S6:E2 Agronomy Tech Toolbox with Jeff Nagel

Mar 29, 2023


Show Notes 

Farming is a high tech business. Jeff Nagel, Agronomist with Ceres Solutions, walks us through how growers can best leverage the technology that is available today, and shares some of the exciting things that are coming in the near future. Jeff highlights how technology helps us manage one of our most expensive input costs, fertilizer. 

The foundation of farming is fertility. For years growers have been pulling soil samples to best understand what is available in the soil. With 34 years of experience in agronomy, Jeff has been able to watch this segment of crop management evolve. The biggest change Jeff has seen here is around intensive sampling. It's more than just testing soil, Ceres focuses on consistency of depth, using robotics to ensure every sample is a quality sample.  

In addition to managing pH, Phosphorus, and Potassium, Jeff works closely with growers to manage their nitrogen. Keeping nitrogen in the ammonium form helps reduce nitrogen loss, ensuring more is available when the plants need them later in the growing season.  

“One of the things we are learning is having end-of season-nitrogen is important. Kernel weight is where we're gaining our bushels. We know that late season nitrogen and plant health are big contributors to yield” started Jeff. “So we’re going to spend money on Nitrogen- what do we do to get the most out of it? We try to mitigate nitrogen loss. You do that through nitrogen source selection, timing, and then there are stabilizers.” 

When it comes to Nitrogen stabilizers, Ceres Solutions has made a transition to Centuro. It is a per-ton basis on treatment, rather than the more traditional acre-based treatments. It allows stabilizing nitrogen more economically at varying rates with increased flexibility.  

Ceres’ In-Season Solutions program helps growers manage nitrogen. This includes soil tests as the foundation and 3 tissue tests throughout the season. Ceres also has a Nitrogen testing program that pulls 22 soil cores, 1 foot deep, with the data compiled to measure the ammonium and nitrate nitrogen alongside the tissue test nitrogen levels. It gives growers an additional piece of information that helps them determine if they need to make a supplemental application of Nitrogen.  

From understanding fertility philosophies to scouting, the Ceres Solutions team is ready to help. To hear more about what Jeff has to say about the 2023 growing season, the future of disease models and more, tune into our full episode of Field Points. 


Morgan Seger (00:03):
Every day we rely on food, fuel, and fiber. But how much do you know about these industries we depend on? In this podcast, we dive deep into the production and processes of these everyday essentials. This is field points and original podcast production from Ceres Solutions. Welcome to Field Points. I'm your host Morgan Seger. This is the second episode of our technology in agronomy series. Throughout this series, we're going to spend a lot of time talking about new technology, but we also wanted to make sure we were discussing the technology that we already have in our toolbox. In this episode, Jeff Nagel, one of the Ceres Solutions agronomists, joins us to talk not only about these tools that we have in our toolbox from nutrient management to pest management, including weeds, insects, and diseases, but also how different tools are emerging and evolving. So this is a really fun conversation where we get to talk about how to best utilize what we already have and what might be coming next in each one of those areas. Throughout this series, I'm joined by my co-host, Matt Clark. Now it's time to meet your guest, Jeff Nagel.
Jeff Nagel (01:10):
I'm Jeff Nagel. I work as an agronomist in West Central and Northwest Indiana. So I've been involved in agriculture for all of my career. So I'm entering my 34th season and working in agriculture. So I did my bachelor's and master's at Purdue University and spent most of my career in with the cooperative system. And then I spent five years with American Cyanamid. In 1996 I came back to West Lafayette, Indiana and been with Ceres ever since and also did some farming for about 23, 23 years. On the side I spent most of my time serving and working with our ag retail locations. So I got to work with Matt in lots of different capacities and supporting our sellers on the farm and doing training for those. And then I've, I've had been fortunate to work with a lot of good growing farmer operations, so that's been fun and I'm excited about Ceres going forward cause we have a lot of mix of experienced ag retailers and we also have a lot of younger people.
So it's been a lot of fun working. I'm out now working with a lot of next generation farm operations, so it's been fun. It's fun to see the succession planning and be able to be involved with our operations. Also, we get a chance to train and what's neat about this business is you never stop learning. There's always lots of new things and it's a challenge because even as you get older, trying to stay up to speed on the digital tools and technology and just the fast pace of the change. And you can see that in farm operations. I mean you have the younger generation coming in and they're bringing in some expertise and the older generation is mentoring their kids and whoever's coming the operation. So it's a lot of fun and a lot of exciting things going on.
Morgan Seger (02:46):
Jeff is coming to this conversation with years of valuable on-farm experience. The first topic that we are going to tackle is using precision ag in technology to manage nutrients.
