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Spring warm-up: How does 2018 soil temperature compare?

The calendar says it’s time for spring field activity in Ohio and farmers are eager to prep fields and plant this year’s crops. However, average temperatures across Ohio have remained cooler than usual with the previous 30-day period (March 16 – April 15, 2018) running 2 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit below normal (based on 1981-2010). Combined with precipitation up to twice the normal amount in some areas, the weather is certainly not cooperating with ideas of an early jump on planting.

Late last week, Ohio experienced a strong warm up in air temperatures, which definitely warmed the first few inches of the soil surface (see “OARDC Branch Station Two Inch Soil Temperatures by Greg LaBarge). But how do the present conditions compare with the long-term mean? Figure 1 shows two-inch soil temperatures (Fahrenheit) for selected OARDC Weather System (http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weather1/) stations from around Ohio. These soil temperatures are based on the weekly average for April 9-15, 2018.

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CCAs are on the front lines for key agricultural issues

A quick glance at the tidy office of John Fritz at The Andersons, Inc. Fremont facility would suggest that he works in a fairly standard desk job. One look at his weathered work boots, however, belies how he really spends most of his time and what drives the passion for what he does.

Fritz was recently named Ohio’s 2018 Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) of the Year. Fritz has more than 39 years of crop advising experience providing a variety of services to clients. He specializes in precision technology including nutrient management plans, soil sampling, scouting, weed management and seed recommendations, and variable rate planning. At The Andersons, Fritz has been a driving force for change through implementation of new technologies, including the introduction of variable rate technology at the farm center in the mid-1990s. He is also the head of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Management program and oversees all fertilizer recommendations and rates for customers.

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Considerations for extended cold, wet spring weather

Over the last several days we have been monitoring soil temperatures in a field near the Seed Consultants, Inc. main office. At 9:30am on Wednesday April, 11 soil temp at a 2-inch depth was 38 degrees Fahrenheit. After warm, sunny weather, 24 hours later soil temp in the same area of the field was 51 degrees. Corn requires 55 degrees Fahrenheit for germination, soybeans require 50 degrees. Although soil temperatures can reach sufficient levels after a few days of warm weather, it is important to keep in mind that they can drop just as quickly. On Friday April 13 the soil temperatures had climbed to 69 degrees F. However, after cooler weather and 1.3 inches of rain over the weekend, soil temp was at 40 degrees F this morning.

When planting into adequate conditions, it is important to keep the forecast in mind. The first 24 hours a seed is in the ground are critical to its survival, and a cold wet rain in this time period can cause cold shock, which can kill seedlings.

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The ins and outs of early planting for soybeans

There has been an undeniable shift toward earlier planting of soybeans. Several Pioneer GrowingPoint agronomy research studies have shown the benefits of early planting for maximizing soybean yield (graph 1). Early planting allows growers to plant full-season varieties with higher yield potential. Additionally, soybeans planted earlier will generally produce more nodes/plant, reach canopy closure sooner, intercept more sunlight and spend a longer duration in reproductive growth (graph 2).

Yield results from DuPont Pioneer Product Knowledge Plots from 1996 to 2012.

The ideal soil temperature for soybean germination and emergence is 77 degrees F. However, soil temperatures at a two-inch depth do not typically reach these levels until late May or early June. Soybeans can easily germinate at soil temperatures of 50 degrees F at a two-inch soil depth, but it is not unusual for emergence to take three weeks at these low temperatures.

However, growers who assume “earlier is always better” without proper planning and management techniques may be on a path to lower yields and missed opportunities.

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Avoiding compaction

Heavy farm machinery compacts the soil, both on tilled ground and no-tilled ground. Compaction induced by agricultural machinery often affects soil properties and crop production. Axle load is the first factor that has to be considered in soil compaction, according to Randall Reeder, Ohio State University Emeriti and Sjoerd Duiker, Penn State Soil Specialist.

