Reflections & Thanksgiving 2020

This article has been on my heart for several months. It’s reflections from a compilation of conversations. Honestly, it’s been a hard year at times for most, if not all people. Interweaving this with Thanksgiving, there’s perhaps a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and feelings as we approach the holiday. It may be tempting to want to skip it and perhaps be easier to complain than find gratitude or feel thankful!

The challenges with COVID, markets, livestock harvesting facilities, trade, weather impacts to crops, online schooling and virtual meetings, societal and family tensions and divisiveness, the election, and many businesses and farm operations hurting financially added much stress to 2020. (Insert a deep breath after reading all that!).

With these above-mentioned challenges come the feelings and realities experienced. I’m so blessed with individuals’ trust through conversations and the vulnerability in sharing…conversations around mental wellness, stress, family and financial struggles…

So many hurting. So many conversations involving hurt, anger, regret. Common threads have included ‘just wanting to be seen’, ‘be heard’, ‘be appreciated’, ‘be useful’.

We often don’t know what’s going on in others’ lives. If you are struggling right now, please know you’re not alone and there is ALWAYS hope and help! Please do reach out to someone. It would be wise for us all to program the following in our cell phones: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 and Rural Response Hotline: 800-464-0258.

This isn’t a direct quote but had recently read something along these lines: Why is it that we often wait till people’s funerals to share gratitude of how a person impacted us? Made me think.

For me, perhaps a blessing this year is a renewed realization of how quickly time passes and each day is not guaranteed. Been processing and praying through all this.

Who are the people who’ve positively impacted my life that I need to tell?
Who are the people in my life I tend to take for granted and don’t thank enough?
Who haven’t I connected with recently?
Who could benefit from intentional encouragement during life’s difficulties right now?

Perhaps questions others wish to consider?

We may never know how greatly a smile, kind words, a visit, a genuine ‘thank you’ can impact another person’s life, especially since we often don’t know the struggles others are experiencing. But these simple acts may just help someone in the midst of a dark or difficult time. They may also save a life.

Last November I mentioned there’s been a lot of research on gratitude. Harvard University shared, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships.

A simple way to start is to write out or send a text each day of 3-5 things for which you are grateful. If that’s hard, start with one! For example, what are the ordinary every day things we take for granted (ex. bed, food in pantry, vehicle, etc.)? I’ve found the written account helps me with remembering my blessings and is encouraging to re-read in the difficult times. And, over time, it becomes easier to find gratitude even in the things that go wrong! I’ve also found one of the best ways to help my heart when feeling down is to find a way to encourage someone else. Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v

My hope and prayer in writing this is that we seek kindness, seek connection, choose to more intentionally seek gratitude, and share with others how they’ve positively impacted our lives. Also hoping something shared here helps if you find yourself struggling today. Wishing everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Resources: For your Thanksgiving meal check out https://food.unl.edu/article/thanksgiving-central for turkey preparation, food safety questions, recipes, and health/wellness topics!

JenREES 11-16-20

Ice Storm: Last week’s ice storm caused a great deal of damage to area trees and property from tree branches and trees falling. The process of clean up continues. Some trees, such as oaks, red and silver maples still had leaves when the ice hit, adding to ice accumulation. If a tree has sustained trunk failure, been uprooted, or has 50% or more broken branches, the tree should be removed immediately. Many trees had branches that bent under the tremendous ice load. Because these limbs bent instead of broke under the load suggests they have good structural integrity. When bending occurred in the lower 1/3 of the trunk (particularly in young trees), internal cracks may have occurred creating a point of weakness in the future. Support can be provided by staking small trees while they grow and strengthen the trunk.

