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. 

Does Fall Burndown Pay Off?

George Watters
Agronomy Manager
For farmers who adopt minimum- or no-till practices, controlling weeds throughout the fall can be crucial — particularly for winter annual weeds like marestail and perennials such as dandelions. Overwintered marestail, for example, is very difficult to control in the spring.
 
If we are able to harvest early and we have warm, dry weather, we’ll have a wider window of opportunity for fall herbicide applications.
 
Benefits of Fall Weed-control Applications
There are a number of advantages to doing a fall burndown:
  • Smaller weeds: Weeds are typically smaller in the fall, making them easier to control.
  • Weeds are getting ready for winter: During the fall, plants are translocating most of their nutrients to the roots for overwintering. This means more of the herbicide will move down into the roots and provide good control.
  • Less compaction: Drier soils are better suited to sprayer traffic, minimizing compaction.
  • Earlier planting: With more effective control, fields can dry and warm faster in the spring to allow for tillage and earlier planting.
  • Greater efficiency: Equipment works better in clean fields.
  • Less weed competition: Early-season weed competition is reduced to help crops get a good start and encourage uniform stands.
  • Fewer pest havens: Fewer weeds mean fewer egg-laying sites for insects such as spider mites and cutworms, and no alternate host for soybean cyst nematodes.
Spring Application? Possibly.
Don’t forget to manage weeds into next spring as well. In spite of its benefits, fall burndown generally doesn’t eliminate the need for a residual herbicide program in the spring to achieve effective, season-long weed control.
 
For specific weeds like marestail (a big problem in the eastern Corn Belt), you may also need a spring burndown to take care of what germinates in the season’s early weeks. But if you do a fall burndown, you can at least avoid dealing with tough-to-control, overwintered marestail.
 
Contact your local WinField United retailer to learn more about fall burndown options in your area.

Five Things Farmers Are Doing to Protect Waterways

Tyler Steinkamp
Regional Agronomist
August is designated as Water Quality Month, and it’s a time to recognize what farmers are doing to keep our water clean. Here are five practices that some farmers are already implementing.
 
Conservation buffers
Conservation buffers are commonly seen in fields to prevent sediment, nutrients and pesticides from reaching water bodies. Examples of effective conservation buffers include filter strips, grassed waterways and field borders. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service estimates that properly installed and maintained buffers have the capacity to remove up to 50 percent nutrients and pesticides, and 75 percent or more sediment compared to a non-buffered field.
 
Cover crops
Cover crops are a growing trend among farmers who are looking for ways to reduce erosion and improve soil health. Cover crops help retain nutrients in the soil and can help with water-holding capacity. The University of Missouri reports that cover crops may reduce soil erosion by 90 percent and pesticide and nutrient runoff by 50 percent.
 
Conservation tillage
The main goal of conservation tillage is to keep soil in fields instead of allowing it to move off-site to nearby water bodies. Any tillage system that leaves at least 30 percent of the soil surface covered with crop residue after planting to reduce soil erosion is considered conservation tillage.
 
Precision agriculture tools and technology
From tractors with GPS to prescription planting, farmers today have more accurate and efficient ways to do business. Precision technology allows farmers to strategically target inputs where they’re needed at the correct time. Technology can help diagnose in-season plant stresses, and treatments can be made exactly when and where they are needed, reducing the runoff potential of nutrients and pesticides that could impair waterways.
 
Bioreactors
Bioreactors are a relatively new and progressive tactic being explored by some farmers to help protect waterways. The premise is fairly simple: divert nutrient-rich drainage water from tile lines to a wood-chip-filled basin at the edge of a field. Native soil bacteria within the basin use the carbon from the wood chips as food and nitrogen from the wastewater for respiration. The bacteria convert runoff nitrate to a gaseous form that returns to the atmosphere. Iowa State University reports that research shows bioreactors have the potential to remove 15 to 60 percent of the nitrate load in tile lines per year. Some states offer financial assistance for the installation of bioreactors.
 
These are just some of the ways that farmers are using old and new methods to protect waterways. Research shows that even though yields have increased over the years, water pollution from agricultural activities has decreased due to diligent conservation practices.

Setting the Standard for Boom Spraying

Joe Gednalske
Director, Product Development, WinField United
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), a standards-developing organization for food, agricultural and biological systems, presented an award to the committee who authored ASABE S592.1: Best Management Practices for Boom. The award was presented at the ASABE 2017 Annual International Meeting held in July in Spokane, Washington.
 
I’m pleased that a member of our team, Lillian Magidow, research manager for Winfield United product development, served on the committee to create this international standard. Her role was to  ensure that adjuvants were included in spray recommendations, because they are not used everywhere in the world, but are very important for farmers in many countries, including the United States and Canada.
 
S592.1 identifies, formalizes and organizes basic spray application best management practices, addressing areas not discussed on product labels and helping educate users about proper handling of spray equipment. The standard reflects advanced boom-sprayer technologies that can affect nozzle performance and the potential for off-site drift.
 
In addition to WinField United, the committee included representatives from  equipment manufacturers, nozzle manufacturers, the agrochemical industry, university and independent researchers, and specialty sprayer manufacturers.
 
A voice for farmers
Lillian wanted to ensure that the standard made sense for someone who would actually use it in the field. Many times, what a farmer sees on a label started as part of an ASABE standard. So if a standard is created without farmer participation and representation, there might be something included on that label that isn’t practical or doesn’t make sense, or is less relevant for North American agriculture. And the label is the law.
 
Because the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) has limited resources, it depends upon standards organizations such as ASABE for guidance. We can’t tell the EPA how to assess a particular product; but if it has a question about what is a typical recommendation to a farmer, we can help guide that discussion.
 
We are so proud of Lillian and the committee’s accomplishments. We look forward to continuing these efforts to help give farmers a voice in critical agricultural decisions that are being made in Washington, D.C., as well as internationally.

Zap Sunflower Bugs Before They Blossom

Kyle Okke
Agronomist, WinField United
Diligent scouting is critical to promptly identifying and controlling insects in your sunflower fields before yield and quality potential are compromised. No matter what your sunflower market, your crop deserves to have every opportunity to deliver a healthy ROI.
 
By this time, you’ve probably seen cutworms, an early-season pest, come and go. Most sunflower crops are in the bud stage now, which brings about several other destructive insects. Here are the main ones to watch for.
 
Red sunflower seed weevils
The number-one sunflower pest in my area near Dickinson, North Dakota, is the red sunflower seed weevil, which lays its eggs into developing seeds after pollination at the R-5.1 stage, when the outside of the sunflower head is starting to bloom. This causes seeds to be completely hollow or greatly reduced in test weight, which reduces sunflower yield.
 
Begin scouting for seed weevils as soon as the yellow ray petals begin to show. Counts should continue until the economic threshold level has been reached or most plants have reached 70 percent pollen shed, at which time very few seeds are suitable for egg laying.
 
For accurate checking of individual sunflower heads, brush the face of the heads vigorously to bring the weevils to the surface, or spray mosquito repellent containing DEET on the head. This will force the weevils to move out of hiding.
 
Keep in mind that the economic threshold is based on the market price of the crop. Here are the economic thresholds for the three main sunflower markets:
  • Confection: 1 weevil per head
  • De-hull: 2 to 3 weevils per head
  • Oils: 4 to 5 weevils per head, based on a $0.15 to $0.16 oil grain market. 
Banded sunflower moths
Careful scouting is critical with this sunflower pest, and you need to wait until the eggs hatch before you can spray them (typically about a week after you see the eggs). Sunflower moth larvae will chew petals as well as developing seeds and tissue. The timeline for banded sunflower moths mirrors that of the red sunflower seed weevil, so both can be sprayed at the same time.
 
Lygus bugs
Lygus bugs pierce and suck the nutrients out of developing seeds in the sunflower head. They are especially problematic in the confectionary and de-hull sunflower markets, where the appearance of the seed is important, and they also cause the seeds to have a bitter taste. As few as one lygus bug per nine plants is enough to cause a significant problem.
 
So protect your sunflower crop with boots-on-the-ground scouting to detect insect threats early and deal with them promptly. Your agronomist can help you determine optimal timing and the most effective insecticide to use. 

Observing Soil and Plant Health From the Ground Up

WinField United
Agronomy Team
Nurturing good soil health and providing adequate plant nutrition are critical to helping ensure optimal yield potential in corn crops, according to a set of on-farm trials conducted in multiple states. Here are individual observations about the advantages of applying microbes to boost soil health and adding stabilizers to improve nitrogen use efficiency.  
 
Observation #1: Feed Your Soil, Boost Your Yield Potential
Soil microorganisms play a critical role in soil quality, mineralization, recycling nutrients from crop residue and aiding in nutrient uptake and assimilation. Maintaining healthy, active microbial populations is important, particularly in conventional tillage systems that disturb natural soil function.
 
Through on-farm trials, WinField United is researching how soil microbe applications can help improve low soil fertility. According to ongoing on-farm trial data, appropriate soil microbial applications can generate a yield response. Our microbial product testing has shown that a spring soil microbial application improved corn yields across 19 trials. Yield results showed an interaction between the total pounds of nitrogen applied and the amount of rainfall received during the growing season.
 
This early data indicates soil microorganisms appear to help boost soil health and nitrogen efficiency.
 
19 Innovation Trial locations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin showed an average yield advantage of 4.1 bushels per acre when a soil microbe application was made.*


Total applied nitrogen and season rainfall factored into corn yield response.


Observation #2: Proper Plant Nutrition Meets Demand
Nitrogen is a significant operational cost, so it is imperative to protect this investment by ensuring it is available when crops need it most. With input productivity in mind, WinField United is using on-farm trials to research how nitrogen stabilizers can improve nitrogen use efficiency.
 
Data from 2016 currently shows anhydrous ammonia stabilizers can be an important part of a nitrogen management program. In seven on-farm trials, corn fertilized with nitrogen stabilizers demonstrated a yield advantage over the control group as well as greater stalk and root growth at key growing intervals. Early data shows that nitrogen stabilizers may increase yield and keep nitrogen investments on their acres.
 
Nitrogen stabilizers provided an average yield advantage of 1.1 bushels per acre in seven on-farm innovation trials in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.*
I
* Yield response will vary year to year, depending on variables such as rainfall, soil type and mineralization.
 
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.

Dealing With Drought

Jason Haegele
Crop Physiologist
A number of states in the northern Corn Belt are experiencing dry weather now or the results of earlier dry weather, especially where I am based in Illinois. Much of the country had a wetter-than-normal spring, which caused delayed planting in many areas. Follow that wet spring with drought conditions and we’re seeing poor, shallow root growth that is perhaps made worse by more recent dry conditions in some areas.
 
Here’s a look at how drought conditions can affect crops and what you can do to mitigate these stresses.
 
Crop stress symptoms
It’s important to keep in mind that crop stress due to drought occurs before there are any visual symptoms. Roots in the soil are the first to detect water limitation. When they do, they transmit a signal to the rest of the plant to start shutting down, limiting growth and reproductive development to conserve water. 
 
A classic visual indication of water limitation is leaf rolling, especially in the middle of the day when it is hottest. Leaf rolling may persist for most of the day if drought conditions continue or worsen.
 
Limit crop stress
Much of our region is nearing tasseling and silk emergence, which is when a corn plant uses the most water during its life cycle. This tremendous demand for water, about 0.35 inch per day, means that limitations in water have a direct impact on that plant’s growth.   
 
Biostimulants such as Toggle® help regulate the water balance of the plant, particularly during times of drought or heat stress. This is accomplished by stimulating more responsive stomata, which are responsible for the flow of nutrients and water through the plant, known as stomatal conductance. Essentially, Toggle® helps regulate the flow of water through and out of the plant in a more efficient manner.
 
Toggle® can be used during a range of growth stages from v5 through tasseling, and can be applied multiple times throughout a growing season when conditions warrant it. Biostimulants such as Toggle® have a direct impact on the gene expression of the plant, which means that the optimal timing is to anticipate stress and apply it early-on. However, the product can still benefit plants if applied later on.  
 
Farmers can also consider other stress mitigation tools, like strobilurin fungicides, which have shown to not only control diseases but also to have a positive impact on the corn crop’s physiology and final yield potential.
 
Looking ahead and preparing for next year
Farmers in parts of the country that regularly experience drought stress and/or anticipate stress should use a systems approach to manage water for their crops. That can involve better seed selection (selecting hybrids that are genetically adapted to be more tolerant to stresses like drought or high temperatures). In-season, use best agronomic practices such as biostimulants and fungicides to preserve the yield potential of those genetics. 
 
To learn more about drought stress mitigation tools, contact your local WinField United retailer

5 Tips for Treating Your Alfalfa Right This Season

Jeff Jackson
CROPLAN® Alfalfa and Forage Specialist

Alfalfa is not an easy crop to grow and requires pretty intense management. However, some farmers don’t give it much attention until it’s time to cut.

 

I’d argue alfalfa is a high-value crop that deserves to be diligently scouted and managed just like corn or soybeans or sunflowers. No matter how you use or market your alfalfa, it represents a significant investment of labor and money. Take the time to treat it right. Here are five tips for in-season alfalfa management.

 

1. Put boots on the ground.

It may sound obvious, but you can’t control what you can’t see. Be sure to scout your alfalfa fields, or have your agronomist do it, on a regular basis. For greater insights, pair these scouting efforts with the ag technology your agronomist offers, which can quickly alert you to critical field issues such as depleted biomass, disease and insects.

 

2. Make a preventive fungicide application.

A fungicide application, performed when your alfalfa is 6 to 8 inches tall, can help protect the plant from diseases such as bacterial leaf spot, spring black stem and lepto leaf spot, and help the plant retain more leaves.

 

3. Use a residual insecticide. 

Technically, the right answer to the question “When should I spray for insects?” is “After you’ve scouted and if you need to.” Follow integrated pest management practices and spray when there are damaging insects present at a level that will justify the application. Insecticides with residual activity, such as Arctic® 3.2EC insecticide or Grizzly® Too insecticide, provide a longer period of control.  

 

Be sure to follow label directions for both fungicide and insecticide applications. Also, adhere to preharvest intervals, even if you are pressed for time.

 

4. Evaluate plant nutrient levels by tissue testing.

Optimal timing for taking alfalfa tissue samples is at the beginning of bud stage, right before you cut. Your agronomist should remove the top 6 inches of the plant for testing. After you cut, wait for 6 inches of regrowth, and then do a foliar application of essential nutrients that testing has found to be deficient. Remember, lack of moisture will limit the benefits nutrients bring. Talk with your agronomist about whether nutrient applications make economic sense at various points of the year, depending on weather conditions.

 

5. Choose varieties with appropriate tolerance that fit your goals for next year. 

Disease and insect tolerance differ widely among varieties, but are found to some degree in conventional alfalfas, Genuity® Roundup Ready® alfalfas and HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology. HarvXtra® Alfalfa varieties offer more flexibility in cutting schedules to achieve greater yield potential or improved forage quality. Geography often determines what stresses will be most prevalent in your area. As you think about your goals for 2018, work with your agronomist to choose varieties that fit your specific needs.

 

Don’t treat your alfalfa crop as an afterthought. Proactively manage it to optimize yield potential and make sure it’s an important part of your whole-farm crop management strategy.

 

 

Genuity and Roundup Ready are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC.

HarvXtra is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC.

 

Growers must direct any product produced from HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology seed or crops (including hay and hay products) only to United States domestic use. In the following states, use of HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology is subject to a Seed and Feed Use Agreement, noting that this technology can only be used on farm or otherwise be used in the United States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In addition, due to the unique cropping practices do not plant HarvXtra® Alfalfa with Roundup Ready® Technology in Imperial County, California, pending import approval in China and until Forage Genetics International, LLC (FGI) grants express permission for such planting. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product.

