manager's diary

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dakota lakes research farm

                              
           
Subject: Fall Update Date:   01 Sep 1999 Time:   15:38:00
manager's comments
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As you can probably tell it has been a busy summer for us. At least that is the excuse I will use for having such a long gap my entries in the manager’s diary. The concept seeder worked pretty well towards the end of the seeding season. We had some quality control problems during the early part of seeding. In other words when we made the multiple openers, all of the units were not built with the same tolerances. It would be easier if we were going to make 100,000 openers because then it would pay to build jigs. Most of these problems were solved. The closing system used this spring was not adequate in some situations. The reason for this is that we probably did not spend enough time working on that part of the opener. That work is in progress at this time as are a few other design changes in preparation for our fall seeding work. This will mainly entail stretching the spacing on the components of the multiple opener 4 inches to provide more room for mud flow in very wet conditions. We seeded in extremely muddy conditions this spring with minimal problems but felt it would be better with a little more room. In general, I feel we made good progress this year on the seeder. If you are in the market for seeders, it may be of substantial value to stop by the farm and discuss the concepts involved in this seeder and how you can achieve similar results in differing ways.

In terms of seeding there have been some interesting advancements during the last year. Flexi-coil has introduced the FSO opener, which is a single disk with parallel linkage (an advantage). They also offer some preliminary designs that combine corn planter units and FSO openers on the same machine to provide additional flexibility and add appreciable precision to the corn or sunflower seeding operation. We anticipate further changes in the options available in configuring these machines which may provide even more flexibility and utility. Case-Concord has just introduced its STX seeder. It should compete directly with the JD 1860 for market share. In certain conditions, modification of the closing and/or press systems may be required on all of these seeders. These modifications are not extensive or overly expensive. In our opinion, only the Flexi-coil’s design will do an adequate job of seeding crops like corn or sunflowers since they use a standard corn planter configuration for seeding these crops. Seed is delivered to the unit with air delivery but everything else is pretty much a standard corn planter.

This summer reinforced our belief that having wet soils at seeding time in central South Dakota is a GOOD thing if seeding can be done successfully. We needed that extra reserve on the summer crops to withstand the hot and dry period that occurred in July and August. We received a very, good, rain on August 29 and 30. Our soybeans had held on long enough that they should take advantage of this moisture. Our corn will also use some of the moisture but it would have been more beneficial if it had come a few weeks earlier. Even at that we expect to harvest over 100 Bu/a on most of the dryland fields at the main station. The west river study is on soils with less water holding capacity. They did not fare as well. In looking at Roy Scott’s variety and breeding trials on dryland there were significant differences in the maturity of the soybeans at the time the rains came. The later maturing varieties will be able to use this moisture while many of the early types had already given up. It has always been our belief with soybeans in this climate to plant very full season varieties (mid to late twos) in an attempt to allow the soybeans to wait longer for a rain. This appears to have worked this year. If this rain had not come, perhaps the earlier beans would have been better but our experience indicates that betting on a rain occurring sometime between late July and early September often pays off. Sunflowers would be a better bet if you don’t think this rain will occur.

Our irrigated crops have had plenty of sunshine and heat and thanks to no-till, John, and Chris they have had adequate water. We kept up this summer using much less water than we used in the old days when we used tillage. Even with the hot and dry weather, we were not forced to cut the seal on the load controllers. We anticipate very, good, yields and quality on the irrigated corn and soybeans in general. There are areas with some management errors and/or wind and hail damage but in general it looks good.

Our cool-season crop yields were very good again this year. The wet weather in May and June favored them. Winter wheat yields ranged from the low 50 Bu/a range on poor rotations west river to one variety slightly over 100 Bu/a on dryland at the main station. The mid-70s to high 80s were common. Protein was adequate where we fertilized for the yield levels attained. In a few instances, protein fell below desired levels due to inadequate N fertilization for the yield attained. This occurred because yields were better than anticipated and (to be honest) in a few cases I lacked the discipline to apply more nitrogen on a crop that wasn’t worth very much. When that happened all I did was assure that the crop wasn’t worth very much. Lesson learned (again).

Our spring wheat was quite good. All but a small proportion was dormant seeded in December. Some was seeded in the middle of March. Since we were able to seed early this spring (mid-March) we did not expect to have a great advantage with the dormant seeding. In fact, we felt initially that the warm weather last fall and winter may lead to problems with this technique. Yields with the dormant seeding were only slightly better than with the spring seeding. This gives us even more confidence to dormant seed again this fall. We mainly do the dormant seeding to protect against planting delays in a wet spring and to get the spring wheat seeding shifted from the early spring window to allow more cushion in seeding other spring crops like peas and chickpeas. These need to be seeded early and this needs to be completed in time to allow us to begin seeding corn by April 20 at Pierre. We will be dormant seeding much of our canola this year using a poly seed coating. We have dormant seeded canola in the past with mixed success. The coating will help. The difference in success with canola versus wheat in the past we have attributed to the shallower seeding depth of the canola. Our thought is that the deeper seeded wheat is less susceptible to temperature swings. The availability of Roundup Ready canola in the U.S. is going to simplify this system also. Part of the problem with canola in the past has been inadequate weed control.

