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Fall Herbicide Application

From the cab of your combine, it is the perfect time to start thinking about next year’s crop. Fall herbicide applications can be a reliable way to help keep fields clean of those winter annual and perennial weeds that will be tough to control the following spring. 

When determining to do a fall herbicide application, consider the history of the field and plan for the following growing season. 

Scouting

When you’re out harvesting this fall, take a good look at the field for small, germinated weeds. Asses the species, health, and size of the weeds present, making sure they are actively growing and have enough leaf surface to actively take the product in. Questions you may want to consider: What were some of the troublesome weeds throughout the season? Are any of those weed species perennial or winter annuals? 

Winter Annuals

Fall germinating winter annuals are controlled effectively in the fall because the plants are small and susceptible to the herbicide. These weeds will continue to grow through the fall frosts and will resume growth in the early spring. Some examples of tough to control winter annuals include Narrow Leafed Hawksbeard, Prickly Lettuce, and Night Flowering Catchfly. 

 Perennials

In the fall, perennials are sending reserves down to the roots to overwinter and will carry the herbicide to the roots. For optimal control, it is important to ensure there is enough regrowth after being cut at harvest for the herbicide to hit its target. Some common examples of tough to control perennial weeds are Dandelions, Canada Thistle, Horsetail (commonly found around sloughs), and Foxtail Barley. 

Spray Conditions

Optimal weather conditions are preferred for an effective fall herbicide application. Ideally warm fall days, temperatures greater than +10 are when the plants are actively growing. Frost and continuous low temperatures will send the weeds into shut down. Making it best to wait a few days after cold temperatures, assess the health of the weeds, and apply an application only after the weeds start growing again. 

Tank Mixing

Tank mixing is another essential consideration when it comes to fall burn-off. Tank mixing allows for herbicide rotation, especially in instances where there is a presence of resistant weed biotypes that limit herbicide group options in-crop. Although a heavy rate of glyphosate may be a straightforward and cost-effective solution, it is important to incorporate a tank mix partner to get multiple modes of action, ensure effective control and mitigate the chance of resistance. Keep in mind any re-cropping restrictions. Heat LQ, Express and 2,4-D are common tank-mix partners to consider. 

A fall weed control application can reduce the spring workload, get your crop off to a weed-free start, and allow you to get into the field earlier. Contact your local Synergy AG agronomist if you need assistance identifying weed species or creating an optimal fall burn-off plan. 

The Value of Soil Testing

As the cropping season comes to an end, it is right to look back and give kudos to every partner who worked hard these past months to ensure we continue to produce high-quality food and feed; every partner – from the resilient farmer and his patient family to the persistent input supplier and the meticulous agronomist. But perhaps in the community of farming partners, none worked harder than the ground on which our crops grew. The soil held, supplied, and recycled nutrients for plant growth, detoxified pollutants, retained water for use during the drier periods, and served as a firm structure for cropping and other agricultural activities. So, as we take stock and prepare for the next cropping season, finding out the current condition of this priceless partner is of utmost importance.

During a cropping season, several processes impact the soil nutrient status. These include crop nutrient uptake, run-off, and leaching. Over time, the soil nutrient reserve becomes depleted and will need to be replenished. Soil testing provides a way of knowing the level of this nutrient reserve as well as other soil properties affecting how nutrients are released. It is a tool that helps match fertilizer application to the needs of the crop while avoiding wastage and possible contamination of the environment. 

When To Do A Soil Test

Although soil testing just before spring seeding may provide results most closely related to conditions during seeding, fall is a great time for the activity. Soil testing in the fall allows ample time to sample soils, analyze them, examine the data, and make fertilizer plans. Besides, in late fall when soil temperature has dropped to below 10 ⁰C, soil microbial activity has slowed down, so there will be minimal change in nutrient levels between fall and the next spring. Soil testing can also be done anytime during the growing season to determine and correct nutrient deficiencies.

Without data you will have to guess your way through the growing season, and you will either be lucky or wrong. Soil testing can help you take the guesswork out of your fertilizer plans. With the advancement of technology, soil testing is becoming easier, faster, and more accurate. This is what we provide in our soil testing laboratory.  Our agronomists combine soil test results with their expertise and local knowledge to design a prescriptive fertilizer plan to increase the probability of achieving high-quality and high-yielding crops.  

At SynergyAG we treat soil as more than ‘dirt’, we recognize and respect that soil sustains life. Talk to your SynergyAG team about your soil testing needs.

-Ikenna Mbakwe, PhD, PAg
Director of Research
SynergyAG

Fall Cleanup

Harvest is well on its way in most areas of the province, which means there may be time left to do some fall work in the field. Adverse weather conditions add additional obstacles to get through when it comes to making management decisions be the most efficient and profitable as the season closes. We all know that herbicide efficacy is largely based on temperature and the growing conditions that the plant is living in. With that being said, there is always a sweet spot where the optimal performance will occur, but there are also some warning signs we need to look out for in these later months of the growing season.

