It’s unusual to get field work done in the middle of winter in Minnesota. January of 2019 was the exception for us. We are farming a field that has never been grid sampled for fertility. From our past experiences of using this practice since the mid 1980s, we know that grid sampling is the only way to know what is going on in the field on a smaller scale. The field is broken down into 440′ x 440′ grids that are each sampled independently. A map is then generated that shows what each grid needs for fertilizer. Some findings are interesting and show how past farming practices still are visible today.
A couple discoveries of note in this field: 1. The 160 acres was farmed by two different owners for many years. This shows up most dramatically in the pH and zinc levels. The south 80 has extremely low pH in a large number of the grids. The north 80 has extremely low zinc levels in a large number of the grids 2. You can use the Phosphorous levels as an indicator of where the farm site was located and where they hauled the manure. The P levels are much higher in these areas even decades later.
We visited with the coop about our spring fertilizer needs in early January and asked them if lime was ever applied in the winter. They said that usually it could be done in March if conditions allow. A day later they called to say that the applicator was able to do the lime right now if we had an area that they could access to pile the lime without getting stuck in snow drifts. We took the snow blower to the field and cleared a path. They hauled lime in on Saturday, January 11 and spread it on Monday.
OK. I know it’s now the end of January and I’m still not caught up on posting from last fall. I am finally feeling caught up, to a point, with my most important winter office work. Last year’s data has been pored over, crunched, edited, tweaked, post calibrated and used to make decisions for 2018 and forward. Time has been put into selecting seed, figuring out the best way to keep weeds at bay both chemically and physically, crunching numbers to make the current corn and soybean prices work, developing marketing plans and attending winter meetings put on by the U of M, Coop and other ag related entities. My calendar for February still has more meetings and training sessions on it.
First field of corn.
Opening up the headland.
Fan motor needed bearings.
Now where was I before going off on that tangent. Oh yeah, corn harvest. It really did happen and I have the pictures to prove it. Normally, we don’t start harvesting corn until after soybeans are done but this fall was not normal by any measure. After getting tired of the weather delay we kept having during soybean harvest, we gave in and harvested some corn. The moisture was at 22%, dry enough to get a start. The variety removed all of the headlands on a 300 acre field. Taking these off would make harvesting the remainder of that field much easier when the time came. After meticulously going through the electric motors that need to reliably get us through harvest, we still had a breakdown on day two of corn harvest. We hadn’t done the main motors that cool the large grain bin. The second one went out about 3/4 of the way through harvest as well. Oh, well. Maybe next year will be trouble free. Yes, I’m dreaming again. Continue reading →
Daniel Kaiser and Fabian Fernandez University of Minnesota Soil Fertility Specialists
Over the winter we have done intensive data compilation and analysis and have a few updates to the corn guidelines publication. The primary update is on nitrogen application rates for corn following corn and corn following soybean. The updated publication is not finished yet, so this article will serve as the current rate guidelines starting spring of 2016.
During plating season we carry ATS liquid fertilizer on our tractor. The fertilizer is surface applied in a stream over the seed furrow behind the planter closing wheels. ATS is applies at a rate of 8 gpa so it is imperative that we carry enough to avoid stopping planting progress to refill tanks. We started our with 450 gallon tanks tucked between the tracks on our JD8310T tracked tractor. We were filling more often with fertilizer than we were with seed corn. We then added a cart mounted push tank to the front of our tractor to carry another 400 gallons of ATS. While not ideal, we already owned the cart and tank so no money was invested in the extra capacity.
Fast forward to 2015 when half way through the season our cart system failed beyond repair. It worked well while it lasted but now it was time to strategize for 2016 and beyond. Our research led us to adopting the idea of mounting outboard saddle tanks to carry another 400 gallons minimum. As we explored the idea, we decided that the ideal tank size would be 250 gallons on each size so we have room to easily carry 800 gallons on the tractor without having to fill each tank to capacity and risk overflowing fertilizer on the ground as well as on the steel with rusts easily when coated with fertilizer. Continue reading →
As planting nears, we need to be assured that our liquid handling systems are working well. It’s a tricky call as to when we can put water in these systems and not risk having them frozen and cracking components. Once testing is done the equipment is stored in a closed machine shed during freezing nights yet to come.
April 1 and 2 were the days we felt comfortable with this call. The planter handles liquid fertilizer, specifically Ammonium Thio Sulfate (ATS), that is banded as a narrow stream over the seed once the furrow is closed. The rain will then take the nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) down to the roots. We apply 8.3 gallons/acre to get a total of 24 #/Acre of S on the field. The N is just an added bonus to the S application and is subtracted from the total N we put on our fields so we don’t over apply our nitrogen. The fertilizer application is controlled by our John Deere GS3 monitor mounted in the cab. We also have a controller for insecticide application using the Smart Box system as well as a Precision Planting 20/20 monitor system tied to an iPad for precise monitoring of seed placement.
Our Top Air sprayer handles the bulk of our chemical applications for weed control. It needs to be in top notch condition for application of herbicides soon after planting. The soybean pre-emerge herbicide has a 3 day window to be applied so it won’t damage emerging seedlings.
A lot of meetings dot my calendar for the month of February. It started on February 4th with Winter Crops & Soils Day at the SWROC in Lamberton, MN. We learned about reducing pest management inputs, how phosphorous moves to surface waters, what works and doesn’t work for soybean yield enhancers and protectors and had an overview of crop production profitability.
MNICCA Winter Meeting
Not slowing down much, the next day I attended the MNICCA (MN Independent Crop Consultants Association’s) Winter Educational Meeting. As their Executive Director, I help with membership and organizing of events such as this. Guest speakers were Dan Kaiser and Ken Ostlie from the U of M as well as Bayer representatives addressing the bee issue in regards to neonicotinoid insecticides. They had panel discussions regarding UAVs as well as addressing independent crop consultants relationships to industry, especially in regard to local coops.
No missing a beat, the next Monday, February 9th found us in Mankato, MN at the 6th Annual Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management Conference. Another informative day. Subjects included fertilizer use efficiency, fertilizer pricing, rate of change in soil test values for P & K, dealing with $3 corn. There were also breakout sessions in the afternoon with various fertilizer related topics.
Our final stop on this journey of meetings was at the Redwood County Corn and Soybean Growers annual meeting in Wabasso, MN. After a morning of ice covered roads, plans went forward to hold the meeting that evening despite the weather. Dinner was served, an annual meeting was held with new, ambitious members being elected to the board. The night was topped off with Trent Loos speaking about agriculture and how farmers need to be their own advocates for what and how they farm.
After sitting in the back of the shed for many years, we dusted off our 400 gallon water tank on a 2 wheel carrier. A few years back we added inboard saddle tanks to our 8301T planting tractor and abandoned this rig to make things less cumbersome. Since that time, we are putting on more product per acre and stopping to fill more often. We are hoping this will solve some efficiency problems without being too cumbersome. It makes a mighty long rig going down the field.