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.
UNL Grazing Corn Residue Research
Many stalks in Nebraska are left ungrazed for various reasons. One reason I’ve heard is the potential impact of increased compaction and reduced yield of the next crop. Nebraska Extension has long-term research addressing this concern…in fact, 16 years of research conducted at the Ag Research and Development Center near Mead. There’s various components to this study and you can view the full report at: http://go.unl.edu/8mp6.
In this study, cattle were allowed to graze corn residue in the spring (February to mid-April) or the fall (November through January) and these treatments were compared to an area not grazed. Corn and soybeans were planted the spring after grazing the residue for 16 years to determine the effect of grazing on the subsequent crop yield.
In the fall grazing treatments, the corn and soybeans were planted no-till. For corn or soybeans planted into the spring grazing treatments, three tillage treatments were also implemented for nine years: no-till, ridge-till, and spring conventional till, after which all treatments were converted to no-till. This result of the tillage by spring grazing treatments for either corn or soybean yield over nine years showed no interaction and suggested the same effect on yield regardless of tillage treatment used after spring grazing.
Spring grazing across all tillage treatments did increase soybean yields statistically (58.5 bu/ac for spring grazed vs. 57.0 bu/ac for ungrazed) and had no effect on corn yields. The results were similar looking at 16 years of grazing vs. not grazing under no-till for both corn and soybeans in the spring; there was no yield effect found for corn and the soybeans showed a slight yield increase with grazing.
Looking at a 10 year period of no-till management for both spring and fall grazed corn residue and subsequent corn and soybean crops, fall grazing statistically improved soybean yields over both spring grazing and no grazing (65.5 bu/ac vs. 63.5 bu/ac and 62.1 bu/ac respectively). No grazing effects were observed on corn yields in either season. All statistics were at the 95% confidence level meaning the researchers were 95% confident any yield differences were due to the treatments themselves vs. random chance.
Regarding compaction, in the fall, the field was typically frozen and the researchers felt any mud and compaction associated with grazing cattle was minimized; highest subsequent soybean yields were achieved with fall grazing. The spring treatment was designed to look more at potential compaction and muddy conditions after spring thaw till right before planting-thus the implementation of different tillage treatments as well. They used a stocking rate consistent with UNL grazing recommendations resulting in removal of half the husks and leaves produced (8 lbs of leaf and husk per bushel of corn grain produced). Results of this study indicate that even with muddy conditions in the spring, grazing increased subsequent soybean yields compared to not grazing regardless of tillage system used and that corn yields were not different between grazing vs. not grazing and regardless of tillage system used in the spring. This study was conducted in Eastern Nebraska in a rainfed environment with yields ranging from 186-253 bu/ac with a 16 year median yield of 203 bu/ac.
Additional Grazing Study
A five year fall grazing study (December through January) was conducted in an irrigated continuous no-till corn field at Brule, NE to determine the effect of corn residue removal via baling corn residue or fall grazing on subsequent corn yields. That environment receives limited rainfall and residue is deemed important for reducing evaporation of soil moisture in addition for catching/keeping snow on fields. Farmers were questioning the effects of any residue removal on subsequent corn yields and the study was implemented.
Treatments were 1) fall grazing at 1 animal unit month/acre (AUM), 2) fall grazing 2 AUM/ac, 3) baled, or 4) ungrazed. The researchers found that residue removal did not affect corn grain yields from 2009-2013 in the continuous corn rotation. There were no statistical yield differences with 5 year average yields of: 152 bu/ac, 155 bu/ac, 147 bu/ac and 148 bu/ac respectively for the above-mentioned treatments.
Sugar Application in Crops
Corn is approaching or at V7-V8 growth stage. A few weeks ago, we published research results in our UNL CropWatch website. That information can be found in the links below the video. If you are interested in trying this in your field this year, please see the Nebraska On-Farm Research protocals also shown below.
Weed Science Field Day
July 1 is the upcoming Weed Science Field Day at UNL’s South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center. The brochure with more information is shown below as photos; please click on the photos to enlarge if they are difficult to read. You may RSVP to Dr. Amit Jhala at (402) 472-1534. Hope to see you there!
Sensitive Issues Training-Engage
Many of us have been there…we’ve been asked a question in which the answer can be deemed controversial because the topic is based on emotion and beliefs. How do we respond? Do we get caught up in the emotion and passion of the issue and try to force our beliefs on others? Do we shy away or try to avoid an answer altogether by remaining silent?
Last week’s Sensitive Issues Media and Communications Training was developed to help all of us through these situations. It was a remarkable experience working with an amazing group of ladies, all passionate about food, but looking at food from a variety of perspectives and taking an issues-based approach in developing our team. Our team was comprised of a livestock expert, a manure expert, two food and nutrition experts, a communication’s expert, and myself from a crop production perspective. Special thanks to Dr. Chuck Hibberd, Nebraska Extension Dean and Director, for providing us a New Audiences Innovation Grant to partially fund this training. You can catch the conversation on Twitter at #SIMCT15.
