Hello ReaderThe hot weather is advancing crops quickly, bringing with it the start of pea harvest and canola swathing. Malt barley harvest is just around the corner with some testing in the high teens for moisture. Preharvest glyphosate on wheat will start within the next 7 days for crops planted before the second week of May.
This week we’ll look at the return on investment from cover crops. Next, we’ll discuss how to value barley after a hailstorm followed by some tips on how to deal with hail damaged crops. I’ll provide a quick synopsis of where the big money in ag is headed and we’ll finish with technical grain market news.
Have a great week.
Pictured above: Pea harvest began this week on Parflesh Farms, near Standard, AB.
Crop Staging(Calgary to Drumheller to Three Hills)
Seeded May 1-7 May 8-15 May 15-22
Wheat Hard dough Medium dough Soft dough
Canola 30% colour change 5% colour Late podding
Barley Hard dough Medium dough Medium dough
Peas Mature Mature Preharvest
Steve's tips and tricks of the week
Follow me on Twitter for in-season updates @BeyondAgronomy
- We're now near the end of lygus bug sweeping in canola. Fields at highest risk are those that finished blooming less than two weeks ago.
- Continue scouting for bertha armyworms and diamondback moths in canola.
- Price out fertilizer for next year. Urea price levels are reasonable.
- Purchase glyphosate for pre-harvest before preferred products are sold out.
- Look for uneven patterns in fields to address seeding depth or residue issues and correct them before next year.
Looking at the ROI of cover cropsThere is a lot of hype about the benefits of cover crops. Benefits like improved soil biology, water infiltration, nutrient cycling and the list goes on. But, you never actually here about how cover crops make you money. No-Till Farmer magazine published an article I had to share <here> on the yield and profits generated from specific cover crops on a farm under no-till for 30 years in Indiana.
Although Indiana has higher rainfall area compared to our area, they did experience drought during their research that tested the system. The farm with 30 years experience of no-tilling corn, soybeans and wheat had net returns nothing short of eye opening. Net profits varied from $40 to $286 ac depending on the cover crop mix. With those numbers, I think we should all take a look at cover crops in our semi-arid system to see what impacts they have. We have the ability to seed cover crops into standing crops, it’s just a matter of getting it done. Click here to read how we intend to seed cover crops at our place. SL
Photo source: University of Manitoba
Valuing silage after hailAt this stage of in the season, when many cereal crops are reaching medium dough, a severe hail storm could leave you with a mess. What do you do with a crop that has been hailed out at this time of year? If there is a standing crop left, you have three options depending on the severity of the hail. One is to let it re-grow and hope for a long fall to take off some feed grain. Another option is to silage it now if there is enough vegetation to warrant enough silage or third option is to wait until the fall to silage the regrowth. Click here for more information on selling standing barley as silage or greenfeed.
The equation I use for pricing silage is:
8 × price of barley ($/bu) for a standing crop = $/ton, or
12 × price of barley ($/bu) at the pit = $/ton
A typical barley crop will yield 1 ton of straw for every 10 bushels produced at 65% moisture content. So for example, if you had a 100 bu/ac crop you would have 10 tons of silage.
Today’s September barley price is $3.50/bu making a standing barley crop worth $28.00 a ton. If you have only 20% left of a 100 bu/ac barley crop after hail, that silage may only net you $56.00 an acre with a bonus of not having to harvest it. If you were to leave the grain standing and harvest it as feed, that 20 bu/ac left standing would be worth $70.00 an acre, less harvest costs. In this scenario, the difference between grain and silage would be close to a wash.
If you want to calculate a yield estimate, I used this handy iPhone app from SSCA, which uses plant density, heads and kernel counts to arrive at a yield estimate.
