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Showing posts from 2024

Bird Flu Prevention

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  A wave of Bird Flu (Avian Influenza or H5N1 virus) is crossing the country, infecting both birds and bovine (dairy and beef cattle). So far, there is no evidence that the virus is being spread from mammal to mammal, only from birds or cattle. Poultry (chickens, turkey, ducks) and wild birds like Canadian Geese, pigeons, starlings, and sparrows may all be vectors or spreaders of this disease. Humans in China and Hong Kong have contacted the disease but it is not common in the USA. Milk pasteurization has been shown to be an effective way to keep the virus from infecting humans.  The Bird Flu virus has infected poultry and wild flocks of birds in the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia. About 15 million poultry birds have died from Bird Flu in 1.5 years. More than 193 million birds have been culled to stop spreading the virus. Now Bird Flu has also been found in bovines or dairy cattle and even beef cattle. Usually milk production drops by 25% or more. Bird flu has been found in several poul

Dealing with Hot Temperatures

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Farmers are finishing up planting, but some crops have been slow to emerge. Cooler nighttime temperatures may be delaying emergence. In most cases, moisture has been adequate but highly variable. However, summer has arrived and very soon hotter and drier weather conditions may prevail. The last two years plus this year look like a hot June. Last year, moisture was very short in May. This year, farmers have some moisture at the surface, however, subsurface moisture is very low. When it gets hot and possibly dry this early in the growing season, what can a farmer do? Crops' roots are still shallow and the crop is not well developed yet. Early planted crops appear to be in better condition to survive higher temperatures and possibly drier soil conditions because they have more developed roots. First, try to terminate cover crops and weeds quickly to save moisture. Second, reduce or avoid tillage because each tillage pass dries out the soil .5-1.0 acre-inch of water. Dry soil tends to

Corn & Soybean Replant

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  Most farmers have finished planting for the first time but may be looking to replant. Replanting corn can be a difficult decision. Young plants can recover especially if the damage is above ground. However, below ground damage from insects, disease, compaction, saturated soils, or fertilizer injury are more difficult for corn to recover. With the cold nights lately and cloudy days, sometimes sunshine and warmer temperatures allow your crops to recover, making that decision easier to make. First, determine how widespread the damage is and how healthy the plants are that are remaining on the whole field. Aerial Drones can help cover a large area but you still need to inspect the remaining plants to determine their health.  Dr Robert Nielson, Purdue University offers these suggestions on corn replant decisions. Most modern corn varieties are fairly tolerant of both low and high populations. Based on 10 years research, populations ranged from 23,500 to 40,000 seeds per acre. Based on tho

Cover Crop Issues

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  A week of good weather has helped most farmers get crops planted. However, there are issues dealing with fast-growing cover crops (e.g., cereal rye). Due to a warm winter and spring, most crops, including wheat, are 2-3 weeks ahead in maturity. Fall-planted crops are all headed out and getting tall. How viable is the seed, and how do you manage those situations? On seed viability, cereal rye seed is viable 30 days after heading and flowering. Some cereal rye has been headed out for 2 weeks, so it’s time to get it terminated. Some rye is 4 to 6 feet tall, so shading is becoming another issue to consider. Balansa clover seed can remain viable in the soil for 3 years and reseed itself. Balansa and Crimson clover seed is viable 30 days after blooming. Hairy vetch seed can remain viable for 5 years in the soil (hard seed) and starts to mature around July 10, which may be July 1st this year. For all cover crops, terminating cover crops once they are 10-20% blooming reduces the chance of re

