Monthly Archives: May 2023
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.