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Enhancing Cropping System Performance Under Increased Environmental Variability

Graduate students at the University of Minnesota have organized a first-annual event - Production Agriculture Symposium on Thursday, February 13, 2014 on the Saint Paul campus. The theme for the 2014 event is Enhancing Cropping System Performance Under Increased Environmental Variability.

The symposium seeks to bring together students, growers, crop consultants, and agricultural industry specialists to discuss agricultural production in hopes that, through knowledge sharing and discussion, new solutions to the world's pressing food and environmental problems may be found.

Management of Fields with Un-harvested Sugar beet Fall 2013 for Cropping Year 2014

John A. Lamb, Nutrient Management Extension Specialist
Because of weather, a number of acres of the 2013 sugar beet crop will not be harvested.  It has been a number of years (PIK years) since this many acres have been left un-harvested.  At that time, SMBSC and the University of Minnesota did conduct a number of research studies to answer the main production question:  "What should I do with these fields for next year?"

Nitrogen Crediting for fields with Cover Crops

By Daniel Kaiser, Fabian Fernandez, John Lamb, and Carl Rosen, University of Minnesota Extension Nutrient Management Specialists
The increase number of acres planted to cover crops has raised questions on nitrogen (N) crediting for the 2014 cropping year. While there are many benefits touted for the use of cover crops, there are a lot of unknowns when determining N credits. This is especially true for mixes with multiple plant species.

One of the benefits of cover crops is scavenging of N during the growing season. This N can potentially be released for the following year's crop. While there may be a benefit from additional N available to the next year's crop, the process of mineralization of N through the decomposition of residue can progress over the growing season. Thus, N may not be available during periods of rapid N uptake by corn. This delay in availability makes it difficult to predict the amount of available N using the total amount of N per acre contained in the cro…

Soil Fertility Considerations and Fallow Syndrome

By Daniel Kaiser, Extension Nutrient Management Specialist
The increased number of corn acres managed with prevented planting in 2013 has resulted in numerous questions about management in 2014. One major question that arises is the effect of fallow syndrome.  Fallow syndrome is a result of reduced colonization of plant roots by vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (abbreviated VAM).  Since VAM are important in the uptake of elements such as phosphorus and zinc, questions arise as to proper management for the following years crops.  However, fallow syndrome does not affect all crops nor will it likely be an issue for all prevented planting acres

Custom Manure Applicators Asked to Help in Preventing the Spread of Pig PED Virus

Larry D. Jacobson, Extension Agricultural Engineer, U of M Extension

With the harvest season fast approaching, the application of stored manure from animal facilities on the harvested fields will soon follow. This year, pork producers need to be aware of the risk of spreading Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) through equipment used to pump and land apply manure from all farms but especially those with pigs exhibiting clinical signs of the disease. PED can be spread through oral-fecal contact, manure contaminated boots, clothing, birds and wildlife, transport trailers and other equipment.

The Art of Swathing

Swathing or windrowing of wheat, barley and oats were, at one time, the default operations that signaled the beginning of harvest. The primary purpose of swathing is to speed up and even out the dry down of the crop. Swathing always posed a risk as grain in the swath is more prone to preharvest sprouting if threshing is delayed due to adverse weather

Therefore, most wheat and barley is now straight cut in large part because modern varieties allow for it. Preharvest applications of glyphosate have further reduced need to swath wheat. In oats swathing remains more common place.

Protect pollinators while trying to protect your crops

By Robert Koch & Marla Spivak, Extension Entomologists
Honey bees and native bees forage in and near soybean and cornfields, especially during dry weather. When treatment decisions are being made for pests of these crops, it is important to consider minimizing the risk to these pollinators. Bees are the most important pollinators of our fruits, vegetables and crops like alfalfa hay that feed our farm animals. Honey bees and the thousands of native bee species all rely on the flowers they pollinate for good nutrition and health. Bees are being pushed to the tipping point by various factors, such as disruption of natural habitats, diseases and parasites, and widespread overuse of pesticides.

Be Aware of Potential Carryover Concerns when Using Ditch Hay

By Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator - Crops
The harvesting of ditch hay (grass and legumes growing along roadsides) has provided livestock owners with a source of forage for years.  Tight forage supplies, however, have led to a greater demand for ditch hay than usual this year.  If you feed or sell ditch hay, be sure you know what, if any, herbicides were applied to the ditch hay to avoid potential herbicide carryover issues in manure from animals fed the ditch hay.

