Drought discussions: Grateful for any rain that anyone received! It’s amazing how even a small amount of rain can lift moods. Drought isn’t a fun topic but sharing questions I’ve received the past few weeks.
I think part of the reason why irrigated ground in general also greatly lacks subsoil moisture is because we irrigated far later into the season than typical with the replant crops in addition to not getting precipitation for recharge. Our silt-loam soils can hold at least 2.2”/foot of moisture with around half of that (1.1”) readily available to the plants. Soil moisture sensors or probing fields can give you an idea what’s even available in the soil profile and provide the reality of how much we really need to recharge the profile at this point. Also, various colorations of yellow/purple/blue/gray corn are all indications of drought stress based on how long they continue to roll leaves or are struggling to transport water and nutrients. Some hybrids have more of a purpling tendency upon stress due to their genetics.
Drought stress during V5-V8 corn can impact rows around on the developing ear. Hard, dry surface ground can also impact brace root development. In soybeans, stress right now makes the plants shorter and roots deeper. Iowa State showed a chart that when corn is drought stressed for four consecutive days from V1-V12, an estimated yield reduction of 1-3% per day is possible.
I think the discussion more than yield right now is how long/if these non-irrigated crops will survive. Some are hoping they can survive long enough to obtain any type of forage. If we don’t get rain, things are looking pretty bleak past potentially next week.
So what to do? For those with poor stands I’ve been advising to wait and see if we get rains by the federal crop deadlines. I’ve been asked by some if crop insurance will require replanting poor stands. In talking this through with someone in crop insurance, it sounds like they’re also recommending people to wait for now and replant won’t be required if we don’t get rains, because we have no surface moisture to germinate anything. He said they have allowed for replant in parts of the state that had some good recent rains but it’s really a case by case basis with as spotty as the rains have been. Many are concerned about weed control going forward, especially after our palmer problem last year. Without rain, we can’t activate chemical on these non-irrigated fields, so I don’t have good answers right now. We’ll have to see what happens.
Thinking about POST- herbicides and weed control, I’m late in sharing this but had several conversations the past 10 days. Most with non-irrigated fields weren’t throwing the whole load out there but instead some type of contact herbicide to burn down weeds present and wait and see what happened with rain. This was due to concerns over not having rain to activate residual, keeping options open if the current crop is destroyed and a forage crop could be planted later in the year, and concern over small, stressed corn/soy having to deal with a large chem load. We recommend residual products receive at least 0.5-0.75” within 5-7 days of application to activate them. Sometimes we can still get some activation with certain products up to 14 days after application, but from what I’ve heard from chem reps and weed scientists, that’s the max we can hope for.
Re-sharing this webinar on drought assistance: https://go.unl.edu/r24y. I also added a key graphic to my blog that shows when the livestock forage disaster program kicks in. It’s based on the drought monitor and it’s all triggered by county, not where the “line” is drawn in counties between drought designations. Most of the counties in this area of the State have now triggered D4 so the program kicks in for a 4 month payment factor. When a county is in D4 for 4 weeks, the payment factor increases to 5 months. There are several programs within USDA drought assistance including helping with feed and water transportation costs and for those who’ve had to sell off livestock. The webinar does a good job going through the programs and answering questions. You can also contact your local Farm Service Agency office with questions.
Final thoughts, in spite of how weary people are of irrigating and the craziness of having to lay pipe just to get plants going, I think most still feel blessed if they have irrigation. The corn in irrigated fields changed from the ‘ugly duckling’ stage to the pretty green stage this week and corn likes the day/night temps we’ve had. We will keep praying for rain and it will come in time!
This time of year, when flags start lining the streets in towns, it’s always such a beautiful site to me. I also like visiting different cemeteries to see the veteran’s memorials and the flag displays. On Sunday, the way the large number of flags were unfurled in the wind at the cemetery in Utica was breathtaking…to the point on HWY 34, the two cars in front of me and I all hit our brakes and drove by slowly to take it in. Scenes like that or a beautiful rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ will always get me. I’m so grateful God allowed me to be an American; I don’t know why He allowed the life I’ve had vs. others in the world, but I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the service members throughout history and to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so our Country could remain free. I’m grateful to their families for the sacrifices made, especially those left behind. In spite of everything going on in our Country and the world, and in spite of how differently people view freedom, we still are so blessed to live in this Country! So this Memorial Day, as we spend time with family and friends, as we remember and honor loved ones who have gone before us, may we also remember and be grateful for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, those families left behind, and may we keep praying for our Country and leaders, military members and their families.
