Great to see many farm families at Husker Harvest Days last week and also great to see harvest getting started! Just a reminder for all of us to watch for equipment on the roads and allow for extra time to slow down, particularly with the speed limit changes. Dawn, dusk, and the evening can be the hardest times to see equipment and it can be difficult to see how wide or long the equipment extends. Harvest is hard work and a lot of hours yet is also a blessing to finish the growing season. Here’s wishing everyone a safe harvest season!
Harvest: As storm and drought-damaged corn is being harvested, just a reminder that grain should be tested for presence of ear molds and any potential mycotoxins now in addition to moisture/test weight. I’m hearing some differences in what’s all being tested when the harvest sample is taken, so be sure to talk to your insurance agent about this. It’s important to also test for mold and potential mycotoxins as that gives you an indication of what’s in the grain, particularly if any grain is going into the bin. We’d recommend not binning the worst damaged fields/areas of fields, particularly if you have a lot of diplodia in the field. Drying grain to 14% moisture as quickly as possible will stop most fungal growth and we recommend drying to 13% if diplodia is an issue in your corn ears. I’m also consistently hearing about light test weights in the storm damaged grain.
Rapid crop dry down has been a topic of conversation; I’ll share more next week. Briefly, grain moisture loss occurs when husks lose their color, when portions of the ear are exposed above the husk, with looser husks around the ears, when ears turn down, and when there’s fewer and thinner husk leaves. For those asking about dying patches in soybean fields (in which pods are not filling seeds), I’m consistently finding anthracnose in samples but am unsure it’s always been the cause. The concern with rapid dry down in corn is just how quickly these plants are cannibalizing stalks to keep filling ears, the amount of stalk rot in fields, and large ears (watch for potential weakened ear shanks due to various stresses). I test for stalk rot using a pinch test where I pinch the internode between the lower plant nodes for 20 plants and determine a percentage throughout portions of fields. Consider harvesting fields with higher amounts of stalk rot/weakened ear shanks first and also consider harvesting at higher moisture. I’m finding stalk quality quickly deteriorating, even in non-storm damaged fields.
For those with palmer amaranth on field edges, just a reminder that 99% of the seed is still viable going through that combine. Thus, the combine is one of the best ways of spreading palmer throughout your field and from field to field. My recommendation from observing palmer spread the past five years is to avoid combining field edges, strips, or patches where palmer is an issue. Instead, disk down the field edges to bury the seed and then plant an inexpensive small grain like bin-run wheat to reduce early germination next spring. Some have also planted rye. I don’t know if shredding vs. one-time disking is as effective this time of year (since palmer shoots seed heads at the soil line too but unsure if if produces viable seed past mid-September here). As I’ve spoken during pesticide trainings and other meetings, farmers have also shared their experiences. Some farmers shared they took this advice and reduced the problem the successive year and didn’t spread it through their fields (even if they were no-till farmers and had to till the field edges one time). I’ve had other farmers share they combined that field edge or patch and could tell the following year exactly where the combine went for the first few passes within the field as the palmer was a problem there. So, just another consideration as it takes a system’s approach for everything we do including weed management; palmer management begins right now with harvest.
Another management consideration is to harvest soybeans as close to 13% (the elevator standard) as possible. And, I realize this is easier for me to write about than to actually do depending on many factors! Soybeans delivered below or above 13% moisture lose potential profit. At greater than 13% moisture, there is a moisture dock on the scale ticket for delivering wet beans, resulting in a lower price per bushel. And with less than 13% moisture, profit is lost because there are fewer “bushels” to sell rather than a dockage on the ticket. There are fewer bushels because the load weight is divided by 60 pounds per bushel (assuming 13% moisture) rather than by the actual pounds per bushel for the moisture content of the beans at the time of delivery. If you sell soybeans at 8% moisture, you’re losing about 5.43% of your yield; at 9% moisture, it’s 4.4%; at 10% moisture, 3.3%; at 11% moisture, 2.25%; and at 12% moisture, it’s 1.14% yield loss. That doesn’t take into account additional risk for shatter losses during harvest. For a field that’s yielding 75 bu/ac, harvesting it at 9% results in selling 3.3 fewer bushels per acre based on weight because you’re not selling the water that you’re entitled to sell if the beans were at 13% moisture. With soybeans priced at $7/bushel, that’s a loss of about $23 per acre (with greater loss when soybean price increases).
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.
In spite of green stems and even leaves on some plants, soybeans are surprisingly drier than what you may think. I’ve been hearing reports of soybeans in the 7-10% moisture range already in spite of there also being some “lima beans” along with the low moisture beans at harvest.
Harvesting soybeans at 13% moisture is a combination of skill and maybe some luck. Why is 13% so critical? A standard bushel of soybeans weighs 60 lbs. and is 13% moisture. Often beans are delivered to the buyer at lower moisture than 13%. The difference between actual and desired moisture content will result in lost revenue to the grain producer. Here’s how the loss works based on UNL Extension’s “10 Easy Ways to boost profits up to $20/acre”:
- Since 13 percent of the weight is water, only 87 percent is dry matter. The dry matter in a standard bushel is 52.2 pounds and the remaining 7.8 pounds is water.
- If this bushel of soybeans is kept in an open basket and some moisture is allowed to evaporate, the net weight of beans would decrease. If the dry matter weight remains unchanged at the standard 52.2 pounds, the wet basis weight for any moisture content can be calculated.