Small Grains Disease Update 07-18-13

The grain fill is rapidly progressing towards physiological maturity in both spring and winter wheat across the State. Actually, the first winter wheat in West Central Minnesota was reportedly harvested today. The scouts continue to predominantly fin the tanspot/Septoria complex of leaf diseases and BYDV. Incidence of leaf rust remains low while no stem or stripe rust was found to date.

Small Grains Disease Update 07-18-13

The grain fill is rapidly progressing towards physiological maturity in both spring and winter wheat across the State. Actually, the first winter wheat in West Central Minnesota was reportedly harvested today. The scouts continue to predominantly fin the tanspot/Septoria complex of leaf diseases and BYDV. Incidence of leaf rust remains low while no stem or stripe rust was found to date.

Weed Management in Prevented Planting Acres

By Jeffrey L. Gunsolus, Extension Agronomist - Weed Science
The wet weather pattern this spring and early summer has left a significant number of acres, especially in southeastern MN, unplanted. Current estimates in southeastern MN project 30% of the tillable acres have not been planted and on many of these acres weeds such as giant ragweed, common lambsquarters and waterhemp are thriving.

Although weeds are beneficial from an erosion control perspective their rapid growth will make seedbed preparation for planting cover crops very difficult and weed seed production potential will challenge even the best weed management tactics available in 2014.

Small Grains Disease Update 06/27/13

It may have taken some time to get in to the fields this year, but the small grains crops are now roaring away in the warmer weather. The earliest seeded fields are rapidly approaching heading and with that decisions about whether to use fungicide at anthesis are now front and center.

Reduce Risk of "Fallow Syndrome" with a Cover Crop

By Lizabeth Stahl and Jill Sackett, Extension Educators
The challenging spring of 2013 resulted in wide-spread planting delays across the state and a significant amount of acres that remain unplanted at this time.  If the decision has been made to take the "prevented planting" option for insurance purposes, the question remains about what to do with these acres.  Leaving the ground bare greatly increases the risk of not only soil erosion, but also the risk of "Fallow Syndrome" the following year.

Late Planted Forage Crop Options

by Dan Martens, Stearns-Benton-Morrison Counties
Some farmers have been still trying to plant corn for silage or other forage crops to meet feed needs for dairy and beef cattle. Recent rain has made a mess of these efforts again recently. One of the more recent field trials done to look at late planted forage crop options was done in Pelican Rapids and Rosemount in 2002 and 2003. I am posting a report of that study here.

Late planted forage trial 02 03.pdf

When it rains, it pours! What is happening to my nitrogen? v 2.0

By Daniel Kaiser and John Lamb, Extension Soil Fertility Specialists
Many of our earlier planted fields in Minnesota have been exhibiting some significant variation in plant growth and yellowing this spring.  Our conditions in May and early June have been less than favorable for corn growth and for the release of nutrients from organic matter.  Due to the heavy rains nitrogen loss is being increasingly questioned and the decision of whether to side-dress or not will need to be made sooner or later.  There are a few considerations to make when deciding if more nitrogen should be applied.

Soybean aphids found on soybean in southeast Minnesota

By Robert Koch, Extension Entomologist
On June 11, 2013, we found soybean aphids on soybean at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center near Rosemount, MN. Not many beans were out of the ground there, but in the two fields we sampled, we found aphids. We sampled one commercial soybean field at the VC growth stage (unifoliate leaves unfolded) and found 7.5% of plants infested with 1 to 9 aphids on each infested plant. The other field we sampled was a small plot trial, also at the VC growth stage, and had 10% of plants infested with 2 to 3 aphids on each plant.

Snow, rain, mud, now what?