Pea yields were very good this year at the main station. Not as good on the rotation study due to a number of management reasons and perhaps a few related to soils. The main station peas were over 60 Bu/acre, which is exceptional for this environment. Hopefully the livestock producers in the area will begin to appreciate the value of this crop as a feed source. We always produce some of our best wheat following peas but we need a feed market to complement the human edible market for them to find a permanent home here.

The chickpeas were OK but not exceptional. It was a little too hot and dry for them. We did not believe this was possible but it is. They do their flowering and grain fill much later that the pea, consequently they were caught by the bad weather. Yields were in the 1200 to 1700 lbs./a range with good quality for the most part. Price appears as if it will be very good. If the price does what is expected, they could again be a very high return crop even at these lower yield levels. They are very high risk in that the rain at maturity will make them nearly worthless.

I guess this is enough for now. I hope to be more punctual in the future.

                    
Subject:   Fertilizer Placement Date:   20 Apr 1999 Time:   00:54:21
manager's comments
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There is always a great deal of discussion on what is the "best" method of fertilizer placement. The answer is "It depends". I heard Bob McNabb of Minnedosa, Manitoba say at a conference a few years ago that "many producers forget the first role of the seeder is to do a good job of seeding". In other words fertilizer placement becomes their first priority. Fertilizer placement is not a limiting factor if a good uniform stand is not achieved. Placing excessive amounts of Nitrogen, Potash, Thiosulfate, etc. with the seed can delay emergence without necessarily reducing or eliminating the stand. The producer often thinks that there was no negative impact. Soil and moisture conditions can vary the impact appreciably.

So what do you do if you can't put the material all down with the seeder. Put on some P with the seed and do something else with the rest. In humid environments with no-till and appreciable surface residues, broadcasting P appears to be perfectly acceptable from a plant uptake perspective. (Some environmental concerns may be raised with this practice on a long-term basis). In this environment, moisture remains in the surface layers throughout most of the growing season. Roots and VAM stay active in this zone. In drier environments, there may be need for banding P. Don't disturb the seedbed to place P this year. Put all you can with the seed and work on changing the system before next year. Appreciable amounts of P can be placed with the seed if the N and some of the other compounds are applied elsewhere.

We have gotten a lot of calls in the last few weeks concerning N losses from surface applied urea (46-0-0) and UAN (28-0-0). It is true that appreciable amounts of N can be lost if urea or UAN are broadcast on the surface when conditons are wrong but keep it in perspective. Losses do not always occur. If it is cool and it is going to rain in a few days the loss will be low to minimal. If you are surface stripping the mantierial (a one inch band every 15 inches for example) you can reduce the potential for loss appreciably. Even if you lose 10% of a 100 lb/acre application it is worth $2.00 or less this year. Knifing will cost you more than that and you could spend even more cleaning up the weeds that result.

Don't get me wrong. I am a strong proponent of fertilizer placement with the seeder but it is more from the standpoint of increasing the competativeness of the crop relative to the weeds than it is from increasing fertilizer efficiency. The other issue is to increase workload efficiency by having a one-pass operation. There are other ways to get the N and P on that will work until you or someone else gets the engineering right. It just takes some planning and looking at the weather forecast.

My last though tonight concerns the large number of calls we receive concerning non-traditional fertilizers. The things that are predictable about a downturn in prices is that politicians will bluster, organic farming will get lots of press, and nontraditional fertilizers will come along that can perform miracles. I will not say there are not many unknown areas in understanding soil fertility. There are but the cure is not magic. I am convinced of that. If the salesman talks about activating your microbes, unlocking tied up nutrients, balancing your soil, etc. beware that many of these pitches have been around before and didn't last. Don't spend short operating capitol this year on majic. Concentrate on the basics. Many fertility responses occur because the plant does not have a healthy root system. Healthy roots growing in healthy soils (good biology) seem to find what they need quite well as long as we have done a reasonable job of assuring there is enough present (soil test). There is majic in that but it doesn't come in a can, bag, or tank. We produced 94 bu/a winter wheat, 70 plus bu/acre of soybeans, and over 230 bu/acre of corn last year with normal N and P plus good biology (and some luck). The P (50 to 70 lbs of 10-50-0) was placed with the seed . Most of the N was surface applied since were were still working on our placement system.

