Crop Update: The heat has really pushed crops along. Grateful for the reports of some rain! It’s really important to know your soil moisture levels and work for the balance of not stopping too soon vs. leaving the field too wet going into the fall/winter. The following information comes from the NebGuide: Predicting the Last Irrigation of the Season found at: https://go.unl.edu/k74n:
- Corn at Dough needs 7.5” (approximately 34 days to maturity)
- Corn at Beginning Dent needs 5” of water (approximately 24 days to maturity)
- Corn at ¼ milk needs 3.75” (approximately 19 days to maturity)
- Corn at ½ milk (Full Dent) needs 2.25” (approximately 13 days to maturity)
- Soybean at beginning seed (R5) needs around 6.5” (approx. 29 days to maturity)
- Soybean at full seed (R6) needs 3.5” (approx. 18 days to maturity)
- Soybean with leaves beginning to yellow (R6.5) needs 1.9” (approx. 10 days to maturity)
Alfalfa and Wheat Expo: Southeast Nebraska farmers can sharpen their management strategies at the inaugural 2021 Southeast Nebraska Alfalfa and Wheat Expo. The inaugural Alfalfa and Wheat Expo is scheduled for Thursday, September 2, 2021, in Crete at the Tuxedo Park Exhibition Building. The Expo will begin at 8:00 a.m. with refreshments and exhibitor booths. The educational program starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. Hosts and local Water & Integrating Cropping Systems Extension Educators, Nathan Mueller, Gary Lesoing, and Melissa Bartels said more diverse crop rotations are both underutilized and undervalued. Integrating alfalfa and winter wheat into the crop rotation can provide a critical tool to mitigate extreme weather, improve soil health, increase corn and soybean yields, combat troublesome pests, increase flexibility in manure management plans, and more. This new expo will help farmers prepare to grow these crops for the first time or fine-tune the skills of experienced alfalfa and winter wheat growers. Speakers and panelists will address important issues for southeast Nebraska farmers and allow for great one-on-one discussion with local private industry exhibitors and sponsors. The Expo is free to attend including lunch, but pre-registration is requested by August 31. For more info. and to pre-register, please visit https://croptechcafe.org/alfalfawheatexpo or call the Saline County Extension office at 402-821-2151.
Renovating Lawns in the Fall: August 15-September 15 are the best times to seed cool season grasses. This resource, Improving Turf in the Fall at https://go.unl.edu/rz9z is a great one to walk you through renovation depending on your situation. Some lawns can be easily improved by adding fertilizer this fall.
Sarah Browning, Extension Horticultural Educator shares, “Late summer or fall fertilization of Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue lawns is the most important time to fertilize these cool season grasses. Fertilizer applied now promotes recovery from summer stress, increases density of thinned turf, encourages root and rhizome growth, and allows the plant to store food for next spring’s growth flush. On older lawns, those that are 10 to 15 or more years old, that typically need only two fertilizer applications a year, make the fall application in late August or early September using fertilizer with all or some slow-release nitrogen. On younger lawns, two fertilizer applications during fall are recommended. Make the first one in late August or early September, and the second in mid to late October. For the first one, select a fertilizer with all or some slow-release nitrogen. For the later application, use a fast release nitrogen source so plants will take it up before going dormant.”
Other lawns can be improved via overseeding or total renovation. If overseeding is needed to fill in thinned areas but more than 50% of good turf remains, mow the existing grass 2.5” tall to make the soil preparation easier. For lawns needing total renovation, start with a glyphosate (Roundup application) followed by waiting at least 7-10 days to kill the lawn. Mow dead vegetation as short as mower goes to then prepare the soil for planting.
