Blogging by the Bushel
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Archive for March, 2016

On Thursday the USDA will release its Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks reports. The market has been waiting patiently for these two reports as we enter the 2016 crop year. The Prospective Plantings report will cover expected acreage for corn, beans, and wheat (as well as many other crops) as of March 1st when the surveying was conducted. Most years acres align closely with the February Outlook numbers, but this will be the first official publication of those numbers that will then be used in the WASDE reports in the coming months. The Grain Stocks report most likely will have the greater impact on Thursday. The Grain Stocks report comes out quarterly through the crop year and details not only total U.S. stocks but, each individual state as well. The stocks will also be divided into On-Farm and Off-Farm – a key piece of information for basis traders. The data provided in the Grain Stocks report allows analysts to measure how well the USDA’s WASDE projections are linked with current supplies. With a thorough enough understanding of the numbers, analysts can more accurately predict what the numbers may be in the April WASDE and effectively the U.S. final carryout numbers for each crop.

By: Brad Miller

With top dressing of wheat getting under way I am receiving some questions on nitrogen needs, frost damage, and wheat growth.

Wheat uses 1.1 Lbs. of nitrogen for each bushel of expected yield and utilizes 70-75% of its total nitrogen needs between Feeks scale 4 (beginning of erect growth) and Feeks Scale 8 (visible flag leaf).   Usually between 70-100lbs of nitrogen is recommended. The chart below shows nitrogen recommendations.

With wheat being taller than normal I get asked about damage to wheat if we get a late frost. According to Ohio State, when the wheat is in the tillering stage (Feekes 1-5) the temperature would have to get down to 12 degrees F for 2 hours  for it to do serious injury.  The primary symptoms would be leaf chlorosis, burning of leaf tips, silage odor and a blue cast to fields.  If the wheat is at jointing stage, then a temperature of 24 degrees  F for 2 hours would do serious injury.  Usually a week to ten days of good warm temperatures and adequate sunlight are required before damage from freeze event becomes visible.

Due to wheat having more tillers this year, which causes less air movement thru the wheat, you will have to keep a look-out for diseases such as powdery mildew, which I have seen in some fields this spring.  If it becomes visible an early application of fungicide may be needed.   Contact your Mercer Landmark representative for more information and to have them check your fields.

By: Ryan Stucky

There are many factors to come into play when you are heading to the field to plant your first field of corn.  Soil temperature should be no lower than 50 degrees for germination. Look for a warming trend in the weather if you are planting into cold soils. And one of the biggest factors is planting depth.

Optimum Planting Depth

Planting corn to a depth of 1½ to 2 inches is optimum for nodal root development.

  • 2 inches – best under normal conditions
  • 1½ inches – may be favorable when planting early into cool soils
  • Never plant shallower than 1½ inches

Determining Planting Depth

  • Planting depth can easily be determined after seedling emergence.
  • The nodal root area (crown or growing point) typically develops about ¾ of an inch beneath the soil surface regardless of the seed depth.
  • Measure the mesocotyl length (the area between the seed and crown or growing point, then add ¾ inch to determine the planting depth

Corn planted too shallow:

  • Is less able to uptake water and nutrients through the roots. Shallow-rooted corn plants suffer dramatically during periods of summer drought.
  • Can develop a condition called “rootless corn syndrome.” Plants will fall over due to the lack of nodal root development in dry soil.
  • Can expose corn seedlings to herbicide residues increasing the potential for herbicide injury.
  • Late-season root lodging concerns are reduced with improved nodal root systems.

Planting Depth Recommendations

  • Set the planting depth in the field, with the planter being pulled at full operating speed
  • Check for good seed-soil contact; strive for firm seedbeds that promote uniform emergence and stronger root systems.
  • Slower planting speeds between 4 to 5 mph achieve more uniform planting depths.
  • Utilize in-row residue management equipment where needed; especially in corn-following-corn rotations.
  • Utilize a planter down-pressure control system.

The biggest factor into having that “picket fence” stand is to make sure that you are planting into favorable conditions (warm soils with a warming trend the next few days), try to avoid planting 24 hours before a rain especially a cold rain, and have your planter depth set no more shallow than 1 ½ inches.

By: Jeff Keller

The first fields to be going across this spring will most likely be our wheat. As they are soon to be greening up, let’s keep a close eye in the field. A trend of putting on the top dress nitrogen is getting later and later every year. This is a good plan for not only proper timing of when the plant needs it, but it allows us to take care of some weed control before the weeds consume some of this nitrogen we put on.

