Agronomy Notebook

It’s not too early to take action: Minimize vomitoxin at harvest

By Luke Schulte, CCA, Beck’s Hybrids

The wide planting window throughout the state has led to a large variance in the growth stage of our corn crops. However, for some, fungicide season will be here before we know it.

Over the years, vomitoxin (VOM) in corn has become increasingly more common. Much of this is due to the increase of relative humidity levels post-pollination. Vomitoxin begins as gibberella ear mold. The causal pathogen, fusarium graminearum, is present to some degree in most all fields but is especially abundant in fields with a history of gib ear mold, fields with minimal air movement, and often corn after corn fields.

Infection primarily enters the ear via silk channels, particularly the straggler green, unpollinated silks remaining after pollen shed has concluded.

Infection primarily enters the ear via silk channels, particularly the straggler green, unpollinated silks remaining after pollen shed has concluded. The fungus will attach and grow down the silk to infect the ear.… Continue reading

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Is fungicide in wheat worth it?

By Chris Suber, president of Ebberts Field Seeds, Inc.

Chris Suber, president,
Ebberts Field Seeds, Inc.

There’s no shortage of things to do during May for Ohio farmers. Whether it’s working ground, planting, or spraying, every hour counts when conditions are fit to be in the field. Yet an important application in wheat still needs to get done among the chaos of getting the corn and soybean crop planted and off to a good start — a fungicide pass when the wheat is at the heading stage to manage Fusarium Head Blight (FHB), commonly known as head scab.

For most Ohio farmers, this pass typically falls in the middle of May. Although this year Ohio’s wheat crop appears to be a full week to 10 days ahead of typical. One of the last things a farmer wants to do during this busy time is clean the sprayer out just to spray a few fields of wheat, especially when you’re trying to finish soybean burndown or spray corn.… Continue reading

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Early weed control, bumping seed rate could pay big dividends

By Dave Nanda, Ph.D., Director of Genetics for Seed Genetics Direct

Dave Nanda

It has been a wet start to the growing season statewide. I favor early planting, but only if the ground is ready. To set the stage for a successful season, the timely planting also requires timely weed control, which has been a challenge so far in 2024 with the wet weather.

The micro-environment of each plant is very important for its ability to reach maximum yield potential. Plants sense early on if they have competition from weeds or other crop plants, and they start to react and plan their future accordingly. If growers can reduce pressure from weeds, it will encourage crops to produce more yield. 

It is especially important to control weeds early so herbicide-resistant weeds won’t get started. Many weeds, such as marestail and waterhemp, have developed resistance to glyphosate herbicide because it was used on millions of acres of corn and soybeans.… Continue reading

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Sulfur is foundational in high yield soybeans

By Kyle Poling, Pioneer field agronomist in West Central Ohio

Soybeans are considered to be source limited. In other words, a soybean plant has the ability to consistently make more yield than the environment allows. A soybean crop will adjust its yield potential to match the growing conditions. In a typical Ohio soybean field, it is estimated that flowers and young pods abort at a rate of 60% to 75%.

Soybean yield is ultimately determined by two yield components: the number of seeds per acre and the final seed weight. The number of pods (and seeds) produced by a soybean field is determined by the supply of simple sugars from the leaves during flowering and pod set. A highly productive environment will provide plenty of sunshine, nutrients, and water that results in a large supply of sugars to maximize the number of seeds produced per acre. Additionally, an early planting date and limited stresses from soybean flowering (R1) through seed development (R5) will extend the seed fill duration resulting in increased seed weight.… Continue reading

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Spring planting tips

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc

Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

Ready or not, spring of 2024 is upon us and with it the beginning of another growing season. Spring is a critical time for making sound decisions that will impact crops throughout the growing season. Each year is different, however, every year we see similar problems in eastern Corn Belt fields relating to spring management decisions. Now is a good time to revisit some of the important things to consider as planting season approaches.

