1. If we could plan out the 2024 planting season, we are hoping for more moisture, but want to have a decent window to get the crop in. If we are faced with extremely dry soils, more planter downforce (correct gauge wheel pressure) may not be the best option. It will be more important than ever to take Kelly Robertson’s advice and G.O.A.L. (Get Out and Look) within the field and throughout multiple fields because of soil moisture, during and after planting. The key is to keep the row unit in the soil, maintain ground contact and seeding depth, as well as getting that row closed!
  2. With many cover crop incentive programs, there are many “newbies” trying their hand at cover cropping for the first time. Many are evaluating cover crop stands and wondering what could have gone wrong. Some things to consider are herbicide carry-over concerns, inferior seed, poor soil to seed contact as well as timing and/or seeding rate at planting. More success could come with earlier planting, but if you are faced with a later seeding, you may want to consider a higher seeding rate. For more details, be sure to read this article – Troubleshoot poor cover crop stands. Also, check out an Illinois Soybean Association funded study led by Nathan Johanning about cover crop planting dates in Illinois row crop production.
  3. If you do have a cover crop and it remains extremely dry or wet, you may want to be flexible with your termination timing. The planter will also need to be properly adjusted in high residue crops depending upon cover crop species, mix, planting date or rate. Roller crimpers and row cleaners can be tailored to your operation to help to cut and keep the row clean. Evaluate and never run the same planter down pressure so that we can create the best seed furrow that we can for yield potential. Check out this article – A Look at Planter Adjustments for Planting into Cover Crops.
  4. With a much warmer February and March comes a lot of winter annual, biennial, and perennial weeds that started growing much earlier than usual. It will be critical to start clean and treat as soon as it is dry, sunny, and warm (>40F) before they bolt or flower for effective and consistent herbicide control. There are several options of burndown to consider as well as the decision to include a residual. The key is to have the correct carrier, volume, and nozzle type. Always check planting or grazing restrictions. An earlier burndown means that your next herbicide application will need to be earlier as well. More information can be found at Weeds took Advantage of a Mild Winter.
  5. Don’t forget to do stand counts to determine replant due to weather, hail, frost, pests and disease, or planter error. If it remains cool and wet, soybean PRE herbicide injury due to a residual could be a concern, but if it remains dry in some areas, corn anhydrous burn could be a concern, especially with spring applied anhydrous.
  6. Herbicide carry over could be a concern with drought during last year’s growing season and less rain going into early in this season. If an herbicide applied last season to corn is persistent in the soil such as a Group 27 or HPPD, you may want to watch out for herbicide carry over, especially if it was applied late or if it was in both the PRE and POST applications. If soils are dry and cool or lower in organic matter, there can be less microbial degradation of the herbicide. Herbicide carry-over can also be more prevalent in double up applications on end rows.
  7. No matter what the weather, we know all too well that diseases are always inevitable. However, some diseases like gray leaf spot or northern corn leaf blight in corn and frogeye leafspot can take advantage of warmer fall and spring by producing more inoculum in soil or residue. A warm winter means the survival of the flea beetle which can be a vector of Stewart’s wilt in corn. However, in the case of all these diseases, a susceptible hybrid or variety is needed with the right conditions to have a problem. Thus far, we have had pretty good resistance to Stewart’s wilt in corn, but believe it or not, it has still shown up.
  8. Spring indicators are the earliest on record, which means that insects (both good and bad) are showing around 20 days or so earlier. Just because we had a mild winter, doesn’t mean that we will automatically have more insects. Those early insects could use up stored fat reserves and starve or get zapped by frost after breaking diapause. Insects may be affected more by temperature swings (below freezing to >50F). To attempt to make some insect predictions, we need to focus on the spring weather and not that of the previous winter. Remember that some insects overwinter above or below ground. Those insects below ground (like corn rootworm eggs) can be insulated, especially if there is a layer of snow, but corn rootworm larvae mortality may come due to a wet May or June. The soybean aphid may be more likely to survive a mild winter, but more beneficial insects present may help to keep their populations down. A mild winter might mean more bean leaf beetles and Japanese beetles if the frost layer is shallow. To learn more, go to these articles – What does this Warm Winter Mean for Insects? and What does a record-warm winter mean for 2024 insect forecasts?
  9. We are always concerned with killing waterhemp in our field and this is how to stay ahead of weeds in 2024. Be aware that some herbicide premixes provide less than the full labeled rate of each active ingredient. If you plant earlier, the post herbicide application may need to come earlier before waterhemp reaches a height of 4 inches. With a POST application, the timing, carrier volume, adjuvant, nozzle choice, water conditioning, and pH maintenance are critical to killing waterhemp. You might consider adding a residual like a (Group 15) with your POST herbicide application. Lastly, don’t forget to scout to make sure waterhemp has died. If not, it may be time to explore some non-chemical control options.
  10. The herbicide label is the law. Always read and follow herbicide labels (and follow your state’s Dicamba guidelines). There will continue to be more scrutiny regarding pesticides and courts can continue to abruptly cancel pesticides. It can take up to 12 years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review pesticides under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Do your homework to understand the EPA’s herbicide strategy and ESA, which was developed to protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats, and its impact on pesticide regulation. This will change how we apply pesticides in the future.

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About the Author: Stephanie Porter

As Outreach Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Stephanie supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to Illinois 43,000 soybean farmers. She also helps lead the demonstration and adoption of conservation agriculture practices and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Stephanie has 23 years of experience that consists of agronomy, conservation, horticulture, plant diagnostics, and education. She has her bachelor’s in crop science and master’s in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Stephanie is a Certified Crop Advisor and was named the 2018 Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Master Soybean Advisor. She also has experience with corn and soybean pathology research, crop scouting, soil testing, as well as crop consulting. Previously, she utilized her diagnostic training and collaborated with University of Illinois departmental Extension Specialists to diagnose plant health problems and prepare written responses describing the diagnosis and management recommendations as the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.

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