Category Archives: Drought
The sun glistening on the snow holds such beauty after a warm, dry beginning to December! Moisture is very much needed! For curiosity sake, I looked at the Drought Monitor for this past week and compared it to the same week in previous years. The pics are shared at jenreesources.com and it’s quite interesting comparing and thinking back through the years. Hopefully we can receive more precipitation prior to planting season.
If you missed it, the Farmers and Ranchers College program featuring Dr. David Kohl and Eric Snodgrass can be found for 30 days at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cFKs13i_Ak. I appreciate how Eric shares global weather and climate information in an easy to understand way! He also shared an interesting story of how El Nino is related to the Christmas season, so you’ll have to watch the recording to learn that. Some stats he shared for the State of Nebraska: June was the 18th driest on record followed by the wettest July on record. That was followed by the driest August on record with September as the 18th driest on record (would have been driest but thankfully we received precipitation after Labor Day weekend). He looked at weather data from 1901-2020 for Nebraska and the U.S. which showed a trend of 2.5” precipitation gain from April-October (with higher gains as one goes east in the U.S.). He also looked at the past 40 years which showed heavy rainfall events (more than 2” per event) has tripled.
There was an effort my colleagues began a few years ago called “Weather Ready Farms” https://weather-ready.unl.edu/. It was designed to improve or increase resilience towards the impacts of extreme weather on Nebraska’s farms. A number of things go into that with some examples at the website. A few examples of things farmers have done since the 2012 drought and the 2019 floods include keeping the ground covered with residue and cover crops to help reduce evapotranspiration, increase water infiltration, and reduce wind/water erosion as we experience these more extreme events.
BeefWatch Webinar Series is designed to highlight management strategies in grazing, nutrition, reproduction, and economics to increase cow/calf and stocker production efficiency and profitability. More information and registration for the BeefWatch Webinar Series can be found at: https://beef.unl.edu/beefwatch-webinar-series. Dates are January 5, 12, 19 and 26 with each webinar beginning at 8:00 p.m. CST. The focus for January’s webinar series is “Preparing and Managing for the Calving Season”. Jan. 5: Preventing calf scours (Is there a way to reduce the likelihood of calf scours without adding additional vaccines or other cash expenses to your current program?)
Jan. 12: Calving tool box and record keeping (favorite tools and tricks for smoother season)
Jan. 19: Calving complications and when to call the vet
Jan. 26: Cow nutrition needs at calving and in early lactation
Poinsettias: Kelly Feehan shares the following, “It’s Poinsettia time. Hard to believe these bright, colorful plants originated from a weed. And amazing what plant breeding and good marketing can do. To enjoy your Poinsettia as long as possible, place them in an area with bright sun for at least half the day. If possible, provide a night temperatures in the 50’s or 60’s. This is often the most challenging condition to meet in the home, but keep plants as cool as possible at night. If plants are near a window, don’t let the leaves touch cold window panes; and keep Poinsettias away from warm or cold drafts. Poinsettias need to be well-watered. Because they are in a light weight soil-less mix, they will dry out quickly. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering; then water thoroughly until water runs out of drainage holes. Be sure to punch holes in decorative foil wraps to prevent soggy soil conditions or at least pour excess water out of the foil after each watering.”
By the time this is printed in newspapers, we’ll be remembering September 11th. Grateful for all the first responders and all who have served our Country to defend our freedom since that day. Grateful for the sacrifices their families have made as well. Thinking of and praying for the families of those who lost their lives in the attacks and in defense of our Country since. May we never forget!
Encouragement: The wet weather has created challenges with harvest, making silage, increasing ear/stalk rots, kernel germination, and dampening spirits. So seeking to encourage: grateful for the soil moisture profile recharge the rain has provided and how it’s allowing pastures to recover and cover crops to grow! It’s really special to live in a State where our State Fair is now so ag and family focused! It was wonderful seeing so many farm families during the fair and I look forward to seeing many during Husker Harvest Days too! Thankfully harvest will be here soon and we’ll appreciate the sunshine that much more when we see it again!
