Michigan agriculture report

Ned Birkey

EAST LANSING, MI. — Good news for fall grain and late gardens is that moderate temperatures are forecast to continue in early November. Bad news is a continued drier pattern, although Eric Snodgrass says that late fall weather tends to be more unsettled.

The Mississippi River “highway” system

Why do we care about the Mississippi River system? It drains 42% of the lower 48 states and 60% of all grain is exported from ports out through the Gulf of Mexico, through the Panama Canal to Asia. One barge (of grain) equals 16 railroad cars or 62 semi-trucks, so moving goods by water is by far the cheapest and most efficient method. If the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, Arkansas, Red and Illinois river water levels are too low, shipping is severely affected, both downstream and upstream. Oil, gas, fertilizer, coal, chemicals, sand and gravel, salt, and cement are some of the commodities that move upstream. Grain from our area is shipped by boat through the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway to Rotterdam, North Africa or the Middle East. By rail grain goes to the southeast U.S. to feed the poultry or hog industries or to ports in Baltimore or elsewhere on the east coast. Ohio, Indiana, Michigan soybeans are sent to southeast Asia for tofu as they like our larger size seed with a clear hilum.

Drones in agriculture

Drones are now used in agriculture for crop scouting, spraying, field mapping, stand counts or other in field recommendations, all offline at the field’s edge or offsite. Four years ago, I worked with BASF on a high yielding wheat project that included farms in our area and who hired a company based in Chicago to send drones to these fields during the growing season. Tuesday, November 10 the Monroe County Business Development Corporation will sponsor a 2022 focus on the future meeting at the Monroe County Community College. The keynote speaker will talk about drone usage and success in agriculture and other uses in the community. Interested people can register at  

The “hidden yield robber”  

Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is the most damaging pest of soybeans in Monroe County, Michigan and the Midwest. One local farmer saw his soybean yield dwindle down to eight bushels per acre before he decided he better do something about it! However, even some of the winners of the Michigan soybean yield contest had soybean cyst nematode in their contest field but managed this pest successfully. Soybean cyst nematode is a microscopic roundworm that penetrates the cell walls of soybean roots and disrupts the flow of nutrients up to the plant. It can particularly devastating in a year with hot and dry weather such as we have had this summer. The first step for farmers is to test their soil for soybean cyst nematode and can send up to 20 field samples free of charge to the MSU Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic, paid for with their soybean checkoff dollars.  Farmers can go the Michigan Soybean Committee website to download the form and instructions.  

NEW pesticide applicator credit report

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced on September 12 that Michigan private and commercial pesticide applicators can now look up the number of recertification credits they have on their credential. The website is Access to this database will be very convenient to pesticide applicators who need to know their credit status. Private pesticide applicators (farmers) need 16 credits to renew their current certification within three years.  Commercial applicators need eight credits in the core category and eight credits in each commercial category for which they are currently certified. The credits renewal process does not apply to persons wishing to become certified for the first time or who wish to add a new category.  Questions can be directed to Lisa Graves at MDARD at 800-292-3939.

Winter meeting update for Great Lakes crop summit

Registration is now open for the Great Lakes crop summit annual convention and trade show which will be held January 25 through January 26, 2023, at the Soaring Eagle Resort in Mt. Pleasant. Sponsored by the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan, the Michigan Soybean Committee and the Michigan Wheat Program, the registration cost is $150. For more information, go to This event started in 2013 and has sold out for the past several years.