Spring Cover Crop Field Day March 26th – Ewing Demonstration Center

Join us on Thursday, March 26th, 2015 for the  Spring Cover Crop Field Day at the University of Illinois Extension Ewing Demonstration Center.  Registration will start at 8:30 a.m. and the program will begin at 9:00 a.m., rain or shine.  The Ewing Demonstration Center is located at 16132 N. Ewing Rd; Ewing, IL 62836, on the north edge of the village of Ewing, north of the Ewing Grade School on north Ewing Road.  Watch for signs.

Cover crops have many benefits to the soil, environment, and overall crop production and management.  Topics covered during this field day program include:

Challenges of Grazing Lush Spring Forage

–          Travis Meteer, Extension Educator, U of I Extension

Techniques for Planting into Cover Crop Residue

–          Mike Plumer, Private Consultant

Understanding the Soil Profile Beneath Your Feet

–          Bryan Fitch, Resource Soil Scientist, NRCS

Which One to Choose? Cover Crop Species Selection and Demonstration Trial Tour

–          Nathan Johanning, Extension Educator, U of I Extension

Some of the program highlights will be the demonstration trial planting of cover crops, including 17 different cover crops and combinations illustrating first hand the characteristics of the cover crops and what benefits they bring to your soil and crop production system.  Also, (weather and soil conditions permitting) we will have a soil pit dug, exposing the soil profile, where NRCS Resource Soil Scientist, Bryan Fitch will lead us through the characteristics of our southern Illinois soils to enhance understanding of the importance of a healthy soil.  Also Certified Crop Advisor CEU credits will be available (2.0 Soil & Water Management & 1.0 Crop Management) for the program.

This field day will be free and open to anyone interested in learning more about cover crops.  A light lunch will be provided and this is a great way to talk to fellow growers to learn more from their challenges and successes incorporating cover crops into their cropping systems.  Please call the Franklin County Extension Office at 618-439-3178 for more information and to register by March 24th.  We hope to see you there!

Brownstown Agronomy Research Center Cover Crop Field Day – Nov. 13

Mult-species cover crops

Mult-species cover crop trial - Brownstown Agronomy Research Center


University of Illinois Extension and the Fayette County SWCD are hosting a Cover Crop Field Day on Thursday, November 13, 2014 from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. The field day will be held at the U of I Brownstown Agronomy Research Center, 1588 IL 185, Brownstown, IL (Directions here).

The field day will include tours of the current cover crop research trials being conducted at the Center. Extension educators and NRCS field staff will be on hand to discuss cover crop species selection, the effects of planting date and seeding method on cover crop establishment, factors influencing soil health, as will share their experience on the challenges and successes of cover crop establishment. 2.0 CCA-CEU credits in Soil & Water Management have been requested.

For more information, contact:

Robert Bellm,  U of I Extension
618-427-3349  rcbellm@illinois.edu

Tony Pals, Fayette County SWCD
618-283-1095, ext. 3  tony.pals@il.nacdnet.net

Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Cover Crop Field Day – Nov. 6th

Join us on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 for the the Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Cover Crop Field Day.  Registration and refreshments will start at 8:30 a.m. and the program will start at 9:00 a.m., rain or shine.  The Ewing Demonstration Center is located at 16132 N. Ewing Rd; Ewing IL 62836, on the north edge of the village of Ewing, north of the Ewing Grade School on north Ewing Road.  Watch for signs.

Cover crops have many benefits to the soil, environment, and overall crop production and management.  Topics included in this field day program are:

Establishment Challenges and Successes

– Robert Bellm, Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Calibrating Success:  Drill and Planting Calibration

– Marc Lamczyk, Program Coordinator, University of Illinois Extension

Which One to Choose? Cover Crop Species Selection and Demonstration Trial Tour

– Nathan Johanning, Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension

In addition, we also have a demonstration planting of cover crops established late this summer so you can view the growth and characteristics of the cover crops first hand and learn more what benefits they bring to your soil and crop production system.

This field day will be free and open to anyone interested in learning more about cover crops.  Please call the Franklin County Extension Office at 618-439-3178 for more information and to register.  We hope to see you there!