Sprouted Kernels: I’m seeing and hearing of kernel sprouting in hail damaged and drought stressed corn in addition to corn hybrids that have tighter husks and upright ears. Sprouting is also occurring in soybean. So why are we seeing this?
Prior to full maturity it comes down to a hormonal imbalance within the kernels between gibberellin and abscisic acid (ABA). According to a study by White, et. al (2000), Gibberellin production with the lack of ABA allowed for kernel germination while less Gibberellin and more ABA deterred kernel germination. At full maturity, very little ABA is left in the kernel (in both corn and soybeans) which allows them to germinate in correct conditions after harvest.
These conditions include temperatures above 50ºF and moisture. Thus the continuous drizzle and rain we’ve experienced can allow for sprouting within soybean pods. In corn, sprouting under those conditions typically occurs at the base of the ear first but we’re also seeing it in exposed ear tips. We’ve also seen Fusarium and Gibberella ear rot fungi occurring in ears that have been damaged by hail and/or insects in ears. These fungi also produce gibberellins which can aid in the hormonal imbalance and stimulate kernel germination.
If you’re seeing kernel sprouting in your field, make sure your crop insurance adjuster is aware of the situation and submit samples for kernel damage due to mold and sprouting. Also check for mycotoxins prior to harvest if ear molds are a problem in your field. The local co-op will decide whether to accept the load based on percent damage and the standards they need to follow. If the load is rejected, contact your crop insurance agent to determine your next step.
Sprouted kernels lead to higher kernel damage and more fines in a load. Keys for harvest will include
- harvesting early,
- drying it to 14%, potentially drying at a high temperature to kill the sprout,
- screening out fines, and
- monitoring stored grain closely for hot spots, mold, and additional sprouting grain.
With the moisture continuing to exacerbate corn ear molds,particularly in hail damaged fields, you may also decide to take the grain for silage instead. More information regarding correctly making silage can be found at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2018/silage-hailed-corn.
Husker Harvest Days Cornstalk Baling Workshop: Baling of cornstalk residue has been an increasing topic of interest among growers. Reasons are many including residue management when cattle don’t graze a field, use of residue as a feedstuff, and as was the case in 2017, to bale up much of the downed ears with the cornstalks. With this interest, we’ve had individuals contact us about custom baling residue as an additional income source. With the topic of residue baling comes many questions. These include:
- What is the nutrient value of the residue removed from the field?
- What are the impacts of residual removal on subsequent yields and field soil properties?
- What is the feed value of that residue?
- How do I best set my current equipment to bale corn residue?
- Is my current equipment the best to bale corn residue?
This year, Nebraska Extension, Farm Progress, and several forage equipment manufacturers are partnering in a Corn Residue Baling Workshop at Husker Harvest Days (September 11-13). The workshop will be from 1:30-2:00 p.m. daily in the fields adjacent to the haying demonstrations, which begin at 2 p.m. Equipment manufacturers who have committed to the demonstration include: CNH, AGCO, Rowse Rakes, Vermeer, and John Deere.
Some of the manufacturers will be showcasing the same equipment in this workshop and in the haying demos. Each manufacturer will talk briefly about their equipment and specific settings that might be needed to make their machinery work better on residue. Because of the high moisture content of the corn residue during the Husker Harvest Days Show, equipment demonstrations of baling residue are not a possibility; however, videos of the manufacturers’ equipment in action can be viewed in the University of Nebraska Institute of Ag and Natural Resources building.
Thank you to all who made the York County Fair go so smoothly! It’s always a joy to see the 4-H and FFA youth and families rewarded for the hard work they put into their projects!
Crop Update: I didn’t get out to the field much this week with fair but did spend a few
hours one afternoon. There are portions of the area I serve that have been blessed with rains and look really good. The main thing that I’m seeing a lot more of this week is aphids in corn fields. This can be common in fields where fungicide is applied as the fungicide kills a beneficial fungus that attacks aphids. Some aphid species are also attracted to moisture stressed crops. The heat has also pushed the crop along quickly. We have another yield forecasting article in this week’s CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu where we talk about the impact of the heat on yields. As of right now, based on comparing this year to 30 years of weather data, it’s appearing corn may reach maturity 1-3 weeks early. Irrigated yields are estimated to be near average and above to near average for non-irrigated corn (where drought is not a factor). These yield forecasts are based on simulations under ‘perfect conditions’ (with no nutrient loss, disease etc.) but they can give us an indication of what may happen if we continue with higher heat conditions.