To prepare the soil for seeding, it’s helpful to aerate the lawn making three passes. Watering a day or two beforehand can make the aerification easier. The full seeding rate for turf-type tall fescue is 6-8 lbs./1,000 sq.ft., and 2-3 lbs. for Kentucky bluegrass. When overseeding into an existing lawn, the seeding rate can be cut in half. Drilling the seed is perhaps easiest for a total lawn renovation. Otherwise, use a drop seeder to apply the seed (not rotary ones as the seed is too light to spread evenly). Make sure to seed half the seed north/south and the other half east/west to ensure even distribution. Then lightly rake in the seed to ensure seed to soil contact. Starter fertilizer is helpful for new seedings where the total phosphorus is 1 to 1.5 lbs/1000 sq. feet. It’s also important to keep the top ½ to 1” of soil moist as seedlings germinate. Thus, it may requiring watering several times a day the first two weeks, depending on temperature and moisture. As seedlings develop, reduce the watering schedule to allow root development. When the grass is tall enough to mow, reduce watering to only 2-3 times/week with deeper watering. Mowing as soon as the grass allows encourages tiller development and thicker new stands.
Happy Spring! With warmer weather forecasted the next few weeks, it’s a great time to get outdoors! Raking leaves from lawns is a great activity this time of year for the whole family. You can also overseed bare areas of lawns right now. Don’t remove leaves or mulch from landscape beds yet. Leaves and dead tops of plants protect the plants and keep them dormant as long as possible. Warm sunny weather causes plants to break dormancy early and they become more susceptible to cold temperatures. If you’ve already cleaned up landscape beds, be prepared to cover plants again in the event of cold weather. If you have frosted tulip/daffodil foliage like mine, just leave them be for now.
Even though grass is greening up, it’s too early to apply fertilizers (ideally not till sometime in May). Mowing isn’t needed until after the grass begins to grow and requires mowing. Then maintain a mowing height of 3 to 3.5″ season-long. Pre-emergence herbicides targeted at controlling crabgrass and other warm season annual weeds shouldn’t be applied until soil temperatures consistently reach 50°F. It’s still too early. Soil temps can be found at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/tags/soil-temperature
Wild/Bur Cucumber: In wet seasons like last year, wild and bur cucumber were seen overtaking windbreaks. These are fast growing, warm season annual vines. They die each fall and come back from seed which germinate and begin growth typically in May. Vines can be cut at the base if there’s only a few of them this spring. Many asked about chemical treatments last year. A pre-emergent control option for large shelterbelts is Simazine (Princep 4L) to kill weed seeds as they germinate. Don’t apply more than 4 qt. Princep 4L per acre (4 lb. a.i./A) per calendar year. Don’t apply more than twice per calendar year.
Renovating Windbreaks: Do you have a windbreak that has several dead or dying trees in it? Steve Karloff and Jay Seaton, District Foresters, shared to think 15-20 years down the road. What would be your goals for the windbreak (wind/snow protection; bloom time; fruit, nut, wood; wildlife/pollinator habitat, etc.)? Each situation will be unique, so these tips won’t apply to each one. Determine whether you’d like to remove the entire existing windbreak or do a partial clearing over time. For those choosing a partial clearing, they suggest to consider leaving the north and west rows and removing the south and east side for sunlight, establishment, and protection purposes. Stumps can be left (unless Scotch or Austrian pine), or can be removed. A stump treatment listed in the UNL Weed Guide is 2 qts of low vol 2,4-D per 10 gallons of diesel. Apply to point of runoff. Don’t use Tordon especially if you’re cutting out and stump treating elm or hackberry trees that get intermingled in trees you wish to save as the Tordon can affect the roots of those trees too. If existing trees, such as pines, have been trimmed up due to dead branches but the remainder of the trees are ok, one could simply consider adding a row of shrubs to cut down on wind.
Also, think about diversifying species based on one’s goals to ensure the windbreak isn’t eliminated due to pest problems. That’s something we’ve unfortunately had to deal with regarding Scotch and Austrian pines due to pine wilt. Conifer specie options include: cedar (most hardy), Ponderosa pine, and Norway and blue spruce. Shrubs include viburnums and hazelnuts; however, there are numerous species to consider depending on goals. Consider 3-5 rows as optimal with 1-2 rows as conifers, 1 row of hardwoods or tall conifers, and 1-2 rows of dense shrubs. However, there’s not always that kind of room available and that may not fit one’s goals. It’s helpful to stagger plant the trees in each row and the gaps can be filled with shrubs or the shrubs can be planted in one row. Next week I’ll share more on site preparation considerations.
What a beautiful weekend! It was a welcome change from the winds we received last weekend and early week. The high winds early in the week created difficult situations from many perspectives-soil loss, visibility, accidents, and drying out the seed bed.
