ASK THE AGRONOMIST BLOG

Stine’s Ask the Agronomist blog is your source to the latest information from our expert team, including advice and insight on field practices, product recommendations, planting and harvest updates, new technologies, crop management, innovative research and information about how to keep your farm operation running smoothly year round. 

  • TIPS TO CALCULATE CORN YIELDS
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    TIPS TO CALCULATE CORN YIELDS

    September 15, 2022

    Posted by Stine Seed in Harvest

    As 92% of the nation’s corn crop has entered the dough stage (R4), growers should be able to make yield estimates of their crop. Meaghan Anderson, field agronomist and extension field specialist at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach says, “After R3 (milk stage) is a great time to venture into corn fields to make yield estimates as kernel abortion is less likely and plant stress will result in reduce[d] kernel size or fill rather than kernel loss.” Corn yield estimations can typically be done after R3 and prior to harvest.    

    Here’s what you need to know to get started.  

    The standard calculation

    The standard yield calculation is CornYield = Ears/Acre * Kernel rows/Ear * Kernels/Row and divide the equivalent of the three by Kernels/Bushel. In an average year, it’s safe to assume there are 90,000 kernels/bushel. However, that number can (and should) be adjusted based on stress levels of any given year and planting population. 

    ”If you have 34,000 harvestable ears, an average of 32 kernels per row and an average of 16 rows, then divide that by 90,000 kernels/bushel,” explains Todd Schomburg, director of agronomy at Stine®. “Your yield estimate is 193.4 bushels/acre.”

    Simplified, that’s 34,000 x 16 x 32 = 17,408,000/90,000 = 193.4 bushels/acre.

    At Stine, we follow this industry standard for estimating corn yields, but we also have the Stine Yield Estimator that aids growers in calculating yield more precisely.

    “The Stine Yield Estimator uses three variable kernels/bushel numbers,” says Schomburg. “80,000 for excellent growing conditions or heavy kernel grain; 90,000 for average growing conditions; and 100,000 for poor growing conditions or light kernel grain. If you want to use our Stine Yield Estimator on your corn fields this year, reach out to your local Stine independent sales rep or regional sales agronomist.”

    TIPS FOR SAMPLING

    “The formula for calculating yield has a typical margin of error of +/- 20 bushels per acre,” says Schomburg. “That said, it’s important to follow the rules of field sampling if you want an accurate estimate. Sampling recommendations vary by industry expert, but we follow the same ones each year.”

    These tips include:

    • Test at a minimum of five different areas of the field. These need to be in the field and not from the outside rows.
    • Within those five areas, measure 1/1000th of an acre and calculate the number of plants within that section that have harvestable ears. (See this chart for how measurements vary by row width).
    • In that section, select six to 10 harvestable ears at random. Anderson recommends choosing every fifth harvestable ear. Another industry expert suggests pulling the fifth, eighth and 11th ears from plants in one row of the sampling area. Remember the more ears you collect, the more accurate the sample; however, there must be some variability in how you select the ears.
    • For each ear, count the number of kernel rows around the ear, and the approximate number of harvestable kernels on the length of each ear. This is an important step to calculate yield in the formula mentioned above. Do not include aborted kernels or tipped-back areas of the ear.

    Remember, CornYield = Ears/Acre * Kernel rows/Ear * Kernels/Row and divided by Kernels/Bushel. If you need support calculating yields in your Stine corn fields this year, consult one of our sales reps or a local extension expert.

     

  • HARVEST PREP PART 2: GRAIN BINS
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    HARVEST PREP PART 2: GRAIN BINS

    September 08, 2022

    Posted by Stine Seed in Harvest

    The Sept. 6 Crop Progress Report notes that 15% of the nation’s corn crop has matured. For soybeans, 10% are in the leaf-dropping stage. There is undoubtedly time before harvest begins, but as we mentioned in last week’s article, it’s best to be proactive versus reactive to avoid any untimely breakdowns and setbacks.

    In our last edition of Stine Weekly, we discussed ways to plan ahead for harvest and tips for checking equipment. This week, we’ll discuss how to prep grain bins with a focus on staying safe in and around bins and grain-handling equipment.