Unfortunately, pockets in the area continue to miss rains. The drought monitor still is not
reflecting the drought in this part of the State; at this point, I’m unsure what else either Al Dutcher or I can do about this. One farmer reminded me drought occurred in the same area in 2006, 2012, and now 2018-six years apart each time. Driving the area, hardest drought-stressed crops really took a turn this past week with corn in hard dough to early dent with some kernel abortion and soybeans are beginning to abort pods and quit filling seeds. One question has been on weighing taking corn for silage or not. If you have at least an estimated 50 bu/ac grain in most of the field other than highly compacted areas, it may be more profitable to keep for grain (unless you’re looking for cattle feed). The following are some resources to consider further:
- July 2018 BeefWatch article on considerations for green chop/silage for cattle feed, include best management practices, etc.: https://go.unl.edu/e3y5
- July 2018 K-State article for considerations on taking corn for silage or grain: https://enewsletters.k-state.edu/beeftips/2018/07/02/considerations-for-use-of-drought-stressed-corn-for-cattle/
- All UNL Drought Resources: http://droughtresources.unl.edu
Dicamba: We’ve often mentioned the research showing a soybean plant producing a new node every 3.7 days upon reaching V1 stage. And, I’ve used that in the forensics assessment for determining a timing for off-target dicamba movement. One question I’ve had was “Do soybean plants continue to produce a new node every 3.7 days upon being affected by off-target dicamba?” My assumption in the forensic analysis I have used is that a new node continued to be produced every 3.7 days in spite of off-target dicamba. However, the only way to really test this would be to have the same soybean variety in both an Xtend and non-Xtend version. We will release a CropWatch article next week in which a situation like this occurred at the Eastern NE Research and Extension Center. Dr. Jim Specht counted nodes in both the non-Xtend variety with off-target dicamba and the Xtend variety that wasn’t affected. He found the same number of nodes in spite of the dicamba affected non-Xtend variety being shorter in height and having less canopy. So that in itself is good information for use in forensic assessments. However, he also found plants in which a higher off-target dicamba dose affected the top-most growing point. When that occurred, the number of nodes was affected.
Last year, a group of us released a dicamba survey during Soybean Management Field Days. Reminder those are upcoming this week (https://enre.unl.edu/soydays)! The survey helps us understand your perspectives about dicamba and this year we’ve added questions regarding using Xtend technology. Hopefully it will provide helpful information for all of us and the results will be shared via CropWatch and winter meetings. We’d encourage and be grateful for any soybean growers to participate at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JWDCY3C.
South Central Ag Lab Field Day: Please hold August 29, 2018 for UNL’s South Central Ag Lab (SCAL) Field Day near Clay Center! Attendees can choose which sessions you would like to attend. Options include the latest SCAL research in the areas of Irrigation/Water Use; Nutrient Management; Weed, Disease, and Insect Management; Cover Crops; and Cropping Systems. CCA credits will be available and there’s no charge to attend. Will have more specifics for you next week but please hold the date for now!
Vine Crop Problems: The following resource explains options for diagnosing various problems with cucumbers, squash, and melons: https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/2011/8-24/cucurbitwilt.html.
Rod DeBuhr with the Upper Big Blue NRD spoke at a few meetings recently. He shared there’s a lot of rumors floating around, but if you have questions, please just ask the NRD. There will be no well drilling moratorium and no restriction on adding new acres in the District. The only exception to this is if the allocation trigger is reached, there will be no new transfers. The UBBNRD encompasses 1.2 million irrigated acres and 57% of the water is used on only 29% of the acres; thus there’s still some inefficiencies within some producers’ operations. These are producers using, on average, more than 8” since 2007. The average water use since 2007 is just under 8” for the District.
