Cold Weather and Livestock: This week I found gratitude time and again for a warm home. Thinking of those who haven’t been as fortunate. Have also thought about our livestock producers taking care of animals. In the unfortunate event of livestock losses, please document/take photos in the event of any disaster declarations for livestock indemnity payments (LIP).
Crop/Livestock Systems On-Farm Research Study: At last week’s cover crop and soil health conference, Ken Herz shared on his family’s on-farm research study. I’m so proud of and grateful to the entire Herz family for their partnership in this study and for the focus on the economics of an entire system! This study was designed with a system’s perspective incorporating crops, cattle, cover crops in a way that fit many operations in a non-irrigated setting. Their goals were to increase soil organic matter and ultimately determine yield and economics of the entire system. The crop rotation is Wheat (with cover crop planted into stubble after harvest), Corn, Soybean. Cattle graze the cover crop in the winter and also graze the corn residue. No-till wheat prior to corn for increased moisture saving and yield is common in this part of the State as is planting a cover crop into wheat stubble for grazing. The questions I hear include:
1-What moisture and potential yield am I giving up to the successive corn crop if I plant a cover crop into my wheat stubble?
2-If there’s a yield loss in the successive corn crop, do the economics of grazing the cover crop offset that loss?
We had three treatments and two locations (Location 1 had a cool-season cover crop and Location 2 had a warm-season one). The treatments are: ungrazed wheat stubble, ungrazed cover crop, and grazed cover crop. We’ve collected soil property, moisture, nutrient, and health data; yield and moisture of each crop; cover crop biomass; grazing days; and economics.
Location 1 in Nuckolls county began in 2016 with a cool season cover crop planted after wheat was harvested and manure applied. Three-year analysis showed no difference in soil physical properties (bulk density and compaction) amongst treatments. There was greater total microbial and fungal biomass in the grazed cover crop treatment (indicators of improved soil health). Interestingly, the ungrazed wheat stubble is the most economical treatment at this location. Reasons: cost of hauling water for grazing, numerically higher yields in the ungrazed wheat stubble, variable biomass in cool season cover, and a large yield hit to the 2018 soybeans in the grazed cover crop treatment during a dry year. In 2018, to the line there was a stress difference in the soybeans and that treatment read drier via soil moisture sensors. They’ve been conservative with grazing so at the time we couldn’t explain it. In taking soil health tests in year 3, we realized how greatly the microbial biomass had increased where cattle grazed. Our hypothesis is microbes broke down the remaining residue exposing soil to more evaporative losses resulting in less soil moisture and less yield for soybeans in the grazed treatment during a dry year. It’s now on our radar when grazing occurs to get cattle off even sooner to account for feeding the microbes too.
Location 2 in Webster county began in 2018 with a warm season cover crop. Over 4 tons of biomass allowing for 91 grazing days, not hauling water, and no successive crop yield differences all led to the grazed cover crop being the most economical treatment at this location.
Take home points: it’s important to add all the components when looking at economics. Grazed cover crop treatment at Location 1 would look better if we didn’t include the large cost of hauling water and if there was more cool season biomass allowing for more grazing days. The differing results at the two locations showed the influence of cover crop biomass and importance of including value of grazing; fencing/water/labor costs for livestock; cover crop costs; and successive crop yields in system economics. It’s easy to make assumptions that a certain practice is profitable! Location 1 will hopefully continue another 6 years switching the cool season cover crop to a warm season one to compare economics on the same field. We’re curious if the warm season cover will increase biomass and grazing days enough to outweigh the water hauling costs and show a benefit to the grazed cover crop treatment, or if the ungrazed wheat stubble will remain the most economical for this field location.
Regarding cover crop economics, it could be helpful to determine a consistent way for assessing a dollar value for potential benefits such as aiding in weed and erosion control, nutrient uptake, etc. This may aid conversations with landlords and lenders for those desirous to try them. Without livestock value, currently on paper, there’s really only costs.
(End of news column. Photos below are additional information.)
This time of year transitions to winter programming for me. The past few weeks I’ve mostly talked about cover crop results we’ve received from our on-farm research studies. I’m pretty passionate about on-farm research! On-farm research allows us to study topics we often wouldn’t receive funding for, with minimal monetary investment while conducting them on growers’ farms. It wouldn’t be possible without our grower cooperators and I’m so grateful for them!
