Volume 21 • Issue 6 •

November 2011



Moisture Concerns Rule Decision Process for 2012
Mark Hatley With the odds now favoring another La Niña this winter and farmers from Kansas to Texas saying they’ve never seen it drier, it looks like 2012 runs the risk of being another short crop year – further exacerbating USDA’s already gloomy outlook for wheat carryover. Gary McManus, Associate State Climatologist at Oklahoma Climatological Survey, spoke at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Drought Summit and painted a gloomy picture – “a pathetic sight,” in his words – of wheat prospects there. Citing the “better than 50% chance of a new La Niña,” he says, and another cycle of drought looks very possible, even likely. While wheat farmers say they are reluctant to put high-priced seed into a bone-dry seedbed sitting atop bone-dry subsoil sapped by the driest and hottest 12 months on record in Texas, Oklahoma and important wheat areas in southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado, they say they probably will. With insurance rules requiring at least the effort, most say they will probably plant wheat. And while it doesn’t take a professional agronomist to tell you that soil moisture is the primary cropping issue for the spring planting season of 2012, there’s never been a better year to have a professional crop consultant at your side to help you manage your planting, irrigation, fertilization and other input options next year. Mark Hatley, who services the Dumas area of the Texas Panhandle, says the hot and windy weather pattern will create a reduction in corn acres in 2012 and a move to more cotton and wheat acres due to lack of soil moisture. “If we don’t get 6-8 inches of winter moisture, we’ll probably make the change to crops that have a lower moisture demand than corn,” he states. “Unlike in previous years, I think you’ll see producers holding off longer in making decisions on fertilizers, seeds, herbicides, etc. It all depends on the next 2-3 months.” Hatley says his producers will need to take a closer look at fertility residues and use that information to their advantage. It all starts and ends with proper soil sampling. “The analysis of our soil sampling will help us determine where we’ll put crops. Soil is so dry that it is hard to get a consistent soil sample, so we’ll rely on soil sampling where we can and fertility history for make cropping decisions.” Hatley doesn’t anticipate any problems obtaining good seed, but when he meets with his producers, he’ll be reviewing the latest results of some of the more drought- and stress-hardy seed varieties and work them into some of the dryer areas. “Our cotton growers are a bit more accustomed to managing crops in dryer conditions. The main job with them is to help manage input costs.” The story is pretty much the same in Tom Stebly’s area of Northwest Oklahoma. “Some of our producers haven’t had appreciable rainfall since last August. We have had a lot of dryland crops abandoned this year due to the extreme heat and dry conditions. It has been estimated that 90 percent of the Oklahoma cotton crop will be abandoned this season. The damage has been incredible. Even our irrigated acres have been affected. “The aquifer we pull from is strong, but we did have some wells drawing down as we got late into July and August. Given the long-term forecast, some of our clients are planning to shut off end guns for this coming season as a way to conserve water. A lot of our irrigated ground is extremely sandy and the yields on the end gun acres have generally been poor. This should help keep from wasting water where the returns have been so low. I’d also expect to see some acres shift away from corn and soybeans, and into cotton and peanuts.” Stebly is not as concerned about fertility and won’t know about seed availability until after harvest. “We like to finish up with harvest before we begin to plan for the coming season. On our dryland acres, we typically don’t make many decisions prior to January. We have seen an increase in winter canola acres this fall and wheat acres appear to be close to normal. If I had to guess though, I’d expect to see a shift in acres away from dryland corn to more milo, cotton, and sesame. We will also try to keep our herbicide options open in wheat this winter – this will allow us the flexibility to rotate crops if the weather remains dry and we have to abandon wheat acres.” And on a non-cropping issue, Stebly says that feral hogs are increasing in his area and are causing a lot
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C C o o p QQ u e s t P P e s s p e c i v v e s 1 1 rr p uest errpectti es

Tom Stebly

Jason Reichart

Shannon Evans

Moisture Concerns Rule Decision Process

... Continued from Page 1
quickly as possible so our producers can manage their fertilizer input costs. It’s all about minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs. That’s why we are heavy into grid sampling, yield mapping, etc. in this area. Customers expect us to arm them with the best information, so they can do the best buying,” Reichart reports. Shannon Evans based in Montezuma in southwest Kansas, reports that their dryland wheat has not been planted because there is no soil moisture. Irrigation issues are compounded with the fact that many of his producers have used up their water allotment. “We are only allocated about 24-acre-inches of water a year. Many producers have already used that allotment this year and have borrowed some from next year. Some may only have 15-20 inches of irrigation available to them. That will affect what we plant, where we plant it and certainly our crop input options. We will look closer at corn hybrids that are more drought or stress resistant. Simply put, we will be rethinking everything!" In conclusion Evans says, “We’re doing a lot of soil sampling so we know where we’re at and can make those key input decisions. We’re finishing harvest and will wait and see where we finished up with yields, water use, soil fertility, etc. and then sit down and do some real-time planning. This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions and quick decisions,” he warns. “It is certainly the time to look at the data and make informed decisions based on facts, new variety data, and new technologies and then move in the best direction we can. But these tough decisions need to be based on facts, not gut reactions.”

