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Field Crop News, Vol. 11:07, April 26, 2011

In This Issue:

Weather Outlook — Paul Knight, Pennsylvania State Climatologist

A final surge of very warm, humid air will flow across the Commonwealth on gusty winds from the southwest on Wednesday (some gusts will reach 45 miles an hour on ridge tops in the Laurel Highlands). A few afternoon thundershowers will develop in the western half of the state. As a cold front crosses Pennsylvania early Thursday in western sections, some thunderstorms are likely. The front will reach the eastern counties during the afternoon with a slight risk of scattered severe thunderstorms. Much cooler and drier air will arrive on Friday and a deck of stratocumulus blown in by cool breezes will keep the hilly terrain dull and a bit chilly during the afternoon. Sunshine will return for much of the weekend along with a steady warming trend by Sunday. Another cold front will approach the state early next week with thundershowers on Monday afternoon (west) and Tuesday (east). There are strong indications that a spell of wet, chilly weather is likely from late next week into the beginning of the following week (May 5–10 should have at least 3 days with showers and well below normal temperatures).

There is a moderate chance that the second half of May and early June will turn rather warm and humid.

Rainfall Totals

If you need any additional proof that this spring has been an exceedingly wet one, this link shows a weather map of PA counties with precipitation data for the last 60 days.

Stunted and Yellow Alfalfa Reported in Lancaster County? — Marvin Hall, Penn State Forage Specialist

I received three calls in a span of 3 days last week asking about stunted and yellowish alfalfa plants in fields across Lancaster County. Below are some photos of what the plants look like compared to a healthy plant. We have ruled out things like spray drift, nutrient deficiencies and mechanical damage because there are healthy plants right next to unhealthy plants and there is no obvious pattern with the unhealthy plants. The unhealthy plants don’t have the black stems that are associated with spring black stem or any insect feeding damage.

Plant samples have been sent the Penn State Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab and hopefully we will know soon what is causing this. But if it is a disease there isn’t much that can be done to stop it. Hopefully the weather will warm up and dry out a little and these stunted plants will grow out of these symptoms.

alfalfa plants

Time is Running Out to Spring Plant Perennial Forages in Some Regions of PA — Marvin Hall, Penn State Forage Specialist

The wet weather has resulted in delays in spring forage seeding and the question of “How late can forages be planted in the spring?” becomes a hot question. Unfortunately there isn’t a precise answer to this question unless we know what the weather conditions will be for 80–90 days after seeding. Late planted forages will normally face the hottest and driest part of the summer when they are trying to get established. This is not ideal and results in poor forage establishment.

I’ve pulled together a summary of my experiences in the table below to give some guidelines for the risks associated with planting forages late.

Planting date affect on success of spring planted perennial forages.
Chances of successful forage establishment Southeast, PA Central, PA Northern and Western, PA
Greater than 95% Before April 15 Before April 22 Before April 30
85–95% April 15–24 April 23–30 May 1–5
70–85% April 25–30 May 1–5 May 5–10
50–70% May 1–5 May 6–12 May 11–1 6
Less than 50% After May 5 After May 12 After May 16

Ryelage Harvest — Paul H. Craig Dauphin County Extension

Timing of ryelage harvest is critical to ensuring high quality forages. Waiting until head emergence is too late as the rapid maturing of the plants results in high fiber, lower quality forages. Monitoring stands for the emergence of the flag leaf is important. Shortly after flag leaf emergence the flower head will emerge. Timing of harvest prior to head emergence is the goal. Producers can carefully dissect tillers or feel for the flower head to determine stage of growth.

High amounts of forage dry matter from rye stands present a challenge for rapid dry down. The faster the forage is wilted to optimum fermentation dry matter levels (35–38% dry matter) the higher the levels of plant sugars remaining in the plant which results in better fermentation and higher quality forage. By mowing and not conditioning the rye and then putting the forage in as wide a swath as possible producers can take advantage of sunlight to increase rates of dry down. Conditioning of the plant is important for drying forages to hay moisture levels but does not benefit haylage storage practices.

