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Don’t Cut Corners On Tank Clean Out

Every farmer, at one time or another, feels the need to rush from task to task on the farm during the spring crunch. But even experienced farmers like Steve, who farms 3,900 acres of wheat, canola and barley near Ste. Rose du Lac, Man., needs to slow down and make sure they re performing their farm procedures correctly.

At the beginning of July, Steve called me about one of his canola fields. He said the plants in this field were noticeably behind the rest in development and a lot shorter, when compared with those in his other fields. He couldn t figure out what was causing the problem, although he thought it could be stress on the plants from the heavy precipitation that spring, or that he hadn t used his new air drill correctly, or he thought the soil s fertility wasn t up to scratch he was still improving the soil of this new parcel of land, which he d acquired a few years before.

What Steve found puzzling was that his other crops were doing fine on this new land, and his other fields of canola were progressing well. Upon initial examination of Steve s field, his canola plants did appear to be delayed in maturity by about a week. According to Steve, the field had been progressing well up until the flowering stage, when he first noticed the symptoms.

It was time to test some of Steve s theories. First, I established that his operation of the new air drill had not caused the problem; his seed depth was correct. I didn t think excess precipitation was causing the damage either because the field had good drainage and the rest of Steve s crops were progressing well.

Steve had been improving the soil s fertility since he had acquired the new parcel of land. Tissue tests of the canola plants from that field revealed the soil to be low in potash and phosphate, but this was no surprise to Steve and was not responsible for the symptoms we were addressing. Also, I didn t think the soil was the problem because his other crops on this new land were faring well.

Steve has a good fertility program in place, and he was following recommendations made from the soil tests completed each fall. He d already had some good results when he applied a foliar fertilizer to his crop with his Group 10 herbicide at the end of June.

We scouted some of the field when I first arrived. With no evidence to support any of Steve s theories, we decided to do a more extensive scout. At the far end of the field, we found the first real clue to what was causing the damage two acres of healthy, normal canola plants.

Sprayer records confirmed what I suspected had happened. While spraying this field at the end of June with the foliar fertilizer and Group 10 herbicide, on his second pass, Steve ran out of chemical. Thus, the two-acre area with healthy plants had only been sprayed once, not twice like the rest of the field. Steve explained that since he d run out of the chemical at the back end of the field, he didn t want to go back in and trample any more ground, just for two acres.

These two acres and his sprayer records confirmed he d caused a Group 2 injury to the canola plants caused by chemical residue left in the tank after spraying his field of wheat. Because he d sprayed the whole field with that one tank, the next field didn t exhibit any problems.

Pressed for time, Steve had not rinsed his tank properly. But time is not wasted on tank clean-outs. I recommend that all farmrs take the time to thoroughly rinse their tanks with an ammonia-based cleaner and then with water, also making sure your booms are rinsed and primed well. Best management practices on the farm can save you time and money.

Steve s field is recovering. Despite the herbicide injury, Steve should be able to harvest roughly two-thirds of the average yield for that field.

RyanTurnbullisanareamarketing representativeatRichardsonPioneerLtd. atDauphin,Man.

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