Agronomy Notebook

Accelerating soybean yields

By Alexandra Stinemetz and Kyle Poling, Pioneer field agronomists

Soybean was brought to the United States in the late 1800s or early 1900s, first as a forage crop. Farmers soon learned that the protein from the seed was a much better feed supplement for livestock than feeding the whole plant. Growing soybean gained in popularity in the 1940s and is now the second largest row crop (based on acreage) in the country.

Plant breeding has significantly increased the yield potential in modern-day soybean varieties. Yield improvements in soybean is focused on (1) producing more seeds per acre and (2) larger seeds on each plant. In the process of selecting higher yielding varieties, soybean breeders have improved disease tolerance, stress tolerance, and altered growth patterns compared to older varieties. 

Today’s varieties spend 7 to 10 less days in vegetative growth and nearly 2 weeks more in the reproductive stages. This change in soybean growth habit has provided huge opportunities for increased yield compared to “the varieties that Grandpa grew.”… Continue reading

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Scouting for disease

By Jason Hartschuh, CCA, Agricultural and Natural Resources Educator, Ohio State University, Extension Crawford County

Q: We had tar spot bad in our area last year should we be planning to spray all of our corn acres this year?

A: Tar spot treatment, like with all other diseases, should rely on a strong scouting program. The risk is higher this year, especially in continuous corn, but we also have to have favorable environmental conditions. In fields where corn is following soybeans or wheat, the risk is slightly lower but if favorable conditions develop, spores may move in from other areas. With all diseases, scouting is critical to determining if a fungicide needs to be applied. Lesions will be small, black, raised spots appearing on both sides of the leaves along with leaf sheaths and husks. Spots may be on green or brown, dying tissue. Spots on green tissue may have tan or brown halos. Once tar spot is identified, fields should be monitored every 7 to 10 days for incidence levels to increase, even if a fungicide is applied.… Continue reading

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Maximize remaining yield potential in 2022

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

The 2022 growing season has already provided growers with several challenges. Learning from these challenges and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season will be critical to achieving top-end yield potential. 

Adverse weather conditions have significantly impacted planting date, emergence, and early crop development. While early planting favors high yields, it does not guarantee them. Even with delayed planting growers can still achieve high yields depending on several other factors. The key to achieving top-end yield potential will be sound management decisions moving forward.

Not only have adverse spring field conditions impacted planning and early crop development, but some issues that exist as a result of the wet weather will linger throughout the season. Seedlings have struggled to get established in crusted soils, saturated soils, and flooded areas of fields. Compaction, root restrictions, and damage to plants will hinder crop development throughout the growing season.… Continue reading

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A look at contest practices to bump up soybean yields

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA (Adapted from Crop & Soils Magazine, July-August 2021)

Names like Kip Cullers from Stark City, MO, or Randy Dowdy from Pravo, GA are legends in soybean yield contests. In 2010, Cullers raised 160.6 bushel per acre soybeans. In 2019, Dowdy raised 190 bushel per acre contest soybeans. While many sales agronomists have worked alongside of Cullers, Dowdy and other top soybean producers across the country, academia has not thoroughly evaluated the production until recently.

An examination of high-yield practices was undertaken by Larry Purcell, University of Arkansas soybean physiologist, Distinguished Professor of Crop Physiology and Altheimer Chair for Soybean Research. Also in 2020, Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor and Extension soybean and small-grain specialist and the North Central Soybean Research Program soybean agronomist, and 12 other university agronomists participated in a large collaborative research SOYA project to investigate a high-input system’s impact on soybean yield and profitability.… Continue reading

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Effectively feeding a high-value crop, even with high fertilizer prices

By Luke Schulte, CCA, Beck’s Field Agronomist

For many reasons, fertilizer prices have been on the rise for some time. Due to significantly higher pricing, some farmers may have opted to apply less or perhaps skip dry fertilizer applications all together. However, adequate nutrition is fundamental to maximizing yield potential and is increasingly important to profitability in this time of high commodity prices.

