Happy Spring! Special thank you to all who helped make the Seward County Ag Banquet so successful! It’s a very special night celebrating agriculture, the farm family, farm business, and scholarship award winners! For this week’s column, I’ll share on a number of different resources.
Preliminary farm real estate numbers were released last week at: https://cap.unl.edu/realestate. All Center for Ag Profitability webinars can be found at: https://cap.unl.edu/webinars. Last week’s Virtual Landlord/Tenant Cash Rent workshop for Eastern and Western NE should be posted soon on that site.
Soil Temperatures can be found at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/soiltemperature. This is helpful for knowing when to plant vegetables, when to plant crops, and what the soil temp is when applying fertilizer to fields. It’s also helpful for homeowners to wait to apply crabgrass preventer for lawns until soil temps are at least 50-55F for 5-7 days straight.
CropWatch at cropwatch.unl.edu is still our one-stop shop for all crop-related information from Nebraska Extension. In case you missed it, this week’s edition covered a number of nutrient-management related topics including a comparison showing the importance of residual soil nitrogen and the dollar savings for this year’s crop and calculating the value of nutrients in manure for crop fields.
On-Farm Research Results Book: PDF version can be viewed at: https://on-farm-research.unl.edu/results-pdfs/2022research-results.pdf. Different protocols can be viewed at: https://on-farm-research.unl.edu/protocols. You can also contact your local Extension educator directly to develop protocols that fit your needs.
Vegetable Planting Guide for the area can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/pgwk.
Gardening Workshop: Sarah Browning, Extension Educator, did a fabulous job at the Project Grow gardening workshop several weeks ago. Whether you were able to attend or not, the full slide presentation is posted at: https://www.upperbigblue.org/sites/default/files/images/Events/veg-gardening-handout.pdf. If you’re interested in gardening but don’t have room at your home, there is a community garden with Project Grow; please contact the UBBNRD if you’re interested in learning more.
- Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn Calendar: https://go.unl.edu/r7ay
- Tall Fescue Lawn Calendar: https://go.unl.edu/frkp
- Buffalograss Lawn Calendar: https://go.unl.edu/6xgu
Lawn Care: Kelly Feehan shares, “Lawn care that can be done in March or early April, once conditions allow, is removal of debris that collected over winter, raking leaves that were not removed last fall, and mowing. However, wait to mow until after turfgrass has started to grow. Some people mow dormant turf very low in hopes of stimulating growth. It is best to allow turfgrass to come out of dormancy on its own. If new growth has not started, there is no need to mow. Low mowing is usually not good for lawns. Ideally, leave turfgrass the same height all season. For Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, this is about three to three and a half inches. If you wish to mow low in spring, do not mow any lower than 2.5 inches. With some snow cover this year, vole damage may be seen. This damage appears as two-inch wide tracks in lawns where grass has been chewed close to the ground. These areas fill in once new growth begins and are not a concern.” Overseeding of thin turf areas can also be done now.
Ag Week 2023
Happy National Ag Week! What happens in ag impacts all Nebraskans as 1 in 4 Nebraska jobs are connected to ag. A strong ag economy (Nebraska ranks #1 in farm cash receipts of all commodities/capita) helps Nebraska’s overall economy. “In 2020, every dollar in agricultural exports generated $1.03 in economic activities such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production. Nebraska’s $7.1 billion in agricultural exports in 2020 translates into $7.4 billion in additional economic activity.” Also, 92% of Nebraska’s land is used for farming and ranching to grow the food, fiber, and fuel we rely on each day. The following are from Nebraska Dept. of Ag’s ‘Nebraska Ag Facts Brochure’: https://nda.nebraska.gov/publications/ne_ag_facts_brochure.pdf and 2023 Ag Facts card: https://nda.nebraska.gov/facts.pdf. Thank you to all who are involved ag-related careers! And, for youth, there’s numerous opportunities to pursue ag-related careers in the future!
#1: Nebraska’s largest ag sector is beef production with Nebraska leading the nation in commercial cattle slaughter. We moved up and are currently tied with Texas as #1 in all cattle on feed at 2.78 million. #2 in all cattle and calves, beef and veal exports, and commercial red meat production. Nebraska’s beef industry generates approximately $10.6 billion in annual cash receipts. With 6.8 million head of cattle, cattle outnumber people in Nebraska more than three to one.
#1: Nebraska ranks 1st in U.S. popcorn production with approximately 34% of the popcorn consumed in the U.S. produced in Nebraska. Nebraska also ranks 1st in Great Northern bean production, 2nd for pinto bean production and 4th in the nation for all dry edible bean production.
#2: Nebraska is #2 in ethanol production capacity. With 24 operating ethanol plants utilizing 32% of Nebraska’s corn crop as the main feedstock, Nebraska produces more than 2.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel annually. Distillers grains, a co-product of ethanol production, is an important livestock feed. Nebraska is also #2 in bison production.
#3: Nebraska is #3 in corn exports and we fell to #4 in corn production (perhaps another result of 2022 storms). Today’s corn farmers grow 87% more corn per ounce of fertilizer than they did 30 years ago.
#4-7: Nebraska is ranked #4 in dry edible pea production. We rank 5th in soybean exports and we fell to 6th in soybean production. We also rank 5th in grain sorghum production and 5th in the nation for production of sugar beets, with half of U.S. sugar production coming from sugar beets. Nebraska is 6th for all hogs and pigs on farms and in commercial hog slaughter. Nebraska ranks 7th in alfalfa hay production.
