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"Fall is a good time to get P and K down," said Rod Gustafson, Federated agronomist at the Albertville location. "It's one less thing to do in the spring," he said, noting that it's good to get DAP, potash, and sulfur (especially the elemental form) applied in the fall.
"Farmers will probably deal with less compaction issues in the fall than in the spring," he said, since the wet fields in springtime offer prime conditions for compaction, but fall applications have the "freezing and thawing over winter that helps break up any compaction issues," Gustafson said.
For growers who are using Variable Rate Technology (VRT) fall is the best time to leverage the power of their soil sample test results and apply the necessary nutrients before the rush of spring.
Without in-crop soil samples from earlier in the season (for growers just starting VRT, or those who do not use VRT), it can be a challenge to finish harvest, get soil samples, await test results, and then follow up with fertilizer applications in the fall, but it is possible (dependent upon when the ground freezes).
Fall fertilization is always beneficial, "whether variable rate or flat spread," said Gustafson. It's also faster to apply fertilizer on fields that haven't yet been worked up.
Of course, Federated appreciates the opportunity to do custom fertilizer application in the fall because "it helps spread the workload between seasons," said Gustafson. Fertilizer prices are down from where they were at this time last year. "It's a good value for nutrients now."
Contact your Federated Agronomist with fertilizer questions or to get on the custom application schedule.
"Many factors go into a successful growing season, and now it's time to keep a great crop year going with a safe harvest," said Tom Rausch, Federated's safety director. As summer wraps up and harvest begins, heeding the following reminders will help keep everyone safe.
- Keep harvest equipment -- including combines, trucks, augers, bins, dryers, and legs -- in top condition.
- The owner's manuals are a good guide for identifying the crucial areas for attention.
- An untimely breakdown puts things behind schedule, and in the rush that ensues, serious injuries can result. Resist the urge to rush through repairs.
- Use and replace all guards/shields once any repair or check is completed.
- Check electrical and gas service for tight, water-free boxes and leak-free connections.
- Ensure that all equipment operators are trained and/or familiar with the equipment they will be running.
- Don't assume workers remember how the equipment works. "Always refresh their memories," said Rausch. Every minute of training can be priceless when it comes to saving a life or preventing serious injury. "It only takes a second to change a life if the worker isn't up to speed using equipment," Rausch added.
- Keep a close eye on children on or around the farm.
- "Talk to the children about all of the activity that will be taking place [during harvest] and make it clear they are to be aware and stay a safe distance from all of the action unless accompanied by a trustworthy adult," said Rausch.
- Keep a keen eye on field conditions. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- The heavy rains in several areas Federated serves have created washouts and unexpected erosion. Navigate fields with care.
- Beware of fire potential.
- Fuel the combine when the engine is cool "because fuel vapors can easily ignite on hot engines," Rausch reminded.
- Keep a suitable fire extinguisher on the combine, accessible from the ground.
- Frequently blow dirt, chaff, leaves, and all other flammable debris off the machine.
- Check bearings, shafts, belts, and any moving parts for wrapped plant material. Remove this material only when the machine is turned off and after any possible stored energy is released.
- Always practice safe bin entry procedures. Always.
"It's a lot to think about, but with a little planning and preparation, a safe and successful harvest will indeed put an exclamation point on a great crop year," said Rausch.
- Keep harvest equipment -- including combines, trucks, augers, bins, dryers, and legs -- in top condition.
The 2016 harvest is here and it's also time to get going on 2017 seed orders. Planning ahead ensures that the seed that's wanted is the seed that's available. As the yield monitors prove what worked well this year, it's time to decide what to plant next year.
Duane Droogsma, Federated agronomist at the Rush City location, noted that budgeting is easier when seed decisions are made early. Costs and commodity pricing are always a challenge to gauge, but budgeting is simplified when seed costs are determined up front.
"Pick out the [hybrids and] varieties that fit your farm," said Droogsma. Seed choice should be based on good field assessments and solid crop information. Talk to your Federated Agronomist to help determine what seed will fit your fields and your crop management practices.
Early ordering safeguards the right seed availability come spring. Droogsma noted this important early seed order fact: The new Roundup Ready (RR) 2 Xtend® Soybeans will be in limited supply.
