What's Cropping Up? Blog

Articles from the bi-monthly Cornell Field Crops newsletter

July 23, 2018
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Another Shocker: Organic Wheat with High Inputs 86 Bu/Acre Vs.79 Bu/Acre for Conventional Wheat (both yield 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs)

Another Shocker: Organic Wheat with High Inputs 86 Bu/Acre Vs.79 Bu/Acre for Conventional Wheat (both yield 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs)

Bill Cox, Eric Sandsted, and Phil Atkins

Conventional wheat with recommended inputs (on the right), despite more yellowing of the leaves in the lower canopy in mid-June, yielded similarly (~80 bushels/acre) as high input conventional wheat (on the left).

We initiated a 4-year study at the Aurora Research Farm in 2015 to compare the corn, soybean, and wheat/red clover rotation with different crop sequences in conventional and organic cropping systems during the 36-month transition and early certification period to an organic cropping system. One of the many objectives of the study was to determine if corn, soybean, and wheat respond similarly to management inputs (high and recommended) in conventional and organic cropping systems. This article will discuss the agronomic performance of organic wheat and conventional wheat with recommended and high inputs in the 4th year of the study (red clover-corn-soybean-wheat/red clover).

We no-tilled a treated (insecticide/fungicide seed treatment) Pioneer soft red wheat variety, 25R46, in the conventional cropping system; and the untreated 25R46 in the organic cropping system at two seeding rates, ~1.2 million seeds/acre (recommended input) and ~1.7 million seeds/acre (high input treatment) with a John Deere 1590 No-Till Grain Drill (7.5 inch spacing between drills) on September 27, the day after soybean harvest. We applied about 200 lbs. /acre of 10-20-20 as a starter fertilizer to wheat in both conventional treatments. We also applied Harmony Extra (~0.75 oz. /acre) to the high input conventional treatment at early tillering or GS 2 stage in the fall (October 27) for control of winter perennials (dandelion in particular).

Organic compared with conventional wheat yielded similarly (recommended inputs) or 9% higher (high inputs) at the Aurora Research Farm in 2018.

We applied the maximum amount of Kreher’s composted chicken manure (5-4-3 analysis) that would flow through the drill as a starter fertilizer (~150 lbs. of material/acre) in both organic treatments. We also broadcast Kreher’s composted manure the day after planting  to provide ~50 lbs. of actual N /acre (assuming 50% available N from the composted manure) in the high input treatment of the organic cropping system. In addition, we also added Sabrex, an organic seed treatment with Tricoderma strains, to the seed hopper of 25R46 in the high input treatment in the organic cropping system.

We frost-seeded red clover into all the wheat treatments on March 22. We applied ~70 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0, ammonium nitrate) in the recommended input treatment of conventional wheat on March 23, about a week before green-up. In the high input conventional treatment, we applied ~50 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0) on March 23 and then applied another 50 lbs. of actual N/acre on April 26 about 10 days before the jointing stage (GS 6). We also applied a fungicide (Prosaro at 4 oz. /acre) to the high input treatment on May 30.

We applied Kreher’s composted chicken manure to provide ~70 lbs. of available N/acre to organic wheat in the recommended input treatment on March 21. Also, we applied an additional ~50 lbs. of available N/acre to organic wheat in the high input treatment on March 21. All the plots were harvested with an Almaco plot combine on July 10. We collected a 1000 gram from each plot to determine kernel moisture and grain N% in the laboratory.

We presented data on wheat emergence as well as wheat densities and weed densities in the fall (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2017/12/01/organic-compared-with-conventional-wheat-once-again-has-more-rapid-emergence-greater-early-season-plant-densities-and-fewer-fall-weeds-when-following-soybean-in-no-till-conditions/) and weed densities in the early spring (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2018/05/25/no-till-organic-wheat-continues-to-have-low-weed-densities-in-early-spring-april-9-at-the-tillering-stage-gs-2-3/) in previous news articles. Briefly, organic wheat had more plants/acre, and similar weed densities in the fall and spring (Table 1). This is the second time that organic compared to conventional wheat no-tilled into soybean stubble had better stands and very low weed densities. Organic growers who harvest soybean fields with low winter weed pressure (dandelion, mallow, chickweed, henbit, mayweed, etc.) should consider no-tilling organic wheat, especially if the soybean field had been moldboard plowed. If soybeans were no-tilled into roller-crimped rye in early June, the rye residue could harbor significant slug/snail populations during the cool and damp fall mornings, which could impact wheat stands.

