Improving fertilizer availability

By James Hoorman, Hoorman Soil Health Services

As fertilizer costs increase, farmers want to either lower their fertilizer costs or find ways to conserve soil nutrients. Cover crops can help do both things.  Legumes and clovers sequester nitrogen (N) and grasses and radishes make phosphorus (P) more available.  Most conventional soil tests measure inorganic soil nutrients but are less reliable accounting for organic or carbon-based plant nutrients. As soil health improves, nutrient availability and nutrient efficiency generally improves due to higher soil microbial activity.

Manure improves soil health and soil organic matter (SOM).  Solid chicken manure is high in N, P, and calcium.  Liquid manures (hog and dairy) can be major sources of nutrients but have a high-water content (dairy, 98% water; hog, 95% water) and with high transportation costs, can be more expensive.  Composting solid manure tends to concentrate available nutrients because as manure decomposes, the volume generally reduces to about a third of the original volume. 

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Cold weather and wheat

The upcoming forecast of cold temperatures has sparked some concern about damage to the winter wheat crop.

Fortunately, winter wheat is very resistant to cold temperatures during the months of December, January, and February when the plant is dormant. During these months, winter wheat can withstand below freezing temperatures, especially when there is snow cover. In early 2019, Ohio experienced polar vortex temperatures without snow cover. However, no (or minimal) damage was observed in winter wheat.

Figure 1. Polar vortex temperatures with no snow cover in early 2019 resulted in survival of winter wheat.

Besides wheat’s natural ability to be resistant to cold temperatures, plant breeders have developed wheat varieties that are adapted to Ohio’s environments. Occasionally some companies have tried to push North varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region that may be affected by extreme cold. However, most often wheat that has not survived cold temperatures was planted too late for adequate growth, planted too shallow to protect the crown, or too much water on low spots before the cold temperatures.… Continue reading

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Can improving soil health improve yield?

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

Farmers wishing to improve the health of their soils are often presented with a list of specific management practices to implement. 

“There are many types of management to combine to manage soil health,” said Jordon Wade, from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. “These typically include: keeping the soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance, keeping plants growing throughout the year, having a diversity of plants, and incorporating livestock.”

Wade was a recent speaker for Ohio State’s “The Dirt on Soil Health” series featuring a discussion findings from his research looking at the relationship between improving soil health and increasing yields. As farmers evaluate their soils, there are three areas to assess. 

“When making an assessment, the three indicators we look at are physical, chemical, and biological,” Wade said. “Not all fields respond the same.… Continue reading

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Ohio drainage law revamped


By Matt Reese

By all accounts, the specifics of House Bill 340 may not be all that exciting, but the bill does have significant implications for Ohio’s agricultural drainage projects moving forward. 

With more big rain events putting more water into existing drainage systems and increasing scrutiny of water quality in Ohio, massive efforts and big dollars are being poured into reducing agricultural nutrient and soil loss into the water. The big projects are important, but so are the mundane details of implementing local drainage efforts that were long overdue for updates.  

On Dec. 17, 2020 Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 340, sponsored by Speaker Bob Cupp, to modernize Ohio’s petition drainage laws to better handle issues of excess water in agricultural areas as well as residential and commercial properties and roadways. For agriculture, HB 340 dramatically updates the process a farm would use for a drainage project involving the county for installation and maintenance.… Continue reading

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Winter grain market outlook

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

As farmers are making decisions for 2021, there are some important economic drivers to consider. 

“There are also some factors we really need to pay attention to,” said Ben Brown, now a senior research associate at the University of Missouri and their state specialist in ag business and policy for Extension. “It is uncertain the direction the COVID pandemic takes, what future relief/stimulus packages may look like, and the impact of the resurgence of African swine fever in China.”

Brown was part of the program of a recent Ohio State University Extension Winter Policy and Outlook Meeting where he shared information focused on “Where we’ve been, where we are currently, and where we are going with the markets.”

Brown pointed out that it is important to understand how money flows into the sector. The commodity sector and the U.S.… Continue reading

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Technologies for improving sprayer field performance and efficiencies

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

The Ohio State University’s Precision U winter meeting series wrapped up with a look at sprayer application tips and technologies. Joe Luck, Associate Professor and Precision Agriculture Engineer in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln was the featured presenter.