We invited the Center for Food Integrity to conduct their Engage training with us, which was sponsored by the United Soybean Board. This training uses “the power of shared values to highlight industry trends and teaches strategies for using values-based messaging in daily conversations, and public speaking and media opportunities.” There was discussion, role playing, and mock media interviews. The training challenged me to use something I also just learned from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” training….Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood.
Essentially, ask questions. Understand why a consumer believes X, Y, or Z about food and agriculture. Universal values include:
Seek to understand the other person’s values by listening and asking questions. Then share by communicating about common values telling your food and ag story. We can’t really script this. We can’t be so vague that we’re not credible. For example, the following is vague and perhaps over-used:
By doing X we help the environment.
Instead, we need to be willing to talk about the hard issues with authentic transparency…to share our own individual stories.
I also desire water that is safe for my family to drink and desire for there to be enough water for future generations. That’s why my colleagues and I work with farmers to use research-based irrigation scheduling tools. Doing so helps reduce over-irrigation which can reduce the nitrate levels reaching our groundwater and the amount of water being pumped from the aquifer.
There were a few surprises for me. The first being the progress in one year (based on the Center for Food Integrity’s research) that we’ve made in consumer trust. This slide is essentially saying that 42% of consumers feel the food system is going the right direction (up from 34% last year). Men are more trusting of the food system at 48% believing the food system is on the right track. 32% of women feel the food system is on the wrong track.
Another surprising, yet encouraging piece of information for me to see is which people are trusted the most on sensitive topics. On the topic of genetically modified foods, University Scientists topped the list, a Scientist that was a Mom was second, and Farmers were third. This is different than other research I’d seen, so I was excited about this. It was a survey of 2005 individuals conducted in 2014 and was encouraging from the standpoint that we do still have an opportunity to share our stories with those who truly desire to know more about where their food comes from. We will never change the activists, but we can reach the middle.
Finally, I loved the following quote which is so true:
A picture is worth 1000 words; a video is a library.
They showed the following video from Similac entitled, “The Mother ‘Hood“. Instantly, my mind went to how easy it would be for ag to do something similar. We tend to be so divided, but division is killing us. We are in the business of providing a safe, affordable, food supply to the world…but beyond that, our diversity provides consumer choice. If you watch the video, consider what is the common issue that could bring all of ag together. I have some ideas and my team members and I have discussed what a similar video with diverse agriculture groups would look like. What are your thoughts and ideas?
Connecting with Extension to Enhance the Land Grant Mission
My thoughts on the importance of connecting with Teaching and Research to ensure Extension’s and the Land Grant Institution’s future success, relevancy, and existence.
I had the opportunity to provide a seminar to the UNL Agronomy and Horticulture Department last week which was truly an honor. As I thought about what to present, I kept thinking about the future of Extension and two major challenges I see Extension facing in the next 100 years…actually now.
Challenge of losing our research base.
Challenge of sharing our unbiased, research-based information in the places where customers are receiving information.
I continue to think about Extension’s Mission: We provide unbiased, research-based information to the people to ultimately improve their lives.
My thoughts kept centering around the fact that in order for me to achieve Extension’s Mission, I need to be more connected with the people on campus and research stations. I need to know about their research to share with our customers. For us to be the best Land Grant University System we can be in…
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Still Time for On-Farm Research!
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!
On-Farm Research Update
Sprouting Corn Kernels on Hail-Damaged Ears
The latest event in the Clay County storm occurring August 1st has become germination of “good” kernels left on the ears that have been damaged by hail. This event of kernel germination prior to harvest is also called “vivipary”.
Typically we wouldn’t see this occur before black layer because of the hormonal balance within the kernels-particularly the balance between gibberellin and abscisic acid. According to a study by White, et. al (2000), Gibberellin production with the lack of ABA allowed for kernel germination while less Gibberellin and more ABA deterred kernel germination. At full maturity, very little ABA is left in the kernel (in both corn and soybeans) which allows them to germinate in correct conditions after harvest. But this can also allow for sprouting in the ear after black layer when corn is still drying down, particularly in tight-husked, upright ears with conditions of high humidity or rain after black layer. Sprouting under those conditions typically occurs at the base of the ear first.
Why are kernels sprouting before we’ve reached black layer?
That’s a good question. I haven’t found much in the way of scientific explanation other than the thought that the hormonal balance of the kernels can be altered by physical damage from hail, bird feeding, and grain mold. Some ear mold fungi also produce gibberellic acid which can lead to a hormonal balance shift in these ears stimulating germination. I also haven’t observed that this is hybrid-dependent and am finding as much as 25-50% sprouted ears in various areas of hail-damaged fields.
