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Agronomy Notebook



Can you dig it?

By Andy Westhoven, AgriGold Regional Agronomist, CPAg, CCA

Just when you thought 2019 was challenging…the year of 2020 has laughed in the face of last year! So far, this season is shaping up as the have and have nots in terms of moisture. At a recent training, attendees brought in samples showing our growth stages ranging from V5 (or shin-high) to pollinated corn from around the state. The variability is evident in the sizes of corn plants, but what we are also seeing below ground. Let us take a journey to investigate the variability of the corn roots and what stories we might learn.

In years of dry weather, I have a belief that subtle variations are exaggerated. What might only be a bushel swing never noticed on a yield monitor becomes a 10+ bushel swing (and usually blamed on the hybrid). Our own farm can provide a perfect example.… Continue reading

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Is fungicide the right move for corn and soybeans in 2020?

By Alexandra Knight, Ph.D., Field Agronomist, Pioneer

Late season fungicide and insecticide applications to corn and soybeans is a management decision growers will be making rather quickly but, does it appear this year will pay?

In many parts of Ohio, 2019 left fields unplanted. In many cases, cover crops were planted to preserve mycorrhizal fungi. While this left an opportunity for beneficial organisms to thrive, it also provided an opportunity for insects and diseases to maintain a home. This combined with the mild winter, would lead us to suspect 2020 to be a strong year for both insects and disease.

In both corn and soybeans, the leaves serve as “solar panels” to capture sunlight and turn that sunlight into sugar to produce grain. When leaves remain healthy and undamaged more sugar can be produced and ultimately more yield obtained.

When fungicide applications occur, the leaf is protected from further disease development for a period of approximately 2 to 3 weeks.… Continue reading

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Watch for early-season crop development challenges

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

The 2020 growing season continues to be challenging for Ohio’s farmers. Wet spring conditions with large rainfall events have created some issues that will continue to impact Ohio’s crops throughout the growing season.

Adverse weather conditions have significantly impacted emergence and early crop development. In some areas of the state, fields were planted early and then exposed to weather extremes such as saturated soils and freezing temperatures below 28 degrees F. In other parts of Ohio, fields planted into tough conditions in mid-May struggled to develop and were eventually replanted. Anyone who has driven around the state in the last few weeks knows that poor emergence, variable emergence and thin plant stands are a common sight.

Not only have adverse spring field conditions impacted final plant stands, but some issues that exist as a result of the wet weather will linger throughout the season.… Continue reading

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Are crown rot and PMD looming in corn?

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

As I write this, the rain continues to inundate many corn and soybean fields throughout the state. Unfortunately, many Ohio farmers will likely find their corn crop in one the following scenarios:

  1. Those that could plant early but have since endured saturating rains.
  2. Those that were unable to plant early, but due to the calendar, may have had to push field conditions rather than wait for an ideal planting situation.

Either scenario presents the increased potential for the corn root system to be exposed to infections that challenge staygreen and natural maturation.

Crown rot in corn results in plants that prematurely die. Not only does this affect final yield but often standability is impeded as well. Crown rot is caused by various species of Fusarium and Pythium, which are commonly found in our soils. The crown area serves as the “highway” for transporting water and nutrients from the roots to the remainder of the plant.… Continue reading

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Do you have problems with soybean cyst nematode?

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Typically, soybeans may begin to show symptoms of Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) damage by July 1. SCN is a parasitic roundworm that feeds on the soybean root system. The cyst stage of the nematode’s life cycle is when the female nematode is filled with eggs. Cysts are visible throughout the summer on soybean roots and will appear as small, white, and lemon-shaped. After the female matures, these cysts are hard to see. When trying to identify SCN presence on soybean roots, it is important not to confuse cysts with Rhizobium nodules (where N fixation takes place).