Nebraska is the 14th largest wheat producing state; one bushel of wheat weighs 60 lbs on average and can make 64 loaves of bread. We are ranked 8th for organic cropland acres and 8th for all hay production.
I’m unsure of avian influenza’s impact on these numbers in 2022: Nebraska has approximately 9.1 million birds populating Nebraska’s commercial laying facilities producing more than 2.6 billion eggs/year. Nebraska ranks 25th in total milk production from dairy cattle. There are around 78,000 sheep and lambs raised in Nebraska and Nebraska is home to more than 24,000 meat goats and around 3,500 dairy goats.
There’s so much to be proud of regarding agriculture in Nebraska! Yet, ag increasingly is blamed for many problems. Every industry can improve. It’s times like this, like now, that I wish I could see more unity within ag. So often I hear divisions…divisions around tillage practices, use or not of cover crops, grass fed vs. grain fed, conventional vs. organic, direct vs. non-direct marketing, etc. Divisions impact our ability to provide united messages and solutions when attacked. These divisions also impact our consumers’ view of ag. I’m blessed with an incredible career to learn from all of you I serve…to learn why you each do what works for you and watch you adapt! We all observe each other’s operations as we drive around the countryside. Do we silently criticize or are we curious? How often do we actually have a conversation, seeking to understand why a neighboring farmer/livestock producer chooses a specific practice or marketing strategy? My encouragement to all of us, especially within ag, is to seek to understand, learn from, and encourage each other. Find common ground on the things that unite us so we can continue to produce food for our families, this nation, and the world in years to come. As we’re seeing throughout the world, we can’t take farming and food production for granted! May we seek to celebrate the opportunities we all in ag provide consumers: safe products and a choice of products at various price points consumers can purchase!
Seward County Ag Banquet: The Kiwanis Club of Seward partnered with SCCDP and Seward Co. Ag. Society will honor Seward County Ag Leaders on Monday, March 20, 2023 with the 55th Annual Agriculture Recognition Banquet at the Ag Pavilion at the Seward Co. Fairgrounds. Social hour with wine, cheese, beer, and music will be at 5:30 p.m. with the prime rib meal and program to follow at 6:30 p.m. The cost to attend the banquet is $30.00 per person. Please contact Pam Moravec (402-643-7748) or Shelly Hansen (402-643-3636) to reserve your seat. The Kiwanis Club of Seward will use the proceeds from the event to support the youth of Seward County through a variety of programs and events.
Nitrogen Rate Studies: As growers consider pre-plant nitrogen applications this year, there’s opportunity to consider a variety of nitrogen rates to test any impacts on one’s own field(s). I covered the results of some area studies comparing rates of 50 lb N/ac nitrogen differences in an earlier article. One can easily test this for yourself in a field by either using field-length blocks as those studies did, or with the use of precision ag technologies, prescriptions can be written to try different N rate blocks that are smaller in scale (300’ long by 30’ or so wide). These blocks can then be repeated throughout areas of the field with different soil types and topography. I have an example at jenreesources.com of what this looked like from studies last year. Please let me know if you’re interested in testing this. The 2022 on-farm research results can be viewed at: https://onfarmresearch.unl.edu/.
Perennial cover crops: Several weeks ago, I shared our research on interseeding cover crops into early season corn and soybeans and said I’d share our next steps in a future column. One goal of the cooperators was to achieve a living cover that survived into the next growing season. When we saw that interseeded red clover established in soybeans and survived the following spring, we got excited about the possibility of more intentionally growing clovers as a perennial cover crop.
In March of 2022, six sites were dormant seeded with either Mammoth red clover (tall), Medium red clover, or Dutch white clover (low-growing, aggressive like clover in lawns). The clover eventually emerged at all the locations. All but two sites were lost due to the dry spring or June 14 hailstorms. Two sites in Clay County survived the June 7th hailstorm. The grower at those sites chose the Mammoth red clover. It was dormant seeded in March using a drill interseeder into cereal rye. The cereal rye was killed with 10 oz/ac clethodim prior to planting corn and after planting soybean. Once the clover had emerged and was at least 1” tall, Zidua was used in both the corn/clover and soybean/clover areas and was used again 3-4 weeks later. The check areas in the corn and soybean used the grower’s full herbicide program.
The clover provided excellent weed control in the corn. It had good weed control in the soybean with velvetleaf, sunflower, and lambsquarters being the predominant weed species. Biomass samples of the clover prior to harvest showed 30 lb N/ac available. Samples will be taken again this spring. The soybean without clover out-yielded the soybean with clover (74 bu/ac vs. 68 bu/ac). It also economically did better this first year. The ultimate goal is to get something living between the rows for reducing chemical and nitrogen inputs, providing a grazing benefit, and determining impacts to yields and economics over several years. We currently have 9 growers planning on some type of clover study in 2023. If anyone is interested, the easiest way to try this is just dormant seeding this March (can drill or broadcast) clover in 5+ acre blocks leaving a check block between the clover blocks and checks on either side. I will work with you on the combine passes to get the replications. This year the farmers are trying AberLasting clover (Dutch white X Kura), Dutch White + Medium Red, or Mammoth red clover. We also have a couple of growers trying AberLasting with either bluegrass or buffalograss. The simpler design being used by the growers is on my blog. This is a different way of thinking, in some ways going back to what our ancestors did only with today’s hybrids and varieties. These growers are desirous to find ways to reduce inputs on their own farms for the future. Please let me know if you’re interested in trying this too.
The above designs are just some ideas for doing nitrogen rate prescriptions by soil type/topography or field-length strips.
