by Jennny Rees, UNL Extension
Many farmers I talked with after harvest were happy with their soybean yields this year, but if your yields seem to have plateaued or weren't as good as expected, perhaps, soybean cyst nematode could be a factor to check.
Farmers can experience 20 to 30 percent yield losses with no symptoms on the plants. Yield maps may also provide a clue of places to test where yields were lower than expected.
I also recommend to test any areas where sudden death syndrome (SDS) occurred as this disease is synergistic with SCN in reducing yields. We've found areas that had SDS only, SCN only, or the combination of both.
How do you test? Soil samples can be taken at any time, even after the field was planted to corn. Simply use the same 0-8 inch sample you're using for your soil fertility and send part of it to the lab of your choice for fertility analysis and part of it to the Pest and Plant Diagnostic Lab for SCN analysis. Sample bags may be obtained through the local extension office. For more information about SCN, please check out the following site: http://cropwatch.unl.edu/plantdisease/soybean/soybean-cyst-nematode. Although SCN often goes undetected, it is here and reducing profitability for Nebraska soybean producers.
We encourage sample submission because it's difficult to manage something you don't know you have. Last year, Seward County had the most SCN samples submitted with 63 and it was the county that tested the most positive for SCN of the samples submitted (32). York County was honorable mention with 16 samples testing positive for SCN. York County was the winner in the highest percentage of samples testing positive with 89 percent of samples. Seward and Antelope Counties are two counties that have now submitted more than 100 samples testing positive for moderate (greater than 500 eggs per 100 cc's of soil) or high levels of SCN. This just shows the importance of testing all our fields to know if SCN is present, robbing yield, and what the egg count is so we can work on managing this disease in the future.
Sampling is made possible through support and partnership with the Nebraska Soybean Board. John Wilson, extension educator in Burt County, and Loren Giesler, extension soybean pathologist, have shared the following regarding this partnership. "Thirty years ago last fall, a microscopic pest was identified in a Richardson County soybean field near Falls City. The next spring, a comprehensive sampling program identified the same pest in six counties bordering the Missouri River as well as Pawnee County. Levels of this pest in the soil indicated it had been here much longer, but had gone undetected.
'Thirty years later, this pest, the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is causing more yield losses for soybean growers in Nebraska and across the U.S. than all other soybean diseases combined! Last year SCN cost Nebraska farmers an estimated $40 million in lost yields; nationally, that loss is estimated at $1.5 billion.
Without a concentrated effort to sample fields for SCN, it was identified in 27 counties over the next 19 years. Then in 2005, the Nebraska Soybean Board started an extremely successful program that continues today. It provides Nebraska soybean farmers with free soil analysis for SCN by the UNL Department of Plant Pathology. It started slowly, but over the years it grew and has now processed 8,230 samples, almost a third of which have been positive for SCN.
"This program had an immediate impact. The first year of the program SCN was identified in seven new counties and in the first seven years, the number of counties where SCN had been identified doubled the number found in the previous 19 years. We are pleased to have the Nebraska Soybean Board as our partner in this soil sampling effort. They recognized what a serious problem SCN was to soybean growers and, without their support, we would not have reached this many Nebraska farmers. Support from the Nebraska Soybean Board covers the cost of analyzing the soil samples, normally $20 per sample."
Potential Winter Injury to
Alfalfa and Wheat
The warm, beautiful weather has been enjoyable yet there's also concern for our alfalfa and wheat. It's too early to know if there's any injury; we just need to check it close this spring. As Bruce Anderson, extension forage specialist said, "The recent long spell of daytime temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and even some 70s probably awakened at least some alfalfa plants from winter dormancy. When alfalfa plants break winter dormancy they use nutrients stored in their roots and crown and start to grow as if spring has arrived. A return to average winter temperatures forces these plants back into dormancy. Another streak of warm weather could break dormancy again, using more nutrient reserves. If this is followed by more cold weather, eventually the alfalfa plants will exhaust their reserves and be unable to start spring growth when spring truly does return.
Another potential problem in other areas has been snow followed by melting followed by freezing. Prolonged or repeated formation of ice at or on the soil surface can prevent the exchange of gases between the air and the soil. As alfalfa roots respire during winter they produce some gases that can become toxic to alfalfa plants if too concentrated. The roots also need some oxygen to respire and remain healthy. So ice can cause plants to essentially suffocate." Ultimately, we'll need to be ready to check alfalfa and wheat this coming spring to determine any potential winter injury.
Watering of trees and shrubs will be beneficial this year if warm winter temperatures and a lack of precipitation continue. The priority for watering is young plants first - those planted in the last year and especially those planted this past fall, and then evergreens, especially those growing in exposed locations and near the south sides of buildings. When watering, the soil should not be frozen and air temperatures need to be above 45 degrees. Irrigation should take place early enough in the day for moisture to soak into the soil to avoid ice forming over or around plants overnight. Water just enough to moisten the soil six to eight inches deep. One or two irrigations during winter should suffice. If conditions remain warm and dry through winter and into spring, it will be critical to begin irrigation as soon as soils thaw this spring.