    “Prepping your grain bins for harvest should not be overlooked,” says Todd Schomburg, director of agronomy at Stine®. “A clean, well-sealed and climate-controlled bin ensures you don’t put the quality of your seed at risk.” 

    Here are a few industry recommendations for prepping bins and staying safe in and around grain-handling equipment.

    Clean bins. If there’s old grain in the bin, safely remove it. Whether you use a vacuum system or broom, cleaning old grain out from the bin ensures the new grain won’t be tainted by insects, mold or any other issue that may be present in your old grain. Some experts even recommend applying an insecticide or fumigating the bin after cleaning to prevent any pest or pathogen from infesting new grain.

    Penn State University Extension says, “Several species of beetles and moth caterpillars can attack stored grain. Once insect infestations are established, they are difficult to control, so a good mindset is ‘start clean to stay clean.’”

    If you intend to apply an insecticide or fumigate, it’s best practice to do so a few weeks before grain fill and to follow label instructions. It’s also recommended to wash out grain bins and check any vents, doors or seams for old grain or insects.

    Clear augers and other grain-handling equipment of debris. Ensure augers and other grain-holding and filling equipment are free of old seed or traces of insects. Experts from the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources note, “Even small amounts of moldy or insect-infested grain left in equipment can contaminate a bin of new grain.”

    Check for cracks, gaps and leaks. Once your bin is clean of debris, it’s important to examine the interior and exterior of the bins for any cracks, gaps and leaks where excess moisture or insects might be able to enter. Check the foundation for cracks, the roof for any leaks, and the doors and vents for any gaps. Where possible, seal any openings.

    Moisture control. Before filling bins, make sure that any grain you intend to fill it with is properly dried.

    “We recommend drying corn until it’s around 15% moisture for short-term storage,” says Schomburg. “For soybeans, it’s best to keep moisture levels at around 13%. This prevents the seed from mold or moisture-feeding insects.”

    Another important task — once in the bin, level the grain to allow for better airflow.

    Stay safe

    Grain entrapment and engulfment are not to be taken lightly. In fact, in the 2021 Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities, “No fewer than 56 fatal and non-fatal cases involving agricultural confined spaces were documented in 2021.” And “There were no fewer than 29 grain storage and handling related entrapments in 2021.”

    Safety is of the utmost importance when in and around grain bins. Recommendations include:

    • Educate operators. Anyone entering grain bins or operating grain-handling equipment such as augers should understand the safe operating procedures of the equipment. Read all manuals, take safety courses and review educational resources wherever and whenever available.
    • Employ the buddy system. Never go into a grain bin or operate an auger without another person around.
    • Wear PPE. Always wear the appropriate grain respirators or masks to avoid inhalation of grain dust. Consider protective eyewear to keep dust from entering your eyes.
    • Avoid loose clothing. Loose clothing, jewelry or anything dangling from your clothing can become entangled in an auger.
    • Check CO2 levels before entering a bin. CO2 sensing is a method of checking levels in your grain and the bin. High CO2 levels can lead to grain spoilage and are also dangerous to humans’ respiratory systems.
    • Avoid power lines. Augers should be lowered appropriately when operating in and around power lines.
    • Make others aware of hazards. Post warning signs in and around grain bins to alert others to the dangers they pose.
    • Check ladders, staircases and cages. Avoid trips, falls and spills by checking that all ladders, staircases and cages are safe and properly secured before climbing or entry.
    • Wear a harness. If entry into the grain bin is necessary, always wear a harness and have another person around.
    • Shut it down. Shut down the auger or any other equipment that may be operating before entering a grain bin.

    “Grain bin and grain-handling safety is critical not only during harvest but year-round,” says Schomburg. “Growers and grain operators must be diligent in employing safety measures when cleaning and checking bins, as well as when operating augers and other grand-handling equipment. Complacency is not an option. 

    For more information on grain bin prep and safety, consult your local Stine sales representative or agronomist

  • HARVEST PREP PART 1: PLAN AHEAD AND CHECK EQUIPMENT
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    HARVEST PREP PART 1: PLAN AHEAD AND CHECK EQUIPMENT

    September 01, 2022

    Posted by Stine Seed in Harvest

    While only 8% of corn has matured and 4% of the nation’s soybean crop is in the leaf-dropping stage, harvest inches closer each day. At Stine®, we find it’s always better to be proactive, so we’re encouraging growers to start now on their harvest planning and equipment prep and maintenance. 

