Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finalists for the 2013 WI Soybean Yield Contest are Announced

The 2013 growing season proved to be a challenge for many growers.  Given these widespread challenges, we again experienced great interest in the 2013 WSA/WSMB Soybean Yield Contest.  The top two entries in each division (in no particular order) were:

Division 4: 
  • Mary Kay Booth, Cuba City (planted Asgrow AG2433)
  • Dean Booth, Cuba City (planted Asgrow AG2431)
Division 3:
  • Rick DeVoe, Monroe (planted Pioneer P28T33R)
  • Ron Ellis, Walworth (planted Dairyland DSR-2190/R2Y)  
  • *WI Bean Team (Adam Gaspar, David Marbuger, Ethan Smidt), Madison (planted Pioneer P28T33R) 
*The WI Bean Team is ineligible for official prizes as they are grad students of Dr. Conley; however their efforts are still unofficially recognized.  

Division 2:
  • Kennard Wagner, Manitowoc (planted Renk RS183NR2) 
  • Steve Stetzer, Melrose (planted Pioneer 91Y90) 
Division 1: 
  • Steven Kloos, Stratford (planted Pioneer 91Y30) 
  • Paul Graf, Sturgeon Bay (planted Pioneer 90Y90) 
The final ranking and awards will be presented at the 2014 Corn Soy Expo to be held at the Kalahari Convention Center, Wisconsin Dells on Thursday February 6th during the WSA/WSMB annual meeting.

The contest is sponsored by the WI Soybean Program and organized to encourage the development of new and innovative management practices and to show the importance of using sound cultural practices in WI soybean production.

For more information please contact Shawn Conley, WI State Soybean Specialist at 608-262-7975 or

Monday, October 7, 2013

Learn Not to Burn During This Busy Harvest Season!

The late September USDA crop report for Wisconsin shows that we are a bit behind average on harvested acres for corn and soybeans and well behind last year’s drought-induced early harvest.  So, October promises to be a bit rushed for many growers, and conditions appear to be relatively more dusty this fall.  Time will be critical, and it’s also crucial that you avoid a costly and potentially devastating combine fire!

A 2002 study showed that crop residue is the material most often first involved in a grain combine fire.  Our study of almost 9,000 fires also showed that more than 75% of fires start in the engine compartment, though they tend to often rapidly spread to other parts of the machine.  Fires become especially severe when fuel lines rupture from the heat or hydraulic hoses are compromised.  When tires become involved in a fire, the result is almost always a near total loss.

Based on what we know, the most critical information is to keep your engine compartment clean of all crop residue and any buildup of greasy/oily material.  Different machines have different “patterns” for crop residue buildup in the engine area.  This can even change a bit from year to year as a result of conditions (wind, relative humidity, and dustiness).  Take time to blow out or find other ways to remove any buildup of crop trash daily or as is needed.  All fires need an ignition source.  Often, exhaust components (turbochargers, manifolds, mufflers) are involved, but faulty bearings or malfunctioning electrical systems can also be the culprit.  

All grain combines need to be equipped with at least two 10-pound ABC dry chemical fire extinguishers.  Larger ones are even more preferable, though they are a little more clumsy to handle.  Avoid new “high tech” fire suppression liquids (that I often see being sold in spray cans at farm and machinery shows) unless they are tested and explicitly approved for dry, cellulosic-type material (crop residue) AND liquid fuels by Underwriter’s Laboratory.  The “ABC” compound means the extinguisher will work on Class A crop residue, Class B flammable liquids, and is non-conductive so it can be used on electrical components.

If you do experience a fire, pull away from the standing crop and shut the machine down.  Call for help.  Use your extinguisher(s) with great care and fight the fire by aiming at the base of the flames.  Again, the engine must be shut off or air movement will simply fan the fire and blow the extinguishing powder out.  Also, if you experience even a small fire that you are able to put out, correct the problem that caused it before you resume and make sure to contact your insurance company.  Harvest is the most dangerous time of the year. Be proactive and careful to protect your safety and your investment! 

Below Caption –
First Material to Catch Fire in 8,927 U.S. Grain Combine (Harvester) Fires

Below Caption –
Fire Origin Location for 8,927 U.S. Grain Combine (Harvester) Fires

Venem, M.T., W. Gilbert and J. Shutske. 2002. Combine Fire Prevention Summit. ASAE Paper No. 028017. St. Joseph, Mich.: ASAE.

Article from:

John M. Shutske, PhD
Associate Dean and Program Director
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension & Outreach
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Protect Your Health When It’s Dusty

Dusty combining conditions have been observed and reported during the last couple weeks of soybean (and corn) harvest in Wisconsin.  Combine operators are far better protected with modern cab air filtration and handling systems than in the past, but dusty conditions still present health concerns for some.

Outside of a combine’s cab, most research shows that dust concentrations are at least 20 mg/m3 though I would estimate that some of the conditions I’ve seen in the last week would have had concentrations at least two or three times that level.  Fortunately, a well-sealed cab and a quality air filter (filtering air coming into the cab) will reduce dust levels down to 0.5 to 1 mg/m3 which is much more comfortable and healthy for the operator.

Field dust from soybeans, corn, and other field crops is complex.  It consists of inorganic soil particles, organic plant pieces, mold spores, insect parts (and excreta), endotoxins, and bacteria.  Smaller dust particles can be breathed deep into the lungs and can cause damage.

Photo Credit:  Soybean Harvest by United Soybean Board
Attribution-NonCommercial License
Respiratory illness from grain and other agricultural dust exposure is well-known to physicians in rural areas and can include severe allergic reactions and a reaction known as “organic dust toxic syndrome” (or ODTS).  Nearly everyone exposed to a day’s worth of dusty conditions will report some range of symptoms such as a runny nose, mild sore throat, coughing, and general feelings of tightness or feeling stuffed-up.  Some people develop different forms of bronchitis and dusty conditions can be debilitating for people with asthma.

Here are a few important things you can do to protect your health while operating a combine:
  •  Make sure you have the correct air filter in place and that it’s clean and properly installed.  Several manufacturers sell heavy duty filters which are more efficient and will filter out a larger fraction of small particles.  These are more expensive, but may be worth it if you have sensitivity to dust.
  • When installing/cleaning your air filter, make sure gaskets are snug and in place. If you pull a filter out to clean it, make sure not to damage it (such as using too high of a compressed air pressure).  Likewise, make sure your cab door latches firmly and that all rubber gaskets around windows and doors are in good shape.  Keep the inside of the cab as clean as possible so you’re not blowing dust around your operating space. 
  •  Even if you’re not driving the combine, do as much as possible to avoid clouds of dust.  If you’re driving a truck or tractor/wagon combination, take the same precautions making sure to have windows shut and the fan on to create positive pressure to keep dust out. 
  •  If you feel the effects of dust exposure and symptoms do not go away a day or two after exposure OR if they become worse (coughing, difficulty breathing, increasing amounts of phlegm, etc.) make sure to see a doctor or other qualified health professional.  Realize that people can become more and more sensitive with repeated exposures to grain dust, so it’s wise to take steps to protect yourself.  
Article from:

John M. Shutske, PhD
Associate Dean and Program Director
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension & Outreach
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall is Still a Good Time to Sample for SCN and Other Plant Parasitic Nematodes

The WI Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB) sponsors free nematode testing to help producers stay ahead of the most important nematode pest of soybean, the soybean cyst nematode (SCN). Eggs of SCN persist in the soil between soybean crops so a sample can be submitted any time that is convenient. The soil test report indicates the number of eggs in the sample and is useful for selecting the right variety for the next soybean crop. Retests of fields planted with SCN-resistant varieties over multiple years shows how the nematode population is responding to variety resistance and provides an early warning should the nematode population adapt to host genetics.

In the spring of 2012, the WSMB expanded the nematode testing program to include other pest nematodes in addition to SCN. These nematodes are less damaging to soybean than SCN but can cause enough yield loss to warrant treatment. As is the case for SCN, there are no rescue treatments for nematodes so the primary purpose of this year’s soil test is to plan for next year’s crop. Soil samples collected in corn for nematode analysis have predictive value for explaining yield if they are collected before the corn V6 growth stage. Sampling early in the season will provide information about the risk potential for the current corn crop AND the next soybean crop.

The assays used to recover nematode pests other than SCN in soil require that the nematodes are alive. So, it is important to keep the samples moist and at least room temperature cool. Collecting a sample that includes multiple cores ensures that there will be plenty of root pieces to assay. It is not necessary to include live plants in the sample. The soil test report will indicate which pest nematodes are present and at what quantities and their damage potential to soybean and corn based on the numbers recovered. 

Free soil sample test kits are available now and can be requested from Jillene Fisch at ( or at 608-262-1390.

For more information on SCN testing and management practices to help reduce the losses from this pest, please contact: Shawn Conley:; 608-262-7975 or visit

Remember the first step in fixing a nematode problem is to know if you have one! The WSMB sponsored nematode testing program provides you that opportunity.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Harvest Considerations for Variable Soybean Maturity

Variable soil types, knolls, and drought have left some growers with extreme in-field variability of soybean maturity.   There are areas in fields where the soybean seed is 13% or less moisture adjacent to areas with green seed.  The prevailing question is “When should the grower harvest?” Obviously there is no simple answer, as each field is different. However here are a set of guidelines to consider:
1.    The easiest answer is harvest the field at two different times. Take what is dry today and come back in two weeks and harvest the rest. The challenge with this approach is that today’s equipment is large and not easily moved from field to field. Furthermore many growers rent or own land over large areas where this is impractical and the whole field must be taken at once. So……
2.     The next simple answer is wait until the whole field is ready to go. As noted in our article Drought Induced Shatter, we are seeing areas across the Midwest where shattering is occurring. The general rule of thumb is 4 seeds per square foot = one bushel yield loss. At local cash prices surpassing $13.00 per bushel this is hard to see happen and not harvest. Furthermore, waiting will also lead to moisture loss in the field. As we learned last year, you do not get compensated for harvesting below 13% moisture. So…..
3.     If growers are concerned with shatter and/or other harvest losses the next logical approach is harvest ASAP. This opens a whole new can of worms. Harvesting ASAP will lead to a mixture of dry, wet, and immature (green) soybean seed. Be aware that if you harvest this mixture regardless of the ratio, your combine moisture sensor may not detect the correct moisture, be prepared for that initial shock when the elevator tests the grain. Next be prepared for the dockage. Most combines will leave more beans in the pod when they are wet or immature.   These beans may end up on the ground or in the grain tank as unthreshed soybeans. Harvesting seed with this variability will be very similar to handling frosted soybean seed so discounts may occur due to moisture shrink, damage (green beans are considered damage), foreign material (this is usually higher when harvesting wet beans), test weight, and heating. If you choose on farm storage to address some of the dockage concerns please refer to Soybean Drying and Storage for questions.  

4.  The last consideration I would bring forward is that the mature areas are likely going to be the low yielding pockets due to drought whereas the yet to mature areas will likely be the higher yielding areas within the field. So, in short, which yield envirnoment would you rather focus your time and efforts to protect?  

      The question ultimately comes down to the bottom line and where you make the most $$$. If shatter is not occurring and you have good equipment that does not incur significant harvest loss, will harvesting grain that is over-dry make you more money than harvesting seed that may incur significant dockage? My guess is yes but you tell me!
Image 1. Variable Maturity (M. Rankin)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Planting winter wheat into dry soil

Dry soil conditions have sparked many questions from growers on how best to establish their winter wheat crop. As we were reminded last year and this there is no substitute for rain (unless you have irrigation), however here are a few ideas to consider to mitigate your risk.
  • Conserve soil moisture. If possible no-till your winter wheat. If this is not possible due to equipment limitations, limit your tillage passes across the field. 
  • Increase your seeding depth (e.g. plant to moisture). As stated in the Top 7 Recommendations for winter Wheat Establishment: Wheat should be planted ~1.0 inch deep depending upon soil moisture conditions. Wheat planted more than 1.5 inches deep may result in death due to pre-mature leaf opening or poor tiller development and winter survival. 
    • As a grower there is little you can due to prevent pre-mature leaf opening. This phenomenon is rare unless seeded extremely deep and compaction also occurs. 
    • You can increase tiller development or effective head number by increasing your seeding rate. 
    • I do not have yield loss or winter kill data implicitly from seeding depth experiments however deep seeding will delay emergence which may be similar to delayed planting. Data from our 2009 Lancaster and Arlington WI planting date experiments show that yield and winter survival decreased as planting date was delayed (Table 1.).
    • Deeper planting may expose germinating and emerging wheat seed to greater potential for herbicide carryover. However if you explicitly followed the herbicide label restrictions for rotational crops you have a basis to contact the company if problems occur. Remember the label is the law.   
Table 1. Planting date effect on grain yield and winter survival at Lancaster and Arlington WI, 2009.
Lancaster, WI
Planting date Grain yield (bu/a) Winter survival (%)
17-Sep 74.9 88.5
30-Sep 68.3 70.0
13-Oct 54.2 58.0
Arlington, WI
Planting date Grain yield (bu/a) Winter survival (%)
18-Sep 101.9 83.8
1-Oct 93.3 55.3
17-Oct 73.9 30.
  • Remember to use a fungicide seed treatment. Even though you are planting into dry soil and the overall pathogen load may be lessened, you are planting deeper and delaying emergence especially as soil temps continue to decrease. 
  • Remember your crop insurance and planting date restrictions. In a spring seeded crop we would often say wait until it rains to establish the crop however we have a short window to get the crop established and still get your full crop insurance coverage. Please talk to your crop insurance agent for specific dates for your county.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Odds My Soybean Crop Will Mature Before A Killing Frost Hits

The Wisconsin soybean crop is slowly starting to mature, however many growers and crop consultants are still concerned about the risk of frost damage to late planted fields.  In soybean an extended period (several hours) of temperatures 28 degrees F or lower is required to completely kill a soybean plant, though temperatures 32 degrees or less can still damage top growth. Those growers considering the state of their soybean crop and wondering the odds of making it to maturity before significant yield loss occurs must first correctly identify the soybean growth stage

Once the crop growth stage has been determined we can estimate the number of days it will take for your field to reach R7 or physiological maturity.  Across our Arlington and Hancock field sites it has taken 5-8 days to go from R3 to R4, 7-8 days to go from R4 to R5, 10-14 days from R5 to R6 and 14 days from R6 to R7. Note: we have seen crop development expedited the past few weeks due to heat and drought conditions. Next using the three figures below that show the 10th percentile, median, and 90th percentile date when you can expect a freeze event you can estimate the risk of a frost based on your crop growth stage.

For example: If you lived in SW Marathon county there is a 10% chance that a freeze event would have occurred prior to September 11-20, a 50/50 chance that a freeze event would occur prior to September 21-30, and a 90% chance a freeze event would have occurred prior to October 1-10. So if your soybean crop just entered the R5 crop growth stage today 9/7/13 there is a greater than a 50/50 chance that crop won't make grain based on historical weather data.

Lastly if you are concerned about a freeze event please refer to Table 1 below that provides yield loss estimates of freeze damage by crop crop stage. This may help you decide whether you should risk taking the late planted soybean field as a grain crop or would that field be more valuable as a forage or green manure?

Table 1. Soybean Response to Freeze Damage
Growth Stage
Yield Reduction
R4 - Full pod
R5 - Beginning seed
R6 - Full seed
R7 - Beginning maturity
R8 - Full maturity
Source: Saliba et. at. Kansas State University, 1982

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Late Planted Drought Stricken Soybean II: More Valuable as a Forage or Green Manure?

Now that we have checked the label and determined we can legally harvest our soybean crop as a forage now lets consider the calendar for our full suite of options. The average number of days it will take from R6 (full seed) to R7 (beginning maturity) soybean is 15-18 days. If you are in R6 now look at your historic killing frost date and extended weather forecast. If the odds are in your favor roll the dice and cut the beans for grain. If you are not at R6 yet or there is a strong chance of a killing frost in your extended forecast prior to R7 lets realistically consider our options for best utilizing this standing soybean crop.

