The smell of rain and microbes

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

After a dry summer, the smell of rain is often refreshing but maybe a little less so to farmers at harvest time!  People can often sense it is going to rain.  This “pre-rain” smell comes from ozone formed when oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere is spilt through electrical charges in the clouds to form ozone (O3). Ozone is blown down from the upper atmosphere and has a sharp odor, somewhat like chlorine or burnt wires. This pre-rain smell is a good indication a storm is brewing before the pleasant smell of rain occurs.

Recent research shows that the smell of rain is caused by soil actinomycetes or actinbacteria.  Scientist have a name for it called petrichlor (pronounced pet-try-cure).  As rain infiltrates the soil, it causes the actinomycetes to form spores which are released along with geosmin, a chemical that creates that earthy soil smell when soil is tilled. 

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EPA announces new five-year registration for dicamba products on soybeans

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

This past summer was tumultuous for soybean growers across the country in many ways. On June 3, farmers were caught in limbo as discussions between the U.S. EPA, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and herbicide manufacturers were precarious after the Ninth Circuit Court vacated the product registrations of three dicamba-based products. Those products include: Monsanto’s XtendiMax, DuPont’s FeXapan, and BASF’s Engenia, which had been registered to be applied as conditional use pesticides for post-emergent applications. The court held that when the EPA conditionally amended the registrations for an additional 2 years, the process they used violated the provisions of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

On June 8, the EPA issued a key order providing guidance on how those in possession of the products could legally proceed. The order applied to the sale, distribution and use of stock for the three dicamba products in question.… Continue reading

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Soil health indicators

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services, and Jon Traunfeld, University of Maryland Extension

How do I know if my soil is healthy and what are indicators of soil health ?  Plants thrive in healthy soils and are not overtaken by pests (weeds, insects, diseases).  Weeds are the first colonizers of unhealthy, compacted or newly formed soils. Usually something is missing (soil organic matter (SOM), a certain nutrient, soil too tight) and weeds thrive under these conditions until the condition improves.  Insect and disease pest also thrive, because the plant is sick and easy prey.  Just like the lion or wolf in the wild, the sick and weak are consumed.

Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Healthy soils have deep loose soil for good root growth.  The soil should be dark in color meaning that the soil has plenty of SOM.  Healthy soil should be slightly moist, crumble,  have soil aggregates that fall apart, and have an “earthy” smell.

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Stalk rot issues are showing up in some corn

By Pierce Paul and Peter Thomison, Ohio State University Extension

Corn harvest is progressing very slowly across the state as the crop is taking unusually long to dry down this year. The longer the crop stays in the field, there greater the risk of late-season diseases such as ear and stalk rots, especially if it continues to rain. Stalk rot often refers to a combination of several interrelated problems, including stalk breakage, stalk lodging, premature plant death, and root lodging. Several factors may contribute to stalk rot, including extreme weather conditions, inadequate fertilization, problems with nutrient uptake, insects, and diseases. For instance, when leaves above the ear are severely damaged (either by diseases, insects, or some environmental stress) well before grain-fill is complete, the plants often translocate sugars from the stalk to fill grain, causing them to become weak and predisposed to fungal infection. A number of fungal pathogens cause stalk rot, but the three most important in Ohio are Gibberella, Collectotrichum (anthracnose), and Fusarium.… Continue reading

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Extended drydown in corn

By Alexander Lindsey, Ohio State University Extension

As fall is progressing, crop harvest is also occurring throughout the state. However, many producers are seeing slower than usual drydown in their corn fields this October. This may be in part due to how the weather conditions impacted corn growth and development this year.

In many parts of Ohio in 2020, temperatures were near the long-term average this season. One marked difference though was that precipitation was below normal for much of the season around the state.

