Ag PhD Show #1112 (Air Date 7-28-19)

B: Hello and welcome to Ag
PhD, I’m Brian Hefty. D: And I’m Darren Hefty. Thanks for
joining us today. You know one of the things that’s
really tricky about farming is trying to figure out,
“What’s the best time exactly to buy different
inputs?” We’re going to talk about that on today’s
program. B: We’re also going to discuss “desiccation”,
that is – killing off the crop before the exact end of
the season. We’re going to explain a little bit what
this is and whether or not you need to do this on your
farm. D: That sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? But one
thing that doesn’t sound weird at all is controlling
our Weed of the Week. We’ll show you how to stop this
tough weed, but first here’s our Farm Basics. B: During our Farm
Basics time today we’re going to talk about,
“What is a root pit?” D: Well, when we think about
what is going on in our fields, most times that I
talk to farmers I say, “Well how’s your corn looking?”
“Oh!” They’ll start describing the leaves and
everything above ground. Or, “How are your soybeans
looking?” Well, it’s “They have this many pods” and
“this many branches” and “they’re at this growth
stage” and all of that. But I really have to come back
with a follow-up question. “What does it look like
below ground?” And, if I get a blank stare, that makes me
nervous, and if it does for you too, it’s probably
because you’ve been digging, and once you start digging
underneath your plants, what you’re going to find is a
lot of times, the issues you’re seeing above ground
relate to what’s going on below ground. And that’s why
I want to talk about digging out the soil to see what
that full root system looks like. B: So if you’re a
non-farmer, you just drive past fields and you don’t
know what’s going on below that field, but what we
always say is, “As much mass as there is above ground,
there should be that much mass below ground.” So just
think about this enormous corn plant. Well, it should
have that many roots too. Well, we want to find out
where those roots are at, and in a wet year, like this
year, like right now even, it’s raining on us! Well,
when we have wet years, that means usually the water
table is really high and roots can’t grow into a
water table. So at this point of the year, then a
farmer can go out and dig down into that soil and just
see how deep the roots got. Now the maximum size of a
corn root will be set at about tassel. So we’re not
there yet obviously in the field we’re standing in
today, but it won’t be long. In about two or three weeks
in this particular field, it’ll be the maximum size
for the corn root. That’s when we want to go out and
dig that root pit and we really can see what’s going
on below ground. D: And this really holds true with about
any crop. Brian mentioned, “Hey if you don’t have
fields” but you have a lawn and you’ve got a brown area
out in your lawn – do some digging, see what’s going
on. Do you have a fungus that’s impacting your root
growth? Do you have some insects that are out there? The same kinds of things
will hold true, whether you’re in a field of corn or
in your lawn. B: Just to give you a quick story. One
of the very first root pits we ever dug – this was
probably 25 years ago now – we dig down about 4 feet and
it was pretty wide – it was probably 8 feet 10 feet
wide. The very next morning we went out there, there was
water standing at the bottom of the hole, our corn was
dying above ground because it was short of moisture and
you could see the corn roots. You know they were
ok, but they were all in that top about 8 inches. You
got down to about 2-3 feet and then we had all kinds of
moisture. So, I’m not the smartest guy in the world
but even I can figure out that visual – it’s like,
“Hey I got to connect my roots here to the water down
below.” We had a major compaction issue, we did
everything we could to resolve that problem after
we saw it in the root pit. D: Alright, we’re standing
on the edge of a field. A lot of times there are some
issues on the edge that aren’t going to be the case
out in the middle of the field. B: Right. D: So we
would suggest that you dig that root pit into the field
just a little ways but Brian, “What about breaking
off these corn plants?” B: Yeah, well, the first root
pit we ever dug, our dad – it was on one of his fields,
and he was all worried about, “Oh you ran down a
whole bunch of corn to get out to this?” and I said,
“Dad how many corn plants did we knock over? 500? Ok,
here’s five bucks. That’s all your 500 corn plants are
worth. Now in today’s dollars, they might be worth
– that 500 plants – maybe 15 bucks, 10 to 15 bucks,
that’s it! That’s all the corn plants are worth! So,