Axle load is the total load supported by one axle, usually expressed in tons or pounds. Farm equipment with high axle loads on wet soil will cause compaction in the topsoil and subsoil, whereas low axle loads will cause compaction in the topsoil and the upper part of the subsoil only.

Deep subsoil compaction can only partially be alleviated with subsoilers, and at considerable cost. Freezing/thawing and drying/wetting cycles have been shown not to remediate soil compaction at this depth.

Finally, biological activity (such as cover crops) is concentrated in the topsoil except deep root crops (e.g.

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Assessing alfalfa yield potential

As spring slowly makes its arrival in Ohio, fields sowed with overwintering crops will start to show some life again. Once green up occurs in alfalfa fields, yield potential can begin to be assessed.

“What we are looking at for an established alfalfa stand is a stem count of greater than 55 stems per square foot,” said Kyle Poling, a DuPont Pioneer Field Agronomist. “Forty to 55 stems per square foot is still a really nice stand, but as we get under 40 stems that is going to severely limit yield and the farmer may want to consider tearing that field up and if they need that alfalfa for the upcoming year, consider replacement.”

For the 2017 fall seeding of alfalfa, a grower may have planted up to 25 to 30 plants per square foot. Alfalfa tends to be a tender crop, so if the stem count is at a viable level that will usually equate to 4 to 5 healthy plants per square foot in the spring.

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Neutral report for April

Shortly before the report on April 10 corn was down 2 cents, soybeans were up 8 cents, with wheat down 6 cents. Traders were looking for corn ending stocks to increase due to less corn being fed. Also, soybean production was expected to increase in Brazil.

Shortly after the report corn was unchanged and soybeans were up 11 cents. Corn ending stocks were up 55 million bushels. Soybean ending stocks were down 5 million bushels, traders had expected them to increase a small amount. No surprises for corn or soybeans. Brazil soybean production was up 2 million tons, no surprise. Argentina soybean production was lowered 7 million tons.

The main focus of news in recent days has been the US/China trade situation. Volatility has been extreme and is ever changing. There
continues to be a huge war of words from both sides. The reality to
keep in front of us is that it will be late May or later before any
actions begin to take place.

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Teachers at work growing young minds through GrowNextGen

John Thomas recently returned from the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Ca. with new ideas for his work as a teacher in Tolles’ Ag Bioscience program.

Established in 1974, Tolles is a career and technical school providing a launch pad for both high school students and adult learners located south of Plain City. Tolles serves Dublin, Fairbanks, Hilliard, Jonathan Alder, London, Madison-Plains and Jefferson Local school districts. Tolles’ 223,000 square-foot facility boasts instructional and functional labs, academic classrooms, an auditorium and conference center, as well as a fully-operational restaurant, hair and nail salon and spa, small animal care facility, automotive repair and maintenance center, digital media lab, community preschool, medical and fire labs, and many other career spaces.

Thomas teaches Environmental and Advanced Life science classes at Tolles main campus, and teaches Tolles’ satellite Ag Bioscience program housed at Fairbanks Middle School. This program is one of many for students who have an interest in agriculture and environmental science including Outdoor Careers program on Tolles’ main campus and FFA at Fairbanks High School.

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Winter wheat management: What are tillers and how do they contribute to yield?

In the coming months as the weather warms, up winter wheat will break dormancy and will begin to green up. After a period of about 2 weeks producers should evaluate their stand in order to make management decisions for their wheat crop. Part of this evaluation includes counting tillers to determine if there is an adequate stand for achieving high yields. According an article in a 2014 C.O.R.N. Newsletter written by Laura Lindsey, Ed Lentz, Pierce Paul, “Yield potential is reduced if tiller numbers fall below 25 per square foot after green up.”

So, what is a tiller? And how should they be counted? Tillers are additional stems that develop off of the main shoot of the plant. Primary tillers form in the axils of the first four or more true leaves of the main stem. Secondary tillers may develop from the base of primary tillers if conditions favor tiller development.

