Growing Knowledge

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

Mitigate Early-Season Plant Stress

Tyler Steinkamp
Regional Agronomist
We’re gearing up for another unpredictable growing season. While we never know exactly how things will shake out at this point in the year, good management from day one is key to crop success. Here are four tips to help mitigate early-season plant stress:

  1. Reevaluate seed placement and management plans. Placing seed has become more of a science because we have plenty of technology tools available to help map and model fields. High-yielding seed varieties require more intensive management. Mitigate risk when making seed choices by striking a balance between reliable, consistent performers and top-yielding genetics. Before planting, review seed ‘Response-To’ Scores for variables like planting population, nitrogen and fungicide to help fine-tune management plans based on your seed selection. 
  1. Don’t push planting. It’s easy to get anxious when the first warm days of spring roll around, but planting into poor soil conditions can only create problems for the rest of the season. Iowa State University reports that corn may take three weeks to emerge when soil temperatures average 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit at the time of planting, compared to 10-to 12-day emergence when soils average 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants that emerge quickly are less susceptible to root and early-season fungal diseases and to insect damage. They also tend to have more even stands.
  1. Give plants a jump-start. Starter fertilizers and plant growth regulators are a good way to make sure crops have what they need for a vigorous start. Plant growth regulators such as Ascend® SL and Optify®/Stretch deliver a number of benefits to growing crops, including fueling stem elongation, stimulating sugar movement and signaling nutrient availability. Plant growth regulators can also help speed up the germination process, which is especially important if you’re planting into cool, wet soils. 
2011-2013 Answer Plot® data supports the yield benefits of Ascend. Compared to untreated plots, farmers saw an average 8-bushel per acre yield advantage when Ascend was applied at planting.
 
 Soil Temperature*  Answer Plot®    Locations  % Positive Response   Sites  Average Positive   Response
 < 50° F  50  67.3  8.2 bu/A
 < 60° F  98  65.4  8.1 bu/A
                  *2 weeks before and 2 weeks after planting
 
 Conditions**  % Positive Response Locations
 < 60° F Air Temperature
 > 1" Precipitation
 69.2%
                  ** 2 weeks after planting
 
Starter fertilizers applied at planting can help stimulate root development and increase nutrient availability to small plants. Zinc and phosphorus are two nutrients that are commonly found in many starter fertilizers – both of which are vital to early plant growth and tend to be more limited when soils are wet and cool.
 
  1. Keep an eye on fields. Scout fields early and often once plants have emerged. Taking population counts can help determine whether there were germination issues that may require extra attention. Observe plant spacing and growth stage differences between plants to evaluate whether a replant may be necessary.
Every management decision you make once the seed is in the ground can affect the number on the yield monitor at harvest. While not all plant stresses can be eliminated, there are a number of management practices that can help mitigate them.
 
With the growing season right around the corner, we’re here to help you with your holistic plant nutrition plan. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover split-application strategies and explain how crop modeling fits into plant health. We’ll continue to explore all aspects of plant nutrition throughout the year right here on the Growing Knowledge blog, so be sure to check back for more plant health tips.
 
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.

Take a Holistic Approach to Plant Nutrition

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
Yearlong nutrient management can help keep your soil and crops — and your ROI and yield potential — healthy. Work with your trusted advisor this spring to assess nutrient needs. Use the tools available to monitor nutrient levels all season to help ensure you meet your operational goals. Here are a few steps to keep in mind.
 
1. Consider what happened last season.
Weather, commodity prices and farm economics can all shift from year to year. However, last year’s nutrition plan can be used as a foundation to build on for the upcoming season. Review nutrient levels and yield data from 2017 to start enhancing your nutrition program in 2018.
 
2. Delve into response-to-nitrogen scores.
If you apply some of your nitrogen in the fall, be sure to include a stabilizer with it so it will still be there in the spring. In order to leverage a hybrid with a high response-to-nitrogen score to your advantage, it is important to split up your nitrogen applications. Use in-season approaches to help make those decisions as needed to optimize plant nitrogen needs. Soil nitrate samples, tissue samples, in-season imagery from the R7® Tool or a crop modeling tool such as the R7® Field Forecasting Tool can help determine your nitrogen status.
 
3. Evaluate nutrient levels.
Managing nutrients closely throughout the year allows you to make better decisions about crop rotation and to be more nimble with nutrient timing. Use available tools including soil and tissue sampling, and have conversations with your agronomist, to be sure nutrient applications are made based on sampling results and return on investment potential.
 
4. Apply a plant growth regulator.
Plant growth regulators such as Ascend® and Optify®/Stretch encourage early plant germination and emergence, a robust root system, larger leaves, and thicker stems. Use data from your local Winfield United supplier to help determine what PGR may be best for your operation. For example, in a five-year average across 294 Answer Plot® locations, Ascend® PGR paired with starter fertilizer and zinc in-furrow delivered a 4.94 bu/A average positive yield response.*  
 
5. Keep an eye on your tablet.
Use ag technology to monitor crop progress. The R7® Field Monitoring Tool provides satellite images that show whether biomass in your fields are trending up or down. Use this information to determine whether you need to be adding more nutrients to better-performing fields, or could cut back nutrition on fields with lower yield potential.
 
If you don’t measure nutrients, you won’t be able to manage them. Know your starting point this spring, and take the necessary steps to achieve the yield you want in the fall.
 
*Across all environments, 60.5 percent of sites responded positively.
 
It’s crucial to monitor nutrient levels so you can make informed decisions about what nutrients to apply and when. Look for articles throughout the growing season with tips on how you can implement a more holistic approach to plant nutrition. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll cover mitigating stress at planting, realizing the genetic potential of your corn and how to best use split-application strategies.

