Growing Knowledge

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

Managing a Clean, Sustainable Operation

Adam Mangum
Marketing Manager, Plant Nutrition
Spills can happen in any type of operation, including farms. Fuel leaks around machinery filling stations or fuel tanks, and pesticide spills in the field, around tank-mix areas or in storage buildings are not uncommon. Handling these mishaps promptly can help you keep areas clean and prevent dead zones from limiting how you use the affected areas of your farm.
 
In the past, managing spills typically required costly physical remediation. Excavation equipment was needed to dig out the affected soil and contaminants needed to be disposed of at a properly equipped site.
 
While phyical remediation is still a viable fix for some large chemical and fuel spills, new technology offers a more economical and environmentally friendly option for managing spills in agriculture settings. Parvus™ biological remediator employs living microorganisms to remove chemicals and fuel in the soil and on hard surfaces.
 
Eliminating spills naturally
Instead of having to physically remove contaminated soil, this innovative biological remediator can be applied to the affected site in a spray or granule form that must be activated with water. After coming into contact with the spilled fuel or pesticide, the microbes do what comes naturally – they consume the material, removing it from the soil or surface area.
 
The microbes continue to feast over time until the fuel or chemical is gone, leaving the affected soil or surface clean. Field tests with common herbicide active ingredients such as glyphosate, atrazine and fomesafen showed that Parvus™ biological remediator reduced the amount of chemicals in the soil by 70 percent or more within 21 days. After their fuel or chemical food source is gone, the number of microbes decreases and the bacteria become part of the soil’s indigenous background microbial population.
 
Be prepared
Since we never know when a spill will occur, it’s a good idea to keep Parvus™ biological remediator on hand for fast treatment, before the fuel or chemical has time to penetrate deeper into the soil. While this biological remediator should be applied as soon as possible after a spill occurs, it also works effectively when applied days, weeks, months or years later.
 
For more tips on proactively managing spills to protect your land, contact your local WinField United retailer.

Preserving land and water

Randy Brown, Ph.D.
Senior Manager – Lead, Regional Agronomists
There are many things farmers are doing to keep their fields and adjacent waterways as healthy as possible and still provide for profit potential. WinField United continues to supply data and tools to help you and other farmers increase yield potential for every drop of water used. In turn, you play a vital role in promoting land and water conservation through various management practices.
 
Nutrient management
Some of the biggest gains not only in sustainability but also in yield potential come from applying nutrients closer to the time crops use them. For example, Answer Plot® trials have shown that strategic application timing can help reduce the financial and environmental costs of applying excess nitrogen.
 
My colleague Ryan Wolf, agronomy manager, also attributes successful nutrient management to strategic tissue sampling. “Well-timed tissue sampling allows farmers to respond with targeted nutrient applications only when needed and not to apply nutrients that are not needed,” he says.
 
Irrigation management
Using water probes in irrigated fields lets you see the amount of water in your soil profile, allowing you to make better irrigation decisions. In the past, we tended to over-irrigate because we didn’t know what the moisture in our soil profile looked like. Much like nutrient management, irrigation management and water probes aid agronomic decision-making so you provide only the amount of water that’s needed at optimal times.
 
Land management
You may use buffer strips, grass waterways, or minimum- or no-till methods to manage soil integrity and nutrient runoff, depending on the part of the country you’re in. Cover crops are another way to capture nutrients and build soil health.
 
Genetics and trait technologies
New seed technologies can also help promote sustainability. “Traits that add herbicide tolerance and insect protection save pounds of pesticides from being applied to crops during the season,” says Wolf.
 
For example, most corn hybrids contain a corn rootworm trait. The less corn rootworm pressure we have in the field, the more plentiful roots we have under the corn plant, which usually translates into higher yield potential. Those roots also capture many more nutrients, so they don’t get into the watershed. The more of a crop we can convert into grain, the more nutrients we remove from the soil profile so they can’t travel where we don’t want them to. 

Considering Cover Crops

Steve Anthofer
Answer Plot Operations Sr. Manager
Cover crops are increasing in popularity due to benefits for sustainability. If you’re considering them, here is some information about the advantages and challenges associated with cover crops.
 
Potential advantages of cover crops
Properly established cover crops can reduce soil erosion and nitrogen sequestration, build soil tilth, increase water- and nutrient-holding capacity, and foster diverse soil fauna and microbes. These benefits could provide long- and short-term economic advantages through increased yields; better weed control; and nitrogen conservation, sequestration or addition. 
 
Potential disadvantages of cover crops
Cover crops can be challenging to establish without affecting the primary crop and may even be cost-prohibitive in the short term. If they are seeded in a broadcast fashion in a standing crop, cover crops will only establish with adequate moisture and light under the canopy.
 
If seeded after harvest of the primary crop, the window for cover crops to germinate and establish may be short. Once established, cover crop residues can make it difficult to attain quality primary crop stands, especially corn. Finally, depending on the cover crop species and operational costs, you could spend a sizable amount on seed. Check with your agronomist to see if Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) cost-share options are available in your area.
 
Benefits for sustainability
Cover crops shield soil from the impact of rain and wind, which reduces erosion. Second, cover crop root systems provide many benefits. They penetrate compacted soils, creating root channels that make soil more porous, resulting in improved infiltration of air, water and subsequent crop root systems. Live root systems also foster soil microbial growth and produce organic compounds that bind soil particles together to create better soil structure, which also helps reduce erosion.
 
Some cover crops can also keep nitrogen out of groundwater. For example, cereal grains such as rye, oat, wheat, triticale, etc. scavenge for nitrates in the profile and convert them to stable organic forms.  Legume cover crop species fix nitrogen from the air and provide an organic nitrogen source for the upcoming cash crop.
 
The increased biomass created by cover crops converts to organic matter over time, providing many benefits, including increased water- and nutrient-holding capacity.
 
Cultivation practices
Although farmers employing no-till or strip-till methods may have more experience with and tools for dealing with crop residues, cover crops are not just meant to be incorporated into minimum-till systems. Keeping live plants in the soil as long as possible during the growing season provides advantages even for conventional tillage systems.
 
The time you put into planning and preparing will determine your ultimate success with cover crops. And, though there are many short-term benefits, remember that the economic advantages may become evident further down the road. Be clear about your goals and expectations before starting down the path.

Tips to Manage Pests This Season

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
On the season finale of The Deal With Yield®, hosts Joel and Kyle offer tips on controlling pests during the growing season. Find out how you can adjust your spray applications to protect the health of honeybees, why the threshold for spraying aphids varies state-by-state and the best spot to scout for them. 
 
Got a question about pests on your operation? Email hosts@dealwithyield.com to hear their tips.
Season 6: Episode 6 – Tips to Manage Pests This Season

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

Tips to Maximize Every Raindrop

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
On a new episode of The Deal With Yield®, host Joel Wipperfurth and this week’s guest Mike Vande Logt, executive vice president and chief operating officer, dive into water and agriculture. Tune in for cropping strategies to get the most out of every raindrop, such as using cover crops, drought-tolerant hybrids and plowing methods that cut down on evaporation. For more information, visit responsibleacre.com or Winfield.com/Beyond
SEASON 6: EPISODE 3 - Tips to Maximize Every Raindrop

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

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