Corrective pruning can help with trees that lost less than 50% of their branches (and don’t have additional issues such as significant decay). The pruning should be done to balance the limbs on all sides of the tree canopy (crown). Prune broken branches to the next larger branch or to the trunk. Cut at the collar area instead of flush to the trunk to aid the tree in healing. Cut large limbs in stages. With one cut, a branch often breaks before it’s completely cut, causing damage to the tree bark. Instead, as explained by K-State, “take a cut around 15” from the trunk. Start from the bottom and cut one-third of the way up through the limb. Make the second cut from the top down but start 2 inches further away from the trunk than the first. The branch will break away as you make the second cut. The third cut, made at the collar area, removes the stub that is left.” More information can be found at this resource from K-State: https://go.unl.edu/nsu9.

York County Corn Grower Plot results can be found at: https://jenreesources.com/2020/11/06/2020-results-york-county-corn-grower-plot/. Special thanks to Ron and Brad Makovicka for hosting and to all our seed corn companies who participated!

Soybean Varieties: Seth Naeve, University of Minnesota shared that compared to lower yielding varieties, highest yielding varieties produce between 20 to 40% greater yields. Thus, variety selection is the greatest factor for impacting soybean yield. Third-party information is somewhat limited in Nebraska, and not all companies participate in third-party trials. If there’s interest around a soybean grower plot in the area (particularly someone willing to host this), please let me know. Some third-party resources include: F.I.R.S.T  Soybean Testing Program (https://www.firstseedtests.com/), and data from Universities such as Iowa State, K-State, South Dakota State, and Missouri. Seed companies also have numerous locations with data. When possible, look at how a variety performs over multiple years at multiple locations.

Consider disease history in your field and select varieties with resistance for soybean cyst nematode (SCN), sudden death syndrome (SDS), brown stem rot (BSR), Phytophthora, etc.

One 2020 soybean maturity on-farm research study in Seward Co. comparing Group 3 (left) to Group 2 (right).

There’s also been a shift to using more Group 2 soybeans in the area. Reasons include spreading out harvest, opportunity for planting cover crops for greater fall growth, and spreading risk from weather events. We now have 9 site-years worth of on-farm research studies conducted in Seward and York counties where it’s shown no yield differences between specific high-yielding Group 2 and 3 varieties when planted early (April through first week of May). Thus, the improvement in soybean genetics provides opportunity to plant shorter season varieties for our part of the State. For non-irrigated fields, heat and lack of rain in August can impact shorter and longer season varieties differently, depending on when the stress occurs and the timing of that stress. We especially saw this in 2020 with a hot, dry August. Some growers felt their shorter season varieties did better because they were nearly mature at time of stress while others felt their longer season varieties benefited from rains after Labor Day. So in selecting soybean varieties for 2021, choose higher yielding varieties with disease tolerance/resistance for the specific field, plant early and consider planting a range of maturities to increase yields, mitigate risk, and spread out harvest.

2018: The Seward 1 and York sites were irrigated. Seward 2 was non-irrigated.
2019: Seward 1 site was non-irrigated. Seward 2 and York sites were irrigated.

JenRees 11-8-20

What a beautiful week weather-wise! The winds this weekend have allowed leaves to drop from deciduous trees/shrubs. With the temperature fluxes this fall, many trees and shrubs still maintained leaves in spite of hard frosts. They hadn’t completely formed an abscission layer (cells at the attachment point where the leaf petiole meets the stem). Now that leaves are falling, it’s important to keep them mulched into lawns or raked up to avoid conditions like snow mold in lawns. Leaves are also great materials to add to vegetable and flower gardens as they can improve organic matter and act as a mulch. If added to perennial flower beds, make sure to remove the leaf material when hostas begin to leaf out in the spring. This is because slugs decomposing leaf litter also like to feed on plants such as hostas.

Residue Management: My goal in writing about residue management is to share recent research to aid in answering questions received. There’s a lot of ways that corn residue is managed: processing with the combine, various types of tillage, grazing, baling, spraying products, and cover crops (with thought of lowering Carbon:Nitrogen ratio and increase microbial populations). On a year to year basis, depending on the soil moisture and temperature, combinations of these practices may work well for individual field situations. Unintended consequences of practices include wind and water removing loose residue and/or soil from fields.

