The middle of March is now here and the official start to spring is only a week away. Though the majority of the snow banks have melted away along Hwy 30 they are still sizeable along Hwy 3. We are still wearing winter jackets, though not as thick or insulated as they were in early January. While we have not had a big snowstorm for several weeks they have been getting blasted on the east coast recently as the big storms continue to march up the eastern states.
March is 75 percent over with and so was our meeting between five other companies supplying crop inputs held on March 12.
We ended up with over one hundred guests that came loaded with many good questions they were ready to fire away with. Included were a soil health consulting, a micronutrient specialist that formulates and sells micros, a second nutrient supply company that tailors more to the specialty crop audience, two biological companies that have from twenty to five years experience is meeting customer needs, a spray company that is introducing mineral based disease minimize products, and a USDA researcher. We crammed almost too many topics into one 6.5 hour day, but the typical comment was that it was one of the best information filled meetings with some of the top speakers they have listened to in a long time.
The speakers tended to be very well grounded and realized how growers could have a tough time in sorting through the pile of information being generated every year. I am always quick to say that with every new thing we learn we realize how much we don’t know and that it is humbling.
The Verdesian research team was present and they shared information with how the corn yields from the high yield research fields and plots turned out. So I will try to cover some of the findings here. Most of the fields were corn on corn no-till. The quest by their folks was how to manage the stalks from 300 Bu/A corn using no tillage to have the stalks melted away by the 2018 planting time so as to not have a seed to soil contact problems or to face so much tough residue that decent residue management becomes a problem. On those acres they had sprayed BioDyne 501 with a stalk chopper mounted tank and spray boom. The pictures shown, showed heavy residue that had mostly rotted away enough that no problems were expected.
The yields on the semi flat ground where erosion was not a problem were generally in a 310 to 370 Bu/A region. P and K soil test levels remain at the low end of the medium range, with the P in-furrow applied stabilized with Avail.
Micronutrients were applied again with an in-furrow mix that was stabilized with another polymer to prevent leaching of materials such as Bo and Moly. That mix included materials such as Zn, Co, Mn and Mg.
This year they had included a Calcium Silicate product applied foliarly near the V6 V8 growth stage. Three reps were sprayed and the average yield boost was just over thirty bushels per acre. It was an area that was being closely watched during the season and it was looking good. The conclusion after harvest was that additional testing was needed to see what it continues to produce for yield gains, adding stalk strength to different hybrids, did for nutrient uptake and boosting stress tolerance needed to be monitored and tested regularly.
Years ago when I was working as an agronomist with a seed company, there were several seasons where greensnap of certain varieties from many seed corn companies was a major problem. A young corn breeder at one research station theorized how to test different genetic families for their susceptibility for this problem. He started by finding two old hot water heaters, pulled off the outside jackets and insulation, leaving only the long, narrow cylindrical tanks. He then torched out the ends, cut them length wise, and had them mounted on a hydraulic boom on an old high clearance sprayer. He then drove through his research plots early in the morning when the plants were full of moisture in the two weeks before tasselling when the stalks were most brittle. He saw big difference between varieties and ended up theorizing that those with lower silica levels lacked the stalk strength to withstand snapping. Would the product mentioned above help avoid the problem? What do you think? What have they seen in other grass crops? The world wide collection of such stem or stalk strengthening research projects are interesting to read. With there being worldwide silicon research conference every three years with the findings available, those conclusions reached should give a good clue.
Dr. Dave Sasseville presented information about different micros, their role in supporting plant growth and plant health, and the yield benefits where applications of each were made. Dave does things right and if he ends up producing trial results where no yield gain results, he typically has pulled soil and tissue tests to help pre-emptively explain why that mineral did or did not increase yields. In that manner he is better able to advise past or potential customers when they are smarter to apply or not apply each product. He was not surprised when I mentioned to him that when I visited with the fellow that signs the tissue test results from farmer clients about the rate at with each of the major micros were deemed VL or deficient, that very few other agronomists or academics had asked the same question. He held the view that every farmer would benefit from knowing the role and each of each of the so called micro-nutrients.
Soil health and biology
A young soil health consultant also spoke for 46 minutes on what he was learning and had learned in the past year by working directly with Dr. Rich Haney on a few collaborative projects. This fellow and another soil health composting business man have been working to document the Haney score increase they had seen after varying rates of poultry, hog or cattle manure had been applied for one or two years. The benefits of the project could then be used to give guidance to growers as to how fast they could raise their scores along with the approximate cost.
A number of people educating people about cover crops admit they have a tough time justifying the use of cover crops in many parts of Iowa. There are challenges to doing so without livestock in the equation, as corn harvest often comes after the soil temps drop below 50 degrees. But if a person realizes that with higher Haney scores can come significantly higher grain yields, then developing a workable program may seem worth it.
Two reps from the BioDyne Midwest Company were present and listed ideas and field results they saw in 2017. The high levels of moisture stress seen in the SW 3/4s of the state though the June 1 through August 12 time period allowed treated fields to contain plants that were much healthier and less moisture stressed than non-treated fields.
The humate discussion
We had a scientist from the National Lab for the Soil and Environment tell of his results from his 4+ years of working with the carbon based humates. This topic and these products had often been viewed in negative terms as there has been great variance in the quality of the different products and sales techniques sometimes used in marketing them. Now after years of carefully testing a few of the products in carefully managed trials, then carefully making the observations and recording the results, have found that there were statistically relevant benefits from using them.
So in spite of not using them to magnify the benefits of being paired with a micronutrient or a hormonal product for the optimal return, they still easily paid for themselves a high percent of the time.
So in conclusion we were heartened by fact that we filled a good sized room to overflowing. The people that attended stayed around to ask their own questions. It looks like something that needs to be repeated again sometime in summer or early fall.
Bob Streit is an independent crop consultant and columnist for Farm News. He can be reached at (515) 709-0143 or www.CentralIowaAg.com.