Many successful ryelage producers ted their rye to speed dry down. Most will ted as soon after mowing as the surface of the swath is dry. This is usually followed by a second tedding when the tops of the forage is dry and finally a rake is used when dry matters are close to harvest targets to prepare the field for chopping.

Another successful practice is to include the use of inoculants to speed the fermentation process in the ryelage storage structure. Be sure to talk to your supplier to select the proper inoculants for a ryelage crop. Be certain to check inoculant rates and the manufacturer date to ensure high quality products. When filling the inoculant tank do not use chlorinated water. Chlorine in public water systems will negatively affect inoculants survivability. Another factor that has been shown to affect inoculant survival is temperature of the water on the choppers and balers. When tanks are located near engines and/or exposed to sunlight, high water temperatures can reduce viability of the bacteria. Rapid harvest, heavy, tight packing and covering of the piles or bales are keys to ensuring high quality ryelage forages.

Burndown Herbicide Options for Soybean — W.S. Curran, Penn State Weed Specialist

Last week I discussed burndown herbicide options for corn so this week I’ll cover soybeans. As mentioned last week, environmental conditions and the size of the weeds or cover crops can greatly affect the activity of burndown herbicides and weed control. In addition, daytime temperatures above 55 F and nights above 32 F with sunny days will help improve herbicide activity and cool cloudy days will reduce their effectiveness. In general, burndown herbicides provide the best control when annual weeds are 6 inches tall or less and still in the vegetative stage of growth. Winter annuals that are flowering may require higher rates or different combinations of products. Perennials should be at least 6 to 8 inches tall and preferable more when a systemic herbicide is applied. With the increase in glyphosate resistant marestail across the state it is increasingly important to tank-mix herbicides to increase the spectrum of activity for successful control plus use multiple modes of action. In soybean, 2,4-D, Sharpen or Optill, and Ignite are the products of choice for killing emerged glyphosate resistant marestail. Increasing the rate of the burndown herbicide may be necessary if weeds are stressed by cold conditions or are larger in size. Scout fields prior to planting and spraying to ensure you use the correct herbicide program for the problem. For soybean, some common burndown herbicides include the following (The following list is incomplete and is only focused on some common or newer herbicide products).

Broadspectrum foundation products:

Glyphosate — Generally applied at 0.75 to 1.13 lb ae per acre. Use the 1.13 lb rate or higher if tank-mixing with residual herbicides. Add 2–4 lb/acre ammonium sulfate (AMS) or a similar product for improved performance. Typically applied in 10 to 20 gallons of liquid carrier per acre.

Gramoxone Inteon — This product contains paraquat and is applied at 2–4 pt per acre for control of emerged weeds. Paraquat is the main alternative to glyphosate for nonselective burndown. Since it is a contact herbicide, apply in 20 gallons of liquid carrier or more and do not use flood jet tips for best results. Be sure to include an appropriate nonionic surfactant. Add a triazine herbicide (metribuzin, etc.) to Gramoxone to increase burndown activity.

Ignite (glufosinate) — This active ingredient has been labeled postemergence in Liberty Link crops but is also labeled for burndown in both corn and soybean. I have not really considered this much of a burndown herbicide simply because its strength is small annual weeds and it is not very effective on larger winter annuals, perennials, or burndown of cover crops. However, it is labeled for burndown application up to 36 fl. oz per acre, and can now be used sequentially in Liberty Link soybean (burndown followed by post). It has gained some traction in the Mid-Atlantic for burndown control of marestail in particular. Remember, Ignite is most effective on small actively growing weeds under warm temperatures, with bright sunlight, include AMS and use sufficient carrier volume and spray tips to get thorough coverage of the weeds.

