Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Malting Barley Seed Availability 2014

This article was originally written for and distributed to farmers and other members of the agricultural industry in western New York.

A PDF file of this article is available here.

Farmers interested in purchasing spring malting barley seed in 2014 have a number of varieties available in New York. The 2013 Cornell Small Grain Variety Trial results are available here. All varieties should be drilled at about 2 bu/A (~100 lb./A) and about 1 inch deep. Planting after April 15th will result in reduced yields. See the Growing Malting Barley in NY bulletin for information about malting barley production practices. Both 6-row and 2-row malting barleys are being used in New York to make high quality beers and whiskey. The 6-row varieties generally have better agronomic traits (yield, disease resistance, resistance to lodging, etc.) than 2-row varieties under the climatic conditions of the Northeast. Historically 2-row varieties were preferred by brewers, but breeding advancements in the past 20-50 years have essentially eliminated the previous gap between 6-row and 2-row varieties for the needs of the craft brewing industry in the United States. For more discussion of 6-row vs. 2-row malting barley see these articles from Oregon State University and the Brewers' Market Guide.

Quest is a 6-row spring variety certified by the University of Minnesota and is available through Seedway representatives and their affiliates. Quest has been bred specifically to have partial resistance to Fusarium head blight. Fusarium head blight is the major disease of malting barley in New York and the source of DON (deoxynivalenol a.k.a vomitoxin) in all small grains. In the 2013 Cornell Variety Trial, Quest was ranked 3rd in yield, 3rd in malting quality, and had low lodging and disease incidence ratings. Contact your local representative or Adam Robertson by phone: (585) 435-7165 or email: 

Conlon is a 2-row spring variety certified by North Dakota State University and is available through Preferred Seed representatives and their affiliates. In the 2013 Cornell Variety Trial, Conlon was ranked 12th in yield, 1st in malting quality, had low disease incidence ratings, but had moderately higher lodging ratings than other varieties. If growing this variety put on a lower amount of spring nitrogen (maximum of ~40 lb./A) compared to other varieties (maximum of ~60 lb./A). Contact your local representative or Garrett Coleman by phone: (814) 381-6809 or email:

AC Metcalfe, CDC Copeland, CDC Meredith, and Newdale are all 2-row spring varieties of certified seed from Canada and are available through FICO Farms out of Rochester, NY. In the 2013 Cornell Variety Trial, AC Metcalfe was 15th in yield, 16th in quality, and had moderately higher lodging and disease incidence ratings. CDC Copeland and CDC Meredith were not entered in the 2013 trial. Newdale was 4th in yield, 17th in malt quality, had lower lodging ratings, but higher disease incidence ratings in the 2013 trial. Contact Paul Filippetti by phone: (585) 770-4702 or email:

Lakeview Organics can supply organically certified spring malting barley seed out of the Midwest. For more information about seed availability contact Mary Howell-Martin by phone: (315) 531-1038 or email:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Evaluating Small Grains for Winter Injury

This article was originally written for and distributed to farmers and other members of the agricultural industry in western New York.

A PDF file of this article is available here.

The late fall planting dates combined with the extreme cold this winter have made winter injury a real possibility for a number of small grain crops grown in northwestern NY. Areas where there was little-to-no snow cover during the cold spells have the highest risk of crop loss. Good planting practices can go a long way to reduce the risk of winterkill to barley, wheat, triticale, spelt, & rye but the weather also plays a large role in the winter survival of these crops.

Figure 1: Winterkill Patches in Wheat

Effects of Management
Shallow planting depths (less than 1 inch) lead to shallow crown development. These plants may literally be “thrown” out of the soil as the field freezes and thaws. Planting with a drill usually eliminates this risk. However shallower planted small grains can develop an adequate root system if planted early in the fall (usually September in our region). Some varieties and some small grain species are more susceptible to winterkill than others. Rye is the most hardy winter small grain, followed by triticale, wheat, spelt, and finally barley. Placing phosphorous fertilizer with the small grain seed, having adequate amounts of other nutrients, and the proper soil pH also increases winter hardiness and yield. Parts of the field that are lower and wetter will have poorer stands than the better drained areas. Damage from ice sheeting is also common in low, wet areas. If the small grain has 2 or more tillers and a well-developed crown root system there is a much greater chance of the crop surviving the winter with little-to-no damage. A small grain crop can also be too large going into winter. If the top growth is greater than 6-8 inches there is an increased risk of snow mold killing the small grain as it smothers itself under the snow.