With late February through March being the ideal time to prune shade trees, look at corrective pruning on younger trees, those planted in the last 3 to 10 years, to help avoid long term structural issues. Hire a certified arborist to prune larger trees. Corrective pruning includes removal of: a double leader, branches that are crisscrossing and rubbing against another branch or one that will eventually rub if left to grow larger, closely parallel branches that may eventually grow into one another, branches with very narrow forks that can lead to included bark and weakened branch attachment.
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the Horse's Mouth, by Duane Lienemann,
There has been a lot of talk lately about the current farm bill, and with that talk is the worry about the next farm bill. Most everyone who knows me will know the farm bill is a longtime interest of mine. I have tried to keep up with legislation and the dynamics of each farm bill. Like many others, I find the current farm bill confusing, difficult and quite frankly dubious about its help to farmers in the down turn we have seen in commodity prices.
The House Committee on Agriculture held its first full committee hearing of the 115th Congress on Feb. 15. I read with interest the openings by Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, entitled "Rural Economic Outlook: Setting the Stage for the Next Farm Bill." I will highlight this week some of what he said.
The coming couple of years could have far reaching effect on agriculture and particular our farmers. One thing that piqued my interest was that Conaway indicated Congressman Frank Lucas, general farm commodities and risk management subcommittee chair, will kick off a series of subcommittee hearings on Feb. 28. Folks that is Tuesday and we better pay attention to what attention our Congressmen give to the problems we are currently facing. What is significant about that is that this is also the first farm bill hearing as the House begins to develop the next bill. We need help if our farmers are going to stay in business!
America's farmers and ranchers are facing difficult times. We in Nebraska certainly are aware of that and fortunately this is something that the Federal Reserve, the Agricultural & Food and Policy Center, the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, USDA, and even The Wall Street Journal agree on. The most obvious and telling statement is that our farmers and ranchers have endured a 45 percent drop in net farm income the last three years, the largest three-year drop since the start of the Great Depression. In fact the most recent report now tells us that net farm income will be down again in 2017. Overall, ERS is forecasting a 50 percent drop in net farm income since 2013. It's hard for any of us to imagine our income being sliced in half, but it certainly has that look and that feel.
We are being told that 1 in 10 farms are now highly or extremely leveraged. Nominal debt levels are at all-time highs and real debt levels are approaching where they were prior to the 1980s farm financial crisis.
I was teaching agriculture education in the 1980s and it certainly was not a good time for agriculture. The only real difference I see is that we don't have the double digit inflation and high interest rates for either savings or loans. Lower interest rates are a mitigating factor that differentiates our situation from the 80s. But, as a recent Wall Street Journal article stated, "There is real potential here for a crisis in rural America."
You can say what you want about politics and the obstruction that is now happening, but we need to take stock that this is and will have a huge effect on our farmers and ranchers. We have yet to have Sunny Perdue confirmed as the secretary of agriculture along with the people who he will put in place to help negotiate the agriculture waters. Even as our legislators will get to work on developing a new farm bill, the secretary of agriculture may well be called upon to help struggling farmers and ranchers. Let's all pray that a good crop and better prices this year will make that unnecessary.
But the farmers I have talked to are not the eternal optimists I have known them to be in the past. It is hard to see any real bright future with the uncertainly in the political arena and especially with trade with other countries.
I am hopingt we will see a big thrust into the potentially dramatic changes in exports with the reworking of NAFTA and the TPP. This is where we need to contact our federal law makers and advisory groups that can have a bearing on these decisions.
We produce locally but market globally and our prices reflect that. We must act.
As the House and Senate begin consideration of the next farm bill, current conditions in farm and ranch country must be front and center.
There are other important considerations as well. Chairman Lucas' strong admonition during the last farm bill debate that a safety net is supposed to be there to help farmers in bad times, not in good times, is one that Congress might better take to heart this time around. Every hole in the current safety net that now requires mending is the result of them not fully heeding that wisdom. Had they followed his counsel more closely, I doubt there would be anywhere near the current urgency in writing a new farm bill. That wisdom isn't just from a guy who's been around the block a few times in writing farm bills. It's from a guy who actually farms and ranches, and that is a good thing!
Another context that will likely be taken into account is deficit reduction. Congress would be hard pressed to admit it, but the critics of the current farm bill were absolutely right. They didn't save taxpayers $23 billion as advertised, they saved them $100 billion. They saved more than four times what they had promised under the last farm bill and achieved these savings despite a severe and sharp downturn in the farm economy. All on the backs of our famers! Because they fashioned the last farm bill, when times were good, to cut twice before measuring once, in the upcoming farm bill debate, they will need to measure our requirements first and then determine what kind of a budget they will need to meet these needs. President Trump has stated that our farmers and ranchers deserve a good farm bill and one that is passed on time. This will require resources, bipartisanship and unity in farm country. I hope they can find that!