2014 Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Field Day

2014 Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Field Day

The University of Illinois Extension will host its annual Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Field Day on Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 9 a.m.  The Ewing Demonstration Center at is located at 16132 N. Ewing Rd; Ewing IL 62836, on the north edge of the village of Ewing, north of the Ewing Grade School on north Ewing Road.  Watch for signs.

The ongoing research plots this year consist of a soybean cover crops trial, LibertyLink soybean variety trial, insecticide/fungicide trial on soybeans, corn population study, drought tolerant corn hybrid evaluation, and new this year a pumpkin variety trial.


The topics to be discussed at Field Day include:

Fusarium Head Blight (Scab) and Vomitoxin Management in Wheat

  • Carl Bradley, Extension Specialist, Plant Pathology, University of Illinois Extension

Sky High Crop Scouting; Unmanned Aerial Drones

  • Dennis Bowman, Extension Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Alternative Forages and Harvesting Methods

  • Teresa Steckler, Extension Educator, Commercial Ag, University of Illinois Extension

Palmer Amaranth: Coming (Soon) to a Field Near You

  • Robert Bellm, Extension Educator, Commercial Ag, University of Illinois Extension

Cover Crops and Weed Management

  • Nathan Johanning, Extension Educator, Small Farms Local Foods, University of Illinois Extension

Refreshments will be provided by Franklin County Farm Bureau.

The field day is free and open to anyone interested.  A light lunch will be provided and registration is recommended by September 8, 2014 for an accurate meal count.

For additional information or to register, contact Marc Lamczyk at University of Illinois Extension Office in Franklin County at 618-439-3178 or lamczyk@illinois.edu.


2014 Field Day August 7 at Dixon Springs Ag Center

The 2014 Dixon Springs Agronomy and Horticulture Field Day presented by the University of Illinois, Department of Crop Sciences will be held on Thursday, August 7 at the Dixon Springs Ag Center.  The research center is located on IL Route 145, near Glendale, IL, 25 miles south of Harrisburg and 25 miles north of Paducah, KY.

Tours will start at 9:00 AM with the final bus leaving at 9:30. A lunch to follow will be provided by sponsors and UI Extension.

The following presenters will speak about current conditions and management challenges in field crop and horticulture production.

  • Carl Bradley: Fungicide Resistance
  • Angie Peltier: Corn Nematodes, The Hidden Menace in Your Fields
  • Jake Vossenkemper: Nitrogen on Soybeans
  • Rachel Cook: Tillage is Recreational, Fertilizer is Essential: A 44 Year Study
  • Jeff Kindhart: High Tunnels, Hydroponics and Mushrooms

For more information contact John Pike at 618-695-2441 or by email at jpike@illinois.edu

Brownstown Agronomy Research Center Field Day – August 6

The 2014 Brownstown Agronomy Research Center Field Day, presented by the University Of Illinois Department Of Crop Sciences, will be held on Wednesday, August 6. Extension researchers and specialists will address issues pertinent to the current growing season. The tour will start at 8 a.m. and will last about two and a half hours. It will be followed by lunch provided by U of I Extension.

Shaded tour wagons will take participants to each stop. These topics will be addressed:

  • N Fertilizer for Soybean:  Where’s the Yield? – Jake Vossenkemper, U of I
  • Tillage is Recreational, Fertilizer is Essential – Dr. Rachel Cook, SIU
  • Field Crop Diseases & Fungicide Treatments – Dr. Carl Bradley, U of I
  • Corn Nematodes:  the Hidden Menace in Your Fields – Dr. Angie Peltier, U of I
  • Factors Contributing to a Healthy Soil – Troy Fehrenbacher, NRCS

The 208-acre Brownstown Agronomy Research Center has been conducting crop research on the claypan soils of southern Illinois since 1937. More than 30 research and demonstration projects are conducted at the Center every year. Visitors are always welcome.

The research center is located south of Brownstown on IL Route 185, approximately 4 miles east of the IL Route 40 / 185 junction.