A few recent questions have included impacts of spraying various products and also about spraying nitrogen. While I know farmers have tried various products, sugar, and applied UAN to corn stalks, we didn’t have any on-farm research studies with those products for the purpose of residue decomposition, so don’t have data to share. Data is also very limited in scientific journals. If any of you considering products would be willing to test them via on-farm research, please let me know and I’d be happy to help you set that up and help with data collection.

There is a recent study from Illinois where residue management included using Calmer Bt chopper stalk rollers that sized residue into smaller pieces vs. standard stalk rollers. In addition to each mechanical control treatment for residue management, AMS or a biocatylist product were also added. The researchers found a 7% enhanced reduction of corn residue with the chopped residue vs. the standard stalk rollers (46% compared to 39% reduction) but there were no differences with the addition of AMS or the biocatylist product.  

Iowa State conducted a three year study evaluating the effects of conventional tillage, no-till, and strip-till on residue breakdown on Bt and non-Bt corn residues. They did this by placing bags of residue of Bt and non-Bt hybrids in the three different tillage systems and evaluated decomposition after 3, 6, 9, and 12 months in a corn/soy rotation. The results showed no significant difference between tillage systems or Bt and non-Bt hybrid decomposition (34-49% of residue remained in all treatments).

These researchers also studied the impact of nitrogen applications on corn residue breakdown over two years in no-till. Immediately after harvest, three N rates (UAN 32 percent) of 0, 30 and 60 lb N/acre were applied to corn residue. A specific amount of residue was placed in nylon mesh bags and left in the field for 3, 6, 9, and 12 months, after which residue decomposition was evaluated. The different rates of N resulted in no differences in rate of decomposition. In general, the longer the residue remained in the field, the more it decomposed over time, regardless of N rate. Thus the authors shared that applying N after harvest for residue decomposition was not effective nor economical as soil and air temperatures decreased over time after harvest. They shared that in general, decomposition of crop residue is primarily influenced by soil moisture (near field capacity) and temperature (above 50F) as these factors influence microbial activity.

2020 Results York County Corn Grower Plot

Thank you to our seed corn companies who participated in the 2020 York County Corn Grower Plot! Results are below.

JenRees 11-1-20 Fall Applications

It’s November 1st as I write this. With much of harvest done, the next task for some may be fall herbicide applications and/or fall anhydrous application.

Fall Anhydrous: With nutrient management, we’re hearing more about the 4R’s. 1-Right Time is after Nov. 1st in our area NRDs. Extra important, consider soil temperature. Soil microbial activity and the conversion rate of ammonium to nitrate is very low when the soil temperature is less than 50oF. Thus, apply fertilizer-N (and manure) when the soil temperature at the 4” soil depth is below 50°F and trending cooler. You can view soil temps at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/soiltemperature. 2-Right Source in the fall is anhydrous ammonia as it will bind to soil particles. Leaching risk is reduced in a dry fall and when applied at soil temperatures below 50°F. 3-Right Rate for each field is based on soil samples and various nitrogen credits. Can also consider splitting the application with part this fall and the remainder next season. 4-Right Place is making sure the anhydrous is deep enough. It’s also ensuring there’s a good seal, which will be something to watch in this dry fall.

Fall Herbicide is one management tool to control winter annual weeds and marestail (horseweed); it may not be necessary for every field. It’s important to scout fields for current weed pressure. Also consider targeting fields that have a history of winter annual weeds or marestail. Nebraska research shows up to 95% of marestail germinates in the fall, so fall application can aid management. Some winter annual weeds also serve as hosts for pathogens like soybean cyst nematode (SCN): purple deadnettle (strong host), henbit (strong host), field pennycress (moderate host), shepherd’s-purse (weak host), small-flowered bittercress (weak host), and common chickweed (weak host). SCN can reproduce in the field on henbit and purple deadnettle.