 

Visit www.ForageGenetics.com/legal for the full legal, stewardship and trademark statements for these products.


Playing Dietician to Your Plants

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
A strong plant nutrition program starts with identifying your plants’ needs early in the season and continuing with “check-ups” throughout key growth stages. Tissue sampling allows us to pinpoint exactly what’s going on in a plant so real-time nutrient adjustments can be made to optimize yield potential.
 
Like people, each crop has unique nutritional needs. Here are some considerations for keeping corn, soybean and wheat plants healthy through the rest of the season.
 
Corn
Corn takes up the majority of its nutrients between V8 and VT, so paying close attention to both macro- and micronutrient deficiencies ahead of these stages is critical. Sixty-six percent of more than 17,500 corn tissue samples taken nationwide in 2016 through the NutriSolutions 360® system were low in nitrogen, which can be combatted with a side-dress application.
 
On the micronutrients front, 72 percent of corn samples were low in zinc. In 2015, I applied a quart of MAX-IN® Zinc micronutrient at V5 on acres showing zinc deficiencies, and the results led to a 4.55-bushel-per-acre increase. As a result, I recommend taking a tissue sample of the uppermost collar leaf at V5. If samples show a deficiency, spray as quickly as possible to feed plants when they need it most.
 
Remember that nutrient deficiencies change from year to year and certain hybrids respond to nutrient applications better than others. Working with your agronomist to procure quality test plot data, including response-to-nitrogen and response-to-fungicide scores, can help you create a balanced fertility program for your corn crop.
 
Soybeans
I recommend taking a tissue sample starting at V4 to V6 to get a baseline measurement of soybean plant health and another sample at R2, working with your agronomist to correct deficiencies as appropriate for your crop and operation. If you experienced wet weather this spring, keep an extra eye on boron and sulfur levels, as they may have depleted.
 
Wheat
There’s a lot of work being done when it comes to in-season management for wheat. Copper was a common deficiency in wheat in 2016. However, we’ve found through the Answer Plot® Program that wheat is highly responsive to copper applications in the spring as well as at flag leaf emergence. That said, taking tissue samples prior to jointing and again at flag leaf emergence to assess copper and other nutrient levels can help optimize yield potential for wheat.
 
Remember, the earlier you can diagnose nutrient needs, the better. Collaborating with your agronomist to determine the right timing for tissue sampling and applications will go a long way in protecting the health of your crops.

With Great Dicamba Power Comes Great Responsibility

Andrew Schmidt
Regional Agronomist
Costly lessons were learned last year when off-label dicamba formulations were applied to dicamba-tolerant soybeans. In Missouri alone, 45,000 acres of sensitive soybeans were officially reported as damaged due to off-target dicamba movement, with another 100,000 acres of soybean crops estimated to be unofficially damaged, according to Kevin Bradley at the University of Missouri.1 Along with soybeans, damage extended to a variety of fresh market crops, homeowners’ gardens, trees and more.
 
The most important takeaway was that crops outside of the new dicamba-tolerant system are inherently sensitive to extremely low concentrations of dicamba. While assessing the damage caused in 2016, it’s important to learn from these mistakes in order to successfully incorporate the new dicamba-tolerant soybean technology into our weed-control arsenals.
 
Respect the Herbicide
The most obvious cause of last season’s problem was the use of off-label dicamba treatments. While new dicamba-tolerant seed was available in 2016, dicamba herbicides for use with this technology were not yet labeled for use. With a growing number of tough, resistant weeds threatening soybean yields, some operations jumped the gun by making off-label applications with older dicamba formulations.
 
Along with applying off-label dicamba formulations, several other factors likely played a role in setting the stage for damage to neighboring crops, including the use of the wrong-size spray tips, which allowed fine spray droplets to easily drift off target. Other causes may have been application timing errors, such as spraying when conditions were conducive to temperature inversions. Another culprit could have been the use of ammonium sulfate (AMS) as a water conditioner in the tank mix, which would have increased the potential for volatility.
 
Follow Specific Guidelines
During spray clinics conducted by WinField United agronomists this winter, we provided some recommended practices for use with dicamba-tolerant soybeans to help farmers successfully add this new weed-management tool to their production system. These guidelines include the following:
  1. Only use newly registered dicamba formulations labeled for use with dicamba-tolerant soybeans. Older dicamba formulations are more volatile, making off-target movement more likely.
  2. Read and understand the new dicamba product labels. These labels are the law and closely define how the product must be used.
  3. Consider the required combinations of products listed on the labels. XtendiMax® With VaporGrip® Technology for example, requires an approved drift reduction agent like AG16098 from WinField United, which reduces driftable fines, in the mixture when certain other herbicides and adjuvants are used.
  4. Avoid adding AMS to the spray tank.
  5. Use the correct nozzle type listed on the label to achieve coarse droplets. Also use the labeled pressure rate and don’t exceed the pressure limit.
  6. Keep boom heights at no higher than 24 inches above the target. A lower boom height helps spray droplets stay out of the wind and remain on target.
  7. Slow down. Maintaining the right ground speed helps control boom height and keeps spray pressures in check.
  8. Understand your surroundings. Wait until the wind changes direction to spray if sensitive crops are downwind. Or if a highly susceptible crop is nearby, do not spray dicamba products. Use other labeled herbicides to treat your field.
  9. Maintain buffer zones when sensitive areas are downwind. Follow buffer recommendations listed on the label.
Dicamba-tolerant soybean technology can be an excellent part of an overall weed management strategy, but we all need to pay close attention to application details to maintain its effectiveness. Always work with your local agronomist and retailer to determine the appropriate products and practices for your operation.
 
1. Dr. Kevin Bradley. “A Season to Remember: Our Experiences with Off-Target Movement of Dicamba in 2016.” Available at: http://weedscience.missouri.edu/2017%20Preparing%20for%20Xtend.pdf. Accessed June 12, 2017.

Is This Spring a Nutrient Washout?

Randy Brown, Ph.D.
Senior Manager – Lead, Regional Agronomists
The spring of 2017 has brought a considerable amount of rain to many parts of the country. What does all this water mean for the nutrient profile of your soil? What will it mean for crops as the season progresses? Let’s take a quick look at how soil nutrients and plant health are faring as we move from a drenched May into June.

Lost nitrogen
Exceedingly wet weather causes water to drain through the soil profile and take nitrogen along with it. This, in turn, causes the nitrogen to leach below the crop root zone, making it unavailable to the plant. On the other hand, in a poorly drained field, standing water causes denitrification, where microbes strip off oxygen from the nitrogen, turning it into a gas that escapes into the atmosphere. This, too, causes significant nitrogen loss for the plant.

Tools that monitor nitrogen availability 
WinField United has a number of tools that can help you monitor nitrogen availability. These include the new Field Forecasting Tool by WinField United (coming soon) and the Climate FieldView™ Nitrogen Advisor, both of which estimate the amount of nitrogen available in the soil.

A more definitive picture of nitrogen availability and overall plant health is available through the NutriSolutions 360® system, which, in addition to tissue analysis, includes soil sampling and in-season applications of nutrients, micronutrients and yield enhancement products, if indicated.

After a wet spring, using the appropriate monitoring tools is critical so that you don’t get halfway through the season and then discover that you’ve lost nitrogen and yield potential. Adding a stabilizer when applying nitrogen can help minimize nitrogen loss.

Other important nutrients
In addition to nitrogen, NutriSolutions 360® tissue analysis can also detect sulfur and boron deficiencies early in the growing season. Like nitrogen, both of these nutrients are anions that are mobile and move with the soil water.  These nutrients are used by the plant in smaller quantities than nitrogen, but play key roles in plant growth. Foliar applications of MAX-IN® Sulfur and MAX-IN® Boron can be used to help remedy these deficiencies.

When to apply nutrients
In corn, take a tissue sample between V5 and V7 and apply nutrients as indicated. At this point, you likely have not have suffered any yield damage that cannot be repaired. Of course, you should monitor your crops all season for nutrient deficiencies. But the later in the season you get, the more potential you have for yield loss that you can’t correct. From V8 to V10, we get rapid growth in corn. If you’re short on nitrogen then, that’s when you’ll start seeing yield potential drop.

Replanting corn
If you are replanting corn, you may be switching your hybrid choices from what you initially planted. If so, make sure you are not planting hybrids that are more responsive to nitrogen and have a higher response-to-nitrogen score (RTN) than you intended. If you are planting a hybrid with a high RTN score, you’ll probably need to add some supplemental nitrogen. Understanding RTN scores will be critical when making your replant decisions.

Last point on corn: Watch your crop for diseases. This may be a year when we see early fungicide applications pay off.

What about soybeans?
As a legume, soybeans produce most of their own nitrogen, so what I’m most concerned about is wet feet or wet soils. These provide the potential for a variety of seedling diseases. If a good seed treatment was not used, you could see thin stands.

It will be important to tissue sample your soybeans, because the wet spring could have depleted boron and sulfur amounts. Also during a wet spring, we usually don’t get the same amount of root growth in soybean plants than we would in a more normal year. As a result, there may be other nutrients, such as phosphorus and potassium, you are short on. Not because they were lost, but because a good root system wasn’t developed to capture them.

Work with your agronomist to determine the best plan to get past our soaked spring and through the rest of the season without compromising yield potential or ROI potential.

What’s New for the Answer Plot® Program in 2017?

Kevin Eye
Vice President, Agronomy & Product Development
The growing season is well underway, and we’re looking forward to upcoming Answer Plot® events across the country. These programs are an opportunity for interactive learning from experts who are familiar with local conditions and agronomics. Our goal is to help you make the best management decisions, so you can increase productivity and efficiency on your farm.

Here are a few of the new demonstrations you may see at your local Answer Plot® location this year.

  • Soybean farmer decision trial – We’ll take a comprehensive look at soybean management, including analysis of specific genetics and response to various crop inputs. The insights from this trial will help you fine-tune production decisions using products and technology that work best for specific agronomic conditions.
  • Soybean genetic performance – Are you wondering how the new soybean herbicide traits perform with current genetics? This trial will evaluate product performance among various trait and genetic packages.
  • Soybean treatments –There are a lot of soybean seed treatment options out there, but what works best for your situation? This trial will compare the efficacy and response of different treatments under various field conditions.
  • Plant health study – This evaluation in corn, soybeans and wheat can help establish the best time frame to apply a foliar fungicide. We’ll compare early, late and two-pass applications to determine ways to achieve optimal return on investment potential.
  • Nitrogen modeling –Nitrogen modeling tools can help predict when and where nitrogen is needed for more precise application. This trial is designed to validate various modeling tools and compare return on investment. 
In addition to these demonstrations, we’re also expanding our larger scale Answer Plot® research trials. We’ve updated trial design to minimize field variability for more accurate recommendations. We’ve also expanded our silage testing program in collaboration with Forage Genetics International. This year, we’ll be evaluating more genetics across diverse field environments for better characterization of our silage products.

Be sure to attend one of the planned agronomic training events at an Answer Plot® location near you. For more information, visit answerplot.com or talk with your local retailer.

Four Things to Consider Before a Replant

Glenn Longabaugh
WinField Agronomist
Wet. That’s the word that’s been used to describe field conditions across much of the Corn Belt in recent weeks. What started off as a strong planting season in some areas quickly turned into a challenge. I’ve been speaking with farmers who planted just ahead of heavy rain events who are now starting to see emergence issues in those fields. If you’re in the same situation, here are four things to consider.

  1. Plant population. The logical place to start when evaluating replant options is plant population, but don’t use population alone as the basis for your decision. Take several population counts throughout the field to account for field variability, and compare averages with your as-planted population. If you have a reduced stand and healthy, uniform plants, the potential yield loss may not be worth the effort and cost of replanting.
  1. Spatial variability. Another important consideration is spatial variability. Evenly distributed plants have higher yield potential. If you notice areas in the field with spacing gaps larger than 3 feet, it’s more likey the field should be replanted with a sub-optimal population. Though plants do compensate fairly well for small gaps, larger voids more directly impact yield loss.
  1. Temporal variability. Seed that emerges at different times due to less than optimal conditions can also result in yield reductions. Larger plants will shade out smaller ones, and it will be difficult to get good coverage with crop protection products with such variability. As old-timers would say about corn, “Once a runt pig, always a runt pig.” Evaluate growth stage vaiability and scrutinize stands closely that have more than two leaf collars difference between plants.
  1. Crop health. The final consideration for replanting is crop health. Dig up plants and observe the roots for signs of trouble. Healthy plants will have turgid, white mesocotyls (corn) and hypocotyls (soybeans). Browning, soft roots could indicate seedling diseases that will result in further stand loss. Seedling diseases can also live latent in plants for some time and predispose them later in the season causing both yield loss and lodging.
The decision to replant isn’t always easy, but collecting accurate field information can help guide your decision. In addition to the four considerations above, keep in mind the costs associated with replanting and any yield loss that may come from a shortened growing season.

Work with your local agronomist to determine what makes sense for your operation.

Adjuvant Helps Lock Out Insect Pressure

Darrin Holder
Agronomist, WinField
Summer brings a range of damaging insects to corn, soybeans, cotton, grain sorghum and many other crops in your fields, making diligent scouting critical. Controlling insects as soon as possible will help put them out of commission before they’ve achieved multiple lifecycles and larger populations, and before your plants reach the critical reproductive stages. This could have a positive effect on yield potential. 

Applying the appropriate insecticide can help minimize crop damage and yield loss. But don’t forget that adding an adjuvant can help increase the effectiveness of your insecticide applications.

Technologies that double-team insects
MasterLock® adjuvant by WinField United combines InterLock® and DropTight™ technologies in one crop-based adjuvant to enhance spray coverage. InterLock® adjuvant, contained in the mix, helps ensure that droplets are the right size, which reduces the amount of fine particles in the spray pattern and helps drive droplets deeper into the canopy for better deposition.

DropTight™ technology, unique to MasterLock® adjuvant, helps droplets stick to the target: the plant you are trying to protect. Together, these technologies give you a one-plus-one-equals-three benefit. They enable deposition to help insecticides stay on target, reach the pest and optimize performance.

Get pests where they live
In the heat of the day when the majority of insecticide applications are made, MasterLock® adjuvant is effective at getting deep into the crop canopy where insects are thriving — and feeding — in cooler temperatures and more humid conditions than on the surface of the crop. Be sure to determine insect pressure through not only observing the top of the crop, but also by working with your agronomist to do sweeps into the canopy. Doing both will help you get a more complete picture of your insect population and if the economic threshold that justifies an insecticide application is being met.

Ascertain the economic threshold
Work with your agronomist to determine the optimal time to do an insecticide application. Make sure you are working with the most current commodity price information to determine when you’ve reached the appropriate economic threshold for each species of pest and each type of crop. Sources for this information include your agronomist, as well as local universities and extension offices.

Make sure equipment is ready
When application timing is determined, be sure to achieve optimal product performance by working with your agronomist to select the right boom height, as well as the right nozzle type, size and pressure — so you can adjust your own sprayer or inform your applicator about these specifications.

To learn more about the benefits of MasterLock® adjuvant and how it can work in your operation, contact your local WinField® United retailer.

Eliminating Volunteer Corn Competition

Andrew Schmidt
Regional Agronomist
Year after year, I see volunteer corn popping up in soybean fields, ready to take a considerable bite out of yields. When left uncontrolled, this difficult weed competes with soybean plants for moisture, nutrients and sunlight, reducing bushels per acre while limiting bottom-line returns.
 