How can you determine if SCN is causing damage and yield loss to your soybeans? Injury symptoms include yellowing and stunting of plants. These symptoms may appear in patches of a field. These patches may grow from year to year; especially in the direction a field is tilled.… Continue reading

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Setting the stage for high yielding corn

By Roy A. Ulrich, DEKALB/Asgrow technical agronomist

Over the next week or so we will reach the time of year when field activity begins to slow down after the rush of planting, herbicide applications, and sidedress nitrogen applications have been completed. While we may be slowing down, our crops are beginning to ramp up growth and development from the vegetative stages to the very critical reproductive stages. Planting conditions, fertility and weed control have set the foundation for the crop from this point forward and cracks or missing pieces of that foundation may have placed some yield in jeopardy even this early in the year.

Corn is entering the grand growth stage where rapid growth of above ground biomass occurs and rapid uptake of key nutrients out of the soil is taking place. During this time nutrient uptake increases at a rapid pace and continues until late into grain fill. Restriction in root development due to sidewall compaction, tillage compaction or root pruning due to corn rootworm damage can limit nutrient uptake during this critical time.… Continue reading

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Avoid the knee-jerk reaction

By Andy Westhoven, Regional Agronomist, CPAg, CCA, AgriGold

I realize it is now mid-May and plenty of corn and soybean fields have been planted, but avoiding the knee-jerk reaction actually applies to the entire growing season —

not just at planting. Many farmers (including me) have very short-term memories. The last thing we need to do is base our decisions solely off 2019. Coupled with the frightening facts of the virus pandemic and market decreases — staying with the plan is the best action to take.

Many areas that experienced prevent plant acres know full well there would not be a repeat in 2020. My own farm had only a third of the acres planted and, regardless of the environment(s) this spring, crops will be planted. So far this season, many small pockets were able to plant early while others waited on the sidelines. The planter is the most important pass of the season and no one enjoys a redo.… Continue reading

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MRTN — Maximum Return To N

By Harold Watters, CCA, Ohio State University Extension agronomist

Current recommendations from Ohio State University use an economic model to set our corn nitrogen rate. The Maximum Return To N (MRTN) concept was developed by soil fertility specialists from across the north central region as a Corn Belt wide approach to nitrogen rates.

For us we use data from trials in Ohio so we also have our weather included as part of the equation. And we factor in the price of nitrogen and the value of corn to bring in the economics. I see that our best economic return to nitrogen for $3.50 corn (I’m still optimistic) and $0.40 per pound of N is about 168 pounds of N/A. With a range of about 15 pounds to either side giving us about the same economic return — within $1. You may also gain efficiency by delaying the bulk of you N application until side dress timing.… Continue reading

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Good plant stand is a must for high corn yields

By Dave Nanda, Ph.D., Seed Genetics Direct director of genetics

With all the bad news about the coronavirus this year, we need a miracle. It is really a miracle of nature that a puny little seedling can grow into a big, tall corn plant within a couple of months. The most crucial time in the life of a corn plant is the seedling stage. If we understand how our crops grow, we can do a better job of meeting their needs and improve the odds for getting higher yields. Let’s look at what happens as the young corn plants develop.

Stage V1 to V2 — corn seedlings need 110 to 120 growing degrees to germinate and emerge. The seedlings emerge when coleoptile, the spear-like leaf, pierces thru the ground. First and second leaves develop six to seven days after the seedlings emerge. The first roots start to supply water and nutrients to the young seedlings.… Continue reading

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Create a strong soybean weed control strategy

By John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist, Northern Ohio

Springtime in Ohio is an exciting time — color returns to fields, lawns, and landscapes, outdoor activities (with appropriate social distancing) can begin, and the sound of birds fills the early morning air. When it comes to fieldwork, spring is a pivotal time for setting corn and soybean yield potential.

While seed genetics, weather, planter calibration, and overall uniformity have a high impact on yield, it is important not to lose sight of the challenges of weeds to a grower’s operation.

The challenges that weeds pose to growing crops has increased drastically in recent years, and 2020 will bring even more challenges. Large amounts of prevent plant ground in 2019 allowed tough-to-control weeds such as marestail, ragweed, and waterhemp to produce enormous amounts of seeds. These seeds can very quickly be spread to new areas.