If you have a 2020 Guide for Weed, Disease and Insect Management, page 81 provides fall burndown corn herbicide options and page 127 provides soybean ones (I also show these at https://jenreesources.com/). Most products contain 2,4-D and/or dicamba. Tank-mixing a residual herbicide with a burndown product will improve marestail control because the residual activity will control marestail emerging after herbicide application. Be sure to check labels for any grazing restrictions if livestock will graze cornstalks after a fall herbicide application (You can find these on pages 200-204 of the 2020 Guide). If the label doesn’t specify and you want to be on the safe side, a rule of thumb is to use the pre-harvest interval for the amount of time to wait before grazing stalks.

Regarding temperatures, in a CropWatch article Dr. Amit Jhala and I shared the ideal temperature for applying most post-emergence herbicides is between 65°F and 85°F. Herbicides can be applied at 40°F to 60°F, but weeds may be killed slowly. When the temperature is below 40°F for an extended time after burndown, weed control will most likely be reduced, specifically for a systemic burndown herbicide such as glyphosate. Additionally, weed control may be reduced under cloudy conditions following an initial temperature drop below 40°F. With late-fall herbicide applications be sure to add labeled adjuvants to improve herbicide efficacy.

Actively growing weeds are key to achieving good control, regardless of herbicide used. Frosts of less than 25°F usually cause leaf damage to annual plants, making them poor targets for herbicide applications; however, winter annual weeds may tolerate a frost up to 20°F and continue growing when conditions improve, with little tissue damage. After weeds experience frost, active growth may not begin again for a few days. Growers should wait until new leaf tissue is produced, scout the field, and then consider applying herbicide. Generally, this would be when nighttime temperatures are 35°F or greater and daytime temperatures are at least 50°F for two consecutive days. Additionally, sunshine is needed for plants to recover.


JenREES 10-25-20

Black nightshade in wind-damaged corn fields.
Berries turn from green to black when they ripen.

Grazing Corn Residue: Have received some questions on corn residue management. Cattle grazing can be a beneficial way of residue management if one has access to cattle. Note: I’ve been seeing quite a bit of black nightshade and some horsenettle, particularly in corn fields that had wind damage. Both species have poisonous leaves (increase concentration as plants age) and berries (decrease concentration as berries ripen). Frost doesn’t change toxin levels. UNL forage specialists say when cattle graze corn fields containing nightshade species, there’s enough dilution with the grain, leaf, and husk that poisoning shouldn’t be an issue. We’d recommend watching the cattle as some may prefer grazing the nightshade. I’ve also seen cattle prefer weeds after herbicide applications, so also watch that if fall herbicides are applied. Ultimately, would just recommend don’t turn cattle empty into stalks with significant amounts of nightshade, watch cattle, and don’t graze past the point of 50% of leaf/husk removal. Dr. Jerry Volesky shares more here: https://twitter.com/jenreesources/status/1320513145941692418?s=20.

So, how does one calculate 50% leaf/husk removal and the grazing days for cattle on corn residue? The following is information from my beef Extension colleague, Brad Schick.

  • “There are 8 lbs of grazable dry matter per bushel of corn.
  • Leaf and husk make up 39.6% of the dry matter in corn residue.
  • Intake on corn residue fields will be close to 2% of bodyweight.

Having corn stalks to graze is a great resource for livestock producers. For dry cows, it is a relatively inexpensive feed that can typically meet or come very close to meeting nutritional needs. Grazing can also help get rid of corn remaining in the field and potentially reduce volunteer corn the following year. But are cattle really grazing stalks?

Yes and no. In everyday conversation, grazing corn stalks is said, but the stalk is the last thing cattle eat. Cattle do eat stalks, particularly if they are left on a field too long, but they are primarily consuming leaf, husk, and leftover corn. The stem or stalk makes up about 48.5% of the residue, while the leaf blade and husk make up 39.6%. Cattle will consume leaf and husk if available. That diet will consist of 52 to 55% TDN (total digestible nutrients) and 5 to 5.5% crude protein.

