Roger and Mike Zeedyk checked yields for this year's virtual crop tour.

Growing soybeans in a drought

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff

The 2019 growing season was nearly a rainout as 84,198 acres in Defiance County went unplanted. In spite of the record rains and extremely late planting dates, Zeedyk Farms had nearly average yields on their corn silage. Just one year ago this week however, the corn had not yet matured to the point of producing ears in one field that was evaluated.

2020 started much better with adequate rainfall in the late winter and early spring, followed by a timely dry down in time for planting.

“We started planting both corn and soybeans around May 6 and finished about a week later. The ground conditions were really hard. There is just no tilth to the soil in some places of the fields after last year. There was one wet spot in a field where the water just finally dried up that we had to plant around this spring. It was sealed up so tight underneath, it could not get away,” said Mike Zeedyk, who farms along with his father Roger Jr. outside of Hicksville.

There was some replanting in the county this year due to the wet planting conditions.

“The crop got off to a good start, but has since struggled,” Roger said. “Fortunately, we did not have to re-plant any of our soybeans, but there were some guys on the east side of the county that replanted a significant amount of their bean acres after a heavy rainfall this spring.”

“Around June 2 we started replanting some corn in spots that were thin, but it was probably less than 10% of our acres,” Mike said.

Since that time, however, the rainfall has not been as timely or consistent.

“We received nine-tenths of an inch of rain on Aug. 1. Prior to that, we had a total of 1.5 inches since we finished planting on May 15,” Mike said. “The largest rainfall making up that 1.5 inches over the 2.5- month time period was .35-inch in one shower. The rest was just light sprinkles.”

“We are raising a crop essentially on the morning dew,” joked Roger.

The Zeedyk’s raise corn for grain and also silage for a local dairy, as well as soybeans. They also raise alfalfa. Roger started farming in 1971, and has been watching the impact of weather and different cultural practices on crop production for 50 years. Mike joined the operation full time 15 years ago. Prior to that, he worked on the farm part time while also working for a local ag retailer. Now a third generation, Mike’s 15-year-old son Brady, is also becoming more involved in the operation and quickly learning all the aspects of raising a quality crop in the clay soils of Defiance county.

Raising a quality crop, and maintaining plant health is important to the Zeedyks.

“We spayed fungicide and insecticide on three-quarters of our soybeans, and around all the field edges. We noticed a few spider mites in some pockets with the dry weather,” Mike said. “We also made a fungicide and insecticide application to about a third of our corn. We usually spray the best fields. ‘Never let a good field have a bad day’ is our philosophy. Two years ago, we recorded a difference of almost 20 bushels per acre in the corn between areas where we sprayed and where we did not. We are always leaving check strips when we spray to see if it made a measurable difference. We farm in an area where Western Bean Cutworm has become an issue in recent years.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Defiance County is split with the eastern half being listed as a moderate drought, and the western half as abnormally dry. That designation is expected to change later this Thursday, as the new maps and designations are released.

“Our Agriculture Extension Educator told us that according to the Palmer Drought Index, we are designated in the Severe Drought category,” Roger said.

The soybean field that was evaluated for this year’s Virtual Crop Tour had a 3.3 bean that was planted on May 9. Overall, the field looked very good. The beans were a little short, with a canopy height between 31 and 32 inches. The beans had nodes spaced about 2 inches apart with 3 to 4 pods clustered at each node, and 3 beans in nearly every pod. Because the field had been sprayed with both fungicide and insecticide, the disease and insect pressure were very low. Some timely rains will be necessary to help this field finish strong. The potential is there for a good yield if the weather cooperates.

The corn field was 180 degrees different from 2019. The yield was estimated to be 100% greater than 2019 (because in 2019 there were not ears to evaluate). The corn field was a 111-day hybrid that was planted on May 11. It had a final stand between 32,000 to 33,000 plants per acre, with generally small ears at this point. The field had recently finished pollinating, and some of the ears were relatively immature. Uneven emergence was evident in the size of some of the corn plants. This was largely due to weather stress and ground conditions. The corn was relatively short, but the ears evaluated show potential for a fair to good yield if some timely rains come. Unfortunately, the field missed out on the Monday night rain, and no additional precipitation is in the forecast until this coming weekend.

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