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CQ Perspectives Jul 2011

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Volume 21 • Issue 4 •

July 2011



Certifed Wheat Seed Availability:

Seed Quantity Will be There, Quality Yet To Be Determined It’s been a tough year for wheat. Drought throughout much of the High Plains, Oklahoma and Texas hampered growth from the outset and hard freezes in late March and early April further damaged an already hard-hit crop. Certied seed for fall wheat planting in the High Plains may be more difcult to nd and could be more expensive than usual, which has many wheat farmers – especially those who rely on certied seed – wondering if the germination, vigor and quality will be in place come fall planting. “The biggest thing we are going to see from a seed production standpoint mimics the grain production – a lot of drought-stricken stands that didn’t emerge well, and if they did get established, suffered through the winter and early spring,” says Eric says Eric Fabrizius, Fabrizius, Associate Director of the Kansas Crop Improvement Association Association in Manhattan. “We “We are seeing a lot of thin, short stands across Kansas wheat elds. I think you’ll see certied wheat yields – just like regular wheat yields – all over the spectrum. But generally, generally, I think you will see better yields on seed elds, simply because seed producers tend to utilize their best ground and provide all the necessary inputs, such as fertilizer and fungicides, in order to maximize yield.” In 2010, Kansas planted about 91,000+ acres of certied wheat seed. That was up 18,000 acres from the previous year. That, according to Fabrizius, should help keep the overall certied wheat seed availability in a positive position. “There is less inventory on hand going into the season and with the upturn in market price, producers were compelled to increase their acres of production. And typically,” he adds, “we see about 8-10% of certied acres cancelled in any given year. That’s about what it was in 2010 as well. At this point, we don’t expect the cancellation rate to go higher than that, in fact, it may be a good bit lower, due to the anticipated need.” The early prognosis for Kansas, is that there should be an adequate supply of certied seed available for fall planting. “Within the certied grower net work we’ll move available seed to meet the needs. The newer and more popu lar varieties will go quickly, so book early for those varieties,” He stresses. Fabrizius says that he has heard a report that seed size may be a little smaller than in the past. “Although we had good conditions during the lling period, the lling pe riod may have been a little short,” he states. “Seed size may be small, but the test weights we are hearing from the initial harvest reports seem to be good. I don’t have any proof of smaller than normal seed size at this point because we are just starting into the harvesting period and have not received any samples in the laboratory.

“Small seed or not, this by no means will be a bin-busting harvest,” says Fabrizius, “however, I don’t think it will be a complete bust either. If we get near average yields, that should meet producer needs in the fall. Certied seed will remain your best source for planting, as it has been eld inspected, professionally conditioned and tested in a laboratory to ensure that you receive a quality product.” This may not be the case in all states though. “We may be short of certied seed,” says Texas A&M AgriLife assistant research scientist Russell Sutton because of the drought. “However, we still think buying certied seed, if it’s available, might be the best bet, if growers can locate enough of their favorite varieties. That means it could be more expensive, too.” Roger Osburn, Osburn, Director of Pedigreed Seeds at Oklahoma State Universi ty in Stillwater says, “Much like the rest of the southwest and High Plains, we faced a major drought in the South and Southwest part of the state this year. We already anticipate that yields will be lower than normal in the 46,000+ acres planted in certied seed. The test weights have looked really good on what we have harvested to date.” The researcher notes that it’s too early to make a clear determination on germination and vigor until they can get the seed into the laboratory for testing. On the bright side, due to the dry weather Osburn reports that they did not have to deal with much disease issues, insects or weeds. Fabrizius agrees with Osburn, “I don’t expect disease to be much of an issue this year. In the past ve to six years we’ve had to deal with fusarium head scab, which is a seed quality issue, and can affect the seed germination, but I have not heard much regarding that issue this year. “I think we will see some areas that will have an abundance of certied seed and some areas that will be down signicantly,” concludes Fabrizius. “Being proactive in seed ordering would be a smart management move this year. Fortunately we do have a great mechanism in the certication program for moving needed seed around the region. That ability to move seed into other areas of the state has really improved over the last few years.” Osburn concludes, “Producer may not be able to go to the seed producer next door or even a few counties away to get seed this fall. He may have to be a bit more proactive to nd the seed he needs. We put out a publication (as does Kansas) in the High  High Plai Plains ns Journa Journall in mid July with all the certied growers in the state. We’re working on that information now.”

