By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff
Across Ohio, 1.5 million acres of farm fields did not have a cash crop planted on them in the spring of 2019 as a result of the unprecedented amount of rainfall in the state. On some of those acres, farmers planted a cover crop, but many fields went bare. Those prevented planting situations in 2019 have caused farmers to re-think their 2020 planting intentions. Many cropping rotations were disrupted by the unplanned weather challenges last year and that is resulting in the need for adjustments this year.
“We will have significantly more popcorn acres in 2020 due to the number of prevent plant acres we had in 2019,” said Mark Wachtman of M&D Farms in Henry County. “We are attempting to re-set our rotation.”
Wachtman is one of several farmers hoping for the promise of a more normal year in 2020. For Joel Meyer, also in Henry County, only 60% of his soybeans and just about half of his corn acres were planted in 2019.
“For soybeans, we started with the fields that were fit and located closest to home, and worked our way out. We had 40% prevent plant for our soybean acres and 50% of our corn acres,” Myers said. “Crop Insurance played a large role in our 2019 management decisions.”
Meyer is planning to keep roughly the same crop rotation moving forward.
“In the past, our farm was roughly 45% corn, 45% soybeans and 10% wheat. Last year’s weather forced us to re-evaluate that. Last summer we enrolled one farm in the Ohio Working Lands Buffer Program as a ‘forage buffer.’ This year we have enrolled several other farms in the H2Ohio program. We will be closer to a third corn, a third soybeans, a third wheat on our crop acres, with the other farm in alfalfa,” Meyer said. “It is probably a good thing because it has made us diversify more.”
When it comes to soil fertility, there are a variety of thoughts on how to proceed in 2020 for the fields that did not see a crop the previous year. As Meyer considers nutrient management on his farm, the underlying idea is to simply stay the course.
“We applied some fertilizer last fall. Typically, we try to strip-till all our corn. That did not happen last fall due to the wet weather. We did get some fertilizer applied without the strips,” Meyer said.
As a part of the H2Ohio program in Northwest Ohio, Meyer intends to variable rate apply some of their phosphorus (P) through the planter and modify some equipment for the rest.
“We have an old cultivator with wavy coulters we use to freshen and fluff-up the strip-till in the spring prior to planting,” Meyer said. “We purchased a liquid fertilizer cart that we want to use and modify the cultivator to make a P applicator that can also be variable rate.”
Wachtman in planning on the 2019 fertility for 2020.
“We are honoring the soil fertility that we had planned in 2019 as still being present for 2020 in fields that did not have a crop,” Wachtman said.
M&D Farms typically runs a two-year popcorn rotation followed by soybeans, and then wheat with double-crop soybeans; or a single rotation of popcorn, soybeans, and then wheat followed by double-crop soybeans.
“We do not intend to make any variety or maturity changes to the rotation in 2020,” Wachtman said.
Weed control is an issue farmers constantly adapt to given the populations, and pressure experienced each season.
“In 2019, our weed control on the prevent plant acres consisted of running a disk and then spraying in the fall. In hindsight, I wish we would have been able to establish more cover crops,” Meyer said. “If we had it to do it over again, I am not sure what the right answer really was. The conditions just kept changing.”
The weed pressure in 2019 will impact Meyer’s soybean seed selection for 2020.
“We wanted to raise some non-GMO soybeans this year, but with all the weed pressure in 2019 and the weed seed bank, we have decided to go with Xtend soybeans instead,” Meyer said.
M&D Farms has been paying close attention to all the weed pressure around them, and the threat of noxious weeds moving in.
“We were proactive in the fall of 2019 and were able to get a fall burndown applied with 2,4-D and glyphosate. The plan is to get out early in the spring to tackle any weed issues with a pre-emerge herbicide program including a residual,” Wachtman said.
Enrollment in the H2Ohio program also has Northwest Ohio farmers considering various best management practices (BMPs) as they plan for the 2020 crop year and beyond.
“The addition of cover crops to the rotation is a field by field decision as it fits,” Wachtman said. “Ideally we will use a mix of cereal rye and other cover crops. A challenge will be timing for establishment within the guidelines.”