Cornell University, with support from Sustainable, Agriculture, Research, and Education (SARE), is conducting a survey for all fruit, vegetable, field crop, grain, and mixed crop-livestock producers in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vermont to identify the biggest challenges that farmers face, as well as the best solutions in regards to cover crop incentive programs. You do not need to have experience with cover crops to participate.
Our goal is to understand what the most important factors are for farm owners and managers when deciding whether or not to use incentive programs. Notably, the survey also provides an opportunity to share your experience managing issues related to cover crops and incentive program requirements.
Key findings from the survey will be published and communicated to grower organizations and other farmer advocates so that recommendations, actions, and outcomes reflect what you identify as being most helpful for your operation. Whether your farm is small or large, organic or conventional – your responses to this survey can be a powerful tool for change.
Kitty O’Neil, Ph.D, Field Crops & Soils Specialist and Team Leader – North Country Regional Ag Team, Cornell University Cooperative Extension
This has been a challenging year to grow corn in the North Country. Extremely wet weather delayed or prevented field fitting and corn planting, and saturated soil conditions limited plant development in June and early July. Despite this poor start, some corn fields look remarkably good, almost normal. But most fields are weeks behind and may be sporting some version of the ‘rollercoaster’ look – with bare spots, replanted areas and plants of variable height and maturity. Some fields, or parts of fields, will probably not reach full maturity while the best parts may. Some corn plants will have normal ears; some plants may have unusually small ears or poor grain fill, or even no ears at all, at harvest time. Dr. Bill Cox at Cornell determined that corn requires 750 to 800 GDD86/50 from silking, to reach 32% moisture, nearly harvesting stage. This variable maturity will present some problems when chopping silage in a few weeks. Dr. Larry Chase from Cornell University has outlined some key points to keep in mind during corn silage harvest in this sort of year. He makes 4 main points.
Yield will be highly variable and difficult to estimate. Dr. Greg Roth at Penn State suggests that silage yield for corn without ears or with poorly pollinated ears may be 1 ton of wet silage yield (30% DM) per foot of plant height. An older study at Cornell by Dr. Bill Cox indicates that silage yields at the dough stage are 65 to 70% of yields at the milk line stage. In the same study, yields at the silk stage were 40 to 45% of those obtained at the milk line stage.
Some growers like to estimate yield and quality of standing corn so that it may be sold for silage before harvest. Estimating yield of highly variable fields is risky. It’s possible to weigh DM from sampled row lengths and calculate yield of the whole field, but the number of samples required for an accurate estimate in these variable fields is prohibitively high. Instead, as fields are chopped, silage wagons or trucks should be counted and a representative sample of them should be weighed to calculate a more accurate yield and price.
Harvest management requires some additional planning and checking. When the most mature plants in a corn field are at the proper dry matter (DM) content for harvest (32-24% DM), the less mature plants will be much wetter (less than 30%). For fields with variable maturity, wait until the average whole plant DM for the field is 32-34% DM. Harvesting wetter forage will increase runoff losses from the silage and make it difficult to get a good fermentation. If possible, store immature corn silage separately from proper maturity silage.
Check chopper settings and particle size of the material coming out of the chopper. If using the Penn State box, target 10-20% on the top screen and < 40% in the pan. This may require increasing length of cut. Since ear and kernel development on under-developed corn is poor, kernel processing may not be needed. Follow normal silage management practices of filling fast, packing and covering the top with plastic or with oxygen limiting barriers. Immature corn silage is generally high in readily available carbohydrates to support good fermentation, however, it may be low in the natural bacterial population entering the silo on the corn plant. The addition of a lactic acid-based inoculant may be beneficial to stimulate fermentation in this case. Lastly, give the silo 3-4 months of fermentation before feeding out.
