Seward County Ag Banquet: The Kiwanis Club of Seward partnered with SCCDP and Seward Co. Ag. Society will honor Seward County Ag Leaders on Monday, March 20, 2023 with the 55th Annual Agriculture Recognition Banquet at the Ag Pavilion at the Seward Co. Fairgrounds. Social hour with wine, cheese, beer, and music will be at 5:30 p.m. with the prime rib meal and program to follow at 6:30 p.m. The cost to attend the banquet is $30.00 per person. Please contact Pam Moravec (402-643-7748) or Shelly Hansen (402-643-3636) to reserve your seat. The Kiwanis Club of Seward will use the proceeds from the event to support the youth of Seward County through a variety of programs and events.
Nitrogen Rate Studies: As growers consider pre-plant nitrogen applications this year, there’s opportunity to consider a variety of nitrogen rates to test any impacts on one’s own field(s). I covered the results of some area studies comparing rates of 50 lb N/ac nitrogen differences in an earlier article. One can easily test this for yourself in a field by either using field-length blocks as those studies did, or with the use of precision ag technologies, prescriptions can be written to try different N rate blocks that are smaller in scale (300’ long by 30’ or so wide). These blocks can then be repeated throughout areas of the field with different soil types and topography. I have an example at jenreesources.com of what this looked like from studies last year. Please let me know if you’re interested in testing this. The 2022 on-farm research results can be viewed at: https://onfarmresearch.unl.edu/.
Perennial cover crops: Several weeks ago, I shared our research on interseeding cover crops into early season corn and soybeans and said I’d share our next steps in a future column. One goal of the cooperators was to achieve a living cover that survived into the next growing season. When we saw that interseeded red clover established in soybeans and survived the following spring, we got excited about the possibility of more intentionally growing clovers as a perennial cover crop.
In March of 2022, six sites were dormant seeded with either Mammoth red clover (tall), Medium red clover, or Dutch white clover (low-growing, aggressive like clover in lawns). The clover eventually emerged at all the locations. All but two sites were lost due to the dry spring or June 14 hailstorms. Two sites in Clay County survived the June 7th hailstorm. The grower at those sites chose the Mammoth red clover. It was dormant seeded in March using a drill interseeder into cereal rye. The cereal rye was killed with 10 oz/ac clethodim prior to planting corn and after planting soybean. Once the clover had emerged and was at least 1” tall, Zidua was used in both the corn/clover and soybean/clover areas and was used again 3-4 weeks later. The check areas in the corn and soybean used the grower’s full herbicide program.
The clover provided excellent weed control in the corn. It had good weed control in the soybean with velvetleaf, sunflower, and lambsquarters being the predominant weed species. Biomass samples of the clover prior to harvest showed 30 lb N/ac available. Samples will be taken again this spring. The soybean without clover out-yielded the soybean with clover (74 bu/ac vs. 68 bu/ac). It also economically did better this first year. The ultimate goal is to get something living between the rows for reducing chemical and nitrogen inputs, providing a grazing benefit, and determining impacts to yields and economics over several years. We currently have 9 growers planning on some type of clover study in 2023. If anyone is interested, the easiest way to try this is just dormant seeding this March (can drill or broadcast) clover in 5+ acre blocks leaving a check block between the clover blocks and checks on either side. I will work with you on the combine passes to get the replications. This year the farmers are trying AberLasting clover (Dutch white X Kura), Dutch White + Medium Red, or Mammoth red clover. We also have a couple of growers trying AberLasting with either bluegrass or buffalograss. The simpler design being used by the growers is on my blog. This is a different way of thinking, in some ways going back to what our ancestors did only with today’s hybrids and varieties. These growers are desirous to find ways to reduce inputs on their own farms for the future. Please let me know if you’re interested in trying this too.
The above designs are just some ideas for doing nitrogen rate prescriptions by soil type/topography or field-length strips.
