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Cutting height in hay fields: How low can you go?

By Dwane Miller, Extension Educator, Agronomy, Penn State University

While many parts of Pennsylvania have yet to take a cutting of hay in 2018, I was on a farm in Chester County in mid-May where first cutting alfalfa/orchardgrass was made the previous week. As you head to the field this year, it’s important to pay attention to cutting height in your hay crop. One of our goals as farmers is to maximize our yield; however, cutting a hay crop too low can lead to several negative issues.

The introduction of the disk-type mowers (discbines) allows for cutting very close to the ground. I’ve seen many fields that have been “scalped” right to ground level. This differs considerably from the older sickle bar mowers (haybines), whose technology required some level of stubble height remain. Stand longevity can be compromised when the crop is cut too low. As a general rule, alfalfa can be cut closer to the ground than our grass hay crops.

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Ohio Crop Progress — May 14, 2018

Warmer, drier conditions in many parts of the State allowed for significant planting progress, according to Cheryl Turner, Ohio State Statistician with the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. There were 5.2 days suitable for fieldwork in Ohio during the week ending May 13. Field conditions generally were ideal for planting and other activities. Planting progress for both corn and soybeans jumped ahead of the five-year average following a delayed start to the planting season. High temperatures with moist soil conditions also helped to promote corn emergence. Producers also were busy spraying herbicides, and spreading manure, chopping rye for silage, cutting and baling alfalfa, and tillage work. Wheat and pasture conditions improved from last week, while livestock were reported in good condition. In northern counties, however, scattered showers throughout the week followed by heavy rainfall during the weekend limited fieldwork opportunities. There were reports of flooding concerns, ponding in fields, leeching of fertilizers, and drowning of emerged crops.

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Seed Consultants named Eastern Regional Seed Brand for Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont

Seed Consultants, Inc. will expand its regional presence and become the Eastern Corn Belt regional brand for Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont. As part of the change, some staff from Doebler’s Pennsylvania Hybrids will join Seed Consultants, along with several Eastern Corn Belt experts from Brodbeck and NuTech.

The change is part of the newly announced Corteva Agriscience multi-channel, multi-brand seed strategy for the U.S., which will expand access to the company’s genetics, technology and traits.

“Eastern farmers have different needs,” said Daniel Call, Seed Consultants General Manager. “They have different environments, different weather, and we’ve always focused our germplasm and our traits to fulfill those customer needs. As the eastern regional brand for Corteva Agriscience, we get to home in on that even more and be more laser-focused.”

Popular Doebler’s products, as well as some Brodbeck and NuTech products, will be available through Seed Consultants. Seed Consultants will also have access to a growing pipeline of products from Corteva Agriscience.

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Pro-ethanol progress in White house meeting, but questions remain

Ethanol supporters were pleased with the long-awaited progress made on a couple of significant obstacles in a White House meeting last month focused on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the system of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs).

“President Trump…reaffirmed his commitment to our nation’s farmers by approving year-round sales of E15 without a RIN cap. This is a positive step because we know a RIN price cap would have been damaging to farmers,” said Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). “We appreciate the agreement on eliminating the outdated regulation on higher blends such as E15, a barrier that has long needed removal, and thank Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley for their tireless efforts on behalf of agriculture.”

But as a possible concession for fuel refiners who continue to oppose the system of RINs that are part of the RFS, small refiners could gain biofuel credits through ethanol exports.

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Social cause meets food production business at Waterfields

By Matt Reese

Clad in jeans that were torn when she bought them and neon pink rubber work boots, Erica Byrd does not necessarily match the typical idea of a farmer from Ohio. But, she never intended to be a typical farmer.

Byrd works at Waterfields LLC — a hydroponic supplier of premium microgreens based in Cincinnati to provide jobs and quality products to the community.

“I had no money for real. I was living from paycheck to paycheck. Then Waterfields called me. I never had heard of Waterfields but I knew I wanted to work here. I went to the interview and was amazed. I had to work here. I bugged them every day and I got the job. And from then, everything has gone up from there,” Byrd said. “I was just calling them plants for the first couple of months and I had to keep saying microgreens, microgreens, microgreens.

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The war begins at planting

By John Brien, AgriGold agronomist

Upon planting a seed into the medium called the soil, one could assume that it is tucked into a warm and inviting environment, where nothing bad can happen to it. If a grower had that assumption, they would be WRONG!

When a grower plants a seed into the soil, the war begins. The war is between the seed and the “bugs” that are present in the soil. The seed’s goal is to sprout and grow, while the bug’s goal in today’s discussion is to decompose the seed along with any other organic matter, making it nonviable. Both sides are ready to wage war, but how do they plan on winning?

 

The bugs: Who are they and how do they win?

The bugs in this story are the fungi found in all soils. The fungi that battles corn seeds and seedlings are Pythium and Fusarium. The reason the bugs battle corn seeds and seedling is due to their role in the soil cycle.

