The dirt on soil health

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

As more is learned about the complexities of the soils serving as the basis for our civilization, it is becoming apparent to many that agricultural management practices need to change. Les Siler, a farmer from Fulton County, said farmers need to be intentional to improve the quality and health of their soil.

“Treat the soil like a living thing. You need to take care of it, keep it covered and not tear it up,” Siler said. “Along with the use of cover crops, having a multiple crop rotation is beneficial. “Crop diversity is very beneficial to the soil health and the soil life. Farmers also need to think about anything they do to the soil. If it is applying fertilizer or making a tillage pass. They need to think about how that impacts building the soil.” … Continue reading

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Improving fertilizer efficiency with the planter pass

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

An important part of crop production with environmental stewardship is efficient fertilizer application. The 4Rs are a consideration that can partly be addressed by adding fertilizer to the planter. Selecting the right source, the right rate, the right time, and the right place all come into play with the planter.

• The right source: making at fertilizer application at the time of planting can utilize various fertilizer sources, and can be managed by adding either a liquid or dry fertilizer system.

• The right rate: the fertilizer rate can be variably applied with new technologies that are available on planters.

• The right time: research has shown that the timing of fertilizer placement is important and placing fertilizer during the planting application is beneficially both agronomically and environmentally.

• The right place: proper fertilizer placement can be made with a planter, compared to making an application either prior to, or after planting, so that the fertilizer is in a location where the new developing root systems can reach it when it is needed.… Continue reading

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Check out the 2020 eFields Report

By Elizabeth Hawkins and John Fulton

Now that 2020 has wrapped up, it is time to look forward and make decisions to set our farms up for success in 2021. Each year, Ohio State University Extension partners with Ohio farmers to bring local research results to you through the eFields program. The 2020 eFields Research Report highlights 218 on-farm, field scale trials conducted in 39 Ohio counties. Research topics included nutrient management, precision crop management, cover crops, and forages. Other information about crop production budgets, planting progress, and farm business analysis was also included. New in 2020 was the addition of soil health and water quality trials.

The 2020 report is now available in both a print and e-version. To receive a printed copy, contact your local OSU Extension office or email The e-version can be viewed and downloaded at with the online version readable using a smartphone or tablet device.… Continue reading

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Addressing the challenges from within

By Matt Reese

Mother Nature certainly can offer no-till farmers plenty of external challenges, but sometimes the greatest difficulties from no-till come from within.

“When I started into the no-till, I wondered why everybody wasn’t doing this. I pushed and pushed and after a while I decided, this is not going to work unless that person wants it to work,” said Gary Shick, a Hardin County farmer who was named the 2020 No-Till Farmer of the Year by the Ohio No-Till Council. “Unless you want to make it work, it is not going to work.”

Shick farms mostly rolling ground, with some flat fields and heavy, wet soils mixed in. Some of his fields were a natural fit for no-till in the early 1970s, though many were not.

“I graduated from high school in ‘65 and I had my foot in the door for farming. I had a dad who was helpful and was looking for some help.… Continue reading

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Understanding soil health terms

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Service

Soil health can be hard to understand if you do not know the “lingo” or terminology.  Talking to a doctor, sometimes you need a dictionary to know what they are saying.  Here’s a short primer on soil health terms.  “Soil health” is defined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. Soils contains living organisms that perform functions for humans but these organisms need food, shelter, and certain environmental conditions to thrive.

“Soil ecosystem functions” include processes like nutrient cycling, clean water (filtering, buffering, availability), soil physical stability, and soil habitat ( where organisms live). Ecosystem services are grouped into four categories: provisioning (food production and water), regulating (climate and disease control), supporting (nutrient cycles, crop pollination) and cultural (spiritual and recreational benefits). Many soils are degrading rapidly especially when  compared to their virgin state, before they were cultivated.

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Precision U Meetings focus on reduced working days

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

The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), Digital Ag Team is hosting Precision U virtually this year in a series of four meetings, all with a theme of tackling spring operations with reduced working days.

It is no surprise to Ohio’s farmers that the weather patterns have been changing, and the short- and long-term weather impacts create a need for adaptive management styles.

“Since 1995 we have seen a decrease in the number of suitable working field days in Ohio from April through October,” said Aaron Wilson, Atmospheric Scientist at The Ohio State University and Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center.