Foliar nutrition products are often labeled “snake oils.” While some foliar products haven’t been consistent, it is important to recognize that it is not as simple as prescribing a product containing the nutrients the soil or crop lacks. Relative to dry fertilizer, the volume of nutrients in a foliar feed program is minute. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on successfully getting the low volume of nutrition into the plant to capitalize on its’ efficiency. The inclusion of the following components into a foliar program will lead to a greater likelihood of plant uptake.… Continue reading

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Managing nitrogen in 2022

By Roy Ulrich, technical agronomist for Dekalb and Asgrow, Southern Ohio

Adequate rates of nitrogen available to a corn plant during the entire growing season is a foundation to a successful harvest. This fact is foundational that Fred Below from the University of Illinois in his “Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World” ranked nitrogen as the second most important factor in corn yield, only to be outdone by weather. 

If nitrogen is that critical to a successful crop, then what is the correct rate of nitrogen for an acre of corn? The old school approach would be to take a yield goal and multiply it by 1.25 pounds  per bushel so a 250-bushel per acre yield goal would require an application rate of 312 pounds per acre of nitrogen. As most know, nitrogen isn’t quite this simple and isn’t this cut and dry when it comes to final yield. 

When it comes to actual nitrogen rates, like most good agronomy answers, when it comes to nitrogen needed “it depends” is the correct answer.… Continue reading

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Purple corn?

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, product manager, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

One phenomenon that commonly occurs at the early stages of the growing season is the appearance of purple cornplants. Corn plants can turn purple for several reasons related to environmental factors such as:

• Sunny days and cool nights (temps in the 40s to 50s F) 
• Soil pH lower than 5.5 
• Cool temperatures 
• Wet soil 
• Stresses that hinder the uptake of phosphorus 
• Herbicide injury 
• Soil compaction.

Because many fields have saturated soils and the forecast includes cooler nighttime temperatures, producers may see some purple plants in their fields. Purpling in corn due to cooler weather most often occurs when plants are in the V2 to V5 growth stages. Because of diverse genetics, hybrids react differently to early stress and some will exhibit purpling while others will not. Anyone who has walked a test plot to observe early plant vigor or has split their planter between two hybrids has probably seen a side-by-side comparison where one hybrid turned purple while the other did not.… Continue reading

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Managing your crop’s yield potential 

By Mitch Greve, Agrigold agronomist – Ohio

Managing your crop’s yield potential starts with having patience and a detail-oriented plan heading into planting. Furthermore, as the planting season comes to an end it is essential to spend time in the field with the crop. Scouting corn and soybeans from emergence to harvest can help manage the crop’s yield potential. Monitoring weather patterns and a keen eye can help write your yield story. 

A yield story can be broken down into four chapters; emergence scoring, nutrient deficiencies, disease and heat stress, and late season plant health. 

Emergence score and plant vigor 

Within the first few weeks of planting corn and soybeans it is ideal to scout for emergence and plant vigor. Early season scouting will inform how many plants emerged as compared to intended stand, which we refer to as emergence percentage. Having a high emergence percentage is the best-case scenario, but sometimes weather, and biological or mechanical implications can lower that percentage.… Continue reading

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Corn leaf diseases to watch for in 2022

By Dave Nanda, Ph.D. Director of Genetics for Seed Genetics Direct
It is almost impossible to develop resistance to all of the prevalent diseases while developing new varieties. The disease organisms are constantly changing and by the time breeders develop new varieties resistant to certain disease organism, the pathogens mutate and change. In order to maximize the potential yield of crops, farmers need to also protect them from diseases. Fungicides is one way to do so. 

Dave Nanda

Depending on the spring weather and past experience, there are leaf diseases which might develop and dominate in July and August, most of the which are caused by the fungal organisms.

Northern corn leaf blight (NCLB) can get started from the residue of previous crops which may provide the initial inoculum and is further spread by airborne spores. It likes cool, wet and humid weather. NCLB produces long, cigar shaped lesions which are grayish to tan in color.… Continue reading

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Be sure to monitor soil temperatures

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

Soil temperature is a critical part of successful corn and soybean germination. For seed to begin the germination process, soil temps must be at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Prior to planting early in the spring, it is important to monitor soil temperatures and wait to plant until soil warms up enough to promote quick germination and emergence. Soil temperatures should be in the 50s and expected to continue to rise.