10 lb/ac Mammoth red clover was dormant drill seeded March 2022 into cereal rye. A shot of rain in the spring helped it get established. The grower felt it was more successful establishing the clover into old soybean ground prior to the corn crop. The cereal rye was terminated with clethodim around 10 days prior to corn planting. Once the clover was up 1″, Zidua was applied to the field (other Group 15 herbicides could be used instead). He used Zidua again 3-4 weeks later. The corn with the clover had excellent weed control as did his check treatment which used a full corn herbicide program. The clover got about 2.5′ tall and then laid down. We couldn’t take this study via on-farm research because two different hybrids were used across the clover/check area. He moved over with strip till rig in the fall and took out some of the clover, but quite a bit still remained. Soybeans will be planted in this field next year and the plan is to maintain the clover in the strips without needing to reseed anything.
10 lb/ac Mammoth red clover was dormant drill seeded into cereal rye in March 2022. A timely shot of rain helped with establishment. Soybeans were planted green into the field. The rye was then terminated with 10 oz/ac of clethodim and Zidua was applied when clover was at least 1″ tall (other Group 15 herbicides could be used instead). Zidua was applied again 3-4 weeks later. A June 7, 2022 hailstorm damaged the soybean and clover with the clover recovering faster than the soybean. The Mammoth red clover gets tall and it looked kind of interesting in September to see the soybeans holding the clover up so it could reach sunlight. When soybean leaves started senescing, the clover started forming more of a mat. Primary weed species were velvetleaf, sunflower, lambsquarters (weed species shift from predominantly waterhemp/palmer). This field has a history of being very clean. At harvest, the combine didn’t seem to have much issue harvesting it and the grower had combine set well so there wasn’t green material going into the tank. The field smelled like fresh cut alfalfa after harvest. The grower strip tills in the fall and moved the strip to the side of the old row, taking out some of the clover. Corn will be planted into those strips this spring with the goal of maintaining the clover without seeding any additional clover.
Well, March is here, and we start looking towards the next growing season. It was a great winter programming season, though, and it was great seeing many people!
Nontraditional Products: There’s a number of products on the market with claims of the biology or chemistry within them allowing for reduced nutrient inputs by the producer. The goal is for the biology or chemistry to make unavailable nutrients more available to the plant. Interest in the products stems from the potential to reduce nutrient inputs and enhance environmental stewardship, both of which would be beneficial. Perhaps the more recognized products currently are Pivot Bio PROVEN® and PROVEN®40? These products contain an N-fixing bacterial inoculant that is expected to fix N over the growing season. Use of biological N fixation in cereal crops has potential to reduce the use of synthetic N fertilizer, thus increasing N use efficiency and reducing N losses. We have 11 site-years of on-farm research data on the Pivot Bio products in 2021-2022. We have minimal testing on other biological/chemical products for reducing nitrogen rates. Pivot Bio was applied at 12.8 oz/ac and compared to an untreated check. The nitrogen rates were selected by the growers. Some growers chose the same N rate for both treatments, while others chose to evaluate Pivot Bio at additional reduced rates. It’s helpful to see comparisons at a range of reduced nitrogen rates to better determine nitrogen response to products tested.
Across 64 replications, the Check treatment yielded 234 bu/ac on average and Pivot Bio yielded 235 bu/ac on average, with no statistical difference at a 90% confidence level. When looking across the 64 replications, Pivot Bio had a 5 bu/ac or greater yield increase 27% of the time, a 5 bu/ac yield reduction 17% of the time, and yield difference within +/- 5 bu/ac 56% of the time. When looking at many of the individual locations, the grower-chosen N rates most likely could have been reduced beyond 40 lb/ac. Future on-farm research will focus on testing Pivot Bio PROVEN®40 at a wider range of N rates across different soil textures and landscape positions. One way to test this is by creating prescriptions for N rate blocks for different areas of the field. If you’re interested in testing something like this for Pivot Bio or any other non-traditional product, please let me know.
