October 27, 2011
You could make a long list of 'to do' items once you finish harvesting corn this fall. Obviously, routine maintenance and cleaning of harvest equipment, then storing it away of the winter would likely be high on the list. Here are some other ideas you might want to consider jotting down on your list.
Pull soil samples- Unless you have a soils consultant hired to do this job, you may want to test soils. If you're already on an established rotation, checking certain fields every three or four years, experts advise staying on that schedule. It allows you to check changes In soil fertility over time. Sampling by the same method, such as grid or by soil type, and sampling at the same time of the year helps keep the results consistent. Then you can follow trends in soil fertility, and perhaps relate them back to your strategy of applying fertilizer in that field.
Apply lime and fertilizer- There's still time to get fertilizer applied, assuming your soils are not so steep that fall application is not recommended. Some will choose to apply anhydrous ammonia, especially in central and southern areas. Make sure that it is at least 50 degrees or less in soil temperature before you apply. Otherwise, you stand to lose more nitrogen than you might realize.
There are certain areas, especially south of I-70 in the Eastern to Central Corn Belt, where fall anhydrous applications are not recommended due to the risk of sizable losses from the temperature staying higher that is desirable for those applications.
Plan tillage- This may be a simple as deciding you are going to no-till and doing nothing in the fall to chisel plowing corn stalks or ripping soybean stubble. Gary Steinhardt, Purdue Univeristy professor of agronomy, notes that there is little to no university data backing up deep ripping as a means of eliminating soil compaction and increasing yields. He acknowledges that many people claims it helps, but even so, it's not a practice he would recommend every year.
Evaluate new options- Some who no-till or think about no-till my prefer going to vertical tillage, a fast, shallow pass with an expensive tool with non-aggressive blades. You can still leave a large amount on the surface. More farmers are looking at this option as a way to get some reduction in residue, but still loosen up the soil in the spring or fall. In the spring, a trip before planting can help it dry out in the top two inches of the soil.
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