Learn from your feet 10/6/17
The heat inlate September took the early corn to black layer i.e. it stopped growing and taking up nutrients. At this point we take stalk samples for those who are enrolled in INField Advantage – the Indiana State Dept. of Ag’s program to measure nitrogen usage. The intention is to give farmers data they can use to determine efficient nitrogen application rates. Any left over N is either lost to the atmosphere or flows with water into tile lines ultimately ending up in the Gulf of Mexico feeding the water plants which contribute to hypoxia.
Of the 35 fields in the program, we sampled 20 this week. We walked more than ten miles through standing corn, masked and carrying equipment. I won’t lie to ya…my dogs is tired! (I’m thankful for the rain and the weekend so this old man canrest up.)
Samples are then sent to a lab for analysis. The data will be presented to farmers later this winter.
Your feet can tell you a lot about soil management. The toughest fields to walk through are the tilled sandy/gravelly fields. Tillage destroys soil structure. The holes which allow air and water into a soil are gone. You’d think it would be hard, but no, the top is fluffy at least till you sink to the compaction layer. That’s what makes it tough to walk through. Every step counts for about two.
The easiest fields to walk through are the fields with cover crops growing under no-tilled corn. The soil organisms fed by root exudates from cover crops have recreated the soil’s natural structure and the aerially seeded cover crop provides floatation. The soil is firm and full of night crawler middens. The lower corn leaves are jagged on the ends where the worms have dragged them into holes for lunch.