Soybean field days offer abundance of information

Extension entomologist Dr. Tom Hunt was able to actually show farmers that attended the Soybean Management Field Day held in Pilger, Neb., Aug. 14, what soybean gall midge damage looked like in the field.

The 21st Annual Soybean Management Field Days, hosted by the UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board, were Aug. 13-16.

“It has been a really positive relationship over the years,” said UNL Extension educator Randy Pryor. “The events have been spearheaded and led by Keith Glewen, Extension educator in Saunders County, and the Soybean Checkoff board.”

Pryor quipped that Glewen can never retire because of all the work he does that successfully impacts the farming community in Nebraska with this program and others.

There were four field days this season, held across the state at: the Tim and Angie Labenz Farm in Pilger, Neb.; the Ross and Judy Boeckner Farm in Plymouth, Neb.; the Lynn and Joyce Neujahr Farm in Waverly, Neb.; and Fellows Farms, Inc., in Sargent, Neb.

“The SMFDs will help soybean growers maximize productivity and profitability through smart decisions and efficient use of resources,” Pryor said. “Meeting the world’s growing food and energy needs starts right here in Nebraska at the 2019 Soybean Management Field Days.”

According to the Extension, the field days offer producers research-based information to improve their soybean profitability. They do so by addressing issues that are important to Nebraska soybean farmers. It also shows their checkoff dollars at work in research and marketing, they said.

This season’s topics included:

  • Making sense of production costs and policy changes.
  • Insects, cover crops and hail: Making good management decisions.
  • Soybean weed control and cover crops — What’s doing all the work? Rethinking your weed management program and cover crops and soil microbial communities - Possible effects on soybean nutrition and nutrient cycling.
  • Soybean production and cover crops — Seed, planting and irrigation management decisions.

Extension farm and ranch management analyst Glennis McClure ran the first field stop at the Pilger Field Day. She helped producers understand the complicated mix of commodity programs as well as trade assistance and disaster assistance.

She also examined current Nebraska soybean production budgets, introduced the new UNL Ag Budget Calculator initiative, and answered questions about making sound production and risk management decisions.

The federal farm income safety net is a complex combination of commodity programs and crop insurance, she explained. They are designed to help producers manage and cope with market and production risks.

The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized the Agricultural Risk Coverage program and the Price Loss Coverage program included in the 2014 Farm Bill, McClure explained.

“The programs remained largely intact with only a few changes,” she said. “The ARC vs. PLC change is the most significant.”

Looking forward, she said the ARC vs. PLC decision is not as complicated given the shorter-term commitment and the expectations about the marketing year ahead.

For 2019, there were 78 crop budgets representing 15 crops in Nebraska. These are available online at cropwatch.unl.edu/budgets. The focus is to highlight various crop management practices which will assist producers increase their profit potential.

“At 49 percent of the budget, we can easily see that land costs dominate the cost of production,” McClure said. “Seed and pesticide are second at 22 percent with machinery and fuel third at 17 percent.”

The UNL Agricultural Economics department has a team currently working to develop a new crop enterprise budget system, she said. This is an expanded Excel-based platform.

The program, called the Ag Budget Calculator (ABC), is being designed to support producers’ ability to determine their machine costs per acre. It will also provide net revenue projections, breakeven analysis and create a whole farm cash flow.

“Knowing your costs and your break-even is a foundation for other risk management decisions,” McClure explained at the close of her presentation.

The insects, cover crops and hail presentation was a tag-team effort by Extension entomologist Dr. Tom Hunt and UNL crop protection and cropping systems specialist Justin McMechan.

The pair focused primarily on the emergence of a new pest called the soybean gall midge. This insect was identified as a new species in 2018, in the Midwestern United States, causing extensive injury to soybean crops in parts of eastern Nebraska, western Iowa, southwestern Minnesota and eastern South Dakota.

Cover crops were the subject of much discussion at the field day. Not just by McMehan and Dr. Hunt, but it was also a primary issue touched on by presenters Extension weed management educator Chris Proctor and Katja Koehler-Cole, UNL assistant professor of agronomy research.

Proctor told producers of the methods of using cover crops in weed management. He said that resistant weed populations continue to increase and limit the effectiveness of herbicides.

“Cover crops have the potential to be a useful tool for managing weeds,” Proctor said. “Herbicides alone will not be effective long-term against resistant weeds.”

Prof. Koehler-Cole discussed the possible effects of cover crops on soybean nutrition and nutrient cycling and the use of rye cover crops to enhance soil health through the microbial community.

“The formation of soil organic matter, the breaking down of plant residue and the release of available plant nutrients are all carried out by soil organisms,” she said. “Planting a cover crop between main crops can improve the conditions in the soil for these microbes.”

The three types of soil microbes: Bacteria, protozoa and fungi improve soil structure and nutrient cycling.

Bacteria are the most prevalent. They quickly reproduce and are hardy. These microbes break down the simple organic compounds in fresh cover crop residue. Protozoa feed on bacteria. By doing so, they release ammonium into the soil for use by plants.

Fungi come in two varieties: Saprophytic and Arbuscular myrcorrizal. The former can break down more complex organic compounds, such as those found in corn stalks. The latter colonize plant roots and transfer nutrients to the plants in exchange for sugars from the plant roots. Both excrete glomalin, which binds soil particles, Koehler-Cole said.

At Pilger, the educators conducted their presentations in tents set out in the soybean fields of the Labenz farm.

During and after each exhibition, the instructors answered questions from the groups rotating between the tents. There were about 130 farmers in attendance at Pilger.

“What defines us different than a seed company field day is unbiased researched-based land grant university information,” Pryor said. “Much of which also comes from grant dollars supported by the Nebraska Soybean Board.”

NSB Executive Director Victor Bohuslavsky expressed his thanks for their attendance and gratitude for their contribution in feeding not just Nebraskans, but the world.

Jon Burleson can be reached at jon.burleson@lee.net.

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