10 lb/ac Mammoth red clover was dormant drill seeded March 2022 into cereal rye. A shot of rain in the spring helped it get established. The grower felt it was more successful establishing the clover into old soybean ground prior to the corn crop. The cereal rye was terminated with clethodim around 10 days prior to corn planting. Once the clover was up 1″, Zidua was applied to the field (other Group 15 herbicides could be used instead). He used Zidua again 3-4 weeks later. The corn with the clover had excellent weed control as did his check treatment which used a full corn herbicide program. The clover got about 2.5′ tall and then laid down. We couldn’t take this study via on-farm research because two different hybrids were used across the clover/check area. He moved over with strip till rig in the fall and took out some of the clover, but quite a bit still remained. Soybeans will be planted in this field next year and the plan is to maintain the clover in the strips without needing to reseed anything.
10 lb/ac Mammoth red clover was dormant drill seeded into cereal rye in March 2022. A timely shot of rain helped with establishment. Soybeans were planted green into the field. The rye was then terminated with 10 oz/ac of clethodim and Zidua was applied when clover was at least 1″ tall (other Group 15 herbicides could be used instead). Zidua was applied again 3-4 weeks later. A June 7, 2022 hailstorm damaged the soybean and clover with the clover recovering faster than the soybean. The Mammoth red clover gets tall and it looked kind of interesting in September to see the soybeans holding the clover up so it could reach sunlight. When soybean leaves started senescing, the clover started forming more of a mat. Primary weed species were velvetleaf, sunflower, lambsquarters (weed species shift from predominantly waterhemp/palmer). This field has a history of being very clean. At harvest, the combine didn’t seem to have much issue harvesting it and the grower had combine set well so there wasn’t green material going into the tank. The field smelled like fresh cut alfalfa after harvest. The grower strip tills in the fall and moved the strip to the side of the old row, taking out some of the clover. Corn will be planted into those strips this spring with the goal of maintaining the clover without seeding any additional clover.
Well, March is here, and we start looking towards the next growing season. It was a great winter programming season, though, and it was great seeing many people!
Nontraditional Products: There’s a number of products on the market with claims of the biology or chemistry within them allowing for reduced nutrient inputs by the producer. The goal is for the biology or chemistry to make unavailable nutrients more available to the plant. Interest in the products stems from the potential to reduce nutrient inputs and enhance environmental stewardship, both of which would be beneficial. Perhaps the more recognized products currently are Pivot Bio PROVEN® and PROVEN®40? These products contain an N-fixing bacterial inoculant that is expected to fix N over the growing season. Use of biological N fixation in cereal crops has potential to reduce the use of synthetic N fertilizer, thus increasing N use efficiency and reducing N losses. We have 11 site-years of on-farm research data on the Pivot Bio products in 2021-2022. We have minimal testing on other biological/chemical products for reducing nitrogen rates. Pivot Bio was applied at 12.8 oz/ac and compared to an untreated check. The nitrogen rates were selected by the growers. Some growers chose the same N rate for both treatments, while others chose to evaluate Pivot Bio at additional reduced rates. It’s helpful to see comparisons at a range of reduced nitrogen rates to better determine nitrogen response to products tested.
Across 64 replications, the Check treatment yielded 234 bu/ac on average and Pivot Bio yielded 235 bu/ac on average, with no statistical difference at a 90% confidence level. When looking across the 64 replications, Pivot Bio had a 5 bu/ac or greater yield increase 27% of the time, a 5 bu/ac yield reduction 17% of the time, and yield difference within +/- 5 bu/ac 56% of the time. When looking at many of the individual locations, the grower-chosen N rates most likely could have been reduced beyond 40 lb/ac. Future on-farm research will focus on testing Pivot Bio PROVEN®40 at a wider range of N rates across different soil textures and landscape positions. One way to test this is by creating prescriptions for N rate blocks for different areas of the field. If you’re interested in testing something like this for Pivot Bio or any other non-traditional product, please let me know.
There’s also interest from producers seeking a regenerative ag path to grow their own microbes for reducing inputs through the use of compost extracts and teas. Compost is built through different processes then microbes are extracted from the compost using water and air. The water/microbe solution is then applied to a field while the compost is added back into a pile to be reused. One compost option is via a Johnson-Su bioreactor which uses a static aerobic composting process. Another is aerobic composting via a Turned Compost process. In 2022, a Seward Co. producer chose to compare a Check treatment of 142 lb N/ac and reduce the nitrogen rates added to the biological products in his study by nearly 40 and 100 lb N/ac. His goal was to push the system to see how the biological products compared and to have low enough nitrogen rates to see what the biological products would do in releasing N. His treatments and yields were: Check (total 142 lb N/ac yielding 235 bu/ac); Johnson-Su Compost High (total 106 lb N/ac yielding 220 bu/ac); Johnson Su Compost Low (Total 48 lb N/ac yielding 167 bu/ac); Turned Compost High (Total 106 lb N/ac yielding 212 bu/ac); Turned Compost Low (Total 48 lb N/ac yielding 164 bu/ac); and Pivot Bio Proven®40 (total 106 lb N/ac yielding 195 bu/ac). The Check treatment yielded the greatest and statistically was not different than the Johnson-Su High and Turned Compost High at the 90% confidence level. The Check treatment was different from the Pivot Bio and the lower rates of the compost extracts. The Johnson-Su and Turned Compost were applied at 8 gal/ac extract in furrow at planting. This study was pivot irrigated in a silt loam soil where the previous crop was soybean. This study will continue on these same strips for three years. Please let me know if you’re interested in testing compost extracts as we seek to obtain more data around this topic.
