D: Hello and welcome to Ag
PhD, I’m Darren Hefty. B: And I’m Brian Hefty. Thanks
for joining us today. One of the most important things we
believe will be an issue going into next year will be
residue breakdown – because everything got delayed this
season, we think harvest could occur a little bit
later, and some of those stalks just might not break
down very well going into next year. We’re going to
tell you how to speed residue breakdown on your
farm. D: I love that you’re concerned about what’s going
on above ground, Brian – I’m looking at the below ground
aspect and I want to talk about soil organic matter. We’ll talk about why this is
a really important thing to know for your farm. B: As
always, we’ve got an Iron Talk coming up later in the
show and a Weed of the Week as well, but first, here’s
this week’s Farm Basics. B: During our Farm Basics
time today we’re going to talk about gibberellic acid
and why it is important in plants. D: When you think
about gibberellic acid, right away you may be
thinking, “Wait a second, what on Earth are you
talking about here?” This is something that’s actually
produced naturally in plants. So when you have
something that’s natural, Brian I would ask, “Why do
we need to put it on if the plant’s already going to
make it?” B: Wait, hold up. We’ve got to talk about why
this is important to begin with. What gibberellic acid
does is it basically allows the plant, or tells the
plant, to grow taller. So, for example- D: Stem
elongation. B: Yes. D: It’s important for stem
elongation. B: Yep, so when we think about, with
soybeans for example, they have different nodes and
branches that come off. The point is, the more
gibberellic acid that’s in there, then the longer – the
greater distance there is between those nodes. Same
thing in corn, same thing in a lot of different crops. Ok
so Darren mentioned that this gibberellic acid
naturally occurs in plants. But here’s what you need to
know. The warmer the conditions are the more
gibberellic acid there is. This is the reason why when
planting very early you’re going to find a lot of crops
are going to be much shorter in stature. D: Or if you’re
looking at your lawn, when it’s really really early in
the spring, you maybe have to mow once every couple of
weeks, but boy as soon as it starts warming up, you’re
mowing twice a week because there’s so much stem
elongation. B: Yep exactly. So like with our crops like
corn for example, this is one of the things my dad
told me when I was a kid and I just didn’t even
understand it. He said, “Well if you want silage
corn and you want it to grow really tall just plant it a
little later. Plant it when the conditions are hot and
that corn’s going to get way taller.” I thought, “What in
the world is he talking about?” Well it all comes
back to this gibberellic acid. D: So the important
thing here is if you want to influence plant growth and
you want to get a little more growth out of that
grass early in the season, for example, or you want to
get the corn plant off to a better start and getting a
little taller with an early planting date, you can add
gibberellic acid now right in the furrow and the plant
will take it right in. Or, you could even spray it on
the foliage very early in the season. What would
target an application would be times where the daytime
high temperatures are averaging in the 50s or 60s,
not in the 70s or 80s, ‘cause at that time, you’re
getting warm enough – the plant’s going to produce
quite a bit on its own. B: So what we talk about is –
with pastures – spraying some gibberellic acid on in
the spring and in the fall. With silage corn – spraying
it in the spring. The big thing that I would tell you
here is – at this point, we haven’t found that
gibberellic acid is giving us a big impact on grain
yield, but it’s absolutely giving us a big impact on
tonnage. So we would just really encourage you – if
you are a farmer, if you are a livestock person, then
take a look at this gibberellic acid. There are
products out there that you can buy, like RyzUp
SmartGrass, for example, and apply this when conditions
are cooler to get more elongation of your stems. D:
Getting a little more height out of your crop could be
very important, especially if you can keep the weeds
out of it as well. We’ll show you how to stop this
tough weed coming up later in the show. B: One of the things
I’m most concerned about going into the spring
of 2020 is – how about all our residue we have coming
off of 2019. Is that going to get broken down very well
going into 2020? The reason why I’m worried about this –
I think there might be more continuous corn acres. I