Flow meters are required on all wells by January 1, 2016 or by when an allocation is triggered-whichever comes first. The first allocation period is 30” of water for 3 years. They will then evaluate where the water levels are. If recovery doesn’t happen after the three years, then there will be a second allocation of 45” for 5 years.
For flow meter specifications: all new meters must record in acre-inches. They must also have an anti-reverse feature on them. They must be installed based on the manufacturer recommendations-no exceptions. Existing meters are grandfathered if they are determined to be accurate. There is no cost share on new meters, but there is some cost share for repairing old meters. Please contact the UBBNRD at (402) 362-6601 for questions or more information.
Daryl Andersen with the Little Blue NRD also shared some information with me. These rules are effective as of January 17, 2014, which were put in place in 2006 or sooner. For well constructions and flow meter requirements as of Mar. 2006, new or replacement water wells to be used for domestic, stock, or other such purposes shall be constructed to such a depth that they are less likely to be affected by seasonal water level declines caused by other water wells in the same area.
Any new irrigation well or water wells for all other uses except municipal, domestic, public water supply, or livestock are required to have a minimum of 10 times the pipe diameter of clear space in the discharge pipe to allow for potential installation of a flow meter at a future date. There are some exceptions if a new meter is installed during the time of well completion; please contact the LBNRD at (402) 364-2145 for further info. Spacing between all new irrigation wells should be set at 1000 feet.
Nitrogen fertilizer restrictions include: Pre-plant anhydrous ammonia may not be applied prior to November 1. Pre-plant nitrogen fertilizers in liquid or dry forms may not be applied prior to March 1 except under the following conditions: a “Fertilizer Permit” will be required by the LBNRD prior to fertilizer applications, a nitrogen inhibitor will be required if applying over 20 lbs of active nitrogen/acre and an annual report will be required by March 15 of each year if receiving the “Fertilizer Permit.”
For the Clay/Nuckolls Water Quality Sub-Area: Two new rules were enacted March 1st, 2013 along with all of the prior rules. First, water samples need to be collected from all high capacity wells by the producer, delivered to LBNRD and NRD will analyze it for nitrates for 2013 and 2014 growing season. Second, water pumpage report is required from all wells for all producers in 2013 and 2014. Report can be hour meters, flow meters or other devices. Please contact the LBNRD for additional questions.
Last week I was receiving text messages from a few of our farmers about corn harvest results from damaged corn. Low levels of mycotoxins are being detected in samples thus far, thankfully.
Here’s What the Numbers Mean…
For aflatoxin, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set a recommended limit of 20ppb (parts per billion) for dairy animals, 100 ppb for breeding animals, and 300 ppb for finishing animals. To put this is simpler terms, a sample would need 20 affected kernels out of a billion kernels to be at the legal limit for dairy animals. So far, most samples are coming up at 5-6ppb which is very low.
For fumonisin, 20ppm (parts per million) is the recommended limit set by FDA for swine, 30ppm for breeding animals, 60ppm for livestock for slaughter, and 100ppm for poultry for slaughter. So, this would mean 20 affected kernels in a million kernels could cause a problem for swine. Again, our levels are averaging closer to 5ppm right now which are low.
Deoxynivalenol (DON) also known as vomitoxin is another mycotoxin being tested from grain samples. This mycotoxin causes reduced weight gain and suppresses animal feeding, especially in swine. Concentrations greater than 10ppm can result in livestock vomiting and totally refusing feed. FDA has recommended that total feed levels of DON not exceed 5 ppm for cattle and chicken, and 1 ppm for swine.
It is very important to sample from several places in the grain to get an accurate sample for damage and mycotoxins. It is also very important that black light tests are not used to determine the presence or absence of mycotoxins. Some of these mold fungi produce a compound that fluoresces under black light, but research has shown that this quality does not consistently predict the presence of mycotoxins (often provides false positives). Finally, before any of your storm-damaged corn is put in a bin, call your insurance agent out to get a sample!