As night time temperatures continue to drop, it is critical that we are keeping our best management practices at the top of mind when it comes to fall burn off. If the nighttime lows are dropping below 0°C, make sure to consider these key points before an herbicide application: Duration of the frost, the severity of the frost, the weather leading up to the frost, and the target weed species. 

Duration, Severity, And Weather Leading Up To The Frost

When temperatures drop to -2 to -3 there is usually minimal plant damage. At this point, you could spray later that day as long as the temperature reaches 8°C and stays there for 2-4 hours after application. As temperatures dip below -5°C, you will start to see greater damage to plants. You should hold off spraying for a couple of days so that you can assess the damage that was caused by the frost and make a better decision on whether or not an herbicide application is necessary. If there is enough healthy tissue left to take up the herbicide (roughly more then 60%), and the temperature is going to get up to 10°C, you could consider spraying. If there is a heavy frost the night after you spray, you could also see reduced efficacy with the application.

Spraying when weeds are actively growing is the key to getting good control with a herbicide. With cooler temperatures drastically slowing down the metabolism of the plants, they will experience less efficient take-up of the chemical. This is especially important when applying a systemic herbicide like glyphosate. 

Target Weed Species

When you are deciding whether or not you want to do a fall herbicide application, it may be useful to take a look at what weeds you are aiming to kill. Fall is a great time to hit perennials, biennials, and winter annuals. These species can undergo a more severe frost event than germinating spring annuals. If an annual weed species looks like it will set seed before freeze up, it may be worthwhile to spray. 

Research shows that Kochia regrowing after a mid-August harvest will likely not set seed before a killing frost event. This is important to note when it comes to herbicide resistance. If you are planning on using glyphosate to kill the annual weeds, specifically Kochia, you might just be adding to the selection pressure and increasing your risk of developing resistance. 

Fall is a great time to do some groundwork and get your fields ready for spring. Always keep the best management practices in mind to help you get ahead of the game! 

Ergot In Cereal Crops

Touring through our cereals this time of year, we may run into black growths in place of a kernel. These ugly plumes are ergot bodies, or sclerotia: a plant disease caused by the Claviceps purpurea fungus. With growing years like this one, with a beautiful mixture of heat and moisture, our crops are thriving, but so are our diseases. The moisture promotes plant growth and flowering, as well as the germination of sclerotia. 

Disease Cycle: How does this work?

The first stage is germination of the sclerotia, which requires a cold period followed by wet soils in the spring. The sclerotia produce small, mushroom-like structures called stromata, which produce wind-borne spores. The wind-borne spores, also called ascospores, land on the florets and enter the ovaries of the early flowering plants.

The second stage is the “honeydew stage.” Here, the florets secrete a sticky ooze of spores called conidia, which are spread by rain and insects. They will continue to spread as long as flowering lasts. The honeydew stage ends once the ovary, or kernel, enlarged and is replaced by the ergot body.

What’s So Bad About It?

Although it doesn’t result in a significant yield loss, Ergot can result in economic loss. This is due to it being a major degrading factor in wheat and barley. In wheat and rye, only 0.04% is allowed in Number 1 grade, and even feed wheat has a low allowance of 0.10%. In barley, the tolerance is lower yet, at 0% for malt and 0.05% for feed. 

Ergot thresholds are this low, as the alkaloids in the ergot can cause ergotism when consumed by humans or livestock. In humans, ergotism can result in alternating burning and freezing sensations, death of extremities, and could even lead to death. In livestock, it can cause lameness, loss of body parts, abortions, seizures, and death. Sub-lethal doses will result in lower growth and performance, loss of milk production, and lack of appetite – all of which are recoverable.

How Can It Be Prevented?

Due to the economic losses ergot can cause, we want to do what we can to prevent this fungus. Ergot doesn’t have much for control methods in the field, however, there are management practices that can help. Your first line of defense against ergot is a crop rotation. The ergot only lives in the soil for one year, so a minimum of a two-year rotation is essential. Other things to keep in mind during seeding are avoiding planting a spring cereal next to a winter cereal crop, and ensuring a uniform plant stand by using seed with good germination, seeding at a constant depth, and using a balanced fertilizer program. Finally, use clean seed! Even two-year-old seed clean of ergot is less likely to spread the disease. Beyond seeding time, risk of ergot can be reduced by sanitizing by mowing around headlands and roadways to remove grasses and other possible hosts, and applying herbicide at the correct rate and timing.