Estimating value for corn silage when it is so variable – is tough. The sale price of variable maturity or immature corn silage will depend on yield, dry matter content and nutrient composition. Dr. Bill Weiss at Ohio State indicates that immature corn silage is worth about 85% of the economic value of normal corn silage – if it is the same dry matter content. Dr. Larry Chase provides examples of price calculations that consider the Ohio State conversion and variable DM content.
If the value of “normal’ corn silage = $70/ton (assuming 35% DM), then the value of immature corn silage = $70 * 0.85 = $59.50 (still assumes 35% DM). If the actual dry matter of the immature corn silage is only 27%, then the adjusted price = 27/35 *$59.50 = $45.90/ton. To ballpark the value of the standing crop, use 70% of the adjusted price. This would be $41.65 for this example of immature corn silage at 27% DM standing in the field.
Penn State researchers have developed a more detailed spreadsheet for pricing standing corn for corn silage based on the value of grain corn.
When using any of these methods for valuing corn for corn silage in 2019, consider that estimating yield of the standing crop may be the most uncertain component in your calculations. Therefore it may be best to count and weigh trucks or wagons rather than estimate yield.
Nutritional value of this immature and variable crop will present another challenge. In addition to variable moisture content, nutrient composition of the corn silage will also vary with maturity, so periodically collect samples of the chopped forage during harvest to provide information on the nutrient content of the silage for use in ration balancing. Less mature corn is likely to be higher in crude protein, higher in fiber, higher in sugar and lower in starch than normal corn silage. Because the fiber in immature corn is more digestible, the energy value of immature silage may be 85-95% of normal, despite the significantly lower starch content. A wet chemistry analysis may be more accurate than NIR analysis since NIR calibrations for normal corn silage may not accurately predict immature silage composition.
Work with your nutritionist to determine the best use for your variable maturity or immature corn silage. You may decide to feed immature corn silage only to specific groups of cows or young stock depending on its nutrient composition. Immature corn silage can have higher acetic acid content after fermentation which can decrease dry matter intake if not neutralized. The addition of sodium bicarbonate added to the ration at 0.75% of total ration dry matter may help.
Tall waterhemp is one of the most problematic weed species throughout the Midwest and has now arrived and spread to eight counties in Upstate New York. Waterhemp can spread from field-to-field and farm-to-farm on equipment, clothing, application equipment, or via water from over flooded ditches and rivers. Following a recent field day event we wanted to demonstrate the amount of weed seed that could travel back with you.
Boots that were considered “clean” were not as clean as we had thought (Figure 1). A knife was used to clean the boots and break up any hard clots that were present. Once the boots were clean, tweezers were used to separate the weed seeds from the dirt (Figure 2). The pigweed/waterhemp seed was then separated from other weed seeds that were present, and pigweed seeds were counted (Figure 3). The clods of dirt were also checked, and one pigweed seed was found stuck to a clay particle (Figure 4).
An estimate of a 3 year establishment of waterhemp assuming 50% of the seeds were waterhemp and 100% were waterhemp was then calculated, respectively. The calculations are seen below:
16 pigweed seeds + 1 pigweed seed hiding in soil = 17 pigweed seeds from 2 boots.
Assuming only half of those are waterhemp and it can produce 250,000 seeds per female plant: 17/2 = 8.5 X 250,000 = 2.125 million seeds the following year in a field.
Assuming every seed on the bottom of the boots are waterhemp: 17 X 250,000 = 4.250 million seeds the following year.
Assuming 75% survival rate and reproduction in year 2: 4.250 million X 75% = 3.1875 million plants X 250,000 seeds per plant = |
**796,875,000,000 seeds going into the soil in year 3 (potentially)
In conclusion, correct and early identification is very important; learn the correct characteristics of the plants (Figure 5) and seeds. Proper cleaning and sanitation of equipment, clothing, and vehicles can help prevent spreading. Intense management and continuous scouting are vital to eradication of this weed species. Mechanical control such as plowing can bury the seed deep which might decrease seed bank numbers. And, if in doubt, contact your local CCE specialist for help with identification or other management practices.