Drought: One thing I was grateful for this week was, in general, the lack of high winds and high heat with as dry as it’s been. Heat and wind would make this situation even more difficult. I was also grateful the Drought Monitor acknowledged we needed to be moved into D4 and expanded the D3 area. These designations are important, particularly on the forage and livestock disaster assistance and insurance side. There’s many conversations that occur behind the scenes each week. Whenever I feel we can get a designation that better reflects our situation, I’m grateful. Special thank you to those who share info. on what you’re receiving for yields on alfalfa cuttings, pond, and pasture situations. Your input greatly helps me put together a better picture for those making decisions to consider. I share what I’m seeing but having specific info. from producers to share always helps. Others are welcome to share with me as well if you’d like!
USDA FSA with Nebraska Extension held a drought assistance programs webinar earlier this month. If you missed it and wanted to learn more, you can watch the recording here: https://go.unl.edu/r24y.
Regarding releasing of wheat for forage, several were also concerned about the potential for high nitrates. What Dr. Mary Drewnoski has observed through her research, demonstrations, and what we’ve seen with producer situations, is that yes, forages often test high in nitrates, but these immature small grains are also high in quality. She has found high quality and high energy help to off-set high nitrate danger. The following NebGuide walks through nitrate situations and considerations: https://go.unl.edu/bjdf.
Several also had conversations with me about pasture turnout. Some are turning out now/shortly with the goal of getting cattle off by mid to late-June. Others are hoping to graze/feed wheat or alfalfa first and then turn cattle out to pasture in June. Regardless, with short pastures, we need to think about pasture management too, even if we do get some rain. And, with pasture management comes thinking about potentially altering pasture leases.
Insects in Crops: Link to article on scouting emerging corn for insects: https://go.unl.edu/pg2c and light trap data for stations throughout the State: https://entomology.unl.edu/fldcrops/lightrap
Birch and other established trees: Trees that prefer moist soils, like some river birches, have branches that died down from the top. Sometimes only half the tree is leafed out. Young birch trees may be forgiving and recover if the dead is pruned out. As we think about established trees (birch or other species), lawn irrigation can be enough for established trees in our area in ‘average’ rainfall years. But with the drought stress, consider using soaker hoses and bark or wood chip mulches to help keep the root zones of trees cool and moist. When watering, moisten the soil 8 to 10 inches deep for trees (push a screwdriver in the ground to determine depth of moisture). Don’t overwater! Only apply 2-4” deep of bark mulch around trees and avoid placing mulch next to the tree trunk as that can create rotting of the trunk. Also don’t fertilize stressed trees.
Sharing on questions received last week. Also, FYI, Drought Monitor put us into D3 last week.
Alfalfa Weevils: Please be checking your alfalfa for alfalfa weevils. If you’re noticing the tops of plants looking brown, look for holes in the leaves. Larvae are green with a dark head and white stripe down the back. They can often be found near the soil during the day. As we continue to get close to first cutting, it’s probably wiser to cut first, then watch green up (after baling) for the need to treat. First cutting may be shorter and earlier due to drought. Highly effective insecticides for alfalfa weevil control include those that are pyrethroids (active ingredient ends in “thrin”, such as Permethrin) and products containing indoxacarb (e.g., Steward). If you spray prior to harvest, check pre-harvest interval (often 7-14 days).
Miller Moths: The majority of calls on these have come from the Lawrence/Blue Hill/Guide Rock area, but they are in the entire area I’m serving. Miller moths are the adult of the army cutworm that was feeding in small grain and alfalfa fields this spring. They have a variety of spots, wavy lines, and colorings on their wings. Entomologists say they won’t be doing damage to our crops as the adults will migrate to the west. On the way, they feed on nectar from flowering trees, shrubs, plants. They’re also attracted to lights. To help reduce them entering into homes, keep porch lights off or use yellow colored light bulbs to reduce how many enter homes at night. Once they’re in homes, they don’t cause harm (don’t eat clothes or anything). Insecticides are not recommended. Their droppings can cause stains; clean with soapy water and/or cleaning solutions. This article shares more info: https://go.unl.edu/08cx.