One thing to consider with any type of biological treatment study is it’s helpful to conduct the study on the same areas of the field for multiple years to better determine any impacts over time. 2022 On-Farm research book at: https://onfarmresearch.unl.edu/.
Sensor-Based N Fertigation
Understanding the Soil Microbiome: For those interested, this Friday, March 3, will be our last Friday conversation on ‘understanding the soil microbiome’ at the 4-H Building in York from 10 a.m.-Noon. Dr. Rhae Drijber, UNL soil microbiologist, will kick off our conversation and I’m looking forward to the discussion. If you plan to attend, please let us know at 402-362-5508.
March 4 Gardening Workshop will be held from 10 a.m.-Noon at the 4-H Building in York. Sarah Browning, Extension Educator, will share on vegetable planting basics such as site selection, rotational plan, summer care, and troubleshooting problems such as insects/diseases/weeds. Please bring your questions! This workshop is sponsored by the UBBNRD and Nebraska Extension; there’s no charge and refreshments are provided. No RSVP is required, but it does help with refreshments if you could please let us know at 402-362-6601 or 402-362-5508. If you’re interested in gardening, but don’t have the space at home, check out the Project GROW community garden in York. Plots are available for the 2023 growing season. You can reserve your space now or come to the Gardening Workshop and sign up in person.
Sensor-Based Nitrogen Fertigation: This week also brings the last of our on-farm research updates (Mar. 1 in North Platte, Mar. 2 in Kearney, and Mar. 3 in Beatrice). You can still sign up at https://go.unl.edu/2023ofr.
One of the most impactful on-farm research studies being shared (I feel) is on sensor-based nitrogen fertigation occurring since 2019. It’s similar in concept to Project Sense, for those of you familiar with sensors being retrofitted on ground rigs for in-season nitrogen applications.
Sensors mounted onto a drone could allow for improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) by responding to actual plant needs in season. A grower determined base rate was applied to the field across treatments. Then grower fertigation management was compared to the sensor-based approach in 15 degree sectors on half a pivot. Indicator and reference plots in the field received at least 30 lb/ac less N and 30 lb/ac more N respectively and were established around V7. The field was flown weekly with a drone, imagery was analyzed, and fertigation decisions were made for each treatment sector.
The treatments were: 1) Grower rate 2) Risk averse post-establishment (RAP) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 30 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14) and 3) Risk averse post-establishment Increased Rate (RAP-IR) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 60 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14).
Since the beginning of this effort, 100% of the RAP-based sensor treatments were more efficient across all sites than the typical N grower management. Encouraging to me about this method is that it’s all based on what the plant needs after what the soil provides to the plant. There’s no determination of an N rate ahead of time based on plant removal, yield goal, etc.
There were 4 studies in 2022, but I will share on two of them. In a Hall county field with silt loam soils, both sensor based fertigation treatments triggered a total application of 95 lb N/ac vs. grower applying 196 lb N/ac. The grower treatment resulted in a yield of 277 bu/ac at 0.71 lb N/bu NUE. The two sensor based treatments resulted in yields of 271 and 274 bu/ac at only 0.35 lb N/bu NUE! That was pretty incredible for me to see 0.35 NUE and those kind of yields! It shows there is opportunity to consider further reductions in nitrogen applications. At a Saunders county field, no grower rate was used and the beginning base rate was only 33 lb N/ac. The RAP sensor treatment had 108 lb N/ac total applied yielding 258 bu/ac with 0.42 lb N/bu NUE. The RAP-IR sensor treatment had 101 lb N/ac total applied yielding 274 bu/ac with a 0.37 lb N/bu NUE.
You can read more details of this study via the online version of the 2023 On-Farm Research book found at: https://on-farm-research.unl.edu/ (beginning on page 80). For 2023, growers interested in trying this via on-farm research can receive monetary support through a Conservation Innovation Grant to help with purchasing fertigation equipment and/or for the aerial imagery services through Sentinel Fertigation. I would love to see 5 of these in our area of the State this coming year. Please let me or Laura Thompson (email@example.com) know if you’re interested!
You can still register for the CPIA Conference or walk-in the day of the event. Really practical info. for growers and ag industry!
Farm Bill 2023 Elections
During our on-farm research meeting last Wednesday, several farmers received text message reminders to make their ARC/PLC enrollment/election by March 15, 2023, and were asking about this after the meeting. Regardless of whether you choose to make a new election or not, a new enrollment (contract) is required, so please contact the FSA office to take care of that. You can view the UNL/FSA farm bill webinar at: https://go.unl.edu/mbhy. No need to run simulations. You can download the spreadsheet from K-State that shows price/yield options for PLC/ARC-Co triggers: https://www.agmanager.info/ag-policy/2018-farm-bill/tradeoff-between-20222023-arc-and-plc.
Bottom Line: For 2023, neither ARC-Co nor PLC would be anticipated to trigger for corn, soybean, wheat, sorghum with current USDA projected prices. If you’re concerned about price decline and want to protect that downside, PLC can be selected. If you think high prices will remain, ARC-Co provides a better likelihood of payment in the event of disasters such as drought and hail impacting county average yields. These are risk management tools, and ultimately, crop insurance will be important again in 2023. Different election decisions (ARC-Co or PLC) can be made for crops in different FSA farm numbers if you’d like to spread risk. Fields with higher PLC yields could be more favorable for your PLC decisions.