A cropping system x management input interaction was observed for wheat yield in 2018 (Table 2). Organic and conventional wheat yielded 80 bushels/acre with recommended inputs in 2018. Organic wheat showed a 6 bushel/acre response to high input management (500,000 more seeds/acre and an additional 30 lbs. of N/acre). In contrast, conventional wheat did not respond to high input management, despite 500,000 more seeds/acre, a fall herbicide application, 30 lbs. more N/acre, and a fungicide application. Once again, conventional wheat did not respond to the “new way” of managing wheat, high input wheat, which is similar to results that we have observed in all years with dry springs when we compared high and recommended input wheat in the 1980s and 2000s. Obviously, there is no need to apply additional N or apply a fungicide to wheat during dry springs because fertilizer N applied in late March or early April will not be lost to the environment via leaching or denitrification and disease pressure is low.

In 2016, a year with very similar precipitation patterns to 2018 (5.88 inches vs. 6.5 inches of precipitation, respectively, from April 1 through June 30), organic wheat yielded ~7.5% lower than conventional wheat when averaged across input treatments with no response to high input treatments in either cropping system(http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/09/26/organic-wheat-looked-great-but-yielded-7-5-less-than-conventional-wheat-in-20152016/). Temperatures in May when N demand by wheat is the highest, averaged 62.0o in 2018 but only 56.5o in 2016. Cool temperatures limit N mineralization from organic sources so in 2016 we speculated that the use of an organic N source may have resulted in less available N to the organic wheat crop. Indeed, grain N% concentration in organic (1.66%) vs. conventional wheat (2.03%) was much lower in 2016 lending credence to the lack of available N as the major factor in the lower organic wheat yields. In 2018, conventional compared with organic wheat once again had greater grain N% concentration (1.99% vs. 1.77%, respectively, Table 2) but the difference was not as vast. Evidently, the warm May conditions allowed for release of adequate N from Kreher’s composted manure to maximize yields. May of 2018, however, was the second warmest on record in central and western NY. In years with cool late April and May conditions, organic wheat production may face N availability challenges because of low mineralization rates of organic N sources.

In conclusion, organic wheat yielded the same as conventional wheat with recommended inputs and yielded 9% greater than conventional wheat with high inputs. Kreher’s composted chicken manure, however, is very expensive (~$300/ton with only 5% N analysis of which we assumed only 50% N availability) so N costs approximated $6/lb. of N or ~12x higher than the ammonium nitrate source for conventional wheat. Consequently, organic compared with conventional wheat with recommended inputs probably had lower returns in 2018, despite being eligible for the organic price premium in the 4th year of this study (we will conduct a complete economic analysis of this 4-year study in late fall or spring of next year). Organic wheat with high inputs probably had similar economic returns as conventional wheat with high inputs, a common practice among some NY wheat growers, because the 12x higher cost for N in organic wheat would be offset by the higher cost for treated seed, fall herbicide application, the second N application, and late spring fungicide application in high input conventional wheat. Most organic wheat growers, however, probably use a dry solid manure source that is far less expensive than Kreher’s composted chicken manure so the economic analyses in this study will be slanted against organic wheat. On the other hand, the use of dry solid manure is far more difficult to apply precisely and at the correct time to insure availability to the wheat crop in May during stem elongation so the yield data may be slanted towards wheat in this study.

