Darren Faurschou has a diploma in agriculture and operates a family farm in the Edwin area, west of Portage la Prairie, Man. He also serves as president of the Faurschou Ag Center, which opened in April 2015 and retails air drills, precision planters and a line of independent corn headers that adapt to row spacing. Many customers question the benefits of planting corn with an air drill versus a planter, so last year Faurschou contracted with the University of Manitoba’s department of biosystems engineering to use his 125-acre field and his own machinery for an independent evaluation of row spacing and seeding systems for corn yield and rate of emergence.
Row spacing had four variations: 7.5-inch, 15-inch, 30-inch and paired-row (7.5-inch pairs, 30 inches on centre). Two seeders were used: a twin-row Monosem planter and a Salford 522 air drill.
There were eight treatments on the field; each treatment was repeated five times in the randomized experiment. The seeding equipment was adjusted to have a uniform two-inch seeding depth. Most plots were planted on May 8 and 9, 2016.
To produce the 15-inch and 7.5-inch plots, the planter drove over the field twice. The planter’s 7.5-inch plots were seeded on May 10 and 11, 2016, due to rain and time constraints.
Craig Heppner, a recent graduate from the University of Manitoba’s bachelor of science in biosystems engineering program took on the challenge of managing the 40 plots, recording data and processing the results as part of his undergrad thesis. Faurschou provided machinery, set up the field, supplied seed (Pioneer 7332) and was responsible for applications to protect the crop from weeds and disease.
“I went with the big field for plots because size is important,” Faurschou says. “If you’re out a point on a big plot, the impact is less. You are more accurate in your detail. Real machines – commercial equipment – do all the work in real-life scenarios. Things like dry spots and wet spots average out at the end of the day.”
To be sure the results were impartial, Faurschou asked the university to handle the data collection.
Faurschou had expectations about the results, and some were proven. For instance, it’s tradition in southern Manitoba to plant corn in 30-inch rows with 7.5-inches between plants in the row. For decades, planters and harvest headers have been built for that 30-inch row spacing.
“I thought the paired-row on the [Monosem] planter would do the best overall. There’s a lot of research to show that, and it did beat the 30-inch single row,” Faurschou says.
The Monosem planter twin rows are 30 inches on centre; each seed row is four inches off centre.
But in each row-spacing comparison, the 30-inch row option had the lowest yield.
“I thought the 7.5-inch would be the best for the air drill, on the theory of narrow rows using more sunlight. What I found was, for the paired row, the 15-inch and the 7.5-inch trials almost filled the rows at the same time. The 30-inch never really did completely fill in,” he says.
Overall, the 15-inch spacing had the highest yield for both the air drill and for the planter.
“It ended up doing the best. I was really surprised by that,” Faurschou says.
Heppner’s detailed analysis, converted from metric, comes to this conclusion on corn yield: “When comparing effects of the seeders, average yield for the planter was 173 [bushels/acre] bu/ac compared to 161 bu/ac for the air drill. This translated to a 5.5 per cent difference in yield.”
“When comparing effects of spacing only, yield was found to be the highest for 15-inch plots at 173 bu/ac. The 7.5-inch plots were not statistically different than this at 168 bu/ac. The 30-inch and paired row plots were significantly lower at 162 bu/ac and 164 bu/ac, respectively.”
Heppner also notes the planter was much more uniform in seeding depth, as expected, and that the average seeding depth under the planter was about a quarter-inch shallower than under the drill. The rate of emergence for planter-placed corn also was faster.
Heppner concludes, “The planter provided more consistent seeding depth than the air drill, leading to faster speed of emergence, which induced a higher yielding crop. Also, 15-inch and 7.5-inch spacing produced higher yields than 30-inch and paired rows.
“The best-case spacing and seeder for south-central Manitoba in a year with similar environmental conditions would be a planter spaced at 15 inches.”
Answers and advice
The work required to run the 40 site trials on 125 acres was more than Faurschou expected. He estimates the time commitment was four to five times as much as he would have needed to plant and harvest a conventional field of corn.