so what if you run down 500 corn plants, it’s no big
deal. You want to get an education for the few plants
that you’ve knocked over. D: Well, we strongly encourage
you to do some digging with whatever you’re trying to
grow and see what’s happening below ground. We’re talking about a root
pit today. Where we’re digging down 4 ft deep along
our corn plants just to see what that root system looks
like. It may not have to be a 4 ft. pit for you, but you
do need to find out if you want to explain what’s
happening above ground as well. Well, one other thing
that you may see as you’re out there digging is our
Weed of the Week. Can you identify this week’s weed? B: When is the best time to
buy your propane, your fertilizer, your crop
protection products, even your seed for next year? Well, today that’s what
we’re going to talk about – is the timing on these
purchases. D: Unfortunately the timing is not normally,
“Hey right when I use it.” It’s going to be at the
lowest price of the year. I mean think about that winter
coat that you’ve got. Did you buy it in the winter or
did you buy it early on? If you bought it in the summer,
chances are you got a good deal on it. And if you
bought your lawnmower in the winter you probably got your
best deal on that, right? Because it’s all about –
well when do people need it, and if everybody’s trying to
buy it, well then the price is generally the highest and
when nobody wants to buy it that’s often times when the
price is lowest. So think about all the things that
you’re using on your farm. When is the time of year
that nobody’s buying? B: Here’s the other thing, when
crop prices go up, then a lot of these input costs go
up. When crop prices go down, a lot of the input
costs go down. Ok, so when you ask yourself, “How is
this year’s crop? How about acres planted? What kind of
yield are we going to have in the fall?” So if you try
to do what the government does and predict acreage,
yield, overall supply, demand – all those things. Here’s where I’m going with
this – for me, I think commodity prices are going
to continue to go up and I’m almost 100 percent certain
of that. Ok so if I feel that personally, then I want
to go ahead and start buying things now before I believe
they’re going to run up in the future. D: Here’s the
other thing, what are you doing with your grain for
next year? Are you locking in all those prices? If you
are, you probably want to think about locking in some
costs too. And, I know when you’re excited about, “Wow
we had a good little move in the market and I want to
take advantage of that and reward that market by
selling some grain.” That’s cool, but you also got to
lock in those costs too, because you want to lock in
a profit margin or at least as much as you can. Now I
get it, you’re not locking in 100 percent of your crop
and you’re not locking in 100 percent of your inputs,
but if you’re locking in 25 percent of your crop, it
might not be a bad idea to start thinking, “You know,
nitrogen is a pretty big component here for me in my
corn production – I’m going to lock some of those prices
in too.” Because if the market starts moving, like
Brian mentioned, it won’t be long and the nitrogen market
will be up higher too. B: Ok so let’s talk about the
logic of each of these decisions. With propane, as
soon as I saw all the late planting in the spring, I
started buying propane and I would say if you haven’t
already and you go, “Boy, I’m going to have some wet
corn this fall.” It’s probably a good idea to be
buying propane, my belief, and we could certainly be
wrong – I don’t know, but I’m just speculating that by
fall with all the wet corn there’s going to be propane
prices are going to be higher. Darren, talk to us
about seed – when are the first seed discounts
available from the seed companies? D: You know,
oftentimes those first seed discounts may come as early
as August, but a lot of times it’s September and
October. So be prepared. Talk with your seed
provider. Look for any opportunities. Here’s the
other thing, when we have trouble getting our crops
in, guess what happened with seed production? Very much
the same thing. They had trouble getting in on some
of those acres – who knows what yield is going to be in
some of these seed production fields. There may
be some shortages, especially in the new
products and if you’ve got new products and you say,
“Wow this one’s a whole new level of Goss’s wilt
tolerance,” or, “this one’s a whole new level of yield
that I’ve never seen before.” Lock those things
in as early as you can to make sure you get supply and
the best price. B: Alright when it comes to fertilizer,
it’s really hard to know if now’s going to be the best
