-flowering annuals that could help bolster populations of blue orchard bees needed to pollinate California's vast almond orchards.

Five top-choice, bee-friendly wildflowers for bee pastures in almond-growing regions:
Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla)
California Five-Spot (Nemophila maculata)
Baby Blue Eyes (N. menziesii)
Lacy or Tansy Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
California Bluebell (P. campanularia)

Source: USDA - Agricultural Research Service

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Calculating Crop and Ethanol Yields and Irrigation Needs in Four Easy Steps

Estimating crop yields based on available water in semi-arid regions has been made easier using a special calculator computer program developed by an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist.

The device, called the MultiCalculator CD, was developed by agronomist David Nielsen at the ARS Central Great Plains Research Station in Akron, Colorado.

The MultiCalculator uses three simple downloadable Excel spreadsheets.

In four steps, the yield calculator predicts non-irrigated crop yields--a vital factor in the semi-arid central plains.

First, farmers estimate how much available soil water their fields have. Farmers can tab to a table on a different screen that helps them make this estimate, giving multiplication factors for various soil types. For example, farmers on the predominant soil type in the area, silty loam, would multiply the depth of their wet soil by 2.2 to get the number of inches of soil water available for the crop at planting time.

In the next three steps, farmers choose a crop, a location, and guess the percentage of average precipitation they expect during the growing season.

The computer instantly shows the yields they can expect. The yield calculator does this for 18 crops, including cereal grains, seed legumes, oilseeds and forages.

The water calculator also works in reverse--in five steps--beginning with the farmer choosing a crop, then the target yield. It tells how much irrigation water will be needed to achieve the target yield.

In addition, the calculator will also tell farmers how many gallons of irrigation water they will need for each gallon of ethanol produced from the corn they grow.

The calculations are derived from data from long-term ARS research at Akron, which showed a linear relationship between crop yields and seasonal crop water use.

Home Grown
Farm Supply
Mathematical Models of Crop Growth and Yield

Chicken Litter Good Fertilizer

Chicken litter -- a mixture of chicken manure and sawdust or other bedding material -- is a valuable fertilizer with newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.

Some cotton farmers in the Mississippi area are switching to chicken litter and away from standard inorganic, synthetic fertilizers. Others are interested in the possible economic benefits of using chicken litter, but are reluctant to switch without the numbers to back up their decision.

A recent Agricultural Research Service study by agronomist Haile Tewolde and colleagues provides those numbers.

Farmers know that chicken litter, an organic fertilizer, is a better soil conditioner than synthetic fertilizers, but have never had a way to assign a number to the value of that benefit. But previous studies only considered the economic value of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in chicken litter, compared to that in synthetic fertilizers.

In the new study, Tewolde and colleagues figured the litter's value as a soil conditioner as an extra $17 per ton of litter. They calculated this by balancing the price tag of the nutrients in litter with its resulting higher yields, a reflection of its soil conditioning benefits. They found that cotton yields peaked 12 percent higher with organic fertilizers, compared to peak yields with synthetic fertilizers. With all benefits factored in, they found that chicken litter has a value of about $78 a ton, compared to $61 a ton when figured by the traditional method.

The economic analyses also showed that farmers could further increase their profits by using less of either fertilizer than currently used for maximum yields -- which is also good news for the environment.

Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA