Keeping up with the ever-changing technology being used in agriculture to protect valuable natural resources, the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network has added some new research efforts to keep the soil healthy and water clean.
Kurt Farms, a 460 acre corn and soybean operation in Dunkirk, sees value in investing in precision technology. While the venture into precision agriculture can be expensive, demonstration farmer Chris Kurt anticipates it will pay off.
“The total cost to put in auto steer and the GPS units on the combine and the tractor and electronic motors on all of the rows of the planter was about $54,000,” Kurt said. “We figure in certain parts of the field we can cut our seed costs in half and our investment will pay for itself in six years.”
Kurt is putting as little as 20,000 corn seeds in per acre and soybean populations get as low as 75,000.
“It wasn’t 10 years ago when we were putting on 210,000 to 220,000 seeds per acre for soybeans,” Kurt said. “In some places on the farm we saved up to half in fertilizer costs as well.”
Although Kurt Farms hasn’t gone as far as putting a fertilizer prescription by row on the planter, that is certainly something it is looking at down the road.
Bill and Shane Kellogg own and operate Kellogg Farms in Forest. The farm consists of 5,000 acres of corn and soybeans. The Kelloggs have committed 305 acres to the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network, where they have used strip tillage and subsurface placement practices as their part of the research efforts.
“We are applying about 40% less dry fertilizer in the strip than we would if we broadcast,” demonstration farmer Shane Kellogg said. “You are about 30 times more efficient because it is applied right where you’re planting.”
Fertilizer is one of the top input costs on most farms, so the reduction of 40% quickly adds to the operation’s bottom line.
The Kelloggs recently added a second strip till unit, which allows them to apply fertilizer in the fall instead of spring, which is usually the busiest time of year on the farm. Moving applications to later in the year was also beneficial for cover crops.
On the Stateler Farm, located in McComb, it’s a good old fashioned science experiment. The Statelers farm corn, soybeans and wheat on about 600 acres in Hancock County and also operate a 7,200 head wean to finish swine operation.
One of the most recent tests was on “paired-site” corn fields planted into cover crops. Both fields have edge-of-field monitoring units capturing water running off of the top of the field and coming off through the tiling system.
“This way we are able to do two different applications at the same time,” said demonstration farmer Duane Stateler. “We are trying to see if there is any difference and what difference there is between a summertime application of manure and what losses, if any, were through the tile versus the surface compared to an in-season application.”
The data will be collected throughout the year and results will be ready in 2021.
Sidedressing liquid swine manure into an already planted corn field is something new being tested by Ohio State University and early results are promising.
This past spring, the Statelers side dressed 6,000 gallons of liquid swine manure per acre, providing more than 200 units of nitrogen for the corn.
“That amount of manure is all that corn will need for the season and the P205 (phosphate) that they will be applying will be less than what a two-year corn and soybean rotation is going to use,” said Glen Arnold, field specialist with OSU Extension. “So they could put manure on this field every other year as a side dress to corn and still be running a deficit on phosphorus. Almost all livestock producers would like that situation.”
New video series
A new series on these practices in northwest Ohio is available on the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms YouTube page. The new video series also covers water quality research that is ongoing across the state, including in the Grand Lake St. Marys watershed in Mercer County. There, Stephen Jacquemin from Wright State University is researching saturated buffers, a new and innovative best management practice for water quality.
“Effectively, saturated buffers involve the capturing of a tile main draining the subsurface of a field,” Jacquemin said. “Instead of allowing that tile main to run unabated directly into an adjacent stream, the buffer allows the force of gravity to facilitate gradual percolation of that subsurface field runoff through the riparian along a nice gradient into the stream.”
Dr. Jacquemin said this new practice will help reduce the amount of volume actually leaving the field and going into a stream. The volume that does make it through the saturated buffer is processed through a whole host and variety of cool weather and warm season grasses and vegetation.
For a closer look at these new ideas being put to the test in northwest Ohio, watch a new series of videos, now available on Ohio Farm Bureau’s YouTube page.