time versus the spring, but for me, I would like to get
my fertilizer applied in the fall, so really the question
for me is just, “Am I going to buy now or am I going to
buy right in the fall?” Well I strongly believe that we
are going to see higher crop prices, so over the last
10-15 years, fertilizer prices have followed crop
prices. So we’re trying to buy fertilizer right now to
get ahead of that. D: When it comes to crop protection
products, there’s a few things at play here. One is
that some of the major crop protection companies have a
year-end at August 31st, and they may have some incentive
to get some additional sales in this year, because there
are a lot of unplanted acres that didn’t get that crop
protection that they had forecast, and certainly
those big companies like to meet their goals. So there
may be some deals at the end of the summer, If not,
generally, September is a great time to start buying
some of your major inputs as it begins a brand new
calendar year and those companies like to get some
sales on the books. B: One of the things you may not
have heard about is there was an enormous plant
explosion in China back a few months ago. Well,
because of that, the Chinese government shut down a lot
of plants in that area and there are some products that
are going to be in shorter supply going forward, at
least for the next probably 8-12 months. Because of
that, we don’t see crop protection prices coming
down on a number of items. Now, there are a few things
that could come down – glyphosate may be one of
them that might come down just slightly. So, if it was
me I would say, “You know, I might buy some stuff in July
and August, but what I’m probably going to do is wait
until September.” And the reason why we want to wait
until September is because usually with the big
companies, that’s when they have their fill programs,
that’s when they have their deals for retailers where
literally they can buy in September and get next
year’s terms. So with prepaid discounts that
brings it back to a lower price than what you can
usually buy it for in July and August. So that would be
my suggestion, is I’d really be taking a hard look at
buying your crop protection products in September this
year. D: Well as you can see the times to buy certain
things for the farm may vary just a little bit but
generally from year to year, they’re pretty stable. And
if you think about these things – mark them down on
your calendar, start talking with your dealers, and get
into those patterns of buying when the prices are a
little bit lower. It can do nothing but help you on the
bottom line. Well, one other thing that’ll definitely
help your bottom line is controlling our Weed of the
Week. We’ll show you how to stop it later in the show. B: Desiccation is the
process of spraying a herbicide on a crop before
that crop has reached the point where you could
harvest it. So basically if you look out in a field and
you see some green areas out in the field a lot of times
people will say, “Boy I wish I’d get a frost to kill that
off.” Well, you can also do it with this process of
desiccation. There are some crops like sunflowers, for
example, where desiccation’s real common. There are other
crops like corn, where desiccation is not very
common. So today we wanted to talk just a little bit
about when to desiccate and what to use. D: Ok there’s a
few things here at play. One is weed control and this
year there’s going to be a lot of fields that have
problems with weeds. Why? Well, we had a wet spring. Like, let’s take the case of
many wheat fields across the country this year – guys
just couldn’t get in there! It just kept raining and
raining and raining and it was really tough to even get
out in the fields and make those applications. All of
the sudden you’re past the time where you can really do
anything to control it. We had a lot of guys say, “Man,
I’m already past flag leaf here and I still haven’t got
my weed control on! What can I do?” Well for many of
those farmers desiccation was going to be the option
of – “You know what, just before harvest I’m going to
go.” B: Now, I don’t look at that as desiccation at all. So how I view that is that’s
just simply a pre-harvest burndown. What I view as
desiccation is, “Hey we’re doing something with the
crop.” The pre-harvest burndown is something to do
with the weeds. But to Darren’s point here, it
really doesn’t matter because you’re faced with
the exact same thing. The crop has to reach a certain
stage so we don’t hurt the crop anymore and we also
have to beat the pre-harvest interval. D: Well there are
two things here, too Brian, when you say we don’t hurt
the crop. We don’t want to hurt yield, but also we’re