Wheat for Grain or Forage: This decision perhaps needed to be made last week for grazing prior to heading; sharing in case you’re still considering this. Ultimately, one needs to talk with crop insurance. There’s fields of non-irrigated wheat that may make less than 20 bu/ac right now in the area I serve. The yield equation will sometimes put areas of fields at 35 bu/ac in how it’s calculated, but I don’t see how it will make more than 16-17 bu/ac. Wheat will continue to expand on the main stem making it taller once it gets to full heading (and variety makes a difference in this). Seeing wheat in boot to beginning heading from 6-20” tall. For those needing forage, a thought is using wheat for forage can help in delaying cattle turnout into short pastures. One thing Aaron Berger, Beef Extension Educator, recommended in this article (https://go.unl.edu/7ntu) was to consider windrow grazing the wheat to preserve the quality. I know it’s short for harvesting, so that may not seem like the best option, especially for those in terraces, but it does make sense to try to stop the heads from getting beyond this early green and softer stage. He said cattle can still eat the wheat awns (beards) when they’re soft and green in early heading without it being a problem. Wheatlage or haying could also be options if you preferred. One could then consider getting a summer annual forage in these fields. Still need moisture for growing them.
Summer Annual Forage Options: Around ten people shared they were planting non-irrigated fields to annual forages instead cash crops. There’s different types of millets, sorghum-sudan, or sudangrass varieties depending on one’s goals. Sudangrass and pearl millet are great options for grazing. Sorghum-sudan hybrids or pearl millet are great for hay or green chopping as they can be cut several times and yield well. Forage sorghums with high grain production are the best choice for chopping silage. Feel free to call to talk through this. Additional resources here: https://go.unl.edu/ug7a.
Irrigation: Not going to provide blanket recommendations other than to recommend getting soil moisture sensors installed so you know where soil moisture is at in your fields.
Lawns: Reminder to keep mowing lawns 3” tall as that helps the plants have deeper roots and be more drought resilient. Seeing lots of short lawns and water stress is really showing up now.
Wildlife: Lots of wildlife calls this year! Check out this resource for info. on raccoons, opossums, snakes, moles, ground squirrels, mice, etc.: https://wildlife.unl.edu/. Some info. (ex. snakes in homes) should have a warning on it-so consider this your warning if you really don’t need to know!
Dry Conditions: Grateful with those in the State who received rain last week! And, continuing to pray that we all might receive rain. It will come again in time. I’ve had a lot of conversations about drought with people this year. Many think back to 2012 as the great drought year, which it was that summer-winter. But actually, I don’t remember a year where in taking soil samples I’m not seeing subsoil moisture past 15-20” deep, even in irrigated fields. That may not be the case in every field, but it’s what I’ve been finding commonly this spring in this area of the State. It’s concerning.
We went into 2012 with subsoil moisture in this part of the State, and I remember the dry surface conditions led to good planting weather and the spring-flowering plants were early. The Spring of 2013 lacked a full soil profile compared to the Spring of 2012 (similar to Spring 2023 to 2022). To visualize this, I pulled up images from the Drought Monitor. The May 15, 2012 map showed only 5.2% of the State was in D1-D4 drought (and technically, nothing was over D1, which is considered ‘moderate drought’). In contrast, one year later, the May 14, 2013 map showed 96.9% of the State was in D1-D4 drought. I also pulled up the May 9, 2023 drought monitor map. It shows 98.99%…so essentially 99% of the State is in D1-D4 drought. The 2013 map technically shows the drought was worse this time of year for the majority of the State, particularly western NE. 2023 shows the eastern part of NE suffering more than it did in 2013.
Ammonia Burn: The dry conditions are leading to some ammonia burn to corn seedlings. Cold and dry conditions, both of which we’ve had this year, can lead to the ammonia burning the radicle (first root emerging from the corn seed), other roots (leading to a ‘stubby root’ appearance), in addition to sometimes causing damage to the coleoptile (first true leaf). Emerged plants can look stunted and wilted in appearance. We were anticipating this could be a problem this year, particularly if at least 2″ of precipitation (we may have needed more than that) wasn’t received from time of application to seed germination.