Jeff Nagel (02:57):
So we, we've been involved in that for a long time and of course with Matt's team we collaborate very closely together. So I always view our main lead is in the nutrient management side is what we call CORE agronomics. And so we have a program that's based on intensive soil testing, trying to identify the high and low areas of P, HP and K in an area to direct the inputs to those fields. And that's not really new. We've been doing that for a while. I think some of the things that we bring to the table a little bit more is we really make a conscious effort to do a quality job of sampling. People think soil sampling is just soil sampling. It takes more than that. It's it we pay attention to the time of the seasonal sampling that we do fall versus spring, the type of crop we're sampling.
We did make sure we take eight cores, eight inches deep. So we in, we learned years ago we did some outside contracting to do the sampling and it just wasn't the quality that we wanted. So we've equipped our own sampling equipment to do using auger probes to do a precise depth. And then we've used Rogo to do sampling contracted that we had confidence would do it correctly. Biggest air in sampling is sampling depth. So those little things, hopefully you give you a better quality data set to work with to lead to some of those input decisions. So those are things we do. I think the other part that some people would view like ag retail, well you sell fertilizer, you can't trust your recommendations and we're about as transparent as anybody when it comes to philosophies and I think that's, that's a unique thing. I always feel like a farm operation should know that partnership of what we're trying to do and they're in agreement with it. So there's no secrets. There's an pretty clear path of what the goal is between our cooperative effort and what they're trying to achieve on their farm operations. So whenever I ask a farmer that we might be talking to and say, Hey, do you know what the philosophy is you're using? And they have no idea, I never view that as a good day. They need to know where their recommendations are coming from and why. So that transparency I think is really important in that if
Morgan Seger (04:55):
You're listening to this and you're thinking, I'm not sure what my fertilizer philosophy is, Jeff gives us a few examples of what he's talking about.
Jeff Nagel (05:02):
So we would base ours, you know, go back to there. There's lots of philosophies and different opinions on things, but you have to base it on science. So we would go back to basing some of the data on what we call calibration and correlation data. So you go back to history and a lot of that was probably done at the land grant universities and some of that has been updated, some of it's older, but you got to have some base for your recommendations. So in Indiana we would do what we call a lot of build and maintain. So if you're below the critical level and there's pretty good agreement across the bid Midwest, what that critical level is for phosphorus and potassium is a little more variable and that that's more geographical dependent. But you would go by the philosophy that if you're below that critical level and you don't put on fertilizer, there's going to be a yield loss.
And so then that, that's the correlation. The calibration is hey, this given soil test level, I need to put on this amount of fertilizer to get my crop response. And so it's not perfect and you try to manage these ranges of am I below the critical level and am I at a maintenance range? Am I above? And then you start saying, okay, here's my pool of fertilizer dollars I'm going to spend, how do I allocate those across the area? The advantage of a philosophy of that is when you have fertilizer prices that get high or commodity prices low, you put yourself in a position of flexibility to adjust those crop input budgets. So that's a really a nice place to be. Some cases if you're renting ground and you got cash rent situations, and we we'll modify those wrecks to say we really don't want to build those, but we want to try to put on a sufficient amount to get most of the crop response out for that year. That would be more of a sufficiency type approach. So we would start with our recommendations and then we make those adjustments to fit into the crop budget for that growing season.
Morgan Seger (06:50):
Jeff shares how we can look at these numbers to understand when those fertility dollars are going to have the biggest ROI and win, that ROI may start to plateau.
Jeff Nagel (06:58):
You would normally be looking at you, you have to go back again, that critical level. There's got to be some research to show what that is. And so that's what we would base our recommendations is you would say, for example, let's use phosphorus and we would say that you would need somewhere around 30 to 40 pounds per acre as a critical level. Something below that would be more responsive to applied fertilizer. And then when you get into a range of something over that, then you're just putting on crop removal. It's a pretty simple wreck. Then when you get to really high soil test levels, you're not going to get a crop response. And so you can save those fertilizer dollars and put 'em into low testing areas, but that's going to be based on really some of the research to show what that critical level is. And there's again, there's pretty good agreement when you look at Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, those type of things. Those critical levels are in pretty good agreement on some of the nutrients.
Morgan Seger (07:51):
Next Jeff shares how Ceres Solutions pull soil samples to get the most accurate understanding of what's in the soil.
