Crop Update: The cooler weather and rains have been welcome here even though other parts of the State have had excess and flooding. I think grain fill has slowed down some in the corn, which will hopefully help. The rains will help the beans, milo, and pastures. If we can escape storms, early planted beans look pretty powerful this year! In a recent conversation with Dr. Jim Specht, he was sharing how he was anticipating really high bean yields. Upon asking him about that and also about the smoke/haze, he shared that he didn’t think it would have much impact on soybeans compared to corn. This is because soybeans are C3 crops where the photosystem saturates out at lower solar radiation levels; C4 crops like corn don’t, thus cloudy/hazy days have more impact on corn. The high humidity we’ve experienced has reduced transpiration of crops, allowing many non-irrigated soybeans to hang on till these August rains. As I’ve looked at crops in several counties, for the most part, it’s taken awhile for beans to start turning, even in the non-irrigated corners compared to what we typically see in dry years. Here’s hoping for some nice bean yields!
York Co. Corn Grower Plot Tour will be held this Thursday, September 9th from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at 1416 Road I, York, NE. Pizza and beverages will be provided. Attendees can guess the highest yield without going over for a chance to win a $50 gas card. We’re grateful to Ron and Brad Makovicka for hosting the plot and to all the companies represented in providing entries! We hope to see you there!
Wheat: I realize planting wheat is most likely not on many people’s radar in this part of the State. Yet, after attending the wheat and alfalfa expo today, just wanted to share a few thoughts and resources for those considering it. For those seeking resources, my colleague Nathan Mueller in Saline County has dedicated a section of his web page (http://croptechcafe.org/winterwheat/) to growing wheat in Eastern NE including an email listserv that shares new information. The website has a virtual variety tour where you can view varieties and their characteristics. A new tool on the website I learned about is a seeding rate calculator that helps in ensuring correct seeding rate based on the seed weight of the lot you receive. CropWatch also has its yearly ‘wheat edition’ in September, so be on the lookout for that this month at https://cropwatch.unl.edu and you can also check out https://cropwatch.unl.edu/wheat. Key points I emphasize for wheat include: killing out volunteer wheat in a mile radius at least 2 weeks prior to planting new wheat, treating wheat with fungicide seed treatment, and ensuring proper seeding depth by ensuring enough weight on the seeder particularly when no-till planting into residue.
I realize the economics for one year don’t look great for wheat. However, looking at the bigger picture, what is the value of that wheat crop in allowing additional time for a forage or cover crop, breaking pest cycles, and giving you an additional 2-3 months-time before needing to apply herbicides for weeds like palmer amaranth? What value does the residue provide for the following year to help reduce the number of weeds and/or in conserving soil moisture for the successive corn crop?
There’s also different ways of adding wheat into an operation. There’s some who have tried double cropping with both short season corn or soybeans after harvesting wheat. There’s also been interest regarding relay-cropping wheat and soybeans on Twitter. This past year, I had the opportunity to watch a few growers in the Archer/Chapman area try relay cropping wheat with soybeans on acres that were in seed corn the previous year. Their goals included using the small grain in wheat to aid in reducing palmer amaranth pressure and to obtain greater economic benefit from harvesting both a wheat and soybean crop. The Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff was doing the same with wheat and dry beans. There’s a lot we’re all learning in this arena and it’s just another way, with a lot more management challenges, to consider adding wheat in a crop rotation. Perhaps the biggest thing we learned was to have a high wheat seeding rate and proper fertility to allow the heads to be more uniform with less tillers that are short (similar to if one is raising a small grain for seed).
For those not desirous of planting wheat for grain, it can be used as a small grain cover crop for weed control as well. At two field days near Clay Center this summer, some individuals from Kansas and southern portions of Nebraska talked about how they recommend wheat or barley before a corn crop and rye before a soybean crop when considering a small grain cover crop for weed control. Their reasoning made a lot of sense. Wheat and barley don’t take off growing/greening up as fast as rye does. They also don’t obtain as much biomass (which also allows for faster nutrient cycling). They found farmers felt more comfortable planting corn green into wheat compared to rye for those reasons. I have no research or experience on that, but it makes sense and wanted to share if it’s something any of you would be interested in trying next year. In a soybean situation, I still recommend rye before the soybeans for weed control because of the increased biomass, and we’ll have data from Dr. Amit Jhala and his team this winter on that.