Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The research efforts of Ohio agriculture certainly include lab testing, university plot work and data analysis, but every farmer knows that the most dependable crop production research also includes extensive work in real, on-farm fields.The real world of crop production simply cannot be duplicated in a lab. For this reason, farmer cooperators with various agricultural research projects are absolutely essential in developing relevant conclusions and solutions for challenges on farms. And, it just so happens, that some of those farmer cooperators are the same ones making decisions about which research projects should be funded by Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) checkoff dollars at the state and national levels. Dan Corcoran, Pike County farmer, OSC and United Soybean Board memberWith its misty mornings, rolling hills and steamy river bottoms, the Corcoran farm faces perennial disease challenges — a nightmare for farm management but a dream come true for plant pathologists like Dr. Anne Dorrance with Ohio State University Extension.“In southern Ohio we have a blessing and curse that it gets foggy most every morning. That allows us to get some moisture in here when it is dry but we also get more disease issues. We run into disease pressure from the time we plant the seed through harvest,” Corcoran said. “Anne likes to evaluate what is going on in these fields so we can learn more about how to grow better soybeans. Whenever Anne comes down here she gets a big smile on her face because of the disease levels we have. Our disease is good for her and bad for me.”As much as he does not appreciate the disease problems, Corcoran does recognize the value of this kind of research both for his farm and the farms of other Ohio soybean farmers.“Her research looks at some unique disease scenarios which will provide important information to farmers in the region. We hear from a lot of companies selling fungicides alerting us to problems, but with this university work we can get unbiased, real data on what works and what does not,” he said. “Anne has put out plots for three or four years. We have graduate students doing studies out here from the time we plant through harvest. They get an idea of the plant cycle and disease problems. They can also get an early start on finding disease here. Then, Anne has the ability to work with many people in the state and around the country. Through that collaboration, those researchers are looking at multiple things to help us as producers better manage things to produce a better crop.”Learning from the research taking place on his farm, Corcoran has modified his management techniques to improve profitability.“Because we have these plots, we talk about putting fungicide on a little earlier. The plot work has really helped us evaluate fungicides. We have learned that it is tough to make fungicides pay on soybeans. We use genetic selection to get good disease resistance,” he said. “Charcoal rot is more prevalent in southern Ohio. You need high temperatures and in some years we are seeing it on our sandy soils. We start see plants start to wither. They go from beautiful green to dying out just like that. It is a grey fungus that grows up the stem and takes over the whole plant. Those zero yields really hurt your average.“We are also watching frogeye leaf spot closely this year. We occasionally see it really affecting the perimeter and we will hit the outsides of fields when it gets bad, especially in seed beans that we grow. We like to do test strips every year. We will try different timing of spraying, with and without insecticides. The soybeans do look pretty when you spray them but it doesn’t always show up in the yield. The later it gets in the season, the less likely we are to spray.” Terry McClure, Paulding County, OSC Board memberThere are few issues more pressing in Ohio agriculture than the countless questionsTerry McClureregarding water quality. McClure has opened up his farm to researchers to get some answers through on-farm, edge-of-field testing with water collection stations for surface and tile runoff.“You have to take time to do these kinds of things. There is nothing wrong with farmers taking a little time to try to learn more about what is happening in our fields,” McClure said. “This really started several years ago with a presentation from Kevin Elder from the Ohio Department of Agriculture about these water quality problems we were seeing. He kept saying, ‘We don’t know.’ That got to be unacceptable. For agriculture, not knowing is not an answer. Since then, it has really turned out to be a much bigger thing than anybody thought it would be.”The sampling equipment for the water collection sites around the state costs $1 million and it costs another $500,000 a year to collect the samples. The funding efforts got started with OSC, Ohio Corn Marketing Program and the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program in an effort to gather information to help farmers better manage phosphorus (P) on their farms to improve economics and water quality.The project is still ongoing, but McClure said there are some clear lessons already coming from the data collected.“There are some early things the researchers have learned that have become obvious. If you apply P right ahead of a storm, it moves off the field. Some of this is about cementing the things we thought we knew. Small grains make a difference in the whole crop rotation and cover crops do too. I don’t think we have enough data to understand the placement and some of the smaller details yet but we need to learn more by trying different practices. This will give us clues about the many small changes of how we do the 4Rs,” McClure said. “We have made some changes already on our farm. Historically we would apply all of our P and K as a wheat starter for our full rotation. We have started breaking up our phosphate applications. We have continued to use cover crops as much as we can. Oats after wheat really works for us and we have been seeing some really nice things with the cereal rye.“I have been surprised at the interest that farmers have in this knowledge and the understanding that can be generated by this. They want to know if the things they’re being asked to do are really making a difference.”McClure said the information gathered from this year’s extreme weather pattern should be particularly interesting.