looking at quality, and if you’re thinking about, “Well
this is going to be a seed production field of wheat”,
that pre-harvest burndown or desiccation – however you
want to look at that – has a tendency to hurt the
germination on that seed. Now it does nothing to hurt
the feed quality or what not. Your wheat’s still
going to be fine. But it could hurt the germination
enough that you may want to save a different field for
seed. Now in terms of preserving yield, what we
really normally will look at is we want to get under 30
percent moisture in our wheat crop. And generally,
if you’re going out there just a thumbnail test, as
something many farmers will do, press your thumbnail
into the side of the kernel. If that thumbnail remains
you’re in a good spot for desiccation, but I would
strongly recommend take some in, do a little moisture
testing and see where you’re at. If you’re under 30, now
it’s something where you can do that pre-harvest
burndown. B: Now I mentioned just a little bit earlier it
gets late in the season and a lot of farmers will tell
me, “Boy, Brian, I wish we’d get a frost now to even
everything up so I can go out and harvest,” or “maybe
I should do a desiccation.” And I say, “Whoa, whoa
whoa!” What I’ve always found is – the later the
frost is, the more yield we end up with because, very
often we have spots in fields that are still
reaching maturity-they’re not there yet – we want to
give them as much time as possible. And I realize this
makes it really challenging when you want to get out and
harvest. We, on our own farm, sometimes will go out
and leave some of those green areas in the field and
come back a couple weeks later and get them. So, what
Darren said there – getting under 30 percent moisture
as, a general statement like for wheat, for example, is a
good idea, but there are a lot of different crops you
can desiccate and the number one thing that I wanted to
tell you today is use desiccation methods with
great care. Because if you go out even just a day or
two early, it absolutely can and will hurt yield and it
does often hurt grain quality and test weight as
well. D: Well here you go Brian, you got another
challenge where guys have lots of acres and they say,
“You know what I’m going to desiccate this field, then a
couple of days later I’m going to do another field
and that way I can kind of space out what my harvest is
going to be, and start scheduling when I’m going to
have combines hitting those fields.” There are so many
different reasons why you may consider doing a
desiccation. The big thing here is you want a product
that’s going to do what you need. Like, let’s take for
example when we’re talking about wheat. If you’ve got
some Canada thistle out there you probably want to
use Roundup. Well, you’ve got to time that out right,
because you need at least 7 days before harvest and
you’re going to use a pretty strong rate of Roundup. It’s
going to do a good job of getting down in the root
system of Canada thistle, but it’s not going to kill
everything off super quick like something like
Gramoxone could do. Now if you need that fast browning
of the field, Gramoxone is generally a product that
many farmers choose. B: Yep but here’s the thing. You’ve
got to look at the label and make sure that Roundup is
approved or Gramoxone or Sharpen or Valor. I mean
there are a lot of different products that can be used
for desiccation. So check the label, check the
pre-harvest interval, check what they say for what the
right timing is on that application, but what Darren
said there is super important. With Gramoxone it
burns very quickly, Roundup is the slowest of these
desiccation or pre-harvest burndown products. So very
different products – just depends on what you need. D:
So to sum things up – if you’re looking for something
to do desiccation, our preferred products are
generally Gramoxone or Sharpen. Sharpen’s going to
leave you some soil residual where Gramoxone leaves none. And then if we’re looking at
a pre-harvest burndown, typically we’re using
Roundup. B: Well all those products will control weeds,
but will they stop our Weed of the Week? We’ll tell you
coming up right after this. B: Our Weed of the Week is
volunteer alfalfa. D: When I think about killing off
alfalfa intentionally, and volunteer alfalfa would
certainly be something we want to kill, I’d normally
like to use Roundup, Brian, but it doesn’t work in all
situations, now, with Roundup Ready alfalfa in
some fields. B: Right, that’s the thing, and the
reason why we’re talking it today is – you want to get
it controlled here sometime early this fall. Now what
the old saying was is, “you have to wait until late in
the fall”. Well, you don’t want to do that, no way, no