If ergot is inevitable, one should harvest heavily infected areas separate from the rest of the field and deliver the infected seed separately to the elevator or destroy it. One can also clean the seed of ergot using a flotation gravity table, or a colour sorter. If you are concerned about ergot in your field, contact your SynergyAG representative to go over your risk levels. We are here to harness the synergy of your crop production and the environment for your agronomic success!

Karly Rumpel AAg

Sources:

Canada Grain Commission. Ergot. 2019. https://www.grainscanada.gc.ca/en/grain-quality/grain-grading/grading-factors/grading-factors-wheat/ergot.html

Government of Saskatchewan. Ergot of Cereals and Grasses.  ND. https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/agriculture-natural-resources-and-industry/agribusiness-farmers-and-ranchers/crops-and-irrigation/disease/ergot-of-cereals-and-grasses

Making Smart Harvest Marketing Decisions

Swathers, combines and grain carts have been pulled out of their hibernation.  There is a spattering of combines chewing up early crops already.  Harvest is just getting underway in parts of the prairies, and already grain marketing companies and media are estimating the cereal and oilseed harvest will be big.  Having a thought-out marketing plan is one of the first steps in establishing a profitable farm business.  Technology has allowed farmers to make marketing decisions on the go.  You don’t have to call the local elevator as they now post their bids, and there are services that can get a price up to 500 miles away.  Grain can can be sold online, or make hedging moves directly from a phone or tablet.  But what goes into making that “sell” decision?  

Cash Flow

There are several times during the year when farmers need a large influx of cash to cover expenses and debt.  It boils down to knowing what is needed for cash, and when it is needed.  During those parts of the year, managing the grain marketing plan to execute sales and receive cash will keep one alive.  This means setting a goal not only for the price of your grain, but also the point in time when you want to receive that cash from the sale.   Take into account the realities of the industry such as rail movement in the winter, or contracts that drag on.  If you can preplan cash flow needs, you will not be making reactive decisions. You will be making disciplined decisions that bring in revenue.  

Storage

Striking a balance between selling some grain at harvest and storing the rest is highly personalized.  Will you have excess storage or fall short?  Are you wanting to wait for higher prices in the future and using storage as a grain marketing strategy?  What happens if the price does not rally?  Will grain storage increase the speed of harvest by decreasing the time spent hauling and unloading grain?

Have you considered your costs for storing grain?  There are storage facility costs such as depreciation, return on investment, maintenance, and insurance.  Will there be extra drying, or aeration required?  What are your costs associated with moving the grain in and out of storage (labour, equipment, more craks/splits)?  Some hidden costs are the interest cost of having money tied up in stored grain inventory.  For example, you have a loan to pay that is accumulating interest, however, you aren’t satisfied with the grain price or can’t move the grain when you want to.

Margin Objective

Knowing cost of production is a useful base for forming a marketing plan.  Can you turn a profit at current prices?  What is the lowest price you can sell at and maintain profitability?  

Cost of production is taking into account your entire crop inputs as well as all other farm costs that go into the business of farming (fuel, depreciation, wages, land rent, power, administration, etc.).   Outlining the cost of production in the spring and then updating at harvest, when realistic yield estimates and inputs are understood, is important. Calculating and understanding your full cost of production helps take the emotion out of making the difficult “sell” decision.  

Incremental Sales

Hindsight is 20/20, and there will always be the fluctuation in grain markets throughout the growing season.  You may not always sell all of your grain at the market high, but realize that making incremental sales and building the best average price for your production over time equates to money in the bank.

Seasonality of Grain Marketing

This is associated to the growing season and is usually based on supply and demand.  During old crop months, when supply is typically lower, grain has a tendency to be priced higher than the farther out new-crop trading months.  When new crop is harvested, there is once again a higher level of supply.  This is why many of the grain markets tend to reflect their lowest seasonal prices during the new crop trading month. 

Know your marketing tools that are available to you, and what tools you should be using. This will help you achieve your price targets and sales deadlines. 

Considerations For Straight Cutting Canola

As we are coming into the harvest season here on the Western Canadian prairies, one of the questions that comes up frequently is whether or not to straight cut canola. Before we send our swathers to the auction block, there are a few things to take into consideration when it comes to straight cutting, and some of these decisions need to be made before pulling any harvest equipment into the field.

Variety

This decision is the first and probably the most important decision when it comes to straight cutting canola. Varieties that have Pod Shatter Reduction technology will hold up the best when straight cutting canola. This is the biggest factor when it comes to seed loss. The stand-ability of these varieties are usually much better. 

Disease Management

Once a straight cut variety is seeded, managing disease becomes the next most important detail. Diseases such as sclerotinia, blackleg, and clubroot can cause uneven maturity across the field, increase the potential for high amounts of pod drop, and shattering of pods. Management of these diseases can be controlled through crop rotation, variety selection, and fungicides.