    “Most areas are still a few or several weeks out from harvest, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use this time to plan ahead,” says Todd Schomburg, director of agronomy. “Checking your equipment now will prevent you from untimely breakdowns during harvest.”

    To help get you started, we’ve dusted off a few of our go-to steps for planning ahead and safely and effectively testing your equipment.

    Step 1: Plan ahead by prioritizing which fields to harvest first.

    Drought has wreaked havoc on many fields throughout the Midwest, and in certain geographies, so has tar spot. Growers need to scout their fields up until harvest to check for areas of concern, such as crops experiencing stalk rot issues that could lead to lodging and challenges with harvestability. Prioritize these fields first.

    Step 2: Inspect, secure, clean and test.

    Make a checklist of your harvest equipment. What machinery will you review first? What parts on each piece of equipment need to be evaluated? Map this out to get a head start.

    “Supply chain issues may impact receiving parts for harvest equipment,” says Schomburg. “Checking your equipment early allows more time for ordering and shipping of parts and increases your odds that the equipment will arrive before harvest. Don’t delay checking your equipment or else it could greatly set back your harvest timeline.”

    The number of parts you need to inspect and test on your equipment may seem daunting, but remember, it will save you a lot of time during peak harvest season. Here are a few parts we recommend inspecting:

    • Engines/Battery: Start your combines and grain trucks, especially as a lot of this equipment has likely sat idle for most of the year. Our experts recommend checking for signs of wear and tear or heavy grime that could prevent the engine from properly functioning. It’s also best practice to check and clean the battery posts and cables around the engine. A pressure washer can help remove any dirt, caked-on grease or grime that could result in an engine fire down the road. Consult a mechanic if you sense your engine is having difficulty starting or burning through fuel.

      “We hear of combine and tractor fires all too often,” says Schomburg. “In fact, 70% of machinery fires start in the engine, resulting in about $20 million in property losses each year. You just can’t let your engines and batteries go unchecked.”

    • Fuel lines: A leaking fuel line can lead to engine fires. Check for cracks or leaks or the end result could be catastrophic.

    • Belts, chains and hoses: Check belts, chains and hoses for any signs of wear and tear. Make sure they are all properly secured to manufacturer specifications. If chains and belts seem stretched or worn, or if your hoses have cracks or leaks, replace those in question before hitting the field.
    • Equipment fluids: As you would with your vehicle, it’s important to check all equipment fluids. This includes fuel, hydraulic, coolant and oil, especially if your equipment hasn’t been used since last fall.

    • Tires: If you have moderate to significant wear on your equipment tires, it may be time to replace them to prevent a slowdown come harvest. From grain carts to field trucks and combines, check each tire. Also, ensure all tires have proper and uniform pressure across equipment.
    • Lights: Growers harvest from sun up to sundown. This requires the safe use of headlights, turn signals and hazards as they operate equipment. Make sure all headlights, taillights and turn signals are in working order. This will not only keep you safe this fall but those traveling along country roads or highways where you may be operating your equipment.
    • SMV signs: Make sure that your slow-moving vehicle signs are secured in place to alert vehicles coming up behind you.

    • Nuts and bolts: As would with your belts and chains, you want to check your nuts and bolts for any loose parts. Properly secure all nuts and bolts before operating your equipment.

    • Electronics: Farm machinery that is equipped with high-tech electronics and precision software should be tested and calibrated before harvest in accordance with the operators’ manuals.

    Step 3: Prepare your grain bins.

    Check in next week as we explore Step 3 in our harvest prep series — preparing your grain bins. 

    “Checking equipment is imperative to a safe, efficient harvest, but so is preparing your bins,” says Schomburg. “In our next edition of Stine Weekly, we’ll explore what you can do to get your bins ready for grain this fall and tips for staying safe as you clean and fill the bins.”

    For more information on harvest prep and safety, consult your local Stine sales representative or agronomist. And stay tuned for next week’s article.