The wheat crop in Ohio is now between early boot (Feekes 10, in the south) and approaching Feekes 8 (flag leaf emergence) in northern counties. Cooler-than-usual conditions over the last few weeks have slowed the crop down considerably, but as temperatures increase, the crop will advance through several growth stages over a relatively short period. Cool conditions have also kept foliar diseases in check, but Septoria, and to a lesser extent, powdery mildew are still showing up in some fields.
Recent wet weather across the state has slowed soybean planting progress, but should be picking up with warmer and dryer weather. As of the last week of April, 2% of the soybean acres in Ohio were planted. Last year at the same time, 17% of soybean acres were planted. However, 2018 through 2020, planting progress was similar at 1-2%.
Table 1. Percent soybean acres planted in Ohio by week for the past five years (USDA NASS).
April was a difficult month for farmers in Ohio; conditions were cold. Some snow and late freeze events were part of the month. This was conducive to limited water evaporation/evapotranspiration, and hence, generally, soils stayed wet.
Warmer temperatures combined with dryer weather will push planting progress along. For fields that have been already planted, recent precipitation and warmer days ahead can build conditions for soil crusting. When heavy rains occur after planting, soil crusting can become a concern, inducing a shallow hard layer on the soil surface that forms due to rapid drying (e.g., warm days and wind).
Alfalfa stands across Ohio continued to mature in the past week despite our cooler temperatures and significant rainfall totals. Alfalfa fields jumped about 2-3 NDF percentage units in the last week depending on the geographical location. As warmer temperatures are expected to persist across the state in the next week, %NDF values will likely increase 5 percentage units or more. As a quick reminder, alfalfa values ranging near 40-42% NDF are ideal for lactating dairy cows. Higher NDF values are acceptable for classes of livestock with lower nutrient demands.
The optimal time for making a first cutting of forages is fast approaching. But what is the optimal timing to take the first cutting (or any cutting for that matter)? Many will answer by saying it is when you have time and there is a good weather window to get the forage cut and put up! Yes indeed, that is a valid answer. Both of those factors are important and can’t be ignored. However, we know that forage quality declines as the crop moves into flowering stages.
Spray drift not only result in wasting expensive pesticides and pollution of the environment, it may damage non-target crops nearby, and poses a serious health risk to people living in areas where drift is occurring. Drift happens! It accounts for about half of all non-compliance cases investigated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. As you know, we are experiencing an unusual weather situation in Ohio and several other corn-belt states this year.