Competition early on the wheat crop can really hurt early tiller promotion. A growing chickweed can consume several times the amount of nitrogen than a wheat plant will. So going out scouting some fields now will give a true sign of the winter annuals that have had a nice winter to grow in. There are some options to spray applications such as using Harmony Extra with crop oil. It is best to have a plan early so you can work with your Mercer Landmark agronomist to know if you want to get out there as soon as the weeds are greened up and then follow up with your top dress nitrogen.

Just like February, the March USDA reports aren’t expected to be market movers. Analysts forecast only minimal changes to numbers from the U.S. and South America.

“Price expectations are still low,” said Ignacio A. Ciampitti, assistant professor at Kansas State University. “We’re not seeing changes (in corn, soybeans, or wheat).”

Here is the average trade forecast for U.S. carryover in corn, soybeans and wheat, according to Allendale:

  • Corn: 1.854 billion bu., up from 1.837 billion bu. in February.
  • Soybeans: 452 million bu.,  up from 450 million bu. in February.
  • Wheat: 975 million bu., up from 966 million bu. in February.

“The export forecast may be overly optimistic for corn,” cautioned Brian Basting of Advance Trading in Bloomington, Ill.

In terms of tomorrow’s numbers, “the greatest interest is in South America, which is harvesting its first crop of corn and planting its second crop,” he said.

A production increase is expected for Brazil and Argentina because of good weather in the region, according to Alan Brugler, president of Brugler Marketing & Management in Omaha.

Meanwhile, equity markets fell on Tuesday, amid concerns over weak data from China, dipping oil prices and a global economic slowdown. “Although the equity markets spill over, it’s not expected to be a big factor in moving the markets,” Basting added.

In terms of planting decisions, the current price situation does not appear to be forcing any major changes by U.S. farmers as spring approaches. “They’re not changing from corn to soybeans and milo,” Ciampitti said. “Any change would be rotation.”

By: Rick Mollenkopf

In 2015, McGroary analyzed nearly 155,000 soil samples handled by his lab in Richmond, Va., plus more than 1 million soil samples processed by the entire Waypoint Analytical network, and found startling results:  60% of the nearly 155,000 samples analyzed by the Virginia laboratory were sulfur deficient  Approximately 74% of the more than 1 million samples handled by the Waypoint Analytical network – which covers most of the East Coast and the Mid-South – showed sulfur deficiency McGroary says he is not surprised by the results. “Sulfur deficiency is becoming more common because of the Clean Air Act of 1973,” he explains. “We used to get 10 to 20 pounds per acre of sulfate sulfur from the air, and we don’t get nearly as much anymore.” McGroary says low levels of sulfur in the top several inches of soil are a particular challenge in the spring:  “Generally where we see sulfur deficiency in corn, it’s during the early part of the growing season on light soils,” he says. “The sulfur has moved out of the plow layer and further down in the soil profile, and the roots are not able to access this sulfur early on in the season. That’s why it’s important to apply some sulfur at planting.”  “The other place we see a lot of sulfur deficiency is in small grains,” McGroary adds. “We are inducing sulfur deficiency ourselves in the spring when we go out with either straight UAN solutions or urea.”  The problem in small grains, he explains, is that high-analysis nitrogen fertilizers like UAN solutions or urea skew the nitrogen-to-sulfur (N:S) ratio too far to the nitrogen side. Because both sulfur and nitrogen are needed as building blocks for proteins and in the synthesis of chlorophyll, a nitrogen-heavy N:S ratio limits the plant’s opportunity to make the most out of the available nitrogen “I get a lot of calls from guys who say their fields went from green to yellow in seven days and all they did was apply straight UAN,” McGroary says. “It’s very important in the spring that you include sulfur in your nitrogen fertility when topdressing small grains. If you don’t, you can induce a sulfur deficiency.”

McGroary recommends incorporating ammonium sulfate into your fertilizer program, particularly early in the spring, to keep the N:S ratio to less than 16:1. “I’m a big believer in ammonium sulfate in a fertilizer program,” says McGroary. “You get about a pound of sulfur for every pound of nitrogen you apply, which makes it very versatile as a sulfur source. Additionally, the sulfate sulfur is immediately available to the plant and the acidifying effects of the ammonium sulfate can solubilize some of the micronutrients in the soil and make them more available to the crop.” “

Even though this article is not right in our immediate area it is very important to know that with all the tissue samples  Mercer Landmark has pulled shows a growing need for us as well in OUR OWN FIELDS.

Please contact your local Mercer Landmark yield expert to help choose the best sulphur source for you.