Effects of Weather
When the fall temperatures quickly drop-off to the teens or lower from above 40°-50°F, small grains are at a higher risk of winter injury than years where the change in air temperatures are more gradual. Most areas in northwestern NY had a gradual change in fall temperatures, but some pockets saw the temperatures fall quickly. During the winter, snow cover and soil moisture are critical to keep the soil temperatures warm enough to protect the crowns of small grains. When temperatures are -10°F or colder and there is no snow cover winterkill risk of small grains increases. Many areas in our region, especially east of Rochester, experienced these conditions this winter. Fields that had even an inch or two of snow are at much lower risk of sustaining damage to the small grain crowns. Soil temperatures increase with deeper soil depths—fields drilled at 1-1.5 inches will have deeper crowns (at warmer temperatures) than small grain fields that were broadcasted and packed into the upper 0.5 inch of the soil. The soils in NY generally have adequate moisture in the winter to reduce the risk of injury to small grains compared to the dryer soil conditions of the Great Plains. However high winds, in combination with low temperatures and little snow cover, can also cause significant damage to small grains from drying out the plants & damaging vascular tissue despite higher soil moisture levels.

Evaluation of Small Grain Crops
An easy way to test for winter damage in small grains is to bring in a few plants from each field, place them in pots and watch them. If the plants do not green up after a week with warm temps and water, they are dead. If the small grain greens up a little, but then slowly dies back there is damage to the xylem and phloem. These tissues move the water and plant sugars through crop similar to how veins and arteries work in animals. Extremely cold temperatures, especially with high winds can fracture the crop’s vascular tissues, much like breaking a straw, which leads to a slow plant death. If the crowns are white then they are not damaged, but brown crowns will not recover, Figure 2. A more detailed method of evaluating small grain crowns for winterkill is available from the University of Nebraska.

Figure 2: Dead, Damaged, & Healthy Crowns of Winter Wheat

Contact your crop consultant, myself, or Mike Stanyard if you have a question about small grain stand evaluation.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mapping Management Zones with Soil Conductivity

This article was originally written for and distributed to farmers and other members of the agricultural industry in western New York.

A PDF file of this article is available here.

By measuring differences in conductivity across the field in combination with GPS data, management zones can be identified for variable rate management. Currently the NY Corn and Soybean Growers Association is in the early stages of conducting on-farm research across the state of New York using the Veris system in conjunction with variable seeding rates and fertilizer rates in corn and soybeans across many soil types. Additionally mapping soil conductivity can enable variable herbicide rates corresponding different in organic matter levels and soil types. Many consulting companies and individual farms are also exploring soil conductivity in northwestern NY.

What is Soil Conductivity?
It is a measurement of how well the soil conducts electricity.  Two types of technology are available for measuring electrical conductivity in the soil. The sensors are either contact (Veris) or non-contact (Geonics Limited and Geophex). Both types measure the ability of the soil to conduct an electrical current. The output is usually recorded as units of milliSiemens per meter (mS/m) or deciSiemens per meter (dS/m) (1 dS/m = 100 mS/m). Contact sensors have at least one coulter sending electrical current into the soil (transmitting electrode) and at least one other coulter (receiving electrode) which measures the volt­age drop between the electrodes. Veris units operate with this technology, are the mostly widely used, and a schematic is pictured in Figure 1. Often multiple sets of sensors will run at multiple depths to better examine the variation in soil composition across a field.

Figure 1: Contact Soil Conductivity Unit

Non-contact sensors use elec­tromagnetic induction and do not come into contact with the soil relying on a transmitter and receiver coil mounted on a non-metallic frame. A metal frame would interfere with the elec­tromagnetic induction readings. The EM38 (Geonics Limited) and GEM-2 (Geophex) sensors utilize this technology. Often these non-contact sensors are used in smaller scale research plots, but some commercial scale equipment is available.

Incorporating Soil Conductivity Data on Your Farm
Soil electrical conductivity will vary with soil moisture, temperature, soil type, organic matter, manure application, & salinity. Soil conductivity decreases in dry soils compared to wet soil and as the soil temperature falls. While the actual soil conductivity numbers change with varying moisture and temperature conditions, the management zones that are calculated from the relative differences often are the same. Unless a field has a patch of pure sand, the soil electrical conductivity usually only varies by 5 to 10% across soil types.
Data can be gathered under many field conditions for these units. For more operational information on measuring soil conductivity, soil OM, and soil pH mapping equipment, check out these videos on the Precision Ag section on

Variation of conductivity across soil types is the one of the main advantages of using this technology. While the maps are often very similar to the NRCS soil maps, soil conductivity maps have a finer resolution. They can also correct the border areas between soil types that are not accurately depicted in a soil survey. Soil conductivity increases with increasing organic matter, and will make a more detailed map than grid soil sampling alone. Targeted soil samples should still be taken on a regular basis within management zones. Soil samples will still require wet chemistry analysis as in-field measurements of minerals are still in the early stages of development.

Care must be used when mapping fields after manure applications. Manure contains relatively high levels of salts compared to soils. Soil conductivity measurements will increase as the amount of manure applied increases. It is best to measure fields prior to manure application. Soils from the Great Plains often contain high salt levels and mapping salinity values for management zone creation is valuable on the high plains, but not in NY.

The information layer from soil conductivity should be used in combination with the NRCS soil layer, traditional soil test data, and multiple years of yield map data to form management zones on farms. Any one of these pieces of information in isolation is not as valuable as combining them together to plan for variable rate management of seeds, fertilizers, lime, and herbicides.