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June 26, 2017
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on NYCSGA Precision Ag Research Update: Year One of Model Validation

NYCSGA Precision Ag Research Update: Year One of Model Validation

Savanna Crossman, Precision Agriculture Research Coordinator
New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association

The 2016 field season marked the first year of testing for the variable rate planting model that is being developed by the Precision Ag Research Project. Growers across New York State know the challenges that the severe summer drought brought to our region.  Crop yields were impacted across the state and the research was no exception.  While unfortunate, it is advantageous to be able to test the model during a dry year and learn from how the crops reacts to the stress.

Across the board, the mid-to-lower seeding rates fared the best in the corn and soybean trials.  The model was tested on five fields this year and only four made it to grain harvest due to severe drought stress.  The results revealed that in three of the fields, there was not a significant difference in the profit produced by the model.  While the average yield of the model was significantly less, the model was able to achieve similar profit per acre by using lower seeding rates. (Table 1) 

Figure 1. 2016 Beach 2 model design. The left image displays the planting rate map and the right image displays the hybrid map.

A variation of the model design was planted on one field, Beach 2, in a split planter fashion with two contrasting hybrids.  This varied design was used as it allowed for of multiple points of comparison, including hybrid comparison.  Check strips were integrated every two passes to allows direct comparison of how the model performed to the typical grower practice rate.  From there, the design becomes more complicated.  The first pass would be planted at the model optimized rate for hybrid A, which meant hybrid B was also being planted at that same rate.  Then the next pass would plant at the rate optimized for hybrid B while hybrid A was being planted at that rate as well.  This allows us to examine the hybrid response to population in more depth. (Figure 1)

The hybrids P0216 and P0533 were selected due to their differences in plant architecture and responses to stress.  In years of excellent growing conditions, the tight leaf structure and short stature of P0533 will produce aggressive yields.  The hybrid P0216 will produce average yields in years of stress as well as in excellent conditions.

A 4,000 foot view of this field would show that there was not a significant yield difference between the model and the grower’s flat rate.  The model yielded about 2 bu/ac more than the flat rate, but that difference was not statistically significant.  When we separate the results out by hybrid, we see a much more telling story.

These hybrids resulted in a wonderful side-by-side comparison this year.   When compared to the flat rate, P0533, regardless of optimization, yielded significantly more per acre and yielded an astounding $64/ac more.  Conversely, P0216, regardless of optimization, yielded less than the flat rate and produced a profit $22/ac less than the flat rate.

Figure 2. P0216 optimized yield versus P0533 optimized yield.

A deeper look into the results showed that that when both hybrids were planted optimally, P0216 yielded almost 18 bu/acre higher than P0533 (Figure 2).   It also demonstrated that P0533 exhibited a statistical significant response to model optimization.  Meaning, when it was optimized the yield significantly improved over not being optimized (Figure 3).  This is likely due to the fact that in a stressful year, P0216’s yields will not fall apart due to seeding rate while P0533 benefited from precise placement.

Figure 3. P0533 exhibited a hybrid response to population.

These same hybrids in Beach 2, however, exhibited the exact opposite hybrid response in 2014 which was a normal year in terms of weather conditions.  Knowing this emphasizes the importance of multiple years of testing and data collection to create a robust algorithm.  The biggest gain from the 2016 season has been the strong design and analysis process that has been developed.  What the project has accomplished in these terms, is at the leading edge of the scientific community.

In order to build upon what the project has already accomplished, the project is still looking to get more producers involved and participating.  The project aims to get fields in the research that have a large amount of variation and are fifty acres or greater.  Any interested growers are highly encouraged to get in touch with the Project Coordinator, Savanna Crossman, at 802-393-0709 or savanna@nycornsoy.com.