We have an on-farm research database at: http://resultsfinder.unl.edu/ where you can click on a county or enter a keyword to search for various studies. It’s kind of picky on the wording, but it’s still a nice tool. I used this to compare cash crops planted into either cereal rye or cover crop mix for 1 year or for 3 years. Results can also be viewed via tables on my blog at: jenreesources.com.
One Year Studies: From 2008-2018, there were 7 studies in which corn or soybean was planted into cereal rye. They all showed either no yield difference or yield loss when the cash crop was planted into the cereal rye regardless of terminating pre- or post-planting. In 3 studies conducted in Clay, Franklin, and Phelps counties in 2014, either non-irrigated corn or wheat was planted into a cover crop mix. They all showed yield loss and moisture was anticipated to be a limiting factor, but no moisture sensors were used in the studies.
Three Year Studies: In three Saunders county locations where they planted cereal rye after harvest on the same strips for three successive years, there was either no yield difference or a yield increase in year three when the cash crop was planted into the cereal rye. We also have a long term study in Nuckolls county and will share more on that in an upcoming column.
We encourage growers to conduct studies more than one year where feasible. It’s especially important when looking at studies that have longer term implications to soil to maintain studies in the same location over time. Maybe some of you have tried a cover crop once but didn’t see positive yield results after year one; perhaps yield results would be different over time? The on-farm research studies summarized here don’t go into enough detail to specify why yields were the same or improved in the three studies in year three. During different meetings, some also asked about nitrogen tie-up in the cover contributing to yield loss. There are other studies showing addition of nitrogen at planting can reduce yield loss impacts due to nitrogen tie-up. Where we had information about nitrogen applied at planting, I added this to the tables on my blog. Ultimately, there wasn’t consistency in rates applied nor improved yield in all cases with these studies.
Farm Bill Meeting York Dec. 6: A reminder of the Farm Bill Meeting to be held at the Cornerstone Event Center at the Fairgrounds in York from 9 a.m.-Noon on Dec. 6. Please RSVP at: go.unl.edu/farmbill to select this or any other location. This helps us prepare and helps save time at the door during registration. If you prefer not to RSVP via computer, you can call your local Extension or FSA office and we will get you registered.
Nebraska Soybean Day and Machinery Expo Dec. 19 will assist soybean producers in planning for next year’s growing season. The expo will be in the pavilion at the Saunders County Fairgrounds in Wahoo. The Saunders County Soybean Growers Organization will be collecting non-perishable food and monetary donations for the Saunders County Food Bank backpack program. Complimentary noon lunch will be served. Registration is available the day of the expo at the door and there is no registration fee.
The event opens with coffee, doughnuts and the opportunity to view equipment and exhibitor booths at 8:30 a.m. Program begins at 9:10 a.m. Topics include: A New Marketing Tool for Soybean Growers-The Role of Harvest Moisture (Cory Walters, UNL); Decision Making in Uncertain Times (Richard Preston, Preston Farms Kentucky); Managing Soybean Diseases with Fungicides (Daren Mueller, ISU); Managing Waterhemp (Chris Proctor, UNL); Soybean Gall Midge (Justin McMechan, UNL); and Nebraska Soybean Checkoff Update and Association Information.
*End of Column. Cover Crop Tables Below.
Table 1: Corn or Soybean Planted into Cereal Rye Cover. One year studies. Yield values with the same letter are not significantly different at a 90% confidence level (for each individual study).
Table 2: Corn or Wheat Planted into Cover Crop Mix. One year studies. Yield values with the same letter are not significantly different at a 90% confidence level (for each individual study).
Table 3: Three year studies utilizing cereal rye as cover crop in same strips over time. Yield values with the same letter are not significantly different at a 90% confidence level (for each individual study).
Reminder of South Central Ag Lab Field Day August 29th from 8:25 a.m.-4 p.m. (Registration at 8 a.m.)! 10.5 CCA credits have been applied for. More information at: https://go.unl.edu/zvwx
Crop Update: The rain last weekend was a blessing to many. It along with cooler temperatures has allowed for deeper kernels and delayed corn maturity. In fact, if we were to stay at the high temperatures we were experiencing, the Hybrid Maize model was predicting maturity in our area anywhere from 1-3 weeks early. Now, it’s mostly just predicting one week early (for anything that isn’t already mature). It also is showing above average yields for non-irrigated corn where drought-stress and hail weren’t a factor. Irrigated yields are showing near average according to the model for most fields in the area. You can see all the graphs and read more in this week’s CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu. Corn has reached black layer in many of the hail damaged fields I’ve looked at and some of the drought-stressed fields will begin harvest in a few weeks. The rain also greatly helped the soybeans, even in drought-stressed areas.