Looking back at the 2020 midwest growing season, defined as March through November, the growing season was warmer with both daily high temperatures and overnight lows above the 30-year average.… Continue reading

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Agricultural Risk Coverage for the 2021 crop year

By Mary GriffithChris ZollerHallie Williams, Ohio State University Extension

Enrollment for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year opened in October, with the deadline to enroll and make amendments to program elections on March 15, 2021. This signup is for potential payments for the 2021 crop.

If changes are not made by the March 15 deadline, the election defaults to the programs selected for the 2020 crop year with no penalty. While it is optional to make changes to program elections, producers are required to enroll (sign a contract) each year to be eligible to receive payments. So, even if you do not change your program elections, you will still need to make an appointment at the Farm Service Agency to sign off on enrollment for the 2021 crop year by that March 15 deadline.

Producers have the option to enroll covered commodities in either ARC-County, ARC-Individual, or PLC.… Continue reading

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The new Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) crop insurance program

By Nick PaulsonGary Schnitkey, and Krista Swanson with the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois and Carl Zulauf, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics at Ohio State University

The Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) is a new supplemental insurance program that will be available in 2021. ECO is an option that can only be added to an underlying individual plan of insurance and provides area-based coverage similar to the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO).

Overview of ECO

ECO will be available for purchase on 31 spring-planted crops including corn, soybeans, and wheat (RMA 2020a and 2020b). ECO is purchased as an endorsement to an eligible individual insurance plan such as Revenue Protection (RP), Revenue Protection with the Harvest Price Exclusion (RP-HPE), or Yield Protection (YP). It cannot be used with an underlying area plan of insurance (i.e. Area Risk Protection Insurance (APRI) or Margin Protection).… Continue reading

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Seed Consultants virtual meetings

Join Seed Consultants Agronomists, Matt Hutcheson, Bill McDonald and Jordan Bassler for a virtual Winter Agronomy Meeting. Attendees have three options to join or can join all three. When you joining the meeting, attendees will be entered in to win one of the following prizes:

  1. 40 bags of Enlist E3 soybeans
  2. $200 eCertificate to the Seed Consultants online store
  3. $100 eCertificate to the Seed Consultants online store
    The Seed Consultants Virtual Winter Agronomy Meeting Schedule is as follows:

• January 27 2021: Matt Hutcheson—“Enlist Update and Lessons Learned”

• February 3 2021: Jordan Bassler –“Basics of Soil Fertility”

• February 10 2021: Bill McDonald— “2020 Corn Fungicide Study Results and Discussion”

For more details or to register for the meetings, click here.… Continue reading

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Maximizing factors that influence crop yield

By Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Farmers consistently attempt to increase crop yields but may not know which factors are important.  Yield is influenced by climate and temperature, plant and water management, and soil nutrient management factors.  Good genetics plus the ability to manipulate and optimize the plant’s environment generally result in the highest yields.

Climate and temperature factors are critical to achieving high yields.  Warmer temperatures maximize crop growth including cell division, cell growth, and crop metabolism while cold temperatures inhibit plant growth.  Ideally, soybeans grow the best at air temperatures of 770F. A string of temperatures below 600F reduces soybean pod set.  Corn is a warm season plant that germinates best at 60-650F soil temperatures and grows best between 72-850F.  Iowa and Illinois benefit from dark soils, high in soil organic matter (SOM) which absorbs heat and warms soils better than light-colored sandy soils. 

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2020 Organic Corn Performance Test results available

In 2020, 34 organic hybrids representing 6 commercial brands were submitted for evaluation in the Organic Corn Performance Test. The tests were conducted on certified organic fields at Apple Creek (West Badger Farm) and Wooster (Fry Farm) in Wayne County and Lindsey in Sandusky County and were intensively managed for nutrients and weed control. Each hybrid entry was evaluated using four replications per site in a randomized complete block design. Hybrids were planted either in an early or full season maturity trial based on relative maturity information provided by the companies. The relative maturity of hybrid entries in the early maturity trial were 106 days or earlier; the relative maturity of hybrid entries in the full season trial were 107 days or later. The planting rate was 34,000 seeds/acre with a final stand target of 30,000 – 31,000 plants/acre. Soil amendments were applied according to recommended cultural practices for obtaining optimum grain yields.… Continue reading