When thinking about how long to graze corn residue, the calculation to follow is that for every bushel of corn produced, there is 16 lbs of dry leaf and husk. The recommended grazing plan should be to remove 50% of the leaf and husk. This assumes that portions of the forage will also be lost to trampling, defecation, and other considerations such as wind. That leaves 8 lbs (16 lbs X 50%) of good forage on a dry matter basis that is available for consumption for every bushel of corn.

For example, say the field produced 200 bu/ac corn. By the calculations, there is 1600 lbs of dry matter per acre available (8 lbs X 200 bu = 1600 lbs). A 1000 lb animal will consume about 26 lbs of dried forage per day which means a 1300 lb animal will consume about 34 lbs per day. However, with lower quality forage such as corn residue, intake will be closer to 2% of bodyweight. In this example, that means closer to 26 lbs for the 1300 lb animal. So, how many days of grazing is that? By the calculations, there are 61 days of grazing for one cow grazing one acre (1600 lbs DM ÷ 26 lbs = 61 days). A general rule is about 30 cow days per 100 bushels/acre of corn produced.

Calves and replacement heifers can be also be a great option but will need a protein source in order to meet their growing requirements. Not only is grazing corn residue good for the cattle producer, but it is also good for the crop producer. Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have shown that grazing corn residue increases or at least maintains crop yields. (Grazing Corn Residue: A Win-Win for Crop and Cattle Producers).” More info. can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/fsa9.

JenREES 10-18-20

This week I don’t have a crop update, just grateful for how well harvest continues to progress and how many farmers have shared they finished this week or are near the finishing mark. It’s also heartwarming to see so many friends and neighbors rally around farmers in need across the country.

Picture taken from June 2020 soil sampling of 1′, 2′, 3′ depths in on-farm research nitrification inhibitor studies.

I’m also grateful to all the farmers who worked with me in on-farm research studies and plots this year! We had 20 and will share the results when the data is compiled. Six of the on-farm research studies were on nitrogen management in partnership with the UBBNRD. As harvest finishes and you turn your attention to planning for next season, one topic on your mind may be nitrogen management. There was a recent CropWatch article written with some considerations here: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2020/planning-2021-fertilizer-n-application-following-dry-2020

Are you interested in how agricultural technologies can improve nitrogen management on your farm? Nebraska Extension received a $1.2 million On-Farm Conservation Innovation grant from USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service which connects corn and wheat producers across Nebraska with access to cutting-edge technologies through on-farm research. The goal is for producers to get hands-on experience with new technologies to manage nitrogen more efficiently and evaluate how these technologies will work on their operations. Interested producers will be able to select from several project options. They include:

  • Nitrification Inhibitors for Corn
  • Crop Canopy Sensing for Corn N Management
  • Crop Model Based Tools for Corn N Management and Split-Applications
  • Crop Sensing for Wheat N Management.

Producers and consultants will work closely with Nebraska Extension to accomplish the project. Eligible producers who complete these studies will receive $1,300 for recognition of their time and resource commitments and to mitigate risk of potential yield (and therefore potential profit) loss. Cooperating producers will also be eligible to receive up to $1,200 for eligible technology costs associated with these studies.

Interested growers should contact me at jrees2@unl.edu, your local Extension Educator, or Laura Thompson, Director, Nebraska On-Farm Research Network at laura.thompson@unl.edu. Additional information regarding the project can be found at https://cropwatch.unl.edu/precision-nitrogen-management-farm-research-project.

