Monitoring Plant Health
Farmers are often looking for a quick way to measure plant health. Soil and tissue tests are commonly used, but the results may take several days or even weeks in some cases. This can be too late on a growing crop.

Corn Fungicide Use

With humid wet weather occurring comes the concern for corn fungal diseases. The goal of using fungicides is to optimize plant health and keep your corn crop alive to optimize crop yield. Healthy biologically active soils should be your foundation for healthy plants and yields.

Double Crop Soybeans or Cover Crops

Approaching mid-July, some farmers are still debating whether to plant soybeans after wheat harvest. Double crop soybeans are risky but high soybean prices, early summer planting and good weather favor farmers taking the risk. As summer progresses, the risk of failure increases on double crop soybeans.

Controlling Poisonous Weeds

Some weeds are worse than others, especially poisonous weeds that are dangerous to humans, livestock, and pets! While attending several summer parties in Northwest Ohio (graduation, July 4 th, picnics), several poisonous noxious weeds were observed this year. Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum L.) and wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa L.) are invasive non-native weeds often found growing together in Ohio.

Improving Water Infiltration and Permeability

Our summer rains have been quite variable. Some rains have been hard and fast while others have been slow and steady. About 10 days ago, “million-dollar” rain occurred; a slow steady all day 1” total rain. Million-dollar rains are called that because farmers assume that 100% of that precipitation can be utilized to increase crop yields.

Nutrient Deficiencie and Slug Issues

Summer has officially arrived and nutrient deficiencies and pests are now a problem. Healthy plants have less problems with disease and insects, so optimum plant nutrition is important for keeping pests at bay and optimizing crop yields.

Cover Crops Impact Soil Health

Planting cover crops is becoming a common practice, however; producers may not be sure what is the impact of cover crops on soil health. Andy Clark (USDA-SARE, 2015) outlines key ways that cover crops lead to better soil health and potentially better farm profits.

Planting Issues

Every year brings unique pest challenges. Many early planted fields have been replanted or are in the process of being replanted. This year, soybeans seem to be more at risk than corn and the culprit is seed corn maggot.

Fertilizing Crops with Nitrogen

June is a busy month as farmers finish up planting, fertilizing, and spraying crops. For corn nitrogen (N), farmers have several options. Many farmers side-dress anhydrous nitrogen to corn. Anhydrous is a concentrated source of nitrogen, 82% by weight while liquid forms of N can be 28-32% or as high as 46%. Ammonia is usually the most economical, however, since it is stored at low temperatures (-28OF) with internal pressures of 250 psi , its more dangerous to apply.

Seeding Cover Crops after Wheat

Wheat will be maturing early due to 90OF temperatures. Wheat grows best under cooler temperatures (less than 800F) and moist soil conditions. Wheat stands look great, but starts to die with hot dry temperatures, resulting in lower wheat yields.

Crimping Cover Crops

Cover crops outcompete many troublesome weeds but cover crop needs to be terminated. Most farmers kill cover crop with herbicides but crimper crop rollers can terminate naturally. Selecting the right cover crop to crimp and timing are critical for getting good crimping results.

Carbon Markets are Promoting Healthy Soils

No-till farming started in the 1960’s and gained steam in the 1970’s (fuel crisis) and the 1980’s (agricultural financial crisis). Glyphosate (Roundup ®) and genetically modified organisms (GMO) innovations also increased no-till farming.

Maximizing Crop Yeilds

High grain prices for grain crops make any planting mistakes extremely costly. Most corn yield is determined within the first several weeks. Soybeans are a little more forgiving but any type of environmental (weather) or biological (weeds, disease, insects) stress can impact yields.

Controlling Corn and Soybean Pests

Controlling pests of corn and soybeans can be difficult. Most farmers rely on seed treatments and broad-spectrum insecticides which terminate the pests but also takes out the beneficial natural predators.

GMO vs. Non-GMO Crops

Ohio is one of the leading states planting Non-GMO crops. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. About 92% of the US corn and 94% of soybeans in 2018 were genetically modified for weeds, insects, or drought tolerance. Japan and many European countries are demanding crops that are Non-GMO, so farmers can pick up premiums by growing these crops.

Weather and Spring Planting Issues

The warm weather this past week primed many farmers for spring planting. Government weather forecasting had gotten better but the results are still variable. According to the NOAA, the year 2020 was a year of extremes, with record temperatures, dry overall conditions, and forest fires in the West.

Spring Planting Decisions

Last year, spring planting occurred during a cold dry spring, while this year conditions are warm and dry. Farmers have several planting options, depending on whether they are conventional tillage farmers or planting no-till with cover crops.

Healthy Plants Produce Healthy Soils

Spring is a time for new growth by plants, animals, and microbes. As temperatures warm, microbial populations double with every ten degrees Fahrenheit increase in soil temperature. As days get longer, the sun’s energy is captured by plants and that energy feeds microbes and almost all living organisms on earth.

Pollinators for Birds, Bees and Butterflies

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.

Building Soil Carbon

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.

Improving Drainage with Cover Crops

As the weather warms and snow melts, many fields are saturated with standing water. While cover crops may improve drainage, they are not a cure all. A farmer with no tile or subsurface drainage once asked why the cover crop’s he planted did not improve his drainage.