V5 from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Mike Zwingman

by Mike Zwingman

Dear friends, this article comes to you at about the mid-point of our season.  Hard to believe, yes, but V5 is upon us and there are a ton of decisions to be made.

The importance of this particular time in the season is that now is when our plants begin to determine the number of kernels per ear.  Your common sense tells you that a happy plant produces more kernels and your common sense is spot on.  The question then is how to spend your hard earned dollars to make your plants happy as can reasonably be.

There are at least a dozen products you could shell out for—my purpose here isn’t to tell you what to buy, but rather to break down your options and begin to guide you to the one or two that will mean the most to your operation.

To know which option will provide the most significant boost to your plants, you need to start an interrogation.  Visit that part of your fields that is yellow and uneven, pick a representative line up of plants, and shine the bright light on them.  Dig ‘em up and check out their root development.  Cut them up and have their tissue sampled.  While you’re at it, send a spot of their soil for sampling, too.

Because we’re in a place in time where we can do something about those yellow and uneven plants to convince them to shape up, but to be most convincing, we have to know what ails them.  With that information in hand—Is it a nutrient deficiency?  A lack of root development?  Something else?—you can make the choice that best addresses the issues at hand and corrects the course going forward.

Help for our plants falls roughly into in three categories: sidedressing, V5 fungicide and plant health treatments, and treatments that mitigate stress:

Sidedressing: Some of you have planned to sidedress all along. Some of you might be thinking about doing so now that you’re looking at the state of your fields.  In either case, look before you leap and ask a few questions: Is this the right action to take?  How much do I need to put down?  The answers to those questions start in the soil and tissue samples that let you know how much N is available in the soil and how well your plant is utilizing it.  Referencing models will help you understand both what happened to get your plants here and the probable outcomes of your actions.

Before sidedressing, looking at your operating numbers is useful too: what does your NESP look like?  Does your stand and root development still match with the yield goals you’ve set forth?

V5 Fungicide and PHTs: If soil samples reveal plenty of N for the taking, but your plants don’t quite reflect that situation, it indicates that they can’t access the N.  Here is where a V5 fungicide can be helpful.  The stroerilin chemistry component of this treatment acts as growth regulating hormone in your plants and jumpstarts root growth. Bigger and better roots will help your plants access and uptake more N.  The triazole component of the treatment protects your plants from anthracnos, preventing stress, which slows plants growth overall.

Stress mitigation treatments: Plant growth assimilators and plant growth regulators are another way to address poor root health.  These treatments trigger plant growth from the top down by kick starting a plant’s photosynthetic engine to drive its growth.

We find ourselves today at a critical time in the growing season and with many options to consider.  The potential is enormous, so long as we make the right choice.  Which is rarely done alone.  Enlist help making these decisions, friends.  Access your trusted advisor, whomever that is who knows your fields by quarter, who knows you and your operation, who has your back and your ear.  You can read this article ‘til you turn blue.  You can look at spread after spread of big data.  But this is the real world—not a hypothetical (as I address in my articles) and not a statistic (as big data deals in).  This is your backyard.  Your crop.  Your livelihood.  This is local as local can be.  So call that trusted friend and offer up a beer or glass of tea or burger at the edge of your field.


And bring a shovel.