In-The-Field Insight

In-the-Field INSIGHT–Stalk Rot

Check for Corn Stalk Rot Before Harvest

Dennis Klockenga, CCA, ProfitProAG Crop Management Consultant • 320-333-1608 (cell)

If drought conditions hit your area this summer, there’s a good chance stalk rot might be lurking in your fields. How do you know if your corn crop is at higher risk for lodging this harvest?

Developing corn kernels place a very high demand on the plant for sugars. Stress slashes the rate of photosynthesis, which reduces the amount of sugars that the plant is able to produce. If the plant is unable to keep up with kernel sugar demand, the plant can begin to redistribute sugars from stalk tissue. This predisposes the plant to stalk rot, which increases the likelihood of lodging.

If that weren’t enough, a lack of soil moisture in many areas in 2021 also limited the amount of soil nutrients that could be dissolved and taken up by the corn plants.

“Anywhere that experienced major drought is probably seeing some cannibalization with their corn, especially on lighter soils,” says Dennis Klockenga, a crops specialist with ProfitProAG.

Try a pinch or push test
If you’re wondering how much stalk rot might be in your fields, use a pinch test and a push test. Check 20 random plants from five different spots in the field. For the pinch test, pinch stalks toward the base, below the lowest node, to check for firmness.

“I could practically touch my fingers together when I was doing a pinch test recently in some fields with stalk rot,” Klockenga says. “Moisture levels in your corn might be a lot lower than you think.”

For the push test, hold your arm out from your body, and push the corn plant to a 45-degree angle to see if the stalk holds up, or if its bends or breaks. There’s a significant lodging potential if 10% to 15% of the plants fail your pinch or push test.

Also, factor in the unusually hot temperatures occurring across the Corn Belt this fall. “When you have dry days with strong winds, the potential for lodging goes up even more,” Klockenga says.

I’ve got stalk rot. What now?
The pinch tests and pull test results from your fields can help you prioritize which fields to harvest first. “In fields with stalk rot, it’s better to harvest this corn at 25% moisture, for example, than waiting for it to dry down to 20% moisture,” Klockenga says. “No one wants to harvest lodged corn.”

In-the-Field INSIGHT–Fall Armyworms

Watch Our for Destructive Armyworms this Fall

If you grow small grains like wheat, alfalfa, hay or cover crops, there could be big trouble lurking in your fields right now. Armyworms can thrive when warm temperatures linger this far into the fall.

“There are cases where armyworms have taken out a 40-acre field in eight to 10 hours,” says Dennis Klockenga, a crops specialist with ProfitProAG.

Armyworms are especially problematic now, because a major weather front in August 2021 pushed these pests north. “Armyworms were going like mad in the southeastern U.S. this summer, but now they’ve hit parts of Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota, too,” Klockenga says. “They can destroy an entire field amazingly fast.”

Fall armyworms commonly damage turfgrass on golf courses, athletic fields and home landscapes. “Armyworms prefer grassy areas, so they target small grains and grasses in farmers’ fields,” Klockenga says.

After armyworms fly into an area, they mate and lay their eggs on flat surfaces. Once the young armyworms start growing, they work their way across fields, devouring plants. Infestations sometimes resemble an army as they move across fields.

Armyworms feed mainly in the late evening and early morning, so that’s when you can find them easily, Klockenga says. He recommends scouting your fields for armyworms, if you aren’t already. The treatment threshold is two to three armyworms per square foot.

“If you’re at threshold levels, you’d better spray,” Klockenga says. “I’m not crazy about insecticides, but you have to act quickly to prevent armyworms from destroying your crop.”

The good news? Fall armyworms are unusually susceptible to cold, so a frost or freeze will slow them down.

Grass #2

Damage from Fall Armyworms to grass hay field in Western MN

In-the-Field INSIGHT: Crop Staging + Foliar Feeding = Higher Yield Potential

Dennis Klockenga, CCA, ProfitProAG Crop Management Consultant • 320-333-1608 (cell)

Crop Staging + Foliar Feeding = Higher Yield Potential

While healthy plants start from the roots up, now’s the time in the growing season when foliar feeding is key. The foliar uptake of nutrients is much faster than root uptake, meaning foliar feeding is the most efficient choice to feed your crop and keep plants healthy.

In order for foliar feeding to be successful, you have to be able to stage the crop correctly. Staging is also vital for Not only is staging important for foliar feeding but for applying herbicides at the correct stage to get the best efficacy.

When staging corn, I like to use the “Leaf Collar Method (or LCM).” The LCM stages corn based on leaf collars. Using the LCM, if the leaf doesn’t have a collar, it isn’t staged as a true leaf.

The first leaf that emerges from a corn seedling has a rounded tip and is called the plumule. The first leaf is the only leaf that has a rounded tip. Subsequent leaves have a pointed tip. Once you find the plumule, start counting the collars of the other leaves up the plant.

A collar is a yellowish ring located just under the leaf where it attaches to the stalk. Once the plant has a collar, it is called a “V” stage, or vegetative. V1 is the rounded tip leaf or the plumule. V2 is the second leaf with a collar, and so on up the plant.

