We need to do better with nitrogen

By Harold Watters and Greg LaBarge, Ohio State University Extension

Making better nitrogen rate decisions can help the pocketbook and the environment. Nitrogen is one our highest cost variable inputs to produce an acre of corn with around 15% of the variable cost. Nitrogen also gets a lot of attention in water quality discussions. If we apply more nitrogen than the corn needs in a year, it is likely headed out the tile and downstream.

Long-term nitrogen rate trials conducted at OSU’s Western Agricultural Research Station and Northwest Agricultural Research Station show how variable the right N rate for corn is from year to year. Soil types at two locations are different with Western being a silt loam soil and Northwest a lake-bed clay. Figure 1 has a trend line drawn by location with all treatments shown by individual symbol at each rate. Note that the highest yield varies tremendously from year to year, varying by nearly 150 bushels per acre.… Continue reading

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Spring pesticide safety reminders

By Mary Ann Rose, Ohio State University Extension

You probably worked on your sprayer and other major equipment over the winter to gear up for pesticide applications. Have you put any effort into preparing for applicator safety? Here are some questions to ask yourself in preparation for the season: 

  • Do I have the required personal protective equipment on hand? Review your pesticide labels, and make sure you do. One of the new dicamba formulations used on DT soybeans requires a respirator — did you know that? Be sure you have whatever the label requires.
  • Are you sure you have the right kind of PPE? Let your pesticide label be your guide. Leather or cotton gloves do not protect you from pesticides — they absorb chemical and hold it close to your skin. One exception: certain fumigants do call for the use of cotton gloves. Otherwise these are not appropriate to use with pesticides.
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Should you expect any freeze damage to winter wheat?

By Laura LindseyAlexander Lindsey, Ohio State University Extension

The incoming cold temperatures are not likely to impact winter wheat. The magnitude of freeze damage depends on: 1) temperature, 2) duration of temperature, and 3) wheat growth stage.

Prior to the Feekes 6 growth stage, the growing point of wheat is below the soil surface, protected from freezing temperatures. Most of the wheat in Ohio is at the Feekes 4 (beginning of erect growth) or Feekes 5 (leaf sheaths strongly erect) growth stage and should be unaffected by the incoming cold temperatures, predicted to be mid- to low 20s on Wednesday and Thursday.

At Feekes 6 growth stage, our research has shown only a 5% reduction in wheat yield at a temperature of 20°F for 15-minute duration and 50% reduction in wheat yield at a temperature of 12°F for 15-minute duration. (Although, it should be noted, there is a great deal of variability in response due to environmental conditions for the remainder of the growing season.… Continue reading

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USDA offers resources for Ohio maple producers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers technical expertise and financial assistance to help Ohio maple producers fund their operations, conserve natural resources and recover from natural disasters. Maple producers are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center to learn about resources to support their operations both during the harvest season and throughout the year.

“We know this is a busy time for our maple producers,” said Mark VanHoose, acting State Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Ohio. “Whether you’ve been a producer in our state for years or are just getting started, we encourage you to contact your local USDA Service Center to learn about programs and services to fit your business needs.” 

FSA offers funding opportunities to help maple producers start, expand and maintain their operations.

“I encourage Maple producers, especially operations interested in organic certification to reach out to NRCS,” said John Wilson, acting State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).… Continue reading

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Practices that promote birds, bees, and butterflies

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

The birds are chirping while bees and butterflies will soon be flying as spring starts to blossom.  Pollinators are an important food source for over 4,000 species of wild native bees and 725 species of butterflies in North America.  The monarch butterfly population has declined dramatically and may soon be an  endangered species.  Many wild bees, flies, and butterflies pollinate many crops humans consume. Providing healthy pollinator habitat is a way to preserve these beneficial species.

The annual value of insect pollinated crops is $29 billion per year and about 80% of flowering plants need pollinators to survive according to a Cornell study. Domestic honey bees hive loss is estimated to be 30% annually but only a 15% loss is acceptable. USA honey sales are about $5 billion per year with Ohio pollinator services valued at 216 million. Most of the decline in pollinators is the result of a loss of pollinator habitat and pesticides which either kill or weaken certain species and makes them susceptible to diseases and mites.

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What is a drought?

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

When the National Drought Mitigation Center constructed the latest U.S. Drought Monitor on March 16, much of the northern half of Ohio was considered D0 “Abnormally Dry”, with a portion of extreme Northwest Ohio being classified as a D1 “Moderate Drought.” The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced through a partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Drought Monitor summary map identifies general areas of drought and labels them by intensity. D1 is the least intense level and D4 the most intense. Drought is defined as a moisture deficit bad enough to have social, environmental or economic effects. D0 areas are not in drought, but are experiencing abnormally dry conditions that could turn into drought or are recovering from drought but are not yet back to normal.

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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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