Protecting Your Health with a Mask
There is some great information from the University of Nebraska Med Center on what types of masks to use to protect your health from molds and potential mycotoxins. Some people tend to have more sensitive immune and respiratory systems than others, so I’d highly recommend checking out these short videos.
This map came from Kansas State University in a newsletter where they were talking about the vegetation differences from the Drought of 2012 to 2013 in Kansas. A colleague shared this with me pointing out how obvious the storm in Clay County, NE is on this map. Look above Kansas to the brown area-that’s the LOSS of vegetation we have right now in Clay County which is quite extensive-and neat how it’s captured unexpectedly on this map.
The rain was welcome on Thursday but the wind and hail damage that came were devastating to a good portion of the County. I’m so sorry to all of you affected….for some of you, this is two years in a row of severely hail damaged or totaled out crops. We are thankful the damage wasn’t worse. You can see more pictures here.
So the big question is what do you do now? Ultimately, each field will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. The following are our NebGuides for hail damage to corn and soybeans. For the most part we were in brown-silk to blister for corn and late pod-beginning seed in soybean (R4-R5). The concerns I have right now are stalk quality, disease, grain filling, and the amount of diseased grain we may have due to mushy areas on hail-damaged cobs right now. Several years ago, we watched how severely hail-damaged corn a little later in the season turned brown and died. We also know that southern rust is in the area and while much of the leaf tissue in the County is damaged, it is still in the County in other fields and south of us. The Puccinia polysora fungus that causes southern rust, when severe enough, will infect and cause pustules on the stalks. With the wounding and low leaf area for photosynthesis, stalk strength is a concern and fungicides may be a consideration depending on potential yield loss-again need to assess on a field by field basis.
I talked with a number of people on Friday regarding thoughts on silage, green chop, haying/baling, planting cover crops, etc. Dr. Bruce Anderson, UNL Extension Forage Specialist, said the most common salvage operation for corn damaged by hail, wind, drought, or other calamities is to chop it for silage. Don’t be in a hurry, though. Standing corn currently could be over 80 percent moisture. The easiest way, and maybe the best way, to lower moisture content is simply wait until some stalks start to turn brown. Waiting also allows surviving corn to continue to add tonnage.
But in some of our damaged fields, I don’t think we can wait to make silage. Bruce also shared you can reduce moisture by windowing the crop and allow it to wilt one-half to one full day before chopping. You also could mix grain or chopped hay to freshly chopped corn to lower the moisture content. It takes quite a bit of material for mixing though – about 7 bushels of grain or 350 pounds of hay to lower each ton of silage down to 70 percent moisture from an original 80 percent moisture. That’s 7 bushels grain or 350 pounds of hay for each ton of silage.
Or, you can allow that windrowed corn to dry completely and bale it as hay. Be sure to test it for nitrates before feeding. Grazing might be the easiest way to use damaged corn, and this is a good way to extend your grazing season. You might even plant some corn grain or sorghum-sudangrass or oats and turnips between rows to grow more forage for grazing if you can wait until late fall before grazing. Be sure to introduce livestock slowly to this new forage by feeding them before turning in to reduce the chances of digestive problems. Also, strip graze the field to reduce trampling losses and get more grazing from the corn.
As I set here writing, we went from wearing t-shirts yesterday to receiving freezing rain and sleet today! The precipitation is much welcomed and it’s nice to see spring bulbs coming up and the grass turning green! But we’re unfortunately not out of the woods yet regarding this drought, and may not be for some time.
This Thursday, April 11, Elizabeth Killinger, UNL Extension Educator in Hall County, will be talking to us about gardening during drought. Come enjoy an evening of learning about drought-tolerant plants and ideas for your landscape! The evening begins with a light supper at 5:30 p.m. and we plan to be finished around 7:00 p.m. There will be no charge for this workshop, so please come and invite your friends and your youth who enjoy gardening as well!
Also, if you would like to bring some plants for exchange, you are welcome to do so and share with others! Please call the Clay County Extension Office at (402) 762-3644 or Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re coming so we can plan for the meal. See you then!
Even with recent rain and snow events, the subsoil is still dry. You may be wondering,
“What should I do regarding corn planting rates in 2013?”