The weather has put us in a bind. Significant amounts of planting have yet to be completed, which has led to questions on the "correct" course of action. There will be no one "correct" course of action and with fields unsuitable for planting and more rain in the forecast there will be no easy decisions. One choice could be to utilize prevented planting, a choice that is appropriate for some and will lead to many other decisions to be made. A second option is to switch corn acres to soybeans; this may also be a wise and appropriate decision for some acres. Remember when planting soybeans after June 10th it is generally recommended to drop 0.5 RM from your typical full season varieties. The final choice is to stay the course and plant corn, a perfectly viable option for some acres.
A full set of delayed planting resources can be found at: http://z.umn.edu/lateplanting

Small Grains Disease Update

Early Season Scouting in Small Grains: Tan Spot
With the overcast and humid days which many parts of the state have been experiencing in the last week, be sure to scout smalls grains for signs of early tan spot infection. Tan spot will be particularly prevalent on previous wheat ground. Spring wheat in trials on the Northwest Research and Outreach Center at Crookston has 100% incidence with tan spot. There is some tan spot in the winter wheat. Early signs of tan spot in fields south of Moorhead, Minnesota, have also been identified.

Soil Residual Herbicide Options after Soybean Emergence

By Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator - Crops, and Jeff Gunsolus, Extension Agronomist - Weed Science
With very tight windows of opportunity to plant this year, preemergence herbicides may not have been applied as planned.  Application of a residual herbicide prior to planting or emergence of the crop, in both corn and soybean, is a great weed management strategy overall and also a key tool in managing against herbicide resistance.  What are some of our options if soybeans emerged before a preemergence herbicide application was made?  

Hybrid Maturity Considerations for Delayed Corn Planting

By Jeff Coulter, Extension Corn Agronomist
For much of Minnesota, the windows of opportunity for corn planting have been late to arrive and interrupted by weather. This article addresses several concerns about late-planted corn.

Expected yield remains high for corn planted by May 25
University of Minnesota Extension planting date studies show that highest corn yields typically occur when corn is planted by early to mid-May. However, high corn yields can still occur if planting is completed prior to Memorial Day.

University of Minnesota Extension Launches Websites for Alfalfa Weather Damage and Survey to Determine Extent of Alfalfa Damage

By David Nicolai and Doug Holen, Extension Educators - Crops
The University of Minnesota Extension Forage Team has developed a list of resources available to livestock and alfalfa producers affected by the recent alfalfa winter injury and winterkill in 2013. These resources are available at the U of MN Extension forage website:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/forages/growth-and-development/

Starter and Sulfur Fertilizer use for Corn:Spring 2013

By Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
With the variation in conditions we have seen this spring there are a few issues that may show up in fields related to cool and wet soils. Purpling of corn leaves due to phosphorus (P) deficiency and early season interveinal striping due to sulfur (S) may occur if temperatures remain cool and we continue to have frequent rains. I want to take some time and outline these issues and some of the related research that has been conducted in the past five years.

Iron Deficiency Chlorosis Research in NW Minnesota

By John Wiersma, Agronomist
Northwest Research and Outreach Center
High pH, highly calcareous soils, common in western Minnesota, restrict the availability of soil Fe needed for optimum soybean growth and yield. On such soils, the amount of Fe fertilizer applied must surpass a threshold before there is sufficient available Fe in the soil solution to induce a positive growth response. Only a limited number of management tactics designed to improve the availability of Fe have been studied with soybean. These include variety selection, seeding density, seed-applied or in-furrow materials, and foliar treatments.

Maximizing forage in winter injured and killed stands, Spring 2013

By Dr. Craig Sheaffer, David Nicolai and Doug Holen
An unusual amount of winter injury and winterkill of alfalfa stands occurred in south central and southern Minnesota. While reports do not represent a detailed analysis of where injury to alfalfa has occurred across Minnesota, they do suggest a need for producers to check on stands and evaluate them for potential winter injury.

Using Grid Soil Sampling to Guide Manure Application

Les Everett, Randy Pepin and Jose A. Hernandez, University of Minnesota

Using grid soil sampling to guide manure application can be a profitable investment, is the conclusion from case studies based on eight Minnesota farms. In fields where there is a history of non-uniform manure application, targeting new manure applications to areas with lower phosphorus and potassium soil test values can result in considerable economic returns above the cost of grid soil sampling. Variable rate manure applicators are not required when fields can be divided into application and no-application zones, with supplemental nitrogen fertilizer in the no-manure zones. The brief case studies are available on the University of Minnesota Extension web page for Manure Management and Air Quality http://www.manure.umn.edu, under Grid Soil Sampling for Manure Application. An introduction, the eight case studies, and a set of short video presentations based on the case studies are available at http://z.umn.edu/gr…

Update on Iron Deficiency Chlorosis Research for Soybean

By Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
Management of Iron (Fe) deficiency chlorosis (IDC) in soybean is seemingly and endless topic of research in soybean growing areas with high pH, calcareous, parent materials. We are just finishing a three-year summary of a series of IDC management strip trials that began in 2010. Our main focus for this work was to study the variability in response for a tolerant and susceptible variety to an oat companion crop and a 6% EDDHA-Fe treatment applied in-furrow (we used Soygreen at a rate of 3 lbs of product per acre). The field areas were selected to have some variation in the severity of IDC.

