Farm Horizons, August 2011

July heat – just what the doctor ordered

As much as I disliked the heat and humidity we experienced in July, it was exactly what our crops needed.

In the Hutchinson area, growing degree days were running behind normal earlier this summer.

On June 26, the USDA Crop Report reported growing degree days (GDD) in Hutchinson from May 17 through June 26 at 574, or 80 GDDs behind normal.

By Aug. 7, growing degree days had climbed to 1,619, or 66 GDDs above normal.

That’s a swing of 144 GDDs!

The same reporting service estimated corn had grown 14 inches between July 4 and July 11, so our crop was able to make tremendous progress in July.

I am much more optimistic now about the crop outlook than I was in June.

Soil compaction may be at an all-time high, considering such wet conditions last fall at harvest, and then muddy conditions this spring at planting time.

I encouraged growers to wait with plating this spring, until fields were in good condition, but that didn’t happen until the first week of June. Finally, we had several consecutive days of dry sunny weather.

Growers who farmed for 50 years in Wright, Meeker, and McLeod counties told me this was the most challenging spring they have ever had to plant the crop, and I believe it.

If fields dry out this fall, it will be a great time to chisel plow up to 12 inches deep and try to break up soil compaction. Deeper tillage is not necessary, as it takes more fuel and we see little benefit to crop growth in following years.

Growers undecided on whether to apply nitrogen this fall or wait until spring, may be interested in a long-term research project done at the University of Minnesota Experiment Station at Waseca between 1987 and 1999. The 13-year study found corn yields with spring-applied nitrogen averaged 154 bushels per acre, versus 145 bushels per acre with fall-applied nitrogen. If a nitrification inhibitor was used in fall, the yield average was also 154 bushels per acre.

Have a safe harvest!

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