Jeff Nagel (07:57):
We would normally, our base recs, we would intensive sample every two and a half acres and you could make an argument of the more samples you take, the higher intensity, the better the data set. There is this balance of economics of the cost of sampling. And we've done some internal work and we feel like for a lot of our fields that two and a half acre intensity is pretty good. But we do make some adjustments on certain fields. And then we also do some things where if you've got a lot of variability, my northwest Indiana has got black sands and light sands, so there's the soil type extreme is much more variable. So we can actually do the intensive sampling within the soil type and actually move the points and then actually look at those test levels within that polygon of the soil type.
Matt Clark (08:42):
Talk a little bit about, we've got soil test results and we we're going to make a philosophy, but what's your approach to using yield data versus a yield goal and do you have any strategy around that?
Jeff Nagel (08:54):
 Yeah, I would say a lot of our progressive farm operations are, we're actually incorporating the yield data. So the nice place is we have some linkage with MyJohnDeere and Climate where we can bring yield data in more seamlessly than what used to. It used to be you have to go get the physical stick and bring it into a mapping center and the data maneuverability is much better today, but when you set the yield goal, you're really just setting the crop removal for that field. And so we know that a field doesn't yield uniformly in any given year. Some years it'll be different than others, but when you have variability, if we actually bring the yield data in, we can actually incorporate that into the crop removal piece of the rec so we get a more accurate recommendation in terms of the fertilizer application. And one year's not going to make a big difference. But if you go multiple years, we've seen farmers, it's kind of surprising as the yields have gone up and their productivity's gone up, they realize that, boy, that crop does remove a lot of nutrients and I'm producing more than I used to. So there's a better accountability to actually put in the removal rate on the field.
Matt Clark (09:54):
I agree, and I think especially when you mentioned the high variability stuff, it can almost, yes, you, you're more truthful on those high producing acres, but you're also more truthful on the low-pro producing acres. So those areas that aren't performing quite as well, you're not putting quite as much fertilizer there as well. So that's kind of a two-way street there.
Jeff Nagel (10:11):
Yep, absolutely. And sometimes you see that where you have areas that are not, they're not as good and they're historically not as good and you keep putting a flat rate of a yield on there, you may actually have higher soil test levels in those areas.
Morgan Seger (10:23):
Now that we covered the tools that we have for managing fertility with soil sampling, we're going to transition to talk about the tools that we have in our toolbox for managing nitrogen.
Jeff Nagel (10:32):
Oh Morgan, that's a tough one. People spent their careers on nitrogen, so that was a, and still are. So nitrogen is difficult. We've learned a lot, but there's such a huge interaction with the growing season that it, it's hard to know exactly what that agronomically optimum end rate is. So I would say the land grant universities have gone to doing trials and have since about the early two thousands. And so you look at these, you put trials out at nitrogen rates and farmer fields and at the research centers and you kind of get this agronomically optimum N rate. In other words, what is the nitrogen rate that takes to max out the crop yield? And so you get that and then you apply the economics to it. Well what is the cost of nitrogen? And so you come up with the economically optimum N rate and that works for probably a good chunk of years, but you're going to have years where there's more rainfall than normal or it's drier than normal.
And that's when you get into the variability. And so just recently here we were really dry and now we were getting some rainfall events, which is good for recharging the soil, but it shows you that you know, can go from one extreme to the other and that's the challenge with nitrogen. So you don't know, we kind of know that a corn needs about a pound of end per bushel in general and what the yield potential might be. And so you farmers will choose a nitrogen rate, then the question becomes, well how much in are we going to lose? Right? That's going to be, and that's hard to know because the growing season and then the pieces, soils that have organic matter will mineralize of plant available nitrogen and you don't know what that contribution's going to be. I always used the example, the agronomy farm, most people are familiar with acre there. And over a 10 year period that agronomically optim n rate varied by as much as a hundred pounds. So that makes it challenging. So you kind of go with what and then you bring tools into it to optimize that nitrogen program.
Morgan Seger (12:28):
Next Jeff explains what nitrogen use efficiency is and how that number is influenced throughout the growing
Jeff Nagel (12:34):
Season. So nitrogen use efficiency would be basically the pounds or the bushels produced per pound of N. So if I had a really poor nitrogen use efficiency, I would take more than a pound of per bushel to produce that bushel of grain. But if I had a very good efficiency, it's going to be well below a pound of N and we're we're there in a lot of cases, some years we're producing 240 or 50 bushel corn on 200 pounds of applied in. So we know that that corn is getting it from somewhere else and sometimes that probably means, well I had a low end loss year, so what I applied is more available. And two is we got a nitrogen contribution out of the soil so that efficiency can change from year to year. And so we bright try to bring tools in to optimize that efficiencies and stabilizers and use uase inhibitors are some of those tools.
