Ohio Field Leader

Healthy soils suppress pests

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Farmers who improve soil health increase the amount of soil carbon being stored, and recycled. The increased carbon flow increases microbial numbers and efficiency leading to improved plant photosynthesis. The entire soil ecosystem functions at a higher level.  The overall effects are healthy plants that have less disease and insect issues and higher overall yields.

Soils high in soil organic matter (SOM) allow carbon to cycle in many different forms.

Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

The soil microbial community adjusts to these changes in the quantity of recycled carbon and nitrogen and this has an effect on the amount of phosphorus, sulfur, and micro-minerals released in the soil.  Many of these trace minerals like manganese, iron, copper, and zinc are essential micro-nutrients needed to suppress disease.  Plants activate plant proteins into enzymes to fight diseases using these micro-nutrients as co-factors. All soils have pathogens but healthy soils can tolerate these pathogens because healthy plants have the ability to fight them off. 

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Ohio soybean production and research in 2020

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

Each spring, farmers plant roughly 4.8 million acres of soybeans in Ohio.  Looking back at the past planting season, conditions were vastly different between 2019 and 2020.

“For 2020, planting was much better than it was in 2019,” said Laura Lindsey, Ohio State University Extension state soybean and small grains specialist. “Many areas had very good planting dates, and our soybean trials, that are conducted in six counties, were planted very timely for the most part. Some parts of the state did struggle with wet weather during planting. Some areas in southern Ohio had fields that were flooded after planting, and parts of eastern Ohio struggled as well, but compared to 2019, planting conditions were much more favorable.

“There were definitely areas of the state that struggled with dry weather after planting. That continued in some areas through August and September.

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2020 Soybean Performance Trials – Yield Data for Henry, Clinton, and Preble Counties

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff. Adapted from C.O.R.N. 2020-37

The 2020 Soybean Yield Results have been tabulated, and are available from the Soybean Performance Trials for Henry, Clinton, and Preble Counties. The purpose of the Ohio Soybean Performance Trials is to evaluate soybean varieties for yield and other agronomic characteristics. This evaluation gives soybean producers comparative information for selecting the best varieties for their unique production systems each year.

The entries for each test site were planted in a randomized complete block design. Each entry was replicated four times and planted in plots 28 ft long and 5 ft wide containing four rows seeded at 15-inch row width.

The seeding rate was 150,000 seeds per acre. Corn was the previous crop at all locations except in Mercer County where a cover crop was planted into a 2019 prevent plant field.

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An integrated approach to enhance durability of SCN resistance for long-term strategic SCN management

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader: a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff. Adapted from the North Central Soybean Research Program stakeholder report.

The North Central Soybean Research Program funds a number of research projects annually. One of those projects for 2020 is Phase II of “An integrated approach to enhance durability of SCN resistance for long-term strategic SCN management”. This project will benefit soybean producers by creating a long-term management strategy for SCN through knowledge and soybean germplasm development.

The soybean cyst nematode (SCN), or Heterodera glycines, is the most damaging pathogen to soybean production in North America. Current annual yield losses are estimated at more than $1.2 billion. Though SCN-resistant soybean varieties are available to minimize yield loss, producers are faced with limited options for rotation once virulent SCN populations develop in their fields. The widespread lack of genetic diversity for SCN resistance genes in commercial soybean varieties has significantly increased the prevalence of virulent SCN populations and reduced the effectiveness of current sources of resistance.

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Cover crop management

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services.

As fall harvest progresses, farmers are looking ahead to next year’s crop.  Farmers utilizing no-till and/or cover crops may need to make different management decisions than conventional tillage farmers.  Consider the following tips for managing cover crops and making fertilizer adjustments.

Legumes and clover cover crops are usually planted before corn because they make nitrogen (N).  Legumes and clovers maximize N production (85-90%) at blooming, so terminate these cover crops before they set seed and the N is ties up. Most organic N is in the leaves and becomes available to the next crop 2-5 weeks after they decompose.

