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USDA plans to buy 11 million lb. of cheese, extends MPP deadline

Dairy farmers will receive additional assistance from the government following today’s announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese and extend an application deadline.

The cheese purchase will come out of private inventories and will be donated to assist food banks nationwide. The value of the cheese comes to $20 million.

USDA’s purchase would help reduce the highest cheese surplus in 30 years and increase bottom-lines for dairy farmers after a 35% reduction in revenues the last two years.

“We understand that the nation’s dairy producers are experiencing challenges due to market conditions and that food banks continue to see strong demand for assistance,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This commodity purchase is part of a robust, comprehensive safety net that will help reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high while, at the same time, moving a high-protein food to the tables of those most in need. USDA will continue to look for ways within its authorities to tackle food insecurity and provide for added stability in the marketplace.”

In addition to the cheese purchase, USDA will extend the deadline to enroll in the Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy to Dec. 16, 2016. The previous deadline was Sept. 30.

Earlier in the month USDA announced approximately $11.2 million was earmarked for dairy producer financial assistance through the MPP-Dairy program. It is the largest payment since the program began 2014.

A number of groups had asked USDA for assistance in regards to Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935, which allows surplus food to be purchased and donated into nutrition assistance programs. Still, the $20 million purchase does not come close to industry recommendations. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asked for $100-150 million and American Farm Bureau Federation requested at least $50 million.

“This cheese purchase will provide some assistance to America’s dairy farmers through increased demand for their milk,” says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “We will continue to assess the economic situation facing dairy farmers, and suggest ways to help farmers endure this lengthy period of low prices.”

National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson says the help is appreciated but it still won’t fix the business environment dairy farmers work with.

“Current projections indicate that farm revenue from milk sales this year will drop to $31.5 billion – a $20 billion plunge from 2014 revenue highs. Even with modest price rebounds, dairy producers are draining capital reserves, or worse, going out of business,” Johnson says.

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Wooden breast chickens

UD researchers investigate wooden breast in broiler chickens

Wooden breast syndrome can affect broiler chickens, making the meat hard and chewy, rendering the birds unmarketable. Although it poses no threat to human health, wooden breast can cause significant economic losses for growers, who sometimes see the disease in up to half their flocks.

That’s a big concern in the U.S., which leads the world in broiler chicken production, and elsewhere around the globe, where chicken increasingly is being relied upon as a high-quality source of protein.

University of Delaware researchers are working to combat the disease. They’ve been analyzing the genes involved in wooden breast disease and have identified biomarkers for the disorder. Also, as reported recently in the journal PLOS One, they have determined the unique biochemistry of the hardened breast tissue. Such findings are expected to help advance new diagnostics and treatments for the disorder.

The research is led by Behnam Abasht, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Birds afflicted with wooden breast are easy to identify. “The disease manifests itself exactly as the name implies, making a chicken’s breast extremely tough and with the feel of wood,” Abasht said.

The disease also may cause issues such as white striping, in which white lines are visible parallel to the muscle fibers — a condition that may decrease the nutritional content.

With improvements in poultry production over the past 50 years leading to increased muscle yield and growth rate in chickens, Abasht said he wanted to see if these production gains could also be increasing the rate and development of new muscle disorders.

Pinpointing genes

One of the first ways Abasht and his team looked at the problem was by studying all of the genes expressed in chicken breast tissue to get an understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms contributing to the disease.

By constructing complementary DNA information from five affected and six unaffected breast muscle samples from a line of commercial broiler chickens, the team compared their gene list to previously published histology findings on the disorder.

“From over 11,000 genes with a detectable expression in the tissue, we found that around 1,500 genes are significantly different between these two groups, the healthy and the affected,” said Abasht. “Once we had the list, we did a functional analysis to find out where those genes belong — do they belong to specific pathways or specific cellular functions? We were trying to make sense of the genes and what they tell us.

“What we found is that there may be localized hypoxia — a lower oxygen concentration in the affected tissues. In addition, our findings strongly suggest presence of oxidative stress — when free radicals build up and there aren’t enough antioxidants to detoxify them — as well as an increase in calcium in the tissue cells.”

