Monthly Archives: November 2018
Kicking off the 2018-2019 Farmers & Ranchers College programming year with a full house was Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus from Virginia Tech. As usual, he did an excellent job describing global risks which affect us and how those risks will affect the agricultural industry. International trade issues continue to emerge and it will be interesting to see how they play out. One of the things to watch closely is China’s “Belt & Road Initiative” which is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale with China and approximately 65 other countries. This is important to monitor because countries impacted in this Initiative account for about 30 percent of the global GDP and 60% of the world’s population.
In regards to energy economics, the U.S. is the world’s major energy producer. As there is a continued drive towards efficiency, there is also a push for…
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With harvest finished or wrapping up, focus has shifted to anhydrous applications and managing residue. Corn residue management has been a topic of discussion for years. Research on this topic has included use of tillage, baling, grazing, and use of products like nitrogen.
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. 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 and temperature which allow for microbial activity.
Last year I wrote a series of articles for my news column and shared them in CropWatch regarding cornstalk baling. A team of Extension Specialists/Educators and USDA-ARS also worked together on a workshop at 2018 Husker Harvest Days on this topic. I’ve received various reactions to these efforts, but my desire is to present the research. My perspective is twofold:
- Better serving farmers/landowners in helping answer your residue management questions via the research available and
- With the high winds, dust storms and vehicle accidents last winter/early spring, could we potentially rethink residue management besides so much conventional tillage for this part of the State?
I’m not saying conventional tillage doesn’t have a place, especially as we think of one-time burial of weed seed. I just wonder if we can help reduce soil loss by utilizing other methods of residue management, perhaps including increased use of livestock grazing and cornstalk baling under the right field situations?
Summarizing the research, cornstalk baling is not for every piece of ground or every situation. From the research, our recommendations are that baling of corn residue should only occur on ground with less than 5% slope that yields 180 bu/ac or more, harvesting no more than 2 tons/acre. Retaining at least 2.4 tons of residue allowed for soil carbon maintenance and retaining more residue also reduced erosion. Every 40 bu/ac of corn results in 1 ton of residue at 10% moisture. Baling on fields fitting the above-mentioned criteria should occur a maximum of every other year in continuous corn or once every four years in a corn/soy rotation (due to reduced residue already present after soybean harvest). The research showed no significant impact on soil properties or soil carbon following those guidelines. Other recommendations would be to use a reduced tillage system in the field where baling occurred and consider planting a cover crop and/or adding manure.
In 239 site-years across 36 studies, corn residue baling resulted in 3% average yield increase where moisture was not limited, most likely due to more uniform stands. The average nutrients found in 1 ton of corn or sorghum residue was 17 lbs of Nitrogen, 4 lbs of P2O5, 3 lbs of Sulfur, 34 lbs of K2O (which due to Nebraska soils being high in K, the value may be 0-50% of this depending on soil test results), and cations equivalent to 30 lbs of lime. There’s also research that suggests less nitrogen is needed the following year going into corn due to the change in the C:N ratio and increased mineralization. So corn residue baling, based on the research, can be an effective way of managing residue without significantly impacting soil properties if done using the considerations mentioned above. Many fields I’ve observed cornstalk baling in the area this year look good regarding these criteria and most took less than 50% residue off the fields.
This year we’ve also seen a large increase in soybean residue baling in this part of the State. I realize it’s mostly being used for livestock bedding. In a future column and CropWatch article, the research regarding soybean baling will be shared in addition to an economics comparison of various residue management strategies. I will also share on grazing research for residue management in a future column.
Wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends! We have much for which to be thankful!
Last week we held a farm transition meeting in York. I was thinking back to a family gathering we had shortly after one of my dad’s farm accidents. We were grateful he was going to be ok. In talking about what needed to be done on the farm, I asked something like, “Does anyone here know what your wishes or plan is for the farm if this had been more serious?” It wasn’t the best time and I didn’t do this correctly. It did allow for discussion as we never talked about what would happen to the farm before that. I’m grateful my parents responded over time asking each of us kids our intentions/values regarding the farm. They then put their estate plan together and at Christmas one year, went through everything with everyone including any spouses that were present. What I appreciate the most is that they were intentional and there is no secret.