Broadleaf only products:

2,4-D ester — Apply 1 pint at least 7 days before planting. Most 2,4-D ester products require a 30-day waiting period for the 2 pt/acre rate, however this can be product specific. For example, Esteron 99, a Nufarm product only requires 15 days for up to 2 pints, so shop around. You can also use the amine formulation, but the minimum waiting period is 15 days for 1 pint. The ester formulations are usually more effective under cool conditions, are less water soluble and better on perennial weeds. 2,4-D will help control a number of emerged winter annuals including marestail.

Control of small emerged broadleaves (and maybe grasses depending on the product):

Chlorimuron products (Authority XL (chlorimuron+ sulfentrazone), Canopy (chlorimuron+metribuzin), Envive (chloriumuron+flumioxazin+thifensulfuron), and Valor XLT (chlorimuron+flumioxazin) — These products all contain chlorimuron plus one or two other herbicides that can control small emerged broadleaves and suppress grasses. If annual grasses have emerged, then they will need to be tank-mixed with glyphosate, or Gramoxone. In a two pass program (followed by glyphosate or Ignite), the Authority XL rate is 3.2 to 4.8 oz/acre, Canopy generally 3 to 5 oz/acre, Envive (3.5 oz/acre) and Valor XLT (3 oz/acre).

Sharpen 2.85SC (saflufenacil). This product is a contact type herbicide and can be applied at 1 oz/acre up to 14 days ahead of soybean planting. Include MSO in the tank to maximize burndown activity on emerged broadleaf weeds including glyphosate resistant marestail (horseweed). The active ingredient saflufenacil is also found in the premix Optill which contains saflufenacil plus imazethapyr (Pursuit). At the 1 oz rate, Sharpen does not provide much residual control.

Valor 51 WDG (fumioxazin) is a contact type herbicide and may be included in the soybean burndown program to enhance the speed of burndown and provide residual control of annual broadleaves. Apply 1 to 2.5 oz/acre Valor preplant or premergence to soybean.

Harmony 50 SG (thifensulfuron) — Applied at 0.45 to 0.90 oz per acre preplant or at planting to soybean (or corn). Thifensulfuron will help control wild garlic and provide some suppression of certain winter annual weed species. Include an appropriate surfactant. It is not as broad spectrum at Harmony Extra and is typically tank-mixed with glyphosate and/or other herbicides.

Harmony Extra 50 SG (thifensulfuron plus tribenuron) — Applied at 0.45 to 0.90 oz per acre. Allow at least 7 days between application and planting of soybean. For improved control of wild garlic and some winter annual weeds. Include an appropriate surfactant. Typically tank-mixed with glyphosate and/or other herbicides. Express (tribenuron) is also labeled at 0.25 to 0.5 oz/acre at least 14 days prior to soybean planting.

Cereal Rye Management — W.S. Curran, Penn State Weed Specialist

Although some of the cereal rye has been managed in the southeast part of the state, there are still many areas that have not yet managed their cover crop or cereal rye forage. In conventionally managed no-till corn or soybeans, glyphosate is the preferred product of choice for burning down cereal rye. Gramoxone can also be effective, but paying attention to growth stage and using an effective tank-mixture is important. Factors to consider in order to achieve effective control include:

