And that’s just the hybrids suitable for Western Canada’s shorter season. You’ll notice some for grain specifically, some for silage, and some suitable for both

Improved genetics and lower heat units have generated a lot more interest in corn among Western Canadian producers. Seed companies offer Western growers 21 new corn varieties for 2009.

Corn is no longer just for Manitoba’s Red River Valley, or B. C.’s Lower Mainland. And more beef producers, in particular, are looking at the potential of field corn not just as a silage crop, but also as a winter grazing crop. Fifty or 75 acres of standing corn divided off with a hot wire, can feed 300 or 400 head of cattle for a good part of the winter.

Sam King, a beef producer in Alberta’s Peace River region, for example, has been growing grazing corn for years. He estimates it will yield an average five to seven tonnes per acre and feed his cattle over winter for about 45 to 50 cents per head per day.

Here is a brief rundown of what’s new in varieties:

A4001RR

Heat units: 2,075

Type: Roundup Ready 2 Distributor: Pride Seeds

Key Features: Roundup Ready choice for grain and high moisture producers. Early dent hybrid that offers outstanding natural stalk strength and plan intactness through to harvest. Moderate resistance to Stewart’s wilt, common smut, gibberella stalk rot, gibberella ear rot, fusarium ear rot.

A4170RR

Heat units: 2,100

Type: Roundup Ready 2 Distributor: Pride Seeds

Key features: Roundup Ready choice for grain and high moisture producers. Excellent as stand alone or refuge hybrid. Outstanding yield potential. Works well on all soil types across Canada. Moderate resistance to Stewart’s wilt, common smut, gibberella stalk rot, gibberella ear rot, fusarium ear rot.

A4176BtRR

Heat units: 2,125

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard Corn Borer

Distributor: Pride Seeds

Key features: Early, with high yield potential and stalk integrity. Responds well under heat and drought stress. Strong spring vigour. Moderate resistance to Stewart’s wilt, common smut, gibberella stalk rot, gibberella ear rot, and fusarium ear rot.

DKC30-20

Heat units: 2,375

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard VT Triple

Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: Strong emergence and seedling growth. High test weight and grain quality. Great standability and strong roots.

DKC30-23

Heat units: 2,350

Type: Roundup Ready 2 Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: Its strengths are strong emergence and seedling growth, high test-weight and grain quality, great standability and strong roots.

DKC33-69

Heat units: 2,450

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard VT Triple

Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: A good dual-purpose hybrid for both grain and silage. Strong stalks and roots allowing for flexible harvest scheduling. Very good staygreen and intactness.

DKC34-28

Heat units: 2,450

Type: Roundup Ready 2 Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: Very high yield potential for this maturity. Strong stalks. Good consistency across environments and soil types.

DKC34-29

Heat units: 2,400

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard Corn Borer

Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: Very high yield potential for this maturity. Strong stalks. Good consistency across environments and soil types.

DKC35-15

Heat units: 2,475

Types: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard VT Triple

Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: High yield potential for this maturity with very good test weight. Strong roots and very good stalks.

DKC36-34

Heat units: 2,525

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard VT Triple

Distributor: Dekalb

Key features: Great stress and drought tolerance. Very good dry-down and harvest appearance. Can be grown for either grain or silage.

DKC38-26

Heat units: 2,575

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard VT Triple

Distributor: Dekalb

Key Features: Excellent roots and very good stalks.

HL B14R

Heat units: 2,275

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard

Distributor: Hyland Seeds

Key features: Strong spring vigour. Very good plant health. High yield potential.

HL B18R

Heat Units: 2,350

Type: Roundup Ready 2, YieldGard

Distributor: Hyland Seeds

Key features: Great plant health. Medium-tall plant height. Good dual purpose potential. High yield potential.

One thing we learned is that soybean harvest is not greatly hampered by showers or snow. October 5 we received six tenths of rain, and two days later we were back combining. October 12 we received three inches of snow.

Overall, 2008 gave us slightly higher than normal moisture and lower than normal heat. Seeding conditions were cool and dry. Summer was cool and wet. Harvest was cool and moist. Our area was not as bad as some, such as north of Winnipeg, but cool and moist conditions drew out the season.

Our crop plan for 2008 started in the fall of 2007 when we seeded 170 acres of pedigree CDC Raptor winter wheat, 70 acres of other winter wheat, along with 60 acres of pedigree Fridge Winter Triticale and 40 acres of winter triticale. All our winter crops made it through to spring with very little winterkill. We applied 90 pounds of nitrogen treated with Agrotain on the winter wheat the first part of May, and 60 pounds of nitrogen with Agrotain on the winter triticale. We use 28-0-0 as our nitrogen source because it is easy to apply and we have had good consistent results with it.

We started to seed canola May 12. In reality my father, Robert, went seeding and I was the “yard boy” treating soybeans and dishing out corn, canola, and forage seed while Christina covered the office work. Because of our swing into Roundup Ready soybeans, it forced our hand out of Roundup Ready canola. So our main canola variety in 2008 was InVigor 5108. We like that it is a shorter variety with very good lodging resistance, and that it’s early. Yieldwise, it has performed very well for us, consistently first or second in our trials.

We seeded our Liberty Link trial — varieties 8440, 5020 and 5040 — on May 14. When scouting for flea beetles, I noticed that we had seed that did not emerge. By doing some digging, I discovered that 15 acres had no seed at all. A gear on our air tank jumped off, so we reseeded on May 26. The reseeded canola outyielded the earlier seeded canola by nine bushels per acre. We were saved by the cool July.