Option # 1: Soybean haylage considerations
  • What is my realistic tonnage expectations?
    • Late planted drought stricken soybean will yield ~1 to 2 tons of dry matter per acre.
  • What is it going to cost me to harvest and put this crop up?
      • Mowing ($11.45 per hour)
      • Swathing ($13.50 per hour)
      • Haylage (chopping/hour/ ft head width; $12.71)
      • Hauling ($ not listed))
      • Fill silage bags ($10.15 per foot of bag)
  • How should I price this crop?
    • Soybean silage pricing will fall between good quality hay ($233.10 per ton) and poor quality hay ($112.50 per ton); personal communications from P. Hoffman and R Shaver.  Source: FeedVal 2012 predicted dairy feed prices and rankings for August 2013. V.E. Cabrera, P. Hoffman, and R. Shaver.
    • If you were to price the soybean forage based on expected grain yield (assuming the crop would mature) and CBOT then realistic yield levels would range from 12 - 18 bu per acre at $14.35 per bu. Expected forage value range would be $172.20 to $258.30 per acre. 
Option #2: Green manure considerations
  • I am tired of throwing money at this crop..........
    • Though you will save on harvest costs the average cost of a plow down disk operation is $16.05 per acre.
  • How much will I save on next years fertilizer bill?
    • By not harvesting the crop you will not remove the 30# P and 85# K (estimated removal rates of P2O5 and K2O for 15-25 bu per acre soybean grain and straw (A2809)).
    • You may contribute 20-40 pounds of N to next years corn or wheat crop. 
  • I need the feed so this is not an option (please refer back to option #1 above).
Neither of these prove to be particularly attractive options. However I would encourage growers, crop consultants, and nutritionists to weigh the true economical value of each option carefully before proceeding.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Late Planted Drought Stricken Soybean as a Forage?...Check the Label First

Severe alfalfa winterkill coupled with late soybean plantings followed by dry conditions have growers considering chopping their soybean as a forage. Before you even consider this option make sure you check the label of the pesticides applied to the crop before you grease the chopper.
  • Let's start with the herbicides first. In short, outside of glyphosate (14 to 25 day, depending upon timing/use) and a handful of pre's and posts (please refer to Table 3-3 in A3646, Pest Management is WI Field Crops) most soybean herbicides are listed as "not permitted" for forage use. 
  • Next, many common insecticides used for soybean aphid management implicitly state "Do NOT graze or feed treated forage or straw to livestock" (please refer to Table 3-8 in A3646, Pest Management is WI Field Crops) . 
  • Lastly, fungicide labels are as equally exclusive with pre-harvest intervals ranging from 14 days to "Do NOT graze or feed soybean forage or hay" (please refer to Table 3-12 in A3646, Pest Management is WI Field Crops) .

If you somehow pass the gauntlet of "Do not" or "Not Permitted" and the forage value is greater than the grain value then the highest protein and yields are obtained from soybean harvested at the R6 to R7 growth stage. Harvesting soybeans for forage between the R1 and R5 stage will result in a very high quality silage, but dry matter yields will be reduced significantly. Forage quality will be reduced from R5 soybean forward if a conditioning process is used during harvest as conditioning will cause significant seed shattering. For additional information please refer to Soybeans for Hay or Silage.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Have These Recent Cool Temperatures Impacted My 2013 Soybean Crop...In Short Not Yet

Delayed soybean plantings coupled with unseasonably cool temperatures in late July and early August have many growers and crop consultants concerned over the stage and state of the WI soybean crop. Though NASS reports March 1 to August 3 GDU accumulation (base 50 F) to be normal, developmentally the early planted WI soybean crop is tracking ~7 days behind normal. At Arlington WI our early planted High Yield Study is just entering the R5 crop growth stage (seed is 1/8 inch long in the pod at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed trifoliolate leaf node).
Image 1. Fourth node pod and bean of R5 plant. Image courtesy of D. Marburger.

Though cool temperatures can reduce photosynthesis and crop growth rate (Table 1), they also extend the number of days in a specific growth stage which allows total dry matter (TDM) to equilibrate thus limiting potential yield loss in early reproductive stages (Board and Kahlon; Seddigh and Jolliff, 1984 a,b).  However if cool conditions (< 50 F) due continue through seedfill or an early frost appears then significant yield loss can occur due to reduced seed size and/or number (Board and Kahlon) (Table 1). In short we are ok to date we just need average temps moving forward and no early frost to finish this crop off.
Table 1. Summary of cold stress effects on soybean physiology, growth, and yield componets. Taken from: Board and Kahlon.

Literature cited:
J.E. Board and C.S. Kahlon. Soybean Yield Formation. What Control it and How it Can be Improved. In Soybean Physiology and Biochemistry.

Seddigh, M. and Jolliff, G.D. (1984a). Night temperature effects on morphology, phenology, yield and yield components of indeterminate field-grown soybean. Agron J. 76: 824-828. 

Seddigh, M. and Jolliff, G.D. (1984b). Effects of night temperature on dry matter partitioning and seed growth of indeterminate field-grown soybean. Crop Sci. 24: 704-710. 

USDA NASS. Wisconsin Crop Progress. Vol 13. Number 18.