Once again we find ourselves watching the calendar days flipping by and continued wet weather keeping farmers from working in the field. If the wet weather continues to keep farmers from planting their corn and soybeans, it prevents them from a timely harvest of first cutting hay crops. This not only reduces the quality but sets the stage for the rest of the hay harvest though out the summer. For those farmers that purchased crop insurance on their corn or soybeans they can sleep a little easier at night. This is because they have options to leave fallow those fields that are too wet to plant or are drowned after they are planted by using the “Prevented Planting” or “Replant” options of their crop insurance policy.
A number of farmers I have interviewed claim their sole reason for buying crop insurance is for the prevented planting option which is available on corn and soybean policies. Prevented planting decisions should be made as you approach the final planting date for the crop. In New York, June 10th is the Final Planting Date for soybeans, and for silage and grain corn.
To receive Replant payments, you must have a loss of the lesser of 20 acres or 20% of the insured planted acres to qualify for a replant payment. Be sure to contact your crop insurance agent once you decide replant is needed. Do not destroy any evidence of the initial planting before reporting the loss to your sales agent.
Can be claimed as any insurable cause of loss that keeps you out of the fields prior to 6/10/2019, providing the cause is general in the area, and other requirements are met. If a farmer applies for prevented planting they will receive 55% of the crops guarantee for corn and 60% of the crop’s guarantee for soybeans. When signing up for crop insurance farmers have the option to increase their prevented planning coverage by 5% of their guarantee by paying a premium.
One added decision farmers will need to make this year is the possibilities of “Market Facilitation Program” payments being made by the government. If Prevented Planting is used those acres will have no bushels to apply for such payments.
If your planting is delayed or prevented due to an insurable cause, be sure to notify your crop insurance agent in writing within 72 hours of the final planting date for the affected crop. Additionally, if you participate in Farm Service Agency (FSA) programs, it is important to report your prevented planting acreage within 15 calendar days after the final planting date for the crop in order to receive prevented planting acreage credit.
The latest data from field research trials evaluating the opportunity to grow high-quality, high-yield corn under localized growing conditions are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org.
About 65 percent of the approximately 144,000 acres of corn grown each year across the six northernmost counties of New York State is harvested as silage with 35 percent harvested as grain, largely to feed the dairy industry. Ethanol production also contributes to the demand for the regionally-grown corn.
“The importance of corn silage as a high yielding, high quality feed for dairy cattle continues to increase as farmers look to optimize feed value from their available acreage,” said project co-leader Thomas R. Overton, a professor of Animal Science and director of the Cornell University CALS PRO-DAIRY Program, Ithaca, N.Y.
The 2018 trials’ data analysis includes standard measures of performance, including yield, moisture level, and standability as well as innovative techniques for forage quality evaluation for digestibility and milk production. The forage quality data for the 2018 report were collected and analyzed by the field and laboratory research team that included Cornell University faculty, field technicians, and Extension staff working in cooperation with three farm sites in Northern New York.
“As the seed industry introduces new corn hybrids to the market, field evaluation under regional growing conditions is critical to assist growers in selecting the hybrids best-suited to their farm,” noted project co-leader Joseph Lawrence, Cornell CALS PRO-DAIRY Extension Associate, Lowville, N.Y.
The researchers emphasize the need for growers to make hybrid selections based on how the hybrids have performed over multiple years, multiple locations and soils, and under varying weather conditions, and based on the mix of corn traits that best fit their individual farm business needs.
“Corn grain is a valuable commodity in its own right and a major contributor to any hybrid’s silage quality and yield. Grain evaluation trials are typically the first step in determining a hybrid’s value to a regional market,” said project co-leader Margaret E. Smith, professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
Corn hybrid testing results for 2018 and recent past years are posted on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at www.nnyagdev.org. Funding for the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is supported by the New York State Legislature and administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Participating seed companies submitted hybrids for evaluation, helping to defray a portion of the cost of the hybrid evaluations.
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