For more information, contact Robert Bellm (618-427-3349); rcbellm@illinois.edu
Visit us on the web at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/barc/

Nitrogen in Late Spring 2014

The corn crop in Illinois is off to a good start in many fields, and in most areas is in the V5 to V8 growth stages, just starting its rapid growth phase. On average, the crop under good conditions will add some 200 lb of dry matter per acre per day over the next 80 days or so. It will take up 3-4 lb per day of nitrogen before pollination, after which the N uptake rate will slow.

The spring of 2014 has not been a wet one overall in Illinois. But as usual, rainfall has been very unevenly distributed; some areas have received 6 inches or more over the past month. In the wetter areas, getting sidedressed N applied has been challenging, and some who applied the full amount of N are concerned about how much might have been lost.

Low temperatures through the winter and into early April helped preserve fall-applied N and the small amount of residual N left after last year’s big crop. April and May temperatures were normal to a little above normal. Maximum soil temperatures 4 inches deep under bare ground reached the mid-70s by mid-May, and into the 80s during the warm periods in late May and early June.

Soil temperatures in the 70s and 80s increase activity of soil microbes, both those responsible for mineralization (release of plant-available N from soil organic matter) and those that convert ammonium (NH4+) to nitrate (NO3). Table 1 has results from six Illinois fields sampled for N in May by Dan Schaefer of the Illinois Council for Best Management Practices (C-BMP) under the N-Watch® program. These results confirm that N loss was not been excessive by mid-May, and also that much of the fall-applied N was in the nitrate form by May. The fact that more N was recovered than had been applied is not unusual; mineralization and carryover N contribute to the amount that’s there.

Table 1. Amounts of N recovered from Illinois fields following application of a variety of N forms, rates, and timings. Sampling took place in early to mid-May 2014. Data from Dan Schaefer.

While many soils are moist or even wet, the threat of N loss is far higher where water has stood, or is standing, than where water didn’t stand for more than an hour or two. The heavy downpour that brought 3+ inches of rain to parts east central Illinois on May 21 left a lot of standing water, but by 12 hours later, much of it had run off the fields. This indicates two things: 1) rainfall rate exceeded the infiltration rate, so less water entered the soil than fell on the soil in most places of many fields; and 2) standing water affected a relatively small percentage of the soil surface.

Where water stands long enough – typically 3 to 4 days at warm temperatures – for the crop to begin to lose some of its green color, that’s a signal that soil oxygen is becoming depleted. Two negative consequences of lack of oxygen are: 1) the start of denitrification (conversion of nitrate to gaseous forms of N) and N loss; and 2) the beginning of root damage, some of which may be permanent. Most of those fields have recovered well.

We can assume that most fertilizer N is by now in the nitrate form, though some of that applied as sidedressed NH3 or (to a lesser extent) as sidedressed UAN may still remain as ammonium. This is typical for mid-June, and it means that the N is subject to denitrification and, in lighter-textured or tile-drained soils, to moving out of the rooting zone.

Measuring N loss from wet soils is not very practical, especially while it’s still wet. Previous work has shown that, at soil temperatures in the 70s, as much as 7 or 8 percent of the nitrate present can be converted to gas and be lost for each day the saturated conditions persist. Conversion rates may be lower than this with lower temperatures deeper in the soil and at night, if some of the N is still in the ammonium form, and if soils still have some oxygen present. So denitrification losses may be less than expected in some fields. And if plants are badly damaged by saturated soils, loss of N may be a smaller problem than the loss of yield potential from plant damage.

It’s rare that whole fields remain saturated for days, so in most fields, the risk of N loss by leaching or through movement out of the field through field tiles is greater than the risk of loss by denitrification. Tiles began running relatively late this spring, which helped keep N in the fields. The first water to reach the tiles came, in many fields, from rainfall before the N was all converted to nitrate, or from before N had been applied, so may have carried relatively little nitrate. But by June, it’s not unusual for water from field tiles to have nitrate-N levels of 10 to 20 parts per million. At 15 ppm N, one acre-inch of water leaving the field carries with it about 3.8 lb of N.

