Spring thaw is upon us and I am sure enjoying this string of sunny days. Hopefully we have left the overcast days behind us.
Nitrogen on wheat
Many producers experienced a challenging wheat planting window last fall. As a result there are many fields of wheat that were barely emerged or not at all before the end of the year. Fortunately the winter has been fairly forgiving. As the snow recedes there are tiny plants emerging. Unfortunately the freeze/thaw that makes for great maple syrup making can be the downfall of this late wheat. Ultimately what is missing is a developed root system to support and stabilize those struggling seedlings over the next 4 weeks of harsh spring conditions.
There is not much you can do to manage this other than an early shot of nitrogen. 30-40 lbs of N will help to feed those plants through the tough spring conditions and can make the difference between survival and replant. This application is best applied as soon as conditions are fit. Before you know the condition of the wheat stand. By the time you wait to see the condition of the stand the benefit of the early N to stabilize a weak stand is gone along with preserving some yield potential. Wheat is actively growing at temperatures above 0 degrees. Sunny days of 5-7 degrees will get the wheat growing. Cold soil temperatures will limit the availability of nitrogen until soil warming can begin. If the wheat stand is not sufficient enough to warrant keeping later in the spring this early shot of nitrogen will not conflict with the next crop you seed. If the wheat stand is satisfactory then apply your second pass anytime late April or early May.
Fields that were in good shape last fall are looking good so far this spring. Implementing your standard Nitrogen plan for these will work fine.
Broadcasting has begun. Some areas the snow is 80-100% gone and conditions are good for broadcasting clover seed. Typically seeding rates are 5-6 lb/ac but I have found that over the years 8 lb/ac has been more reliable to get a stand. Many producers have made the switch to single cut red clover. Thin wheat stands should only get single cut. The advantage of this is the single cut only gets 6-8 inches tall and won’t conflict with wheat harvest later. Better yet it will have minimal impact on straw harvest however you will still cut straw higher than if the clover was not there at all. If clover is not your cover crop of choice there is still the option of summer seeding cover crop mixes postharvest. Check out the Standard New Forage Seeding Insurance plan from Agricorp for ways to insure your clover in case of failure to establish.
As the snow recedes harvesting corn fields are a priority. Frosty conditions are optimum for spring combining corn. Of course a heated shop helps for these conditions too. Compaction from spring combining can be severe. So far results have been good for spring harvested corn with minor yield losses mainly from wildlife and the snow fence affect. Moisture is between 15-18% however very little if any improvement in test weight has occurred.
Corn stover harvest
Many producers plan to bale up corn stover this spring in anticipation of a shortage of straw for bedding. Some things to consider: 1. this process requires numerous trips across the field increasing the risk for compaction. Chopping, raking into windrow, baling, and loading up bales requires increased field travel under potentially wet spring conditions. Do as much of these processes when the fields are frozen or after the soil had dried right through the profile. The anticipated yield boost to soys by removing the stover could easily be lost due to compaction. 2. P&K removal. As with any crop removal we lose valuable fertility. Corn stover represents a high volume removal potentially. Factor this into manure or fertilizer plans to replace these nutrients.