Jim Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Most no-till farmers add 40-60# N in a corn starter to stimulate early corn growth, when soil microbial communities are lower and recovering after a cold winter. Microbial populations increase exponentially with moisture and warmer soils in late spring and early summer, recycling soil nutrients to the next crop.

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Soybean Cyst Nematode has made itself at home in Ohio

Adapted from article by Dr. Anne Dorrance, OSU Plant Pathology, C.O.R.N. 2020-36

The Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) is an invasive species has adapted quite well to Ohio conditions, and is unfortunately doing very well in some fields based on egg counts. We are wrapping up intensive sampling of Ohio Fields from the support of the soybean check-off through Ohio Soybean Council and United Soybean Board.  To date, 566 samples were submitted from 34 counties. From these, 33.7% had populations of 200 eggs or more. There were 7.6% in the high range (>5,000 eggs per cup of soil), which are associated with significant yield losses.

More importantly, from these samples that had high numbers, we have completed the SCN Type test. This evaluates which resistance will be effective, PI 88788 or Peking. From the 56 SCN populations (each from a single field), only 7 populations were still controlled by PI 88788. The remaining populations could reproduce on the soybean roots of the PI 88788 source of resistance, albeit at levels of 30 to 60% of the susceptible.

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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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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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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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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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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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2020 Farm Science Review Virtual Research Plot tour continued – Sulfur Deficiencies

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

The OSU Extension, Agronomic Crops Team and the e-Fields Program had a number of research plots once again at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in 2020. The online review gave guests a number of opportunities to take a virtual plot tour and learn more about the ongoing research. The virtual plot tour was sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council.

Harold Watters, OSU Extension, Field Specialist Agronomic Systems, presented a poster session discussing nutrient deficiencies and the current research being conducted across the state, particularly as it relates to sulfur deficiencies. To start the discussion, Watters pointed out that while there may be sulfur deficiencies in some fields, the broad application of sulfur to fields across Ohio is not necessary yet. “There are deficiencies in some fields out there, and they will probably be seen on the sand and gravel fields, and lower organic matter soils,” Watters said.… Continue reading

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2020 Farm Science Review Virtual Research Plot tour continued – Poultry litter use

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

The Ohio State University Extension, Agronomic Crops Team and the e-Fields Program had a number of research plots once again at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in 2020. The online Review gave guests a number of opportunities to take a virtual plot tour and learn more about the ongoing research. The virtual plot tour was sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council.

The use of poultry litter as a source of nutrients in crop production has increased in recent years as farmers have realized the additional benefits it brings in the micro-nutrients and biological components it contains. In order to maximize these benefits, proper application is necessary. Proper application includes calibrating the spreader in order to apply the correct amount to achieve the desired agronomic results while still protecting the environment.

As part of the 2020 Farm Science Review Virtual Plot Tour, a session was held on Soil manure spreader calibration and poultry litter application.

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2020 Farm Science Review Virtual Research Plot tour

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

The OSU Extension, Agronomic Crops Team and the e-Fields Program had a number of research plots once again at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in 2020. The online review gave guests a number of opportunities to take a virtual plot tour and learn more about the ongoing research. The virtual plot tour was sponsored by the Ohio Soybean Council.

Strip intercropping was the focus of one plot on the virtual tour. This is a practice that involves growing corn and soybeans in alternating strips within the same field. Preliminary findings were that the strip intercropping practice increased yield, and decreased soil compaction.

Remote Sensing was the focus of another series of plots. Remote sensing is the science of acquiring information about an object or phenomenon by measuring the emitted and reflected radiation. Drone flying over an Ohio soybean field with stinger platform suspended beneath.Remote sensing data can be collected in four primary ways: land-based, UAVs, airplanes, or satellites.