What can you do now?
Make sure your crop insurance adjuster is aware of the situation and make sure to submit samples for kernel damage due to mold, sprouting, and check for mycotoxins prior to harvest.
The local co-op may or may not choose to accept the load depending on percent damage and the standards they need to follow. If the load is rejected, contact your crop insurance agent to determine your next step. DO NOT bin the grain on your farm until you contact your insurance agent as they have specific rules that need to be followed in the case of grain rejected due to mycotoxins or kernel damage from storms.
Sprouted kernels lead to higher kernel damage and more fines in a load. Keys for harvest will include harvesting early, getting corn dried down to 14%, potentially drying at a high temperature to kill the sprout, screening out fines, and monitoring stored grain closely for hot spots, mold, and additional sprouting grain.
You can also choose not to take it to grain right now, and honestly, that may be the best option for several of the hail-damaged fields. Silage is still an option and it would be recommended to sample the green chop going into the silage pit for potential mycotoxins. Mycotoxin level does not change with fermentation so cattle feeders would have a good idea of any mycotoxin levels if sampling was done in this manner. See this post for additional information on making silage.
Du-Pont Pioneer. (2007). Field Facts: Pre-mature Germination of Corn Kernels.
Nielsen, R.L. (2012). Premature Corn Kernel Sprouting (aka Vivipary). Corny News Network, Purdue University.
White et. al. (2000). Gibberellins and Seed Development in Maize. II. Gibberellin Synthesis Inhibition Enhances Abscisic Acid Signaling in Cultured Embryos. Plant Physiology Vol. 122 no. 4 pg. 1089-1098.
Wiebold, B. (2009). Wet Weather Can Cause Seeds to Sprout before Harvest. Integrated Pest & Crop Management Newsletter, Univ of Missouri.
Storm Damage Update #1-Soybeans
It’s been five days and soybean fields that were the greatest affected by the storm are now near-brown. Planting some type of cover crop in these fields can allow for grazing opportunities as well as reduced soil erosion as there are many months before planting season next year. I’ll talk more about cover crop research in another post.
For fields that still have some leaves and some green to them, there are several criteria to look at when assessing hail damage to soybeans. These include determining plant stand, percent leaf defoliation, percent nodes cut off or broken over, and amount of stem damage. Determining percent leaf defoliation and subsequent yield reduction based on growth stage in indeterminate soybeans can be seen in the chart below. Most of our soybeans were between R4-R5 which is a critical time for yield loss in soybean. The remaining charts can be found here.
|% Leaf Defoliation|
|% Yield Reduction|
|R1 – R2||0||5||7||12||23|
Dr. Jim Specht, UNL Soybean Physiologist, shared some recent research data that may be of interest. He said R5 is also critical in that stem node number accrual (including new petioles with leaves and nodes on branches) ceases at R5. This occurs because the developing “sink” of newly developing seeds in the pods is a significant draw on the plant’s photosynthate. This draw is so powerful that very little other vegetative activity dependent on photosynthate is permitted.
With our current situation, Jim wasn’t sure if because of hailed off pods and seeds, if that “sink” to source signal would cease to exist resulting in new petioles and leaves. He didn’t think this would occur for two reasons:
1) Indeterminate main stem apices are not responsive to photoperiod induction, and might re-initiate new nodes, but since most of the indeterminate apical stem tips were hailed off in many fields, that possibility is unlikely.
2) During stage V0 to V1, all original lateral meristems in nodes 0 on up to about stem node 6 were cell clusters committed to vegetative phase development such as branches. Photoperiod induction, which occurs as soon as soybean plants of the maturity groups grown in NE attain the V0-V1 period, transduces in all other single-cell meristems in the lateral apices to become flowers (not branches). Thus the reason why we typically see the first soybean flower on about the 6th node or so. No more branches will form at higher main stem nodes the rest of this season under this scenario.
Soybean lateral apices will continue to be programmed to become flowers, because the days are short at all times during the season from planting to maturity, for soybean varieties adapted to and sold in NE. Research has shown it takes about 28 to 32 days after the transduction of a lateral apical single cell (to transduce it into a floral pathway) before the flower tracing to that single cell appears. Any flowers appearing soon after the hailstorm would have had to have been cell clusters in transit before the hailstorm date (from a zero-day single cell transduction to a 28-32-day later observable flower). Thus, truly “new” flowers emanating from single-cell apical transduction to a floral state the day of the hailstorm would be appearing at the end of August or beg of September, and would not have sufficient time to become pods (with seeds) before the usual date of a fall frost.
Overall, Jim says at soybean stage (R5), it is hard for a soybean plant to recover from a hailstorm, and what recovery is possible is going to have to hurry given the approach of fall. Special thanks to Dr. Jim Specht for his insights into this post!