think that we could have a real issue with late harvest
this fall with all the late planting that there was. So
today we want to talk about how you can increase the
speed of residue breakdown on your farm. D: First of
all, if you haven’t harvested your corn yet, you
still have a lot of options on the table. For example,
can you run a chopping corn head? This is something
we’ve been doing on our farm now for a number of years. We’re sizing up that residue
into small chunks, and as we do that we’re cutting those
stalks up before they get run over, so we’ve got a
nice spread of the stalk material. This is going to
be a big thing – rather than piling it up in a big pile –
and the other thing is those small pieces, they’ve got a
whole bunch of exposed surface area where we can
get faster breakdown with microbial action. B: Now
when Darren talks about that microbial action – that
happens a lot faster if you till all your residue into
the soil. So that’s always on the table that you can do
tillage, but, for a lot of farmers, they don’t want to
do tillage simply because there’s more erosion
potential, you’re going to decrease your soil’s organic
matter level; I mean there are a lot of bad things plus
the fact that it costs money. So instead, what a
lot of people want to know is “how do I just naturally
get that residue to breakdown faster?” Darren
mentioned the chopping corn head – that’s absolutely
huge. But just understand what does break down residue
out there? Well it’s bacteria. There are
beneficial bacteria that are going to be out there
breaking that residue down. What do those bacteria need? They need oxygen and they
need nitrogen. So those are two real big keys that we
want to talk about. D: So let’s talk about the
nitrogen because so often I hear farmers say, “Hey, I’m
thinking about putting on some liquid 28 percent or
some liquid 32 percent or some form of nitrogen out in
my cornstalks to try to help speed that breakdown. I know
they’re really high in carbon, and cornstalks – a
lot of times they’ll say are 60 parts carbon to 1 part
nitrogen, but obviously there’s a little bit of
fluctuation there. So if I can get that ratio down to
say 12 to 1 – where I’ve got a whole bunch of nitrogen
out there to help these microbes break it down –
that’s a good thing, right?” Well I answer, “Of course it
is! It’s a great thing, I would love to see some
nitrogen out there” but you also need time. So let’s
just say you’re harvesting the first of November and
freeze-up has already happened, well you aren’t
going to get a whole lot of microbial activity out
there. But if it’s still warm out and you’ve got some
time, you definitely can see a speed-up in breakdown. B:
Yeah and even if you don’t have time this fall, that
nitrogen is still going to be there come spring so it
absolutely can help. Throwing a little sulfur
with it as well can make a difference. Now I mentioned
oxygen, too. If you’ve had a drainage issue and you
haven’t gotten that addressed and gotten your
water table down with drain tile, you’re not going to
have as much living bacteria out there and your residue’s
not going to break down as quickly. So a lot of people
will talk about this as soil health. Whenever you hear
‘soil health’ that means you’ve got lots oxygen in
that soil and you’ve got lots of beneficial microbes
that are constantly working for you. D: Now speaking of
those microbes, Brian, I am seeing more of a trend
industry wide to putting some microbes out with that
nitrogen application. Products like D-Comp for
example are getting used widely now to add the
microbes out there to help speed this breakdown. We saw
this year some guys that were trying different
microbial products. They saw some products that worked
well; others that didn’t work quite as well. So it’s
still not just a blanket statement of, “Yep you want
to put microbes in.” You want to make sure that the
ones you’re going to do are going to be beneficial for
you, but we do see some benefit adding the right
microbes in. B: Yeah like Darren mentioned D-Comp –
that’s got 65 beneficial microbes in there, so you
have 65 different species, you’re talking millions and
millions of microbes that are working out there on
every acre. That’s enormous, we’re after that. We want
faster residue breakdown and we know that microbes do the
job. So adding more beneficial microbes
absolutely can help. D: So whether you’ve already
started your corn harvest or you still got corn out in
the field – you’ve got time to influence residue
breakdown going into 2020. We think this will be a very
important thing to have a successful crop next year. Well one other important
thing for next year’s crop and this year’s crop is weed