It is also important to keep in mind that soil temperatures can fluctuate relatively quickly. For example, soil temps in southern Ohio were in the mid 40s Wednesday, April 20. With warmer weather and sunshine they had climbed to above 60 degrees on Saturday, April 23. Although soil temps have warmed up enough to plant due to a weekend of 80 degree weather, keep in mind soil temps can drop below 50 just as quickly if we have a cold rain event.… Continue reading

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Agronomic resiliency in 2022

By John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist, Northern Ohio

Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficulties or “toughness.” Lately, this term has been used quite often. Electric grid resiliency is used following hurricanes and storm outbreaks. Economic resiliency is discussed following the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns. The resilience of underdogs competing against juggernauts in March madness basketball has been another recent topic.  

John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist in northern Ohio

In 2022, “resiliency” is the goal of every farmer planting or tending a crop. From sky-high fertilizer prices to pesticide availability to tar spot concerns to equipment and parts inventories, the buildup to the start of the 2022 growing season has been filled with remarkable, unparalleled, and in some cases, downright concerning headlines in the ag industry. In addition, global unrest and lingering weather concerns have led to historic volatility in the price of commodities. 

Against this backdrop, resilient growers will be those who are prepared with a plan, surrounded by trusted advisors, and willing to adapt to challenges.  The… Continue reading

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Managing for a high yielding 2022

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, product manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

With spring planting right around the corner, it is a good time to discuss key management practices and the impact they have on the growing season. You may have heard that the crop starts the season in the bag with its highest yield potential. That yield potential can be lost due to several factors throughout the season. While many factors leading to yield loss are out of our control (drought, disease development, insect pressure, etc.), it is important to properly manage the factors that can be controlled.  

Matt Hutcheson, product manager for Seed Consultants, Inc., talks to customers at a field day.

With the presence of herbicide-resistance weeds and the growing number of herbicide trait options, it is increasingly important for farmers to be well informed and meticulous in their weed control decisions. Knowing what weeds are present and which herbicides most effectively control them is a must.… Continue reading

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Determining the right corn plant population

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

One factor that greatly influences corn yields is plant population. Determining the correct plant population may take some effort, however, it is a critical factor that every corn grower needs to get right in order to maximize yields. Recent research performed by universities and seed companies has determined that that yields increase significantly as populations are increased up to a point of 34,000 seeds per acre. In general, yields begin to level off at planting rates around rates 36,000 seeds per acre. Recent studies have also determined that even in low yield environments planting rates of 31,000 seeds per acre maximize yield and economic return. In very productive, 250 bushel per acre yield environments, research results show that higher populations (38,000+ seeds per acre) maximize yields. Breeding and advances in genetics have improved the modern corn plant’s ability to yield at higher populations when compared to corn hybrids from the past.… Continue reading

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Planting depth will critical to achieving high yields in 2022

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

Planting is one of the most critical management practices of the year because it sets the stage for the entire growing season. There are several key aspects of planting, one of which is planting depth. Invariably, every year Seed Consultants’ agronomists come across problems that are caused by variable and improper planting depth. Planting depth is critical because it impacts germination, seedling development, crop root development, emergence, and ultimately crop yields.

For corn, seed needs to be planted no shallower than 1.5 inches below the soil surface. Typically, the suggested range is 1.5 to 2 inches, however, some studies and growers have seen success at depths up to 3 inches. It is important to make sure that corn is planted into adequate soil moisture for germination. In addition, corn needs to be at least 1.5 inches deep for the proper early development the root system.… Continue reading

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Lessons learned from the 2021 growing season

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Every new growing season presents its own set of challenges and gives growers an opportunity to learn and improve their management practices, 2021 was no different. From the wet weather and adverse conditions early in the season to diseases and agronomic problems there is a great deal to be learned from this year.

One critical management practice that 2021 highlighted is the timing of planting operations. In many areas of the eastern Corn Belt there were large rain events that included cold temperatures and created adverse growing conditions for seeds and seedlings. The first 24 to 48 hours a seed is in the ground are critical to seedling development. In that time period the seed is taking in moisture and beginning the germination process. When planted directly before a cold/wet weather event, seeds are at risk of imbibitional chilling injury. Agronomists and farmers observed chilling injury in corn and soybean fields that resulted in seedling damage, seedling death, and reduced stands.… Continue reading

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Maximizing weed control amidst supply challenges

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

As harvest wraps up, it’s natural to want to take some time to recoup before jumping immediately into decision-making mode for the coming season. However, due to the uncertain availability of several post-emergence herbicides, an increased sense of urgency may be warranted to ensure your supply and formulate a plan to keep your soybean acres weed-free in 2022.