Since there has been limited research on the recently emerged disorder, the team wasn’t sure what to expect and had little to compare their results to.

“By using advanced technology such as RNA sequencing we were able to characterize the general profile of this disease, which was a key first step in the research process,” said Marie Mutryn, who graduated in 2015 and did her master’s thesis on the disease. “I was very lucky to be able to study such a novel disease at UD as a master’s student, and I really felt like I was able to make an impact to help the poultry industry combat this disease.”

Identifying biomarkers

Building on the gene expression data, the team started to identify biomarkers likely to be associated with wooden breast incidence and severity.

Using a subset of the genes found in the previous study, the team quantified the expression levels of 204 genes in 96 broiler chickens.

From a list of 30 genes that were the most important in separating the chickens into groups of unaffected, moderately affected and severely affected, the team identified six genes that are increased in moderately to severely affected birds when compared with unaffected birds.

These biomarkers can now be used to accurately classify commercial chickens with or without the disease, as well as to potentially indicate its severity.

“This work will directly impact the health and well-being of over 500 million broiler chickens raised in the Delmarva region each year,” said Erin Brannick, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and a veterinary pathologist who was a collaborator on the research. “It truly underscores the purpose of the land grant institution to apply cutting-edge research techniques to real-world agricultural problems.”

A unique metabolic signature

The researchers also found that affected breast muscle possesses a unique metabolic signature reflecting elevated lipid levels, muscle degradation and altered use of glucose. These findings offer new insight into the biochemical processes that contribute to tissue hardening.

“There were lots of similarities in the results of this work and the gene expression work that really confirmed each other,” Abasht said. “The results confirmed that there’s oxidative stress in affected muscles.”

Supplementing poultry diets with vitamin C, a potent antioxidant, may help lower the incidence of the disorder, Abasht said, and is the subject of future research.

Feed efficiency

The researchers also studied 2,500 broiler chickens raised under commercial conditions for 29 days to study their feed efficiency until market age at 47 days.

“Efficient chickens eat less food per unit of weight gain,” Abasht explained.

The results showed a significant statistical difference between healthy and affected chickens, with the affected chickens having a larger breast muscle, higher body weight and greater feed efficiency.

But that’s not the case every time. “You can still find chickens that aren’t as efficient and have a relatively smaller breast muscle, yet they have the disease,” Abasht said.

UD researchers are currently studying the onset and early course of this disease through funding supports made by Arthur W. Perdue Foundation and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

Going forward, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently funded a $500,000 research grant proposal (Grant No. 2016-67015-25027), which is a collaboration between UD, Iowa State University and Ohio State University, that aims to further characterize the genetic basis of wooden breast. Abasht will serve as the principal investigator on the project.

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Dairy Budgets

Dairy budgets available through ISU Extension and Outreach

By Larry Tranel, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach July 29, 2016 | 6:48 am EDTBudgets will help farmers monitor their financial situation.

Managing a dairy farm’s finances and ensuring it is profitable is no easy task. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach dairy team has developed a series of budgets to help dairy producers understand their current financial situation and determine the profitability of their operation.

The budgets can be found online through the ISU Extension and Outreach dairy team website.

Dairy businesses are often made up of many components that can either complement or compete with each other. The enterprise analysis allows producers to take stock of the entirety of their operation and determine its profitability.

“These are the most comprehensive budgets that we’ve seen specifically made for the dairy industry,” said Larry Tranel, dairy specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “We have included budgets for grazing, organic and conventional operations. As we look at the cost of production versus milk prices, it is imperative that producers understand their cost of production, especially those who are just getting into the industry or making changes.”

Three different types of budgets have been prepared, providing farmers who operate a conventional, organic or pasture based system an opportunity to set up a personalized budget plan that works for their operation’s herd size and production level.

“While the budgets are fantastic tools to begin the process of examining a farm’s profitability, visiting with an ISU Extension and Outreach dairy specialist is still a good idea,” Tranel said. “Contact your dairy specialist for further information and assistance.”

The budgets available online will be updated semi-annually, allowing for a current look at costs and projected income throughout the dairy industry. While the budgets are currently only available in PDF format, an editable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet version is coming soon.