In fields where all of the N has been applied (especially if some was applied in the spring as NH3), where crop color has remained or returned to healthy green, and where there is no standing water now, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s not necessary to add more N. In fields where all of the N has been applied but where water stood long enough to have the crop lose much of its green color, adding supplemental N will increase yield only if plants can grow enough new roots to take advantage of the added N. Chances of such recovery are much greater when the water comes in early vegetative growth like it did this spring (so far, at least) than when it comes later.

In fields that still need sidedressed N, or where plants stood in water to the point of turning pale green but now seem to be recovering, N should be added as soon as practicable. The easiest way to apply N to wet fields is as urea (with a urease inhibitor such as Agrotain® added) applied by air, but that’s also costly. Waiting until high-clearance equipment can get through to apply broadcast urea with urease inhibitor or UAN (also with urease inhibitor, especially if rainfall is likely to be delayed) using drop tubes is usually cheaper, but may require days or weeks to dry out enough.

The amount of supplemental N – that applied to make up expected loss after a full rate was applied – should generally not exceed 50 lb of N or so. If a planned sidedress application is made late, plant uptake will start quickly, reducing the time available for loss. That may allow the rate to be lowered from what had been planned, especially if the planned rate would have brought total N to the higher side of guideline rates.

While it’s good to apply supplemental N (if it’s needed) or planned sidedressed N as soon as we can, the yield cost of further delays depend on the N available to the plant now. The best way to know how much N is available to the crop now is to observe canopy color; as long as leaves remain a reasonable shade of green, the plant is not deficient, or not deficient enough to cost yield as long as final N supply is adequate. In that case, some delay in applying N may not cost any yield. If it turns dry after surface application of N, uptake will be delayed and the risk will increase of having the crop run out of N.

Putting all this in perspective, the 2104 season has not been one of above-average N loss potential, except in areas that were unlucky enough to get big downpours. Remember that mineralization of soil organic matter is contributing substantially to the N supply in the soil now, helping to counter some N loss from tile lines. This is not the case in saturated soils, where mineralization is slowed as denitrification speeds up.

Still, if good rainfall and temperatures continue, the N supply, even if it’s reduced some by loss, is unlikely to limit yield. In fact, most of the highest yields we have seen in several hundred N rate trials over the last 20 years have come at modest N rates. I think this happens because good root systems mean good uptake of water and N, and that conditions that are ideal for yield also tend to be very good for soil N supply.

Webinar to Focus on Nitrogen

While dry weather is allowing N application to start in some places in Illinois, the ongoing cool temperatures continue to raise questions about N management this spring.

With help from the Council on Best Management Practices (C-BMP), we are organizing a webinar for Thursday, March 27 at 8:00 AM to address some of these issues, including fate of fall-applied N, use of inhibitors this spring, and how cool soils might affect soil N supply and plant uptake.

We will also during this time describe a program, newly funded by the Nutrient Research & Education Council, to conduct field-scale N rate trials in several dozen fields across Illinois in 2014. Producers interested in hosting such a trial are invited to attend to learn more.

Sign up for the webinar at https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/460818786

Cover Crop Field Day March 28th at the Ewing Demonstration Center

Hearing a lot about cover crops lately but unsure if or how they will work for you? Then plan to attend the Cover Crop Field Day at the University of Illinois Extension Ewing Demonstration Center on March 28, 2014 starting at 10 AM.  The field day offers the latest information on cover crops uses – from livestock grazing, soil erosion and compaction reduction, increasing soil organic matter, to increasing future nutrient availability.

Topics for the tour include:

–          Cover Crop Termination, Mike Plumer, private consultant

–          Cover Crop Success and Failures, Panel Discussion

–          New Farm Bill, FSA Update, Bruce Morrison, Hamilton Co. FSA

–          Tour of Cover Crop Plots at EDC, Nathan Johanning, Extension Educator,  Small Farms and Local Foods.

The center is located  north of Ewing, IL (Ewing is about 20 minutes south of Mt. Vernon) on the North Ewing Rd. (watch for signs).  Ewing Demonstration Center started as a soil fertility experiment farm and has been in existence for over 100 years.

