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.
With the recent rains and cooler weather in the State, producers still have an opportunity to consider conducting an on-farm research experiment that may be of interest to you! So far this year we have producers conducting nutrient management, irrigation timing, cover crop, seeding rates and dates, fungicide timing, and studies of various products on the market including sugar products. You can learn more about conducting on-farm research at our Nebraska On-Farm Research Network Website, our On-Farm Research Grower’s Guide, by Contacting a UNL Extension Educator or Specialist, the Nebraska Corn Board at 402-471-2676 or Nebraska Corn Growers Association at 402-438-6459. You can also learn more from our producers themselves in the video below. We hope you will consider conducting on-farm research this year to answer the questions you may have in your operation!
Goss’ wilt was found this week in corn damaged from Memorial Day storms in Clay County. I’ve also received pictures that appeared to be Goss’ from crop consultants in other areas of the State. Goss’ wilt lesions have a wavy edge, have a varnished look to them when wet, and have characteristic black “freckles” within and particularly along the lesion edges. We are seeing some plant death due to the systemic version of Goss’ wilt. This can be seen by taking a cross-section of the stem and looking for orange discoloration in the vascular bundles. Because this is a bacterial disease, fungicides are not effective in controlling Goss’ wilt. If you are interested in trying a product that is labeled for treating bacterial diseases in corn, we would recommend you test its effectiveness via on-farm research. Spraying in a paired comparison treatment design will give you a true answer if the product made a difference for you or not.
1-Spray a pass or round with the product (depending on sprayer size) to ensure you can harvest two passes from the center of the treated area.
2-Skip the same amount of distance as you previously sprayed.
Repeat steps 1-2 at least three more times
Mark a few plants in each plot and take photos throughout the growing season to determine if disease progresses or not. You may also wish to keep track of percent of plants affected in each untreated and treated area throughout the season, and check for percent stalk rot and harvest population in each area before harvest as well.
Make sure to harvest two passes from the center of each treated and untreated area. Then compare the weights as shown in the harvest figure. Please let Jenny Rees email@example.com (402) 762-3644 know if you decide to conduct this study and if you have any questions!
Dr. Charlie Wortmann, UNL Extension Soil Fertility Specialist, explains the power of statistics for understanding yield and other differences and non-differences for on-farm research.
For the past ten years I’ve come across farmers who really believed in applications of sugar to reduce their pest populations. Being no research to my knowledge to prove it, I tucked the observation in the back of my head for future reference. With farmers looking to increase yields and looking to other farmers such as Kip Cullers for information, some of our on-farm research producers were curious about sugar applications in their operations with the hopes of increasing yield.
Nebraska On-Farm Research Corn Results
Using the application rates that Kip Cullers uses, one Clay County producer applied 3 lbs of sugar (purchased pallet of cane or beet sugar from the local grocery store) per 10 gallons of water at V7-V8 on corn in 2010-2011. Cullers also tanked mixed the sugar solution with a post-herbicide application like glyphosate but this producer didn’t do that. To simulate any affect of the water or driving through the field, he also drove through the untreated check spraying water only. Two years of research results showed no significant increase in yield. However, there was a noticeable difference in standability at harvest. This producer did not apply a foliar fungicide either year. When it came to harvest, this producer needed the reel in 2010 for the untreated check. Stalk rot ratings were taken using the pinch test two weeks prior to harvest. To him, the $1.25/acre of sugar was worth it to improve standability even if yield was not significantly improved. You can view the full research report here.
Several York County producers have also tried this with one producer finding a non-statistical 2 bu/ac yield difference with the check yielding better while the other producers found a statisically significant 2 bu/ac increase to the sugar treatment. Another producer in Hamilton County is testing this using the corn product he grows-using 1 qt of corn sugar (high fructose corn syrup) per 10 gal of water applied still at V7-v8.
In 2012, a small plot study was conducted at UNL’s South Central Ag Lab near Clay Center to determine any differences between sugar application, fungicide application, and untreated check in corn. All treatments were applied at R2. Because of the drought in 2012, there was minimal disease pressure, thus there were no significant differences between the three treatments regarding area under the disease progress curve. The untreated check did show the most stalk rot (via the push lodging test). The sugar application reduced the lodging rating by half and the fungicide application showed the lowest lodging rating. For yield, there were no significant yield differences with the untreated check yielding the highest followed by the fungicide and sugar applications. The entire study report can be found here.