C Cr ro op p QQuue es st t P Pe er rs sp pe ec ct ti v i ve es s 1 1

Crop Quest Going

Data generated by running a Veris™ unit across a eld is helping Crop Quest agronomists generate Management Zones and helping farmers more precisely apply fertilizer, lime, seed, and even irrigation water to boost bottom-line prots. The Veris machine, which has the ability to do several different things while in the eld, is manufactured by Veris Industries. These machines have been used across the U.S. for developing maps to help farmers more precisely apply products most efciently. Though it can generate a number of data sets, the primary function of the basic Veris 3100 machine is to measure electrical conductivity of the soil. It’s an effective way to map soil texture differences because smaller soil particles such as clay conduct more current than larger silt and sand particles. The technology isn’t new, nor is it particularly complicated. Soil EC measurements have been used since the early 1900s. Veris mobilized the process and added GPS to provide an easy-to-use precision agriculture tool. Crop Quest agronomists use it to generate Management Zones, which allow growers to more efciently place fertilizer and lime. They can also do eld elevations, giving farmers a GPS-generated multi-tiered map of their elds. Crop Quest has combined the EC measuring capabilities of the basic machine with pH mapping capabilities and even RTK elevations to help growers design a way to get low areas drained and to maximize production on well-drained, highly productive soils. As the Veris EC cart is pulled through the eld, one pair of coulter-electrodes injects a known voltage into the soil, while the other coulter-electrodes measure the change in that voltage. The result: a detailed map of the soil texture variability in the crop rooting zone. Crop Quest Precision Ag Manager Nathan Woydziak says the rig they use can sense pH and EC. Growers in the eastern region – basically east of Highway 281 - are more interested in the pH readings. The further west we go, pH readings are higher and it’s usually not much of an issue, unless they are so high they run into chlorotic conditions in a eld. These growers tend to be more interested in the EC component of the Veris rig, Woydziak says. Rob Meyer, a senior Crop Quest agronomist who is the Veris leader, says he ran the Veris unit across a single eld last year in Oklahoma that had pH ranging from the high threes to the high sixes. By using the Verisgenerated pH maps, this grower was then able to use a variable rate applicator to apply lime at rates of 5 to 6 tons on some spots to none on other areas of the eld. Meyer says once pH maps are generated, he determines where he needs to pull soil samples to get buffer pH levels. “This helps to determine what lime rate the eld needs. The grower can then plug this data into his onboard computer and set up Rob Meyer for variable rate application. The grower can generate a lot more money off that particular area of the eld and, in most cases, it covers the cost of the mapping.” Further west in Kansas and other areas of the Crop Quest territory, EC data is frequently used to measure and generate soil texture maps. This data allows Crop Quest agronomists to generate zones for soil sampling and ultimately build variable rate programs for applying fertilizer, Woydziak says. In recent years, more and more growers are using the Veris data to develop variable rate seeding programs. “Seeding ts the Veris rig well. We use the data it generates to vary plant populations in corn and cotton,” Woydziak explains. Crop Quest agronomists play a key role in adapting Veris data to variable rate application of everything from irrigation water to seed. “A lot of our growers have a controller in their tractor, so it’s


 To Boost Farmer Profitability 


Crop Quest Perspectives

as simple as getting the right le on the controller. By taking a team approach, Crop Quest agronomists and precision ag specialists can help the producer make things work,” Woydziak explains. A small number of Crop Quest growers are now using Veris-generated data as part of a program for variable rate irrigation. “It’s a small number now, but it’s one of the newer and more innovative uses of EC data, and we have growers in our eastern and western areas trying it,” Nathan Woydziak Woydziak adds. Meyer says he is now working with Crop Metrics that promotes variable rate application. Most of their recommendations for variable rate irrigation are based on data from the EC layer from the Veris rig, he explains. Veteran Crop Quest Agronomist John Hecht echoes what Meyer and Woydziak say about using soil pH data generated by the Veris. He says his growers have been successful using Veris data to generate what he calls ‘productivity zones’ within a eld. They nd different soil textures and different pH, which is critical in some areas of eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, where soil pH levels are getting so low. Saving money by using the Veris rig isn’t really a true picture of how vital this new technology can be for a grower. “When a grower asks about the cost of running the Veris unit over his land, I have a little different spin on the answer I provide.” “I tell him, we may not save you any money in fertilizer recommendations, but we’re going to make better use of your money, by spending it where it needs to be spent,” says Hecht. Typically, growers use soil sampling to determine a uniform rate of lime. Some areas of a eld will be low, some will be high and some will t the uniform rate perfectly. John Hecht Likewise, some parts of the eld will have too much and some too little lime. Using Veris-generated data may call for more or less total lime, but it will allow the grower to put the lime where it will do the most good. Even if a grower doesn’t use variable rate application, Veris data can help him be a better manager. However, as variable rate becomes more of a common practice on farms, the data generated by the Veris rig will become increasingly more valuable, Hecht contends. “I tell growers, if you use Veris maps, pH maps and combine them with a yield map off a combine, you have some tremendously powerful information you can use to make decisions on that eld.” “Another thing I tell growers is when it comes to variable rate fertilizer applications, they can bring the fertility in low areas up and can identify good areas in order to push these areas to their maximum yield potential. If the grower isn’t getting all the yield potential out of the eld, it’s costing him money,” he concludes. Veris is a trademark of Veris Industries


