Monthly Archives: October 2020

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.

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