Five things you should know about the latest agriculture report

Ned Birkey

Ohio State’s Jim Noel says the theme will be an active next 20-days of mostly wet weather. The MSU Enviroweather station at Applewood Orchards is currently down and won’t be up and running for perhaps another month. A new Spectrum Technologies automated weather station was purchased from a 2022 grant by the Monroe County Farm Bureau and the Insurance Agent Charitable Fund. It will be up and running at the MCCC Student Ag Farm this Spring. La Niňa is expected to end so a late freeze is not likely this spring. Jim even ventured a summer growing season outlook of warmer than normal temperatures, with uncertainty about rainfall patterns. The National Weather Service website is and is an easy and “go to” reference site.The warm temperatures may have caused some early green-up of soft red winter wheat. With more winter and odds for a frost and freeze yet, any seasonally cold temperatures are not normally a major concern to very small (or even larger) wheat plants.The idea of spending money in 2023, with a tighter farm budget, to put nitrogen on soybeans makes great farm press and coffee shop talk! But this is a waste of time and money unless you are trying to beat Don Stall’s Michigan yield record of 124.75 bushels per acre for a late group two non-irrigated yield, or his 118.91 late group two irrigated yield. In 14 years of running the Michigan soybean yield contest, I can say that the top yielding farmers have all the basics covered and only then try something new. The basics include an average seeding rate of 161,800 seeds per acre, 15-inch rows, a late April planting date, complete seed treatment, including inoculant, a current soil test, Soybean cyst nematode soil test, crop rotation, etc. Of course, details and specifics vary according to the field and weather.Friday, March 17 will be one last Spring training and review class for farmers and commercial pesticide applicators in Monroe County and the surrounding area. Planned topics include groundwater flow model, tractor and sprayer calibration, nozzle spray table demonstration, and Michigan State Police suggestions for safe and legal semi tractors and trailers outfitted with water tanks, pesticides and fertilizers on board. The class will be inside and outside at MCCC’s Technology Building. Registration is through MCCC by calling 734-384-4229 and paying a $35 registration fee, which includes coffee and rolls and lunch.Which is better, gardening in the ground, using raised beds or container gardening? Most traditional gardens consist of a simple in-ground garden bed, in which the soil has been tilled and plants are grown directly in the ground. This is usually the cheapest method, but the type of soil, drainage, fertility, rodents, varmints or other pests may cause problems. Now that MSU has decided to close their Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory after more than 100 years, it is not clear how and where homeowners should take soil samples. In any case, small, cheap soil testing kits are not recommended as being accurate or reliable.Raised beds may be easier for the home gardener to plant, work and harvest. A raised bed can be of any convenient height above the ground and a better soil can be “made” by mixing in organic material such as shredded leaves, manure, compost and/or mulch. This method is more expensive to make the raised bed and add the soil material and can be relatively permanent, so careful planning on the location is important.Container gardening can be great for small urban settings, perhaps with one container each for a particular fruit or vegetable. They can be moved if necessary and can introduce gardening to children and otherwise provide control over growing conditions by the home gardener. Any type of container, wooden barrels, even a framed straw bale can be used with some modifications for drainage and soil amendments. Hanging baskets or burlap bags are examples of a container for herbs, flowers, cherry tomatoes or strawberries. A window box is another example, often used for flowers or herbs.