control. We’ll show you how to stop this tough weed
later in the show. B: If you look at
average soil organic matter on farms across the
United States in the last 100 years, the trend has
been this – organic matter levels have gone down. That
is not a good thing. Today we’re going to talk about
why organic matter is so important,and what you can
do to build organic matter levels on your farm rather
than seeing them fall. D: So there’s two things that I
want to talk about, Brian. I want to talk about why we’re
seeing organic matter go down and what can we do to
turn this trend around and start building it back up. B: Yeah so let’s start with
“why has it been going down?”, it’s tillage. What
happens when you till your soil – you speed the process
of organic matter breakdown. The reason why – soil
scientists have explained this to me too, because
right away you stop and say, “Wait a second here. There’s
all kinds of residue on the soil surface, if I till,
that’s throwing the residue down into the ground. Shouldn’t I increase organic
matter levels?” Nope, you don’t. What soil scientists
have told me is – basically it’s like adding fuel to the
fire. When you put more oxygen into that ground, it
speeds the breakdown of soil organic matter. Now the
breakdown of soil organic matter just naturally is a
good thing, because it’s going to release nutrients
for you. If you just have soil – whether it’s tilled
or untilled – a lot of times we’re talking about – just
the standard release – for every 1 percent of organic
matter you have in your soil – of roughly 20-30 lbs. of
nitrogen, 4-7 lbs. of phosphate, and 2-3 lbs. of
sulfur on a lot of Midwestern United States
soils. So if you have 5 percent organic matter,
that’s huge! You’re talking 100-150 lbs. of nitrogen
every year you get – for free! And a lot of the
phosphate and sulfur. So if you speed the process of
that breakdown, well obviously – you didn’t have
to put the fertilizer out there – but what’s happening
is you’re mining the soil. So, long term, your soil
organic matter levels are going down, so you won’t get
as much free release in the future. D: Well we
definitely see this on a wide scale as you mentioned,
but building it back up is really needing to be a focus
for many growers. It certainly is for us. B:
Yeah, but why? We already mentioned the nutrients that
come out of this organic matter, but also understand
that for each 1 percent of organic matter increase in
soil we usually see about 4% more water holding capacity. So let’s say in your
lifetime if you could increase your soil organic
matter level by 3 percent, that’s 12 percent more water
your soil could hold. Is that a big deal in a drought
year? You bet it is! And then there are a lot of
other benefits too. You have better soil porosity. You
have more microbial life in your soil. You have less
compaction out there. You filter your water better as
it moves through, and so you have cleaner water that
hits your tile lines. Soil organic matter is
ridiculously important, not to mention the fact it can
hold anions even like nitrate much much better
than just regular dirt. D: That was one thing that I
wanted to get into too, Brian. You mentioned the
things that are going to be freely released from organic
matter as it mineralizes, but I look at things like
boron. On our own farm – we’ve talked to so many
other farmers that have said, “ I really hard time
holding boron in my soil” – yet we’ve been applying
boron and have been able to hold it year after year and
part of the reason is we’ve got our organic matter
levels up, so we can hold some of those anions and
give them a place to hang out in the soil. B: Ok so
hopefully you can see having good levels of soil organic
matter is important. Now you might ask, “Well what should
I be shooting for?” It all depends on your situation. So for me, we’re starting a
lot of our soils – you know after all these hundred
years of tillage – a lot of our soils were at 2 percent,
maybe 3 percent – D: some even lower. B: What’s our
goal? We’re at 5 percent, that’s our goal. So if we
can get our soils to 5 percent, and maybe even 6 or
7, that’s good. Now there is a top end to this, too. I’d
say if you’re above 8 to 10 percent soil organic matter,
well you could actually hold too much stuff – you might
not find that you’re getting the release that you want
out of herbicides, for example. So I would say the
ideal range for me is probably in the 5 to 7
percent organic matter range. D: Alright, that’s a
nice thing to say, Brian, but an easy way to do a test
on your farm to see, “Well what could I get to
relatively easily just by changing some practices?”
