The combines have begun roaring across western Canada in the past couple of weeks which means that once again it is the grueling point of year where every minute counts when it comes to getting your crops off in a timely fashion. One of the biggest factors that contribute to an inefficient harvest are crops that have lost their legs and are lodged. Lodging can mean an extra pass across the field to swath, extra slow speeds when harvesting the crop and higher than normal harvest losses. This crop issue hits your bottom line in a number of different ways, which is why it is pivotal to stay on top of it from fall planning until harvest. Here are a few things that lodging impacts on top of time and what you can start planning right now to ensure that you control these issues in 2016.
Lodging ultimately hinders yield in a number of ways. The first is that when a lodged crops lays over it minimizes the amount of photosynthates moving from the roots up to the seeds which can cause aborted kernels, shriveled kernels and ultimately a lower bushel weight. On top of this it causes a microclimate that traps moisture below and creates situations that increase the risk of diseases on that crop, which again causes low bushel weight and ultimately lower yield. Add the above-mentioned harvest issues with these agronomic issues and you can see why lodging can drastically impact your profitability and efficiency that you work hard to increase all year long. But what can be done?
Identify a strong variety
The first thing that can be done to minimize lodging is identifying a variety that is rated strong in the area of standability. Talking to your agronomist for information that will help you make the right choice.
Some use a growth regulator with positive results, but those need to be used as part of a holistic approach to combating lodging. As of August 2015 there is only one growth regulator registered along with MRL’s in Canada that can be used, and it is a product that can be detrimental if used improperly.
Next, soil testing is key to making sure your crops stay standing. There are a number of nutrients that help a crop keep its legs including nitrogen, potassium and even copper being shown to help maintain an upright position. A soil test can show if these nutrients are there in sufficient quantities, but on top of this the balance is key. The right ratios need to be there as well as the right amounts. We know that not all soil across the field is created equal, so why treat it as such? Applying too much nitrogen for example in a higher production area of the field can actually turn it into one of the least productive areas of the field! This is where the strategic soil testing and imagery comes in to help make important decisions about how much and where nutrients can be best utilized for yield and to keep crops upright.
Variable rate technology
Variable Rate Technology (VRT) is the most underutilized tool for combating lodging issues. The value of keeping a crop standing and putting the proper nutrition in each zone can increase yield quality, leading to higher profits per acre, which is going to be what the top farmers are looking to achieve.
The approach to the problem of lodging needs to be a management system and consultation with an agronomist that has the ability to draw on experience regarding all of the issues mentioned above.