Research farms evaluate growing season, look ahead to 2011

Iowa State University's Agriculture Experiment Station's research farms at Sutherland, Kanahwa and Nashua are evaluating what worked during the 2010 growing season and looking forward to 2011.

Research farms evaluate growing season, look ahead to 2011
Dave Rueber, superintendent of the Northern Research Farm at Kanawha, Iowa, summarizes weather data at the farm's summer field day.

Iowa State University's Agriculture Experiment Station's research farms at Sutherland, Kanahwa and Nashua are evaluating what worked during the 2010 growing season and looking forward to 2011.

Weather took a toll on crops at Kanawha

Wet, hot, hail and a late spring frost all took a toll on crops at the Northern Research Farm at Kanawha, said David Rueber, farm superintendent.

"Soybean yields ranged from 0 to 60," Rueber said. "Well drained soils did very well and were the tallest I've ever seen. Some spots drowned out. We replanted one area on July 2, and the beans did quite well even if they did get water after that. They had water over the tops, but they made beans. I was quite impressed with that."

Rueber said corn at the Northern Research Farm took a beating and yields were somewhat disappointing. Corn after beans yielded 170 to 180 bushels per acre. The corn after corn yielded somewhat less.


"We had a frost on May 9 when it got down to 29 degrees, and my notes show we lost 1,000 corn plants per acre," Rueber said. "We had hail twice. The rain washed out the nitrogen. We had a hot July."

Rueber said Kanawha was on the northern edge of the wet area. Going south toward Clarion yields fell off more.

Harvest weather was close to perfect.

"Personally, I've never combined anything that dry," Rueber said. "I went from soybeans to corn to tillage. I had very little drying charge."

The Northern Research Farm experimented with rolling soybeans before and after planting. Rolling didn't appear to hurt the beans that had emerged. Only the late June rolling impacted yield.

Rueber said that rolling corn ground before planting appeared to hamper stand counts not because of the rolling but because of the compaction from four sets of tire tracks across the row. Next year, the rolling work will continue, but Rueber won't roll before planting.

There were very few soybean aphids this summer, Rueber said. Next year, soybean aphid resistant soybeans will again be planted. This year's aphid-resistant beans didn't show much because aphid numbers were low. The farm has also looked at the effectiveness of parasitic wasps in controlling aphids.

Research on Sudden Death Syndrome and other soybean diseases will continue as well as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertility work. Work by ISU researcher Walter Fehr on food-grade soybeans will be ongoing.


Rueber said that high crop prices help the research farm just like any other farm.

"A lot of our operating budget, which is used to buy machinery and seed and fertilizer, comes from the sale of grain and hay from the farm," Rueber said. "Whatever gets sold from here, stays with the farm. Some money is used to buy equipment and seed and fertilizer. If we want to tile or hire extra help, it comes from our operating budget."

Good growing season at Sutherland, super harvest weather

Overall it was a pretty good growing season at the Northeast Research Farm at Sutherland, said farm superintendent Ryan Rusk.

"We started the earliest I've seen," Rusk said. "We had good warmth. We had almost a whole growing season's moisture in June and July. We usually get 24 inches of rain in a growing season. This year we got 22.4 inches just in June and July."

The wet areas caused nitrogen to denitrify and leach. There was plenty of heat during the growing season.

"We started combining beans Sept. 28 and I went all the way through corn and beans with no rain," Rusk said. "My grandpa is 93, and he never saw a harvest like this. Both spring and fall were fantastic, but there was a little too much moisture in the season."

Rusk said the wetter areas yielded 150 bushels for corn. Other areas yielded as high as 250 bushels per acre. The average for corn after soybeans was 211 bushels and 196 for continuous corn. Beans averaged 62 bushels per acre with the range 40 to 84 bushels. Corn was 14.5 percent moisture and 58-pound test weight.


Rusk said that he saw more Goss's Wilt on corn this year. Because it's a bacterial disease, fungicide use does nothing for it. Goss's Wilt survives in crop residue, and the best defense against it is hybrid selection.

"There are some resistant hybrids," Rusk said. "Farmers want to pay attention and consider that in hybrid selection. Certain lines are very susceptible. On the farm, a couple of the susceptible hybrids were hit hard. The hybrids with resistance showed no signs of it."

There were a few spots of Sudden Death Syndrome in beans. Variety selection and planting date are the best ways to attack that.

"If you see symptoms one year, it may be a problem the next year and it may not," Rusk said. "It's something you need to manage for."

Rusk said that year in and year out, no-till soybeans yield as well as tilled beans on the farm.

Fungicide use in soybeans has resulted in a three bushel per acre increase in yield if beans are sprayed at R3, beginning pod stage.

"Corn is a lot more variable," Rusk said. "There doesn't seem to be a response. It's best to scout and if there is a disease problem, then it may warrant spraying. If there's no disease, spraying is not the best choice."

