Hello ReaderSeeding has finally come to a close for nearly every producer in the area. It’s amazing to see- even though we’ve started off a touch late- how we’re right on target with crop staging compared to previous years. With so many rains and warmer soil temperatures, crops have blown out of the ground in record time. The rest of the story will be told in July-August whether we avoid fall frosts.
I’m in full scouting mode and have been very impressed with crop emergence, weed control and crop health. We’re off to a great start this year. If showers and cool whether continue without delaying maturity too much, it may bode well to top dress nitrogen to match this year’s yield potential. We’ll have a good idea in about ten days, just prior to GS30 in wheat and bolting in canola.
This week in Beyond Agronomy News we’ll look at a new sensor technology that will revolutionize the way we measure real time plant nutrient levels. Next, I’ll show you some real advantages to mapping weeds with the GreenSeeker while you’re out spraying. Next, I’ll share some lessons learned about erosion risk in CTF and some thoughts on how CTF improved drainage dramatically compared to random traffic fields. We’ll finish with technical grain market news.
Have a great week.
Pictured above: A beautiful stand of Snowbird faba beans sown into a low lying, saline area with a high water table where normally nothing grows. Everything is working out as planned on Neufeld Farms, near Acme, AB.
Crop Staging(Calgary to Drumheller to Three Hills)
Seeded May 1-7 May 8-15 May 16-22
Wheat 3-leaf, 1 tiller 3-leaf 2 leaf
Canola 3-leaf 2-leaf 1-leaf
Barley 3-leaf, 1 tiller 3-leaf 2-leaf
Peas 4th node 3rd node 2nd node
Steve's tips and tricks of the week
Follow me on Twitter for in-season updates @BeyondAgronomy
- There has been some flea beetle activity on canola but nothing near threshold. Watch fields that are under stress; they’re prime candidates for insects.
- Seedling mortality rates have been on target at 10% in cereals and a typical 50% in canola. There is a lot of work to do to improve canola emergence.
- Be VERY mindful of overnight temperatures. Do not apply herbicides in the evening when temperatures are forecasted to fall below 5C.
- Be sure to measure plant stand densities during weed scouting this week. This will help you understand seedling mortality and help fine tune seeding rates next year.
- Stripe rust is already showing up in winter wheat plots, which is extremely early. The long winter many have insulated the stripe rust and with cool, wet weather it is starting to reproduce. Watch your wheat fields! SL
Sensor Technology is Advancing: Measuring Nutrients in Real-TimeThe application of sensor technology in agriculture is developing rapidly and we’re starting to see advancements in real-time nutrient testing. We all know of GreenSeeker technology, which measures plant nitrogen levels through red and near-infrared light real-time. Recently, Jarrett Chambers, President of ATP Nutrition, discovered a new technology that measures manganese levels in plants real-time.
The NN-Easy55 fluorometer emits and records a specific wavelength that picks up manganese levels in plants. You simply place a leaf over the sensor and in seconds it can classify the level of manganese in a plant and tell whether it is sufficient, weakly deficient or moderately and extremely deficient. This technology eliminates the need to send tissue samples away to the lab and the lengthy turnaround time to determine results.
This specific tool would be very handy in the high organic soils of the black soil zone in Western Canada, as well as the grey wooded soils, peaty and sandy soils where manganese deficiencies are common. That said most manganese deficiencies are induced by conditions and not from a lack of manganese in the soil. For example, cold soils, compacted soils, high organic matter, high pH and low rainfall all create conditions conducive to manganese deficiency. Oats and wheat are most sensitive to manganese deficiencies; wheat yield can be reduced up to 60% under severe situations.
I’m told the inventors have expanded their knowledge on sensor technology and will have to the ability to measure phosphorus with a field ready unit by 2015. In time, it is likely that sensor technology will expand to the remaining micro and macronutrients, once their specific wavelengths are determined. When this happens, we can finally start to address nutrient demands real-time instead of waiting on soil and tissue tests that rarely tell the whole story. I look forward to getting my hands on an Easy55 fluorometer and trying it out this spring. Thanks for the heads up, Jarrett. I can’t wait to test this technology! SL
Contact info.atpnutrition.ca to enquire about an Easy55 Manganese tester.
Image source: Jarrett Chambers, ATP Nutrition
Weed mapping with a GreenSeeker
Not just a VR nitrogen toolCrop consultants and farmers are getting really creative with the imagery they capture from GreenSeeker technology. With every pass of the high clearance sprayer farmers are generating spatial maps that lead to new ways of managing inputs more efficiently. Andrew Newall of NewAg Consulting in Horsham, Victoria sent me another great example of how he and his client are using GreenSeeker technology to map weed pressure and designing solutions to prevent resistance build up and target problem areas.