  1. If harvesting rye for forage, glyphosate is usually the product of choice. Delaying application following harvest for several days to allow adequate regrowth can improve control. This may not be a concern if cutting height and the presence of healthy basal leaves at application time ensures adequate control with glyphosate. Manure application prior to herbicide application would likely reduce rye control by reducing foliar contact by the herbicide. If given the choice, apply the herbicide a day or two before manure is applied to increase the likelihood of success.
  2. Glyphosate rate — most glyphosate labels recommend increasing the rate of product as the cereal rye matures. With a standard 3 lb acid/gal product where 32 fl oz is a standard rate, recommended rates range from 16 fl oz for rye that is less than 11 inches tall to 32 fl oz for rye that is greater than 18 inches tall. On a side note, annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) is different than cereal rye and is more difficult to control. Higher glyphosate rates and application at shorter ryegrass maximum heights are necessary for effective ryegrass control.
  3. With glyphosate, include appropriate adjuvants in the spray tank — include 1 to 2 qt/100 gal nonionic surfactant (unless fully loaded formulation) plus 8.5 to 17 lb/100 gal AMS or equivalent. The AMS helps alleviate hard water problems and also can reduce antagonism if tank-mixing with other herbicides such as 2,4-D. Be sure to add the AMS first to the spray tank and agitate before adding the glyphosate.
  4. With Gramoxone Inteon, use the 3 pt rate and remember that it is better on smaller cereals or after they have reached the boot stage and beyond. Include an appropriate adjuvant (nonionic surfactant or crop oil concentrate) and an atrazine or other photosynthesis inhibitor product (i.e. metribuzin) in the tank to increase Gramoxone activity.
  5. Use a clean water source that does not contain soil or other sediment that can reduce glyphosate or Gramoxone activity.
  6. Use flat fan nozzle tips that produce a uniform spray pattern and thorough coverage.
  7. Spray in sufficient carrier to achieve good coverage (usually between 10 and 20 GPA for glyphosate and a minimum of 20 GPA for Gramoxone).
  8. Make sure the sprayer is accurately calibrated (output, pressure, pattern, speed, etc.) to deliver the appropriate rate uniformly.
  9. Air temperature before, during, and after application can influence control. Cold nights (<40 F) will reduce activity, particularly for glyphosate, and especially when followed by cool (<55 F) cloudy days.

Pests to keep in mind: Black cutworm, alfalfa weevil, cereal leaf beetle, and slugs — John Tooker, Penn State Entomology Specialist

Penn State’s Black Cutworm Monitoring Network has detected another significant flight of black cutworm moths. The first flight was found in Berks County near Kutztown last week, and this most recent flight was found over the weekend in Fulton County near McConnellsburg. We will begin accumulating degree days for Fulton County and notify readers when fields should be scouted for cutting damage. Remember that well-timed scouting and spot rescue treatments are usually the most economical tactic for managing black cutworm. For more details on black cutworm, its biology and management options see our fact sheet.

Remember to scout alfalfa fields for alfalfa weevils. According to the PA-PIPE (Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education) system, alfalfa weevils are in first or second instar across most of Pennsylvania. Young alfalfa weevil larvae cause pin hole-sized damage to leaves near the tips of plants often on unfolded leaves. Much of this early season feeding does not result in economic loss, but it is good to recognize the damage and be aware of which fields have greater activity. For details on the life cycle, economic thresholds, and management options, see our fact sheet.

Do not forget to watch small grain fields, particularly wheat and oats, for cereal leaf beetle larvae. Large populations of this pest last year increase the potential for damage from this pest species this year. This pest is most easily controlled when larvae are young and tends to be a problem in thin or poorly established stands, so it can often be controlled effectively just by using good crop management practices. For details on this pest’s life cycle and management options, see our recently revised fact sheet.

Lastly, the wet weather we have been experiencing has been ideal for slugs. Gray garden slugs tend to overwinter as eggs and we expect slug egg hatch to occur any day now across Pennsylvania; it has likely already started in the southern tier of counties. Late corn planting is likely going to increase the chances of seeing slug damage this year so growers would be wise to keep an eye on fields that typically lie wet or have a lot of residue. It is fortunate that 2010 was so hot and dry because that likely held slug populations in check a little bit, but there would certainly appear to be an elevated risk of slug damage when Spring is cool and wet. For details on slugs and management options, see our new fact sheet.

