Investing below the surface

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

Just because a farmer has raised cover crops for a few years, it does not mean they have all the answers. Sometimes the experience leads to more questions. The more experience they gain, the more questions they have, but also the more new things they will try.

Dr. Hans Kok, Program Director of the Conservation Technology Information Center in Indiana, and Eric Neimeyer, a farmer from Delaware County, led a discussion tackling the FAQ’s about cover crop management during a “Dirt on Soil Health” program this winter.

Some of the common questions Dr. Kok encounters include: When is the best time to plant cover crops? When is the best time to terminate the cover crop? What are the best cover crops to plant?

Dr. Hans Kok

What about using wheat or cereal rye as a cover crop?

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Growing a crop for a specialty market

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

When farmers look for new markets, and ways to receive a premium for their crop production, one option is growing an identity preserved (I.P.) crop. 

“If you are growing a non-patented seed, you are actually raising an I.P. product that you could be paid a premium for,” said Fred Pond, of Pond Seeds in Van Wert County. “Seed production for larger companies is typically in the ‘I’ states (Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana) and already established, however smaller companies may be interested in contracting with local growers.”

If starting a contractual agreement for an I.P. crop, it is important for farmers to understand the expectations. 

“When farmers consider business agreements to contract the production of I.P. crops, it is important to understand why the buyer is paying a premium for the product they are raising,” Pond said.… Continue reading

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SCN management: Seed treatments and sampling

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

Soybean Cyst Nematodes are one of the leading yield robbers for Ohio soybean producers every year.

“Real damage is being caused by Soybean Cyst Nematodes (SCN),” said Kaitlyn Bissonnette, researcher from the University of Missouri.

Ongoing research is being conducted by the SCN Coalition, which is a multi-state public-private partnership between universities and industry partners.

Kaitlyn Bissionnette, University of Missouri

The lifecycle of SCN begins with the adult female cyst nematode in the soil. One female SCN can produce up to 250 eggs per generation. There can be 5 to 6 generations of SCN per year depending on the location.

There are multiple stages in the SCN life cycle. The adult female nematode produces eggs. Once the eggs are in the soil, the eggs transition from an unhatched juvenile in the egg, to a hatching juvenile, to a penetrating juvenile (penetrating into the soybean root).

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Plant nutrient availability

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

Plant  nutrient availability is dependent on several factors including soil moisture, temperature, microbes, pH, chemical nutrient form, and plant root proximity.  Plant roots require moist soil, adequate soil temperatures, and teaming microbes.  The microbes generally make most nutrients available in a reduced form.  Soils that are slightly anaerobic (lack oxygen) and slightly saturated result in reducing conditions for making nutrients plant available.

Farmers want to avoid the extremes to maximize plant growth and yield.  For example, highly oxidized and dry soils (nutrients tied up) are just as bad as highly saturated compacted soils where nutrients may be available, but tend to leach or be lost with flowing water.  Ideally, an inch rain is better than no rain or 3 to 5-inch rains. Roots cannot grow into saturated conditions so they need oscillating wet and dry cycles to absorb most nutrients efficiently.

Some soil nutrients are highly mobile while others are relatively immobile. 

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Forage planting this spring

By Mark Sulc and Jason Hartschuh, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

Early spring provides one of the two preferred times to seed perennial cool-season forages, the other being late summer. The outlook for this spring is for probabilities of above average precipitation in April and May. Planting opportunities will likely be few and short. An accompanying article on preparing now for planting along with the following 10 steps to follow on the day you plant will help improve chances for successful forage establishment.

  1. Check now to make sure soil pH and fertility are in the recommended ranges.  Follow the Tri-state Soil Fertility Recommendations (  Forages are more productive where soil pH is above 6.0, but for alfalfa it should be 6.5 to 6.8. Soil phosphorus should be at least 20 parts per million (ppm) for grasses and 30 ppm for legumes, while minimum soil potassium should be 100 ppm for sandy soils less than 5 CEC or 120 ppm on all other soils.
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Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative deadline fast approaching

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

Acronyms and Initialisms are abundant in agriculture today. Almost every discussion at the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, or County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office involve them. Two of the latest initialisms that some producers may not be familiar with include: OACC and OACI.

