What in the world was the matter with the soybeans in the big, blown-up picture Vince Winkler was displaying inside a small agronomic tent at the Beck's field day a couple weeks ago? There were green soybeans, about a foot tall, growing into brightly colored corn residue, except for the a pattern of two rows across the field which were much shorter. There were also some plants missing in those rows.
What caused it? :"Technically, it was slug damage," says Vince Winkler, A Beck's agronomist. Corn in those two rows grew slower during the spring when it turned cool and wet.
"The real cause was not spreading corn residue evenly across the no-till field," he says. "For whatever reason, there was more corn residue behind the combine. That's why the pattern repeated itself across the field. When we got to investigating, those areas were cooler and wetter. Slugs invaded, but didn't bother the corn that was growing better on either side of the slow-growing rows."
There isn't much you can do for slugs once they're in a field that is legal and effective. What drove out the slugs eventually was warmer weather. So those rows survived- they just got off to a tough start.
"When we found them, we went over a no-till soybean fields where the same farmer had no-tilled beans into corn stalks. Where there was no residue on top, the soil was crumbly and ready to plant. But underneath the stalks in the center of the pass, the same rows that were causing slug problems, you could make a mud ball out of the soil there."
Winkler and other Beck agronomists are using these experiences to emphasize the importance of spreading residue evenly this fall. Sometimes farmers take it for granted that if they've got a modern combine, it's chopping stalks and spreading them as evenly as possible. However, unless you get out and check, you may not be getting the spreading job you think you're getting.
Adjustments to improve spread of corn residue behind the combine may vary from machine to machine. Consult with your dealer or check out your operator's manual to make sure you're spreading residue as well as you can. Row cleaners can help move off stalks n the spring, but they may not be able to eliminate these other problems that come along with planting into heavy bands of residue in the spring.