Volunteer corn can be difficult to control due to its rapid growth and the plant’s upright, waxy leaves. To reign in this tough weed, herbicide applications not only need to hit targeted weed leaves; they also must penetrate the waxy cuticle to enter the plant. Timely treatments using effective products will help you get the best return from every spray droplet and avoid costly retreatments.
 
Here are a few tips to help you achieve volunteer corn control and preserve soybean yields.
  1. Scout early. Because volunteer corn plants can get big and difficult to control very quickly, be sure to scout for this yield-robber along with other weeds and pests early in the season. By identifying volunteer corn plants when they’re small, you have time to add an effective grass herbicide to early postemergent tank mixes and protect soybean yield potential.
  2. Treat promptly. It’s much easier to control young, actively growing weeds than larger species with hardened cuticles. If treatment is delayed, hot, dry weather later in the season makes volunteer corn even more challenging to control.
  3. Choose the right herbicide.  Section® Three herbicide from WinField United provides fast, effective control of volunteer corn and other grassy weeds while offering a large application window. It is also a compatible tank mix partner with a wide range of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and micronutrients for application flexibility.
  4. Include the right adjuvant. Grassy weed herbicides including Section® Three generally require the use of a high surfactant oil concentrate for effective control. WinField United recently introduced StrikeLock™ adjuvant for use with oil-loving herbicides. As part of the InterLock® family of adjuvants, the drift and deposition properties in StrikeLock™ help more herbicide reach targeted weeds and remain on leaf surfaces, while its high surfactant oil concentrate helps penetrate waxy cuticles for enhanced weed control.
  5. Match rates to weed size. Using the right rates of the herbicide and adjuvant is crucial for volunteer corn control. Note the size of the weed at the time of application and apply the corresponding herbicide and adjuvant rates listed on the product labels for optimum control.
  6. Maintain adequate spray coverage. Select the right spray tip and increase the gallons per acre to maximize coverage. Using a spray tip that delivers a medium- to coarse-size droplet will help spray coverage of volunteer corn. 
Because herbicide and adjuvant rates vary according to your conditions, contact your local agronomist for specific treatment recommendations.

Section and InterLock are registered trademarks, and StrikeLock is a trademark of Winfield Solutions, LLC.

Forge Ahead on Late-Planted Corn

Glenn Longabaugh
WinField Agronomist
Has a wet spring put a damper on your corn crop or even made you think about replanting your corn fields? Many farmers are pretty far along with corn planting, but lately some have experienced heavy, flooding rains and are assessing whether or not they’ll have to replant.

It looks like it was cold enough in my area of southern Indiana during our flooding period that some of the corn was not actively respiring, and now appears to be recovering well. There is still the danger of seedling blight, the resulting crown rot as well as downy mildew (crazy top), but the corn crop is looking better every day. Input prices are also falling. Nitrogen, for example, is less expensive than it has been, which makes corn more attractive.

Here are some tips for helping make delayed planting successful.

Don’t replant with significantly earlier-maturing corn.
We do not encourage farmers to plant extremely early hybrids as we get into late planting. Many times, earlier hybrids are not well-suited for heat, and late-planted corn often flowers in some of the harshest conditions of the year. An early hybrid is often a poor option.

Maintain populations.
Some schools of thought believe farmers need to plant at higher populations. But most of the time, planting later with the same population as you would have earlier results in better stands, because of more favorable conditions after planting. With corn, farmers get better emergence or more even emergence when they stick with a reasonable planting rate. So if you plant your corn at, say, 32,000 seeds per acre early, I’d recommend maintaining that population if you need to replant later.

Get a handle on weed control.
Weed control probably gets easier as we get into late planting, as long as you start clean. If you are a conventional tillage farmer and are starting with clean fields, you’re more likely to experience success with a one-pass program in corn. If you’re a no-till farmer, it is absolutely imperative that you confirm your burndown has terminated all weeds. If you don’t start clean, you can never stay clean. Later in the season, those weeds that emerged early are going to be more robust, taller and harder to manage.
 
If you made an early burndown pass, had to delay planting and now have regrowth, you’ll need to do a second burndown application along with your first residual when your fields dry out. 

Tips for Early-Season Spraying

Mark Glady
Regional Agronomist
Are you confident that you’re getting the most out of your spray investments? Here are some tips to help you start off right and stay on track with your nozzle selection and tank-mixing regimen.

1. Understand product labels. Particularly with the regulations surrounding this year’s new dicamba-tolerant soybeans, it’s important to pay attention to nozzle or spray pressure restrictions as well as any setback restrictions from sensitive areas.

2. Minimize drift. Drift potential can be alleviated by using the correct nozzle at the right pressure for spraying certain products. For example, the Turbo TeeJet® flat-fan nozzle generates a smaller droplet. The Turbo TeeJet® Induction (TTI) nozzle for dicamba gives you a larger, heavier droplet that has more velocity to continue down to the target without a high potential to drift or float away in the wind. It’s hard to find one nozzle that can satisfy different demands, so use multiple nozzles to best manage your spray droplet size and control drift.

You can also help minimize drift by adding the correct adjuvant to your tank mix. Adjuvants help reduce the amount of fine particles in the spray, get more crop protection product on the target and help it stay there.

3. Don’t reduce coverage. Although large droplets are less likely to drift, they can also reduce coverage, which can be a negative when your objective is to eliminate certain weeds. Large droplets are not so bad for dicamba herbicides, but they can be challenging for dicamba tank-mix partners or herbicides that specialize in eliminating volunteer corn. These chemistries perform better when coverage is broader.  

4. Keep your sprayer clean. If you use dry flowable herbicides, it takes a lot of agitation to get them completely dissolved and to keep them in suspension or in solution. If they don’t dissolve, they can get hung up in screens, caked up in strainers or caught up in the end caps of spray booms. Be sure to check your sprayer for residue, and clean it out promptly.

5. Be mindful of mixing order. Most label directions call for starting off with at least half a tank of water, then adding dry flowables or water-soluble products, followed by liquid products, then emulsifiable concentrates. We all know that mixing order is important, but sometimes it’s hard to give it the attention it needs in the heat of a busy growing season.

However, adding products slowly and giving them ample time to agitate, dissolve and become well-mixed greatly increases your chances of having a successful tank mix without incompatibility issues. I always like to remind applicators that the solution to pollution is dilution.

Check out The Deal With Yield® farming podcast for more in-season insights like these.
 
The Deal With Yield is a registered trademark of Winfield Solutions, LLC.
TeeJet is a registered trademark of TeeJet Technologies.
 
© 2017 Winfield Solutions, LLC

Tips for Using New Dicamba Products

Ryan Wolf
Agronomy Services Manager
The new dicamba-tolerant crop system is now available to help soybean and cotton farmers control difficult weeds and manage resistance. While this tool offers a much-needed new mode of action, it also requires increased application vigilance by users to avoid damaging sensitive nearby crops. Here are a few key insights to help you get the most out of the new dicamba products. (For more in-depth information, read the full article in Corn & Soybean Digest here.)

1. Follow label instructions exactly.
Currently, two low-volatility herbicide products are labeled for use with dicamba-tolerant crops: XtendiMax® with VaporGrip® Technology from Monsanto and Engenia™ from BASF. Each of these products has unique application requirements listed on its product label. After you’ve selected the herbicide you plan to use with your dicamba-tolerant crop, it’s important to thoroughly read and follow the label requirements for use. Each set of guidelines must be followed exactly for successful use.

2. Manage drift and volatility.
To help minimize potential drift, the two new product labels limit application to certain wind speeds and applicators are cautioned to watch for possible temperature inversions. Because each label differs slightly on wind regulations, it’s important to follow the recommendations exactly as stated on the product being used to avoid damage to sensitive neighboring crops.

3. Include drift-control adjuvants.
Adjuvants are also recommended for effective drift-control management with the dicamba-tolerant system. Lists of adjuvants and tank-mix partners, along with nozzles approved for use with the two new products may be accessed online at the XtendiMax® and Engenia™ websites.

It’s important to note that an approved drift-reduction agent must be in the mixture with the new dicamba herbicide chemistries when certain other herbicides and adjuvants are used. The designated drift-reduction agents, such as AG16098 adjuvant from WinField United, are specifically designed for use with ultra- and extra-coarse nozzles, and with these new chemistries.

Because label changes continue to be made, you are required to review the online label no more than seven days prior to making an application. You can also find out about buffer zone requirements here.

4. Protect against resistance.
Weed resistance to new herbicides can develop quickly if only partial control is achieved with each application. But if you apply the exact rates and follow the application procedures on the product labels, weed-resistance issues should be minimized.

While the dicamba-tolerant crop system is a welcome addition to current weed-control programs, it’s only one part of the long-term solution. To remain effective and provide expected weed control, the new dicamba products should be part of a diversified weed-control strategy that includes multiple modes of action, paired adjuvants and recommended best management practices.
 
VaporGrip and XtendiMax are registered trademarks of Monsanto Technology LLC. Engenia is a trademark of BASF.

5 Tips for Alfalfa Evaluation and Management

Randy Welch
National Alfalfa Agronomist
As an alfalfa grower, you know the importance of monitoring crop yields throughout the season. Getting out into the field with your agronomist at critical stages can help you optimally manage your crop for higher yield potential this year. Here are some tips to keep in mind when evaluating and managing your alfalfa.

1. Treat each alfalfa field as a unit. Avoid assessing just one or two alfalfa fields or just doing windshield scouting to make final decisions. Along with your agronomist, inspect and rank alfalfa fields individually as units of the entire farm. Review your management decisions or practices with your agronomist, and plan for the future. For example, your agronomist can advise you on specific soil nutrient, disease control and insect control needs along with cutting decisions.  

2. Assess root health, winter damage. Dig representative roots and evaluate the alfalfa crowns. Healthy roots are solid, off-white in color and firm, with evidence of bud and early stem growth coming from the crowns. If roots have evidence of root rot damage or limited evidence of bud and stem development, it’s time to replace the stand. 

3. Gauge stem density. To achieve 100 percent of yield potential, 55 alfalfa plant stems per square foot are needed. On a third-year alfalfa field, about five to seven plants will be required to produce a 55-stem density threshold. If the field has fewer than 40 to 55 stems per square foot, it’s time to replace the stand and replant that field with a different crop. The temptation is to leave the field in alfalfa production for one year too long.

4. Get ready for first, second and third cuts; anticipate the crop needs. If alfalfa plants don’t have enough nutrients to achieve growth, yield will be limited. Know the crop’s limitations before they can limit yield. Also pay attention to fungicide, insecticide and nutrient needs throughout the season.   

Watch details; for example, test your soil for pH, potassium and phosphorous levels.
  • pH: A neutral level between 6.8 and 7.1 is ideal.
  • Potassium: This nutrient is often a yield-limiting nutrient for high-yield forage crops. 170 parts per million (ppm) is the minimum level.
  • Phosphorous: 25 to 30 ppm is the minimum level.
  • Sulfur and boron are also important to provide in sufficient quantities. Talk with your agronomist about using NutriSolutions® tissue testing to identify nutrient deficiencies.
5. Take care with cutting dates. The first cutting date is very important for forage quality. The HarvXtra® alfalfa varieties HVX HarvaTron and HVX Driver by CROPLAN®, both with the HarvXtra® reduced-lignin trait, provide greater flexibility to manage and grow alfalfa.

In northern climates, cutting alfalfa after about September 5 interferes with the plant’s ability to winterize itself. Growers in other regions need to adjust cutting schedules accordingly. The last cutting date is very important in determining whether alfalfa survives the winter. Work with your agronomist to create a cutting schedule that makes sense by setting up an ideal calendar plan.

So get out into the field with your agronomist to check on alfalfa health to help ensure a successful growing season. Keeping alfalfa crops on the offensive now will help keep you from having to play defense later. 

CROPLAN and NutriSolutions are registered trademarks of Winfield Solutions, LLC.
HarvXtra is a registered trademark of Forage Genetics International, LLC.

© 2017 Winfield Solutions, LLC

Tissue Sampling Reveals Hidden Plant Hungers

George Watters
Agronomy Manager
Wouldn’t it be great if plants could tell us exactly what they needed for top performance? Unfortunately, diagnosing crop problems isn’t always easy, but there are tools to help us understand what’s happening within the plant.
 
Tissue sampling provides a nutritional profile that can show hidden hungers in plants even before they are visible. Ultimately, this information can help guide fertilizer programs, but the greatest value comes when real-time nutrient corrections can be made in-season to preserve yield. Here are some tips for getting the most out of tissue sampling this season. 
  • Timely sampling allows for action. Consider sampling after the crop is well-established, generally after the V3 stage for corn and soybeans. Sampling should continue throughout the season, especially ahead of key growth stages, to learn how crops are using nutrients as they grow and develop. Staying ahead of deficiencies allows for in-season fertilizer adjustments to avoid yield loss.
  • Quality samples yield quality data. The tissue sampling data you receive from the lab is only as good as the sample you submit. Use the correct sampling procedure based on crop and growth stage. Your agronomist can provide specific guidance on when and how to tissue sample for best results. Choose random, healthy plant tissue (about the size of a softball) from throughout the field. One sample per 25 to 50 acres will help account for field variability and give more comprehensive results. Ship samples in a timely manner to avoid tissue deterioration before analysis.
  • Use a reputable lab service. If you’re using a contract service to conduct sampling, be sure to ask where they send their tissue samples for processing and how long it will take to get results. Samples taken with the NutriSolutions 360® system by WinField United are sent to accredited labs that follow strict protocols and procedures for analysis. SureTech Labs in Indianapolis runs many of these samples in their new, state-of-the-art lab. Their recent expansion allows processing of more than 2,000 tissue samples per day, and streamlined processes have improved quality and efficiency. Testing results are generally available in less than a week. The quick turnaround allows for in-season adjustments before critical plant growth stages.
  • Know how to interpret results. Each lab will report results differently, so make sure you know how to interpret findings. WinField United accredited labs feed results into the NutriSolutions 360® reporting system. These reports contain three parts that include a ratio balance of nitrogen to potassium and sulfur, a radar chart that visually displays nutrient levels, and suggestions and product recommendations based on results. Consult with your local agronomist for help with interpreting reports and for recommendations on specific actions to increase fertility.
The only way to diagnose plant deficiencies is with in-season tissue sampling. Relative to crop value, it’s a low-cost investment to help ensure healthy plants and high yield potential.

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. 

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.

Combating Weed Challenges in Corn for 2017

WinField United
Agronomy Team
Midwest corn fields saw their share of weed issues during 2016; however, farmers have more herbicide options available to keep fields clean and manage resistance. Depending on the location, leading problem weeds in 2016 included resistant ragweed (common and giant), waterhemp, cocklebur and morning-glory (see state recaps below). 
 
With similar weed issues reported in both corn and soybean fields, a holistic management approach across all crops in a rotation is needed. Increasing resistant weed numbers calls for a complete herbicide-resistance management program that starts with a clean field at planting. Other recommended steps include crop rotation, three effective modes of action, overlapping residuals, timely applications and use of full-label herbicide rates accompanied by complementary adjuvants.
 
WinField United agronomists recently shared some corn weed insights from 2016 in this Corn & Soybean Digest article. Highlights by state are below.
 
Illinois: Giant ragweed, cocklebur and morningglory presented challenges for Illinois corn farmers in 2016, Glenn Longabaugh notes. Although weather affected herbicide performance, many corn weed problems were due to using a single-pass herbicide program, stand voids and continuous use of single site/mode of action. For best results, Longabaugh recommends using two-pass programs that include effective residual herbicides. He also advises avoiding the temptation to reduce costs in 2017 by cutting residual herbicides, since the small savings gained are not worth the risk of a weed-control disaster.
 