The cost of technology included in seed cost and the high cost of inputs needed to get seed planted and harvested has placed a premium value on get ting maximum yield. Yield and quality incentives – some real and some over-promoted by zealous marketers – have been attributed to increased fungicide usage on row crops over the past few years. Whether the cost of the fungicide and the cost of getting it on the crop are recouped from the value of the crop often comes down to some basic management choices. Veteran Crop Quest Agronomist Farrell Allison says getting top value from fungicides still comes down to the decisions farmers make on what varieties to plant, when to plant, seeding rate and most of all what Mother Nature provides. Allison says there is a higher risk for disease pressure in no-till elds because there is more innoculum left in the eld, providing fungi a source for development. Irrigation also can create its own ‘mini’ environment of increased humidity causing fungi to thrive. “In corn, the amount of resistance bred into the plant is critical in determining whether a fungicide application will pay. In 1989, when we rst detected grey leaf spot, there was virtually no biological resistance in corn plants. Now, we have some varieties that have good resistance to grey leaf spot, and it often comes down to how much disease pressure is in a particular eld.” Farrell Allison Like most management decisions, having good information is critical in making the right decisions. Crop Quest agronomists can make an economically sound difference by helping the grower accurately judge how much disease pressure there is – or isn’t – in a eld. Allison notes that growers have some good fungicide tools to use, both to protect the crop from fungal diseases and as a curative once a eld gets increased levels of fungal infections. “I like both the triazole and strobilurin fungicides – two different families of chemistry, so the chance of plants developing resistance is going to be delayed by rotating these families of products. So far, I haven’t seen any problems with either of these families of products doing the job,” he says. Even in elds where disease pressure isn’t high, these products may help produce a slight yield and quality improvement, again depending on the resistance of the plant to fungal diseases.

Southern corn rust is an excellent example of a fungus that dramatically impacts corn . Southern rust doesn’t over-winter in areas serviced by Crop Quest. It blows in from the south and can become a problem as it moves north. Clearly, when to treat is a matter of where you are in the region. According to Kansas State University Plant Pathologist Doug Jardine, the key to managing this disease is accurate scouting. “If the disease is found, fungicides should be applied at that time. Whether you make your money back with late applications is tricky and often depends on what time of the year infections hit.” Allison adds, “Diseases, like grey leaf spot that comes in at the 8-9 leaf stage in corn, can do tremendous damage. So, I don’t have any problem recommending a grower apply a fungicide, because this disease can really knock yields for a loop.” “However, I have a hard time advocating a blanket treatment for fungicides. I need to know what kind of disease pressure is out there and I need to know all the factors involved with a crop before I recommend a growers uses a fungicide,” Allison explains. Jardine agrees with Allison’s view. “The wise use of fungicides on corn and soybeans can pay off in more than improved yield and quality of crops. “Farmers are being urged by some fungicide companies to apply early, halfrate applications of a fungicide at the 5-6 leaf stage on corn. There’s little, if any, research from K-State to back up some of the claims that are being made. Our research indicates that’s not a wise use of fungicides,” Jardine says.  “Some growers say, ‘well, I’m putting out my herbicide already and it won’t hurt to throw a little fungicide in at the same time’. First, a dollar spent is money out of his pocket and if there is little chance of return on investment  – we think that money could be better spent,” the Kansas State researcher stresses. “Second, they may be setting themselves up for resistance problems and in effect risking a valuable tool used for crop management,” he adds. With grey leaf spot, research demonstrates over and over again that the best treatment is with a full rate of a fungicide, applied at tassling to silking. Early applications or even split applications have not shown any better results, Jardine says. “A part of our job at Crop Quest is to maximize production and farmer prot. We want to give him the best advice possible for his dollar. I don’t think advocating a uniform fungicide application would be doing my job and helping him maximize prots,” Allison concludes.

Mission Statement Crop Quest is an employee-owned company dedicated to providing the highest quality agricultural services for each customer. The quest of our network of professionals is to practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound.

Crop Quest Agronomic Services, Inc. Main Ofce: Phone 620.225.2233 Fax 620.225.3199 Internet: www.cropquest.com cqof[email protected]

Crop Quest Board of Directors President: Director: Director: Director: Director: Director:

Ron O’Hanlon Jim Gleason Dwight Koops Cort Minor Chris McInteer Rob Benyshek

“Employee-Owned & Customer Driven” 


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