The fact that estate plans can be secret was a common frustration among attendees at the workshop…and as I talk with various farmers. Dave Goeller, emeritus Farm Transition Specialist, shared a sad story about a man in his late 60’s whose 90+ year old dad still hadn’t transitioned management of the ranch to him. When he asked his dad about the opportunity to manage the ranch in the future, the dad didn’t wish to talk and said not to worry. I won’t go into the details but when the parents passed away, the ranch was sold. What’s sad is that, most likely, the outcome is not what the parents intended, and certainly not what the son hoped. We need to get away from estate plans being a secret.
Consider these questions:
- Have you been able to talk to your parents about what is happening with their estate plans? If not, why?
- What is your biggest concern/anxiety/fear(s)? What are you afraid you might find out?
- What is the biggest obstacle in your family dynamics?
- What do you love about your family business?
- What is the worst situation you can think of which might happen in the future?
- What could you learn that can help you?
- What is your mission statement for your farm/ranch? What is your vision for the farm/ranch?
- What are your goals for your farm/ranch? What will you do to make your vision happen?
Dave shared that while a person may feel like a ‘vulture’ when asking about the estate plan (as asking can come across as greed), it can really be a question over shared values. As I think about my immediate family, our shared values are faith, family, hard work, sacrifice, maintaining our family farm. I should’ve broached the subject using shared values instead:
“Dad, I’m so grateful God protected you and you’re going to be ok! You and mom have worked so hard and sacrificed so much for us kids and for this farm. We as your children wish to see your legacy live on in keeping the farm in our family. May we please discuss what your and mom’s goals and dreams are for the farm in the future?”
For those who have asked me how to have this conversation, perhaps some of these questions found in the Workbook at http://go.unl.edu/FarmRanchTransition may help? I also have copies of this workbook in the Extension Office. The questions cover a range of topics from understanding common values, asking if there are written documents, what is long term health care plan to protect the farm/ranch, contribution of all heirs, etc. Please also consider the Nebraska Farm Hotline at 800-464-0258 as a valuable and free resource for you! This hotline is a confidential resource for talking about stress, anxiety, financial concerns, and also for scheduling a time to meet with Dave Goeller and Joe Hawbaker (Attorney) for free to discuss estate plans and farm transitions. All you need to do is call 800-464-0258. For those interested in meeting regarding estate plans/farm transition, Dave and Joe have promised to come back to York to meet individually with families once they receive at least 5 calls. So, if this is of interest to you, please mention this when you call the hotline.
Final thought, this past year in particular, several farmers have shared with me their children would like to see them retire. I sense a variety of feelings about that from them as I listened. I also asked several questions including, “What does retirement look like to them? What does it look like to you?” Perhaps those and other questions could be asked in an honest conversation together?
Much of our identity, right or wrong, is found in what we do for a living. After all, we tend to ask this question when we meet new people. Through life’s circumstances, I’ve had to learn to seek my identity in who I am. Dave mentioned to think of retirement not as no longer working on the farm or being an important player, but retiring the management to the next generation. So, perhaps work out a transition plan that fits your situation where the first perhaps 3-10 years, the older generation is the primary manager in a mentor role explaining why he/she made the decisions a certain way to the next generation. The next 3-10 years, decision making is shared between the older and next generation. After that, decision making is transitioned to the next generation. And, during this entire process, the older generation needs to consider what he/she will be “retiring to”…what purpose or meaning can be found to occupy the time that was once spent in managing the farm?
Ultimately, estate planning and farm transition…relationships…are too important to not talk about these topics. Let’s no longer keep them a big secret!