This program is free of charge and will start promptly at 10 AM, rain or shine, so dress appropriately.  A light lunch will be provided.  For questions or to register contact Marc Lamczyk U of I Extension, Franklin Co. at 439-3178.


Nathan R. Johanning

Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms

University of Illinois Extension, Unit 26 serving Franklin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph, and Williamson Counties

402 Ava Rd.

Murphysboro, IL  62966

Phone:  (618)687-1727  Fax:  (618)687-1612



Soil Temperatures and Spring Prospects

We hope that we’ve seen the last of the snow by now, but both air and soil temperatures remain below average in Illinois heading into the second half of March. According to the Illinois State Water Survey (http://www.isws.illinois.edu/warm/soiltemp.asp) minimum temperatures 4 inches deep under bare soil ranged from the low 30s in northern Illinois to the mid-30s in southern Illinois the morning of March 17, and with some sunshine on that day, reached the upper 40s to low 50w in southern Illinois but did not get above the low 30s in the northern part of the state.

Soils froze deeper than normal this past winter, and stayed cold into March; frost is only now disappearing in the northern parts of Illinois, which accounts for their staying cold during a sunny day. Hopes that such deep freezing will relieve soil compaction from last year may not be realized; while repeated freezing and thawing result in repeated formation of ice crystals that force soil particles apart, soils that stay frozen don’t repeat this cycle often enough to do much good. The freezing and thawing of the surface soils that we’re seeing now will help loosen them some, but we can’t expect that effect to extend more than a few inches deep.

Though having soil temperatures only in the 30s this late in March is somewhat unusual, March soil temperatures are variable over years. At Champaign, March soil temperatures at 4 inches deep have ranged over the past five years from an average of 36/39 (minimum/maximum) in 2013 to 60/66 in 2011. Rainfall totals ranged from 1.47 inches in 2013 to 5.38 inches in 2011. The start and progress of planting were delayed in both 2011 and 2013, but that was based more on April rainfall than on conditions in March.

When it comes to getting soils to dry out, is warm and wet better or worse than cold and dry? Because water has a higher heat capacity than soil mineral matter, cold soils do not dry out very fast, and wet soils do not warm up very fast. We have seen some of the standing water in fields drain out this past week as soils thaw, but the drying process will be very slow until soil temperatures start to increase. Water loss rates are affected by soil texture and water content, but we would expect wet soil to lose 0.1 inch or so of water in a day if average soil temperature is 40, and at least twice that amount if the average soil temperature is 60 degrees. So having soils warm up is the key to enabling them dry out, though of course it has to stop raining for soils to dry.

Though having low soil temperatures at this point in March does not produce a lot of optimism that planting will start early, it is also not a very good predictor about how the spring will go, or of what kind of season we’ll have. If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that what happens during the summer matters much more than what happens in March and April. We simply need to be ready to do fieldwork and plant as soon as conditions permit.

The likely delay in the start of field work this year may mean re-prioritizing operations once soils dry out. It has been common in wetter springs for the application of anhydrous ammonia to get underway before soils are considered fit to till or plant. That worked OK last year, when soil compaction, due to weather patterns, did not cause much problem for the crop. But we can’t count on that, and compaction from applying fertilizer or doing tillage in wet soils can leaves soils in worse condition than before, even if the surface looks a little drier afterwards.

As a reminder, planting in early April almost never produces yields higher than planting in late April, and can lower yields, even when stands are good. That being said, planting in early April into good soil conditions, with soil temperatures expected to be on the rise after planting, is a sound practice, especially when there are a lot of acres to plant and starting early is the only way to finish on time. But “mudding” corn into wet or marginally wet but cool soil conditions in early April is almost always a bad idea, with considerably more potential to do harm than to do good.

On the lighter side, I’m interested when I hear people say that they usually don’t start to plant until after Easter. Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, so ranges between about March 23 and April 24. Easter was on March 31 in 2013 and it was wet until after Easter, so that wasn’t a factor. Easter is on April 20 this year, and we hope that soils get in shape to plant before that. If that happens, I imagine that some might want to set aside their hesitation to plant before Easter, as many did on 2012, when Easter fell on April 8 and we had some 20% of the state’s crop planted by then.