Monthly Archives: November 2020

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.


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