Through the years I’ve been blessed to meet many individuals including farmers/ag industry professionals who served (or continue to serve) our Country in the military. I’ve observed how service has influenced perspective on life’s difficulties for many individuals. And, I’ve observed how impacts of service have resulted in additional difficulties in life after service for some. There shouldn’t be shame regarding the struggle or in seeking help. While it can be scary, healing can come in the midst of honesty and vulnerability. Tonight I watched a special TV interview with four highly decorated individuals of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars-a couple of whom I’ve read their books. It was interesting hearing their perspectives on combat then coming home, on being in the military and then getting out, and much more. They ultimately shared how difficult it is after war and after service to step into civilian life and how important their military connections were in keeping them going. They also shared how important it was to find a sense of purpose in serving others and living life well in honor of those with whom they served who never made it home. Most likely all of us can think of a family member or friend who has served. Those individuals may have stories and/or wounds without words. Let’s be sure to show our gratitude to them for our freedom in America. Thank you to all our Veterans and all those in our Armed Forces for your service! Thank you also to their families!
Fall Applied Anhydrous Ammonia: When I began my Extension career, it was a different perspective for me to experience fall applications of nitrogen. My perspective from our farm was in-season nitrogen applications. Since then, there’s been several research based studies regarding the benefits of in-season nitrogen application. I appreciate there’s different reasons for the ways farmers approach the decisions within your farming operation. I’ve also observed more farmers of various operation sizes moving to more in-season applications. The reasons they’ve shared with me include: wanting to be more efficient with nitrogen application when the plant needs it, worried about any loss in off-season and wanting better water quality for kids/grandkids, research shows hybrids need nitrogen later in season, wanting to find a way to make it work before any potential regulation, and wondering if they can get by with less nitrogen with better timing in season. We also know today’s farmers in general have become increasingly efficient in both nitrogen and water use. There’s an interesting article in this week’s UNL CropWatch (http://cropwatch.unl.edu) where a multi-disciplinary team of authors share on nitrogen application in the fall having enhanced risk due to potential loss. This is due to data on the increase in extreme precipitation events over time that can lead to increased nitrogen loss through leaching and/or denitrification. We also know that there are years, like last winter, where areas I served didn’t even receive 2” of precip from fall through early May. So every year is different. Because we can’t predict the weather, the authors suggest, “Consider a more robust and less risky N management method that includes: applying a small percentage of N near planting time; follow with sidedress N applied as late as is possible given your equipment capabilities or several fertigation applications that are timed with crop uptake needs; and ensure the final application of N is done before the R3 growth stage.” They also suggest the following if you plan to apply N in the fall, “Avoid fall N application for soils of hydrologic Group A (sand, loamy sand, sandy loam) and Group B (loam, silt loam, silt); Avoid fall application of fertilizers containing urea or nitrate; Apply only when soil temperature is consistently below 50°F to slow nitrification (Last week temperatures fluctuated above and below 50°F at the 4-inch depth.); Use an inhibitor with known efficacy when applying N; and Hope for dry cold weather!”. The following is a really good resource if you’re interested in different University studies regarding various nitrogen inhibitors: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/crops/nitrogen-extenders-and-additives-for-field-crops. It’s too long to share here. A general summary of studies involving the inhibitor N-Serve used with anhydrous ammonia applications shows that it consistently resulted in increased ammonium nitrate the following spring (thus it worked well as a nitrification inhibitor). Yield increases were inconsistent throughout studies and years due to precipitation differences amongst the years. That resource also discusses research regarding other nitrification inhibitors in addition to urease inhibitors and slow-release N products, so it may be a helpful resource. We’ve also had farmers conduct on-farm research studies in the past looking at the application of inhibitors in anhydrous vs. none. They also haven’t consistently shown a yield increase (and we failed to always take soil samples to document any differences in ammonium nitrate the following spring). But if you’re interested in trying a study this coming year looking at nitrogen timing or use of inhibitor, please contact me or your local Extension Educator and we’d be happy to work with you!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the Weed Science School. It was an interesting day of learning, discussion, even reflection. Dr. Amit Jhala, Weed Science Specialist, did a really nice job of organizing the day and creating opportunities to hear from University, Industry, and Nebraska Dept. of Ag (NDA) speakers in addition to providing hands-on activities. While dicamba was a topic that was discussed, we didn’t hear about EPA’s ruling till the following day that the RUP products for soybean will be re-registered. Tim Creger with NDA shared that 6 other dicamba products, most with pre-mixes, will be registered this year. He also shared there are 40 ag labeled dicamba products that are not restricted use pesticides, and as long as they aren’t registered for soybean use, he doesn’t anticipate they will become restricted use pesticides. Comparing NDA claims from 2017 to 2018, they received 95 claims (24 investigated due to lack of resources) in 2017 compared to 106 (50 investigated but only 31 resulted in full investigations due to desire of the person filing the complaint) in 2018. Of the 106 claims in 2018, 17 were non-ag related.