The bottom line is that you have to do the calculations. If it is questionable this year, don't do it or at least do a limited amount in replicated strips and weigh the results.

                               
Subject:   Getting ready for corn Date:  16 Apr 1999 Time:  22:10:21
manager's comments
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The concept seeder is coming together very nicely. There always is more to do on a project like this than one expects. I suspect that I just keep making changes until it is time to make the last dash to get it going. It will probably never be perfect but this version is a big imporvement. We have multiple openers on all of the parallel links. There is over 6 inches of up and down travel (nearly 13 inches total) while maintaining uniform down force. More on the seeder later.

We learned today of the death of Dan Cronin from Gettysburg. Dan hosted some of the first irrigation research we did along the Missouri River. This initial work led eventually the creation of the Dakota Lakes Researh Farm. I am not sure that events would have unfolded the same were it not for his generosity and support. He will be missed but not forgotten. The Dakota Lakes Research Farm Board of Directors named Dan as its "Friend of Dakota Lakes" for 1998..

                            
Subject:   Spring 99 Update Date:  09 Apr 1999 Time:  14:25:01
manager's comments
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We have finally gotten the Manager's Diary section working (we hope).

Spring has been somewhat dry with most of the rains skipping around us. This has allowed us to seed the spring crops at both sites in a very timely manner. We had most of the spring wheat in the ground in December as a dormant seeding. What remained was seeded by March 20. The dormant seeded wheat was ready to emerge by then. The dormant seeded winter wheat is behind the dormant spring wheat again this year. On Easter morning we were around 17 degrees. It didn't seem to damage the wheat or canola which was up.

The field peas and canola were all seeded by the end of March. We did seed some canola into frozen ground on January 29. That has emerged. Peas are emerging or are about to. Dormant seeding of peas in the past has not worked so none were dormant seeded. The chickpeas west river were seeded right before Easter in anticipation of the big rain. We didn't want to risk it getting overly wet on that soil. The wheat stubbles were marginally wet already. The dryland chickpeas on the east farm will probably go in today. They are talking rain again.

Some of the fields in the area with a conventional tillage history experience wind erosion damage about 10 days ago. There were fields that had been conventional tillage sunflower seeded to wheat without tillage last fall or this spring which were damaged also. Especially with sunflower it is important to have the residue from previous crops to prevent this from happening. The 750 type drills knock almost all of the sunflower residue flat. We rearranged our openers several years ago to keep all of the area from being impacted by a depth wheel. Our reasons for doing this were not related to wind erosion concerns due to the amount of residue we have accumulated (the stripper header is a major factor in keeping residue around through the sunflower year) but we noticed that more stubble was left standing. Even our dormant seeded wheat didn't have problems. Having corn or sorghum in the rotation and not harrowing straw seemed to prevent the problem. There was one rotation (WW-Soybean-Flax) in the west river study which would have blown if it were in a large field. There obviously isn't enough residue available in this rotation. The WW-Corn-Soybean-Pea rotation looked OK. I consider it marginal if the wind gets stronger or the weather dryer before new crop growth occurs.

All of the winter wheats survived very well. Varieties used included 2137, Jagger, and AP7510. We also had a partial field of soft-red wheat into pea stubble. This even survived. It was a good winter for wheat. There are a few varieties in a variety trial which are dinged a little. These varieties came from eastern Europe. We topdressed last fall with N. It looks like we got lucky since the weather hasn't been ideal for that this spring.

When we get dry weather early it gives us the opportunity to utilize early preplant herbicide programs. When the soil is wet these programs are hard to manage in terms of getting them applied. In dry years the opportunity is there. It seems the post-emerge programs do not perform as consistently in dry years. We do not know if this will be a dry year but we are hedging our bets and going to EPP where they fit. On soybeans we had Command down on some fields last fall so they were already covered. In some of the other soybeans we have (or are) putting out Authority. If Spartan becomes labeled in time we will pull the trigger on that as an EPP also. We something like Spartan or Authority we will put out a 2/3 rate early and add the last 1/3 with the burndown at seeding time. This isn't possible with Command. Dual, Frontier, Bladex, etc. can be treated the same way. In certain situations, the remaining Bladex can be held for use as an early post.

The concept seeder is coming along. We have been prototyping the multiple opener parallel links and have decided on a design. Almost all of them are built, so within a week we should be ready to go. It will be used predominately for corn, soybeans, and sunflower this year again. This will allow us to test the small-grain capability this summer after small grain harvest.

Tour Groups:

Kansas State University Agronomy Club spent a half-day at the research farm on April 8th. They toured the farm and visited about seeders.

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