There’s also interest from producers seeking a regenerative ag path to grow their own microbes for reducing inputs through the use of compost extracts and teas. Compost is built through different processes then microbes are extracted from the compost using water and air. The water/microbe solution is then applied to a field while the compost is added back into a pile to be reused. One compost option is via a Johnson-Su bioreactor which uses a static aerobic composting process. Another is aerobic composting via a Turned Compost process. In 2022, a Seward Co. producer chose to compare a Check treatment of 142 lb N/ac and reduce the nitrogen rates added to the biological products in his study by nearly 40 and 100 lb N/ac. His goal was to push the system to see how the biological products compared and to have low enough nitrogen rates to see what the biological products would do in releasing N. His treatments and yields were: Check (total 142 lb N/ac yielding 235 bu/ac); Johnson-Su Compost High (total 106 lb N/ac yielding 220 bu/ac); Johnson Su Compost Low (Total 48 lb N/ac yielding 167 bu/ac); Turned Compost High (Total 106 lb N/ac yielding 212 bu/ac); Turned Compost Low (Total 48 lb N/ac yielding 164 bu/ac); and Pivot Bio Proven®40 (total 106 lb N/ac yielding 195 bu/ac). The Check treatment yielded the greatest and statistically was not different than the Johnson-Su High and Turned Compost High at the 90% confidence level. The Check treatment was different from the Pivot Bio and the lower rates of the compost extracts. The Johnson-Su and Turned Compost were applied at 8 gal/ac extract in furrow at planting. This study was pivot irrigated in a silt loam soil where the previous crop was soybean. This study will continue on these same strips for three years. Please let me know if you’re interested in testing compost extracts as we seek to obtain more data around this topic.
One thing to consider with any type of biological treatment study is it’s helpful to conduct the study on the same areas of the field for multiple years to better determine any impacts over time. 2022 On-Farm research book at: https://onfarmresearch.unl.edu/.
Sensor-Based N Fertigation
Understanding the Soil Microbiome: For those interested, this Friday, March 3, will be our last Friday conversation on ‘understanding the soil microbiome’ at the 4-H Building in York from 10 a.m.-Noon. Dr. Rhae Drijber, UNL soil microbiologist, will kick off our conversation and I’m looking forward to the discussion. If you plan to attend, please let us know at 402-362-5508.
March 4 Gardening Workshop will be held from 10 a.m.-Noon at the 4-H Building in York. Sarah Browning, Extension Educator, will share on vegetable planting basics such as site selection, rotational plan, summer care, and troubleshooting problems such as insects/diseases/weeds. Please bring your questions! This workshop is sponsored by the UBBNRD and Nebraska Extension; there’s no charge and refreshments are provided. No RSVP is required, but it does help with refreshments if you could please let us know at 402-362-6601 or 402-362-5508. If you’re interested in gardening, but don’t have the space at home, check out the Project GROW community garden in York. Plots are available for the 2023 growing season. You can reserve your space now or come to the Gardening Workshop and sign up in person.
Sensor-Based Nitrogen Fertigation: This week also brings the last of our on-farm research updates (Mar. 1 in North Platte, Mar. 2 in Kearney, and Mar. 3 in Beatrice). You can still sign up at https://go.unl.edu/2023ofr.
One of the most impactful on-farm research studies being shared (I feel) is on sensor-based nitrogen fertigation occurring since 2019. It’s similar in concept to Project Sense, for those of you familiar with sensors being retrofitted on ground rigs for in-season nitrogen applications.
Sensors mounted onto a drone could allow for improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) by responding to actual plant needs in season. A grower determined base rate was applied to the field across treatments. Then grower fertigation management was compared to the sensor-based approach in 15 degree sectors on half a pivot. Indicator and reference plots in the field received at least 30 lb/ac less N and 30 lb/ac more N respectively and were established around V7. The field was flown weekly with a drone, imagery was analyzed, and fertigation decisions were made for each treatment sector.
The treatments were: 1) Grower rate 2) Risk averse post-establishment (RAP) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 30 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14) and 3) Risk averse post-establishment Increased Rate (RAP-IR) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 60 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14).
