We have exciting updates from our Custom Research projects!
It's been a busy winter at Farming Smarter, we've had a lot of data to analyze. Now, we're ready to bring you the results and updates on our projects!
The War of the Weevils
Our goal is to assist the Alfalfa Seed Commission to get Minor Use Registration permission for products that show promise to control Alfalfa Weevil.
The Alfalfa Weevil has become a huge problem in the Rosemary, Alta., area and they're finding that chemicals previously and currently used are growing increasingly ineffective. In other words, the Weevils are growing resistant to the chemicals, and we need to stop them.
Alfalfa Weevils can decimate entire fields, fast. We've seen it in our plots ≥ we weren't able to completely control them and they decimated our crops.
"Weevil larvae will eat the flower buds, which later turn into the seeds, so they can render an entire crop useless," says Farming Smarter's Custom Research Manager, Trevor Deering.
In our fields, we saw hundreds of weevil larvae per ten sweeps in infected plots.
"As soon as the hatch starts, the population explodes quickly," adds Deering. "The first day we swept, we had about 40 larvae per sweep. When we returned a few days later, there were 100-plus larvae per sweep."
Currently, all that can be done to combat the Alfalfa Weevil is to spray them. Unfortunately, the cost can quickly add up if you must spray repeatedly.
With the goal of getting Minor Use Registration permission for more products, we want to give farmers two or three options to fight the weevils. This would let farmers rotate products in order to stop them from building resistance.
That's not all we're doing though! While we're also changing up the chemicals, we're also considering looking into adding a second spray timing.
"We're ready to do anything to help this study move forward and find the best practices that can help us kill these buggers," says Deering.
With our desiccation study, we've been running two trials ≥ one focused on the products used and one focused on the timing.
Our products study looked at comparing the effectiveness of Reglone and acetic acid, with the addition of two different surfactants. We did trials of just Reglone and acetic acid, in their respective plots, and trials of each base chemical paired with LI-700 and another trial that paired the base chemicals with Hi-Active-8.
In our timings trials, we looked at the efficacy of spraying early, on time, and a week late with Reglone and acetic acid.
Our goal was to see if acetic acid was comparable with Reglone and could become an option for farmers moving forward.
In our products trial, we found that while acetic acid was comparable to Reglone, especially with the addition of a surfactant. Unfortunately, the cost-per-acre of spraying it could be enough to dissuade farmers from using it. Going forward, we will be looking at products similar to acetic acid but will be dropping it for more cost-efficient products.
In our timings trial, we found that the products themselves did work well when sprayed earlier. However, as for trying to increase the window of time which you can spray for desiccation, our results showed that spraying during the normal timing seems to already be good. We need more site years of data to make strong final recommendations.
More Rolling, More Crops
Our Rolling Barley for Silage project was pretty much a redo of our trials last year ≥ we like to have six to nine site-years of data before we're confident in what we're seeing.
However, this year we did send silage samples to a lab. In 2020, we saw some quality and disease impacts and wanted to know how the silage would be impacted as well.
We're happy to announce that we have received funding from RDAR to do a three-year study where we'll look at soft wheat, as well as barley, and see how tillage practices have an effect on rolling. Additionally, we'll be adding in more timings to target more critical points of the seed's germination.
"One of our reviewers raised the question, 'if we roll right before the crop emerges from the soil, will that have an effect on the seed?' Because that's such a critical point for the seed, we wanted to investigate what would happen," says Deering.
The rest of our timings will remain similar; right after seeding, between the 2-3 leaf stage, between 3-5 tillers, and at the 2nd node stage.
In 2021, we saw strong patterns that supported our data from 2020 ≥ the average plant counts dropped during the later rolling and we saw that plants began to die off.
While it's better to roll early, be cautious about rolling during the 4-leaf stage.
"When we rolled in the 4-leaf stage this year, we were closer to the one-node stage than the previous year. We found that rolling later in the 4-leaf stage made it a little more risky," says Deering.
We saw that pattern with other data collection as well.
"We were seeing that rolling in the 4-leaf and 1-node stages caused the plants to take longer to mature. This could affect other management tasks of the farm as a whole, but this will be farm dependant." added Deering.
What we are sure of is that rolling during the 1-node stage was consistently impacting the crop, we saw a significant reduction of crop height. Additionally, we saw that the 4-leaf and the 1-node crops had higher protein counts.
"Possibly, because they were damaged, the crop reacted to that and actually tried to recover, so more protein was made in that plant matter," says Deering.
Most of the farmers we know that grow their own silage practice conventional tillage on irrigated land. As well, some of them choose to grow or add soft wheat into their rotation.
We want to find out the best practices for these growers and look forward to the next three years of this study.
Our trials will take place at three locations in southern Alberta over the next three years, all on irrigated fields. This year the locations are Enchant, Bow Island, and Lethbridge.
"I assume we'll see similar trends to what we're already seeing, it will be nice to increase the amount of data so we can be more confident with our results," says Deering.
If you wish to learn more about these projects, and more, Trevor Deering will be presenting his results at our 2022 Conference & Trade Show, February 16 & 17, at the Sandman Signature Lodge in Lethbridge, Alberta!