Ammonia impacts up to a 4” radius in the soil from where it was injected; it can expand beyond this into a more vertical or horizontal oval shape depending on soil texture, moisture, and how well the band sealed. Thus, in a dry year like this, ammonia placed at 4” deep and below the seed zone can impact seedling germination and emergence. Ammonia placed deeper (6-8″) often doesn’t impact seedling germination and emergence unless there wasn’t a good seal or soil conditions change allowing ammonia to move back up the knife track. For example, if the soil dries after application allowing the knife track to open as it dries, ammonia can move towards the soil surface allowing for seedling injury in spite of the deeper application. One can also see ammonia burn later (V2-V5) from ammonia placed deeper if the conditions remain dry as roots hit the application zone and the ammonia hasn’t converted to nitrate. As much as it stinks, for those experiencing ammonia burn in fields, the only thing we can recommend is to irrigate and evaluate plant stands. For non-irrigated situations, some talked about applying anhydrous at an angle or to the side of the corn row to help reduce the number of plants that may experience ammonia burn, so hopefully that has helped.
John Sawyer from Iowa State University cited an Illinois study that shared the concentration of ammonia, “The highest concentration of ammonia is at/near the point of injection, with a tapering of the concentration toward the outer edge of the retention zone. Usually the greatest ammonia concentration is within the first inch or two of the injection point, with the overall retention zone being up to 3-4 inches in radius (as an example, with 120 lb N/acre applied early April at Urbana IL, the ammonium-N concentration in mid-May was at approximately 700 ppm at 0-1 inch, 300 ppm at 1-2 inch, and 25 ppm at 2-3 inch from the injection point).”
Evergreen Trees and bushes: Evergreen trees (especially white pine, arborvitae, junipers) and bushes (like boxwoods, Japanese Yew) continued to respire (lose moisture) all winter. May-June is the time we start seeing browning due to winter desiccation. While they look bad, wait to prune out brown/dead material till at least late May-June. As I showed a homeowner this week, a number of buds may still be developing on these brown stems and it’s best to see what will recover first.
Livestock Custom Rates: Many use the crop custom rates from UNL that are published every two years. The Ag Econ group is putting together a Livestock Custom Rates. If you’re willing to help them with this, please go to this link: cap.unl.edu/customrates/livestock.
It’s been a great week of planting weather regarding warmer days and soil temps! There were even a couple beautiful calm days! Thanks to those of you who filled out my quick survey last week. The results of 36 respondents showed in 2023: 17 planted corn first, 8 planted soybean first, 5 planted corn and soybean at the same time, and 6 hadn’t planted yet. So, the survey did informally show that 13 of the 36 people who responded plant soybeans earlier or at the same time as corn. The CropWatch article I was mentioning was released last Friday if you’re curious regarding the data behind some of the key points I stated last week: https://go.unl.edu/gqt3.
For this week’s article, will share answers to a number of questions I’ve received the past few weeks.
Pesticide cards: This has been my daily top question as producers are needing certification to purchase and pick up restricted use pesticides. For those who attended ANY in-person or online Extension training, you must pay the $25 fee to NDA that comes as a bill in the form of a postcard in order to receive your license. If you didn’t receive a postcard or misplaced it, the quickest way to pay the $25 fee via credit card is to call NDA at (402) 471-2351. This number gets you to the switchboard. Say that you need to pay your $25 fee to get your license and they will connect you with the NDA plant protection office. You will need to say your name, address, birth date, when you took the training and where, and may need to confirm your applicator number (unless you are new). You will then get your card and be listed in the ‘certified’ database that anyone can look up.
For those calling who still needing training, your only option is the online training and please read the directions mentioned once you register at this site: https://go.unl.edu/4tzw. There’s a test out option where you can take the test before going through any modules. If you pass, you’re done and NDA will send you your postcard bill. If you don’t pass, it will then let you take the modules and retest as many times as needed. Please call the UNL pesticide office with questions: 800-627-7216.
Drought Assistance Webinar: If you missed it, here’s the USDA Drought Assistance Webinar recording for Nebraska: https://go.unl.edu/ba8f.
- Fertilizers for Vegetables in Home Gardens (most garden soil tests I’ve seen in this part of State show minimal need for fertilizer!): https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g945.pdf
- Simplifying Soil Test Interpretations for Turf (Here’s a great NebGuide resource that’s very visual and shares Nebraska recommendations): https://turf.unl.edu/NebGuides/g2265.pdf.
- With soil temps over 50F for several days and this week’s temps continuing to be warm, for those who’ve asked, it’s time to get crabgrass preventer on lawns.