A few weeks ago, UNL Extension held our on-farm research meetings to share our 2012 Corn Planting Rate results for irrigated and dryland conditions. I always enjoy hearing our farmers share why they were interested in a certain trial and what they found out as a result.
The results since 2010 continue to show us that each individual hybrid varies in its response to increasing populations; however, there is a general trend with newer hybrids that increasing population results in increased yields. Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer, UNL Agronomy Professor of Practice spoke about how our hybrids have genetically come so far in combating various stresses while maintaining yields. We know that many seed companies have conducted research to determine the population calibration curve for each hybrid to determine best recommendations for you. Thus, we’d recommend that you check with your seed dealer to determine which hybrid may fit best at which population for your operation.
Even with this data, you may question if that’s truly the best population for your field; that’s where on-farm research comes in! We recommend testing the recommended population against a higher and lower population with at least 4000 seeds/acre difference in planted population-whether irrigated or dryland. With today’s technologies, it’s not very difficult to test seeding rates for different hybrids for yourself!
So what rate should you plant this year? In the majority of our irrigated studies, economically, many hybrids maximized yields and economic returns between 32,000-36,0o0 seeds/acre. Again, this is very hybrid dependent so ask your seed dealer what he/she would recommend and test for yourself!
Regarding limited irrigation, UNL research has actually shown a negative effect of lost yield by backing off population too far in a dry year.
Tom’s recommendation was for dryland in Eastern Nebraska, most hybrids even with the low soil moisture profile should be ok with planting 24,000-28,000 seeds/acre. I realize we have essentially no moisture in our profile. But taking probabilities of rainfall events, March-May is usually pretty good and we don’t want to short-change ourselves in yield by planting too low of populations. For Central into Western, NE, I feel 20,000-22,000 seeds/acre will work for many hybrids. Our genetics have come so far since we finished the last drought in 2007 and were planting 18,000 seeds/acre in dryland. We will just keep praying for rain and hope for the best next year! Ultimately, test this and your other on-farm questions for yourself to know what will work for your farm!
What planting rates are you considering for 2013?
With the early harvest and potential product discounts, producers may be considering fall fertilization soon. I can appreciate the reasons for it such as the product discounts, covering acres, and the fact that we don’t know what spring weather will bring in order to fertilize before planting.
At the same time applying nitrogen when a growing crop is not present allows for nutrient loss and we continue to see nitrates in groundwater increase in some areas. Check out the following Webcasts regarding research from UNL Soil Fertility Specialists as you consider nutrient application and the addition of nitrogen inhibitors.
Guidelines for Fall Fertilizing
If you do apply fertilizer in the fall, the Natural Resources District (NRD’s) have provided guidelines so please check specifically with them. Both UBBNRD and LBNRD have said no fall fertilization before November 1st and recommend no fall fertilization when soil temperatures are above 50°F. This is because the conversion of anhydrous ammonia is much slower once soil temperatures are consistently below 50°F. Please see the CropWatch Soil Temperature page for a map of current soil temperatures.
LBNRD also recommends but doesn’t require a nitrogen inhibitor placed with the anhydrous in the fall. No liquid or dry nitrogen fertilizer can be applied between November 1st and March 1st without receiving a fertilizer permit. With the fertilizer permit, producers will be required to put a nitrogen inhibitor in with their dry or liquid fertilizer.
Two exemptions are provided in the spreading of manure, sewage, and other by-products conducted in compliance with state laws and regulations, and the applications of pre-plant starter nitrogen to fall seeded crops, such as wheat.
A few other considerations from UNL Soil Fertility Specialists:
- Take soil samples as soil nitrates may be higher than normal this fall-particularly in dryland fields.
- Dry soils are difficult to sample and may affect results. Soil organic matter and soil nitrate results should be fine, but some soil pH and potassium may be affected by the dry conditions.
- Knife applications, including sealing of anhydrous ammonia injection tracks, also may be more difficult in dry soil conditions.
- Monitor rain and snow infiltration between now and the next growing season and make fertilizer adjustments next spring if excessive rain may have caused leaching.