The Significance of Day One

Jason Haegele
Crop Physiologist
Your seed has the greatest yield potential the day it’s planted. From that moment on, it faces stresses that diminish the number of bushels you’ll eventually get at harvest. It takes intensive management from day one to get the most from your genetics.
 
Control what you can
Some stresses a crop faces are entirely out of your control. But doing everything you can to start your crops off strong makes them more resilient to stress, including unavoidable environmental factors. One way to do that is to wait for suitable tillage and planting conditions. Establishing a vigorous and even crop starts with a good seedbed. Playing the waiting game in spring can be hard, but holding out for suitable conditions may pay dividends at the end of the season.
 
Feed crops all season long
Just like you and me, plants need proper nutrition to carry out physiological processes that promote healthy growth. Providing nutrients when crops need them can make the difference between achieving average and exceptional yield.
 
At planting, a balanced starter fertilizer and plant growth regulator program can help promote vigorous germination and better root growth. When we think of starter fertilizers, phosphorus usually comes to mind because it tends to be most limited by cool, wet spring soils. But other macro- and micronutrients that are taken up over the entire growing season (nitrogen, potassium, manganese and zinc, for example) can also be beneficial when supplied in small concentrations at planting.
 
Plant growth regulators like Ascend® SL and Optify®/Stretch give plants an extra early boost by establishing a more robust root system, larger leaves and wider stems.
 
After you’ve applied a starter fertilizer, it’s important to continue feeding plants throughout the growing season. At V5, the corn ear is determined which starts the yield-setting process. It’s a good time to consider a foliar or early side-dress fertilizer application to help maintain yield potential.  
 
The bottom line is that you can’t go back and change management decisions that were made early in the season. The trajectory of your crop’s success begins on day one.
 
With the growing season right around the corner, we’re here to help you with your holistic plant nutrition plan. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover split-application strategies and how crop modeling fits into plant health. We’ll continue to explore all aspects of plant nutrition throughout the year right here on the Growing Knowledge blog, so be sure to check back for more plant health tips.

Wheat Yield Winners Share Secrets of Success

Mark Torno
CROPLAN® Diverse Field Crops Marketing Manager
Two farmers recently attained top-five finishes in the National Wheat Yield Contest dryland category with CROPLAN® spring wheat varieties. Here is a snapshot of how the farmers — both first-time entrants in the competition — achieved these wins.
 
National Winner, Second Place
Jon Iverson
Langdon, North Dakota
Yield: 97.6 bu/A
County average: 54 bu/A
Increase over county average: 80.69%
Variety used: CROPLAN® 3530
In addition to wheat, Jon Iverson grows peas, flax, barley, canola, corn and soybeans on his 3,500-acre operation in northeastern North Dakota. He saw how promising CROPLAN® 3530 looked in North Dakota State University field trials as well as a local trial in Langdon and decided to plant it on 224 acres. For management, he:
  • Put down 100 pounds of nitrogen last fall
  • Applied 70 pounds of monoammonium phosphate (MAP) starter fertilizer
  • Top-dressed 46 pounds of nitrogen at the 3- to 4-leaf stage
  • Applied a herbicide to manage wild oats, pigeon grass and broadleafs to keep the field clean throughout the season
  • Sprayed for scab at heading
“In our area, 2017 was a good wheat year,” says Craig Leas, master agronomy advisor, WinField United, who is Iverson’s agronomic advisor. “It got a little dry toward the end of the season, but we received rain pretty much when we needed it.”
 
Iverson, who has been farming for nearly 30 years, uses minimum tillage on his operation and was pleased with the results from planting 3530. “These are the best wheat yields I’ve ever had on the farm,” he says of his winning crop. “I already have a little more than 300 acres of 3530 booked for next year.”
 
National Winner, Fifth Place
John Yerger
Hardin, Montana
Yield: 58.8 bu/A
County average: 40 bu/A
Increase over county average: 46.95%
Variety used: CROPLAN® 3100 WinPak
Barley, winter wheat, spring wheat, corn, sugar beets and alfalfa make up John Yerger’s 7,000-acre operation in south central Montana, which he operates with his two nephews.
 
CROPLAN® 3100 is a WinPak® variety, which is a blend of two varieties designed to increase field averages by strengthening lower-yielding parts of the field and buffering the effects of weather and other stresses. “This variety handled drought and heat stress well, on varying topographies,” says Curt Droogsma, district sales manager with Winfield United seed who works with Yerger. “Some of John’s fields have low spots with higher water-holding capacity and higher yield potential, and others have hilltops where yields aren’t always as high.”
 
Yerger planted the 3100 WinPak® variety on a no-till field. His management consisted of:
  • 38 units of phosphate applied at planting
  • 100 units of nitrogen later in the season as a top-dress
  • Warden® Cereals II seed treatment fungicide
  • Ascend® plant growth regulator
  • Propiconazole fungicide
“After we planted 3100, we were a little droughty, but then we caught one rain and it just bloomed from there,” says Yerger. “All of our dryland is no-till, which can save a couple of inches of moisture, too.”
 
Yerger’s management is aggressive, says Droogsma, particularly with his use of Ascend® plant growth regulator. “We don’t get a lot of producers who are willing to invest in Ascend® for wheat — especially dryland wheat,” he says. “But we’ve had good success with it: better seedling vigor, better stand establishment and bigger root systems to help improve yield.”
 
You can find out more about CROPLAN® wheat varieties here

Optimizing Cotton Production

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField United
Agronomist and guest host Sara Smelser is back on a new episode of The Deal With Yield. Kyle and Sara discuss nutrient management and best in-season practices, plus Sara gives a history lesson on cotton production.
Season 11, Episode 2 – Optimizing Cotton Production

The Deal With Yield is a podcast series covering the issues that matter most in crop production.

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