Wet Weather Issues

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  Farmers are starting to make progress on planting, but it's quite variable. Warmer temperatures and humid conditions are expected. Both the winter wheat and weeds are growing quickly. Not only weeds, but also many insects and diseases are becoming a problem this year. Wet soils tend to compact and create poor soil structure, which is a major problem if soil dries off. Farmers have a lot of things to worry about when it stays wet and it's time to get crops planted. On fast-growing weeds, corn has more restrictions for post applications of herbicides. Higher rates of herbicides will be needed along with post-emergent herbicides to control the weeds. Higher rates of Glyphosate (Roundup), Liberty Link corn, and Extend corn can help control most weeds but it is more difficult when weeds get big. The weeds are much easier to terminate when they are small. On insects, watch for wireworms and seed corn maggot. Seed corn maggots are often a problem early with the larva feeding on the

Cereal Rye and Slugs

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It’s a typical Ohio spring. Sporadic rains, followed by a few days of sunshine, then more drizzle. Farmers are trying to get crops planted, but progress varies. Under these conditions, cereal rye is growing fast which can help dry out soils but tends to shade newly planted crops. Second, with a warm winter and fairly warm spring with rain, slugs and voles (field mice) are flourishing. Weeds are also growing because it is too wet to spray all the fields. Here are some tips to deal with these problems.  Cover crops, especially cereal rye, outcompete many troublesome weeds but the cover crop needs to be terminated. Most farmers will kill the cover crop with herbicides but crimper crop rollers can terminate naturally and if the crop is tall, get it on the ground. Once it is on the ground, it will hold moisture and keep soil temperatures cooler going into summer. Cereal rye is a natural fit for soybeans but is more difficult to manage with corn. Soybeans thrive on the nutrient

Reducing Phosphorus Runoff

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Rain is again slowing down spring planting. April and May showers are saturating fields causing nutrient runoff and soil organic matter (SOM) losses. While most scientists say phosphorus (P) is the main culprit, harmful algae blooms (HAB) or cyanobacteria need a variety of nutrients. If rains continue into summer combined with warm weather and not much wind, HAB can multiply quite rapidly. Farmers have planted cover crops and applied a variety of best management practices to reduce HAB in Lake Erie, will it be enough?  Where is the P coming from, what is the source? Human wastes account for roughly 16%, livestock manure 17%, and the biggest source is still from agriculture, from the soil. Considering the large acreage (4.2 million acres in the Maumee River basin) it takes only a small amount of P loss to cause HAB in Lake Erie. Farmers generally apply about 35-40# of P on corn and maintain about 95% of what is applied. HAB need only 1/10 as much P as corn (1# P = 500# of HAB), so now f

Spring Planting Safety Tips

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Farmers are starting the busy planting season as the soil both warms up and dries out. Spring is a hectic time as farmers try to plant their crops quickly to optimize crop yields. However, planting season can be dangerous, for both farmers, their spouse and children, hired hands, and non-farm people. Agriculture is a dangerous profession, averaging 100 injuries per day and around 410 deaths per year (2019) or 19.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Let’s try to make this a safe year.  Let’s start with the children. Farm children, grand kids, and even city kids love to be on the farm and they are fascinated by tractors, wagons, sprayers, fertilizer equipment, you name it. Children do not realize the danger this equipment can pose. Take some time and educate them if they visit. Children need adult supervision and need to stay a distance away. Most children love to ride on the tractor and that can be quite dangerous. Children riding on a fender and not buckled up can easily fall off

Seed Quality Effects Germination

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  As spring planting gets underway, farm stress is high. When seeds germinate quickly that farm stress goes away. Getting new seeds and plants off to a vigorous start increases the potential for a healthy crop with abundant yields. However, when seeds germinate slowly because of challenging soil or weather conditions, early stress on young seedlings is likely to produce a yield drag.  When seeds germinate quickly, corn seed maggot feeding decreases. When root systems develop quickly, wireworm or rootworm larvae is greatly reduced. When seedlings grow very rapidly, and have balanced seed nutrition, they can resistant slugs and flea beetles feeding. However, none of these positive effects occur when seeds germinate slowly or when seeds are of poor quality.  Planting conditions are not always ideal. Poor weather conditions means that often planting occurs under less-than-ideal conditions. Farmers typically have only about 9-10 days or less to get most crops planted on time. I

When to start planting?