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Spring management of malting barley

Management of Ohio Winter Malting Barley (including spring management) is now available online at: https://stepupsoy.osu.edu/winter-malting-barley Keep in mind, this is a working document that will be updated as we learn more about winter malting barley management.

Ohio farmers need to carefully consider growing winter malting barley as it may not be suitable for all operations. Malt quality barley must meet several criteria to avoid being rejected by the malt facility- this risk may be too high for certain farmers since today there are no markets in Ohio for barley that does not meet the requirements for malt. Malting barley is not sold through traditional grain elevators like corn, soybean, and wheat, so contracts or agreements should be in place before planting. Special considerations for post-harvest handling include drying capability, grain cleaning, and delivering in totes (versus hopper trucks). Each farmer must understand the unique challenges of growing malt quality barley before contracting and purchasing seed.

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NCGA continues to question the EPA about RFS

While the White House weighs options, the EPA continues to undermine and mess with the RFS, granting questionable RFS waivers to refiners with no transparency and failing to provide regulatory parity for higher blends of ethanol. The EPA continues to check-off the items on Big-Oil’s wish list while gutting corn and ethanol demand and undermining the President’s commitment to the RFS in the process. National Corn Growers Association and state corn growers sent this letter to EPA this week.
It’s time for EPA and the White House to consider real solutions, including RVP parity that would allow year-round sales of blends greater than 10 percent. The oil industry has already gotten a gift from the EPA. Since these discussions about capping RIN prices started in January, RIN prices have fallen 50 percent. Corn farmers and their allies need to tell the President that ‘enough is enough.’
It is time for EPA to stop the backdoor reductions to the RFS and time for higher blends of ethanol to receive RVP parity.
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New Ohio nitrogen rates

Ohio State University corn nitrogen rate recommendations follow a unified framework used throughout the Corn Belt. Together with six other states (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin), the Ohio recommended nitrogen rates are not based on yield goals, but on economic returns. Corn yield responses along with corn and nitrogen prices are used to calculate the point at which the last unit of added nitrogen returns a yield increase large enough to pay for the added nitrogen cost. This approach, called the maximum return to nitrogen (MRTN), is favored because of the economic volatility in both corn grain and nitrogen fertilizer prices. The past 10 years provides ample evidence of these fluctuations.

The MRTN interface requires 3 inputs: i) the previous crop grown (corn or soybean), ii) price of nitrogen fertilizer, and iii) price received per bushel of corn. When corn prices are low, nitrogen rates will be reduced; when corn prices rise, recommended nitrogen rates will increase.

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Higher carbon dioxide levels prompt more plant growth, but fewer nutrients

It might seem there’s an upside to the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Plants are growing faster.

However, in many species of plants, quantity is not quality. Most plants are growing faster, but they have on average more starch, less protein and fewer key vitamins in them, said James Metzger, a professor and chair of the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science in The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

This change is happening because the current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 400 parts per million, nearly double what it was in the middle of the 18th century, the start of the industrial revolution. And it keeps rising, spurred by the burning of fuels.

Taking in carbon dioxide and light, a plant forms sugars and starches first, then other nutrients including protein, fat and antioxidants. Though carbon dioxide is necessary for plants to live, too much carbon dioxide can reduce the amount of valuable nutrients the plant produces including iron, zinc and vitamin C.

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EPA providing refinery exemptions for RFS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has improperly handled the administration of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by lowering total volume requirements and granting “hardship waivers” to large corporations, according to biofuels supporters.

“EPA continues to take actions that undermine the RFS and contradict President Trump’s commitments to America’s corn farmers. EPA is clearly overstepping its bounds, and we ask Administrator Pruitt to stop granting these waivers and damaging the RFS behind closed doors,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

Recent reports indicate that the EPA — that sets RFS volume obligations and ensures compliance with the law — has allowed major oil refiners to skirt the law. Reuters reported that EPA granted 25 exemptions to oil refineries in 2017, roughly three to four times the amount that previous administrations granted on a yearly basis. In fact, three “hardship waivers” were given to refineries owned by Andeavor, a corporation who took in $1.5 billion in profits last year.