Morgan Seger (13:21):
Now Jeff is going to walk us through how nitrogen stabilizers can be used as a tool in the toolbox for protecting the nitrogen applied on every acre.
Jeff Nagel (13:29):
So you know, think about your inputs, nitrogen's a big cost and it contributes to yield. One of the things that we're learning with nitrogen is that having that end of season nitrogen is important. So kernel weight is where we're gaining our bushels as time has gone on and we know that nitrogen, late season nitrogen and plant health are big C contributions to making those bushels. If you're going to spend money on nitrogen, then it's like, well how can I make that the most efficient? And what do you try to do is mitigate losses and you do that a little bit by what nitrogen source I'm doing and what the timing is. And then there's these stabilizers and stabilizers is kind of a big picture name, but to get more specific, we're making a transition to Centura, which is a nitrification inhibitors. So we've used nitro pyron, which is NS serve and Instinct next Generation.
Those are good stabilizers, but what Centro brings to the market is a valid nitrification inhibitor that can be used on a per ton basis. So it gives us a lot more flexibility, more economically to stabilize different nitrogen rates. So if you're looking at below ground protection, you're putting on a nitrification inhibitor, you're trying to keep nitrogen, the ammonium form which is positive charge and attach the soil longer because all ammonium nitrogen goes to nitrate, which is, that's how it gets lost. So it can either leach or de nitrify as a gas. So if we can keep that nitrogen ammonium form slowed down to keep that in the longer form, we're more likely to have late season and available for grain film. Centura is one that's Cokes spent some nine, nine years getting registered. It's a legitimate nit ation inhibitor and because it's on that perton basis, it gives us a lot more flexibility to stabilize traditionally ammonia which we've done or things like U A n, whether that's at planting u a n, sidedress, u a n, those type of things and not at the full rates.
So if you did a, most of the stabilizers are per acre based, which means you're spending the money per acre regardless of what the nitrogen rate is. With Centura it's a per ton basis and so it allows us to stabilize that AML nitrogen more efficiently at different nitrogen rates, which is a big advantage. And then you have your surface applied products that contain urea that can volatilize off the surface. So if you're in a situation where you're putting a lot of either urea or 28% or 32% nitrogen on the surface it can volatilize off as ammonia gas. And so there you're at products like anvil, which are uase inhibitors delay that process for 10 to 14 days, allowing that time to buy rainfall to get the nitrogen in the soil.
Morgan Seger (16:09):
As Jeff explained, we can see an economic benefit to Centura, especially when we are applying it to acres that are receiving lower pounds of nitrogen. So I asked him if it still makes economical sense when we are applying Centura on acres that are getting larger quantities of nitrogen.
Jeff Nagel (16:25):
Yeah, still makes sense and it's in the market at a price competitive rate to do that piece. So we basically is your full rates of our full rates of centura at the high nitrogen rates are similar to what we've been doing in the past on a per acre basis, but when you go to those lesser rates it becomes more economical.
Morgan Seger (16:45):
Next Jeff addresses what nitrogen is plant available and how stabilizers impact that in the field.
Jeff Nagel (16:51):
Yeah, stabilize. Yeah, that's a great question because there's a lot of confusion around that. So plants take up nitrogen is two forms, ammonium plus chards and nitrate nitrogen. And because all the nitrogen eventually gets to nitrate, it's becomes a more available nitrogen that's in the soil soil system. So plants up take a lot of nitrate nitrogen but they don't care, it'll take up ammonium and nitrate. So there there's sometimes a misconception that, well if my nitrogen's all in the ammonium form it plant won't see it, well it's very unstable and it it'll convert fairly quickly and the stabilizer just slows it down, it doesn't stop, it slows it down and delays it about three times to be slower. So you're still going to have nitrate nitrogen and a mix of ammonium nitrogen plants will use both of them
Matt Clark (17:36):
Staying on nitrogen topic. How are you using in-season solutions then to help growers with nitrogen management?
Jeff Nagel (17:43):
Yeah, that's a great question Matt. So we have a program called In-Season Solutions. So what we use as a program where we do tissue testing about three times in the season. So we we'd use core as the foundation for nutrition and then we go back into the fields with tissue testing and kind of say, okay, what's the plant telling us it's seen? And that can be a little bit subjected depending on what the rainfall is and how dry it is because you need moisture to take nutrient uptake. And so if moisture becomes limited, you can see it reflected in the plant tissue test that it's slower uptake. But what we're trying to do coupled with the tissue testing is we have a nitrogen testing program where we do basically 11 cores in two different areas. So 22 cores compile that at a foot deep. So we give our interns a drill to do that because otherwise putting a hand probe in a foot deep is pretty challenging when the soils get dryer and then you composite that sample, get it to the lab overnight and then measure the ammonium and nitrate nitrogen along with the tissue test nitrogen so that it gives you another tool to make a decision.