Over the last 18 months, many supply challenges have surfaced across multiple industries. The agricultural industry is currently facing many potential challenges heading into the 2022 planting season. While some herbicide shortages may be speculative, others appear more certain. Due to their broad-spectrum activity, glyphosate and glufosinate-containing (Liberty) herbicides are two of the most widely used herbicides on the market. These reasons, amongst other factors, have led to supply concerns with these herbicides as we look ahead to 2022.

Making the most of the glyphosate and glufosinate supply

Fall Applications (weather permitting)

Where possible, avoid using glyphosate this fall.… Continue reading

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Post-harvest field condition considerations

By Mitch Greve, AgriGold agronomist — Ohio

Corn and soybean harvest is in full swing throughout Ohio and as growers race towards completion it is imperative to be simultaneously thinking ahead towards next year. The most important question when exiting a field post-harvest is, what condition did I leave this field in? No-tillage, fall tillage, and cover cropping are the main practices a grower uses to help manage their fields in the fall. Irrespective of a growers management strategy, the importance lies in creating a level seed bed for spring to induce good seed to soil contact which promotes uniform seed emergence. 

No-tillage is when a grower leaves the fallow ground untouched post-harvest. A no-till management practice promotes better soil structure with larger macropores which can beneficially influence water and nutrient availability throughout the heat stress portions of the growing season. However, wetter springtime soil conditions coupled with cooler soil temperatures creates a more conducive environment for early season seedling blights on heavier or untiled ground.… Continue reading

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Tar spot in Ohio: What we know and what we’re learning in 2021

By John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist, Northern Ohio

Tar spot is a relatively new corn disease for Ohio, as well as the rest of the United States. It is caused by a fungus and appears on corn leaves (as well as husks under severe cases) as small, raised black bumps that cannot be rubbed off.

John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist in northern Ohio

Tar spot has historically been present in corn-growing regions of Mexico and Central/South America. These areas are often at higher elevations, with a similar climate to much of Ohio and the Midwest Corn Belt. Tar spot was found in the U.S. for the first time in 2015 in Illinois and Indiana. The disease was first found in Ohio in 2018, and has been found in much of the state in 2021.

Periods of moderate temperatures (60-75 degrees F), high humidity (above 85%), and leaf wetness exceeding 7 hours (heavy dews, foggy mornings, frequent rainfall) present the most ideal environment for disease development.… Continue reading

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Understanding gibberella ear mold, minimizing vomitoxin

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

Fall provides the culmination of the growing season and often the reward for our year-long efforts. However, ear molds and poor grain quality dampen our enthusiasm and make for some lingering challenges if not dealt with properly both at harvest and prior to grain storage.

Some common ear molds, such as diplodia, are not known to produce mycotoxins. However, aspergillus, fusarium, and gibberella ear mold often result in the production of harmful mycotoxins. While aspergillus and fusarium are less common, gibberella is all too often present within some fields at harvest. Gibberella ear mold can lead to vomitoxin present in the grain, which can cause health problems in both humans and livestock, particularly swine. 

What causes gibberella ear mold and why does it occur?

Gibberella ear mold is caused by the fungus fusarium graminearum. This fungus is present to some degree in almost all fields but is especially abundant in corn following corn or wheat and fields with a history of gibberella.… Continue reading

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Green stem syndrome

By Matt Hutcheson, Seed Consultants, Inc.

One issue that impacts soybean harvest in the eastern Corn Belt at some level each year is green stem syndrome. Green stem syndrome could be larger issue for the 2017 harvest because of latter planting dates in many areas. When green stem syndrome occurs, stems and leaves can remain green after pods have matured. As a result, while pods and seeds are mature and dry enough to be harvested, harvest operations can be slowed as combines have more difficulty dealing with stems and leaves that are still green. In addition to creating harvest delays, green stem syndrome can increase fuel consumption and result in shattering losses if growers delay harvest until stems have fully matured.

The occurrence of green stems varies from year-to-year and can be affected by several factors, such as: 
• Viral infections 
• Insect feeding 
• Late planting 
• Drought stress 
• Application of fungicides

Successful management of green stem syndrome requires management practices that include timely planting, establishing adequate plant stands, irrigation, and controlling insects/pests.… Continue reading

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