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  It's Mid-April and as May approaches, farmers are gearing up for planting season. Early planted crops generally have a yield advantage over late planted crops. Most crop yield is related to moisture at pollination in both corn and soybeans. Good yields are possible if there is adequate summer moisture. Usually, July rains have a big impact on corn yields, while August rains have more of an impact on soybean yields. There is about a 3-week window in Ohio for optimal planting. In Southern Ohio, April 10-May 10, and in Northern Ohio April 25th and May 10th. For crop insurance coverage, May 5th in southern Ohio and April 10th in northern Ohio. Planting after May 10th, on average, results in about a 0.3% yield loss per day when corn planting is delayed and by the end of May, this loss increases to 1% per day. However, it pays to plant when weather and soil conditions are fit. Mudding crops in can be a disaster if it gets dry. Shallow rooted crops in compacted soils often result in poo

Cover Crop Termination

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This spring has been warmer than normal but Ohio’s subsoil moisture has been dry due to last year’s drought. Recent rains may have helped depending upon how much rain actually soaked in. Last year, adequate subsoil moisture allowed farmers to get decent yields, however; what about this year? According to the National Weather Service, there is a 83% chance for a transition from El Niño to La Niña during April-June and a 62% chance for La Niña to develop by June-August. Typically, El Niño years are drier while La Niña years tend to be wetter in the Midwest.  For Ohio, the 60-day weather forecast is for temperatures to be above normal in our area but perhaps drier than normal conditions around the Great Lakes. April may be wetter, but May is expected to turn dry. Farmer’s may be planting earlier than normal depending upon the weather. What about terminating cover crops? That depends upon soil moisture.  When dry conditions are expected, terminate cover crops early when they

Reducing Wheat Diseases

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Winter and early spring has been warmer than normal. The lawns are green and so is the wheat. Is this due to adequate nitrogen? More likely it’s adequate iron and magnesium. In warm springs, iron is more plant available to make chlorophyll and magnesium is the central element for chlorophyll. If your wheat is yellow, even after spring nitrogen applications, it may be due to a lack of iron, especially on fields with poor soil structure. Soil tests may show high iron, but its in the wrong form. Golf courses often use iron to green up grass.  Looking ahead, what changes in fertility might enhance wheat disease resistance or simply enhance wheat growth and yield. Often, when scouting wheat, white leaves may be seen which is a sign of nickel deficiency. Nickel (Ni2+) activates the urease enzyme that allows plants to use external and internal urea as a nitrogen source. Nickel (2+) is one of the least toxic metals and stimulates microbial growth.  Adequate nickel improves wheat growth and yie

Recognizing Good Soil Health

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  Dr. Alan Franzluebbers, North Carolina Extension has a YouTube video showing farmers how to look for healthy soils and then improve it. There are several obvious soil health indicators like looking for earthworms, earthworm burrows, and their middens. Also, remove surface residue and look for white spiderweb like matts which are beneficial fungi. Crop fields with small mushrooms growing are a good sign because those are beneficial fungi just spreading their spores. However, the hardest to see are the soil bacteria which can be over 1 billion per teaspoon of soil. Soil Biology has been understudied and is extremely important.  Soil biology can be measured by looking at the soil biological activity, measuring the total biomass of living organisms, and by looking at the diversity of these organisms. The biology has four main functions: decomposers of crop residue, cycling of water and nutrients, controlling gasses like carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and oxygen for root r