However, the rain also greatly increased stalk rot in fields, particularly in hail damaged ones. We weren’t seeing a large amount of mold in the first 7-10 days post-hail in hail damaged fields that were late dough to early dent. Now, nearly 21 days later, we’re seeing fungal growth increasing with the moisture and humidity within the husks of corn ears. It will be very important to check your fields to determine worst ones and worst areas of fields regarding stalk rot and kernel damage. Those areas should be harvested first if they’re being taken for grain and we’re recommending to fill any contracts with grain from those areas first. In checking for stalk rot, I prefer a ‘pinch test’ compared to a ‘push test’. With the pinch test, take your thumb and first finger and pinch the stalk internode that occurs between the lower nodes above the soil line. Do this for 20 plants in an area and get a percentage for those that crush. Then do this for several areas of your field. This gives you an indication of the level of stalk rot for your field and worst affected areas.
Cover Crops: With recent crop insurance determinations on these damaged fields, I’ve received an increasing number of questions regarding cover crop use. We’re already seeing weeds germinating in these fields due to open canopies, so weed control is one considerations for using a cover crop right now. Other reasons expressed have been for excess nitrogen uptake and also for a forage option. Dr. Mary Drewnoski, Extension Beef Nutritionist, Dr. Daren Redfearn, Extension Forage Specialist, and I talked through options to consider right now.
Always check with your crop insurance agent before seeding a cover crop into hail-damaged fields. It’s also important to check replant, forage and grazing restrictions regarding the herbicide program you used and any delay necessary before seeding a cover crop and any forage restrictions to grazing a cover crop. (See Replant Options and Herbicide Rotation Restrictions and Forage, Feed, and Grazing Restrictions for Row Crop Herbicides, both excerpted from the 2018 Guide for Weed, Disease, and Insect Management in Nebraska, EC130.)
In general, we’re at an interesting time for making cover crop decisions. Typically we use September 1 as the divider between planting small grains such as oats that will winterkill and winter hardy cereals such as rye or triticale (planted after September 1). Even with brassicas such as turnips, collards, or rapeseed, we’d recommend the cutoff for seeding to be within the next two weeks. Because of this time frame, mixes may be beneficial because they’ll take advantage of whatever weather we have for the rest of the season. Simple, inexpensive mixes may allow for at least something to become successfully established. So, for those looking at something to winterkill, oats could be planted yet this week as could a mix of oats and brassicas. However, after this week, we’d be looking at either adding something like rye or triticale to the mix or just switching to the more winter-hardy small grains. And honestly, while it isn’t mentioned in the table, if a person’s goal is cover the ground for weed management, bin-run wheat is also an inexpensive option. Your local seed supplier can provide seeding rates for cover crop options and we’ve provided a table with these options, depending on your goals, at http://cropwatch.unl.edu.
Yellow or red tops in corn plants: For a month now, we’ve observed yellow tops in corn plants. Plants that contain ears and are turning yellow from the top to the middle of the plant can be occurring because of anthracnose top dieback or another disorder called ‘top leaf death or dieback in corn‘. Some plants with this discoloration truly do have anthracnose spores present on the stalk and sheaths. However, there have been other situations where I couldn’t find the presence of anthracnose spores. In those situations, the plants were often on compacted areas of field edges, always had a nice ear on the plant, and sometimes had tillers as well. Dr. Bob Nielsen at Purdue mentioned they had found what’s called ‘top leaf death’ in corn in situations where they experienced more drought or heat stress. Those plants had leaf discoloration similar to anthracnose top dieback, but without the presence of the spores. So, for those situations where I’m not finding anthracnose spores, I’m calling it this top leaf death disorder. You can read more about this at: https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/topleafdeath.html.
