Field scouting throughout the growing season

Stacking bales is an art form

Field scouting throughout the growing season can lead to more successful crop production. Mark Cutts, crop specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre explains its benefits.

“There are numerous factors that can impact a developing crop,” says Cutts. “Scouting can help producers understand what is occurring in their fields and aid them in making proper management decisions. At this time of the year, for example, producers can evaluate various agronomic components including weed populations, diseases and insect pests.”

The main focus of producers now is weed control. Many fields have already been sprayed with a herbicide that was selected based on an evaluation of the weed species that were present in the field.

“It is also very important to recognize that scouting after a herbicide application is vital to weed control, says Cutts. “Scouting after a herbicide application will show producers if the weeds were adequately controlled. In the majority of cases, producers will find that the chemicals have worked. However, in certain situations, field scouting may show the weeds weren’t properly controlled. Producers can start to evaluate what might have caused the problem.”

A difference in the pattern of weed escapes can indicate poor performance of a herbicide due to environmental conditions or that herbicide resistant weeds may be present. Explains Cutts, “If the weeds that escaped the herbicide application are found throughout the entire field, it can point to limited herbicide effectiveness due to environmental conditions such as low temperatures. However, if the weeds are found in isolated patches, it may be a herbicide resistance issue. If unsure of the cause, contact an agronomist or chemical company representative to discuss the possible causes of the weed escapes.”

Scouting of crops at this time also allows disease development to be assessed. “For example,” adds Cutts, “Barley leaf diseases such as scald and net blotch move from the older leaves to the newer leaves as the growing season progresses. If leaf diseases are present and environmental conditions remain favourable for disease development, a fungicide application may be necessary once the crop has reached the flag leaf stage.’

“At this time of the growing season a number of insect pests can also be evaluated. Producers can scout for recently emerged insects. For example as head emergence occurs on wheat crops they should be monitored regularly for wheat midge. As flowering starts in canola, producers can start to evaluate the presence of cabbage seedpod weevil,” says Cutts. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s website includes information on economic thresholds for insect pests attacking oilseeds, cereals and corns, and forages.

For more information about field scouting, call the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276).

Stacking bales

When it comes to stacking bales, a little forethought can go a long way to ensure a better product. Barry Yaremcio, beef and forage specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre explains why some methods are better than others.

“Storage losses from improperly stacked bales can be anywhere from 15 to 20 per cent of the dry matter yield while protein and energy losses can be anywhere from five to ten per cent,” says Yaremcio. “It takes a lot of time and money to put up a good quality hay, so why risk losing 10 to 15 per cent of your productivity by just not stacking the bales properly?”

Before bringing the bales home, Yaremcio recommends mowing the grass that is already present in the feed yard. “This helps reduce a lot of the moisture and soil-to-bale contact, and it helps prevent bottom spoilage. If possible store the bales in a high area, so the bales don’t end up sitting in water after a rain.”

Leave two to three feet between the rows of bales, and stack them from northwest to southeast to allow the prevailing winds to blow through them. Says Yaremcio, “This space allows the wind to blow the snow from between the bales, so the snow doesn’t melt and water accumulate between the bales come spring.”

Different methods for stacking bales in the field can affect their quality.

The pyramid style – with three bales on the bottom, two in the middle, and one on the top – is the poorest way to stack hay, according to Yaremcio. “When it rains or when the snow melts, all the moisture moves from the top down between the bales and through the stack. It causes spoilage wherever the bales contact each other.”

The mushroom stack – with the flat side of the bottom bale flat on the ground and the second one on top – is better than the pyramid but still will end up with a lot damage, says Yaremcio. “The best method, however, if you have the space, is to put single bales in rows with the individual bales separated by about six to ten inches so they don’t touch.”

If using a tarp, leave the ends open so air can blow between the tarp and bales. “Build the stack so it aligns with the prevailing wind. That way, the wind can carry any moisture away that has evaporated out of the bales and condensed on the inside of the tarp away from the bales so before it drops back onto the bales and causes damage,” adds Yaremcio.

Submitted by Alberta Agriculture

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