The organic budgets included were created through a grant provided by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

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MPP Dairy

Dairy producers are reminded about MPP-Dairy signup

Dairy producers are reminded that the sign-up period for the 2017 Milk Margin Protection Program for Dairy producers (MPP-Dairy) is underway and runs from July 1-September 30, 2016 at your local FSA office. Participating farmers will remain in the program through 2018 and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee each year. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year.

The MPP-Dairy program is a voluntary safety net program established by the 2014 Farm Bill that continues through December 31, 2018. The program provides eligible producers with indemnity payments when the difference between an all milk price and average feed cost (the margin), falls below coverage levels producers select on an annual basis.

Eligibility & Coverage Levels

To be eligible for MPP-Dairy, operations must produce and commercially market milk in the U.S., provide proof of milk production when registering, and NOT be enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy program (LGM-Dairy) along with meeting conservation compliance provisions required to participate in the MPP-Dairy program through FSA.

USDA has a web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the Margin Protection Program that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections. Producers can also review historical data or estimate future coverage needs, based on data projections. The secure site can be accessed via computer, Smartphone or tablet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Once enrolled, dairy operations are required to participate through 2018 by making coverage elections each year. Producers can mail the appropriate form to the producer’s administrative county FSA office, along with applicable fees without necessitating a trip to the local FSA office. If electing higher coverage for 2017, dairy producers can either pay the premium in full at the time of enrollment or pay 100 percent of the premium by Sept. 1, 2017. Premium fees may be paid directly to FSA or producers can work with their milk handlers to remit premiums on their behalf. Eligible dairy operations must register for MPP-Dairy coverage at the FSA office where their records are stored. Producers will need to supply the following information when signing up for the program.

  • A production history establishment, which is completed on form CCC-781.
  • Election of the annual coverage level and completion of the contract on form CCC-782.
  • Payment of the $100 administrative fee, annually.
  • Payment of the premium, if there is a premium owed by the due date. This will be dependent upon the premium level selected.

Intergenerational Transfers

Also beginning July 1, 2016, FSA will begin accepting applications for intergenerational transfers, allowing program participants who added an adult child, grandchild or spouse to the operation during calendar year 2014 or 2015, or between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2016, to increase production history by the new cows bought into the operation by the new family members. For intergenerational transfers occurring on or after July 1, 2016, notification to FSA must be made within 60 days of purchasing the additional cows.

More Information

For more information regarding the Milk Margin Protection Program visit the USDA Dairy MPP website or view the USDA Program Fact Sheet for the MPP-Dairy or stop by a local FSA office to learn more.

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Animal Activists

Be prepared: Activists don’t play fair at events and expos

By Hannah Thompson July 11, 2016 | 9:58 am EDT

Summer is my favorite season, and it isn’t just because of the warm weather and weekend trips to the beach. For me, summer has always been county fair season. Some of my best memories are from early mornings on the washrack, late nights playing cards in the barn and of course showing off a year’s worth of hard work in the show ring.

While many of us in agriculture see fairs and expositions as an opportunity to connect with consumers and share what we do, unfortunately animal rights extremist organizations are approaching these events with an entirely different agenda – to disrupt and protest, ultimately bringing attention to their cause. A group named Direct Action Everywhere has made headlines this year for disrupting everything from Bernie Sanders rallies to the Pennsylvania Farm Show with the goal of promoting their desire for animals to be recognized with full “personhood.”

It is an unfortunate reality that in addition to packing a showbox, ordering the ribbons and trophies and lining up the judges, anyone involved in a fair or exposition this summer needs to also prepare for activist protests and disruptions. Whether you are an exhibitor or on the fair committee, preparation and planning is key to ensuring the event is a positive and educational experience for everyone.

A few tips:

  • Contact local law enforcement and let them know about your potential concerns. Ask for their advice about handling different scenarios and when you should get them involved. This could also be a great opportunity to build a relationship by inviting them to stop by the show and learn more about your industry.
  • Monitor online conversation to see if you may be a target. Protests are frequently organized on websites or social media. Search the web and social media for the name of your event a few times a week leading up to the event. Also, be aware of high-profile visitors or activities going on that may draw media (and therefore activist) attention.
  • Establish a protocol to follow in the event of protests or disruptions. Designate clear roles and responsibilities – including media spokespeople – and have back-ups in place in case the primary individuals are unavailable.
  • Draft an animal welfare policy for your farm or club. Have every exhibitor affiliated with you sign the policy and keep it readily available during the event. Having your commitment to animal care clearly written out will help demonstrate how seriously you take it if it’s questioned by a visitor.