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Preparing for a successful growing season

The 2018 growing season is fast approaching and with it another year of challenges. Spring management and field work set the stage for the entire growing season, playing a big role in determining yield potential of crops. Although environmental factors are out of their control, there are several management practices growers can do to prepare for a successful and productive growing season.

One challenge farmers face every year is completing field work in a timely manner, especially when adverse weather conditions exist. Timeliness is key to several areas of crop management including effective pesticide application, fertilizer application, tillage, stand establishment, and ultimately yield potential. Timely control of weeds and pests eliminates harvest losses due to competition and crop damage. Identifying potential pest problems requires careful scouting of fields throughout the growing season and applying rescue treatments when pest reach threshold levels established by universities.

University research has proven that timely planting is a determining factor for yield, and delays will cause loss of yield potential.

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OSA sets legislative priorities

Ohio Soybean Association Board members met to review and update the organization’s policy priorities for the upcoming year. Some of the top priorities for 2018 are water quality, nutrient management, infrastructure, and fuel quality standards.

Other OSA priorities for 2018 include:

 

Water quality and nutrient management

  • The Ohio Soybean Association (OSA) strongly supports implementation of the 4R concept of nutrient management — Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place. Properly managed fertilizers supporting cropping systems that provide economic, social, and environmental benefits.
  • Supports policies backed by science and research-based discoveries to create practical regulations.
  • Supports allowing current policies and regulations the time needed to achieve expected outcomes.

State Funding

  • Ohio Department of Higher Education: OSA supports full funding of the Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio State University Agricultural Research and Development Center, and the Sea Grant and Stone Laboratory at Lake Erie.
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources: OSA supports funding for the Clean Lake Erie Fund and continued funding to be utilized for feasible practices to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie.
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Tariff threats from China frustrating agriculture

Across the nation those involved in agriculture are expressing frustration (to put it mildly, in some cases) about the escalation of a trade dispute that has resulted in China’s announcement of a proposed 25% tariff on imported U.S. soybeans.

It does not take many guesses to figure out the topic of most concern heard by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as he toured Ohio yesterday.

“[President Trump] understands that agriculture, based on its bountiful production, is always the tip of the spear on retaliatory measures. He is convinced that this will not be the case this time. He asked me to tell the farmers in Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan exactly that,” Perdue said. “We have a renewed agreement with Korea and we have maintained that business. I do think there is optimism regarding NAFTA, which will help reduce that anxiety a little. Then we cope with China. These announcements are just the beginning.

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Agronomy Week April 2-6

Every growing season, agronomists play a vital role in providing expertise and support for farmers. Once again this season, farmers can show their appreciation for their agronomic support teams during Agronomy Week to be celebrated April 2-6.

Launched last year by the DEKALB, Asgrow and Deltapine brands, the annual event takes place the first week of April to help farmers recognize the contributions of their agronomists, seed dealers and crop consultants who help them get the most out of every acre.

Pete Uitenbroek, DEKALB, Asgrow and Deltapine brand lead, notes that Agronomy Week was created as an industry-wide celebration.

“We’re proud to promote recognition for agronomic team members throughout our industry,” he said. “These dedicated professionals work closely with farmers throughout the growing season, guiding key decision-making and monitoring crop performance to help them maximize their success.”

During Agronomy Week, farmers, regardless of seed brand, can pay tribute to their agronomic team by nominating up to three individuals.

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Crop rotation and second year soybean yields

As spring approaches and plans for the 2018 crop are finalized, growers will determine what crops to plant and plant 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 recently published 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 bu/ac yield penalty for second year soybeans.

Yield loses from continuous soybeans (and other continuous crops) are usually associated with increased disease presence as well as pests.

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