You may think that I've had nitrogen loss and so I may need some additional nitrogen. Well this gives you another piece of information to either kind of confirm that or kind of, yeah, I think I do and this my tissue test is low, my nitrogen level's low, we probably should put a supplemental amount of nitrogen on. Or it could be, hey, this is looking good, I've still got, my tissue test is low but I've got fuel in the fuel tank. My nitrogen test is good, so let's go a little another period of time and retest it later. And we do that about three times during the growing season. So it's a good way to get a gauge, like a fuel gauge to see if I got enough gas in the tank. If
Morgan Seger (19:22):
Through this testing you find that you are needing nitrogen for your crop, Jeff covers how late in the season we can make those applications and what methods we have.
Jeff Nagel (19:30):
Generally speaking, you want your nitrogen on probably by around V12 at the latest V12 four V 14. Now in irrigation we do irrigation probes and we do some ion type things. We can push that later splitting nitrogen up. But in dry land production we actually had, there is a place for Y drops is a rescue type thing, but when Y drops first come out where you're intentionally going out late with nitrogen and laying it to the site of the roots, we, we've actually had some growers that have gone back away from that a little bit to traditional side dressing or move that side dressing up. And the reason is you never want in to be stressed the corn plant to be and stressed. So if you run temporarily short of in it's like irreparable yield loss, you cannot get that back. So what sometimes what's happening is you put it on nitrogen late and you didn't get the rain to get it into the soil to get the root uptake into the plant.
And so we lost nitrogen, we didn't get the rains quick enough to get the nitrogen the plant, so we lost yield. So to I would say in most cases is you want to be, if you're going to go later, that V 10 V12 grow stage is about as late as you want to go. If you're under irrigation, you can go a little low later from that standpoint as long as you had sufficient rain up front. Now if you're rescuing a, let's say you were short in it rained, you couldn't get in to putting nitrogen on right around tasseling time, you have a little bit of the corn will still respond as long as it's good, but that needs to be in probably within a week or two of tasseling. Well we do one of two things. Typically our high clearance machines can get over about V 12 V 13 corn. So if you can't get it on by then you're into an aerial application of erea or a high clearance machine that dribbles dribbles a 28 owner wide drops to 28 on.
Morgan Seger (21:19):
Now we're going to transition to the tools in our toolbox when it comes to weed management.
Jeff Nagel (21:24):
Well we're running out of tools in the toolbox for weeds. Morgan, to be honest with you and Matt, our industry is, I've been involved with my time with cyanide for five years. We weed science for a lot of years and our industry lies heavy on herbicides and we have not had new modes of action. So it's about the 1990s when we had the H P P D inhibitors. So that is a bit of a concern. There are some newer products that are starting to be in the pipeline, but we're still out on those a little bit. But as far as new modes of action, we've been limited on those for a period of time. So it really, it's stewarding the products that we have and that means we rely a lot on layered a residual herbicide, a timely post application layer, another residual in if we need to.
If you look at the history of weed resistance, most of it is from selection pressure on post emergence applications. And so we just got to be smarter how we do these things and it comes at a bit of a cost if you proactively add some herbicides in there to mitigate the potential void resistance. That's a hard sell sometimes, but it's the right long term play and then once you have resistance or weed problem, then it's just doing that. So sometimes I would say our well-managed operations have got that concept down pretty well now and we're getting residuals of planting time. We're timely post applications. Those are the big things. I think we got to use other cultural practices like row spacing on soybeans. It is really hard even with layered residuals to control water hemp and palmerton 30 inch row soybeans. It just really is, they don't canopy as fast.
So going to narrow row soybeans, a lot of growers today are planting a lower seeding seeding rate, which is fine because we know agronomically we have a hundred, 125,000 plants at harvest, that's enough. But we also, if we have a hundred thousand plants, it takes longer to get to plant canopy and that plant canopy is huge for weed control, especially on the pig weed species. So those type of things. And then cover crops, we know that things like sry that generates a lot of biomass can help suppress the emergence of some of those small seated weeds. I think it's really trying to integrate all the resources we have with it. I can probably speak to this better than I can, but there is some new newer technologies coming with the companies with AI intelligence trying to recognize like sea and spray type technology from John Deere and Bosch and BSF are working on a project where you're looking at going across the field, seeing weeds that differentiate it from the crop and then just spray those weeds. So there there's a lot of things to work out. You still need residual herbicides, but there are some new things coming that aren't too far down the pipeline in terms of actually being commercially available. So we'll see how that works.