|COVER CROP||USE/GOAL||WHEN TO PLANT||HOW TO SEED||RATE
|OATS||Weed Management||By Sept. 1||Drill best. Can fly on.||30-40 lbs||*|
|OATS/RYE MIX||Weed Management||By Sept. 1||Drill best. Can fly on.||30 lbs each||*|
|OATS||Forage||By Sept. 1||Drill best. Can fly on.||80-90 lbs||*|
|OAT/RYE MIX||Forage||By Sept. 1||Drill best. Can fly on.||30-40 lbs of rye and 50-60 lbs oats||*|
|BRASSICAS (TURNIP, COLLARD, RAPESEED)-NOT OILSEED RADISHES||Cover ground, forage, nitrogen uptake||By Sept. 1||Fly on for quicker establishment.||5-6 lbs||—|
|RYE||Weed management, cover ground, forage, nitrogen uptake||After Sept. 1||Drill best. Can fly on.||50-60 lbs||*|
|*If adding a brassica to any of these small grain options, only 2 lb/ac is needed. Rapeseed isn’t as well known, but is an inexpensive and good option for consideration.|
Crop Update: Wheat is mostly in various stages of heading through pollination in this part of the State. The wheat scab risk prediction model (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu/) was forecasting higher potential for scab in portions of Nebraska last week with a relax in the model this week due to higher temperatures and no moisture. Please keep an eye on your growth stages, the weather, and the model for risk of scab in your wheat.
Don’t have too much in the way of corn and soybean updates other than it’s good to see guys finishing planting and getting herbicide applications down. Waterhemp and palmer range in size from emergence to 4 inches from what I was seeing this past week.
Also a reminder to install irrigation scheduling equipment soon. It’s always easier to install earlier than when plants get larger! Check out this week’s CropWatch article at https://go.unl.edu/n0u0 which shares additional information about ET gage sites; reminders and tips for installing ET gages and watermark sensors.
Wheat and Field Pea Field Days: There are 11 upcoming wheat field days throughout the State, many of them coupled with field pea/pulse/cover crop field days as well. During the field visits participants will be able to learn more about different varieties of wheat, field peas, chickpeas and forages. Depending on the location, field visits will also include demonstrations of other specialty crops (lentils, winter canola, forages, cover crops) and effects that different agronomic practices (planting dates, seeding rates, fertilizer management, etc.) have on crop yield and yield quality.
Besides field visits, the field days will feature indoor sessions with a free lunch, a 30-minute networking session, and brief research updates. Networking sessions will allow participants to meet with seed, processing, and marketing businesses critical to pulse cop industry development in Nebraska. The research updates will include: Production and marketing of pulse crops, Incorporating cover crops in wheat and field pea cropping systems, and Wheat production – management for higher yield and grain protein. Area dates/locations are listed below and all flyers with additional information can be viewed at: https://go.unl.edu/vto8.
- May 30: Wheat Field Day, 6:30 p.m. at Fairbury, RSVP email@example.com
- June 12: Wheat and Pulse Crops, 9 a.m. at the UNL ENREC near Mead, RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
- June 18: Wheat and Pulse Crops, 9 a.m. near Callaway and at North Platte (UNL WCREC), RSVP email@example.com
- June 19: Wheat and Pulse Crops, 8:30 a.m. near Grant (UNL Stumpf Wheat Center), RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org
- June 20: Wheat and Pulse Crops, 9 a.m. near Alma and Bladen RSVP email@example.com
Nebraska Field Pea Field Days are free, thanks to sponsorship by the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) in Nebraska, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the pulse crops seed and processing industry.
South Central Ag Lab (SCAL) Weed Science and Cover Crop Field Day: View demonstrations of new technologies and herbicides for weed control in corn, soybeans, and sorghum and effects of cover crops on soil health and pest management at the June 27 Weed Management and Cover Crops Field Day. It will be held at the South Central Ag Lab near Clay Center. The day begins with registration and rolls at 8 a.m., followed by weed management tours from 8:30 a.m. – noon, and cover crop demonstrations from 1 to 3 p.m. A free lunch will be served. In addition to the field demonstrations, Jim Specht, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor emeritus, will presented on “Optimizing Soybean Planting Date, Seeding Rate, and Seeding Depth in Nebraska.” CCA credits will be available. Please pre-register at: https://agronomy.unl.edu/fieldday. The South Central Ag Lab is 4.5 miles west of the intersection of Hwy 14 south (to Clay Center) and Hwy 6 or 12.4 miles east of Hastings on Hwy 6. GPS coordinates: 40.57539, -98.13776.