- For example, a standard bushel at 13 percent moisture weighs 60 pounds. If the moisture content were reduced to 11 percent (89 percent dry matter), the wet basis weight per bushel of the soybeans would be 52.2 pounds of dry matter divided by .89=58.65 pounds. (1.35 pounds less than the standard 60 lb. weight of beans initially placed in the basket). For each 52.2 pounds of dry matter delivered at 11 percent moisture, you miss an opportunity to sell 1.35 pounds of water.
- It is standard practice for buyers to assume 60 pounds of soybeans constitutes a bushel when soybeans are at or below 13 percent moisture. When the beans are below 13 percent, the difference in water content is made up for by an equal number of pounds (wet basis) of soybeans.
- Assuming a 60 bushel per acre yield and selling price of $8.50 per bushel, the potential extra profit the producer could realize if the beans are harvested at 13 percent moisture instead of 11 percent is $11.48 per acre.
Rapid dry-down and difficulty harvesting green stems and pods are the most common reasons for harvesting at lower than standard moisture. The following practices can help producers maintain quality and expected moisture content.
- Adjust harvest practices. When harvesting tough or green stems, make combine adjustments and operate at slower speeds.
- Begin harvesting at 14 percent moisture. Try harvesting when some of the leaves are still dry on the plant; the beans may be drier than you think. Soybeans are fully mature and have stopped accumulating dry matter when 95 percent of the pods are at their mature tan color.
- Plan planting dates and variety selection to spread out plant maturity and harvest.
- Avoid harvest losses from shattering. Four to five beans on the ground per square foot can add up to one bushel per acre loss. Harvest at a slow pace and make adjustments to the combine to match conditions several times a day as conditions change.
Last week I had a neat experience in speaking to a group of agronomists from China about Extension. They are in the U.S. for 10 days and are interested in high yield corn production. I scrapped the presentation I had been asked to present as they had so many questions about our Extension system. So we started in a discussion…how do we set up a field day/meeting in Extension? How do we let farmers know about them? How do we decide what to talk about? Thus ensued a discussion of farming in China vs. farming in Nebraska. In China, many of the fields are hand-planted and less than 10% of their farmers have internet connectivity. In Nebraska, we’re seeing the trend of larger equipment and the majority of our farmers are connected to the internet. I suggested that they start with field days and meetings which shared the research-based information they are generating at their research sites. Advertise to farmers via word of mouth, radio, newspapers, direct mailings, or brochures/flyers left at common gathering spots. Once they have the people at the meetings, they can follow up with a survey to determine needs assessment for what the farmers would like to know more about in the future to determine future meeting topics.
Extension in Nebraska has greatly changed in my 7 years regarding how we share information. We are challenged today to reach a broad audience who on one hand primarily finds information from newspapers to the other hand, primarily from the Web-and everywhere in between! This year, I’ve worked at trying to share the same information 7 different ways to reach a broader audience. I showed the agronomists from China the impact of the Web and social media in sharing information in Nebraska. They were amazed!
We then went on a tour where they were able to view harvest. It was fascinating watching them excitedly discuss and question no-till farming as they were digging through residue and in the soil. They also predicted corn yields by measuring and counting and comparing that to the combine yield monitor. Some enjoyed getting into the combines and learning about the precision ag tools available to farmers. It was a neat experience and I learned much from our visitors as well!
Combines have been rolling in the area soybeans and dryland corn. This is a busy time for farm families, but don’t let the rush to get the crop in compromise safety. Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations in the U.S. Here is a quick list of reminders for a safe harvest season.
It’s important to teach children these safety tips so they learn safety by habit as they live and work on the farm. Keep children and grandchildren away from equipment and machinery. Children who are involved in operating machinery and equipment should be properly trained by an adult on each piece they operate. It is always fun for kids to ride in the combines, or on the tractor fenders, but if there is not an extra seat and a seatbelt, it’s not a good idea. Tractor operators can be distracted by these extra riders and not keep their full attention on operating the equipment. All it takes is a sudden stop or swerve for the extra passengers to be thrown off or more serious injuries to occur. Keep kids out of grain wagons and bins and always be watchful for children and adults when moving machinery.
Double check to make sure all machinery is working properly and that safety shields are in place. When moving equipment, especially grain augers, watch for power lines, keeping equipment at least ten feet from them. Don’t get into grain wagons or bins while the grain is moving. Many people have seen the demonstrations of how quickly a person can be sucked under the grain and suffocated. Probably the hardest one to follow, yet easiest safety tip to do is to shut down moving equipment when it gets plugged. It only takes a few extra seconds and is well worth it to save a limb. People who think “nothing will happen to me” are those at the greatest risk for something to happen because they do not practice safety as they should. Farm accidents happen so quickly; don’t let them happen to you or your family!
Try to move equipment during the daylight hours. If you must move equipment at night, make sure tractor lights are working properly and slow moving vehicle signs are visible. It may even be helpful to put lights on grain wagons or on equipment you are pulling for other drivers to see them in time. You may have someone follow you in a vehicle with flashers to warn others of a slow moving vehicle ahead. Be cautious of other drivers as they get anxious to pass, especially if they try to pass while you intend on turning. For all of us on the road, it’s important to slow down and stay alert when we encounter harvest equipment on the road. During this Farm Safety Week, I’m wishing everyone a safe and bountiful harvest!