Indiana: Giant ragweed and other large-seeded broadleaves proved to be the greatest weed challenge for Indiana corn farmers in 2016, says George Watters. Overall, growers were able to manage resistant species in corn due to having several effective herbicide groups available. Premixes and/or other combinations of growth regulators (Group 4), triazines (Group 5), shoot inhibitors (Group 15) and HPPDs (Group 27) can still work well, Watters notes. For best results, he recommends starting with a burndown application or tillage, followed by a residual herbicide program close to planting and followed again by a sequential postemergence treatment. Some farmers have also had good results with split-applying their residual herbicides.  
 
Iowa: Ryan Wolf says Iowa corn growers continued to deal with glyphosate-resistant waterhemp issues in 2016, while glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed also became a bigger issue. As farmers become more aware of resistance issues, Wolf says they are adjusting their weed control programs accordingly. He advises farmers that keeping weeds in check now will help avoid bigger, more costly problems in the future.  
 
Michigan: There weren’t any major weed-control issues to report in Michigan’s corn fields during 2016, says Allen Pung. He attributes this favorable weed-management scenario to the fact that the majority of farmers in his area are using an effective preemergence weed-control program followed by an in-season herbicide application.
 
Minnesota: Giant ragweed and tall waterhemp were the two major weeds in Minnesota cornfields in 2016, reports Al Bertelsen. These two weeds have produced a large seed bank in both corn and soybean fields, causing widespread issues. Both weeds can germinate over long periods of time. This lengthy germination period may outlast many soil-applied herbicides and allow weeds to escape late in the season after the herbicide application window has passed. Bertelsen urges farmers to scout corn later in the season for weed escapes and to control weeds when they are small. Controlling weeds in drowned-out spots will help lower weed seed banks and decrease weed pressure in future years, he says.
 
Ohio: Joe Rickard identified giant ragweed, which starts to emerge in early spring, as the biggest weed issue in corn in Ohio during 2016. He notes that while weed resistance is not as widespread in corn as it is in soybeans, there are some pockets of resistance in Ohio fields.
 
South Dakota: Glyphosate-resistant waterhemp is presenting challenges in South Dakota corn fields, reports Ryan Wolf. However, as farmers are becoming more aware of the issue, they’re adjusting weed-control programs accordingly. Wolf notes that while some farmers may be hesitant to spend the additional money needed to control resistant weeds now, keeping weeds in check will help avoid even bigger, more costly problems in the future.  
 
Wisconsin: Todd Cardwell saw high populations of common and giant ragweed in Wisconsin corn fields in 2016, which was likely due to an unusually wet season. There was also a growing population of triazine-resistant weeds, making atrazine treatments less effective than they have been in previous years. Cardwell says farmers had successful weed control in no-till fields using burndown applications in the fall, which made in-season treatments more effective. With a different weed spectrum in reduced-till or no-till environments, fall applications are very cost-effective. He notes that every dollar spent on weed control in the fall is worth at least $7 in the spring.

For similar insights on Soybean weed challenges, click here.

Jumpstart Plant Nutrition Programs

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
Take advantage of precious time before planting to nail down your nutrient management strategy for the year to ensure you’re nourishing plants from the start of the season through all critical growth stages. Following are some ways you can get plant nutrition programs off to a strong start in corn.
 
  1. Ensure proper hybrid placement across your operation. The first step to setting plants up for success is getting hybrids placed right. For example, identifying the right soil type for the root structure a particular hybrid needs is critical to ensuring nutrients can get into the plant. I recommend using hybrid-specific data, available through the Answer Plot® program, including response to soil type (RTST) and response to population (RTP), and placing those hybrids accordingly.
 
  1. Give plants a pre-emergence nutrient boost. Once the hybrid is in the field, help get the plant out of the ground with an in-furrow application of phosphorus with zinc combined with a plant growth regulator. Ascend® plant growth regulator promotes larger roots, which helps more nutrients get into the plant quickly and efficiently, as well as faster emergence and stronger stalks to ensure the plant never has a bad day.
 
  1. Use hybrid-specific data and tissue sampling to plan in-season inputs. To be certain you’re getting needed nutrients into the plant from emergence throughout the vegetative growth stages, combine data on your particular hybrids with tissue samples. Response to nitrogen (RTN) and response to fungicide (RTF) can be used to determine how well that specific hybrid may respond to a nitrogen or fungicide application. If you have a hybrid that’s highly responsive to nitrogen and you’re planning to make a side-dress application, for instance, take a tissue sample to determine if there are other deficiencies like potassium, sulfur or zinc that you can address at that point. These nutrient components really make that nitrogen application become more efficient and help uncover the hidden hunger of your yield potential.
 
Keep in mind all of the tools available to you to make informed nutrient management decisions throughout the season, and work with your local agronomist to put similar practices to work for other crops in your operation.

High Management Is a Winner for Wheat

Tiffany Braasch
Master Agronomy Advisor
Kent Pfaff of Washburn, North Dakota, took first place this past December in the National Wheat Yield Contest in the Spring Wheat—Dryland category, harvesting 104.29 bushels per acre with CROPLAN® 3530. To me, more important than achieving this yield is that it also optimized his profit. As Kent’s local agronomist, I wanted to share some of the secrets to his success, which include timely input applications, in-season imagery and tissue sampling data.
 
Fertility crucial from preplant to in-season
Kent starts the season with a soil test to gauge fertility. At planting he applies a micronutrient package that contains zinc with his starter fertilizer. Plant roots, whether they are corn or wheat require zinc in higher amounts in early plant growth. He also treats his seed with Warden® Cereals WR, a product that contains both fungicide and insecticide that protects seedlings from disease and insects early in the growing season. In addition to Warden® Cereals WR, he also uses Ascend® plant growth regulator to help enhance the growth and development of wheat early in the season.
 
Kent customizes a variable-rate nitrogen prescription for each field. This helps him hit his high-end yield goals on the highest-fertility part of his field while backing off on his tougher or less productive areas. He starts with the response to nitrogen (RTN) recommendations for his variety when planning the prescription. Kent variable-rate applies his nitrogen in the form of anhydrous ammonia and applies it side dressed at the same time as seed and starter fertilizer. Like many farmers in our area who use no-till or minimum-till systems, Kent uses this “one-pass” system for his small-grain crops.
 
Follow recommended populations 
Kent followed the CROPLAN® response to population (RTP) scores in determining planting rate, in this case 1.5 million seeds per acre. With other wheat varieties, he may have gone up to 1.8 million seeds per acre; but with CROPLAN® 3530, he optimized yield at a lower planting rate. Managing each variety according to Answer Plot® Program recommendations is key.
 
Maximize acre-by-acre management
In addition to using the R7® Tool to variable-rate apply his nitrogen, Kent is using the R7® Field Monitoring Tool and in-season imagery to track day-to-day performance on all fields in his operation. Early season between third and fifth leaf, he applies herbicides for weed control. At the same time, the use of an insecticide and fungicide helps control disease and insects on the wheat. Another application of fungicide at heading helps control late season disease such as scab. He felt there was yield left on the table by not investing in a flag leaf application. CROPLAN® 3530 has a high response to fungicide (RTF) scores, and we will evaluate this season to determine if another application at flag leaf might optimize his return. Kent says that to him, as a farmer the bottom line is that we achieved a high yield but, more important, improved profitability.
  
Winning with Wheat
Kent and the other National Wheat Yield Contest winners will be honored at the Commodity Classic farm trade show, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, in early March. Congratulations to Kent on this exciting and well-deserved honor. If you want to find out more about the National Wheat Yield Contest, click here. To find out more about how you can increase the yield potential of your spring wheat crop, talk with your local agronomist.

Five Steps to Controlling Corn Rootworm

Ryan Wolf
Agronomy Services Manager
Called the “billion dollar pest” due to its mass destruction of valuable crops, corn rootworm continues to spread rapidly across the Midwest. The problem is compounded in the northern Corn Belt, where there are large populations of northern corn rootworm and the more destructive western corn rootworm is showing some resistance.

As you look at insect challenges you faced last year, I urge you to take preventative measures to control corn rootworm because once corn is planted, postemergence applications cannot stop larvae from feeding on roots.
 
Here are five tips to help control this destructive pest and protect yield potential:
  1. Rotate crops. Plant soybeans when possible to break up corn-on-corn rotations.
  2. Choose trait packages. Corn farmers should choose hybrids that feature two traits for maximum corn rootworm control.
  3. Use full insecticide rates at planting. Many farmers have become accustomed to getting by using half-rates of insecticide. To stand a chance at controlling corn rootworm, make in-furrow insecticide applications using the full rate.
  4. Be proactive. Begin scouting for corn rootworm beetles at tassel and continue through early August. Timely foliar insecticide applications will prevent beetles from laying eggs and reduce populations the following year.
  5. Control volunteer corn. Western corn rootworm is known to lay eggs in soybean fields, posing a threat to corn crops the following year. Removing its food source prevents larvae from maturing and continuing the cycle.
Stay vigilant for signs of corn rootworm throughout the upcoming growing season, and work with your local agronomist to help guide pest control decisions.

Factoring Data Into Decision-Making

Kelsey Berger
Agriculture Technology Specialist
The new year is underway, so it’s time to dial up your planning for the coming growing season. With commodity prices demanding thorough preparation, data will be critical to ensuring you get the most out of every field in 2017. Take time now to evaluate how you’re using data to make decisions on your farm and determine how you can get more from the information available to you.
 
Here’s a look at how the Answer Plot® team uses data to power seed placement and help farmers place inputs precisely and effectively.
 
Determining seed placement through replication and localized conditions
A multitude of factors must be considered to place hybrids for optimum performance, including response to soil type, reponse to population, rotation and specific growing conditions. Because of the many factors that affect seed placement, quality data play a critical role in making decisions confidently. Through the Answer Plot® Program, we replicate hybrids and varieties at nearly 200 locations across the country in diverse soil types and growing conditions to determine how to best utilize each hybrid in a multitude of environments and cropping systems.
 
Recommendations for placement and management are backed by high-quality data that we’re able to maintain due to low trial error. Trial error represents factors we cannot see or anticipate that affect outcomes, which could include weather, disease, insect pressure, soil variability and other factors. The more replications, the smaller the margin of error.
 
Using data to inform input decisions
The WinField® United data analytics team is made up of 70 people who gather, analyze and organize data from the test plots then put the information into a useable form. For example, through the R7® Tool, response to nitrogen and fungicide scores are available for particular hybrids. These scores give you insights on how to prioritize your inputs based on the needs of specific hybrids in unique environments.
 
To learn more about incorporating different types of data into your decision-making process, contact your local WinField® United retailer.

Add Greater Value to On-Farm Trial

Steve Anthofer
Answer Plot Operations Sr. Manager
Testing new products and management techniques on your own fields is a good way to get a close-up look at results under your own growing conditions. However, because most on-farm trials are limited in scale, the results provide only a glimpse into performance.
 
To rely on such small-scale data for planning purposes can stymie your chances for success, since the decisions you make are only as good as the data you’re analyzing. And if your data is “iffy,” any resulting actions you might take will be equally suspect.

That’s why it’s beneficial to compare your on-farm data with high-quality, large-scale test results that reflect a variety of soil conditions and weather scenarios, results that paint a more complete performance picture. In 2015, our WinField® United Answer Plot® Program tested 231 corn hybrids, replicated 12 times at 191 locations across the country. We also collected a total of 5 million data points from our trials. This level of local, regional and national testing allows us to ensure the validity of our data, so you can feel confident using it for comparison purposes with your on-farm results.
 
Tips for On-farm Trials
Before doing any data comparisons, make sure your on-farm trials deliver the best results possible. Master Agronomy Advisor Matt Mesenbrink has worked with a number of farmers performing their own trials and offers the following recommendations:
 
  • Keep things simple. Test one thing at a time: one hybrid versus another hybrid; high management versus low management. Limit the trial to the most important information you seek.
  • Understand variabilities. Remember that weather and fertility will affect your outcomes. Because of factors you can’t control, the size of your trial might diminish and, as a result, it may not be a true test of what you’re farming.
  • Work with your agronomist. If trial results differ from what you expected, ask your agronomist to help determine why. Understand that you may need to adapt if conditions change.
  • Engage your other stakeholders. Review your plans with the managers and applicators you work with to help ensure everyone understands what you want to accomplish and what their roles are in helping make that happen.
 
By following these simple steps, you can feel assured in your results and you’ll be on your way to making solid, data-based decisions for the coming year.

Follow Best Plant Sampling Practices for Accurate Analysis

WinField United
Agronomy Team
Understanding plant health and nutrient deficiencies begins establishing a baseline for fertility programs. The WinField® United NutriSolutions® 360 system is a season-long fertility management program, including soil and tissue sampling, lab analysis, and product recommendations. Review these guidelines and contact your local WinField® United agronomist for sampling recommendations.
  1. Perform timely sampling. Crops use nutrients differently at various growth stages, so not all crop samples should be taken at the same time. Sampling before crops need key nutrients allows time to adjust fertility plans in-season. Work with a trusted agronomy advisor to determine appropriate timing to acquire the most accurate data.
  2. Be selective in tissue choice. Choosing healthy plant material for sampling is imperative for accurate analysis. Plants under stress from drought, flooding, insect or disease pressure will likely show different nutrient readings than healthy areas of a field. For comparison purposes, stressed areas of a field may be sampled to measure differences in nutrient utilization. The NutriSolutions® 360 tissue testing handbook provides crop-specific tissue sampling timing and protocols.
  3. Collect enough plant tissue. Follow lab directions to ensure the proper amount of leaf tissue is collected for testing. The volume of tissue needed may depend on crop and growth stage. For example, a corn plant sample should be about the size of a softball when bunched up to account for drying that takes place before lab analysis.
  4. Select random plants. Take a big-picture look at the field you plan to sample to get the best results. The goal is to take enough samples randomly throughout the field to get an accurate snapshot of overall plant health. If the field is stressed, more samples should be taken to account for field variability. Avoid sampling plants that have necrotic tissue due to early senescence or disease. Imagery from the R7® Tool can also help identify areas of the field where tissue testing should be completed.
  5. Avoid contamination. Lab equipment is sensitive and will report false results if tissue is contaminated. Avoid submitting samples that may be contaminated by fertilizer residue or soil. If using tools to collect samples, clean them between plants to avoid transferring tissue from one sample to another.
  6. Plan ahead. Sampling at the beginning of the week will allow plenty of time for shipping to the lab. Pack and ship samples according to lab directions; extreme temperatures can negatively affect tissue quality. NutriSolutions 360® sampling requires specific tissue bags to prevent mold formation. Take inventory of your shipping supplies and invest in high-quality materials to ensure your samples arrive at the lab in good condition.

Research Shows Nationwide Plant Health Trends

WinField United
Agronomy Team
Understanding plant health is key to meeting crop yield potential. A study in the Agronomy Journal1 estimates that up to 60 percent of yield is dependent on soil fertility; but soil fertility alone doesn’t tell the whole story. The NutriSolutions 360® system from WinField® United is a season-long plant health management program, including soil and tissue sampling, nutrient analysis, and recommendations to help farmers optimize growing conditions for their crops. More than 410,000 plant samples have been analyzed nationwide over several growing seasons with 92,775 samples taken in 2016, revealing crop- and area-specific nutrient deficiencies that could negatively impact yield potential.
 