“The OACI is a product of the OACC,” said Kris Swartz, farmer from Wood County, Ohio, and Chairman of OACI. “The OACC is the Ohio Agricultural Conservation Council, which is a group of agricultural and environmental organizations, and educational entities that have the goal of improving water quality in Ohio.”

The Ohio Agriculture Conservation Initiative (OACI) is an innovative collaboration of agricultural, conservation, environmental and research communities. OACI was formed in early 2019 to strategically address Ohio’s water quality issues. “The main goal of OACI is to help in decision making on the farm.

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Topdressing wheat with liquid swine manure

By Glen Arnold, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

Wheat fields are firming up across Ohio and topdressing with nitrogen fertilizer has started. We have had less precipitation than usual, and more livestock producers may be considering applying liquid swine manure as a topdress for wheat.

The key to applying the correct amount of manure to fertilize wheat is to know the manure’s nitrogen content. Most manure tests reveal total nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen and organic nitrogen amounts. The ammonia nitrogen portion is readily available for plant growth. The organic nitrogen portion takes considerably longer to mineralize and generally will not be available when wheat uptakes the majority of its nitrogen before mid-June.

Most deep-pit swine finishing manure will contain between 30 and 40 pounds of ammonia nitrogen per 1,000 gallons. Finishing buildings with bowl waters and other water conservation systems can result in nitrogen amounts towards the upper end of this range.… Continue reading

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Improving weed control and fighting resistance in soybeans

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

Since the 1970s the number of herbicide resistant weed species — and the sites of action that they have achieved resistance to — has increased dramatically.

“This is concerning to farmers considering that no new herbicide chemistries have been approved since Liberty (glufosinate) in the early 1990’s, said Mike Hannewald, field agronomist for Beck’s. “The amount of money and time it takes to develop a herbicide and then get the proper approval means there will not be anything new introduced in the near future. Farmers need to wisely manage weeds with the tools already available.”

Mike Hannewald, Field Agronomist for Beck’s

The best way to beat weed pressure is to stop the weeds before they start.

“Starting clean is the first step,” Hannewald said. “Burndowns can control weeds such as giant ragweed and marestail that emerge early in the season.

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Transition to Organic Grain Workshop offered on March 30

By Beth Scheckelhoff, Ohio State University Extension

As many producers look to diversify their farms and find opportunities to increase on-farm revenues — one potential avenue to consider is organic grain production. A Transition to Organic Grains workshop offered through Ohio State University Extension in Putnam County will take place in Ottawa, OH at the Putnam County Educational Services Center on March 30, 2021 from 9 am to 2 pm. The workshop is designed to answer producers’ common questions when considering a move from conventional to organic production. What do I need to know and what steps do I need to take to transition my fields to organic production? How long will the process take? What markets are available for my grain? How do I approach fertilization, weed management, and pest control? These and many more questions will be answered by industry and extension experts – as well as first-hand experiences of organic farmers.… Continue reading

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Time of the essence for pesticide and fertilizer applicator recertification

Ohio growers with private applicator licenses have had fewer seats and opportunities to recertify in pesticides or fertilizers because of COVID-19 meeting restrictions. 

On Thursday, March 25, they can accomplish one or both in live online webinars offered by OSU Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Private pesticide recertification will begin at 8:45 a.m. on March 25 and fertilizer recertification will begin at 1:30 p.m. the same day. 

“Both webinars will be conducted live and growers must participate actively in the online sessions to receive recertification credit,” said Mary Ann Rose, director of the pesticide safety education program at Ohio State. “In addition, each attendee must participate on a separate computer or electronic device to be counted in the attendance polls.” 

