Showing posts from June, 2021

Improving Water Infiltration and Permeability

Our summer rains have been quite variable. Some rains have been hard and fast while others have been slow and steady. About 10 days ago, “million-dollar” rain occurred; a slow steady all day 1” total rain. Million-dollar rains are called that because farmers assume that 100% of that precipitation can be utilized to increase crop yields. Yet, after that rain, a drive through the country side showed water standing in many fields. Dry weather occurred before this rain and the subsoil was dry. So why did these fields have standing water? The answer lies in poor soil structure due to excess tillage, a lack of active carbon, reduced soil microbial life (beneficial mycorrhizal fungi), and a lack of live roots year-round. These factors lead to dense hard crusted soil that seals over easily. Soils that seal over tend to have standing water and high potential for water and nutrient runoff. Typical permeability for a Hoytville soil is .6 to 2.0 inches of water per hour while a Latty or Fulton soi

Nutrient Deficiencie and Slug Issues

Summer has officially arrived and nutrient deficiencies and pests are now a problem. Healthy plants have less problems with disease and insects, so optimum plant nutrition is important for keeping pests at bay and optimizing crop yields. Several nutrients may be part of the problem. Nitrogen is a corn macro-nutrient that farmers apply pre-plant, with corn starter fertilizer, or side-dress applications. Nitrogen fertilizer can easily be lost depending on how much rain has occurred and whether inhibitors were used. Nitrogen deficient corn is often seen in low areas or flooded fields. Sulphur deficiency on corn leaves is becoming more common, seen as yellow striping with green veins and spindly plants. Sulfur is the fourth most important nutrient needed by plants and is used in protein synthesis and to produce chlorophyll for photosynthesis. Soybeans need sulfur for nodule formation and wheat to improve grain quality. Most soil tests increasingly show that soil sulfur is lacking now due t

Cover Crops Impact Soil Health

Planting cover crops is becoming a common practice, however; producers may not be sure what is the impact of cover crops on soil health. Andy Clark (USDA-SARE, 2015) outlines key ways that cover crops lead to better soil health and potentially better farm profits. Cover crops feed many types of soil organisms including soil fungi and bacteria that are beneficial to crops. Microbes feed on carbohydrates that plants roots exude (release) and in return; trade nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and micronutrients to crop roots. Many other soil organisms eat the fungi and bacteria, recycling those nutrients back to the plant. Cover crops increase the number and types of earthworms in the soil. Nightcrawlers tunnel vertically, while redworms tunnel horizontally. Both earthworms create channels for crop roots to grow and for rainfall and air to move into the soil while inoculating the soil with microbes. Cover crops and live roots help support the entire soil food web throughout the year

Planting Issues

Every year brings unique pest challenges. Many early planted fields have been replanted or are in the process of being replanted. This year, soybeans seem to be more at risk than corn and the culprit is seed corn maggot. If your soybean stands appear to be thinner then normal and patchy, seed corn maggot may be the issue if planted early and the seed sat in cold wet soils for long periods before germinating. With good growing conditions, soybeans usually outgrow seed corn maggot damage. Scouting some fields, I found in drilled 7” soybeans, gaps that ranged from 1-3 feet. Most of the damage had been done so there was no soybean seed to be found. Due to the earlier dry weather conditions, followed by rain, it appeared that soybean seed that was planted deeper and in moisture, germinated and outgrew most damage. Shallow planted soybeans seemed to be the most at risk. Seed corn maggot flies are attracted to decaying organic matter where they lay their eggs. While it was dry early in April,

Fertilizing Crops with Nitrogen

June is a busy month as farmers finish up planting, fertilizing, and spraying crops. For corn nitrogen (N), farmers have several options. Many farmers side-dress anhydrous nitrogen to corn. Anhydrous is a concentrated source of nitrogen, 82% by weight while liquid forms of N can be 28-32% or as high as 46%. Ammonia is usually the most economical, however, since it is stored at low temperatures (-28OF) with internal pressures of 250 psi , its more dangerous to apply. Anhydrous is often applied in the fall or early spring with a N stabilizer, getting at least a portion of their N applied, before spring or early summer rains prevent timely fertilizer application. Advantages include applying N fertilizer during a slack time period and it is generally cheaper and the most economical. Soil bacteria can easily convert ammonia into nitrate. Generally, corn like to take up N as both ammonia and nitrate. Nitrate forms of N promote growth while ammonia forms promote yield. As the season progress,