- Comparison of Herbicide Programs for Weed Control in Soybean including Roundup Ready 2 Xtend and Liberty Link Soybean, Examples of spraying the wrong herbicide on wrong soybean herbicide-resistant cultivar, Weed removal at different growth stages and yield impacts, and Understanding multiple herbicide-resistant soybean herbicide programs.
- Comparison of Herbicide Programs for Weed Control in Corn including glyphosate and glufosinate-resistant corn in addition to several new corn herbicides, response of white and yellow popcorn to various herbicide chemistries and off-target movement, control of volunteer corn in Enlist Corn, and Weed Control and Crop Response in INZEN sorghum.
- An Overview of the Effects of Cover Crops on weed suppression, pests (particularly wheat stem maggot) and beneficial insects. Cover Crop Effects on Soil Health, including changes in soil microbial communities and soil physical properties with a focus on cover crop root biomass.
Hope you had a blessed Easter! The Wheat Stem Maggot in Cover Crop Webinar can now be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGjuzMlrjhQ&feature=youtu.be. The link for the survey mentioned in the webinar is no longer available but you are welcome to contact Dr. Justin McMechan for additional comments/questions. He goes through a number of insects to watch for and his ultimate message is to scout to determine termination timing.
Cover Crop Interseeding: A few weeks ago I attended the interseeding cover crops field day which had a really good attendance for March! For those of you considering this, I learned it’s best to start earlier than V6…consider V3 and if it’s wet, you have a better chance of actually getting interseeding accomplished by V6. This is year 3 of their study. The first year they used a spreader to seed the mixes. The second year they found utilizing insecticide boxes for the seeding when they cultivated worked the best. The third year they used a Hiniker inter-row seeder which they purchased.
Regarding mixes, most of them included annual ryegrass or cereal rye. There’s a Penn State mix (27# total of annual ryegrass, red clover, and hairy vetch) that has been successful in northern U.S. states. Very little cover was observable this spring, but from a photo provided, it appeared growth came on during corn senescence and after harvest last year. Fall biomass wasn’t measured last year which will hopefully be measured in the future to obtain more data on the success of the mixes. My take, if your goal is early spring grazing or early spring cover, I’m unsure that much can beat cereal rye, even if it was dormant seeded. If you’re looking for a way to get some cover established prior to corn harvest for either fall grazing or just fall soil cover, interseeding with a mix containing the annual ryegrass looked good from the pictures they showed. If you’re interested in any cover crop or other on-farm research studies this year, please let me know!
Tree Care Workshop: Trees are very valuable in our landscapes. They provide us with beauty, shade, oxygen, and better resale on our homes. These trees need our help to ensure they have healthy growth. When they have a disease or insect problem, it is up to us to manage those pests to help them live many years. On Wednesday, April 18th from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Fairgrounds in Clay Center, Nicole Stoner will teach us what to do with our trees. Nicole is a Horticulture Educator from Gage County. This tree program is $5.00 and will cover light refreshments and your educational materials. Nicole will cover watering, insect and disease problems, general care, and planting of trees. Please pre-register by April 13th with Nebraska Extension in Clay County by calling 402-762-3644 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring Affair Plant Sale: Spring Affair, the Midwest’s largest plant sale and gardening event, will be Saturday, April 28 at the Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 700 different varieties of perennials, herbs, grasses, trees, shrubs and other plants will be available. They are selected for regional suitability, uniqueness, popular demand and provided by Bluebird Nursery, Inc., of Clarkson, Neb. It is sponsored by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum as an educational tool, fundraising event and to promote regional plants. For information and inspiration, half hour plant talks will be offered at:
- 10:00 – “Nebraska Native Plants for Birds” by Jason St. Sauver, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center
- 11:00 – “Gardening 101: I’ve got my plants, now what?” by Justin Evertson, Green Infrastructure Coordinator for the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
- 12:00 – “The Guilt-free Garden” by Mark Canney, Park Planner & Designer for Lincoln Parks & Recreation
Admission to the sale is free. The plant sale, presentations, educational booths and vendors of garden-related items are all in Pavilion I of the Lancaster Event Center with plenty of free parking. For more information, visit https://plantnebraska.org/spring-affair.