Great to see several on-farm research plots going in and to have some new cooperators this year! I also started a very small soybean planting date demo at the York County Fairgrounds on April 24. A farmer on Twitter was encouraging other farmers to try planting a few seeds every week for yourselves in a garden plot and count the nodes and pods. Thought it was a great idea and will have it signed at County Fair regarding soil temps for first 48 hours and nodes. Thanks to Jed Erickson from Pioneer for the seed!
Rain events on May 1-2 allowed for some soil moisture recharge in the first and second feet in some locations. Unfortunately, the rainfall was still fairly spotty. We could really use rain overall for getting moisture back into drying seedbeds, activating herbicides, and settling dust. Pivots are running in some fields because of these factors. I provided an update on the locations I’m monitoring regarding soil moisture as of 5/3/18 on my blog at http://jenreesources.com. The farmers were interested in continuing this monitoring throughout the growing season this year, so will continue sharing as often as I can.
Wheat: Wheat’s joined in the area and ranges in height depending on soil moisture. For the past few weeks we’ve been noticing yellowing leaves. Some of that may have been due to cold temperatures. I was also seeing powdery mildew within the canopy of several fields I looked at. No rust has been observed yet in Nebraska fields. I also noticed tan spot in wheat on wheat fields. One concern was the cool weather has allowed for bird cherry oat aphids in area wheat. My concern is that they can vector barley yellow dwarf virus which is one we see when the flag leaf emerges. According to K-State, there’s not strong developed thresholds. They’re recommending if 20 or more aphids are observed per tiller with lady beetles observed on fewer than 10% of tillers, spraying may be justified.
Lawn and Garden Information: With this year’s cool spring, crabgrass preventers can still be applied the first few weeks of May. Germination begins with soil temperatures around 55F but prefers warmer soil temps. UNL Lawn calendars for Kentucky Bluegrass, Tall Fescue, and Buffalograss and all UNL lawn resources can be found at https://turf.unl.edu/turf-fact-sheets-nebguides. Mowing heights should be maintained at 3-3.5″ for the entire year. We also recommend just mulching clippings back into the lawn to allow for nutrient recycling. If you like to use mulch for your gardens, it’s important to read pesticide labels on products applied to your lawn. Some labels say it is not safe to use the clippings as mulch. Others say to wait at least three mowings before using the clippings as mulch.
Garden centers have been busy with the warmer weather and some have asked about temperatures for hardening off transplants. Kelly Feehan, Extension Educator in Platte County shares, “May is planting time for most annual flower and vegetable transplants. To avoid transplant shock and stressing young plants, wait for soils to warm up and take time to harden off transplants. Soils are colder than average this year so waiting to plant will be beneficial. And then, plants moved directly from a warm, moist greenhouse to windy and cooler outdoor conditions will be stressed by transplant shock. This can negatively affect plant growth, flowering, and vegetable production. Harden off transplants by placing them outdoors, in a protected location, for at least a few days before transplanting outdoors. Another way to harden transplants is to plant them in the garden, then place a cardboard tent or wooden shingle around them for a few days to protect them from full exposure to wind and sun. Planting young transplants on an overcast, calm day or during the evening also reduces transplant shock.” Specifically when it comes to tomatoes, it’s best to wait till mid-May otherwise “gardeners who plant earlier need to be prepared to protect tomato plants with a floating row cover or light sheet if cold threatens. To help tomato transplants establish quickly, begin with small, stocky, dark green plants rather than tall, spindly ones. Smaller plants form new roots quickly and establish faster than overgrown transplants. Do not plant too deep or lay tomato stems sideways. Although roots will form on stems below ground, this uses energy better used for establishment. Use a transplant starter solution after transplanting tomatoes to be sure roots are moist and nutrients are readily available in cool soils. Wait until plants are growing well before mulching or mulch will keep soils from warming and may slow tomato growth.”
Happy Summer! June 20th marked the start of the summer season. Summer means a good time for cookouts, picnics, swimming, and grub control. Not exactly what you had in mind for summer fun? Knowing the pest and its habits can help keep you from spending all of your summer fun time dealing with grubs.