Accessing Your Field

An ideal field for straight cutting is one that has a uniform canopy and that is well knit together. Fields that are not tend to have a higher risk of shattering loss. Ideal fields will have an even topography with minimal low spots. This will give the crop the most even maturity across the field.

When looking at the field, it’s important for a field to have a low population of weeds. The green matter from late emerging weeds can cause poor harvestability and can cause some dockage. Using a dry down product or a systemic herbicide is a great way to manage this.

Timing Your Crop 

When the pods are dry, and the seeds rattle in the pod when shaken, this is the ideal time to straight cut the canola.  Seed colour is ideally black to a dark brown, with less than 2% green count. Overall, moisture should be in the 10% or less range to prevent issues in the bin.

When it comes to straight cutting or swathing canola, there are many different factors that should be taken into consideration. The seed variety, managing disease, the topography of the field, and the timing of the crop are all important details to consider. Both methods are great options when it comes time to take the crop off the field.

Getting The Crop In The Bin

With harvest just around the corner, it is time to talk about the final steps and decisions that you are going to take to get the crop in the bin. You want to make sure you choose the option that will be the most efficient and practical for your operation. When it comes to pre-harvest, there are several options available. These include swathing, contact herbicides, and systemic herbicides. The use of a pre-harvest desiccant can be a great harvest management tool to speed up harvest and help you make better use of your time. 

Contact Herbicides

The use of Reglone allows for a quicker dry down of your crop which helps get the crop in the bin faster. The quicker dry down will also help you to be more efficient by allowing you to combine faster, spread straw better, combine later into the night, and start earlier in the morning. Quicker dry down also helps you protect the grade of the crop and avoid any environmental factors that could delay harvest. Contact herbicides are best suited for desiccation of pulse crops. This option is also available for canola, but the dense canopy makes the dry down process a little more challenging for a contact herbicide. 

Heat LQ, Reglone Ion, Desica or other Diquat products are some examples of contact herbicides. 

Systemic Herbicides

Systemic herbicides such as glyphosate can be used alone or in conjunction with a contact, such as heat to desiccate a crop. This mode of action offers enhanced control for those trouble fields that have high weed pressure late in the season. It can take 10-14 days for Glyphosate to show activity on the crop, so the addition of Heat LQ can speed up the rate of dry down. The downside is, these products do not help the crop mature, which is why a timely application is so critical. Early applications can have detrimental affects on yield and quality. Systemic herbicides are most commonly used for desiccating canola acres. Depending on the marketability, these products may also be used on some pulse and cereal crops.

Desiccation Timing 

Lentils

First off you will want to look at the field as a whole and see if there is a general colour change from green to yellow amongst the entire field. This colour change is indicating that the crop is reaching its natural maturity. Next, you will want to go into the field and make sure that the bottom pods are dry. This means that the seeds rattle in the pods when they are shook. The middle seeds should be starting to turn a lime green colour and can easily be split in half. The top seeds should be a brighter green colour and will still be a bit juicy. 

Green Peas

Before applying a desiccant to peas you will want the field to have an overall yellow colour. The moisture content also needs to be less than 45%. This is measured when the seeds in the bottom pods are dry and translucent in colour. The middle pods should be green/yellow, full sized and split when squeezed. At the top, the pods will still be a green colour but beginning to turn yellow. 

Yellow Peas 

When spraying yellow peas, you will want to see an overall colour change from green to yellow throughout the field. The bottom pods should be dry with detached seeds in the pods that are translucent in colour. The upper pods should be starting to shrink and the seeds should split when they are squeezed. 

Chickpeas

Desi: You will want the majority of the plants to be yellow (the tops of the plants may still be green) and the seeds should be a yellow/brown colour. 

Kabuli: The majority of the plants and pods should be ripe and dried down. You will want the seeds to be white/tan and detached from the pod. 

Wheat

You will want to apply the desiccant when the field is at the hard dough stage (less than 30% seed moisture). The easiest way to establish this timing is when you can leave a nail print in the kernel. It is best to scout in many different areas of the field to get an accurate assessment. 

Canola

Heat LQ should be applied to when there is 80% seed colour change. In order to determine the maturity, you will need to open up the pods and asses the seed colour since the ripeness of the overall field may be deceiving. The seeds on the bottom ¾ of the main stem should be changed to a dark brown/black colour. Seed colour change can be a very challenging thing to assess, especially in years where the crop is in two different stages.  It is important to scout many different areas of the field to get an accurate assessment. 

Marketability

Always be sure to check with your grain buyer to see what desiccated seed will be accepted before you spray!

 

For any more guidance on pre-harvest desiccation, reach out to your local SynergyAG retail!