Women Managing Ag Land Conference on Dec. 2nd from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. will offer learning opportunities for female farmland owners and tenants looking to improve their business management skills and navigate the challenges of owning and renting agricultural land. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend either in person or virtually via Zoom. The closest in-person event locations near Eastern Nebraska R&E Center near Mead and Holiday Inn at Kearney will have limited attendance and health measures will be implemented. The keynote address, “Finding Happiness in the Craziness of Life,” will be delivered by Kathy Peterson, a farmer from Storm Lake, Iowa, and founder of PeopleWorks, Inc. Additional topics include: “Improve your Ag Lease by Improving the Landlord/Tenant Relationship” by Extension Educator Allan Vyhnalek, “NextGen A Win-Win for Beginning Farmers & Asset Owners” by Karla Bahm with NDA, “Navigating Uncertainty in 2021: Nebraska Land Values & Cash Rental Rates” with Ag Economist Jim Jansen, and more!

Registration on or before Nov. 18, is $25. Registration on or after Nov. 19 is $30. Registrations for in-person locations will close Nov. 29. Lunch will be included at each in-person site. This conference is hosted by Nebraska Extension and inspired by Annie’s Project. More information and registration at: https://wia.unl.edu/WMAL.

JenREES 10-11-20

Crop Update: This has been an interesting harvest season and yet, overall good one. To be at October 11th with so much of the area crop harvested is a blessing! I’ve heard growers thankful for the good harvest conditions and ability to go anywhere in fields without fear of getting stuck. Many were grateful for good soybean yields.

As we get further into corn harvest, there’s perhaps disappointment experienced on corn yields and moisture variance. Honestly, I’m struggling to explain some of it. Part of it is the difference in rainfall that we received in various parts of counties this year. There’s non-irrigated fields receiving 180-220 bu/ac which is a blessing! Another part is the impact of the July 8th wind event in which some fields had greater greensnap while others had more leaned plants. Depending on severity, was estimating and now seeing/hearing a lot of 180-240 bu/ac irrigated corn in those fields. The UNL Hybrid Maize model was predicting average yields for irrigated in this area of the State based on weather conditions. I just thought we may see actual yields go a little higher with how long it took to reach black layer. Have seen a couple really high yields with longer season numbers harvested wet.

Corn also greatly varies in moisture. Non-irrigated fields are quickly reaching 15.5% and lower. Irrigated fields range from 15-23%; what I can’t explain is that for hybrids planted in the same time-period, some short season ones are staying wet while some longer season ones are dryer. Everyone who has shared this situation with me had applied fungicide to their fields for southern rust control. Some also fertigated. Ultimately, just sharing what I’ve seen and heard thus far.

Example using plastic zip-top bags for SCN sampling (black mark is identifier for grower/field name). This was from beginning SCN samples taken on an On-Farm Research Check vs. ILeVO vs. Saltro study in 2020.

Received some questions this week on sampling for Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN). It continues to be Nebraska’s top yield-limiting soybean disease with research showing it can cause up to 40% loss. The Nebraska Soybean Board is again sponsoring free sampling courtesy of soybean checkoff dollars. You don’t need a special bag to submit samples as a quart-sized plastic zip-top bag will suffice. If you had areas of a soybean field that yielded less than expected, particularly any areas that also showed sudden death syndrome or brown stem rot, consider taking a soil sample for SCN this fall. The female nematodes live in the top 8” of soil, thus sampling is as easy as taking your fertilizer sample for the following year’s corn crop and sending part of it in for an SCN analysis.

To collect a soil sample, use a soil probe to collect soil cores from a zig-zag pattern representing the lower yielding area of the field. For comparison, it’s wise to also take another sample from a better yielding area of a field. I’ve found that around 12 cores per sample is enough to provide around a 2 cup sample of soil that will fit in a ziplock type bag (and not have excess that needs to be dumped out). Be sure to label the bag with your contact info, field name, or other ID to report the results back to you. Also be sure to fill out a completed sample submission form requesting SCN analysis and mail the samples to the UNL Plant & Pest Diagnostic Clinic (1875 North 38th Street, 448 Plant Science Hall, Lincoln, NE 68583-0722). For those who submitted samples during the summer, campus mail is better now that the University campus is open again.