While you prepare for the worst, you should also hope and plan for the best – meaningful engagement with curious fairgoers. Before you load the trailer and pull out of your driveway, take some time to brush up on your industry’s talking points and key messages. The Alliance also has many outreach and security resources, so don’t hesitate to visit or call us at 703-562-5160 if you have questions.

Good luck this fair season! If you need me, I’ll be at the lemon shake-up stand.

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Dehorning Calves

Optimize the welfare of calves during dehorning

Follow several key guidelines to minimize stress and discomfort for calves during the dehorning process.
Follow several key guidelines to minimize stress and discomfort for calves during the dehorning process.

Photo by Wyatt Bechtel

Dairy calves are dehorned for the safety of the animals and the people who will handle them in the future. Guidelines from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) cover key considerations for the welfare of calves during the dehorning or disbudding process. These guidelines include age at which the procedure is done, proper restraint, use of appropriate methods, and pain control during and after the procedure.

Dehorning and disbudding are best done when the calf is young. When using a hot-iron dehorner, the horn should be removed before the horn base becomes larger than 1-inch in diameter. This is at approximately six weeks of age. During the procedure, restrain the calf using a halter or other head restraint. Providing employee training on safe, low-stress handling techniques is very important.

Applying caustic paste to the calf’s horn buds is another method for dehorning and is most effectively done at 1-3 days of age. Calves must be kept from rubbing paste on other animals. Protecting calves from rain or other moisture for at least 24 hours will prevent the paste from running and causing injury to the calf. A fact sheet from the University of Wisconsin suggests covering the horn buds with duct tape or vet wrap after the paste is applied.

Local anesthesia is highly recommended during hot iron dehorning. A corneal nerve block using lidocaine controls the pain and discomfort of burning. Lidocaine has a 4-day meat withholding time.

To reduce inflammation and post-procedure pain associated with both procedures, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are helpful. Meloxicam is a low-cost, oral tablet that can provide pain relief for up to 48 hours with a single dose after either procedure. Using meloxicam in this manner is an extra label drug use. Consequently, it must be prescribed by your herd veterinarian as part of a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). The meat withholding time for meloxicam is 21 days after a single dose.

It is important to consult your veterinarian regarding the proper use and dosage of a local anesthetic or other pain relief for dehorning.

Using appropriate dehorning or disbudding procedures and minimizing the associated pain are essential for a well-managed calf program. Developing protocols for calf care and pain management can ensure that everyone caring for calves follows the same procedures on your farm. Several changes being implemented in the National Dairy FARM program in January 2017 address best practices for dehorning and protocols for pain management.

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Scrapie is the most common reportable disease of goats and sheep in the United States today. Scrapie is a difficult disease to diagnose and is always fatal. It can take up to six years or more for clinical signs to appear. Scrapie is in the same category as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or “mad cow disease,” and chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk. There is no evidence that scrapie or CWD can spread to humans, either through consuming the meat or dairy products or by handling infected animals. Scrapie is a disease of both sheep and goats; however, it is rare in goats.

Transmission: Scrapie is believed to be spread primarily vertically through direct contact between breeding stock and their offspring. The cause is most likely a prion, which is a sub-viral protein particle. It is transferred through contact with the placentas or fetal fluids of infected dams. The prion first invades the lymph nodes and then the nervous system. The prior somehow takes over protein synthesis in the brain and sheets of abnormal proteins are produced, eventually causing the classic “spongy” appearance of brain tissue.

Clinical signs usually progress slowly over a period of one to six months and have not been seen in goats less than 2 years of age. Animals suspected to have scrapie may show changes in gait, tremors of the head and neck, behavioral changes, lip smacking, loss of coordination, increased sensitivity to noise, rubbing against fences or feed bunks, skin/wool biting, and progressive weight loss with a normal appetite. Genetic testing can be used in sheep to identify a scrapie susceptibility gene; however, such a gene has not yet been identified in goats. The disease is much more likely in black-faced sheep breeds.