One yield-robbing problem that can significantly impact crops is compaction. Compaction can be caused by any fieldwork that is performed when soil is too wet. Therefore, it is important to consider soil moisture before heading to the field with any implement. Each year, agronomists visit fields to assess stunted crops with poor root development because of compaction.… Continue reading

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2023 in review

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

Matt Hutcheson, Seed Consultants, Inc.

The 2023 growing season presented growers with many challenges. Environmental factors caused stress in crops and created obstacles for farmers across the eastern Corn Belt. Although these challenges impacted field work and yields, the lessons learned from these challenges can help growers make management decisions to allow for success in future growing seasons. 

Wet spring weather made completing field work a challenge and caused planting delays in some areas. In excessively wet springs where weather delays field work, growers should work to minimize any additional delays. In addition to timely planting, it is important to make sure planting equipment is operating properly and providing consistent seed placement at the correct depth. Every year agronomists observe yield-robbing problems caused by mistakes made at planting. Throughout the planting season, growers should check for adequate down pressure, good seed-to-soil contact, uniform planting depth, correct planting populations, ect.… Continue reading

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Harvest variability

By Mitch Greve, Channel technical agronomist — Northwest Ohio

Producers in Ohio experienced a unique set of challenges in 2023 including delayed planting, poor emergence, drought and water stress, disease, stalk rots, and ear molds to name a few. This variability can teach farmers lessons around how to manage their crops in future years.

Planting conditions for much of the state were favorable early and not-so favorable the deeper into May that we got. Planting for success starts with good uniform soil moisture and temperature, seed-to-soil contact, and accurate delivery of seed from the planter to the soil. Most growers across the state did not have all three critical components, as weather was less than favorable in the latter half of May with drier soil conditions and delayed planting from early May rainstorms. All this variability can contribute to varying yield ranges that farmers may experience this fall.

Disease was minimal through the midway point of the season, but when we finally started receiving rainfall in August, it set us up to have a conducive environment.… Continue reading

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Gibberella ear mold: What can we do about it now?

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

Unfortunately, like last fall, gibberella ear mold has been seen in numerous corn fields amongst a multitude of hybrids. While diplodia, aspergillus, and fusarium are also examples of common ear molds, gibberella is typically the most common and often results in the production of harmful mycotoxins or vomitoxin.

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 most all fields but is especially abundant in corn following corn or corn following wheat and fields with a history of gibberella. Infection primarily enters the ear via silk channels, particularly the straggler green silks remaining after pollen shed has concluded. The fungus will attach and grow down the silk to infect the ear. Any stress that hinders pollination has the potential to impact gibberella/vomitoxin levels — insufficient N, heat throughout pollination, drought.… Continue reading

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Harvest observations to build a better future

By Ryan Klamfoth, Pioneer Field Agronomist

The excitement of harvest is upon us. The view from the combine will provide a front row seat to assess the impacts of the growing season with frequent glances at the yield monitor. The 2023 corn crop has experienced a unique combination of challenges including: low accumulation of growing degree units (GDUs), stretches with no rainfall, plant health issues from diseases such as tar spot, crown rot, anthracnose top die-back, times when low soil moisture limited nutrient uptake, and premature plant death. Recognizing the impact of these challenges is an important step toward better understanding the cause for variable performance that can be expected this year from field to field or even within the same combine pass.

Average heat unit accumulation in many areas of Ohio has been tracking about 5 calendar days behind the 30-year average and 14 days behind the 2022 season. A cool summer has many farmers concerned about shelling wet corn.… Continue reading

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Fall management of late-planted wheat

By Luke Schulte, CCA, Field Agronomist, Beck’s Hybrids

As harvest begins significantly later than usual for most this fall, much of the intended wheat acreage will also likely get planted later than desired. Wheat planted more than 2 weeks after the “fly-free” date requires several specific management adjustments in order to maximize yield potential next summer. These management tweaks are necessary to account for lost time, heat required to drive tiller formation yet this fall. Fall-developed tillers are larger and more productive than spring-initiated tillers.