Since the beginning of this effort, 100% of the RAP-based sensor treatments were more efficient across all sites than the typical N grower management. Encouraging to me about this method is that it’s all based on what the plant needs after what the soil provides to the plant. There’s no determination of an N rate ahead of time based on plant removal, yield goal, etc.
There were 4 studies in 2022, but I will share on two of them. In a Hall county field with silt loam soils, both sensor based fertigation treatments triggered a total application of 95 lb N/ac vs. grower applying 196 lb N/ac. The grower treatment resulted in a yield of 277 bu/ac at 0.71 lb N/bu NUE. The two sensor based treatments resulted in yields of 271 and 274 bu/ac at only 0.35 lb N/bu NUE! That was pretty incredible for me to see 0.35 NUE and those kind of yields! It shows there is opportunity to consider further reductions in nitrogen applications. At a Saunders county field, no grower rate was used and the beginning base rate was only 33 lb N/ac. The RAP sensor treatment had 108 lb N/ac total applied yielding 258 bu/ac with 0.42 lb N/bu NUE. The RAP-IR sensor treatment had 101 lb N/ac total applied yielding 274 bu/ac with a 0.37 lb N/bu NUE.
You can read more details of this study via the online version of the 2023 On-Farm Research book found at: https://on-farm-research.unl.edu/ (beginning on page 80). For 2023, growers interested in trying this via on-farm research can receive monetary support through a Conservation Innovation Grant to help with purchasing fertigation equipment and/or for the aerial imagery services through Sentinel Fertigation. I would love to see 5 of these in our area of the State this coming year. Please let me or Laura Thompson (email@example.com) know if you’re interested!
You can still register for the CPIA Conference or walk-in the day of the event. Really practical info. for growers and ag industry!
Interseeded Cover Crops Results
Studies such as this will be shared by area farmers starting this week at On-Farm Research Updates (Feb. 15 at Holthus Conv. Center in York)! RSVP at: go.unl.edu/2023ofr. Since 2019, a group of area farmers have been interseeding cover crops into early season corn (V3-V4) and soybean (VE-V2). The goals for interseeding cover crops into cash crops include: providing nutrients for the cash crop, weed control, erosion control, diversity, reducing inputs such as fertilizer and chemicals, and providing forage for grazing after harvest. Interseeding of cover crops can also occur at other growth stages, such as at male row destruction in seed corn or at senescence in late-season corn and soybean. This article will focus on our results from early-season interseeding of cover crops into corn and soybean.
In 2019, two farmers interseeded cover crops (one drill interseeded and one broadcast) into corn in York and Seward counties. Both got establishment and showed no yield differences between interseeded and check. In 2020, a partnership formed between The Nature Conservancy, Upper Big Blue NRD, Extension, Kelloggs and area farmers. A four row interseeder was purchased. Six farmers chose to conduct studies via on-farm research where they maintained the same field-scale strips of interseeded cover crops and check treatments for 3 years. The different cover crop mixes and rates can be viewed at jenreesources.com.
From 2020-2022, fields were impacted by July 9, 2020 and 2021 wind events and June 14, 2022 hail. We had 12 site-years of corn studies and 2 site-years of soybean studies. Biomass samples of the cover crops and also weeds were taken each September. Cover crop biomass ranged from 200 lb/ac to 4 tons/ac depending on the location, hybrid, irrigation, and storm events. In 10 of 12 site-years, interseeded cover crop had more biomass than the check treatment (weeds).
Yield: No corn yield difference between check and interseeded in 6 of the 12 site-years. Yield losses ranged from 2-10 bu/ac in the remainder. No soy yield difference between the interseeded and check.
Net Return: In 10 of the 12 corn site-years, and 1 of the soybean site-years, the check treatment had a higher net return. (However, no benefit to grazing, reduced inputs, etc. was given to interseeding).