Matt Clark (24:08):
Yeah, I think a lot of those will be awesome technologies when they get here. It's we can't get 'em fast enough even though as fast as technology advances, it still seemed like it's lagging behind. It's kind of that unicorn out there still. So I think we'll see it happen before too long though.
Morgan Seger (24:22):
Now we're going to cover the tools we have in the toolbox for other pests like insects and diseases.
Jeff Nagel (24:27):
Well the insect technology is the big change there was when we had the trade introductions. So you know, think back to for example corn. Corn root worm was our big issue for Indiana. I can remember back in when I started back in 1996 in this area, 1995, there were growers that lost 50 bushels per acre to corn root worm. So we were using insecticides and in a corn bean rotation, basically you didn't have an issue because any eggs that were hatched in a cornfield and you rotated to beans, that wasn't a problem and there was no beetles in the beans. So when you rotate it back to corn there was no problem. So a lot of times a corn bean rotation, we never have even used soil applied insecticides until we started having adaptation of the western corn rootworm beetle that figured out, oh, I need to lay eggs in my soybean fields so when it goes to corn I'm ready to go.
So we had growers that first year corn fields that had 50 bushel per acre losses. It was pretty devastating. So the way we typically managed was insecticides until we had the traits come out and the first traits in corn were for corn bore, which in about three out of 10 years we would get a corn board outbreak in Indiana. And then we started getting the other traits introduced and the root worm was a big one. So from the insect standpoint, we've kind of managed the insects by traits and the hybrids from the soybean side, we don't have those traits in the varieties, but we run seed treatments in both crops and then we do make some insecticide applications and those crops also. So that piece is the way we've handled a lot of those things. I do have a set of growers that are doing non GMO corn or waxy corn that don't have the traits and corn bores can be an issue or corn root worm can be an issue. So we demonstrated at 63 this year, didn't we, Matt, a technology from PESTLE that kind of looked at trying to identify insects on a sticky glue board that would give us an idea if those are at the field. And so the concept would be like we have growers that we know we can manage European corn boar, but we got to have the timing, but nobody is really looking at those fields consistently in scouting those. And so that's a type of technology that's not quite proven yet. It may be a play for us down the
Matt Clark (26:44):
Road. I mean it's the actual sticky boards, nothing that's the part that's not advanced, it's still just a standard sticky glue board. But having that camera there to remotely access and look at the trap and it'll starting to learn, it's a camera so you got to train it to learn what the image looks like. But I think over time we can train it to identify those insects so we can just get counts right away instead of having to hire an intern and send them out to a hundred different traps and do some rough figuring on analysis. We can just log in and look at all of our camera traps and see what's going on. Are the trends and do we need to be prepared for something?
Jeff Nagel (27:23):
So it depends on the insect, but it takes fewer pictures to look at difference between a moth and a beetle. So that's pretty easy. The hard part, is it a bean leaf beetle or is it a corn rootworm beetle that look pretty similar And then when they hit the glue board is the back to the glue or the legs showing up. So I think on some of those, they were saying around 3000 images to get confident that you could get all different angles that you could be confident that was a bean leaf beetle versus a corn rootworm beetle.
Matt Clark (27:52):
The part I struggle with the technology too is everything was in the scientific name and Jeff could probably tell you what they were, but I couldn't tell what it was based on the scientific name showing up on the screen. So I
Jeff Nagel (28:01):
Know about two of those
Matt Clark (28:03):
Two more than I know, so
Morgan Seger (28:04):
We'll have to Google that real quick.
Jeff Nagel (28:07):
So diseases is just almost old-fashioned scouting right now, but there are some models being developed. There's a fair amount of effort in the modeling of diseases. We actually demoed some of those last couple years, particularly when it came to Tars Spott. So Tars Spott is, as everyone knows, it's kind of a game changer on plant diseases and can be pretty devastating. And so we had our first experience with that in 2018 was a pretty tough year and we've been dealing with about five years and we're learning that it, we're still learning a lot in just a five year time period, but it seems like it's driven heavily by moisture and extended leaf wetness and particularly when it comes to the month of June setting things up. So for example, in 22 we were hot and dry in June and Tar Spot just never really developed.
In fact it came quite late this year, but the universities are working on an app called Tar Spotter and as an app you can download for free, we demoed one called Field Profit that is a paid version that actually gives you a projection of about seven days out. And to be candid, it missed pretty bad this year. It it'll get better I think as they get more data entered into it. But it was projecting in June like, hey, you're high risk for Tar Spot and it's like, well we're not getting any rain and there's no humidity in the canopy, so what's up with that? And then later on it was kind of off on started getting the rains of being a little slow coming around. I think that'll get better with time today. Not, I would say we use it as an aid. So we're watching the weather, there's a network of just shared information that goes on and then we use the Tar Spotter as another piece of information.
