Weather: “Plant in the dust and the bins will bust” will have to wait for another year. The overall weather pattern of generally cooler and wetter conditions is forecast to continue through April. La Niňa continues in the Pacific Ocean, which means our weather for March through May is forecast to be slighter cooler than normal. The first long range forecast is calling for above normal precipitation through spring and drier than normal summer months. The all-important low soil temperature, taken at 2 inches under bare soil at the MSU Enviroweather location at Deerfield/ Blissfield has been stuck at 37ºF earlier this week. 40ºF is the benchmark for small grains, 50ºF for corn and 55ºF for soybeans.
Spring Planting/ Nitrogen: The spring planting window may be tight this year due to continued wet weather and wet soil conditions. Wet soils means there is little to no appreciable soil nitrate nitrogen to help benefit crops and nitrogen budgets. The Corn N Rate Calculator (CNRC) is a very useful tool to estimate preplant N fertilization rate for corn because it provides the probability of cost-effective N rate for different scenarios of gran and N fertilizer prices and was just updated last week. This tool, along with the maximum dollar return to applied N (MRTN) can project a profitable rate of N for different nitrogen and corn prices and yield goals. The MSU Soil testing computer program also give these projections. MSU still offers the sidedress nitrate nitrogen soil test for farmers who have the ability to sidedress most of their nitrogen.
Winter Wheat: Cool and wet soil temperatures, coupled with cloudy days, has not allowed some winter wheat to green up fully. With high wheat prices, farmers may keep marginal stands, which can still produce a good grain crop, plus the valuable straw market. However, high nitrogen prices dictate that farmers should fertilize for a maximum economic yield if they want to make a profit. The new Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations bulletin has a table showing an N: wheat price ratio. If a farmer has entered the National Wheat Foundation’s annual yield contest on a smaller acreage, then try out plant growth regulators (PGR), more nitrogen applications and fungicides to try for the highest possible yield. A few years ago, MSU and BASF had various N and PGR rates and timing, which did have a yield benefit, which was a key goal of the project. The 2022 wheat yield contest is co-sponsored by the Michigan Wheat Board. Brad Kamprath of Ida is the board member for Monroe County and southeast Michigan.
Soil Test Results: Now is the last chance for farmers to go over private company soil test reports and compare them with the Michigan State soil test recommendations to help evaluate exactly how much of and which nutrient(s) they need to apply to reach the yield goal and if they could skip something this year. Farmers can do this comparison themselves, just google “MSU fertilizer recommendations” or call me for an appointment. The MSU website has several helpful documents and tips to explain all the numbers.
Ned Birkey is MSU Extension Educator Emeritus and a regular contributor to The Monroe News.