Videos of clinical signs may be viewed and information on the eradication program is available at

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Milk Prices

Have milk prices bottomed?

With Class III and IV futures prices showing signs of strength over the past week to 10 days, they may be a sign that the worst is over for milk prices and dairy budgets.

“I think the one thing we can say with some confidence is that we’ve already hit bottom in milk prices,” says Mark Stephenson, a dairy economist with the University of Wisconsin. “So farm milk checks are as likely to be as bad as they’re going to get this year, and they are on their way up.

“The real question: Are we going to take that $2 jump or more that the futures markets show, or is it going to be a little softer than that?  …Personally, I don’t think that the recovery will be explosive, and we’ll see these prices creep back up to a more comfortable level.”

Fellow economist Bob Cropp agrees, saying milk production both here in the United States and world-wide will likely slow as summer temperatures rise. “Milk prices are worse around the world, and milk production may be starting to slow worldwide. That may help,” he says.

Although the European Union has been stockpiling skim milk powder, with some 150 million metric tons now in storage, these levels aren’t anywhere near historic highs or even volumes reached in 2009, says Stephenson. “If we can reverse some of this stockholding and maybe bleed those products off, maybe we’re getting into a recovery,” he says. “[But] it will be a while before we’ve had a full-blown price recovery.”

Adds Cropp: “Clearly, 2017 will be a better year.”

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Corn Replant

Replant Decisions for Field Corn


The Agronomy Team

(Richard Taylor, Joanne Whalen, Mark VanGessel, Nathan Kleczewski, Amy Shober, Phillip Sylvester, Cory Whaley, and Dan Severson, University of Delaware


The prolonged period of cold and wet weather this spring plus the usual culprits such as slugs have led to questions about the adequacy of corn stands this year.  In addition, many growers have only recently or have not yet gotten their corn acreage planted.  In this article, the UD Agronomy Team will outline considerations involved in making replant decisions as well as whether to plant another crop, assuming herbicides have not eliminated some choices.


The most important consideration when thinking about replanting is timing.  How quickly you can make the final decision to replant and actually replant the crop?  Waiting too long to assess a stand increases the potential yield loss if a decision is made to replant the field.


Potential yield loss percentages for delayed corn plantings were developed many years ago: advances in corn genetics and irrigation management have significantly improved hybrid performance.  It is important to note that the loss per day of delay estimates may overestimate the impact of delaying planting.  Yet, these estimates are useful as guidelines for both irrigated and dryland corn production systems.


In mid-May for irrigated corn, every day you delay making a replant decision and actually replanting the crop reduces the hybrid’s yield potential by 0.4 to 0.7 percent for short-season and full-season hybrids, respectively.  Delaying planting into early June increases that per day yield loss to 1.3 to 1.7 percent of the hybrid’s yield potential for short-season and full-season hybrids, respectively.


In a dryland cropping situation in mid-May, daily delay in replanting can result in a loss of 0.4 to 0.9 percent of the hybrid’s yield potential for short-season and full-season hybrids, respectively; whereas by early June, a delaying replanting by one day results in a 2 to 1.3 percent loss of the hybrid’s yield potential for short-season and full-season hybrids, respectively.  Dryland corn yields can be impacted even more by delayed planting than estimated by these average losses because pollination is also delayed to the hotter and drier portions of summer.


The first step is to determine the plant population to estimate the chances of obtaining the hybrid’s maximum yield potential.  Estimate current corn stand by counting the number of plants in a 17 ft 5 inch row length.  (For 30-inch rows, a row length of 17 feet and 5 inches is equal to 1/1000 of an acre.)  Repeat this count in 6 to 8 random locations for each 20 acre block of a field.  Average the number of plants in the 6 to 8 row lengths to determine an estimated population.  During past field trials, we saw a 1 percent decrease in yield for each 1,000 plant per acre decline in harvest population.  However, with many hybrids now planted at 32,000 to 36,000 or more plants per acre, our former trials determining yield losses with lower populations are questionable for reliability.  We suggest that you start calculating the yield loss per loss of 1,000 plants once the population falls below 32,000 since the yield increase as you go above that target is small.