For those who planted new or overseeded Kentucky bluegrass or tall fescue grass this spring, I’m getting questions about what to do to prevent crabgrass. There is a product from Scotts called “Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Built for Seeding” (blue bag) that’s supposed to be safe. It contains fertilizer and herbicide claiming to prevent crabgrass and dandelions for up to 6 weeks. Not an endorsement, just sharing an option. I hadn’t chosen to use it in past years because I knew the lawn would look interesting with white patches in the green, but decided to try it this year so I could see how well it worked for future questions. It contains mesotrione (a herbicide that is a pigment inhibitor, so it will turn your newly emerged weeds white). It gets reactivated with water. My lawn doesn’t have an irrigation system and gets watered sporadically, so I’m unsure if it would look better or worse with irrigation. So far, the dandelions are turning white and my lawn is thickening up. A person may need another crabgrass preventer product after 6 weeks, depending on how the lawn thickens, to catch the late flush that often appears.
Corn and Soybean Planting Periods: The flowers/trees have been beautiful in the midst of a cool, dry, windy spring. I’ve been thinking about planting windows a lot. Appreciate all who have communicated thoughts on planting. From these conversations, I feel there’s been a shift in thinking, at least for this part of the state, with more paying attention to cold snap windows. Also been a shift to planting soybeans earlier or at the same time as corn. But to show whether that’s true or not, can you please help me with a quick one question visual survey on planting: https://app.sli.do/event/eV5gr4ioSZiSQKabEwRheB? It’s not letting me embed it, so you’ll have to click the link.
From what I’m hearing, planting progress ranges. Some are completely done, some are done with one crop or the other; many will finish this week. Others (mostly non-irrigated) are just starting this week. Some are concerned about May planting and yield loss. The rest of this info. mostly pertains to corn with encouragement that data has shown corn yields not to drop off till after mid-May planting dates. The article links provide the hard data.
Dr. Jim Specht, Professor Emeritus of UNL Agronomy and Horticulture, put together an article we will hopefully release in CropWatch this week. He was using NASS Nebraska Corn and Soybean 50% planting progress in comparison with NASS reported yields. Two key findings based on 43 years of data are:
- Delays in the Nebraska corn 50% progress date that occur within the May 2 – 12 planting period do not have an appreciable impact on resultant corn yield.
- The Nebraska soybean 50% progress date has advanced by eight days from a 43-year mean of May 22 to an expected May 14 date for the 2023 season.
Dr. Roger Elmore, also an Emeritus Professor of UNL Agronomy and Horticulture, had shared a similar sentiment in a 2019 CropWatch article where he shared about planting windows for corn using UNL research and NASS data. He shared, “A planting window exists within which (corn) yields do not vary tremendously. That window starts to close after mid-May. Many factors in addition to planting date influence final yields. There is always a chance that late-planted corn may out-yield early-planted corn.” Dr. Bob Nielsen, Emeritus professor at Purdue University shares similar key points for corn in an article, “Early planting favors higher yields, but does not guarantee higher (corn) yields. Statewide averages for planting progress and yield are not strongly related. Planting date is but one of many yield influencing factors.”
Alfalfa Weevils: I haven’t checked alfalfa fields yet, but had been watching comments down in Kansas. Alfalfa weevil larvae had hatched in southern Nebraska and also at the research station near Mead. In spite of planting, be sure to monitor alfalfa fields.
Dr. Bob Wright, Extension entomologist, and colleagues share the following in a recent CropWatch article. “The larvae of alfalfa weevils feed on first cutting alfalfa as larvae, and adults (and sometimes larvae) feed on the regrowth after the first cutting. In the Panhandle and in the northern tier of counties, there may be two flushes of weevil larvae this spring, leading to regrowth damage after the first cutting. Observations indicate the cause may be due to significant survival of both adult and larval weevils.”
It basically takes 1-2 alfalfa weevil larvae per stem to reach the economic threshold with today’s alfalfa prices. Take 10 stems from an area of the field, cut at ground level and hit them on the inside of a bucket. Count the number of weevil larvae present (also make sure to unfurl the bud leaves as some stay trapped in there). Depending on how close you are to harvest, one can choose to not treat and just harvest the alfalfa field while watching the green up for potential need to treat then, or treat prior to taking first cutting if harvest is still a ways off and economic thresholds are met. Insecticides for alfalfa weevil control include those that are pyrethroids (active ingredient ends in “thrin”) and products containing indoxacarb (e.g., Steward).
Extension Stories: Snakes
For Fun: Two weeks ago, during the period of warm temps, every field and farm visit included me seeing a snake. I don’t like snakes! But I think the biggest reason I don’t like them is because they often take me off-guard. I can recount several times walking wheat fields and/or pastures to feel something soft under foot, look down to find a bull snake, and high tail it out of there, often with at least one scream, regardless if the farmer was present or not!
