Farmers are looking at sticker shock for some supply inputs and dealing with uncertainty around the availability of some other inputs. The issues have many producers thinking about where costs can be saved. The following are some suggestions for the first of December, heading into the 2022 season.
Stay the Course on Crop Rotations
Stay with your crop rotation. We know from long term research that crop rotation improves the yields of each individual crop. Crop rotations are typically the best system for your soils long term as well.
The market seems to be suggesting that it is trying to keep corn acres up relative to soybean acres. So based on these factors you are better off keeping your crop rotation and keep the positive benefits of those long-term rotations in your system.
Get Good Genetics
Select excellent hybrids and varieties. The University of Kentucky corn hybrid trials and soybean variety trials are phenomenal resources to help you identify the genetics most likely to perform well next year. There is a range in yield for each crop. Select genetics that will perform well. If you desire a specific set of traits, be sure that you are picking hybrids/varieties that also have excellent yield potential.
Don’t Skimp on Seed Rates
Keep corn seeding rates up to maximize yields. Many farmers are tempted to cut back on seeding rates to save on input costs, but they may be cutting back yield potential as well. On deep soils that are less likely to experience drought in the middle of summer, populations should be 34,000 to 36,000 seeds per acre.
On soils that are more prone to drought, populations can be as low as 24,000 seeds per acre. For many soils in between these two extremes, corn seeding rates should be in the middle as well. Research funded by Kentucky Corn Growers has found that we need more corn seed per acre when following rye cover crops.
If planting into a cover crop that will be terminated about 2 weeks before corn planting, then add 2,000 seeds per acre to your targeted seeding rates.
Nitrogen Costs What?!
Keep nitrogen rates adequate to maximize yields. Yes, nitrogen prices are high right now. But so are December 22 corn prices. While you probably won’t be able to lock in a nitrogen price until the end of December at the earliest, you may want to start hedging on next year’s corn crop. Research funded by the Kentucky Corn Growers over the past 4 years identifies yield benefits to side-dressing N fertilizer on well drained soils.
AgFax Weed Solutions
That is new and likely the result of the greater rainfall in spring and early summer we have been getting. Economically optimal total N l rates ranged from 180 to 220 lb N/acre in these studies. Side-dress N applications often resulted in less total fertilizer N needs AND in higher yields. All these studies were conducted on well drained soils.
We need not worry about applying these results to poorly drained and somewhat poorly drained soils. In those wet-natured soils, we have known the benefits to side-dressing for a long time.
Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test
Soil test for pH, P, K and Zn. Soils at the proper pH will make nutrients most available to the crop. Get ag lime applied this fall where it is needed. Get your soils tested. If you have high soil test levels for P, K and Zn, then you won’t need any of those next year. AGR-1 has upper cutoffs at soil test P of 60 lb/A and soil test K at 300 lb/A (here). Only a soil test will tell you what your soils need. Take the soil test – it might save you a lot of money.
Herbicides with Staying Power
Consider soil residual herbicides. For years weed scientists have been asking you to include soil residual herbicides as part of your weed management plan. This year, the need for soil residual herbicides is as great as it has ever been, with lower supplies of glyphosate (Roundup brand) and glufosinate (Liberty brand) predicted for 2022.
Soil residual herbicide options for both corn and soybeans can be found in AGR-6 (here). Start securing those chemicals as soon as you can.
While we prefer to see as little tillage as possible and understand the long-term soil benefits to a no till or minimum till system, we understand that tillage can help with weed control. Tillage may help reduce slug damage as well.
Try to use as little tillage as possible yet enough to still be effective against weeds and slugs. In many cases this would require tillage of at least one to two inches deep such that much of the residue is covered with soil.
Keep in mind that tillage can cause the release of some plant available nitrogen. That release could be as much as 25 to 30 pounds N per acre. So, if possible, try to conduct the tillage close to planting so that the crop can benefit from the additional available nitrogen.
Expect an Update
Parts of the input supply chain are in flux right now. As we all learn more about the supply chain, and if economics change, we are likely to revisit some of these comments each month.