Wheat diagnostic testing is free of charge

Ned Birkey

The cool and wet start to the growing season has one benefit of slow insect development as insects are cold blooded. Now that May is here, farmers and gardeners should ignore minimum soil temperatures and plant according to other factors such as soil condition, plant tolerance to low temperatures, etc. The MSU Enviroweather station at Applewood Orchards at Deerfield is reporting (corn) degree day totals for 2023, from March 1 to April 20, at 195 GDD (base 50 degrees Fahrenheit) as compared to 180 GDD of last year, and the six-year average of 180.6 GDD.Corn requires about 100 to 120 GDD to emerge, which means that both air and soil temperatures have a large influence on corn emergence timing from the soil. An interesting project is to flag emerging corn seedlings and see the timing of plants in a row or adjacent rows. Former corn world recordholder, Francis Childs, at a meeting at Cabela’s years ago, said he wanted corn plants to come up like “soldiers in a row,” meaning all uniform and all germinating within 18 hours. A “runt” plant is like a runt pig, which seem to never catch up to the other plants/pigs.New corn yield contest category of nitrogen management will begin this year as a part of the National Corn Growers annual yield contest. This pilot category is open to the first 100 entries from the Midwest states including Michigan and Ohio. Essentially no more than 180 pounds of actual nitrogen can be applied and subject to details about any nitrogen applied to a previous crop and the source of nitrogen, including manures, compost and synthetic and biological sources. Right now, I anticipate having a nitrogen rate study at the MCCC Student Ag Farm this year and hopefully an August field day.Wheat diagnostic testing is free of charge thanks to the Michigan Wheat Program. This annual benefit is designed to help wheat farmers identify the cause of problems and get a diagnosis from the Michigan State University’s Plant Diagnostic Laboratory (which was not shut down like the Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab). The lab will diagnose general crop health, culture fungal and bacterial pathogens, test for viruses, analyze for nematodes and detect and identify insect pests. For more information, forms and instructions, visit such as bean leaf beetles, grubs, wireworm, seedcorn maggots and alfalfa weevils have had to bide their time until temperatures warm up. Now that May is here and warmer temperatures are forecast, we can expect hungry insect feeding, depending upon the food source. Many insects are not crop specific but will feed upon numerous plants available. Remember that most insects are considered beneficial insects so farmers and homeowners should not treat all insects as the “bad guys.” The Asian lady beetle, even though they bite and are a nuisance in the house over the winter, is a beneficial insect as they feed upon aphids. Some soil insects, such as wireworm, can be found on the southern slopes of light colored, sandy soils, which warm up quicker than darker and heavier soils.Earth Day and Arbor Day reminded everyone living in southeast Michigan of the fragility of our planet and the soil, water and air. However, one thing few people think about, and an “elephant in the room” is the karst geology in Monroe County and southeast Michigan. Think of the videos of a sinkhole swallowing a house in Florida or the Corvettes in a sinkhole in Bowling Green, Kentucky and realize that we have the same bedrock geology as those areas. In nearby Ontario, people died and others went to jail because of contamination of the groundwater. Hundreds of people got sick in Put-in-Bay several years ago due to contamination of the drinking water due to karst. Thank goodness we have never had such a disaster as these, though we have had some incidents and a close call about 15 years ago on U.S. 23 near “Big Sink.” Sinkholes run from southwest to northeast in Monroe County, while artesian wells and springs run from northwest to southeast Monroe County. The most noteworthy are “Big Sink” in Whiteford Township and “Great Sulfur Spring” in Erie Township, although there are documented locations of either found in Bedford, Ida, LaSalle, Summerfield, Dundee, Raisinville, Monroe, Milan and Berlin townships that I can think of offhand. Sinkholes also extend partly into Lenawee, Lucas, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.