And, being in Extension, identifying snakes has been part of the job, albeit not one I enjoy, nor one that’s my expertise. My rule is that they are not brought into the office alive-they can stay captured alive outside of the building (I’d prefer pictures though). The reason for this rule is, like with most careers, stories are passed down from those who preceded us. There’s many but here’s a few. One story involved a situation where a snake brought in for ID got loose in the Extension office. Another was when ‘Corny the corn snake’, used for youth Earth Festivals, got loose in a county vehicle…or so the educator thought that was the case but couldn’t find it. Unfortunately, the office manager found it when she drove the vehicle next!
Years ago during a dry period, I was driving and a farmer was in the passenger seat directing me to the next field. Suddenly, he grabbed the steering wheel and swerved shouting, “Don’t hit it! That’s the 5th one I’ve seen today!” It was a snake. It lived. My heart was racing as I regained control of my truck and got it stopped. There’s a number of old wives’ tales I’ve heard throughout the years, and I don’t dismiss them; I’m mostly just intrigued as I do value people’s observations. The one he told me that day was if you see 7 snakes in a day it will rain. I’ve heard a number of variations of this.
Back to the story of two weeks ago, it didn’t rain that week. Then I started getting questions followed by a handful of comments about how many snakes people were seeing. Another thing we are taught in Extension is if the same question occurs twice, there’s a good chance more people have the same question. When the same question about snake numbers happened the same day, I checked with our Extension wildlife specialist, Dennis Ferraro, who is a herpetologist (snake expert). You may have seen him on “Backyard Farmer“.
His answer, “I can assure you snake numbers are average or a bit in decline across the entire state (30 years of data). I’ve been out over 8 times this year and data is on track. Since we had more than average very warm days early … emergence is occurring in groups rather than gradually. People usually forget that snakes “group up” / aggregate to mate in early spring; plus since it is spotty at any one location every year people are not in the location at the “right” time. Amphibians are what I’m worried about … lack of vernal water is showing great decline.”
So, for those of you also wondering, there you have it! It’s still hard for me to believe due to the number I’ve seen this year and the sheer number of comments and questions I’ve received. If they continue, I will ask him to take more data points from this area of the State!
Cold and Fruit Buds: I know some have used sprinklers to keep fruit tree buds from freezing when frosts have occurred. That’s not always an option. Kelly Feehan shares additional insight about cold temps and fruit tree bud injury. “Recent cold temperatures have some wondering if fruit tree buds were injured. The stage of flower bud development when cold temperatures occur determines injury level. Fully dormant flower buds tolerate very cold temperatures. When damaged, it’s usually because warm winter or spring temperatures caused flower buds to lose dormancy. For example, if apple flower buds break dormancy but show no color, 10 percent are killed by 15°F. and 90 percent by 2°. If apple flower buds show a bit of green color, 10 percent are killed by 18° and 90 percent by 10°. On flower buds showing any pink color, 10 percent are killed by 28° and 90 percent by 24°. With above average temperatures this spring, followed by some cold nights, the likelihood of damage is present. The entire fruit crop may not be lost, just a portion which could be beneficial in limiting overproduction that leads to alternate year bearing.”
The April 12, 2023 Nebraska Drought Monitor shows 98% of Nebraska in moderate to exceptional drought (D1-D4). We will keep praying rain; it will rain again one day! There’s truly concern about the dry conditions due to lack of subsoil moisture. Those planting last week shared how conditions were changing with the winds making surface soil hard. A few colleagues and I put together the following info. about planting into dry conditions in CropWatch that I will share this week.
I didn’t talk about planting deeper last week, but for those asking, Bob Nielsen, emeritus professor at Purdue said corn can be seeded 2.5-3” deep if that’s where uniform soil moisture is located in order to achieve uniform germination and emergence. We don’t recommend planting soybean deeper than 2.5”.
In general, we would only suggest watering before planting if the planter needs higher soil moisture levels to work well. So, if the soil is too hard, too powdery or cloddy, it may be worth running the pivot. Another situation to consider pre-watering is if greater than 180 lb/ac anhydrous ammonia was applied in a strip with less than two inches of moisture received since application to help reduce ammonia burn to the corn. Otherwise, our recommendation is to run the pivot after you plant if needed.