Soil Health Values (PLFA & Haney): Large numerical increases in soil health numbers when all 6 sites were combined (as well as some individual sites). Significant increase in the Check from 2020 to 2022. Significant increase in the Interseeded from 2020-2022. However, because this happened for both treatments, when comparing Check vs. Interseeded from 2020 vs. 2022, there is no difference. Why? All farmers were incorporating additional soil health practices across their entire fields (planting rye each fall, grazing, adding biological products, etc.) that would have impacted both cover crop and check treatments. Good news: all increased their overall soil health (soil microbial pops and scores) in 3 years.
Soil Nutrient Values: There were no differences between OM, pH, P, S, K, and base saturations between Check and Interseeded from 2020 to 2022 across sites. Numerical changes occurred at individual sites.
Our studies proved that drill interseeding of cover crops into early season corn and soybeans can be achieved for establishment that lasted after harvest with regrowth of perennial covers into the spring. We also showed this in spite of a number of PRE- herbicides used. We increased beneficial insects and saw pest insects feeding on cover crop instead of cash crop. We increased diversity in the fields and had additional cover aiding erosion control. We also showed reduced water use in the corn where the diverse cover crop was used compared to the check treatment. The disappointment to me was the low amount of forage for those desiring to graze after harvest and the spotty survival of perennials in the spring. However, those who grazed said there was value in the amount of green material present at harvest coupled with the corn residue. Additional challenges can include the fact that it does look ‘messy’, one needs to think through herbicide options ahead of time, and we need to put dollars to additional benefits that are harder to calculate (soil erosion, etc). Next week I’ll share our next steps in where we’re headed.
2022 Soybean Production Studies
Ag Conference: Thank you to everyone with the York Chamber, Holthus Convention Center, Chamber Ag Committee and Ambassadors, York Visitors Bureau, Sponsors, Vendors, Newspaper and Radio for all their work and help with the York Ag Conference last week! It takes a great team to pull off a successful event. Several individuals were very helpful to me with the pesticide certification trainings; I’m grateful to each of you for your help! Grateful for all the farmers who attended and it was great to catch up with several of you!
Crop Production Clinic Clarification: Both commercial and non-commercial applicators in the ag plant and research and demonstration categories can renew at any of the crop production clinics. The York clinic is reformatted compared to the other clinics, but recertification can be received at any CPC. You can pre-register or walk-in that day for same cost. Info: https://agronomy.unl.edu/cpc.
This week I’ll share on soybean production studies. Our on-farm research update with farmers sharing their results will be Feb. 15 at the Holthus Convention Center in York. Pre-registration at: https://go.unl.edu/3j8q. Grateful for all the cooperators who work with me via on-farm research!
Soybean Seeding Rates: A first-year cooperator from the Utica area chose a soybean seeding rate study of 100,000 vs. 130,000 vs. 160,000 seeds/ac. He planted April 18 with NK 28-T3XF strip-tilled into corn. I started emergence counts May 9 when cotyledons had pulled just above the soil surface. 68% of the 130K, 52% of the 160K, and 48% of the 100K had emerged on Day 1. By Day 9 when I took the last counts, 95% of the 160K, 93% of the 130K, and 94% of the 100K had emerged. The May 22 frost with heavy residue reduced stands in areas of the field down to 35,000 plants/ac. The farmer decided not to replant a large portion of the field including where I had taken these initial emergence counts. This field missed the June 14 hail. The data shared doesn’t include the areas of the field down to 35K. At harvest, 81% of 160K (129,000 plants/ac), 79% of the 130K (103,000 plants/ac), and 86% of the 100K (86,000 plants/ac) remained. There were no yield differences with the 100K yielding 71 bu/ac, 130K yielding 72 bu/ac, and 160K yielding 73 bu/ac. The study results follow 17 years-worth of on-farm research results showing no yield loss when reducing seeding rates of 160-180K down to 120-140K in heavier textured soils. Our Nebraska data also shows that soybean planting rates of 80,000 to 120,000 seeds/ac resulted in the highest profitability.