Nutrient Trends and Insights
Here are some nationwide trends revealed by NutriSolutions 360® tissue analysis in 2016.
 
  • Corn was deficient in zinc, potassium and nitrogen. Seventy-two percent of the more than 17,500 corn samples taken nationwide were low in zinc. Sixty-eight and 66 percent of corn samples were low in potassium and nitrogen, respectively. Other problem nutrients in corn included manganese, sulfur and boron — all were over 60 percent deficient in 2016 samples.
  • Soybeans lacked potassium. Sampling revealed that 78 percent of the more than 5,500 soybean samples taken in 2016 were low in potassium. Soybean samples also lacked manganese and copper (53 and 42 percent respectively).
  • Wheat exhibited micronutrient deficiencies. More than 90 percent of 2016 wheat samples showed low levels of chloride, which is important for photosynthesis and nutrient transport in wheat. Zinc and/or magnesium levels were low in more than 60 percent of samples. Copper and potassium deficiencies were also common in wheat in 2016.
  • Cotton showed issues with potassium deficiency. Most of the more than 2,500 cotton samples showed low levels of potassium in 2016. Cotton is more susceptible to root and leaf diseases when potassium is limited. Large amounts of the nutrient are needed as bolls begin to develop and fill, so potassium deficiency can also decrease yields. Boron and/or calcium levels were also low in around half the cotton samples received.
  • Alfalfa was short on calcium and magnesium. Calcium deficiency in alfalfa can inhibit root growth and plant development. More than 93 percent of the over 800 alfalfa samples had low levels of calcium in 2016. Low levels of magnesium were also reported.
  • Corn silage nutrient deficiencies included phosphorus, manganese, nitrogen and zinc. Corn silage can remove more nutrients from soil than corn grain, so additional fertilization may be needed on these acres. More than 50 percent of corn silage samples tested in 2016 were deficient in phosphorus, manganese, nitrogen and/or zinc.

Tissue Sampling Can Help Boost Yield Potential
Once deficiency is visible in the field, it’s often too late to correct. Tissue sampling allows insight into a crop’s nutrient status before deficiencies become visible. This allows for corrective action prior to yield loss. Following a solid soil sampling plan and executing a proactive approach to tissue sampling is key to crop success.
 
While nationwide trends in crop health were analyzed and reported, individual field testing is the best way to evaluate nutrient deficiencies. Plant health is dynamic, and nutrient availability is based on localized conditions and management practices.
 
1Stewart, W. M., D. W. Dibb, A. E. Johnston, and T. J. Smyth. 2005. The Contribution of Commercial Fertilizer Nutrients to Food Production. Agron. J. 97:1-6.

Getting Ahead of Resistant Weeds

Andrew Schmidt
Regional Agronomist
Did you battle herbicide-resistant weeds such as marestail or giant ragweed in 2016? Now is the time to establish strategies for managing tough-to-control weeds in 2017. Here are some places to start:
 
  1. Develop a written weed management plan. If you haven’t already, sit down with your agronomist and evaluate what worked and what didn’t work in 2016. Consider whether or not the timing of applications and the products used were effective for the types of weeds you faced. From there, put together a holistic crop protection strategy that includes timely pre- and postemergent herbicide applications and multiple modes of action.
 
  1. Consider how you can optimize applications. Adding the right adjuvants to the tank mix is key to maximizing the effectiveness of herbicide applications and reducing drift. Many herbicides farmers are using to manage resistant weeds rely on getting maximum coverage on the weed surface, so be sure to read herbicide labels closely and work with your agronomist to choose the appropriate adjuvant.
 
  1. Attend a WinField® United spray clinic. WinField United hosts spray clinics with local retailers throughout the winter months to discuss weed management strategies and provide demonstrations of new spray technologies that might work well in your 2017 plan. These events can also help ensure you’re getting the most out of spray nozzles and using the appropriate products for your situation.
For more information about attending a spray clinic this winter, contact your local retailer

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.

Manage Fall Nitrogen Responsibly

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
Fall nutrient applications, particularly nitrogen, can help crops get off to the right start the following year. At the same time, targeted nutrient management is a goal shared across our industry, especially with nitrogen issues at the forefront of many conversations. It’s important to check field conditions and use technology to determine effective and responsible nitrogen management practices.
 
Stabilize nitrogen for sustainable, effective use
It is important to stabilize nitrogen in the fall to slow down its conversion into the mobile nitrate form. Un-stabilized nitrogen applications will expose the field to more risk, leaving winter precipitation and wet spring conditions to carry the nitrate nitrogen off target. Stabilizing nitrogen protects your investment as well as water quality.
 
The majority of nitrogen loss (around 70%) can occur below ground so adding protection to reduce leaching and loss from denitrification is important. Using N-Serve® nitrogen stabilizer with fall-applied anhydrous ammonia will make that nitrogen less susceptible to loss by keeping more of it available in the root zone during key corn growth stages.
 
Check field conditions for best nitrogen application timing 
There are several things you can easily evaluate to determine if fall nitrogen applications are appropriate for your acres.
  • Soil temperatures should cool to (and stay below) 50 degrees Fahrenheit as this is when soil bacteria activity is reduced.
  • Soil textures should be medium to loamy for optimal fall nitrogen applications. Sandy soils and coarse to medium topsoil with fractured limestone may allow fall-applied nitrogen to leach into water supplies, threatening groundwater quality.
  • Soil moisture that is moderate works best for ammonia application, but dry soils with medium or heavy texture that are in good physical condition can also work. Wet soils must be avoided due to poor sealing ability and potential of clodding.
 
Use tech to manage nitrogen responsibly
Using ag technology to optimize nitrogen applications can significantly increase potential return on investment and minimize the overall impact to the environment.
  • In-season imagery can help ensure you pinpoint the exact locations within a field where high yield environments exist. These images can be used to design a base layer fall nitrogen recommendation which can be followed by a precise in-season application to optimize high yield zones.
  • Models can aid you in monitoring in-season variables and making decisions on optimal rates. For example, you can see unfavorable weather in the forecast or look at response to nitrogen (RTN) scores on your hybrids and realize your hybrid might be hungry for nitrogen to drive an increase in bushels.
  • Tissue and soil samples can be paired with models and imagery to provide more insight into what the plant is enduring. Sampling can also be used to calibrate the model back to fit your farm and hybrid.
  • Variable rate technology can be used to apply nitrogen exactly where it needs to go. This can be beneficial for minimizing nitrogen waste and managing cost per bushel.
 
Contact your local WinField United retailer to determine the best nitrogen management options for your operation.

Manage Fall Nitrogen Precisely

Jonathan Zuk
Regional Agronomist
Fall nutrient applications, particularly nitrogen, can help crops get off to the right start the following year. At the same time, targeted nutrient management is a goal shared across our industry, especially with nitrogen issues at the forefront of many conversations. It’s important to check field conditions and use technology to determine effective and responsible nitrogen management practices.
 
Check field conditions for best nitrogen application timing  
There are several things you can easily evaluate to determine if fall nitrogen applications are appropriate for your acres.
  • Soil temperatures should cool to (and stay below) 50 degrees Fahrenheit as this is when soil bacteria will go dormant.
  • Soil textures should be medium to loamy for optimal fall nitrogen applications. Sandy soils and coarse to medium topsoil with fractured limestone may allow fall-applied nitrogen to leach into water supplies, threatening groundwater quality.
  • Soil moisture that is moderate works best for ammonia application, but dry soils with medium or heavy texture that are in good physical condition can also work. Wet soils must be avoided due to poor sealing ability and potential of clodding.
Stabilize nitrogen for effective use
It is important to stabilize nitrogen in the fall so that it does not convert into the mobile nitrate form. Un-stabilized nitrogen applications will expose the field to more risk, leaving late season fall rains or wet spring conditions to carry the nitrate nitrogen off target. Stabilizing nitrogen protects your investment as well as land and water quality.
 
Use tech to manage nitrogen responsibly
Using ag technology to optimize nitrogen applications can significantly increase potential return on investment and minimize the overall impact to the environment.
  • In-season imagery can help ensure you pinpoint the exact locations within a field where high yield environments exist. These images can be used to design a base layer fall nitrogen recommendation which can be followed by a precise in-season application to optimize high yield zones.
  • Models can aid you in monitoring in-season variables and making decisions on optimal rates. For example, you can see unfavorable weather in the forecast or look at response to nitrogen (RTN) scores on your hybrids and realize your hybrid might be hungry for nitrogen to drive an increase in bushels.
  • Tissue and soil samples can be paired with models and imagery to provide more insight into what the plant is enduring. Sampling can also be used to calibrate the model back to fit your farm and hybrid.
  • Variable rate technology can be used to apply nitrogen exactly where it needs to go. This can be beneficial for minimizing nitrogen waste and managing cost per bushel.
Contact your local WinField United retailer to determine the best nitrogen management options for your operation. 

Assessing Frost Damage

Al Bertelsen
WinField agronomist
The impact frost has on corn and soybean plants depends on the growth stage of the plant and amount of exposure it has to freezing temperatures. In the Midwest, a killing frost, which means corn stalks or soybean stems are compromised, generally occurs between the third week of September and the middle of October.
 
With various levels of frost damage possible throughout the harvest season, it’s important to monitor crops closely and harvest in a timely manner to protect yield and crop quality.
 
Frost Before Physiological Maturity
If corn and soybean plants are exposed to freezing temperatures before they reach physiological maturity (black layer for corn and R8 for soybeans), frost damage can negatively affect yield, storability and salability.
  • Storability: Corn and soybean crops suffering from frost damage tend to dry slower in the field and appear to be one to two percent drier than they actually are, according to many moisture testers. To avoid spoilage in storage, keep a close eye on these crops to ensure they have enough aeration so that condensation does not build up.
  • Salability: For corn, frost can cause softer kernels, more breakage and lower test weights. In addition, frost-damaged corn can have lower digestibility when used in animal feed and isn’t as desirable for milling due to reduced starch, among other factors. Frost-damaged soybeans often have less extractable oil, poor oil quality and may turn rancid faster due to the presence of green soybeans.
 
Frost Following Physiological Maturity
If plants have reached physiological maturity, frost does not directly affect yield. However, it’s important to evaluate corn fields for standability, especially for issues caused by stalk rot. Once frost compromises a stalk, any natural disease protection is gone.
 
In contrast, frost can actually benefit soybean fields if it hits after physiological maturity, because it can cause drydown for weeds in the field that create combine issues.
 
Many factors play into the impact freezing temperatures have on crops this time of year, including field variability, row spacing and length of exposure to temperatures below 32°F. For more information about protecting corn and soybean fields from late-season frost damage, contact your local agronomist or WinField representative.

The Benefits of Fall Burndown

George Watters
Agronomy Manager
For farmers who adopt minimum- or no-till practices, controlling weeds throughout the fall can be crucial. It’s particularly important for managing winter annual weeds like marestail and perennials such as dandelions. If marestail is allowed to overwinter, it is very difficult to control in the spring.
 
An early harvest and warm, dry weather will hopefully provide a wider window of opportunity for fall herbicide applications.
 
Benefits of Fall Weed-control Applications
There are a number of advantages to doing a fall burndown:
  • Smaller weeds: Weeds are typically smaller in the fall, so translocation provides better activity, getting more herbicide into the weed’s growing points for more effective control.
  • Less compaction: Drier soils are better suited to sprayer traffic, minimizing compaction.
  • Earlier planting: With more effective control, fields can dry and warm faster in the spring to allow for tillage and earlier planting.
  • Greater efficiency: Equipment works better in clean fields.
  • Less weed competition: Early-season weed competition is reduced to help crops get a good start and encourage uniform stands.
  • Fewer pest havens: Fewer weeds means fewer egg-laying sites for insects such as spider mites and cutworms and no alternate host for soybean cyst nematodes.
 
Keep an eye on weed control into the spring as well. In spite of its benefits, fall burndown generally doesn’t eliminate the need for a residual herbicide program in the spring to achieve effective, season-long weed control.
 
For specific weeds like marestail, which is a big problem in the eastern Corn Belt, you may also need a spring burndown to take care of what germinates in the early spring. But if you do a fall burndown, you can avoid dealing with tough-to-control, overwintered marestail.
 
Contact your local WinField retailer to learn more about fall burndown options.

Steps to Take After Late-Season Hail

Al Bertelsen
WinField agronomist
Any time hail strikes corn or soybeans, the amount of crop damage and yield loss depends on the growth stage of the plants and the severity of the storm. As crops approach maturity, the level of damage often hinges on the amount of leaf tissue that’s been removed from the plants. While leaf damage may look severe, if green tissue is still attached to the plant, it continues to provide photosynthetic benefits.
 
Farmers with hail insurance need to work with adjusters to assess losses; however, everyone affected by hail needs to get out into their fields and examine the extent of the damage.
 
Assessing hail damage in corn
Along with assessing leaf tissue loss, stalk bruising may have occurred which limits the translocation of water and nutrients throughout the plant and reduces standability. After hail damage, in late August to early September the pinch test can be used on the lower portion of the stalk to assess stalk rot. If the stalk collapses in your hand, cut the stalk open and check for stalk rot. If stalk rots are identified in a significant portion of the corn plants, you should consider harvesting these fields early, while the corn is still standing.  Universities report that hail-damaged corn will usually achieve physiological maturity earlier, but will take longer to dry down than non-hailed corn. Corn yield and test weight will likely decrease after hail.
 
Other damage to assess includes husk bruising that extends directly to corn ears. Damaged ears can attract insects like picnic beetles, which may also attract bird feeding, increasing ear damage. Also watch for signs of disease development, such as Goss’s wilt. While there are no immediate treatment recommendations for Goss’s wilt, a bacterial disease, this information will help with cropping decisions for next season, such as rotating away from corn in fields with known Goss’s wilt infections or planting hybrids with a high level of tolerance to the disease.
 
Assessing hail damage in soybeans
In soybeans, the amount of hail damage will depend on the timing of the hail; the amount of leaf, stem and pod damage; and whether you have indeterminate or determinate soybeans, which differ in their ability to recover.  Weed growth should be assessed after a hail event to determine if a herbicide treatment is needed, since soybean leaf loss from hail will open up the crop canopy, stimulating weed growth.
 
For more information about hail damage management, contact your local agronomist or WinField representative.  

Protect Yield in Wet, Windy Conditions

Glenn Longabaugh
WinField Agronomist
At this point in the season, heavy rainfall and high winds can have yield-robbing effects on crops, especially if issues aren’t addressed quickly.
 
In corn, actively scouting and prioritizing harvest order based on the following moisture and wind-related issues can help prevent yield loss from late-season storms.
 
  • Check for ear rot: With excessive rainfall, humidity and water can get into the corn ear and exacerbate several types of ear rot. All ear rots reduce the quality of grain and some are toxigenic. Check your corn by shucking back ears and looking for damaged or discolored kernels. If you see mold, discoloration or other symptoms of the fungal disease, harvest the corn at higher moisture and dry it with heat and forced air immediately. By drying the corn, you can mitigate some of the effects of these toxigenic organisms and protect remaining grain quality.
  • Test standability: Standability is often an issue in wet fields and makes crops highly susceptible to wind damage. There are several ways to test standability in corn.
    • I typically conduct a push test by bumping the plant at ear height and giving it a firm push toward the opposing row. I’ll push 20 plants and if four of those plants either break off or root lodge, then I consider that field in peril of wind damage and recommend farmers start harvesting that field immediately, regardless of what the moisture is.
    • Some farmers do a pull test to check standability. If the corn plant pulls out of the ground easily with one hand, it’s not going to stand very long and should be harvested as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
  • Use caution in the combine: When heavy rains come through followed by high winds, green snap or root lodging can occur. While green snap below the ear is unrecoverable, plants that have suffered root lodging can be harvested but may cause combine issues as the location of the plant and its roots are offset, sometimes by 10 to 30 inches. Keep a close eye on machinery to ensure the combine snouts get underneath these plants and result in the stalks going through the snapping rolls.
 
