Southern Spotlight: From Hailstorm to Volunteer Issues

James Banahan

James Banahan

Last week, I talked about guarantees. Here’s one: given the humongous hailstorm we endured at the beginning of October, I can guarantee volunteer issues next season.

My philosophy is always to be proactive and preventative, but there’s just not much to be done about it all right now.  It’s wet and any gains you might make are small and probably not worth the work.  Never is there nothing to be done though, and what you can do right now is something—anything—to remind yourself of this issue.  Stick a note on your fridge, program an alert on your phone, write it with a Sharpie on your forehead.  Whatever.  Just do something so that when the time comes to make decisions about your 2015 chemistry and rotation plan, you remember.

An event like our hailstorm and the yield loss it inflicted should have an impact on our future plans.  I recently talked about the challenges of planting continuous beans—our hailstorm adds a new twist (and honestly, provides another knock against such a plan).  Planting beans after beans takes know how and capital even without volunteer issues.  With volunteer issues, it takes additional spraying and eagle eye scouting because those volunteer plants harbor ugly little insects and pathogens.  Not considering this extra wrinkle as you plan could potentially undermine (perhaps in a serious way) otherwise very good plans indeed.

Of course, continuous beans is not the only rotation plan affected by the potential for volunteer issues.  Plans to follow corn with milo become more complicated now as well.  Since Roundup can’t be used to control volunteer corn, you may find yourself waiting out the residual of another product, which makes your planning and good timing very important.

If you’re thinking, “Oh pashaw, volunteer issues are cosmetic!”  Think again.  (I know that I’ve already asked you to think twice about this, so if you’re still not convinced, then yes, think a third time.)  I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who didn’t control the volunteer corn in his soybeans fields, believing his volunteer issue to be purely aesthetic.  Until upon sale he was docked for 8% foreign material.  8%.  That’s a little number with a lot to say.  8% is 3.2 bushels per acre in 40 bushel beans.  8% is worth nearly $29 per acre.

That’s a $29 per acre loss for skipping a $5 per acre investment to control volunteer corn.

Some of us suffered some serious yield loss in that hailstorm and while we still might be licking our wounds a bit, neglecting to make the plans and take the actions to prevent volunteer issues next season will cost us even more yield loss.  While we can’t undo the storm and its damage, we can control its lingering effects, and we can halt its negative impact on our yield.  Do something now to remind yourself of it, and pull that note out when it comes time to plan.  You’ll be yield ahead for it.