However, now he has answers and advice based on science rather than experience and educated guesswork.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about planting corn with an air drill versus a planter. As for a replicated comparison in row spacing, with results for a planter versus air drill, I’ve never heard of that,” Faurschou says. “My theory was that there are benefits for an air drill in narrow spacing and benefits for a planter in wider row spacing, but there’s not a lot [of research] done on row spacing in corn in this part of the world.”
Now, according to Heppner, there is proven evidence that a planter will return more corn than an air drill and that row spacing returns more corn at 15 or 7.5 inches than it does at 30 inches.
Due to the explosion of soybean acres in Manitoba, many farms now have a 15-inch row crop planter in addition to an air drill. It was assumed – but not proven – that lifting every second seed run on the soybean planter would be the best practice for planting corn.
Still, many farms are equipped with only an air drill. Faurschou’s trials show that if the farm has an air drill with 7.5-inch spacing, simply putting a seed block on every second run can convert it for seeding 15-inch corn rows.
One caution with this, he notes, is that the Salford air drill used in these trials is a double-disc opener. Most air drills probably have only a single disc opener.
“With a single disc, you may not have the same depth control, so the results might be different,” he says.
After studying his results, Faurschou believes the evidence points to Manitoba corn being “happiest” on 15-inch spacing between rows and between plants. In this set of trials, that spacing allowed for the optimum use of available sunlight, moisture and nutrients and consistently produced the highest dry bushel yield.
The results give Faurschou some pretty clear-cut answers for anyone with questions about row spacing.
“For my customers, if they are going to plant corn with an air drill, I’m going to recommend 15 inches. If they’re going to buy a planter to use for corn and soybeans, I’m going to recommend that they buy a 15-inch planter for both,” he says.
There’s also an economy-of-scale factor. On 15-inch rows, Darren says the average yield advantage was 6.6 bu/ac in favour of the planter; the least difference was four bushels an acre.
Using the conservative numbers, Faurschou suggests the four-bushel yield advantage on $4 corn is almost enough to justify buying a planter if it’s time to replace or upgrade an air drill.
But, there’s more to consider.
“If you’re growing just a quarter of corn and you have an air drill that can do 15-inch spacing, that’s probably the way you should go,” he says. “If you have 1,000 acres of corn, then it would almost justify buying a planter.”
In all this, caution remains a good idea. Another trial conducted in another year and under different growing conditions might produce different results.
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If no cover crop was planned after winter wheat it is not too late to consider planting one. Cover crops can help improve soil structure, protect the soil from erosion, feed soil life, suppress weeds, cycle nutrients, and provide feed for livestock and much more. Research at University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus has shown that planting a cover crop provides a benefit, even if the growth is limited. So consider the options and find a way to reap the benefits of cover crops.
Select a cover crop to meet the goals for the field. Also consider how it will fit into your cropping and tillage system and how much time there will be for the cover crop to grow. Some options that will achieve good ground cover at a reasonable cost are: oats or barley, oats and radish, and oats and peas. Combinations of a grass or cereal, legume and brassica also work well and can provide a diversity of growth and root types.
Before planting a cover crop it is important to think about what management it may require. Many cover crops are killed by frost and don’t require a herbicide treatment. Others will survive the winter and will need to be killed in the fall or spring. Some will go to seed, so they will need to be mowed or managed before then. Tillage, using a roller crimper or grazing are other methods that can be used to manage or terminate the cover crop.
Plant the cover crop as soon as possible to achieve the most growth. Drilling the cover crop in is the most effective but other methods can work. If planting is delayed until after Labour Day it is best to plant a winter cereal as a frost will likely kill off other cover crops before they can achieve much growth.
Some areas have had too much rain and parts of fields or whole fields have no crop in them. For some options for those fields visit the Field Crop News site.
New this year, Agricorp is offering production insurance for cover crops. The coverage is called New Forage Seeding and is available for a wide range of cover crops. The acreage to be covered must be reported by September 1st. Visit the Agricorp website for more information.
Tractors delivered participants to more than 10 sites at the 23rd annual Southwest Crop Diagnostic Day. The event, which took place July 5 and 6, saw agronomists, producers and industry professionals visiting stations across the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus to learn about new research and the implications for crops in Ontario.
Here’s a sampling of some of the topics covered.