For soybeans, pay close attention to plants that are excessively tall and have large amounts of vegetative growth. These plants are at risk for lodging, which often results in pod abortion or poor fill. Examine soybean conditions closely and harvest as soon as moisture permits to protect yield potential.
 
Farmers facing severe flooding and storm damage from the Midwest down through southern states like Louisiana and Texas should contact their local WinField retailer to troubleshoot.

Heat Stress and Dry Conditions still Evident Across Midwest

WinField
Agronomy Team
According to agronomists, in general, crops throughout the Midwest are in good to excellent condition. Recent high temperatures and a lack of moisture have caused some problems in corn fields, with heat stress evident in Indiana and ear tip-back issues in Wisconsin and Iowa. Furthermore, regions in Michigan, Ohio, and South Dakota are feeling the effects of dry weather early in the season. That low moisture in some parts of Indiana has led to highly variable crop conditions across the state, and corn yield is down in Michigan due to dry weather in the north.
 
However, while many states have been dry this summer, corn fields in Minnesota have experienced fertility issues as a result of heavy rain during pollination. Some fields now have greensnap issues as a result of recent storms.
 
Rains across the Midwest this month have provided some relief, but have raised the risk of SDS disease in soybeans. Agronomists in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa have all seen SDS in soybean fields, with those in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa noting increased white mold pressure. Spider mites and aphids are also evident in soybean fields in South Dakota, Michigan, Ohio and Iowa. Agronomists in these areas advise farmers to scout closely for these insects.
 
Farmers are encouraged to watch corn fields for stalk rot gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight, especially in Wisconsin and Iowa. Agronomists in Indiana have also noticed western bean cutworm in corn fields.
 
Because of these conditions, farmers should keep track of disease and insect pressure this season, so they can choose the best products and applications for next year.

Coping With Dry Conditions

Al Bertelsen
WinField agronomist

Despite our best efforts in field preparation, pest control, crop nutrient management and other key management steps, without the right amount of moisture at key growth stages, crops cannot reach their full yield potential. This season, some areas of the Midwest have been blessed with timely rains, while other areas, such as western South Dakota and parts of Montana, have been excessively dry.
 
To determine the overall effects of drought on crop production, we need to examine the crop’s growth stage when faced with water stress.

  • In corn, while water is most critical during pollination, a lack of sufficient moisture during any growth stage will affect yield to some extent. For example, during R4 (dough stage), a lack of moisture can reduce kernel dry weight and also cause premature black layer formation. 
  • If your corn or soybean fields are among those struggling with drought stress, it’s extremely important to be out in your fields checking crop conditions. It’s especially vital to watch for insect activity, since pests such as grasshoppers tend to thrive when it’s dry and can cause severe crop damage. When insects are detected, each field should be evaluated to determine if pest levels meet your area’s recommended economic threshold for treatment. Weighing treatment options, along with the weather outlook for the coming weeks, will help you determine if an insecticide treatment is a wise course of action. When selecting an insecticide for use later in the season, be sure to check product labels for preharvest treatment intervals.
  • Corn silage growers facing dry conditions also should check crops for nitrate levels as harvest approaches. Before cutting the crop, check a few sample stalks throughout the field and have a nitrate test run. If nitrate levels are elevated, one course of action to lower nitrates in the silage is to cut silage higher than normal at 12 inches, since nitrates are concentrated in the bottom of the stalk. Ensiling will reduce nitrate levels, but samples should be taken after ensiling to determine what is a safe amount to feed in a ration.
Contact your WinField retailer for more drought management strategies.

Hot, humid weather proves challenging

WinField
Agronomy Team
Although cool, wet weather plagued the Midwest during the beginning of the season, farmers are now dealing with a different weather threat: unusual heat and humidity. This weather, consistent throughout the region, has caused some problems in corn and soybean fields.
 
Our agronomists have seen increased fungal disease pressure over the past couple weeks in many corn and soybean fields. Northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot are beginning to appear in corn fields in Indiana, Iowa and Ohio. Additionally, psyoderma brown spot and anthracnose have increased pressure in Iowa fields. Soybean farmers in Ohio and South Dakota have noted fungal diseases such as frogeye leaf spot, septoria brown spot and cercospora leaf blight. In fact, the only fields that seem to benefit from recent hot weather are those in Minnesota. Agronomists explain that the heat has quelled moisture stress in soybeans, and could help mitigate white mold. Across the region, agronomists encourage farmers to make fungicide applications where possible.
 
Recent heat has also prompted a few severe storms, causing hail and wind damage in Iowa and Minnesota.
 
In general, agronomists encourage farmers to scout heavily for insects, especially silk-clipping insects in corn fields. Aphids and spider mites have been found in soybean fields in Iowa, Michigan and Ohio.
 
By scouting carefully, farmers can control disease and insect pressure and prevent some of the yield loss spurred by recent weather changes.

Target Fungicide Applications to Receptive Hybrids

Answer Plot®
Research Team
The yield potential of a bag of seed has many factors that contribute to the overall result. In addition to seed, fertilizer and herbicides, fungicides are another tool that can help you optimize the yield potential of your corn crop.  
 
Research from the 2015 Answer Plot® Trials showed that response to fungicide scores pinpoint yield advantages from fungicide applications.
 
Finding #1
2015 Answer Plot® trials* found that a hybrid with a high RTF score and one with a moderate RTF score generated 9.69 bu/A and 8.17 bu/A more respectively than a hybrid with a low RTF score.
 
Conclusion
RTF scores accurately predict the effectiveness of fungicide applications on a hybrid-by-hybrid basis.
 
Finding #2
National results from the 2015 Answer Plot® Program show an overall 11.5 bu/A average yield response to fungicide applications over untreated corn. This represents 93 percent of the 32 participating Answer Plot® Program locations demonstrating a positive response to fungicide.
 
Conclusion
Fungicide applications can increase yield in corn across a range of maturities (in this case, 90 days to 115 days).
 
The RTF score provides you with a plan for in-season management by understanding which hybrids benefit the most from protection against fungal diseases and rust. Understanding the genetic response to fungicide treatments helps you determine where fungicides can increase yield potential and where they will be economically beneficial.
 
Stay tuned for additional Answer Plot® insights in the coming weeks.
 
 
 
*2015 Answer Plot® data from nine states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

3 Things Conservation and Seed Placement Have in Common

Joel Wipperfurth
Minnesota-Based Agronomy Advisor, Winfield
Walking fields and training your eyes to see opportunities for yield is what I call being “calibrated”.  Once a farmer or agronomist’s eyes are calibrated, they can spot patterns and problems either up close, or from the road at 55 mph. 
 
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Agren, a small business focused on precision conservation in Iowa. I asked the founder/CEO Tom Buman if there was a chance for me to calibrate and identify land management and conservation opportunities. He invited me to the Land Improvement Conservation Association (LICA) farm east of Ames, Iowa to see firsthand what solutions a conservation agronomist employs through Agren or the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 
 
As it turns out, land management has a lot in common with hybrid seed placement.
 
The first rule of selecting hybrids is that there are no silver bullets to help you optimize inputs per bushel of yield.  It takes an understanding that yield is a system and that soil nutrient interactions have a significant impact on the success of your hybrid and the environment.
 
Similarly, I’ve learned there is a system to land conservation. During my time with Tom, I asked him about what conservation practice everyone should use on their farms. And his answer was the same as mine is for a hybrid – there are no silver bullets. Around every corner he pointed out examples of the pros and cons of choices and explained rules for success that are similar to hybrid placement.
 
  1. Have the data and tools for an informed decision-making process and, where possible, use a precision approach.
  2. Know the grower’s objectives and his or her ability to implement the plan.
  3. Build a plan and be an active manager of the plan’s success, measuring what you are managing.
 
Conservation is the responsibility for our entire industry – farmers, conservationists and agronomists alike. We use precision ag tools to help meet profitability goals through optimized inputs per bushel. But we have another job — to use these same tools and skills to implement responsible agriculture on our farms every chance we get.  
 
Management of soil health and water movement are already part of many operations and are a solid base for land management and conservation. As precision ag tools continue to advance, be prepared to adopt new and different practices for even more precise land management. 

Minimize In-Season Yield Loss in Soybeans

Bob Beck Ph.D.
Regional Agronomist, WinField
We recently examined ways to minimize in-season yield loss in corn by applying crop protection products at critical growth stages. With soybeans, in-season management begins underground, with the roots.
 
As with corn, you can use in-season imagery to determine problem areas in your soybean fields. However, it’s also important to use “old-school” techniques to monitor soybean root nodule development. Take a shovel into the field, dig in the soil and notice how the plant is emerging. Since fungal diseases can occur prior to emergence, they can be fairly well controlled with a fungicide.
 
Because soybeans fix their own nitrogen, it’s best to apply phosphorus and potassium prior to planting. Planting seed that has been treated with an insecticide and a fungicide can provide up to 50 days of protection during those early days of growth and emergence. If you’ve had disappointing results using untreated soybean seed, talk with your agronomist about planting treated seed next year. It could be an excellent addition to your soybean management program.
 
Adding an adjuvant can help get crop protection products deep into the canopy, where they can be the most effective. Remember that when you protect soybean leaf health, you help keep pods healthy, too. R1 (first flowering) is an excellent time to apply fertilizer. Check in at R3 to ensure pods are healthy.

Consult your WinField retailer about the management strategies that would work best for your fields.
 

Minimize In-Season Yield Loss in Corn

Bob Beck Ph.D.
Regional Agronomist, WinField
Using in-season imagery can quickly alert you to disease and insect pressure in corn and soybeans, so you and your agronomist can immediately address problems through timely applications of crop protection products. First, let’s take a look at the best times to address in-season pest challenges in your corn crop.

Crop protection applications can be particularly beneficial for corn at the critical growth stages of V5, V8 and VT.

V5: At this stage, the corn plant is switching from a seminal root system to a nodal root system. The growing point of the plant is at the soil surface, exposed to the elements, and the number of kernel rows is being set. This is when you are making your final herbicide applications, so take tissue samples of the top leaves to see how the crop is doing. If tissue samples indicate a nutrient deficiency, talk with your agronomist about the best way to address the situation.

V8: By now, the number of kernels per row is set and corn is entering its biological grand period of growth. If you’re spoon-feeding nitrogen or using any fertilizer program, adhere to the 4 R’s: right rate of fertilizer, delivered in the right form, at the right time and in the right place.

Think twice about applying all of your fertilizer in the fall, when it is easily exposed and can disappear. If it’s not there when the corn is growing from V8 to tasseling, you’ve wasted money. Try putting down 40 percent of nitrogen in the spring as anhydrous with nitrogen stabilizer, then side-dressing later in the season. Soil sampling at this stage can help you determine the amount of side-dressed nitrogen to apply.

VT: This is the most sensitive time in the plant’s life cycle; any stress has the greatest impact on yield. Aerial fungicide applications can help protect plants from fungal diseases or rusts that reduce their ability to fill out the grain. Protect leaves from the ear leaf on up, since they’re the ones that are capturing sunlight.

In our next post, we take a look at ways to minimize in-season yield loss in soybeans. Be sure to consult your WinField retailer about the management strategies that would work best for your crops. 

 

Plant Growth Reflects Varied Weather

WinField
Agronomy Team
Cool, Wet Spring Leads to Varied Growth
 
According to agronomists, plant growth across the Midwest has reflected the varied weather as of late. In most states, both corn and soybean growth differs greatly by region, and is dependent on the amount of rainfall in the weeks since the cool, wet spring weather subsided. States with relatively consistent growth levels include Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio.
 
In Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, weather complications (either extremely wet or extremely dry conditions) following the spring have led to poor root development in corn. In Illinois and Michigan especially, poor development was caused by excessively dry weather following the early rains.
 
Summer Weather Affects Nitrogen Management
 
Wet summer weather in some states has affected nitrogen management in crops, especially in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Nitrogen loss can be a result of leaching; this is especially important in mid-June and early July.
 
Insect, Disease and Weed Pressure
 
Insect pressure has been mixed across the Midwest, with Michigan and Minnesota experiencing little to no significant pressure. Agronomists in Indiana and Ohio have found Japanese beetles in corn fields, and agronomists in South Dakota have reported corn borer.
 
Most disease pressure has been confined to wetter territories. Early-season diseases are being seen in soybean fields in South Dakota, and root rot is present in the wet regions of Iowa. Agronomists in Wisconsin have noted anthracnose leaf blight and northern corn leaf blight in corn, and Goss’s wilt and septoria brown spot in soybeans.
 
Weeds have been cropping up in the drier areas of the Midwest. Marestail is present in Michigan, and both waterhemp and Palmer amaranth have been found in Illinois fields.

In-Season Tips for the War on Weeds

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
Joel and Kyle examine the do’s and don’ts of weed control on this week’s episode of The Deal With Yield®. Find out what weeds and diseases are the biggest threats this season as well as how to manage them, and learn why not all fungicides are created equal.    
 
Got a question about your operation? Email hosts@dealwithyield.com for the chance to hear their response on the show.
Season 6: Episode 5 - In-Season Tips for the War on Weeds


Copper Is Golden for Wheat Yields

Eric Hanson
Agronomist
Copper is an enzyme activator that is necessary for protein production in plants. Wheat is highly responsive to copper applications in the spring as well as at flag leaf emergence.
  • In the spring, as wheat begins to rapidly extend stem tissue, a copper deficiency may limit the amount of protein the plant needs to take up for rapid growth. 
  • Copper is essential for pollination and pollen tube formation, so wheat is also highly responsive to copper applications at flag leaf emergence. 
  • Although not a replacement for foliar fungicide, copper contributes to a wheat plant’s immune system and improves plant health.
 
Copper is essentially immobile in the soil, so plant uptake is accomplished by direct root interception, making this timing is critical. Additionally, copper deficiencies are most common in either high-organic-matter soils or alkaline soils with a pH of 7.5 or greater.
  
Assess copper levels and hit the sweet spot
The first step in assessing copper levels in wheat is to take tissue samples prior to jointing and again at flag leaf emergence. One solution to address copper deficiency in wheat is to apply copper in the form of a foliar micronutrient product absorbed by the leaves of the plant, such as MAX-IN® Copper. 
 
When MAX-IN® Copper is applied at greenup, prior to jointing, levels in the plants are usually sufficient going into heading, allowing for only a single application. MAX-IN® Copper can be tank mixed with a variety of herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers, for added application flexibility.  
 
WinField research has shown that yield increases have been achieved when MAX-IN® Copper is applied when wheat is highly responsive and copper levels are commonly depleted. For example, 2015 Answer Plot® data* found that the yield response to a MAX-IN® Copper foliar application at the 4- to 5-leaf stage was 94.2 bu/A compared to an 88.8 bu/A with an in-furrow treatment of 10-34-0 alone. That’s a 5.4 bu/A increase achieved by adding MAX-IN® Copper.
 
Bottom line: Nutrient applications when crops are highly receptive help meet genetic yield potential and minimize unnecessary use of fertilizer.
 
 
  
*2015 Answer Plot® data based on eight locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.