In 2018 and 2020, temperatures were very similar to one another in each month, with the exception of May being slightly cooler and September being slightly warmer in 2020. The only month in which 2020 received more precipitation than in 2018 was May. Cool wet conditions resulted in planting dates that extended into the latter part of May for the state (USDA reported 57% corn acres planted on May 17, 2020), but also may have contributed to delayed emergence due to slow heat unit accumulation (only 11% of the corn was emerged on May 17).… Continue reading

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2020 field crop insect recap

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

It has been a year of uneasiness for farmers in Ohio due to weather stress. Many areas in the state experienced various level of abnormally dry to drought conditions during the summer months. While some areas received timely rains, others often saw hit and miss rain shower activity. Given the moisture stress on crops, many growers in Ohio were fortunate that additional stress from insect pressure was not a large factor. Familiar insect pests such as soybean aphids and brown marmorated stinkbugs, or the common defoliators such as bean leaf beetles, Japanese beetle adults and grass hoppers, were present, but not in numbers that were problematic in most situations.

Kelley Tilmon, associate professor and state specialist for field crop entomology at The Ohio State University reported a year with less insect pressure than in the past.… Continue reading

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Soybean harvest over half complete

Modest precipitation throughout the week was not enough to decrease the amount of acres seeing abnormally dry conditions, according to Cheryl Turner, State Statistician, USDA NASS, Ohio Field Office. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated 55 percent adequate to surplus by week’s end, up 14 percentage points from the previous week. However, approximately 56 percent of the State was abnormally dry, according to the most recent Drought Monitor. Average temperatures for the week were 0.1 degrees above historical normals and the entire State averaged 0.50 inches of precipitation. There were 5.4 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending October 18.

Farmers harvested crops, planted cover crops, and tilled fields. Soybeans dropping leaves was at 97 percent, ahead of the five year average by 2 percentage points. Soybeans harvested was at 65 percent while soybeans moisture content was at 13 percent. Corn mature was 3 percentage points behind the five-year average at 86 percent while corn moisture content was rated 22 percent.… Continue reading

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Intelligent sprayer upgraded

By cutting the amount of pesticide that ends up in the air or on the ground, a new high-tech pesticide sprayer can save vineyard, orchard, and nursery growers money while protecting the environment.

The “intelligent sprayer” system was first put on the market in spring 2019, but since then it has been upgraded. Now, among other improvements, it can take an inventory of trees or vines by height and width and measure the amount of pesticide sprayed per tree or vine to help growers manage pesticide costs.

Developed by a team led by an agricultural engineer with The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), the spray technology can sense the location and structure of the trees or vines it is spraying. In the gaps between trees and branches, the spray automatically shuts off, so no pesticides are discharged.

“A standard sprayer releases pesticide constantly down a row, so a lot of extra pesticide goes into the air and onto the ground,” said Heping Zhu, a CFAES adjunct professor and an engineer with the U.S.… Continue reading

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Still planting wheat?

By Laura Lindsey and Pierce Paul, Ohio State University Extension

There is still time to plant wheat. Wheat planted 3 to 4 weeks after the fly-free-safe date can achieve a similar yield as earlier planted wheat if freezing weather does not occur until late November or early December. However, as we enter three to four weeks after the fly-free-safe date, growers should plant at a higher seeding rate than the regularly recommended 1.2 to 1.6 million seeds per acre in 7.5-inch rows.

Generally, the best time to plant wheat is the 10-day period starting the day after the fly-free-safe date. When wheat is planted more than 10 days after the fly-free-safe date, there is an increased change of reduced fall growth and reduced winter hardiness.

Instead, plant at a rate of 1.6 to 2.0 million seeds per acre. The number of seeds per pound and germination rate are important for determining the correct seeding rate and calibration.… Continue reading

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Enrollment begins for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for 2021

Agricultural producers can now make elections and enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year. The signup period opened Tuesday, Oct. 13.  These key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) safety-net programs help producers weather fluctuations in either revenue or price for certain crops, and more than $5 billion in payments are in the process of going out to producers who signed up for the 2019 crop year.

“Although commodity prices are starting to show a glimmer of improvement, recent depressed prices and drops in revenue compounded by the effects of the pandemic have seriously impacted the bottom line for most agricultural operations,” said Richard Fordyce, Administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “Through safety-net programs like ARC and PLC, we can help producers mitigate these financial stressors and keep the ag industry moving forward. Make time over the next few months to evaluate your program elections and enroll for the 2021 crop year.”… Continue reading

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Be prepared for combine fires during harvest season

By Dee Jepsen, Ohio State University Extension

The combination of high temperatures and dry conditions are the perfect conditions for field fires and combine fires during harvest.

