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By Staff | Dec 18, 2015

After one of the best and warmest fall seasons on record, it appears that the string of nice days is coming to an end.

It was sure nice while it lasted. While it was great to have it and colder stuff is on the way, we have to remember back five or six years when by the end of December we were wondering where else in our yards we could push anymore snow.

This season our lawns have stayed green and the ground is still thawed out. Getting the cold temps will be good for the fellows who are hoping for the ground to freeze so they can get products spread on the fields or it will enable them to stay out of the mud while doing chores and cattle work.

At least we will not have to guess as to whether or now there is any dry soil in our moisture profiles.

The all-day rains of this past weekend filled every stream to the flooding stage and caused perhaps the biggest water holes of the year to form.

It was interesting to see the cover cropped fields had soaked all of the rain in compared to worked fields were the depressions had filled and gullies had formed.

It may be an incentive to plant even more acres in cover crops in future years.

Cover crops

There are more strategies and ideas being formed and utilized in finding ways to justify more acres of rye, radishes and other mixtures.

Be it for tying down nitrogen and other nutrients, breaking up of hardpans via deep rooted plants, or raising a green crop to chop for livestock next season, it appears that growers are noticing or hearing about benefits of breaking up the constant rotation from corn to beans.

In other parts of the country, growers seem to be getting more benefits from these crops.

In Brazil they plant what looks like a giant snapdragon like plant called Crotalaria that covers the ground and fixes lots of nitrogen – up to 300 pounds per acre if their research conclusions are correct.

In the warm climate, where we typically hear about beans being the only crop, there are ranchers who begin their seasons raising a crop of beans, then following with corn planted from late January to late February.

They often interseed the corn with Bracharia grass, which they graze cattle on for four to five months.

In that manner they can generate income from three crops and build soil organic matter levels.

In Nebraska and Missouri, the interest in raising spring or winter wheat seems to be increasing or they are thinking about planting earlier corn varieties to give their winter cover crop more time to get established.

A common request from the folks who are doing such cropping is one of asking what other products may offer good burndown properties without harming the soil biology.

There may be a good substitute tested in greenhouses this winter to see if a new product from overseas may do the job.


There have been questions as to if this hard rain may cause the loss of already applied fall nitrogen.

The answer is that in most areas the ground has stayed below 50 degrees. Thus the N would not have converted to the leachable nitrate form.

These questions are good. By noting that the ground temps are not likely to rise past this date, the 82 percent should stay fixed in the soil.

EPA action

About two weeks ago, the EPA announced that it made the decision about whether or not they were going to approve the use of their 2,4-D resistant herbicide and genetic herbicide combo.

It sounds like a few things happened as it explained why it reversed its earlier approval.

A number of observant peopled noted that there are a number of weeds that have been surviving applications of 2,4-D in recent seasons, especially if the weeds have grown taller and gotten near the early-flowering stage.

Approval would also likely lead again to the use of the same chemistry being used both on corn and beans, hastening the widespread appearance of truly resistant weeds.

There are a few other herbicide/trait combinations being tried by different companies, but it seems as we hear there has been progress with them we hear that a new population or specie of resistant weeds has been spotted in one or more countries.

So if the competitiveness and returns from raising corn versus a small grain or some sort of cover crop, developing longer rotations and finding a third or fourth crop will help in developing weed management programs with greater longevity and likely at cheaper costs.

We have to ask what the alternatives are for most farmers and agronomists can’t come up with great ideas.

Will it consist of planting into mulches and moving into strip-till? Will the thinking, optically equipped European machines begin to sell better once more farmers get introduced to them?

N management

In the off season it may be a great time to be thinking about what strategy and practices can be utilized on your acres to lead to better N efficiencies.

Then if adding an applicator or Y-drop tool is in your future you will have time to get it built or bought.

Have a merry Christmas season.

Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143.

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