Growing Knowledge

Read the latest insights from our experts as they cover agronomy issues that matter most to you and your operation.

Nutrient Management With Cover Crops

Mark Glady
Regional Agronomist
Depending on your geography, planting a cover crop for nutrient and erosion benefits can make a lot of sense. Nutrient management can be tricky, however. Here are some factors to consider to determine if growing a cover crop is practical for you.
 
1.  You have some acres in sugar beets or small grains.
If you have harvested your sugar beets or wheat, barley, durum or another small-grain crop and have open soil in September and October, a cover crop can keep soil from blowing around and soak up residual soil nutrients. That cover crop can also sequester nitrate from nitrogen that’s left in the soil, using that nitrate to increase the cover crop’s biomass and keeping it from leaching into tile lines, drainage ditches, lakes, streams and rivers. When that cover crop disintegrates the following growing season, it releases nutrients for that year’s crop.
 
2. You want to seed your cash and cover crops in the same field (just not at the same time).
In one of our Answer Plot® test plots this year, we planted corn and then seeded a cover crop over top of it on the same day the corn was planted. In the plot next to that, we planted corn without a cover crop. The corn grown along with a cover crop was extremely nitrogen deficient when we soil sampled on August 2 (about 25 pounds of N in the soil) compared to the plot without the cover crop (about 90 pounds of N in the soil). The cover crop was obviously in competition with the cash crop grown for grain.
 
It’s important to know that cover crops do not magically take nitrogen out of the air and give it to the cash crop. It’s not until that cover crop disintegrates and decomposes — what we call mineralization — that it releases nutrients to the crop that follows it. So you won’t get a fertilizer credit from a cover crop until the following year. If you want to plant corn and a cover crop on the same acres, a better plan is to wait until later in the season to do so.
 
3. You want to minimize soil erosion.
In my state of Minnesota, the ground is very bare and black following sugar beet harvest, as opposed to corn harvest, which leaves residue on the soil. Planting a grass species with a fibrous root system (such as ryegrass) as opposed to a broadleaf with a taproot (such as tillage radish) as a cover crop is a better management decision. Fibrous root systems are much better at holding soil in place. Particularly on highly erodible ground on steep slopes and on flat stretches where wind erosion is likely, planting a grass species as a cover crop can be a good environmental, as well as economic, decision.
 
Talk with your agronomist and attend an Answer Plot® event this fall to find out more about cover crops and if they might be a good addition to your management strategy. 

2017 Answer Plot® Insight #4: The Right Seed Yields Results

WinField United
Agronomy Team
This is the final in a series of four posts highlighting key insights from 2016 Answer Plot® field data and trials.
 
Every season brings its share of challenges, old and new. As a result, you want the confidence of knowing that the seeds you plant can meet those challenges. Putting the right seed in the right soil is the first step in achieving genetic yield potential and reducing risk.
 
Using our Answer Plot® testing protocol, WinField United identifies the management strategies needed to reach maximum yield potential for our CROPLAN® seed brand. From soil type and disease risk to crop rotation and response to nutrient applications, extensive replicated testing measures yield based on a variety of inputs and environmental factors.
 
During 2016 Answer Plot® trials, we used applied science to analyze and compare statistical data from CROPLAN® seed against products from our key competitors. The results showed that CROPLAN® corn hybrids and soybean varieties outperformed them.
 
At 135 Answer Plot® locations in 20 states, CROPLAN® corn hybrids outperformed the key competitor with a yield advantage ranging from 8.7 bushels per acre in western states to 10.7 bushels per acre in northern states.  


At 116 Answer Plot® locations in 16 states, CROPLAN® soybean varieties outperformed the key competitor with a yield advantage ranging from 1.5 bushels per acre in western states to 3.3 bushels per acre in northern states.
 

Talk to your local WinField United retailer to discuss best management strategies to maximize yield potential for your seed.  
 
Results may vary. Because of factors outside of Winfield Solutions’ control, such as weather, product application and any other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields, financial performance or profits, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Winfield Solutions.

2017 Answer Plot® Insight #3: Split N for Higher Yield Potential

WinField United
Agronomy Team
This is the third in a series four posts highlighting key insights from 2016 Answer Plot® field data and trials.

Managing nitrogen is a key concern as farmers continue to look for ways to increase yield while managing input costs in a tight market. Using split nitrogen applications is an important management strategy that can help increase productivity and profitability potential, while promoting sustainability.
 
An effective split-application program starts with using enough nitrogen to meet requirements for early-season growth, then returning with one or more applications to meet later nitrogen needs. This limits the amount of nitrogen that is susceptible to loss by leaching or denitrification. Delaying nitrogen applications also gives you more time to react to environmental conditions.

