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Making sense of soil health testing

The topic of soil health has been receiving a great deal of attention lately and farmers are increasingly interested in understanding more about their soils. There are a number of labs that now offer some sort of soil health package, typically made up of tests that reflect biological, chemical and physical components of the soil. Some of these tests have been around for some time, while others are relatively new. But as a farmer, how do you make sense of all these new soil tests, and what they mean for your operation and management?

Soil testing for nutrient analysis (standard soil testing) has a rich history, and in Ohio we enjoy an incredible infrastructure that helps us manage nutrients more effectively. This includes everything from a thriving private consultant industry that will help sample your soils to professional soil testing laboratories that will analyze your soils quickly for a few dollars, to the nutrient recommendations that Ohio State and others have developed over the decades and continue to revise today.

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Crop rotation and second year soybean yields

As spring approaches and plans for the 2017 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 bu/ac across that 7 year period, with some years being showing yield losses greater than 10 bu/ac. 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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Harvest update from South America

Brazil

The Brazilian soybean harvest was 2.2% complete as of Jan. 19, up from 1.5% a year ago and 1.2% on the five-year average. Mato Grosso leads, with 7.5% (about 2.2 million tons), but the return of widespread rains to the state has slowed down the harvest in several areas. More rains are forecasted for the state and will probably prevent farmers from harvesting a total of 7 million tons until the end of January, as forecasted by AgRural in early December.

Mato Grosso do Sul and Goiás, also in central Brazil, had harvested 1% and 0.2% of their soybean area by Jan. 19, respectively. In Paraná (south), Brazil’s second largest soybean producing state, harvest has had a slow start. Despite the good shape of the crop, some areas planted earlier are not ready for harvest yet because they had a slower development due to lower-than-normal temperatures in October and November.

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Potential biological control agents found for fungal diseases of soybean

Viruses are everywhere. They affect all forms of life, from complex mammals down to the mere fungus. We may not give much thought to fungal viruses, or mycoviruses, but new research from the University of Illinois suggests they deserve a closer look.

“There’s been a lot of work done with human and animal and plant viruses. There isn’t as much known about fungal viruses or insect viruses, because if they get infected with a virus, no one cares,” said Leslie Domier, U of I and USDA ARS virologist.

It turns out there are good reasons to care about mycoviruses. Fungal diseases account for approximately 10% yield losses annually in corn and soybeans. When certain mycoviruses infect those fungi, they can become less virulent — good news for crop yields. These forms were the targets of a recent investigation by Domier and his colleagues.

“In addition to viruses that make fungi less virulent, we were also looking for those that might be transmitted outside of the fungus the way a cold virus is transmitted, where you can pick it up off a surface without having direct contact with another person.

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Workshop for nutrient management plan development software

Nutrient management plans provide a field by field risk evaluation for sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen loss and nutrient recommendation for crop production. The workshop will demonstrate one method to develop plans for general use and is accepted for Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) practice cost share program.  The software used is open access and work on PC platforms. There is not cost.

The software can also be used by Technical Service Providers (TSP) to provide planning services for Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans for livestock producers and Conservation Activity Plans used for NRCS programs as well. For more information on TSP program see https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/technical/tsp/

What is the Workshop About?

Workshop will demonstrate:

1.                MapWindow GIS with MMP Tools

2.                MMP

3.                NRCS Ohio Nutrient Management Templates used for programs such as EQUIP.

The training will use a sample farm to demonstrate the utilization of these two programs to generate a plan that can be presented to NRCS for approval.

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Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training this winter: Do you need to do it?

Who needs to be certified?

By law and regulations created with the passage of Senate Bill 150 in 2014, anyone in Ohio who applies fertilizer to 50 acres or more, must be certified. This law applies to fertilizer — that is material having an analysis of N-P-K. If its manure, lime or other farm residue you do not need to be certified by this law.

If all of your crop goes through an animal before it leaves the farm, you don’t need to be certified, but I think it’s a good idea if you do go to the class and get certified anyway.

 

How do you get certified?