Caring for Drought-stressed trees/shrubs: With the continuing dry conditions, this is a critical time to prepare woody plants for winter and prevent winter injury, especially to evergreens. Dry fall conditions can reduce the number of leaves, blooms and fruits trees produce the next season. Trees often delay the appearance of drought-stress-sometimes months or years after the stress occurs. Even after the drought has ended, trees that experience drought stress are more susceptible to secondary attack by insect pests and disease problems, such as borers and canker diseases, which can cause tree death. When watering, moisten the soil around trees and shrubs, up to just beyond the dripline (outside edge of tree leaf/needle canopy), to a depth of 8 to 12”. Avoid overwatering; but continue to water until the ground freezes as long as dry conditions persist. 

JenREES 10-4-20

Corn observations: It seems amazing to me to be where we’re at with harvest and it’s only October 4th as I write this! Many farmers finished beans last week and started on corn. It’s a good feeling to be at this point; can also appreciate there’s been no rain and not a lot of breaks either. Please be safe!

Early morning sunlight before harvest of the York Co. Corn Grower Plot Saturday morning.

This past week was spent taking corn notes and starting to harvest corn studies. Besides harvest stand counts, I also like to look at percent stalk rot in fields. This gives an idea regarding standability and harvest priority. To do this, I use a pinch test using my thumb and first finger to pinch the elongated first or second internode above the soil line on 20 plants in an area of the field. Stalks that are compromised will “give” or “crush”. Obtain a percentage for the number of stalks that do so. Quickly doing this in five areas of the field provides a better idea of stalk health and harvest priority. Stalk quality pinch test video at: https://youtu.be/7z75VN1c51Q. So far, much of the corn is standing well. I’m mostly finding compromised stalks on plants that had premature ear droop. It will be especially important to assess stalk rot for fields that had high southern rust pressure and weren’t sprayed with a fungicide.

Another observation is some weakened ear shanks, although I can’t say this is a problem yet or even widespread. Weakened shanks makes sense on ears that prematurely drooped as that ear shank collapsed. Things we know cause weakened ear shanks and ear drop include stresses like high heat and/or moisture stress around pollination, large ears after this type of stress due to long grain fill, fungal disease like Fusarium infecting the shank, and to an extent, genetics (regarding shank diameter size). As we think of this year, we had the July 8th wind storm shortly before tassel which caused additional stress on plants. Corn also had a long fill period creating larger ears. So again, not saying this is a problem, just something to watch.

Stress cracks and broken kernels are another thing to watch for and seek to minimize. We know this can occur during the grain drying process in the bin when high moisture corn is dried with high heat followed by rapid cooling. In one conversation this week, a farm family was wondering if there were conditions that led to more stress cracks to corn in the field this year. I really don’t know. Found one publication that said internal, invisible stress cracks can also occur during kernel fill as a result of high temperatures and/or high moisture. However, the focus of the publication was viewing cracks with other types of imagery instead of the physiology, so I don’t have more to share on that. Broken kernels can also occur with harvesting higher moisture corn (above 20%), particularly with too high of rotor speed. A handful of guys have mentioned seeing broken kernels as they’ve been harvesting above 20% and shared the combine adjustments they’ve made to minimize them, so thought it may be something to mention. Combine setup is not my expertise but with a quick search, there’s a number of YouTube videos and websites regarding reducing broken kernels that may be helpful.

Corn Drydown Calculator: If you’ve never seen it or used it before, Iowa State University has a neat tool that estimates corn drydown in the field based on weather forecast for a particular area. It’s called the corn drydown calculator and you can find it at: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/facts/corn-drydown-calculator.

Land Leasing for Solar Development Oct. 9th: Just a reminder of this virtual seminar to be held October 9th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can register at https://go.unl.edu/solarleasing. This seminar is open to the public. Farmers, landowners, and their families in areas with potential solar development have much to consider and should consider attending. This webinar will give an overview of solar development and touch on major issues to consider when negotiating a solar lease agreement. More info. on this topic at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2020/considerations-leasing-land-solar-development.


