Del Voight - Penn State Extension Agent
If you have been no tilling for some time here are some considerations that may improve your no till system. Starting right in the fall as harvest comes into view might mean better jump on next seasons crop.
1. During fall harvest operations of corn and soybeans be sure to spread the residue evenly across the field. If a custom operator is selected be sure his rear spreader is engaged and working properly. Planters are able to compensate for variable depths across the field but by simply spreading the residue evenly over the field the planter will maintain a more uniform depth and result in even stand emergence. Too late? Then consider manageing the fodder this winter with a rake or other device to spread it evenly.
2. Several fields I visited this season after planting exhibited pH induced deficiencies. Although the overall plow depth pH was optimum the surface two inches surrounding the seed was in some cases 4.0 or below. BE sure to gather 2 inch as well as 6 inch depth soil samples. You might find as Dr. Beegle recommends that lime applications yearly in these scenarios to offset nitrogen induced pH problems will correct the problem.
3. Check for slugs this fall. Dr. Ron Hammond The Ohio State University discusses the how to of assessing slug populations this fall.
Slug sampling can be done this fall by placing about 10 square foot boards or roofing shingles throughout the field on the ground. Cups of beer can be placed in the soil underneath the boards to attract slugs. If beer is used, the shingles should be sampled the following morning. If only the boards are used, we would recommend sampling underneath the boards after a few days. Sampling would be most beneficial during warmer nights without frost, and is best done a few times during the fall.
4. Remove weeds and eliminate planting issues as well as eliminate cutworm egg laying sites. Many herbicide programs are offered for fall application that will keep fields that do not have a cover crop(great idea to put oats or other crops in to take the place of weeds) clean of weeds. In addition, when the cutworm moths migrate to the north in April to find egg laying sites, such as chickweed, you would have eliminated the chance for them to get a foot hold in that field.
5. Perennial weeds and crops should be sprayed this fall to eliminate be ready for spring planting. Research suggests September applications improve the control of tough weeds like thistles, hemp dogbane, and dandelion with a fall systemic herbicide. Grass and alfalfa fields that will be planted in the spring to a full season crop like corn should be killed this fall to provide an ideal seed bed next year. If the leaves of the plants are green and growing it is not too late to apply the herbicides. Once the leaves turn brown it is too late.
6. Consider pasture and hay field clean up with a systemic herbicide (dicamba, 2,4-D, Crossbow) now to ensure unwanted perennials in the stand are removed from the sod. Plan to over-seed this winter to fill the voids. Again if the leaves are in good shape then the products will work properly. Wait until the drought conditions are broken and plants are actively growing.
7. Rootworm adults will be emerging and now you can assess whether a field should be treated with an insecticide next year. Although the time to scout for adults to predict next years field treatment is just about over one might recall seeing large amounts of beetles in fields or where significant silk feeding existed. Target heavily infested fields that will be cropped in corn again next year with an insecticide or a Bt rootworm hybrid. We know this because the beetles lay eggs only in corn and by knowing where the beetles are at this time of year forecasts where the eggs laid now will hatch out next year. By the way those hybrids proved highly effective however they will not kill adult beetles feeding on the silks and will only kill rootworms so another complement insecticide should be used and may be already included as a seed treatment on purchased seed. At least write down which fields you noted severe beetle populations.
8. Consider treating alfalfa fields after the last cutting for chickweed control next spring. There are many options that will provide residual control(as well as post control) through the spring and as we come on to the peak time for chickweed germination now is the time to begin treating to ensure weed free fields in the spring.
9. Cereal rye and small grains are in short supply this year why not plant alternative crops such as Hairy Vetch, oats, red clover, field peas, birds foot trefoil or maybe some brassicas. Check out the cover crop factsheet for detailed information available at the Extension Office.
10. Standing Corn does not mean options are not available to clean up fields of perennials. 2,4-D at dent stage or glyphosate at black layer to treat tough perennials or escaped bur cucumber is a viable option to eliminate weeds. A high clearance sprayer would be needed but may prove effective if a problem exists.
11. Put to bed pastures and hay fields this fall with a herbicide treatment (2,4-dicamba, Cimarron, Overdrive, Crossbow others) to best eliminate perennial weeds. As the plants move nutrients into the roots for winter why not have the herbicide move with them and kill the weeds roots and all.
12. Burn down(glyphosate) stands of grass or alfalfa hay now so that next spring the field will be ready to plant corn or soybeans into and the planter will operate more effectively in well rotted sod than in a freshly killed sod.
13. Finally, why not calibrate the spray monitor, overhaul/calibrate the planter, and service equipment this fall before winter sets in ( and dealers get backed up) to ensure that when planting time comes all is in order to take advantage of the spring planting window?