As the corn plant continues to grow, around V6 or so, the plumule will dry up, and you won’t be able to use the plumule as your beginning leaf for staging. When that happens, dig up a plant, and slice the stalk down the middle (be careful, as the stalk is sharp!) making sure to keep the leaves intact. Find the lower brownish part at the base of the stalk (around the soil line) and then find the white internode just above that. The white internode is typically where the fifth leaf developed.

Assuming this, you can count up the stalk by finding the leaf collars and be able to stage the older plant. The plant will continue to develop leaves and collars until the tassel emerges, and pollination takes place. (see table 1 for more details on corn stages.)

Staging soybeans
Soybeans are easier to stage than corn. The first leaves that appear on a soybean plant are cotyledons. The cotyledons are thicker and have a waxy feel to them, compared to normal soybeans leaves.

When the cotyledons emerge, this is called VE. The plant continues to grow and unifoliate leaves will form. When they unroll, that’s called VC. The remaining leaves will be trifoliates. The first trifoliate will be V1, the second trifoliate is V2 and so on as the plant progresses.

Around June 21, the longest day of the year, the plant senses that the days are becoming shorter, so it forms its first flower. This is the beginning of reproduction and is called R1. (see table 2 for more details on soybean stages.)

Tips for foliar feeding corn
Staging crops correctly is a key to successful foliar feeding, which can be 20 times more efficient than root feeding. Science proved the power of foliar feeding roughly 70 years ago.

Dr. Silvan Wittner and H.B. Tukey of Michigan State University, in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission, conducted extensive research on foliar feeding using radioactive nutrient (phosphate and potash) solutions during the 1950’s. They proved that foliar feeding was eight to 20 times more efficient than root feeding. They also found that 95% of foliar fertilizer applied to the leaf is used by the plant, in comparison to 10% of soil applied nutrients. Foliar feeding essentially supplied a nine-fold increase in efficiency

Foliar feeding can help you achieve more kernels around the ear
For corn, applying a foliar at V5, before V6 when the kernels around the ear are determined, is one of the critical times in a corn plant’s life. Remember that rows of kernels are always even, so if you add rows of kernels, you’ll be adding two rows at a time. If you add two rows going from 16 to 18 at 32,000 ears/A, you increase yield by 25 bu/A.

Foliar feeding can also add more kernel length. The kernels per row of the ear are determined beginning at V8 and finishing around V12. Let’s stick with the example of 32,000 ears and 18 kernels around. If you have 35 kernels in length and add 15 more, you increase yield by 96 bu/A.

Tips for foliar feeding soybeans
For soybeans, the critical growth stages occur during reproduction. R1 is when the first flower appears on the plant. This is a vital stage, since the plant typically aborts up to 75% of its flowers. By foliar feeding, we have a chance to hold onto more of those flowers.

R3 is another critical growth stage for soybeans. Pods are starting to develop on both the main stem and the branches. Again, it’s important to hold on to the pods and not allow them to abort. If we can add one pod to each node on the main stem on a plant with 17 nodes, we can add 35 bu/A, assuming a final population of 120,000. One pod on each node can go a long way towards yield. Foliar feeding can help maintain plant health, which also helps the plant and consequently hold on to the pods.

The final critical stage in soybeans is R5. This is when the seed starts to develop. Foliar feeding will continue to maintain plant health and assure the plant that everything is okay to produce seed.

Protect against plant stress with BioEnergy+
Once you’ve determined the critical growth stages for foliar feeding, applying the right product is important. ProfitProAG’s BioEnergy+ combines carbon-energy, an ethylene inhibitor, biostimulants, trace elements, sea minerals and chitosan into a liquid mix to stimulate your crop and keep it healthy to maximize yield. We suggest applying it at 15 gallons of water per acre to achieve adequate plant coverage.

How does BioEnergy+ work? Let’s look at the ethylene inhibitor. You see the ethylene effect when you put a banana into a brown paper bag. Ethylene is trapped in the bag and ripens the banana.

Plants produce ethylene in stressful situations when there’s too much or not enough water, chilling, insect damage or disease to name a few. Ethylene stunts plant growth and development. The ethylene inhibitor in BioEnergy+, hinders the plant’s ability to produce ethylene. This allows the crop to continue growing, developing and producing more yield.

Chitosan is also a key to BioEnergy+. Chitosan is one of the most abundant biopolymers on earth. Insects have an exoskeleton called chitin. Fungi and bacteria also have chitin in them. Chitosan breaks down chitin found in insects and disease pathogens, but it won’t harm the beneficial insects and microorganisms. Chitosan also stimulates soil and plant microbes.

An effective foliar product like BioEnergy+, applied at the correct stage, can boost your crops’ yield potential and provide a variety of other benefits. If you’re interested in learning more, you don’t have to figure this out alone. ProfitProAG can help you with all of the ins and outs of a foliar program to get the best return on your dollar!