But how do you choose between PLC and ARC? ARC-CO would only be anticipated to pay with a catastrophic yield loss, such as county-wide hail and/or drought.
PLC Reference Prices are: $3.70 for corn, $3.95 for milo, $8.40 for soybean, and $5.50 for wheat. Because market year average prices are much higher than these reference prices at this time, barring any major disaster causing price reduction, PLC payments wouldn’t be anticipated for any of these crops in 2023. Reasons to consider PLC: if you feel prices have the potential to decline or if you choose to use Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) through crop insurance. Both the UNL and K-State webinar links on my blog go into more detail about SCO.
The following patterns hold true for every county I ran for both irrigated and non-irrigated. If you feel prices will stay high, then ARC-Co will only trigger if county average yields decline. If you feel prices will decline, PLC will mostly only trigger before ARC-Co. at county average yields. I think most of us would prefer good crops and decent prices to having either of these programs trigger. I’ve shared additional photos with explanations and reference links at my blog: jenreesources.com if seeing this explanation is helpful.
Corn: at county average yields, price would have to fall to $3.33 to trigger an ARC-Co. payment while it will trigger PLC payment at $3.70. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co triggers before PLC.
Soybean: at county average yields, price of $8.11 would trigger ARC-Co compared to $8.40 for PLC. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co. triggers before PLC.
Wheat: at county average yields, price of $4.60 would trigger ARC-Co compared to $5.50 for PLC. It takes more reduction in county average yields for ARC-Co to trigger before PLC. Please run these for yourself if you’re looking at wheat.
Milo (Sorghum): at county average yields, a $3.68 price would trigger ARC-Co compared to $3.95 for PLC. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co triggers before PLC.
For ARC-IC (individual), if any of us knew we’d get the hail damage we did last year, it may have been a great decision for last year’s election for those hardest hit with all/majority of fields. Because we can’t make this decision looking backward, ARC-IC tends to be more favorable for those with diversified crops or situations where yields wouldn’t reflect county average yields.
- K-State spreadsheet tool: https://www.agmanager.info/ag-policy/2018-farm-bill/tradeoff-between-20222023-arc-and-plc
- UNL Webinar: https://go.unl.edu/mbhy
- K-State Webinars: https://www.agmanager.info/news/recent-videos/managing-risk-arc-plc-and-sco-2023-webinar-recording-and-slides
- USDA Prices/Yields: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/arcplc_program/arcplc-program-data/index
- K-State Prices/Yields: https://www.agmanager.info/crop-insurance/risk-management-strategies/projections-and-sources-myaprices-arc-and-plc-commodity
Interseeded Cover Crops Results
Studies such as this will be shared by area farmers starting this week at On-Farm Research Updates (Feb. 15 at Holthus Conv. Center in York)! RSVP at: go.unl.edu/2023ofr. Since 2019, a group of area farmers have been interseeding cover crops into early season corn (V3-V4) and soybean (VE-V2). The goals for interseeding cover crops into cash crops include: providing nutrients for the cash crop, weed control, erosion control, diversity, reducing inputs such as fertilizer and chemicals, and providing forage for grazing after harvest. Interseeding of cover crops can also occur at other growth stages, such as at male row destruction in seed corn or at senescence in late-season corn and soybean. This article will focus on our results from early-season interseeding of cover crops into corn and soybean.
In 2019, two farmers interseeded cover crops (one drill interseeded and one broadcast) into corn in York and Seward counties. Both got establishment and showed no yield differences between interseeded and check. In 2020, a partnership formed between The Nature Conservancy, Upper Big Blue NRD, Extension, Kelloggs and area farmers. A four row interseeder was purchased. Six farmers chose to conduct studies via on-farm research where they maintained the same field-scale strips of interseeded cover crops and check treatments for 3 years. The different cover crop mixes and rates can be viewed at jenreesources.com.
From 2020-2022, fields were impacted by July 9, 2020 and 2021 wind events and June 14, 2022 hail. We had 12 site-years of corn studies and 2 site-years of soybean studies. Biomass samples of the cover crops and also weeds were taken each September. Cover crop biomass ranged from 200 lb/ac to 4 tons/ac depending on the location, hybrid, irrigation, and storm events. In 10 of 12 site-years, interseeded cover crop had more biomass than the check treatment (weeds).
Yield: No corn yield difference between check and interseeded in 6 of the 12 site-years. Yield losses ranged from 2-10 bu/ac in the remainder. No soy yield difference between the interseeded and check.
Net Return: In 10 of the 12 corn site-years, and 1 of the soybean site-years, the check treatment had a higher net return. (However, no benefit to grazing, reduced inputs, etc. was given to interseeding).
Soil Health Values (PLFA & Haney): Large numerical increases in soil health numbers when all 6 sites were combined (as well as some individual sites). Significant increase in the Check from 2020 to 2022. Significant increase in the Interseeded from 2020-2022. However, because this happened for both treatments, when comparing Check vs. Interseeded from 2020 vs. 2022, there is no difference. Why? All farmers were incorporating additional soil health practices across their entire fields (planting rye each fall, grazing, adding biological products, etc.) that would have impacted both cover crop and check treatments. Good news: all increased their overall soil health (soil microbial pops and scores) in 3 years.
Soil Nutrient Values: There were no differences between OM, pH, P, S, K, and base saturations between Check and Interseeded from 2020 to 2022 across sites. Numerical changes occurred at individual sites.