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) will certify applicators in Ohio. If you are a Licensed Pesticide Applicator in Ohio, you attend a two-hour meeting and fill in and sign the form. Ohio State University personnel supply the education for this class, we hope you pay attention and actually learn something.

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Yield winner constantly looking for improvement

It was an interesting year for Ohio grain farmers with weather of all kinds through the growing season. A final number on the corn yield monitor of anywhere near 200 would be considered successful for most producers.

Byron Gearhart of Ross County tallied a 258.85 bushel per acre entry in the irrigated division of this year’s National Corn Grower’s Association (NCGA) yield contest with the DKC67-57RIB Dekalb variety — good enough to top the state in the category. It’s not the first time Gearhart has been recognized for high yields, having topped the podium for many years prior.

“It’s all about detail, detail, and a bit of sheer dumb luck,” Gearhart remarked about his success.

Though this time around, he said it was disappointing that number wasn’t higher.

“I don’t know how to put it, but Mother Nature still rules the roost. We would like to have seen 300. We had the input costs, we had everything there in place — but we just ended up with short ears,” he said.

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Hops conference next month

The hops industry is booming in Ohio, and organizers of The Ohio State University Hops Conference and Trade Show on Feb. 24-25 have brewed up a program that will keep the learning flowing for beginner and advanced growers alike.

“There was an estimated 200 acres of hops planted in Ohio on 80 farms in 2016, up from 10 acres on four farms in 2014,” said Brad Bergefurd, horticulture specialist with Ohio State University Extension and one of the conference organizers. The event is co-sponsored by the Ohio Hop Growers Guild.

Ohio’s growing number of breweries require flowers of the hop plant as the main ingredient providing bitter notes as a balance to the sweetness contributed by malt sugars. An interest in locally grown ingredients has spurred growth in Ohio’s hops production.

This is the first year the annual conference will be held at The Ohio State University’s South Centers, Bergefurd’s home base.

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New soybean export opportunities to China

It’s no secret that China’s domestic soybean production has been declining since 2004/05, due to a change in their corn price support policy. Since then, China’s soybean import volume has been increasing to meet the growing demand from the crushing industry to supply the needs for soybean meal and soy oil. But an exciting new export development is China’s growing need for specialty soybeans for use in making soy foods and beverages.

Unlike in the U.S., essentially all of China’s domestic soybean production are non-GMO beans and nearly all are used to make food and beverages. Last year, China grew approximately 10.51 million metric tons (MMT) of soybeans. They are projected to increase production 11 percent this year. An impressive increase, but it’s not going to be enough. This year, demand for non-GMO soybeans for food use in China could exceed their country’s domestic production by over 20%. Essentially, China is projected to consume specialty soybean tonnage roughly equal to Iowa’s total 2015 soybean production.

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Long-term weather and prospects for recovery of corn prices

Corn and other grain prices have declined sharply since 2013 and have recently been as low as $3 per bushel on a monthly average basis. The low level of prices has prompted some observers to declare that the “new era” in grain prices that began late in 2006 has come to an end. Whether the new era is indeed over depends on the mix of factors that have driven prices so low. If these factors are unlikely to be reversed, then there is little chance for a major price recovery. If at least some of these factors can be reversed then there is a possibility of price recovery within the new era price range. The answer has obvious and important implications for farm incomes, land prices, crop input prices, land rental rates, and marketing strategies. The answer will also have important policy implications for U.S. agriculture.

The first major factor on the demand side is economic growth.

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Bower to lead Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association

The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association (OCWGA) Board of Directors elected officers for 2017. Executive committee positions include the offices of president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary. Those elected to an officer position are responsible for the implementation of board policies and procedures, as well as carrying out the roles for their respective office.

Fifth generation Fayette County farmer Jed Bower was elected as OCWGA president. In addition to growing corn and soybeans near Washington Court House, Bower is very involved in National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) as a Risk Management Action Team member and is also a former Fayette County Farm Bureau President. Last year, he served the association as vice-president.