Waterhemp is the newest weed threat in many parts of the state, especially in soybean production.… Continue reading

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Addressing 2019’s lingering challenges

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Following a wet growing season in 2019, some of the issues facing growers in 2020 are lingering from the previous growing season.

Due to the excessively wet weather in the spring of 2019, many fields have compaction that will impact crop development and yields for years to come. Growers should alleviate compaction when conditions allow. Tillage should be performed only when soil conditions are favorable. Tillage under wet or “marginal” conditions will only make compaction problems worse. Compaction is a huge yield killer, as Randall Reeder and Alan Sundermeier wrote in a recent C.O.R.N. Newsletter: “Years of OSU Extension research on Hoytville silty clay loam showed that through compaction, 10% to 15% of the potential crop yield was being left in the field.” Farmers should plan to alleviate compaction when possible and avoid traffic on wet soil this spring.

Weed control in soybeans will continue to be a challenge between herbicide tolerant weeds and the plethora of soybean herbicide traits available to growers.… Continue reading

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Corn planting date considerations

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

For much of the Eastern Corn Belt it is widely understood that the optimal planting period is between April 20th and May 10th. Research has proven that corn loses yield potential daily when planted after the beginning of May. For the Central Corn Belt, the declines in yield potential due to planting delays vary from about 0.3% per day early in May to about 1% per day by the end of May. Knowing that this is true, it can be frustrating during a wet spring or when field work is delayed for one reason or another. Planting is a critical component of a successful crop as it sets the stage for the entire growing season. However, it is important to keep in mind that early planting is just one of many factors that contribute to high yield potential. Planting early favors high yields, but it does not guarantee them and growers should not focus entirely on the calendar.… Continue reading

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Crop rotation and second-year soybean yields

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, product manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

As harvest wraps up in across the eastern Corn Belt and plans for the 2020 crop are finalized, growers will determine what crops to plant and plan crop rotation across their acres. When considering crop rotations and yields, many focus on continuous corn and the yield penalties associated with that practices. However, there is one possibly overlooked benefit of crop rotation: avoiding a soybean yield penalty.

In this article, the University of Kentucky’s John Grove discusses soybean yields for first year and second year soybeans from 2009 to 2016. Grove’s research data shows an average yield penalty of 2.3-bushels per acre across that 7-year period, with some years being showing yield losses greater than 10 bushels per acre. In another article from no-till farmer, Greg Roth shows data that predicts a 4- to 6- bushel per acre yield penalty for second year soybeans.… Continue reading

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Changing weather patterns: The new “normal”

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

After enduring the spring of 2019, it will not take much convincing for many of you that precipitation extremes have become the new normal. It’s been said that if you want things to be different, just wait until next year. While this will likely be true, the trend of punishing rain events occurring more frequently is undeniable.

Impacts of extreme precipitation:

  1. Intense rains with increased atmospheric moisture = persistent risk of flooding
  2. Soil movement and topsoil degradation
  3. Decreased aggregate stability, lower soil O2 levels
  4. Sustained dry periods between rains
  5. Days to perform field work are limited.

 

Effective water use

While excessive water at any given time has many downsides, effective water utilization is critical to overall crop development and growth. Water is a fundamental component of photosynthesis. In order to maximize this critical resource, we must implement management strategies that allow our soils to both accept and retain more water to sustain us throughout the drier periods.… Continue reading

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Alleviate compaction to reduce yield losses

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

As a result of the wet spring weather there was a great deal of variability in corn and soybean fields in 2019. Early rainy weather caused wet soil conditions early in the growing season, flooded areas of fields, and resulted in fields that had to be replanted. Although in many cases the saturated soil conditions stunted crop growth, in some cases compaction is to blame. Field work this spring when soils were too wet or “marginal” created yield-limiting shallow compaction, smearing of the seed furrow, etc.