The usual recommendation is not to run a pivot when temperatures are below 40 degrees. Last year, several pivots were operated below 40 degrees without problem, but keep in mind with low dewpoints the pivot can ice up when the actual air temperature is well above 32. So, if you do choose to run in these conditions, keep a close eye out for ice buildup, which can collapse the pivot.
Bare, powdery soils will seal over very easily from rain or irrigation, so keep an eye out for runoff problems even with fairly low application amounts. And make sure if you do irrigate that you put on enough to get water down to the moist soil below. This is particularly a problem with tillage or where fertilizer knives have been used and dried the soil out.
It’s important that herbicides are activated with 0.5- to 0.75-inch of rainfall or irrigation, preferentially within five to seven days after herbicide application. If moisture received is less than this amount, some herbicide products have the potential to remain on the soil for up to 14 days without being fully activated. We will have to see how the high winds blowing soil and removing soil particles containing herbicide impact future weed control.
For those who applied dry or liquid urea on the soil surface, particularly without the use of an inhibitor, irrigation of 0.5-inch can help with incorporating the urea into the soil and minimize urea loss. If irrigation is not available, an inhibitor was not used and no rainfall has been received within seven days, monitor the corn crop to determine if nitrogen deficiency occurs due to nitrogen loss.
John Mick, Pioneer agronomist, shared last year that water from irrigation wells in the southern part of the state often is around 50-53°F, with it slightly less in temperature as one moves north in the state. These temperatures are not a problem to be concerned with regarding any negative impacts to seeds imbibing water.
Lawns: For those struggling with lawn winterkill, Kelly Feehan shares, “Some lawns may come out of winter with dead areas in need of reseeding. While early September is the ideal time to seed Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, spring seeding success can be improved by seeding as soon as possible so seedlings establish roots before summers’ heat. Improve seed to soil contact by aerifying, power raking, and/or hand raking right before seeding. After seeding, a light raking will further mix the seed and soil. Water lightly and often to keep the seedbed moist. Mulch will help conserve water, but use lightly so at least 30 to 40% of soil is still visible through the mulch. Use low rates of fertilizer, about one-half to three-fourths pounds per 1000 square feet, applied every four to six weeks until mid-June; and keep the area well-watered all summer while avoiding overwatering which can lead to poor rooting and disease.” Also avoid crabgrass preventer to newly seeded areas.
Evaluating Wheat Stands handout by Nathan Mueller: https://croptechcafe.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Evaluating-Winter-Wheat-Stands.pdf
Each year is another opportunity to learn. The forecasted warmer temps for the coming week have many excited to be in the field. It feels so early for planting, yet I can appreciate the general warming trend for several days. My concern is when the low temps get back into the 30’s again. Seeking advice from multiple sources can be wise. It’s important to know your level of risk, crop insurance and replant options. It’s important to make wise decisions with the factors we can control during planting season as planting sets the stage for the rest of the year. So, some considerations:
1-Make sure your soil conditions are fit for planting. This can include the soil not being too wet to create sidewall compaction and getting the seed vee closed. I think the greater thing some will deal with is making sure there’s moisture where the seed is placed.
2-Along with the soil being fit is ensuring we’re getting the proper planting depth. With some moisture this winter, it appears we got more freeze/thaw action than last winter and the soil is more mellow. But that may not be true for all areas/fields. I recommend putting corn and soybeans in the ground at 2”. That may seem deep for beans but our UNL research found 1.75” seeding depth provided the highest yield for soybean. Proper seeding depth for corn is important for nodal root establishment. Proper seeding depth for soybean helps keep that seed in buffered soil moisture and temperature when planted early. It also aids that seedling from emerging too early. And, when planting, no matter what monitors say for seeding depth, I still recommend getting out and digging to make sure.
3-Another consideration is soil temp. Agronomically we’ve come a long way with genetics and seed treatments. Because of this, some don’t worry about soil temps. Yet every year I think most agronomists would say we can trace various problems back to a specific planting date(s) or planting window. So, I still feel they’re an important consideration.
I prefer removing one more stress off corn by putting it in the ground when soil temps will stay over 50F for 5-7 days, but realize that’s not always doable. And while we do share that early planting dates are the best way to increase soybean yield beyond genetics, our UNL and on-farm research for early vs. late planted soybeans was conducted with April planting dates of April 22 and later.