“This year has been unprecedented. Since planting in the middle of April we have had just shy of 40 inches of rain,” McClure said on July 21. “It will be interesting to see what dynamics there are coming out of that kind of water flow. We have to have had more particulate matter loss with this. I think we will be able to learn a lot from this challenge. Who would have ever plugged this weather event into a model? This has to be a one in 200 kind of year. This is real.” Keith Kemp, Preble County farmer, OSC and United Soybean Board memberWhen it comes to improving Ohio soybean production, there is no better place than on-farm soybean fields to study management practices.Keith Kemp“There is tremendous value to doing things on Ohio farms for Ohio’s farmers. It gives us an edge because we have the research right here,” Kemp said. “ It is so valuable to do this on Ohio farms rather than through national projects. We are getting good results that can really be used in Ohio to make our soybean industry more profitable.”Plots on Kemp’s farm are set up for a wide variety of research projects.“Laura Lindsey from The Ohio State University and her team of researchers are looking at fungicides, insecticides, seed treatments, some biologicals, and they looked at gypsum last year. They are doing the fertility work with Steve Culman in the same plot and they have non-GMO varieties over there too,” Kemp said. “The plot is between four or five acres. Their plot work is very small, but they can get quite a bit of good information from that. It is fun to watch the plots grow and keep an eye on what is happening. Some things work and some things don’t and that is what we want to see.”Having the plots on the farm is convenient and of real interest for Kemp.“They do everything for the plots. All we do is supply the ground. They have their own planter and they harvest and put the beans in our truck,” Kemp said. “It is really valuable for us to see the new things out there and the end results. There are more plots than just here so you have some comparison from other parts of the state. You can see how the varieties perform out here, which is nice. These plots are so valuable because you have a third party out here doing this research and not a company.”And, with his perspective of the checkoff funding decisions at both the state and national levels, Kemp sees how these Ohio efforts can be leveraged with national funding.“It is nice that we have this data to take to the national level as well. The more of this kind of research we do, the more funding we can get from the national level,” he said. “That helps build the research infrastructure in our state. I am excited with where OSU Extension is now. We have some top caliber researchers for soybeans in Ohio. There is tremendous work being done and it ends up making soybean farmers more profitable. We are investing for our future with this.” Dale Profit, Van Wert County farmer, OSC and United Soybean Board memberDale ProfitMore of the world, most notably South America, is figuring out how to efficiently produce soybeans in a cost-effective manner. Rather than watching as the competitive advantage of soybean growers in the United States erodes away to foreign competitors, Profit is doing something about it.“We’ve all recognized that we are all in a worldwide situation raising soybeans. In the future, South America will probably be able to raise soybeans with less expense than we can. We have to look for a niche or a product that adds value to our soybeans and we need to start adapting to this philosophy,” he said. “Not all of us will be raising commodity beans in the future. There will still be commodity beans out there but there will also be some opportunities for the high oleic soybeans and other things that are in the development stage at the present time.”High oleic soybean varieties, including Plenish from DuPont Pioneer and Vistive Gold from Monsanto, offer farmers a unique opportunity to regain soybean oil market share they lost because of trans-fat labeling. Food customers have been clear that they would like to use soybean oil, but they need new properties that offer health advantages over products with trans-fats. To prove that they can meet the potential demand, farmers need to show that they can provide a consistent supply of high oleic oil.“A few years ago, we had been raising seed soybeans for DuPont Pioneer and I asked them if they were going to handle Plenish and they said, ‘yes.’ I asked to be on the list. They called me up when they were asking for acres and that is how I got started,” Profit said. “We have always looked at opportunities and once in a while they come up short but if you aren’t looking for opportunities they pass you by. It is always best if you are on the front end of an opportunity. We generally raise three different varieties of Plenish — medium, short and longer season. They have always been right in the middle of our production for three years now and there has not been a spread of very many bushels in between. We think they are very competitive and we are happy with what they are doing for us.”Profit sees high oleic soybeans as a potential solution to the competitive challenges of the future for Ohio soybean farmers.“Farmers are primarily interested in yield. If varieties are developed with traits that yield they will be adopted fairly quickly,” said. “As long as the yield is there and there is some premium, we can use those opportunities to increase or maintain our income.” Bill Bayliss, Logan County farmer, OSC Board memberWhile efforts in growing soybeans more efficiently and profitably are crucial moving forward, there is no point in growing them if they cannot be marketed at a profitable price. With this in mind, Ohio’s soybean farmers are regularly working to connect the buyers of Ohio soybeans with Ohio farms.“We are not only looking at how to increase yields but also how to move forward in the marketing area. We are looking at who our best customers are, what they want and how we can adjust and adapt what we are doing to better serve them,” Bayliss said. “The Asian customers are our biggest food grade customers. We have found that they really value face-to-face conversations. They want to see the actual farmers they are doing business with. That is important to them.”With this in mind, there have been stepped up efforts in recent years to get Ohio’s soybean farmers over to meet their Asian customers in person, and to bring those customers to Ohio soybean farms. These encounters serve to build important relationships and also provide clues about how to better serve purchasers of Ohio soybeans.“The different countries in Asia have different opinions on genetically modified crops. Some are very interested in GMO-free soybeans but others are not really concerned if they are GMO or not,” Bayliss said. “Ohio farmers are lucky because we have soil types and a climate that creates a particular texture for the food grade soybeans that is preferred by the Asian customers.”It is also important to consider the needs of domestic customers.“High oleic soybeans are one of our premier factors in marketing because of their ability to improve the health of fried foods,” Bayliss said. “We are really working extensively to better serve the people who are buying our soybeans and soy products because that is what will ultimately pay off down the road.”For much more on the soybean checkoff, visit the Soybean Rewards web page at http://www.soyohio.org/council/for-ohio-farmers/soybean-rewards/.