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Corn planting date considerations

For much of the Eastern Corn Belt it is widely understood that the optimal planting period is between April 20 and May 10. 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 (Nielsen, 2013).

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.

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When to begin alfalfa weevil scouting

The larvae of alfalfa weevil can cause considerable damage, especially when alfalfa is just starting its growth in the spring. When temperatures are greater than 48oF, the adults become active and start to lay eggs. After hatch, the plump and green larvae (which resemble little worms) feed, with 3rd instar (mid-aged) larvae being the hungriest. The heaviest feeding can occur between 325 and 500 heat units. Right now, the heat units (base 48oF) for the Western Ag Research Station in South Charleston are 98, and for the South Station in Piketon is 175. Scouting for larvae should begin at around 250 heat units.

To scout for larvae, collect a series of three, 10-stem samples randomly selected from various locations in a field. Place the stem tip down in a bucket. After 10 stems have been collected, vigorously shake the stems in the bucket and count the number of larvae that dislodge.

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A look at soil health in the farm bill

By Matt Reese

Bill Richards has been concerned with the health of his soil for a long time.

For more than 40 years, Richards and his family have used no-till to reduce costs and limit soil and nutrient runoff on their Pickaway County farm. Richards has also spent countless hours educating his fellow farmers about the importance of managing their land in a productive way while still protecting the environment. He served as the chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service from 1990 to 1993 as well.

“In the late 1950s the agronomists were telling us there was no reason to till other than weed control. Ohio is the cradle of no-till because at Wooster we had Dr. [Glover] Triplett and Dr. [David] Van Doren who started the original no-till research. There was a group that got started and I was sort of the ring-leader, trying these things to make them work on a farm level,” Richards said.

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A look at soil health in the farm bill

Bill Richards has been concerned with the health of his soil for a long time.

For more than 40 years, Richards and his family have used no-till to reduce costs and limit soil and nutrient runoff on their Pickaway County farm. Richards has also spent countless hours educating his fellow farmers about the importance of managing their land in a productive way while still protecting the environment. He served as the chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Soil Conservation Service from 1990 to 1993 as well.

“In the late 1950s the agronomists were telling us there was no reason to till other than weed control. Ohio is the cradle of no-till because at Wooster we had Dr. [Glover] Triplett and Dr. [David] Van Doren who started the original no-till research. There was a group that got started and I was sort of the ring-leader, trying these things to make them work on a farm level,” Richards said.

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Marijuana legalization petition rejected

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office rejected the petition for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution to legalize marijuana in Ohio.

On April 9, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution, titled the “Marijuana Rights and Regulations Amendment” from the attorney representing the petitioning committee. The summary was rejected for several reasons, including:

  • The summary language giving the General Assembly authority to regulate “marijuana commerce” does not accurately reflect the actual amendment language.
  • The summary omits references in the amendment that “Marijuana businesses shall be lawful only in those voting precincts in which the majority of the voters approved this section.”
  • The summary omits references in the amendment that “The General Assembly shall within 240 days after the effective date enact and enable laws, rules, and regulations consistent with this section.”

“For these reasons, I am unable to certify the summary as a fair and truthful statement of the proposed amendment,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stated in his letter rejecting the petition.

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Seed is precious

We are off to a rough start again. I saw the pictures on Facebook of replanting.  So I thought I should chime in here about how precious this seed is and what a seed treatment can and cannot do.  In this Eastern Soybean Belt we have a lot of poorly drained soil.  More importantly, we also have a lot of inoculum and a great diversity of watermolds, Pythium and Phytophthora, that can infect both corn and soybeans.  When soils are saturated (like this week), these watermolds will form swimming spores that are attracted to the young seeds and seedlings. Based on the past 10 years of research we only see a benefit of the seed treatments when there is soil saturation, typically 2 inches of rain within 2 weeks of planting.  Sometimes it only takes an inch of rain if the soils are “just fit” and it rains again immediately after planting.

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What is the chance of herbicide resistance in Buckeye Gold — the rubber dandelion industrial crop — jumping over to common dandelion?

Buckeye Gold (Taraxacum kok-saghyz, also known as rubber dandelion, and rubber root) is a species of dandelion that is of commercial interest for the high quality rubber produced in its roots. However, it is a slow growing species that competes poorly with Ohio weeds in field plantings, and chemical broadleaf herbicides also kill most of the plants. In order to overcome these agronomic shortcomings, scientists are developing herbicide-resistant varieties by a number of methods, including selection, transgene insertion, and gene editing. However, the release of such germplasm raises the question of gene flow between Buckeye Gold and its ubiquitous weedy cousin, the common dandelion (T. officinale). Could herbicide resistance in Buckeye Gold transfer to common dandelion?

 

Can Buckeye Gold and common dandelion interbreed?

We have surveyed common dandelions around the world. In North America, we have found only triploid obligate apomictic common dandelion plants. These produce clonal seed with exactly the same chromosomes as the mother dandelions.

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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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