The consideration is for soil temps in the mid-40’s on a warming trend with no chance of a cold snap (cold rain/snow) within 8-24 hours for soybean and 48 hours for corn. The time-frame is due to the imbibition (critical water uptake) time-frame for corn and soybean. Soybean seed uptakes water more rapidly than corn and once the imbibition phase is complete, the soybean going through the osmotic phase can tolerate 35-40F soil temps as long as soil is not saturated. Soil temps for your field can be monitored by using a thermometer or checking out CropWatch soil temps at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/soiltemperature.
4-For corn seeding rates, it’s best to check with your local seed dealer as all our research shows that optimal corn population varies by hybrid. However for soybean, our recommendation after 16 years of on-farm research studies (2006-2022) in heavier textured soils and 30″ rows continues to be: plant 120,000 seeds/acre, aim for a final plant stand of 100,000 plants/acre and you’ll save money without reducing yields. If that’s too scary, try reducing your rate to 140,000 seeds/acre or try testing it for yourself via on-farm research!
One final thought, make sure you’re keeping yourself and those in your operation safe by wearing proper PPE when handling treated seed. Seed tag labels will list PPE required for the seed treatments in case you weren’t aware of this. Here’s wishing you all the best whenever the planting season begins for your farm!
Hope you had a Blessed Easter!
Thoughts for 2023 Season
A week ago I was out east visiting family. Sunshiny daffodils were blooming in medians and we saw cherry blossoms and magnolias blooming at the National Arboretum in D.C. As I look in my backyard today, green leaves of tulips and daffodils are poking through. Rye, wheat, and lawns are greening up-the green this time of year is so stark in contrast to the brown. I’m so grateful to live in a place with seasons to see creation on display throughout the year!
March flew by and April is here. Another growing season will soon be upon us. I wasn’t mentally ready for another growing season. I’ve thought a lot about this and have heard this from others as well.
I knew I needed time in March to get my mind back into facing another one. I think of so many of you and there’s not been much break. Every spare moment of a ‘decent’ weather day this winter has been spent repairing/replacing pivots, buildings, bins, homes, or dealing with livestock.
I encourage us all to take some time to reflect on the blessings we’ve been given to work in agriculture, to be stewards of this land, and provide food for our families and the world. Reflecting on my purpose, “my why” for my Extension career and how blessed I am to get to serve many in this role, has reinvigorated my excitement for a new year. Perhaps reflect on “your why”? We have, we are, and will continue to face challenges as we aren’t in control of so much, especially the weather. But producers and those in ag careers are some of the most optimistic and resilient people I know. My hope is that we can all find some renewed joy and excitement for a new growing season!
Cover Crop Termination: For those who did plant small grains, the question of termination timing always comes up. The following are some thoughts to consider for planning. The temperature and year will determine how quickly a small grain will die.
- Termination timing considerations: https://jenreesources.com/2021/03/28/jenrees-3-28-21/.
- Photo gallery: https://jenreesources.com/2022/04/03/cover-crop-termination-including-planting-green/
- Can use only 20-22 oz/ac of Roundup Powermax (even when headed). Vetch + small grain: vetch will survive the Roundup application allowing it to produce more nitrogen. Can kill with post-app containing a Group 27 herbicide (like Callisto) later.
- Clethodim vs. glyphosate: clethodim provides a slower kill allowing the rye/wheat to stay greener longer for weed/erosion control. Benefit for farmers who need to terminate prior to corn or seed corn planting. Clethodim rates: most use 10-12 oz/ac. For corn, clethodim needs to be applied to the small grain to kill it at least 7 days prior to planting corn. For soybeans, can apply anytime after planting/emergence.
- When the small grain is greater than 12”, increase gallonage to 15-20 gal/ac for better coverage.
- When planting corn green into a small grain on subsurface drip irrigation (SDI), need the ability for higher capacity well to get moisture up to the seedbed. Potential yield loss otherwise.
- When planting soybeans green, the goal is often to off-set the PRE herbicide cost with the cover crop seed and application cost. A residual is necessary at some point either at time of termination or up to a week after termination when planting soybean green. Plan on 0.5-0.75″ irrigation/rainfall to get residual to the ground, especially on small grains taller than 12”.
- For those rolling small grains, roll twice if needed. And, plan on using a variety instead of VNS in future to help with evenness of maturity.
My key points for planting green include: plan on some form of nitrogen at planting if planting corn green into a small grain, have the pivot ready to go if need moisture for the seedbed, don’t use a PRE in soybean if can’t get seed vee closed, plan to water residual application as soon as label allows to get residual to ground, and if non-irrigated, consider seedbed moisture for termination timing. Have a Plan A, B, C.