Our studies proved that drill interseeding of cover crops into early season corn and soybeans can be achieved for establishment that lasted after harvest with regrowth of perennial covers into the spring. We also showed this in spite of a number of PRE- herbicides used. We increased beneficial insects and saw pest insects feeding on cover crop instead of cash crop. We increased diversity in the fields and had additional cover aiding erosion control. We also showed reduced water use in the corn where the diverse cover crop was used compared to the check treatment. The disappointment to me was the low amount of forage for those desiring to graze after harvest and the spotty survival of perennials in the spring. However, those who grazed said there was value in the amount of green material present at harvest coupled with the corn residue. Additional challenges can include the fact that it does look ‘messy’, one needs to think through herbicide options ahead of time, and we need to put dollars to additional benefits that are harder to calculate (soil erosion, etc). Next week I’ll share our next steps in where we’re headed.
Sharing more February events this week. Will share more on-farm research results in future weeks.
Looking forward to hearing farmers and livestock producers share at two opportunities this week. Reminder of the Eastern NE Soil Health Conference at Eastern NE R&E Center near Mead on Feb. 9th beginning at 9 a.m. (Reg. at 8:30 a.m.). Also a reminder of our Conversations around Rethinking Grazing-Strategies for nutrient distribution on Feb. 10th from 10-noon at the 4-H Building in York. I’ve asked a few producers to kick off the conversation on how they’re grazing cornstalks, cover crops, pastures for the purpose of better nutrient distribution. If you’re interested in this topic, please plan to attend to share your perspectives, what you’re doing, and questions!
For those reading this planning on attending pesticide recertification trainings in Hastings in Feb. and Mar., the location is at the Extension Office (2975 S. Baltimore Ave.) in Hastings and NOT at the fairgrounds as listed in the winter program brochure.
Farm Bill Webinar: Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding producers now is the time to make elections and enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2023 crop year. The signup period is open through March 15, 2023.
Producers can learn about the ARC and PLC options during a UNL Center for Agricultural Profitability webinar scheduled for 12 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Cathy Anderson, production and compliance programs chief for the Nebraska Farm Service Agency, and Brad Lubben, extension policy specialist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics, will present and share information relevant for producers, ag professionals and ag stakeholders. Registration for the webinar is free and can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/cap2-7.
Feb. 14 Ag Update Merrick Co.: Nebraska water quality’s impact on human health and more, Ag Update 2023 will be held Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the Merrick County Youth and Agriculture Education Center, 1784 Fairgrounds Rd, Central City. It will start with breakfast refreshments provided by Archer Credit Union and exhibits opening at 9 am. The event has a great lineup of speakers and exhibits, including “Nebraska Water, Connecting all Nebraskans” with Crystal Powers, “How Water and Substances Move in Soils and the Vadose Zone” with Aaron Daigh, and “Home Reverse Osmosis Cost Share Program” with Steve Melvin. Lunch will be provided and sponsored by Cornerstone Bank. The day will wrap-up about 3:15 p.m. with door prizes. RSVP to Steve Melvin at (308) 946-3843 or at the Merrick County Extension site.
Feb. 28-Mar. 1 Central Plains Irrigation Conference: The event will take place at the Kearney Holiday Inn Convention Center. This is an educational event and opportunity for networking among producers, university officials, industry leaders and other stakeholders. Irrigation in the Central Plains region will be the focus of the conference with topics such as, but not limited to: Getting the most out of your technology and irrigation support tools; Cover crops and residue management; Remote sensing and drone technology; Pivot performance; “Ogallala Aquifer’s Story: Human, Environment and Production”; Insect and nutrient management via chemigation; “TAPS: Effects of Participant Decisions on Profitability & Efficiency”. The conference will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and then 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. The cost to attend the event is $55 in advance or $65 at the door. Registration cost does include the lunch meal on Tuesday. Registration is available online, and payment ahead of the conference is appreciated via check or credit card. CCA credits are pending. A vendor show will be available and if your business or organization is interested in having a booth, please contact Donna Lamm at 785-462-7574.
February 2023 Events
January just flew by! Sharing upcoming February events.
Friday Conversations-Focus on Nutrients: These meetings will all be held 10 a.m.-Noon on Feb. 3, 10, and 24 in the 4-H Bldg in York. I started Friday in February conversations last year, and attendees shared to continue them. My goal is to connect farmers and ag industry to share practical info. on what is working and hasn’t worked around specific topics in their operations. These are informal meetings where I’ve asked some farmers to start the conversation and it builds from there. Last year the focus was on cover crops. This year, it’s around nutrient management. Please join us if interested for a time of connection, conversation, and learning! RSVP isn’t required but helps me with preparing (402-362-5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org). Topics include:
- Feb. 3: Understanding the soil microbiome (featuring Dr. Rhae Drijber, UNL soil microbiologist). Discussion around soil microbes and our expectations of what they can/can’t do.
- Feb. 10: Rethinking Grazing-Strategies for nutrient distribution. Producers share how they graze cornstalks, cover crops, pastures for the purpose of better nutrient distribution & value of this.
- Feb. 24: Nutrient balancing in conventional, regen, and organic systems. What does the term ‘nutrient balance’ mean to you, what does that look like, and how does one achieve it?
Feb. 9 Eastern NE Soil Health Conference is back at the Eastern NE R&E Center near Mead from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Registration at 8:30 a.m.). Topics include: Rediversifying crop rotations via Marshall McDaniel, ISU; Chad Dane (Clay Co. Farmer) and Jay Goertzen (York Co. Farmer) will share their experiences after 3 and 4 years interseeding cover crops into early season corn/soybeans on a farmer panel with me; Mary Drewnoski will share practical tips for selecting and grazing forage cover crops; A farmer panel will share on diversifying and intensifying crop rotations (Angela Knuth (Saunders County), Garret Ruskamp (Cuming County), Kyle Riesen (Jefferson County), and Haldon Fugate (Gage County) moderated by Nathan Mueller, NE Extension; and emerging topics will include biochar, kernza, and what’s new in the cover crop industry. There’s no charge, RSVP to: https://go.unl.edu/z7rx.