DriftWatch/BeeCheck: Nebraska Department of Ag (NDA) encourages pesticide applicators to check out DriftWatch/BeeCheck at http://driftwatch.org to minimize pesticide drift. It’s important for those with sensitive sites such as organic, bees, vegetables, grapes, etc. to add them to this website and important for all applicators to check this website for sensitive locations around our fields. Several states have been added to DriftWatch/BeeCheck in the last year and a few more are in the works, making it more beneficial to applicators working near the state line or those working in multiple states. FieldWatch, the company that manages DriftWatch/BeeCheck, now offers data subscriptions for obtaining data files for GIS maps or live stream data through several mapping software providers. It will be rolling out a new mobile app very soon, FieldCheck, for applicators who have registered as an applicator (which is free to do). You can also view the most recent edition of NDA’s Plant Health Protection Update at: https://us14.campaign-archive.com/home/?u=eb13611bfcca17410ce5c5f52&id=10756f8d33.
On-Farm Research: It’s been fun discussing on-farm research projects and putting together protocols with growers the past few weeks! Some have asked if there’s already projects for which we need cooperators. We do have those and we also custom develop protocols depending on the question(s) you wish to look at. For those curious about protocols developed, you can view some at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch/extensionprotocols.
One question I’ve received quite a bit the past few years is about establishing cover crops into V5-6 corn. We don’t have on-farm research data yet for this study topic, but perhaps this year a few of you will consider it! The thought is to get the cover established, even though it won’t grow much during growing season, and hopefully provide for faster growth after harvest. I have developed an on-farm research protocol if growers are interested in trying this (it can be found at the same website listed above). In our brainstorming session, growers talked about interseeding via retrofitting equipment to put seed on similar to Y-drops, using a coulter, or seeding during cultivation. There is also a field day on March 21 to discuss what one farmer has tried the past three years regarding different seeding mixes and ways of establishing the cover at V6. If you’re interested in attending, it will be held at 4th Ave and 1/4 mile north on Arthur Road near St. Libory, NE from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The following website has more information regarding this field day: http://cpnrd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Cover-Crop-Field-Day-Flyer-March21.pdf. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP Dean Krull: email@example.com. Please let me know if you’re interested in the V6 cover crop protocol as well! Also just a note, this protocol can also be adapted for any of you looking at applying nutrients during that V5-V6 time-frame. The plot pattern would be the same; the objective and perhaps some of the data collection would change.
Soil Moisture Status in Non-Irrigated Fields: This week I plan to install soil moisture sensors into some non-irrigated fields in the southern area of counties I serve. I’m just curious where we’re truly at for soil moisture deeper in the soil profile knowing Kansas is in drought and moisture this winter has been spotty. I did this in 2013 as well to see where we were at after the drought of 2012; it showed we didn’t have a full soil profile going into the growing season. If you have moisture sensors, you may wish to consider doing this as well for your fields or pastures to know where you’re at. It may influence cropping decisions for 2018. If you connect sensors to dataloggers, you will want to also install a temperature sensor to allow the datalogger to base the moisture readings on the current soil temperature.
Check out this week’s UNL CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu for information on averaged land values dropped by 3% from 2017, negotiating fair leases, assessing alfalfa winterkill, interseeding into thin alfalfa stands, and more.
Innovative Youth Corn Challenge: Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Corn Board are offering the seventh Innovative Youth Corn Challenge contest. This contest, open to 4-H members (age 10 & older as of Jan. 1st) or FFA members (in-school members), guides participants through all aspects of corn production, as well as agricultural careers related to corn production. As a team (2 or more participants), youth will be challenged to implement a production practice different than normal to determine if they increased their yield. Economics and sustainability of the practice will also be considered. Yields, cropping history, and production information will be collected in the Corn Yield Challenge management summary. Cash prizes and plaques are given. First place receives $1,000, second place receives $500, and third place receives $250. Sustainability, crop scouting and “extra mile” awards are also given as cash awards. To participate in 2018, youth must complete and return an entry form by APRIL 1st to the Fillmore County Extension Office in Geneva, NE. Forms can be downloaded at https://cropwatch.unl.edu/youth/cornchallenge. For more information, contact Brandy VanDeWalle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Horticulture Information from Kelly Feehan, Platte County: “Interested in getting an early start on vegetable gardening? You don’t need a greenhouse; just check out row covers that can be placed over plants to provide some protection from cold temperatures. Row covers are spun-bonded or woven polyester or polypropylene material that can be placed over plants to extend the growing season by retaining heat. Row covers are permeable and allow in light, water and air for plant growth. Depending on the weight of material used, between 2 and 8 degrees of frost protection can be gained, allowing earlier planting in spring or later planting in fall to move the harvest season up by a week or two or extend it a week or two later in the fall. Row covers can be draped over plants and secured with bricks; or they can supported by hoops, in which case they’re called low tunnels. Low tunnels are an easy and good season extender for home gardeners to use.