Joe Luck, Associate Professor of Biological Systems Engineering, Precision Agriculture Engineer, photo credit, UNL

When farmers make a chemical application with a sprayer, the goal is ultimately to protect their crop.

“The first step in achieving this crop protection is to make sure the application is on target and accurate,” Luck said. “This involves proper mixing, including any pre-mixing of products, proper agitation, and direct injection.”

Achieving the desired application rate is a part of the accuracy.

“This can involve the use of a rate controller,” Luck said.… Continue reading

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Soil Health Innovations Conference

New technologies and innovative practices that promise to improve food systems’ resilience at their very roots — the soil — are emerging.

These promising approaches are coming at a time when there is a growing commitment among producers, scientists, food companies, and policymakers to cultivate healthier soil.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) Soil Health Innovations Conference will allow attendees to immerse themselves in the soil-health movement and connect with its most forward-thinking practitioners — all from the comfort of wherever it is that they’re most comfortable these days. 

The virtual conference — which was postponed in 2020 because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic — will bring together leading experts and innovative farmers from around the U.S. to share the latest in soil science, best practices in soil management, and the emerging technologies that will drive the future of sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

Registration is now open for the online conference, which will be held March 8 and 9 from 8:30 a.m.… Continue reading

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Improved soil health linked to nitrogen fertilizer efficiency

By Jordan WadeSteve CulmanCassandra Brown, Ohio State University Extension

Most farmers value soil health in theory, but few studies have worked to place an actual agronomic value on soil health. A study published earlier this spring found that a 10% improvement in certain soil health measurements increased relative yields by an average of 5% across N fertilizer rates. In other words, good soil health means getting more bang for every buck spent on fertilizer.

Study leader, former Ohio State PhD student Jordon Wade, based these findings on analysis of corn nitrogen (N) rate trials throughout the Midwest. His findings were consistent across a variety of soils and climatic conditions across the Corn Belt.

Improving N use efficiency is linked to soil biology and the cycling of organic matter, both of which are important components of soil health. In response to increased attention on soil health, both commercial and university research labs have begun offering soil health testing services.… Continue reading

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Gibberella ear rot and vomitoxin in corn

By Pierce Paul, Ohio State University Extension

If your grain was harvested from a field with Gibberella ear rot (GER), it is more than likely contaminated with mycotoxins. Deoxynivalenol, also known as vomitoxin, is one of the mycotoxins most commonly produced by the fungus Fusarium graminearum that causes GER. Another name for this fungus is Gibberella zeae, hence the name of the disease. grain Grain harvested from GER-affected fields or areas where conditions were favorable for the disease, should be sampled and tested for the presence and level of contamination with vomitoxin. Mycotoxin tests are either qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative. Qualitative tests provide a yes/no answer for the presence of the toxin and are useful for initial screening. Semi-quantitative tests estimate whether the toxin is at or above certain levels (>5 ppm) or within a given range, whereas quantitative tests provide more precise estimates of contamination. There is a trade-off between precision, price, and speed.… Continue reading

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Winter Grain Market and Climate Outlook Meeting (Part 1)

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

The most recent Winter Outlook Meeting, hosted by The Ohio State University, provided data and information to help farmers make informed decisions going into the winter and spring.

Aaron Wilson, Atmospheric Scientist at The Ohio State University, and State Climatologist shared information focused on “Where we’ve been, where we are currently, and where we are going.”

A global assessment of the past year’s weather showed 2020 to be the second warmest since 1880. The warmest average year was 2016, and 2019 ranked third. Looking all the way back to 1880, the ten warmest years have all occurred since 1985.

There was also a significant increase in the number of “Billion Dollar Disasters” in 2020. There was a total of 22 recorded last year. The numbers in general have been increasing. To put it in perspective, looking at the time period of 1908 through 2020, the average is six disasters of that magnitude per year.