Optimize Yield by Soil Testing

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  Conservation Tillage & Technology Conference (CTTC) last week had several good speakers. Clint Nester, Nester Ag, consults on about 200,000 acres in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana since 1992. All that data drives their soil test recommendations. They start by soil testing, determine nutrient rates, variable apply nutrients and then evaluate crop yields. They follow the 4R’s (Right Source of fertilizer, Right Rate, Right Place, and Right Time). By following the fundamentals, they strive for optimal yields with the highest profit margin while protecting the environment (improve water quality).  Soil testing can be done many ways. They emphasize getting core samples that are representative. Some farmers and retailers sample by soil type, 2.5-acre grids, or zones. Nester’s use zone soil sampling, taking numerous representative soil samples down to 6.67 inches. Zones allow for good N-P-K soil recommendations, help determine pH and lime levels, starter fertilizer rates, side-

Maximizing Wheat Yield

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  Farmers are striving to optimize wheat yields with lower grain prices expected. High yields are dependent upon maximizing wheat grain kernels per foot and increasing grain weight. High yields come from achieving the correct leaf and shoot numbers, maintaining a green leaf canopy through grain fill, increasing grain numbers/head, and increasing grain size. Good fertility increases yields by getting adequate amounts of all essential macro- and micronutrients.  Wheat also grows best when there is adequate soil moisture to develop a well-branched root system. If wheat has enough water during the early growing season, it will form the necessary roots. A good root system is critical for obtaining adequate and balanced crop nutrients. Adequate drainage, both surface and subsurface, helps improve wheat yields.  Nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) are the nutrients required in the highest quantity for maintaining high wheat yields. Wheat utilizes 60% more potassium than nitrogen. For

Understanding Biologicals

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Farmers are experimenting with biological to enhance crop performance. Dr. Connor Sible,University of Illinois  estimated that by 2032, farmers will spend $32 billion/year on biological products. Currently, biologicals enhanced seed growth (25%), fertility (25%), pest management (25% on insect, disease, weed control) and another 25% are specialty products. What are biologicals? Many are plant growth regulators or hormones. Bio-stimulates are not alive but come from living organisms and are easier to manage and control. Third are living beneficial microbes which are more difficult to manage and control. Living organisms are affected by moisture, temperature, and exposure to other environmental conditions (sunlight, oxygen levels, etc.). Dr. Sible breaks down biologicals into 8 major groups. Starting with living microbes, he lists nitrogen (N) fixing bacteria, phosphorus (P) solubilizing bacteria, residue decomposers (bacteria and fungi), and beneficial fungi (arbuscular mycorrhizae fung

Drone Spraying

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Aerial Drones are being used in agriculture. Alan Leininger, OSU Extension Educator, Henry County is doing agricultural research on drone applications. Drones have several advantages over ground-based spray equipment. First, they economically apply small rates of spray (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, nutrients), seed (small seeded cover crops) and are battery operated. Second, they fly in the air, so there is no soil compaction. They extend the application season. If it is too wet, applicators can still spray. There is no wheel damage to standing crops. Applicators can precision apply product at the ideal time during the growing season to address a nutrient or pest problem. Drones are also autonomous meaning they fly themselves on a set pattern. Humans still have to be present for fill ups and to trouble shoot problems (low flying planes, helicopters, towers, telephone lines, tree, etc). There are several different kinds of drones with various prices. Avoid buying cheap drones

Does Planter Phosphorus Pay

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Phosphorus (P) is often applied at corn planting to improve crop yields. However, does it always pay for itself? Ohio State University Extension Research (E-Fields) investigated where applying P at planting is worthwhile. Soil testing is critical. Past soil test recommendations were based upon Bray P1 but now they use Melich P. Bost methods are very similar. Under Bray P1, 15-30 Parts Per Million (ppm) P was considered good for attaining optimal crop yields on corn and soybeans. Under Melich P, 20-40 PPM for P is considered good. Most soils have a lot of tied up P but only the P that is plant available is considered usable. Only about 25-30% of the P that is applied that year is actually used by the plant. The other 70-75% become available in following years, depending on weather, soil type, humus levels etc. Cover crops and crop residue tie up many nutrients short-term, but they come available when they decompose. Residue from crops or cover crops are good P sources. From 2016-2018, O