Soybean Maturity Studies: Seth Naeve, University of Minnesota shared that compared to lower yielding varieties, highest yielding varieties produce between 20 to 40% greater yields. Thus, variety selection is the greatest factor for impacting soybean yield. Third-party information is limited in Nebraska. If there’s interest in a soybean grower plot in the area (particularly someone willing to host this), please let me know. Some third-party resources include: F.I.R.S.T Soybean Testing Program (https://www.firstseedtests.com/), and data from Universities such as Iowa State, K-State, South Dakota State, and Missouri. Seed companies have numerous locations with data. When possible, look at how a variety performs over multiple years at multiple locations.
We now have 13 site-years worth of data from Seward and York counties comparing Group 2 and Group 3 maturity soybeans. Reasons for considering a Group 2 variety in our area include spreading out harvest, opportunity for planting cover crops for greater fall growth, and spreading risk from weather events. In 10 of the 13 site-years, there were no yield differences between high-yielding Group 2 and 3 varieties when planted mid-April to early May. In the other three site-years, the Group 3 varieties had higher yields than the Group 2 varieties. One reason was late season rains benefited Group 3 soybeans in non-irrigated environments in two site-years. In the gravity irrigated ridge-till environment, harvesting the Group 2 variety sooner may have helped reduce plants from lodging down into furrows that are difficult to pick up at harvest.
I’ve so greatly appreciated the discussions and learning opportunities at meetings this past winter! We have one final cover crop meeting this Friday, Feb. 25 from 10-Noon at the 4-H Building in York. The topic is discussing the economics of cover crops. I’m often asked about this and have ideas, but don’t have answers, so am seeking a discussion around it. We know grazing often is the one way (not always, but often) where cover crops will pay. Looking forward to a deeper discussion on additional ways to look at economics of cover crops, such as assigning a dollar value to any soil changes over time. Please join us if you’re interested!
Estate Planning Workshop March 8: We’re excited to offer an estate planning workshop for farmers and ranchers from 1:30-4:00 p.m. on March 8 at the Seward County Extension Office (322 S. 14th St. in Seward). My colleague, Allan Vyhnalek, an extension educator for farm and ranch transition and succession, will offer tools and strategies to effectively plan, start and complete estate plans, offer background on common mistakes during the process, and highlight essential considerations for creating and carrying out estate and succession plans.
He also asked Tom Fehringer, an attorney based in Columbus, to present during the workshop. Fehringer specializes in estate planning, business planning and trust administration, among other areas of practice. It’s just a great opportunity to learn more and ask questions (especially of an attorney) for free! Please RSVP by March 7th at 402-643-2981.
K-Junction Solar Project Public Meeting Feb. 24: EDF Renewables is inviting the public to a meeting to learn more about the K-Junction Solar Project on Thursday, Feb. 24 from 5:00-7:30 p.m. at the Stone Creek Event Center in McCool Junction. Food and beverages will be provided.
Results of Xyway™ LFR® Fungicide in Furrow: Last week at the on-farm research update, three area farmers and I presented the results of our on-farm research Xyway™ LFR® studies. This fungicide, applied at planting, translocates within the plant providing disease protection for a period of time. In 2021, Xyway™ LFR® was tested at 8 on-farm locations in Buffalo, Hall, York, and Seward counties. Emergence counts taken at 4 locations in Buffalo/Hall counties showed better emergence with Xyway in one of the locations and slower emergence with Xyway in the other three locations. Early season stand counts were taken at all 8 locations. Of these, one location showed better stand with Xyway compared to the check, two showed less stand with Xyway, and the others showed no differences. Three of the 8 locations showed a yield reduction with Xyway compared to the check while the other five locations showed no difference. Half of the locations showed reduced profitability while there was no difference in the other half. At the two York locations, I also did disease ratings. In spite of it being a low-disease year, in one of the two locations, Xyway reduced gray leaf spot pressure on the plants compared to the check. At neither location was there a difference in overall southern rust severity. In general, the growers who tried this felt it was helpful from the standpoint their fields are near towns or powerlines where it’s difficult for arial applications. FMC recommended during the meeting to move the Xyway™ LFR® product away from the seed for those trying it in 2022.