Fairfield County farmer, Jon Miller will serve as this year’s OCWGA vice-president. Miller is a grain farmer from Pleasantville that currently has three generations of the Miller family involved in the day to day operations. He has participated in the DuPont Leadership New Century Farmers program and is currently in the NCGA/Syngenta Leadership At Its Best Program.

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Eastern Russian plant collection could improve cold hardiness in miscanthus

Winters in eastern Russia are intensely cold, with air temperatures regularly reaching -30 degrees Fahrenheit in some locations. It is a seemingly inhospitable climate, but native plants have found ways to thrive there. University of Illinois plant geneticist Erik Sacks suspected one of these plants may hold the key to breeding cold-tolerant food and biomass crops. To find out, the modern-day botanical explorer set off across eastern Russia with colleagues from the N. I. Vavilov All-Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources (VIR) to collect specimens of the perennial grass Miscanthus sacchariflorus.

“Miscanthus is part of a tribe of grasses, the Andropogoneae, that includes sorghum, sugarcane, and corn,” Sacks said. “Because it is found so far north, this population of Miscanthus sacchariflorus is likely the most cold-hardy of that group. If we want to improve cold hardiness in this very important group of plants, this is going to be the best population to study.”

Sacks and his colleagues collected miscanthus from 47 locations across eastern Russia, including at least one location where Sacks wasn’t expecting to find it; in that case, he used his bare hands to pull it from the ground.

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Fruit and veggie conference

A conference for fruit and vegetable growers is set for Feb. 7 at the Oasis Conference Center, 902 Loveland-Miamiville Road in Loveland.

The Southwestern Ohio Specialty Crop Conference offers “a little something for everyone,” said Greg Meyer, Ohio State University Extension educator in Warren County and event organizer.

“We have hosted a grower school for specialty crops in southwestern Ohio for over 30 years,” Meyer said. “We decided to expand it to offer more classes and, in 2016, we moved the venue to the Oasis Conference Center to give us more space for concurrent sessions.”

The conference, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., offers five concurrent sessions in fruit production, vegetable production, specialty cropping systems, pesticide safety and farm management, and marketing and food safety.

In addition, some sessions offer private pesticide applicator credits in three categories, Meyer said: Core, 3 (Fruits and Vegetables) and 5 (Greenhouse). He encourages applicators to bring their license to the conference so OSU Extension personnel can check their recertification status and determine how much training they need to become recertified.

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Are weather scares worth watching?

The impact of social media is going far beyond sharing the latest cute pet videos or what President-elect Trump is saying on Twitter. Case in point: viral weather stories are influencing farmer decisions and what they may receive for their corn and soybeans. That’s according to Ryan Martin, a respected agricultural meteorologist with Advantage Weather Solutions who spoke at a workshop at American Farm Bureau Federation’s 2017 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix.

Martin looked ahead at what weather conditions will look like for much of the country, but warned farmers not to get carried away by the hype that they may come across on Facebook or Twitter. He highlighted recent posts that showed extreme dry and wet conditions in Brazil that suggested farmers there were in a world of trouble. Experts have credited price spikes and dips to these viral localized weather stories, despite the fact that they were not as influential as people believe.

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Friendly faces of Ohio agriculture help to expand international trade

International grain trade is a high dollar business of capital and clout and the U.S. is a world leader. The jaw-dropping global-sized trade deals, huge dollar figures and massive logistical undertakings of trade decisions affect countless people, often get their start through simple person-to-person relationships. Profound friendships and vast amounts of trust are a requirement, and Ohio’s abounding agricultural industry is playing a key role in the process. Two international teams of livestock grain buyers visited the Buckeye state this fall to get a better look at where their feed grains are coming from and get to know the people producing them. The visits were coordinated by the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association, led by market development director Brad Moffitt.

“The thing that amazes me about agriculture is that when you get a bunch of strangers into a room, within an hour you’re friends,” Moffitt said. “And then you part great friends.