Registration fees are $35 for the morning private pesticide recertification and $15 for the afternoon fertilizer recertification. The registration deadline is Tuesday, March 23, 2021.… Continue reading

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Managing nutrients for maximum soybean yields

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

Soybean farmers in both the United States and Canada, strive to constantly achieve higher yields. Horst Bohner has been the soybean specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture for 20 years. In that time, he has studied factors impacting soybean yield in a number of growing environments and field conditions.

“Yield potential is not held back as much by heat units and day length and water as I used to think,” Bohner said. “We used to say that yield was made in August, that if you got a lot of rain then you would get a big crop. But over the years, I have seen that if you have the right year, with the right additives, and the right management, we can get some incredible yields.”

Bohner has pondered the question, “What is the fundamental difference between a part of a field that yields 50 bushels per acre (bu/ac) and a part of a field that yields 100 bu/ac?”

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Annual Grain Safety Week event focuses on bins

Today, six of every 10 workers trapped in a grain bin don’t make it out alive. This is a frightening reality, but one that the nation’s 8,378 off-farm grain storage facilities’ operators can change by following common sense approaches that truly may be the difference between life and death.  

How to make these changes will be the focus of the 5th annual Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week, from March 29 through April 2, 2021. The event is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society and the National Grain and Feed Association

“Stand Up 4 Grain Safety Week will bring industry professionals together to focus on how small changes can eliminate dangerous hazards that can cause great harm to their employees,” said Jim Frederick, principal deputy assistant secretary for Occupational Safety and Health.… Continue reading

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USDA seeks innovative partner-led projects delivering sustainable agricultural solutions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking proposals to fund up to $75 million in new, unique projects under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s (RCPP) Alternative Funding Arrangements (AFA) that take innovative and non-traditional approaches to conservation solutions at the local, regional and landscape scales. In making selections. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will prioritize projects related to climate smart agriculture and forestry.  

NRCS will fund up to 15 projects this year through AFA, where partners have more flexibility in working directly with agricultural producers to support the development of new conservation structures and approaches that would not otherwise be effectively implemented through the classic RCPP.

“Collaboration and partnership are leading to advanced conservation delivery on working lands, both rural and urban,” said Terry Cosby, Acting Chief of NRCS. “We want to continue funding projects that harness the power of partnership and innovation to develop solutions that benefit producers while conserving our natural resources.”… Continue reading

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Daylight Savings Time and farmers

By Ray Atkinson, director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

It is a debate that come up every spring. On Sunday, March 14, at 2 a.m., we all set our clocks ahead one hour for Daylight Saving Time, the annual springtime ritual that gives us an extra hour of sunlight in the evening. First enacted by Congress in 1918, Daylight Saving Time has been with us for almost a century, but through the years there have been a lot of misconceptions about why it was adopted and who’s responsible. 
One of the leading authorities on Daylight Saving Time was Tufts University professor Michael Downing. He literally wrote the book on Daylight Saving Time and was widely cited by national media including The Washington PostNational Geographic and The History Channel
In his book Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, Dowling said that DST was first proposed as a way to save energy, but since then many people have mistakenly attributed it to farmers. … Continue reading

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BASF strengthens innovation pipeline for sustainable agriculture

BASF strengthens its activities in research and development (R&D) for sustainable agricultural innovations to continue helping farmers to overcome environmental and economic challenges as well as meeting consumers’ demand for more sustainably produced food. With solutions launching throughout the next decade, the pipeline supports the company’s goal to annually increase its sales share of agricultural solutions with substantial contribution to sustainability by 7%.

By 2030, more than 30 major R&D projects will complement BASF’s connected offer of seeds and seed treatment products, chemical and biological solutions, as well as digital services. This brings the pipeline to an estimated peak sales potential of more than €7.5 billion. In 2020, BASF spent €840 million in Agricultural Solutions R&D, representing around 11% of the segment’s sales. In 2021, the company will continue to invest in agricultural R&D at a high level.

