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  • Writer's pictureWendell Koehn

2020 Agronomic Update Kickoff

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

“Do what is right, not what is easy nor what is popular.” -Roy T Bennet


As we are sitting in similar shoes as last year far as a wet winter and much spring work to do, I decided to forward this article written last March where we sat then much as we are now. A couple points worth noting is that David Hughes no longer works as a Beck's agronomist. Scott Dickey came on board from his 18 year tenure with another seed company to join us last summer. However, David's great commentary still stands. Secondly; we found that NH3 apps in a wet year "might have been" better than dry fertilizer. The key word here is "might have been". Though yield advantages were present in NH3 fields, other factors like calibration of the spreader truck may have contributed to some loss. Thus, a systems error more than a product issue may have contributed to this. So, like the game of rock, paper, scissors; planting on time trumps anhydrous, and NH3 takes Urea. If it is not time to plant, and it is dry; then NH3 has awesome ROI. If it is time to plant, then nitrogen becomes whatever is logistically feasible.


Also, for our growers who are new to this agronomy update we offer, Welcome! Please look for these messages through out the year and feel free to reach out anytime with any questions or a request for a field walk to look at your crops.


Quoted from March 1, 2019:


To cut right to the point: we are facing a narrow work window this spring as we look at preparing to plant and the planting operation itself. David Hughes, field agronomist for Beck’s Hybrids sent some thoughts that I want to share with you. Dwight Eisenhower famously said: "planning is everything, the plan is nothing."  Keeping top priorities in our minds will be important when the planning is derailed by adverse weather. We may need to scrap that bullet proof plan that looked so good early on when at the kitchen table and pivot quickly in the field to handle the curve ball that the weather or some other outside influence throws our way. David's input found below:

Understand which things are priorities and which are not even if it means adjusting your own conventional thinking.

**For example, nitrogen (N ) application for corn is not an operational priority ahead of planting or weed control (see priority list below)**

Also think outside of the box if you have to.

**  For example, If it is time to burndown winter annual weeds and soil conditions do not allow ground-sprayer application, consider calling in the birds (aerial applicators) to apply burndown**

The following is how I would prioritize pre-plant operations at this time (if not already completed):

  1. P, K, S, and Zn application where soil tests have shown these nutrients to be in the low to very low category. a.       If lime piles aren’t already on the ground, I tend to refrain from heavy lime application until after harvest once we hit this time of the year.  This is especially true in no-till fields. The soil compaction that can occur from lime truck running on ground at high moisture content is significant.  Additionally, non-incorporated, high rates of lime on the soil surface with little to no time to breakdown can increase seedling injury with some of our residual chemistries.   It is better to wait until harvest and be ready to roll with the lime trucks then when the ground is dry.



  1. Planter maintenance, repair,  updating, and planter and meter evaluation to know how to optimize settings for your seed sizes. Seed size has little to no impact on achieving genetic yield.    Accurate product placement is more important to yield than seed size. Seed size can impact singulation if planter components are not set correctly.  Learn your planter manufacturer’s settings and recommendations for various seed sizes. Seed size can impact germination/emergence in some situations.  Very large seed tends to struggle a little more in drier soil because they require more water to swell and germinate.  Very small seed tends to struggle in cold, wet soils because they have lower energy reserves in the seed itself. i. Recommendation with extremely large seed:  Make sure planting depth reaches the uniform soil moisture zone even if it is a little more than 2 inches deep. ii.   Recommendation with extremely small seed:  Consider use of Amplify-D (a PFR Proven product) as it adds chemistry, AMP (adenosine monophosphate), to the seed that can assist with meeting seedling energy requirements and help jump-start the seedling’s own production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). iii.   If equipped, apply phosphorus (P) starter



  1. Review product placement plans with Wendell and anyone who will be planting corn on your operation to make sure everyone is on same page for what products should go on what fields.

  2. Evaluate fields for weed pressure and apply burndown as soon as conditions are right.    We did not get a high percentage of fall application done,  so this is critical. Starting clean is critical for elevating soil temperature sooner, allowing wet soil to evaporate and dry out some,  improving the efficacy of pre-emerge residual herbicides, and removing egg laying sites for black cutworm moths and flea beetles. . Early burndown application is also critical to achieving less expensive, resistant-marestail control.

  3. If tillage operations are needed, perform only when conditions are right.  Do not perform tillage when soils are too wet as soil compaction and degradation of soil structure will occur.  These mistakes can cost you much needed water later as water infiltration rates become significantly reduced on soils with compaction and poor soil structure.

  4. When conditions are right, PLANT.   This is even if you have not been able to apply N yet.   Average field soil temperature should be 50F or greater and soil moisture conditions should be that you cannot make a ball or ribbon that stays together when thrown up against your other hand or the ground.

  5. Apply N to meet corn needs. I have intentionally placed this as the least of your worries.  Absolutely, if the weather allows you to get some of your N on ahead of corn planting do so.  That is fantastic. But do not stress if you are unable to apply N before planting. Also, do not fear other sources of N if it does not work to apply anhydrous (NH3)-ammonia.   You will simply need to understand the best management practices associated with uses of other N sources. In fact, in some cases anhydrous application may do more harm to our soil condition than good if we push application when it is too wet. a.       Beck’s PFR research has shown in comparing various pre-plant, at planting, and side-dress N applications, that optimum yield can be obtained with some N on at planting and the balance of the N applied by the V3 growth stage. b.      Many site-years of university research in Missouri demonstrates that there is zero yield penalty when 0 N has been applied by planting as long as it can be put on as late as the V7-V10 growth stage.  This goes against some of our conventional thinking (mine included) that we impact kernel rounds with insufficient N by V6. However, in personal discussion with Dr. Peter Scharf, State Soil Fertility Specialist and one of the best N researchers in the country, he showed me where they had actually taken ear “round” counts under different N treatments and there is no significant difference among “0” preplant-N and pre-plant N on kernel count where the balance of the N was not applied until approximately V7 growth stage.  The following is an excellent graph showing research from almost 10 years of University of Missouri work on Corn N timing impact on yield. Dr. Scharf also included data from other states to show that there is general agreement in the data. c.        After review of Peter’s data and consideration of my personal observations and experiences, I am comfortable if N cannot be applied until the V7  growth stage. So we have time! Like I said, if you can get some on before that is great but is probably one of your lower priorities. There are two unique cases where I recommend prioritizing some pre-plant N application. i.   Corn following a rye cover crop ii.   On fields being planted to early maturing hybrids where our expectation is for these hybrids to achieve yield potential with fewer growing degree days to play with.


End of David’s thoughts

If you need anything or have questions for your particular situation call me anytime. We can work out a priority plan.

417-684-5301

wendell@topagservices.com

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