Albert Tenuta [Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA)] and Dave Hooker [University of Guelph – Ridgetown (UGR)] took producers through a few different plot sites and discussed planting corn and soybeans in a cover crop. Although cover crops help with soil organic matter, erosion and moisture control, it’s often best to terminate a cover crop in a dry year.
Peter Sikkema and Darren Robinson (both from UGR) tested participants on herbicide injury in both corn and soybean, respectively. Producers saw first-hand the symptoms caused by new and common herbicides.
Peter Sikkema holding a corn plant injured by herbicides.
Chris Brown (OMAFRA) and Doug Young (UGR) did a smoke bomb demo to highlight soil pores and offered tips for managing water movement through soil. Producers were reminded that soil pores (which include macropores, mesopores and micropores) are impacted by different issues such as soil properties (texture, pH), cultivation (tile drainage, crop rotations), external loads (tillage and compaction) and natural processes (biological activity, frost).
Joanna Follings and Anne Verhallen (both from OMAFRA) talked cover crop seeding rates and options for growers. They highlighted research that indicates underseeding red clover into winter wheat leads to an increase of 10 bushels per acre (bu/ac) for corn and five bu/ac in soybean.
One of the plots of red clover planted at UGR.
There’s also a nitrogen credit of 85 pounds per acre. Follings offered tips for seeding, since the biggest challenge with red clover is establishment. (A uniform stand of three to four plants per square foot is the minimum number to be considered a good stand.)
Another session offered an overview of trapping technology, scouting tips and management strategies for Western bean cutworm presented by Christina DiFonzo (Michigan State University), Tracey Baute (OMAFRA) and Art Schaafsma (UGR).
The Z Trap is one of the newest Western bean cutworm traps on the market.
When scouting, DiFonzo says to look at 100 plants (10 plants in 10 different areas, or 20 plants in five areas) every five days when crop is in the pre- to full tassel stages. The threshold to spray is an accumulation of five per cent of plants with Western bean cutworm egg masses or small larvae over a two to three week period.
Dave Bilyea (UGR) covered some lesser-known but potentially problematic weeds for Ontario agriculture. Some of the weeds highlighted include annual bluegrass (which competes with young plants and is tolerant to glyphosate) and dog strangling vine. There aren’t many reports of this vine yet, but it’s very competitive and is toxic to insects and animals, affecting ecology. Another weed to watch is wild parsnip, which makes skin UV-sensitive and results in burns similar to those caused by giant hogweed. With scouring rush (also known as snakegrass), part of the challenge is that the plant has no leaves for contact with any herbicides producers might spray.
Dave Bilyea explains the similarities between Northern willowherb and goldenrod.
Bilyea reminded growers that they can send in weeds for herbicide-resistance testing free of charge.
Jake Munroe and Horst Bohner (both of OMAFRA) focused on fertilizing soybeans: deficiency symptoms, strategies and new research demonstrating the importance of phosphorus in soybean. 4R nutrient stewardship was also highlighted using the Phosphorus Loss Assessment Tool for Ontario (PLATO).
Ben Rosser (OMAFRA) and Peter Johnson from Real Agriculture had participants digging up corn plants from a variety of plots to discuss the effects of planting dates, depth and staging.
Peter Johnson from Real Agriculture discussing the stages of corn development.
Hail damage in corn was also discussed using the example of a corn plant damaged just a couple of weeks ago. Although the farmer growing the corn in question thought he should plant something else, there was still new growth in the corn and so he was advised to leave the crop; he would likely only suffer a five per cent yield loss from the hail damage.
Jason Deveau and Mike Cowbrough (both of OMAFRA) highlighted the importance of sprayer clean out and compared two different systems: triple rinsing and continuous rinsing.
Deveau and Cowbrough explaining how a continuous rinse system works.
Growers walked through soybean and tomato plots and saw the level of injury caused when equipment isn’t properly rinsed between spray applications. Although triple rinsing is effective, it takes three times longer to do; the continuous rinse system is not only faster, but also limits operator exposure. The current challenge is adding the pump on the sprayer equipment due to challenges with the computer operating systems.
