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Photo by Aaron Overholser.

Lingering issues from 2019 — some thoughts for 2020

By Harold Watters, CCA, Ohio State University Extension

I’m not sure what we could have done for the crop this year. I read again today how we planted one day in April, one day in May and finally in early June we had a window only to be hit again with big rains — and then we had to replant in late June. We know that crop production is about collecting sunshine and putting that together with a crop to make sugars — C6H12O6 — that the plant converts to starches, oils and protein. But when we do that with a late June planting, we have cut off 45 to 60 days of potential. Water in mid- to late-season can help overcome the delay, but only a bit.

For soybean variety selection, I comb the data. I often make a seed payment early, and sometimes commit to a particular variety, but I prefer to wait for university results to get a comparison across company offerings. I will also be looking hard for frogeye leaf spot resistance. I saw this disease everywhere this year, not a lot of yield impact, but the potential was there.


Hybrid selection

I’ve hit on it already about how I like data. I WILL check company and university trial results very carefully this year. Yield works for me but I am willing to give up a bit for better disease protection. Corn fell down last year. I want better stalks in case we have an extended harvest in 2020.


Waterhemp. Management. Is not. Happening.

This weed got everywhere this year, including in fields that had Extend signs. I study weed resistance and this one appears to be in about year four of the buildup to full blown resistance. I can control it in corn with a good pre-emergent herbicide and a dicamba post application. But I know that overusing dicamba will find those resistance genes in there sooner rather than later, so I use LibertyLink in soybeans. And from Mark Loux, remember his bumper sticker, “Leave no pigweed behind” because the plant/seed you run through the combine will be out there to germinate next year, and the next too.


Disease protection

We have to put scouting back in our vocabulary and in our methods. Choose resistant hybrids and varieties and then check on them for disease. With commodity prices I see right now, I want to save money not spend it. Know what your corn and soybean (and wheat) diseases look like and check for them at the appropriate time. If no disease is present, then don’t spray and know the economic thresholds.

Sudden death syndrome appeared late and less than expected, but check for SCN anyway. There are some free sampling kits out there. Really sampling at soybean harvest and getting a feel for your SCN numbers is about maintenance — you really ought to sample all of your soybean fields regularly. And here too, variety selection can help with both of these problems and so can crop rotation.


Gray leaf spot

It was spotty, definitely hybrid specific. For me, the surprise was Northern corn leaf blight; even Common rust showed up in several places. I think we need to look a little harder for those good high-yielding hybrids that will tolerate disease and even gripe a little to the seed company agronomists and plant breeders when you see them. Things can get better but pressure must be applied. That’s how biological systems make change.


Nutrient applications

I am looking for free manure. The nutrients are the same and likely bring along some nitrogen with P, K, and sulfur for my crop. The next concern in the absence of manure is potassium. In some areas where we saw dry periods this year, I saw K deficiencies. We don’t want to run too close to our critical level on K. Phosphorus however, I can run a while in areas where I sit in the maintenance range or a little below.

And then there’s nitrogen, which was a big concern in 2019. I think I was a bit short early on, and before sidedress application. In my field research work, if I had 50 units of N then those plots recovered more quickly after each deluge. So personally I’ll up my at-plant N, and make sure I have 50 pounds of N through the planter. As to total rate, I want to move to a variable rate application, but don’t own my own applicator — I’m too small. The easiest way for me to get variable rate is by urea broadcast, and that has issues too so I will probably use the Corn Nitrogen Rate Calculator again this next year and put on the right economic rate for the price.

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