While counting the number of plants, also observe the unevenness of the stand.  If the stand has a number of small gaps (1.5 to 3 feet in length), deduct 2 to 10 percent from the hybrid’s expected yield potential with a perfect stand.  If there are numerous gaps between plants that measure 4- to 6-feet in length, deduct 10 to 20 percent from the field’s yield potential.


The next step in the process is to estimate the yield potential of the stand actually in the field.  Use the stand reduction loss percentages (above) and the realistic yield goal to estimate the yield potential of the reduced stand.  This is the expected yield without replanting.  You then want to estimate expected yield if you replant.  Deduct from that the expected percentage yield loss based on the date that you expect to be able to replant the field.  If the initial stand was not planted around the ideal planting date, you may also need to adjust the realistic yield goal for the actual planting date.  Make your best guess as to when you can prepare the field for replanting (killing the existing stand), obtain new corn seed, and get back into the field to replant.  Keep in mind that the current weather pattern could easily force you to delay planting again, just like it did for the initial planting but it is best not to underestimate how long it will take to replant!


Next, you should calculate the replanting cost including extra tillage (equipment, fuel, and labor) if you plan on doing any tillage either to kill the remaining corn and/or to prepare the seedbed.  Add in the planting cost; seed costs; any needed pesticide costs; and, if the corn will be planted late, add in a cost for drying the corn.


Compare the expected yield without replanting with the expected net yield (after you deduct those additional costs involved in reseeding the stand) with replanting and decide if it is worth the effort to replant.


One final consideration is that you should factor in the risks involved in replanting.  Replanting corn does not guarantee that you will achieve any better a stand the second time around.  If the weather stays bad, if slugs or insects attack the crop, if poor growing conditions continue for much of the remaining season, or a hurricane, hail, or other storm damages the crop later, you may expend a great deal of money for minimal to no benefit.


Other considerations when deciding to replant include:


Sometimes, seeding alongside the rows already in the field is suggested in lieu of a full replant.  However, the plants often end up having more than a 2-leaf difference in their stage of growth and the younger plants will be at a competitive disadvantage.  Yield will likely be a lot less than expected.


There have been a few places where replanting is necessary and existing plants need to be killed.  The difficulty is that the corn is Roundup Ready (in additional many hybrids are also Liberty Link), so control will be difficult.  If by chance the corn is not Roundup Ready, glyphosate is the best option.  The herbicide options include Gramoxone plus atrazine, Select (clethodim), or Liberty (if not a Liberty Link hybrid).  Check the clethodim label and follow the required time between application and replanting because clethodim can cause corn injury if planted too soon.  A multi-state project conducted in this region found Gramoxone provided the most consistent control and it performed better on 5 inch corn and then corn that was 2 to 3 inches tall.  No treatment consistently controlled all the corn plants.  If complete control is necessary, tillage will be required.


If residual herbicides were used, you need to think about when the products were applied and at what rate.  Most of the residual herbicides will not provide more than 3 to 4 weeks of activity.  What do the labels allow regarding an additional application?  Are weeds present at time of the replanting and do they need to be killed?  Would delaying a herbicide application until the corn is up and then using an early postemergence application that includes a product that provides residual control be the best option for the replanted field?


If replanting occurs during May and early June, damage from cutworms, seed corn maggot, wireworms, and white grubs can continue to affect stand establishment.  The most common insect problem in later planted corn is the black cutworm.  If slugs were a problem on the first planting, weather conditions after planting will determine if they will continue to be a problem.  Rescue treatments are only available for cutworms and slugs.  The cool, wet conditions that resulted in reduced stands and poor plant growth have also slowed the development of white grubs and wireworms.  In addition, wireworms can remain in the larval stage for up to six years, depending on the species.  So you can expect them to be present when you re-plant, especially in fields with a history of wireworm problems.

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Corn Planting Delayed?

Has Field Corn Planting Been Delayed—What Management Decisions Need Adjustment?