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We regularly evaluate all aspects of our business. As part of these activities, we have recently taken the decision to exit the canola seed business. We are no longer selling or promoting our canola hybrids. We will, however, continue to support our existing canola seed portfolio through 2017 seeding and our programs and in-field product support, as per their terms and conditions. This decision is a business decision and we will work with all relevant parties to facilitate an orderly transition.
Early planted winter wheat continues to look better than Thanksgiving wheat. The cool, wet weather has slowed the rate of wheat development to five to seven days ahead of normal. Most of the crop is at the flag leaf stage, however crop development ranges from 1st node to heads emerging. Cooler, wet conditions have continued to keep disease pressure relatively low, but have also resulted in parts of some fields turning yellow (wet feet). Some 1st and 2nd applications of nitrogen are still being applied. Aerial applications of nitrogen are being considered on heavy clay soils in the Niagara area. Yield loss has not been observed in the past when similar conditions occurred. If sulphur deficiency showing, apply now.
Septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew are the most common diseases and primarily situated in the lower canopy but on some susceptible varieties moving up. Keep scouting but in most fields fungicide can wait for T3 timing at heading. Leaf rust is has been identified in some fields. Stripe rust over the past week has been found in Oxford, Chatham-Kent, Elgin and Bruce counties; but at low levels. The disease is not moving as fast as last year.
Early planted fields have emerged while planting continues as field conditions allow.
As of May 17, corn planting in Ontario is at about 30 percent completed; however there are several areas where wet soils have prevented planting, or where rain has slowed planting. Earliest April planted corn is at the 2 leaf stage but most early planted corn is struggling to emerge. The calendar is pushing some planting to occur into soils that are wetter than ideal.
Planting date and yield potential research (U of Guelph, Deen and Hooker) shows that 95 percent of potential corn yield can be achieved at Elora where corn is planted May 20; at Exeter where corn is planted May 25 and Ridgetown where corn is planted May 30.
With the increase in cover crop biomass, watch for black cutworm as corn starts to emerge and through early corn growth. Larvae will cut off the plant just below ground level and patches of affected plants will appear wilted from hollowed out stems. Cutworm larvae can be found near affected plants below the soil surface.
A few fields of soybeans have been planted, but planted acres will increase quickly with forecast warmer temperatures and ideal soil conditions. Soybeans planted three weeks ago are knuckling but have not emerged. Monitor slow to emerge fields for seedcorn maggot damage, especially where manure or cover crops have been incorporated.
Planting of spring canola is in full swing with approximately 20 percent of intended acres planted. Winter canola fields are in bloom.
Fall cover crop growth exceeded expectations, resulting in some fields with higher volumes of residue to manage. Soils can be slower to dry, or where cover crops are still growing, they can reduce soil moisture in the top few inches of soil resulting in conditions that are more difficult to plant into.
Forage and Pasture
Cereal Rye fields are being harvested as a forage crop with higher than expected yields. Alfalfa forage crops are still short, but a few warm days will make a big difference in growth. A few fields have been harvested due to shortage of feed or rotation to corn. Dairy first cut will begin the last week of May. Although there have not been reports of alfalfa weevil damage, scouting for leaf feeding and where found, scheduling earlier harvest, is important.
When growing IP soybeans, a preemergence herbicide program is preferred as it has typically provided the best weed control and return on investment in University of Guelph trials. As the season progresses, some producers may decide to plant first and worry about weed control later. A stretch of windy or rainy weather can easily take you out of that preemergence window. Timing of postemergence herbicides in IP soybeans is critical since control is significantly reduced once weeds get beyond the 6 leaf stage of growth. Traditionally, the ideal timing of postemergence herbicide applications have been around three weeks after planting with scouting for weeds beginning at 10-14 days after planting.
Agriculture Bioscience International Conference Mon Sep 25, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Third Global Minor Use SummitSun Oct 01, 2017
Canadian Agricultural Safety Association 23rd annual conference Tue Oct 03, 2017
Ontario Invasive Plant Council Invasive Plant Conference and AGMTue Oct 10, 2017
Global Fertilizer Day 2017Fri Oct 13, 2017
Farms.com Precision Agriculture ConferenceWed Oct 25, 2017