Fewer fall-initiated tillers equals fewer stems or eventually heads per plant. In order to compensate for a reduction in tillers/stems per plant, planting population should be increased. If planting more than 2 weeks after the fly-free date, increase population by 10% per week.

Fall fertility

While wheat requires adequate fertility, similar to corn and soybeans, several specific nutrients are essential to stimulating tiller formation. Fall-applied nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), and phosphorous (P) are crucial to increasing the number of tillers per plant.… Continue reading

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The effectiveness of insecticide on treated soybeans

By Todd Jeffries, vice president of Seed Genetics Direct

More than any other industry, the agricultural community should be well aware of herbicide resistance. Over the past few years, it has become crucial to spray multiple herbicide modes of action to get a crop to the finish line. Without multiple modes, we risk fields having “super weeds” that continue to be harder to control because of herbicide resistance. With that in mind, are we heading down the same path using too much insecticide?

Todd Jeffries, Vice President of Seed Genetics Direct

The insecticides that seed companies treat soybean seed with are known as neonicotinoids or neonicotinoid soybean treatment, commonly called “neonics” or “NSTs” for short. They are a synthetic neuro-active insecticide that react very similarly to the way nicotine does in humans. The most common ones used are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. Do they work at killing insects? Absolutely. For instance, if you look at a Seresto flea and tick collar, the active ingredient is imidacloprid.… Continue reading

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No such thing as normal

By Roy A. Ulrich, Technical Agronomist, Dekalb & Asgrow

There is no such thing as normal when it comes to a growing season. However, they are usually marked by a pattern or trends that dictate the year and the outcomes. The 2023 growing season seems like it will be marked by periods of extremes and quick changes in the weather and growing conditions.

For many areas of the state the growing season started off cool and slow, but dry, with many growers having a large portion of acres planted over several weeks of time before the first plants had even accumulated enough heat units to emerge. Then, late spring and early summer turned into a drought from the middle of May through the middle to the end June. The drought was quickly erased for many with a few very large rain events which took the soils from dry and hard to saturated and deprived of oxygen.… Continue reading

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Drought, wildfire smoke and GDUs at play in 2023 crop fields

By John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist, Northern Ohio

There are many “adages” that fit all sorts of weather or farming situations, but one of my favorites came from my mom: “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.” Like most years, there has been nothing “normal” about the first half of the 2023 growing season.

Crop growth this year has been subjected to extremes in temperature, precipitation, and air quality/sunlight. The impacts of these extremes can be seen in the development of crops, and may continue having impacts on crops through the rest of the season.

John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist in northern Ohio

Corn development is primarily driven by growing degree unit (GDU) accumulation. So far this year, GDU accumulation is near or below average. This is in contrast to several recent years in which GDU accumulation was above average for most of the growing season. While it may seem that the corn crop is “behind” where it should be based on calendar dates, most fields are at expectations based on GDU accumulation since planting.… Continue reading

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2023 growing seasons: Challenging start

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc

The 2023 growing season started off in a challenging way for many growers. Learning from these challenges and making sound management decisions throughout the remainder of the growing season will be important to achieving the highest possible yield potential.

Although some growers were able to get crops planted early, wet weather caused delays for growers in many areas. Field work was delayed due to patterns of wet weather. In many areas of Ohio, corn and soybeans were not planted until the end of May. 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 the crop’s highest yield potential will be sound management.

Not only have adverse spring field conditions impacted planting and early crop development, but some issues that exist as a result of the wet weather will linger throughout the season.… Continue reading

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Increase nutrition, minimize plant stress and make a difference

By Luke Schulte, CCA, Field Agronomist, Beck’s Hybrids

For most of you, late May and June have been well below normal regarding rain accumulation. As soils become abnormally dry, nutrients become more difficult to pull from the soil profile. This is due to several reasons. Nutrients like nitrogen (N) and sulfur (S) are primarily taken in the plant with water. Potassium (K) becomes less exchangeable in dry soils. Nutrient conversion from organic forms slows as microbial activity is lessened in hot, dry soils.