In the 2012-01 issue of the C.O.R.N. Newsletter Randall Reader and Alan Sundermeier state that “Years of OSU Extension research on Hoytville silty clay loam showed that through compaction, 10% to 15% of the potential crop yield was being left in the field.” Horizontal root development and poor root development in general are indications of soil compaction.… Continue reading

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Fallow ground syndrome

By Andy Westhoven, AgriGold agronomist

Doesn’t that title sound a lot better than prevent plant ground syndrome? The words prevent plant (PP) send shivers down many growers’ backs. For those with PP acres, the season just keeps on offering new challenges. Many growers have worked the ground, sprayed the weeds, chopped the weeds, worked them again… you get the point. Let’s face it, the PP acres are more work to keep clean than the planted acres. In addition to those challenges, the title implies that idle farmland has some more work to do and there is more to watch for with PP acres leading up to next spring.

Fallow syndrome can occur when a corn (or wheat) crop is planted the year after no crop was planted in a field. These grass crops might exhibit a phosphorus (P) or zinc (Zn) deficiency early in the growing season. Plants will appear to be stunted, pale, and purple in color.… Continue reading

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Fight to the finish line

By Andy Westhoven, AgriGold Regional Agronomist

The 2019 growing season has certainly been one for the ages (and the record books). It has been both memorable and forgettable. I know many growers who have said this year they had to throw out the rule book. I can empathize with any grower, as I too did some things that made me embarrassed. However, this was, and still is, a year of audibles. We’ve had Plan A, B, C, D, etc. We had to be quick on our feet whenever the slightest window opened for fieldwork. Sure, many times it was questionable at best, but it’s what had to be done. Now if you’re fortunate to have a crop planted and still actively growing, I believe you have to fight to the finish line.

There are many factors now out of our control. Many crop roots are average at best, which is a major challenge.… Continue reading

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Fungicide applications to late planted crops

By John Schoenhals, Pioneer Field Agronomist in northern Ohio

Fungicide applications to corn and soybeans is an important management practice in an “average” year, but what about in 2019, a year

in which many corn and soybean acres were planted much later than normal? To answer this question, it is important to understand the role and function of fungicides.

Leaves serve as a “factory” for the plant, collecting sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce sugars used for grainfill. Healthy leaves produce sufficient amounts of sugars to meet grainfill needs as well as support plant health.

When plant diseases are present, the efficiency of this factory is reduced. If the demand for sugars is greater than what an unhealthy plant can produce, grain yield is reduced and overall plant health will rapidly decline as cannibalization of stalks takes place.

When fungicide applications occur, the leaf “factory” is protected from further disease development for a period of at least two to three weeks.… Continue reading

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Make the best of a bad spring

By Matt Hutcheson, CCA, Product Manager, Seed Consultants, Inc.

Spring of 2019 is one everyone would soon like to forget. However, as the growing season progresses, there are several areas of crop growth and development that could be impacted because of the wet field conditions and delayed field work.

In many areas field conditions were marginal at best for the duration of April, May, and June. As a result, field work was performed in wet soils. Although many growers feel they never had adequate conditions and to perform field work, it is important to keep in mind that throughout the growing season we are going to see why agronomists warn against field work in wet soils. Root-restricting compaction is a concern this growing season and evidence of compaction’s significant impact on crop development appeared shortly after emergence of corn this year. In fields where corn was planted under wet conditions, sidewall compaction is evidenced by roots that can only grow in the direction of the seed furrow because they are unable to penetrate the sidewall of the furrow.… Continue reading

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June corn lookouts

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

As I am writing this, many corn and soybean acres have yet to be planted throughout the state. However, my hope is that by the time you read this, your crop will have emerged and will be growing vigorously.

One thing that is certain for later planted corn is that the vegetative growth period will be expedited. By now, many of you have been made aware of the research conducted by The Ohio State University and Purdue University which has shown that, on average, a hybrid requires 6.8 GDU’s less per day to reach black layer or physiological maturity when planted after May 1. This is possible because of the accelerated accumulation of heat units or GDU’s. Instead of producing a new leaf every five to seven days prior to the V7 growth stage, later planted corn will more likely produce a new leaf every four to six days within this same period.… Continue reading

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