Twin row corn experiments have shown no difference in yield.


"It's just one location over two years but we haven't seen a yield bump," Rusk said.

Narrow-row beans resulted in a 3.8 bushel per acre yield increase in 2008 and 2009 and a half a bushel increase this year.

The Northwest Research Farm bought some strip till units and will be comparing those to other tillage systems in the coming years.

The farm will look at RAG1 aphid resistant soybeans. This year there were so few soybean aphids it didn't really tell them anything, but they'll grow the resistant beans again.

The farm is also doing a corn replant study looking at planting dates from April 25 to early July. They are looking at four hybrids ranging from 83 to 105-day corn. This study will provide recommendations to farmers who have to replant.

They've looked at soybean roller studies done over several years. Most of the emphasis has been on soybeans, but this year Rusk tried rolling the acres planted to corn before planting.

Excellent growing season at Nashua research farm

The growing season was excellent at the Northeast Research Farm, said Ken Pecinovsky, farm superintendent.


"Especially since we were able to stay away from any large flooding rains that could have potentially caused a lot of erosion, and we had plenty of heat units to mature the crop," Pecinovsky said. "Luckily for us, the 16 inches of rain we received in June and July , came in 30 different day rain events, so no gully erosion occurred."

Pecinovsky started a third of the corn harvest early, since it takes so long to get research plots harvested, and spent a very small amount of money on LP to dry corn. The last two-thirds of the research plots were put in the bin without drying or taken straight to the elevator.

"This is quite a comparison to 2009, when my average grain moisture going into the dryer bin was around 27 to 28 percent," Pecinovsky said.

Pecinovsky said that in 2009, the farm only received 67 heat units in October, which is why corn never matured or dried in the field. In 2010, there were 279 heat units for October (similar to 2007), but the highest number of heat units in the past 16 years.

He was able to harvest the majority of 2010 soybeans around the 13 percent moisture level. This contrasts with last year when the only 13 percent beans harvested were the first day of harvest (short maturity beans, before wet harvest season) and the last two days of harvest in November when the farm finally got some sun and dry weather to get soybean moisture down. In October 2009, the farm had 6.4 inches of rain in 15 days, which explains last year's slow soybean harvest with high grain moistures, Pecinovsky said.

Pecinovsky was a little concerned about the lack of rainfall toward the latter half of August to fill out the soybeans.

"We had two rainfall events in August, 1.54 inches on Aug. 9 to 10 and 1.42 inches on Aug. 31," Pecinovsky said. "The Aug. 31 rain is what I think helped us harvest 60 to 75 bushels per acre soybean yields across most plots, with a few plots even higher than 75 bushels."

Pecinovsky said it looks like most corn research plots will be in a range from 180 to 230 bushels per acre.


The best things about the 2010 growing season were no spraying for soybean aphids, no white mold issues in soybeans and no major corn stalk lodging at harvest, Pecinovsky said. The farm saw some 0.5 to 2 bushels per acre yield increases from insecticide in a few soybean plots, but it may have been a combination of below-threshold-aphid-numbers and a few green cloverworms, but this small yield increase still probably wouldn't pay for the cost of product/application in most cases at last summer's grain prices.

The research farm received high winds on the morning of July 24 that caused some stalk lodging, but the combine was able to pick them up fine, with little to no yield decrease.

Among the new things that the research farm looked at were vertical tillage tools, aphid resistant soybean varieties, smart stack corn varieties, bioreactor water quality performance, fungicide performance/application timings in corn and soybeans, testing corn varieties in 30-inch and twin rows, and late planted corn of differing maturities, comparing different planting dates, and secondary and micronutrients in alfalfa production.

Pecinovsky said plans are to do more forage and small grain research at Nashua, since there is a considerable amount in northeast Iowa. The farm will continue many of the long-term research projects that it is currently conducting.

A new ISU Extension agronomist is coming on board in mid-November. He will be housed at the research farm in the Borlaug Learning Center, and he will work with farm research projects and also may conduct research projects with farmers and farm association members.

Strong corn and soybean prices this fall will benefit the research farm, Pecinovsky said, adding that although many non-farmers assume that all farmers sell every bushel of grain at the highest price each year, that rarely happens.

"I'm selling some high-priced grain and purchasing some high priced fertilizer," Pecinovsky said. "In 2009 we didn't finish soybean harvest until Nov. 8 and corn harvest until Dec. 7, which was followed by soil freeze up and a snowstorm, so we didn't find the time to properly soil sample. This year, we were able to soil sample early and then we hauled manure for research plots until soil test results came back and then we were able to get that fertilizing work done prior to any tillage operations. I'm also going to take a look at soil pH numbers and then hopefully add lime, if any field requires it before the weather does get bad."

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