“BASF leads in solutions for sustainable agriculture. In addition to developing innovations, we also provide a connected offer, combining effective products as well as new technologies and services, tailored to farmers’ needs,” said Paul Rea, Senior Vice President, BASF Agricultural Solutions North America.… Continue reading

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Meeting soybean fertility needs

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

One goal of the Ohio Soybean Council is to make Ohio’s soybean farmers more profitable. With the task of increasing soybean yields and increasing the return on investment (ROI), a number of production practices are often considered. One of those practices, often promoted by ag retailers, is the application of foliar fertilizer.

In a multi-state trial conducted in 2019 and 2020 by Emma Matcham, a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, prophylactic foliar fertilizer was applied and evaluated.

“A prophylactic application means that in the trial we were applying fertilizer before there was noticeable nutrient deficiency expressed in the crop,” Matcham said. “For this research, 46 trials were conducted in 16 states across the eastern half of the U.S. Some of the products included macronutrients such as nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and sulfur (S), some micronutrients, and some products included a combination.… Continue reading

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Building soil carbon

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

There is renewed interest in paying farmers to sequester soil carbon by building soil organic matter (SOM) levels.  Building soil carbon is dependent upon temperature, moisture, vegetation, tillage, soil texture, crop rotation,  and microbial activity.  Soil is a major storehouse for carbon and carbon dioxide.  Ohio soils originally had 5-6% soil organic matter (50-60 tons decomposed SOM) in the top furrow slice (6.7 inches) of soil. Most Ohio soils today only have about 2-3% SOM, so an additional 2-4% SOM could be added.

Temperature, moisture, and vegetation controlled most carbon and SOM storage historically. Tropical areas have lower SOM while colder soils store more carbon in SOM. Tropical carbon is stored above ground while colder climates store carbon in the soil due to limited temperature and moisture.  Every 100F temperature increase will double microbial activity and releases carbon as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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USDA seeks public comment on revised conservation practice standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to 23 national conservation practice standards through a posting in the Federal Register. The proposed revisions will publish March 9 with comments due April 8.

“NRCS wants to ensure that the standards used to carry out the conservation practices are relevant to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs,” Acting NRCS Chief Terry Cosby said. “We are revising conservation practice standards to make sure they are the best technology and address the needs of producers and the natural resources on their land.”

The 2018 Farm Bill required NRCS to review all 169 existing national conservation practices to seek opportunities to increase flexibility and incorporate new technologies to help the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners better protect natural resources on their working lands. In 2020, 57 conservation practice standards were updated after public review and are available on the NRCS website.… Continue reading

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Crop insurance deadline March 15

Department of Insurance Director Judith L. French is reminding Ohio farmers that March 15 is the final date to purchase or modify federal crop insurance coverage on 2021 spring-planted crops.

“Ohio farmers should consider whether crop insurance fits in their risk management plans,” French said. “We can help in that process. We have a listing on our website of agents licensed to sell crop insurance and provide guidance.”

Federally subsidized, multiple-peril crop insurance covers certain weather, pest, and revenue related losses. This coverage is dependent on crop establishment and reporting dates determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) that farmers must meet. The dates vary by crop and county and are available at State-regulated policies for damage caused by hail and fire are also available with additional requirements.

Ohio farmers can contact the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526 and visit to find insurance agents licensed to sell crop insurance.… Continue reading

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Economics of soil health evaluated

Improving soil health can help farmers build drought resilience, increase nutrient availability, suppress diseases, reduce erosion and nutrient losses, and increase economic benefits according to recent Soil Health Institute research. 

“In addition to benefiting farmers and their land, many soil health management systems also benefit the broader environment by storing soil carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving water quality,” said Wayne Honeycutt, president and CEO, Soil Health Institute (SHI). “However, investing in soil health is also a business decision, and information regarding the economic benefits of adopting soil health practices was limited until the Institute’s recent evaluation.”

To address this information gap, Cargill and SHI partnered to assess the economics of soil health management systems and provide farmers with the economic information they need when deciding whether to adopt regenerative soil health systems.  

SHI researchers interviewed 100 farmers across nine states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee) who adopted soil health systems to acquire production information such as tillage practices, nutrient management, pest management, yield changes, and others.… Continue reading

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