Soybean seeding started May 16. We seeded LS0028RR on two acres, and then dove into LS0036RR. Once we got the LS0036RR done, we finished off with a new Hyland variety. When the seeding was done, we found a land roller to rent. We rolled 438 acres in 14 hours overnight. Not a fun job in the dark. Rolling is a must for soybeans. It creates a flat even surface so you are able to cut soybeans low enough to harvest the bottom pods. On average, the bottom pods will be from two to three cm off the ground. It also pushes any stones into the ground to avoid putting them through the combine.

We rounded out our crop plan with pedigree Jordan oats on a field where we grew soybeans back to back, an AC Sierra sunflower breeder plot, and our grazing corn demonstration and field. We finished these May 29.

When I thought we were done, I had to reseed an alfalfa field I dormant seeded back to alfalfa.

The late April frosts hit when the alfalfa was germinated and was emerged, thus killing the seedlings. It is a calculated risk dormant seeding, but it is worth it. We ended up getting a cut the first year and averaged 1.5 bales per acre.

SPRAYING AND PLOT TOURS

Spraying was an adventure with the rain. Ruts were not as bad as 2007, but when swathing and harvesting you did not have to guess where the sprayer went.

Our plot tour was July 31, with 40 people attending. We looked at our inoculant trials, LibertyLink canola trial, corn trials, Canadian Wheat Board winter wheat trial, and soybeans.

HARVEST

We were ready to start combining winter wheat in the first part of August, but between rains and poor drying conditions, we never started until late August. Combining winter wheat, swathing canola, and cleaning pedigree CDC Raptor winter wheat kept us busy.

To speed up the Fridge Winter Triticale, we decided to swath it. The first two fields came off with little rain but the last 20 acres were out in swaths through a fair amount of rain. Spouting was becoming a grave concern. Once we got it off, it was still in good shape. The winter wheat averaged 80 bushels per acre and the winter triticale averaged 65.

The pedigree Jordan oat field was swathed September 10. Soybeans had been on that field the previous two years, averaging around 30 bushels per acre with no fertilizer added. The soybeans also averaged around 30 inches tall, so we assumed that there was going to be around 60 pounds of nitrogen released throughout the year to feed the oat crop. So we seed placed 30 pounds of P2O5, and no other fertilizer. The Jordan oat averaged 110 bushels per acre with a 43-pound bushel weight.

HOW TO ESTIMATE NITROGEN FIXATION

I found that the key to estimating nitrogen fixed after soybeans is to take the potential yield of the soybeans, assuming good nodulation, and subtract the actual yield. The difference is then multiplied by five pounds of nitrogen per bushel, and then divided by three based on a 33 per cent release of organic nitrogen in the first year.

In my estimation, our stand had the potential to yield 50 bushels, but we only got 30. The difference is 20. Multiply that by five to get 100, then divide by three. The answer is 33 pounds of fixed nitrogen available to the next crop.

Because we had two years of beans that looked similar, I estimated a 33-pound credit for both years, giving us about 66 pounds for the oat crop. Note that the stand size and yield potential is important. If you grow a 24-inch tall crop that should yield 30 and does, you will have very little nitrogen left over. Shorter crops tend to fix less nitrogen. Also remember that a soil test will not show any fixed nitrogen because the nitrogen is in the organic state. As the trash starts to decompose, the nutrients are then released.

Soybean harvest started October 3 because for a seed crop, we need to wait to get the field inspected at 90 per cent leaf drop. Once the inspector left the field and never found any problems, we started harvesting. It lasted one day, then rain. Waited a couple days, harvested for another day before another shower stopped us. We finished October 20. In that 17-day stretch, we only actually combined for four days. One thing we learned is that soybean harvest is not greatly hampered by showers or snow. October 5 we received six tenths of rain, and two days later we were back combining. October 12 we received three inches of snow. The soybeans never lodged or had any harvesting concerns after the snow.

As a preventative measure we parked the grain trucks in the approaches to ensure we never got them stuck. Field yields ranged from 24 to 31 bushels per acre, averaging at 28.

Sunflowers were harvested October 21. We grew a 1.5-acre plot of breeder seed. We desiccated the start of September with our Rogator and let them dry down. The local deer herd sure enjoyed them. AC Sierra is an open pollinated short stature sunflower, eating height for deer. Once the flowers started drying down the deer left them alone, but one night I counted 35 deer running out of the plot. We ended up with about 1,200 pounds per acre. Considering the deer damage, we are very happy.

On November 4, I dormant seeded an alfalfa field into standing winter wheat stubble. The experiment in this field is three seeding rates: four, eight and 12 pounds per acre. The variety is Tophand from Northstar Seeds. We want to see what effect the seeding rate has on flowering date, feed test values, and yield.

The big news for the year is that Friendly Acres Seed Farms Inc., was granted marketing and distribution rights to Fridge winter triticale, AC Helios hard red spring wheat, and AC Sierra sunflowers.

CROP PLAN FOR 2009

This year we are going to ramp up our soybeans to cover 45 per cent of our acres. Half will be LS0036RR and the other half will be LS0028RR, both from Legend Seeds and distributed by Quarry Seeds. There is another variety we are keeping our eyes on, 29002 from Thunder Seeds.

We will have a Certified AC Sierra Sunflower field in production, along with pedigree CDC Raptor and CDC Accipiter Winter Wheat, and Fridge Winter Triticale. Grazing corn trials and alfalfa demonstrations will also be included in the plan. We are going to try the new Clearfield Nexera canola on half of our canola acres and the other half will be mostly InVigor 8440.

In the big picture, we are quite lucky as we never had a lot of drowned spots. The grain came off in good shape and with good initial germinations. Many of our “crazy” ideas are starting to prove themselves. All we can hope for now is input prices to stay in line and commodity prices to hold.

Kevin Elmy operates Friendly Acres Seed Farm, along with his wife, Christina, and parents, Robert and Verene, near Saltcoats, Sask. You can contact him at 306-744-2779 or [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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