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2020 Northwest Ohio Corn Silage Test

By Rich MinyoBill WiddicombePeter ThomisonAllen Geyer, Ohio State University Extension

In 2020, 45 corn silage hybrids representing 11 commercial brands were evaluated in a joint trial with Michigan State University (MSU). One Ohio location is combined with Michigan’s two southern (Zone 1) silage locations. The trials were divided into two maturity groups designated early and late since the relative maturity (RM) submitted by the companies with results listed in separate tables. The Ohio test site is located in our Northwest Region at Hoytville (Wood County). The two MSU sites are in Branch and Lenawee counties, which are on the Ohio/Michigan state line. The test results from the three 2020 locations are treated as one region. The plots were planted with 4-row Almaco SeedPro 360 plot planters and maintained by each respective state utilizing standard production practices. The center two rows were harvested using MSU’s New Holland T6.175 tractor which powered a two-row Champion C1200 Kemper forage harvester with a rear mounted Haldrup M-63 Weigh system.… Continue reading

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OSU Extension’s online winter programs

By Mary GriffithAmanda DouridasLaura LindseyAllen Geyer, Ohio State University Extension

This winter OSU Extension’s Agronomy Team will offer a variety of educational programs for farmers and crop consultants to attend online. The team will offer both traditional programs including a Corn College, Soybean School, and Precision University, as well as focusing on some new hot topic areas. New programs will focus on three areas: Investing in Soil Health, Crop Diversity to Improve Your Bottom Line,  and Farming in Weather Extremes. CCA CEUs will be offered at each session. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required for each session to receive log-in information. The schedule with registration information for each program is listed below.

Be one of the first 300 people from Ohio to sign-up and attend a 2021 Virtual Winter Meeting hosted by the AgCrops Team and you will receive a set of handouts! Included in the shipment to your door is a copy of the Corn, Soybean, Wheat, and Forages Field Guide, a 2020 eFields Report, digital soil thermometer, and a 2021 Agronomic Crops Team Calendar (with important marketing, crop insurance and USDA report dates identified).… Continue reading

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PrecisionU: Tackling spring operations with reduced working days

By John BarkerAmanda DouridasKen FordJohn FultonMary GriffithWill HammanElizabeth Hawkins

Precision University is going virtual this year! Due to the pandemic, the Digital Ag team will host a series of hour-long webinars each Tuesday in January at 10:00 AM to replace the annual in-person event.  The 2021 Precision U sessions will focus on “Tackling Spring Operations with Reduced Working Days.” Changing weather patterns have led to fewer days available in the spring to complete planting, spraying, and fertilizing. University and industry experts will share research results and technology available to help you work smarter and more efficiently. Please plan to join us for these sessions!

2021 Precision U: Tackling Spring Operations with Reduced Working Days 

  • January 5 – Gambling with Planting Decisions – Dr. Aaron Wilson (Ohio State University Extension) and Dr. Bob Nielsen (Purdue University)
  • January 12 – Improving Fertilizer Efficiency with the Planter Pass – Matt Bennett (Precision Planting Technology) and Dr.
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Nitrogen concerns for Ohio?

By Harold Watters, Ohio State University Extension

Let’s talk again about nitrogen management. It leaks, like everywhere. Up and down — up as a gas when the soils are saturated and down and out with rainfall. Even though 80% of the atmosphere is N, we still have to supply it for our grass crops. And we add more than we need, because we don’t want to be short. If you wonder why I bring this up again, it’s because the survey says — you aren’t listening.

