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Farmers need to make difficult, complex decisions daily
Ohio Farm News
By Steve Bartels

Each year brings a new, or different, set of challenges. While most of the rest of the state was dry in April and early May, Butler County and parts of the rest of southwest Ohio struggled to get the crops in the ground this spring. I would estimate that, on June 15, we still have between 15 and 20 percent of the full season soybeans to plant the first time. That is not talking about beans and corn that needed to be replanted for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it feels like all I do is talk about problems we are having, or warning people about potential problems they might encounter on their farms. I have written articles this spring about slugs, alfalfa weevil, head scab in wheat, the potential for causing a barn fire from wet hay, armyworms and the loss of hay quality due to delayed harvest. I could have, and maybe should have, written about seed corn maggot, cutworm, potato leaf hopper and white grubs.

I was in a field on June 15 where white grub and cutworm had reduced the population of six-leaf corn from 26,000 to 13,000 in some areas, and even much less in other areas of the field. The cutworms were doing their damage a couple of weeks ago and the white grubs are now continuing to take out plants. The cutworms were not treated because the farmer believed they were far enough along in their development that they would soon pupate and quit feeding. The white grubs are only about three-quarters of an inch long so they are probably not Japanese beetles and will continue to feed for some time.

A portion of the field had been replanted and was just spiking through the soil. The existing population before replant-ing was less than 10,000 plants, so the farmer decided to replant next to the existing plants. He now has spike corn and six-leaf corn side by side.

I think at this point he is pretty well stuck with what he has. In the portion of the field that was not replanted, the grub may continue to reduce his population. The only way to control them would be to replant and use a soil insecticide. With a population of 14,000 plants, planted on April 24, you still have the potential of about 75 percent of a crop. If you would replant, it is hard to say what you may have, but by planting date alone, you have lost at least 50 bushel per acre.

I know Im preaching to the choir, but it really is amazing the difficulty and complexity of the decisions that farmers have to make every day. For the farmer who is trying to make a living mostly from the land, it can be a daunting task. I believe though, that is why most of you do it.

For those of you who dont farm and think it may be a pretty good way to make a living, put down about $800,000 and be ready to make a lot of decisions.

This farm news was published in the June 28, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.