The image above was generated with a GreenSeeker mounted to a sprayer while the farmer applied a pre-seed herbicide. The green areas indicate heavy ryegrass pressure and the red areas indicate little weed pressure. The photo below shows the ryegrass pressure in the green areas on the map. With the field mapped, they can now assess how many acres are affected and follow up with a higher dose of pre-emergent herbicide to gain better control and avoid resistance.
On some farms, I’m recommending up to 25% of the land base have fall Avadex applied as a resistance management tool. We know there are patches of heavy wild oats in certain fields but have never had the ability to measure how many acres they amount too and where they are precisely. A GreenSeeker NDVI map would provide us with the how much and where to start targeting small areas across the farm instead of covering the entire farm over time.
Let's work out the cost:
4 years of Avadex at $18.00 ac (inc. app) on 5000 acres = $90,000
GreenSeeker 6 sensor unit = $25,000 US
25% of fields contain heavy wild oat patches requiring treatment = $22,500
Saving over 4 years = $67,000
I understand the initial cost of $25,000 is a lot to invest in technology but if you are in a situation where you have areas of heavy weed pressure that plague you each year, a GreenSeeker can quickly pay dividends in targeted, accurate and efficient weed control. The bonus is also being able to variable rate nitrogen, plant growth regulators, dessicants and fungicides. We bought a GreenSeeker two years ago and only now are we realizing it’s power. I’ll keep you posted with our own imagery this season. SL
Thanks to Andrew Newall for sharing this information.
Image source: Andrew Newall
Erosion control in CTFOne of the risks with CTF in certain soil types and elevations is erosion in the tramlines. When heavy rains pick up speed down hard packed tramlines, they begin to move soil. I’ve seen horrific photos of 12-inch deep tramlines with soil piled up at the bottom of the hill. While that severity is rare, it happens. On our farm, we’ve only experienced erosion on one tramline down a steep slope that’s offered a good learning opportunity.
The photos you see here show erosion in a tramline (top) and no erosion in the next tramline over (below). We received 1.5 inches of rain in a short amount of time, soon after seeding and only one tramline in the field started to erode. The only difference between the tramlines is the amount of surface residue and the amount of traffic. The tramline that eroded is used as a path for trucks to haul grain at harvest from an adjacent field. The high volume of traffic has packed the soil hard and left very little surface residue. This tramline has begun to erode, thankfully, ever so slightly.
The best way to reduce the speed of water flowing downhill is to create resistance. The bottom photo displays what surface residue can do by slowing water down slope. There is zero erosion in the tramline. We alternate cereal with broadleaf crops, which keeps at least one year of cereal residue on the surface. Notice the heavy surface residue in the bottom photo.
The second thing we’ve noticed is that the erosion occurred on the tramline with the heaviest wheel traffic, which handles harvest truck traffic from an adjacent field. Wheel traffic both pulverizes the soil into smaller particles and it prevents roots from anchoring down stubble.
In the end, the heavy residue cover helped prevent soil erosion as did the light weight of our equipment, which does not destroy the structure so much that it leaves small soil particles prone to erosion. For those thinking about CTF on soils prone to erosion, I highly recommend you still run low tire pressure to avoid soil structure damage and maintain a rotation that keeps residue on the surface of the tram lines as much as possible. It was a great lesson learned and thankfully we didn’t have to pay much tuition. SL
Photo source: S. Larocque
Improving drainage naturallyI recently had a student monitor water infiltration rates on a number of different soils with a number of different air drills this spring comparing drainage in tractor tracks, castor wheel tracks and outside wings with no tracks. What I learned was that some soils, even at 65% water holding capacity by hand feel, took over 30 minutes to begin showing signs of drainage. In fact, one of the fields had been in zero till for 40 years and by rights should have drained within seconds. Sadly enough, we stopped counting because this beautiful clay loam soil was so compressed by decades of traffic, it couldn’t hold any more water.
I came across a great photo on twitter that looks almost identical to one of my fields. It shows the massive improvement in water infiltration from CTF compared to random traffic on either side of the CTF check. The photo says it all.
I see fields with sloughs and water laying in low spots and think of the time and money wasted on overlaps and headlands going around water bodies. I ask myself, does this need to be? I often get told that people have too many sloughs to go around to make CTF work. Perhaps by getting the drainage right by removing random wheel traffic, there may no longer be wet areas to drive around. Ah, the chicken and egg! SL
For more on CTF click here
Photo credit: Bruce Redford
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 term trend is up and the long term trend is down.
Canadian $: Jun 14: The short term trend is up and the long term trend is down.