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October 5, 2016
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? – Volume 26 No. 5 – September/October Edition

What’s Cropping Up? – Volume 26 No. 5 – September/October Edition

September 26, 2016
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on Organic Wheat Looked Great but Yielded 7.5% Less Than Conventional Wheat in 2015/2016

Organic Wheat Looked Great but Yielded 7.5% Less Than Conventional Wheat in 2015/2016

By Bill Cox1, Eric Sandsted1, Jeff Stayton2, and Wes Baum2
1Soil and Crop Sciences Section – School of Integrated Plant Science, Cornell University; 2Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station

The lower leaves of wheat were senescing in mid-June, despite more N being applied to high input conventional wheat (right), because of exceedingly dry conditions at Aurora and the droughty soil of the experimental area.

The lower leaves of wheat were senescing in mid-June, despite more N being applied to high input conventional wheat (right), because of exceedingly dry conditions at Aurora and the droughty soil of the experimental area.

We initiated a 3-year study at the Aurora Research Farm in 2015 to compare the corn, soybean, and wheat/red clover rotation with different crop sequences in conventional and organic cropping systems during the 3-year transition period (2015-2017) to an organic cropping system. Three of the many objectives of the study are to determine 1) the best entry or 1st year crop (2015) to plant during the transition, 2) the best crop sequence during the 3-year transition (soybean-wheat/red clover-corn, corn-soybean, wheat/red clover, or plowed in red clover-corn-soybean) and 3) do corn, soybean, and wheat respond similarly to management inputs (high and recommended) in conventional and organic cropping systems? This article will compare the agronomic performance of organic wheat with conventional wheat following soybean in a soybean-wheat/red clover-corn sequence during the second year of the transition from conventional to an organic cropping system.

We used a John Deere 1590 No-Till Grain Drill (7.5 inch spacing between drills) to plant the treated (insecticide/fungicide seed treatment) Pioneer soft red wheat variety, 25R46, in the conventional cropping system; and the untreated 25R46, in the organic cropping system at two seeding rates, ~1.2 million seeds/acre (recommended input) and ~1.6 million seeds/acre (high input treatment) on September 24, the day after soybean harvest. We applied about 200 lbs. /acre of 10-20-20 as a starter fertilizer to wheat in both conventional treatments. We also applied Harmony Extra (~0.75 oz. /acre) to the high input conventional treatment at the GS 2 stage (November 5) for control of winter perennials (dandelion in particular).

In both organic treatments, we applied the maximum amount of Kreher’s composted chicken manure (5-4-3 analysis), as a starter fertilizer, that would flow through the drill, or about 150 lbs. of material/acre. We also broadcast Kreher’s composted manure to provide ~60 lbs. of actual N /acre (assuming 50% available N from the composted manure) in the high input treatment in the organic cropping system immediately after planting. In addition, we also added Sabrex, an organic seed treatment with Tricoderma strains, to the seed hopper of 25R46 in the high input treatment in the organic cropping system.

We frost-seeded red clover into all the wheat treatments on March 9 to provide N to the subsequent corn crop in 2017. We applied ~60 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0, ammonium nitrate) in the recommended input treatment in the conventional cropping system on March 21, about a week after green-up. In the high input conventional treatment, we applied ~45 lbs. of actual N/acre (33-0-0) on March 21 and then applied another 45 lbs. of actual N/acre on April 25 about a week before the jointing stage (GS 6). We also applied a fungicide (Prosaro) to the high input treatment on May 31.

We applied Kreher’s composted chicken manure to provide 75 lbs. of available N/acre in the recommended input treatment on March 21. Also, we applied an additional 55 lbs. of available N/acre to the high input treatment in the organic cropping system on March 21. All the plots were harvested with an Almaco plot combine on July 6. We collected a 500 gram from each plot to determine kernel moisture and test weight in the laboratory.