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Harvest technology preparation

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

As harvest season 2020 is just getting underway across the state, Dr. John Fulton, Professor and Extension Specialist in Ohio State’s Food Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department says that getting all the technology checked out before going to the field will make processing harvest data easier this winter.

Dr. John Fulton, The Ohio State University

Good data collection is necessary for making informed management decisions in the future. “When we think about yield monitors, and the data they collect, the first step each fall is to make sure the data on the display from previous seasons has been retrieved, and archived or backed-up to ensure nothing is lost,” said Fulton. “We encourage farmers to move it from the thumb drive or card used to retrieve it and stored on a laptop or a hard drive or storage space to make sure it is securely stored.”

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Cover Crop Champions & Cover Crop Driving Tour

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

Cover Crop Champions is an educational initiative funded through a grant from the National Wildlife Federation. There are two Cover Crop Champions programs in Ohio.  One is in the northwest corner of the state, and the other is located in west central Ohio.

The program in Northwest Ohio is being overseen by the Conservation Action Project (CAP). CAP was started in 1988 and serves the seven-county corner of Northwest Ohio which includes: Paulding, Defiance, Williams, Henry, Fulton, Wood, and Lucas. The governing board is made up of farmers, ag retailers, and agency personnel with the goal of working to help farmers and ag retailers implement conservation practices in an economically sustainable way.

Abby Wensink is the coordinator of CAP, and is administering the Cover Crop Champions grant. Cover Crop Champions utilizes the knowledge of area farmers who are experienced with cover crops.

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Tips for harvest and planning for 2021

By Dr. Anne Dorrance, Ohio State University Extension Plant Pathology, Adapted from C.O.R.N. 2018-33

The 2020 Soybean harvest has started in Ohio.  The following items are things to keep track of as the combines run across the fields to help evaluate the 2020 crop and plan for 2021.

  • Make note of those low yield spots in soybeans to soil sample for soybean cyst nematode levels.
  • Did you leave unsprayed strips?  Harvest each of these first separately.  Yield is not even throughout a field so comparisons to the average of these unsprayed strips are a more accurate measure of what the baseline level of yield is within a field.  This is the number to compare yields for any treatments. Note: the outside borders of the field are usually not comparable since these have additional secondary factors such as shade from trees, compaction, old fence rows etc. which can impact yield.
  • Fields with Sclerotinia should be harvested last. 
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Drought and herbicide carryover

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

The 2020 summer was hotter and drier than normal for most farms, so herbicide carryover will be a major issue for planting cover crops.  Herbicides degrade based on soil temperature, rainfall, time of application, organic matter, soil type, soil pH, and sunlight.  Generally, microbially active soils break down herbicides quickly.  Moisture is critical for microbe activity, so drought or dry summers means slower herbicide breakdown.  High soil temperatures can also reduce microbial activity and herbicide breakdown.  High soil microbial activity occurs between 75-850F but once soil temperatures get above 900F, generally microbial activity declines.  On bare soils, the soil temperatures in the top inch may reach 110-1400F on a hot sunny day, greatly reducing microbial activity and herbicide breakdown.

Mark Loux OSU Extension Weed Scientist
Dr. Mark Loux, OSU Extension Weed Scientist

Herbicide application timing also determines herbicide degradation.  Herbicides applied in the spring or early summer have a longer time to break down. 

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A shocking solution to weed control

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

The annual task of getting effective weed control is a challenge every farmer is familiar with. Each year millions of dollars are spent in the United States on herbicides to manage weed pressure in fields. As a boy, Seth Stutzman got tired of pulling and hoeing weeds on his family farm. The Stutzman family farms around 350 acres of organic corn, soybean and wheat near Plain City. Those involved in organic crop production realize one of the greatest production challenges they face is getting consistent weed control, largely due to a much smaller number of approved chemical options for certified organic crops.

Two years ago, Stutzman found what he thought was a good solution to his hours of hand labor in the fields. Stutzman purchased The Weed Zapper and began using it to clean up his fields, and those of neighboring farms.

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