Thank you to Tena with Faller Landscape in York and to all the youth who participated in our 4-H landscape design workshop and helped plant the Nebraska area! It will hopefully be beautiful for fair!
Crop Update: Rain continues to be spotty and windstorms have resulted in various levels of greensnap in some fields. Overall crops are growing and getting a decent canopy. It’s been interesting watching the radar on weather apps as so often they look like precipitation should be occurring yet that’s not always the case. Grateful for all of you who share crop updates-including things such as impacts on hay crops, pastures, etc. and for our farmers working with me on soil moisture monitoring. I was told this past week of the impact of our groundtruthing on the drought monitor; radar would make it appear we’re not as dry as we truly are. So just wanted to share that with you-that your input is important as we then share that input with those who work with the models and maps! I plan to get soil moisture sensors installed in non-irrigated fields in York, Seward, and Clay this week as well.
Soil Moisture Sensors Tips: With cultivating and hilling progressing, some are now looking at getting soil moisture sensors installed. If you utilize watermark sensors, the following are some tips I’ve learned.
Test sensors with wet/dry process to remove all air bubbles:
- First, make sure sensors read 199.
- Then, soak sensors for at least 24 hours. They should read 10 or less (Jenny’s note-I realize they may read this in a matter of minutes to hours but it’s our best practice recommendation to ensure all air bubbles are removed).
- If they don’t read 10 or less, gently rub any soil loose on them with your fingers (don’t use a brush) and allow to continue soaking for another 24-48 hours. If they still don’t read under 10, I don’t use them.
- Best practice is to then allow the sensors to completely dry out again to 199 to complete the wet/dry process. (Jenny’s note: I realize, due to time constraints, many sensors get installed once they have been soaking and never go through the complete drying process).
- Avoid installing sensors in saturated soil conditions in clayey soils. Doing so allows a thin clay film to develop on the sensors which then affects readings .
- Prior to installation, the sensors should be soaked again and installed wet. The soaking process only takes a matter of minutes to get back to 10 or below. I carry the water bucket with sensors with me into the field.
- When soaking, water moves into the PVC pipe, thus it can take time for the water to drain providing accurate readings if not removed. Some sensors have a hole drilled in the PVC pipe above the sensor to allow water to drain. Otherwise, it’s important to remove the caps and tip the sensors over to dump any water that has accumulated in the PVC pipe during the soaking process. I then put the cap back on, take my hand and wet the PVC pipe with water so it pushes in easier. Some like to use WD-40 but my concern with that is it getting on the sensor affecting readings.
- Install all sensors where the sensor itself sets using an ag consultant tube (can be 12 or 18 inches). An ag consultant tube has a slightly smaller diameter that provides a tight fit for the sensor. Use a regular soil probe for the foot above that. For example, for 1’ sensor, I use ag consultant tube. For 2’ sensor, I use regular probe for first foot and ag consultant tube for second foot. For 3’ sensor, I use regular probe for first 2 feet and ag consultant tube for third foot. The reason for this is in clayey soils that are wet, there’s greater resistance to pushing in that sensor, so this is one way I’ve found which is easier for someone like me to push them in. (Jenny’s note: many have installed sensors with a regular soil probe through the years and that’s also fine. Just know that you may see more water run along side of tube before soil makes a tight fit around where sensor is located. I’ve just found less issues with this when I use the process described above).
- NEVER pour water into the hole or make a slurry. Make sure the sensor hits the bottom of the hole as air gaps can make the sensor readings inaccurate. Some people find it better to not remove the entire amount of soil for a specific depth and then push the sensor the rest of the way till the correct depth is obtained. I’m not always strong enough to do that so do what works for you as long as the sensor is at the correct depth and there’s no air gaps.
- Make sure to fill in any gaps around the sensor with soil and make sure there’s no soil cracks around the sensors.
- Make sure to mark each sensor and flag them well.
- Sensor readings should equilibrate with the soil within 48-72 hours but especially within a week.
- If a sensor starts reading really dry, before replacing it, I often remove it and reprime it in the field. This can be done by re-soaking in water for 1 minute or so till it goes back below 10 and then reinstalling in same hole. If it doesn’t go below 10, I replace it. If it reads strange the next week, I also replace it.
- A reminder to use distilled water in the tube and to fill the ceramic top when you’re also filling the main tube. I usually fill the ceramic top and wait for it to soak up a little then fill again.
- Prime the ET gage ensuring no air bubbles are in the second tube with the stopper. I always overfill the ET gage to help with priming and ensuring there’s no air bubbles.
- Excess water can be removed and also air bubbles can be removed by gently pulling down on the glass site gauge tube at the rubber base and releasing extra water from it. Air bubbles can also be released in this process. Place the site gauge tube back in place when you are at a water level between ‘0 and 1’. Then place one red marker ring on that beginning start level.
- I always plan to refill the ET gage when it gets down to ‘9’ on the site tube.
- The green canvas cover should be replaced at least every 2 years and be sure to dust it off and the white membrane below it.
