Growing Knowledge

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

Slow the Flow with Buffer Strips

Darrin Roberts
Regional Agronomist
Here in Minnesota we’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about implementing buffer strips in agricultural land as a way to help protect surface waters from pesticide, nutrient and soil runoff. If you’re wondering about the benefits of buffer strips or are ready to implement them on your farm, here’s some background information to get started.
 
Common Sense Conservation
Buffer strips are small areas of land or strips of land that are permanently vegetated within or around an agricultural field to mitigate the movement of sediments, nutrients and pesticides from farm operations to surface waters such as rivers, streams, and lakes.
 
Nutrients that easily bind to soil particles, like phosphorus, move from fields to surface waters as runoff. Streams, rivers, and lakes become enriched with these nutrients and algae grows more quickly, depleting oxygen for aquatic life. Buffer strips help capture nutrients, preventing them from polluting water sources.
 
The Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates that properly installed and maintained buffers can remove 50 percent or more of nutrient and pesticides and 75 percent of sediment from agricultural runoff. An added benefit of buffer strips is reduced flood damage to crops.
 
Plan Buffers Before Planting Season
Buffers should be planted at the appropriate time for the species selected, and when there is adequate moisture for germination and stand establishment. Planning buffer strips before planting agricultural fields may save time and money on seeding and inputs, since this land won’t be in production. In addition, government programs have specific guidelines for completion, so it’s best to begin early in the season.
 
To get started, meet with your local crop advisor or government agency that supports conservation planning. There may be specific buffer design requirements you’ll need to consider to earn financial incentives from government programs. Buffer strips typically range in size from 20 to 120 feet wide, depending on field characteristics. Deep-rooted grasses and native plants intercept runoff effectively and can minimize erosion. In flat areas where wind is a problem, trees and shrubs can act as a windbreak to prevent the erosion of topsoil.
 
Keys for Buffer Maintenance
Once you’ve got your buffer strip established, it’s important to properly maintain it. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
  • Inspect grass buffer strips periodically and reseed any eroded areas.
  • Prescribed burns and mowing can help with weed control until native vegetation is well established. Your local soil and water conservation district can provide recommendations.
  • Periodic grading of the buffer strip may be needed, depending on the amount of sediment deposition.
  • Adequate stand densities of the seeded species should be maintained, while controlling undesirable weed species.
  • Limited livestock grazing may be appropriate, as long as it is controlled to avoid erosion. 

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. 

Managing the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System: Part 2

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
Following up last week’s episode of the Deal With Yield®, host Joel Wipperfurth and guest Ray Pigati continue their in-depth discussion of the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System. Learn what makes this new technology different, how to steward it properly and why labels are the law. Before the growing season begins, tune in to hear the 7 different keys to success, like the right nozzles, speed and more.
Season 8: Episode 2 – Managing the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System: Part 2

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

Managing the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System: Part 1

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
On this season opener of The Deal With Yield®, host Joel Wipperfurth and guest Ray Pigati, WinField United Crop Protection Technical Marketing Specialist, kick off their in-depth discussion of the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System. Get a look into the rapidly changing approval process of this new technology, like the need for each state to approve the label. Learn how to manage multiple sites of action to prevent herbicide resistance and how variety selection can lead to the specific herbicide you should use.
Season 8: Episode 1 – Managing the RoundUp Ready® Xtend Crop System: Part 1

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

Preparing for 2017 Weed Challenges in Soybeans

WinField United
Agronomy Team
If 2016 was any indication, soybean farmers should be ready to combat tough weed competition in the coming season. Herbicide-resistant marestail, waterhemp, Palmer amaranth, kochia and some ragweed species were leading problems during 2016 in Midwest soybean fields (see state recaps below). 
 
With resistant weeds on the rise, a complete herbicide-resistance management program is needed to take control, starting with a clean field at planting. Other recommended steps include crop rotation, three effective modes of action, overlapping residuals, timely applications use of full-label rates for herbicides with complementary adjuvants. With similar weed issues reported in both corn and soybean fields, a holistic approach across all crops in a rotation is needed.
 