Intrigued by the information above? Call Dennis today

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In-the-Field INSIGHT: Seedling Emergence

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Dennis Klockenga, CCA, ProfitProAG Crop Management Consultant • 320-333-1608 (cell)

How does Uneven Seedling Emergence Affect Corn Yield?

We’ve all seen a field or two that didn’t come up even. There are nice, tall corn plants right next to tiny, scrawny ones. Does this affect yield? If so, how much?

Researchers at the University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota have conducted trials to answer these questions.

The Trial
The trial was conducted using two hybrids in seven environments in Illinois and Wisconsin. The researchers based ideal planting time on May 1. That represented 100% yield, based on a final stand of 26,000 plants/A. Then they simulated uneven emergence within rows by having one fourth, one half and three fourths of the plants delayed in emerging. In addition, they planted one and a half weeks after May 1 (medium delay) and three weeks after May 1 (late delay). The researchers also looked at the effect of stand loss when one fourth, one half and three fourths of the plants were missing.

The Findings
If planting was medium delayed (1 ½ weeks), there was a 5% yield loss. When half or three-fourths of the plants within the row came up late, researchers saw up to an 8% yield loss.

When the corn was planted late (three weeks after May 1), yield was reduced by 12%, down to as much as 22%, when one-fourth of the plants emerged on time and three-fourths of the plants emerged late.

When researchers analyzed stand loss, they saw a 10% loss in yield when one-fourth of the plants were missing. When three-fourths of the plants were missing, researchers observed a 51% yield loss. (See Figure 1 for more details.) Click here to read the entire study: Effects of Uneven Seedling Emergence in Corn

Figure 1

What does this mean?
When planting is delayed by one-and-a-half to three weeks after the ideal planting date, you’re likely to lose yield. The greater the delay, the greater the yield loss. Make no mistake. Late-emerging plants cost you yield, just like when you have missing plants.

How Can I Help Germination?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage these challenges. Adding a biological seed coating like ProfitCoat can improve even germination and emergence.

ProfitProAG’s seed coatings contain a blend of microbes, including multiple strains of mycorrhizal fungi, trichoderma, pseudomonas, Azotobacter, Bacillus, Penicilium and streptomyces. The formula includes an effective blend of minerals and nutrients to feed the microbes, while a biostimulant activates them.

Seed coating for conventional and organic are available in liquid or dry form and can be applied on-farm or at ProfitProAG. Seed coating help get your plants off to a good start, improves germination and seedling emergence. ProfitProAG’s ProfitCoat produces a more robust root system, larger stalk and an overall healthier plant.

Research proves how vital it is to have a healthy, complete, even stand for maximum yield potential. ProfitCoat can help you attain it. For more details, contact Dennis Klockenga at 320-333-1608.

In-the-Field INSIGHT: Weatherproofing your crops

Dennis Klockenga, CCA, ProfitProAG Crop Management Consultant • 320-333-1608 (cell)

Weatherproofing your Crops

If you’ve read any Ag weather related articles over the last six months, they probably talked about the concern of a 2021 drought. The drought is already here, since many areas of the Corn Belt are quite short on soil moisture.
What if we could weatherproof our crops and protect them from drought? It’s possible, but first we need to learn a little about how soils work.

Review Soil Science 101
Soil texture is determined by the amount of sand, silt and clay in the soil. Sand has a large particle size, silt is slightly larger and clay has a tiny particle size. If the soil has a lot of sand, it can’t hold as much water because of the large particles. On the other hand, a clay soil, with its tiny particles, can hold a tremendous amount of water (and be saturated by
excess water).

Let me explain, if you have a room full of large sand particles, you will have a large amount of pore space for water to flow. However, if you fill that same room with tiny clay particles, you have very little pore space. Pore space is important for not only water movement, but air movement.
To have soil health, you need to have aggregation. Aggregation is the arrangement of sand, silt, and clay that’s being held together with soil organic matter.

Soil aggregation

An aggregated soil will crumble like coffee grounds in your hand. Soil that has poor aggregation will be blocky and stick together, hindering water from infiltrating into the soil profile.
Infiltration is the movement of water off of the land’s surface and into the soil profile. As soil becomes more aggregated, it allows more water to infiltrate into the profile. (See how this is especially important when conditions are dry?)

Too much tillage, however, works against aggregation and infiltration. The more tillage we do, the more we destroy soil structure and soil aggregation. This decreases infiltration. Soil that has a low rate of infiltration will pond. With ponding comes the loss of the crop and a loss of nitrogen.

Healthy soybean roots due to soil aggregation.

Biologically Farming Minimizes Crop Stress
So how do we apply this knowledge to weatherproof our crops? It starts by working with Mother Nature, not against her!

We need to farm biologically by using cover crops, using biological products like ProfitCoat Biological Seed Coating and Environoc 401 and not over-tilling. This will create an environment for soil biology to thrive.

By promoting soil health and creating a favorable environment for soil microbes, we can minimize crop stress–including drought–to weatherproof our crops.

Want to learn more about how the drought could affect your crops? Stay tuned for the March FARM INSIGHT for more details.

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