Every field is a unique case after hail. In my experience, it’s usually better harvesting the crop for grain and using the combine to ensure proper residue management. On the other hand, if you’re facing a serious challenge with little grain and a lot of residue, then silage could be the best option for reducing emergence problems next spring. SL
The hard part about hail damageThe Calgary region is Canada’s highest risk area for hail claims. The proximity to the Rocky Mountains, elevation and large temperature swings make it prime for the development of hail. With that, we seem to deal with hail somewhere in my territory each year. The toughest question is how to deal with the grain, straw and residue management after a hailstorm. I’ve shared a few of my observations below from working and farming in a hail belt.
- If 65-100 of the vegetation is left after hail, there will be minimal regrowth to count on in cereals. Canola and peas will re-flower.
- If the hail removed 75-100% of the vegetation, you’ll likely see decent regrowth as plants begin to re-tiller from the base of the plant. If fenced you may have a grazing opportunity. If not, spray it out early September and heavy harrow or vertical till in the fall.
- If you’re left with a mix of standing and lodged residue, running the residue through the combine is less expensive and does a better job or residue management than vertical tillage. With vertical tillage you typically have to cross the field twice to break up residue properly, which equals the cost of two passes with a vertical tillage unit.
- Making barley and corn silage reduces nitrate levels as much as 60 per cent. This still leaves room for high nitrate feed but it is a way to reduce the risk.
- If a hailstorm causes canola to re-flower at mid to late pod stage, focus on the maturity of mature pods to base your decision to swath. The pods that form later will have watery seeds that will shrivel up after swathing and get blown out as chaff at harvest.
- A heavy harrow does little to standing stubble. If the crop is cut off and lodged after hail, heavy harrowing can help break it up. Conditions have to be dry and hot for this to work.
- A hail storm at late podding in canola or dough stage in cereals can leave a large portion of unused nitrogen in the soil. This can create lodging problems the following year. The earlier the hailstorm with little recovery, the more nitrogen will be left in the soil. Be sure to soil test in late fall or spring.
Photo credit: S. Larocque
Genetic performance through the soil
Follow the big moneyThe yield gains from GM plant genetics have been nothing short of amazing in the last two decades. So with it the profit margins generated by selling GM seed and the huge consolidation of plant genetic companies. The big money was in genetics.
Fast forward to 2014 and we don’t see the big yield gains like we used to. New varieties now claim 2-3% higher yielding than previous varieties versus 10% higher years before. Today, if you follow the big money, you’ll find that capital moving into the companies that sell technologies, which help us to understand and better manage our soils to get the most out of our plant genetics.
Just look at the companies that Monsanto, Trimble and DuPont have bought recently. Monsanto bought Solum, a company with the technology to measure and manage soil nutrients, texture, organic matter and more through patented laser technology, which boasts turnaround times in minutes. The owner of Precision Planting who sold to Monsanto for $250 million has invested his fortune into a new company called 360Yield Centre, which also places its technology focus underground. Next, Trimble purchased the company called C3, which creates 3D, digital, high-resolution soil maps and measures up to 65 different soil attributes on the go. Without going into more detail, you get the point. All these companies have one thing in common: measuring and managing soil to maximize crop production.
See Solum’s technology here.
See Trimble’s C3 technology here.
See 360 Yield Centre here.
The next wave of capital is moving into soils based technologies, which is really exciting to see. I’ve experienced first hand how a change in soil management can have a huge impact on yield, yield stability, drainage and crop establishment through five years of controlled traffic farming on heavy clay soil. I encourage all of you to look through the technologies offered in the links above. Get a handle on what’s coming because the next big yield gains will come from the use of these technologies. SL
Photo source: 360 Yield Centre
The charts I use take a short and long term look at whether the market is oversold, neutral or overbought. I use charts as a way to pull the trigger, not to determine the best price.
Canola Nov 14: The long and short term trends are down.
HRS Wheat: Dec 14: The short and long term trends are down.
Corn Dec 13: The short and long term trends are down.
Soybeans: Nov 14: The short and the long term trends are down.
Canadian $: Sept 14: The short and long term trends are down.