The Agronomy Team

(Richard Taylor, Joanne Whalen, Mark VanGessel, Nathan Kleczewski, Amy Shober, Phillip Sylvester, Cory Whaley, and Dan Severson, University of Delaware


The prolonged period of cold and wet weather this spring has delayed planting for many growers.  Late planting dates (roughly after May 26) offer challenges that must be successfully met to ensure the minimum impact on yield potential.  In this article, the UD Agronomy Team will outline adjustments and decisions needed to grow a successful corn crop when planting is delayed.  We’ll cover some of the management decisions and options available to help late planted corn by practice category.


Soil Fertility:  An important potential problem with delayed planting occurs when a portion of the required nitrogen (N) fertilizer has been applied in the weeks prior to when the corn is actually placed in the soil.  During the delay, nitrate-N added can be loss via denitrification or leaching and nitrification of ammonium or urea can begin again resulting in the loss of N if the rainfall pattern continues.  To give the process more time, ammonium or urea sources can be treated with urease and/or nitrification inhibitors such as Super U or Agrotain Plus and this can delay a significant loss of N through leaching or denitrification by three or more weeks.  Losses that do occur will require the grower to apply additional N fertilizer at an additional cost and require changes to the nutrient management plan (NMP).


Also along these lines, the application of manure well before planting can also permit loss of any inorganic N present in the manure.  Although the cold weather has delayed the process of mineralization there was a short period earlier this spring when air and soil temperatures rose enough to encourage mineralization and nitrification of organic N from the manure.  With additional rainfall and a return to cold temperatures, any nitrate N formed will likely be loss before the crop can grow enough to reach the stage when N uptake accelerates.  If N is lost, additional N fertilizer can be applied to the crop, but the NMP will need to be modified.


Although many of Delaware’s growers currently use a banded starter fertilizer and include at least some ammonium sulfate in the starter band, growers may be tempted to speed up the planting process by eliminating banded starter fertilizer.  It is true that as we move into June and if soil temperatures finally warm up, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) will become more available to the crop and may not be needed as part of the starter fertilizer.  However, slightly higher than usual rates of starter featuring the soil mobile nutrients, N and sulfur (S), or planning on an earlier sidedress N application should help corn get off to a faster start and keep it growing rapidly during the critical V5 to V9 growth stages when kernel number and row number are being set.


Soil Considerations:  Although soil temperature should be increasing rapidly at this time of year, the cooler, wetter conditions we face in 2016 are preventing that increase.  The higher the soil temperature the faster and more uniform is seed germination and emergence.  Rapid germination and emergence will translate into improved yield potential.


Some options for the growers include the use of a turbo-till or similar tillage implement to help dry and warm the surface soil.  Although more extensive tillage could be used as well, further delaying planting to complete preparing a fine-firm seedbed is counterproductive.  In addition, extensive tillage especially on soil that is at the upper limit or past it for water content can lead to severe compaction issues.  Even with a turbo-till, the key to using it successfully will be to avoid any tillage if the soil is too wet since compaction can translate to yield losses that will continue for years.  Turbo-till and similar light tillage that warms and dries the soil surface without causing compaction issues will shorten the time until a field can be planted.  Keep in mind that this type of tillage will incorporate some of the crop residue or disturb a killed cover crop and may not be acceptable in some situations.


Another option is the use of aggressive row sweeps or row cleaners to clear the top of the seed row and allow the soil to warm faster.  This will allow the soil immediately over the seed to quickly warm up and dry if we receive some periods of sunny weather.  Again, warmer soil translates to more rapid and uniform emergence and higher yield potential.


Hybrid Selection:  Growers often start thinking of changing to shorter season hybrids as planting is delayed into early June.  Dr. Peter Thomison from Ohio State University found that a hybrid planted in late May/early June will mature at a faster thermal rate (require fewer total heat units) than the same hybrid planted in late April or early May.  He found that the required heat units from planting to kernel black layer decreased on average about 6.8 GDDs (growing degree days) per day of delayed planting so that a hybrid rated at 2800 GDDs planted at the normal time would require 204 fewer GDDs or about 2600 GDDs if planted 30 days late in late May or early June.  Dr. Thomison does point out that other factors should be considered when deciding on whether to change from a full season to a short season hybrid.  One of these considerations is that a full season hybrid although yielding more could have a significantly higher grain moisture at maturity than earlier maturing hybrids if fall weather conditions are not conducive to rapid drydown.