In another column I’ll share how to use the two tools together for irrigation scheduling. All videos and charts with more information can be found at: https://water.unl.edu/category/nawmn. This is a checklist I made awhile back with Daryl Andersen which has more detail and could honestly be updated: http://www.littlebluenrd.org/pdf’s/forms/etgage_sensor_checklist.pdf but may also be helpful.
Tree Damage: Recent windstorms have caused for many downed branches and even some trees. When removing broken branches or dead branches, it’s important to prune correctly for tree health. Correct pruning of larger branches can often involve 3 cuts per limb. The first two cuts are made away from the trunk of the tree to remove most of the weight of the limb. The third cut is near the trunk itself at the bark collar ridge where the tree will eventually seek to heal. I like this Backyard Farmer YouTube video as a good visual of correct pruning: https://youtu.be/9cl0Qxm7npk. Pruning is best done in the dormant season of February and March. It’s best avoided in April and May when trees are putting energy into new leaves and in the fall as fall pruning can result in growth instead of the tree preparing for and going into dormancy. Some great resources with more information on proper pruning are: https://go.unl.edu/v9uf, https://go.unl.edu/gdb9, and this blog post https://jenreesources.com/2014/04/20/proper-tree-pruning.
March 10th marks the third annual Nebraska Ag Water Management Network Conference with 2016 being the 11th year since the Network was formed! If you’re interested in learning how you can better schedule your irrigation in addition to learning about the latest in irrigation research from Nebraska Extension, consider attending this free event!
The sun has been welcomed and crops are rapidly growing in South Central Nebraska! Corn right now is between V6-V8 (6-8 leaf) for the most part. Quite a few farmers were side-dressing and hilling corn the past two weeks. It never fails that corn looks a little stressed after this as moisture is released from the soil and roots aren’t quite down to deeper moisture.
Installing watermark sensors for irrigation scheduling, we’re finding good moisture to 3 feet in all fields in the area. The driest fields are those which were converted from pasture last year and we want to be watching the third foot especially in those fields. Pivots are running in some fields because corn looks stressed, but there’s plenty of moisture in the soil based on the watermark sensor readings I’m receiving for the entire area. So we would recommend to allow your crops to continue to root down to uptake deeper moisture and nitrogen.
The last few weeks we observed many patterns from fertilizer applications in fields but as corn and root systems are developing, they are growing out of it. We’ve also observed some rapid growth syndrome in plants. This can result from the quick transition we had from cooler temperatures to warmer temperatures, which leads to rapid leaf growth faster than they can emerge from the whorl. Plants may have some twisted whorls and/or lighter discoloration of these leaves, but they will green up upon unfurling and receiving sunlight. This shouldn’t affect yield.
Damping off has been a problem in areas where we had water ponded or saturated conditions for periods of time. We’ve also observed some uneven emergence in various fields from potentially a combination of factors including some cold shock to germinating seedlings.
We began applying sugar to our on-farm research sugar vs. check studies in corn. We will continue to monitor disease and insect pressure in these plots and determine percent stalk rot and yield at the end of the season.
Leaf and stripe rust can be observed in wheat fields in the area and wheat is beginning to turn. We had some problems with wheat streak mosaic virus in the area again affecting producers’ neighboring fields when volunteer wheat wasn’t killed last fall. Alfalfa is beginning to regrow after first cutting and we’re encouraging producers to look for alfalfa weevils. All our crops could really use a nice slow rain right now!
It’s wonderful receiving the rain we did, seeing how quickly planting progress came along, and how quickly corn is popping out of the ground! Being mid-May, it’s time to get our Evapotranspiration (ET) gages out. A reminder to only use distilled water in the gages, make sure to fill up the ceramic top portion of the gage before inserting the stopper, and gently dust off the ceramic top and replace the white membrane and green canvas cover. We recommend replacing those membranes and covers each year so if you need a new one, please let the Natural Resources Districts (NRDs) or me know and we’ll get you a new one! For those of you recording ET information online, please be sure to do so consistently each week to help your neighbors and crop consultants.
Early after crop emergence is the best time to install watermark sensors. For those of you with watermark sensors, read them to ensure they read 199 kpa (dry). Then “prime” them first by soaking them for 24 hours in water to ensure all the air bubbles have been released. The sensors should have a reading of 10 kpa or below to be considered good. If they read higher than that, either continue soaking them another 24 hours and read them again, or plan that they no longer are reading correctly and replace them with others from the NRDs. Remember after soaking sensors that water moves up into the PVC pipe via capillary action, so be sure to dump the water out of the pipe as well.
When installing the sensors, be sure to install them wet, drain excess water, and look for areas that are not compacted, avoid tractor wheel tracks, and look for even spacing of plants. Carefully install without breaking off any plants (thus easier when plants are small!). It’s also important not to install sensors into extremely wet fields. What we have found is that a thin soil layer can cover the sensor when pushing it into the soil of very wet fields. When that soil layer dries, it can provide a reading of 199 saying the sensor is dry when it truly isn’t. If this happens to you, simply remove the sensor, rewet for one minute and re-install. It should be acclimated to field conditions within 48 hours. If you have any questions regarding the installation process, please let the NRDs or your local Extension Educator know. You can also view videos of the installation process and receive additional information to answer your questions.