Rhubarb is a perennial that can live for years; however, plants should be dug and divided every 5 to 10 years. This is best done from late March into early April. Dig rhubarb plants, then use a sharp knife or axe to cut crowns into sections, each containing two pinkish buds. Incorporate organic matter into soil; then replant divisions 2 to 3 feet apart. Plant shallow so buds are only one-half to one inch below soil. Do not harvest newly divided or planted rhubarb the first year to allow plants to establish roots and recover from division or transplanting. During the second season, harvest only a few stalks to allow plants to continue to build up energy reserves. For three year or older plants, the harvest season can last up to 8 weeks. Harvest the largest rhubarb stalks by pulling them slightly to the side so they break away from the plant. Avoid harvesting more than one-third of rhubarb stalks at one time so plants are not weakened.”
On-Farm Research: Last week a team of us did a series of meetings throughout the State regarding on-farm research updates. It’s always great to have the farmers presenting their research and adding in additional details that we didn’t have when the results booklet was published! Two more meetings continue in western Nebraska this week.
Perhaps my biggest reason for strongly promoting on-farm research is because there often is no better way to obtain answers to some of the questions you all have. These types of studies are often difficult to obtain funding (or can take months to obtain funding, resulting in a lost window of opportunity) and by conducting this research on your farms, we obtain the answers for your specific situations. Sometimes challenges such as storm damage also become opportunities to answer a question via on-farm research. Growers tend to appreciate research conducted on other growers’ farms when we share this research at various meetings, field days, and in articles. A variety of topics are researched every year including nutrient management, various products, row spacing, and new technologies including multi-hybrid planters, use of drone sensors, etc.
In this week’s UNL CropWatch at http://cropwatch.unl.edu, three on-farm research cooperators are featured. One of these is Ken Herz along with sons Zach and Aaron in the Lawrence, NE area as first-time cooperators. Ken approached me with several questions the winter of 2015. As growers with a non-irrigated, no-till wheat/corn/soybean rotation and a cattle operation, his family was curious about the impacts of grazing cover crops for cattle gains and improving soil organic matter. They were also curious about the trade-offs of the cover crop vs. any soil moisture loss or impact on the successive corn yield. They also wanted this study to be something that would be applicable to what farmers in this area did and something they could all learn from together. Thus, it was decided to not plant cover crops into the corn or soybean residue as that isn’t common and this would need to be a long-term study. Dr. Mary Drewnoski and I met with the Herz family to develop a plan for this study. Also thankful for Dr. Suat Irmak for his help in providing additional soil moisture equipment and advice I needed, to the Little Blue NRD in partnering with reduced cost of soil moisture equipment and also for the partnership of Green Cover Seed.
In 2016-2017, this study evaluated four treatments on the effects of successive corn yield: 1-ungrazed wheat stubble 2-grazed wheat stubble 3-ungrazed cover crop 4-grazed cover crop. Wheat was harvested July of 2016 and a five-species cover crop mix of spring triticale, winter peas, oats, collards, and purple top turnips was planted August 14, 2016 (they wanted a mix that would winter-kill). The cover crop received moisture within a week of planting that allowed for germination. Some additional fall moisture allowed for good growth and cover crop biomass was measured (3401 lb/ac) prior to grazing 28 (1100 lb) first-calf heifers for 22 days resulting in the cover crop carrying 2.4 animal unit months (AUM)/ac. The goal was not to graze too heavy to allow for ground cover and any long-term soil improvements, thus 2177 lb/ac of biomass was present post-grazing. Soil moisture was monitored from after cover crop planting through corn harvest. The soil was so dry after wheat harvest prior to planting the cover crop that it took using a drill to install the second and third foot moisture sensors. Beginning soil health parameters were also taken to be compared long-term in this study.
Corn was planted May 15, 2017. Prior to planting the corn, the soil moisture where the grazed and ungrazed cover crop plots were located were at 35% depletion (top three feet) compared to at field capacity (full soil moisture profile) in the grazed and ungrazed wheat stubble plots. Eight inches of rain in May evened out the soil profile allowing all plots to be at a full profile (top four feet) at the beginning of the corn growing season. As the season progressed, the grazing treatments started separating out from the ungrazed treatments from July through end of the season. I don’t know how to explain that yet.
