By Darren Goebel
Alfalfa is a crop that responds well to management. Growers should plan to manage alfalfa differently, however, depending on its planned use, yield goals and how often it is acceptable to refresh the stand. Stand establishment, fertility and cutting management are the three main tools growers can use to affect quality, yield and stand persistence, with cutting timing having the biggest impact on the these characteristics.
Relative feed value, a measure of quality, is highest when alfalfa is cut at the bud stage. This is especially important when growers are raising alfalfa for dairy cows, since dairy cows need the very best ration in order to maximize milk output. One consequence of repeatedly harvesting at the bud stage, however, is that alfalfa stands will need to be reestablished more often, since the plant doesn’t have time to adequately recover between cuttings. Yield per cutting will also be reduced when cutting at the bud stage. However, since an additional cutting per year can usually be taken, total yield per acre per season will be pretty similar to cutting at full bloom. For growers who want to optimize stand, quality and yield, cutting at 10% bloom is a good alternative. Cutting at this stage provides acceptable hay for beef cattle and horses.
No matter what your management plan, eventually stand density will decrease. Plant and stem counts should be conducted periodically to determine the yield potential of a field. When alfalfa growth is 4 to 6 inches in height, use stem counts (stems per square foot) as the preferred density measure. Count only the stems expected to be tall enough to mow. A stem density of 55 per square foot has good yield potential. Expect some yield loss with stem counts between 40 and 50. Consider replacing the stand if there are less than 40 stems per square foot and the crown and root health is poor. Older stands typically have fewer plants per square foot, but older plants produce more stems than younger plants.
When replacing alfalfa stands, rotate to corn or small grains for a minimum of one year to avoid auto-toxicity. If you plan to go back to alfalfa, check pH, P, and K levels before reseeding. It is very important to maintain medium to high nutrient levels and pH should be maintained as closely to 7 as possible. Due to alfalfa seed size, seed to soil contact is critical, so seedbeds must be thoroughly prepared to prevent clods. A Sunflower® 6333 land finisher or 6830 rotary finisher with reel is the ideal alfalfa seedbed preparation tool. Seed alfalfa to a ¼ to ½ inch depth on clay or loam soils and ½ to 1 inch depth on sandy soils. A Sunflower 9610 grain drill with legume seeder paired with a Fendt tractor is the perfect combination to plant alfalfa accurately.
167 farm workers are injured on a farm and a worker dies in a farm accident EVERY DAY.
38 children are injured on a farm EVERY DAY and a child dies in a farm accident EVERY THREE DAYS.
Farm safety is important to every farmer and operator. AGCO® works hard to deliver safe equipment and operating instructions on how to use our equipment most effectively. In recognition of National Farm Safety and Health week AGCO offers the following guidelines to help make sure EVERYONE stays safe during harvest:
- Manual and Safety Signs. Read your operator’s manual and safety sign information. They are packed with information to help you be more productive, increase the life of your equipment and keep you, your family, and workers safe.
- Maintenance. Keep all machinery serviced and maintained properly.
- Guards. Make sure all guards and shields are in place and secure.
- Turn the machine off when not operating. Put equipment in neutral or park, engage parking brake and turn off engine before dismounting. Wait until all mechanisms have stopped moving before attempting to service or unclog a machine.
- Working under the machine. Lock hydraulic cylinders or support the head prior to working.
- Crop Debris. Make sure all crop debris is removed at frequent intervals to reduce potential fire hazards and possible equipment damage.
- Fire Extinguishers. Keep and maintain suitable fire extinguishers on your combine. Make sure they are accessible from the ground.
- Children. Create a Safe Play Area for children on the farm that has effective adult supervision and safe play activities for children. Equipment cabs are not safe play areas.
- Bystanders. Keep bystanders and others away from the equipment operation area.
- Blind spots. Make sure the area behind the combine is clear before backing.
- Riders? Limit riders on equipment! Instructional seats are designed for training or diagnosing machine problems.
- Seat belts. Wear seat belts. ANYONE in the cab should have his or her seatbelt fastened. Do not lean against the windshield or rely on it to keep you in the cab.
- ROPS. Have rollover protective structures fitted on tractors.
- Towing. Always use safety chains for towed equipment.
- SMV. Always use a slow moving vehicle sign and flashing amber warning lights on public roads.
- Road Safety. Never travel left of the center of the road after dark, during poor visibility or when approaching the top of a hill or a curve.
- Stay alert. Be physically and mentally fit when operating machinery. Fatigue, stress, medication, alcohol and drugs can detract from safe equipment operation. Take breaks.
- Training. Train all operators to safely operate the equipment.
1 2012 Data from CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/
2 2014 Fact Sheet, National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety
For more information see the following websites:
AGCO is collaborating with Beck’s Hybrids to demonstrate yield and productivity advantages of the new Sunflower 9830NT. The 9830NT was featured at a recent Beck’s field day (Becknology Days) in Henderson, KY. Throughout the course of the day, hundreds of growers went through the Equipment Innovations class and then stopped by to look at the iron. The theme was technology-enabled productivity that is providing the most accurate seeding system for wheat, early soybeans, and double-crop soybeans.
Beck’s is very interested in plot work that will help farmers make the right decisions about agronomic inputs as well as equipment decisions. The 9830NT can put down fertilizer with wheat in the fall, which can improve yields by 5-10 bushels per acre. It is also the best drill on the market for seeding into heavy wheat residue. Alex Long of Beck’s talked about the trial work Beck’s is conducting that examines seeding accuracy at 6, 8, and 10 mph compared to a Kinze planter. Results will be available this fall.
Working with companies like Beck’s is a great way for the equipment industry to stay connected with independent agronomic testing and to be able to share our products with a diverse group of customers.