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Farmers and the market waiting for key reports

Producers and traders alike will anxiously be awaiting several USDA reports in coming weeks. First, will be the Jan. 12 USDA supply and demand report. It will be the final production report for 2016 U.S. corn and soybean production as well as a day for the quarterly grains stocks report as of Dec. 1, 2016. The second watched report will be released the third week of February when USDA provides their 10-year baseline reports for grains and meats produced in the U.S. Those baseline reports will be an early glimpse into expected 2017 U.S corn and soybean acres and yields. Just prior to the baseline report release, we will hear of 2017 corn and soybean acres that USDA provided to Congress last fall for the upcoming year. Those numbers don’t get public attention until February. It can become quite confusing dissecting the February reports when the numbers are released. The last report to gather attention in early 2017 will be the March 31, 2017 acres intentions report.

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Planning for high yielding soybeans

When planning for the upcoming growing season, it can be easy to focus more energy on corn production as it has traditionally been the more intensively managed crop. However, producers who put in the effort to manage their soybean crop have proven it is possible to attain high yields of 70+ bushels per acre. Below are some tips for planning to produce high-yielding soybeans in 2016.

• Quality Seed: Planting the right seed sets the stage for the entire growing season. Growers should plant genetics with high yield potential. Choose varieties that have been tested at several locations and across multiple years. Growers should choose varieties adapted to their soil types and management practices. As with corn, choosing varieties with strong disease packages and agronomic traits with aid in achieving higher yields.

• Planting Date: University research has proven that timely, early planting is one way to increase soybean yields. As with corn, planting soybeans by early May improves yield potential.  

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West Ohio Agronomy Day Jan. 9

The 2017 West Ohio Agronomy Day will be held on Monday, January 9th at St. Michael’s Hall in Fort Loramie. A light breakfast will be available starting at 8 a.m. with a marketing update from Sunrise Cooperative at 8:30 a.m. At 9 a.m. the Private Pesticide Applicator Recertification (Core and Categories 1, 2, and 6) and the two-hour Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training for those who already hold a Pesticide Applicator’s License (commercial or private) will begin. In addition, Certified Crop Adviser CEUs have been approved and Commercial Pesticide Applicator Credits are available in 2A and 2C.

Once again, Purdue’s Dr. Fred Whitford will be there, this time to talk about “Safety is in Your Hands.” Attendees will also participate in a “Corn and Soybean Insect Update” by Dr. Kelley Tilmon, OSU Entomologist; “Finding Value in your Data” by Dr. Elizabeth Hawkins, OSU Agronomy Specialist; and a “Weed Management Update” and “Weed Management 201” by Dr.

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OSU Agronomy Webinars planned

Ohio State University Extension announces a series of four webinars available to producers, Certified Crop Advisers and industry offered throughout January and February 2017. The Corn, Soybean and Wheat Connection series is scheduled to begin on January 24, 2017 and will focus on issues and updates in grain crop production. Each webinar will begin at 7:00 p.m. and can be view at several host sites across the state or from your home computer. Certified Crop Adviser credits will be available each evening at physical locations only.

The first session on January 24 will feature Dr. John Fulton and Dr. Elizabeth Hawkins on how to efficiently utilize data from precision agriculture technology to guide farm management decisions. The second webinar will be held on January 31 and will detail how to assess growing conditions and their impact on ear rots, mycotoxins and malformation in corn. This session will be taught by Dr.

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2017 Maple Days

The 2017 Ohio Maple Days are set for Jan. 19 in Morrow County, Jan. 20 in Wayne County — the location is a stone’s throw from Holmes County, too — and Jan. 21 in Geauga County.

The events offer educational sessions on maple syrup production. They’ll cover topics such as pricing, food safety, tap timing and quality control. The topics and speakers will be the same at all three locations.

Both hobby and commercial producers are welcome.

Ohio’s maple syrup season typically starts sometime in February. The timing depends on the weather.

Prep for the coming season

The events are meant to help producers get ready for the coming season, said Gary Graham, state maple specialist with Ohio State University Extension and one of the events’ speakers.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University. The college is the sponsor of the events.

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