Showing posts from May, 2022

Soil Compaction and Dinosaurs

  Many lessons can be learned from history, even ancient history. Scientist have studied dinosaurs and discovered that their foot print was heavier than modern farm equipment. However, soil compaction from a dinosaur’s foot print was much less, so scientists are wondering why? This study was recently published in a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which linked farm machinery and dinosaurs. Soil compaction is causing crop yields to decline. The increasing human population requires more food production and more efficient use of arable (crop-producing) land. To increase efficiency, farm machinery has become larger, with combines having wider grain heads and larger grain hoppers and grain carts . Over the last few decades, the weight of combines has increased almost 10-fold, from around 9,000 pounds in 1958 to 80,000 pounds (40 ton) today. The result has been a growing problem, the compaction of soil below the tillage zone. The subsoil is where plant roo

Reducing Harmful Algal Blooms

  When late spring and early summer weather gets hot and muggy and we get lots of rain, expect things to grow. Unfortunately, that is also a good recipe for increased harmful algal blooms (HABs) in Lake Erie. New research shows that merely reducing phosphorus (P) loadings in Lake Erie will not solve the HAB problem; but may in fact, make them worse! Algal biomasses (actually cyanobacteria) will be reduced, but microcystin or toxic algal production will increase. With reduced P, the algae will take up increased amounts of fixed nitrogen, and in the absence of P will actually produce increased, toxic amounts of algal toxins, the microcysts. The lake won't be so green and will let in more light, but will become much more toxic (Hellweger et al, Science, 2022) Phosphorus is usually blamed for most HAB in freshwater because it is the most limiting element needed for plant growth. However, just a little extra P, greatly increases plant growth, especially in lakes. However, as far as poll

Corn Insect Pests

  The 2022 La Nina weather pattern is expected to bring above average precipitation to Ohio and the Great Lakes Region along with stronger and more hurricanes. Since many insect pests are carried by hurricanes northward, farmers can expect higher insect infestations this year. Some insect pests over winter, and they are also around in higher numbers. A cool, wet spring slows down crop growth and insects love to feed on slow weak growing plants. Black Cutworm and armyworm are larvae that damage crops. Several species of moths lay eggs that form cutworms and armyworms in Ohio. They generally have 1-2 generations per year depending on the species. Adult flights occur at different times through the growing season. They have 4 stages in their life cycles: eggs, larvae or caterpillars which damage crops, pupae, and adults. Some overwinter as partially grown caterpillars, others as pupae in soil, while others migrate as moths from the south. Paper wasp, ground beetles, and lighting bugs are n

Terminating Cover Crops

  As planting season is partially delayed in some areas due to wet weather, farmers are wondering when and how to terminate their cover crops. If soils are wet, a growing cover crop helps dry out soil through evapotranspiration. Crop water use, also known as evapotranspiration (ET), represents soil evaporation and the water used by a crop for growth (transpiration). Transpiration is the water transpired or lost to the atmosphere from small openings on the leaf surfaces. Evaporation is the water evaporated or lost from the wet soil and plant surfaces. When a crop reaches full cover, approximately 95 percent of ET is due to transpiration and evaporation from the crop canopy at full sunlight. About 97-99% of water absorbed by plant roots is lost to transpiration. Most plants have a total transpiration of 440 to 2,200 pounds of water per pound of plant growth. Cool season grasses like rye have a higher transpiration rate than warm season grasses like corn. When cereal rye is at its peak sp

First Time No-Tillers

  As the national price of diesel fuel averages around $5.40/gallon, many farmers are considering no-tilling both soybeans and corn for the first time. Also, due to wet weather and a late planting window, getting crop seed in the ground becomes even more important. Here are a few tips that may help improve your first year no-till crop yields. First, scout your fields. Weeds like purple dead nettle, henbit, dandelion, chickweed, yellow rocket, ragweed and marestail can be problems and require a good burndown herbicide. Most farmers will use glyphosate (Roundup®)but remember that as a chelator, glyphosate ties up many micronutrients, especially iron, manganese, zinc, and copper, so minimize it use. Second, check for slugs and other pests, especially in weedy fields. Ferroyx® is a new slug bait that has a 40-day residual. The pellets are very small and the slugs ingest it. The rate is 10- 15#/A and costs $11-$16/A. If you are not sure how many slugs you have, place a few boards or shingle

Biological Nutrient Uptake

  Regenerative farming practices emphasize nutrient uptake from soils through natural soil biological cycles. This ecologically‐based agricultural approach uses microbes and carbon compounds to produce crops naturally rather than relying entirely on highly soluble “salty” nutrient inputs for plant nutrition.  Before commercial synthetic fertilizer, historically, soil microbes provided about 80% of soil nitrogen (N) through the efficient process of microbial N fixation. However, soil compaction and over‐use of nitrogen fertilizers are having a negative impact on N fixing microbes. For the first time, the total fixed N supplied by microbes is less than the amount of applied synthetic N from fertilizer. Excess salt based or soluble fertilizer is disrupting the natural soil balance. Soil microbe interact with plant roots and soil minerals to releases plant nutrients from soil minerals. Biological release of plant nutrients has far greater potential for plant mineral uptake than relying ent