Corn was harvested the Thursday of the major wind event with a calibrated grain wagon. Yields were not statistically different and were 218 bu/ac, 211 bu/ac, and 213 bu/ac for the ungrazed wheat stubble, grazed cover crop, and ungrazed cover crop respectively. The grazed wheat stubble treatment yielded 212 bu/ac but only had two reps at the end of the growing season so was not included in the statistical analysis. Economically, grazing the cover crop was as competitive as the ungrazed wheat stubble treatment when it came to ensuing corn yields and the spring rains made all the difference in beginning soil moisture. Because of the crop rotation, there wasn’t an opportunity to add a cover crop in this field Fall 2017. The Herz’ feel they lost an opportunity as environmental conditions vary so much every year, and this year, cover crops didn’t have as much growth in area fields. Thus, they’ve chosen to dedicate three fields to this study topic in the future, allowing for one of the fields each year to have wheat/cover crop/grazing to account for environmental variation. Continuing this for the next 5-7 years will better answer their questions while benefiting all of us with what is learned. Perhaps other growers are interested in some variation of this study for your farms?
Most studies are not this in depth and this is just one example of how growers are answering questions they have for themselves via on-farm research. It can take extra time at planting, harvest or other times of the season depending on the study. I believe most growers I’ve worked with would say the effort has been worth it to scientifically answer their questions for themselves. Truly am grateful for all of you I’ve had the opportunity to work with via on-farm research! So, if you’re thinking about a question you’d like to answer on your farm this year, consider reaching out to me or your local Extension educator and we’d be happy to talk with you now about how to set up your study. It is important to talk this through, especially if this is your first time conducting research. If you’d like to learn more about on-farm research, view some protocols, or view results from previous studies, please check out our website at http://cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch.
Bake and Take Month: March is Bake & Take month, a time when wheat organizations encourage others to bake a wheat good and share it with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and shut-ins. In honor of the month, the Nebraska Wheat Board (NWB) is again sponsoring recipe cards and stickers for any 4-H groups or other organizations that wish to participate. This year’s recipes are mini dessert tacos and crockpot cherry chocolate lava cake. Those interested in participating or who have questions can contact the NWB office at (402) 471-2358 or email@example.com. There is no cost for the supplies, and no limit on the number that can be requested. Those wishing to preview the recipes before requesting materials can find them listed at http://wheat.nebraska.gov starting March 1.
York County Fair Volunteers: Gary Zoubek asked me to mention he’s looking for a few volunteers that could help with 4-H and Open Class primarily on entry and judging day in Ag Hall on July 31 and August 1st. If you’re interested, please contact Gary at 402-326-8185 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grateful for a nice week for harvesting and for the good yields being reported! It’s also good to see cattle being turned into cornstalks. A reminder to read herbicide labels to understand if there’s any grazing restrictions from corn and soybean herbicides applied in-season.
It’s also important to look for any grazing restrictions on fall-applied herbicides to control marestail and other germinating weeds. These restrictions can also be found in the Forage Feed Grazing Restrictions in the UNL Guide for Weed Management. The forage, feed, and grazing restriction only applies to the crop for which the herbicide was applied. When it comes to grazing cover crops planted into these residues, one must use the replant/rotation restriction guidelines found on the herbicide label and in the UNL Weed Guide: Replant Options Rotation Restrictions-long. I apologize as these scanned blurry; hopefully you can zoom in ok to read what you need.
If the label doesn’t specify any restrictions, then it should be ok. If 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. Some labels will say that residue should not be grazed or baled and fed to livestock. Sometimes studies were actually conducted to know there is a safety concern. In other cases, the chemical company may not choose to conduct all the studies the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required for labeling due to high costs. If that’s the case, the EPA requires the strongest restrictive language be placed on the label. Regardless, if it says there’s a grazing restriction on the label, the label needs to be followed as it is a legal document and the law.
As you plan for next year’s herbicide program, if you’re thinking about fall cover crops, the following NebGuide may be of benefit to you as it goes through the grazing restrictions of various herbicides.
During the summer, our crops extension team has some great field days to share research and management strategies to farmers. One of those opportunities to learn more about weed management and cover crops will be on June 28 at the South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center. There is no charge for the field day […]