Plant Nutrition Takes Top Priority

WinField
Agronomy Team
Cool, Wet Spring Comes to a Close
 
The cool, wet weather that delayed planting in the southern part of the Midwest has led to spotty soybean emergence in Illinois and Ohio. In Iowa, residue management has played a larger role in soybean emergence. And many farmers in Minnesota had to replant soybeans after a frost event three weeks ago, causing growth delays in this region. However, despite challenging planting conditions, the plants that have emerged are growing well.
 
At this point, farmers are encouraged to scout for weeds, which seem to be the only plants taking advantage of the cold, damp spring. Agronomists in Wisconsin have seen fast-growing lambsquarters and giant ragweed as tall as 20 inches in some fields.
 
Last Chance for Nutrient Applications
 
Corn is picking up speed, with most fields across the Midwest measuring between V4 and V8. Corn takes up the majority of its nutrients during these stages, so now is the time to pay close attention to nutrient deficiencies in this crop.
 
In general, tissue samples have been showing macronutrient deficiencies in plants. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio have deficiencies in zinc, boron and potassium, while agronomists in Indiana have noticed  sulfur deficiencies. Nitrogen deficiencies are common throughout the Midwest, and can be combatted by side-dressing during this time.

Harness the Power of Photosynthesis for Enhanced Yield Potential

Jason Haegele
Crop Physiologist
Photosynthesis is a key aspect of plant productivity. It is the process that plants use to transform sunlight into sugars, which are then used by the plant as energy to produce the biomass we harvest. Therefore anything we can do to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis throughout the season can help have a positive impact on crop yield.
 
Despite the many positive aspects of photosynthesis, it is a process that is highly sensitive to stresses throughout the season. Fortunately, there are several in-season management practices that can help carry your crops through those difficulties.
 
For example, applying a plant growth regulator (PGR) such as Ascend® can play a significant role in plant development, from helping fuel overall growth and stem elongation to stimulating the movement of sugars, signaling nutrient availability and promoting leaf greenness throughout a stressful season. PGRs can be applied in-furrow on corn, or foliar on corn and soybeans.
  • In-furrow applications of Ascend® PGR stimulates germination and root development at planting.
  • Foliar applications of Ascend® PGR during vegetative stages supports development as plants progress further into the growth cycle and in-furrow applications have run their course. Foliar applications nurture the newly developed leaves, especially those in the upper part of the plant, which are more active and important for supplying sugars to developing corn grains or soybean pods.   
  • Foliar applications at tassel or flowering help target leaves that support the grain or pod through maturity during another period of high stress. 
 
Now is also a key time to focus on other in-season management practices, such as plant nutrition.
If tissue sampling reveals nutrient deficiencies, foliar applications of Ascend® PGR provide an opportunity to apply micronutrients your plant may be hungry for. 
 
Yield potential is highest the day you plant the seed, as it is really about optimizing the genetic potential of the plant. Every day that follows is an opportunity for environmental stresses to limit that potential. The in-season management practices that we can employ to protect photosynthesis, improve water availability and support nutrient uptake are all valuable components of your toolkit.  
 
Contact your local WinField retailer to learn more about developing a healthy plant nutrition program with tools such as Ascend® PGR. 
 

Feed Your Fields’ Full Potential

Joel and Kyle
Hosts, WinField
This week on The Deal With Yield®, Joel and Kyle discuss the importance of monitoring plant nutrition early in the growing season.  Find out how to spot nutrients deficiencies, when you should take a tissue sample and why nothing good happens after spraying soybeans with a herbicide after the Fourth of July.
 
Got a question about your operation? Email hosts@dealwithyield.com for the chance to hear their response on the show.
Season 6: Episode 2 – Feed Your Fields’ Full Potential


Get Out of the Weeds!

Steve Barnhart
Agronomy Manager
For plenty of reasons — lack of time, bad weather or no-till management — some of you may have found yourselves planting into a bed of weeds this spring. While it’s ideal to start the season with clean fields, we all know ideal doesn’t always happen. How can you get out from behind the eight ball in terms of weed control this year? 
 
Step One: Determine the extent of the problem and talk with your agronomist about the best postemergence herbicide recommendations based on the weed spectrum in the field and crop.
 
Step Two: Once you get a handle on a herbicide program, diligent scouting must be on your radar for the remainder of the season to manage any weed outbreaks. Also, watch out for insects such as cutworms and armyworms that are attracted to weeds.
 
Step Three: At the end of the season, work with your agronomist to create a weed-management plan for next season based on your observations of your weed challenges this year. Initiate that plan in the fall and continue working it into next spring. It could mean that if you normally make your own fall burndown applications, for example, you may need to consider hiring a custom applicator if you find yourself strapped for time. 
 
Unfortunately, even if you make the appropriate herbicide applications, your weeds may return. In these cases, your agronomist may recommend a second postemergence herbicide application to help prevent yield reduction due to weed competition or insect damage.
 
My colleague, Mark Glady, has this handy tip for effective weed control applications: onto, into, “thru” and do. Your herbicide applications must:
  • Adequately contact the weeds. (ONTO)
  • Be absorbed in sufficient quantities. (INTO)
  • Move within the weed to the site of action. (THRU)
  • Reach toxic levels at the site of action. (DO)
The key to dealing with most weeds, particularly waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, is to never let them emerge in the first place. That can be accomplished by using full rates of residual products prior to emergence. With herbicide resistance and tolerance, you need that residual piece to be the core of any herbicide management program.

Your Guide to Sprayer Technology

WinField
Agronomy Team
Sprayer technology is always evolving, with more products on the market and greater emphasis being placed on precision to ensure the spray lands exactly where it is supposed to.
 
How can you get the most out of your spray applications this season? Mark Glady, WinField agronomist, guides growers on a five-part journey through the ins and outs of spray application technology. The series, which appears on farmindustrynews.com, offers some great tips to help you make all of your spray applications count. Here’s a brief rundown of the series installments:
 
Part One: Picking the right spray nozzle
Different droplet sizes are produced by different nozzles, and should match the goals of the crop protection products used. This article features a video demonstration by Glady.
 
Part Two: Know your spray nozzle vocabulary
Features brief descriptions and photos of different spray nozzles and how to choose the right one for the job at hand.
 
Part Three: 3 biggest mistakes applicators make
Outlines common application errors and how to remedy them.
 
Part Four: 7 products you shouldn’t go without at spray time
Increase the efficacy of your spray applications with these tools.
 
Part Five: How to read a leaf
Tips on selecting the right nozzle for the particular crop protection product you are applying.
 
So before you rev up your sprayer this season, take a look at these helpful tips to get even more value from the products you are applying. In doing so, you’ll help advance sustainability as well as optimize your ROI potential as the season progresses. 

Scouting for Technology?

Tyler Steinkamp
Regional Agronomist
What’s your commitment to ag technology? Whether you are gradually easing into adopting more tech-focused farming methods or have used technology for a while, you’ve probably discovered that these tools can serve as a tremendous scouting aid.
 
Technology should be paired with a more traditional walk-through of your fields with your agronomist to provide important field-level observations and quality data that can pay off at harvest. 
 
Most ag technology tools include some degree of access to in-season imagery, which indicates field biomass. This capability enables your agronomist to identify problem areas in a field as the season progresses so they can help you take corrective measures before yield potential is jeopardized.
 
Because technology helps you adjust the investments you make in your fields to fit their profitability potential, it helps you spend your dollars more wisely. For example, rather than simply blanketing a field with nitrogen or doing a side-dress application, it may be better to make a variable-rate application. Also, taking tissue samples can help you determine what, if any, nutrients may be lacking in your plants.
 
With all of the ag technology options on the market, how do you know which ones are the best? One resource is answertech.com, where industry experts review a variety of ag technology devices and applications.
 
In the end, every bushel counts. If you’re not employing technology to help you determine where problems can be remedied, top-performing acres can be optimized or poorer-performing acres can receive fewer input investments, you’re leaving yield and capital in the field. 

Late-Season Nitrogen Applications Hit the Sweet Spot

Jonathan Zuk
Agronomist
Unrivaled research and demonstration programs from the Answer Plot® Program help WinField deliver customized farming recommendations and fuel our cutting-edge ag technology tools.

WinField research teams plant competitor products, partner products and WinField products in side-by-side trials over multiple seasons, then evaluate these data points at local, regional and national levels from 191 locations across 32 states. This impartial testing provides comprehensive data you can use to confidently make decisions for your own operation.

Over the coming weeks, we will share some of the more significant insights derived from our 2015 Answer Plot® Program, such as:

Trials showed a positive yield response to split-season and late-season nitrogen (N) applications made at critical corn growth stages.

Methodology
Researchers compared three application scenarios
  1. Total N allotment applied at planting
  2. Two-thirds of N allotment applied at planting, one-third at V10
  3. Total N allotment applied at planting, followed by additional N at VT 
Both split applications were made with the 360 Y-DROP™ applicator for precise placement at the stalk base.*

Results
  • Total N allotment at planting: 235.9 bu/A
  • Split application at planting/V10: 245.3 bu/A (Average yield increase of 9.4 bu/A)
  • Total N at planting, then additional N at VT: 247.1 bu/A (Average yield increase of 11.2 bu/A)
By making the second applications at V10 and VT, plants received an N boost during the critical V10 to R2 growth stage, when corn uses about 50 percent of its total nitrogen needs.

Bottom line: Strategic application timing can help eliminate the financial and environmental costs of applying excess nitrogen, and result in additional bushels.

Stay tuned for additional Answer Plot® insights throughout the season.

*2015 Answer Plot® data based on six locations in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Alfalfa Needs Attention, Too

Glen Longabaugh
Regional Agronomist
With most farmers zeroed in on planting corn and soybeans at this time of year, it’s easy to overlook another valuable crop that’s emerging for the season ˗˗ alfalfa. While getting row crops off to a good start is essential, it’s also vital to keep an eye on alfalfa growth.

As I drove past a greening alfalfa field in southern Illinois last week, I stopped to check the new growth and found three to four alfalfa weevil larvae per stem. This early season pest, which favors new tissue in emerging alfalfa crowns, can quickly devastate the first crop and weaken the stand if left uncontrolled.

Due to the potential for heavy destruction, prompt treatment with an effective insecticide is recommended when these early pests are detected. A few tips for protecting your alfalfa crop include:
  1. Watch alfalfa fields carefully for dormancy break. As soon as green tissue emerges, start scouting fields.
  2. Check new growth across the field. As you shake alfalfa stems, flick larvae onto something with a white-colored background to determine the pressure level. Larvae are beige-colored initially, turning light green with a dark head.
  3. Determine a treatment plan. If insecticide preharvest intervals allow, spray immediately, even if you detect only a few larvae per stem, to protect the first cutting and ongoing stand health. If alfalfa is closer to harvest, cutting the crop may be the preferred control method.
  4. Choose an effective product. WinField offers several effective synthetic pyrethroid insecticides for control of alfalfa weevil larvae, including Grizzly® Too, Grizzly® Z and Arctic® 3.2EC insecticides. Consult product labels for PHIs and application rates.
  5. Check plant nutrition levels. While you’re checking for alfalfa weevil larvae, collect alfalfa stems to determine the crop’s nutrient levels. After sending stems in for NutriSolutions® Tissue Analysis, you’ll receive a plant health report and recommendations for any plant nutrient applications that may be needed to help address any deficiencies that may be keeping alfalfa from reaching its full yield potential.
Ask your local WinField retailer for more information.

Tips for Achieving 100-Bushel Soybeans, Part Two: Manage Closely

Brittany Ullrich
Ag Technology Specialist
The first part of the quest to achieving 100-bushel soybeans is to plant smart. The second is to manage your soybean crop carefully throughout the season. Here are steps 4 to 6 to managing for 100-bushel soybeans.

4. Weed control
Over the past few years, weed control in any crop has become increasingly challenging, requiring multiple modes of action. Early control of weeds is crucial to achieving favorable soybean yields. Did you know that 6 to12 days after flowering, waterhemp has up to 50 percent viable seed?

Scouting is key to determining what weeds are present, and which chemicals needed to effectively treat and eliminate them. However, technology like the R7® Field Monitoring tool provide valuable insights about thousands of acres to ensure time is spent in fields where scouting matters the most. Early-season use of the tool aids in identifying fields that have higher weed pressure at an early growth stage, so action can be taken before crop yield is affected.



5. Soil fertility
Studies have shown that the right application of nitrogen at the right time is key to getting the most out of your soybean crop. In 2015, studies showed that applications at R1 and R3 were the most effective, and that using slow-release nitrogen sources were the most effective at all stages. The chart below illustrates why nitrogen supplementation in-season is so critical. Narrowing the application window and analyzing each field’s nutrient needs through in-season imagery, direct scouting and tissue sampling help make these applications more effective.



6. Monitoring crop health
In-season imagery is vital to identify insects, disease and nutrient deficiencies. Frequent use of this imagery from tools such as the R7® Field Monitoring tool helps with benchmarking and growth indicators. This enables timely decision making that could mean the difference between a break- even crop and a profitable one. For more information on the R7® Field Monitoring tool, check out our expert review here.

Learn more about the right technology for your soybean plan this year on answertech.com.

Good to the Last Droplet

Tyler Steinkamp
Regional Agronomist
The most expensive inputs are the ones that don’t work. For your herbicide and pesticide investments to be worthwhile, they must hit their intended target.

Here are some best practices to help keep active ingredients on target and at concentrations where they offer the most benefit.

1. Optimize nozzle performance. Calibrate your spray nozzles and make sure they are within 10 percent of their designed output. Replace any nozzles outside of that range.

2. Check nozzles for desired spray pattern. Flawed spray patterns can be caused by clogged or worn nozzles, improper nozzle cleaning, and also by incorrect boom height. Most spray booms should be a minimum of 20 inches above your target. Check the nozzle manufacturer’s recommendation to make sure you set the proper boom height.

3. Select the correct nozzle output. Nozzle selection should be determined by the type of chemical you are spraying, whether it’s a systemic product like dicamba, 2,4-D or glyphosate; or a contact product such as strobilurin fungicides, or the herbicides fomesafen or glufosinate. Follow label instructions to determine proper droplet size for each application.

4. Hit your target. Spray drift can be controlled by increasing droplet size and using a drift control agent. Reducing fine droplets helps keep products from blowing away, injuring adjacent crops or evaporating too soon. In addition, the spray should reach deep into the crop canopy to achieve better overall coverage. Some drift control agents cannot be used with certain types of nozzles, so be sure to read product labels for any restrictions.

Increased droplet size can be achieved by:
  • Changing spray tips.
  • Decreasing spray pressure. (This could mean reducing speed during application, increasing spray tip orifice size or using pulsating nozzles.)
5. Use an adjuvant or surfactant. Adjuvants are added to a spray tank to aid or modify the action of a chemical. Some adjuvants increase spray solution performance and others make the solution easier to handle. Surfactants change the surface tension of the water, usually reducing it to increase droplet spread on a leaf. Be sure to thoroughly review the labels of any adjuvants or surfactants you are considering.

Attending a WinField spray clinic or scheduling an on-farm spray assessment can help you fine-tune your equipment and make the most of your crop protection investment. Take the time now to check your sprayer and devise your crop protection strategy. This will help save time during the season and can pay off at harvest by preserving yield.

For more information on WinField spray clinics, contact your local retailer, which you can find at winfield.com/findaretailer.

Wheat’s Best Friend: Canola

Dennis Christie
Agronomist
Rotating your wheat with canola can provide big benefits. Planting canola breaks the cycle of insects and disease present in wheat-on-wheat acres so fields are cleaner when you return with wheat a year or two later. Canola’s large taproot also helps increase water infiltration, and improves the growth and soil penetration of future crop roots.