of crop damage in the Canton, OK, area. “The hogs have been moving north over the past 3 to 4 years and damage is increasing. There isn’t a lot we can do given how prolific they are. However, we are trying to prepare for them by coming up with some trapping and control options. Jason Reichart, a Crop Quest agronomist located in northeast Kansas, paints a completely different picture for his producers – adequate moisture! “We are in better shape moisture-wise in this area. Our top soil is certainly drying out now in the upper six to twelve inches, but the subsoil, is generally in decent shape, especially the more clay-based soils.” Reichart notes that wheat his producers have drilled looks fair and would improve with just a little rain. He also notes the cover crops that a few of his producers are trying have germinated and putting down their roots. All that good news is enough reason for Reichart to approach this coming year with guarded optimism. “I am more concerned about the hybrid and variety selection of corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa than long-term lack of moisture. Continued advancements in seed technology can help mitigate the increasing variance in weather.” Overall Reichart sees his part of the country being “business as usual” regarding cropping programs. “We may see a little adjustment in planted acres in the spring based on the markets and input cost, but I don’t expect soil moisture to really be a deciding factor. It usually isn’t anyway. “Crops are coming off and we want to get our fields sampled and make our nutrient recommendations as

The heat and drought that most of us experienced this year had a huge impact By: Chris Sheppard on yields for many producers. Failed fields and even some fields that produced grain have shown a high level of carryover nitrogen due to yielding significantly less than what the field was fertilized for. Some of our agronomists have found that wheat or sorghum fields in low-yielding environments may have had 50 pounds per acre (or more) nitrogen carryover this year. Without significant moisture, very little nitrogen will be lost through leaching or denitrification and will still be available for the next crop in the rotation. Corn was hit especially hard, due to extremely poor pollination or failure of the plants to produce an ear altogether. In those situations, a large portion of the fertilizer that was applied may not have been fully utilized. Early soil test values for residual nitrates in corn fields with low yields or those taken for low quality silage have ranged anywhere from 40-250 pounds N per acre, depending on yield goal and whether or not the field was irrigated. As a result of residual soil nitrogen, a farmer may be able to significantly lower the input costs this next year. Average nitrogen fertilizer prices currently range from about $0.48-$0.72 per pound of actual N, depending on the type applied; so it is easy to see that accurate and timely soil testing will be extremely important for controlling input costs.
2 Crop Quest Perspectives

With high fertilizer prices, it is important to know how much additional fertility is needed. For example, applying 50 pounds per acre less nitrogen as anhydrous for dryland sorghum in a wheat, sorghum, fallow rotation would save approximately $24 per acre. Likewise, reducing preplant anhydrous applications in corn by 120 pounds actual N per acre due to carryover nitrogen of 120140 pounds per acre would save close to $57 per acre. The savings further increase if other forms of nitrogen, such as urea or UAN, are your typical fertilizer source. Other nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium may not have been fully utilized. This may allow for a reduction in the amount of those products applied next year in an annual subsistence fertility program, or possibly an additional year between manure or bulk fertilizer applications if you utilize a three to five year rotation for phosphorus and other nutrients. Without a soil test, it is easy to underestimate residual nutrients, which can lead to applying more fertilizer than needed and adding unnecessary expense to your operation. Most of the residual nutrients indicated in the soil test should be available for the next crop. The best way to know whether you may lower your inputs for next year is to soil sample your fields and then discuss the results with your agronomist to adjust your goals in implementing a fertility program.