On-Farm Research Updates: They’re my favorite because the farmers share about research conducted on their own farms. If you haven’t attended in awhile, the York meeting has been designed around conversation with the goals of connection and learning from each other. Come hear farmers share their experiences on production practices such as soybean rates and maturities, nutrient management studies, cover crops, and products such as Pivot Bio PROVEN, Source N, and Xyway. There’s no charge, but RSVP is required for meal planning: https://go.unl.edu/2023ofr. All locations begin at 9 a.m. (Reg. at 8:30 a.m.). Locations: York (Feb. 15, Holthus Convention Center); Beatrice (Feb. 16, Holiday Inn); Fremont (Feb. 17, Extension Office); North Platte (Mar. 1 West Central REEC); Kearney (Mar. 2, Extension Office).
Certification Trainings Dates for programs listed below are listed at: https://jenreesources.com/upcoming-events/
- Pesticide Trainings: For those who have missed pesticide trainings, I still have some left in Geneva, Deshler, York, David City, Seward.
- Chemigation: I failed to remind people we were doing chemigation trainings last week in our area. If you still need this, you can do this online or attend in-person in Aurora, Central City, Grand Island, Columbus, Lincoln, or Beatrice.
- RUP Dicamba training is no longer provided by Extension. You need to take the trainings provided by the companies. Direct links at: https://jenreesources.com/upcoming-events/
Additional Meetings: Feb. 14 is the Ag Update in Central City with a focus on drought and water; Feb. 23-24 is Women in Ag in Kearney; and the Central Plains Irrigation Conference is in Kearney on Feb. 28-Mar. 1.
Balancing Species Protection and Soybean Production workshop on Feb 9th and 10th in Lincoln, NE. For individuals (soybean growers, crop consultants, and ag professionals) across Nebraska and Iowa interested in participating. This is an important opportunity to communicate the impact of the Endangered Species Act on ag production and to find solutions that work for farmers and the species in our communities. Goal is to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss the impacts of national pesticide decisions on a local level and identify the potential consequences and co-benefits of conservation practices for pesticide mitigation measures, endangered species protections, and soil and water conservation. Discuss current ag productivity stressors and listed species needs to work towards developing local adaptive management solutions that can ultimately feed into national pesticide decisions. Having these conversations at a local level can potentially provide greater flexibility in managing new or emerging production issues. Please email Dr. Justin McMechan by Feb. 2 if you’re interested in attending or have comments to share: email@example.com.
Nitrogen Rate and Timing Studies
Many farmers are interested in finding ways to grow the same or more bushels with less inputs. Nebraska On-Farm Research has been working with farmers to test different studies, including nutrient management ones, on their farms since the 1990’s. Area on-farm research cooperators and I started the 2022 season with 35 studies, but only 15 made it to harvest with the hail.
While there’s numerous nutrient management studies throughout Nebraska, I’ll focus on local data. Since 2020, one farmer in the Henderson area has been testing nitrogen rate and timing studies. Fields were impacted by July 9 windstorms in 2020 and 2021 and the June 14 hailstorms in 2022. His goals include testing any benefits (yield and nitrogen carryover) to split applying nitrogen vs. applying it mostly up front, and also testing his nitrogen rate vs. +/- 50 lb N/ac. He’s currently amassed 7 site-years worth of data of which only 3 have shown a difference when reducing his grower rate by 50 lb N/ac. For reference, the soil type is silty clay loam/silt loams and his yield goal is around 240 bu/ac. These studies received partial sponsorship from the Upper Big Blue NRD. All the data is shown in charts at jenreesources.com.
In 2022, his nitrogen timing study was conducted on the same strips as in 2021. This study looked at spring vs. split application of nitrogen at 50 lb rate differences. Treatments were: Spring anhydrous of 180 lb N/ac, Spring anhydrous of 230 lb N/ac, Split 180 (120 lb N as spring anhydrous + 60 lb 32% UAN sidedress), and Split 230 (170 lb N as spring anhydrous + 60 lb as 32% UAN sidedress). The field received 35% hail damage at V5 with harvest stands reduced to around 23,000 plants/ac. Yields from the four treatments listed above respectively: 226, 229, 227, and 230 bu/ac with no yield differences amongst the treatments. In 2021, on the same strips of spring vs. split, treatments of 140 vs. 190 lb N/ac were compared. There again were no yield differences with yields ranging from 235-237 in 2021.
In 2022, he also conducted a study testing the economically optimum nitrogen rate on irrigated corn. The previous crop was soybean and this field had 25% hail damage at V6 on June 14, reducing harvest stands to an average of 23,500 plants/ac. Fall anhydrous in November 2021 was applied at rates of 0, 50, 100, 150, and 200 lb N/ac. All treatments then received a sidedress application of 50 lb N/ac as 32% UAN at V8. The sidedress was surface applied and didn’t get incorporated until a rain 10 days later. 2022 was a high mineralization year, but it’s still incredible to see that with only 50 lb N/ac, he achieved 211 bu/ac! The 100 lb N/ac received 222 bu/ac. There were no yield differences between the 150, 200, 250 lb N/ac treatments with respective yields of 231, 232, and 230 bu/ac. The economically optimal nitrogen rate was determined to be 121 lb N/ac for this field. Studies like this are interesting to show what our farmers are trying. They’re also helpful for examining and rethinking nutrient application rates and timing to our fields. If you’re interested in learning more, would encourage you to RSVP for our on-farm research update held Feb. 15 at the Holthus Convention Center in York at: RSVP: https://go.unl.edu/2023ofr.