So that's kind of where the model is. There's a company or two that's also the chemical companies are working man basic manufacturers are working some crop models for northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot that look to have some potential. The one for white mold, there's one for soybean white mold that Wisconsin's developed that actually looks to be pretty good, much better than the tar spotter one at this point in time. So those are some of the tools that are being predictive because we know that with diseases you got to be ahead of it, you can't be behind it, it gets preventative and you got to be there. And when you got lots of acres that timing becomes pretty critical. And so the models are probably have the best potential going forward
Morgan Seger (30:22):
Since weather plays such a big part in the onset of these diseases. Jeff walks us through how long after weather events happen in our fields, we should be out there scouting for these diseases.
Jeff Nagel (30:33):
In the case of Tars Spott, the models don't even really turn on till v8, right? And if you look historically the earliest, and Darcy Linco has done a great job at Purdue researching this, but up at Penny is kind of, she plants a susceptible hybrid, almost like a sentinel type research area up there. And I think July 3rd and 21 was the earliest it was detected. So there was probably some out there in late June. Once you start to find it, you have probably a week or 10 days. There's a bit of misperception. I think that if you see any tar spot at all, you're too late. Well that's not really the case because it's, there's a lag phase, so it's your infections probably started, but then it takes a bit to ramp up to get going and you want to be ahead of that ramp up phase.
So if you see a few lesions, probably got about a week or so to get your fungicide first fungicide protection on. And so that's why really today is you almost have to scout and be out there. And so what I always tell growers, if you got a month of June that's wet and you've got corn over v8, you probably ought to start looking. And we know there's differences in hybrid susceptibility, there's no true resistance. There's some difference in the level of tolerance. So you would target those hybrids that are more susceptible and when you start hitting V eight V 10 and if it's wet, then you probably want to start just making a weekly routine of checking that out. What's nice about Ceres is where it's spread across a lot of Indiana and so southern rust could be more prevalent in the south and although we have tar spot down there too, but we network very well.
So if somebody's finding it, we're pretty much up to speed on where it's occurring at. So southern rust has blown up from the south tar spot once it's here, it over winters on residue so you could get it, it's spread across the state right now, the northern third of Indiana and into Michigan tends to be worse because of the environment around the Great Lakes and more humidity and cooler conditions. But we have it about everywhere clear down to Vens and Oaktown area. We have tar spot under pivots and other commercial dry land field. But once you have it over winters as those little black strada on the leaf tissue and that's where it starts the next year. So then the spores are wind blown and they can move 2, 3, 300 feet from those spores. So it's pretty much around about everywhere.
Morgan Seger (32:55):
Do you think that we'll see that number increase with reduced tillage?
Jeff Nagel (32:59):
So you can, in theory, because it's residue born a lot and you had a lot of people that did an area bury that residue, you could maybe delay the OnStar of the onset of the infections, but it doesn't seem to make a great deal of difference. So I would not change my system of tillage or conservation based on tars spott because I think there's enough movement of the spores and I've seen it both systems be as about as bad as either one of them, but in theory the more residue sitting on the surface, the earlier those infections could take place,
Matt Clark (33:31):
We could probably highlight a little bit as Ceres. We've tried looking at some different imagery packages and things like that too, and maybe less so than some of the predictive models. I haven't really found that magic bullet that's really been able to tell us when it's predictive or that a tear yet. Yeah, it really comes down to scouting
Jeff Nagel (33:46):
Sounds good, it sounds great and it'd be great if it did it, but that's a little bit different than not different. Some of our other areas of our business, it's like over promised underdelivered sometimes, but the potential, it'd be great if it could do that. And I was just listening to a podcast today on another technology that's being developed and it sounds really good. We'll see if it works or not
Morgan Seger (34:09):
With planting just weeks away at this point. Jeff walks us through what other things we should be thinking about as we look forward to the 2023 growing season.
Jeff Nagel (34:18):
Typically at this time of year, the plans are in place, everybody's kind of made their decisions, they're just ready to implement. So the good thing is we've gotten some moisture to get recharged because it was actually getting pretty scary dry in places. And so it's good to see some moisture. I think farmers will be, they'll be looking for their planting window to hope that eases up at some point, particularly when you get into the month of April. But I think at this point it's just implementing the plan and you never know what the season's going to bring. And a lot of times you can make a minor adjustments but not knee jerk reactions. It's like stay the course. And what we're learning with these crops, there's so much more resiliency in them. Even when you go through dry periods or stuff, you just stay the course because if you catch rain or something, you tend to rebound from those things.