In addition to support and testing of the 9830NT, Beck’s is promoting AGCO’s X-Edition MT700E and MT800E tractors.
Beck’s has more Becknology days coming up. Follow the link below for dates in your area: http://www.beckshybrids.com/About-Us/Becks-Field-Shows.
By Darren Goebel
Greetings once again from Crop Tour 2016. During the last week of July, I travelled to the Kevin Trimble farm in Amboy, Indiana, about an hour north of Indianapolis. While most of the Midwest has been getting plenty of rain, this pocket in north central, Indiana is super dry. In fact, Kevin told me that his farm has not received any appreciable amount of rain since the latter part of June.
As a result of the dry weather, the crop is showing signs of stress, highlighting some key differences in our plots.
This is the split between automatic hydraulic downforce (DeltaForce) on the left and 400# downforce on the right. Notice that the corn on the right is showing more drought stress; lower leaves are brown and desiccated with overall lighter plant color. This is a result of heavy in furrow packing that created compaction in the root zone. While you would not normally see this in a whole field, differences show up very clearly in the plot. In a three-year study, growers that used DeltaForce averaged 11 bushels per acre higher yield. I suspect the yield difference will be much higher in this field, but we will have to wait until fall to know for sure.
Compaction problems quickly show up when moisture is limiting.
Kevin drove his backhoe along the end to demonstrate how automatic hydraulic down force can adjust to differences in soil bulk density. Above: The crop is suffering in the compaction zone. Below: Planting Map showing compaction zone.
This report shows that compaction from backhoe path prior to planting caused Deltaforce to react at planting.
The depth of planting study is showing some interesting results. Many growers plant corn shallow because they believe there is less risk in stand establishment. Unfortunately, shallow planting can cause as many problems as it solves. Most agronomists recommend a minimum of 1.5” planting depth with 2” preferred. Of course, soil type and moisture level should be taken into account. One great thing about White planters is that depth control can be calibrated to ensure consistent planting depth across the entire width of the planter. In this case, the planter planted the corn consistently at 1” deep. Unfortunately, there wasn’t uniform enough moisture at 1” to get all of the seed up consistently.
This is the split between 1” planting depth on the right and 1.5” planting depth on the left. The 1” planting depth is exhibiting runt plants as a result of delayed emergence due to dry soils at that depth after planting. These runt plants will not produce an ear. The 1.5” and deeper planting depths do not have any issues with runt plants. Stand establishment is similar at all planting depths (1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0) except 3.5” depth. The 3.5” planting depth is suffering about a 10% reduction in stand. We will take these plots to yield and share results in an upcoming report.
Stand uniformity in corn has been getting a lot of attention since the late 90s. Most farmers and agronomists know there are heavy yield penalties for skips and doubles making planter performance absolutely critical. Making things even more challenging, seed companies can’t always guarantee requested seed sizes for that hot new hybrid; and refuge in the bag is a whole other story since seed from different lots must be blended in the same bag. The 9800VE series incorporates meters that can accurately singulate and row units that can accurately plant any corn seed size.
Above: Near picket fence stand. Below: Doubles and Skips from a poorly adjusted planter.
During the last two weeks of August, a team of Agronomists and Product Specialists will be travelling throughout the Midwest speaking at Crop Tour 2016 plot locations. RSVP to attend a Crop Tour event near you: http://agcocropcare.com/crop-tour-rsvp/!
By Darren Goebel
Greetings from Crop Tour 2016! Crop Tour is an initiative at AGCO in which we are gathering information throughout the growing season and demonstrating how different variables that farmers face every year can impact overall yield potential. As an agronomist I love the opportunity to get out to walk fields, observe crop progress, and talk to farmers. This week I was in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Two weeks ago I was in Russia. What is interesting about these two seemingly divergent locations is how similar farmers from Fairmont, MN, to Rostov-on-Don, Russia, are. Everywhere I go; farmers are looking for new techniques to increase production as efficiently as possible in order to improve their bottom line. AGCO is leading the precision revolution with Fuse® Technologies and the most productive, accurate seeding equipment in the world.
Following is my story of Crop Tour 2016 in photos:
Precision pays in Russia
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes; 30,000 after a hard rain
Crops in Minnesota have had a tough time getting started due to cool, wet weather this spring. This week was no exception. The lake in the background of this picture is a result of over three inches of rain the night before. Pictured in the photo are Rick Sparks and John Menssen, both AGCO employees. Rick is an agronomist and product specialist for the region. John farms and is a Key Account Manager for Ziegler CAT. What I love about AGCO is the passion our employees have for agriculture. Here we were checking stands. This field was planted using prescriptions from Farmer’s Edge, in collaboration with Fuse Technologies for Crop Tour 2016.
Elevation map taken from “as applied” data collected from the GPS receiver, shown in FieldView. Agronomists use elevation data along with NDVI, yield data, and soil productivity information to make population decisions. Visualization above through Climate’s FieldView, a Fuse connected partner. Note the missing portion of the “as applied” map where the lake can be seen in the previous picture. Below you can see the variable rate prescription from Farmer’s Edge that was applied. Varying seeding rates increases yield on highly productive soils while not wasting seed on poorer soils. The red areas shown below were seeded at 20,000 plants per acre.
One of the most rewarding things about working in agriculture is the opportunity to interact with farmers around the world. They are working hard to sustainably produce crops so that future generations can continue to enjoy the lifestyle. It’s hard work but I have not met a farmer yet that would rather be doing anything else. More to come from Crop Tour 2016!
Darren Goebel is the Director Global Commercial Crop Care, for AGCO’s Global Product Management Group. Connect with Darren on Twitter @Agronomist_IN.