Heavy rain on saturated soils increases likelihood of rill erosion — Sjoerd Duiker, Soil Management Specialist

Rill erosion is the detachment and transport of soil by concentrated flow of water. Rills are small enough to be removed by normal tillage operations. It is a serious problem this spring with heavy rainfall on saturated soils. What can one do to avoid rill erosion? Little can be done now, but to avoid rill erosion in the future here are some suggestions:

  • Leave soil completely covered. This means no residue should be removed in the fall, or a cover crop should be planted early enough to provide full cover going into the winter to protect soil against rill erosion throughout the cold winter months and early spring.
  • Employ living root systems to hold soil in place. Cover crop or economic small grain crop roots are especially effective to keep soil in place. It is highly preferred to use no-till methods to establish these crops in the fall to avoid loosening the soil and reducing its residue cover over the winter.
  • Leave soil very rough and covered with residue until shortly before planting if you do use tillage in your system. Chisel plowing with straight shanks and leaving the soil very rough helps create many pockets that hold water, giving it more time to infiltrate before running off. This practice may have limited applicability on slopes steeper than 8% due to increased risk of break-through that now creates deep incisions in the field.
  • Drain perennial wet spots. Check with USDA-NRCS that the area is not designated as a wetland or you may lose some of your farm payments.
  • Plant grassed waterways in areas of concentrated flow. This may be the solution to deal with runoff from roads that enters the field in a certain location, or where seeps exit the soil on hillsides. A grassed waterway is a natural or constructed vegetated channel that is shaped and graded to carry surface water at a non-erosive velocity to a stable outlet that spreads the flow of water before it enters a vegetated filter. The disadvantage of this practice is that it takes cropland out of production.

Sign-up for NRCS Funding Program for Organic Farming Underway — Mary Barbercheck, Dept. of Entomology

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has announced a second opportunity to apply for its Organic Initiative during fiscal year 2011. To be considered, eligible certified organic growers or those producers who are transitioning to organic production must submit a complete application by Friday, May 20, 2011.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 created a special provision for organic producers and those who are in the process of becoming organic producers. Certified organic producers, and those transitioning to organic, may be eligible to receive payments through the new Organic Initiative under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). There is an option for farmers transitioning to organic production to receive funding to hire a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP) to develop an Organic Transition plan. Applications for the EQIP Organic Farming Initiative are accepted continuously throughout the year to be evaluated, ranked, and prioritized. To apply, growers need to complete an application form and contact their local NRCS office at a USDA Service Center.

Under the NRCS Organic Initiative, farmers can apply for and receive funding for all of the regular EQIP program offerings, along with special EQIP options available only to certified organic farmers or farmers who are transitioning to organic farming. This funding allows contracts of up to $20,000 per year, not to exceed $80,000 total over a 6-year period. Producers with organic operations do not compete against non-organic farmers for these special funds, and payment rates for some core practices, e.g., conservation crop rotation, cover crop, nutrient management, pest management, prescribed grazing, conservation cover, field border, riparian herbaceous cover, riparian forested buffer, seasonal high tunnel system for crops, and windbreaks may be higher than rates for non-organic applications. Payments are not authorized for activities or practice components which are solely production related and are not limited to an indentified resource concern.

For 2011, there is an “Organic-Transition” option and an “Organic-Production” option. Farmers, who have land that is already certified organic or in production, should apply under the certified organic category, and be able to present a current copy of their certified Organic System Plan (OSP). Farmers who sell less than $5,000.00 per year of organic products are considered to be certification exempt according to National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, and they should apply under the Organic-Production category. Farmers, who are transitioning to organic production, should apply under the organic-transition option and agree to develop and implement conservation practices for certified organic production that are consistent with an OSP. There is a continuous sign-up period, with set dates for funding. If an applicant is not funded in the current round, their application is rolled over for two years. See the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Farming Initiative for more information.

Other conservation programs are available to all growers — both organic and conventional, including the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). For more information, contact your local NRCS office, or visit online.

Contributors: Specialists: Marvin Hall, Doug Beegle, Sjoerd Duiker, Greg Roth, Bill Curran, Dwight Lingenfelter, and John Tooker. Extension Educators: Greg Hostetter (Juniata), Del Voight (Lebanon), John Bray (Lebanon), Mena Hautau (Berks), Joel Hunter (Crawford), Jeff Graybill (Lancaster), and Dwayne Miller (Schuylkill), Mark Madden (Sullivan).

Editor: Paul H. Craig