While farmers may consider planting the recently approved dicamba-tolerant soybean system, the new dicamba formulation only counts as one of the three modes of action needed. Another option is to plant LiberyLink® soybeans and then use Liberty® herbicide as an in-crop application. 
 
WinField United agronomists recently shared some soybean weed insights from 2016 in this Corn & Soybean Digest article. Highlights by state are below.
 
Illinois: Glenn Longabaugh says the biggest 2016 weed-control issues in Illinois soybean fields were tall waterhemp and Palmer amaranth. Because of resistance to multiple herbicide groups across Illinois, including Groups 2, 5, 14 and Group 9 (glyphosate), a comprehensive herbicide-resistance management strategy is needed for acceptable control in any system, including non-GMO soybeans, Longabaugh says.
 
Indiana: Pigweed species, in particular tall waterhemp and some Palmer amaranth, provided the greatest challenge for Indiana soybean farmers in 2016, says George Watters. Nearly 100 percent of the waterhemp and Palmer amaranth populations are now resistant to glyphosate (Group 9) and ALS (Group 2) herbicides. Several populations are also becoming resistant to foliar applications of PPO (Group 14) herbicides. To best combat these challenging weeds, Watters recommends that farmers use a comprehensive herbicide-resistance management program.
 
Iowa: Resistance to glyphosate and Group 14 herbicides caused the biggest waterhemp control problems in Iowa soybean fields during 2016, Ryan Wolf notes. The appearance of Palmer amaranth also had Iowa farmers closely monitoring their fields. Higher rates of preemergent herbicides along with metribuzin in preemergent tank mixes provided the best weed control success. Timely post-applications also performed well. 
 
Michigan: Roundup Ready®- and ALS-resistant marestail was the biggest problem in Michigan soybeans, says Allen Pung. In addition to a good preemergence herbicide program, many farmers are also considering either LibertyLink® soybeans or the new dicamba-tolerant soybeans for 2017. A light tillage pass can also be helpful, he advises.
 
Minnesota: Herbicide-resistant weeds, including tall waterhemp, giant ragweed and common ragweed, were the top weed challenges for Minnesota soybean farmers, reports Al Bertelsen. In addition to identifying resistant weeds early and using at least three effective modes of action, Bertelsen recommends timely applications of PPO herbicides when weeds are small for improved weed control in in 2017. Because PPO herbicides require more spray coverage than glyphosate does, he advises spraying at higher volumes and selecting spray nozzles that increase weed coverage.
 
Ohio: Joe Rickard reports that marestail continued to be a major problem for Ohio soybean farmers. Farmers who have been making two applications of glyphosate or using the same chemistry for the past several years may not be receiving the same control as they did five or 10 years ago and should review their treatment options. He recommends a fall treatment to clean up winter annuals, followed by an effective residual herbicide mixed with 2,4-D to control weeds prior to planting. Spring preplant applications are also a good control option.
 
South Dakota: Ryan Wolf reports that weed resistance continued to challenge South Dakota soybean farmers. In 2016, waterhemp resistance to glyphosate and Group 14 herbicides was more prevalent in soybean fields, especially when spraying was delayed due to weather conditions. Glyphosate-resistant kochia and marestail were also problems. Farmers who used higher rates of preemergent herbicides and added metribuzin to their preemergent tank mixes had the most weed control success. Timely post-applications also performed well. 
 
Wisconsin: Tall waterhemp was the biggest weed challenge in Wisconsin soybean fields during 2016, says Todd Cardwell. While this weed isn’t new, glyphosate-resistant varieties have become difficult to control and have spread dramatically. Planning ahead and designing a long-term program is the best way to combat weed problems in 2017 and beyond, he advises. Farmers can address glyphosate and triazine resistance by making sure that their weed control program includes products that are still effective on resistant species. Some of the older chemistries like metribuzin (Dimetric® DF 75% or Sencor®) have been effective on glyphosate-resistant waterhemp. 

For similar insights on corn weed challenges, click here.

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