how. You’ve got to get it controlled at least a couple
weeks before your first hard killing frost. So it all
depends on where you’re at and how soon that frost
comes. D: You want that plant actively growing so it
translocates – Roundup, if that’s the product that’ll
work for you, down into that root system. Now let’s just
say it’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, Brian, that’s
coming out there or, you suspect that it could be
Roundup Ready alfalfa that’s out in there. B: Yep, it’s
tough. I don’t really know what you’re going to do
other than I’d probably use Distinct that’d be my
preferred product, but that’s not going to do a
fantastic job on all the roots. You’ll have a little
bit next year. D: Well here’s where we go. A lot of
guys use 2,4-D and they say, “Well I use 2,4-D and
sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” We
find it to be very rate specific and also
weather-specific like you had mentioned. B: Yeah, so
if you bump the rate on 2,4-D – well, if you’re
going to spend that kind of money, spend 9 dollars on a
full-rate of Distinct. I mean Distinct is really
inexpensive for what it is – it’s way better than 2,4-D,
so there’s no way I’m using to use 2,4-D if my choice is
– hey dollar for dollar, I can go Distinct or 2,4-D. D:
Well here’s the other thing, Brian, it might be out in
crop and it might just be a weed here or there. So let’s
talk about soybeans. You could use Xtend soybeans,
you could use Enlist soybeans, and you have
either dicamba or 2,4-D as options, that would be my
preference because none of the pre’s do a real good
job. B: Nope and Liberty could burn it down to the
ground. If you’ve got corn, Status is the best way to
go. In wheat we’d probably suggest running with Huskie,
but you know what? WideMatch isn’t too bad either. D:
That’s all the time we have for our weed volunteer
alfalfa but Iron Talk is coming up next. D: With all the cover crop
going in this season as wheat comes off
and prevent plant acres dry out, today’s Iron Talk will
discuss some of the attention to detail required
to be successful. Avoiding fallow syndrome is one of
the reasons that you may want to plant a cover crop
right now. I agree that is a risk. Picking the right
cover crop or cover crop blend, though, is critical
because you can see fallow syndrome following crops
like radishes that don’t support mycorrizae fungi
that help bring phosphorus into the roots. For that
reason, we often recommend choosing a blend of cover
crops to support the diverse populations of soil microbes
and to serve multiple purposes. With blends,
though, seeding can be a challenge as seed sizes and
seeding rates may vary dramatically. There are two
solutions to this problem. First, you could seed the
ground twice. Put the smaller seeds in the drill
and seed the field. Then come back with larger seeds
in a second pass. A second solution could be to just
get a multi hopper air cart to go behind your drill so
you could keep each of the cover crops in their own
hoppers ensuring an even seeding across the field. A
new consideration in 2019 for cover crops is the fact
that prevent plant acres could potentially be grazed
or hayed after September 1st. Check with your local
officials to see exactly what the complete rules are
for your area as it will definitely impact which
cover crops you may consider. Yes, cover crops
can be a big help to the soil and to future crops. We
are big supporters of cover crops used after wheat
harvest and on prevent plant acres. If there’s not enough
time to grow an actual crop that can provide you income,
a cover crop is often the next best option to protect
your soils and to feed soil microbes. Careful attention,
though, is needed to spread the seed somewhat evenly, to
maximize benefits and eliminate potential
problems. That’s all for today’s Iron Talk and now,
back to the show. B: That’s all the time
we have for today’s show, but before we
go, we want to invite you to check out the Ag PhD Radio
Show. You’ll find us on Sirius XM channel 147 at 2
pm Central each weekday. D: And don’t miss the next Ag
PhD TV Show, even though it may not be raining like it
was today! We’ll have a great Iron Talk, Weed of the
Week, Farm Basics, and much more. I’m Darren Hefty. B:
And I’m Brian Hefty. Thanks for watching Ag PhD. Copyright 2019
IFA Productions All rights reserved.


  1. You guys really like cover crops! But do I remember correctly that you dont plant cover crops after corn & soybean harvest? For those of us with a milder climate or harvest corn as silage, What would be your rule of thumb for deciding if there is enough growing season left for a cover crop to be worthwhile?

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