Split applications allow you to take several in-season measurements that can help you ascertain the correct nitrogen rate. Using in-season imagery with the R7® Tool, as well as tissue and soil testing with the NutriSolutions 360® system, can help you more accurately determine how much nitrogen to apply and when to apply it, without over-applying.

In 2016, at 15 Answer Plot® locations in 10 states, data showed that side-dress nitrogen applications made at V4 and treatments with a Y-DROP® applicator at V10 led to significant yield advantages in corn over a base rate. By applying nitrogen when crops need it most, plants can prosper while the financial and environmental costs of nitrogen loss can be minimized.
 
RESPONSE TO SPLIT NITROGEN APPLICATION IN CORN (BY MATURITY)

Results may vary. Because of factors outside of Winfield Solutions’ control, such as weather, product application and any other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields, financial performance or profits, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Winfield Solutions.

2017 Answer Plot® Insight #2: Expect Results From Fungicides

WinField United
Agronomy Team
This is the second in a series of four posts highlighting key insights from 2016 Answer Plot® field data and trials.

Using data from our Answer Plot® Program, WinField United strives to help farmers make the right decisions throughout the growing season. One area we have focused on recently is response-to-fungicide (RTF) scores and the potential economic benefits of making a late-season fungicide application.

Granted, with current low commodity prices, the expense of a late-season fungicide application can be difficult to justify. And the questions, “Is it worth the cost to spray fungicide?” and “Will I get my money’s worth out of this expenditure?” are legitimate. What is certain is that making the right decision about fungicide applications requires a calculated approach.

RTF scores are key indicators of the potential economic benefit of applying fungicides and allow you to weigh possible yield gain against application costs. Answer Plot® data from 2016 shows a strong fungicide yield response in both corn and soybeans. Across all locations, an 88 percent positive response rate was observed in corn (a 15.3-bushel-per acre yield advantage) and a 92 percent positive response rate was observed in soybeans (a 2.1-bushel-per-acre yield advantage).

We also test each hybrid for its individual response. Some hybrids respond exceptionally well to a fungicide application and are “must spray” hybrids. Others do not respond as well, so applying a fungicide may not pay for itself. We can help you think through the possibilities to ensure you are putting your dollars in the right place and optimizing your investment.

Contact your local retailer for hybrid-specific response scores and for further information on a late-season fungicide application.

At 67 Answer Plot® locations in 12 states, the average corn fungicide response was a 15.3-bushel-per-acre yield advantage.



At 38 Answer Plot® locations in 11 states, the average soybean fungicide response was a 2.1-bushel-per-acre yield advantage.



Results may vary. Because of factors outside of Winfield Solutions’ control, such as weather, product application and any other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields, financial performance or profits, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Winfield Solutions.

2017 Answer Plot® Insight #1: Belowground Traits Beat Corn Rootworm

WinField United
Agronomy Team
This is the first in a series of four posts highlighting key insights from 2016 Answer Plot® field data and trials.
 
The injury caused to corn plants by corn rootworms can be devastating. There are several ways to reduce corn rootworm populations and help minimize the injury caused, including using an in-furrow insecticide, using an insecticide to eliminate adult beetles, or by planting hybrids with belowground traits.
 
Hybrids with belowground traits provide the most consistent control of corn rootworm because the effectiveness of insecticides is based on weather patterns and on the timing of the emergence of rootworm beetles. Smart hybrid selection can help minimize risk and maximize the potential for success.
 
Answer Plot® data demonstrates that Genuity® SmartStax® corn hybrids deliver consistent yield advantage compared to hybrids without belowground traits. In 2016 trials, even with an in-furrow application of Capture® LFR® insecticide, Genuity® SmartStax® hybrids outperformed hybrids without belowground traits across all locations and performed even better in locations that were under insect pressure.*
 
With increasing rootworm populations, think about the risks of not choosing hybrids with corn rootworm traits. In fields at risk for corn rootworm infestations, we recommend you consider planting hybrids with belowground traits to provide consistent protection compared to insecticide applications alone.
 
In 214 comparisons performed across all Answer Plot® locations, Genuity® SmartStax® corn hybrids showed a 4.9-bushel-per-acre yield advantage over Genuity® VT Double PRO® corn hybrids: 225.9 bu/A vs. 221.0 bu/A.

 
In 92 comparisons performed at Answer Plot® locations with corn rootworm pressure, Genuity® SmartStax® corn hybrids showed a 5.5-bushel-per-acre yield advantage over Genuity® VT Double PRO® corn hybrids: 237.7 bu/A vs. 232.2 bu/A.

 
*Because the primary objective is to look at genetic performance, standard agronomic practice is to apply an insecticide to genetic trials to manage the potential variation from belowground pests.
 
Results may vary. Because of factors outside of Winfield Solutions’ control, such as weather, product application and any other factors, results to be obtained, including but not limited to yields, financial performance or profits, cannot be predicted or guaranteed by Winfield Solutions.

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