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Nutrient management update – the new 2020 fertilizer recommendations

By Greg LaBarge CCA/CPAg, Ohio State University Extension

Things are changing for the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for agronomic crops. We are giving updates this winter because the 2020 Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations were finally published this past November. We have shared preliminary results over the past two winter meeting seasons — now it is out and complete.

The Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations provided the foundation for agronomic nutrient management recommendations from the Land Grant Universities in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana since 1995. With changes in management, available hybrids and other production practices an update was due. Data collection for a comprehensive review of these recommendation began back in 2006 and culminated with 198 on-farm trials in 39 counties conducted during the cropping years in 2014 to 2018. The numbers have been crunched and new recommendations are now published in in the 2020 version of Tri-state Fertilizer Recommendations for Corn, Soybean, Wheat and Alfalfa, Bulletin 974.… Continue reading

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Advanced Yield Select Crop Inputs seeks to boost ROI

It is all about the return on investment. Cory Atley, Ohio’s four-time crop production yield winner, announced a new brand — Advanced Yield Select Crop Inputs — for the purpose of helping growers “make the most of every dollar they spend on crop inputs on every acre they farm.”

Atley, who farms more than 8,000 acres of leased and family ground, is known by many for his high yields and appearance in the reality show “Corn Warriors.” In addition to farming, he and his team at Advanced Yield work with dozens of farmers from Ohio to Kansas to coax more bushels from the ground every year.

“We’re bringing out our own branded products because we’ve found a way to source high-quality products for much lower cost,” he said. “We’ve proven the value of these formulations in our own operation and we can bring these same products to growers in a way that will save them money.” … Continue reading

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Bayer’s third generation corn rootworm trait gains final approval

Bayer announced the receipt of the final safety certificate for import and food/feed use from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs for the company’s third-generation corn rootworm trait (MON 87411). This approval represents the final key authorization for commercial introduction of SmartStax PRO Technology in the United States.

SmartStax PRO Technology is the next generation of corn rootworm protection, and the first product offering three modes of action for corn rootworm control. It combines the proven benefits of SmartStax Technology corn rootworm protection with a novel RNAi-based mode of action, providing improved control of corn rootworm over a range of pressure.*

“We’re excited to receive this authorization and look forward to putting SmartStax PRO Technology in the hands of our grower customers,” said Scott Stein North America Corn Product Management Lead. “The introduction of a novel mode of action like RNAi will provide growers yet another tool to help control tough corn rootworm pests.”… Continue reading

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Growers help manage seed research

Farmers are invited to tell Seed Genetics Direct what seed to test against to ensure research data provides the comparisons all farmers want. Farmers do not need to be a SGD customer to supply a corn or bean competitive check.

Farmers who wish to participate should send their name, contact info and 10 pounds of seed (with tags) to Seed Genetics Direct at 9983 Jeffersonville-West Lancaster Road, Jeffersonville, Ohio, 43128. Nominations must be received by Feb. 20. Questions should be directed to Chris Jeffries, CCA, president, at 740-505-0073 or

SGD customers may also manage STEPP (Seed Testing Evaluation Plot Program) plots with SGD. An on-farm customer testing program, STEPP is an important tool in SGD’s research program and offers additional data points in more locations to provide a broader perspective on current and new hybrids and varieties. Customers interested in managing a STEPP plot should contact Todd Jeffries, vice president, at toddj@seedgeneticsdirect.comContinue reading

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Global pandemic doesn’t stop water quality research

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

The Ohio Sea Grant program is one of 34 State programs funded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to identify and research issues impacting their neighboring water bodies. Every state that touches the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico or one of the Great Lakes has a Sea Grant Program. Sea Grant Programs are modeled after Land Grant Institutions, and take the research results and disseminate the information to stakeholders, decision makers, and those that can make a difference. 

Chris Winslow is the Director of the Ohio Sea Grant, and also Director of Ohio State’s Stone Lab on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. While COVID-19 impacted the on-site education and outreach that Sea Grant conducts at Stone Lab, much of the research on the lake continued despite the pandemic. 

