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To get a preview of what to expect this harvest season, the Ohio Ag Net and Ohio’s Country Journal team once again went on the I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour presented by AgroLiquid Fertilizers.

On the tour, two teams of farmers, agronomists and OCJ/OAN staff crisscrossed I-75 and I-71 reporting crop conditions and yield estimates on Aug. 16 and 17. The teams started in the north and met at the end in Clinton County. During the two days, each team sampled a representative corn and soybean field in more than 20 counties (for a total of more than 40 counties during the two days).

 

The groups estimated yields and overall conditions for corn fields and the conditions and yield potential of soybean fields.

After an extremely wet growing season for Ohio we were not sure quite what to expect in the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour. We had heard about dry weather, but were surprised how dry some fields were, especially in the northwestern part of the state.

There were certainly some examples that showed up in fields on the 2017 I-75/I-71 Ohio Crop Tour displaying evidence of those challenging conditions. We found some corn still pollinating and some that had dented after the spread out planting season for many this spring. But, at the same time, we saw many more examples of how solid farm management practices made the most of some challenging weather situations and others capitalized on timely rains.

In the West, the I-75 group had an average corn yield of 169 bushels on Day 1 and 183 bushels on Day 2. The Eastern leg of the Ohio Crop Tour averaged 180 bushels on Day 1 and 166 bushels on Day 2. The total tour average was 174.5. The samplers felt that this is a good number for the fields we sampled, but probably a little high overall due to the fact that the many holes in corn stands from the wet spring were not necessarily considered in the yield estimates. We found multiple fields of corn still silking and so early developmentally that it was really difficult to assess yields. The weather is still a major factor in these fields and an early frost would be a real problem.

The formula used in estimating corn yields is accurate plus or minus 30 bushels for the areas of the fields sampled and the Crop Tour is designed to simply provide a snapshot of yields and various yield limiting factors around the state.

The other key factor for the yields is that many of these fields still have a long way to go. Soybeans especially could be made or broken by the rains (or lack of) yet to come. Across the board we found solid, consistent soybean fields in the east. They were healthy and there was little disease pressure and the insects had been there but had moved on. It was said that the eastern leg could have looked at just a couple of soybean fields and had the same results due to the incredible consistency they found from north to south. The west had more inconsistency with rising levels of disease pressure as we moved to the south. There were some really good looking fields and some very poor fields, some tall and many very short, along the way.

More disease than normal

With the excessive moisture this year, we expected to find more disease than usual.

We certainly saw more sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soybeans than we have in the past. Ohio State University Extension plant pathologist Anne Dorrance has been finding it too.

“In Ohio, this disease tends to occur with greater frequency in fields that have higher populations of soybean cyst nematode. With the environmental conditions we had earlier this spring, extensive flooding injury, I would not be surprised to see a much wider distribution of this disease in the state,” Dorrance said. “As the disease develops, severely affected leaves will die and drop from the plants and leave the petioles. This fungus is a very good root rotter, and if you dig a few plants and look at the roots, especially after a rain, there may be blue green growth on the top and outside of the root. These are the spores of the fungus. This fungus will survive in the affected fields in this old plant residue and as specialized fungal structures in the soil. Meaning, it’s not going anywhere.”

There are several very good options for management, Dorrance said, with the first being host resistance. The conditions this year provide an opportunity to see which fields have the highest pathogen levels and evaluate the resistance levels of your soybean varieties.

“Through a checkoff funded project from Ohio Soybean Council we have been able to participate in a variety trial. I have been amazed at the change or shift towards high-yielding resistant lines,” she said. “Again, if you do observe SDS in your area make a note on what the resistance scores were for SDS on your varieties — that is if you can remember what variety ended up in which field.”

We also found more odd-looking, bulbous blobs of corn smut in western Ohio than we have seen in the past. According to Ohio State University Extension, the smut gall is composed of a great mass of black, greasy or powdery spores enclosed by a smooth white covering as large as four or five inches in diameter. The greatest yield losses occur when the ear becomes infected or if the smut gall forms on the stalk immediately above the ear. 

Corn smut spores can be blown long distances with soil particles or carried into a new area on unshelled corn and in manure from animals that fed on infected corn stalks. Spores germinate in rainwater that has collected in the leaf sheaths, according to OSU Extension. Tillage to bury diseased corn stalks in the fall will help give some control in future years.

We also stumbled across some corn earworm and fall armyworm. Earworms will frequently be near the tip but may feed down the ear creating a track of damaged kernels. This injury creates an ideal environment for ear fungi to invade and may lead to a quality problem at harvest

Unlike the corn earworm, the fall armyworm feeds by burrowing through the husk on the side of the ear. Larvae also enter at the base of the ear, feeding along the sides and even tunneling into the cob. They usually emerge at the base of the ear, leaving round holes in the husks, according to OSU Extension.

This kind of information is only possible with help from the farmers who grant us permission to visit their fields. We keep the fields anonymous, but really appreciate everyone who allows us to visit their farms. By talking to the farmers, we get to add another valuable layer of information to what we are finding in the fields and share it with you. So thanks to the many farmers out there who work with us to make the Ohio Crop Tour possible. You know who you are, and we want you to know we appreciate it.

(Much more from this year’s Ohio Crop Tour can be found under “Crops” at ocj.com. Matt Reese is the editor for Ohio’s Country Journal. For more from Reese, visit ocj.com.)

 

 

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