Soil Testing Sentinel Program in Minnesota

By Daniel Kaiser, University Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
With the extreme variability in growing conditions there have been some questions regarding the variability in soil test. A project is being launched to establish a series of sentinel plots to study the monthly variation in soil test values over the next two growing season. We are looking for participants that are willing to take samples from a single point within a field and mail them off to us at Saint Paul. The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of what is happening over the growing season for a number of different nutrients commonly measured.

Black cutworm pheromone trapping network

By Bruce Potter, IPM Specialist SW MN
The late spring has had one advantage. Migration of insect pests from the south into Minnesota has been delayed.

The black cutworm, one of the migrant pest species that sporadically causes problems in Minnesota crops, reduced stands in some 2011 and 2012 corn fields. The females prefer to lay eggs in un-worked fields where areas of winter annual or early spring germinating weeds, common lambsquarters for example, occur.

Does my soybean crop need sulfur?

Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
I know there are still questions on the application of sulfur for soybean.  Between me and a number of other researchers in Minnesota, we have been working on a number of projects focusing on sulfur management on corn, soybean, and spring wheat.  Recently the soybean research has been fully summarized so I want to take a minute or two to highlight some of the findings to outline where we are at with the current guidelines for fertilizer management on soybean.

Safely Handling Treated Seed

By Lizabeth Stahl, Extension Educator - Crops
Much of the seed planted this year will have been treated with a fungicide, insecticide and/or nematicide. As when working with any pesticide, care should be taken when handling treated seed so that exposure to the handler, non-target organisms, and the environment is reduced or prevented as much as possible.

Planting Window for Small Grains Already Closing

While nearly all the small grains were seeded in Minnesota by this date in 2012, this spring is a different story. The unseasonably cold temperatures and relentless snow fall is setting us up for a (very) late spring. This will mean that, already, the planting window for small grains is closing for parts of the state. Understand that you can still plant spring wheat, barley, and oats after the last recommended date but that the chances to have good, competitive grain yields and quality are greatly reduced.

Check out this post from 2014 to understand how and why the planting window for wheat, barley and oats is.

How Much Starter Can I Use on My Corn?

Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
University of Minnesota
Seemingly unpredictable weather conditions each spring inevitably bring up questions on placement of fertilizer with the seed.  Starter fertilizer has played an important role in nutrient management in corn in Minnesota.  However, tools for deciding on how much that can safely be applied have not been widely available.  While these tools can be used common sense is still needed in making a decision on what should be done.

Spring Nitrogen Management Options for Small Grains

Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
A few questions arose over the winter as to options for spring applied nitrogen for small grains in areas where fall application was not possible. One option that was questioned was increasing application rates with the air seeder.  While this does present increased risk, with spring approaching I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some resources available for helping make decisions on what to apply. Application with the air seeder allows for more options due to a wide range of seedbed utilized with the various seed spread patters available.

Soil Testing For K

By Daniel Kaiser, Extension Soil Fertility Specialist
With spring finally approaching it is a good time to address some questions on soil testing that came up of the winter concerning testing soils in a field moist state versus the standard dried samples that are run through soil testing labs.  First I would like to make it clear that the issue of drying of a soil sample mainly pertains to potassium. Most other tests routinely run through the lab are not affected by drying of the sample.  The reason why potassium is different is due to its chemistry in the soil.  We currently have finished the second year of potassium studies looking at both testing methods but will be continuing this work for the foreseeable future to gain a better understanding of what is going on within the soil.

Establishing a Better Understanding for 2013 Alfalfa Productivity Potential

By Doug Holen, Dr. Phil Glogoza and Dr. Craig Sheaffer
March 28, 2013
The increasing cost of forages, fearing continued 2012 droughty conditions, and extending the winter season has many producers wondering about the productivity of their hay fields in 2013. While temperatures have been respectively cold this winter, the good news is that an insulating layer of snow has persisted across most of the state for an extended period of time.