In last week’s column, in sharing about fall burndown apps, I had mentioned that 60% ofmarestail (horseweed) in Nebraska germinated in the fall. An updated number of 90-95% fall germination for Eastern Nebraska was shared. This once again emphasizes the importance of considering fall apps for fields with marestail pressure.
Dr. Kevin Bradley from University of Missouri shared on 7 points he’s learned from 15 years of researching waterhemp. They included: Never underestimate waterhemp (I’d say the same for palmer); Era of simple, convenient, quick control is over; Use full herbicide rates and pre-emergence herbicides with residual; Overlap pre + post applications (which we also see with palmer-put that post on a week earlier than you think you need it); Glufosinate, dicamba, and 2,4-D may work now but they’re tools being abused; New traits won’t solve the problem; and Get rid of herbicide-centric way of thinking-we need an integrated approach. He thought he was sharing something shocking in that last statement, but I’d say several of us seek an integrated system’s approach to what we do, including weed management. So ultimately, herbicides aren’t the answer for weed control and we need to be thinking about management from a system’s perspective including crop rotation, use of cover crops, residue management, seed destruction, etc. Especially as from the industry perspective presented, it takes an average of 12 years and average investment of $250 million for a new chemistry to be developed. They are seeking chemistries now that work on specific sites of action (how targets within plant) within the mode of action (specific group or chemistry number).
On November 14th, we’re hosting a Farm/Ranch Transition workshop at the 4-H building in York. This is the closest location for our area. The workshop will focus on the needs of the “sandwich generation” between parents who still own land and children who might want to join the operation, on whom farm/ranch transition and transfer often falls. The Gen2, or Sandwich Generation, will learn how to communicate with family to understand the transition and practice asking difficult questions. Legal topics will include elements of a good business entity, levels of layers for on-farm heirs control and access, and turning agreements into effective written leases. Joe Hawbaker, estate planning attorney, and Allan Vyhnalek, Nebraska Extension transition specialist, will share stories and experiences to successfully plan on the legal side. Dave Goeller, financial and transition specialist, will cover financial considerations, retirement, and compensation versus contribution. Cost is $20 per person. If more than two people are attending per operation, the cost is $15/person. Pre-register at (402) 362-5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org for meal count. Funding for this project was provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Award Number 2015-49200-24226.
November 15th is the York County Corn Grower Banquet at Chances ‘R in York. Social time begins at 6:30 p.m. with a wonderful meal at 7:00 p.m. We will hear from Nate Blum, LEAD 36, on his international trip. We will also hear from local and state directors. Tickets are only $10 and can be obtained from any of the local Corn Grower directors or from the Extension Office at (402) 362-5508. The winner of the Yeti cooler from guessing plot yields will be announced, and those who guessed need to be present in order to have a chance to win. Plot results can be obtained from the Extension Office. Hope to see you there for a nice evening with a wonderful meal to hopefully celebrate the end of harvest season!