Hello ReaderWet, stormy weather continues to roll through dropping rain and hail. We had another 1.5 inches at the farm last week bringing us to 7.25 inches for the month of August and 12.25 inches for the year. Given the time of year, it looks like we’ll be storing about 5 inches of that rain in the soil for next year. Already off to a good start for 2015! Now to just get the 2014 crop in the bin.
This week producers are busy with the start of canola swathing, pea harvest and pre-harvest glyphosate applications. If the cooler, wet weather continues, using glyphosate to help dry down straw will definitely be an asset. I’m not inclined to recommend swathing cereals at this time given the humidity and wet soil conditions.
This week I’ll provide you with a few tips on fine-tuning choppers to help spread straw better. Next, I’ll outline some articles on the proper timing of pre-harvest glyphosate in wheat and barley. I’ll provide an update on cost of production and potential returns prior to harvest. Last, I’ll outline the inaccuracy of today’s air carts with a great example. We’ll finish with technical grain market news.
Have a great week.
Photo: The start of canola swathing around Beiseker, AB. Looks big!
Crop Staging(Calgary to Drumheller to Three Hills)
Seeded May 1-7 May 8-15 May 15-22
Wheat Hard dough Hard dough Medium dough
Canola 70% SCC 30% SCC 5% SCC
Barley Mature Hard dough Hard dough
Peas Mature Mature Mature
Steve's tips and tricks of the week
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- Make note of wild oat escapes and look at alternative herbicide options this fall. Group 3 & Group 8 products like Avadex, Edge, Rival ideally.
- Fine-tune your straw choppers. There’s going to be some serious material put through these combines this harvest.
- Some producers are booking urea at $460 tonne delivered.
- If inter-row seeding, keep stubble tall (12"+) to reduce residue loads on the ground.
- The warm weather will dry down crops faster than glyphosate. Glyphosate will be usefull as a pre-harvest tool to control weeds first and possibly dry late green tillers second.
- Look for late season disease pressure in cereals. Is your fungicide program keeping up?
Fine-tuning straw choppers for maximum performanceNothing is more frustrating to me than watching a crop struggle to emerge because of poor residue management. In the case where seeds do emerge well, they end up losing vigour, produce fewer tillers and lose maturity when the toxic effects from heavy residue take hold. Nine times out of ten this can be avoided if more attention was paid to the chopping and spreading systems on our combine.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for fine-tuning your residue management system this fall to avoid a disaster in 2015.
- You can adjust the length of the straw by adjusting the rotor speed of chopper. Some have two or more speeds.
- The length of chopped straw is also controlled by the stationary knife, which can be adjusted to different depths. An optional controller bar is also available to inhibit flow.
- Try to avoid cutting straw into 1 or 2-inch pieces, which heavy harrows can’t move and residue spreaders have difficulty spreading out 15-20 feet on either side. Cutting straw into 1-inch pieces with the chopper is only groovy when you’re trying to make silage, not when you’re trying to spread it.
- Some combines allow you to adjust deflectors individually both in front and rear side. There are deflectors behind the discharge beater that can be adjusted to redistribute the straw mats into chopper.
- The rear side veins on some fine cut choppers are the only ones that are adjustable.
- Adjusting the tailboard/hood up and down helps set spreading width.
- Watch for wear on the front of the veins where the straw first exits the chopper. The constant wear from straw hitting the front of the veins creates sharp edges or snag points where straw catches and reduces residue flow.
- Deflectors can be adjusted for side wind compensation on the John Deere power cast system and Lexion combines.
Setting residue managers
Poor chaff distribution causing delayed maturity in canola. Photo source: S. Larocque
Preharvest glyphosate timing in cerealsWe’re now coming into pre-harvest glyphosate timing in cereals. Instead of repeating myself each year, I’ve attached a link to the top tips and tricks I use to time pre-harvest glyphosate. There are also some tips on straight cutting canola as well.
Make easier marketing decisionsNow that we have a good sense of production potential, I think it’s important to run the numbers on production costs again to help with grain marketing during harvest. At this point, we have a tremendous amount of money tied up in our crops and I’d like to keep the emotions out of pricing.
Production costs vary from farm to farm but these will give you a good idea of where many are. Here’s a list of our own costs of production coming into harvest. This year we grew Sadash Soft White Wheat, Safron Yellow peas, L252 and L261 Liberty Link canola.
HRS Peas Canola Barley (Malt)
Land Rent: 60.00 60.00 60.00 60.00
Seed/Treat: 32.50 54.80 43.20 28.00
Inoculant: 0.00 13.20 0.00 0.00
Spring Fert: 98.34 13.00 98.34 82.20
Herbicide: 32.00 53.00 21.00 32.00
Fungicide: 12.30 0.00 19.00 12.00
Insurance: 32.20 25.10 41.80 29.30
Fuel/Oil: 22.60 22.60 22.60 22.60
Consulting: 6.00 6.00 6.00 6.00
Fixed Costs: 74.38 74.38 74.38 74.38
Total $/ac: 311.78 322.08 386.32 346.48
Avg yield T/ac: 1.75 1.5 1.0 2.0
Avg yield bu/ac 65 55 44 90
Current Price $/T: 197.00 237.00 401.62 236.00
Margin %/ac 10.5% 10.3% 4.0% 36%
The shining star for those who grew it and are able to maintain quality are the malt barley growers at 36% return. Feed barley may operate at a loss for anything under 2.25 T/ac or 100 bu/ac. Canola, wheat and peas will eek out a margin at these prices. Hopefully most have 25% sold at decent price levels which will elevate returns but all in all, 2014-15 margins looks to be well below what we’ve experienced in the last 5 years.
I suspect we’ll see a softening in farm purchases and expenditures on land, machinery and inputs over the next 12 months given farm margins. Based on high sunspot activity we’ve been predicting this since the middle of 2013. SL
For more on sunspot activity go <here>
How accurate is your air drill?
Product distribution systems are weakThe majority of today’s air carts have a hard time distributing large volumes of seed and fertilizer accurately across each drill. I’ve measured wind speed at each opener and plant densities across each shank only to find out how inaccurate our seed and fertilizer is being applied across many drills. As an example, I’ve measured 30% differences in plant densities from front shank to back shank on some drills like Flexi-coil and John Deere. The rainfall pattern this year provided us with a real eye opener on some air distribution systems. How would you like your field to look like this?
The photo above shows two manifolds delivering higher seed and fertilizer rates in the shanks they distribute to. The excess seed and nitrogen fertilizer caused lodging in the same manifolds across the entire field. It was a 50-foot John Deere drill on 10-inch spacing with a 1920 tank. Yes, it is an older tank but the air distribution and metering is almost identical to today’s John Deere and Flexi-coil tanks. Now don’t think the other OEM tanks are immune because anyone who distributes fertilizer and seed with air has inaccuracies. They may not be as great as this example but they are there. Research by PAMI suggets a (+/-)15% variance in production distribution across each shank is normal. I suggest that for $150,000 to $310,000 per air cart, we should expect a lot more accuracy and the numbers to prove its accuracy.
The key to bumping yield averages higher is to elevate the accuracy of our fertilizer and seeding rates. When I aim for 30 plants/ft2 I want to see that spread evenly across the field. How can we expect higher yields when some furrows contain 50 plants/ft2 and others have 25ft? One furrow has too much in-row competition while the next row doesn’t have enough main stems. Until we demand more of these air carts I don’t see how yields can progress much further. SL
Photo source: Wheat crop lodging in uneven manifold distribution. Steve Larocque
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.