We presented data on wheat emergence as well as wheat densities and weed densities in the fall (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2015/11/23/wheat-emergence-early-plant-populations-and-weed-densities-following-soybeans-in-conventional-and-organic-cropping-systems/) and weed densities in the early spring (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/04/05/no-till-organic-wheat-continues-to-have-low-weed-densities-in-early-spring-march-31-at-the-tillering-stage-gs-2-3/) in previous news articles. Briefly, organic wheat emerged about 1 day earlier, had ~10% more plants/acre, and fewer weeds in the fall. In the spring, organic wheat also had lower weed densities when compared with the recommended input treatment in conventional wheat (no herbicide) and the same weed density as the high input conventional wheat (received an herbicide after fall weed counts) in the spring (Table 1). Consequently, organic compared with conventional wheat had a similar or higher yield potential in early April, the beginning the active spring tillering period, based on stand and weed densities.

cox-table-1

Nevertheless, the 10% greater plant density and lower weed density in organic compared with conventional wheat, especially in the recommended input treatment, did not translate into a yield advantage. In fact, organic wheat yielded ~7.5% lower than conventional wheat (Table 2) when averaged across input treatments (no response to high input treatments in either cropping system). We suspect that the use of an organic N source may have resulted in less available N to the organic wheat crop, although visual symptoms of N deficiency were not observed. We did sub-sample before harvest (two 1.52 m2 areas/plot) to determine yield components. Organic compared with conventional wheat did have higher spike densities (533 to 509/m2, respectively) probably because of its higher plant density. Organic wheat, however, had fewer kernels/spike (22.1 vs. 24.5, respectively) and lower kernel weight (311 vs.315 mg, respectively), which indicates that the organic wheat may have been short of N, similar to organic corn in 2015 (http://blogs.cornell.edu/whatscroppingup/2016/03/29/why-did-organic-compared-with-conventional-corn-yield-30-lower-during-the-first-transition-year/).

cox-table-2

On the other hand, the recommended input (~75 lbs. of N/acre applied in late March) treatment yielded the same as the high input (~60 lbs. of N/acre in the fall followed by another ~55 lbs. /acre of N in late March) treatment in the organic cropping system. If available N were the limiting factor in organic wheat yields, then we would expect the high input treatment to yield higher because it received more total N (albeit at different timings). We will submit our wheat samples for total kernel N analysis. If total kernel N in organic and conventional wheat is similar, then total N availability may not have resulted in the 7.5% lower yields. Then we would have to explore the idea that perhaps the use of Kreher’s composted chicken manure as a starter fertilizer may not have provided adequate P or K to organic wheat.

In conclusion, organic wheat, despite not receiving an insecticide/fungicide seed treatment, had better stands than conventional wheat and fewer weeds in both the fall and spring. Organic wheat, however, yielded 7.5% lower than conventional wheat in the second year of the transition from conventional to an organic cropping system. We expect that net returns will also be ~7.5% lower for organic compared with the recommended input conventional treatment because the lower seed costs, associated with no insecticide/fungicide seed treatment, will be offset by the higher costs for N, associated with the cost of Kreher’s composted chicken manure vs. ammonium nitrate. Many growers, however, practice high input wheat (high seeding rates, fall herbicide application, split N application, and a fungicide application), which provided no additional yield response to conventional wheat in the dry 2016 growing season. Consequently, organic wheat with recommended inputs will provide a greater return to conventional wheat with high inputs in this study in 2016.

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September 12, 2016
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on NYCSGA Precision Ag Project Update

NYCSGA Precision Ag Project Update

Authored by: Savanna Crossman, Research Coordinator, CCA
Statistical Analysis by: Margaret Krause, Cornell University PhD Student

 *This article is part of an ongoing series.  Previous articles can be found at www.nycornsoy.org/research*

crossman-fig-1New York State has always presented a unique challenge to grain growers due to the large amount of in field variability.  In recent years, growers have also added adverse weather conditions to that list.  From the project’s perspective, two of the past three growing seasons have fallen far outside the conditions of a normal year.  The 2015 season brought early precipitation amounts far above than the historical average while the 2016 season is setting up to be one of the driest in decades.  These conditions have resulted in significantly lower, less uniform yields than a typical year such as 2014 (Figure 1).  Variable rate seeding technology is one of the many tools that NYS growers can use to help overcome these challenging conditions.  However, mainstream companies have yet to design a prescription writing software that is developed to meet the unique conditions of New York State and the Northeast.  This project seeks to address this void by developing a software that will do just that.