Dry grasses, crop residues, and woodland debris along many of our farm fields provide fuel for field fires. Likewise, leaked fuel, cracked hydraulic hoses, heated bearings, overheated belts and chains can provide the ignition for equipment fires.

The combine is a critical piece of equipment for fall harvest. Here are several precautions for protecting combines from fire this season.

Prevent combine fires from starting

Work crews should take extra precautions to prevent fires from starting.

  • Park a hot combine away from out-buildings. Keeping a combine out of barns, sheds, and away from other flammables is a common prevention strategy in case a hot spot ignites. Insurance claims can double when equipment fires are responsible for loss of farm structures.
  • Regular maintenance is priority. Check the machine daily for any overheated bearings or damage in the exhaust system.
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Planting cover crops late

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

As harvest progresses, its not too late to plant cover crops, but the options are becoming more limited.  Most cover crops need a minimum of 60 days of growth before cold freezing winter weather limits growth.  Rape seed, kale, and cereal rye are three cover crop varieties that can be planted later than most cover crops that are cold sensitive. The key is getting them planted as soon as possible.

Rape seed and kale are small seeded brassica cover crops that can be broadcast or drilled.  The seeding rate is generally 3-5 pounds per acre by themselves, requiring a .25 to .5-inch seeding depth, and they emerge in 4-10 days. These two brassicas can germinate at 410 F and grow quite rapidly in the fall and can still be planted in late October.  The biggest disadvantage to planting either rape seed or kale before corn is that they do not promote the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi  in the soil, so farmers may see a 5-10 corn bushel decrease.

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Agritourism farms push through the pandemic

By Madi Kregel, OCJ field reporter

Though there have been many challenges for agritourism in Ohio during the pandemic, it has also become very clear consumers are willing to support small, local businesses, and they’re looking for a reason to get out of the house. With strong local support, agritourism like Heban’s Field of Dreams and Riehm Produce Farm were able to weather the storm of 2020.

“It was like the onset of a hurricane,” said Chris Heban, who owns Heban’s Field of Dreams with her husband, Mike. “All of the elements of the hurricane have to get in place and everything is getting ready for that perfect storm, and then that storm hits. We were just not being able to do anything, our hands were tied. It was just too many unknowns.”

Some of the agritourism unknowns were addressed on Aug. 28 when Governor Mike DeWine released Phases 2 and 3 of the the State Agritourism COVID-19 Requirements.… Continue reading

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Environmental groups look to “Enlist” more judges to reevaluate decision

By Ellen Essman, Ohio Law Blog, Agricultural & Resource Law Program at The Ohio State University

In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided it would not overturn the EPA registration for the herbicide Enlist Duo, which is meant to kill weeds in corn, soybean, and cotton fields, and is made up of 2,4-D choline salt and glyphosate.  Although the court upheld registration of the herbicide, it remanded the case so that EPA could consider how Enlist affects monarch butterflies. 

The court found that EPA failed to do this even though it was required under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  On September 15, 2020, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other groups involved in the lawsuit filed a petition to rehear the case “en banc,” meaning that the case would be heard by a group of nine judges instead of just three. … Continue reading

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Trade talks

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

International trade discussions often take place thousands of miles away from the soybean fields of Van Wert County. That was not the case recently when U.S. Congressman, Bob Latta, hosted USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Affairs, Ted McKinney, in Northwest Ohio. McKinney participated in a roundtable discussion with area farmers at the home of Ohio Soybean Council member Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger.

Congressman Bob Latta, Mike and Kendra Heffelfinger, and Under Secretary Ted McKinney

“Ted McKinney grew up on a family farm in Tipton, Indiana, and graduated from Purdue,” said Latta. “He was a state FFA Officer, and served as the Indiana Director of Agriculture under then Governor Mike Pence.”

The Under Secretary spent about an hour taking those in attendance for a trade “spin” around the world to discuss the current status of negotiations with key trade partners.