In Soybeans we have had producers apply 3 lbs sugar in 10 gallons of water at R3 (beginning pod). In all years, there have been no significant differences in yield. Lodging ratings were not taken as that is more variety and water dependent.
has shown that application of sugar to crops increases the numbers of beneficial insects in those fields. South Dakota research entomologists showed that lady beetles benefited from a combination of prey and non-prey foods. In a follow-up study, these entomologists applied sugar sprays to soybeans and quantified the frequency of sugar feeding by analyzing the gut contents of common lady beetles in three states. They found all the tested lady beetles regularly consumed sugar-like nectar in soybean fields, even when it wasn’t applied as a supplement. They also found more lady beetles in the sugar treated plots compared to the untreated plots.
At this time we can’t explain the standability effect we’re seeing from our sugar applications to corn. Our hypothesis is that early application of sugar to corn is increasing beneficial microbes that may be keeping the exposed brace roots and stalks healthier. We hope to conduct more research in the future to answer this question.
the application of sugar to corn and soybeans has not always shown increased yield. However, in nearly all of the corn studies, sugar treated plots have shown increased stalk strength at harvest. Research has also shown an increase in the number of beneficial insects in fields where sugar was applied. Further research is needed to understand the interactions aiding stalk strength in corn.
If you are interested in conducting on-farm research studies in your field, please contact any of our UNL Extension Educators or Specialists! You can also follow the conversations this year via our Facebook page and Twitter feed!
What do you think of sugar applications to crops? Have you tried this in the past and if so, what were your results?
November 1 is just around the corner-the beginning of when fall fertilizing occurs in this area of the State. Hopefully many of you have taken soil samples as excess nitrate is to be expected after this drought year. This is an excellent time to consider evaluating your nitrogen program by starting an on-farm research trial!
On-farm research is using your own equipment, in your own fields, over single or multiple growing seasons allowing you to determine the most economical, efficient, and sustainable practice for the production of irrigated and/or dryland crops on your own farm.
What are the soil fertility questions you have for your farm?
Right now, with fertilizing on producers’ minds, we’re hoping you will consider a soil fertility study. We have several example nutrient protocols including the UNL N fertility rate compared to +/- 30 lbs, and considerations for nitrogen timing studies such as pre-plant, sidedress, or fertigation. You can view all these plot designs by clicking on 2012 protocols. If you are planning on applying anhydrous this fall, be sure that the anhydrous strips are the correct width, as the corn must be harvested and weight determined in a correct manner next fall.
When designing a nitrogen comparison you need to remember nitrogen is a mobile nutrient and corn roots will spread laterally. Therefore, the width of the treatments must take this into account and compensate for it. If you have a 16 row nitrogen applicator and an 8 row corn head, you will need 32 rows of each nitrogen rate. Each 32 row strip must be repeated 4 times. At harvest, in each 32 row block, you must record and weigh the center 16 rows with two separate weights i.e. 8+8 . This is done for statistical analysis purposes. Without statistics, you cannot determine if differences between treatments is the result of the nitrogen rate or because of soil variability.
What’s in It for You?
On-farm research in your own fields allows you to find answers to the questions you may have. We all read articles or hear presentations about various practices and products. The question is “Will it work on my farm?“. That’s what on-farm research allows you to find out!
UNL Extension Educators and Specialists are here to help you design your on-farm research trials, help you with data collection, and will statistically analyze the data for you at the end of the season. Correct plot setup is critical to reduce any error in favoring one treatment over another (because we know fields are variable and some portions of the field will yield better than others). The statistical analysis is another tool which helps us determine how much any yield differences between treatments are due to the treatments themselves or to chance.
So if you have an idea you’d like to try, please contact any of the UNL Extension Educators or Specialists working with on-farm research! The Nebraska On-farm Research Effort is a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, and UNL Extension.
On-farm research may sound daunting, but today’s equipment makes it easier than ever. It does take a little extra time, but our farmers conducting on-farm research feel the value of knowing the results of a study on their own piece of ground make the effort worthwhile.