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The dollar value of soil, world record wheat, and down pressure decisions

We’re racing towards planting season, with field activity about to begin rocking and rolling.

Lessons from the new world wheat yield record, the value of soil and subsequent impact of erosion, cover crop management, corn planter down pressure, and more — it’s all in this week’s edition of The Word the RealAg agronomist Peter Johnson.

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Click to listen to the audio recording from Real Agriculture.

Summary

  • The value of soil – assuming Ontario price of $20,000/acre. 2 million pounds in top 6″soil is worth 1 cent a pound. How much does it cost to lose to wind erosion (and other forms)? Snirt (soil off the snow) — a tonne/acre (COULD be 3 tonnes per acre and you don’t really KNOW). That’s 6,600 lbs. or $66/acre. Maybe up to $100/acre.
  • World record wheat — 250 bu/ac of wheat on 29 acres in New Zealand. What can we learn? First, it’s irrigated wheat. Tissue test for micronutrients — should you follow suit? Expensive when not needed. When needed, a huge benefit. Overload on vitamins equals expensive pee.
  • Wheat doesn’t like wet feet — tile drainage is one way to control. Do we underestimate the impact of excess moisture on wheat?
  • Seeding rate — reduce tillering to boost yield? Did it work? Not necessarily. Durum wheat seeding rate eg in North Dakota, targeting 1.4 million live plants/ac, what’s the math to working back to seeds per ac? 32 live plants/sq ft. That’s plenty high in dry climates, can use up soil moisture by plant growth. Germination and mortality must be factored in 5% in dry soils, but can be 20-25% in wet conditions in Ontario.
  • Nitrogen rates and calculating credit from previous crop and manure…
  • Straw plugging and fusarium problems with airdrill in Manitoba. Derek’s wondering if fall tillage should be more aggressive. Does more tillage break down more residue? Likely not. Could cause more plugging, first of all. Need to ensure rotation isn’t contributing to fusarium problem.
  • FHB in rye before potatoes — yes, rye also gets fusarium. Recommended 60 lb of N unless a hybrid.
  • Moist soils and N options — 50% urea, 50% treated with ESN scenario — in wet weather, side band has higher losses than a deep band (that’s because of soil bugs are closer to surface.) How does temperature contribute to urea gassing off and role for Agrotain?
  • Cover crops seeding into corn — which species? Annual ryegrass can tolerate shade from corn.
  • Seeding grass into RR alfalfa — grass seed will establish anytime there’s enough moisture. Kill weeds in alfalfa stand, broadcast orchardgrass a few days later. Less competition from alfalfa, the better for establishing grass.
  • Active down pressure on a corn planter  — is it really that big of a deal? Flag test data shows big yield implications of having every plant come up on time. On only 300 acres, very little yield impact when seeding under reasonable conditions. Big win is in tacky areas of field, which are hopefully less than 10 percent of field.

 


Source: Real Agriculture: Wheat Pete’s Word by Peter Johnson

Six limiting factors in your soil that will make or break your operation

Soil, your primary infrastructure

Farms and grazing operations — organic or otherwise — are only as good as their worst resource, according to Oregon-based grazier Abe Collins.

“Soil is our primary infrastructure on the farm,” said Collins, who spoke at the recent Organic Alberta conference.

“Biologically, chemically, and physically, you need to be looking at the limiting factors in your soil.”

In the Canadian Prairies, water tends to be a key limiting factor when it comes to growing crops and forages — but there are others as well, said Collins.

This checklist covers off six other important factors that could mean the difference between success and failure on your farm. While Collins was speaking to an audience of organic producers, there’s plenty of good ideas for conventional growers to borrow too.

1. Year-long green

The first rule, says Collins, is “100 per cent covered soils 100 per cent of the time — never bare soil.

“Bare soil is a burn victim,” he said. 
 Read more

The dirt on soil tests

With soil nutrient levels dropping, how do you need to change your soil-testing program and fertility rates?

By

Fewer farmers are sampling their soils. In Ontario, the numbers say fewer than 30 per cent of farmers test every three years, even though this trend is leading to a data gap at a time when everything else seems to be changing too, such as the rapid climb in yield potentials, and elite corn hybrids that are so much more efficient at extracting nutrients.

Also worrying is that the experts are lining up to tell us that, one way or another, more farmers are mining their soils. Read more