“We typically offer a lot of education and outreach programming at Stone Lab and everything at that location was shut down or went virtual,” Winslow said.… Continue reading

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New private pesticide applicator virtual training

By Mark Badertscher, Ohio State University Extension

Join OSU Extension for a virtual New Private Pesticide Applicator Training to help new pesticide applicators prepare for the Ohio Private Pesticide Applicator License scheduled for Tuesday, January 26 from 12:30-4:30 pm. The class will provide instruction in CORE, Grain, and Cereal Crops. For further study and to prepare for the test, books can be purchased from OSU Extension Publications online and shipped to your house at your expense.

Optional books for the online participants include:

Applying Pesticides Correctly (Core Manual)

Ohio Pesticide Applicator Training: Core Student Workbook

Ohio Pesticide Applicator Training: Field Crops Student Workbook

Register for this virtual event at and you will be sent a link for the class. There is no cost to participate and those who are unable to participate on the scheduled webinar date will be sent an email to watch the recording later if they register for the class.… Continue reading

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Data management important in 2021

Agriculture has become adept at collecting data, but continues to fall short of the economic and environmental promise the information bonanza represents. The Sustainability Ag Research Action Team (SARAT) of the National Corn Growers Association has made integrating and managing the wealth of information coming from the farm a priority for 2021.

“Farmers have a ton of data on everything from fertilizer performance to machinery efficiency, but it remains difficult to link it all together in a way that makes sense,” said Randy DeSutter, SARAT chairman. “If farmers can integrate it all together on their own farm, so it aids decision-making, then the potential can be realized to become more efficient and more profitable.”

DeSutter is confident information management will only become more powerful in managing machinery, hybrid selection, input timing and overall farm management. However, integrating data from outside the farm is also critical such as in the research field.

He cites the volume of information from phenotyping research as a good example.… Continue reading

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Applications being accepted for FSA Quality Loss Adjustment Program

By Mary Griffith, Ohio State University Extension educator, ANR & Chris Zoller, Ohio State University Extension Educator, ANR

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) began accepting applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA) Program.  QLA will assist producers whose eligible crops suffered quality losses due to qualifying drought, excessive moisture, flooding, hurricanes, snowstorms, or tornadoes occurring in calendar years 2018 and/or 2019. Applications are being accepted until March 5, 2021.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for payments, producers must:

  • Be entitled to an ownership share and be at-risk in the agricultural production and marketing of crops on the farm; and either
  • Have an average federal tax adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $900,000 for tax years 2018 and 2019; or
  • Derive at least 75 percent of their AGI from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities;
  • Have control of the acreage on which the crop was grown at the time of the disaster;
  • Comply with the provisions of the “Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation” regulations, often called the conservation compliance provisions;
  • Not have a controlled substance violation; and
  • Be a citizen of the United States or a resident alien.
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Covered cropland vs. cover crops


By Carl Zulauf, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University and Gary SchnitkeyKrista SwansonNick Paulson and Joe Janzen, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

Cover crops have environmental benefits, with many resulting from cover crops that over-winter, thereby absorbing nitrates in the early spring and building organic matter in soils over time. Because they over-winter, winter wheat and hay have many attributes ascribed to cover crops. Even though cover crop acres have increased, the increase has been more than offset by declines in wheat and hay acres, implying a step backward, not forward.

Wheat and hay acres

The 1996 farm bill eliminated annual set asides. With a few exceptions, farms were allowed to plant whatever was desired, most likely resulting in the rotation with the highest expected return. Since 1996, aces planted to winter wheat have declined by -41% (-21 million) while acres of all hay harvested declined by -14% (-8.8 million).… Continue reading

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The dirt on soil health

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

As more is learned about the complexities of the soils serving as the basis for our civilization, it is becoming apparent to many that agricultural management practices need to change. Les Siler, a farmer from Fulton County, said farmers need to be intentional to improve the quality and health of their soil.

“Treat the soil like a living thing. You need to take care of it, keep it covered and not tear it up,” Siler said. “Along with the use of cover crops, having a multiple crop rotation is beneficial. “Crop diversity is very beneficial to the soil health and the soil life. Farmers also need to think about anything they do to the soil. If it is applying fertilizer or making a tillage pass. They need to think about how that impacts building the soil.” … Continue reading

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