The project has been collecting data on a large scale since 2014 in order to create a model that will select hybrids and population rates given certain soil properties and characteristics.  To do this, six major data types are being examined; seeding rate, hybrid, topographical information, NRCS soil survey maps, Veris soil sampling data, and grid soil sampling data.  Each data type consists of many variables which are analyzed individually and as interacting networks.

Figure 2. This example random forest regression analysis demonstrates that phosphorus is the variable with the largest effect on yield in this field.

Figure 2. This example random forest regression analysis demonstrates that phosphorus is the variable with the largest effect on yield in this field.

To examine the effect that each variable has on yield, a statistical approach called random forest regression is being used.  This method essentially ranks each variable based on its importance to yield.  The greater the importance number that is assigned to a variable, the larger effect that variable has on yield (Figure 2).

The project has seen that the variables can rank very differently given the field, crop type, or year.  Each field location is unique and thus has a unique combination of variables influencing yield.  Some fields exhibit a very strong yield response to seeding rate, while others exhibit a strong yield response to fertility factors or topography.

Figure 3. 2014 and 2015 resulted in similar population curves on this corn field in Clyde, NY.

Figure 3. 2014 and 2015 resulted in similar population curves on this corn field in Clyde, NY.

Though each field may be different, it is important to see stability within a field across years.  For example, this 80 acre corn field in Clyde, NY produced similar population curves in two drastically different seasons.  The first year, 2014, resulted in high and uniform yields across the field.  The second year, 2015, yielded dramatically lower with a large variance in yield uniformity.  Though the two seasons were very different, both demonstrated a negative yield response to increased seeding rate (Figure 3).  The lowest rate of 27,000 sds/ac yielded the highest across the two years and which was 5,000 sds/ac lower than the grower’s typical rate.  The random forest regression confirmed that seeding rate was the most important variable influencing yield across both years.

This year to year stability in yield response to seeding rate has been seen between crop types as well.  This 60 acre field in Pavilion, NY is managed as a conventional till field in a corn-soybean rotation.  In 2014, its soybean crop exhibited a strong positive yield response to increased seeding rate.  The random forest regression confirmed that seeding rate held a dramatically greater importance than any of the other variables.  The next year, 2015, the field was planted with corn and again exhibited a positive yield response to seeding rate.  This time, the analysis showed that while seeding rate was still the most important variable, many other factors were also important.  This difference could be due physiological preferences between the two crops or the different weather conditions between the two years. (Figure 4)

Figure 4. Random forest regression analysis of 2014 soybean and 2015 corn of a sixty acre field in Pavilion, NY.

Figure 4. Random forest regression analysis of 2014 soybean and 2015 corn of a sixty acre field in Pavilion, NY.

To explore the idea of physiological differences between corn and soybean, some further analysis was conducted.  In this same Pavilion field, soybean exhibited positive relationships with calcium and pH, while corn exhibited negative relationships with the same variables.  These observations are likely related to the differences in crop preference for pH.  Soybeans grow best in more neutral soils where the rhizobia bacteria that provide the soybean plant nitrogen are most active.  Whereas the corn plant is known to prefer a slightly acidic soil where some key micronutrients, such as zinc and manganese, are more available.  It is understanding relationships such as these from an agronomic and a statistical perspective that will result in a reliable model for NYS growers.

This year has marked the first infield testing of the model which will provide side by side comparison of grower practice to the model’s prescriptions.  Each year of additional data collected will serve to further the development of the model into a robust and reliable resource to growers of the State.

The project is currently looking to bring on additional participants for the 2017 season and encourages any interested growers to contact Savanna Crossman at (802) 393-0709 or savanna@nycornsoy.com .

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-1-42-09-pm

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July 29, 2016
by Cornell Field Crops
Comments Off on What’s Cropping Up? Volume 26 No. 4 – July/August Edition

What’s Cropping Up? Volume 26 No. 4 – July/August Edition

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