And so there's a lot of potential out there with these hybrids and varieties and it's kind of exciting to see the genetic potential that's there. So I don't want to make big drastic changes or knee jerk reactions. And we usually, even if we have a delayed season, which we may or may not, we don't know, but it's just being ready to hit those planting windows. One of the questions we get a lot of times is if it's a cool do you plant and we, we've seen the combination of cool and wet is not good that that's where we have issues. But if it's cool and dry and the ground conditions are fit, rarely you go wrong planting unless there's like a big forecast. I remember in 2021 there's always this threat of inhibitional seed chilling injury. So you plant when into a cooler soil and you get a cold rain on it and it basically causes the plants to malfunction and it's a real threat.
But over my career, I haven't seen that too many times, but when you're cold and wet, that's a concern. And you have the potential for seedling blights when the ground conditions are right, like 21. We had farm operations planting right before a predicted snow. And I'm thinking if there's a chance the day before and I'm thinking, man, if there's ever a chance for seed chilling injury, this is it. Sure enough, we got three inches of snow. I followed some fields through on both corn and beans that were planted the day before, but that ground was so fit and dry that three inches was like three tenths of an inch. It melted off fairly quick. And so I think there's something there about having too much saturation of water that causes the issue, but had that been an inch of rain and got cold, that that'd been a problem.
And so planting into fit conditions, but cool and dry generally doesn't cause issues. It's cool and wet or big heavy rains even if it's not cold. I, I'd say the other thing probably is if you think about the things that take away yield quickly, it would be tar spot, it can be misidentified and we had some last year that were misidentified. So a lot of times the insect FRAs or insect poop for the black of a better term is on the leaf will be sticky small and not raised, but it'll look like tars spott if you don't to the untrained eye. And so that can be confused with it, but the key is is that you wet your finger and you rub, try to rub it off, and if it's a little bit raised and you can't rub it off, then you're pretty confident it's tar spot.
But we had a lot of misidentified things last year, especially when everybody's looking for it. So it wasn't coming in and everybody, there was people scouring fields and there's a lot of false reports until it was finally concern confirmed. The trained eye, you'll figure it out. It's different when you're just looking for a spot or two than where you've got multiple lesions on a plant leaf surface that is a different look. So it can be a little confusing and if you just got a lesion or two, so once you kind of tune into it, then you kind of know what it looks like. It has not gone away at the end of the season. It showed up everywhere in fields I think too late to cause much harm, but the inoculum is there for next year. So staying with the crop all the way through is really important. So just managing it all the way to the end and that grain fill period is really critical for both corn and soybeans.
Morgan Seger (38:07):
Next, I asked Jeff to share his opinion on early planted soybeans.
Jeff Nagel (38:12):
We've learned, and farmers really started doing this too, is y you can timely, I always say it's timely planting. If you look back at some stuff that's been done in more recent years, the optimum planting day for corn and beans is very similar and most farm operations today are geared up if they have two planters when the ground gets right, they're planting corn and beans. Sometimes if it's, they'll push the bean planting a little earlier because I think in their mind is you're planting more plants, you got a little bit of more of a forgiveness factor there. Corn. Corn, you really want to merge uniformly and beans. There's a little more give there. In terms of yield penalty, I would say timely planting is where I would call it in that. And so we say that early planting, I'm not a believer in March and planting soybeans.
I think we've had a few people try it. Generally more risk than reward. But on the soybean side, if you get into, depending on where you're at in Indiana, if you get into southern Indiana, central Indiana, and you get into the first two weeks of April and it's fit, the ground conditions are good, the forecast is good. I have no problem planting soybeans, Northern Indiana the same, but you're a little more cautious. I think what you don't want to do is force it into an unfit seed bed that that's where I see the issues is where if it's marginal, I don't see a reason to do that, you. But if it's fit and you're in the month of April, we seem the soybeans seem to respond to that.
Morgan Seger (39:35):
I love how throughout this conversation, Jeff is able to take things that we are very familiar with. So technologies that we've had in our toolbox for a couple of years, and not only discuss that, but talk about how those things are changing and evolving from disease models to nitrogen stabilizers and other tools that we have in our toolbox. It can be hard to keep it all straight. So the fact that Ceres Solutions has three on staff, full-time agronomist is a huge asset to the team. In our next episode, we are going to dive even deeper into how they're rethinking their soil sampling. Thank you so much for spending this time with us, and I hope you join us again next Tuesday.

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