As nutrient deficiencies are observed in the coming weeks, it’s important to remember that visual nutrient shortages do not necessarily mean your dry fertilizer and/or starter program were lacking. As dry as many of our soils have become, soil nutrition may be present, just not available for root uptake. Our plants have the ability to take up significantly higher nutrient volumes via the roots than they do through the leaf tissue.… Continue reading

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A look back at planting for a better plan moving forward

By Roy A. Ulrich, Technical Agronomist, DEKALB and Asgrow, Southern Ohio

At the mid-point of the 2023 growing season, we have the opportunity to look back at the spring to evaluate the management practices left to employ during the remainder of the growing season. Did the weather put in jeopardy the success of this crop by raining too much? Not raining enough? Can we mitigate the potential impact of those stresses? And, weed control and nutrient deficiencies are timely topics regardless of how the weather has impacted your plans.  

Over the last several years, tall waterhemp has continued to expand across the state. There has been more tall waterhemp visually evident late in the growing season poking out of the canopy in soybean fields. Tall waterhemp, like most other weeds in the pigweed family, requires warmer soil temperatures to germinate, so the weeds aren’t present until after our spring-applied residuals start to break down.… Continue reading

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The early (and later) planting of 2023

By Corey Prosser, agronomist, LG Seeds

            Spring of 2023 has sure been very interesting and has been very challenging (to say the least). Just a couple of weeks ago, there were growers across the state who hadn’t turned a wheel in the field and farmers who had a large portion of their crop in the ground. During the second week of April, we were all in t-shirts and enjoying 80-degree days. In the last week of April, I had a fire in my fireplace due to 40-degree high temperatures for a few days and even the occasional snow shower. So, what does this all mean for growers, the ones who planted early and ones who waited?

            The week of April 10 offered some of the best planting conditions growers could ask for and many growers took advantage of those conditions. The Ohio State University weather station showed soil conditions with ideal moisture and soil temperatures at or above 60 degrees.… Continue reading

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Boosting corn yields in 2023

By Dave Nanda, Director of Genetics, Seed Genetics Direct

Dave Nanda

Corn yields have been steadily rising every year. Can we continue boosting yields further? Yes, but to keep things in focus, use the ideas below to help boost corn yields in 2023

  1. 1. Set a realistic yield goal, but challenge yourself. Consider aiming to increase your yield by at least 10 bushels per acre more than the best yield you ever had. 
  2. Plant consistent performers. Don’t go whole hog on a hybrid you only hear about or see only once during the summer. Base hybrid selection on research and test data from multiple-years and multiple-locations in your area.
  3. Fine-tune your planter. There are excellent technologies available like precision planting for uniformemergence, depth control, uniform seed spacing and moisture sensors. However, you don’t need to be on the leading edge of technologies as long as you get each unit checked. 
  4. Apply nutrients to meet your goal.
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Getting it right the first time

By Kyle Poling, Pioneer field agronomist in West Central Ohio

“You have 50 times to get it right the first time” says the old-timer offering advice to a young farmer preparing to plant their very first corn crop. Generally, growers maximize corn yield if they plant in late April or early May. However, advantages of planting before mid-May can disappear if growers plant when soils are too wet.

Kyle Poling

Seed germination is the initial step in plant growth and is triggered by absorption of water. Corn kernels must absorb ~30% of their weight in water before the germination process begins. A seeding depth of 2 inches has often been found to provide the most consistent combination of moisture, temperature, and seed-to-soil contact for uniform germination and emergence. Inadequate seed-to-soil contact, a dry seedbed, or a rapidly drying seed zone may provide less than optimum absorption of water, causing the germination process to slow or stop completely.… Continue reading

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Preparing for planting

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Soybean Lead/Field Agronomist, Seed Consultants, Inc. 

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

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 in their weed control decisions. Knowing what weeds are present and which herbicides will most effectively control them is crucial. In addition, growers should understand what herbicide products will be applied (either by themselves or commercial applicator), what level of control is expected, and any required application or plant-back restrictions.… Continue reading

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