Recognized For Years Of Service
Dwight Koops
Koops has enjoyed his career as an agronomist, being out in the field watching crops grow. He relayed that it has been a privilege to work with the best group of people, including his colleagues, farmer producers and business associates. He said every one of them has had an impact on him and his career. As memorable times, he has had the opportunity to witness the onset of genetically modified crops, the growth of precision farming and the conversion of flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation on the High Plains. Married for 28 years, Koops and his wife, Kris, have three daughters – Jennifer, Hannah and Maggie. Koops said his most memorable moments have been watching his children grow and mature into fine young adults. Thirty years of service in the same occupation is a long time. One of the founding members of Crop Quest was recently recognized for 30 Years of Agronomic Service during the annual Crop Quest Full Staff Meeting on November 11, 2011, in Midwest City, OK. Dwight Koops graduated from Colorado State University in 1981 with a B.S. degree in Agronomy. He immediately began work as an agronomist with Servi-Tech in the Ulysses, KS, area. He proceeded to serve as the Ulysses Division Manager from 1983 to 1991 at which time he was promoted to Western Regional Manager until the founding of Crop Quest in February 1992, where he was named Crop Quest Vice President of the Western Region. He still resides in Ulysses, KS. In addition to working with many producers in Western Kansas, overseeing the Western Region and assisting with advancing many other programs company wide, Koops is also an elected member to the Crop Quest Board of Directors.

We congratulate Dwight Koops and pray that he will enjoy many more years of success in the crop consulting profession.

Crop Quest Perspectives


Introducing RapidEye Satellite Imagery

By: Nathan Woydziak

hours from the satellite acquisition. In the future the hope is to have Satellite imagery is not a new technolautomated confirmations that will inform Crop Quest agronomists ogy; in fact it’s been around longer than when new imagery is available for download and delivery to the many of the precision ag tools producers producer. currently use. With the Rapid Eye Satellite Imagery being relatively new, our Every once in a while though, there agronomists have had only limited time to work with it. However, comes a new spin on mature technology Grant Havel, Manager of the Northwest Kansas Division, has noticed that makes us step back and reevaluate a connection between the yield data and the imagery on a number of how we can put it to work. This is why we fields. Havel has observed, some imagery having an inverse correlaare introducing RapidEye Satellite imagery. Historically, obtaintion to yield, particularly in wheat due to increased growth and ing and working with satellite imagery has been cumbersome, potential for lodging. Havel states, “With wheat, I can see some making the imagery costly and difficult to use. benefits from being better able to identify areas of increased growth Crop Quest has teamed up with SST (a precision ag software with some uses of growth regulators to help prevent the lodging in development company) to obtain and analyze satellite imagery those spots.” Havel thinks the same may be said about using the through SST Summit; making imagery easily accessible for growth regulators in cotton production as well. agronomists and affordable for our clients. SST SumIn corn, Havel also noticed the imagery following yield mit is the scouting software Crop Quest agronomists map patterns. This enables a person to better identify soil use to deliver digital field reports and process precitypes and higher production areas which allows him to sion ag data (grid samples, yield maps, veris EC data). vary seeding and fertilizer rates, to take advantage of the RapidEye imagery is an excellent tool for gaining a big Grant Havel the better producing areas in the field. Havel states, “I can picture feel for what’s happening in your fields, and see benefits under irrigation as well, imagery helps recognize sprinwith simple downloads and delivery options, we believe it is a tool kler patterns and nozzle problems. Looking at some of the fields that producers will find value in. had hail damage through the season, you could also identify total Over the last couple of months, a select group of Crop Quest acres affected when corn had lost its canopy.” Just like any part of agronomists have been Beta testing RapidEye Satellite imagery precision agriculture, having access to more imagery will give you through SST Summit. When the tool first came online, limited 2010 more layers, to answer more questions, to unlock more yield potenimagery was available but now it has a partial set of 2010 and 2011 tial for that field or farm. imagery. SST currently has 2011 imagery for 30% of the 50 million Download a RapidEye Flyer from the web for quick bullets about acres in FarmRite. FarmRite is SST’s standardized information the imagery service, visit us online at cropquest.com, or visit with processing system, that among other things, allows us to share, proyour local agronomist for more information. Whether you are buildcess, and store data. Only a fraction of those acres are serviced by ing variable rate growth regulator prescriptions for cotton, variable Crop Quest, but one can appreciate the size of this project. rate nitrogen prescriptions for wheat, or determining irrigation Once SST has acquired historic imagery for the 50 million acres, issues in corn; allow us to provide you with the precision ag tools the task becomes a matter of maintenance. SST estimates that keepnecessary to help manage your crop. ing the system current will mean posting new imagery within 72

Crop Quest is an employee-owned company dedicated to providing the highest quality agricultural services for each customer. The quest of our network of professionals is to practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound.

Mission Statement

Crop Quest Agronomic Services, Inc. Main Office: Phone 620.225.2233 Fax 620.225.3199 Internet: www.cropquest.com cqoffice@cropquest.com

“Employee-Owned & Customer Driven”


Crop Quest Board of Directors
President: Director: Director: Director: Director: Director: Ron O’Hanlon Jim Gleason Dwight Koops Cort Minor Chris McInteer Rob Benyshek

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