Pull a fence line sample. So you’ve got a fence line and
that ground never gets tilled, it’s probably been
in that same fence row for years and years, maybe
forever. Pull a sample in the fence line and then pull
a sample out of the middle of your field, and just
compare and see what the organic matter difference
is. If you have a 6 percent organic matter level in your
fence line and you’re now down at 2 percent out in the
field, well you can see, “Oh! I can get back up to 6
if I just knock the tillage off and change a few of my
practices.” But if you’re at a 2 in the fence line and
you’re a 2 in the field, ok now I don’t exactly know how
far you can push it. Maybe you have a real light sandy
soil which is going to be pretty tough to build
organic matter in. B: No, but you still can, so let’s
talk about ‘How do you build soil organic matter?’ Number
one thing – reduce tillage. This is not saying you
necessarily have to go no-till. You can do a little
bit of tillage and still increase soil organic
matter, but you got to keep that to a minimum. So that’s
by far and away number one. Number two – plant crops
with lots of roots. A lot of people think that all this
above ground residue is where organic matter gets
built from, that is absolutely not true. The
above ground residue that’s just sitting there on the
soil surface – that’s to protect your soil. Where
organic matter gets built from, predominantly, is
roots breaking down in the soil. So as much as you can
leave your roots intact – that’s the real key, and
obviously the more roots you have, the faster you can
build your soil organic matter. So let’s just take
corn versus soybeans. Corn on average has roughly 5
times the root mass of soybeans. So theoretically,
I should be able to build my organic matter a lot faster
with corn than I can soybeans. D: And the key
thing here, as we reduce the tillage, is leave that root
mass intact, as you mentioned, so that’s where
strip till comes into play. Say you’re in 30-inch rows
and you’re tilling an 8-inch strip half way in between
those 2 rows of corn stalks – that’s great, because you
left 95 percent of that root mass intact. B: Yep. Ok, so
you yes strip till is going to help – maybe not quite as
much as no till, but in strip till you can still
build organic matter levels pretty fast as well. D: Ok
well the challenge here, Brian though, is the next
thing we’ll talk about is manure and compost using
those as part of your B: Yep. D: fertilizer plan. If
you’re going to put manure and compost out there, I
really like to till that in. So you may have to just- B:
Well or you can inject it. D: you may have to say – if
you’re using dry material – “Alright I’m going to till
it in but I’m only going to do that once every 4th or
5th year.” We see many growers doing that of, “You
know what I’m just going to do tillage, but it’s only
going to be sporadically in a 10 year cycle, that way I
can mainly be no-till.” B: Ok two other things you can
do to increase organic matter levels on your farm –
one is use cover crops and two – start using some
biologicals, or as we like to call them “natural”
products. We’ve seen good results from those as well. D: Organic matter is super
important. Make sure that your soil tests this fall
have an organic matter reading, so you can start
managing that on your farm. Well one other thing you
definitely have to manage is our Weed of the Week. We’ll
show you how to stop it coming up next. B: Our Weed of the Week
is one we commonly see in non-crop
areas – it’s wild four o’clock. D: Alright, Brian,
you’re going to hate when I say this, but it’s kind of
pretty! I don’t mind seeing wild four o’clock across the
road in the neighbor’s ditch. However, I don’t want
it in my ditch because all the sudden it creeps out
into the first few rows of my field and it’s a
perennial weed. Now anytime we’ve got a perennial – this
one isn’t super highly competitive – it doesn’t
spread like wildfire out there, but it still is going
to compete in the local area and impact your yield. So if
it gets in the wrong spot, we want to try and control
it. B: Ok, so talking about how to control this in
