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DECATUR, Ill. — Soybean and cover crop plots made their debut at this year’s Farm Progress Show presented by the Illinois Soybean Association.
Abigail Peterson, Director of Agronomy at Illinois Soybean Association (Photo – Tom C. Doran, AgriNews)
“It’s a fresh start right out of sod,” said Abigail Peterson, ISA’s director of agronomy and a certified crop adviser.
The plots featured all soybeans this year, but in the future, the plots will be rotated with wheat and corn. The plots featured five components this year — integrated pest management, soil science, weed science, soybean cyst nematode and cover crops.
The cover crop plots were all planted 30 days before the show to give an example of how much they might grow after harvest. Growers were encouraged to walk the cover crop plots to see different varieties of cover crops in action and learn how to implement cover crop management in fields
In one soybean plot where no chemicals were added to help soybeans with stress, there is noticeable insect damage with Japanese beetle among the culprits. It gives way to a discussion on scouting. Handouts include a defoliation reference guide.
“We started with just soybeans this year and in the following years we’ll have additional cropping systems using strip-tillage and different types of cover crop management. We’re going to be trying some new things out here,” Peterson said.
“It’s small enough. It’s not for research for statistical analysis. It’s for demonstration.
“We’ve asked for a lot of feedback from farmers about what they want to see, what are they having challenges with.
“I’ve had farmers stop by the plots from western Illinois talking about their crown rot, and interest from farmers who are flat, black and beautiful Illinois soil asking about how to get cover crops into those systems. Herbicide packages into what soybean variety you have is always a question I get. There are endless possibilities.”
ISA staff members who specialize in plant pathology, soil science and agronomy were on hand each day of the show to answer questions.
A unique feature of ISA’s field display were the side-by-side comparisons of cover crop species used in Illinois, including oats, winter barley, cereal rye, triticale, and annual rye.
“These are all just grasses. You don’t think too much of them in terms of diversity, but annual rye versus cereal rye can have very different tactics for management, especially when it comes to termination,” Peterson noted.
“Triticale versus winter barley are what I’ve talked to farmers about regarding how to incorporate grasses when you have more of that mindset of how to manage it before corn, and then oats winter-kill. So, these are all are managed differently but they’re all grasses.”
The cover crop plots also included winter peas, camelina, hairy vetch, clovers, as well as brassicas and turnips.
“The plot shows a variety of cover crop species that farmers can select. Farmers are able to look at the options, ask questions, get some more information on what types of challenges or successes we’ve seen throughout the state as we as agronomists have worked with crop consultants, advisers, retailers and farmers to learn how to incorporate cover crops into the system,” Peterson explained.
“It’s not as easy as it looks, but when you find a system that works for you, it can be quite successful in all of those areas that we talk about — soil health, water infiltration, water-holding capacity — creating more of a balanced system to work for you. It has worked, and so we’re really to work with farmers on these management tactics.
“This will be here next year when the Farm Progress Show isn’t in Decatur and we’ll host a field day. We want to incorporate more management tactics in the main plots that are here,” she said.
“There’s a lot of interest in wheat moving up north into this state. Can double-crop soybeans work into that? Economic-wise it’s been very profitable. So, there are different management tactics we can do to adopt that further into the state. Just a lot of diversity can add a lot of value soil-health wise.”
ISA’s new Farm Progress Show plots are part of the group’s efforts to provide information for farmers.
“At ISA, along with market development and government policy is production, and part of production is our agronomy team. We have a team of eight and with agronomists on the team, we’re really focused on providing a lot of information for farmers to learn how to grow the best soybeans,” Peterson noted.
“We know how to grow soybeans, but how do we challenge ourselves to increase with different ideas toward better management? That includes not only looking at the challenges for weed control and scouting for pests, insects, diseases, but also weed control for non-GMO soybeans or weed control just for waterhemp and some common ones we have out there, looking at different residuals.
“Early-planted soybeans are now a popular trend. What herbicides do we need to incorporate in an earlier-planted soybean?
“Then, on the flip-side, scouting. Red crown rot has been of interest this year as well as our normal sudden death syndrome, white mold, there are all of these different agronomic tactics we can use.
“We also do a lot of research with the universities in the state — WIU, U of I, and SIU — as well as continuing to partner with community colleges, to learn better tactics to combat these diseases and insect issues.
“The purpose of the plot is to highlight what research we have going on. This is practical on-farm research that we want to expand.
“So, as an initiative of our team, we have farmers signing up for trials they can participate with us on. Also, participate in learning about our events that we have going on.
“We do a lot of outreach, whether that be on a tailgate or formally at our big Soybean Summit that we’ll have in Champaign next year in February. There are a lot of exciting things going on to learn from what the checkoff is doing, how it can work for you, how you can be involved,” she said. “We want farmers to get reliable information that is relevant.”