Our Crop Science Investigation Youth (CSI) group worked with Jerry and Brian Stahr on their Xyway study as part of the Nebraska Corn Board’s Innovative Youth Challenge. It was a great way for youth to utilize the scientific method while learning about crop scouting and participating in on-farm research! The youth won first place and share their results in the following video: https://youtu.be/B87xqr0pWMk. If you know of youth interested in science and plants who may want to join us for CSI, please let me know! We meet monthly throughout the year. Next meeting is Mar. 15.
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.)
Happy March! One question that’s surfaced often is ‘at what maturity of corn and soybean do we start losing yield?’ There are many reasons for this question including planting a range of maturities to spread harvest load, taking advantage of marketing opportunities, and even planting shorter maturities to allow for increased cover crop biomass after harvest. The past two years, on-farm research growers in York and Seward Counties have compared Group 2 vs. Group 3 beans planted early to determine any yield differences. In 2018, combining the data from 16 reps over 3 locations planted the first week of May, the Group 2 and Group 3 beans yielded 70.2 bu/ac vs. 71.5 bu/ac respectively with no yield difference. In 2019, there were 13 reps over 3 locations. We don’t have these analyzed as a group. At the first (non-irrigated) location planted April 22, the 2.1 bean significantly out-yielded the 3.1 bean (70 bu/ac vs. 67 bu/ac). At the second (irrigated) location planted May 2, the 2.4 and 2.7 beans significantly out-yielded the 3.1 and 3.3 beans (71, 73, 70, and 67 bu/ac respectively). At the third (irrigated) location planted May 16, there was no difference between the 2.7 and 3.4 beans (71 vs. 72 bu/ac respectively).
Small plot research containing 16 soybean varieties with 8 relative maturities (range from 0.3 to 4.7) in Nebraska, Ohio, and Kentucky showed that soybean yields leveled off with no differences between Group 3 and Group 4 beans. They found a 3-4 bu/ac difference between Group 2 and 3 beans across locations. Ultimately, from looking at a variety of research studies including our on-farm research studies, we would suggest that when comparing really high yielding genetics of Group 2 vs. Group 3 beans, there aren’t yield differences. The small plot research also showed that there was an 11-13 day difference between R8 (full maturity) occurring in soybean from Group 3 to Group 4 and a 10 day difference between Group 2 to Group 3 occurrence of R8. What this suggests is for those seeking to plant Group 2 beans to get cover crop biomass established after harvest, one can gain an additional 10 days by following the drill behind the combine compared to planting a Group 3 bean and an additional 20 days compared to a Group 4 bean. It’s estimated every 0.1 in maturity results in 1 day harvest difference. Looking at our on-farm research data in York and Seward, for the grower who harvested the different maturities based on 13% moisture, the harvest date difference between his Group 2 vs. Group 3 beans lined up pretty well with that line of thinking.
For corn, relative maturities of 95, 105, 111, and 113 days were planted in 2017 in two locations. That year showed no yield difference for the 105-113 day but it dropped off for the 95 day. In 2018, relative maturities of 95, 99, 105, 111, and 113 were compared at one location. The yield trend showed the 113 day yielding significantly higher than 111 and 105 with the 95 and 99 day yielding the least. Based on that data and data from UNL’s South Central Ag Lab (SCAL), a 105 day relative maturity appears to be the cut off before seeing significant yield loss., but corn yields vs. maturity are highly dependent on hybrid and growing season. Greatest fall and spring cover crop biomass at SCAL planted after corn harvest (2015-2016) occurred after harvesting 88-105 day relative maturities.