Kevin Carlson, Federated's senior agronomist, expanded on that fact: "We are already receiving our allocations for the RR 2 Xtend soybeans; the overall quantities of these varieties will be limited, so talk to your Federated Agronomist sooner rather than later."
Carlson also noted that the same applies to the Liberty Link® soybeans: "That system works pretty well for weed control as well, so the demand is high." He added that growers should "speak up for those traited varieties . . . they will sell out fairly quickly."
Both the Liberty and the RR 2 Xtend systems are good for helping control glyphosate-resistant weeds such as giant ragweed, waterhemp, and lambsquarters.
Talk to your Federated Agronomist to determine what seed is right for your farm. And then get it ordered.
The SCN Problem
Soybean cyst nematodes (SCNs) cause "a lot more damage than people think," said Ron Paulson, Federated agronomist at the Isanti location. Growers have lost billions of dollars in yields across the U.S. "It's been the #1 cause of yield loss in recent years," said Paulson.
Research indicates yields can be cut by up to 30% if the beans being planted are not resistant to SCNs. The pests were first seen in Minnesota in the late 1970s, and have gradually moved further north, and are now evident throughout Federated's service areas. "A lot of people don't even realize they have SCNs," said Paulson.
As with many crop issues, the answer lies in testing. Soil tests can determine whether or not the cysts are in the roots of the plants. The presence of SCNs is often indicated by stunted growth, yellowish color, and smaller plants. SCNs move through the roots and affect the plant's ability to take up nutrients. (And over time, unhealthy plants are susceptible to other diseases.)
If you think you have an SCN problem, take 10-15 core samples at 6-8 inches deep in an apparent problem area; be sure to get root mass in the sample. Mix the samples together and bring a pint-sized composite to Federated. "We will send it in and see what the cyst count is," Paulson said.
If SCNs are in the soil, they can stay there -- affecting crops and yields -- for up to nine years! Talk to your Federated Agronomist about defensive varieties you can plant next year (see below).
The Best Defense Against SCN
Studying the opposition's line of attack precedes any good football play. Likewise, analyzing the level of resistance to soybean cyst nematode (SCNs) is the first step in planning a strong defense against the pests.
"We need to first determine how bad the problem is," said Heidi Hughes, Federated agronomist at the Isanti location. "After that, we can move forward onto the best variety for our fields," she added.
First off, according to Hughes, is to choose a seed company. Federated offers soybean varieties from Asgrow, Croplan, Legend, NK, Renk, and new in 2017, Mycogen. About 80% of the seed from these companies contains one or more of the SCN resistant genes.
Selecting the particular variety that would fit a particular field better can be a bit of a challenge. Every variety is labeled with an easy-to-understand number ranked on a scale of 1 to 9 for SCN resistance: 9 = Best, 5 = Average, and 1 = Worst resistance. Several of the varieties then add a letter or combination of letters and numbers that may seem more complicated -- "but don't fret," said Hughes, "we can make sense of it for you.
The letters R, MR, and S indicate whether the variety is Susceptible, Moderately Resistant, or Resistant to SCN. An additional number following these letters represents the specific race of SCN that the variety is resistant to, Hughes explained. For example, MR14 is a variety that is moderately resistant to race 14.
"The best way to figure out what variety and maturity is best for your fields," said Hughes, "is to see your local Federated Agronomist." Discuss the level of resistance you've seen in your fields and then determine your best defense.
Another season of Discovery Plot Tours is history, and 2016's events were a huge success. Thank you to these Discovery Plot cooperators for the major role they play, contributing much time and energy to the plot tours.
Larry & Sharon Wilhelm
Craig, Margret & Andre Mold
Paul & Janet Bostrom
Todd & Robert Steffen
Doug & Lori Lezer
Craig, Janet & Neil Gustafson
Federated also thanks the growers and others who attended one of the eight Discovery Plot Tours last month. We trust that you benefitted from our efforts to provide value-added information with local influence.
We are grateful for the team effort and look forward to the next growing season!
"With the price of commodities, and especially the lower price of fertilizer, it's an especially good time to check the soil in the fields," said Kevin Carlson, Federated's senior agronomist.
"A current soil sample is a reasonable investment of $25-$40," said Carlson, "and with the lowest fertilizer prices we've seen in 10 years on phosphorous and potash, it's a good time to get the best value on fertilizer investments." Soil samples determine where the nutrients are most needed.
