Thursday, October 30, 2014

What Has Worked For Me

It is good to review what has worked for me the past 20 years.

1. Set Your Planter Right. Your no-till planter setup can depend on your conditions and equipment. Talk to others who are no-tilling successfully and do Ed Winkleyour homework, including research on the Internet.
We take the coulter out of the row area to lift the soil lightly beside and above the seed. Our goal is to end up with the same soil density above every seed. And we want that coulter to be 2 to 3 inches off the side of the row to properly place nitrogen and sulfur.  A key part of the no-till planter setup is the gauge wheel. I recommend the Case IH gauge wheel.
2. Test Soil And Plant Tissue. Don’t guess at soil tests; make sure you’re meeting the crop’s nutrient needs. It’s extremely valuable for me to pull my own samples, so I see the soil quality as I’m probing. You can see the difference from field to field, and soil type to soil type. Also, sample 1 to 2 inches deep wherever you sample at 8 inches.
It takes a lot less phosphorus than we thought we needed in the past. We have a potassium problem in Ohio and across the Midwest that we’re trying to explore. We’ve got potassium tied up 1 or 2 inches deep in no-till. How do you fix it? The first question is, are you using sulfur?
Tissue tests really help you see what nutrients are getting into the plant. Probably half the corn tissue tests I pulled last year showed potassium deficiencies. We also found a lot of boron deficiencies, but never a calcium deficiency.
3. Monitor Calcium-Magnesium Ratios. The advantage of calcium is the soil aggregation it creates, not its value as a soil nutrient. Our best no-till yields are coming with 70% calcium, 15% magnesium and 3.5% potassium. That varies with the soil’s cation exchange. The soils I work with are usually in the 10 to 20 cation-exchange range. You can improve those over time.
We’ve switched many farmers from dolomitic lime to high-calcium lime, and they are seeing improved soil conditions. Their no-till soybean yields are coming up. We’re probably addressing pH more than we are calcium.
A neighbor of mine had terrible soybean yields in 2003 — just  28 bushels an acre. So we pulled a soil test and made a few recommendations. We added 3 tons of high-calcium lime, 200 pounds of 18-46-0 fertilizer, 300 pounds of 0-0-60, 200 pounds of pell lime and 1 pound of boron per acre. We changed varieties and his tillage practice. We went from 28 bushels to 72 bushels an acre.
But that year, 2004, was one of the best growing years we’ve ever had in southern Ohio. So, we can take credit for 10 or 15 bushels of increased yield, but the rest goes to Mother Nature.
4. Use Gypsum As A Basic Part of Your Soil Program. Most soils I sample are low in calcium and sulfur.  Gypsum is calcium sulfate and has been the answer to the problem for a lot of poorly drained to well drained farms. The National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory found that 35 pounds of gypsum per inch of rainfall increases soil, air and water movement 300%. Gypsum is critical for easing compaction in the top 20 inches of soil.
5. Know Your Seed Dealer. I want an excellent relationship with seed dealers so I know what they really think and I can have them help me. Both the seed lot and seed quality will affect your results. But remember that the highest germination rate doesn’t necessarily equal the best seed, and the lowest rate doesn’t necessarily equal the worst seed.

One thing to look for is phosphorus content. They test the seed for phosphorus content in Australia, but we don’t do it in America. In my test-plot results, the seed with the highest phosphorus content did not have the highest germination rate, but it had the highest yield.

There’s an old USDA study that shows that the seed lots of one pedigree of corn can vary more than 30 bushels an acre. We have seen that time after time in corn plot trials. Seed companies used to publish the ear height, the silking date and the plant height so we could closely compare pedigrees. But some of the major seed companies took that out of their data, so we can’t compare that anymore. Ask your seed dealer about these things.
6. Pay Attention To Seed Treatments. We no-tilled 110-day white corn with different seed treatments to compare results. Our standard Captan-Apron treatment yielded 218 bushels; with Poncho, it made 222; with Cruiser, 226; with Gaucho, 227; and with biologicals and an inoculant, without any of the seed treatments, it made 230 bushels per acre. We’re going to use Cruiser and Gaucho on most of our plots.
7. Use Hybrid Striping. Some farmers like to stripe their fields, while others no-till the same hybrid across the field. But there is an advantage to hybrid striping.
There’s an old UDSA study that says when you plant dissimilar hybrids about 4 days apart, you get a 7% yield advantage. On our 40-acre plot, striping gained 14 to 20 bushels over the same seed lot planted by itself at the other end of the field.
8. No-till Cover Crops. We’re seeing great results with annual ryegrass as a cover crop. We let it grow about 4 inches high, and it has 10-inch roots by that time. It’s giving us better weed control and more carbon deeper in the soil. I’m not worried about glyphosate interaction, because it doesn’t go to seed.
9. Always Inoculate Your Legumes. Inoculation gives you a healthier crop with more immunity to infestations. I know a no-tiller putting America’s Best and T-22 on his seed in a concrete mixer, and he’s seeing a 7- to 8-bushel increase in soybean yields. Now he won’t plant without it.
Inoculating the seed is very important. There are some excellent strains out there. About 1995, the USDA came up with new strains that compete with the rhizobia in the soil, so it pays to inoculate soybeans every year.

You can gain 2 to 3 bushels an acre; we’re getting as much as 8 bushels more.

We are still doing this. This year we have lots of lime to spread as we need about 1 ton of high calcium lime on our soil every three years. The striping results will be interesting with the huge variation of hybrid or variety to extremem growing conditions this year. T-22 has been replaced with new strains and labeled as SabrEx.  These new strains made 14 more bu of wheat for me this year.

The newest strain of America's best was almost 7 bu better than the control last year and looks good this year.  You folks are telling me you are yielding 2-3 bushels more soybeans with GraphEx SA and other America's Best products.  Getting it all done takes a lot of study and planning.

What has worked best for you this year?

Thank you for your interest!

Ed Winkle

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