Kiwanis Club of Seward 52nd Ag Recognition Banquet will be held March 16 at the Ag Pavilion at the Seward County Fairgrounds. The evening social begins at 5:30 p.m. with wine by James Arthur Vineyard and cheese from Jisa’s Farmstead Cheese. At 6:30 p.m. will be the prime rib dinner. Greg Peterson of the Peterson Brothers (YouTube celebrities) will be the evening entertainment. Honored as the Seward Kiwanis Outstanding Farm Family of the Year is Tomes Family Farm (Bill, Patty, Andrew, and Becky). Honored as the Seward County Agribusiness of the Year is the Lawrence and Della Beckler Family (Richard, Ruth and Kris Beckler). To purchase tickets, please call Shelly at (402) 643-3636.
This week begins Nebraska Extension’s On-Farm Research Update meetings. Over 100 studies were conducted in 2019! Each meeting runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (registration at 8:30 a.m.). Meal is included and there’s no cost thanks to our partnerships with Nebraska Corn, Soybean, and Dry Bean Boards and Growers’ Associations. Please pre-register at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-624-8030. Meetings are: Feb. 18 at Holiday Inn Express in Beatrice, Feb. 19 near Mead at ENREC, Feb. 20 in Norfolk at the Extension Office, Feb. 26 in Kearney at the Extension Office, and Feb. 28 in York at the Holthus Convention Center. At the meetings, you will receive a book of all the 2019 studies and hear from the farmers who conducted the studies if they are present at that specific location. What’s powerful about that to me is that you get to hear from your peers and the discussion and questions are greater. At all locations except for York, all the studies in the book will be shared. New this year to only the York location, only the cover crop on-farm research studies will be shared followed by outside speakers sharing about cover crop/soil health topics. That meeting also qualifies for UBBNRD nitrogen credits.
On-Farm research in Nebraska has occurred the past three decades. Growers partner with Extension and sometimes other government agencies and ag industry to test questions on their own farms using their own equipment benefiting many with the information. We often don’t have funding to do these studies. Thus, I’m extra grateful for our cooperating growers to research products and production practices that may not happen otherwise!
Sometimes, it’s best to hear from the farmers themselves regarding why they conduct on-farm research. The following YouTube video highlights area farmers David and Doug Cast of Beaver Crossing and Ken Herz of Lawrence:
Three York County farmers were also featured in a CropWatch article sharing their on-farm research experiences. Ron Makovicka and Jerry Stahr have conducted on-farm research since the beginning while Jay Goertzen was a first year participant. “Anytime you can get information, it’s very valuable. You can always learn something,” Stahr said. Goerzten shared, “There’s good support provided to help set up a research plot, help you with the follow through, and collecting data in-season.” All shared there was value in trying studies on your own farm with Makovicka emphasizing, “Go for it!”
This year, Makovicka and Stahr worked with me to compare areas with and without the nitrification inhibitor (N-Serve®) with their spring anhydrous ammonia applications. Nitrification inhibitors may reduce the rate at which ammonium is converted to nitrate thus helping reduce N losses through denitrification and leaching. Stahr applied 160 lbs N as anhydrous on April 8, 2019 in no-till, silt-loam soil. Makovicka applied 180 lbs N as anhydrous on April 10, 2019 in ridge-till, silt-loam soil. These locations were around 4 miles apart and the previous crop in both was soybean. At both study locations, no yield difference occurred between the check and inhibitor treatments. Soil samples were taken 2” off the anhydrous band down to three feet for both ammonium and nitrate concentrations at V7 growth stage. The results showed the nitrification inhibitor was working to slow the conversion of ammonium to nitrate in Makovicka’s field but not Stahr’s. We don’t have a good explanation for this. However, the results are consistent with other University studies conducted in silt loam soils.
Those are two examples of on-farm research studies. If you’re interested in trying a study for 2020, please contact your local Extension Educator. We work with you to set up your study in a scientifically valid way to work with your equipment. There’s also an opportunity to obtain up to $300 reimbursement for water-quality related studies through the UBBNRD (there is a short application form for that through the NRD). Please also save Mar. 2 from 9-Noon for an on-farm research ‘brainstorming’ meeting at the 4-H Building in York. I’ll share more on that and other study results next week.
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).