Carlson recommended soil sampling this fall if field fertility information is more than three or four years old. He would even soil sample every couple of years -- because better and more current information is "invaluable" when making fertilizer recommendations. "It's really the foundation," he said.
Contact your Federated Agronomist with any questions about soil sampling this fall.
Discovery Plot Days began yesterday and continue through this week and next. It's not too late to get in on one of these info-rich tours. Key topics include:
- The Do's and Don'ts of the RR 2 Xtend Soybean System
- Adding Value with a Soil Sample
- Fall Fertilizer Programs
All Discovery Plots start at 10 a.m., followed by a steak dinner at noon. RSVP to your Federated Agronomist.
- Thursday, Aug. 25
- Rush City - Cramaur Farm
- Friday, Aug. 26
- Hinckley - Nathan Nelson Farm
- Monday, Aug. 29
- Foley - Lezer Farm
- Tuesday, Aug. 30
- Albertville - Lenneman Farm
- Wednesday, Aug. 31
- Ogilvie - Steffen Farm
The summer growing season is at its peak and "most of the crop is in the late milk to dough stage" (see photo) if it was planted on time, according to Kevin Carlson, Federated's senior agronomist.
In Federated's service areas the corn is right on course, or a little bit early, he indicated, "maybe about a week ahead, so we are doing well to make it [to full maturity] for a normal frost date."
Depending on where your farm is located, the typical frost dates in east-central Minnesota and western Wisconsin range from Sept. 20-25 - so "we should make it easily before the normal frost date," said Carlson.
If weather, temperatures, and moisture keep falling into place, "we should have good test weight -- and corn that will dry naturally in the field -- if it matures to black layer before a killing frost," Carlson said (see chart on corn maturity).
Contact your nearest Federated location to discuss propane and/or drying options, as needed. And as always, talk to your Federated Agronomist about any late-season crop concerns.
Timing it Right
Fall is by far the best time to feed alfalfa, according to Cody Lezer, Federated agronomist at the Ogilvie location. Fertilizer applied "after the last harvest will increase the availability of potassium and phosphorous in the soil," said Lezer, and will improve the crop's winter hardiness and stand.
Plus, those nutrients will give the alfalfa a big boost in the spring. Fall, however, is when growers need to soil sample to determine fertilizer application needs.
Applying the Right Nutrients
Federated offers SuperCal SO4, by Gypsoil, to help alfalfa thrive. SuperCal SO4 is a very good source of calcium and sulfur (seeanalysis here). Lezer said, "SuperCal SO4 is a slow-release sulfur source, making it available to the plants for the entire growing season."
SuperCal SO4 promotes better roots and, a good sulfur level produces forage with more protein and less nitrate (see fact sheet). SuperCal SO4 is available in a pelleted, blendable form for easy one-pass application.
Contact your Federated Agronomist for soil sampling and alfalfa fertilizer recommendations or assistance.
As the propane markets enter the fall corn drying season a substantial market contango has developed. "A contango market is a situation where the futures price of a commodity, [in this case] propane, is above the current market price," said Mark Grave, Federated's propane operations manager.
The drivers for this uptrend in the futures market is based on a number of factors:
- current propane markets are slightly depressed,
- propane storage costs are rising,
- crude futures are slowly increasing, and
- the end of El Nino weather patterns, as predicted.
Growers face a challenge for purchasing and contracting for propane with the upward price curve in the propane futures market for October/November. Growers may ask: Will the current price of propane rise to meet the higher futures market? Will the contango unwind as fall progresses? Will lower prices prevail? According to Grave, "Time will tell."
Grave added, "The propane supply plan is a constantly evolving document. When market conditions such as this present themselves, plans are adjusted on a daily basis."
Federated is putting additional inventory in place at current market conditions. A portion of replacement gallons are hedged to provide fall pricing stability, while a portion of replacement gallons are left open to provide stability should this uptrend fail to materialize.
"Federated's goal is to provide steady propane supply through the harvest season at the most stable price possible," Grave said.
Grave's best advice to growers? Fill all available propane storage now. "That is the best place to start," he said. Then, contract 50% to 75% of expected gallons needed for this fall to provide a safety net should the markets rise to meet the higher futures prices.