Wow, I’m sorry I haven’t published much the past two months! Much has happened though as we’re in the middle of winter Extension ag programming season! I love this time of year seeing farmers and ag industry reps-and just chatting about what happened last year and speculating about the upcoming season.
Many of you are also attending numerous meetings. You’re gathering information regarding products and production practices. You may be wondering “Will this work on my farm?” Why not go a step further and see for yourself? On-farm research is a great way to test these questions for yourself using your own equipment in your own fields!
UNL Extension has partnered with the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers to form the Nebraska On-farm Research Network. There are three main studies we are conducting state-wide: corn population, corn nutrient, and corn irrigation studies…but we are open to helping you design a valid research experiment for your field to test what you would like-and it can be for a crop other than corn.
We have some upcoming opportunities for you to learn more. On February 11 and February 12 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. at UNL’s Ag Research and Development Center near Mead and the York Co. Fairgrounds in York respectively, growers who conducted on-farm research in 2012 will be sharing their results; you can also learn more about conducting on-farm research in your own field. There is no charge for the meetings courtesy of the Farm Credit Services of America but we do need an RSVP for meal count and handouts. Please RSVP by calling (402)624-8030 for ARDC or (402)362-5508 for the program in York. I hope to see you at these meetings as well!
It’s been a long irrigation season thus far, but we are so thankful for irrigation in this part of the Country during this drought of 2012! Questions continue to roll in regarding last irrigation for corn and soybeans. Corn at 1/2 starch only needs 2.25″ to finish up so it’s important to know what your soil moisture status is. For most irrigated producers, at 1/2 starch, you should be finished irrigating.
For soybeans at R5 or beginning seed fill, you still need about 6.5″ to finish out the crop. At R6 when the seeds are filling, that drops to 3.5″. At R7 when you begin to see leaves yellowing, that is beginning maturity and you are finished irrigating. They key is we don’t want to fill the profile going into the fall as we’d like to replenish the profile with fall and spring rains and winter snow. However, with soybeans, it’s also critical not to stop irrigating too soon during seed fill.
Gary Zoubek, Extension Educator in York County sheds more light in the following video produced by UNL’s Market Journal.
Well, August has begun and so has the season for field days. Here are a few I hope you mark on your calendars and plan on attending. Also a reminder, for all drought information from UNL Extension including crop, livestock, water, lawn, and garden, please check out http://droughtresources.unl.edu.
With the drought and a shortage of forages, if you are considering harvesting or grazing crops for forage, it is important to consider the herbicide restrictions applied to these fields. Check the labels of these herbicides to confirm that grazing restrictions or forage harvesting restrictions have been met before you turn livestock into the fields or cut the crop for hay or silage. Check out this link for more information.
Soybean Management Field Days Planned: Please mark the dates of the upcoming Soybean Management Field Days on your calendar. They are planned for August 14-17 with sessions planned for Lexington, O’Neill, Platte Center and David City. Registration for each of the Field Days starts at 9:00 a.m. with four one hour programs from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Topics include: Soybean Seed Treatments and Foliar Fungicides Growth Enhancement Interaction with Herbicides, Managing Land Leases and Soybean Marketing, Herbicide Carrier Rate Study and Quest for the Holy Grail in Soybean Production! Check out the sessions by going to http://ardc.unl.edu/soydays. The David City date and location is August 17th and it’s located from the Jct of 92 & Hwy 15, 1 mile east on 92 and ¾ mile north on county road.
South Central Ag Lab Field Day: Some of you have been asking about the next field day at South Central Ag Lab near Clay Center. Please mark your calendars for August 22 from 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m. Topics include: Weed control, timing, resistant weeds; Emerging diseases of corn and corn rootworm management options; Impacts of corn stover harvest on soil quality and greenhouse gas emissions; Variable rate nitrogen and irrigation management according to landscape variation; and Use of Soy-Water for managing soybean irrigation. There is no charge but please RSVP for a meal count by Friday, August 17 to (402) 762-4403. Hope to see you there!
York County Corn Grower Plot Tour: The York County Corn Growers Annual Plot tour will be held Thursday, August 23, 2012 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. This year’s cooperators are Ray and Ron Makovicka and the plot is located west of York on the Dwight Johnson farm. The plot is located ¾ miles north of Hwy 34 on Road I. Those attending will be able to check out the various corn varieties and visit with the seed company representatives. Supper will be served after the tour. Then there will be a report on 2012 practices, products used and irrigation update.
Also this year they have several different types of irrigation equipment in the field to monitor soil moisture and estimate crop ET. Systems in the field include: AquaCheck USA provided an AquaCheck soil moisture sensor system; Servitech provided the Profiler Watermark soil moisture sensor system; McCrometer provided an EnviroPro soil moisture sensor system; and AquaSpy provided AquaSpy soil moisture sensor system. Several of you have asked about wireless irrigation scheduling systems-here’s your chance to compare them all in one place!