Video from 2018 that shares how to do the pinch test for determining stalk rot.

JenREES 9-27-20

Taking out the last soybean on-farm research study on soybean maturities. Love this time of year!

Bean harvest was rolling this week. Hearing non-irrigated beans in the area ranging from 40-60 bu/ac and irrigated beans going 70-90+. Regarding solar radiation and some wondering about smoke impact on drydown, I ran data from 9/1/20 though 9/26/20 for Harvard and York weather stations. Then looked at long term average for this same September time-frame from 1996-2020. Both stations showed slightly higher solar radiation in 2020 compared to the long-term average for September (York: 379 and 372 langleys respectively) (Harvard: 383 and 376 langleys respectively). And, it was higher yet for 2020 when I queried Sept. 10-26 for same time periods. So, unsure solar radiation was the factor impacting drydown for this part of the State?

Small Grains and Weed Control: Been watching weed control particularly in soybean fields. For future columns/winter programs, I’d like to hear from you. What weed control approaches have worked in your soybean and corn fields? I’m curious about all systems and all types of weed control options. Please share at jrees2@unl.edu or give me a call at the Extension Office. Thanks!

In the past, I’ve shared weed control begins at harvest by not combining patches of weeds or endrows full of weeds. I realize that’s difficult to do, and for many fields, we’re past this point. From a system’s perspective, another option to aid weed control is to plant a small grain such as wheat, rye or triticale this fall. We had a whole edition of CropWatch devoted to wheat production here: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2020/september-4-2020. Wheat provides an option for both grazing and grain. Rye provides the best option for earliest green-up/growth in the spring and longest seeding time as it can be seeded into December. Triticale provides the most biomass but produces the latest into late May/early June. All keep the ground covered from light interception penetrating the soil surface which allows weed seeds to germinate. While I’ve observed this in farmers’ fields, there’s also recent research from K-State that supports the impact of a small grain in rotation for weed control.

One study looked at marestail (horseweed) and palmer amaranth control from 2014-2015 in no-till soybeans at six locations in eastern Kansas. They also found the majority of marestail emerged in the fall (research from UNL showed up to 95% does). They compared five cover crop treatments including: no cover; fall-sown winter wheat; spring-sown oat; pea; and mixture of oat and pea. Cover crops were terminated in May with glyphosate and 2,4-D alone or with residual herbicides of flumioxazin + pyroxasulfone (Fierce). Ten weeks post-termination, palmer amaranth biomass was 98% less in winter wheat and 91% less in spring oat compared to no cover crop.

Another study in Manhattan from 2015-2016 compared fall-seeded rye; a residual tank-mix of glyphosate, dicamba, chlorimuron-ethyl, tribenuron-methyl, and AMS; and no fall application. Four spring treatments included no spring application or three herbicide tank mixes: glyphosate, dicamba, and AMS alone or with flumioxazin + pyroxasulfone (Fierce) as early preplant, or as split applied with 2/3 preplant and 1/3 at soybean planting. They found the fall rye completely suppressed marestail while fall herbicide suppressed biomass by 93% and density by 86% compared to no fall application. They also found rye to reduce total weed biomass (including palmer amaranth) by 97% or more across all spring applications. In both studies, soybean yields were best with the combination of cover crop + herbicides or the combination of fall + spring herbicides compared to no cover and no herbicides.

The way I think about this for conventional systems is that the use of a small grain in the system reduces the pressure on the chemicals for having to provide all the control. It also buys some time for chemical control, perhaps even removing one application (based on these studies, small grain delayed at least a month till 50% palmer germination). Economically, while there’s the expense of seeding and purchasing the small grain seed, what are the other economics to consider? What could the small grain provide by reducing an additional chemical application, adding a forage crop after harvest, selling seed (if there’s a market), selling straw (depending on location for moisture savings & ability to get a cover back in for weed control), etc.? Just some considerations this fall looking at weed control by adding a small grain.

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