Hamilton Co. Ag Day: Steve Melvin has put together great opportunities for the Hamilton and Merrick Co. Ag Days this year! Jan. 31 is Hamilton Co. Ag Day at Fairgrounds in Aurora with registration at 9 a.m. and program beginning at 9:30 a.m. with Corn and USDA updates. Additional morning topics include corn and soybean insect and disease updates and irrigation scheduling info. Lunch is sponsored by AKRS equipment. The afternoon is focused on a Farm/Ranch Transition Succession Workshop with Al Vyhnalek, UNL Farm succession specialist and Tom Fehringer, Attorney. I’ve heard a lot of farm succession speakers and this duo of Al and Tom is extra helpful. They are so practical and share in a way that is easily understandable and relatable. I could relate to the family stories they shared and have seen some people in tears for two main reasons: wishing they had heard the info. earlier and also grateful they had the info. now to change things for the future. Please consider attending!
2020 York County Spring Anhydrous Nitrogen Rate on Corn
This study essentially showed what the previous studies had: that less nitrogen can be applied without hurting yield or net return. 50 lb/ac N above the grower rate resulted in reduced profit. Field yields were impacted by the July 9, 2020 wind storm. This study is sponsored in part by the UBBNRD.
|Pre-Plant||In-season||lbs N/bu grain||Yield||Marginal Net Return|
|110 lb N/ac spring NH3 (March)||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||0.73 C||184 A||$599.14 A|
|160 lb N/ac spring NH3 (March)||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||0.98 B||189 A||$600.38 A|
|210 lb N/ac spring NH3 (March)||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||1.23 A||191 A||$594.88 A|
2020 Hamilton County Evaluating Nitrogen Rate and Timing on Corn
This study showed no difference in nitrogen timing nor rate on yield and showed less nitrogen can be applied without impacting yield. Yields were impacted by the July 9, 2020 windstorm. This study is sponsored in part by the UBBNRD.
|Pre-Plant||In-season||lbs N/bu grain||Yield||Marginal Net Return|
|180 lb N/ac Fall NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||1.03 B||199 A||$629.85 A|
|230 lb N/ac Fall NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||1.27 A||201 A||$625.49 A|
|180 lb N/ac Spring NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||1.02 B||201 A||$638.30 A|
|230 lb N/ac Spring NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May||1.24 A||206 A||$641.70 A|
|120 lb/ac N Spring NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May|
60 lb N/ac side-dress V8
|1.00 B||205 A||$645.69 A|
|170 lb/ac N Spring NH3||25 lb N/ac as UAN May|
60 lb N/ac side-dress V8
|1.24 A||206 A||$633.50 A|
2021 Hamilton County Spring Anhydrous N Rate Study
This study showed no reduction in yield of grower rate vs. 50 lb N/ac under the rate; however, the yield from the -50 lb rate treatment was different from the 50+ rate. There were no differences in marginal net return. This field received 20% wind damage from July 9, 2021 storm. Partially sponsored by UBBNRD.
2021 York County Spring Anhydrous N Rate Study
This study showed no yield difference between the grower rate and 50 lb N/ac over the grower rate but they yielded significantly more than the 50 lb N/ac under treatment and had greater marginal net return. This field received 20% wind damage from July 9, 2021 storm. Study partially sponsored by UBBNRD.
2021 York County Timing by N Rate Study
(Sponsored in part by UBBNRD)
Spring 140 lb/ac: 110 lb/ac N as anhydrous and 30 lb/ac N with herbicide
Spring 190 lb/ac: 160 lb/ac N as anhydrous and 30 lb/ac N with herbicide
Split 140 lb/ac: 50 lb/ac N as anhydrous, 30 lb/ac N with herbicide, and 60 lb/ac N sidedressed at V8
Split 190 lb/ac: 100 lb/ac N as anhydrous, 30 lb/ac N with herbicide, and 60 lb/ac N sidedressed at V8
2022 York County Timing by N Rate Study (same strips as 2021)
(Sponsored in part by UBBNRD)
35% hail damage on June 14, 2022 at V5
Spring 180 lb/ac: 180 lb/ac N as anhydrous
Spring 230 lb/ac: 160 lb/ac N as anhydrous and 30 lb/ac N with herbicide
Split 180 lb/ac: 120 lb/ac N as anhydrous and 60 lb/ac N sidedressed at V8
Split 230 lb/ac: 170 lb/ac N as anhydrous and 60 lb/ac N sidedressed at V8
2022 Economically Optimum Nitrogen Rate
(Sponsored in part by UBBNRD)
25% hail damage on June 14, 2022 at V6
Treatments: Fall anhydrous applied November 2021. Sidedress application of 50 lb N/ac 32% UAN at V8.
50 lb N/ac (0 lb anhydrous, 50 lb sidedress)
100 lb N/ac (50 lb anhydrous, 50 lb sidedress)
150 lb N/ac (100 lb anhydrous, 50 lb sidedress)
200 lb N/ac (150 lb anhydrous, 50 lb sidedress)
250 lb N/ac (200 lb anhydrous, 50 lb sidedress)