pastures and some of these non-crop areas, usually
people will tell us they use 2,4-D. You can absolutely do
that, but you got to have the rate high. Dicamba works
pretty well too. Personally, I like Distinct even better. When you start thinking
about some of the long-term residual products, like
let’s say Tordon or Milestone – I think Tordon
is fine, Milestone maybe not quite as good, but
personally D: Tordon is a little more broad-spectrum,
I’d agree with you. B: right- I’d rather use 2,4-D. D: I’d rather use Roundup,
to be honest with you, if you get it away from grass
that you want to keep, Roundup works pretty darn
nice on wild four o’clock, so that’d be my best
solution. B: Yeah, so out in a field as a burndown or in
Roundup Ready crops, Roundup is a good option. If I’m
looking at corn, usually we’re talking about Verdict
down, Status plus maybe a little atrazine post-emerge. In soybeans, I’d probably
run with our 3 pre program – that’s a yellow, one of the
PPOs (Valor or Authority) plus metribuzin that’ll work
pretty well. Post-emerge, you got so many options now
in soybeans. In Roundup tolerant crops, Liberty
tolerant crops, 2,4-D tolerant crops, dicamba
tolerant crops – lots of choices. D: Yeah and if you
really want to save this wild four o’clock plant,
just dig it up but make sure you’re digging up a real big
area around it to get all of that root system, and then
plant it in your brother’s yard. B: Oh one last thing –
wheat – I’d start with Sharpen, follow post-emerge
with Huskie and that should work pretty well. D: That’s
all the time we have for this week’s Weed of the
Week, but Iron Talk is coming up next. D: Stopping tough-to-kill
weeds and eliminating the green bridge
between wheat crops are both critical, but how should you
set your sprayer up to accomplish those tasks? We’ll discuss on today’s
Iron Talk. Burndown applications following a
wheat crop often involve Roundup plus either dicamba
or 2,4-D. With all of these products, physical drift can
be a concern, and with dicamba and 2,4-D, we’re
also worried about potential volatility. Controlling
droplet size is important. Using tips like the Hypro
ULD (ultra-lo drift) tips can help keep physical drift
to a minimum. Keeping spray volume toward the lower side
keeps droplets concentrated with product, which improves
control when weeds are small. When weeds are
bigger, like in a lot of the unplanted acres from this
year, or if you just didn’t do a burndown right after
wheat harvest, it can be a big concern – you need to
land more product on each of those weeds. Keeping ground
speed down to 15 mph or less is also important to help
minimize drift. Finally, keeping your boom height low
is critical to minimizing drift potential. Depending
on your nozzles, spray pattern, and weed height,
you should aim for your boom to be no more than 2 feet
above the crop. This may mean switching out your
spray tips or your nozzle spacing to accomplish this
goal. As for volatility, the new 2,4-D products have
performed very well this year. Freelexx and Enlist
Duo both contain the new 2,4-D choline, which is such
an upgrade over the esters and amines that we’ve used
for the last 40 years. We used both Freelexx and
Enlist Duo on our farm over the last several years here,
and we’ve have had absolutely no issues
whatsoever. So I’d recommend them every time and NEVER
recommend using the old ester or amine again. The
volatility reduction is just that big of a deal. So
follow all these guidelines and consider using the new
formulations of 2,4-D to boost your burndown
applications – You’ll be more effective on the weeds
and less likely to affect anything else outside of
your field. That’s all for today’s Iron Talk, and now,
back to the show. B: That’s all the time
we’ve got for today’s show, but before we
go, we want to invite you to tune in to the Ag PhD Radio
Show. You’ll find us on Sirius XM 147 at 2 PM
Central each weekday. D: And don’t miss the next Ag PhD
TV Show. We’ll have another Weed of the Week, Farm
Basics, and a whole lot more. I’m Darren Hefty. B:
And I’m Brian Hefty. Thanks for watching Ag PhD. Copyright 2019
IFA Productions All rights reserved.