In a few weeks most will awake to a joyful day of celebration that includes precious family time together and the exchange of presents. Imagine how odd it would be if someone opened a present you gave them and paused to hand it back to you saying “thank you but I would prefer to go purchase this myself”. Now that would be an awkward moment! This year, many farmers in the Midwest were given a free gift of mineralized nitrogen on their farm, but many of them did not accept the gift and instead purchased all of their N.
Too often we look at our hybrid or fertilizer strategy from one growing season and decide whether or not to change our approach. In order to make educated management decisions, what we really need is to gather data from multiple growing seasons.
In all likelihood this winter as you down a short stack of pancakes and cup of coffee at an industry meeting, you’re going to hear talk about “mineralization”. Undoubtedly the 2016 growing season will be remembered as a year where we received a tremendous free gift of nitrogen mineralized from the organic matter in our soils. But what is mineralization and how do we measure it?
While we all enjoy the warm fall weather, these warm temperatures in conjunction with a delayed soybean harvest create some issues for growers intending to apply fall anhydrous.
Most growers understand the importance of waiting until soil temperatures have dropped below 50 degrees in order to dramatically slow the conversion of ammonium nitrogen to the nitrate form. But these warm, sunny days in combination with a delayed soybean harvest dictate a much tighter window to apply anhydrous this fall.
In many areas, harvest is wrapping up, and growers are shifting their focus to finalizing input decisions as they take a well-earned breather from the hustle. At this time, thoughts about tillage and fertility programs are beginning to take center stage. Many of the actions taken this fall beneath the soil surface can have a large impact on next year’s crop, especially as it relates to rooting and fertility.
Although harvest and tillage are in full swing in many areas, preparation for the 2017 planting season is top-of-mind for many growers. Things like seed purchases, equipment plans, herbicide programs and fertility decisions are made well before the crop is dried.
A few interesting developments have occurred over the past 12 months that are changing the way we manage particular issues in the Midwest. An open letter from several university entomology departments in the Great Lakes region discusses concerns regarding the Cry1F protein (Herculex 1, TC1507) as it relates to control of the Western Bean Cutworm.
One of the hallmarks of the 2016 growing season for many areas will likely be the higher levels of mineralization of nitrogen from organic matter, which stemmed from the warm temperatures, reasonably uniform rainfall and good oxygen levels. Unfortunately it can be challenging to quantify mineralization in the middle of the growing season. Without measuring soil nitrate levels and adjusting to the season, many growers may have applied more nitrogen than might be necessary.
Growing up, our parents wanted to know where we were in case something went wrong. Corn growers also parent but in a completely different way. They manage resources in an attempt to grow corn as efficiently as possible. Many growers will take time this fall to apply nitrogen via anhydrous ammonia. But the question is, do you really know where your anhydrous is when you apply, and is it being distributed evenly across every knife?
As new technologies and ideas have emerged in agriculture, growers have adopted them and adapted their cultural practices to continue increasing yields and managing inputs in order to maintain their per-bushel costs. This year has provided a great example for many growers in the realm of nitrogen management.