To Manage Corn Planting Risk
Managing our weather risk with corn planting seems like it should be straightforward.
Our traditional recommendation has been to plant a mix of varieties varying in maturity with about 25 percent full season, then about 50 percent midseason and maybe 25 percent earlier maturing hybrids. Plant the full-season hybrids early in the season to ensure they mature well, especially in shorter-season areas of the state.
With four- or six-row planters, there was usually a decent spread in planting dates that also provided some hedge against the weather. Now, fast forward to 2013. There’s lots of 12-row and bigger planters in the landscape.
Operators are planting in several townships or even counties in some cases. There’s more custom planting. It’s hard to have a spread in planting dates when the whole farm is planted in five hours. In the last few years, folks also have had more success pushing the envelope with earlier planting.
With the increased planting capacity, the spread in fields across the landscape and some propensity for earlier planting, it becomes more difficult to manage weather risks with corn planting.
It’s a complicated management question, however Extension agronomist Greg Roth offers some ideas he gleaned from discussions with farmers over the winter to consider in developing a planting plan and strategies.
First, don’t get too carried away with the very early planting idea and watch the five-day forecast carefully.
This year, replant seed supplies of top hybrids might be in short supply and having too much corn planted in that early window could increase chilling injury or even pollination risks as it has in the past two years.
Prioritize farms with well-drained soils and those where oats, barley or wheat might be planned for forage or grain following corn harvest.
Second, build some variation into your hybrid maturities to match your harvest timing needs so if you are planting a lot of corn at one time, which many folks will do, at least you have some diversity in the hybrids.
If you can take advantage of the early hybrids for early harvest, manure spreading or cover cropping, then you can offset any of the potential yield loss associated with them.
Third, consider targeting fields with cover crops for a little later planting. Cover-crop development has been slow this spring ,and if you would like some residue to persist in these fields, then planting can probably be delayed a bit until we get more growth. This mulch could be invaluable if we get temperatures in the 90s in July.
Fourth, many dairy operations have lots of rye or triticale planted for forage this spring that will be harvested for silage. Hopefully, much of that will be harvested in early to mid-May and provide another window for later planting opportunities.
Fifth, if you’re in a situation where the whole farm is planted with one hybrid on one day, then be sure to consider other risk-management strategies. The primary one is to carefully consider having some crop insurance in case the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Planting risk management can be challenging, but with some of the opportunities in our dairy/livestock cropping systems, we have a few ways to manage the risk a bit that are not available in other regions.
Take some time and think about your plan and whether there are opportunities to improve your planting risk management this year.
To Sample Your <\n>Manure While Hauling
The best time to sample manure is at the time of field application, which is occurring now across much of Pennsylvania.
The sample can be obtained during loading of manure application equipment or in the field as the manure is being spread. Extension agronomist Andrew Frankenfield tells us sampling at this time has several advantages.
First, the time-related changes in nutrient content caused by management and weather are minimized. The nonuniformity due to lack of mixing is reduced. Subsamples can be taken as the manure is loaded, which results in more representative samples.
The difficulty of collecting representative samples while manure is in the storage, barn or stack is reduced. Also, the complexity of the sampling equipment required is reduced. And finally in some cases, the sampling procedure is safer, reducing the risk of falling in or being overcome by gases.
There is one disadvantage to sampling during spreading — the analysis results from samples collected at this time will not be available to calculate manure application rates for that application. However, the results can be used to calculate future application rates.
It is recommended that the manure nutrient content values used in calculating manure application rates be based on running averages or baseline values. To obtain these values, each manure group should be sampled annually for three to five years. After the initial period, manure can be sampled periodically to monitor the nutrient values.
For more information about manure sampling, visit http://extension.psu.edu/plants/crops/nutrient-management/act-38/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning.
To Plan to Attend <\n>Small Grains Field Day
This year’s Small Grains Field Day will be held 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the Southeast Ag Research & Extension Center (Landisville Research Farm) in Manheim, Lancaster County.
Penn State Extension specialists and educators will discuss variety selection, pest and disease management, and fertility topics. CCA credits will be available.
Quote of the Week
“I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain.”
— Margaret Thatcher
Leon Ressler is district director of Penn State Cooperative Extension for Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.