PLANTING DATES MATTER
Nebraska Extension entomologist Tom Hunt (center) told producers at the recent Soybean Management Field Days event near Pilger that planting dates seem to affect soybean gall midge infestation. SGM was identified across the Midwest soybean-producing states in 2018, with a distribution centered in Nebraska along the northeast, east-central and southeast counties. Research suggests that planting dates on soybeans have a role. Soybeans planted May 1-15 had about 50% infestation, while soybeans planted June 1 in the same field had only 3% infested. Soybeans planted June 15 to July 1 had no infestation.
SCOUT FIELD EDGES
Justin McMechan (left), Nebraska Extension crop protection and cropping systems specialist, took producers to the research fields at the Labenz farm near Pilger to look at potential soybean gall midge damage and where it may occur. Researchers suggest scouting for SGM on the edges of the field, especially in soybean fields that are adjacent to a field that was soybeans last year. Look for signs of wilting and dying plants. Two weeks after adult activity, you should be able to see dark discoloration at or near the soil surface. If you peel back the outer layer of tissue, you may see the presence of orange or white larvae.
WATCH WATER ON COVER CROPS
Jim Specht, Nebraska Extension emeritus professor of agronomy, talked to field day participants about the effect of water on fields with and without cover crops. In most years on irrigated land in eastern Nebraska, water used by cover crops over the winter and into the spring will not reduce the stored soil water for the soybean crop, but irrigated growers should be ready to apply water to make sure the crop gets established if the top inches of soil are dry. Recent research shows that cover crop termination timing could be more critical on rainfed acres, to ensure crop establishment. Proper irrigation scheduling in general, however, does not differ between cover crop and noncover crop fields.
HAVE A WEED PLAN
Chris Proctor, Nebraska Extension weed management educator, talked to producers at the recent field day near Pilger about how cover crops interact with weed control. This year, a study looking specifically at cereal rye and wheat is being conducted at each of the field day sites to help researchers better understand the value of covers as another tool in weed control. Cover crop species selection greatly affects biomass production, but termination date of the cover crop has the greatest effect. Research points to no differences in weed suppression between cover crop fields and noncover crop fields, because of low weed pressure and high variability in weeds. It is known that herbicides alone cannot completely control resistant weeds, so more understanding of weed biology and life cycle could aid in the ability of managing cover crops to help control weeds.
COVER CROPS BOOST MICROBES
Katja Koehler-Cole, University of Nebraska-Lincoln agronomy research assistant professor, told producers that microbial populations are higher under cover crops, and cover crops can reduce soil nitrate levels in the period before soybean planting. They may also reduce nitrate leaching to the groundwater. Other beneficial effects of cover crops include the breakdown of residue and release of nutrients, as well as improved soil aggregation.
KEEP UNDER BUDGET
Brad Lubben (pictured), Nebraska Extension policy specialist, and Glennis McClure, Nebraska Extension farm and ranch management analyst, told farmers at the field day that beating the bottom line on soybeans will depend on sound production, marketing and risk management, with a focus on keeping production expenses under control. They suggested using crop budgets to accurately record and stay on top of costs, so farmers can know their breakeven prices.