NDSU Extension Service - Cavalier County

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5/14/2014

Soil temperature 4” depth (Bare ground)

Soil Temperatures:  4” Langdon - Bare ground

   Date                    Avg. Temp            Avg. Bare Soil Temp
   May 1                       48°                             43°
   May 5                       41°                             41°       
   May 10                     51°                             50°       
   May 13                     40°                             41°
   Average                    44°                             44°

Early Seeding:  About half the farmers have some crop in the ground while the rest haven’t started though most will later this week as the Langdon area has missed out on all the significant rains, less than a half inch total since May 1st. At this time of the spring season I wouldn’t change my planting intensions as there should be time to get the crop in, weather permitting.   Any big rain event will play a role in adjusting crop plans.   Questions are out there on the cool weather and seeding canola?   I personally wouldn’t be afraid of seeding canola with good soil conditions anytime from late April to June 10th.     

The ideal soil temperature for canola is 48-50° F but one probably shouldn’t wait that long to get started. Canola can germinate in soils as cool as 35 F, but growth will be very slow until soils warm up. Therefore, canola germinating and growing in cool soil conditions will have prolonged exposure to diseases as well as insects. The longer it takes for canola to emerge, the fewer days of flea beetle protection seed treatments can provide once seedlings emerge. Overall seedling survival can be lower in cool soils, often resulting in uneven stands, with current Langdon’s average soil temps in the low 40’s (chart above) we know the soil temps will climb rapidly with sunshine.

A good starting point for seeding canola is when the three-day average soil temperature in the seed zone is 40 F. This is the temperature where biological activity typically begins.

Concern with loss of seed treatment for flea beetle control on early planting if it stays cold for 3 weeks is possible but if that happens an over the top treatment, in case of a flea beetle outbreak, cost is only a few dollars so it’s not like we have no options if that scenario (loss of treatment) happens.  In fact an early insecticide treatment would control some of the leafhoppers if present that spread aster yellows the disease that hit canola hard in 2012!

If we wait until soils are 50 degrees to start seeding which may be the ideal time, the question we have to ask ourselves is what if the weather turns wet and that lasts a few weeks we’re then back to late seeding. Will this year’s late seeded canola turn out as good as it did last year or in 2011?! Experience reminds us when soil conditions are good (moist, & mellow) you should start seeding the cool season crops like wheat, barley, oats, field peas, canola and flax. Warmers soils are more important for corn and beans but as we move into ideal calendar dates we will need to take a chance on planting these crops as well without delays.

Elgin-ND, the newest NDSU wheat variety is available through the Extension Office from our 10 farmers in Cavalier County that increased the seed in 2013The Registered seed price remains at $14.30/bushel. 

FSA:  If you haven’t done so already stop by the FSA Office and pick up your acreage certification maps

Please Note:  We are in the process of raising funds to implement a Water Management Study at the Langdon Research Extension Center with the installation of a drain tiling system.   Anyone knowing of possible funds for this project, please give the center or my office a call!                                                              

The following are comments on winter wheat and saline soils from our NDSU specialists:
Because winter wheat is planted in the fall and develops in the spring during relatively ideal conditions for tiller development, the optimum plant stands of winter wheat is less than that of spring wheat. Our current recommendation for winter wheat is to plant sufficient seed to establish 900,000 to 1 million plants per acre (21-23 plants per square foot). This compares to 1.3-1.4 million plants per acre (30-32 plants per square foot) for spring wheat. Unfortunately, this past winter was cold even by North Dakota standards. This coupled with little snow cover in most of the state and that a great deal of our winter wheat was planted on prevent plant acres that had little or no standing stubble to collect the limited snow that fell, means that winter injury was likely this year.  Since winter wheat that survived the winter has greened up and has started to put on new leaves and tillers, evaluating surviving plant density is fairly straight forward.  The problem that remains, however, is that winter survival is variable within a field depending on topography (windblown hilltops having less stand than protected areas of the field). Therefore the difficult decision is what to do with fields that have large areas of severe plant stand reduction.  Perhaps the following principles will be helpful in making a decision as to whether or not to keep a field:

1.  A half stand of winter wheat can produce a reasonable crop. If your poorest areas of the field have 10 or more plants per square foot, the likelihood of a successful crop is quite good. Given the lateness of the spring and the likelihood that anything else that is planted will be planted later than optimum would suggest sticking with your winter wheat crop.

2.  If your poor areas are patchy and comprise less than a quarter of the field, you might consider keeping stands as low as 5-10 plants per square foot. For these types of fields, adding some spring nitrogen as soon as you can get into the field may be beneficial. Controlling weeds early will be important in these fields so that weeds don’t fill any voids.

3.  For fields with a few very large patches with few or no plants, planting something to reduce weed growth and soil erosion is recommended. Some farmers have reported good results from planting spring wheat to fill in such gaps but be prepared for the fact that spring wheat matures later than winter wheat so harvest will be problematic. Furthermore, mixing wheat classes can cause problems at the elevator. 

Roundup Ready Canola and/or Soybeans would also work well where whole stands need to be reseeded as many of these fallow fields are still very wet.

Problem Soils Salinity is rearing its ugly head this spring as a result of a relatively high water table from all the rain last fall, limited flushing of salts as a result of low snow cover/melting and high evaporation from fall tillage and lack of soil residue since most of it blew across fields this winter.  A high water table brings the water that carries the salts closer to the surface, less snow cover means less flushing of salts in the spring and high evaporation drives a process called capillary action that moves the water from the water table up towards the surface.   Additionally, with as much soil erosion as there was this winter, the soluble salts below the surface now have less soil to move up through to reach the rooting zone of crops. 

Tillage seems like a good option to make a salt-affected, “white” soil turn “black” again and get rid of the problem.  But, this practice actually accelerates salt movement towards the surface by increasing evaporation while the water table remains constant.  When we talk about actively managing salinity, we often say, “dry the soils down.”  To do this, you need to reduce evaporation and lower the water table. 

 Two things recommended by our Soils Health Team you should do this spring:

  1. Collect soil samples – you need to “get your number” so you have a starting point to develop a long-term management plan.  Do this from a saline area that you are concerned about and also a productive area from your field.  Keep the samples separate and send them off to a soil testing lab to be run for Electrical Conductivity (aka Soluble Salts).  You cannot begin to effectively manage an area until you know what your salt levels are.  And having a comparison from a salt-affected area versus a highly productive area will help you understand what good and bad salt levels are.
  2. Avoid tilling saline areas – this is something you can do even without “getting your number”.  Tilling increases evaporation and will bring more salts to the surface.  Chances are good that nothing is growing in those saline areas anyways, so you can plant directly into them without the tillage.  I have had conversations with a few producers who are

Do these two things in the short-term and then work on developing a long-term plan.   NDSU – Soils Health Team

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