Here are three steps to optimize yield potential with a canola/wheat rotation.

  1. Control weeds.

Weed control in wheat can be difficult. By taking advantage of the Genuity® Roundup Ready® trait in CROPLAN® HyCLASS® canola seed as a rotation on your farm, you can reduce weed competition by applying WinField® Cornerstone® 5 Plus herbicide. This will make for a cleaner field when you rotate back to wheat.

Adding InterLock® adjuvant to your treatment can improve canopy penetration. Class Act® NG® adjuvant can also be included in your tank mix to improve uptake and speed herbicide movement.

  2. Provide adequate nutrients.

A NutriSolutions® tissue analysis, taken when canola greens up after winter dormancy, can show what nutrients your crop needs. Canola generally needs a minimum of 100 to 130 pounds of nitrogen and 30 pounds of sulfur to produce a 2,000-pound crop.

Depending on tissue analysis results, an application of MAX-IN® Ultra ZMB® or another MAX-IN® micronutrient product might be recommended by your agronomist. Also, insecticides can be tank mixed with micronutrient applications, so don’t forget to scout for pests when taking tissue samples to save a trip across the field.

  3. Harvest on time.

A timely harvest limits pod shattering, which in turn reduces the amount of volunteer canola that will pop up in next year’s wheat crop. To achieve a well-timed harvest:
  • Spread the maturity of your canola crop across your acres to ensure that it all won’t be ready to harvest at the same time.
  • Prepare for different harvest field conditions and weather scenarios, and determine which harvest method — direct combining, swathing or pushing — makes the most sense for your fields.
Work with your local WinField retailer to review Answer Plot® yield data and your own harvest results from the past few years to choose your wheat seed for the following season. Base your selections on which wheat varieties performed best across a range of conditions, and manage your crop using the best management practices for that variety.

New Tool Will Help Estimate Alfalfa Yields from Plant Height

Randy Welch
National Alfalfa Agronomist
Many farmers have good yield estimates of grain crops, but not for forage. This lack of forage yield knowledge results in failure to adequately inventory forage supply for animals and an inability to estimate performance of stands or management practices.
 
WinField, along with the University of Wisconsin’s Dr. Dan Undersander, recently conducted a study to determine the relationship between alfalfa plant height and yield among fields with good stem density. Samples were taken at varying heights and stages of plant development from 58 production alfalfa fields in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, South Dakota, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
 
Previous attempts to estimate yield from plant height over a range of stem densities have largely been unsuccessful, likely due to the effect of stand density on limiting yield. But, when taking measurements in a field with non-yield-limiting stem density (more than 55 stems per square foot), the correlation of height with yield was 0.66, with yield increasing an average of 126 pounds of dry matter per acre per inch of height.
 
Use of plant height to estimate alfalfa yield could help farmers determine the yield range of fields and whether changes in management would increase yield. Good management (dense stands, good soil fertility, and insect and disease control) is key to getting high yields. Data indicate that, with current prices of $200 per ton for high-quality hay, alfalfa is worth about $16.60 per inch of height per acre.
 
These findings led WinField to develop a tool called the Predictive Alfalfa Yield (PAY) Stick, designed to instantly measure the response of high-management treatments on alfalfa acres by estimating yield per acre. This provides farmers with an easy assessment if the application had an effect on yield as compared to a non-treated field. The PAY Stick can also help growers determine which fields are the highest producing or to compare yield between varieties.
 
Stay tuned for more information on the WinField PAY Stick, and ask your local WinField representative how it can help you meet, and even exceed, your alfalfa yield potential goals.

Determining Fall Nitrogen Applications

Jonathan Zuk
Agronomist
Whether you make a nitrogen application to your corn in the fall or in the spring depends on a number of factors, including your location, the current weather and other environmental variables. You also need to consider cost. Nitrogen is generally a little cheaper in the fall, and making a fall application means one less item on your spring to-do list.
 
Proper timing and nitrogen application are critical for getting nitrogen to the crop and for good land stewardship. Fall-applied nitrogen must be stabilized so it doesn’t convert into a mobile nitrate form, which could carry it off-target. This is imperative if you want to protect your nitrogen investment, as well as land and water quality. Use a nitrogen stabilizer, whether or not anhydrous ammonia or urea is your nitrogen source.
 
Here are three tips to help determine if a fall nitrogen application is the right choice for your corn acres and, if so, the optimal timing.
 
1. Soil temperature
Apply fall nitrogen, along with a nitrogen stabilizer, when soil temperatures cool consistently to 50 degrees Fahrenheit and below, which is generally mid- to late October in Minnesota.
 
2. Soil texture
Medium to loamy soils are optimal for fall nitrogen applications. Soils that are sandy or contain fractured limestone with coarse to medium topsoil should not receive fall nitrogen applications because nitrogen will be lost and groundwater quality may be threatened.
 
3. Soil moisture
Ammonia applications work best at moderate soil moisture; however, they can also work well in dry soils with medium or heavy texture that are in good physical condition.
 
In-season management is key
If you are in an area that allows it, consider putting down a partial fall nitrogen application so that critical first growth stages of your following crop can benefit. Finish your nitrogen applications by monitoring plant growth with in-season imagery, nitrogen intake with tissue sampling, and soil nitrate levels with a soil test.
 
Applying a partial amount of nitrogen in the fall or spring prior to planting, then doing a side-dress treatment to fulfill the nitrogen needs of your crops based on in-season observations, can significantly increase potential return on investment and minimize the impact on the environment. Work closely with your agronomist to determine what is best for your particular situation. 

Now is the time to optimize soybean growth

Darrin Holder
Agronomist, WinField
As soybeans enter the reproductive stage, farmers have an opportunity to give their plants a boost by adding Ascend® plant growth regulator to their fungicide and late-season nutrient applications.
 
Soybean plants receiving a foliar application of Ascend® plant growth regulator between R1 and R3 have the potential for wider stalks and larger leaves necessary to establish a larger canopy compared to no application. The additional photosynthetic capability helps plants set larger pods with higher bean counts. Don’t miss the window to apply Ascend® plant growth regulator now to help increase yield potential at harvest.
 
“Particularly in higher-yielding environments, we have seen excellent response to foliar application of Ascend® plant growth regulator,” says Darrin Holder, WinField agronomist. “Take a trifoliate leaf from the 15th node of a soybean plant treated with Ascend® plant growth regulator and compare it to the same leaf of an untreated plant. You will see the treated leaf is physically larger. Bigger leaves promote photosynthesis to feed the plant and increase pod production.”
 
Timely application of Ascend® plant growth regulator also helps ease the potential stress of continuous flowering during the reproductive stage compared to no application.
 
“Our data shows that early reproductive stages are the prime time to increase biomass and optimize yield potential with a foliar application of Ascend® plant growth regulator,” says Holder.
 
Holder recommends applying Ascend® now to hit this critical time, when the sun is at its highest and the plant can absorb the most sunlight. “Now is the time to do it. If you wait until after the pods are set, you’ll miss the opportunity,” says Holder. “Producing a healthier soybean crop is key to mitigating plant stress and increasing yield potential.”
 
To learn more about Ascend®  soybean foliar applications, talk with your local WinField agronomist or visit winfield.com.
 

Protect and Nourish Double Crop Soybeans

Answer Plot®
Research Team
Insects are a big issue on second-crop soybeans, according to Darrin Holder, regional product manager, WinField. “As corn and cotton start to desiccate, cotton boll worms (also known as corn ear worms and tobacco budworms) look for another food source. Second-crop soybeans provide an inviting source of food for bollworms and other insects.

“With a shorter development period than full-season soybeans, it’s important to protect every pod,” he adds.

Scout for Insects Regularly
Holder advises farmers to monitor fields for damaging insects throughout the season and apply appropriate insecticides when economic thresholds are met.

“Getting insecticides deep within the crop canopy where insects thrive is the key to effective protection,” Holder notes. “Adding an adjuvant to the spray mixture promotes good plant coverage throughout the canopy and minimizes drift.”

Maintain Nutrition Levels
Ensuring second-crop soybeans have adequate nutrition helps optimize production. “Farmers miss the boat when they rely solely on leftover plant nutrients from the wheat crop,” Holder says. “Take tissue samples at key stages to identify nutrient deficiencies, such as potassium, manganese or zinc, while there’s time to apply missing nutrients and protect against yield loss.”

Contact your WinField representative for more on achieving optimum yield potential with double-crop soybeans.

Nourishing Soybeans at Key Stages

Jonathan Zuk
Agronomist
Unlike corn, soybean plants have only a small area in which to store nutrients, making them more susceptible to in-season shortages. Here are some tips for ensuring your soybean plants are adequately fed all season long.
 
Manganese for efficient photosynthesis
As the soybean plant approaches flowering (V3 to V5), take a tissue sample to help identify low levels of manganese and other essential plant nutrients. Maintaining a sufficient level of manganese during this stage produces more flowers and a healthier plant going into the reproductive stage.
 
Replenish low nitrogen
A tissue sample taken between V3 and V5 will also tell you if the plant has sufficient nitrogen to fully support flower production. If the tissue sample indicates low nitrogen, dig up a few plants, cut open the nodules, and check for a healthy pink to red color to ensure they’re producing nitrogen. If the color is white, brown or green, nitrogen fixation is not occurring.
 
In a high-yield environment that produce 65 bushels per acre or more, a yield response has been seen with nitrogen applications at R1 to R3 to supplement nitrogen-fixing nodules. In average yield environments that support up to 55 bushels per acre, soybeans may not require additional nitrogen. The tissue sample can also help you make a decision about whether or not nitrogen supplementation is needed.
 
Monitor ongoing nutrient needs
As the reproductive stage progresses, manganese continues to play an important role in maintaining efficient photosynthesis throughout the season. In addition, an adequate supply of boron will help keep flowers and pods healthy longer. You should also monitor calcium and potassium to support ongoing plant health.
 
Tissue sampling between R1 and R3 will identify any micronutrient shortages while there’s still time to make supplemental applications and protect yield potential.
 
Stave off disease
Keeping plant leaves disease-free allows the maximum amount of photosynthesis. Diseases such as frogeye leaf spot or brown spot can prohibit adequate sunlight from entering the plant.
 
A fungicide application during the R1 to R3 stage not only prevents leaf diseases, it helps the plant use water more efficiently and better tolerate dry conditions.
 
For more information about soybean management for your area, contact your local agronomist.
 
 
Quick tips for soybean health
  1. Maintain manganese levels to help increase the efficiency of photosynthesis.
  2. Take a tissue sample to measure nitrogen levels.
  3. Monitor ongoing nutrient needs to protect yield potential.
  4. Keep soybeans free of disease to allow the maximum amount of photosynthesis. 

Practice Good Sprayer Maintenance

Joel Wipperfurth
Minnesota-Based Agronomy Advisor, Winfield

As discussed in an earlier blog post by Wipperfurth, “Control Weeds Before They’re a Threat,” now is the time to evaluate your crop protection program for the coming year. One of the most important aspects of this management is improving spray practices, to help achieve the best product performance and the greatest return on your spray investment.
 
PRACTICE GOOD SPRAYER MAINTENANCE
Before starting applications this year, assess your spray equipment. To optimize your spray applications, make certain your sprayer is working properly and the right nozzles are being used for each operation. Thoroughly cleaning and calibrating equipment is a simple way to prevent bigger problems.
 
Because many farmers in my area applied a dry, flowable preemergence herbicide treatment to last year’s soybean crop, it’s crucial to inspect sprayers for dry formula accumulation. Remove the boom’s end cap and check the two-inch space between the end cap and nozzle body for any accumulation. Some farmers triple rinse their tank but don’t clean the end caps, which allows some products to remain in the boom and cause problems the following season. Express end caps, found on newer sprayers, can solve this problem, and some older sprayer models can be retrofitted with these caps.
 
KEEP SPRAY MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES IN MIND
With lower commodity prices, many farmers are more concerned than ever with protecting their crop-input investment. Adjuvants can help your spray hit and stay on the intended target for improved coverage, increased canopy penetration and better uptake, leading to better control of weeds, pests or diseases.
 
It’s imperative to look at spray management from a system perspective, including everything from spray nozzles to tank-mix compatibility. With hard-to-control weeds, tank mixes are becoming more complex to manage. If you’re unsure whether a mixture will be compatible, do a simple jar test before adding all the products to the spray tank. It’s better to end up with a quart of cottage cheese than 1,000 gallons of it.
 
Given the Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) program by the Environmental Protection Agency, it’s critical for farmers to understand the correct application process because crop protection product labels will change. WinField offers annual spray clinics throughout Minnesota to help farmers learn more about spray management and interact with spray table demonstrations.
 
Contact your local WinField retailer for more information about a spray clinic in your area.


Get a Jump on Spring Weed Control

Answer Plot®
Research Team
In the battle for clean fields, mature weeds are equipped to win. Waxy cuticles, hairy leaves and increasing herbicide resistance make them formidable foes. That’s why it’s important to start weed-control programs early, says Rodney Tocco, crop protection technical marketing specialist, WinField. “Ideally, you should tackle weeds when they’re under four inches tall. Any taller, and weeds are much harder to control and likely causing yield loss in your fields.”
 
Tocco adds that mounting glyphosate resistance is prompting many farmers to return to preemergence herbicide applications. “It’s critical to clean up fields early, before resistant varieties get a foothold. You can’t count on in-season glyphosate applications to control some of the more stubborn weeds.”
 
USE ALL YOUR TOOLS
There’s no such thing as a silver bullet for managing weeds, says Tocco. He urges farmers to make use of a variety of weed-control tactics to find the best solution for their specific challenges. He outlines the elements that matter most in effective weed-control plans.
 
  • Timing. Consider both pre- and postemergence herbicide applications to keep weeds from getting the upper hand.
  • Rates. Check labels for target pests and crops.
  • Carrier volume. Increase gallons per acre for better postemergence coverage.
  • Adjuvants. Maximize spray mixture efficacy with the right adjuvants and water conditioners.
  • Nozzles. Match the right nozzle tips to the spray situation for optimum deposition and coverage.
  • Modes of action. Combat weed herbicide resistance by rotating herbicide modes of action.
 “An early start and careful attention to the details are critical to help protect yield potential this year,” says Tocco. WinField regional agronomists are ready to help you fine-tune programs to combat weed challenges in your area.
 

Optimize Spring Burndown Applications

Answer Plot®
Research Team


Spring burndown applications — common in no-till acres — can help you in the fight against weed resistance. Darrin Holder, regional agronomist, WinField, says this proactive approach is critical. “Once herbicide resistance takes root on a farm, in-crop opportunities for control are limited.”

Holder shares the following advice to help you optimize burndown applications this spring.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Effective weed control starts by asking the right questions. First, work with your agronomist to outline your crop rotation schedule and field history. List recurring weed problems and signs of herbicide resistance. Don’t limit your analysis to your acres; examine conditions in neighboring fields. If a neighbor is fighting resistance, it’s likely that seed will be in your fields soon.

THINK LONG TERM
Even a small patch of resistant weeds left unchecked one year can become a big problem the following season. “Develop a multi-year, multi-crop strategy,” advises Holder. “If you're battling resistant Palmer amaranth, it can be worth investing in a burndown treatment before this year’s corn crop to protect next year’s soybean crop.”

PRESCRIBE THE BEST TANK MIX
Herbicides with residual control extend burndown benefits, helping crops stay clean during critical stand establishment. “Even small weeds can rob emerging crops of valuable moisture and nutrients,” says Holder. “If you take away moisture and nutrients, you take away yield potential.”

For tank-mix options, visit winfield.com or reach out to your local WinField retailer.
 

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