So what can we do about managing nitrogen for corn? The current tool to make nitrogen recommendations for corn in Ohio is the CNRC. This stands for Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator — based on a model to give the Maximum Return To Nitrogen (MRTN). The tool is housed at Iowa State University and includes our Ohio data in the model for our Ohio recommendation. The calculator site also houses recommendations for the neighboring states of Indiana and Michigan — with a total of seven states involved in developing the model.… Continue reading

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Bio-stimulants for higher yields and carbon

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Bio-stimulants include both bacterial and fungal inoculants, various types of compost, and organic adjuvants that stimulate plant growth and improve yield.  Farmers have been using bacteria inoculants containing Rhizobia bacteria on legumes and clovers like soybeans, alfalfa, and red clover for many years. Each plant has a specific Rhizobia bacteria inoculant needed to maximize nitrogen production.  Rhizobia take atmospheric nitrogen and convert it to plant available forms of nitrogen in the nodules.  Inoculants for soybeans and alfalfa may last 1-2 years while cover crop inoculants are short lived, lasting only 12-48 hours.  Many farmers buy pre-inoculated seed but exposure to sunlight and temperatures above 500F often make them ineffective.  For best results, always inoculant cover crops legumes (winterpeas, vetches, cowpeas, Sunn Hemp) and clovers (crimson, Balansa, red, sweet) at planting and buy the right inoculant species.

Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Other inoculants are fungal. 

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Soil compaction: Silent yield thief

By John Fulton

John Fulton

Soil compaction continues to be a concern in Ohio as both precipitation during the spring and fall along with farm equipment size have dramatically increased the potential for compacting soils. Heavy farm machinery and tillage implements can magnify damage to soil structure reducing pore space between soil particles within the soil profile. While machinery weight is the primary culprit of soil compaction, the timing of field operations, in particular tillage and harvest, can have lasting impacts on crop yields if completed when field conditions are unfavorable.

Damage from soil compaction has significant impact on water infiltration, root development, nutrient uptake by crops and ultimately grain yield the following season. Research estimates that yield loss caused by soil compaction from machine traffic can be 10% to 20%. So as we move into the winter months and start prepping for spring field operations, it is important to evaluate if compaction exists within individual fields.… Continue reading

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Poinsettias in bloom are a sure sign Christmas is coming at Barco Sons, Inc.

By Brianna Gwirtz, OCJ field reporter

For Paul Barco, it’s not the evergreen tree that signals the turn of the holiday season. Instead, it’s the radiant color of a poinsettia. Paul, the production manager for Barco Son, Inc. is the third generation of his family to grow flowers in the northeastern Ohio region.  

Located in Medina, Ohio, Barco Sons Inc. grows a variety of plants in 260,000 square feet of greenhouses. The greenhouse was originally founded in Rocky River, Ohio in the 1940s when Paul’s grandfather, John, began growing vegetables to sell at farmers’ markets in Cleveland. John’s three sons would prove to have a green thumb as well, and it was Paul’s father, Arthur, who took an interest in flowers.

“Dad decided he wanted to get into cut flowers. He and his two brothers, Willard and David, incorporated their business in 1965. At that time they had around 60,000 square feet,” Barco said.… Continue reading

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Not your grandparent’s soils

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

“You are not farming the same soils your grandparents farmed,” said Hans Kok, Program Director for the Conservation Technology Information Center in Indiana.

Kok spoke during a presentation at the Ohio No-till Council’s Winter Conference and described the origins of the soils we find in this part of the Midwest, going back to the glaciers and continuing to the modern soil challenges we face. Over the past 100 years, farming practices employed in America have led to a deterioration of the soil quality.

“Data from the University of Illinois shows that on plots dating back to 1873, we have lost about 80% of the organic matter in the soils that have been farmed continuously since that time,” Kok said.

Kok believes that producers can reverse this trend by adjusting their farming practices. One change he recommends is to incorporate the use of cover crops.

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NCGA releases Yield Contest results

U.S. farmers not only planted and harvested a large crop successfully in 2020, but they also rolled out some impressive yields in the National Corn Growers Association’s National Corn Yield Contest despite weather challenges, wildfires, and a pandemic. Don Stall, Charlotte, Michigan, produced the highest yield in the contest with a yield of 476.9052 bushels per acre, reflecting farmers’ resilience and the value of modern seed varieties, advanced production techniques and innovative growing practices.

The National Corn Yield Contest is now in its 56th year and remains NCGA’s most popular program for members.

“This contest brings farmers together to create, innovate and explore ways to optimize the nation’s largest and arguably most important crop,” said Debbie Borg, chair of NCGA’s Member and Consumer Engagement Action Team. “At both the state and national levels, contest winners find new ways to excel while using a variety of techniques. Ultimately, the invention and improvement by farmers and input providers enable U.S.… Continue reading

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