Another factor that relates to insect control is that European corn borer (ECB) damage and yield reductions are often greater even under low ECB pressure when corn hybrids are planted late.  This warrants the selection of ECB Bt hybrids whenever possible for late planted corn situations.


Since late planting is most likely to occur on soils that are either warmer than the temperature seen at normal planting time or will warm up much quicker as we move into June, germination and emergence will be better than that seen at the optimum planting date.  For early planting dates and optimum plant dates, we often plant 5 to 10 percent higher seeding rates than the target or desired harvest population since we expect greater seedling mortality.  For late planting, seeding rates can be decreased to about 3 percent higher than the desired harvest population and this will reduce the production cost at least a little.


Weed Control:  If the field has not received a burndown, you may need to adjust your standard burndown program to account for larger weeds. If residual herbicides were used ahead of the anticipated planting, you need to think about when the products were applied and at what rate.  Most of the residual herbicides will not provide more than 3 to 4 weeks of activity.  What do the labels allow regarding an additional application?  Are weeds present at time of planting and do they need to be killed?


Disease Issues:  Most issues with stand are caused by wet conditions.  No seed treatment will save you from plants submerged in water or growing in standing water for prolonged periods of time.  The presence of Pythium or Fusarium on roots of plants growing in wet cool soils does not mean stand loss was caused by these organisms.  Rather, stand issues were likely a complex of issues related to poor plant growth and excess water.


Planting into cool soils can result in more issues with pre- or post-emergent damping off due to the seeds remaining in the soil for longer periods of time or delayed seedling growth.  If you replant and stick with a 100-120 day hybrid you can end up with stalk rot or stalk strength issues later on, especially if growing unirrigated corn, because the corn may be exposed to more stressful growing conditions (hoy dry) during critical periods of plant growth.


Two other diseases that should be targeted for finding resistant hybrids are gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight.  Whether you are choosing a corn hybrid to replant or choosing a hybrid for the normal planting time, hybrids with resistance to these two diseases should be high on your list.


Irrigation Practices:  On late planted corn, any early moisture stress around V4 to V6 would be more critical and possibly contribute to a yield reduction.  Late planted corn is growing faster than is normally seen since there are so many heat units (GDDs) accumulating in June and early July and the soil is probably already warm.  Therefore, a grower might fail to recognize how rapidly corn roots are growing and how fast soil moisture is being depleted.  This could lead to underestimating the need for additional irrigation.  This is one aspect where moisture stress could have a larger impact on the yield of late planted corn.


If wet soil conditions continue into the rapid growth phase, it might become difficult to apply N via fertigation in a timely fashion.  In case this is a concern, growers could set their irrigation system to run as fast through the field as possible so the water volume is kept as low as possible while applying N fertilizer to keep the grow growing and developing without causing excessive denitrification, leaching, or root suffocation from water ponding.  This applies N almost as a foliar feed application but in a dilute enough solution that foliar burn is not likely to happen.


Insects and Slugs:    One of the most common insect problems in later plated corn is the black cutworm. Conditions favoring cutworm out breaks include a combination of late planted corn, poorly drained soil, heavy broadleaf weed growth, planting into soybean stubble, and reduced tillage. Even if an at planting protection method is used including at-planting insecticides, seed treatments or Bt corn, scouting after plant emergence will still be important.  If conditions remain cool and wet, wireworms and white grubs can continue to be a problem. Although problems from annual grubs tend to decrease with the warming of the soil and development of grubs from the damaging larval stage to pupation, it will still be important to sample fields for grubs before planting to determine what level and species is present and if larvae have started to pupate. Wireworms can remain in the larval stage for up to six years, depending on the species, so you can expect them to be present in fields with a history of wireworm problems. Since slugs have already hatched, the potential for slug damage will be determined by weather conditions after planting. In wet years, we have seen economic levels of damage from slugs continue through June so scouting as soon as corn is spiking is important to time a rescue treatment.

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