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Corn harvest picks up, behind average

Seasonally warm and dry conditions helped push harvest progress but also increased the number of acres seeing moderate drought, according to Cheryl Turner, State Statistician, USDA NASS, Ohio Field Office. Topsoil moisture conditions were rated 41 percent adequate to surplus by week’s end, down 11 percentage points from the previous week. Approximately 43 percent of the state was abnormally dry or worse, according to the most recent Drought Monitor, up from 36 percent last week. Average temperatures for the week were 3.3 degrees above historical normals and the entire State averaged 0.14 inches of precipitation. There were 6.2 days suitable for fieldwork during the week ending October 11.

Farmers harvested soybeans and corn, planted wheat, and applied lime. Soybeans dropping leaves was at 93 percent, ahead of the five-year average by 2 percentage points. Soybeans harvested was at 49 percent while soybeans moisture content was at 12 percent. Corn mature was at 77 percent, behind the five-year average by 3 points while corn moisture content was rated 23 percent.… Continue reading

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Waterhemp woes

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

Waterhemp is a weed that some Ohio farmers have not experienced on their farms. Other farmers in Ohio have joined the ranks of those across the country who know it all too well, and wish they did not. Waterhemp is a weed that Ohio State University Extension personnel have been warning farmers around the state about at numerous agronomy meetings. The impact of waterhemp on soybean yields is very real. “If left untreated, it will compete with soybeans all season long, and can reduce yield by 44%,” said Jeff Stachler, OSU Extension Educator in Auglaize County, and Weed Specialist. 

Waterhemp is an annual weed with enormous genetic diversity. It begins emerging in early May and continues to emerge until late July. Waterhemp is a prolific seed producer.

“Most plants will produce at least 100,000 seeds per plant.

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Cover crops enhance soil health

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Fall harvest has started but farmers also need to think about planting cover crops.  USDA-SARE publication (10 Ways Cover Crops Enhance Soil Health) states “Cover crops lead to better soil health and potentially better farm profits.”  Here is a 10-point summary.

Cover crops feed many soil organisms. Most soil fungi and bacteria are beneficial to crops, feeding on carbohydrates that plants exude (release) through their roots. In return, fungi and bacteria supply nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorous, to the crop roots. While cover crops directly feed bacteria and fungi, many other soil organisms eat fungi and bacteria, including earthworms and beneficial arthropods (soil insects). Cover crops support the soil food web throughout the year. Beneficial soil insects eat weed seed, devore crop predator eggs and larva, and consume or outcompete many crop disease organisms.  Good soil health means that all soil organisms are kept in balance so no one organism becomes a pest.

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Ear rots showing up in Ohio corn

By Pierce Paul and Felipe Dalla Lana da Silva, Ohio State University Extension

Over the last two weeks, we have received samples or pictures of at least two different types of corn ear rots — Gibberella and Trichoderma. Of the two, Gibberella ear rot (GER) seems to be the most prevalent. Ear rots differ from each other in terms of the damage they cause (their symptoms), the toxins they produce, and the specific conditions under which they develop. GER leads to grain contamination with mycotoxins, including deoxynivalenol (also known as vomitoxin), and is favored by warm, wet, or humid conditions between silk emergence (R1) and early grain development. However, it should be noted that even when conditions are not ideal for GER development, vomitoxin may still accumulate in infected ears.

A good first step for determining whether you have an ear rot problem is to walk fields between dough and black-layer, before plants start drying down, and observe the ears.… Continue reading

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Trumbull SWCD cover crop cost-share program

While the use of cover crops in local agricultural production is not new, recent interest is likely due to the economic and environmental benefits cover crops provide. Trumbull Soil and Water Conservation District offered a cover crop cost-share program in 2019 that focused on drilling the seed but there can be challenges with timing. Trumbull SWCD set up a committee to plan the aerial seeding program that included Board supervisors, an associate supervisor and District staff members. Precision Aerial Ag Service worked with Trumbull SWCD and their Pymatuning/Shenango Watershed partner, Crawford County Conservation District in Pennsylvania to finalize the pilot program. Steve Zvara, with Precision Aerial Ag Service, provided the seeding service and would like to develop a regional effort for aerial seeding. Trumbull SWCD staff will continue working with him on that project.

With Trumbull SWCD’s aerial seeding program, participants were mainly focused on the benefit of erosion control. Cover crops can be used to reduce water and wind erosion and maintaining ground cover through the winter season will help reduce soil loss.… Continue reading

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